Agenda and minutes

Housing Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday 1 November 2017 6.30 pm

Venue: Board Rooms 3, 4 & 5 - Brent Civic Centre. View directions

Contact: Nikoleta Nikolova, Governance Officer  Email: Nikoleta.Nikolova@brent.gov.uk, tel: 0208 937 1587

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for absence and clarification of alternate members

Minutes:

None.

2.

Declarations of interests

Members are invited to declare at this stage of the meeting, the existence and nature of any relevant disclosable pecuniary, personal or prejudicial interests in the items on this agenda and to specify the item/s to which that interest relates.

Minutes:

None.

3.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 94 KB

To approve the attached minutes from the previous meeting on 14 September 2017 as a correct record.

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the minutes of the previous meeting, held on 14 September 2017, be approved as an accurate record.

4.

Matters arising (if any)

To consider any matters arising from the minutes of the previous meeting.

Minutes:

None.


5.

Deputations (if any)

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

Minutes:

None.

6.

Petitions (if any)

To discuss any petitions from members of the public, in accordance with Standing Order 66.

Minutes:

None.

7.

Leaseholder Services pdf icon PDF 99 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Dawn Martin (Head of Income and Leasehold) introduced the item and answered members’ questions. Referencing the report, she informed the Committee about the Section 20 consultation process and the various schedules which come under it before service charges can be collected. She continued by explaining the engagement processes in place for both tenants and leaseholders and gave details on payment plan options available to leaseholders.

 

During the discussion which centred on resident engagement, commissioning works and payment options, councillors expressed particular concerns about the level of engagement with leaseholders, ongoing issues with communication and lack of consultation with resident associations. In response to members questions officers explained that the consultation process depended largely on an effective long-term planning of the capital investment programme, particularly with regards to asset management. Officers highlighted a commitment to improve the overall consultation process within the Council including to ensure quality of commissioned works.

 

Members heard that although there was a strong understanding of the need to find the right balance in decision making and feasibility assessments, the Council had an overarching obligation to maintain its stock in good condition. Depending on the type of schedule being served and level of repairs required the Council would either invite residents to nominate contractors, use framework contractors or refer to long term contractors to resolve it. Members were reassured that the correct legal processes were being followed throughout and the appropriate level of consultation had been applied on each occasion. Members also heard that a batch of Section 20 works had been put on hold and their release was planned to be trialled under the proposed new process.

 

The Committee also discussed the issue of payment of major works bills and ways of raising better awareness about the different options available to residents.  Referencing point 7.1 from the report officers explained that various payment options were available including payment plans, resident income maximisation, and communal sinking funds and in certain cases - release of equity, with the notices used to give a clear indication of the works planned and an estimation of the costs.  In addition, officers stated that additional support was available through the Council’s financial inclusion team for any residents facing payment difficulties and ten year payment plans were available for bills over £6,101. Members heard that the Council had a legal responsibility to charge actual costs of works and where challenges to estimates arose these would be put through the Council’s property services team for further investigation. Assurances were given that in the case of any cost which had been incorrectly imposed, the overcharged amount would be levied off the final bill or, if already charged, a refund or credits would be given. Payment options, including sinking fund, were being considered under the transformation process.

 

Councillors mentioned that the presented report made reference only to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 but not to the Common Law Act 2003, which superseded it. This was discussed and it was resolved that the report would be  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Brent's Housing Associations: Scrutiny Task Group Report (July 2016) pdf icon PDF 65 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED that:

        i.            Item on “Working With Housing Associations in Brent” be carried forward to the next meeting due to be held on 18th January 2018.

 

 

9.

Housing Complaints pdf icon PDF 113 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

(Councillor Shaw left the meeting at 8.25pm)

 

Hakeem Osinaike (Operational Director, Housing) introduced the report and answered members’ questions. Referencing point 3.5 from the report he informed members that the overall number of complaints had been gradually decreasing, which was an indicator for an improving service.

 

In the discussion which followed, members queried the procedures followed with regards to members’ enquiries, insisting that no specific protocol was in place to deal specifically with members’ complaints or escalate them further. Responding to members questions regarding the increase in private housing services complaints, officers stated that contract management was an area that required further improvement and that this would be tackled through the reorganisation of the housing service and improvement of process and protocols.

 

(Councillor Daly left the meeting at 8.31pm)

 

RESOLVED that:

 

      i.        Brent Complaints Procedure to be circulated to committee members

    ii.        Report on impact on licensing scheme on Private Rented Sector (PRS) tenants to be presented to the Committee in the next municipal year.

 

10.

Housing Scrutiny Committee's Work Programme 2017-18 pdf icon PDF 106 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the contents of the updated Housing Scrutiny Committee’s Work Programme 2017-18 report, be noted.

11.

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.