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Agenda and minutes

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Contact: Email: memberservices@dartford.gov.uk 

Items
No. Item

13.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

There were no apologies for absence.

14.

Declarations of Interest

To receive declarations of interest from Members including the terms(s) of the Grant of Dispensation (if any) by the Audit Board or by the Chief Officer and Director of Corporate Services.

Minutes:

Councillor J A Kite declared a prejudicial interest in agenda item 12, Long Valley Hall Grant Application, as he is the Chairman of Longfield and New Barn Parish Council which is the applicant for grant funding.

15.

Confirmation of the Minutes of the Meeting of the Cabinet held on 27 May 2021 pdf icon PDF 234 KB

Summary:

 

To consider the minutes of the meeting of the Cabinet held on 27 May 2021.

 

Recommendation:

 

That the minutes of the meeting of the Cabinet held on 27 May 2021 be confirmed as an accurate record.

Minutes:

Members considered the minutes of the meeting of the Cabinet held on 27 May 2021.

 

            RESOLVED:

 

That the minutes of the meeting of the Cabinet held on 27 May 2021 be confirmed as an accurate record.

16.

Urgent Items

The Chairman will announce his decision as to whether there are any urgent items and their position on the agenda.

Minutes:

There were no urgent items.

 

The Democratic Services Manager  reminded Members that, since the agenda had been published, the Government had published the Fit and Proper Person Determination Policy, which had been deemed confidential at the time of publication. As this was now in the public domain, the agenda had been re-published and this item was now public.

 

 

 

17.

To receive the Minutes of the meeting of Cabinet Advisory Panel A held on 21 June 2021

To follow

Minutes:

The Cabinet received the minutes of the meeting of Cabinet Advisory Panel A held on 21 June 2021 and had regard to the Panel’s views throughout the meeting.

18.

References from Committees

None at this stage.

Minutes:

There were no references from other committees.

19.

Draft Property Conversion Policy pdf icon PDF 126 KB

Summary:

 

To approve a draft Property Conversion Policy, which outlines the Council’s proposed approach to convert some smaller sized void properties into one larger sized property to assist in meeting the identified shortfall of suitably sized accommodation of four plus bedrooms within the Council’s housing stock to meet the housing needs of larger families on the housing register.

 

 

Recommendations:

 

1. That the draft Property Conversion Policy, attached at Appendix A to the report, be approved; and

 

2.  That the Director of Housing and Public Protection be granted delegated authority to approve any minor in-year amendments to the Policy, as required.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Director of Housing & Public Protection presented a report which informed the Cabinet of the shortfall in suitably sized accommodation of four plus bedroom properties within the Council’s housing stock to meet the housing needs of larger families on the housing register. He explained that only 10 four-bedroomed properties had become available on the Council’s waiting list since 2011 and that there were currently 17 families with this level of housing need on the Council’s list. The report explained that an opportunity had recently arisen, in Morgan Drive, to convert two smaller void properties into one larger sized property and that, whilst such opportunities were likely to be limited, the Council had developed a draft Property Conversion Policy which outlined the proposed approach to convert some smaller sized properties into one larger property where this became possible. Having a policy in place to enable future conversions would enable flexibility by creating movement in the housing stock and assist in making the best use of the stock where housing needs could not easily be met from new build or acquisitions. All converted properties would be let to existing Council tenants according to the highest housing need. He accepted that such conversions would result in some loss of rent and Council tax, which would otherwise have been generated from two properties, but that this was a case of striking a balance with the need to provide suitable accommodation for larger families.

 

The Chairman sought clarification on a number of points. He asked whether it was possible to house larger families in two adjacent properties, and once a conversion had been completed, whether the rateable value was based on it being a single property. He also asked whether a conversion could be made on a temporary basis. The Director of Housing & Public Protection confirmed that, whilst it was lawful to house a family across adjoining properties it was undesirable, and that the rateable value of a converted property would be on the basis that it was a single property. He confirmed that it was not envisaged that a conversion would be temporary because of the cost of the works and the fact that there was an ongoing housing need for larger properties. 

 

A Member asked whether the Council would hold a void property vacant if it was aware that neighbouring properties might become vacant in the near future due to high ‘churn’ in order to allow subsequent conversion and the Chairman asked whether the Council might consider purchasing a privately owned property which was adjacent to a Council property to allow for conversion if the opportunity arose. The Director of Housing & Public Protection confirmed that both of these options were possible but reminded Members that the Council also had demand for smaller properties and would not wish to hold unnecessary vacancies. In response to a question he confirmed that it was cheaper to convert two properties than to buy a similar large property on the open market. 

