Agenda, decisions and minutes

Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness - Thursday, 2nd February, 2023 10.00 am

Venue: Council Chamber - The Guildhall, Portsmouth. View directions

Contact: Allison Harper 023 9268 8014  Email: democratic@portsmouthcc.gov.uk

Webcast: View the webcast

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

There were no apologies for absence

 

Councillor Sanders advised that a local primary school had been invited in by the Lord Mayor to observe the meeting, and would be viewing for a short period of time from the public gallery.

 

Councillor Sanders updated on the situation with Councillor Cal Corkery who was currently an independent councillor having been expelled from the Labour party and was attending as ward councillor for Charles Dickens ward.

 

2.

Declarations of interest

Minutes:

Councillor Corkery declared a personal interest as a council tenant.

 

Councillor Sanders took the deputations for agenda item 6, Council Housing Budget 2023/2024 (including rent setting) prior to the other agenda items, but for ease of reference they were minuted under agenda item 6.

 

3.

Park Homes Pitch Fee Review 2023

Purpose of report

The purpose of the report is to present the options and agree the approach that will be applied to the upcoming annual pitch fee review process for April 2023.

 

Recommendations

 

That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness takes note of the recommendations in this report and agrees to one of the following options:

 

Option 1: Increase Park Homes pitch fees by 6% from 1st April 2023 or

Option 2: Increase Park Homes pitch fees by the Retail Price Index (RPI) for England at the rate set in January 2023 from 1st April 2023.

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Cabinet Member agreed to Option 1: Increase Park Homes pitch fees by 6% from 1April 2023.

Minutes:

Clare Hardwick, Head of Private Sector Housing, introduced the report.

 

The purpose of the report was to present the options and agree the approach that would be applied to the upcoming annual pitch fee review process in April 2023.

 

The officer noted that the RPI for January would not be published until 15 February 2023 and was expected to be 15%. 

 

Residents Consortium questions

Maria Coles advised that they had not received the agendas in the post and had been supplied with paper copies at the beginning of the meeting.  They therefore had not had time to read through the papers thoroughly.  Maria asked whether park homes were eligible for housing benefit and the officer confirmed that some residents were in receipt of this.

 

Members' questions

In response to members' questions, officers clarified:

 

·         In the report, under section 7 an outline is provided of what a 6% increase looks like in monetary terms.  For a small plot it would be £2.13 per week and a double plot £2.67 per week.

 

·         The RPI rate that is worked to, under the framework of legislation, is the published RPI rate 28 days prior to the review date.  Therefore, if the RPI rate is announced as 4% on 15 February, that would be the rate the service would work to and would not go above it.

 

·         There was no specific discretionary fund available for those facing difficulties paying the increase.  Officers worked closely with residents and carry out due diligence to put them in touch with any additional funding or support that they were not currently accessing.

 

·         The Government made an announcement shortly after Christmas, ensuring that all energy grant funding that went directly to landlords was passed onto the tenants.   The charges levied on residents by PCC were significantly lower than the business cap bought in by the Government over the summer. 

 

Councillor Comments

Councillor Wemyss and Councillor Madgwick considered a 6% increase to be reasonable but agreed that, in the unlikely event RPI is lower than 6%, consideration should be given to fluctuating the increase in line with the lower RPI.

 

The Chair's summing up

Councillor Sanders noted the service was trying to mitigate the cost-of-living crisis for everyone and that some of the residents of the Park Homes would be subject to the forthcoming increases in mortgage rates and interest rates. He advised he would have liked to use the lower CPI figure for the increase but noted that legally this could not happen.   The only sensible option available was to increase the pitch fees by an average over the year, in order that costs can be covered, and therefore the rate of 6% was approved, with the proviso that should the RPI rate be lower than 6%, officers would consider their discretionary powers to reduce the rate of increase in line.

 

Decision

The Cabinet Member:

 

·         Noted the recommendations in the report and agreed to Option 1: Increase Park Homes pitch fees by 6% from 1 April 2023.

 

·         Noted that an  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.

4.

Private Sector Housing Fees and Charges

Purpose of Report

The purpose of the report is to present the proposals for Private Sector Housing (PSH) fee adjustments for chargeable services to ensure fees achieve full cost recovery.

 

Recommendations

 

1.    That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness approves the proposals for PSH fee adjustments for the city council's mandatory HMO licensing fees as outlined in Appendix 1, to commence from 1April 2023.

 

2.    That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homeless ness approves the proposals for PSH fee adjustments for the city council's Private Sector Housing Enforcement fees in Appendix 2, to commence from 1 April 2023.

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Cabinet Member:

1.    Approved the proposals for PSH fee adjustments for the city council's mandatory HMO licensing fees as outlined in Appendix 1, to commence from 1 April 2023;

2.    Approved the proposals for PSH fee adjustments for the city council's Private Sector Housing Enforcement fees in Appendix 2, to commence from 1 April 2023.

Minutes:

Clare Hardwick, Head of Private Sector Housing, introduced the report.

 

The purpose of the report was to present the proposals for Private Sector Housing (PSH) fee adjustments for chargeable services to ensure fees achieve full cost recovery.

