Agenda, decisions and draft minutes

Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness - Monday, 25th January, 2021 3.30 pm

Venue: Virtual Remote Meeting. View directions

Contact: Anna Martyn Tel 023 9383 4870  Email: anna.martyn@portsmouthcc.gov.uk

Webcast: View the webcast

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

There were no apologies for absence.

2.

Declaration of interests

Minutes:

Councillor Sanders declared a personal and non-prejudicial interest as he is a private tenant. The City Solicitor had advised him this does not preclude him from making a decision on agenda item 5 (Private Rental Sector Strategy). Councillor Corkery declared a personal and non-prejudicial interest as he is a council tenant. The City Solicitor had advised him this does not preclude him from discussing council housing matters. Councillor Payter-Harris said as he was on the Planning Committee he would not participate nor vote on agenda item 6 (Pathway for rough sleepers and purchase of associated property) at the Planning Committee.

 

3.

Council Housing Budget (including rents) 2021 / 2022 pdf icon PDF 398 KB

Purpose

1.    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.

 

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

 

3.    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 2021/22.

 

4.    The report also seeks to:

 

o      Note the Forecast Revenue Outturn for 2020/21 and give authority to the Director of Housing, Neighbourhood and Building Services & the Director of Finance and Resources to amend the budgets to reflect the latest available information prior to finalising budgets for 2021/22.

 

o      Note the Forecast Revenue Budgets for 2022/23 to 2023/24 arising from the proposals set out in this report.

 

o      Set rents in accordance with Central Government's social rent setting policy.

 

RECOMMENDED that the Cabinet Member approves the following

 

(i)        The Forecast Revenue Outturn for 2020/21 arising from monitoring discussions with Managers, as set out at Appendix 3, be noted.

 

(ii)      All rents and charges to be effective from 1st April 2021 or such other date as determined by the Director of Housing, Neighbourhood and Building Services in consultation with the Director of Finance and Resources.

 

(iii)       Dwelling Rents for 2021/22 to be set in accordance with Central Government's Social Rent Policy.

 

(iv)    General Service Charges for 2021/22 to be set at this meeting, as set out in this report, and in accordance with Appendix 5.

 

(v)     Sheltered Housing Service Charges for 2021/22 to be set at this meeting, as set out in this report, and in accordance with Appendix 6.

 

(vi)    Laundry Charges for 2021/22 to be set at this meeting, as set out in this report, and in accordance with Appendix 7.

 

(vii)   Heating Charges for 2021/22 to be set in accordance with Appendix 8.

 

(viii)  Garages and Parking Site Rents for 2021/22, as shown in 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 Resources.

 

(ix)    The Revenue Budget for 2021/22, 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 Resources to amend the budgets to reflect the latest available information prior to finalising budgets for 2021/22.

 

(x)     The relevant Managers be authorised to incur expenditure in 2021/22.

 

(xi)    The Forecast Revenue Budgets for 2022/23 and 2023/24 arising from the proposals contained in this report, as set out in Appendix  ...  view the full agenda text for item 3.

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Forecast Revenue Outturn for 2020/21 arising from monitoring

discussions with Managers, as set out at Appendix 3, be noted.

(ii) All rents and charges to be effective from 1st April 2021 or such other date

as determined by the Director of Housing, Neighbourhood and Building

Services in consultation with the Director of Finance and Resources.

(iii) Dwelling Rents for 2021/22 to be set in accordance with Central

Government's Social Rent Policy.

(iv) General Service Charges for 2021/22 to be set at this meeting, as set out in

this report, and in accordance with Appendix 5.

(v) Sheltered Housing Service Charges for 2021/22 to be set at this meeting,

as set out in this report, and in accordance with Appendix 6.

(vi) Laundry Charges for 2021/22 to be set at this meeting, as set out in this

report, and in accordance with Appendix 7.

(vii) Heating Charges for 2021/22 to be set in accordance with Appendix 8.

(viii) Garages and Parking Site Rents for 2021/22, as shown in 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 Resources.

(ix) The Revenue Budget for 2021/22, 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

Resources to amend the budgets to reflect the latest available information

prior to finalising budgets for 2021/22.

