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Meeting of the Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 21/05/2002
Scope of Year 3 Fundamental Service Review: Achieving a Sustainable Housing Service



The report sets out the proposed scope of the fundamental service review (FSR) that is to be undertaken within the Housing Department in the current financial year within the overall theme of achieving a sustainable housing service. It seeks the views of the Committee on the areas to be covered during the reviews and the involvement of Members in the process. It also identifies the resource implications of the work.
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APPENDIX C

WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

COMMUNITY OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE – 21ST MAY 2002

Title:
SCOPE OF YEAR 3 FUNDAMENTAL SERVICE REVIEW:
ACHIEVING A SUSTAINABLE HOUSING SERVICE
[Wards Affected: All]

Summary and Purpose

The report sets out the proposed scope of the fundamental service review (FSR) that is to be undertaken within the Housing Department in the current financial year within the overall theme of achieving a sustainable housing service. It seeks the views of the Committee on the areas to be covered during the reviews and the involvement of Members in the process. It also identifies the resource implications of the work.

Introduction

1. This report provides a brief for Members on the scope of the Fundamental Service Review (FSR) to take place during the financial year 2002/03. Taking account of the changes to the FSR process that the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee agreed to recommend to the Executive on 1st May, a more streamlined approach is proposed for the current year’s FSRs with the grouping together of relevant services and focusing on achieving a sustainable housing service. The services included are:

2. The revised FSR process considered by the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 24th April is set out in the diagram at Annexe 2 in the report to that Committee entitled ‘Fundamental Service Reviews – Interim Report on Year 3’. (See also Appendix B of this Committee Agenda). The new simpler process gives all Members the opportunity to raise issues and influence the scope of the review in the combined Member workshop during Stage 2 of the review, to consider options at Stage 4 (if appropriate) and the final report.

3. This report identifies the initial scope of the reviews and indicates:

the areas of the housing service that the reviews plan to cover;
the outline proposed timetable;
the potential resource requirements.

4. The input of Members at this stage on these matters is crucial to the process. This report suggests the key issues to be addressed for each service area but it is recognised that it is vital that the reviews reflect Members’ priorities as well as reflecting the specific requirements of the Best Value legislation.


5. The involvement of the Tenants’ Panel in the review is also essential. This report is to be discussed with the Panel at a workshop on 20th May and a representative of the Panel will join the Service Review Group on Tenant Involvement and Tenancy Management, reflecting the importance of their role in this area.

The Scope of the Fundamental Service Reviews

Addressing the four ‘C’s:

6. All the reviews will need to tackle the four ‘C’s of challenge, consult, compare and compete. They will all have to address the following key questions:

(a) the need for the service including statutory requirements;
(b) the service strategy and its link with other key Council strategies;
(c) how the service is organised and its relationship with other Council services;
(d) service standards;
(e) access to the service and internal procedures including use of IT;
(f) views of service users, staff, and other stakeholders
(g) complaints and satisfaction levels;
(h) information given to service users and, where appropriate, their involvement in decisions about the service;
(i) how the service ensures that there is Equality of Opportunity in the way it is provided including arrangements for service users whose first language is not English and others with special needs;
(j) value for money issues;
(k) quality and performance issues including comparisons with other social landlords;
(l) other issues identified by stakeholders;
Homelessness and Housing Advice:

7. The review will focus on the main elements of the Homelessness and Housing Advice service, including the management of temporary accommodation. It will include an examination of the: (a) role of the Housing Advice service and its contribution towards the prevention of homelessness;
(b) process and timetable for homelessness determinations;
(c) support available for:
rough sleepers;
people with support needs i.e. drugs or alcohol dependency, mental health problems, learning disability;
(d) treatment of:
persons claiming domestic violence;
non-priority single and young people;
care leavers;
asylum seekers;
(e) range and quality of temporary accommodation available;
(f) use of bed and breakfast accommodation;
(g) time spent in temporary accommodation.


8. Work has already begun to address some of the key service developments that need to be made. The Homelessness Service will also be reviewed by Internal Audit early in 2002/03. Discussions have already taken place between officers in the Housing Department and Internal Audit with a view to streamlining activities and avoiding duplication. An away-day of the Housing Needs section in August 2001 identified a number of areas for improvement and action. Preparations are currently being made for producing a homelessness strategy in line with the statutory timetable.

Service Review Group (SRG) membership:
Tenant Involvement and Tenancy Management: 9. The review will consider the current arrangements for tenant involvement taking account of the recent review of the Tenant Participation Agreement by the Member/Tenants’ Special Interest Group. It will also cover tenancy and estate management issues relating to Waverley’s secure tenants, garages and communal areas used by tenants and other residents. The review will include an examination of:

(a) action taken to introduce the new Waverley Council Tenant Participation Agreement and evaluate its effectiveness;
(b) arrangements for enforcing tenancy conditions with particular emphasis on anti-social behaviour;
(c) arrangements for recording and taking further action in relation to racial incidents;
(d) processes for dealing with tenancy matters such as mutual exchange, succession, abandonment and squatting etc;
(e) steps taken to help tenants to sustain their tenancy;
(f) letting of garages to tenants and members of the public and arrangements for dealing with garages requiring demolition;
(g) processes for dealing with abandoned/untaxed cars on estates, illegal parking, cleaning of communal areas etc.

10. A good deal of work on tenant involvement has already been carried out by the Member/Tenants’ Special Interest Group and by officers with the Tenants’ Panel in relation to particular housing services e.g. repairs. This will be reflected in the FSR.