 

During the item, a local primary school entered the viewing gallery at 10:56 for a short period of time.

 

Resident Consortium Questions

There were no questions.

 

Members' Questions

In response to members' questions, officers clarified:

 

·         The enforcement fees outlined in the report did not just apply to HMO license holders but apply to any enforcement that the team took.  The team had an approach of escalation for enforcement, so for a repeat offender the charges outlined are only for the recovery of the activity that led the officer to taking the enforcement action.  There were also other penalties and punitive actions that could be used such as prosecuting a landlord for a repeat offence or issuing a civil penalty notice which can go up to £30,000 per offence.  The fees in the report were a minor part of the overall enforcement powers available.

 

Councillor Comments

Councillor Madgwick noted the Integrated Impact Assessment needed to be updated with the correct officer contacts.

 

Councillor Wemyss requested the officer forward to him the information on rent repayment orders for HMOs.

 

The Chair's summing up

Councillor Sanders thanked officers for the report.  He noted the extension of the additional licensing scheme since the current Cabinet had been in post.  Councillor Sanders noted his acceptance of the two recommendations.

 

Decision

The Cabinet Member:

 

·         Approved the proposals for PSH fee adjustments for the

City Council's Mandatory HMO licensing fees as outline in Appendix 1, to commence from 1 April 2023.

 

·         Approved the proposals for PSH fee adjustments for the City Council's Private Sector Housing Enforcement fees in Appendix 2 to commence form 1 April 2023.

 

 

 

 

 

5.

Update on Full Fibre to the Home - City Fibre

Purpose of report

 

1.    The report is for information only and provides the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness with a further update on the Full Fibre to the Home City Fibre Infrastructure works and details the progress made across the Portsmouth City Council's housing property portfolio since the last update provided on 24th January 2022.

 

2.    The Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness places on record a note for thanks to the City Fibre and Building Services team for their continued work and extending the scope of the project to Portsmouth City Council's owned council housing blocks within Havant Borough Council's area.

Additional documents:

Decision:

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

 

Minutes:

Meredydd Hughes, Assistant Director (Buildings) introduced the information only report.

 

The purpose of the report was for information only and provided a further update on the Full Fibre to the Home City Fibre Infrastructure works and detailed the progress made across the Portsmouth City Council's housing property portfolio since the last update provided on 24th January 2022.

 

He noted item 4.6 of the report which detailed that over the last 12 months over 283 PCC owned blocks of flats across Portsmouth had been connected to the full fibre network allowing just under 2500 dwellings the capability of receiving full fibre.  Future plans were to bring another 2000 dwellings online to receive full fibre in 2023.

 

He also drew attention to item 4.9 regarding the extension of the full fibre roll out work to PCC residents in Havant, including Crookhorn and Wecock Farm.

 

Resident's consortium

In response to the Resident Consortium questions and comments, officers clarified:

 

·         City Fibre have their own promotion and marketing materials to bring on new customers.  The service had had a number of articles in Housetalk which highlighted the advantages of the full fibre platform to encourage take up amongst residents.  The local Managing Director of City Fibre had presented at a recent Residents Consortium meeting about the advantages.

 

·         In relation to the cost, Meredydd and Councillor Sanders had fed back to City Fibre on the key issue of making sure there is no digital exclusion for residents in local authority accommodation.  The service are working closely with City Fibre and their partners regarding social tariffs or internet lite packages that could be offered to increase affordability for all.

 

·         PCC had not invested any money in the scheme, just officer time working with City Fibre to ensure works are happening in compliance with PCC's requirements.  As more of the city came online it was likely that there would be a ramp up in terms of promotion and work on ensuring providers rent the lines and increase take up.

 

Members' questions

In response to members' questions, officers clarified:

 

·         That to encourage residents to take up the City Fibre options, the message was taken to the Resident's Consortium and the winter edition of Housetalk, which contained a half page editorial comment and text regarding social tariffs and how they could be applied for.  An article had been placed in Flagship and officers met with City Fibre on a quarterly basis during which inclusivity for all and social tariffs were discussed.  Officers ensure that City Fibre push their suppliers and internet providers on this issue.  Meredydd likened City Fibre to a rail network with City Fibre providing the tracks and the internet providers providing the trains to run on that track.

 

·         In relation to technical issues, PCC has a liaison manager working with City Fibre, meeting with them once a month.  City Fibre provide a detailed plan and installation packs in terms of work and technical issues.  Any works undertaken in the blocks is signed off and agreed  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Council Housing Budget (including rents) 2023/2024

Purpose of report

 

1.1         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.

 

1.2         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 address all HRA budget issues. 

 

1.3         The purpose of this report is to seek the Cabinet Member’s decisions on the City Council Housing budgets, rents and other charges and to give authority for managers to incur expenditure in 2023/24.

 

1.4         The report also seeks to:

 

o   Note the Forecast Revenue Outturn for 2022/23 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 2023/24.

 

o   Note the Forecast Revenue Budgets for 2024/25 to 2026/27 arising from the proposals set out in this report.

 

o   Set rents with an average increase of 7%, which is in line with the maximum increase allowed by Central Government's Social Rent Setting Policy.

