Hounslow Council


Agenda, decisions and minutes

Venue: Committee Room 3, Civic Centre, Lampton Road, Hounslow. View directions

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

Items
No. Item

34.

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

Decision:

A letter of resignation had been received from Liang Du (Leaseholders’ Representative), due to work commitments.  The Leaseholders’ Forum would need to elect a replacement representative. Hazel Salvat attended the meeting in his place.  

Minutes:

A letter of resignation had been received from Liang Du (Leaseholders’ Representative), due to work commitments.  The Leaseholders’ Forum would need to elect a replacement representative. Hazel Salvat attended the meeting in his place.  

35.

Minutes of the meeting held on 27 May 2015 and matters arising pdf icon PDF 67 KB

Decision:

The minutes of the meeting held on 27 May 2015 were agreed as a true and accurate record, with the following amendments, and were signed by the Chair:

 

a)  Item 28, penultimate paragraph:  e-mail address to be used to report repairs needed is repairs.team@hounslow.gov.uk

 

b)  Item 31, paragraph 3: Change “Ernie Cooper” to “Jenny Samuel”.

 

c)  Item 32(c):  the issue date for the next Newsletter to Tenants and Leaseholders had been put back to October 2015.

 

Matters arising:

a)  Item 32(c) – Newsletter to Tenants and Leaseholders

Jenny Samuel asked for the deadline for items to be submitted for the Newsletter.  Peter Matthew advised that items should be sent to Jonathan Giddings-Reid by the end of September 2015.

 

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 27 May 2015 were agreed as a true and accurate record, with the following amendments, and were signed by the Chair:

 

a)  Item 28, penultimate paragraph:  e-mail address to be used to report repairs needed is repairs.team@hounslow.gov.uk

 

b)  Item 31, paragraph 3: Change “Ernie Cooper” to “Jenny Samuel”.

 

c)  Item 32(c):  the issue date for the next Newsletter to Tenants and Leaseholders had been put back to October 2015.

 

Matters arising:

a)  Item 32(c) – Newsletter to Tenants and Leaseholders

Jenny Samuel asked for the deadline for items to be submitted for the Newsletter.  Peter Matthew advised that items should be sent to Jonathan Giddings-Reid by the end of September 2015, so that items could be passed to the Press Team.  Peter Matthew advised that any item that members felt newsworthy or important should be submitted – the Newsletter’s size would accommodate news items, rather than be a prescriptive size.

 

36.

Changes to the Neighbourhood Warden Service pdf icon PDF 96 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Chair confirmed that the Estates’ Police Team updates would be taken as a separate Agenda item at future TLSTJCC meetings.

 

Frances Houston agreed to pass her report to the Clerk, which would then be circulated with the minutes of the meeting.

Minutes:

The Chair confirmed that the Estates’ Police Team updates would be taken as a separate Agenda item at future TLSTJCC meetings.  She explained that she was responsible for monitoring the work of the Estate Police Officers, so it was appropriate to consider the reports at this meeting.

Question: Ernie Cooper asked for the meaning of “PND”; the Chair advised that this was “Penalty Notice for Disorder.”

Question: Carolyn Courage asked how the areas were set up, as they did not appear to correspond to housing areas; she was advised that these were Metropolitan Police areas.

 

 

Frances Houston presented her report on changes to the Neighbourhood Warden service.  Her report was added to the electronic Agenda pack after the meeting and could be accessed via the website.   Frances Houston explained that she was a Change Manager working with Aled Richards on community safety, looking at better ways to deal with antisocial behaviour.  Neighbourhood wardens had been transferred from Housing to Community Safety.  It is intended to bring the various aspects of community safety and environmental issues together to provide a more co-ordinated approach.

 

Neighbourhood wardens would therefore be integrated into five area teams, matching the Area Forum districts.  Although there would be no change to the number of wardens, they would be in larger teams working on the estates, coordinating with other staff, eg Hounslow Highways and police.  The wardens would have additional powers to issue warnings and fixed penalty notices where appropriate.  They would continue to respond to tenants’ concerns on antisocial behaviour, including during the day in school holidays and later at weekends.  The wardens would become part of a corporate team, with a logo and branding.

