To consider a report by the Director for Digital, Sustainability and Resources, copy attached as item 7
Before the Committee was a report by the Director for Digital, Sustainability and Resources, a copy of which had been circulated to all members a copy of which is attached to the signed copy of these minutes as item 7. As part of its Work Programme for 2022/23, the Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee (JOSC) had agreed to interview the Adur and Worthing Cabinet Members on their priorities for 2022/23. The report set out background information on the Portfolio of the Adur Cabinet Member for Adur Homes and Customer Services to enable the Committee to consider and question the Cabinet Member on issues within his portfolio and any other issues which the Cabinet Member is involved in connected with the work of the Council and the Adur communities.
The Adur Cabinet Member for Adur Homes and Customer Services was present at the meeting to answer questions.
A Member asked the following question: I am aware, through case work, that people have been moved into temporary housing accommodation which lacks basic cooking and laundry facilities. Please confirm if that is currently the case? The Cabinet Member told the meeting that some homeless people were booked into Bed and Breakfast (B&B). B&Bs were only used when no other suitable accommodation is available. Where families with children had been placed in B&Bs, the Council prioritise moving them into more suitable accommodation as soon as possible.
A Member asked the following question: Please can you confirm the criteria for approving temporary accommodation and what is being done to ensure that people can carry out essential daily activities within this? Members were told that all properties used for temporary accommodation were assessed for compliance with the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) standards. In line with the code of guidance, all accommodation was free of Category 1 hazards as a minimum.
That a property is compliant with the HHSRS does not mean it will be suitable for every household as each household had unique circumstances. Paragraph 5 of the Councils’ Temporary Accommodation Placement and Procurement Policy describes the factors that will be considered before deciding that a property is suitable for a particular household. These factors include location, size, condition and facilities of the properties, along with the circumstances of the family including any health issues within the household, education, employment and any special circumstances. A vulnerability and suitability assessment is carried to assess these factors each time a household is offered accommodation for the first time or moved to any other temporary accommodation. It is important to note that accommodation that may be deemed suitable for one household, may not be suitable for another due to their personal circumstances. Similarly, accommodation that may be suitable for immediate and short term placement, may not be suitable for long term placement.
A Member asked the following question: What work has been done and what work can we expect to see in the near future to insulate socially rented homes to benefit both residents and the environment in light of the ever worsening environmental, energy and cost of living crisis? Members were told that energy efficiency was a priority in regards to new build or rebuilds. Government grants were welcome for investment in technology such as ground source heat pumps. Members were told that measures in the newly build Shadwells Court had reduced emissions by 90 tons per year.
A Member asked the following question: What work has been done so far, and what work can we expect to see in the future, to develop an empathic protocol for collection of rent arrears, in light of the current cost of living crisis and its expected worsening in the near future? Members were told that referrals were made to other agencies for support and assistance with rent arrears. Officers used the LIFT (Low income family tracker) data to identify fuel poverty households to ensure a holistic view taken when addressing rent arrears. Officers had also been working on the formation of an Ethical Debt Collection Policy for Council Tax and were seeking to build on this work in relation to rent arrears.