Agenda and minutes

Housing, Economy and Business Committee
Tuesday, 26th September, 2017 7.30 pm

Venue: Civic Offices, St Nicholas Way, Sutton SM1 1EA

Contact: Davena Palmer, Committee Services Officer  Tel.: 020 8770 4990, Email:  committeeservices@sutton.gov.uk

Link: Audio recording

Items
No. Item

15.

Welcome and Introductions

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed all those present.

 

16.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

There were no apologies received.

 

17.

Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

3. Declarations of Interest.

 

Councillor Joyce Melican, Non Pecuniary, Member of the SHP Board

 

Councillor Nick Emmerson, Non Pecuniary, Member of the SHP Board

 

18.

Minutes of the Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 136 KB

To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 13 June 2017.

Minutes:

RESOLVED: that the minutes of the meeting held on 13 June 2017 be agreed as an accurate record.

 

19.

Economy Watch

Economy Watch is prepared twice a year with the purpose of providing data on the economic activity of the London Borough of Sutton.

 

The latest report is available to view online at: http://www.opportunitysutton.org/wp-content/uploads/Economy-Watch-End-of-Year-16-17.pdf

 

(Short URL https://goo.gl/gyWTzs)

 

Indicative Timing: 15 minutes

Minutes:

Mary Innes, Investment and Enterprise Programme Manager, presented the bi-annual report of the Economy Watch which was an end of year review for 2016/17. The presentation highlighted that:

 

  • Indicators around benefits and employment show Sutton is outperforming London and national averages, however lack of Universal Credit data means there could be some unknowns
  • The local business economy is growing, with the main areas of growth being in real estate, professional services and support activities
  • Town centre footfall is relatively high, but is decreasing and the team will keep an eye on any developments with this
  • Support is being given to existing and new businesses, through the growth programme, town centre masterplan and  transport investment working with TfL
  • Skills and employment are being supported through apprenticeships, career pathways and skills for science

        

Members raised concerns regarding the declining footfall in Sutton town centre. The Investment and Enterprise Programme Manager explained that the master plan and newly re-elected Business Improvement District is working to buck the decline trend, and agreed that officers will check what effect the closing of the time square centre may have had, and whether the footfall problem was persisting since it’s reopening.

 

Members discussed the quality of employment in the borough, business start-ups and business rents. The Investment and Enterprise Programme Manager agreed to find out and share with the Committee any further data on the quality of jobs and data regarding how long start-ups are remaining in business. The Chair explained that the cost of rents are an issue, but the Council is looking to intervene to provide affordable space for growing businesses.

 

20.

Fire Safety in Council Flatted Blocks pdf icon PDF 155 KB

This report provides the Committee with a summary of the actions carried out to date by Sutton Housing Partnership (SHP) to ensure the fire safety of the Council’s flatted blocks in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.  It also sets out the programme of works and further actions to be undertaken.

 

Indicative Timing: 30 minutes

Minutes:

Trevor Hart, Housing Strategy and Commissioning Manager, presented the report. The Chair also welcomed Julie Kennealy, Jerry Austin and Martin Thomas from Sutton Housing Partnership (SHP) who were in attendance to comment on the report and answer questions from the Committee.

 

Members discussed and asked questions regarding the Council’s role in ensuring private landlords comply with fire safety standards. Simon Latham, Assistant Director for Housing, Planning and Regeneration explained that every block in the borough will have a fire risk assessment and there was legal requirement for private owners or housing management companies to ensure the assessments are carried out. Mary Morrissey, Strategic Director for Environment, Neighbourhood and Regeneration, added further that Council’s responsibility did not extend to privately owned blocks, but the fire brigade have reached out to all blocks in the borough.

 

Members asked if Sutton Housing Partnership will be checking electrical equipment. Martin Thomas of SHP, explained that electrical upgrading works were taking place at Balaam House and consideration was being given whether to extend sprinklers to six storey blocks.

 

Members discussed the lack of clear guidance on fire regulations from government. The Assistant Director for Housing, Planning and Regeneration explained that Dame Judith Hackitt has been commissioned by the government to review building regulations and that Sutton and London Councils’ will be making representations.

 

Members queried whether the government would be making a contribution to the estimated £3 million of fire safety works to be carried out. The Assistant Director for Housing, Planning and Regeneration explained that the Leader of the Council has written to the Secretary of State, but has been advised that funding will only be offered for essential works and not additional works such as sprinkler installation.

 

The Chair motioned to amend the recommendation at 2.1 of the report to include the following: “and endorse any recommendations coming from Dame Judith’s report concerning building regulations and ensure they are acted upon within set timescales”.

