Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Kaposvar Room - Guildhall, Bath. View directions

Contact: Mark Durnford  Email: mark_durnford@bathnes.gov.uk, 01225 394458

Items
No. Item

25.

WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS

Minutes:

The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting.

 

26.

EMERGENCY EVACUATION PROCEDURE

The Chair will draw attention to the emergency evacuation procedure as set out under Note 6.

 

Minutes:

The Chairman drew attention to the emergency evacuation procedure.

 

27.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTIONS

Minutes:

There were none.

28.

DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

At this point in the meeting declarations of interest are received from Members in any of the agenda items under consideration at the meeting. Members are asked to indicate:

(a) The agenda item number in which they have an interest to declare.

(b) The nature of their interest.

(c) Whether their interest is a disclosable pecuniary interest or an other interest,  (as defined in Part 2, A and B of the Code of Conduct and Rules for Registration of Interests)

Any Member who needs to clarify any matters relating to the declaration of interests is recommended to seek advice from the Council’s Monitoring Officeror a member of his staff before the meeting to expedite dealing with the item during the meeting.

Minutes:

There were none.

29.

TO ANNOUNCE ANY URGENT BUSINESS AGREED BY THE CHAIRMAN

Minutes:

There was none.

30.

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.

 

Minutes:

Mr Bob Goodman made a statement to the Panel in relation to agenda item 7 (Call-in of Decision E3181). A copy of the statement can be found on the Panel’s Minute Book and a summary is set out below.

 

I am here in a non-political way as a resident of the City I grew up in and which I hold as the most special City there can be. I am immensely concerned that the Commercial Portfolio which this Council hold is being frittered away at the expense of what is important to the residents.

 

I speak, I believe, from a degree of authority on this subject being a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and one who trained in this City’s Commercial Department which then was the envy of local Authorities throughout the Country – Oh how things have changed. 

 

We have here a situation whereby we are being told that it makes economic sense to give – YES GIVE nearly ½ a million pounds to a Tenant so they can get out of their responsibilities under the terms of the Lease.

 

It is clear that there are structural faults with the building which have not been addressed and which are the responsibility of the Tenant – I suspect there is a dilapidation liability with respect of the Tenant in excess of £500,000-£700,000 – so Guinness is getting away with say £1.2 million when you add the payment which is being made. 

 

Where is the dilapidation report?  Who carried it out?  Then where is the Valuation Report from the surveyor?  If GVA prepared this and continued the negotiation and their fee is linked to the surrender, one has to question the Conflict of Interest and whether the RICS Red Book has been complied with.  This needs independent verification.

 

We need transparency – Let all the information be put out there so we can believe what is being said.

 

The surrender of the Lease also means the loss of some 20 Social Units, the Tenants having to be rehoused by the Council’s Housing Provider – adding further to the housing waiting list.

 

So much for this Administration’s Manifesto to create more Social Housing.  This is a significant failure.

 

If this Scrutiny Panel does not send this back to Full Council, then they are letting the people of Bath down and they will have significant questions to answer in the future.

 

Please also recommend a Root and Branch review of this Commercial Estates Department so that you can have confidence in the advice that is being received. 

 

Councillor Winston Duguid asked if he was surprised to see a reverse premium on a lease such as this.

 

Mr Goodman replied that he felt it was unusual on a premises such as this.

 

The Chairman asked if more information regarding this decision should have been publicly available.

 

Mr Goodman said that yes it should have been as the process was not transparent at all.

 

Councillor Paul May made a statement to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 30.

31.

Call-in of decision E3181: 23 Grosvenor Place, London Road, Bath BA1 6BA: Surrender of existing Guinness Housing Association (GHA) lease, subject to payment of a reverse premium pdf icon PDF 77 KB

This report sets out the call-in received by 9 Councillors of the decision to surrender the existing occupational lease at 23 Grosvenor Place, subject to payment of a revenue premium by the Council to the tenant. The role of the Panel is to consider the issues raised by both call-in notices and to determine its response.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Colin Blackburn, Lead Call-in Member addressed the Panel, a summary of his submission is set out below.

 

I would like to share with you my concerns as I haven't been privy to the comprehensive report that Richard Samuel MUST have received to push ahead with his decision.

 

23 Grosvenor Place was built for people to sleep in.  As a hotel, opened in 1790 I'm sure it saw many persons through its doors.

 

Whenever it came into the Authorities ownership, and I haven't been able to ascertain when that was or why, a decision was taken to turn it into Social Housing and provide 20 homes.  180 years after it opened as a hotel, Bath City Council refurbished and made it a home for 20 separate people.  23 years later (1993) a lease was agreed with The Guinness Housing Association Ltd (now known as The Guinness Partnership).  A social housing provider, please note this was 6 years before the mass transfer of housing stock to what has become Curo.

