The Housing Property Services Manager presented the 30-year HRA Business Plan, Investment Programme and Asset Management Strategy for Council housing for the Executive Committee’s consideration.
Members were advised that the report contained three key documents that had a strategic focus:
· The 30-year HRA Business Plan, which outlined a range of matters including in relation to housing income and how the HRA would achieve a balanced position moving forward. A number of assumptions had been made in developing the content of this plan, including in respect of the numbers of void properties, rental increases, management costs, debt and borrowing.
· The Asset Management Strategy, which provided a strategic overview of improvements needed to the Council’s housing stock to ensure that this continued to comply with modern standards. A key challenge would be in respect of the works required to ensure that in future all properties achieved a minimum Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of C.
· The five-year capital investment programme, which focused on £40 million of investment in new and existing Council housing stock. Improvements would be informed by the outcomes of the ongoing stock condition survey. There would also be further investment in order to enhance compliance.
Following the presentation of the report, Members commented that the stock condition survey was very important as it would help to inform action taken by the Council to improve the condition of properties. A significant amount of expenditure was planned and Members noted that this was the first time such a plan had been considered by the Council since 2001.
During consideration of this report, Members discussed the recent debate in respect of this item that had occurred at a meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on Thursday 23rd February 2023. The Overview and Scrutiny Committee had endorsed the proposals detailed in the report and had also proposed a number of additional recommendations. These were addressed in turn by the Executive Committee:
· Recommendation 4(a) - Providing more parking spaces, or being more specific about when and where parking spaces would be provided for Council houses. Members of the Executive Committee commented that there was already a programme in place for the provision of parking spaces. The action that could be taken by the Council was limited, in terms of the land owned by the authority that could be used for parking as well as the space available near to properties for this purpose. Members also commented that it was not appropriate to refer to specific parking spaces and locations in a high level, strategic document.
· Recommendation 4(b) - Transferring funding for handling mould and damp on properties from the Repairs and Maintenance (R&M) budget to the Capital Programme. Members commented that the revenue and capital budgets were separate and funding for this purpose was included in the Repairs and Maintenance budget because that was the most appropriate funding stream for such activities. Should circumstances change, then a capital budget could be introduced for works on damp and mould in future, but this would be subject to the submission of an appropriate business case.
· Recommendation 4(c) - The Overview and Scrutiny Committee highlighted the projected loss of 600 properties and the need to consider what could be done to reduce this figure. The Executive Committee noted that the number quoted, 600 properties, was a projected figure and the Council could not pre-empt the outcomes on this. However, Members commented that action was already being taken to build new Council houses in the Borough.
· Recommendation 4(d) - Fitting solar panels to new build properties and / or suitable existing properties in the Council’s housing stock. Consideration was given to the fitting of solar panels to Council houses and Members commented that this would not, alone, meet the requirements necessary to upgrade the EPC ratings of those properties. Members also commented that there were complicating factors, in relation to right to buy and owner-occupied properties which needed to be addressed. The Council had already submitted a bid for £1.6 million, which would be match funded, to help enhance the energy efficiency of Council properties. There would be options available to upgrade the energy efficiency of Council houses in future but this would be subject to the submission of appropriate business cases. Initially, the Council would need to focus on upgrading insulation, windows and doors on properties and this would have a more beneficial impact on the energy efficiency of those properties than the installation of solar panels.
· Recommendation 4(e) - Adding a provisional budget, which could be amended at a later date, to pay for works needed to improve the energy efficiency of the Council’s housing stock to at least an EPC C rating. Members commented that this was already in the process of being worked on and therefore the recommendation was unnecessary.
For these reasons, the Executive Committee concluded that they could not support the additional recommendations that had been proposed by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on this subject.
1) the Housing Revenue Account 30-year Business Plan 2023-2053 be approved;
2) the Housing Asset Management Strategy be approved; and
3) the Housing Capital Programme 2023-2027 be approved.