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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 28/10/2003
Member/Tenants' Special Interest Group - 7th October 2003 : Report to Executive on 28th October 2003



APPENDIX L
WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

MEMBER/TENANTS’ SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP
7th October 2003
REPORT TO THE MEETING OF THE EXECUTIVE ON
28TH OCTOBER 2003

A. PREVIOUS MEETING

The SIG received a copy of the notes of the previous meeting held on 30th June 2003 (as reported to the 21st July meeting of the Executive).

B. MATTERS FOR FUTURE DISCUSSION

The SIG had at the previous meeting agreed a list of issues it would like to have the opportunity of discussing at future meetings. It noted that some of the items were the subject of reports to this meeting i.e. Parking Problems on estates, Kilnfields progress, Communal TV aerials and Delivering Decent Homes: Options Appraisal. It was agreed that at the next meeting, the outstanding matters for consideration would be highlighted (and may be the subject of a report to that meeting in any event) and that there would be the opportunity for members to suggest new items for inclusion on the list.

C. OPTIONS APPRAISAL 2003/2005 – DELIVERY OF DECENT HOMES

C.1 The SIG was advised that this matter had been the subject of a detailed report to both the Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee (on 29th September) and the Executive (on 30th September). Members noted the decisions of the Executive which were outlined in Appendix B to the agenda. Those decisions which impacted most directly on the Member/Tenants SIG were as follows:-

• the Member/Tenants’ SIG manage and advise on the Options Appraisal reporting to Overview and Scrutiny, Executive and Council as appropriate.

• Officers report further on terms of reference of the Housing Forum and on the proposed Empowerment and Communication/Strategy to the Member/Tenants’ SIG.

• An Advisory Committee be created from within the community organisations detailed in Annexe 3 of the agenda report, to be called upon as and when required by the Housing Forum.

• The post of Tenant Participation Officer, as detailed in Annexe 5 of the report, be re-established within existing staff budgets.

C.2 The Director of Housing displayed a diagram showing the various bodies that would form an integral part of the options appraisal exercise and how they would inter-relate. The Housing Forum would comprise 9 persons with equal numbers of Councillors, Tenants’ Panel members from the SIG and staff. The names would be a matter for determination by the party groups, Tenants’ Panel and the Director of Housing respectively, for conveying to the Head of Committee and Member Services.

D. PARKING PROJECT PROPOSAL FOR COUNCIL TENANTS

D.1 The Housing Department has been working in a variety of ways to improve the problems associated with parking on Council estates, for individual tenants and residents with communal parking.

D.2 Where a tenant or a member of their family is disabled and a hardstanding is recommended by the Occupational therapist as necessary and appropriate and it is reasonable and practicable for the Council to carry out the work then these works are tendered, completed and paid for through the Disabled Adaptations budget.

D.3 It was agreed at the last meeting of the SIG that a working party of officers and members of the Tenants’ Panel should consider how the Council might assist individual tenants with the work or the cost of the work of creating dropped kerbs and hardstandings for their own gardens.

D.4 The process for tenants who wish to install hardstanding in their gardens for parking is as follows:-

(i) The tenant considers how he/she is going to provide the hardstanding in the garden and seeks permission through the responsive repairs team. The Repairs Inspector will visit and make sure that these proposals will meet the standards required and give approval. (ii) The tenant is also required to seek permission from Surrey County Council (SCC) Highways Department which will provide a quotation for the work from one of their accredited contractors if they agree to the dropped kerb. There are occasions where they may not agree the dropped kerb and the tenant would be unable to proceed with the hardstanding in his/her garden.

D.5 The working party of officers and members of the Tenants’ Panel met to consider options. The results of these deliberations are described below.

D.6 Firstly, the group considered providing both the dropped kerbs and hardstanding for tenants. This was rejected on the grounds of cost. Whilst the cost per property is hard to estimate, because every situation is different, it could range from 1,500 to 4,000 with an average of 2,000 for each of the estimated 1,500 properties that could seek this option.

D.7 In light of all the work required for decent homes, the numbers of tenants who do not have double glazing, the costs of replacing communal aerials and other works that need to be done, the working party considered that tenants would find it unacceptable that car parking should have a higher priority for the limited Repairs and Maintenance budgets.

D.8 Secondly, the group considered assisting tenants by providing a repayable grant for the cost of the dropped kerb. Because the tenant is required to accept Surrey County Council’s quotation for the works there would be no need for WBC to check on the quality of the works and if paid directly to SCC would prevent the tenant from using the interest free loan for other purposes.

