Agenda, decisions and minutes

Cabinet Member for Housing
Tuesday, 28th January, 2014 4.00 pm

Venue: Executive Meeting Room - The Guildhall

Contact: Joanne Wildsmith Tel: 9283 4047  Email: joanne.wildsmith@portsmouthcc.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Declaration of Interests

Minutes:

Councillor Darren Sanders made a declaration: he does not have a disclosable pecuniary interest in that his mother is a city council tenant living in one of the properties subject to a rise in heating charges (at Horatia House).

2.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

There were none.

3.

Council Housing Budget 2014/15 pdf icon PDF 381 KB

Report by the Head of Housing & Property Services and Head of Financial Services & Section 151 Officer attached.

 

The law requires that all income and expenditure relating to Council Housing is accounted for separately in the Housing Revenue Account (HRA).  All other Council income and expenditure is accounted for together in a separate account called the General Fund.  This report deals solely with the HRA.

 

The City Council has delegated the function of setting rents, charges and budgets for Council Housing to the Cabinet Member for Housing.  Following extensive consultation with residents and leaseholders this report seeks to deal with all HRA budget issues. 

 

The purpose of this report 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 2014/15.

 

The report also seeks to:

 

-       Approve the Revenue budgets for 2013/14 and 2014/15 and give authority to the Head of Housing and Property Services & the Chief Officer responsible for Financial Administration (Section 151 Officer), to amend the budgets to reflect the latest available information prior to finalising budgets for 2014/15. 

 

-       Set a rent policy, which not only aims to ensure that Portsmouth City Council meets convergence with Governments Formula Rent, but also meets Central Government's amended social rent setting policy from 2015/16 until 2025/26.

 

RECOMMENDED:

(i)      All new rents and charges to be effective from 4th April 2014 or such other date as determined by the Head of Housing and Property Services (HHPS) in consultation with the Head of Finance and Section 151 Officer (HFS).

 

(ii)     Dwelling rents, general service charges, sheltered housing charges and laundry charges for next year to be set at this meeting by reference to the two options and principles set out in this report.

 

(iii)    Dwelling Rents to be increased to formula rent when tenancies change.

 

(iv)    Subject to legislative changes being implemented, PCC will consider adopting a policy of charging higher rents to those households earning over the £60,000 taxable income threshold, with a review of the options and consequences of pursuing being presented at a future meeting.

 

(v)     A new method of calculating Sheltered Housing charges be developed in consultation with residents during the forthcoming year for implementation in 2015/16.

 

(vi)    Heating Charges to be set in accordance with Appendix 10.

 

(vii)   Mobile home license fees as shown on Appendix 11 are approved.  

 

(viii)  Garages and parking site rents as shown on Appendix 11 be approved and authority to let garages at reduced rents where demand is low be delegated to Head of Housing & Property Services in consultation with the Head of Finance and Section 151 Officer.

 

(ix)    Revenue budgets for 2013/14 and 2014/15 be approved and authority given to the HHPS in consultation with the HFS to amend the budgets to reflect the latest available information prior to finalising budgets for 2014/15.

 

(x)     The relevant Managers be authorised to incur expenditure in 2014/15.

 

Additional documents:

Decision:

(i)      All new rents and charges to be effective from 4th April 2014 or such other date as determined by the Head of Housing and Property Services (HHPS) in consultation with the Head of Finance and Section 151 Officer (HFS).

 

(ii)     Dwelling rents, general service charges, sheltered housing charges and laundry charges for next year to be set in line with Option 2 and the associated principles set out in the report.

 

(iii)    Dwelling Rents to be increased to formula rent when tenancies change.

 

(iv)    Subject to legislative changes being implemented, PCC will consider adopting a policy of charging higher rents to those households earning over the £60,000 taxable income threshold, with a review of the options and consequences of pursuing being presented at a future meeting.

 

(v)     A new method of calculating Sheltered Housing charges will be developed in consultation with residents during the forthcoming year for implementation in 2015/16.

 

(vi)    Heating Charges were set in accordance with Appendix 10.

 

(vii)   Mobile home license fees as shown on Appendix 11 were approved.  

 

(viii)  Garages and parking site rents as shown on Appendix 11 were approved and authority to let garages at reduced rents where demand is low was delegated to Head of Housing & Property Services in consultation with the Head of Finance and Section 151 Officer.

 

(ix)    Revenue budgets for 2013/14 and 2014/15 were approved and authority given to the HHPS in consultation with the HFS to amend the budgets to reflect the latest available information prior to finalising budgets for 2014/15.

 

(x)     The relevant Managers be authorised to incur expenditure in 2014/15.

 

(xi)   The Cabinet Member for Housing work with officers and residents' groups to discuss ways to increase the response rate to the annual consultation process on setting the Council Housing Budget.

 

Minutes:

Councillor Sanders welcomed everyone to the meeting and asked Nick Haverly Finance Manager, as the report author to present the report of the Head of Housing & Property Services and Head of Finance & Section 151 Officer.  A year ago on 29 January 2013 a three year rent policy had been set on the principles of convergence and rent recovery.  However this paper now revised these principles due to changes in government policy as rent increases were to be set by CPI plus 1%.  The paper set out two options: Option 1 - to honour the previous year's decision with a 5.6% increase in rents but for the Housing Revenue Account to be no worse off this would need reduction of maintenance to council housing properties amounting to over £1 million each year.  Option 2 would bring forward the £1.45 rent increase of 2016 into next year (2015) however there would be a freeze on the general service charges and for sheltered housing and laundry charges to help offset this increase.

 

All other charges in the report were linked to the previous decisions and PCC policies.  These options had been fully consulted through the House Talk magazine and residents' meetings had been held including at Wecock Farm, Leigh Park and Paulsgrove area offices.  The work of all involved in this process was appreciated.

 

The results of consultation on the two proposed options were reported in that last year there had been 58 responses via the House Talk article and ten had attended area meetings as well as taking part in block meetings.  The total number of responses had been 211.  This year the Residents' Consortium had controlled the consultation process and there had been a four page supplement in the House Talk magazine and meetings in the area offices there had been 47 responses, 37 of which favoured option 2 and 10 option 1 (79% in favour of option 2).

 

Deputations were then made by residents' representatives, firstly by Maria Cole who indicated that the majority at the Residents' Consortium meeting had favoured option 2 as they felt that they could not afford to lose the repairs budget which was key to maintaining standards of housing.  Raymond Hoult then spoke as a representative of Horatia House where he had spoken to 60 people, 52 of those had indicated their preference for option 2.  Maria wished to add that there had been disquiet about how the changes had been implemented by the government and it was hoped that the Cabinet Member would write to the government regarding the change in procedure.  Terry Bryant then spoke reiterating that tenants were unhappy with the way that the government had pressurised the city council and felt that Portsmouth deserved better.

 

Councillor Sanders took on board the concerns of the residents.  He had been contacted by the Residents' Participation Manager, Bill Moody; it was felt that with the government "moving the goalposts" it was hard for people to engage in a meaningful way in this process.  Councillor  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.