Hounslow Council


Agenda, decisions and minutes

Venue: Committee Room 1, Civic Centre, Lampton Road, Hounslow. View directions

Contact: Irene Bowles Tel: 020 8583 2075 Email:  irene.bowles@hounslow.gov.uk 

Items
No. Item

43.

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

Decision:

Apologies for absence had been received from Keith Head.

 

Ernie Cooper made a declaration of interest that he lived on a cottage estate.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence had been received from Keith Head and Peter Matthew.

 

Ernie Cooper made a declaration of interest that he lived on a cottage estate.

44.

Minutes of the meeting held on 7 September 2015 pdf icon PDF 93 KB

Decision:

The minutes of the meeting of 7 September 2015 were agreed as a true and accurate record with the following amendments:

 

Item 37(a): 2nd Question – was asked by Hazel Salvat, not Hazel Dilly.

 

Item 37(a): additional Question: Jane Hunter asked for clarification, in due course, on how the “pay to stay” scheme would affect tenants, particularly those who may have adult children living in their home.

 

The minutes were signed by the Chair.

 

Matters arising:

a)                 Item 38(a)(ii) – Civic Centre Telephone System

Susan Austin had agreed to investigate the possibility of reinstating the freephone number for housing repairs helpdesk; there was no update on this.  Jenny Samuel informed members that a focus group would meet with Susan Austin on 26 November to discuss Customer Relations, including the freephone number.

 

b)                 Item 37(a)(i) – Central Government Direction

Ernie Cooper asked how the service charge would be calculated in the future.  Orla Gallager advised that there was a set formula to do this; the Chair confirmed that, if there was any change to the formula, Residents’ Forums would be advised as soon as possible.

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting of 7 September 2015 were agreed as a true and accurate record with the following amendments:

 

Item 37(a): 2nd Question – was asked by Hazel Salvat, not Hazel Dilly.

 

Item 37(a): additional Question: Jane Hunter asked for clarification, in due course, on how the “pay to stay” scheme would affect tenants, particularly those who may have adult children living in their home.

 

The minutes were signed by the Chair.

 

Matters arising:

a)                 Item 38(a)(ii) – Civic Centre Telephone System

Chris Boucher reminded the Chair that Susan Austin had agreed to investigate the possibility of reinstating the freephone number for housing repairs helpdesk; there was no update on this.  Jenny Samuel informed members that a focus group would meet with Susan Austin on 26 November to discuss Customer Relations, including the freephone number.  

 

b)                 Item 37(a)(i) – Central Government Direction

Ernie Cooper asked how the service charge would be calculated in the future.  Orla Gallager advised that there was a set formula to do this; the Chair confirmed that, if there was any change to the formula, Residents’ Forums would be advised as soon as possible.

 

c)                 Item 28 (from minutes of the meeting held on 27 May 2015) –

Branding for Hounslow Housing

Chris Boucher noted that, during the May meeting, Councillor Curran had advised that the re-branding from Hounslow Homes to Hounslow Housing would take place over time.  However, the vehicles in use by Hounslow Housing operatives now carried no logo, and looked messy; many Caretakers and Cleaners were also not wearing any corporate uniform, making it harder to identify Council staff.  The Chair agreed to look into this, as she knew that new uniform had been distributed.

 

Gary Penticost confirmed that a new fleet of vehicles had been ordered, and should be delivered before the end of this financial year.  The Hounslow Homes logo had been removed from the existing fleet as effectively as possible.  He assured members that all repairs operatives had received the new uniform.

 

d)                 Item 37(d) – Tenants’ annual satisfaction survey

Chris Boucher asked why there had been no feedback on the proposed survey questions.  Ben Tomlinson advised members that the timeframe for the survey had changed; the Department would await the finalisation of the restructure and then carry out the survey in April/May 2016.  Forums will therefore be consulted on proposed questions early in 2016.

 

e)                 Item 40 – mini-conference for residents’ forums

Carolyn Courage asked when a min-conference would be arranged to encourage the flow of information between residents’ forums.  Jonathan Giddings-Reid advised that he wanted to wait until the various forums’ AGMs had elected officers, and then organise the mini-conference.

 

45.

Hounslow Housing Update

Decision:

Members noted that there were a lot of acronyms across the various reports.  It was agreed that a glossary of terms would accompany future Agenda packs.

Minutes:

Members noted that there were a lot of acronyms across the various reports.  It was agreed that a glossary of terms would accompany future Agenda packs.