D.9 The group considered whether such a repayable grant should also be provided for hardstandings. This was rejected because of the difficulty of determining the standard. Some tenants could decide on a high quality brick laid hardstanding whilst others may only want two lines of paving stones on some hardcore each of which would require a different level of grant. It would also be more difficult to ensure that the grant was used only for the hardstanding. It was thought that if the repayable grant arrangement worked well for the dropped kerbs that the position in regard to the hardstanding could be reviewed at a later date.

D.10 The group thought that if a sum of money, for example 20,000, was set aside from the Community Safety budget of 100,000 for this purpose, it could be ring fenced as a fund and the repayments made credited back to the fund. Through the sundry debtor system there would be a minimum repayment of 30 per month or a maximum repayment period of three years.

D.11 Funds remaining at the year end in the account, would be held in the repairs fund for the following year, and in conjunction with ongoing repayments to the fund would always ensure a sum was available for new repayable grants.

D.12 The offer of a repayable grant would only be provided for tenants with a good payment history and who have complied with their tenancy conditions. Other than these conditions, it was agreed that the loans should be provided on a first come first served basis as otherwise officers would be placed in the impossible position of trying to determine competing arguments about parking problems and priorities. This could be viewed as the first step in a ‘gold card’ reward system for ‘good’ tenants.

D.13 There are funds available in the HRA Community Safety capital budget of 100,000 for 2003/04 to start this project.

D.14 Adding the grant repayment to the rent was considered but the rent accounting system does not lend itself to time limited repayments. A sundry debtor would be set up for the repayment of the grant.

D.15 The powers of well being under Section 2 of the Local Government Act 2000 enable the Council to give financial assistance to individual residents by making repayable grants, provided that the Council is satisfied that, in giving assistance, the environmental well being of the residents would be improved. This view is supported by the advice in the government circular issued in March 2001. The use of the power is particularly encouraged when working in liaison with other authorities, as in this case. The proposals also accord with the Council’s aims under Theme 1 of the Community Strategy.

D.16 The work involved in installing dropped kerbs would be carried out by a contractor on behalf of Surrey County Council. Therefore, the Council would not have to provide insurance cover relating to any liabilities associated with the work. Recipients of grants would be required to enter into an agreement with the Council to repay the grant within three years of the grant being made.

D.17 The SIG welcomed the proposals as a means of assisting tenants, although there were concerns raised about the instances where residents transgressed and parked indiscriminately on pavements or constructed unofficial driveways without regard to highway authority requirements. It also saw a role for the Parishes and other bodies who were signatories to Waverley’s Community Strategy, all of whom might be able to contribute towards improving the position with regard to parking on estates.

D.18 The SIG, insofar as the scheme described in this report is concerned, is pleased to

RECOMMEND to the Executive that:-

2. the following course of action be endorsed:-

(a) The setting up of a Parking fund to provide repayable grants for tenants of the Council for the provision of a dropped kerb for their property.

(b) Tenants of the Council with a good payment history and who have complied with their tenancy conditions will be provided with a repayable grant for the dropped kerb to their home as quoted by Surrey County Council Highways department.

(c) The Council will pay the quoted price directly to Surrey County Council Highways department on the completion of the dropped kerb.

(d) 20,000 be set aside for the Parking Fund from the HRA Capital Community Safety budget in 2003/04.

(e) The grant is paid back to the Council into the Parking fund, which would be reusable for other tenants to arrange for their dropped kerbs.

(f) Recipients of the grant enter into the appropriate legal agreements to make repayments. Repayment of the grant would be through the sundry debtor system with a minimum repayment of 30 per month or a maximum repayment period of three years.

(g) The Head of Housing Management, Housing Services Manager and Deputy Housing Services Manager be granted delegated authority to approve the provision of a repayable grant for a dropped kerb to tenants with a good payment history and who have complied with their tenancy conditions.

E. KILNFIELDS, HASLEMERE

The SIG received and noted a progress report on the redevelopment of Kilnfields in Haslemere. It welcomed the fact that the project had progressed so well, helped by the favourable weather conditions, and that it was running on time and within budget.

F. REPLACEMENT AND UPGRADE OF COMMUNAL TV AERIAL SYSTEMS

[Note: Mrs J R Keen declared a personal and prejudicial interest in the above matter. She left the meeting at this stage, taking no part in the discussion or voting thereon.]

F.1 Waverley’s four predecessor authorities provided Communal TV aerial systems on many estates to both blocks of flats and individual dwellings. As a result, in 19 parish areas there are around 2,620 dwellings on approximately 457 sites that have a communal TV aerial system. The present communal systems only receive analogue signals and the government has set an objective to phase out analogue broadcast transmissions and to replace these with digital broadcast transmissions by 2012.

F.2 In 2002, the Council commissioned consultant engineers, Hanniford Upright, to carry out a full survey of and report on the existing communal TV aerial systems to blocks of flats and individual dwellings.

