The Portfolio Holder for Housing introduced the report and in so doing highlighted a number of areas, including the consultation which had taken place and the responses received, which were detailed within the report. The new policy would ensure that the Council was better able to prioritise its limited supply of social housing, whilst also taking into account changes to legislation. It also included more robust consequences for those tenants who were in breach of their tenancy agreements. The Portfolio Holder for Housing also took the opportunity to thank the management and officers for their support and hard work in delivering this revised policy.
Following presentation of the report Members discussed a number of areas in more detail:
· Disappointment in the limited number of responses received to the consultation and the ratios of responses used to make amendments to the policy.
· Community Contribution for Key Workers and Volunteers – 65% of respondents supported this proposal.
· Priority for Armed Forces, which was part of the legislative requirements and the inclusion of Domestic Abuse victims. Armed forces personnel are catered for through legislation. Victims of domestic abuse are usually dealt with under homelessness legislation which is the highest priority that can be awarded, however during the consultation period new statutory guidance was issued requesting that those who are placed in a refuge or interim accommodation receive preference in the allocations policy and the proposed policy has been amended to reflect this.
· Groups which may be unfairly disadvantaged by proposals – which included single parents, low income families and care workers, (which were not covered by key work definition). It was confirmed that if these had been included it was likely that it would skew the policy and it had been confirmed that it was justifiable to not give them preference.
Officers confirmed that in order to implement the new policy a new system was required and that this would be procured in the coming months. It was acknowledged that significant work needed to be carried out to ensure the policy was implemented as smoothly as possible and that work would commence shortly to begin this process. This included the introduction of a new form for all new applicants. Revised data would also be gathered for those already in the system.
During consideration of this item an amendment was proposed by Councillor Bill Hartnett, which requested that the policy be monitored to ensure it was fit for purpose and that after 12 months of implementation, or sooner if necessary, it be reviewed and/or amended to enable it to deliver its aims. This amendment was seconded by Councillor Greg Chance.
Councillor Hartnett explained that it was good practice to include within any new policy a review and monitoring process to ensure that the changes were working and meeting the needs of those requiring the service. A number of Members responded by stating that this was normal practice for the Council and they saw no need for a specific recommendation to be made to cover this. Should there be a need for further changes to be made then these would be brought back to the Executive as and when necessary. It was also highlighted that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee could at any time request an update on any Council policy or process, so there were systems in place to ensure that the policy was fit for purpose. It was also argued that with such a major change to the policy and the need for a new system to administer it that it would take more than 12 months to get a true view of how it was working. There was also flexibility within the policy for managers to have flexibility with particular cases should the need arise.
Both Councillors Hartnett and Chance explained that they were not opposed to the policy but believed that such substantial changes required a review and monitoring process to be built in to it in order for those using the service to be able to see that the Council listened to any concerns which were raised and to protect those affected by the changes.
On being put to the vote the proposed amendment was lost.
Following a further brief discussion it was
a) the results of the consultation on the draft housing allocations policy be noted; and
b) the new housing allocations policy be adopted and implemented by the Council.