45a

HRA Business Plan Update - Suzannah Taylor pdf icon PDF 368 KB

Minutes:

Suzannah Taylor, Principal Housing Development and Regeneration Manager, led members through her presentation, attached to item 3.1 on the Agenda, highlighting the following points:

 

i)                    the 30 year plan followed a balanced approach

ii)                  the two key priorities were

a.      maintaining and improving existing homes

b.      building new council homes to meet local housing need

iii)                Right to Buy sales have dramatically increased, from an average of 16 per year to around 200 this year

iv)                The council had to increase borrowing and repay this over a longer period than previously anticipated

 

In response to questions from members, officers gave the following information:

  • Void tenancies were included in the plan:  the void target time of 30 days was currently being met (at an average of 28 days), and the Department would continue to try to reduce the timeframe.
  • Voids were currently separated into “normal re-lets” and “major works”.  In buildings requiring major works, barriers were erected to prevent squatting, etc.  There were reasons (including the presence of asbestos) that incurred a longer timeframe before they could be let.
  • The Chair confirmed that the focus was to keep on-target with the building works: the Department was on track with voids, but the non-essential works were taken longer to achieve.

The Chair thanked Suzannah Taylor for her report.

45b

Performance Management - Ben Tomlinson pdf icon PDF 147 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Ben Tomlinson advised members that the report on pages 17 and 18 of the Agenda Pack was the summary that goes to the Housing Department Leadership Team; it therefore included areas beyond the remit of this group.  The Report used Red/Amber/Green (RAG) indicators to highlight outcomes, and was split into three sections:

i)          Performance indicators

Ben confirmed that performance generally had improved, especially in the areas of rent arrears/collection and voids turnaround times.  Communal repairs on estates was an issue.  Handling of complaints was the only red band, and Ben confirmed that most of the outstanding complaints were in respect of statutory housing services.

 

ii)                  Compliance indicators

Members were advised that the target for compliance factors was always 100%, but it was not always possible to achieve this figure. Fire Risk Assessments and Asbestos were significantly below target, but there were accepted reasons for these.  Services had recently been commissioned to rectify the issues around play sites.

 

iii)        Audit priorities

The items shown were significantly red and amber; however, these were a small proportion of the total audit recommendations.  Members noted that the number of ICT system upgrades awaited was the cause of many of these items.  These were in hand and the RAG statuses should change early in 2016 as these changes were implemented.

 

In response to questions, the following information was given:

  • Gary Penticost advised that the results on communal repairs were low due to surveying taking longer than expected.  Immediate repairs were being dealt with, but planned works were delayed.  There was a problem with communication to the repairs team, which Orla Gallager advised would be covered in her report on restructure later on the Agenda.
  • The low asbestos figure of 19.8% related to a refresh survey, which was behind schedule.  Gary Penticost confirmed that a survey had originally been carried out many years ago by Hounslow Homes, which had confirmed that there was no high risk (blue) asbestos in the Borough.
  • The Chair confirmed that most families in bed and breakfast accommodation would be re-housed in-borough, but some would be re-housed outside the borough.
  • Orla Gallagher advised that there was an issue of gaining access to some properties in order to carry out gas servicing and testing.  Tenants received a total of 3 letters over 10 months requesting them to make an appointment for this; if no response was received by then, legal action could be instigated.  Godfrey Hamilton added that the legal process was slower for vulnerable tenants.
  • Gary Penticost advised that there was an extensive programme of work in place for sheltered accommodation and communal buildings in respect of Legionella risk assessments.

The Chair thanked Ben Tomlinson for his report.

46.

Tenancy Management Update

46a

Resident Services Restructure -verbal update - Orla Gallagher

Minutes:

Orla Gallagher gave a verbal update on the restructure of Resident Services.  She highlighted the following points:

 

a)                 Resident Services will encompass every area with which residents interact with the Council.  It will be a service that the housing professionals will be proud of.

b)                 The role of the Housing Officer is to be enhanced – they will provide the day to day service that residents need, including responsive repairs.  There will be more Housing Officers, with smaller “patches”; they will be re-skilled to enable them to be more pro-active and to engage with Leaseholders.

c)                  The Service will be driven by a “Resident First” approach.

d)                 There will be a Specialist team, that will give direct support to Housing Officers; this team will deal with more technical issues that Leaseholders may have.

e)                 There will be a dedicated residents’ Occupational Therapy (OT) team who will deal with disability facilities, including Link Line and the telecare service.

f)                    Some areas of current services for residents have been fragmented: these will now be brought together.

g)                 Staff consultation is currently in progress.  There are 293 staff, the vast majority of whom want to continue as part of the new team.  It was acknowledged that change is difficult for some, and noted that some staff would need to re-apply for jobs.  Members were asked to recognise, however, that, even with the changes, performance continues to improve.  Statutory consultation runs for 45 days, and concludes at the end of November 2015. 

h)                  A new Divisional Head has been appointed, who will start in February 2016, and adverts are out for Heads of Service.  It is hoped that the whole Management Team will be in place by 4 April 2016. 