 

The motion was seconded by Councillor Trish Fivey.


RESOLVED: that the actions taken to date to ensure the fire safety of the Council’s flatted blocks be noted, the programme of further works and actions to be undertaken be endorsed and any recommendations coming from Dame Judith Hackitt's report concerning building regulations, be endorsed and acted upon within set timescales.

21.

Housing Revenue Account Business Plan - Update pdf icon PDF 155 KB

This report seeks the Committee’s approval of a revision to the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Business Plan 2017/18 to 2046/47, which was approved in March 2017.  The revision is to take into account the proposed programme of property acquisitions, which was approved by the Committee at its meeting in June, to be funded from Right-to-Buy net receipts and HRA revenue, but also to address the need to invest in fire safety works in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

 

Indicative Timing: 15 minutes

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Trevor Hart, Housing Strategy and Commissioning Manager, presented the report.

 

Members supported the funding mechanisms and asked whether more fire safety works would result in having to take money designated for other purposes. Martin Thomas of SHP confirmed that if more costs are required then they would need to look at the budget again and consider delaying lower urgency works to carry out further fire safety works.

 

RESOLVED: that the publication of the revised Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Business Plan 2017/18 to 2046/47 be commented upon and approved.

 

22.

Private Sector Housing Assistance and Adaptations Policy pdf icon PDF 218 KB

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) provides capital funding to the council to give housing assistance grants to private sector residents for adaptations to enable vulnerable, disabled and older residents to remain independent and safe in their own homes.  Eligibility for the grants is set out in the council’s Housing Assistance Renewal Policy. The DCLG has provided additional funding for the council to support wider strategic aims of preventative health care and the revised policy sets out how the assistance will support residents.

 

Indicative Timing: 20 minutes

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Fiona Meads, Residential Team Leader presented the report.

 

The Assistant Director for Housing, Planning and Regeneration shared comments made by Nick Ireland, Acting Strategic Director - People, drawing the Committee's attention to the positive work of enabling personal relationships between carers, and people living longer at home with the benefit of adaptations. It was also highlighted that the Council was a high performing authority in national comparisons, in avoiding the placement of older residents in residential and nursing care.

 

Members questioned what the turnaround was from someone leaving hospital to needing adaptations at home. The Residential Team Leader explained the bureaucratic process can take some time due to occupational therapists and means-testing. With the revised policy there will be access to small amounts of money to allow for hoists and cleaning, taking some bureaucracy out of the process.

 

Members sought clarification on whether the policy was to be joint for both Sutton and Kingston Council. The Residential Team Leader confirmed there is a shared service but the policy is flexible and tailored to the individual needs of each respective Council. A similar report will be going before a Kinston Committee for approval.

 

Members discussed the repayments required and that the housing assistance grant should more appropriately be referred to as a loan. The Assistant Director for Housing, Planning and Regeneration explained that the grant was set in legislation and therefore couldn’t be changed. Repayments are set on a sliding scale and most people will only make a small contribution.

 

The Chair raised concerns that the Council would be using Government funding to cover responsibilities of private sector landlords. The Residential Team Leader said that her team work with enforcement teams to ensure that landlords are carrying out works they are responsible for.

 

RESOLVED: that the revised Private Sector Housing Assistance and Adaptations policy be agreed.

 

23.

The Use of Civil Penalty Notices for Housing Offences pdf icon PDF 200 KB

This report sets out the powers and obligations introduced by the Housing & Planning Act 2016 and Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 that relate to the Government’s response to tackling rogue landlords and improving the private rented sector.

 

Indicative Timing: 20 minutes

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Fiona Meads, Residential Team Leader presented the report.

 

Members asked for clarification on civil debts and enforcing carbon monoxide and fire alarm installations. The Residential Team Leader explained that civil debts are sent as invoices and when unpaid go through the Council debt recovery team. The civil penalty notices are another tool for enforcement as prosecutions can be lengthy and the team work closely with the fire brigade in regards to fire safety.

 

Members queried whether the notices would be more effective and how they will be applied. The Residential Team Leader expressed that the process is simpler and it will be used on a case by case basis, and will not replace prosecution.

 

Members went on to discuss how the Council can keep track of obstructive landlords. The Residential Team Leader explained that there isn’t legislation permitting Council’s to have a register of landlords, but obstructive landlords are flagged up by tenants, officers and other local authorities.

The Chair commented that some tenants don’t flag up obstructive landlords because of feared repercussions and requested that officers work to ensure tenants know about their rights. The Strategic Director for Environment, Housing and Regeneration agreed that officers will work with the Council’s Communication Team to include tenants’ rights in a campaign.