F.3 Many of the ageing systems had been repaired and replaced over the previous 20 to 30 years and in more recent years the need for repairs has increased. The consultant engineers advised that the general age of installations means a complete rewire programme is required to ensure long term reliability and compliance with the technical requirements for digital broadcast reception.

F.4 The wider issues relate to the estate wide systems, which serve many individual properties that have been or could be sold under the Right to Buy. Firstly, the liabilities of the Council in relation to the freehold residents and secondly the long and underground cabling systems which need replacement need to be considered.

F.5 There will come a point where the present communal TV aerial systems will become obsolete and because they are unable to provide the facility to receive digital broadcast, will therefore have to be decommissioned.

F.6 In the report of June 2002, Hanniford Upright recommended the following:-

(a) The most positive and cost effective way forward is to consider the complete replacement of communal TV systems, including recabling and replacement of TV outlets to each dwelling.

(b) That a review is made of the current estate cabling arrangements as this leaves flat blocks vulnerable to signal disruption if estate cables fail, are damaged by ground works or exposed to weathering problems at external junction and joint boxes.

(c) That Waverley gives consideration to a programme of renewal and replacement of its current analogue TV aerial systems to meet digital terrestrial TV broadcasting requirements to be completed no later than 2008.

(d) To carry out a pilot project to receive tenants’ views and monitor problems and identify solutions before carrying out the full project.

(e) That consideration is given to the reduction of the estate cable system, to localise the communal aerial systems reducing the number of buildings and premises served from a single aerial array.

(f) That the provision of an Integrated Reception System would enable tenants and residents to receive an off-air digital service combined with satellite and interactive broadcasts and digital radio format, i.e. there would be no need for the tenant or resident to have their own satellite dish. (The Integrated Reception System has also been recommended by the Digital Television Group and the Confederation of Aerial Industries Ltd.)

(g) That consideration is given to modify the extent of the existing distribution arrangements to smaller and more secure systems.

F.7 The budget cost identified by the consultants for providing an Integrated Reception System to those properties that currently have the benefit of a communal TV aerial system was approximately 620,000. The SIG on 7th October 2002 recommended to the Executive in November 2002, that a wholesale replacement of the existing systems without further examination was unrealistic and that a pilot scheme was required before going further. This was supported by the Executive.

F.8 In general, there is no question that a replacement and upgrading programme would have to be carried out in all the flat blocks and the fully Sheltered Schemes. All flats fall under the planning regulations for the installation of satellite dishes. Only one satellite dish is permitted on a block of flats before planning permission is required for any further satellite dishes. The Integrated Reception system being considered by the Council enables digital satellite reception to be delivered to all homes in the block and will preserve the visual amenity of the area.

F.9 The pilot project decided to provide the communal TV aerial system to groups of bungalows where these were designated bungalows for older people and which are not hard to let to older people. During the pilot where individual bungalows were interspersed in blocks of flats these were also included in upgrade of the communal TV aerial system.

F.10 The problem of the replacement and upgrading of TV aerial systems for individual properties on the estate system was not resolved by the project. The advice from the consultant engineers was that estate systems are not appropriate for the new technology. During the pilot it was identified that a number of these properties had already installed an individual system or satellite. The issues are discussed more fully in the Legal and Financial implications below.

F.11 The following groups in different areas ranging over a variety of different types of accommodation and tenure were included in the pilot project.
F.12 The replacement equipment provided by the Integrated Reception System installation is a satellite dish, a digital terrestrial TV aerial, a digital audio radio aerial, an outlet point with three sockets in each property. The system will continue to transmit the analogue signal so residents will not have to change their TV or buy any additional equipment, unless they wish, until the analogue signals are stopped.

F.13 A number of lessons were learnt about managing the installation process of the new systems.

(a) It was concluded that the cabling should be on the outside of the blocks of flats or bungalows rather than through loft spaces as in the previous system and that landlord supplies for the electricity are not attached to domestic services of individual tenants.

(b) An effort was made to include an upgrade to receive Channel 5, which does not have a good terrestrial delivery in the area at present but this proved to cause technical problems to the delivery of other channels.

(c) It is essential to have an officer dedicated to communicate with all the tenants and residents involved to smooth the path for the contractors carrying out the installations and resolving issues quickly on the ground.

(d) When installing the Integrated Reception System, some of the other flats already had a satellite on the flat block. These satellites could not be removed before the new system was installed and commissioned and this means that the IRS satellite dish would need planning permission until the resident, tenant or the Council removed the old satellite dishes, or if those residents and tenants refused to remove their satellite dish.

