Decision details

Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) Asset Strategy

Decision Maker: Cabinet

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Is Key decision?: Yes

Is subject to call in?: Yes

Purpose:

To adopt the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) Asset Strategy, including the Letting Policy, VCS Rent Matrix model, and Social Value reporting mechanism. And to approve funding of the shortfall in the rent during the implementation phase.

Decisions:

Due to the number of public speakers registered to speak on this Item, this Item was taken first.

The report was introduced by Cabinet Member, Voluntary Sector and Leisure, Councillor Donatas Anyanwu who highlighted that:

  • There were a limited number of Council owned properties across the borough which are occupied by a variety of Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) groups
  • There was little consistency in terms of rent arrangements across these groups
  • The proposed strategy would ensure equity for all
  • The proposed Strategy would provide tenants the benefit of gradually increased rents over the next 6 years
  • The Strategy would provide existing tenants, where their rents were increasing, a rent-free period to help alleviate some of the issues arising out of the pandemic.

 

Cabinet was addressed by Jenny Stiles, Vice-Chair of Waterloo Action Centre, Abdu Ibrahim from the Eritrean Saho Culture Association and Tedros Abay on behalf of the Community of Tigrayan in the UK who highlighted:

·         Concerns regarding the cease of Lambeth Grants and asked why empty properties had not been challenged

·         Appreciation for proposed renovations

·         That the proposal demonstrates long-term tenancies and allows for community groups to plan in advance, and with confidence

·         Issues regarding the internal mess that had been left following the completion of some repairs. In response to this issue, the Leader stated that they would take this comment away and have conversations with relevant contractors.

In response to some of the comments raised, Councillor Donatas Anyanwu, Cabinet Member for Voluntary Sector and Leisure confirmed that:

·         Although the current arrangements for rent are not equitable, the new Strategy would provide a fairer rent level for each property within the Council’s portfolio

·         The subsidy would be more fairly split across all groups

·         A lot of the empty properties within the borough are in a state of disrepair and require investment and additional resourcing to bring them back in to use – this is being looked at as a key issue in need of addressing.

Following consideration, Cabinet resolved:

  1. To grant all VCS tenants an extra quarter’s rent free whilst the VCS Asset Strategy was being developed, to help alleviate some of the challenges from lockdown, at a cost of £70,593.75.
  2. To extend the transition period from three to six years, where rents were due to increase.
  3. To provide additional independent business consultancy to tenants that most need it.
  4. To incorporate feedback from the consultation into the Liaison Officer’s job description, to ensure frequent interaction with tenants and reasonable contact.
  5. To grant longer leases, on a case-by-case basis, subject to the usual technical and financial due diligence, including organisation governance and viability.
  6. To promote a VCS Panel with wider VCS representation, to promote advocacy and support to those tenants that require capacity building across a range of potential areas.

Report author: Yvonne Hardy

Publication date: 08/10/2021

Date of decision: 04/10/2021

Decided at meeting: 04/10/2021 - Cabinet

Effective from: 16/10/2021

Accompanying Documents: