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 Councillor Johnson

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:

The follow declarations of interest were made:

 

      i.        PeterGadsdon (Director ofPerformance, Policyand Partnerships)declared apersonal interestin relationto item9 asa Directoron i4Band FirstWave Housing

    ii.        KarinJaeger (co-optedmember) declareda personalinterest inrelation toItem 7 due to apossible minor adaptation (stairs) being fitted ather house.

 

3.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 161 KB

To approve the attached minutes from the previous meeting on 6 February 2019 as a correct record.

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meeting held on 6 February 2019 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:

The following mattersarising were raisedat the meeting:

 

·         Housing webpageshad beenupdated asrequested bythe Committeeat theprevious meeting.However, issueswith aplanning applicationslink (insteadof licensing)and insufficientinformation ontenants stillto beaddressed andupdated accordingly.

·         An update on resolved cases to be shared with the Committee

·         Automatic responseto emailsas agreedat theprevious Committeemeeting hadbeen draftedand requesthad beensent tothe Council’sWebteam toimplement the changes.

·         Role andimpact ofCredit Unionsin Brentto bediscussed atthe nextcommittee meetingas part of the Financial Inclusion item.

·         Report onprogress withparking oncouncil estatesdue tobe discussedat the Council’s PolicyCoordination Group in July 2019

 

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 a  petition objecting to installation of smart meters and construction work carried out at Landau and Joules Houses, in accordance with Standing Order 66.

Minutes:

In accordance with Standing Order 66 from the Council Constitution the committee heard a petition from Ms Suzanne Banton, Brent resident, who objected to the installation of smart meters, lack of proper insulation and major construction work carried out at Landau and Joules Houses. In her presentation, Ms Banton outlined the following key points:

 

·         Lack of consultation prior to commencement of works

·         Lack of direct resident engagement

·         Lack of adequate information and support

·         Lack of consideration of residents’ personal/health circumstances

 

The Chair thanked Ms Banton for her presentation and opened up the debate. The following points were raised by Members:

 

·         Concerns about the methods of consultation

·         Need  for  improved  methods  of  communication  and  engagement  with residents to ensure residents were adequately supported.

·         Need for a comprehensive and sufficiently detailed information to be provided to residents.

·         Need for consideration of alternative options where appropriate

·         Concerns about impact of new heating system with residents being moved from an old to a new billing arrangements following installation of smart meters

·         Due regard needs required on residents’ needs and the potential impact of any major works.

·         Need for a better system for measuring progress of works and utilisation of appropriate safeguarding measures.

·         Need for review of the effectiveness of the role of the resident liaison officer.

 

Officers responded to the points raised above and sought to address the resident and members’ concerns. Peter Winchcombe (Compliance Manager, Housing Management Property) stated that the petition related to installation of pipes and smart meters at Landau and Joules Houses, which was meant to be completed 16 weeks ago but had been delayed due to issues with obtaining access some of the residents’ homes. A number of meetings had been held with on site to inform residents of the works and the site set up was open to residents to ask questions if necessary. The complexity of the works was offset by the residents’ circumstances and a resident liaison officer (RLO) was on site to help with any queries and provide effective support to residents.

 

Responding to concerns about the new billing system resulting from installation of the smart meters, Mr Winchcombe stated that benefit outweighed the disadvantages, with smart meters expected to provide residents up to date information of usage and allow for a better management of their heating bills.

 

Hakeem Osinaike (Operational Director Housing) added that carrying of  major works was a legal requirement for the Council and was being done on a regular

 

basis. However, he acknowledged the poor level of consultation and added that plans for improvement would be put in place. It was explained that a planned resident consultation meeting would be re-scheduled to a later date to allow for at least 3 weeks’ advance notice. Venue and timings of the meeting would also be reconsidered to ensure it is suitable and inclusive of all residents.

 

RESOLVED:

 

      i.        That the contents of the petition presented by Ms Banton be noted

    ii.        That concerns raised by the petition be addressed and appropriate action  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

9.

Invest 4 Brent (i4B) and First Wave Housing (FWH) pdf icon PDF 167 KB

The report provides an update on i4B Holdings Ltd (i4B) and First Wave Housing Ltd’s (FWH) performance and progress in implementing their respective business plans.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Following this item, the order of the agenda was amended as set up below.

