Strategic Director Neighbourhoods and Growth: Sue Foster
Cabinet Member for Housing: Councillor Matthew Bennett
The Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Matthew Bennett, and Councillor Mary Atkins, co-chair of the Housing Scrutiny Commission, introduced the Report and noted:
· it represented a huge amount of work over a significant period of time and contained 62 recommendations, along with an Action Plan and officer response;
· the decision to bring Lambeth Living back in-house was made in 2014,a survey of residents took place in which only 37% of tenants and leaseholders rated engagement as satisfactory;
· the Commission ran in parallel to consulting residents on plans for future resident engagement as a separate process looking at best practice for the future; and,
· the recommendations were aimed at making residents and leaseholders central to processes and improvements of housing-related works and services, but was not about changing specific policies;
· it doubled as a learning experience for Lambeth and was research- and evidence-led and based, and had both professional and resident input;
· certain recommendations were not ground-breaking and focused on culture change and basic tasks, but it was hoped being codified would help effect change and mitigate the frustrations of residents;
· recommendation one held the work together, enshrining cooperative co-regulation and putting officers in residents’ shoes, representing a cultural shift that empowered residents through coproduction, recognising there were no blanket policies for all, and that a range of structures was needed to facilitate resident involvement;
· it had become clear when receiving evidence on structures and processes that an outcome-based approach was more important than structure, as flexibility was wanted;
· the report highlighted the rigorous use of evidence and value for money; and,
· the Action Plan would continue housing management improvements and would be monitored by resident involvement structures, Housing Management and OSC.
Cabinet next heard from Stephen Gyte, Chair of Leaseholders’ Council and Chair of the North Lambeth Area Leasehold Forum; and Malcolm Baker, member of Tenants’ Council and of the Housing Scrutiny Commission:
· the Chair of Leaseholders’ Council had not been invited to speak to the Commission;
· the Action Plan was commendable and contained some good points;
· the resident involvement survey from Tenants’ Council (11 May 2016), which related to the proposals put forward in the October Cabinet report as opposed to the commission’s recommendations, only had 51% in support of the changes and a third did not know enough to comment, whilst the low response rate (6.5%) highlighted a lack of endorsement;
· Tenants’ and Leaseholders’ Councils sent their own surveys to tenants and residents associations (TRAs) and 84% said they did not support the changes proposed in October’s report;
· there was a lack of detail of how the proposed bodies would function;
· Tenants’ and Leaseholders’ Councils executives were keen to work with the Council, but felt they and key resident representatives should have been involved from the beginning, and did not reflect well on the Council’s wish for co-production;
· it was stated that Leaseholders’ Council suggested many of the proposals when aiming to achieve better value for money on major works;
· it was unclear to many representatives why the Commission had met in private when they could offer relevant insight into housing management;
· concern was raised that the Deputy Cabinet Member for Housing had asked to meet with the Chairs of Tenants’ and Leaseholders’ Councils to provide balance to her officer briefing and especially to hear residents’ concerns directly;
· co-optees had been selected without input from Tenants’ and Leaseholders’ Councils and did not go through the appropriate channels;
· non-Council persons had to find out about these plans informally;
· members of Tenants’ Council had concluded that the Council did not view its residents as important and that the report did not go far enough to meet their concerns or sufficiently engage them at the beginning of the process;
· it appeared councillors were defining the best way forward over democratically elected housing representatives, whilst removing the latter’s oversight and accountability;
· one Commission member felt they had been put into an unfair predicament as a Tenants’ Council member being used to divide tenants and leaseholders who did not sit on the Commission; and,
· it was questioned why the existing structures should be replaced (recommendation 28).
Councillor Ed Davie, Chair of OSC, added:
· his commendation of the exhaustive work, with 62 recommendations, taken from a large evidence base consisting of seven councillors from different wards, two tenant co-optees, one leaseholder co-optee, over many sessions and the Commission’s survey, which contained both open and closed questions;
· there were some reasonable criticisms over timing and in getting Leaseholders’ and Tenants’ Councils recommendations for co-optees and these would be borne in mind in future;
· the above oversight could have been partly down to inexperience related to the newly introduced Scrutiny arrangements and the need for the Commission to act in a timely manner whilst wanting both elected members and residents to engage, but the Commission had done well to have co-optees and comprehensive surveys at short notice;
· the Commission could have been advertised more widely, but there was sometimes merit in having closed sessions as this made some participants feel more able to speak openly; and,
· residents and councillors had produced excellent work, and this was recognised by the two previous representations’ commendation of the Action Plan, based on residents’ and democratically elected persons’ experiences and it reflected residents’ views.
Councillor Mary Atkins, Commission co-chair; Neil Wightman, Delivery Director for Housing Management; and, Rachel Sharpe, Strategy and Commissioning Director for Housing and Communities, answered questions raised:
· Cabinet (12 October 2015) endorsed the administration’s initial proposals for new engagement structures following consultation;
· the Lambeth500+ had 700 members and was a key part of the policy to broaden engagement and get more people involved with housing management services;
· a protocol for behaviours was a key point for improved future engagement;
· recommendations 1-38 dealt with housing management services, and 39-62 were around regeneration;
· officers wanted to be as positive as possible, but there were resource implications particularly around training. The recommendations around shadowing or joint sessions with residents and staff were being considered;
· the recommendations and Action Plan would benefit the current estate regenerations during the early stages of this programme, and a lot of indicators had been put in place which could be fed back through as a whole or on individual estate resident groups;
· estate regeneration required a lot of work and time, and was a stressful experience for residents, but the Council recognised there was no blanket formula and this area needed to be kept under review;
· it was hard for officers to form judgments about the social impact of regeneration and this was a key area for residents to feed back on. Site tours had already started, which were important to involve residents and enable them to talk to others who had been through similar experiences
· the Resident Engagement Panels (REPs) were set up as a first stage and were now under review, but the Council had introduced clearer membership, codes of conduct, and greater representation of the borough’s leaseholder-tenants balance. REPs also included independent advisors;
· there were good examples of resident-involved coproduction around the re-procurement of contracts and the Council was analysing how residents could set key performance indicators (KPIs), how meaningful they were to residents, and how residents would like these to be monitored and managed;
· officers would like to set up new resident involvement in stage 2 complaints so residents could inform the Council directly on how well it was doing;
· flexibility was key so that people could choose when to be a part of discussion. The monitoring of representation of the Lambeth 500+ took place monthly and was reported directly to the Director of Housing Management; and,
· the flexibility of structures was important, but concerns of Tenants’ and Leaseholders’ Council around ensuring future mechanisms could adequately challenge the Council were valid points and the commission would be looking at this.
The Leader of the Council, Councillor Lib Peck, commented that she was heartened to see coproduction embedded throughout the report and the example of the Lambeth500+ in reaching out to a broader group, but that its input and representation would need monitoring along with the Action Plan. She concluded discussion of the item by recording Cabinet’s thanks for contributions to the Commission’s work, noting it as an example of good practice, and reiterated the importance of ongoing engagement with tenants and leaseholders.
1. To receive the report and recommendations of the Resident Involvement in Housing Scrutiny Commission (Appendix 1).
2. To approve the Action Plan prepared in response to the Commission’s recommendations (Appendix 2).