Agenda and minutes

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

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

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for absence and clarification of alternate members

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Aden (substituted by Cllr Hector), Ethapemi (substituted by Cllr Thakkar) and Kennelly and Ms Michelle Lonergan (co-opted member).

2.

Declarations of interests

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

Minutes:

None

3.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 102 KB

To approve the attached minutes from the previous meeting on 12 July 2018 as a correct record.

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meeting held on 12 July 2018 were approved as an accurate record of the meeting.

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.

Allocations Policy pdf icon PDF 164 KB

The report provides a brief overview of the Council’s current Allocations Scheme, used for the allocation of Social Housing in Brent, specifically how the scheme is applied to Care Leavers, and explains the allocation of properties owned by Invest4Brent (I4B). 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Eleanor Southwood (Lead Member for Housing and Welfare Reform) introduced the report which outlined the Council’s current Allocations Scheme used for allocation of social housing in Brent and its impact in particular on care leavers. The committee heard that the system was relatively new for local authorities in London but if applied correctly had a potential to offer a holistic solution by using a combination of approaches for tackling homelessness. In seeking members views on proposed amendments, Cllr Southwood emphasised the fundamental role the scheme played in providing much needed housing across the borough and the need to address ongoing challenges, including high numbers of temporary accommodations, shortage of suitable accommodation for large families and issues with reasonable rents.

 

Several key points were raised in the subsequent discussion. Firstly, officers explained that bids on the existing Locata system were limited to the number of available properties. Although the benefits of the system in bringing visibility and transparency to the process of bidding were acknowledged, officers noted existing flaws in the waiting list process. It was stated that the housing register was a “snapshot in time” and a resident’s position would depend on a range of factors. It was also stated that an alternative solution would be to manually list properties and rely on officers to allocate them to residents, with penalties imposed on refusals. Responding to a member’s query on the idea of an “open waiting list”, officers stated that no qualifying criteria would be applied and that the list would not take into account the residential or income circumstances of the residents.

 

Referencing information in the report, a point was also made on the proposals for introduction of a new nominations agreement with registered providers, which would see the implementation of a policy offering private rented accommodation to homeless households through Registered Providers. The committee heard that the proposals, whose primary aim was to increase the number of private options available to residents and reduce the shortage of available private rented accommodation in the borough, would require an amendment to the Council’s allocations policy. Laurence Coaker (Head of Housing Needs, Brent Council), added that Registered Providers would be able to charge reasonable rents and were likely to maintain long-term leases, subject to receipt of consistent and reliable income. An analysis of the private sector rents was carried out by the Council’s benefits team which established that should the proposals were to go ahead then housing associations could charge up to 80% of current rent, with any additional costs being offset by the housing benefit.

 

Discussions moved on towards affordability of rents and the potential impact of Universal Credit. Officers acknowledged the linkage between affordability and homelessness and assured the committee that the latter was a priority on both central and local government’s agendas. Within Brent Council, a modelling exercise had been commissioned in order to not only demonstrate best course of action but to also demonstrate the level of viable contributions the Council could afford to make and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Grounds Maintenance (Estates) pdf icon PDF 118 KB

The report provides an overview of the grounds maintenance arrangement across the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) land as well as an outline of the contract management arrangement, Council’s approach to tree management and how the ground maintenance service complements the wider approach to housing and neighbourhood management.

Minutes:

At the invitation of the Chair, Hakeem Osinaike (Operational Director Housing, Brent Council) introduced the report which provided the committee with an overview of the grounds maintenance and contract management arrangements across the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) land. He explained that grounds maintenance was on the government strategy for managing grounds maintenance contracts. The current contract was carried out by Veolia and co-managed by Environment and Housing Management Services.

