Agenda and minutes
Housing and Major Projects Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel
Tuesday, 24th July, 2012 5.30 pm
Venue: Council Chamber - Guildhall, Bath. View directions
Contact: Mark Durnford 01225 394458
WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS
The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting.
EMERGENCY EVACUATION PROCEDURE
The Chair will draw attention to the emergency evacuation procedure as set out under Note 6.
The Chair drew attention to the emergency evacuation procedure.
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTIONS
Councillors Paul Fox and Cherry Beath (Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development) had sent their apologies to the Panel. Councillor Ian Gilchrist was in attendance for the duration of the meeting as a substitute for Councillor Paul Fox.
Councillor Will Sandry had advised the Panel that he would probably arrive shortly after the meeting had commenced.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST UNDER THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 1972
Members who have an interest to declare are asked to:
a) State the Item Number in which they have the interest
b) The nature of the interest
c) Whether the interest is personal, or personal and prejudicial
Any Member who is unsure about the above should seek advice from the Monitoring Officer prior to the meeting in order to expedite matters at the meeting itself.
Councillors Eleanor Jackson and Les Kew both declared an interest as current members of the Development Control Committee.
TO ANNOUNCE ANY URGENT BUSINESS AGREED BY THE CHAIRMAN
The Chair announced that she had agreed to Victor da Cunha, Group Chief Executive and Louise Swain, Executive Director for Customer Services of Curo addressing the Panel regarding their proposed structure and constitutional changes.
Mr da Cunha gave a presentation to the Panel, a summary is set out below.
Integrating our Housing Associations
To bring together our three asset owning landlord functions to:
• Harmonise and improve our landlord service offer;
• Reduce complexity, costs and duplication and allow us to secure £3.8m savings over the next five years;
• Simplify the regulatory burden.
Resident Scrutiny and Accountability
Constitutional changes needed
• Independent review of governance in 2011;
• Outstanding constitutional recommendations;
• Move to industry normal rules;
• Industrial and Provident Society standard;
• Review B&NES right to nominate onto the Board; and
• B&NES class voting rights.
Observing good governance
The Board must ensure:
• It has the right mix of skills and experience necessary to enable it to achieve its objectives and plans.
• All Board members have the same legal status and equal responsibility for decision making.
• Each member acts only in the best interests of the organisation and not on behalf of any constituency or interest group.
• That Board members are appraised, assessed and demonstrably fulfil their duties and code of conduct.
• No more than 12 members and no less than 5 members.
Tension in current arrangements
• Once appointed, the successful Cllr has the same fiduciary duty as all the other board members and:
• is not able to exercise influence on behalf of any external party;
• cannot divulge any sensitive information; and
• must always act in the best interest of Curo.
• Current B&NES nominee is not given the “same legal status” as other Board members, as they are not able to receive a share or vote at AGM’s.
• Once appointed, the nominee is not legally able to represent B&NES
Key constitutional proposals
• Adopt standard I&P rules;
• “Closed” advertising to Residents for 2 Board positions
• “Closed” advertising to all 65 eligible B&NES Cllrs for 1 Board position;
• Once appointed to serve their three year term;
• No longer referred to as “nominee”;
• Open advertisement if closed process does not lead to appointment;
• Adjust the constitution to move from “Class Voting Rights” to “one shareholder, one vote” system.
• Arrangements enshrined in Standing Orders
Strengthening our strategic partnership
• Strengthen the role and scope of the current “Strategic Partnership Meeting”;
• Include housing, employment, health and regeneration;
• Membership of the Strategic Partnership Meeting is senior members of each political party and Executive Team members from B&NES and Curo.
• Minutes of meetings shared with other Cllrs to ... view the full minutes text for item 19.
ITEMS FROM THE PUBLIC OR COUNCILLORS - TO RECEIVE DEPUTATIONS, STATEMENTS, PETITIONS OR QUESTIONS RELATING TO THE BUSINESS OF THIS MEETING
At the time of publication no notifications had been received.
David Redgewell, South West Transport Network had made a request to speak at the meeting but was unable to attend.
The Chair asked for one amendment to be made to the minutes on page eight. She asked for the location of the Alcan site to be listed as Westfield rather than Radstock. The Panel agreed to this amendment and confirmed the minutes of the previous meeting as a true record and they were duly signed by the Chair.
Cabinet Member Update
This item gives the Panel an opportunity to ask questions to the Cabinet Member(s) and for them to update the Panel on any current issues.
Councillor Tim Ball, Cabinet Member for Homes & Planning addressed the Panel. He asked if they would consider reviewing the process of the recent decommissioning of John Slessor Court, an extra care facility.
