Agenda and minutes

Housing Scrutiny Committee
Tuesday 16 January 2018 7.00 pm

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

Contact: Nikoleta Nikolova, Governance Officer, tel: 0208 937 1587  Email:

No. Item


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.


None declared.


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 208 KB

To approve the attached minutes from the previous meeting on 1 November 2017 as a correct record.


It was RESOLVED that the minutes of the previous meeting held on 1 November 2017 be approved as an accurate record of the meeting.



Matters arising (if any)

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


Leaseholder Services

Members heard that work on the Resident Engagement Plan was still ongoing, with final draft planned for end of February and implementation as of April 2018.


It was RESOLVED that the Resident Engagement Plan be presented to the Committee upon completion by the Housing Team.



Deputations (if any)

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




Petitions (if any)

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




Housing Revenue Account (HRA) rent setting pdf icon PDF 354 KB

The report sets out the proposal for the 2018/19 rent and service charges to Cabinet as part of the Rent Report as well as an overview of the Council’s proposed capital investment spend for the housing stock including the travellers site at Lynton Close.


Troy Francis (Head of Housing Management Customer Services) introduced the report and summed up the main points. He explained that the aim of the report was to set out the proposals for 2018/19 rent and service charges, provide an overview of the Council’s capital investment spend for housing as well as an outline of the proposed mitigation strategy prior to full roll out of the Universal Credit (UC), scheduled for November 2018. With regards to the Capital Investment Programme members heard this was dependent upon the completion of the housing asset management strategy which would be taken to Cabinet for approval by Cabinet by December 2018. Similarly, the fire safety programme was due for approval by Cabinet in order to deliver fire safety enhancements for high rise blocks as well as comprehensive fire risk assessments. With regards to changes to the rent charges, Mr Francis explained that local authorities were required by the government policy to reduce rent by 1% each year up to 2020. Brent was in line with this policy and a further 1% reduction was planned for 2018/19 (this is equivalent to £1.15 less rent payable per week, per dwelling). Members heard that service charges were not covered by the rent reduction policy and therefore an increase of 4% would be proposed for the next financial year.


The Committee also discussed the upcoming full rollout of Universal Credit and the potential implications it could have for residents in Brent. In particular the potential impact of changes to payments – i.e. rents would be paid directly to households and not the council who is the landlord. Members were reassured that housing management services has in place a strategy, to review and manage potential increase in arrears , the service was putting in place  a range of mitigation activities to ensure agility of rent collection system and to support residents.


As part of the discussion on Lynton Close members heard that there was commitment from the Council to review the mobile home pitches’ rent as well as modernise the site. Officers acknowledged that current rent charges were too high and a proposal would be made to Cabinet to reduce rents levels and make it more affordable for residents.  Members were also informed that transition plans were in place with regard to Lynton Close, to transfer site management from Oxford County Council (OCC) back under the control of Brent Council. The planned transfer date is end of April 2018. With regards to potential impact of Universal Credit on Lynton Close residents, members heard that currently no one living on the site was affected. It was anticipated that the impact of the UC would not necessarily be felt until November 2019, as the changes would only apply to residents whose circumstances had changed.


In relation to Lynton Close site repairs and maintenance works, Troy Francis advised that Council was looking to extend investment across the entire site. Planned maintenance repairs were due to be completed by end of 2018, with two  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Fire Safety Task Group Report pdf icon PDF 92 KB


This report set out the findings and recommendations of the recent task group into Fire Safety of Low-Rise Domestic Properties.

Additional documents:


Members had before them a report from the task group outlining the findings and recommendations on fire safety in low rise domestic properties. The Committee heard that following the Grenfell Tower fire significant attention had focussed on improving fire safety in domestic properties nationwide. The report emphasised the fact that likelihood of fires was not limited to high rise properties alone. In Brent the vast majority of fires occurred in low rise properties, including privately owned ones, highlighting the importance of adopting a proactive approach and providing advice and support to residents. The report recommended that rather than making additional and potentially costly recommendations to the public enquiry that, a more pragmatic approach be adopted, with the Council seeking to resolve certain issues such as blocked fire exits immediately.