(x) The relevant Managers be authorised to incur expenditure in 2021/22.

(xi) The Forecast Revenue Budgets for 2022/23 and 2023/24 arising from t

Minutes:

Wayne Layton, Finance Manager, presented the report, noting that feedback on the consultation mainly comprised comments on residents' individual circumstances. Very little had changed since the Winter 2020 edition of Housetalk. The main reason why the in-year deficit is lower than expected is because less money has been spent on repairs and maintenance due to being unable to access properties during Covid. Any backlog arising will need to be managed. The predicted £1.2m deficit next year will be met by the Housing Revenue Account's (HRA) ring-fenced reserve. Although the current reserve is sufficient in the short-term if the situation continues it will not be possible to meet obligations over the HRA's 30-year business plan. The increased depreciation costs arising from the age and type of housing stock also increases the deficit.

 

In response to a question from Maria Cole, Mr Layton said the amount of bad debt caused by furlough or unemployment was not as bad as first thought. In the first wave of Covid there was delinquent debt when people were trying to claim Universal Credit. Bad debt has increased by about £600,000.

 

In response to questions from Councillor Payter-Harris, Mr Layton said the current level of bad debt provision is £2.2m whereas it is usually around £1.5m. With regards to factoring in price increases incurred due to the backlog of repairs and maintenance, for example, increased contractor costs, the HRA has two sources of funding: one is for repairs and maintenance and is about £24.5m per year; the other figure is the depreciation charge which is put towards planned maintenance. Housing has traditionally underspent against the £24.5m, providing for about £1,700 for each property (which is where the £24.5m comes from). Some costs are met from depreciation and planned maintenance so Housing is confident pressures will be met going forward. The cost of repairs which have not been done has been considered but is not reflected in reports.

 

James Hill, Director of Housing, Neighbourhood & Building Services, said although work on the efficiency programme has been delayed Housing still wants to proceed with it. Much work was done with contractors like Mountjoy before Covid to reduce costs while not impacting on delivery. Housing has been active in buying properties and anticipates it will have bought more properties than it has sold by the end of the year which will increase rental income. The report gives a clear signal that Housing needs to address the deficit and hopefully when Covid ends will present a revised plan to the administration. If repairs had been done the deficit would have been a million more than the current figure.

 

Councillor Corkery commented that overall tenants receive good service and that Housing is well run; the Local Housing Offices are good. He suggested a dedicated ring-fenced hardship fund as some other local authorities do. Vivid housing association has a welfare fund which can provide items like white goods and flooring. Funds could be reviewed after a year to see how they have  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.

4.

Cabbagefield Row Housing Development pdf icon PDF 302 KB

Purpose

1.    To ask that the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness notes that the Cabbagefield Row development scheme is now ready to proceed to outline planning consent.

 

2.    That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness notes that the planned development is for circa 150 council housing dwellings to be held within the Housing Revenue Account on the land known as Cabbagefield Row, Havant.

 

3.    To seek approval of a capital spend of £260,000 to deliver outline planning consent for a development of circa 150 council housing dwellings on the land known as Cabbagefield Row, Havant. 

 

 

RECOMMENDED that the Cabinet Member

 

1.    Approves Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Capital Expenditure of £260,000 to deliver outline planning consent for a development of circa 150 council housing dwellings on the land known as Cabbagefield Row, Havant.

 

2.    Notes that a further report will be brought once outline planning consent is achieved to detail the consent and to request permission for the build and future capital spend. The build standard and make up of units will also be included in the future paper as they are not yet decided. 

 

Decision:

That the Cabinet Member for Housing approves Housing Revenue Account

(HRA) Capital Expenditure of £260,000 at most to deliver outline planning consent for a development of circa 150 council housing dwellings on the land known as Cabbagefield Row, Havant.

2.2 That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness note that a further report will be brought once outline planning consent is achieved to detail the consent and to request permission for the build and future capital spend. The build standard and make up of units will also be included in the future paper as they are not yet decided.

Minutes:

Jo Bennett, Head of Business Relationships, Growth & Support, presented the report.

