To present the draft delivery plan for 2023/24 to the Scrutiny Board for consideration and review.
The report before the Scrutiny Board presented the draft SCH Delivery Plan 2023/24 for consideration and review.
The Chief Executive, SCH provided a PowerPoint presentation highlighting key areas of the SCH: Delivery Plan 2023/24. Following the presentation, Members of the Scrutiny Board raised a number of questions pertaining to the report, which in summary included the following matters:
Councillor McLoughlin referenced figures for the recorded instances of damp and mould in SCH properties and queried whether the number of cases related to the recent rise in energy prices and domestic heating bills. Secondly, Councillor McLoughlin highlighted the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for Satisfaction Home is Safe, which detailed the sector benchmark at 82.9%, with the proposed SCH target for 2023/23 at 80%, querying why this was the case.
The Scrutiny Board was advised by the Chief Executive (SCH) that the 80% target figure represented an increase on the current years target. Furthermore, due to the national focus on damp and mould in properties, SCH had publicised to tenants the need to report any such cases to SCH for them to be addressed. Increased inspections have taken place, with accompanying repairs turned around within 14 days. Extra resource was also being allocated to address this issue.
The Executive Director, Customer Services, Transformation & Business Support (SCH) advised Members that SCH reviewed the sector benchmark with some care. A number of Housing Associations had yet to implement performance measurements. The sector benchmark was used as a guide only at this point. The SCH Board had reviewed SCH’s historic data and found that previous outcomes against the Overall Satisfaction KPI had been just under 80%.
Councillor McLoughlin referenced in the themes for 2023/24 section of the Delivery Plan, specifically the reference to SCH’s aspiration to grow the housing stock through acquisition and new build to help meet an ever-increasing need for housing. Considering the significantly challenging financial environment in terms of interest and borrowing rates, to what extent had the reduction in new build properties been attributable to the national economic conditions and, secondly, could the expectation of increasing the housing stock still be met whilst operating under such economic constraints.
The Chief Executive (SCH) advised Members that SCH continued to seek to increase housing stock through new build but were proceeding with caution. There was a need to fully understand the current market conditions before investing in new stock. Delivery was dependent on achieving Value for Money (VfM) in terms of new development.
Councillor Holl-Allen sought clarification as to whether cases of damp and mould could be attributable to specific types of property. Members where informed cases were largely due to leaks and condensation in low- and high-rise blocks. It was important that tenants reported such cases to SCH. SCH worked with partners in the health sector to address such cases and continued to work in partnership with the private rented sector.
Councillor Qais noted that some of the KPI’s for national tenant satisfaction measures did not have any sector targets and questioned what data was used to establish the sector benchmark for 2023/24. Members were advised that this was dependent on the data collected at national and local levels. In setting its targets, SCH had consulted various Council Directorates, reviewed historic KPI performance and factored in a drive for further performance improvement in 2023/24.
Councillor Ryan welcomed the SCH Delivery Plan 2023/24, noting it was an improvement on the previous years iteration. Councillor Ryan referenced the Implications and Considerations section of the report, specifically People and Communities – Enable Communities to Thrive, and stated that he wished to see more detail as to how this ambition would be achieved, particularly in relation to children and young people. Councillor Ryan raised further questions regarding:
· Further information addressing the role of apprenticeships and accessing local and regional employment opportunities, such as UKC and HS2, would be informative. Councillor Ryan noted that with inward investment into Solihull, young people needed access to appropriate skills training to access the arising employment opportunities available.
· What housing pressures were brought through the demand for accommodation for refugees entering the borough without adequate new build provision. Were refugees automatically placed in Band A priority on the housing list.
The Executive Director (SCH) clarified that there was a specific SCH priority in place addressing apprenticeships through creating further opportunities to access them. The SCH apprenticeship programme was already embedded, currently comprising six apprenticeships across SCH. A number of apprentices had already moved into other roles within SCH for longer term employment opportunities.
The Chief Executive (SCH) advised Members that the refugee housing allocation did not go into priority Band A of the housing waiting list, but were assessed in terms of their specific housing needs.
Councillor Thomas highlighted the Enablers for 2023/24 section of the Delivery Plan detailing digital themes and priorities, particularly concerning the embedding of digital opportunities for customers, stating that it was apparent many people were not digitally capable or engaged. Many people did not have access to digital devices, nor did they wish to engage with digital.
The Executive Director (SCH) advised that it was not the case of digital by default. SCH operated to the concept of Voice of the Customer.
Councillor Thomas sought clarification as to whether funding was secured to deliver the objectives relating to sustainability of the housing stock. The Chief Executive (SCH) advised that delivery of green homes in relation to carbon reduction was a significant challenge. Not all funding for the programme had been secured at this stage and further funding was required. Similarly, the Councils Asset Management Plan (AMP) Net Zero target presented a greater challenge with net zero objectives across the Councils buildings stock. SCH was fastidious regarding data collection for the stock condition profile. Efforts continued to reduce the housing stock carbon footprint and for providing warmer properties for tenants.
Councillor Pinwell concluded that there was support from the Scrutiny Board in addressing the challenges detailed within the report and SCH Delivery Plan 2023/24. Two issues arising through scrutiny of the Delivery Plan had stood out; namely actioning cases of damp and mould in residents homes and, secondly the requirement to performance manage the Delivery Plan objectives against the KPI suite and benchmarking data as the systems mature.
Having considered the report, the Resources and Delivering Value Scrutiny Board:
To note the Solihull Community Housing Delivery Plan 2023/24.