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Decision details

Housing Revenue Account Budget Setting Report

Decision Maker: Executive Councillor for Housing

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Is Key decision?: Yes

Is subject to call in?: No

Purpose:

Approval of the 2016/17 HRA revenue budget and setting of 2016/17 rents and service charges.

Decision:

Matter for Decision

 

The report referred to the  2016/17 budget process, the range of assumptions upon which the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Business Plan and Mid-Year Financial Review were based, were reviewed in light of the latest information available, culminating in the preparation of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

 

Decision of Executive Councillor for Housing

The Executive Councillor for Housing resolved to:

 

a)  Approve that council dwellings rents for existing tenants be reduced by 1%, in line with legislative requirements, introduced as part of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill 2015, with effect from 4th April 2016. This equates to an average rent reduction at the time of writing this report of £1.01 per week on a 52 week basis.

b)  Approve inflationary increases of 2% in garage and parking space rents for 2016/17, in line with the base rate of inflation for the year assumed in the HRA Budget Setting Report.

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

d)  Approve the proposed leasehold administration charges for 2016/17 as detailed in Appendix B of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

e)  Approve that service charges for gas maintenance, door entry systems, lifts and electrical and mechanical maintenance are increased by a maximum of inflation as measured by CPI at September 2015 (-0.1%) plus 1%, if required, to continue to recover full estimated costs as detailed in Appendix B of the HRA Budget Setting Report. This will result in a cap in increases for these charges of 0.9%.

f)  Approve that caretaking, building cleaning, estate services, grounds maintenance, temporary housing premises and utilities, sheltered scheme premises and utilities, digital television aerial, flat cleaning and catering charges continue to be recovered at full cost, as detailed in Appendix B of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

g)  Approve that the charge for the full cost of the provision of the alarm service in sheltered housing and dispersed community alarm properties be identified separately, as a charge which is ineligible for housing benefit, following cessation of funding for this service by the County Council from April 2016.

 

Revenue – HRA

 

Revised Budget 2015/16:

 

h)  Approve with any amendments, the Revised Budget identified in Section 4 of the HRA Budget Setting Report, which reflects a net reduction in the use of HRA reserves for 2015/16 of £19,300.

i)  Approve release, cessation of use, and appropriation, of an ear-marked reserve currently standing at £121,900, held in respect of monies received for the placement of aerials on HRA flat blocks, into general HRA reserves, to allow alternative future use.

 

Budget 2016/17:

 

j)  Approve with any amendments, the Non-Cash Limit items shown in Appendix D (1) of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

k)  Approve with any amendments, the Unavoidable Revenue Pressures, Savings and Increased Income proposals, shown in Appendix D (1) of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

l)  Approve the deletion of the Priority Policy Fund (PPF) allocation of £150,000 from 2017/18, and instead approve the creation of a fund for Service Development and Transformation/ Invest to Save Initiatives, of £120,000 per annum for 5 years from 2016/17. Approve delegated authority to the Strategic Advisor, to invest this fund, in either one-off projects, or to fund ongoing activity as required.

m)Approve the resulting Housing Revenue Account revenue budget as summarised in the Housing Revenue Account Summary Forecast 2015/16 to 2020/21 shown in Appendix J of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

 

Treasury Management

 

n)  Request that, in 2016/17, officers review the existing approach to treasury management, which required 25% of the value of the housing debt to be set-aside by the point at which the loan portfolio matures, recognising the financial constraints that have been placed upon the HRA as a result of recent change in national housing policy. A separate report will be brought back to Housing Scrutiny Committee in 2016/17 following this review.

