Agenda item - Issues Raised by Members

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Agenda item

Issues Raised by Members

To consider the following matters raised by councillors:

 

(a)      Petitions: to receive any petitions submitted to the full Council or at the meeting itself;

 

(b)      Written Questions: to consider any written questions;

 

(c)      Letters: to consider any letters;

 

(d)    Notices of Motion: to consider any Notices of Motion referred from Council or submitted directly to the Committee.

 

Minutes:

(a)  Petitions

 

39.1   There were no petitions. 

 

(b)  Questions

 

39.2    The questions were taken as read and are set out below with the response from the Chair.

 

39.3    The following question was submitted by Councillor Gibson: 

               “As of 1st of October 2018, how much HRA borrowing had been undertaken and how much was still available underneath the borrowing cap in force at that time?”

39.4    The Chair’s  response:

“At 1st October 2018, the HRA had borrowed £125.502m. The borrowing cap in force at that time was £156.8m and therefore this is £31.298m below the cap. However, the council only usually borrows at the financial year-end and therefore this figure at 1st October does not reflect the borrowing that will be required for 2018/19 expenditure on new build schemes.”

 

39.5    The following question had been submitted by Councillor Gibson:

          For 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19 up until 1st of November:

(a)    How many council homes have been sold under the right to buy?

(b)    How many sheltered units have been decommissioned?

 

        And for the same period  (above) what is the total number of:

(a)    New council homes built

(b)    “Hidden council homes” created

(c)    Homes bought under the home purchase policy

(d)    Temporary accommodation units provided by conversion of decommissioned sheltered housing”

 

39.6    The Chair’s response:       

How many council homes have been sold under the right to buy?

2015/16: 75

2016/17: 50

2017/18: 50

2018/19: 30

 

How many sheltered units have been decommissioned?

As previously reported to Housing & New Homes Committee, one Council sheltered unit has been decommissioned – Stonehurst Court with 20 sheltered bedsits replaced by 10 family homes for use as Council Temporary Accommodation.

 

New council homes built

As reported to Housing & New Homes Committeein the Housing Supply report being considered at today’s meeting and Estate Regeneration Board: since summer 2015 has completed 172 new council homes in 11 projects, has another 12 council homes under construction.

 

Hidden council homes” created

As reported to Housing & New Homes Committee in the Housing Supply report being considered at today’s meeting: The programme to refurbish and convert under used or unused spaces within our existing council stock into new homes continues with nine new homes delivered to date, with a further six due to be delivered in 2018/19.

 

Homes bought under the home purchase policy

As reported to Housing & New Homes Committee in the Housing Supply report being considered at today’s meeting: The scheme so far has allowed the council to buy back nine properties which will now be used for general needs or temporary accommodation.

 

Temporary accommodation units provided by conversion of decommissioned sheltered housing

As reported to Housing & New Homes Committee in the Housing Supply report being considered at today’s meeting: Creating a supply of council owned temporary accommodation allows the council

to achieve savings against the costs of procuring more expensive accommodation from the private market either through existing frameworks or spot purchase.The conversion of Stonehurst Court provided ten family units.

 

39.7    The following question was submitted by Councillor Gibson: 

          “Can the new homes schemes modelled (in answer to question  8 to full council on April 19th 2018) as estimates using estimates of borrowing and build costs be modelled inputting the actual build cost and the actual capital charges (or if this is not easy to establish using the weighted average capital charge on actual borrowing taken out since 2015) of the loans used to fund  the schemes over a 60 year period  to establish the projected surplus/deficit based on more accurate inputs?”

 

39.8    The Chair’s response:

“This would be a substantial piece of work and therefore it has not been possible to undertake this in time for this committee. Officers are currently working on the budget setting process for both the HRA and Housing General Fund capital and revenue budgets alongside monitoring in-year budgets and advising on other reports and developments. These must take priority and it is therefore unlikely that officers will be able to consider a response to this until after the budget process is finalised in February 2019’.

 

39.9    The following question was submitted by Councillor Gibson: 

          “Please provide the total legal costs to the HRA incurred in all activities incurred taking 40+ leaseholders on the Bristol estate to tribunal and break these costs down between the total external payment and internal recharges from the councils own legal services?”

 

39.10  The Chair’s response:

 

“Thank you for your question. The total legal costs incurred in all activities was £126,995.98. This includes solicitors, counsel & expert witness. There were no internal charges”.

