Hounslow Council


Agenda, decisions and minutes

Venue: Committee Room 2, Civic Centre, Lampton Road, Hounslow. View directions

Contact: Ainsley Gilbert, Email: ainsley.gilbert@hounslow.gov.uk , 020 8583 2064 

Items
No. Item

9.

Apologies for absence, declarations of interest or any other communications from Members

Decision:

Apologies for absence had been received from Irene Wooten, who had also decided to step down from the committee, her substitute Chris Boucher, Jacek Stachowiak, and John Morris.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence had been received from Irene Wooten, who had also decided to step down from the committee, her substitute Chris Boucher, Jacek Stachowiak, and John Morris, who was acting as the Tenants’ Forum’s facilitator.

 

Councillor Mel Collins was present as an observer, as was Carolyn Courage. The Chair agreed that they could speak.

 

The Chair introduced Orla Gallagher, the interim Managing Director of Hounslow Homes, who was attending her first meeting of the TLSTJCC.

10.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 97 KB

Decision:

The minutes of the meeting held on 13th August 2014 were agreed to be accurate.

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 13th August 2014 were agreed to be accurate.

 

Matters Arising - HFTRA Bank Account

Paul Gulley explained that a formal audit or investigation had not been carried out, but that he had reviewed documents made available to him by HFTRA trustees. These documents had now been given back to those trustees. He explained that there were a number of payments which did not obviously relate to HFTRA’s aims, or which were unusually generous. A significant proportion of the HFTRA bank account’s balance had been paid by direct debits to companies leasing and servicing HFTRA’s photocopiers.

 

The Chair noted that Mr Gulley’s findings seemed to confirm that HFTRA’s financial management was poor, and that that justified his decision to pause grant funding to the organisation. Carolyn Courage noted that HFTRA had tried to improve its financial governance arrangements after the audit carried out between March and June 2013. Tenants’ representatives expressed concerns that money appeared to have been spent poorly, and were concerned that the funds could have been spent with a greater positive impact for residents.

11.

Update on Hounslow Homes

Decision:

Councillor Steve Curran agreed that if the Council held figures about which groups of society had responded to the consultation these ought to be shared with Julie Brooker, upon her requesting the specific information she sought.

 

 

Minutes:

Peter Matthew, Assistant Director for Housing, explained that on 13th October the Cabinet had agreed to return Housing Services to direct Council management. This decision had been based on a consultation response of 25% of Tenants and Leaseholders. 57% of those responding had been in favour of the proposals, whilst only 9% were opposed to it. There had also been concerns about Hounslow Homes’ performance, the value for money it provided, and the general organisational culture. Services would return to the Council on 1st January 2015, and Hounslow Homes would be supported to be wound up voluntarily from 31st March 2015. The previous board of Hounslow Homes had stood down on 23rd October 2014. The responsibility for Hounslow Homes had been transferred to an agent, and a new body the ‘Hounslow Housing Integration Board’, consisting of the Leader of the Council (Councillor Steve Curran), the Chief Executive of the Council (Mary Harpley), the Director of Regeneration, Economic Development, and Environment (Brendon Walsh), and the former Chair of Hounslow Homes (Boe Williams). The integration board would both monitor the work of the agent, and supervise the transfer of services back to direct Council control. A consultation with Hounslow Homes staff about their transfer back to the Council had begun on 27th October. The transfer would not involve major changes to the functions or roles of staff, and whilst 25 members of staff would be transferred to the Civic Centre, the remainder would continue to work in their existing locations. There would be a remuneration and pay review to ensure that the Council was paying employees equally across the organisation for similar work. The senior management structures would be reviewed, and bonus arrangements for craft workers would be changed. Staff would also move to the Hounslow Council terms and conditions of employment. There was very little difference between the Council policies and those of Hounslow Homes, and he thought that only childcare vouchers, the cycle to work scheme, and the method for sickness reporting would be affected. Meetings with Hounslow Homes staff, and trade union representatives, would continue to be held. Mr Matthew explained that the Hounslow Housing department would operate from 5th January 2015, after the Christmas closure.

 

Keith Head asked whether a timescale of only a few months was realistic. Peter Matthew said that he felt that it was, as the majority of changes to working practices, and services would happen after the transfer had taken place. The legal transfer of responsibility was, he thought, relatively straightforward, and ought not to cause significant disruption.

 

Julie Brooker said that the consultation response rate of just 25% seemed to be very low. She said that she would be interested to see which groups of tenants and leaseholders had participated in the survey. She also asked when Hounslow Homes would communicate what was going on to their residents, and whether tenants and leaseholders would be represented on the new integration board.

