Agenda item - Chairs Communications
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The Chair stated the following:
21.1 I am very mindful still of the impact of the Grenfell Fire and the tragic loss of so many lives. I am sure that all of our thoughts are still with the victims and those who lost family members and their homes. As you will be aware the Public Inquiry has now started and this and the Criminal Investigation are being discussed in the media. We are very conscious of how this could raise concerns for our residents, particularly those living in high rise flats and we would want to reassure them that their safety is of the utmost priority to the council.
21.2 I am pleased to inform you that officers have been continuing their joint work with the Fire Service to provide information and advice on home safety across the City. Officers attended the Resident Involvement ‘Home’ group this week, which is chaired by a tenant, and is a meeting with tenant representatives across the city which seeks to co-produce council policies relating to council housing and also scrutinises our services and our performance. Officers had been asked to attend to update the group on fire safety works including sprinklers and also because they wanted to scrutinise the way in which we had communicated with residents about their safety in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire.
21.3 Officers asked if residents wanted to feedback in terms of anything we could have done differently or better. Without exception, residents said they thought this was done really well; they felt very reassured; they knew without us telling them that they were safe. This is because they knew before Grenfell that we take fire safety and their safety very seriously and were aware that we had been progressing fire safety measures and working practices for some years, and keeping the message alive with them. They really appreciated the speed of our response after the Grenfell Incident and the level of information provided, such as offers of meetings etc. They also particularly wanted to commend the way in which councillors had been very involved in providing reassurances and how officers and councillors had all come together with the Fire Service to inform and support residents. It is great to get this feedback and I want to pass this on to you all.
21.4 We are continuing to keep fire safety under constant review. None of the council’s 43 high rise blocks of flats have cladding made from the same material as used in Grenfell Tower and safety checks have been carried out on all of them, with follow up independent surveys as required. We are continuing to take additional precautionary measures where needed, such as easing and adjusting fire doors to ensure they shut firmly; filling any gaps or holes in walls which could let smoke through; and clearing items from stairwells and landings.
21.5 The safety of residents has always been our top priority and we will continue to work closely with East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service and monitor developments as the investigation into the Grenfell fire continues.
21.6 Fire safety information is available on our website, including frequently asked questions following the Grenfell fire www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/fire-safety-in-flats or by calling Housing Customer services on 01273 293030.
Residents can arrange a free home safety visit and help with smoke alarms, including special alarms for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Contact East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service on 0800 177 7069. We would like to encourage all residents to take this up.
21.7 I am also pleased to update you on new social housing homes being delivered through our successful hidden homes programme. We have been consulting with tenants about the project since January 2016 and keeping them updated on progress. Work is currently underway to create two, two bedroom accessible flats through the conversion of redundant storage space at the rear of the Normanhurst. The new flats will have level access from the main entrance making homes suitable for elderly and disabled households as well as small family units. Normanhurst is centrally located, within five minute’s walk of the city centre and fifteen minutes to the sea front with good access to public transport and local amenities.
21.8 In addition, we are proposing to convert the redundant NHS clinic in Elwyn Jones Court into two one bedroom flats for Seniors Housing residents. Draft layout design work has been completed and residents have been consulted. A planning application will be made very soon.
21.9 I am further pleased to advise you that there has been a successful prosecution for the council in relation to someone who repeatedly trespasses and who is a prolific flytipper in the city. Earlier this year we successfully obtained an injunction barring him from trespass in Wild Park, Home Farm Road and Stanmer Park and from flytipping. He continued to move around other locations in the area and continued to flytip regardless of the injunction. He was frequently flytipping on council housing estates. We worked closely with City Clean and our legal team and he has been convicted and issued with a 24 week prison sentence suspended for 2 years and sentenced to community service. The police are also very pleased with the outcome as they consider that it will help them manage his behaviour.
21.10 I would also like to update you on our continuing work to help tenants reduce their fuel bills, keep their homes warm and help the environment.
21.11 Work has been carried out to insulate homes, install solar panels onto roofs for new and existing homes, and upgrade lifts and lighting systems. Officers have also visited vulnerable tenants as part of the Warmth for Wellbeing programme to help them manage their heating and bills better.
21.12 We helped 1118 clients to stay warm in winter, reduce their fuel bills, increase their energy efficiency, reduce their debts and/or maximise their benefit entitlement. On average, each customer who was in receipt of home energy advice and measure is now better off by £154 per year. On average, each client advice casework client is now better off by £2,531 per year.
21.13 However, legal, environmental and economic changes mean we need to do more to improve fuel efficiency, prevent poverty and reduce carbon emissions. Therefore we are working on a strategy to bring together the existing work and help us plan for the improvements we need to make in the future.
21.14 The strategy aims to help our tenants save money; ensure our tenants are able to heat their homes in winter; reduce the impact of council housing on the environment by reducing carbon emissions and ensure we are compliant with legislation. We aim to direct resources to those most in need and oversee investment in our stock to ensure the best possible value for money.
21.15 The strategy will improve our housing stock to make it more energy efficient; ensuring our new builds are using the latest technology and techniques to make them efficient and cheaper for tenants and use innovative techniques like Energiesprong to improve older homes by refurbishing them quickly and at low cost.
21.16 And finally, may I bring to your attention that a warning has been issued by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau following reports in some parts of the country of fraudsters cold calling people posing as fire prevention or council officials.
21.17 If you are in any doubt about the identity of a caller, ask them to leave and contact the Housing Customer Services on the number above or the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06.