Further discussion on suggestions made for the next inquiry and an update regarding work that has been underway to implement new ways of working.
The Chair explained the delay in choosing the next topic of inquiry. Whilst a topic had been voted upon in November, it was agreed it did not encompass or embrace the new ways of working agreed upon by the board, so it was decided to circulate a survey to involved tenants to seek their views. Unfortunately an objection was received regarding the proposed survey which led to a meeting between the Chair and Councillor Coupar to discuss the issues that had been raised. It was noted that Cllr Coupar had acknowledged that the Council supported the independence of the board at every stage, however there were different views about the appropriateness of the survey being sent in light of other citywide surveys and a discussion about the scope of topics needing to focus on housing services and functions they were responsible for. During the meeting Councillor Coupar asked if she could make her own suggestion regarding a future inquiry and she suggested “Tenant Engagement” the Chair said this would be put before members but reminded her the final decision is up to the board. There have been future meetings set up between the Chair and Councillor Coupar to ensure closer ties between councillors and the board.
In light of this further suggestion and there being no immediate way forward the chair felt it timely to remind the board of the full list of possible inquiry topics, these being:
· Housing Advisory Panels
· The repairs strategy
· Estate walkabouts
· Fly tipping
· Car parking
· The contact centre
· Out of hours repairs
· Tenant engagement
The Chair gave a brief reminder of each topic and some of the possibilities and issues that were attached to each. KM was then asked to outline the role of tenant engagement to TSB members and explained that it is best thought of in three strands; Tenant involvement (referring to those formal groups that are involved in shaping the service and providing input on policy, procedures and key activities); Tenant Engagement (being the more direct participation of tenants in HAPs and any other community projects that impact on tenants or schemes within their community); and community development (whereby the service helps tenants to shape their communities positively with their own resources and build their capacity to do so). KM gave a brief insight into some of the current issues faced by the service including attracting tenant members (particularly younger members and those from diverse backgrounds), and new ways of engaging with tenants more digitally to enable easier access to information and improve services.
The Chair noted that tenants also used to be consulted about procurement however that does not seem to be the case, MH replied that there is a procurement strategy group that is consulted about procurement issues. KM confirmed he was aware of the group but it was not a group facilitated by the Tenant Engagement Team.
The Chair explained to the board that Tenant Engagement was something that had been suggested during previous year’s discussion’s about possible inquiries but for various reasons this had never been chosen. The Chair acknowledged that it was likely to be a complex inquiry but perhaps the time was now right for it to be considered, not least given the issues with some of the other suggestions which could mean the impact of any recommendations might not reach as far as the board would intend.
The Chair gave members an opportunity to vote on each topic in turn.
RESOLVED – The board voted in favour of Tenant Engagement as the next scrutiny inquiry.
Given the outcome of the vote, PM questioned whether the board should consider KM, (being a part of the Tenant Engagement Team), to have a conflict of responsibilities if he continued to advise and support the board whilst also potentially being called to provide evidence. KM was asked to inform Mandy Sawyer of the boards concerns regarding his role with tenant engagement and any potential conflict as scrutiny officer.
The Chair reported that VITAL had also queried if TSB members attending VITAL meetings would be appropriate if tenant engagement was chosen as the next inquiry, The Chair told the board that he would attend the next VITAL meeting to update them in due course.
Noting the Chair had promised the board and VITAL that TSB would start an inquiry at the next meeting in March, and he wasn't willing to contemplate any more delays, he asked the board to enable him to make a decision on what the next inquiry would be, dependent on what Mandy had advised without consulting the board members further. This would enable the Chair to put plans put in place before the next meeting, and provide certainty the inquiry would start at the March meeting. The board agreed the Chair could do this.
Given at this stage the matter could not be resolved, The Chair suggested that the board vote on a second choice should it transpire a Tenant Engagement enquiry was not possible. Given the decision in November the board decided by vote that the “Out of hour’s repairs service” would be the second option.
Subject to having some clarity around any perceived conflicts the Chair therefore suggested keeping out of hours repairs as a back-up option in case there was a reason that tenant engagement proved impossible. The board were in agreement.