Agenda and draft minutes

Cabinet Advisory Panel A - Monday 21 June 2021 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Civic Centre, Home Gardens, Dartford, Kent, DA1 1DR

Contact: Email: memberservices@dartford.gov.uk 

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Councillors Garden. R Gosine, Maddison and Mrs Ozog.

2.

Items drawn down for Debate

Minutes:

The Chairman advised that no agenda items had been drawn down for debate from Part B of the agenda and that there were no items in Part C or in Part D of the re-published agenda.

 

Accordingly Members endorsed the officer recommendations in respect of the following items from Part B of the agenda:

 

10

Rent Setting for Council Housing 

11

Draft Lettings Plan for Milton Road and Keary Road New Build Development

 

12

Long Valley Hall Grant Application

 

 

3.

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:

There were no declarations of interest on the items listed for discussion, which were contained in Part A of the agenda.

 

Councillor Edie advised Members, for transparency, that her father, David Edie, the Council’s Housing Manager, was also present at the meeting to present one of the reports.

4.

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:

The Cabinet Advisory Panel received the minutes of the meeting of the Cabinet held on 27 May 2021.

5.

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. However the Chairman informed 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 of the original agenda, and which had appeared as a confidential appendix to agenda item 9. As this was now in the public domain, the agenda had been re-published and this appendix was now public.

 

6.

References from Committees

None at this stage.

Minutes:

There were no references from other committees.

7.

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 Head of Housing Services 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. The report explained that an opportunity had recently arisen 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. It was envisaged that the cost of converting properties would be met from existing budgets where possible.

 

A Member sought clarification on the applicability of right-to-buy to the converted properties and expressed concern about the potential loss of converted properties from the housing stock should a tenant exercise right-to-buy. The Director of Housing & Public Protection confirmed that converted properties were not exempt from right-to-buy. The Chairman asked whether it was possible, where the Council owned a property with a large garden, that the Council might consider applying  to develop in the garden as he had noted that a number of right –to- buy owners had done so. The Head of Housing Services confirmed that it was possible, but unlikely.

 

A Member asked how often it was likely that adjacent properties suitable for conversion would become void at the same time. The Head of Housing Services said that it was unlikely to happen frequently but that where it did occur this policy would give the Council the flexibility to convert the properties. The Member welcomed the policy but hoped that it would not be used to convert larger properties into smaller ones or to significantly reduce the stock available to smaller families.

 

The Director of Housing & Public Protection reminded Members that the Council did not have many 4-5 bedroom properties to meet the housing needs of larger families and it was important to have flexibility to manage the housing stock in a way that maximised the delivery of housing need. It was also hoped that the creation of larger properties might help to free up other properties within the stock and that a degree of ‘churn’ would be beneficial. He accepted however that property conversions would reduce the stock available for smaller families and that there was an element of trade-off.

 

The Cabinet Advisory Panel endorsed the recommendations contained in the report.

8.

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 Housing Manager introduced a report which detailed the outcome of a review to assess whether the implementation of flexible tenancies , introduced in 2013, had 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. This change 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. The report explained that, 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. 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 whether the change of the type of tenancy would affect the Council’s powers to take action against bad tenants. The Housing Manager explained that where a tenant breached the terms of their tenancy agreement the Council had the same powers to take action and could also use sanctions under the Council’s Anti-Social Behaviour Policy. The reality was that the Council would only seek possession if other measures such as an injunction or community protection order didn’t work.

 

The Cabinet Advisory Panel endorsed the recommendations contained in the report.

9.

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 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 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 Head of Housing Services informed the Cabinet Advisory Panel that the Mobile Homes (Requirement for Manager of Site to be Fit and Proper Person) (England) Regulations 2020 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. The report explained that there were currently only two known sites in the Borough affected by the Regulations; Stonehill Woods Park and Hillside.

 

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. Local authorities would be also 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 could charge a fee. Now that the Government had published guidance a Fees Policy would be developed and presented to a future meeting of the Cabinet for consideration.

 

A Member questioned whether some of the criteria for being a ‘fit and proper person’ were overly stringent and in particular cited the example of someone having been personally insolvent within the past 10 years as a reason for deeming someone not to be a’ fit and proper person’ as being too harsh.

 

The Head of Housing Services reminded Members that the criteria were set by the Government and were contained in the guidance.

 

The Cabinet Advisory Panel endorsed the recommendations contained in the report.

 

10.

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 Cabinet Advisory Panel endorsed the recommendations contained in the report.

 

11.

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 Cabinet Advisory Panel endorsed the recommendations contained in the report.

12.

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:

The Cabinet Advisory Panel endorsed the recommendation contained in the report.