Housing & Strategic Planning Cabinet Member – Minutes – 1 March 2011

74 (20) COMMUNITY ENERGY SAVING PROGRAMME – The Service Director Neighbourhood and Environment submitted a report which outlined the impact of the Community Energy Saving Programme underway within the Frodingham ward of Scunthorpe, and sought approval to use a portion of the 2010/2011 capital money allocated for discretionary home assistance.

The Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP) had been created as part of the government’s Home Energy Saving Programme. It required gas and electricity suppliers to deliver energy saving measures to domestic consumers in specific low income areas of Great Britain.CESP was contributing to the government’s Fuel Poverty Strategy by requiring actions to be delivered in geographical areas selected using the Income Domain of the Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD).

There are a number of IMD areas within the North Lincolnshire area that would qualify for CESP by virtue of being within the lowest 10 per cent. From doorstep assessments, 73 properties had been identified as having very inefficient boilers (“G” rated) and would benefit from the provision of new efficient “A” rated boilers. The installation of such boilers could on average, save the householder a total of £225 a year on heating costs, and reduce carbon emissions by 1,100 kg of CO2 per year.

Resolved – That the use of capital funding to target energy efficiency improvements, in particular the upgrade of inefficient boilers, thus maximising the level of CESP funding available, be approved.

75 (21) SERVICE STANDARDS FOR HOUSING – The Service Director Neighbourhood and Environment submitted a report which provided an update on service standards for the Housing Division approved by the Housing and Strategic Planning Cabinet Member in March 2009. The service standards related to energy efficiency grants, disabled facilities grants and affordable home loans which had been further developed to allow more effective monitoring.

The Key Lines of Enquiry, related to housing, identified the need for robust, clear and challenging customer-focused service standards, which were tailored to meet local needs, were effectively monitored and the results publicised. Further to discussions with the Audit Commission, service standards were produced by the Housing Division.

It was anticipated that the new service standards would help ensure clients understood the time scales involved in the relevant processes more easily, helped track the real time experience of customers through more robust monitoring, and made it easier for all members of staff to know and understand the targets that they were being asked to work to.

Resolved – That the new service standards appended to the report be approved.

76 (22) APPROVAL TO REVIEW THE LANDLORD ACCREDITATION SCHEME – The Service Director Neighbourhood and Environment submitted a report seeking approval to review the Landlord Accreditation Scheme to reflect changes in legislation.

The North Lincolnshire Landlord Accreditation Scheme had been in existence since 2006. The scheme required a review to consider options to make the scheme more attractive to a wider range of private sector landlords.Twenty landlords with a responsibility for 519 properties were actively participating in the scheme, however further development proved difficult due to the constraints of the current scheme and the lack of incentives for landlords to sign up.

It was envisaged that a revision of the current scheme would provide the incentive for more landlords to become involved. This would then allow the resources of enforcement staff to be targeted at dealing with those landlords outside the scheme who were primarily responsible for the level of non-decency in the private rented sector. From the last house conditions survey this was estimated to be 30 per cent.

Resolved – (a) That a review of the current Landlord Accreditation Scheme be approved, and (b) that a further report be submitted with recommendations for improving the Landlord Accreditation Scheme on conclusion of the consultation exercise.

77 (23) APPROVAL TO CONSULT ON, REVIEW AND UP-DATE THE HOUSING ENFORCEMENT POLICY – The Service Director Neighbourhood and Environment submitted a report seeking approval to review and update the Housing Enforcement Policy, which would include the necessary consultation with relevant persons and bodies.

The Service Director explained that the overarching Enforcement Policy for Neighbourhood and Environmental Services was up-to-date, having been approved in 2009, however the existing Housing Enforcement Policy dated back to 2002 and since then housing legislation had changed significantly.

The Housing Enforcement Policy applied to housing regardless of tenure and described the options available to the enforcement staff. It included approaches to improve conditions and standards in the private rented sector, as well as how to bring empty properties back into use, and improve standards in the owner occupied sector where it was appropriate and proportionate to do so.

Resolved – (a) That the review and update of the Housing Enforcement Policy, including the necessary consultation with affected individuals, groups and bodies, including landlords and tenants be approved, and (b) that a further report be produced following consultation to accompany the revised policy.

78 (24) INTRODUCTION OF A RISK BASED APPROACH TO TACKLING EMPTY PROPERTIES USING AN EMPTY PROPERTY TOOLKIT – The Service Director Neighbourhood and Environment submitted a report seeking approval to introduce an empty property toolkit and risk assessment approach to target resources efficiently to bring empty properties back into use.

It was explained that there were many reasons why people left their principal home vacant whilst being resident elsewhere, many situations which did not give cause for concern. However, it was those properties that had been abandoned by their owner with no good reason for them not being occupied that merited attention.

The number of long term ’empties’ (empty for over six months) in both the social and private sector were recorded and reported annually to Central Government. It was reported that in 2008/9 the total figure for long term empty properties in the private housing stock was 893, in 2009/10 this figure was 770 and as at 30 September 2010, the figure stood at 773. For the public sector, this figure was 92.

The Service Director advised that an Empty Property Toolkit had been developed, which provided a framework to the Housing Standards and Performance team to enable long term ’empties’ to be risk assessed and provided a procedure to be followed to bring them back into use. The toolkit was attached as appendix 2 to the report.

Resolved – That the introduction of the Empty Property Toolkit and risk assessment based approach to bringing empty properties back into use, be approved.

Where there is no report this is because it is exempt, as it contains information which is considered to be of a confidential nature, as detailed in the Local Government (Access to Information) Act.