In the discussion which followed, the Committee was informed that other fire safety provisions such as smoke alarms and fire doors were already included as part of the contractors’ agreement. Nevertheless, despite the £10m government funding package of fire safety enhancements, the local authority had to exert more pressure for extra funding.



      i.        the recommendations in the Fire Safety Task Group report be noted






Brent based Registered Providers (RP) delivery of social housing pdf icon PDF 80 KB

The report takes a detailed look at the largest Registered Providers operating in the borough over the next quarter, focusing on one landlord every month as well as the level and quality of services they deliver to local residents.


Additional documents:


Jon Maxwell (Director of Local Services) and Morris Durrant (Housing Services Manager) from Metropolitan Housing presented this report, setting out the level and quality of services Metropolitan Housing delivered to local residents. During the discussion members sought further details on a range of issues including repairs services, housing performance, communication with residents and councillors, ground maintenance issues and Universal Credit roll out preparation.


In response to concerns raised about the Chalkhill Estate, Metropolitan Housing explained that they were aware of some of the existing issues of poor contractor service, inefficient communication, and customer service provided to residents living on the Chalkhill Estate as well as response to councillors’ requests and were working towards resolving these. Members were advised that as part of the process, the repairs service was being brought back under Metropolitan’s control which was expected to result in the provision of a better and more cost effective service to Metropolitan residents. The Committee was reassured that Metropolitan Housing was committed to providing good customer service and welcomes resident feedback to improve it. Whilst information was provided to councillors was available upon request, Metropolitan Housing acknowledged that councillor communication could be improved and agreed to closer collaboration in the future, including regular meetings with local ward councillors after the elections. Members felt that information on housing performance indicators was either insufficient or not available to residents when viewing Metropolitan Housing’s website but felt that this information was essential in measuring overall performance of the different services provided. In the context of performance, members heard that Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system was in progress with plans to use it across the organisation. Metropolitan Housing was in discussion with IT providers but no set live date had been confirmed yet.  Metropolitan explained that any performance information would apply to the group as a whole and not focus solely on housing performance in Brent


In respect of the long standing matter of land ownership on Chalkhill and the impact on service provision, Mr Maxwell and Mr Durant informed the Committee that Metropolitan Housing was aware of the issue which was mostly due to split estate grounds. Nevertheless, Metropolitan was liaising with the Council and had already taken measures towards changing the system, whilst ensuring regular officer presence on affected estates to help address any concerns/ queries. In part some issues arise due to difficulty tracking perpetrators, who may have moved to another area. Referencing paragraph 3.8 from the report, the Committee further discussed the terms and conditions on tenants discounts when acquiring properties. Officers explained that the terms were not detailed enough to allow for the current sale of properties to local residents to take place, resulting in the Council requesting that these be revised. Metropolitan Housing representatives advised member of their long standing commitment to allow tenants to buy on estates and as a result were working to ensure clarity in original agreements and deed terms, with progress update expected to be made to the Council by end of February 2018.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.


Brent’s Housing Associations: scrutiny task group report (July 2016) pdf icon PDF 95 KB

This report updates Housing Scrutiny Committee on the changes made to the Council’s work with Housing Associations in Brent, and relates these to the recommendations in the scrutiny task group report of July 2016.



Phil Porter (Strategic Director of Community Wellbeing) introduced the report which updated members on changes made to the Council’s work with Housing Associations in Brent and related these recommendations to the scrutiny task group report of July 2016.


The report provided a detailed update against a range of recommendations, demonstrating continuing commitment to a more productive and proactive approach and transforming the relationship with Housing Associations in order to achieve the aims as set out in the Housing Strategy - such as increasing supply of affordable housing, improving the standard of social housing and developing resident engagement. Members heard that most actions from the report had been completed or had expired.


In the discussion which followed, members made enquiries about a range of issues in the report. With regards to information given to residents about future service charges in respect of right to buy (RTB) and service charge payment options, Hakeem Osinaike (Operational Director Housing) explained that the process was statutory and information on potential charges must be provided to tenants in advance of the purchase. He drew members’ attention to the fact that some suspicious RTB cases were referred to the Audit team for further checks and investigation. However, in general if an individual met the requirements under the government’s RTB scheme, the Council had no choice but to sell the property.


