Hounslow Council

Agenda 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 

No. Item


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


Apologies had been received from Martin Greenway, who was attending a Complaints Panel and Councillor Mel Collins, who was attending a Scrutiny Panel. Mr Greenway joined the meeting at a later stage.


There were no declarations of interest.


Keith Head and Ernie Cooper expressed concerns that the agenda pack had been received late at the end of the preceding week, allowing no time for the Tenants Forums to discuss the minutes and the pack. Mr Head also noted that some members had been emailed copies but he was not included on the email distribution.


Ernie Cooper noted that there were a number of items on the agenda but few reports. It was helpful for representatives to have papers to share with their Forums so there was the opportunity to discuss issues and give the view of the Forum rather than a personal view. Carolyn Courage also stressed that written reports provided transparency and accountability, so it was important to provide a report where possible. It helped representatives organise their meetings with information.


The Chair stressed that there was value in the meeting in that representatives had the opportunity to question relevant officers directly, rather than having a lot of paperwork.


Action: The Chair agreed to look at the best way of providing relevant information for the meeting and suggested looking at including bullet points for items so that representatives were aware of points coming up. 


Minutes of the meeting held on 2 November 2015 and matters arising pdf icon PDF 134 KB


1.     The minutes of the meeting held on 2 November 2015 were confirmed, subject to the following amendments:


Item 46.1 (ii), page 4, paragraph 3, final sentence – Resident Service Restructure – amend Hounslow Homes to Hounslow Housing.


Item 46.1 (vi), page 5, paragraph 2 – Resident Service Restructure – Carolyn Courage explained that her point had been that many flats were partially adapted and on the ground floor, so these should be allocated to people with mobility issues but in practice had been let to able bodied young men.


Item 46.1 (ix), page 5 ,paragraph 5 – Resident Service Restructure – It was unclear whether the question related to the number of housing officers or the number of housing offices. The response suggested it related to the number of housing offices. Hazel Dilly confirmed that her point had been that some offices when changed from Hounslow Homes to Hounslow Housing had been located further afield, which was difficult for people. She had also pointed out that as part of the restructure with the change from Hounslow Homes to Hounslow Housing officers on the estates were being interviewed for the jobs.


Item 46.2, page 6, paragraph 2, bullet point 2 – Property Services Update – Carolyn Courage explained that her question in respect of the database had been whether, in the case of repeat repairs, it was possible to get the details of the repair from the database.


2.     There were the following matters arising from the minutes:


      Item 44 d), page 2 – Tenants’ annual satisfaction survey

      Carolyn Courage noted that the minutes had said the Forums would be consulted on the proposed questions early in 2016. She asked whether there was any progress on this. Ben Tomlinson explained that this would be covered at Agenda Item 4.2.


Item 47, page 8 – Waste and Recycling

Carolyn Courage noted that all references for the service were to houses. She asked that it be made clear whether the specific services referred to houses or flats. She also noted that a decision was to be made at the December Cabinet.


The Chair acknowledged that there had been inaccuracies in what was said at the last meeting and recognised the need to be clear. She confirmed that the Cabinet decision had been made on 15 December, which included the transfer of the waste collection service to Lampton 360, the Council’s trading company and no change in the current kerbside sort recycling arrangements.


Ernie Cooper understood that it had also been decided that general waste would be collected fortnightly, that there would be an increase in the size of recycling bins and a charge for garden waste collection. Whilst recognising the desire to increase recycling, he suggested that charging for garden waste collection could be counter-productive. Information to put to the Tenants Forums would be helpful. It was confirmed that this was an opt in scheme, at a charge of £50 per year, but residents had the option of taking garden waste for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 52.


Customer Services - Susan Austin


Susan Austin gave an update on Customer Services and points in the forthcoming newsletter.


Ms Austin advised that they had listened to residents’ concerns about the repairs line and as a result had employed four casual workers part time. There were also two permanent staff due to start in the next couple of weeks so the numbers of staff handling calls was being increased. Hazel Dilly had questioned what happened to the service over the Christmas period as she and others had tried to use the service and encountered an answer machine off line.