 

The Chair said that a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.

12.

Update on Leaseholders Services

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Leaseholder Billing

 

Bukky McGlynn, Head of Corporate Services, explained that her teams were responsible for Leaseholder Billing. The Leaseholder Income team had been merged with the Council’s debt recovery team to make it more resilient. The debt recovery team was also a high performing team, and had achieved a 90% rate of collection of Council tax debt. Some members of staff had left as part of the restructure, and this had meant that some skills had been lost, meaning that leaseholders had faced a difficult period. However, there were now clear roles and responsibilities for people in the billing cycle. The service was also undergoing a LEAN review with involvement from the Leaseholders’ Forum. A question and answer document had been included with leaseholders’ last service charge certificate.

 

Jenny Samuel said that the question and answer document had failed to address many of the issues leaseholders were facing. Bukky McGlynn said that the first version had been trying to explain estimated billing and the Service Charge Certificate, but that the document would be kept under constant review. She explained that an email address for suggestions for improvement had been set up (leaseholdimprovements@hounslow.gov.uk), and that officers also attended the Leaseholders’ Forum to get their comments.

 

Bukky McGlynn explained that OHMS, a piece of software used by the billing team, was due to be updated in March, and that would allow for total annual debts to be sent to leaseholders. Her team were working on a new specification so that the upgraded software matched their needs. For example, it would be able to issue automatic letters, and take direct debits. The Leaseholder Income team would be sending out a customer satisfaction survey in April, and they would also carry out benchmarking against other local authorities.

 

Jenny Samuel said that she was hopeful that services would improve, and was pleased that the last meeting between the Leaseholders’ Forum and the Leaseholders Income team had been helpful. The previous meeting had been difficult however, as much information was provided only on the day, and lots of information was requested at the end of the meeting as part of the LEAN review. She felt that members needed more time to be able to consider issues properly. Bukky McGlynn explained that the session was part of the LEAN method of reviewing services, but agreed to speak to Robert Dunleavy, who was facilitating the review, about the issue. Liang Du said that a representative of the customer service team needed to come to the TLSTJCC, as there were problems with getting responses from that team. The Chair agreed that an appropriate officer be asked to attend.

 

Jenny Samuel said that she had found it difficult to get a summary of block repair charges sent to her. She had had to wait for a long time to speak to someone, and had been told over the phone what she was being charged for, but had not yet been sent a copy of the charges. So far  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12.

13.

Support of Representative Groups pdf icon PDF 50 KB

Decision:

The Chair asked that a report containing firm proposals for support mechanisms for the Sheltered Accommodation Residents Association, the Tenants’ Forum, and the Leaseholders’ Forum, be brought to the January meeting.

 

Members were informed that if they wished to run community events, Council area forums might be willing to provide small grants. Application forms were available via the following link: http://www.hounslow.gov.uk/index/community_and_living/voluntary_sector/support_voluntary_community/vs_council_grants.htm

Minutes:

Stephen Frost, Principal Area Initiatives Officer, explained that the Tenants group now had a constitution and that at the next meeting representatives for the three areas of the borough would be elected. Permanent representatives for the TLSTJCC would also be elected. He explained that the Leaseholders’ Forum now had a formal ‘terms of reference’ document, and that he would shortly be starting work with Sheltered Accommodation Residents Association. He explained that the Council’s approach was to ask the representatives what support they needed, and what they wanted to achieve, and then provide what was needed to allow the forums to do that. At present, no group was going to be given funds to manage, however, it remained a possibility for groups once they became more firmly established. He hoped that by the next meeting of the TLSTJCC the support which groups would be given would be agreed. The Chair asked that a report containing firm proposals for support mechanisms for the Sheltered Accommodation Residents Association, the Tenants’ Forum, and the Leaseholders’ Forum, be brought to the January meeting. He noted that the support would need to be reviewed annually, as the new organisations would develop, as would their relationship with the Council.

 

Rachhpaul Bedi said that £23 million was available from central government to support community organisations. The Chair assured him that relevant funds from central government were bid for by Hounslow Council. Mr Bedi also said that Mr John Morris had provided good support to the Tenants Forum, and that he would like that support to continue.

 

Julie Brooker noted that a lot of residents groups in the borough couldn’t attract the funding they needed. The Chair noted that Hounslow Council’s area forums had small grants funds available, and explained that the Council was under severe budgetary pressure, meaning that the focus had to be on services. Application forms for area forum grants were available via the following link: http://www.hounslow.gov.uk/index/community_and_living/

voluntary_sector/support_voluntary_community/vs_council_grants.htm

 

Carolyn Courage asked who would manage funding allocated to the representative groups. Stephen Frost explained that the Council would manage this money initially, but noted that not all support would be in the form of funding.