 

Martin Smith(Chair ofi4BandFirstWaveHousing)introducedtheitemwhichprovidedmembers withanupdateoni4BHoldingsLtdandFirstWaveHousingLtdperformanceonprogressinimplementingtheirrespective businessplans.Henotedthatbothcompanies wereingoodpositionbutstronger focusonvariance requiredtoensureoptimizationofassets.

 

SpotlightingfirstlyonFirstWaveHousing(FWH), MrSmithexplainedthatthiswasa virtualcompany allofwhichfunctionswerecarried bytheCouncil.Assuch FWHwasa valuableresource intacklinga numberofhousingissues.Thebusinesswasmature withstable performanceanda currentpropertyportfolioof45market rentproperties.Areaswherefurtherworkwasrequired includedrent rationalisationandbetterassetmanagement andmaintenance schedule.A numberofpropertieswereexpected to be sold over the next few months.

 

Invest4 Brent(i4B) ontheotherhandwasa relativelynewcreation, operatingforapproximately18months andestablishedspecifically toreduce theCouncil’sspending ontemporaryaccommodation.Atitsheartwastheprincipleofprovidinggoodqualityaccommodationtoresidents ataffordableprices.Whilstalsoa virtualcompany, unlikeFWH,i4Bwaslimitedbyshares andborrowedmoney fromtheCouncilinordertoacquireproperties.Todatei4Bownednearly240properties,which was a sizable viability given the short period of time the company had been in existence.Futureplansfori4Bincludedfurtherfocusongrowthinordertoensurethe financialstability of the company as well as morediversification of properties.

 

Members welcomedthepresentationandinthediscussionwhichfollowedraised the followingmain points.

 

A numberof optionsseeking toexplore the potentialbenefits of aligning the i4B andFWHhadbeenexplored.However,followinganalysisoftheseoptions,ithadbeenagreedthatmerger plansbetweeni4BandFWHbesuspended atthisstage duetodifferencesinlegalentitiesandlackofa mutuallybeneficialgroundsbetweenthetwo companies. Members were informed that amerger was also not currently viable for theCouncilasdoingso wouldentailtransferringofpropertiesandpaymentsofenhancedvalues. Thedecisionwouldbekept undercontinuous reviewandberevisited again at an appropriate time in the future.

 

TheCommitteesought clarificationontenancytypesandwhatinformationwasgiventoresidents. FivedifferenttenanciesexistedwithinFWHwithnoplanstochange therent oragreementsatthisstage. Withregards toi4B,Mr Smithexplainedthatalli4Bpropertieswerededicatedtoreduction oftemporaryaccommodationandalltenantswereinformedthattheywouldbeconsidered tenantstoa privatelandlord.Upontakingonthetenancyresidents wereadvisedofwhotheirmanagement agentwasandprovidedaninformationpack.ShouldtheyweretobecomehomelesstheywouldhavetoapplytotheCouncilandgoontothehousing register or declare themselves  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

7.

Disabled Facilities and Small Works Grants Distribution pdf icon PDF 1 MB

The report provides information on the delivery of Disabled Facility Grants (DFG) and Small Work Grants (SWG) as well as to provide information on the performance of the service, the challenges it faces and associated risks .

 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Spencer Randolph (Head of Private Housing Services, Brent Council) introduced the report which provided members with information on the delivery of Disabled Facility Grants (DFG) and Small Work Grants (SWG), performance of the service and any challenges.

 

Cllr Southwood (Lead Member for Housing and Welfare Reform) drew the Committee’s attention to the approach of the scheme, explaining that majority of issues were based on determining whether an adaptation was major or minor rather than what type of grant was needed. The revised grant allocation approach had built in flexibility and sought to address residents’ concerns over means testing by removing it as a requirement in the process, thus leading to a more positive experience. An article on the new approach to adaptation would be included in the summer issue of the Brent magazine to further illustrate the point.

 

Disabled facilities grants were prescribed by legislation. Aim of the Housing Team was to update model in order to process requests more efficiently and simplify a traditionally very complex and lengthy process.

 

Grants funding was considered a perplexing process. The funds were allocated by central government to the NHS, before being proportionally ring-fenced to the Council via the Better Care Fund. In an effort to simply the process, the Council was seeking to make a case to the NHS to demonstrate saving opportunities by making small adaptations.

