Council Housing Stock - Governance Arrangements
- Meeting of Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee, Tuesday, 7th December, 2021 2.00 pm (Item 57.)
Report of the Strategic Director (Neighbourhoods) and City Solicitor
This report provides a further briefing to the Committee on the proposed governance arrangements in respect of Council housing stock. The proposal is intended to have proper oversight of housing management and maintenance services. Empower tenants and meet the requirements of the White Paper ”A charter for social housing tenants”.
The Committee considered the report of the Strategic Director (Neighbourhoods) and City Solicitor, that provided a further briefing to the Committee on the proposed governance arrangements in respect of Council housing stock. The proposal is intended to have proper oversight of housing management and maintenance services. Empower tenants and meet the requirements of the White Paper ”A charter for social housing tenants”.
Key points and themes in the report included:
· The scope of the Board’s remit in relation to housing stock in different areas of the City;
· The scope of the Board’s remit, including in relation to fire safety matters;
· The proposed composition of the Board;
· Engagement with Elected Members; and
· The timeline for recruitment to the Board.
Some of the key points that arose from the Committee’s discussions were:
· There was still an issue in relation to the three PFI estates being reference in the draft Terms of Reference and these needed to be removed;
· There was strong concern in relation the proposals around the composition of the Board, which included:-
· Clarity was needed as to how Elected Members that represented wards with Northwards properties within them will be selected to sit on the Board;
· Whether the proposal for five of elected members in addition the Executive Member for Housing was enough, as there are fewer members than there are relevant wards;
· It was not appropriate to compare the composition with Registered Providers and other Housing Providers as what was being proposed was an Advisory Group, not a Governance Board;
· A proposed two year term of office for the five co-opted residents from the Council’s housing stock was felt to be too short and there was no proposed length of the term of office for Elected Members on the board;
· There was a lack of reference to diversity and gender balance in the membership of the Board in the Terms of Reference;
· Had the Federation of ALMO’s guidance been consulted in drawing up these terms of reference?
· There was a maximum but no minimum number of independent members of the Board, and no reference to timelines or plans for recruitment to these positions;
· How would the connectivity of the core housing provision with neighbourhoods and other community delivery impacts, with particular reference to environmental investment and community safety, be undertaken;
· Clarity of the position of Council Officers in respect of their role with the Board and whether they would be advising it or members of it;
· What would happen if the Housing Board, as an Advisory Committee, disagreed with a decision made by the Council;
· Was there any obstacle to the Executive Member for Housing and Employment chairing the Board;
· Was reference to tenants in the charter inclusive of both tenants and leaseholders;
· Was all miscellaneous council housing stock going to come under the remit of the proposed Board; and
· The proposals made no or little reference to the following areas:
· Review of the HRA Business Plan by the Board;
· Management of contracts and value for money;
· Whistleblowing arrangements;
· Conflicts of interest;
· Partnership and joint venture arrangements.
The Director of Housing Operations confirmed that the three PFI estates were not included within the proposals. He apologised for this oversight and agreed to have reference to these removed from the draft terms of reference for the Board.
In terms of the composition of the Board, he advised that governance arrangements of Registered Providers and similar sized organisations across the country had been looked at, acknowledging however that Local Government operated in a different context, but it was felt that there needed to be the right balance around the resident voice and elected members with further contribution from independent specialist members.
Noting the concerns raised by the Committee in relation to the composition, the Executive Member for Housing and Employment agreed that this would be reconsidered with the points raised being taken into consideration.
The Director of Housing Operations advised that community safety was a core component part of the governance arrangements being put in place. Work around this was being undertaken in partnership with the Council’s Neighbourhoods team and Northwards and although at present there was no intention for tenants to be part of this work, this could be looked at.
The City Solicitor advised that if an Elected Member sat on the Board which did not agree with a decision made by the Council, then the Elected Member would likely have a conflict of interest and commented that they should speak to herself in advance so appropriate advice could be given.
The Leader commented that housing management sat within the Neighbourhoods Executive portfolio but if this post was vacant then the Board would be chaired by the Executive Member for Housing and Employment. The Leader acknowledged the concerns that had been raised around the proposed composition of the Board and agreed that this would be addressed, including appropriate diversity and gender balance.
The Director of Housing Operations confirmed miscellaneous council housing stock would not come under the remit of the proposed Board.
The City Solicitor advised that as Northwards was now part of the Council, it would be required to follow the same rules and requirements of the Council, as set out with the constitution. The scope and role of the Board would continue to be developed to ensure it scrutinised the appropriate areas that had been highlighted by the Committee and a number of sub groups would be established under the Board to strengthen the engagement framework with tenants and residents.
(1) Notes the report.
(2) Requests Officers and the appropriate Executive Member(s) re-consider the proposed makeup of the Board in light of the comments and concerns raised and in doing so recommends that:-
· the PFI stock is explicitly removed from the Terms of Reference;
· the maximum term of office for both Elected Members and the co-opted residents from the Council’s housing stock should be set at a maximum of six years, that there should be parity between Members and residents, and that consideration be given to staggering the lengths of membership of the Board so that there is progressive rolling change in personnel over time;
· the terms of reference cover how conflicts of interest for Elected Members are to be addressed;
· the terms of reference explicitly refer to gender balance and ensuring diversity and protected characteristics are proportionately reflected across the membership of the Board;
· the terms of reference identify which Scrutiny Committee(s) will be responsible for scrutinising the work of the Board.
· the terms of reference refer to the conurbation of Northwards Housing Stock rather than North Manchester, in order to truly reflect the location of all Northwards residents;
· the terms of reference are explicit insofar as the Board will act as an advisory body and not a governance and decision-making body; and
· consideration be given to a minimum number of co-opted non-resident members to be appointed, and a strategy is drawn up for timely recruitment of suitably qualified independent members.
- Council Housing Stock – Governance Arrangements, item 57. PDF 236 KB
- Council Housing Stock – Governance Arrangements Appendix 1, item 57. PDF 145 KB
- Council Housing Stock – Governance Arrangements Appendix 2, item 57. PDF 10 KB