 

Housing Capital

 

o)  Approval of capital bids, shown in Appendix D (2) of the HRA Budget Setting Report, to include meeting the capital cost of re-locating staff to a single area housing office, with the cost to be funded from existing repairs and renewals funds for the service.

p)  Approval of amendment to the Decent Homes Programme investment, recognising the ability to make savings of £810,000 in 2015/16 in respect of boiler replacements, roof structure works, communal areas investment, garage refurbishment, asbestos removal and fire safety works, as detailed in Section 5 and Appendix E (2) of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

q)  Approval of the need to re-profile resource of £570,000 from 2015/16 into 2016/17 in respect of roof covering works and bathroom replacements, and £102,000 from 2015/16 into later years of the programme in respect of remedial works due to sulphate, as detailed in Section 5 and Appendix E (2) of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

r)  Approval of the latest budget, spend profile and funding mix for each of the schemes in the new build programme, as detailed in Section 5 and Appendix H of the HRA Budget Setting Report, recognising the most up to date information available as each scheme progresses through the design, planning, build contract and completion process.

s)  Recognition of the need to incorporate into the Housing Capital Investment Plan, grants awarded by the Homes and Communities Agency in respect of Aylesborough Close, Water Lane, Ditchburn Place and Clay Farm.

t)  Approval to earmark the required level of additional funding for new build investment between 2016/17 and 2017/18 to ensure that commitments can be met in respect of the investment of all right to buy receipts retained by the authority, up to the end of September 2015.

u)  Approval to earmark additional resource of £3,110,000 towards the cost of the re-development of Anstey Way, in anticipation of a revised scheme being brought forward for the site, recognising the lower level of HRA resource available than anticipated when the scheme was first considered.

v)  Approval of allocation of funds for a scheme to re-develop a mixed use HRA site in Akeman Street, subject to the approval of a separate report for the scheme, to be considered in Part 2 of this committee agenda.

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

x)  Approve a provisional addition to the Housing Capital Allowance of £34,303,000 in respect of anticipated qualifying expenditure in 2016/17.

 

General

 

y)  Approval of delegation to the Head of Finance, as Section 151 Officer, to make the necessary detailed budgetary adjustments in the HRA, in respect of savings approved as part of the HRA Mid-Year Financial Review, following the outcome of consultation with both tenants and staff about proposed service changes and resulting final savings.

 

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 Principal Accountant / Business Manager on the HRA Budget-Setting Report. It set out the key parameters for the detailed recommendations and final budget proposals, and is the basis for the finalisation of the 2016/17 budgets.

 

Due to the Liberal Democratic proposed amendment to the budget the Principal Accountant / Business Manager advised the order of the vote would be reversed with part two of the recommendations (O to Y) being taken first, in order for the Councillors to vote on the capital before the Committee voted on the first half of the recommendation (A to N).

 

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

  i.  Sought clarification regarding the following issues: Star Surveys; progress with shared Housing Management Service; recharges for building cleaning costs; HRA receipts for aerials; and why an office move for the area housing offices produced a need for new furniture.

  ii.  Suggested that both Area Housing Manager posts be retained while major changes were delivered. 

  iii.  Requested updates on any representations to Central Government regarding the rent reductions.

  iv.  Expressed regret that extending the life of older boilers would have an impact on climate change reduction targets and on costs to tenants.

  v.  Suggested that a reduced provision of emergency alarms would increase cost to other services such as the NHS.

 

In response to Members’ questions the Director of Customer and Community Services and Business Manager / Principal Accountant stated that:

  i.  The Star Survey would be reviewed at the March meeting. The need to manage expectations in line with the need to meet savings targets.

  ii.  Sharing services with South Cambs would provide savings in future. Work was ongoing to examine potential new ways of working and to identify potential savings.

  iii.  Negotiations were on-going regarding the building cleaning contract. However, a refund for past poor performance had been secured.

  iv.  Aerial revenues funds were used to fund the following: CCTV and the laundry room at Kingsway flats and a laundry room and community room at Princess and Hanover Courts. Any remaining revenue would be added to the HRA budget.

  v.  The existing furniture of the area housing offices would be reused where possible following any move. However, some smaller furniture might be required to maximise usable office space in the new location.

  vi.  Local Authorities were holding meetings to discuss the potential impact of the Housing Bill. However, until the Bill became law, no legal challenge was possible. Submissions would be made to the Housing Commission.

 vii.  A future report of provisions to sustain tenants and to assist them to manage their budget and to maintain their rent payments following changes to welfare provision and the loss of Area Housing Offices, would come to this committee later in the year.

viii.  Tenants would be informed of alternative provision for the payment of rent and access points for housing advice.

 

Councillor Price stated that he had met with the Housing Minister and had written to him regarding the rent reductions and the requirement to sell high value properties.

