Agenda and draft minutes

Community Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 5th February, 2020 10.00 am

Venue: Chamber, County Hall, Carmarthen, SA31 1JP. View directions

Contact: Kevin J Thomas  01267 224027

Items
No. Item

1.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors F. Akhtar and S. Matthews.

2.

DECLARATIONS OF PERSONAL INTERESTS INCLUDING ANY PARTY WHIPS ISSUED IN RELATION TO ANY AGENDA ITEM

Minutes:

There were no declarations of prohibited party whips.

 

The following declaration of interest was made

Councillor

Minute Number

Nature of Interest

K. Lloyd

5 – The Carmarthenshire Homes Standard Plus (CHS+) Business Plan 2020-23

Shareholder in Carmarthenshire Energy (had dispensation from the Standards Committee to speak but not vote)

 

3.

PUBLIC QUESTIONS (NONE RECEIVED)

Minutes:

No public questions had been received.

4.

HOUSING REVENUE ACCOUNT BUDGET AND HOUSING RENT SETTING FOR 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 357 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Budget and Housing Rent Setting for 2020/21, being presented as part of the budget consultation process that brought together the latest proposals contained in the revenue and capital budgets for the Housing Revenue Account 2020/23 to be presented to the Executive Board and Council for determination.

 

The Director of Corporate Services advised that the report had been prepared reflecting the latest proposals contained within the Housing Revenue Account Business Plan, being the primary financial planning tool for delivering and maintaining the Carmarthenshire Homes Standard Plus (CHS+) for the future. The proposed investment within the current business plan delivered the CHS by 2015 (to those homes where the tenants agreed to have work undertaken) provided investment to maintain CHS+ and continued investment for the Authority’s Affordable Homes Commitment. 

 

The Director of Corporate Services reminded the Committee that with regard to the setting of the Housing Rents, the Authority had, on the 24th February 2015, adopted the Welsh Government’s Social Housing Rent Policy for the four year period ending in 2018/19. For 2019/20, the Welsh Government had provided an interim policy while it awaited the results of the Affordable Housing Supply Review.  Following that review, the Welsh Government had decided to retain the policy for a further 5 year period from 2020/21 – 2024/25 with some additional/amended requirements with the annual rent uplift for the revised period being CPI (Consumer Price Index) plus 1%, using the level of CPI from September of the previous year. In applying that policy for 2020/21 the Welsh Government had notified local authorities in December 2019 that the increase in target rent would equate to CPI of 1.7% plus 1% totalling 2.7%, and for those below the target rent, a maximum of £2 per week increase could be applied until the target rent was reached. However the total rent envelope would increase by a maximum of 2.7% (£2.36) from £87.41 to £89.77.

 

The Director of Corporate Services advised that if the Committee was to endorse the budget proposals the 2020/21 Housing Revenue Account would have an expenditure level of £50.1m with the capital programme being £34.7m for 2020/21, £35.2m for 2021/22 and £31.4m for 2022/23

 

The following issues were raised in relation to the report:-

·       The Director of Corporate Services confirmed the use of CPI in calculating rent increases was set by the Welsh Government and local authorities had no discretion in varying that to apply the Retail Price Index in lieu.

·       In response to a question on the introduction of Universal Credit and its impact on rent arrears, the Head of Homes and Safer Communities advised there had only been a slight increase in rent arrears overall, which was lower than had been expected and compared favourably with other social housing providers. To date, 1200 tenants had transferred to Universal Credit, with a further 4,000 anticipated over the next four years. He confirmed the authority did not implement its arrears policy for any tenants falling into arrears  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

THE CARMARTHENSHIRE HOMES STANDARD PLUS (CHS+) BUSINESS PLAN 2020-23 pdf icon PDF 1 MB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

(NOTE: Councillor K. Lloyd having earlier declared an interest in this item participated in the debate but did not vote thereon in accordance with the conditions of his dispensation granted by the Council’s Standards Committee)

 

The Committee received for consideration the Carmarthenshire Homes Standards Plus (CHS+) Business Plan 2020-23 the purpose of which was threefold. Firstly, it explained the vision and detail of the CHS+ over the next three years and what it meant for tenants. Secondly, it confirmed the financial profile, based on current assumptions for delivery of the CHS+ over the next three years and, thirdly, produced a business plan for the annual application to the Welsh Government for Major Repairs Allowance (MRA) for 2020/21 equating to £6.1m.

 

The Committee noted the Plan also highlighted the importance of the Council supporting its tenants and residents in everything it did with the following three key themes having been identified in terms of future investment proposals:-

 

-        Theme 1 – Supporting Tenants and Residents;

-        Theme 2 – Investing in our Homes’ and the Environment – including development of a Carmarthenshire Decarbonisation Homes Model

-        Theme 3 - Providing more homes

 

The Following questions/issues were raised on the report:

·       Reference was made to the Council’s proposals to spend nearly £52m over the next three years in building more homes linking in with regeneration and focussing on proposed developments in the Tyisha Ward, the Wellness Village, Town Centre and key rural towns. Having regard to the Council’s recent launch of its ‘Ten Towns’ Initiative, clarification was sought on how the new homes build programme would link in with that initiative.

 

The Head of Homes and Safer Communities confirmed future house building programmes would align with that initiative. The first building phase, as referenced above, had been developed on the basis of land availability.

·       Reference was made to the development of Carmarthenshire’s decarbonisation model and clarification sought on what influence the Council had on social and private landlords to decarbonise their properties.

 

The Head of Homes advised that in relation to Social Landlords that could be addressed by a number of means including the Welsh Government by way of conditioning its Major Repairs Allowance and by the Council in the allocation of the Social Housing Grant. The position for encouraging private landlords to undertake such works would be more difficult. However the authority may be in a position to offer some incentives via its social letting policy etc. The Welsh Government could also legislate requiring private landlords to undertake decarbonisation works.

·       A question was raised on the Council’s Radon Testing Programme and the Head of Property confirmed that whilst non statutory, it was being undertaken in terms of best practice as a social landlord and on health and safety for its tenants. He advised that private house owners would be directed to appropriate bodies to advise on testing their properties.

·       Reference was made to the standard of build for new homes and the Committee was advised that was governed by Building Regulations  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

FORTHCOMING ITEMS pdf icon PDF 31 KB

Minutes:

The Committee considered a list of forthcoming items to be considered at its next scheduled meeting to be held in April 2020.

 

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that the list of forthcoming items for the committee meeting scheduled to be held in April 2020 be agreed.