Referencing recommendation 12 from paragraph 3.3 in the report, a member sought further clarification on how much Council owned land was available that could be offered up to housing associations or partners for development. Mr Porter explained that a range of objectives had to be considered and that the total amount of land available would depend upon the specific site or other possible uses for the site. Officers assured members that an asset management strategy was being planned that would look into this and other property related matters in more detail.


In the context of Housing Associations, a member also sought more information on Housing Association forums (HAF) as a platform for developing discussion amongst residents but also expressing collective concerns. Officers advised that the aim was to empower residents to take a more pro-active approach with the Council working alongside them and supporting them. Due to the pioneering nature of these forums as well as their increasingly geographical focus it was proving a challenging task. Nevertheless, officers welcomed anyone willing to join the HAFs and expressed commitment to develop a wider forum and build stronger bilateral relations with residents.


Finally, with reference to paragraph 4.3 from the report about right to stay, a member questioned the idea about criteria for fixed term tenancy and requested more information to be shared with the Committee. Members asked if any of the fixed term tenancies had come up for review and if there was a policy in place to handle these requests. Hakeem Osinaike replied that there was no policy as yet but this was being addressed and once available would be brought back to the Committee and would  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.


Review short-listed candidates as co-opted members for the Committee pdf icon PDF 100 KB

The paper sets out proposed co-opted members to the committee, following a selection process as previously agreed by members.


The Chair introduced the report and welcomed the two proposed co-opted members, who were present in the public gallery.  Setting out the appointments, the Chair explained that these had followed a selection process as previously agreed by the Committee on 27 July 2017, resulting in a tenant and leaseholder successfully being selected in December 2017 to join the committee as a non-voting co-opted members. The Committee was informed that, subject to formal approval by Full Council on 22 January 2018, official duties of the new members would commence from the next scheduled meeting of the Committee on 22 February 2018.



i) the contents of the report be noted

ii) the proposed appointment of Michele Lonergan and Karin Jaeger as co-opted members to the Housing Scrutiny Committee be approved by the Committee, subject to ratification by Full Council




Scaffolding protocol (verbal item)


The Committee heard a verbal update on a new scaffolding protocol applicable borough wide presented by Sean Gallagher (Head of Housing Management Property Services).


Members were informed that changes to scaffolding protocol had been made with the Council now taking a leading role and being accountable for the work, duration and location of scaffolding. Officers stressed the importance of the need to provide a value for money service to residents and therefore ensure that no scaffolding goes up unless clear the consultation process had been duly completed, but most importantly that a fixed sum was payable by the council and so no additional payments would be made for scaffolding kept longer than instructed by the Council. Officers also assured Councillors that scaffolding would not be erected without first communicating with residents and that the housing management service was taking over ownership of this function moving forward.


The main contractor Wates would be expected to provide residents with detailed letter explaining what works would need to be done before scaffolding went up. As part of the new measures the Committee heard that a scaffolding register would also be kept on each estate and monitored weekly by a housing management service designated officer – a measure that had already been implemented as of 8th January 2018. Additionally, new key performance indicators had been set for contactors per block. Finally, plans were in place for the Council to start carrying out pre-inspection works and in order to scope and devise a better understanding of the repairs and potential duration necessary for scaffolding to remain in place. This could then be communicated to residents and expectations better managed. Housing management also mooted the idea of using drones to carry out surveys and plan repairs as a way of help limiting the amount of time to set and keep up scaffolding especially where there was a need to carry out explorative works. Members welcomed the new measures but also noted that health and safety measures were at times over played and often costly to the Council.


It was noted that parking remained an on-going issue, with some vehicles often blocking areas where scaffolding was due to be erected and creating undue delay. Responding to concerns, officers explained that safe working practices remain a priority and inevitably come with a cost. Plans were in place to resolve the ongoing parking issues, with the intention being to use the TMOs (Traffic Management Orders) to help improve the situation in general.








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.