 

Orla Gallager then took questions from members:

 

i)                    (Chris Boucher) On some high density estates with open paladin rubbish bins, caretakers and cleaners repeatedly have to clear rubbish from around the bins that has been pulled out by foxes, birds and other vermin.  Could something be done to stop this happening?  Orla Gallager advised that there was funding available to put some netting over the bin storage area; there was no need to await the restructure for this type of work.  She advised that the role of “Caretaker Plus” would ensure that staff would be carrying out some reactive works, not just reporting them.  Mr Boucher suggested that staff could be asked what problems they encountered and possible solutions.

ii)                  (Jane Hunter) How did employing additional Managers sit alongside cost-cutting?  Orla Gallager replied that there would be an increase in numbers of people on the ground.  Where there were currently many niche teams, an increased team of Housing Officers would cover a wider range of tasks, albeit with smaller patches.  The funding for these additional Housing Officers would come from the removal of the niche teams.  The current duplication of services provided by the Council and Hounslow Homes would also be stopped.

iii)                (Jane Hunter) Does this mean that a swift improvement to services  ...  view the full minutes text for item 46a

46b

Property Services Update - Gary Penticost pdf icon PDF 295 KB

Minutes:

Gary Penticost referred members to his report (attached to item 4b of the Agenda), highlighting the following points:

§         Property Services would work closely alongside the Resident Services Teams.  The ICT review was underway which would include a new Asset Management system and a wider roll out of handheld devices to front line staff.

§         An informal consultation process had begun on 23 October 2015, and would be followed by a formal consultation in December 2015.

§         There had been a significant improvement in productivity, of which the responsive repairs team were very proud.  Resident satisfaction was at an all time high, and the level of complaints was low.

§         £0.5million savings had been achieved in gas contracts.

§         Emergency lighting systems had been installed in four sheltered housing schemes, as required on Fire Risk Assessments.

§         Work programmes had been drawn up from the Fire Risk Assessments, and the Department had liaised with the Fire Brigade.

 

Questions were put to Gary Penticost:

§         (Ernie Cooper) When is feedback gathered after repairs are effected?  Gary Penticost explained that this is carried out on PDAs, immediately following the work, before operatives leave the site.

§         (Carolyn Courage) Was there a database for communal repairs, so that repeat repairs were not requested?  She was advised that the proposed replacement to Asset Register should assist this.

§         (Jenny Samuel) Was there any breakdown in the customer satisfaction statistics for Leaseholders?  Gary Penticost confirmed that most responsive works carried out for Leaseholders were in communal areas.  There was no breakdown of figures.

 

The Chair thanked Gary Penticost for his report.

46c

Housing Management Update - Godfrey Hamilton pdf icon PDF 184 KB

Minutes:

Godfrey Hamilton, Housing Services Manager, referred members to his report (attached at item 4(c) of the Agenda pack), and highlighted the following points:

Item 1.2 – Properties recovered.  He reminded members that 140 properties had been recovered between April 2013 and March 2015, including some Right to Buy properties.

Item 2.3 Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) Management.  The Council used a variety of preventative measures, including commissioning Brentford Soccer Club to work with young people on a number of estates, and mediation.  However, the Council will take enforcement action where appropriate, and Godfrey informed members that the ASB, Crime and Policing Act 2014 had given Local Authorities more power in this respect.  Two properties had been served with Closure Orders since April 2015.

Item 3.3 Improve communal repairs.  Satisfaction rates were low on this aspect of service (52.2% good or better).

Item 4.4 – Leaseholder Service.  There had been some consultation in this area.

Item 5.2 – Rent Arrears.  Godfrey assured members that the Department endeavours to engage with tenants in rent arrears at an early stage, and give intense support where needed.

Item 6 – Linkline.  Orla Gallagher commended this valuable service to members, confirming that response times were regularly monitored.  It was acknowledged that the service needed to grow and expand.

 

In response to questions asked, the following information was given:

  • Item 3.1 - Appendix 1 referred to can be seen as pages 17 and 18 of the Agenda Pack – attached at item 3b on the Agenda.
  • Item 6.2 - Levels of service for Linkline – Bronze, Silver and Gold – were different to meet the needs of individuals.
  • Item 2.5 – Godfrey confirmed that the Department tried to check with previous landlords in their vetting process, but sometimes this is not possible, especially in cases where families have been made homeless.  Orla Gallagher confirmed that awareness is improving.
  • Item 2.1 ASB cases - It was noted that some figures in the table at 2.1 were incorrect.  The correct data is given below.

