Issue - decisions

New resident engagement structures

07/07/2017 - New resident engagement structures

The Cabinet Member for Environment and Housing, Councillor Jennifer Brathwaite, introduced the report and thanked the Deputy Cabinet Member for Housing for her work alongside officers in developing the new resident engagement structures. The Tenants and Residents Associations (TRAs), Area Housing Forums, Tenants’ Council and Leaseholders’ Council had all played an important role in developing the new arrangements. Just two main issues of contention remained and therefore it was disappointing that both Tenants’ Council and Leaseholders’ Council had rejected the proposals. A more flexible approach was now required that enabled a greater diversity of views to feed into resident governance structures.

 

The Governance & Resident Engagement Manager, Mark Howarth, then provided the following information:

·         Tenants’ Council and Leaseholders’ Council had rejected the proposed engagement structures but had acknowledged the need for change.

·         The new structures would initially be piloted for a period of 12 months.

·         Officers had worked to widen the engagement process and enable more to be facilitated online, for example through the Lambeth 500+.

 

The Deputy Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Anna Birley, thanked residents for their comments on the proposals and confirmed they had been taken on board. The new engagement structures were more flexible and would ensure residents’ interests were at the heart of the service. The focus would be on service improvement and performance monitoring.

 

The Vice Chair of Tenants’ Council, Nicholas Greaves, then addressed Cabinet and raised the following issues:

·         Tenants’ Council and Leaseholders’ Council had been involved in the process since November 2015 but some issues of concern remained unresolved. Tenants’ Council Executive would for example be dissolved despite this having been one of the most effective mechanisms for change.

·         There would no longer be separate bodies for tenants and leaseholders. This could lead to the interests of one group becoming dominated by those of the other.

·         Delegating more authority to Area Managers carried significant risks.

·         The emphasis on online working was welcomed but only 58% of tenants were currently online and public meetings were still necessary.

·         There was a diverse mix of people engaged in the current process. It was not necessary to take replace the entire structure and risk losing the input of those currently involved.

·         Despite the focus on ‘Walkabout Wednesday’ sessions, many residents remained unaware of them.

·         Tenants must be able to raise and pursue service improvements without having to navigate complex governance structures. 

 

The Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Tim Briggs then raised the following points:

·         The main problem with the existing structures was that none of the various residents’ meetings had any significant decision making or scrutiny power. The proposed resident engagement structures also failed to devolve any authority to residents. They would also fail to facilitate any accountable decision making.

·         The alternative resident engagement structures proposed by the Conservative Opposition Group were preferable. This centred on a Borough Residents’ Forum which was fed into by a number of other bodies, including the Lambeth 500+ and three Housing Area Panels. Power would be partially devolved to resident representatives who would be genuinely involved in the management of their housing.

·         (On behalf of the Chair of Leaseholders’ Council, Shemi Leira) Leaseholders’ Council and Tenants’ Council had rejected these proposals along with every resident that had heard the presentation by Lambeth Council. Conversely, Leaseholders’ Council and Tenants’ Council had endorsed their own joint proposals, also approved by residents that had seen the presentation by Leaseholders and Tenants’ Council Executive.

 

In response to comments made by the registered speakers, officers provided the following information:

·         The new resident engagement structures would have an accountable Coordinating Committee attended by the relevant director and lead cabinet member. Area Managers would also be made more accountable to residents.

·         New methods of engagement would be promoted by the council but meetings would continue to be used to interact with residents. It was important to maintain the expertise and experience of all those involved in Leaseholders’ and Tenants’ Council.

·         Under the new arrangements, Task and Finish Groups would be set up to investigate particular issues. Residents would decide what issues needed to be scrutinised.

 

Cabinet Members then asked questions and made the following comments:

·         The Sheltered Tenants Forum seemed to be detached from the other groups and boards in the new structure.

·         The range of issues discussed by residents should go beyond repairs and performance management to include wider social issues affecting local communities.

·         The Council should look to provide training for residents to assist with the understanding of complex housing issues.

·         There was a growing need to introduce broadband into new housing schemes.

·         It was positive that freeholders and private tenants would also be engaged within the new structure.

 

In response to points raised, officers provided the following information:

·         Further information about the Lambeth 500+ would be published in due course but officers were optimistic that it would result in a wider range of responses with more residents contributing to debates.

·         It was important to maintain a separate Sheltered Tenants Forum so that the specific issues facing disabled residents were not overshadowed by issues raised by other groups. Despite this, sheltered tenants were encouraged to engage in other parts of the revised structure.

·         Training would be provided for residents.

·         Many community hubs in Lambeth had internet access and facilities that allowed local residents to get online.

 

The Chair, Councillor Lib Peck, thanked all residents that had engaged in the process and said the Council would continue to rely on their expertise. Local tenants and residents associations were an invaluable part of local communities and the Council would continue to encourage them moving forward. Officers and councillors were thanked for their work.

 

RESOLVED:

 

1.    To note the consultation undertaken since the Cabinet proposals and agree the new resident engagement structures as set out in Appendix 1 of the report.

2.    To agree the new engagement structures be piloted for 12 months and subject to a full review to be completed within 18 months, noting the Council’s Constitution will need to be amended when any changes to the engagement structure are finalised.