 

The lease agreed was 65 years long with an annual rent of circa £20k (that’s worth approximately £40k in today’s money allowing for inflation).

 

25 years after the lease, they ASKED US if they could surrender it.  This can’t have been for the lack of tenants.  Our own Home Search website states that ‘most people wait months or years for Social Housing in Bath & North East Somerset.  At today’s Social Housing rent values, they should be receiving circa £100k per annum against their £20k annual rent.  That’s not a bad return and that value will only grow in the coming years as rents go up and our lease stays static.  Surely that’s plenty of projected margin to invest in the upkeep and modernisation of the building.

 

Who are The Guinness Partnership and why do they want out of our lease?

 

They are one of the UKs largest and longest standing housing associations, with 66,000 homes and circa 140,000 tenants, they operate with income above 30% margin (clearly 23 Grosvenor Place was well above even that figure). 

 

So by giving up the lease, which appears just to no longer fit their plans, where are they building 20 replacement dwellings in our authority area……oh, they aren’t, they are busy elsewhere.  So we will be taking back a building, seemingly not fit for purpose, but losing 20 dwellings for our most vulnerable residents.  That is a business decision by them, and it’s at their request, This is not a housing provider led decision by our tenant considering their tenants.

 

So what's the state of the building …...we shouldn’t worry about that, it’s a full repairing lease.  Oh, but there appears to have been no formal dilapidations report, why not and why haven't The Guinness Partnership agreed to either do the work or pay for them. His answer may be in the comprehensive report that Cllr Samuel should have received, but I doubt it.

 

 

So, what's normal in a situation when a tenant asks to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 31.

32.

MINUTES - 24th September 2019 pdf icon PDF 95 KB

Minutes:

The Panel confirmed the minutes of the previous meeting as a true record and they were duly signed by the Chairman.

33.

Contacting the Council (Background Briefing:- reporting an issue to the Council) pdf icon PDF 768 KB

A briefing was requested on the resident/customer experience of contacting the Council.

 

Minutes:

This item was deferred until the Panel meeting scheduled for 30th March 2020.

34.

Cabinet Member Update

The Cabinet Member will update the Panel on any relevant issues. Panel members may ask questions on the update provided.

 

Minutes:

Councillor Richard Samuel, Cabinet Member for Resources addressed the Panel. He stated that he had been working with other Cabinet Members and officers in relation to the budget that would be debated by the Panel at their meeting on 3rd February 2020.

 

He explained that he has been taking part in discussions regarding the future of the Council’s Waste & Recycling Centres and the upcoming Cabinet decision on the Transfer Agreement with Aequus Companies.

 

He stated that the Full Business Case for the Clean Air Zone was also to be debated later in the week by Cabinet and that its implementation was dependant on sufficient funding being received from DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs).

 

The Chairman thanked him for his update on behalf of the Panel.

35.

Retail Centres: Initiatives / Rent pressure / Empty premises / Commercial Estate challenges

The Panel will receive a presentation relating to this item.

Minutes:

This item was deferred until the Panel meeting scheduled for 30th March 2020.

36.

Draft Corporate Strategy pdf icon PDF 148 KB

This report sets out the current position on the Council’s draft Corporate Strategy to the Panel for consideration and feedback.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Director for Partnership & Corporate Services introduced this item to the Panel. He explained that it is the intention that the Corporate Strategy aligns with the budget proposals that the Panel will discuss further in February.

 

The Chairman said that if members of the Panel wish to discuss the matter informally, he would be agreeable for such a meeting to take place.

 

Councillor Alastair Singleton commented on the use of the term ‘Climate and nature emergency’ as opposed to Climate Change.

 

The Director for Partnership & Corporate Services replied that the use of language is important within the document and that this indicates the importance of the situation in which the Council is working.

 

Councillor Andrew Furse highlighted three key areas for him from the Draft Strategy.

 

·  Deliver more carbon neutral, social and affordable housing and ensure that our Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) policies put communities first

·  Ensure the Council is an exemplar for low carbon, including the delivery of carbon neutral and energy efficient homes through our housing company

·  Have an effective approach to fly-tipping and litter enforcement as well as to city centre cleansing and trade waste 

 

The Chairman thanked the Director for Partnership & Corporate Services on behalf of the Panel.

37.

Panel Workplan pdf icon PDF 106 KB

This report presents the latest workplan for the Panel. Any suggestions for further items or amendments to the current programme will be logged and scheduled in consultation with the Panel’s Chair and supporting officers.

Minutes:

The Panel approved its workplan as printed whilst acknowledging that they had deferred the items on Contacting the Council and Retail Centres until March.