Greenwich Council

Agenda and minutes.

Venue: Committee Room 5 - Town Hall, Wellington Street, Woolwich SE18 6PW. View directions

Contact: Clare Chapman  Email: clare.chapman@royalgreenwich.gov.uk or tel: 020 8921 5146

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for Absence

To receive apologies for absence from Members of the Panel.

Minutes:

There were no apologies for absence.

2.

Urgent Business

The Chair to announce any items of urgent business circulated separately from the main agenda.

Minutes:

There was no urgent business.

3.

Declarations of Interest pdf icon PDF 38 KB

Members to declare any personal and financial interests in items on the agenda.  Attention is drawn to the Council’s Constitution; the Council’s Code of Conduct and associated advice.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Resolved –

 

That the list of Councillors’ memberships as Council appointed representatives on outside bodies, joint committees and school governing bodies is noted.

4.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 56 KB

Members of the Housing and Anti-Poverty Scrutiny Panel are requested to confirm as an accurate record the Minutes of the meeting held on 11th July 2019.

 

No motion or discussion may take place upon the Minutes except as to their accuracy, and any question on this point will be determined by a majority of the Members of the body attending who were present when the matter in question was decided.  Once confirmed, with or without amendment, the person presiding will sign the Minutes.

Minutes:

Resolved -

 

That the minutes of the meeting of the Housing and Anti-Poverty Scrutiny Panel held on 11th July 2019 be agreed and signed as a true and accurate record.

5.

Action Points Review pdf icon PDF 37 KB

The Panel is requestedto confirm that the actions requested at previous meetings of the Panel have been completed.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Director of Housing & Safer Communities advised the Panel that the action points relating to Item 7 (excluding Estate Walkabouts) would be presented in a stand-alone report which would be circulated to Members by 30th September 2019.   

 

                           ACTION: Director of Housing & Safer Communities

 

The Chair was happy to see the email from the Assistant Director of Housing Services which had been sent in response to the action regarding estate walkabouts, however, he felt the email did not fully address the questions that had been raised.  The Director of Housing & Safer Communities reassured Members that maximising the effects of walkabouts was being addressed. 

 

The Chair informed Members that the Repairs Review would be concluded and a report presented to the 13th February 2020 meeting of the Housing and Anti-Poverty Scrutiny Panel. 

6.

Review of Contractual and Procurement Arrangements pdf icon PDF 88 KB

The Panel to note the approach to procurement taken by the Repairs and Investment Service within the Housing and Safer Communities directorate.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report was presented by the Senior Assistant Director Repairs and Investment.

 

He responded as follows to questions by the Panel:

 

·          The Royal Borough had moved away from an approved list of contractors and now relied on Constructionline, and a shared portal.  For smaller works, smaller firms were encouraged to tender, however, the appointment of multiple smaller procurements was not always efficient and needed to be balanced against need.  The Senior Assistant Director was currently looking at a mixed strategy for procurement which would form part of a longer term plan.

 

·          It was not possible for the Council to dictate which sub-contractors could be used but officers could influence choice.  The use of sub-contractors was currently quite low. 

 

·          Where quality of work had been an issue, contracts were being managed more actively.  It was not possible to exclude contractors from the tendering process but experience of working with those contractors could be taken into account. Those that had not provided work of an acceptable standard would not be encouraged to tender.

 

·          An element of contract monitoring was to ensure that contractors worked in line with project plans.  Sometimes delays were inevitable but contractors needed to be clear about these delays.  It was agreed by the Senior Assistant Director that, for future contracts, a summary of works would be displayed on noticeboards in affected blocks. 

 

                   ACTION: Senior Assistant Director Repairs & Investment

 

·          Contracts were not awarded on the lowest price.  The Director was cautious about “suicide” bidding, a process in which contractors offered the cheapest bid and then incorporated variations after the contract had been awarded.  In determining the most suitable contractor, officers scored against a price and quality matrix. 

 

·          In terms of managing due diligence, contracts issued by the Royal Borough also applied to sub-contractors.  The Royal Borough was able to withhold payment until officers were satisfied that contractual obligations had been met and the quality of work was of the desired standard.

 

The Chair was of the view that the specifications provided by Officers at the start of the tendering process were not always precise.  The Senior Assistant Director reassured Members that officers responsible for preparing specifications had the right skills to do so but where those skills were not available in house, they were sought externally. With regard to the employment of Building Surveyors, the Senior Assistant Director was exploring the type of packages that could be offered, but public sector organisations were competing with a buoyant market in which more favourable salaries could be offered by private sector agencies. 

 

Councillor Ashikodi left the meeting at 7.25pm.

 

Resolved:

 

That the report be noted.

7.

Homelessness Decision Making pdf icon PDF 128 KB

The Panel to note the information regarding the decisions made by officers to provide support for those people who the Council has a duty to help in respect of Homelessness.

Minutes:

The report was introduced by the Head of Housing Inclusion and Support Service. 

 

He explained the legislative framework and the Council’s duties as set out in the report.  There were a number of issues within the service.  A lot of customers with high support needs did not fit into the legislative framework, and there had been delays with decision making.  Also the supply of accommodation was not enough to meet demand.  

 

In response to questions from the Panel, the Head of Housing Inclusion and Support Service answered as follows: 

 

·          The Housing Inclusion and Support Service (HISS) was currently working with letting agents and landlords to improve the perception of homelessness, and offering cash incentives to encourage landlords to offer rental properties to those in receipt of benefits.  In addition, HISS was in the process of introducing a transitional insurance scheme for landlords and tenants to protect against problems. Help to Rent, which was funded by Central Government, would be launched at the Landlord’s Forum on 10th October 2019.

 

·          The legislative framework also applied to ex-prisoners who moved straight into the “Relief” phase which required councils to take reasonable steps to help secure accommodation for any eligible person who was homeless. 

 

·          Ex-prisoners who approached the service did not automatically have a “local connection” if they had been in Belmarsh for five years or more, as prison did not count as residence.  Legally, they could approach any local authority for assistance.  A discussion paper addressing the obligations of local authorities in terms of providing accommodation for ex-prisoners would be circulated to the Panel. This was requested in response to the Panel hearing that HISS was obligated to provide temporary accommodation for prisoners until they had established a five year local connection which was not considered by the Panel to be cost effective. 

 

                           ACTION: Director of Housing & Safer Communities

 

·          With regard to tenants who were serving prison sentences, if rent was not being paid, the landlord would likely issue eviction proceedings.  This usually took the Royal Borough around six months.  It was necessary to take into account any children or vulnerable adults who were living in the property.

 

·          HISS had recruited a Domestic Violence officer and all staff were currently being trained to recognise signs of domestic abuse.  In addition, HISS had joined Home Finder UK which was a project to rehouse victims outside of the borough. 

 

·          HISS commissioned 40-50 places in refuges across the borough.  This provision was well above neighbouring boroughs. 

 

The Chair enquired about the Decision Breakdown graph on page 40 of the report.  The Director of Housing and Community Services explained that the HISS service was a safety net for Black and Minority Ethnic residents and that the figures demonstrated that the safety net was working.  The same conclusion had been drawn by the Runnymede Trust.  A breakdown of acceptances and negative decisions by ward and ethnicity would be circulated to the Panel. 

 

                        ACTION: Director of Housing and Safer Communities

 

Resolved:

 

That the report be noted.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Commissioning of Future Reports pdf icon PDF 44 KB

The Panel is asked to note the work items that are scheduled to be presented to the meeting of the Housing and Anti-Poverty Scrutiny Panel taking place on 10th October 2019, and to consider the scope of forthcoming reports.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Resolved:

 

That the report be noted.