Councillor Steve Hedges replied that he felt the best course of action would be for officers to supply the Panel with a report on the process and then they could decide if any further action was required.
Councillor Tim Ball replied that he was happy to proceed on that basis.
Councillor Steve Hedges asked for an update on the Empty Properties budget process.
The Associate Director for Housing replied that the service has been appointed with a capital budget and that the Council’s Resources officers have advised us that certain elements of the process can’t be carried out as they are revenue services.
Councillor Les Kew asked what is hoped to be achieved by the process.
Councillor Steve Hedges replied that it is hoped that the empty homes can be brought back into use on a cost neutral basis and provide families with a home.
Councillor Tim Ball added that it would also raise the profile of the local areas and stop the properties becoming a drain on community resources. He stated that he felt some revenue funds would be required in the completion of the process.
The Chair, on behalf of the Panel, thanked him for his update.
This policy sets out the principles of good enforcement practice and how Housing Services will apply these principles. The policy also states how the Service will deal with individuals and organisations who do not comply with the requirements of the Housing Act 2004 and other relevant housing legislation.
The Associate Director for Housing introduced this item to the Panel. He explained that having recently reviewed the existing policy a number of enhancements are proposed.
He stated that one of these would be to replace the existing initial “straight to informal” approach with a short consultation period for engagement with landlords, tenants and interested parties. After this period a decision would then be made on the most appropriate approach which could be either formal or informal action. This would prevent unnecessary delay created by informal action in the cases where Housing Services do not believe that the landlord will undertake repairs promptly. It would also ensure that we act in accordance with guidance that discourages enforcement authorities from taking inappropriate enforcement action.
The Chair commented that she hoped a decision on the Policy would be by the Cabinet as soon as possible.
Councillor June Player asked how long does an HMO licence last for and how are the properties inspected?
The Associate Director for Housing replied that the licences last for five years and that an inspection is carried out prior to the licence being granted. He added that random checks are then carried out twice over those five years.
Councillor Les Kew asked what actions can be taken if a property is deemed to be dangerous.
The Associate Director for Housing replied that when there is an imminent risk to health and safety appropriate action is taken immediately.
The Panel RESOLVED to note with approval the proposed policy.
The Government, with effect from 2 April 2012, amended the Right to Buy Scheme. The change was implemented by the “Housing (Right to Buy) (Limit on Discount) (England) Order 2012” and Department of Communities & Local Government (DCLG) guidance for local authorities, referred to as “Reinvigorating Right to Buy and One for One Replacement, Information for Local Authorities” published in March 2012. The changes can be usefully grouped into: increasing the discount cap to £75,000; a new affordable home for each one sold statement; and a range of technical changes to how stock owning Councils calculate admin costs and proportion the proceeds between the Treasury and local Councils. As Bath & North East Somerset does not own stock it is only the first point, the raising of the cap that is directly relevant.
The Associate Director for Housing introduced this item to the Panel. He informed them that since being introduced over 2 million properties have been sold under Right to Buy (RTB), nearly 50% of the then total. The recession, tighter rules on discounts and the fact that the most desirable properties have been sold has caused the volume of right to buy sales to fall away considerably in recent years. In 2010/11 just 2,730 sales were completed nationally compared to 92,858 in 2003.
The Government’s Housing Strategy for England, Laying the Foundations (November 2011), included a commitment to “reinvigorate the Right to Buy”. The change was formally implemented by the Housing (Right to Buy) (Limit on Discount) (England) Order 2012 and in March 2012 the DCLG published guidance for local authorities, referred to as Reinvigorating Right to Buy and One for One Replacement, Information for Local Authorities. The changes can be usefully grouped into three: increasing the discount cap to £75,000; a new affordable home for each one sold statement; and a range of technical changes to how stock owning Councils calculate admin costs and apportion the proceeds between the Treasury and local Councils. As Bath & North East Somerset does not own stock it is only the first point, the raising of the cap that is relevant.
The potential implications of these changes are two-fold for this Council. Firstly, if the RTB scheme is reinvigorated there will be a further and increased loss of properties within the social housing stock. However, even the DCLG predicted 250% increase in sales it is unlikely to have a significant impact on the existing stock. For example over the last 5 years there have been 57 RTB sales. An increase of 250% to 142 sales would equate to a loss of around 1.2% of the entire Bath & North East Somerset social housing stock over 5 years. It should also be noted that over the last 5 years the Council has secured an additional 556 new affordable housing units for rent.