 

It was intended to consult with staff and move towards introduction of combined teams in November 2015.  Engagement with residents would take place via the Newsletter.

 

Question:  Chris Boucher asked if Neighbourhood Wardens would continue to be provided to other boroughs, eg Slough.  Frances Houston confirmed that there would be no change to the current set-up.  Martin Greenway explained that there were two contracts – with A2Dominion and Thames Valley Housing – and there were a few pockets covered by them that were not within Hounslow.  Carolyn Courage asked for assurance that this would not cut into the service provided to Hounslow Council tenants; the Chair advised that other boroughs paid for the service provided, so it was in addition to the Hounslow provision.

Question: Jenny Samuel asked if the new uniforms could be sponsored, thereby reducing costs.  Frances Houston agreed to look into this.  

Qeustion: Keith Head asked how many Wardens would be in each team.  Frances Houston advised that there were 15 posts across the borough; there would be no change in this, but other officers would be included in the teams.  15 posts had been agreed as part of the original service; once the new structure was in place, numbers would be reviewed.  The Estates Police and Metropolitan Police were an additional resource who could target particular  ...  view the full minutes text for item 36.

37.

Hounslow Housing - Update

Decision:

Performance measures:  Peter Matthew advised that the Performance Framework was almost complete; a two page summary will be provided at all future meetings of the Committee.

 

Tenants’ Annual Satisfaction Survey: Peter Matthew advised that it might be possible to bring the proposed questions to the next Committee meeting; if that would not meet the publication deadline, these would be discussed at the various Forums.

 

Leaseholders’ Annual Survey:  Jenny Samuel advised Peter Matthew that she and Hazel Salvat had carried out some work on the concept of value for money in respect of survey questions, and wondered whether some of that work would be useful in moving forward.  Peter Matthew asked that any information on this be forwarded to him.

Afterminute:  Jenny Samuel confirmed that the Housing contact for this had been Ron Pettifor.

Minutes:

Peter Matthew reminded members that it had been an eventful few months for the housing department.  The main items were:

 

a)                 Central Government had proposed a number of changes that would have an impact on the Council.  These included:

i)                    Local Authorities were required to reduce rents by 1% per annum for four years from 2016/17.  This would reduce the planned income, leaving less money available for capital investment.  The impact of this had to be assessed, and a report on the Capital Programme would go to Cabinet in October.

Question: Keith Head asked for confirmation that the rent reduction would not impact on services.  Peter Matthew that there should be no impact on services, but there could be an impact on capital investment.

Question: Hazel Dilly asked if the service charge element of the rent would be reduced.  Peter Matthew confirmed that it was only the rent charge that would be reduced, not the service charge element.  This would be clearly explained to tenants; however the Council was awaiting further clarification from Central Government before doing this.

 

ii)                  The Right to Buy programme would be extended to Housing Associations.  Peter Matthew explained that Housing Associations would sell their stock to tenants where appropriate, and would then be reimbursed by the Local Authority.  The government has stated that councils would be required to sell off high value council housing to fund this reimbursement.  There is expected to be a loss of affordable housing units overall.

 

b)               A restructure of the Residents’ Services Division was taking place, and would shortly reach the formal consultation stage.  This would include the review of jobs, which led to staff uncertainty.  The restructure should not have an impact on service delivery, but would have an effect on staff.

Question: Jenny Samuel asked whether staff would have to re-apply for their jobs.  Peter Matthew confirmed that this was likely for many staff.  New job descriptions would be prepared, with the workforce then matched to them.  Some would automatically match, but others would only be a partial match.  A process was in place that had been agreed by unions.

Question: Jane Hunter asked if there would be redundancies?  She had heard that an invitation to request voluntary redundancy had been issued.  Peter Matthew advised that it was standard procedure to do this at the start of a formal consultation.

 

c)                A performance framework was being compiled and was nearing completion.  Ben Tomlinson had attended a Tenants’ Association meeting as part of the consultation process.  Peter Matthew hoped to bring the framework document to the next meeting.  The framework would ensure that close monitoring of statutory requirements for compliance (fire safety, lifts, etc), basic service performance (homelessness, temporary housing management, new houses, etc) and service improvement recommendations (from audits, complaints, etc) could take place.  A two page summary of progress and achievement against the framework would be brought to all future meetings of the Committee, once implemented.