 

39.11  The following question was submitted by Councillor Gibson:

(a)    “For the written question to full council on July 19th  2018 headed “net costs of spot purchase and short term accommodation” a table was provided which excluded the cost of council staff time managing and operating the service. Please can the cost of staff operating and managing the service be provided for each of the years from 2013/14 to 2017/18 (for which it is known)?

 

39.12  The Chair’s response:

Staff within the homelessness service work across the different types of temporary accommodation and therefore in order to calculate the staff costs relating to each accommodation type, their time needs to be apportioned using best estimates of the time spent working on each. This is a time consuming exercise and at best, can only give an estimate of the management cost attributable to each type of accommodation. This analysis has now been undertaken for the current year’s forecast spend 2018/19. Therefore the estimated cost of council staff time for managing and operating spot purchase and emergency accommodation for 2018/19 is £225,000

 

(b)    Information requested in the question about the number of places provided for individuals/households was not answered, so can the total number of accommodation units provided by the different providers be given for each year along with the average cost per person/household per night that is charged?”

 

39.13  The Chair’s response:

b)    The table below sets out all the short term and emergency accommodation we have under various contracts. In addition to the table below we have spot purchase units which are currently 57 but have dropped as low as 5 a couple of years ago. The average cost we pay for spot purchase is £40 pn net of HB.

 

Provider

Contract Dates

Bedsize

Units

£pn

Helgor Trading

May '15 - May '20

1 (blocks)

118

27.99

Colegate & Gray

Feb -16 - Nov '19

1 (blocks)

50

24.55

Baron Homes

May '15 - May '20

1 (blocks)

64

28.49

Baron Homes

Mar '15 - Mar '21

1 (flats)

170

37.14

Baron Homes

Mar '15 - Mar '21

2

24

43.08

Baron Homes

Mar '15 - Mar '21

3

9

50.5

Baron Homes

Mar '15 - Mar '21

4

4

60.71

          In terms of the average cost that is charged to the household for this accommodation these are as follows:

 

·       spot purchase in Brighton this is £21.43 pn, Eastbourne is £17.14 pn ( the difference reflects the different HB rates as they are in different Broad Market Rental Areas)

short term accommodation on contract:

·       1 bed : £19.29 pn

·       2 bed:  £25.22pn

 

39.14  The following question was submitted by Councillor Gibson: 

(a)    “For the written question to full council on July 19th  2018 asking for a breakdown of net costs surpluses (i.e. net of HB income) for different categories a table was provided which excluded the cost of council staff time managing and operating the service.  Please can this cost be provided for each of the years from 2013/14 to 2017/18 (for which it is known) for each of the 4 categories?

 

39.15      The Chair response:

a)    As mentioned in the response to question (v) above, calculating the council staff time for managing and operating the different types if temporary accommodation is a large piece of financial analysis to apportion all of the relevant costs. However, we are able to give you the following information relating to the net spend on management costs:

 

 

 

2014/15

2015/16

2016/17

2017/18

2018/19

 

Net Spend

Net Spend

Net Spend

Net Spend

Net Budget

Management of Temporary Accommodation

973,439

885,257

927,415

851,389

956,880

 

 

(b)    Information requested in the question about the number of places provided by each category over each of the years was not answered, so can the total number of accommodation units provided in each category be given for each year along with the average cost per person/household per night that is charged within each category?”

 

39.16  The Chair’s response:

          b) The total number of units for each category was provided in the Council papers in July 2018.

 

The costs that are charged to the household ( rent) are as follows:

 

          For leased properties the costs to the household is as follows:

1 Bed/studio            £19.29 per night

2 bed                      £25.22

3 bed                      £32.64

4 bed                      £42.86

These figures were higher until April 2016 when the £60pw management element of HB was removed to be paid separately and hence rent reduced to reflect this.Prior to this costs have been frozen for 4 years.