Susan Austin explained that the 4000 number had been reinstated as the number to call for repairs and there had been changes made to the messaging system, following feedback. There had been an interesting meeting with residents last year on the phone system and the comments made on issues such as queuing and messaging were being used with the IT business manager in developing improvements.


Callers should press ‘1’ for repairs. There were still some technical problems as the system only allowed for so many in the queue, but with additional staff calls should be answered more quickly. They were looking at upgrading the system, but also working with the IT Project Manager to look at whether they were getting the best of all features from the current system.


They were looking for a digital presence on the website and working with Corporate Communications towards this in order to aid information to customers. Ms Austin hoped to report further improvements by the time of the next meeting but also asked representatives to note that 80% of calls were resolved at the first point of contact on all tenant issues.


With regard to the Christmas closure period, which included Christmas Eve this year, the messaging system was operating and there was an emergency number. However, Hazel Dilly reported that she knew of an elderly gentleman who had been left without heating over this period despite trying to contact the emergency number. It was noted that this should not have been the case and that Susan Austin would investigate if provided with more details or the gentleman contacted her directly.


Ms Austin encouraged residents to use the email contact for non-emergency repairs but Ernie Cooper pointed out that although this was a good idea, there was a complication. When residents phoned in a repair, they were often asked questions about the type of tap, window or other fittings so that the right part could be brought. This information would not necessarily be identified in an email. In future he wondered whether there was a way virtually to click on and identify whether it was a house or flat. Ms Austin agreed that the email needed to be clear. If there was information missing the sender would receive an email or a phone call to clarify. Mr Cooper explained that when ringing in, customers would be asked whether they were in a flat, had gas heating or needed to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 53.


Hounslow Housing Update


Ben Tomlinson updated the Committee.  He apologised for the minor delay in sending out the Newsletter, but confirmed that it had been sent out either on Friday or that day.


Mr Tomlinson also updated the Committee on the consultation on Property Services.  The consultation period had opened that day.  He acknowledged that originally officers had expected that there would be the opportunity for the representatives on the Committee to input into the questions in the consultation document but when they considered the scheduled to report to April Cabinet, there had not been time to share the questions.


There were two aspects to the consultation. There would be a survey of a sample of 5,000 leaseholders and tenants undertaken by IPSOS/Mori.  Those selected for the survey would be contacted through the post and invited to give their opinions.  The proposals were broadly to bring the responsive repairs service in house as part of Residents Services and improve the service for preventative work.  A sample of a third of tenants/leaseholders was expected to give a good estimate of views.


The consultation on the Future of Property Services was also available on the “Have your say – Consultations” page of the Council’s website and comments could be submitted by e-mail.


Peter Matthew, Director of Housing, explained the context of the proposals.  He stressed that the first thing to note in respect of the proposals for the Direct Labour Organisation and Lampton 360 was that Hounslow Housing was creating a responsive service as part of Residential Services so from residents’ point of view this service would not change.  The area of change related to the planned maintenance and major works.  It was proposed that this service would be provided through Lampton 360 which was the company owned by the Council.  This enabled the Council to act in a more commercial manner so they were in a better position to deliver improved value for money.  This service was not about responses to tenants but rather about obtaining the right price to deliver long term major programmes.  This should provide a better, cost efficient service.  They were designing the process to deliver this and had to consult on that.  However, this was not about changing the service residents received, and residents should not see a change in the service.  The main point was to achieve better value for money.  Mr Matthew pointed out that they were consulting leaseholders and tenants to find out views on the proposals.


Mr Matthew also explained that the second piece of work related to estate roads.  He referred to the PFI contract for borough roads which provided up-front investment and ongoing maintenance.  Estate roads had been excluded from the original contract, so they were now negotiation with the PFI to include estate roads.  All estate roads had been surveyed so that their condition was assessed and the Council was working with the PFI team to cost the proposals, including how much needed to be invested up-front and ongoing maintenance costs.  This  ...  view the full minutes text for item 54.


