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Decision details

HRA Budget-Setting Report (BSR) 2019/20

Decision Maker: Executive Councillor for Housing

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Is Key decision?: Yes

Is subject to call in?: No

Purpose:

a) Approve the proposed charges for HRA housing rents and service charges.
b) Consider the revenue budget proposals.
c) Consider the capital budget proposals.

Decision:

Matter for Decision

As part of the 2019/20 budget process, the range of assumptions upon which the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Business Plan and Medium Term Financial Strategy were based, had been reviewed in light of the latest information available, culminating in the preparation of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

 

The HRA Budget-Setting Report provided an overview of the review of the key assumptions. It sets out the key parameters for the detailed recommendations and final budget proposals, and was the basis for the finalisation of the 2019/20 budgets.

 

Decision of Executive Councillor for Housing

Under Part 1 of the agenda, the Executive Councillor resolved to:

 

Review of Rents and Charges

 

a.  Approve that council dwelling rents for all social rented properties be reduced by 1%, in line with legislative requirements, introduced as part of the Welfare Reform and Work Act, with effect from 1 April 2019. This equates to an average rent reduction at the time of writing this report of £0.99 per week on a 52 week basis.

 

b.  Approve that affordable rents are reviewed in line with rent legislation, to ensure that the rents charged are no more than 80% of market rent, with this figure then reduced by the 1% per annum, as with social housing. Local policy is to cap affordable rents (inclusive of all service charges) at the Local Housing Allowance level, which will result in rent variations in line with any changes notified to the authority in this level.

 

c.  Approve that rents for shared ownership are reviewed and amended from April 2019, in line with the specific requirements within the lease for each property.

 

d.  Approve that garage and parking space charges for 2019/20, are increased in line with inflation at 2.2%, with resulting charges as summarised in Section 3 of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

 

e.  Approve the proposed service charges for Housing Revenue Account services and facilities, as shown in Appendix B of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

 

f.  Approve the proposed leasehold administration charges for 2019/20, as detailed in Appendix B of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

 

g.  Approve that caretaking, building cleaning, estate services, grounds maintenance, temporary housing premises and utilities, sheltered scheme premises and utilities, digital television aerial, flat cleaning, third party management and catering charges continue to be recovered at full cost, as detailed in Appendix B of the HRA Budget Setting Report, recognising that local authorities should endeavour to limit increases to inflation as measured by CPI at September 2018 (2.4%) plus 1%, wherever possible.

 

h.  Approve that service charges for gas maintenance, door entry systems, lifts and electrical and mechanical maintenance are increased in an attempt recover full estimated costs, as detailed in Appendix B of the HRA Budget Setting Report, recognising that local authorities should endeavour to limit increases to inflation as measured by CPI at September 2018 (2.4%) plus 1%, equivalent to an increase of 3.4% in total, wherever possible.

 

Revenue – HRA

 

Revised Budget 2018/19:

i.  Approve with any amendments, the Revised Budget identified in Section 4 and Appendix D (1) of the HRA Budget Setting Report, which reflects a net increase in the use of HRA reserves for 2018/19 of £300,670.

 

Budget 2019/20:

j.  Approve with any amendments, any Non-Cash Limit items identified in Section 4 of the HRA Budget Setting Report or shown in Appendix D (2) of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

 

k.  Approve with any amendments, any Savings, Increased Income, Unavoidable Revenue Pressures and Reduced Income proposals, as shown in Appendix D (2) of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

 

l.  Approve the resulting Housing Revenue Account revenue budget as summarised in the Housing Revenue Account Summary Forecast 2018/19 to 2023/24 shown in Appendix J of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

 

l1  In light of issues surrounding Universal Credit and payment arrangements for housing costs, approvals for eviction will not be progressed for a tenant in rent arrears which relate solely to Universal Credit delays and missed payments which are beyond their control. Any delays that are deemed to be the result of the tenant’s own delay in applying/supplying the correct information will be followed up through the usual processes.

Full support will be provided for any tenant in such difficulties, including ensuring that the rent element is paid direct to the Council, through a DWP managed payment arrangement.

If there are other breaches of the tenancy agreement (such as ASB) then appropriate action will be taken.

 

Under Part 2 of the agenda, the Executive Councillor for Housing resolved to recommend to Council:

 

Treasury Management

m.  Recognise the decision to defer the review of the current approach to treasury management, which requires 25% of the value of the housing debt to be set-aside by the point at which the loan portfolio matures until after it is formally confirmed that the legislation allowing the introduction of a levy in respect of the sale of higher value voids will be repealed.