 

Councillor Payter-Harris queried the lack of details, noting that the development's approximate £38m cost means each property costs about £253,000. Ms Bennett explained the situation is vague but officers did not want to move forward in delegated matters at this stage, more for members to realise there are several questions to be considered, for example, if the planning outline will allow 100% council homes on the site with 70% allocated to Portsmouth and 30% to Havant. In order to be more transparent and prudent it is better to limit spending until these questions are answered and matters closed down before coming back to members. Once outline planning consent is obtained a more detailed report showing what the development will look like will be written. Mr Layton said an outline design had been drawn up and quantity surveyors had given a potential cost but because of the scale of work more needs to be spent on formulating the design, which is why £260,000 is requested.

 

In response to questions from Councillor Corkery, Ms Bennett explained that officers need to be as prudent as possible at the outline feasibility stage. It is not known how the development will be mixed but having more larger properties allows greater feasibility.  The biggest issue is whether outline permission will allow 100% council homes on the site, how the nominations will be split and the priorities of people on the nomination lists.

 

How the development will work and take into account the needs of those who will live there is something the architect does with informed knowledge of people on the nomination lists. Discussions on nominations and allocations need to be brought forward and to be acceptable to Havant.

 

Other recent builds were used a benchmark for the unit cost for the quantity surveyors. At this stage the main issue and cost is maintaining the site's ecology. The local centre is Strouden Court and officers have to consider how it will be served and supported. A detailed design and report on Strouden Court will allow members to see how the picture is developing.

 

If today's report is agreed and it turns out that housing of an acceptable standard cannot be delivered, no land is devalued by understanding what can be built on it, so although the sum is not insignificant it is in fact safeguarding an asset. If the land is unsuitable for 150 council homes the matter would be brought back to members.  

 

Summing up, Councillor Sanders noted the situation was more complex as Havant Borough Council were involved. The site should be as green as possible with good community facilities. He requested that "at most" be added to recommendation no.1.

 

 

That the Cabinet Member for Housing approves Housing Revenue Account

(HRA) Capital Expenditure of £260,000 at most to deliver outline planning consent for a development of circa 150 council housing dwellings on the land known as Cabbagefield Row, Havant.

2.2 That the Cabinet  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Private Rental Sector Strategy pdf icon PDF 256 KB

Purpose

1.    The purpose of the report is to present the City Council's strategy for the Private Rental Sector (PRS) in the city for approval.

 

2.    The report provides an executive summary, objectives and actions as outlined in the strategy document.

 

3.    The report contains the outcome of the consultation undertaken during September 2020 - November 2020 of the draft Private Rental Sector Strategy. 

 

RECOMMENDED that the Cabinet Member

 

1.    Notes the consultation feedback on the draft Private Rental Sector Strategy amounting to 458 responses.

 

2.    Approves the Private Rental Sector Strategy 2021- 2026 for Portsmouth. (Appendix 1) and agrees the final strategy will be published on the PCC website.

 

3.    Approves the implementation of the actions within the strategy and delegates to the Director for Housing Neighbourhood and Building Services the ability to deliver those actions within existing resources or to provide necessary information to allow the Cabinet Member to make decisions in relation to any requirement for additional resources necessary to implement these actions. 

 

4.    Approves that the following actions that were included in the 2020 PRS consultation are prioritised as they received the highest level of support. These actions are outlined in sections 6.7 & 7.3 of this report but are summarised below.

 

             I.        Unlicensed HMOs: To continue to deal proactively when an unlicensed HMO is reported (88% of consultation respondents said very high or high priority) and Professional standards of regulation: Ensure that officers responsible for regulating the PRS are trained to a professional standard and capable of meeting the needs of the strategy (84% of respondents said very high or high priority). These actions are expected to be achieved in year one of the strategy.

 

            II.        Workshops: (A) To work with landlord groups to provide workshops on how to be a good landlord. (B) To work with tenancy groups to provide workshops on how to be a good tenant, aimed at helping a tenant to maintain a tenancy (76% of respondents said very high or high priority) and Mediation: Create a mediation service between landlords and tenants to help improve security of tenure. (72% of respondents said very high or high priority). These actions are expected to be achieved in year one of the strategy.