Newsletter, Hounslow Highways and Estate Roads - Ben Tomlinson


See the discussion recorded at Item 54 above.





DLO-L360 transfer and consultation exercise - Peter Matthew pdf icon PDF 87 KB


See the discussion recorded at Item 54 above and the briefing note.



Performance - December 2015 - Ben Tomlinson pdf icon PDF 113 KB


See the performance report – Agenda Item 4.3.


Ben Tomlinson introduced the report which summarised performance against 12 Service Performance Indicators, compliance with Property Summary Compliance Priorities and Audit and Improvement Priorities.


The indicators for homeless acceptances and the number of new temporary accommodation units acquired were ‘amber’ and ‘red’. This highlighted the difficulties with the number of homeless cases.


The indicator for void times was showing ‘amber’ as it was slightly above the 30 day target but nevertheless there had been significant improvement in this performance year. Indicators relating to families in bed and breakfast were on target. There had been a decrease in the number of households in bed and breakfast accommodation.


The indicator for the number of affordable homes showed ‘amber’ but there had been 66 new HRA homes this year towards the target. The indicator was ‘amber’ because there were some delays but the Council was on target to achieve 3000 affordable homes by 2018, including 400 Council homes.


Looking at the repairs indicator, 100% of emergency repairs had been completed on time but data for urgent repairs was not available. Rent collection was at 100% which was a dramatic improvement on previous years. The indicator for estate inspections showed a generally good state of repair on estates although figures for communal repairs were less strong. It was acknowledged that there was a problem with estate roads but anticipated that the new proposals would help this.


Although the indicator for complaints dealt with within target timescales was showing ‘red’, only a small number of these complaints related to tenants and residents and overall the number of active complaints had reduced.


The indicator for days taken to complete a responsive repair was showing as ‘red’ with the December figures showing 15 days to complete the repair rather than the target 10 days. However, this reflected seasonal demand.


There had been little change in the compliance indicators. The risk rating had not changed. They met health and safety requirements in respect of fire risk and asbestos. There had been a complete refresh and it was expected figures would be in the normal range by the end of the year. Play sites had been identified as an area of serious risk but the contractor was taken action to rectify this on a priority basis.


Mr Tomlinson pointed out that they were aware of risk, took it seriously but were confident all were in hand.


With regard to the audit priorities, there was movement on the ICT system to get an internal system in place to allow mobile working and electronic document management. The system would include automated ways to report repairs and to raise customer service complaints.


The report provided an overview and Ben Tomlinson invited questions.


Keith Head gave examples of asbestos removal at a house which had led to paper being ripped off. He asked whether there was a programme to redecorate when removal made a mess of properties. Also he was aware of water tank works  ...  view the full minutes text for item 57.


Resident Services Update



Peter Matthew, Director of Housing, gave more information on the restructure. He explained that they had redesigned Residents’ Services from the previous tenant and housing management arrangements. One important aspect of the restructure was the appointment of a Divisional Head of Residents’ Services, Doug Goldring, leading the other three heads of service. The restructure redefined the relationship between housing officers and tenants and leaseholders so that the housing officers got to know people better. The current patch sizes were 500+ households. They were decreasing the patch size to 350 households so that a closer relationship was possible. Through that they would be able to build in a more responsive service because the officers knew the households.


So in summary the key points of the restructure were as follows:


1)    Review of the role of the housing officers.

2)    Bringing responsive repairs closer to housing management.

3)    A defined focus around the specialist housing offer with improvements in how Housing worked with Children’s and Adults’ Services and Health Services.


The design underpinned greater response to the needs of tenants and leaseholders. There would be ‘bedding in’ issues for the restructured Housing service so members of the Committee were asked to expect these and bear with any problems in the short term. Mr Matthew did believe that the model would deliver better service shortly.


Carolyn Courage noted the intention for each housing officer to be responsible for 350 households and asked whether this meant that estates with 1000 flats would have three different housing officers. To explain what was intended, Peter Matthew gave the example of Brentford Towers where there were around 580 households and two housing officers would split the blocks.