 

The Chairman was also concerned that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 19.

20.

Flexible Tenancies Review pdf icon PDF 146 KB

Summary:

 

To consider the outcome of a review to assess whether the implementation of flexible tenancies , introduced in 2013, has been successful in achieving the Council’s objectives of making the best use of its housing stock for those most in need, following the Government’s decision not to support fixed term tenancies. This report sets out the findings of the review, attached at Appendix A to the report, and concludes that flexible tenancies do not provide the intended benefits to the Council or its tenants.

 

This is a Key Decision as it requires an in-year amendment to the policy framework.

 

 

Recommendations:

 

1. That, for the reasons outlined in the review report at Appendix A, the ending of flexible tenancies for new and existing Council tenants be approved;

 

2. That all current and new flexible tenants be issued with a lifetime tenancy; and

 

3. That the development of a revised Tenancy Strategy and Tenancy Policy, and proposed amendments to the Housing Allocations’ Policy to reflect the changes to the policy framework, be noted.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Director of Housing & Public Protection presented a report which detailed the outcome of a review to assess whether the implementation of flexible tenancies , introduced in 2013, has been successful in achieving the Council’s objectives of making the best use of its housing stock for those most in need, following the Government’s decision not to support fixed term tenancies. The detailed findings of the review, set out in Appendix A to the report, concluded that flexible tenancies had not delivered the intended benefits to the Council or its tenants, in terms of movement within the housing stock or promoting strong and successful communities, that they were difficult and costly to administer, and that there were legal complications surrounding flexible tenancies that were not apparent when they were originally introduced. There had also been low take up by social landlords and those that had taken them up were now actively moving away from them. This would affect 679 tenants who would be offered lifetime tenancies in place of the existing flexible tenancy and the Council would need to consult each tenant individually to seek a surrender of the flexible tenancy and to re-grant a lifetime tenancy. Where agreement was not forthcoming the Council would need to wait for the end of the fixed term of the flexible tenancy whereupon the tenancy would become a periodic tenancy by operation of law. The Council would also need to revise its Tenancy Strategy and Tenancy Policy, and its Allocations Policy accordingly to reflect the changes to the Council’s policy framework and these updates would be presented to Cabinet in due course. It was proposed that the Council discontinues the issuing of any further flexible tenancies for  new and existing Council tenants and that all current flexible tenants should be asked to sign a new lifetime tenancy agreement as soon as possible rather than waiting until the end of their current agreement.

 

A Member asked what constituted a lifetime tenancy. The Director of Housing & Public Protection explained that prior to 2013, all tenants were offered lifetime tenancies subject to certain conditions, such as not falling into rent arrears or engaging in anti-social behaviour. Flexible tenancies were granted for five years and were subject to periodic review, which lifetime tenancies were not. However it was usual to have a one year introductory tenancy at the start of a lifetime tenancy. He noted that flexible tenancies were not particularly popular among tenants due to the lack of certainty involved.

 

The Chairman noted that part of the idea behind flexible tenancies was the periodic opportunity to confirm that the tenant still had an ongoing housing need and that their circumstances and entitlement had not changed. He asked whether it might be possible for the Council to ask tenants to provide a declaration of their current circumstances and need for social housing as part of the transfer process from flexible to lifetime tenancies and also whether the opportunity could be taken to address instances of low level anti-social  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.

21.

Fit and Proper Person Test for Park Home Sites - Fees Policy pdf icon PDF 221 KB

Summary:

 

The Mobile Homes (Requirement for Manager of Site to be Fit and Proper Person) (England) Regulations 2020 sets out the framework for a fit and proper person test for relevant mobile home site licence owners or the person appointed to manage the site. Unless the site is exempt, the site owner must apply to the Council to be included, or for their appointed site manager to be included, on a register of fit and proper persons. Site owners will have three months from the 1 July 2021, up until and including 30 September 2021, to submit completed applications to local authorities.

 

This report sets out the Council’s proposed Fit and Proper Persons Determination Policy in respect of the fit and proper person test function.

 

In addition, local authorities have powers to charge fees in respect of the new fit and proper person test function and must prepare and publish a fees policy before they can charge a fee.

