A report of the Strategic Director of Environmental and Corporate Services to provide Quarter 1 performance monitoring information.
Considered a report of the Strategic Director, Environmental and Corporate Services providing performance monitoring information and results for the first quarter of 2021-22 (item 6 on the agenda filed with these minutes). The Chair confirmed with the Heads of Service and Cabinet Lead Members attending the meeting virtually that they could hear the proceedings before considering this item.
Assisting with the consideration of the report: Cabinet Lead Member for Planning, Cabinet Lead Member for Private Housing, Strategic Director, Environmental and Corporate Services, Head of Planning and Regeneration, Head of Strategic and Private Sector Housing, and Organisational Change Officer.
The Organisational Change Officer noted that it had been agreed prior to the meeting to focus on two specific areas of performance with regard to questions from the Committee.
Summary Key points of discussion:
· With respect to KI1 (net additional homes provided) and KI 2 (number of affordable homes delivered), whether the performance in Quarter 1 of number of additional houses provided was indicative of an undershoot for the whole year and consideration of its impact on the five-year land supply. It was likely that the number of homes completed by the end of the year would fall short of the target of 1105. This was due to a number of factors including a shortage of supply of housing, the reduction in the number of sites available to build on, and the supply chain shortages for building materials, labour and HGV drivers. It was anticipated that work on Sustainable Urban Extensions (SUEs) recently approved would soon come on stream; the Thorpebury SUE had started building. Since November when it had been identified that the five year land supply was falling short, more applications had been approved, but it was noted that these were unlikely to contribute to the target number of homes built during this year.
· The number of homes to be completed was set out in the draft Local Plan up to 2037 and included the expected 850 homes for this financial year. From a broader perspective, meeting this target was complex, applications could be approved by the Plans Committee but only in accordance with the Development Plan and Strategy regardless of whether a lack of five-year housing supply was indicated for future years.
· With respect to KI 11 % rent loss from void properties, concerns were raised regarding the loss of rent, the average void of 126 days before returning to use, the number of homeless people and the types of houses available. There were several reasons why the situation was as indicated in Appendix B. the Voids performance had continued to be impacted by the COVID pandemic and related restrictions, which had affected customers, staff and services. In addition with staff vacancies, both the reviews on the Council housing stock for sheltered and age designated had been delayed. Planning advice had been sought for options for the Sheltered Housing and would be presented to the Sheltered Housing review Board prior to submitting a report to Cabinet. Once the vacancies were filled the data already collated for age designated properties will be analysed to determine whether the age restrictions should be lifted.
· The Choice based lettings bidding system was effective; when an applicant was accepted on to the Housing Register they would be notified of their band and the properties they were eligible for. It was noted that tenant aspirations had changed and that the types of properties available did not match these. The Council had 400+ properties to allocate yearly and nearly 2000 to be housed, there was not enough stock available. The policy of allowing three refusals of properties before the Council could state that it didn’t have a duty to house people had been agreed as part of the consultation exercise when the Allocation Policy had been introduced. A review was planned during this financial year and this approach would be reconsidered.
· With respect to KI 9 (% of non-domestic rates collected) and Business rates being 7% off target, and its impact by Q4. It was noted that businesses were struggling, with empty shops appearing on the high street. This had an impact on the budget and there had been a struggle to collect rates. However it was early in the financial year and this KPI could merit additional scrutiny later at a later meeting.
With respect to KI 6 (% rent collected) the Democratic Services Officer agreed to ask the Head of Landlord Services whether a plan was in place to achieve its target with consideration to the last year being somewhat unusual. Members wished to understand if it was reviewed monthly and how the data compared to non-COVID year.
Members considered that it was not acceptable as a Council, that there were high numbers of housing void, high numbers of people homeless and significant % rent loss. The Committee wished to highlight the difficulties facing the Strategic and Private Sector Housing Service to its Cabinet Lead Member portfolio holder suggesting that additional support was urgently required.
Members mentioned that limiting questions to one or two areas of performance and inviting only those Cabinet Lead Members and Officers to the meeting was not perceived as a satisfactory approach to effective scrutiny.
RESOLVED That the Committee noted the performance results, associated commentary and the explanations provided.
To ensure that targets and objectives are being met, and to identify areas where performance might be improved.