Representatives agreed that this made more sense. It was confirmed that residents would have named contacts and that different officers covering an estate would work closely together, with good internal communication so that the officers talked to each other and shared information. Representatives noted that this had the advantage of providing cover for absences. Mr Matthew also explained that under the new structure all officers working on an estate would have a different role, so for example, a caretaker, who knew the state of a property, would have a role in reporting maintenance issues.


With regard to specialist services, Kim Mitchell advised that she had only been appointed officially to the post that day. She explained that of the new team to support sheltered services and vulnerable residents the staff dealing with Adaptations and Occupational Therapy were not yet in post. Recruitment was in process. Ms Mitchell explained that currently in respect of adaptations they used a private company but under the new arrangements they would have their own occupational therapy support to handle adaptations for vulnerable people and disabilities facilities grants. The service had moved within Adult’s Services which would enable a joined up, rounded approach to the service for vulnerable people and more cost effective provision of the additional help they needed.


Jane Hunter asked whether the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 58.




The restructure proposals had been discussed under Item 58 above.


Head of Area Housing Update - Troy Francis


Troy Francis advised that the update on restructure in his area had been covered in discussions at Item 58 above.



Head of Specialist Housing Update - Kim Mitchell


Kim Mitchell’s update on restructure in this area had been covered in discussions at Item 58 above.



Head of Responsive Repairs and Estate Management Update - Martin Greenway


An update on restructure in this area under Martin Greenway had been covered in discussions at Item 58 above.



Urgent Business

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



Keith Head raised an item of urgent business concerning emergency parking arrangements at sheltered housing units. He explained that the current amount of parking had not been anticipated when the units were built. He understood that some sheltered facilities had no emergency parking, for example he thought this was the case at Harnage House. This led to situations where the nearest an emergency vehicle could park was 50-60 yards away. Delivery and Council vans and private cars used emergency spaces to park. This had been raised with the police who had said the responsibility rested with the borough as this was not on public highway. Mr Head showed photographs to illustrate the problem and emphasised the need to find a way of enforcing no parking in emergency spaces.


(Martin Greenway joined the meeting at this point from a previous meeting he had been attending – 8.55 p.m.)


Peter Matthew recognised that the issue was that of parking policy on estates and the ability to enforce. This was a difficult issue which they needed to investigate as they had been told it was private land. If the authority was able to enforce, he suggested that when they consulted on the plan for the PFI to upgrade estate roads, there could be a general question to ask tenants and leaseholders what type of enforcement they wanted. They would need to look at a range of options as there would be the need for bespoke options for specific circumstances. If consultees said that they wanted enforcement, this would provide the authority with a clearer basis on which to take enforcement action.


Jonathan Giddings Reid clarified that under the current legislation the authority could not remove a vehicle from private land. The harshest enforcement they could introduce was ticketing. There was no quick answer to the problem which required a culture change so that inappropriate parking was challenged.


Peter Matthew stated that they would look for a solution. They could look at options such as restricting access in particular situations such as sheltered housing. He suggested that as part of the consultation on the PFI they should start discussion with all about parking controls around estates.




That the following comments and actions were noted:


1.     Representatives raised concerns about emergency parking at sheltered units. There were two concerns to be considered:


1)    Enforcement of no parking areas in for emergency vehicle parking.

2)    Some sheltered schemes did not have emergency parking so emergency vehicles had to park at a distance.


2.     It was noted that the issue of enforcement on private land was difficult and needed investigation.


3.     It was agreed that the future consultation on the PFI and responsibility for highways and footways on estates should include options for parking controls around estates.


Date of next meeting - Tuesday 10 May 2016


The date of the next meeting was noted as 9 May 2016 but the Chair pointed out that she might need to change that date and wanted to give notice of likely change. It was subsequently confirmed that the meeting date had been moved to 10 May 2016.


The Chair thanked everyone for their attendance, particularly those officers who were attending on their first day in post.




Committee members welcomed the glossary and wished to retain this for future agendas as it was very helpful.