 

For Seaside Community Homes the costs to households are as follows:

1 bed: £153.02 per week

2 bed: £198.25 pw

3 bed; £230.28 pw

4 bed: £339.36 pw

 

With regard to previous years, rents are pegged to LHA rates which have been as follows:

 

Bed size

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

1

150.00

150.00

150.00

151.5

153.02

153.02

153.02

153.02

2

196.15

184.62

188.68

190.57

192.48

192.48

192.48

198.25

3

253.85

229.62

219.23

228.00

230.28

230.28

230.28

230.28

4

333.31

321.92

323.08

326.31

326.31

339.36

339.36

339.36

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(c) Letters

 

Estate Development Budget – Birchgrove Crescent Flats and Stanmer Heights

 

39.17  The Committee considered two letters from Councillor Wares, Councillor G Theobald and Councillor C Theobald as set out on pages 9 to 12 of the agenda. The letters related to the Estate Development Budget – Birchgrove Crescent Flats and Estate Development Budget – Stanmer Heights. The letters pointed out that the Birchgrove Crescent flats and in areas such as Stanmer Heights there was currently no Resident/Tenant Association and as such the areas were not benefiting from the EDB. A request was made for Birchgrove Crescent flats and Stanmer Heights to be awarded sums from the EDB.

 

39.18  Councillor Wares stated that he was asking formally to have assistance so formal bids could be submitted.

 

39.19  The Chair referred to the proposal in Item 43 of the agenda which would be precisely for these kind of requests. She hoped to hear Councillor Ware’s views on that report. It would enable tenants without a tenants’ association to improve their areas.  

 

39.20  The Executive Director, Neighbourhoods, Communities and Housing stated that the letters talked about using EDB funding but not in the way that EDB funding was currently permitted. Once it was found by tenants’ groups that these letters had been submitted to Committee, officers had received other letters from tenants’ groups asking if this was the way EDB bids were now being submitted. The difficulty the council had in giving a positive response to the letters was that it did not fall within the current EDB and it would be disrespectful to tenants to agree something without consulting with the wider tenant body.  Officers had identified that valid points had been raised in the letters and through the report submitted at Item 43 on the agenda, officers had come up with a mechanism that could add to the EDB to enable councillors, and individual tenants who were not represented by a group to have the benefit from the EDB. 

 

39.21  RESOLVED:

 

          That the letter be noted.

 

39.22  The Board considered the following Notice of Motion, submitted by Councillors Gibson and Druitt:

 

          “That Housing & New Homes Committee receives a report for consideration at the committee meeting in January 2019:

 

(1)        Exploring the options available for the creation of a ring fenced reserve as part of the current HRA reserve, to support the building of 27.5% living wage rent or social rent housing in the city; and

 

(2)        Setting out options for the proposed size of this reserve for 2019/20.”

 

39.23  Councillor Gibson stated that there was a real problem of affordability in the city. The proposal was to allow some rents that could be afforded on lower incomes. Councillor Gibson stressed that there were HRA reserves and a proportion could be ring fenced to enable a few schemes to achieve living and social rents. He requested a report to be submitted to the Housing & New Homes Committee in January 2019 which would recommend a ring fenced reserve.

 

39.24  Councillor Sykes stated that the Notice of Motion was requesting an official use of the HRA reserve. The city needed more affordable housing. The Notice of Motion was asking for a report and an analysis. 

 

39.25  Councillor Atkinson remarked that it was valuable and useful to have discussions on rents. He would support the Notice of Motion, with one caveat regarding timescales. It was not realistic to have a January deadline.

 

39.26  Councillor Mears concurred with Councillor Atkinson about the timing of the report. She supported a report coming forward but not in January. The report needed a great deal of detail because if the council was tying money down in a ring fenced pot for rents, it was necessary to know what effect that would have on future bills and how that would impact on the council being able to build more. Councillor Mears stressed that there needed to be continuity and fairness in the way housing was delivered so that people could benefit equally whatever the number of bedrooms required. There could be equalities issues around people who required larger properties because they had larger families.  

 

39.27  Councillor Gibson stated that he would be happy to change the date at which it was presented to committee. The Notice of Motion wanted to identify a mechanism to provide more affordable housing and was not revisiting policy. With regard to comments about ring fencing and the impact on other schemes, he was not seeking to impact on the programme of building new housing. He was seeking to use a reserve.

 

39.28  The Chair stated that what was now being proposed was as follows:

 

(1)            That the options available for the creation of a ring fenced reserve be explored as part of the current HRA reserve.

 

(2)            That a report be brought to a future committee setting out the options for the proposed size of this reserve.

 

39.29  Members voted on the proposal set out in 39.28 and it was agreed unanimously.

 

39.30  RESOLVED:

 

(3)            That the options available for the creation of a ring fenced reserve be explored as part of the current HRA reserve.

 

(4)            That a report be brought to a future committee setting out the options for the proposed size of this reserve.

Supporting documents:

 


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