Agenda and minutes

Tenant Scrutiny Board
Friday, 15th March, 2019 1.15 pm

Venue: Civic Hall, Leeds, LS1 1UR. View directions

Contact: Keith Mack 0113 3783195  Email: keith.mack@leeds.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

68.

Exempt Information - Possible Exclusion of the Press and Public

1  To highlight reports or appendices which officers have identified as containing exempt information, and where officers consider that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information, for the reasons outlined in the report.

 

2  To consider whether or not to accept the officers recommendation in respect of the above information.

 

3  If so, to formally pass the following resolution:-

 

RESOLVED – That the press and public be excluded from the meeting during consideration of the following parts of the agenda designated as containing exempt information on the grounds that it is likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, that if members of the press and public were present there would be disclosure to them of exempt information, as follows:

 

   No exempt items have been identified.

Minutes:

None.

69.

Late Items

To identify items which have been admitted to the agenda by the Chair for consideration.

 

(The special circumstances shall be specified in the minutes.)

Minutes:

JG raised a late item for consideration. The service charges for all tenants in high rise and Retirement Life properties are to increase. JG asked for a breakdown of the charge, and asked if tenants will all pay the same rate regardless of the different services provided at each block.

70.

Apologies for Absence

To receive any apologies for absence.

Minutes:

Michael Healey, Rita Ighade, Roderic Morgan, Sallie Bannatyne

71.

Minutes - 15th February 2019 pdf icon PDF 234 KB

To confirm as a correct record, the minutes of the meeting held on 15th February 2019.

Minutes:

JG opened the meeting and welcomed the attendees. A round of introductions were made for the benefit of the guests.

 

RESOLVED – The minutes of the previous meeting held on 15 February 2019 were passed as a true record

72.

Minutes of the Scrutiny Board (Environment, Housing and Communities) pdf icon PDF 151 KB

Information only item.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Information only item

73.

Recruitment to TSB Update pdf icon PDF 209 KB

Members are asked to note the update provided and discuss any further comments around this area of work.

Minutes:

KM provided an update to the board members, informing them that MF and SBu are now full members of the board. KM further explained that he had spoken with the third prospective member who was interested in joining the board, and that he has since moved out of the Leeds area. KM said he would continue to use the annual home visit data that was used to identify and contact interested tenants as there are still vacancies on the panel.

 

SI suggested that younger people could be more effectively targeted to join the board by the creation of a presentation detailing the work of the TSB, as well as the possible introduction of training or qualifications gained as a part of being a member of the TSB. SG recalled a pamphlet that had previously been circulated regarding tenant engagement activities, and that there were previous discussions held around having a tenant engagement ‘jobs fair’ which could be attended by tenants to speak to members of the individual groups. KM agreed that SI’s ideas were valid, though they might be better discussed with Mandy Sawyer who would be speaking later on in the meeting.

 

JG informed the board that he will be attending the next Repairs and Investment Group meeting to speak to members about why the group is so attractive to them and consider how tenants can be recruited to the TSB.

74.

Universal Credit Update pdf icon PDF 293 KB

Recognising the significant tasks involved in implementing Universal Credit, the Board previously requested an update on universal credit once implemented and live. Members are asked to note the verbal update provided at the meeting and discuss any points which they wish to raise with the officer in attendance.

Minutes:

JG introduced Paul Harris, Income Manager for Housing Leeds, to update the board about the current situation regarding Universal Credit.

 

PH explained that the Universal Credit system was launched in Leeds on the 10th of October 2018, and is applicable to anyone of working age making a new claim which would cover any of the previous six legacy benefits; Income-based Jobseekers Allowance, Income Related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Housing Benefit.

 

Any tenant in receipt of one of the legacy benefits before the 10th of October will continue to receive the same benefit until they make a new claim or are eventually transferred to the Universal Credit system.

 

PH explained that Leeds City Council have signed up to be a trusted partner with the Department of Work and Pensions, allowing council staff to access the landlord portal and see who has made an application for Universal Credit and to verify their rent and tenancy details. If an application is made by someone who is heavily in arrears or is vulnerable, LCC can apply for an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA) to be put in place, allowing the housing element of their payment to be paid directly to the council rather than the tenant just as the housing benefit system does. Managed payments can also be set up for those who might be unable to pay their rent regardless of whether they have arrears, that will pay their housing element and up to 20% from their monthly allowance. This has the potential to be much higher than the current rate of payment so care must be taken to ensure this is the correct route, and whilst the APA cannot be appealed, the percentage taken from their payments can be reduced.