 

Julie Brooker noted that the former offices of HFTRA, at Benson Close, were currently being used by another organisation. The Chair explained that this was a temporary arrangement, and that the belongings of the HFTRA organisation were still there, as far as he was aware.

 

Carolyn Courage said that she had thought that everything left by HFTRA would be taken away. The Chair said the Council had never been asked to take any of HFTRA’s property from the Alf Chandler Centre.

14.

Update on Services delivered by Hounslow Homes

Additional documents:

Decision:

Orla Gallagher agreed to meet with Jenny Samuel outside the meeting regarding enforcement and leaseholders.

Minutes:

Orla Gallagher, Interim Managing Director at Hounslow Homes, thanked the Chair for inviting her to speak to the meeting. She explained that she was committed to improving services but said that she didn’t have a magic wand to fix all of Hounslow Homes’ problems immediately.

 

Sheltered Scheme Update

Orla Gallagher explained that she had met with the Sheltered Accommodation Residents Association, and had discussed the problems they were facing with the cores and clusters model. She said that she wanted to get scheme managers back into schemes, and for them to build good relationships with residents. She noted that there were some scheme managers who were not performing as well as she wanted, especially regarding their communication with residents, but said that they would be helped to improve. Ms Gallagher told members that there were also problems with the performance of linkline, as service audits recently carried out didn’t match their performance data.

 

Keith Head noted that there was a lack of activities for residents in some schemes. Orla Gallagher explained that the report on pages 16-21 gave details of the activities available in schemes. She said that scheme managers would share best practice, but that improvements would take time. Phil West said that some managers might benefit from a re-training package.

 

Orla Gallagher explained that the report also gave details of guest accommodation in sheltered schemes. Julie Brooker asked whether these rooms were really necessary, noting that some were self contained flats. She worried that they cost a lot of money. The Chair explained that they had been requested by Sheltered Tenants, and that he had agreed to provide guest rooms. He said that they were necessary because of the nature of sheltered schemes. Julie Brooker said that she knew of many vulnerable people living in one bedroom flats outside of sheltered schemes who had guests, and wondered if the guest rooms could be made available for others in social housing. The Chair said that this would be impractical, as it would impact on the security of sheltered schemes.

 

Carolyn Courage said that there was an issue with mobility scooters being left in hallways. She wished to see communal charging points and storage areas installed. Orla Gallagher explained that this wasn’t possible in all schemes, but explained that where scooter parks could be created, they would be. She noted that stopping people from using mobility scooters would severely limit their independence. Keith Head explained that he had met Hounslow Homes about the issue on many occasions, as well as meeting the fire brigade. He said that it was a difficult issue which had to be dealt with correctly. Scooters on corridors, with wires trailing across the floor were however dangerous. Phil West said that Hounslow Homes needed to be more proactive in solving the problem. The Chair asked Orla Gallagher to look into the issue further, noting the difficulty in resolving it.

 

Estate Service Standards for Grounds Maintenance

Orla Gallagher said that a new service standard for sheltered  ...  view the full minutes text for item 14.

15.

Membership Arrangements of the TLSTJCC

Minutes:

Tenants’ Representatives had asked for this item to be included on the agenda, following their meeting on 9th September. None of the representatives present wished to speak on the issue, and so it was not discussed.

16.

Urgent Business

Any business which the Chair agrees to accept on grounds of urgency.

 

Minutes:

Keith Head said that a group of sheltered tenants had taken court action against their landlord, as they had been paying for a warden service which they were not receiving. Their case had been on television. The Chair said that a Service Level Agreement needed to be drafted, but noted that the programme was not about Hounslow and a Sheltered Scheme Managers service was provided, even if it was not perfect. Phil West said that constructive discussions with Orla Gallagher and Hounslow Homes were ongoing, and so didn’t feel that that the action Mr Head had spoken about would be necessary in Hounslow. Jenny Samuel said that sheltered residents could arrange activities for themselves. The Chair said that it was often more appropriate for scheme managers to arrange events and activities.

 

Carolyn Courage asked whether the name of the committee could be shortened. The chair noted that it had been agreed by the committee’s membership.

 

The Chair asked that in the future items of urgent business be notified to him, through the clerk, before the start of the meeting.

17.

Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting of the TLSTJCC is due to be held on Monday 19th January 2015, at 7pm, in Committee Rooms one and Two at the Hounslow Civic Centre.

Minutes:

Members noted that the next meeting was due to be held on Monday 19th January 2015.