Agenda and minutes

Venue: Boardrooms 3-5 - Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley, HA9 0FJ. View directions

Contact: Bryony Gibbs, Governance Officer  Email: bryony.gibbs@brent.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for absence and clarification of alternate members

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Councillors Colwill, Ethapemi and Hector, and Co-opted member Reverend Helen Askwith. 

 

2.

Declarations of interests

Members are invited to declare at this stage of the meeting, the nature and existence of any relevant disclosable pecuniary or personal interests in the items on this agenda and to specify the item(s) to which they relate.

Minutes:

The following personal interests were declared with respect to item 7 to be discussed at the meeting:

 

  • Councillor Shahzad – managed a property in Brent

 

3.

Deputations (if any)

To hear any deputations received from members of the public in accordance with Standing Order 67.

Minutes:

The members of the Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee agreed to hear a deputation from a representative of Harlesden Area Action in relation to item 6 – Council Housing Management Services.

 

The representative of Harlesden Area Action explained that she was the Chair of Harlesden Area Action, which was a resident association in the Harlesden and Kensal Green ward. Photographs were presented as examples of what the representative felt were evidence of Brent freeholds in a state of disrepair. The representative highlighted that one of the properties had been in a state of disrepair for 4 months, and another property which had been reported for accumulation of waste including rats in August had still not been resolved. She reminded the Committee of Brent’s responsibilities noted under paragraph 12 of the Housing report to ‘keep in repair and proper working order the structure and exterior of residential properties it owns’ and ‘to ensure premises are not in a state to be prejudicial to health or nuisance’.

 

The Chair thanked the representative and invited her to return to her seat.

 

4.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 102 KB

To approve the minutes of the previous meetings as a correct record:

·         11 June 2019 – Additional Meeting. These minutes were finalised by the Chair but not included in the agenda of the following meeting. Therefore, they are being presented to the Committee for final approval.

·         26 November 2019

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RESOLVED: that the minutes of the previous meetings held on 11 June 2019 and 26 November 2019 be approved as an accurate record of the meetings.

5.

Matters arising (if any)

Minutes:

There were no matters arising.

 

6.

Council housing management services pdf icon PDF 317 KB

This report provides an overview of Brent Housing Management’s (BHM’s) operational performance.  It focuses on this financial year (2019/20) and provides data for the period since the service came in-house (October 2016) for comparison. The report also identifies actions that are designed to further transform resident experience

 

Minutes:

Councillor Southwood (Lead Member for Housing and Welfare Reform) introduced the Council Housing Management Services Report, providing an overview of Brent Housing Management’s operational performance. The report provided data for the period since the service came in-house in October 2017 for comparison.

 

In outlining the report, Councillor Southwood highlighted the following key points:

 

  • Housing repairs were a difficult area for residents. She hoped the committee could see the concerted effort to improve, such as tackling the misdiagnosis of emergency repairs, which were now being completed on time 100% of the time. The contractor, Wates, handled all repairs.

 

  • The Housing Management Service dealt with considerable scale, and expected to see further improvements. There were issues of estate management for residents, and the cleaning service currently under review had been brought back in-house, with residents part of that review to specify what they would like to see from the service.

 

  • The tenancy sustainment panel had been introduced by the Council to address those residents receiving Universal Credit and who were vulnerable to rent arrears.

 

  • In acknowledging the deputation, Councillor Southwood felt that it was an example where work had not been as joined up as it should have been. Properties in disrepair for some time came to the services attention from councillors flagging them, resident complaints and proactive work where Officers sampled the state of properties. It was expressed that it was important to hear about concerns and issues, and that she expected teams to work jointly to resolve issues, including with Veolia, the waste management provider.

 

The Chair thanked Councillor Southwood for her introduction, and invited Hakeem Osinaike (Operational Director for Housing, Brent Council) to make any additions to the presentation, with the following highlighted:

 

  • Hakeem Osinaike issued a correction to the report, which stated that housing management came in-house in 2016, highlighting that it came in-house in 2017.

 

  • In response to the deputation, Hakeem Osinaike agreed that the service did not always get everything right, and it was always good to receive feedback from residents. He felt that as feedback was received, they could build a programme to ensure needs were met.

 

  • He highlighted that Brent Housing Management were always investing in properties, and this financial year had committed to spending £6.5m refurbishing all low-rise properties including windows, roofs and heating systems. In total, the Housing Management Team were spending £17m investing in properties.

 

The Chair thanked both Councillor Southwood and Hakeem Osinaike, and expressed appreciation for the work of the Housing Management Service. He proceeded to invite questions and comments from Committee members, with the following issues raised:

 

In response to whether the team felt disappointed that some areas had remained unimproved within the new Housing Management Service, Councillor Southwood expressed that it was a wide ranging and complex service. She expressed that lessons had been learnt from the previous service, particularly in relation to outstanding repair issues. It was noted that it was hard to compare the new in-house service to the previous service, as the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Selective and Additional Licensing in Private Rented Sector pdf icon PDF 338 KB

This report updates the scrutiny committee about the performance of Additional and Selective Licensing for the Private Rented Sector and the effect of renewing or extending these schemes during 2020.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Southwood (Lead Member for Housing and Welfare Reform, Brent Council) introduced the report, updating the Committee regarding the performance of Additional and Selective Licensing for the Private Rented Sector and the effect of renewing or extending these schemes during 2020. She expressed that the profile around licensing had been high, and in October 2019 Cabinet took the decision to renew the scheme and apply to the Government to add other wards to the scheme. The application was awaiting response. Highlighted in the report was where the Council enforced these licenses. She expressed that the licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) was important as they were a key housing option particularly for younger people on lower incomes.