 

PH told the board that there are 15 Enhanced Income Officers to support applications within each housing office. When a new claim is received, an officer will contact the applicant within 5 days of the claim and ensure that they have enough money to live on until the payment date just over a month after the initial claim. Support and guidance will be offered to help applicants that need it. The month following the date of the claim is known as the assessment period, following which the first payment is made 7 days later. It is possible to claim for an advance on payment from the first day of a claim, however the amount borrowed must be paid back, deducted from future payments spread over the subsequent 12 months. Two of the Enhanced Income Officers have been seconded to work with the DWP, allowing for a mutual exchange and understanding of working processes. The officers will work with the seven job centres across Leeds, with further support available from contact centres, libraries, and the four hubs which have a specialist support officer. From the 1st of April, the same support service paid for by the DWP will be paid instead to Citizens Advice, however  ...  view the full minutes text for item 74.

75.

Tenant Scrutiny Board Future Report pdf icon PDF 292 KB

The Board requested at their February meeting that Housing Leeds’ Head of Neighbourhood Services, be invited to attend to provide an overview of the how the service sees the future of tenant scrutiny.

 

Members are asked to note the update provided and discuss any further comments in respect of this area of work.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

JG introduced Mandy Sawyer, Head of Neighbourhood Services who joined the meeting at this point.  JG explained, for the benefit of the newly-appointed members, that there has not been a new investigation this year, which has given the board the opportunity to look over the previous reports and review the work of the TSB and consider the future plans for the board.

 

MS thanked JG for inviting her to speak, and explained that she is keen to discuss the ongoing activities of the board. MS reassured everyone that the housing service are committed to maintaining the board and hearing its views, and that the enquiries made by the board have been helpful when reviewing housing services with relatively few recommendations having been challenged.

MS noted that the TSB in its current form has been established for around five years, and there are still many ways the structure and function of the board can be developed, especially learning from the TPAS events attended by JG, SBa, and JW. MS suggested that other similar boards in other authorities have seen success with formats whereby workshops and forums are conducted with particular customer groups to target their specific opinions, and proposed the idea that smaller, less wide ranging enquiries might be held alongside the larger enquiries to improve the agility of the board, with multiple teams able to hold independent small reviews and feed results back to the larger group.

 

There is still, however a challenge as to how to best engage with the wider tenant voice, as annual home visit data suggests that 8,000 tenants would like to be involved, but that number becomes significantly lower when a tenant is asked if they would like to attend meetings. MS suggested that adopting a workshop format or holding forums with tenants and staff over a number of days might provide evidence for more intensive scrutiny. Engagement could also be further digitalised through online surveys and forums, however this would be more experimental.

 

MS concluded by reiterating that the housing service supports the role and aims of the board, and that through development of the methods of the board their suggestions for improvement can become even more robust.

JG thanked MS for her update, and commented that the TSB are aligned with the Environment and Housing Scrutiny board which also conducts shorter investigations. JG prefers longer investigations as they offer more opportunity for everyone to be involved with the same project, but accepted that during previous investigations the board had divided into smaller groups to cover more topics. JG agreed that smaller investigations would allow the board to be more mobile, and engage with a topic closer to the time it arises. The board could produce a list of topics of investigation and reduce it based on votes from the members, so no member would have to engage with a large project that may not ultimately affect them.

 

SI reiterated his earlier suggested the creation of a presentation to demonstrate the work of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 75.

76.

Tenant Scrutiny Board Workplan pdf icon PDF 306 KB

Members of the Board are requested to note the 2018/19 municipal year’s work programme.

Minutes:

JG informed the board that the LASBT review is not yet ready, but that they will be attending a meeting before the end of the year.

77.

Election Process for Chair and Vice Chair pdf icon PDF 207 KB

The Board is requested to receive an update to the election process to carry out an election for Chair and Vice Chair in April.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

JG advised the board of his intention to resign from the chair and the board at the April meeting, and asked that expressions of interest for either the Chair or vice Chair position should be submitted to KM or IP by email or phone before the 12th of April.

 

JW subsequently asked if due to the uncertainty of the board moving forward JG could stay as chair until June. A vote of board members suggested there was a consensus for this hence JG agreed to accept JW’s proposal. Board members agreed that a vote for election of a new chair will be postponed up to the June meeting.

 

RESOLVED – The election of a new chair/vice chair will take place during the June meeting (Expressions of interest for either the Chair or vice Chair position should be submitted to KM or IP by email or phone before the Friday 7th June).

78.

Date and Time of Next Meeting

Friday 26th April at 1:15pm

(Pre-meeting for all board members at 1:00pm)

Minutes:

RESOLVED – The next meeting will take place on the 26th of April.

(Pre-meeting for all board members at 1:00pm)

 

THE MEETING CLOSED AT 3:00 PM