 

The table below gives a breakdown of the number and type of open ASB cases across the three Area offices, at the end of September 2015 

 

ASB Category

Central

East

West

Total

General Neighbourhood Issues

34

60

55

 149

Other Breaches of Tenancy

28

15

  4

   47

Hoarding/Rubbish 

 

  2

  1

     3

DV from Ex Partner

  1

  1

  2

     4

DV from Partner

 

  2

  3

     5

Adult Abuse

 

  2

 

     2

Racial Issues

 

  1

 

     1

Sexual Orientation

   1

 

 

     1

Age issue

   1

 

  

     1

Unsanitary Conditions

   1

 

   2

     3

Unauthorised  Pets

 

   1

  

     1

Total:

66

84

  67

  217

 

 

  • Orla Gallagher informed members that housing applications and the vetting process have to be segregated, including any pre-assessment for supported housing requests.  The allocation policy for housing is stringent.

 

The Chair thanked Godfrey Hamilton for his report.

 

47.

Waste and Recycling - proposals- Nicola Taylor pdf icon PDF 164 KB

Decision:

After-note:  Please note a correction to the statement made in the meeting that the Council had not yet approved fortnightly refuse collections – this was approved at the September 2015 Cabinet meeting

The decision on the future provision of waste collection (in-house or commissioned) and options for the frequency/facility of recycling arrangements are still pending and will be considered at December 2015 Cabinet. Nicola Taylor apologises for the error.

Minutes:

Nicola Taylor referred members to her briefing report, attached to item 6 of the Agenda pack, and gave the following information in response to questions:

i)                    It was confirmed that no public consultation had been held.  The proposals were the result of a Council Policy decision.  Residents were disappointed that they had not been aware of the proposed changes until they had seen them in the local press.

ii)                  The proposals were made in order to meet savings targets. Different options had been considered, in light of the impending ending of the SITA contract (November 2016). 

iii)                The target for the rate of recycling was 50%; the frequency of refuse and recycling collections was key to driving up recycling rates.

iv)                A waste strategy steering group had been set up in January 2015, made up of Members and officers.  Their conclusions for recommendation had been for collections to take place:

a.      Food waste – weekly

b.      Residual waste – fortnightly

c.      Garden waste – fortnightly, at an annual charge of £50pa

Focus groups had met in the Summer, and a report would go to Cabinet in December 2015.

 

The Chair thanked Nicola Taylor for her report.

 

After-note:  Please note a correction to the statement made in the meeting that the Council had not yet approved fortnightly refuse collections – this was approved at the September 2015 Cabinet meeting

The decision on the future provision of waste collection (in-house or commissioned) and options for the frequency/facility of recycling arrangements are still pending and will be considered at December 2015 Cabinet. Nicola Taylor apologised for the error.

48.

Communications - Hounslow Housing Newsletter - Nick Williams pdf icon PDF 192 KB

Decision:

Carolyn Courage advised Nick Williams that her block did not receive copies of Hounslow Matters; he confirmed that he would investigate this with the delivery contractor.

Minutes:

Nick Williams, Communications Manager, referred to his report (attached at item 5 of the Agenda), and confirmed that:

 

i)                    the second edition of the Newletter was currently in progress, and would incorporate three main features:

a.      involvement and participation

b.      tackling nuisance

c.      keeping well this winter

ii)                  Jenny Samuel and Carolyn Courage had already discussed producing articles for the Newsletter; Jonathan Giddings-Reid would also liaise with Sylvia Panton-Chapman.  There was a commitment to include articles from all the resident forums.

iii)                He would liaise with the Residents’ Forums in respect of taking photographs of members in the next few days

iv)                The Newsletter would be distributed in the near future.  Members noted that housing news was included in Hounslow Matters, but this Newsletter was in addition to this.

 

Carolyn Courage advised Nick Williams that her block did not receive copies of Hounslow Matters; he confirmed that he would investigate this with the delivery contractor.

 

The Chair thanked Nick Williams for his report and information.

49.

Urgent Business

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

 

Minutes:

a)                 Poppies

Chris Boucher reminded members that poppies and other remembrance day items were available from the refreshment table.

 

b)                 Thanks to authors of reports

Jenny Samuel asked that thanks be recorded to all the officers who had provided full and interesting reports for the meeting.

50.

Date of next meeting

The date of the next meeting is scheduled for Monday, 1 February 2016.

Minutes:

The date of the next meeting was scheduled for Monday 1 February 2016.