F.14 All the tenants and leaseholders in the pilot were offered and accepted the upgraded communal TV aerial system although some had upgraded their own TV aerial system at their own expense. All tenants and leaseholders where the system has been commissioned are very happy with the new service. The leaseholders will be charged the service charge for their share of the cost of the replacement system.

F.15 The officers considered how to deal with providing a service for the tenants who live in individual properties on the communal TV aerial estate system since the Council will want to decommission the estate system when the upgraded communal TV aerial systems are provided to all the flat blocks in an area.

F.16 The cost of upgrading the communal TV aerial system per property is more expensive than providing an individual TV aerial per property. The officers concluded that it would be most beneficial for tenants in individual properties on the estate system to be offered a replacement digital terrestrial TV aerial (includes analogue reception) paid for by the Council, which could be installed by the Council’s contractor. The tenant would be responsible for the future maintenance of the aerial.

F.17 Under the Housing Act 1985 Schedule 6, the owners of the freehold and long leasehold of the bought properties on the estate system have the right to use the communal TV aerial service and can be charged to have it maintained and repaired. However, the Council will want to decommission the district system when the upgraded communal TV aerial systems are provided to all the flat blocks in an area.

F.18 It is considered that the Council would discharge this obligation to freehold and leasehold owners of Council properties if it offered the same facility as tenants in individual properties to have a replacement individual digital terrestrial TV aerial (includes analogue reception) to be installed by the Council’s contractor. They would be required to pay for the replacement aerial and be responsible for the cost of future maintenance (in the case of leaseholders, this would be included in the service charge). It is not considered practicable to persuade all the freehold residents on an estate to agree to a replacement communal TV aerial system, which would cost more than an individual replacement aerial.

F.19 In the blocks of flats the leaseholders are responsible for paying their share of the cost of the upgrade subject to the required consultation being carried out.

F.20 The average cost of the installation of the communal TV aerial system per property is 300. The cost of the individual aerials ranges from 90/200 but would on average be approximately 140 and there would be no ongoing maintenance responsibility.

F.21 In the Housing Revenue Account Capital Programme 200,000 is budgeted in the year 2003/04, 200,000 is included in the projected programme for 2004/05 and 140,000 in 2005/06. Members will need to carefully consider the relative priorities of this against decent homes work and other maintenance.

F.22 At this stage it is difficult to identify the exact anticipated cost of the work as the full extent of the work can only be determined when the design of the new system is undertaken. The replacement of the aerial systems is being undertaken on “worst first” basis based on the original survey information.

F.23 It is considered that the sums identified above will be sufficient to undertake the replacement of the communal aerial with an Integrated Reception System, if the approach identified in this report is adopted. A further report will be provided to the Executive at the end of 2003/04 giving information on the outcome of the work for this year.

F.24 The SIG was appreciative of the amount of work that had gone into trying to overcome this particular problem. Accordingly, it

RECOMMENDS to the Executive that:-

3. the upgraded communal TV service with the (IRS) Integrated Reception System be provided to:-

(a) blocks of flats including interspersed bungalows, where practicable, and

(b) groups of elderly persons bungalows where the designation is unlikely to change; and

4. the following proposals be endorsed:-

(i) to provide and pay for the facility for all tenants and long leaseholders of individual properties currently provided with an estate communal TV service to have an individual aerial installed by the Council’s contractor. No responsibility for further maintenance will be accepted for such individual aerials;

(ii) to provide the facility for all freehold owners of individual properties currently provided with an estate communal TV service to have an individual aerial installed by the Council’s contractor. No responsibility for further maintenance will be accepted for such individual aerials;

(iii) the Director of Housing be granted delegated authority, in consultation with the Director of Finance to use his discretion to mix and match different solutions if it would be more cost effective or practicable for the Council; and

(iv) a first resolution in accordance with the Regulation 3 of the Town and Country Planning General Regulations 1992 be made to allow planning applications to be submitted for the provision of communal television aerial systems to any property within the Housing Revenue Account portfolio, at locations detailed in the Annexe attached. The Director of Housing be given delegated authority to determine as appropriate, where a new installation is necessary and proceed with the first planning resolution process.

Present at the meeting

Representing WBC:

Mr V K Scrivens (Chairman)
Mr P B Isherwood
Mrs J R Keen
Mrs A E Mansell

Apologies for absence were received from Mrs P Ellis, Mrs P M Frost, Dr M-G Lane and Mr B G Shelley.

Representing the Tenants’ Panel:

Miss P Wright (Vice-Chairman)
Mrs I Birch
Mr D Costigan
Mrs P Greenwood
Mrs K Hall
Mr R Randle
Miss E Taylor
Mr H Williams

The following officers were present:

Mr D January (Director of Housing)
Mrs S Goodall
Mr B Nichols
Mr D Bennett

comms/sig/2003-04/053