Venue: Concorde Room, Council Offices, Farnborough
Contact: Lauren Harvey 01252 398827 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting held on 19th November, 2015 (copy attached).
The Minutes of the Meeting held on 19th November, 2015 were approved and signed by the Chairman.
Ms. Carol Williams, Operations Director, and Mr. Mark Batchelor, Property Services Director, have been invited to the meeting to provide the panel with an update on First Wessex’s performance management and policies (information pack available electronically).
The Panel welcomed Ms. Carol Williams Operations Director, to the Meeting and was introduced to Mr. Mark Batchelor, Property Services Director.
The Panel was reminded that during First Wessex’s previous update, it had discussed welfare benefit changes, the impact that would have had on residents and predictions for the following year. It was acknowledged that First Wessex had not foreseen the introduction of 1% rent reductions and the implications of that over four years. Members heard that this would result in a £16million reduction in income over the four-year period and First Wessex would need to make £10million in savings to manage the loss. Ms. Williams advised the Panel that First Wessex aimed to continue to strengthen the association as a whole although it had been likely that some services provided to residents would be affected.
Ms. Williams discussed a number of ways in which the association aimed to reduce its costs and the Panel heard that it was necessary to close and sell its office building in Eastleigh. Future staffing reductions had also been considered and Ms. Williams explained that the association would try to do this through voluntary arrangements and natural turnover, where possible.
Another way First Wessex aimed to make savings was by extending the life span of their kitchens, bathrooms and boilers by up to three years. However, they had planned to work alongside their tradesmen to ensure that the kitchens, bathrooms and boilers lasted those extra years and residents continued to receive a good service.
It was noted that the First Wessex offices based in Rushmoor had now closed their reception to the public, excluding those who had arranged prior appointments. It was heard that during the transition period, reception staff had been available to assist the public in using their digital services as they had not wanted their customers to be turned away. Ms. Williams explained how this change would help save money; a visit to the association had previously cost the association £12 per transaction, whereas a digital transaction only cost 5p each.
The Panel was advised that First Wessex had discussed its development programme and believed that the number of properties developed per year would have dropped from 6/700 to 400 units per annum. However, Members were reassured that the association had not wanted to end the development programme and had been considering ways to continue the programme on a smaller scale.
Ms. Williams updated the Panel on its Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) ‘governance’ rating, which had improved and was now G1. It was noted that the HCA had been pleased with progress and considered First Wessex as being more fit for purpose.
Ms. Williams and Mr. Batchelor answered questions from Members and the Chairman thanked them for their update.
The Panel NOTED the update.
Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy - Update
Ms. Debbie Whitcombe, Neighbourhood Development Officer, will provide the Panel with an update on the fourth year of the Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy.
The Panel welcomed Ms. Debbie Whitcombe, Neighbourhood Development Officer, who had been invited to the meeting to provide Members with an update on the Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy. Members had been provided with a brief background of the strategy which had recognised three areas, Cherrywood, North Town and Aldershot Park as needing siginificant improvements to address deprivation and reduce inequalities. It was heard that a priority had been set for the Borough, which aimed to ensure that none of the Rushmoor wards were placed in the bottom 20% of the national Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD).
It was noted that Cherrywood had been a priority area and that the closure of the Mayfield Job Club had caused concern, the partnership had responded to this and raised £4,000 to establish an Internet and Skills Café. Work carried out within the Café had helped some residents find employment. The PEBL (Prospect Estate Big Local) Partnership helped fund the Skills Café and had also arranged a family fun day which was attended by over 200 people.
The Panel noted that, since 2014, 73 people had completed the Skilled Up programme, of which 24 had found employment, 34 had moved onto further education, 28 had passed the Construction Skills Certification Scheme tests and 30 had gained a Level One Health and Safety in a Construction Environment Certificate. Members were advised that this programme helped break cycles of inactivity and motivate those participating. Skilled Up projects had also been held in Aldershot.
