To consider reports from Executive Councillors on their respective Portfolios;
i. Councillor Fran Smith – Housing
3.2 of the Scrutiny Terms of Reference state that the Scrutiny Committee may review and scrutinise and ask questions of the Leader, lead Councillors, the Executive in relation to their portfolios.
Since the last report in November the main focus continued to be COVID-19 and in
particular since the New Year, re-adjusting services to respond to the latest lock
down measures. The Portfolio Holder acknowledged the flexibility of the team, partner organisations and contractors who once again have made substantial changes to services; and also our tenants who have been so accommodating and
understanding. The Council continued to monitor issues closely.
Since the New Year no significant impact had been experienced as a result of Brexit with supply chains holding up, however we are starting to hear accounts of price
increases on some supplies such as timber.
Elsewhere our project to replace our main housing management IT system has
kicked off, this is a major piece of work and will run for around 16 months.
Lastly it was pleasing to see improvements in our STAR survey results (Survey of
Tenants and Residents); particularly that in the last two years we have been through
major organisational changes and have experienced nearly a year of COVID-19
Housing Development and Regeneration Team
· Single Homeless Accommodation Strategy - The service was producing an
accommodation strategy to respond to the Government aspiration to maintain
accommodation support to reduce or end rough sleeping by 2025. The strategy will
help inform the Council’s partnership and investment decisions.
· The Homelessness Reduction Board is progressing to commence its work during
· LHA Housing Advisors Programme – Somerset councils and ARK consultancy had submitted the draft report into Better Futures for Vulnerable People in Somerset.
· This sets out how Somerset authorities work to support the most
vulnerable people, provides examples of good practice and sets out under six
themes opportunities to delivery better outcomes.
· The report will support the
· Homeless Reduction Board set its priorities and action.
· A Delivery Officer is being recruited to the team to deliver and oversee the Hinckley point C Housing Action Plan, unfortunately our first recruitment process was unsuccessful.
· The revised Private Sector Renew Policy was considered and supported by full council in December.
· 2020/21 completions are currently estimated as: 128 affordable homes by 31st March 2021, 265 completions are forecast in 2021/22.
· Although completions are low, this year has seen significant start on sites across the Council area including: 42 affordable homes at Cornhill, Wellington; 60 affordable homes at Allers Mead, Williton and 19 affordable homes at Paddocks, Bishops Lydeard.
· SWT was recognised as a High Affordability Area by the Ministry of Housing,
Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) in December and is now eligible for social rent grant funding in addition to Affordable Rent and Shared Ownership tenures within the 2021 – 2026 Affordable Homes Programme.
· Viability and Self Build seminars have been hosted through the Enabling Team and had been well received by both Members and Officers.
During the debate the following comments and questions were raised:-
· More information had been requested in relation to lessons learned on modular housing. Visits had been made to factories of shortlisted organisations producing modular house, there were challenges with what modular housing was able to achieve and deliver standards to levels that is claimed. Air tightness challenge was a critical element for zero carbon credentials.
· Local connections were a recognised need across Homefinder in Somerset. Some needs were greater than others but it was acknowledged it could be taken into consideration in future and looked into.
· Addressing the backlog in Homefinder was ongoing with a weekly report on this produced, as a result numbers reducing with additional members of staff recruited to reduce the backlog.
· The Homeless reduction plan and board linked in with the health and wellbeing board and other organisations fed into this.
· Significant work had been undertaken in preventing antisocial behaviour which had been exacerbated as a result of neighbourhood disputes and increasing cases during lockdown. Environmental Health had been directing residents to a noise application, which would set out if it determined a statutory noise nuisance. Instances of approval had been sought for the use of community protection notices
· More information and data from housing would be circulated to all Councillors, to provide information around survey and satisfaction of tenants
· Community issues and the loss of the previous Community Scrutiny Committee was raised and requested to be addressed going forward.
· Homefinder was used in the whole of Somerset, although it was recognised that it was not without faults and certainly could be refined and the Council was in the process of procuring a new system
· SWT owning housing stock did not have an impact on homefinder. All were equal in relation to location as part of the bidding process.
Resolved that the Scrutiny Committee noted the update.