The second implication for the Council relates to capital receipts, which are received from RTB sales. Given the high value of properties locally, the discount cap of £50,000 has been the limiting factor in all recent sales. With the cap being increased to £75,000 the effective discount has been enhanced, thus reducing the capital receipt per unit. By making some reasonable assumptions, such as all RTB sales being eligible for the maximum discount and using average sales figures it is possible to do some broad financial modelling on the effects of the increased cap. These show that if the DCLG is correct and RTB sales are increased by 250% the capital receipt, based upon the past 6 years of data, would be increased by between 55% and 80%. The exact figure is dependent upon the type & value of properties sold within that year. Conversely should RTB sales remain unchanged then the capital receipt would be reduced by 30% and 38%. On historic data RTB sales ... view the full minutes text for item 24.
Development & Regeneration Opportunities in the Somer Valley
The Panel will receive a presentation on this item from the Senior Development Officer.
The Senior Development Officer gave a presentation to the Panel regarding this item, a full copy of which can be found on the Panel’s Minute Book. A summary is set out below.
Strategic Policy & Context
- Welton Bibby Baron
Manage economic re-structuring
- Bath Business Park
- Westfield Industrial Estate
Polestar – 17.5ha 425 jobs
Planning permission; on site re-provision of employment
Light industrial & office space on site up to 226 jobs
Pub restaurant – up to 50 jobs
Retirement Care Community – up to160 jobs
Alcan – 4.4ha 218 jobs
Some on-site provision
£445,000 s106 monies for off-site employment provision
Welton Bibby Baron – 5ha site 330 jobs
Workforce will be transported to new premises in early 2013
Draft Core Strategy allocates site for employment & housing
Major Projects Delivery
Councillor Barry Macrae commented that he welcomed the presentation and was pleased to see that the wishes of the community had been taken on board. He added that the work now needed to begin on the ground and that the Council needed to give the go ahead to certain projects. He also called for a section on the Major Projects update report to relate to the Somer Valley.
The Chair commented that premises for small and intermediate operators were required in the area.
Councillor Les Kew commented that the employment space on the Polestar site needed to be questioned and stated he felt that Paulton would not be able to sustain another pub franchise.
The Senior Development Officer replied that she appreciated the need for flexible work units.
Councillor Barry Macrae commented that he wished to see the retention of employment space over housing units.
The Chair on behalf of the Panel thanked her for the presentation and asked that projects in the Somer Valley be highlighted in future Major Projects update reports.
This report provides an update in respect of housing delivery and the projects currently managed by the Development & Major Projects Directorate.
The Divisional Director for Development, Skills & Regeneration introduced this item to the Panel. He wished to highlight the following points from within the report.
The Core Strategy identifies a requirement for 11,500 homes between 2006 -2026. About 3,000 of these can be secured as affordable housing. The vast majority of development (about 90%) will take place on brownfield sites. To date 2600 units have been delivered (an average of c430 per annum) with a further 8900 (an average of 635 per annum) required by 2026 to achieve our targets. This requires a 47% increase in annual delivery rates to achieve our targets. The Council is working to achieve no less than 25% of the total new housing supply being affordable housing.
Work continues on Planning and Financing the Future programme (PaFF). This is being carried out to establish the impact of development upon viability and corporate financing. The project is a response to the new and emerging income streams available to local authorities such as New Homes Bonus (NHB), Tax Increment Finance (TIF), Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and the potential for retention of Business Rates which are linked to the delivery of housing and employment growth.
Work continues to articulate the scope of the Bath Enterprise Area. Key activities are:
For sites such as these, the Council would normally prepare formal planning policy through a Development Plan Document (DPD) but because there is insufficient time in the disposal timescale to complete this statutory process, the Concept Statements are being prepared instead. However, the Concept Statements are the first stage in the preparation of the Council’s Placemaking Plan (Site Allocations DPD) and their preparation will be subject to the initial stages of statutory Plan preparation, including public consultation. This will ... view the full minutes text for item 26.
This report presents the latest workplan for the Panel (Appendix 1).
The Chair introduced this item to the Panel. She suggested that they receive an update at their September meeting on how the Cabinet decision relating to Gypsies & Travellers will affect local housing matters. She also suggested they receive a report on the numbers of people who live on boats but may be making homeless claims.
Councillor Will Sandry commented that he had checked the future dates of the Corporate Audit Committee in relation to the issue raised earlier in the meeting concerning Curo. He informed the Panel that their next meeting was due to be held after the September meeting of this Panel. He also asked if the issue should be placed on the Corporate Risk Register.
The Chair proposed that the Panel therefore request the Corporate Audit Committee to meet prior to the next meeting of this Panel and report back its comments on the matter.
The Panel RESOLVED to agree with all of the above proposals.