A reduction in anti-social behaviour had been a key target for Cherrywood and it was noted that incidents had reduced by 32%. This had been achieved through an increased police presence in the area. Students from Grange Infant School had taken part in four Junior Warden sessions, where the children had had the opportunity to report issues and find out if those issues had been resolved.
Ms. Whitcombe informed the Panel that some work had been linked to the Health and Wellbeing Partnership work programme. Local sessions had been arranged, including drug and alcohol awareness sessions. Also, ‘swim for £1’ and street games basketball had encouraged a large number of children to partake in sporting activities. Other community facilities included the Friday Night Youth Club and Creating Futures, increased use of the Prospect Centre, a free bus pass scheme, Cove Brook cycle way and a completed consultation for Moor Road.
The Panel heard that while Cherrywood had been a priority area, similar projects had been carried out in Aldershot Park. Staff had been visiting the area one day per week and had arranged regular meetings in the community. An Active Families programme had also been set up that had provided a range of free sporting activities for local residents.
In September, 2015, the Index of Multiple Deprivation data was released and Members noted that it had been difficult to compare with 2010 as some indicators had changed. The data indicated that Rushmoor had only two Lower Super Output Areas (LSOA) in the ... view the full minutes text for item 18.
Housing Options - Update
To receive an update on the current position of the Housing Options team from Housing Options Manager, Ms. Suzannah Hellicar.
Ms. Suzannah Hellicar, Housing Options Manager, was welcomed to the meeting. Members had received Report No. EHH 1603 ‘Housing Options Update 2015/16’ which provided an update on the work and the performance of the Housing Options Team for the period of April – December 2015 and focused on the challenges faced by the team as a result of the economic climate, there had been specific concern around rough sleepers, complex clients and advice and prevention work.
It was noted that the team comprised of 8.5 officers:
· Housing Options Manager
· Senior Housing Officer
· x5 Permanent Housing Officer & x1 Temporary Housing Officer
· 0.5 Housing Alllocation Officer
The Panel was then reminded of the purpose of the Housing Options Team: ‘to help people to solve their housing problem and to provide a suitable home to those in housing need’. The aim of the team was to prevent homelessness by working with customers to keep them in their existing homes. When this had not been possible, the team was able to explore a number of options:
· Renting privately
· Temporary accommodation
· Shared ownership schemes
· Social rented housing
It was heard that many residents had continued to seek advice in person as 2,338 different households had visited the reception desk to contact the team this year, in comparison to 2,437 last year.
Some challenges faced by the team had been thought to continue over the following years. These had included a limited supply of suitable accommodation for permanent housing, including those who require adapted properties, the complexity of vulnerable individuals’ needs and those individuals that had fallen between services and cuts to Hampshire County Council’s Supporting People budgets and the rationalisation of services. It was also noted that there had been an increase in the number of rough sleepers, particularly in Aldershot Town Centre.
The reduction in suitable accommodation had resulted in housing officers spending more time carrying out robust assessments and finding private rented accommodation. This meant that there had been less time spent on preventing homelessness in the area and households had spent longer in temporary accommodation or had become homeless.
Members noted that cuts to local services, including Hampshire County Council’s Supporting People budgets, had left some vulnerable individuals without support. Those that had complex needs, such as, addictions, poor social skills or an offending history had been more difficult to find suitable accommodation, resulting in some being placed in unsuitable accommodation, which had often led to tenancies failing. The Panel was informed that the team had spent a lot of time supporting vulnerable people with complex needs. However, this had been challenging as the team had not always had the right resources to meet those needs.
At a previous Panel meeting, Members had been updated on the homelessness in Aldershot Town Centre’s High Street car park. Members heard that, in conjunction with the Council’s Legal Team, the Community Safety Team and The Police, a proactive and legal centred approach had been taken to stop the anti-social behaviour associated with rough sleeping. For ... view the full minutes text for item 19.
To note the Community Policy and Review Panel’s work programme for 2015/16 (copy attached).
The Panel NOTED the work programme and work schedule.