 

The Business Manager / Principal Accountant stated that there were no proposals to remove the alarms from sheltered Housing schemes. However, the County Council subsidy for this service was being withdrawn. The Head of City Homes stated that his team were aware of how important this service was and that the current provision went above and beyond what many providers offered. He invited Members to contact him if they would like to visit to the Care Call service.

 

The Committee discussed the level of council garage voids and potential solution. It was suggested that many were too small for modern cars and that rent levels for alternative uses, such as storage, were prohibitively expensive compared to other storage options.

 

Councillor Avery proposed the Liberal Democrats Group alternative budget and outlined the proposals for the Committee’s consideration. He thanked officers for their time and assistance over the Christmas period. 

 

2. Recommendations

 

Changes to recommendations in the original report are highlighted in Bold Italics. All of the recommendations have been re-stated in full for clarity.

 

Under Part 1 of the agenda, the Executive Councillor, is recommended, following scrutiny and debate at Housing Scrutiny Committee, to:

 

Review of Rents and Charges

a)  Approve that council dwellings rents for existing tenants be reduced by 1%, in line with legislative requirements, introduced as part of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill 2015, with effect from 4th April 2016. This equates to an average rent reduction at the time of writing this report of £1.01 per week on a 52 week basis.

b)  Approve inflationary increases of 2% in garage and parking space rents for 2016/17, in line with the base rate of inflation for the year assumed in the HRA Budget Setting Report.

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

d)  Approve the proposed leasehold administration charges for 2016/17 as detailed in Appendix B of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

e)  Approve that service charges for gas maintenance, door entry systems, lifts and electrical and mechanical maintenance are increased by a maximum of inflation as measured by CPI at September 2015 (-0.1%) plus 1%, if required, to continue to recover full estimated costs as detailed in Appendix B of the HRA Budget Setting Report. This will result in a cap in increases for these charges of 0.9%.

f)  Approve that caretaking, building cleaning, estate services, grounds maintenance, temporary housing premises and utilities, sheltered scheme premises and utilities, digital television aerial, flat cleaning and catering charges continue to be recovered at full cost, as detailed in Appendix B of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

g)  Approve that the charge for the full cost of the provision of the alarm service in sheltered housing and dispersed community alarm properties be identified separately, as a charge which is ineligible for housing benefit, following cessation of funding for this service by the County Council from April 2016.

 

Revenue – HRA

Revised Budget 2015/16:

 

h)  Approve with any amendments, the Revised Budget identified in Section 4 of the HRA Budget Setting Report, which reflects a net reduction in the use of HRA reserves for 2015/16 of £19,300.

i)  Approve release, cessation of use, and appropriation, of an ear-marked reserve currently standing at £121,900, held in respect of monies received for the placement of aerials on HRA flat blocks, into general HRA reserves, to allow alternative future use.

 

Budget 2016/17:

 

j)  Approve with any amendments, the Non-Cash Limit items shown in Appendix D (1) of the HRA Budget Setting Report, as amended in line with Appendix D (1) to this report.

k)  Approve with any amendments, the Unavoidable Revenue Pressures, Savings and Increased Income proposals, shown in Appendix D (1) of the HRA Budget Setting Report, as amended in line with Appendix D (1) to this report.

l)  Approve the deletion of the Priority Policy Fund (PPF) allocation of £150,000 from 2017/18, and instead approve the creation of a fund for Service Development and Transformation/ Invest to Save Initiatives, of £120,000 per annum for 5 years from 2016/17. Approve delegated authority to the Strategic Advisor, to invest this fund, in either one-off projects, or to fund ongoing activity as required.

m)Approve the resulting Housing Revenue Account Summary Forecast 2015/16 to 2020/21, shown originally in Appendix J of the HRA Budget Setting Report, as subsequently amended and re-stated in full at Appendix J to this report.

 

Under Part 2 of the agenda, the Executive Councillor for Housing is asked to recommend to Council (following scrutiny and debate at Housing Scrutiny Committee):

 

Treasury Management

 

n)  Request that, in 2016/17, officers review the existing approach to treasury management, which required 25% of the value of the housing debt to be set-aside by the point at which the loan portfolio matures, recognising the financial constraints that have been placed upon the HRA as a result of recent change in national housing policy. A separate report will be brought back to Housing Scrutiny Committee in 2016/17 following this review.