 

Members asked if a register of landlords could be formed and extracted from information collected through Council Tax forms. Julie Turner, Assistant Director for Business Services (Interim) agreed to look into this and report back to members.

 

RESOLVED that:

  1. The new enforcement powers available to the Council under the Smoke and Carbon
    Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 from 1 October 2017, be adopted.

 

  1. The draft Statement of Principles (Appendix A) which has been produced as required under regulation 13 of The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 be adopted and its publication agreed.

 

  1. The new enforcement powers against rogue landlords and letting agents contained within the Housing Act 2004 as amended by the Housing and Planning Act 2016, be adopted.

 

  1. The Civil Penalty Matrix attached at Appendix B which has been produced in accordance with statutory guidance in respect of the powers under the Housing Act 2004 as amended by the Housing and Planning Act 2016, be adopted.

24.

Homelessness Reduction Act pdf icon PDF 201 KB

This briefing addresses the most significant impacts on resources arising from the implementation of the Homeless Reduction Act (the Act).

 

Indicative Timing: 30 minutes

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Helen Davies, Head of Housing Advice, Information and Assessment, introduced the report.

 

Members asked in regards to 3.3 of the report how useful the change from 28 to 56 days would be. The Head of Housing Advice, Information and Assessment explained that the requirement for authorities to pick up households at the expiry of notice to quit was removed, but may come back in a code of guidance from government. The longer the Council has to find alternative accommodation, the less likely a person will need to be in temporary accommodation.

 

Members queried what synergy exists between universal credit and the homelessness act. The Head of Housing Advice, Information and Assessment said there was a big disconnect between the act and welfare reform, and some landlords were less likely to lend to people on benefits. Lorraine Thomas, Acting Managing Director of Encompass LATC Ltd added that they have a small team funded to support people on Universal Credit.

 

Members asked if the reforms themselves are an improvement. Both the Head of Housing Advice, Information and Assessment  and Managing Director, explained that it will create a service level expected from local authorities, and a level playing field for those considered a priority and those who currently are not . The difficulty however will be that the supply of houses is not increasing.

 

RESOLVED that:

  1. The significant potential financial implications of implementing the Homelessness Reduction Act and the budgetary pressures that will arise as a result, be noted.

 

  1. It be agreed for a further report to be brought to the Committee setting out the full implications and making recommendations for implementation following the announcement by the DCLG of individual local authority funding allocations.

25.

Discretionary Business Rate Relief Scheme pdf icon PDF 187 KB

This report details the level of funding provided by government for a locally designed Business Rate Relief Scheme and Public Houses Relief Scheme and the options considered. It also details the revaluation impacts in Sutton and provides an explanation of the existing statutory and discretionary rate relief schemes currently available to businesses in the borough.

 

Indicative Timing: 10 minutes

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Julie Turner, Assistant Director Business Services (Interim), presented the report.

 

The Chair thanked the task and finish group for the work they had done regarding the scheme.

 

RESOLVED that:

  1. The local Business Rate Relief Scheme as set out in Appendix A, be agreed

 

  1. The Public Houses Relief Scheme as set out in Appendix B, be agreed

 

  1. The Supporting Small Businesses Relief Scheme as set out in Appendix C, be agreed

 

26.

Hackbridge Neighbourhood Plan pdf icon PDF 122 KB

In September 2012 the Housing, Economy and Business Committee formally designated the ‘Hackbridge and Beddington Neighbourhood Development Group’ a ‘neighbourhood area’ and a ‘neighbourhood forum’. Both these designations are time limited and lapse on 18 September 2017. This report sets out the process and results of consultation on the applications from the ‘Hackbridge and Beddington Corner Neighbourhood Forum’ for formal re-designation of, (a) the neighbourhood area and; (b) the neighbourhood forum.

 

Indicative Timing: 5 minutes

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Simon Latham, Assistant Director Housing, Planning and Regeneration, presented the report.

 

Members asked what will be the next step now the plan has been submitted. The Assistant Director for Housing, Planning and Regeneration confirmed that it is currently being evaluated by an examination in public, whereby officers will be giving evidence. It was agreed to give the Chair a briefing on progress and when wider consultation will take place.


RESOLVED: that both the neighbourhood area and the neighbourhood forum be re-designated for the purposes of the community producing a neighbourhood plan for Hackbridge and Beddington Corner.

27.

Any Urgent Business

The Chair must approve the reason for urgency.

Minutes:

There were no urgent items.