 

The Chair thanked Councillor Southwood for the update and invited comments from the Committee, with the following raised:

 

Regarding the proposal to begin ward level analysis of Anti-Social Behaviour in the hope of reducing Anti-Social Behaviour incidences, the Committee asked for further details. Spencer Randolph (Head of Private Housing Services, Brent Council) responded that one of the reasons to grant selective licensing was whether it could be proven that it related to a reduction in Anti-Social Behaviour, which analysis showed a high correlation for. For example, the property team worked closely with the police dealing with responses to Anti-Social Behaviour in properties in the Private Rented Sector, but when selective licensing was introduced in 2015, Anti-Social Behaviour was not able to be linked to the Private Rented Sector. Gathering that evidence enabled the Officers to boost the evidence needed for the government to grant further licensing. Hakeem Osinaike (Operational Director for Housing, Brent Council) highlighted that licensing was not the tool to address Anti-Social Behaviour and there were other tools to do so.

 

Referring to section 4.63 in the report suggesting that the introduction of licensing would improve housing stock, the Committee asked what evidence Officers had. Hakeem Osinaike explained that when a license was issued to a private landlord they were given a list of requirements for the home such as HMO fire risk assessments and gas checks. If the list was not adhered to then they could be prosecuted for defying the license agreement. Spender Randolph continued, highlighting research carried out the previous year with the London Fire Brigade in which random HMOs were selected and inspected to ascertain the condition of properties. There was information available as to what those properties were like before they were licensed, and upon inspection following a licence there was evidence of improvement in condition. This was attributed to the direct impact of issuing a license.

 

The Committee questioned whether the introduction of fines for those who broke the license agreement was achieving the desired results. Hakeem Osinaike expressed that the team tried to support landlords and encourage them to do the right things, which the majority of landlords did, and there was a landlord forum who ensured tenants were in good homes and listened to tenants issues, but there were some that broke  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Single Homeless Prevention Service pdf icon PDF 375 KB

This report updates the Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny committee about the performance and outcomes of the Single Homeless Prevention Service (SHPS) since it came into effect operationally in September 2017.

Minutes:

Councillor Southwood (Lead Member for Housing and Welfare Reform, Brent Council) introduced the report, updating the Committee about performance and outcomes of the Single Homeless Prevention Service (SHPS) since it came into effect operationally in September 2017. She advised the Committee that when the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 was introduced the Council had already started a lot of this work as there was a number of people falling through the cracks who did not meet the Priority Need threshold but still had vulnerabilities. One of the main groups who came to the Council experiencing homelessness were single people, therefore she felt the SHPS was very important. They had focused on investment and applying for any grant they could to provide a service to single homeless people no matter if they met the priority criteria, so that they could receive support to prevent homelessness in the first instance, or support to find accommodation if already homeless. Councillor Southwood identified the particular challenge of demand, with a 52% rise in homeless applications when the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 was introduced and an 11% increase in this year.

 

The Chair thanked Councillor Southwood for the introduction and invited Committee members to ask questions, with the following issues raised:

 

The Committee asked for assurance that Cabinet had met the objectives set in 2017. Councillor Southwood expressed confidence that the service was meeting the need, but that it was a challenge responding to the increased demand. A homelessness and rough sleeping strategy had been developed as it was felt there was a need to increase the sophistication of understanding of services provided and the needs of individuals who came to the Council.

 

Whether there was anything Councillor Southwood wished they had been able to do and hoped to do going forward, Councillor Southwood highlighted affordable housing. She expressed that the Council met the needs of people coming to them through the Private Rented Sector and were building their own social housing and felt that the more houses available to the Council through projects like ‘Capital Letters’ to access more affordable accommodation, the fewer people needed to live in temporary accommodation. Councillor Southwood added that there were ambitious aims to reduce temporary accommodation.

 

Laurence Coaker (Head of Housing Needs, Brent Council) highlighted that the statistics around homelessness were becoming more robust as information was collected from single homeless people. The government had introduced a new recording system called ‘H-CLIC’, which the Council was obliged to use, and it provided information on the demographics of homeless people. It showed the demand in each Local Authority. SHPS was working on tracking individuals, and the council is working to track the outcomes for  rough sleepers, as there were questions around what had happened to the people who were picked up by the service. He expressed that the drivers for homelessness were affordability and Private Rented Sector contracting introducing benefits caps particularly in areas of high demand like Brent.

 

Regarding how ideas were shared across homelessness services that did not  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee Work Programme 2019/20 Update pdf icon PDF 123 KB

The report updates Members on the Committee’s Work Programme for 2019/20 and captures scrutiny activity which has taken place outside of its formal meetings.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RESOLVED: that the contents of the Update on the Committee’s Work Programme 2019-20 report, be noted.

 

RESOLVED: that the Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee would have an additional meeting to discuss end of life care in Brent once CCG proposals for palliative care were published mid-February.

10.

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 60.

Minutes:

None.