Agenda item - Public Involvement
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To consider the following matters raised by members of the public:
(a) Petitions: to receive any petitions presented to the full council or at the meeting itself;
(b) Written Questions: to receive any questions submitted by the due date of 12 noon on the 13th September 2017;
(c) Deputations: to receive any deputations submitted by the due date of 12 noon on the 13th September 2017 (copy attached).
23.1 There were no petitions.
23.2 John Hadman asked the following question:
“The Council promised on 24/01/17, to open its empty buildings for night shelters. Will the Council open night shelters after voting 100% in favour of the 38 Degree petition I ran, which received 4110 signatures from the community; and what other plans do the Council have to house homeless and rough sleepers every day of the winter of 2017?”
23.3 The Chair replied as follows:
“I am pleased to say that we have identified a building and are doing checks on it with a view to opening it in November and we are confident we can get people into that building rather than rough sleeping on the streets.”
23.4 Mr Hadman asked where the building was situated. The Executive Director, Neighbourhoods, Communities and Housing explained that until the council had carried out checks which were happening at the moment, it was not possible to give the building address. However, once checks had been carried out and it has been agreed with councillors that it was a suitable building, then officers could contact Mr Hadman and provide him with the address.
23.5 Mr Hadman had provided the following supplementary question:
“Will the Council use the available £100,000 for running shelters and the £35,000 for capital cost and will the Council use the residue of money left from S.W.P. funding, held by BHT and St Mungos for at least three years?”
23.6 The Chair replied as follows:
“The Council has identified £100,000 capital resources and £35,000 revenue resources for the purpose of running a night shelter. A building has been identified but until we have further information, following checks on the building, it is not possible to give further details at the present time. We will look at the suggestion that the council should use the residue of money left from Severe Weather Emergency Protocol funding, held by BHT and St Mungos for at least three years.”
23.7 RESOLVED- That the Public question be noted.
23.8 Carrie Hynds asked the following question:
“How much money has the council got in its capital account ring-fenced for new homes, and can the committee specify which fund the £1.2 million paid by Crest Nicholson to avoid providing any affordable homes in Davigdor Road has been put into?”
23.9 The Chair replied as follows:
“The Council’s Budget for new homes within the ring-fenced Housing Revenue Account (HRA) is currently £14.952million for 2017/18. The budget for 2018/19 and indicative sums for 2019/20 and 2020/21 will be approved by Budget Council on 22 February 2018.
An affordable housing commuted sum of £1.2m was secured through a legal agreement as part of the permission for residential development at 121-123 Davigdor Road (Crest Nicholson). The payment is due on first occupation of the development. As set out in the agreement the funds are required to be spent on the ‘delivery of affordable housing in the administrative boundary of Brighton & Hove’. It has not yet been determined where and how those funds will be spent to secure new affordable homes and this will be a carefully considered decision of the city council.”
23.10 Ms Hynds asked the following supplementary question:
“Has it been decided what the definition of affordable will be, in the homes it will eventually be spent on?”
23.11 The Chair replied as follows:
“That will be decided at the time councillors determine that application.”
23.12 RESOLVED- That the Public question be noted.
23.13 The Committee considered the following deputation which was presented by Barry Hughes:
Deputation: Central Area Housing Panel Representatives to Housing and New Homes Committee 20th September 2017. A call for a review of procedures for mutual exchanges in Brighton & Hove.
“At the Central Area Resident Only Meeting held on 10th August a number of concerns were raised about the present procedures for mutual exchanges as conducted by B&HCC, and it was agreed that it was desirable that there should be a review of these processes in consultation with residents.
The following points were made:
1. Recent problems at Sylvan Hall indicate that properties are not inspected thoroughly before exchanges are allowed to proceed. There should be proper inspections done as part of the process for mutual exchanges.
2. Residents have been told by Housing Officers that properties ‘do not have to be of a lettable standard’. This is not acceptable and should not be happening.
3. If out-going residents are in breach of their tenancy agreement then the exchange should not be allowed to go ahead.
4. Money owed by out-going tenants should be pursued, even if the individuals are no longer council tenants.
We would ask that the Housing and New Homes Committee instigate a review whereby the mutual exchange process, as it affects Brighton & Hove City Council properties, should incorporate an inspection process that truly ensures that the property inspected meets the Council’s lettable home standard. If this standard is not met, or if there are breaches of the tenancy agreement, then the exchange should not be allowed to proceed.
We would also ask that the Housing Income Management Team should not only seek to recover arrears of rent but should also pursue recharges of other items, such as restoring properties to a liveable standard – whether “someone is still a tenant or not.”
Thank you for listening.”
23.14 Mr Hughes stated that since tabling the deputation, tenants’ representatives had been in correspondence with officers about the details. Whilst tenant’s representative still wished there to be a review of the mutual exchange process, possibly by means of a task and finish group, they knew there were grounds for studying how other local authorities and housing associations handle mutual exchanges and thought that officers might wish to support this review. Tenants were seeking a coherent policy that understood the need to protect council properties and bring to book rogue members of the community.
23.15 The Chair responded as follows:
“The ability to effect a mutual exchange is governed by statute and the grounds for refusing do not include the state of the property. This is contained within schedule 3 of the Housing Act 1985. Inspections do take place and we ensure that all relevant safety checks are carried out. It is not always possible to do a comprehensive check because in most cases the property will be lived in and so we have to balance intrusion against the inspection. It is the case that some issues will be camouflaged and only come to attention after someone moves out. We share with the incoming tenants issues we have identified and in the case referred to at Sylvan Hall, we were very explicit about what we had found.
In reference to the lettable standard we refer to the above. It may be helpful to note that this is tenants making a choice, and one that we have only minimal control over. If a tenant chooses to take a property (even when we raise concerns) then it is their right to do so if other conditions have been met. We cannot guarantee a lettable standard because we have no legal power to stop a mutual exchange based on this as a criteria due to the fact that this is a private transaction between the two tenants. What we ensure, however, is that the property is in a safe condition.
There is a reference to breach of tenancy and it is the case that there is an expectation in the tenancy agreement that the property is kept in good condition. Allowing a property to decline is not necessarily a breach of tenancy, which simply says it is to be kept in a good condition. We can stop an exchange where we feel there has been a breach of certain provisions of the tenancy, but this would have to be dependent on the individual circumstances of the case. If a property is in a poor condition due to age this is different from wilful damage or neglect.
Money owed is pursued where it is practical to do so. The nature of many tenants is that they are vulnerable and sometimes chaotic. They may not have money and so we have to decide whether we spend money to recover money. This will not always make financial sense and we could find we spend more than we get back. These matters are discussed with our legal colleagues and a judgement made on a case by case basis.”
23.16 Finally, the Chair stated that she thought the idea of a review was a very good idea and she would be asking that the council look at how other local authorities and housing associations offer to tenants when exchanging properties. This could be communicated in an email to the Committee and to Mr Hughes.
(1) That the deputation be noted.