Housing Capital

n.  Approval of capital bids, shown in Appendix D (3) of the HRA Budget Setting Report, to include the replacement of the lifts at Ditchburn Place whilst other major refurbishment work is underway.

o.  Approval of the latest Decent Homes Programme, to include any updated allocation and timing of decent homes expenditure for new build dwellings, as detailed in Appendix E of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

p.  Approval of the latest budget sums, profiling and associated financing for all new build schemes, including new scheme specific approvals for Colville Road, Meadows and Buchan Street and Clerk Maxwell Road, based upon the latest cost information from the Cambridge Investment Partnership (CIP) or direct procurements, as detailed in Appendices E and H, and summarised in Appendix K, of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

q.  Approval of re-phasing of budget for the last phase of refurbishment at Ditchburn Place from 2018/19 into 2019/20, as detailed in Appendix E, and summarised in Appendix K, of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

r.  Approval of the revised Housing Capital Investment Plan as shown in Appendix K of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

General

s.  Approval of delegation to the Head of Finance, as Section 151 Officer, to approve an in year increase or decrease in the budget for disabled facilities grants, in direct relation to any increase or decrease in the capital grant funding for this purpose, as received from the County Council through the Better Care Fund.

t.  Approval of delegation to the Strategic Director to review and amend the level of fees charged by the Shared Home Improvement Agency for disabled facilities grants and repair assistance grants, in line with any decisions s made by the Shared Home Improvement Agency Board.

u.  Approval of delegation to the Strategic Director, in consultation with the Head of Finance, as Section 151 Officer, to draw down resource from the ear-marked reserve for potential debt redemption or re-investment, for the purpose of open market property acquisition or new build housing development, should the need arise, in order to meet quarterly deadlines for the use of retained right to buy receipts.

v.  Approval of delegation to the Strategic Director, following formal consultation with tenants, to make a decision in respect of the number of rent weeks over which the annual rent is charged for council tenants, and implement any change in policy accordingly.

 

Reason for the Decision

As set out in the Officer’s report.

 

Any Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

Not applicable.

 

Scrutiny Considerations

The Committee received a report from the Business Manager / Principal Accountant.

 

The Committee made the following comments in response to the report:

  i.  Praised the work of the Estate Champions and welcomed the improvements achieved so far.

  ii.  Tenant representatives expressed concern about the loss of an office in the South of the City and how his might impact tenants experiencing difficulties due to Universal Credit. It was confirmed that staff were moving to more mobile working.

 

The Business Manager / Principal Accountant stated the following in response to Members’ questions:

  i.  The Transformation Fund could be used to fund a fourth edition of Open Door, subject to the approval of the Strategic Director.

  ii.  Confirmed that a funding bid for extra resources needed to complete a stock condition survey was expected shortly.

  iii.  Clarified the delays in the delivery of some new build schemes: Ventress Close had been delayed by a bat survey.

 

Councillor Cantrill introduced the Liberal Democrat Amendment to the 2019/20 Housing Revenue Budget.

 

The Committee made the following comments in response to the report:

  i.  Suggested that the zero tolerance policy regarding storage of items on landing was necessary and that fire resistant items would not resolve the issue of trip hazards in an emergency. Any proposals to soften the policy would be difficult to police.

  ii.   Discussed Housing First approaches and the role of the County Council in funding this.

  iii.  Stated that offering lower rents to 3 and 4 bedroomed properties would not be directing the limited resources to those most in need.

  iv.  Discussed the best way to assist those transitioning to Universal Credit.

 

The Strategic Director undertook to circulate figures regarding the use of Discretionary Housing Payments.

 

The following vote was chaired by Diana Minns (Vice Chair /Tenant Representative)

 

The Liberal Democrats Group alternative budget: 3 votes in favour to 9 against. The amendment was lost.

 

Diana Minns proposed and Lulu Agate seconded the following amendment to the recommendations:

 

Part 1 Recommendations, insert as new (L1).

 

In light of issues surrounding Universal Credit and payment arrangements for housing costs, approvals for eviction will not be progressed for a tenant in rent arrears which relate solely to Universal Credit delays and missed payments which are beyond their control. Any delays that are deemed to be the result of the tenant’s own delay in applying/supplying the correct information will be followed up through the usual processes.

 

Full support will be provided for any tenant in such difficulties, including ensuring that the rent element is paid direct to the Council, through a DWP managed payment arrangement.

 

If there are other breaches of the tenancy agreement (such as ASB) then appropriate action will be taken.

 

The following vote was chaired by Diana Minns (Vice Chair /Tenant Representative)

 

The additional recommendation was agreed unanimously.

 

Resolved (by 9 vote to 0 and 3 abstentions) to endorse the original recommendations A to L and additional recommendation L1.

 

The following votes were chaired by Councillor Todd-Jones

 

Resolved (4 votes to 0 and 3 abstentions) to endorse the original report recommendations M to V of the budget proposals

 

The Executive Councillor approved the recommendations.

Publication date: 05/04/2019

Date of decision: 16/01/2019