 

          III.        That the following action is also brought forward as it will help to support people to find homes in PRS as the impact of the lifting of the COVID-19 eviction ban is felt. Financial support: To undertake a pilot of the rent deposit and bond scheme. This action is expected to be achieved in quarter one of 2021/22.

 

5.    Notes that the following additional actions are expected to be achieved by 31 March 2022. These actions are summarised. Full details are in section 6.8 of this report. These actions are expected to be delivered within current budgets. 

 

     I.        Communication/information: To provide information for tenants, expand the current website, investigate a single communications and web strategy with stakeholders.  

 

    II.        Governance: To develop the current HMO governance board into a multi-agency partnership  ...  view the full agenda text for item 5.

Additional documents:

Decision:

2.1. That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness notes the

consultation feedback on the draft Private Rental Sector Strategy amounting to 458

responses.

2.2. That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness approves the

Private Rental Sector Strategy 2021- 2026 for Portsmouth. (Appendix 1) and agrees

the final strategy will be published on the PCC website.

2.3. That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness approves the

implementation of the actions within the strategy and delegates to the Director for

Housing Neighbourhood and Building Services the ability to deliver those actions

within existing resources or to provide necessary information to allow the Cabinet

Page 49

Agenda Item 5

2

www.portsmouth.gov.uk

Member to make decisions in relation to any requirement for additional resources

necessary to implement these actions.

2.4. That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness approves that

the following actions that were included in the 2020 PRS consultation are prioritised

as they received the highest level of support. These actions are outlined in sections

6.7 & 7.3 of this report but are summarised below.

2.4.1. Unlicensed HMOs: To continue to deal proactively when an unlicensed

HMO is reported (88% of consultation respondents said very high or high

priority) and Professional standards of regulation: Ensure that officers

responsible for regulating the PRS are trained to a professional standard and

capable of meeting the needs of the strategy (84% of respondents said very

high or high priority). These actions are expected to be achieved in year one

of the strategy.

2.4.2. Workshops: (A) To work with landlord groups to provide workshops on how

to be a good landlord. (B) To work with tenancy groups to provide workshops

on how to be a good tenant, aimed at helping a tenant to maintain a tenancy

(76% of respondents said very high or high priority) and Mediation: Create a

mediation service between landlords and tenants to help improve security of

tenure. (72% of respondents said very high or high priority). These actions

are expected to be achieved in year one of the strategy.

2.4.3. That the following action is also brought forward as it will help to support

people to find homes in PRS as the impact of the lifting of the COVID-19

eviction ban is felt. Financial support: To undertake a pilot of the rent

deposit and bond scheme. This action is expected to be achieved in quarter

one of 2021/22.

2.5. That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness notes that

the following additional actions are expected to be achieved by 31 March 2022.

These actions are summarised. Full details are in section 6.8 of this report. These

actions are expected to be delivered within current budgets.

2.5.1. Communication/information: To provide information for tenants, expand the

current website, investigate a single communications and web strategy with

stakeholders.

2.5.2. Governance: To develop the current HMO governance board into a multiagency

partnership group to oversee this strategy

2.5.3. Shared services: To work with  ...  view the full decision text for item 5.

Minutes:

Patrick Lee, Interim Head of Private Sector Housing, introduced the report.

 

Councillor Corkery was concerned that aspects such as officers being trained to a professional standard were not already in place. Landlord licensing is the single measure which would have the biggest effect on renters and should be pursued.

 

Mr Lee said landlords were asked about additional licensing rather than selective licensing. 66% of private renters compared to 48% of landlords who took part in the survey gave a 62% rating of high or very high priority in favour of further consultation on re-introducing additional licensing. Councillor Payter-Harris requested updates on proposals, for example, the pilot with the MHCLG. He acknowledged the council is limited in what it can do; for example, it cannot make landlords and tenants go to mediation.