 

Recommendations:

 

1.  That the draft Fit and Proper Persons Deton Policy, in Appendix A to the report, be approved;

 

2. That a draft Fees Policy in respect of the fit and proper person test, be developed, once detailed government guidance has been issued, and that the draft Fees Policy be presented to Cabinet in due course; and

 

3.  That the Director of Housing and Public Protection be granted delegated authority to approve any in-year revisions to the Fit and Proper Persons Determination Policy, as required.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

 

The Cabinet considered a report detailing new regulatory requirements for the operators of park home sites under the Mobile Homes (Requirement for Manager of Site to be Fit and Proper Person) (England) Regulations 2020 which set out the framework for a fit and proper person test for relevant mobile home site licence owners, or the person appointed to manage the site. Unless the site was exempt, the site owner must apply to the Council to be included, or for their appointed site manager to be included, on a register of fit and proper persons. This requirement was to ensure that those responsible for operating the site licence and managing the site are of sufficient integrity and good character to be involved in the management of a regulated site for mobile homes. Site owners had three months from the 1 July 2021, up until and including 30 September 2021, to submit completed applications to local authorities. There were currently only two known sites in the Borough affected by the Regulations; Stonehill Woods Park and Hillside but others could emerge.

 

The report detailed the Council’s proposed Fit and Proper Persons Determination Policy in respect of the fit and proper person test function. This was set out in Appendix A to the report which set out the matters to be taken into account for assessing and determining an application for a fit and proper person test.

 

The Director of Health & Public Protection explained that local authorities would be able to charge fees in respect of the new fit and proper person test function but must prepare and publish a fees policy before they can charge a fee. However it was proposed to defer the development of a Fees Policy pending the publication of guidance by the Government, following which the Council could give informed consideration to the level of fees to ensure a robust approach to the process.

 

The Chairman welcomed the introduction of the regulations in a sector which was previously unregulated, where some tenants were vulnerable and where there were opportunities for rogue landlords to operate. He noted the concerns expressed by the Cabinet Advisory Panel that some of the criteria to be applied seemed quite stringent but also noted that the criteria had been set by the Government and that it was important to ensure that the operators and managers of such sites were fit and qualified to run the sites. There had also been concerns that ownership of such sites was regarded by some as relatively low level entry route into the housing management market and there had also been concerns about opportunities for money laundering.  

 

                                                                       RESOLVED:

 

1.  That the draft Fit and Proper Persons Determination Policy, in Appendix A to the report, be approved;

 

2. That a draft Fees Policy in respect of the fit and proper person test, be developed, once detailed government guidance has been issued, and that the draft Fees Policy be presented to Cabinet in due course; and

 

3.  That the Director of Housing  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.

22.

Rent Setting for Council Housing pdf icon PDF 122 KB

Summary:

 

This report proposes that future rent levels for private acquisitions, future council new build properties, conversions and associated relets for properties added to the Council’s Housing stock, be set at 70% of the  Local Housing Allowance (including service charges).             This will ensure that the rents are affordable to those applicants that are on a lower income, and who have qualified for allocation of these new properties, via the Councils Housing Register in terms of housing need, banding and waiting time.

 

Recommendation:

 

That, for the reasons set out in the report, rents for private acquisitions, conversions, future new build properties and associated relets for properties that have been added to the Council’s Housing stock, are set at 70% of the Local Housing Allowance (including service charges) with immediate effect.

 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Director of Housing & Public Protection informed Members that when rent levels were set in 2016 and 2017 for properties in the first phase of the Council’s new build programme the decision was taken to set the rent levels at maximum Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates. At that time the rate was lower than comparable Housing Association rents in the Borough and meant that any applicant on the Housing register would be able to afford the rent levels for the new Council properties. However LHA rates had increased significantly since 2017 and were now considerably higher than comparable Housing Association rents. It was also apparent, particularly in relation to properties purchased on the open market for social housing, that basing the rent levels at maximum LHA was proving to be unaffordable for prospective tenants on low incomes despite them being at, or near, the top of the shortlist for a new build or purchased property. There were also instances of Council tenants in such former privately owned properties paying significantly higher rent than their neighbours in comparable Council owned properties. This disparity was an unintended consequence of the Council’s pro-activity in progressing new builds and acquiring private properties for social housing.

 

It was proposed that future rent levels for private acquisitions, future council new build properties, conversions and associated relets for properties added to the Council’s Housing stock, should be set at 70% of the  Local Housing Allowance (including service charges) to address this disparity. This would ensure that the rents would be affordable to those applicants that are on a lower income, and who have qualified for allocation of these new properties, via the Councils Housing Register in terms of housing need, banding and waiting time.

 

          RESOLVED:

 

That, for the reasons set out in the report, rents for private acquisitions, conversions, future new build properties and associated relets for properties that have been added to the Council’s Housing stock, are set at 70% of the Local Housing Allowance (including service charges) with immediate effect.