 

Housing Capital

 

o)  Approval of capital bids, shown in Appendix D (2) of the HRA Budget Setting Report, to include meeting the capital cost of re-locating staff to a single area housing office, with the cost to be funded from existing repairs and renewals funds for the service.

p)  Approval of amendment to the Decent Homes Programme investment, recognising the ability to make savings of £810,000 in 2015/16 in respect of boiler replacements, roof structure works, communal areas investment, garage refurbishment, asbestos removal and fire safety works, as detailed in Section 5 and Appendix E (2) of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

q)  Approval of the need to re-profile resource of £570,000 from 2015/16 into 2016/17 in respect of roof covering works and bathroom replacements, and £102,000 from 2015/16 into later years of the programme in respect of remedial works due to sulphate, as detailed in Section 5 and Appendix E (2) of the HRA Budget Setting Report.

r)  Approval of the latest budget, spend profile and funding mix for each of the schemes in the new build programme, as detailed in Section 5 and Appendix H of the HRA Budget Setting Report, and amended by this report, recognising the most up to date information available as each scheme progresses through the design, planning, build contract and completion process.

s)  Recognition of the need to incorporate into the Housing Capital Investment Plan, grants awarded by the Homes and Communities Agency in respect of Aylesborough Close, Water Lane, Ditchburn Place and Clay Farm.

t)  Approval to earmark the required level of additional funding for new build investment between 2016/17 and 2017/18 to ensure that commitments can be met in respect of the investment of all right to buy receipts retained by the authority, up to the end of September 2015.

u)  Approval to invest net HRA resource of £1,764,000 (£5,564,000 build cost less £3,800,000 sales receipts at base year prices), over and above that already approved for land assembly costs, for the re-development of Anstey Way, as a mixed tenure scheme comprising 24 social rented homes and 10 dwellings for market sale.

v)  Approval of allocation of funds for a scheme to re-develop a mixed use HRA site in Akeman Street, to deliver a mixed tenure scheme comprising 8 social rented homes and 2 dwellings for market sale, subject to the approval of a separate report for the scheme with recommendations amended as proposed by this amendment, when considered in Part 2 of this committee agenda.

w)  Approval of the revised Housing Capital Investment Plan as shown in Appendix K of the HRA Budget Setting Report, as amended by Appendix K to this report.

x)  Approve a provisional addition to the Housing Capital Allowance of £34,244,000 in respect of anticipated qualifying expenditure in 2016/17.

 

General

 

y)  Approval of delegation to the Head of Finance, as Section 151 Officer, to make the necessary detailed budgetary adjustments in the HRA, in respect of savings approved as part of the HRA Mid-Year Financial Review, following the outcome of consultation with both tenants and staff about proposed service changes and resulting final savings.

 

Scrutiny Considerations of Liberal Democrat Alternative Budget amendment

 

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

 

  i.  Questioned the advantages to be had from using private developers to develop Anstey Way.

  ii.  Suggested that the proposals would result in asset stripping and stated that the best reserve for the Council was housing stock and land.

 

Councillor Avery stated that he was not in favour of selling off land but that there was a need to deliver social housing as soon as possible. Delivering Anstey Way would be sending Central Government a message that Cambridge would continue to build social housing. It would also generate income.

 

The Chair noted the Tenant and Leaseholder representative’s comments that it was unfair that they could not vote on recommendations n to x.

 

The following votes were chaired by Councillor Todd-Jones

 

The Liberal Democrats Group alternative budget: 2 votes in favour to 6 against. The amendment fell.

 

Resolved (6 vote to 0, with 2 abstentions) to endorse the recommendations n to x (noting the corrected numbering) of the budget proposals.

 

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

 

Resolved (8 votes to 0, with 5 abstentions) to endorse the recommendations a to m of the budget proposals

 

The Executive Councillor approved the recommendations.

 

Conflicts of Interest Declared by the Executive Councillor (and any Dispensations Granted)

 

No conflicts of interest were declared by the Executive Councillor.

 

Publication date: 22/02/2016

Date of decision: 13/01/2016