 

d)               Preparation of the Tenants’ annual satisfaction survey.  Peter Matthew advised  ...  view the full minutes text for item 37.

38.

Customer Relations - Update

Decision:

Civic Centre Telephone System:  Susan Austin advised that there would be a review at the end of October 2015 with the suppliers of the telephone system to reduce the number of options and menus for callers.  She confirmed that she would bring an update to the November 2015 meeting.

 

Customer Portal on the Council website:  Susan Austin asked for volunteers to help develop a customer portal; this would be led by Councillor Smart.  Volunteers would also be required to join a focus group to look at customer services across the Council. 

 

Freephone telephone number:  Chris Boucher reminded members that a freephone number had been in use in the past, and that Councillor Curran had agreed to look at the possibility of this being re-instated.  Susan Austin agreed to pursue this.

Minutes:

 

a)         Matters arising from the Customer Relations item at the meeting held on 27 May 2015

Susan Austin addressed the issues raised:

i)                    Passwords:  there would be an article in the October 2015 Newsletter to encourage tenants to set up passwords (by telephone)

ii)                   Civic Centre Telephone System:  Susan Austin advised that there would be a review at the end of October 2015 with the suppliers of the telephone system to reduce the number of options and menus for callers.  She confirmed that she would bring an update to the November 2015 meeting.  Susan Austin advised members that the repairs service helpdesk had reduced their hours to 8am until 6pm in July 2015, and this had enabled the time taken to answer calls to be halved, as there were more staff available. Linkline were taking any emergency calls after 6pm; Susan Austin had met with Julia Leonard to ascertain the impact of this, and confirmed that it was working well. The request for a dedicated phone line for housing matters would be dealt with in this review, as would the request for a helpline callback; although Susan Austin indicated that she would prefer to have calls answered straightaway.  Chris Boucher reminded members that a freephone number had been in use in the past, and that Councillor Curran had agreed to look at the possibility of this being re-instated.  Susan Austin agreed to pursue this.

 

b)        Neighbourhood Wardens

Susan Austin advised members that, following the restructure, Neighbourhood Wardens would be issued with smart phones or other technology to enable them to take photographs and access an online app to enable them to contact the appropriate Council Officer.

 

c)         Customer Service Restructure

Susan Austin informed members that she would be working with Frances Houston to review the structure of Customer Services in November/December 2015, to look at how the needs of customers can be better met.

 

d)        Customer Portal on the Council website:  Susan Austin asked for volunteers to help develop a customer portal; this would be led by Councillor Smart.  Volunteers would also be required to join a focus group to look at customer services across the Council.  Anyone wishing to be a part of this group should e-mail Susan Austin.

 

The Chair thanked Susan Austin for her report.

 

39.

Housing Management pdf icon PDF 219 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

Estate Inspections:  Martin Greenway explained that future inspections would be carried out by Housing Officers, when the Area Team changes were implemented in early 2016.  This would increase the number of people able to carry out the inspections.  In response to concerns by members on how the level of repair urgency was made, Martin Greenway confirmed that helpdesk operatives could see any disabilities or other needs of residents on the computer screen.  It was important that the impact of the repair request on the resident was taken into consideration.

Minutes:

Martin Greenway referred members to the update on general housing management matters in the Agenda pack (item 6).  He highlighted the following points:

 

a)         Tenancy fraud:  13 properties had been recovered since April 2015.

 

b)        Rent collection:  This had exceeded targets every month in the current financial year.  Officers were working with tenants in arrears at an early stage.

Question:  Jenny Samuel asked how the collection rate was over 100%, and was informed that this was due to arrears being collected in addition to current rents.

 

 

Martin Greenway then asked members to consider the recommendations on the proposed changes to the Resident Services Division (document attached at item 6 of the Agenda pack).

 

c) One Stop Shop: Under the proposed changes, there would be more generic Housing Officers, who would provide a “one stop shop” covering tenancies, leases, temporary accommodation, etc.  This would deliver Area based services with collaborative working across different departments.  Key drivers were to improve service, value for money, and accountability.  Staff were concerned about the changes, but seemed content with the direction the service was taking.  