 

Councillor Sanders noted that all groups see the need for change. There are people on housing waiting lists who would use the private rented sector but are deterred by the lack of security. Selective licensing has been discussed for years but does not seem to achieve what it purports to do. Evidence shows there are complaints in areas with a large amount of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO), for example, parts of Somerstown. It is interesting how little has changed between the first and second consultations despite Covid. Landlords and tenants need help and want the council to do more and better. The council should improve what it does already, for example, dealing with problem HMOs and supporting those who cannot enter the housing market, especially after Covid restrictions on evictions are lifted. He thanked officers for their report and asked them to report back on mediation and the MHCLG pilot. 

 

 

1. That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness notes the consultation feedback on the draft Private Rental Sector Strategy amounting to 458 responses.

2. That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness approves the Private Rental Sector Strategy 2021- 2026 for Portsmouth. (Appendix 1) and agrees the final strategy will be published on the PCC website.

3. That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness approves the implementation of the actions within the strategy and delegates to the Director for Housing Neighbourhood and Building Services the ability to deliver those actions within existing resources or to provide necessary information to allow the Cabinet Member to make decisions in relation to any requirement for additional resources necessary to implement these actions.

4. That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness approves that the following actions that were included in the 2020 PRS consultation are prioritised as they received the highest level of support. These actions are outlined in sections 6.7 & 7.3 of this report but are summarised below.

4.1. Unlicensed HMOs: To continue to deal proactively when an unlicensed

HMO is reported (88% of consultation respondents said very high or high

priority) and Professional standards of regulation: Ensure that officers

responsible for regulating the PRS are trained to a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Pathway for rough sleepers and purchase of associated property pdf icon PDF 252 KB

Purpose

1.    To present and seek approval for the long-term change in the pathway model of support for rough sleepers to leave the streets and find accommodation.

 

2.    To seek approval to use government grants to procure support services needed to safely and efficiently operate the accommodation.

 

3.    To seek approval to use government grants to support the acquisition of a portfolio of accommodation (formerly student accommodation) which will be repurposed for use within the pathway.

 

RECOMMENDED that the Cabinet Member

 

1.    Approves the new pathway model to support rough sleepers in the city, as outlined in section 4 of the report.

 

2.    Approves the use of the Next Step Accommodation Programme (NSAP) grant to procure support services for the pathway for 2021-2024, as outlined in section 4 of this report.

 

3.    That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness approves capital expenditure of £7,311,200 in addition to the NSAP grant funding of £2,152,100 to purchase a portfolio of accommodation (formerly student accommodation) comprising three properties, known as The Registry, St Michaels Road; 155-157 Elm Grove and Kingsway House, Elm Grove, creating accommodation for 110 self-contained rooms (bed spaces) for rough sleepers.

 

4.    That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness delegates authority to the Director of Housing, Neighbourhood and Building Services in consultation with the Director of Finance and Resources & S151 Officer to negotiate the acquisition of the portfolio of accommodation and to commission the necessary works to ensure the buildings are fit for purpose to accommodate rough sleepers, whilst ensuring that the schemes remain financially viable.

 

Additional documents:

Decision:

2.1. That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness approves the new pathway model to support rough sleepers in the city, as outlined in section 4 of the report.

2.2. That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness approves the use of the Next Step Accommodation Programme (NSAP) grant to procure support services for the pathway for 2021-2024, as outlined in section 4 of this report.

2.3. That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness approves capital expenditure of £7,311,200 in addition to the NSAP grant funding of £2,152,100 to purchase a portfolio of accommodation (formerly student accommodation) comprising three properties, known as The Registry, St Michaels Road; 155-157 Elm Grove and Kingsway House, Elm Grove, creating accommodation for 110 self-contained rooms (bed spaces) for rough sleepers.

2.4. That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness delegates authority to the Director of Housing, Neighbourhood and Building Services in consultation with the Director of Finance and Resources & S151 Officer to negotiate the acquisition of the portfolio of accommodation and to commission the necessary works to ensure the buildings are fit for purpose to accommodate rough sleepers, whilst ensuring that the schemes remain financially viable.

