The purpose of the report by the Director of Housing, Neighbourhood and Building Services and the Director of Finance and Information Services is to seek the Cabinet Member's decisions on Council Housing budgets, rents and other charges and to give authority for managers to incur expenditure in 2019/20.
The Cabinet Member for Housing approved the following (please refer to report and appendices):
(i) The revised budget as set out at appendix 3.
(ii) All rents and charges to be effective from 1st April 2019 or such other date as determined by the Director of Housing, Neighbourhood and Building Services in consultation with the Director of Finance and Information Services.
(iii) Dwelling rents for 2019/20 to be set as in accordance with Central Government's Social Rent Policy.
(iv) General Service charges for 2019/20 to be set at this meeting as set out in this report, and in accordance with Appendix 5.
(v) Sheltered Housing Service charges for 2019/20 to be set at this meeting as set out in this report, and in accordance with Appendix 6.
(vi) Laundry charges for 2019/20 to be set at this meeting as set out in this report, and in accordance with Appendix 7.
(vii) Heating charges to be set in accordance with Appendix 8.
(viii) Garages and parking site rents as shown on Appendix 9 be approved and authority to let garages at reduced rents where demand is low be delegated to the Director of Housing, Neighbourhood and Building Services in consultation with the Director of Finance and Information Services.
(ix) Revenue budget 2019/20 as set out in Appendix 3 be approved and authority given to the Director of Housing, Neighbourhood and Building Services in consultation with the Director of Finance and Information Services to amend the budgets to reflect the latest available information prior to finalising budgets for 2019/20.
(xi) The relevant Managers be authorised to incur expenditure in 2019/20.
(xii) The forecast Revenue Budgets for 2020/21 to 2021/22 as set out in Appendix 3 arising from the proposals contained in this report, be noted.
Wayne Layton, Finance Manager, presented the report on behalf of both the Director of Housing, Neighbourhood and Building Services and the Director of Financial Services and S151 Officer. The rents were proposed to be decreased in accordance with central government social rent setting policy and these, along with the proposed service charges, had been through a consultation exercise with the residents. A Residents' Consortium meeting had been held on 6 December 2018 and another meeting had been held on 10 January 2019 for their feedback. There had also been an article in House-Talk magazine to all tenants.
The Finance Manager reported that this was the last year of the Welfare Reform Act requirement to reduce dwelling rents by 1%, which had the effect of reducing rental income by £2.5m (a cost to PCC of £6.3m over 4 years) as set out in Appendix 4 of the report. He clarified that the cost of removing cladding at Leamington and Horatia Houses of £1.3m was a capital one, which did not feature in the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) but the loss of income from over 200 units from these and home-loss payments amounted to £1m (with some offset of maintenance costs).
Service charges had generally gone up in line with inflation (as set out in Appendix 5), it was slightly higher for flats (calculated by dividing the number of tenancies, and lower for sheltered accommodation. For the laundry charges the policy was to try to recover the full cost, and these had been held in previous years, and were economical compared to commercial laundrette charges.
The increase in heating charges of 10% (Appendix 8) still represented the benefit of PCC's buying power to be substantially cheaper than if it was purchased on an individual basis. Parking charges were only increased in line with inflation for residents' nearby parking spaces but increase 10% for commuters (with a variation in that those areas where spaces and garages were not in high demand charges were kept lower).
Wayne Layton reported that officers were working to find ways to reduce the in-year deficit position and by the end of 2020 it was forecasted that there would be £23m Reserves.
Questions were then raised, firstly by the Residents' Consortium/CLG representatives on the homeless and removal payments to tenants of Horatia and Leamington Houses and regarding the effect of the solar panels on PCC properties. Meredydd Hughes, Assistant Director Building Services, confirmed that the income generated by these did come into the HRA and LED lighting had also been installed to help reduce costs and the heating charges were based on estimates so the selling of electricity to the national grid would be reflected when known. It was also asked by Maria Cole why the costs for the Hub Café were doubling? James Hill, Director of Housing, Neighbourhood and Building Services, explained that this had been taken in-house and the offer had been expanded but it would take a year for the business to settle and the actual ... view the full minutes text for item 6