Agenda and minutes

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Contact: Peter Goss, Democratic Services Manager  Email: peter.goss@brent.gov.uk 020 8937 1353

Items
No. Item

1.

Declarations of interests

Members are invited to declare at this stage of the meeting, any relevant disclosable pecuniary, personal or prejudicial interests in the items on this agenda.

Minutes:

None declared.

2.

Deputations

Minutes:

None.

3.

Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee's Annual Work Programme 2016-17 pdf icon PDF 127 KB

This report sets out the scope of the Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee’s draft work programme for the next municipal year 2016-17. The work programme covers a broad range of items and policy areas across housing, health, children’s services, adult social care and public health and was selected by members of the committee based on criteria for effective scrutiny. It also sets out the remit for the committee and its responsibilities for scrutiny.

Minutes:

The committee received the report which set out the scope of the work programme for 2016/17.  It included a range of items and policy areas across housing, health, children’s services, adult social care and public health.  The chair added that the programme would remain flexible to changes that might be required during the course of the year.

 

At the request of the chair, Pascoe Sawyers introduced himself as the Council’s newly appointed Head of Strategy and Partnerships and the Council’s designated scrutiny officer.  The chair also asked the Chief Executive and Leader of the Council to outline their views on the role of scrutiny within the Council. 

 

Christine Cargill asked for clarification on the role of the co-opted members.  Pascoe Sawyers replied that this had been identified as an area that needed to be developed and apologised that this had not already been made clear. 

 

RESOLVED:

 

that the report be noted and the work programme attached as Appendix 1 to the report be agreed.

4.

2015-16 Annual Scrutiny Report pdf icon PDF 113 KB

The Annual Scrutiny report is a summary of the work conducted by the Scrutiny function throughout the year.  This includes task group work, questions and decisions made by the committee.  The 2015-16 report also provides an outline of the programme of work and task groups planned for the upcoming scrutiny year 2016-17.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The committee received the annual scrutiny report for 2015-16 which summarised the work conducted by the scrutiny function throughout the year.  Councillor Kelcher who chaired the committee during 2015-16 introduced the report.

 

The Chair thanked Councillor Kelcher for his attendance.

 

RESOLVED:

 

that the contents of the scrutiny annual report for 2015-16 be noted.

5.

Additional and Selective Licensing in the Private Rented Sector pdf icon PDF 200 KB

This report provides an overview of progress since the implementation of borough-wide Additional Licensing and Selective Licensing in the three wards of Harlesden, Wembley Central and Willesden Green in January 2015.  In addition, it identifies areas where further work is required to achieve the objectives identified at the start of the project and proposals for the future operation of the scheme.

Minutes:

Jon Lloyd-Owen (Operational Director, Housing and Employment) introduced the report which provided an overview of progress since implementation of borough-wide Additional Licensing and Selective Licensing in the wards of Harlesden, Wembley Central and Willesden Green in January 2015.  He stated that in the London context Brent’s Licensing Scheme was one of the more successful schemes introduced but that getting across a clear message on the requirements of Additional Licensing had been a challenge.  Work was currently being done on how Selective Licensing might be extended to other parts of the borough. However, if this was to be pursued, a wider scheme would require the approval of the Secretary of State.  Councillor Farah (Lead Member for Housing) added that another area of the scheme that needed further work undertaken was how the Council dealt with the tenants affected.

 

Anthony Jemmott (Private Sector Housing Licensing Manager) was present at the meeting to answer questions from members.  He explained that upon identifying an unlicensed property a warning letter was sent and if a subsequent application was not submitted the landlord would be prosecuted.  However, the best outcome was to get the property licensed because then action could be taken to improve conditions within the property to bring it up to an acceptable standard. A copy of the license was displayed within the property so that tenants could know what standards were expected and make a complaint if these were not being met. 

 

Questions were asked concerning the tenants affected by raids on unlicensed properties and the likelihood of catching the landlord responsible. Anthony Jemmot explained that the Council worked with the police when mounting raids and that there was an improving relationship developing that supported those people affected.  He admitted that none of the 90 raids on unlicensed properties involved a resident landlord but that it was necessary to visit the property either early in the morning or later at night when it could be expected that all of the tenants would be at home so that evidence could be gathered of the conditions they were living in. In a few cases the media had been used as a means of further publicising the scheme and as a warning to landlords who owned unlicensed properties.  It was the view of committee members that there were significant diversity implications despite the report stating that there were none immediately arising from the report.  Phil Porter (Strategic Director, Community Wellbeing) acknowledged that there was more work needed on providing support to the tenants affected but stressed that the explicit message arising from the publicity was on dealing with exploitation by rogue landlords.  It was requested that all councillors be supplied with a briefing on the project so that they could pass the messages on to those they came into contact with.