 

d) Estate Inspections:  Chris Boucher advised that estate inspections were often carried out at times that were convenient to officers, but inconvenient to residents and councillors.  He wondered whether it would be possible to do these at weekends, and reminded Martin Greenway that it was important for residents to be involved.   Ernie Cooper advised that there have been inspections carried out on Saturday mornings by Sukdev Panesar, but the Councillors had failed to turn up.  Members were also concerned that there was often no action taken on issues raised at estate inspections.  Jane Hunter confirmed that Sukdev Panesar would e-mail feedback on estate inspections to residents if requested; Martin Greenway confirmed that it was important that the results were shared.

 

Martin Greenway explained that future inspections would be carried out by Housing Officers, when the Area Team changes were implemented in early 2016.  This would increase the number of people able to carry out the inspections.  

 

e)         Repairs and estate management

In response to concerns by members on how the level of repair urgency was made, Martin Greenway confirmed that helpdesk operatives could see any disabilities or other needs of residents on the computer screen.  It was important that the impact of the repair request on the resident was taken into consideration.

 

Martin Greenway advised members that, under the proposed restructure, there would be an overlap in specialist technical skills in repair and maintenance.  Ernie Cooper asked whether the repairs team staff would have relevant training in multi-trades.  Martin Greenway assured members that staff would need to be signed off to carry out the various trades.  The Chair confirmed that skills audit and appropriate training would be required.

 

The Chair thanked Martin Greenway for his report.

40.

Access to funding for Tenants' and Residents' Associations

Decision:

Jonathan Giddings-Reid advised that his team were looking at a different approach to engage with residents; although this would include Tenants’ Residents Associations, other groups on Estates would also be able to apply for help and support.

 

It was agreed that the flow of information between the three forums should be improved, and Jonathan Giddings-Reid offered to arrange a mini-conference or other event to facilitate this.  Members were advised that the team were moving away from traditional educational courses, and looking at ways to help residents to move forward – including how to apply for external funding.

Minutes:

Jonathan Giddings-Reid advised that his team were looking at a different approach to engage with and support residents, including financially; He had attended meetings of all three forums represented at this meeting, and all had asked for Tenants’ Resident Associations (TRA) funding.

 

Jonathan Giddings-Reid reminded members that there were many groups, including TRAs, who added value to their communities.  Applications for assistance (both financial and expertise) should be based on outcomes, and be beneficial to the local and wider community.  The aim of providing help was to empower groups to have a bigger impact.  Jonathan Giddings-Reid added that his team would help groups to look for matched funding, give assistance to apply for external funding, and use their expertise to give support to groups.  His team were going to run a consultation exercise with the three forums and other groups to identify areas of priority.

Question: Jane Hunter asked that, if a TRA was set up on an estate, could other groups on that estate apply for help.  Jonathan Giddings-Reid replied that this was the case, and that TRAs were not always the best way to engage with members of the community.  He reminded members that external funding was quite easy to access if groups had the right tools at their disposal.  He advised members that his team had been working with the charity “Streetbank”, using TRAs to share information on the charity.  This would be extended by using the Newsletter, leaflets, etc.

 

It was agreed that the flow of information between the three forums should be improved, and Jonathan Giddings-Reid offered to arrange a mini-conference or other event to facilitate this. 

 

Members were advised that the team were moving away from traditional educational courses, and looking at ways to help residents to move forward – including how to apply for external funding.

Question: Jenny Samuel asked if it was possible to be reimbursed for expenses already incurred, eg postage and photocopying.  Jonathan Giddings-Reid advised that there were some small pots of money available, and that it might be possible to ringfence some of this for the forums. 

 

The Chair thanked Jonathan Giddings-Reid for his report.

41.

Urgent Business

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

Minutes:

There were no items of urgent business.

42.

Date of next meeting

The date of the next meeting is scheduled for 2 November 2015.

Decision:

The date of the next meeting was confirmed as Monday 2 November 2015 at 7pm.

 

Mr Head (Sheltered Tenant Representative) gave apologies for the meeting.

Minutes:

The date of the next meeting was confirmed as Monday 2 November 2015 at 7pm.

 

Mr Head (Sheltered Tenant Representative) gave apologies for the meeting.