Agenda and draft minutes

Overview & Scrutiny Panel
Thursday, 27th August, 2020 5.30 pm

Venue: Online Viewing Only

Contact: Charles Hungwe 

Link: Recording of the meeting

Media

Items
No. Item

249.

Apologies for Absence

250.

Declaration of Interests pdf icon PDF 87 KB

251.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 82 KB

252.

Draft Empty Homes Plan 2020-23 pdf icon PDF 103 KB

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Councillor Whitehead, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Services introduced the report and made the following comments:

     

    • Housing is the foundation for the council’s duties and services. The necessity of housing feeds into many community functions;
    • Tackling empty properties is an important part of the strategy for providing housing to the local communities;
    • Empty properties attract anti social behaviour and other criminal activities to an area, like squatting, graffiti, arson and fly tipping;
    • The value of neighbouring properties is also negatively affected by creating an impression of neglect and decline of that area;
    • Such resources are a waste in times of great housing demand;
    • It is therefore against this background that the current work of the Empty Properties Team should be appreciated;
    • There were a significant number of empty homes in Thanet. One hundred and fifty nine long term empty homes had been brought back into use through council intervention in the 2019/20 financial year;
    • The draft Empty Homes Plan was intended to address the issue of long term empty homes and provide a strategy for bringing empty homes into use.

     

    Members asked questions and made comments as follows:

     

    • Why was Medway only included in one table (long term empty homes in Kent) and not in the other table on empty homes brought back into use?
    • Was there a difference between empty properties brought back into use and empty properties?
    • Wasn’t the demolition of the listed building a criminal offence?
    • Did the TDC database include empty shops and empty flats that were located above shops? If they were not, could these be included in the database?
    • Could brownfields sites in the three town centres be included? For example, in East Cliff Ward, there were five empty brownfields sites that have been in that state for the last 30 years or so;
    • Had officers approached other councils to learn and adopt best practices of bringing empty homes/properties into use?
    • Why was there a slow turn around in interest free loans and was the 5 year stay in the property being fulfilled?
    • Could the council conduct a publicity drive to encourage residents to identify any empty properties in the area?
    • Ramsgate Town Council has a community magazine that goes out monthly to about 18,000 residents. TDC could use that magazine to publish the activities of the Housing team regarding empty homes brought back into use and ask residents to report any empty properties in Ramsgate;
    • Credit should be given to the Housing team for their work on the empty homes programme;
    • Owner/Occupier loans – was there a waiting list for this?
    • Were the targets in the Plan realistic? How did we arrive at such targets?
    • A contrary view was that since the council would be charging 400% council tax for empty properties, would the council want to bring them into use or make more money from the tax instead?
    • Currently there were only two officers. Could a case be made for an extra officer to be appointed to the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 252.

253.

Tenant and Leaseholder Service Transition Update pdf icon PDF 115 KB

    Minutes:

    Councillor Whitehead led the discussion with the following opening remarks:

    • This was one of the council’s important tasks currently and it was being ably managed by the Housing Department, working together with East Kent Housing (EKH);
    • The key report updates included:

    ·  How the council was ensuring that there was adequate staffing for the housing service, once it is in-house from 01 October 2020;

    ·  The induction of staff during the transition period;

    ·  Informing and involving tenants during this process;

    ·  On going work by ICT to separate the housing management systems amongst the four councils and supporting the staff to train for the new systems;

    ·  The work being done by the Communications team to keep staff and customers informed about the changes;

    ·  The winding up of EKH.

    • How the council manages the transition and keeping all stakeholders informed was important for the success of the project;
    • The basis for continued success of an in-house system would be providing a secure base, competent and coherent systems to manage ongoing responsibilities;
    • The ongoing work by Housing has been exemplary;
    • The council was laying a new foundation for a continued relationship with tenants and leaseholders;
    • As the landlord, the council was also laying the groundwork for competent monitoring of housing services going forward.

     

    Members asked questions and made comments as follows:

    • This was a very positive report;
    • What if things do not go according to plan?
    • Did EKH have any worries that the 1st October deadline would not be met for the move over of services from EKH to TDC?
    • Was TDC going to get the number of staff that it expected?
    • Were the transition costs still expected to stay within the agreed £250,000 budget?
    • What method had been used to engage tenants and leaseholders? What had been the feedback? Have they expressed any particular worries?
    • Was there a process for monitoring the transition of the service on the ongoing service provided by in-housing service?
    • What was the difference between the services TDC was offering to the one offered by EKH?
    • One of the main objectives of the setting up EKH was making savings? Would this still be the case once the service was brought in-house?

     

    In response Councillor Whitehead and Ms Sally O’Sullivan, Tenant and Leaseholder Services Manager said the following:

    • The portfolio holder had some concerns about how the service would wind down, how tenants and leaseholders feel listened to and have works attended to during the transition period. Council officers are meeting with resident representatives every three weeks to discuss progress on the transition;
    • The council was doing everything possible to make the transition as smooth as is possible;
    • The Council is trying to mitigate risk during this transition period. This included tackling the issue of inadequate office accommodation for staff at TDC main offices. The Covid-19 regulations that require social distancing and other risk management measures in office settings have made this more complex;
    • There were limited number of staff allowed in the offices at any one time and this  ...  view the full minutes text for item 253.

254.

Review the Overview and Scrutiny Panel Work Programme for 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 115 KB

255.

Forward Plan & Exempt Cabinet Report List pdf icon PDF 78 KB