 

It was still too early to fully assess the impact of licensing and the priority was to get as many properties licensed as possible.  It made it easier for the Council to deal with the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Ethical Lettings Agency pdf icon PDF 109 KB

This report provides an update on the proposed Ethical Lettings Agency and a summary of other areas or work in progress or planned to improve access to private rented housing.

Minutes:

Jon Lloyd-Owen (Operational Director, Housing and Leisure) introduced the report which updated the committee on the proposed Ethical Lettings Agency which, in 2013, the Council had asked Brent Housing Partnership (BHP) to lead on establishing.  The report explained that the proposal had not been viewed as viable by BHP but that a number of other projects had been brought forward.  It was now intended to wait for details of a London-wide letting agency being developed by the Mayor of London.

 

Concern was expressed by members of the committee that the proposal had not been implemented.  Members were informed that BHP had undertaken research of similar proposals implemented in other boroughs and there was found to be a mixed picture in terms of success.  Councillor Farah (Lead Member for Housing) explained that BHP was working to a recovery plan and that Cabinet would be reviewing this later in the year.  In the meantime this proposal had been stopped but the other initiatives outlined in the report were continuing.

 

Members expressed support for a pan London approach on this issue but were concerned to ensure that it would operate on a free not for profit basis and felt that the Council should be well positioned to take the initiative in developing a scheme with the GLA.

 

Phil Porter (Strategic Director, Community Wellbeing) pointed out that one of the Council’s Outcome Based Reviews was on dealing with housing for vulnerable people  and this work extended into how the Council could assist those people with additional needs to their housing needs. 

 

RESOLVED:

 

(i)         that there be a proper assessment of other local authority schemes and their respective outcomes to ascertain viability of the scheme in Brent;

 

(ii)        that Officers liaise with the Mayor of London's deputy mayor for housing to access feasibility of Brent working with the GLA on a pan-London scheme;

 

(iii)       that there be a strategy in place for collaborative working with estate agents to develop/promote tenancies in supportive living and Brent's vision for ethical lettings of properties;

 

(iv)       that Officers explore possibilities of a pan-London or sub-regional ethical lettings agency within the public sector on a not for profit basis.

  

7.

Scrutiny Task Group report on Brent's Housing Associations pdf icon PDF 114 KB

This task group was set up by the previous Scrutiny Committee to review the implications of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 and the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 for housing associations operating in Brent, and consequently the local authority’s own housing policies.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed Councillor Miller to the meeting and invited him to introduce the report from the task group he had chaired on Brent’s Housing Associations.  Councillor Miller went through the report and the recommendations arising.  Phil Porter (Strategic Director, Community Wellbeing) broadly supported the recommendations but wanted to change the approach to engaging with registered providers by establishing a more strategic single forum approach rather than specific working groups.

 

Questions were asked about the capacity of the smaller associations to fully participate, how quality, especially the resident experience, could be improved and the creation of a more diverse market across the whole borough.  Councillor Miller replied that his task group had interviewed a range of providers, residents’ groups and housing experts and considered a quantity of data.  He acknowledged the issue of quality and the lack of resident involvement and suggested that a scheme might be developed for providers to be given recognition when they had developed a model of resident involvement to a sufficient standard.  He pointed out that recommendation 12 of the task group touched upon expanding the market and that the Council might want to consider this further as part of its housing strategy. 

 

The Chair thanked Councillor Miller for attending.  In turn, Councillor Miller thanked his fellow task group members and the officers for the support they had given to the work of the task group.

 

RESOLVED:

 

(i)         that the recommendations from the task group on housing associations be approved subject to:

(a)       reference to a working party being substituted for a strategic forum in recommendation 7, and

(b)       the words ‘with an emphasis on quality’ being added to the end of recommendation 19;

 

(ii)        that an action plan be developed to enable the Cabinet to take forward the recommendations and a progress report on implementing the actions be submitted to a meeting of the committee during the remainder of 2016/17.

8.

Any other urgent business

Notice of items to be raised under this heading must be given in writing to the Head of Executive and Member Services or his representative before the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 64.

Minutes:

None.

9.

Date of next meeting

The next scheduled meeting of the Committee is on 20 September 2016.

Minutes:

Noted: 20 September 2016 at 7pm