 

In the subsequent discussion the committee raised several key points. Firstly, members put strong emphasis on the issue with inconsistency of standards and what Council was doing to bring all estates to the same level. Mr Osinaike stated that Housing Management was aware of issues with varying levels of service across the estates and were working towards addressing these and meeting their targets. He stated than a plan was in place which would monitor actions and assured committee that improvements would be made. As part of the planned improvements, he updated members on the recently introduced CRM system. The system which was being piloted across the Housing Department would allow for real time quality assessment of works by estate inspectors, with an intention to expand towards creating an app which residents could use to track progress. Members heard that discussion on the app were in place and the app was due to be released by the end of 2019 year. It would primarily focus on estate cleaning with the potential to expand. Officers confirmed that the new app would not replace the “Cleaner Brent” app and would have a specific purpose of monitoring. The CRM system would also simplify communication and liaison with councillors. Furthermore, Mr Osinaike stated that key performance indicators (KPIs) were available from Veolia, with an intention to move to specified KPIs for each estate going forward. The committee also commented on the effectiveness of the local environment quality checks programme which was introduced in 2007, as a way t to incentivise residents to maintain the grounds in their estates by giving them sense of ownership and engagement. Although the programme was not currently operational officers expressed willingness to explore this in more detail.

 

Discussions moved on with committee members spotlighting on the possibility of merging several contracts into one in order to make efficiencies. In response, Mr Osinaike stated that certain procurement processes were in place. Housing Management was considering taking a report to Cabinet regarding contract options in November. He explained that contracts would need to be re-aligned through procurement in April 2019 or later depending on the expiration date. There was opportunity for tenants to self- manage themselves through the set-up of TMOs. Members expressed concerns in the prospect of Veolia taking over the provision of all contracts and the implications this would have on performance monitoring. Mr Osinaike explained that terms and conditions were set by the Council in order to hold contractors to account. However, he stated that it was important to be flexible and give contractors opportunities to carry out their duties.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Landlord Licensing pdf icon PDF 322 KB

The report provides an outline of the Council’s landlord licensing scheme within the context of private housing in Brent, its financing, impact on landlords and tenants as well as challenges and future strategies.

Minutes:

Spencer Randolph (Head of Private Housing Services, Brent Council) presented the report which outlined the key points on landlord licensing scheme within the context of private housing in Brent, its financing, impact on landlords and tenants as well as challenges. In welcoming the success of the selective licensing scheme, a number of questions were raised in the subsequent discussion, centred mainly on issues with cost, enforcement, standards and liaison with tenants.

 

Responding to questions on costing, the committee heard that the landlord licensing scheme was bringing in funds sufficient only to cover administrative and staffing costs without generating any profit to the Council. However, officers stated that there was a limit to how much the system could achieve largely due to resource restrictions but also additional costs such as potential enforcement actions on non-licensed properties were not covered by the scheme. Nevertheless, the Council was committed to taking preventative action, work with landlords and avoid the need for enforcement actions. Elaborating on the matter of enforcement, Mr Randolph stated that the Council was able to impose fines and funds were available to support certain enforcement activities. He stated that there was no requirement to inspect properties before a license was granted and other mitigation processes were in place, including significant improvement in carrying out compliance inspections, removal of landlords off the system and imposing GLA database banning orders. Whilst management orders were not the norm, officers noted that periodic inspections were carried out to ensure compliance from landlords.

 

Discussions moved on with members spotlighting on several operational issues relating to the scheme. Responding to questions on the lack of carrying inspections prior to granting a license, officers stated these were not required and that the Council was reliant on self-declarations made by landlords. However, they stated that health and safety considerations were taken into account with each application, the breach of which could impact on the length of the license. A query also arose with regards to the length of licenses. In response, officers stated that 15% of current applications were processed for 1 year and added that as of 1st October 2018, criteria on the length of licensing was expected to change for mandatory licensing, with any properties housing 5 or more non-related people would require a mandatory license.

 

Finally, members commented on the Council’s liaison with tenants and estate agents. In terms of tenants, the committee noted that the information available on the Council’s web pages which they felt was insufficient when compared to that for landlords, with no clear guidance available on complaints procedures. Members also commented on the information available on the website, noting the complexity of existing mechanisms of finding out what properties were registered. Acknowledging the committee’s recommendations for review of the contents/accessibility, officers provided assurance that sufficient details were provided, with residents directed to the relevant reporting pages and a “Chatbox” functionality expanded to provide further assistance. Whilst officers admitted that some residents may still be reluctant to engage with the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Work Programme 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 77 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED:

      i.        That the contents of the Housing Scrutiny Work Programme 2018/19 be noted.

11.

Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 147 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED:

              i.        That the contents of the Forward Plan be noted

            ii.        That the Pan-London Collaboration on the Procurement of Accommodation for Homeless Households report due to be heard at Cabinet on 15 October 2018 be shared with committee members following feedback from the Policy Coordination Group

12.

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.