 

Recommendations

 

It is recommended that the Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness approves the following:

 

(i)           The Forecast Revenue Outturn for 2022/23 arising from monitoring discussions with Managers, as set out at Appendix 3, be noted.        

(ii)          All rents and charges to be effective from Monday 03 April 2023 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 2023/24 to be set with an average increase of 7%, which is in line with the maximum allowable under Central Government's Social Rent Setting Policy.

 

(iv)      General Service Charges for 2023/24 to be set at this meeting, as set out in this report, and in accordance with Appendix 5.

 

(v)       Sheltered Housing Service Charges for 2023/24 to be set at this meeting, as set out in this report, and in accordance with Appendix 6.

 

(vi)      Laundry Charges for 2023/24 to be set at this meeting, as set out in this report, and in accordance with Appendix 7.

 

(vii)     Heating Charges for 2023/24 to be set in accordance with Appendix 8.

 

(viii)    Garages and Parking Site Rents for 2023/24, 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 2023/24, 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  ...  view the full agenda text for item 6.

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Cabinet Member:

  1. Noted the Forecast Revenue Outturn for 2022/23 arising from monitoring discussions with Managers, as set out at Appendix 3.
  2. Agreed all rents and charges to be effective from Monday 3 April 2023 or such other date as determined by the Director of Housing, Neighbourhood and Building Services, in consultation with the Director of Finance and Resources.
  3. Approved dwelling rents for 2023/24 to be set with an average increase of 7%, which is in line with the maximum allowable under Central Government's Social Rent Setting policy.
  4. Approved General Service Charges for 2023/24 to be set as set out in the report and in accordance with Appendix 5.
  5. Approved Sheltered Housing Service Charges for 2023/24 to be set as set out in the report, and in accordance with Appendix 6.
  6. Approved laundry charges for 2023/24 to be set, as set out in the report, and in accordance with Appendix 7.
  7. Approved heating charges for 2023/24 to be capped at a 50% rise in 2023/2024 with any remaining heating charges to be recouped in subsequent years.
  8. Approved Garages and Parking Site rents for 2023/24, as shown in Appendix 9 and approved authority to let garages at reduced rents where demand is low to be delegated to the Director of Housing, Neighbourhood and Building Services, in consultation with the Director of Finance and Resources.
  9. Approved the Revenue Budget for 2023/24, as set out in Appendix 3 and approved authority to be 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 2023/24.
  10. Authorised the relevant managers to incur expenditure in 2023/24
  11. Noted the Forecast Revenue Budgets for 2024/25 to 2026/27 arising from proposals contained in the report as set out in Appendix 3.

 

Minutes:

Paul Godier, Jason Halfpenny, Jamie Foy and Councillor Cal Corkery gave deputations opposing this agenda item.

 

Deputations are not minuted but can be viewed here:

 

Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness, 2 February 2023 on Livestream

 

Alan Denford, Group Accountant, introduced the report and each recommendation in turn.

 

The purpose of the report was to seek the Cabinet Member's decision on the City Council Housing budgets, rents and other charges and to give authority for managers to incur expenditure in 2023/2024.

 

Members' Questions

In response to members' questions, officers clarified:

 

·         In relation to any support available, the following were noted:

 

-       The energy price cap guarantee will be increasing from £2,500 per year to £3,000 per year from 1st April 2023.

-       The energy rebate is coming to an end at the end of March.

-       From 1st April the Government will be introducing a number of initiatives for residents eligible for various benefits including;

 

1.    £900 cost of living payment based on means tested benefits to be paid in 3 equal instalments in Spring 2023, Autumn 2023 and Spring 2024.

 

2.    A £300 one off pension payment for those claiming pension credit.

 

3.    An automatic one-off payment of £150 for households in the UK claiming disability benefits.

 

4.    A Warm Homes scheme giving a one-off discount on electricity bills over the winter which is directly applied to bills.

 

5.    Cold weather payments and winter fuel payments.

 

6.    Fuel pre-payment vouchers are issued automatically but need to be manually redeemed before they expire.  The service was heavily promoting all these through their housing officers but also through the Switched-on Portsmouth website to ensure residents were aware of what they can claim for in terms of the vouchers but also to make sure they redeem them for credit on their bills.

 

·         In certain housing blocks, electricity is generated by Solar PV cells on the roofs and in calculating the energy price increases officers worked out the amount of energy that the energy centre consumed and then deducted from that any income generated through the surplus electricity sales and then a net figure was produced. For the Charles Dickens district heating network the net figure is then divided by the residents on the estate receiving communal heating and everybody  pays a proportionate share.

 

·         The Charles Dickens heating system is an on-demand heating and hot water system and runs 24/7 and 365 days a year so that residents always have access to heating and hot water.  There are controls within each property to turn down radiators.

 

·         The building services team are investigating how best to upgrade and modernise the district heating system to allow more flexibility and more control for residents, and to allow residents to only pay for the energy and hot water that they use.  A similar feasibility will be undertaken on the communal heating system at Tipton & Edgbaston Houses.  Residents will be consulted over the summer on the pros and cons.

 

 

·         Heating charges are purely for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.