 

In terms of private housing services adaptations, Mr Randolph that while historically most referrals came from Adult Social Care, adaptations would be carried out by Private Housing Services irrespective of the type of tenancy they relate to.

 

A total of 4284 people in Brent were benefitting from small grants. On average the Council was spending approximate £360,000 on small grants, with an average spent of circa £1,500 per grant, and a variable maximum of up to £7,000 for small works over  a 3-year  period  depending  on  the  type of  adaptation  required. Mr Randolph advised that despite the £30,000 mandatory limit, there was no fixed threshold for major adaptations, with additional funding possible for anything above the mandatory limit which was deemed practical and reasonable. In terms of cancellation trends, officers advised that this was often due to incomplete means testing or refusal to do so. In such cases a self-fund scheme would be offered would prevent the number of cancellations.

 

Discussions moved on with members enquiring about the type of adaptations and what happened to them once a property became vacant. In response, it was stated that the common practice was not to keep properties void just because they had major adaptations done. Locata, the system used for bidding on council properties, would be updated to reflect when such property became available and the matter was also picked up by surveyors. However, as most adaptations were specific to the user needs, when a property became void, these had to be removed. To reduce costs and waste, the Council was looking into the overall adaptations programme and considering building “lifetime homes” to ensure that fewer adaptations  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

New Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System pdf icon PDF 398 KB

The report provides an update on the ongoing implementation of the           Corporate CRM system (Microsoft Dynamics) in Housing Management, an outline of what has been delivered to date, how that is being managed and working, and what remains to be delivered.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Monika Singh (Director of Transformation, Brent Council) introduced the report which provided members with an update on the management and implementation of  the  Corporate  CRM  system  (Microsoft  Dynamics)  as  part  of  the  ongoing

 

Transformation programme within the Housing Services department. The project, which began in November 2017, had been seeking to address a number of challenges in the current digital environment and create a more efficient, reliable and transparent system for tracking housing related works and enquiries. As part of the process, significant investment had been made to improve the Council’s digital toolkit and in so doing improve the overall customer experience for residents.

 

The Committee welcomed the report and raised a number of questions on the progress made to date in the subsequent discussion.

 

Spotlighting on the newly introduced automated Financial Inclusion Casework, members heard that the aim of the casework was to enable tracking of works as well as give opportunity for residents to feedback, with relevant support and training being offered. The casework system was also intended as a vehicle to extract data that was missing the previous environment and quantify financial and social outcomes in order to determine which interventions were of most value to the customers and the Council.

 

Another improvement which the project was focusing on was the creation of a Customer Portal, providing comprehensive information and self-service tools to residents. Ms Singh stated that the Portal would significantly reduce the number of customers calls to the Council and instead provide them with the necessary online facilities to report problems, share images and make enquiries. The Portal was in advanced stages of the development and was anticipated that alongside the rest of the project, would be completed by July 2019, followed by data integrity checking and events to raise publicity. Official release of the portal to the public was expected between September and December 2019.

 

Discussions moved on with Members spotlighting on the current issues and inefficiencies around  accessing information.  Officers advised  that  a total of 18 systems existed, which were not centrally coordinated. As a result, accessing information had become a time consuming and cumbersome process, affecting handling times and customer experience. The CRM system would seek to address these problems, by collating all relevant data into one central database, creating a single page profile for each customer and therefore leading to greater efficiency and automation.

 

Addressing members’ concerns about the accessibility of the new digital platform to customers who may not be au fait with technology, Ms Singh advised that a number of alternative provisions were being considered, including introduction of local hubs and surgeries where residents could get face to face help and support. In addition, customer would be able to rely on improved call-centre functionality, with the new system allowing the council to better target the needs of the residents, meaning that waiting times would be significantly reduced for those customers identified as vulnerable.

 

Introduction of the CRM would also result in changes to corporate performance monitoring, with a different  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

10.

Work Programme 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 93 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED:

 

      i.        Thatthe contentsof theWork Programme2018/19 includingan itemon FinancialExclusion addedto theagenda forthe nextCommittee meeting,be noted.

 

11.

Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 105 KB

Minutes:

The Committeewas informedthat areport onAsset ManagementStrategy wasexpected to be presented to Cabinet at its meeting inOctober 2019.

 

RESOLVED:

 

      i.        That the contentsof the Forward Plan be noted

 

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.