11. Work has also begun on developing a policy to deal with anti-social behaviour. A review of decanting arrangements is under way. A scheme for cleaning up estates through a “Dump Your Stuff” day is to be piloted where lorries will be arranged to

take away residents’ unwanted items. Consultations with tenants are already taking place on the demolition of some garages and the re-use of the land. A car-clamping scheme for untaxed vehicles is already being piloted in Farnham and, if successful, is to be extended to other areas.

Service Review Group (SRG) membership:

Pat Wright - Chairman of Waverley Tenants’ Panel
Sheila Goodall - Housing Services Manager
Chris Rudkin - Deputy Housing Services Manager
Tony Martin - Senior Housing Management Officer
Julie Grozier - Deputy Housing Needs Manager
John Golding - Homelessness Property Officer
Chris Slade - Repairs Manager
Andrew Booker - Surveying and Maintenance Manager
Margaret Wright - Housing Policy & Performance Officer
Jane Graham - Housing Policy & Research Officer

(To be agreed:)
Paul Redmond - Environmental Services Officer
Rachel Hall - Landscape Management Officer

Rent Arrears Recovery:

12. The review will cover the recovery of current and former tenant arrears and housing benefit overpayments. It will also take account of rent setting and rent collection mechanisms. The review will include an examination of the:

(a) strategy to prevent rent arrears;
(b) steps taken to help tenants in arrears to sustain their tenancies;
(c) treatment of tenants with support needs;
(d) rent arrears recovery processes;
(e) rationale for collecting non-rent elements i.e. heating, water charges etc;
(f) consistency in the way processes are applied to secure and non-secure tenants;
(g) policy for trying to recover and writing off former tenant arrears;

13. The Rent Arrears Recovery service was the subject of a detailed review by District Audit in February 2002. Rather than covering the same ground again, the FSR will therefore focus on the findings of the District Audit report, the progress being made towards achieving the agreed action plan and matters that were beyond the scope of that review.

Service Review Group membership:

Bernard Nichols - Head of Housing Management
John Avery - Rent Accounts Manager
Dorothy McIntosh - Rent Accounts Officer
Chris Rudkin - Deputy Housing Services Manager
John Golding - Homelessness Property Officer
Julie Grozier - Deputy Housing Needs Manager
Margaret Wright - Housing Policy & Performance Officer


(To be agreed:)
Jeanette Arnold - Manager, Farnham Locality Office
Representatives of Internal Audit and Benefits Section

Right to Buy and Service Charges:

14. The review will cover the service provided to tenants exercising their Right to Buy their home, including the Rent to Mortgage scheme. It will deal with the recovery of service charges, where appropriate, from the owners of homes purchased under the Right to Buy or under a shared-ownership lease. The review will also cover the administration of shared-ownership leases including sales of further equity shares and the involvement of leaseholders in decisions about the service. It will include an examination of the:

(a) arrangements including timetable for notifying leaseholders of service charges due;
(b) trends in service charges arrears;
(c) strategy to prevent service charges arrears;
(d) service charges arrears recovery arrangements;
(e) advice and support available to leaseholders with service charges arrears;
(f) arrangements for leaseholder participation;
(g) compliance with the statutory requirements relating to the Right to Buy;
(h) use of trends in the take-up of the Right to Buy and Rent to Mortgage to inform service developments.

15. Processes relating to the recovery of service charges were subject to a review by Internal Audit in November 1999. The implementation of the recommendations of that report has already resulted in significant improvements in the service. More accurate and timely information is being provided to leaseholders about service charges. This has been achieved through improved liaison with the Repairs and Surveying and Maintenance sections which has been made easier following the restructuring of the Housing Department in July 2001.

Service Review Group membership:

David Simmons - Head of Housing Maintenance
Doug Hamilton - Right to Buy Officer
Sheila Goodall - Housing Services Manager
Margaret Wright - Housing Policy & Performance Officer

(To be agreed:)
Representative of Legal Section

FSR Team

16. It is important to be clear about the separation that exists between the SRGs and the FSR Team. The SRGs will link closely with the FSR team, which is a corporate officer team led by an Independent Chief Officer for these reviews, Peter Maudsley, Director of Environment and Leisure. The FSR team will direct and monitor the review in accordance with the agreed FSR process and evaluate the evidence offered by the SRGs. Corporate guidance on the conduct of FSRs has been produced to ensure a consistency of approach between reviews and over time.


Timetable

17. The aim is to conclude the review of all four areas and present a report to Members by the end of January 2003. Homelessness and Housing Advice is likely to prove the most time-consuming of the four areas to review. Some investigative work has therefore already begun e.g. researching examples of good practice. An early start is also being made with the review of Right to Buy and Service Charges. Reflecting recent service developments, a later start is planned for the review of Tenant Involvement and Tenancy Management and Rent Arrears recovery. This will provide those areas with more time to focus on the introduction of new arrangements rather than being distracted by the FSR.

Resources

18. The impact of the FSR on staff time will be minimised as far as possible compatible with the requirement of achieving findings that will deliver continuous improvement in services. Most of the information gathering and analysis will be carried out for the SRGs by the Housing Policy and Performance Officer and Housing Policy and Research Assistant. The SRG memberships shown above represent the maximum level of participation. Meetings will be held approximately monthly, be of about two hours duration and staff will only be expected to attend if agenda items are relevant to them.

Recommendation

That this Committee agrees any observations to be forwarded to the Executive on the recommendations that:

1. the scope of the Housing 2002/03 Best Value FSR should include those matters set out in paragraphs 6 to 15 of this report; and 2. the proposed outline timetable for the FSR be noted.




CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Mr D January Telephone: 01483 869361
Email: djanuary@waverley.gov.uk


comms/o&s2/2002-03/006 28317