 

 

23.

Draft Local Lettings Plan for Milton Road and Keary Road New Build Development pdf icon PDF 121 KB

Summary:

 

To seek approval for the Draft Local Lettings Plan for the Council’s new build housing developments at Milton Road and Keary Road, Swanscombe, Dartford.

 

Recommendation:

 

That the draft Local Lettings Plan, attached at Appendix A to the report, be approved.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Director of Housing & Public Protection presented a report which sought approval for a Local Lettings Plan for the Council’s new build housing developments at Milton Road and Keary Road, Swanscombe, Dartford, which were due to be completed in July/August 2021 and would provide 13 new homes for rent by local people. Local lettings plans were designed to ensure that the Council’s core objectives were met in terms of sustainable development and the minimisation of anti-social behaviour on estates and the proposed Local Lettings Plan closely mirrored lettings plans in place for earlier Council new build developments. In line with the other developments the Local Lettings Plan would give priority to local tenants, living in the Swanscombe and Greenhithe areas, who had an identified housing need and who either wished to transfer from their existing property because they were overcrowded or because they wished to downsize.

 

          RESOLVED:

 

That the draft Local Lettings Plan for the Council’s new build housing developments at Milton Road and Keary Road, attached at Appendix A to the report, be approved.

24.

Long Valley Hall Grant Application pdf icon PDF 357 KB

Summary:

 

Following the identification of significant structural defects in Long Valley Hall which could have led to the Hall’s permanent closure, Longfield and New Barn Parish Council has embarked on a programme of extensive renovation and reconstruction of the building at significant cost to the Parish Council.

 

The Borough Council is the freeholder of the land. Long Valley Hall is leased by the Borough Council to Longfield Parish Council, with the remaining part leased to Long Valley Sports and Social Club.

 

The Parish Council has applied to the Borough Council for a contribution of £74,325.62 to enable the completion of works to Long Valley Hall, so the Hall can continue to serve the local community and the many local groups which use it.

 

Recommendation:

 

That, for the reasons detailed in the body of the report and subject to ‘grant terms and conditions’ as approved by the Head of Legal Services, Longfield Parish   Council’s application to the Borough Council for a non-repayable grant of £74,325.62, be considered, to enable the works to Long Valley Hall to be completed and the Hall brought back into community use.

 

Minutes:

Having declared a prejudicial interest in this item at the start of the meeting, Councillor Kite vacated the Chair, took no part in the debate and left the meeting during consideration of this item.

 

Councillor Brown also left the meeting for this item.

 

The Vice-Chairman, Councillor Shippam, chaired the remainder of the Cabinet meeting.

 

The Director of Housing & Public Protection introduced a report which informed the Cabinet that, following the identification of significant structural defects in Long Valley Hall which could have led to the Hall’s permanent closure, Longfield and New Barn Parish Council had embarked on a programme of extensive renovation and reconstruction of the building, at significant cost to the Parish Council.

 

The report explained that Long Valley Hall was owned by Dartford Borough Council, which owned the freehold of the land, but that the main part of the building was leased to the Parish Council, with the remaining part leased to Long Valley Sports and Social Club. Both leases stipulated that the tenants are responsible for repairing and maintaining the building but neither is obliged to put the building into a better condition than the state evidenced by a photographic schedule of condition. In order to deal with the significant building defects, including worsening subsidence and structural instability the Parish Council had embarked on a major upgrade and renovation of the building using £300K of its own funds and a Public Works Loan of £200K. However, given that a significant part of the project cost had arisen due to defects and instability from the Hall’s foundations, the Parish Council was seeking a contribution towards the cost of the total works from the Borough Council as the freeholder.

 

The Parish Council was asking for a contribution of £74,325.62 from Dartford Borough Council to enable the completion of works to Long Valley Hall, so that the Hall can re-open and continue to serve the local community and the many sports and other community based groups which use it.

 

Members congratulated the Parish Council for the work that it had undertaken and for the funding that it had raised for the renovation and reconstruction. Members noted that this was an important community asset and that the completion of the works would enable the building to continue to be used by many local groups. Members supported the Parish Council’s request for a grant.

 

Recommendation:

 

That, for the reasons detailed in the body of the report, and subject to ‘grant terms and conditions’ as approved by the Head of Legal Services, Longfield Parish   Council’s application to the Borough Council for a non-repayable grant of £74,325.62, be approved, to enable the works to Long Valley Hall to be completed and the Hall brought back into community use.