Minutes:

Paul Fielding, Assistant Director of Housing, introduced the report. It is intended planning applications for the properties can now go to the Planning Committee in late February or early March.

 

Councillor Corkery said the properties were a welcome addition to temporary accommodation in Portsmouth and was proud that one was in Charles Dickens ward. Often rough sleepers with the most complex needs will not feel able to go in this type of accommodation so more work may need to be done. Sharon George, Operational Support, Rough Sleeper Adviser, said officers have always wanted to tailor the approach to individual needs and circumstances and use a flexible approach to find suitable accommodation. The key is work on the streets along with outreach services such as Community Wardens.

 

Councillor Payter-Harris thanked officers for their hard work since March 2020. It was encouraging the council was working and forming links with the private rented sector.

 

Councillor Sanders hoped the accommodation would give occupants a life to lead and not just a place to stay. If lessons have been learnt from Covid it is to think ahead, not fall behind, and this proposal will change lives. He thanked Councillors Corkery and Payter-Harris for their support and officers for their report.

 

 

1. That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness approves the new pathway model to support rough sleepers in the city, as outlined in section 4 of the report.

2. That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness approves the use of the Next Step Accommodation Programme (NSAP) grant to procure support services for the pathway for 2021-2024, as outlined in section 4 of this report.

3. That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness approves capital expenditure of £7,311,200 in addition to the NSAP grant funding of £2,152,100 to purchase a portfolio of accommodation (formerly student accommodation) comprising three properties, known as The Registry, St Michael's Road; 155-157 Elm Grove and Kingsway House, Elm Grove, creating accommodation for 110 self-contained rooms (bed spaces) for rough sleepers.

4. That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness delegates authority to the Director of Housing, Neighbourhood and Building Services in consultation with the Director of Finance and Resources & S151 Officer to negotiate the acquisition of the portfolio of accommodation and to commission the necessary works to ensure the buildings are fit for purpose to accommodate rough sleepers, whilst ensuring that the schemes remain financially viable.

7.

Full Fibre to Home - City Fibre pdf icon PDF 163 KB

Purpose

The report is for information only and provides the Cabinet Member

for Housing and Preventing Homelessness with an update on the progress of the Full Fibre to the Home installation project by CityFibre in Portsmouth and detail the impact on HRA communal blocks.

Decision:

The Cabinet Member noted the report. The report is for information only and is not subject to call-in.

Minutes:

Meredydd Hughes, Assistant Director of Building Services, introduced the report.

 

Councillor Suzy Horton, Cabinet Member for Children, Families & Education, gave a deputation in support of the report. Deputations can be viewed here:

 

Agenda for Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness on Monday, 25th January, 2021, 3.30 pm Portsmouth City Council

 

Mr Hughes said CityFibre started work in March 2020 to provide full fibre to 90,000 homes within the Portsmouth city boundary. There will be upheaval when roads are dug up and there were some teething problems in the early days but it is important residents have access to improved digital infrastructure. Wayleave is being set up with CityFibre so they can access properties and agree individual building route packs to ensure ducts and conduits are installed correctly. There will be a dedicated point of contact with CityFibre to liaise with residents. Once Wayleave is agreed a full communications package, including Housetalk, Facebook and Instagram, will be rolled out to residents in the affected blocks. Progress, including feedback from residents, will be brought back to members.

 

Councillor Payter-Harris commended the report and hoped lessons have been learnt from the problems with Milton Road.

 

In response to a query from Councillor Corkery about having communal internet access as a way to help people with bills and lessen the digital divide, Mr Hughes said the scheme was to install the infrastructure and then service providers tap into provision; some cities have an open protocol where anyone can use the infrastructure. He will ask CityFibre about communal broadband when he meets them in ten days.

 

Summing up, Councillor Sanders said good internet access was now very important for schooling and it was shocking to have children in poorer homes without it; it was as important as heating. He asked members to update their colleagues, particularly Councillor Udy (Charles Dickens ward), and gather any feedback from residents. 

 

The Cabinet Member thanked officers for the report and noted it.

 

 

The Cabinet Member noted the report. The report is for information only and is not subject to call-in.