A report from the Director of Finance, Resources and Customer Services and Director of Regeneration and Environment is attached. This will set out a number of recommendations in relation to the Housing Revenue Account for approval by full Council. (Key decision – reference number 4174)
(8.30 – 8.35pm)
Councillor Ahmet Oykener (Cabinet Member for Housing and Housing Regeneration) introduced the report of the Director of Regeneration and Environment and Director of Finance, Resources and Customer Services (No.172).
1. That this was the annual report for consideration of the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) budget and rent setting, and temporary accommodation rents. The report commented on the HRA 30-year business plan; the HRA budget 2016/17 and 5 year capital programme; rent setting 2016/17 for HRA properties and temporary accommodation properties; and, proposed service charges 2016/17.
2. With regard to the HRA 30-year business plan, this had previously been updated and considered by the Cabinet in November 2015. Significant work had been carried out to rebalance the plan following the Government’s July budget and subsequent Welfare Reform and Work Bill which required the Council to reduce rents by 1% per annum for 4 years from 2016/17. This meant a shortfall of £2.2m in 2016/17 and £325m over 30 years. Due to the significant work that had been undertaken previously, only minor amendments had now been made, as set out in section 4 and Appendix 1 of the report.
3. With regard to the HRA budget 2016/17, due to the work that had been undertaken in 2015/16 to find £1.5m ongoing savings (detailed in paragraph 5.1 of the report), the 2016/17 budget had relatively few variations. The main ones were set out in section 5.2 and Appendix B of the report.
4. That the HRA 5 year capital programme was set out in section 7 of the report and totalled £237.7m.
5. Members were advised that the majority of rents would go down by 1% as required by the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. An amendment to the recommendations was tabled, as reflected in recommendation 1 (e) below, which related to sheltered accommodation rents which had arisen as a result of the Government making Supported Accommodation an exception to the requirement for rents to reduce for 1 year only. The proposal to increase Sheltered Accommodation rents by CPI plus 1% meant that they would go up by 0.9% or approximately 90p per week. This would give the HRA an additional £78k in 2016/17 and the impact on 30 years would be an additional £3.3m. This was a late amendment as the Welfare Reform and Work Bill was still progressing through the House of Lords and changes were still being made before it became an Act. Subject to Cabinet approval, the report presented to full Council would be updated to take account of this amendment.
6. That Temporary Accommodation rents would remain as per last year.
7. The proposed HRA service charges for 2016/17 were set out in section 10 of the report. These were based on full cost recovery. Two new charges were proposed for external CCTV charges (82p per week) and communal cleaning charge (59p per week). The service charges had been discussed with the Customer Voice and Housing Board.
8. That this year’s budget had been made more complex because of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill and Housing and Planning Bill which were progressing through Parliament and were not yet Acts. There remained two big risks to the HRA 30 year business plan: the sale of high value assets and pay to stay. It was understood that both of these policies might affect the 2016/17 budget, further information was awaited.
9. An amendment to the report as follows: the last sentence of paragraph 3 in section 16.2 of the report to be amended to read: “The Welfare Reform and Work Bill will not apply to this category of tenancies and the local authority will not have to decrease the rent by 1% for the next four years”.
Alternative Options Considered: The Council no longer had a choice about the level of rents it sets for Council tenants and Temporary Accommodation tenants. A number of different options had been considered around budget levels required both for 2016/17 and in the medium term, and the preferred option, to meet the priorities of the service and the Council, was presented in the report. Service charges could be set at alternative levels, but those set out in paragraph 10 of the report would result in improved services to tenants and leaseholders.
RECOMMENDED TO COUNCIL
1. To approve and note the following:
(a) Approval of the HRA 30-year Business Plan.
(b) Approval of the detailed HRA Revenue Budget for 2016/17.
(c) Approval of the HRA Capital Programme and Right to Buy (RTB) One for One Receipts Programme as set out in paragraph 7 of the report.
(d) To note the rent levels for 2016/17 for HRA properties and Temporary Accommodation properties subject to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill receiving Royal Assent in April 2016.
(e) To increase rents for sheltered accommodation tenants in line with Government guidance. This would result in an average increase of 0.9% for Enfield’s Sheltered Accommodation tenants.
(f) Approval of the level of service charges as set out in paragraph 10 of the report for those properties receiving the services.
(g) To note the heating charges for 2016/17 as set out in paragraph 12 of the report for those properties on communal heating systems.
(h) Approval of the proposals for increases in garages and parking bay rents as detailed in appendix F of the report.
2. That authority be delegated to the Cabinet Member for Housing and Housing Regeneration and the Director of Regeneration and Environment to approve tenders for Major Works.
Reason: The Council must comply with the law in setting its rents for Council tenants and Temporary Accommodation tenants. Setting an annual budget, capital programme and balanced HRA 30-year Business Plan were also legal requirements. Increasing service charges would allow the Council to provide new and better services to tenants, and the charges set out in the report were supported by the Council’s Housing Board and Customer Voice (the Tenant and Leaseholder representative body).
(Key decision – reference number 4174)