Agenda item

HRA Budget 2023/24

Minutes:

Sarah Spicer gave a presentation on this issue and made the following points:

 

·       The purpose of the presentation was to identify a strategic interest, provide feedback regarding investment in blocks and identify potential future agenda items

·       The HRA was a separate ring-fenced account for managing council housing, income from tenants and leaseholder rents and service charges

·       Its role was to repair, maintain and invest in assets; and for tenancy and estate management

·       A Thirty Year Plan was maintained, enabling the projection of income and expenditure, with no deficit

·       There were approximately 28,500 homes, both rented and for leaseholders. Rents were low in comparison to Housing Associations and the private rented sector

·       There were a number of challenges which the Council faced in this area – since rent was low, the stock was expensive to maintain with high levels of support needs. The costs included above inflationary uplifts. Due to the uncertainty of future rent setting levels, there was no policy for rent levels beyond 2025

·       Housing demand is high

·       Preparations were required for new regulatory requirements for fire safety

·       Reserves were needed to cover £5 million insurance excess

·       Pressures had been addressed by building in efficiency savings targets from 2024 or 2025. There was a commitment to reviewing service charges since these needed to be increased to cover additional costs

·       Programmes had been slowed, stopped or slipped in accordance with this

·       There had been a need for changes across the system since due to previous underspends, an optimism bias had been applied across the capital programme

·       The following expenditure had been committed - £180,000 to continue provision of the rapid response team, £120,000 assisted gardens, £190,000 to increase the Environmental Improvement and Neighbourhood Improvement Bids and £204,000 to improve communal waste and recycling facilities

·       £1.3 Million remained non-committed – opportunities for commitment of this investment included capital investment in CCTV infrastructure (cameras and cables) and contingency for damp and mould. The views of Board members was sought in respect of these options

·       The report would be submitted to Full Council on 21st February 2023. Public Forum statements were welcomed

 

Board members made the following comments:

 

·       In Northfield House there were door cameras but no recording facility. Since there was a wardens office, there should be an investigation into the possibility of recordings being made and held for a specific time period. This  would allow people to look back at past incidents if required

·       The pay of wardens needed to be maintained. Officers pointed out that the recent industrial action had involved Housing Officers not wardens and that negotiations to resolve these were currently taking place

·       It was good to see Bristol City Council making the council estate accessible

·       £1 Million set aside for parks needed to be identified to clarify how much would be used for council estates parks as funding requests for community resources such as these often took a long time to be authorised. Bristol City Council’s internal funding capacity needed to improve

·       Some “Safer Streets” funding was being used for CCTV purposes. Given the concerns about the impact of damp and mould on residents’ health, there needed to be considerable investment in this area. 90% of case work involving tenants involved some form of damp or mould

·       Since housing was connected to the issue of Safer Streets, an internal project board had been set up to investigate this. When play parks were on HRA land, the condition of the space was examined to assess their use

 

ACTION: Sarah Spicer/Jeremy Livitt to include an agenda item on the next HMB meeting relating to damp and mould.

 

·       There remained a deficit throughout the South West region of support for people wishing to study Housing Policy and Management in order to make it as a career progression. Funding was also required for areas such as Eastfield Park which lacked benches or bins. Councillor Renhard confirmed that he had recently investigated whether or not HRA funding could used for this purpose and was awaiting a response

·       Reference was made to a footpath which was overgrown and where ownership continued to be unclear

 

Officers confirmed that a review was currently being carried out into tenant participation and that recruitment was taking place to fill three vacancies. Discussions were taking place with community development to establish where estates most needed these posts.