Report of the Cabinet Member for Housing Services is attached.
Councillor Clare Cummins, Cabinet Member for Housing Services, presented the report regarding an independent strategic review of housing management arrangements commissioned from Campbell Tickell and future options for management of housing stock and related activities. It was noted that tonight’s report only asked for an in-principle decision, with the subsequent transformation programme and engagement with stakeholders, tenants, and leaseholders critical in developing the proposals further.
Members discussed the report, noting that in 2019 the Council and Six Town Housing started a closer working relationship. Through that, it became clearer that closer working served to bridge communication gaps and had benefits for tenants, residents and the Council, and therefore the proposals outlined in this report were welcomed. It was noted that there were significant concerns and risks, which would be managed in due course, but ultimately this focussed on securing better value and better community for all.
1. Agreed an in-principle decision for the management and maintenance of Council Housing to be provided in-house through direct management;
2. Agreed that a further report be provided to Cabinet in December 2023 following due consideration of the outcome of the Tenants Test of Opinion; and
3. Approved the outline Transition Plan and timetable set out in Paragraph 7.2 of the report.
Reasons for the decision:
The recommendation is for the Council to directly manage its council housing. The strength of returning the service to the Council is that it gives back direct control at a time of considerable operating challenge and would enable the Council to realign services more broadly to achieve its corporate and service objectives. It would enable faster and more responsive decision making through one integrated management structure and would remove an additional layer of management and associated costs.
Other options considered and rejected:
The commissioned Strategic Housing Review considered four future management options and assessed them against the established criteria, these were:
· Do Nothing: The review has confirmed the view that ‘doing nothing’ is not a viable option in the current operating environment and that a significant perception gap has opened between what the Arm's Length Management Organisation (ALMO) is set up to do, what it does now and what it could do.
· Retention of Six Town Housing (STH) ALMO: This option involves retaining the current delivery model and extending the STH Management Agreement. Whilst there are strengths, the review has highlighted the need for transformational change to respond to the regulatory environment and ensure that customer pathways and connectivity are achieved through creating seamless customer services.
· Hybrid Model: A hybrid approach is an approach which would see the retention of the ALMO and a closer relationship with shared services; clarity for regulatory purposes would be required. In theory a Council appointed, and accountable Chief Operating Officer (COO) should make it easier to align objectives and delivery plans, however retaining a limited company would mean the COO would be ultimately accountable to the Board and there would continue to be duplication of resource and governance.
· Stock transfer: Voluntary stock transfer is still formally part of the Government’s Housing Policy; however, the Government last financially supported this option in 2015/16. A dowery would be required to facilitate a transfer with estimated transaction costs of £1.5M and a statutory tenants ballot. Without Government funding this option is not financially viable.