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Agenda item

Housing and Regeneration Panel report on the HDV

Minutes:

Cllr Ibrahim, Chair of the Housing and Regeneration Scrutiny Panel introduced the report. The Committee was advised that the report was a follow-up to the interim review carried out by the Housing and Regeneration Scrutiny Panel with the intention of providing recommendations on the governance arrangements for the proposed HDV. The Chair of the Housing and Regeneration Scrutiny Panel advised that a number of issues arose during the review which, although falling outside of the agreed terms of reference, the Panel felt prudent to include in the final report.

 

The Chair of the Housing and Regeneration Scrutiny Panel commented that a key recommendation was around the development of an updated business case for the HDV in light of changing political and economic circumstances. A number of recommendations also reflected concerns that the Panel felt around exclusivity agreements and risk.

 

The Committee was asked to consider whether the report fell out with the specific terms of reference of the review and whether the Committee accepted the recommendations and findings, on the basis of their importance and relevance to the subject matter.

 

The Committee AGREED to the revised scope of the review, as reflected in the report.

 

The following arose during the discussion of the report.

a.    A committee member sought assurances around the breadth of evidence that was used to draw the conclusions presented in the report. The committee member also raised concerns that the examples drawn upon in the report did not necessarily reflect the model proposed under the HDV.  In response the Chair of the Housing & Regeneration Scrutiny Panel advised that evidence was drawn from a range of different sources including the Centre for London and Oxford District Council, neither of which were opposed to the HDV in principle. The Chair of the Housing & Regeneration Scrutiny Panel emphasised that there was no direct comparison with other schemes due to the nature and scope of the proposed scheme under the HDV and that to some extent this was reflected in the number of recommendations in the Panel’s report.

b.    In relation to the example of the Sheffield Housing company, which adopted a model with a 50/50 partnership agreement, the Committee was advised that this example had been noted as part of the evidence gathering process. The panel considered that the Sheffield Housing company had adopted a different structure and that that scheme only related to Brownfield sites, as result, the panel felt that the scheme was a very different model and could not be compared directly with the HDV.

c.    The Chair invited Cllr McNamara to address the Committee. Cllr McNamara emphasised that the report and its recommendations received the unanimous support of the Housing & Regeneration Scrutiny Panel. Similarly, the Committee was advised that the evidence gathering process was both objective and robust. It was summarised that, in the view of the Scrutiny Panel member, there were two main conclusions to draw from the process; firstly that alternatives to the HDV did exist and that secondly, more work needed to be undertaken to scrutinise and better understand the implications of the HDV.

d.    The Chair of the Housing & Regeneration Scrutiny Panel clarified that recommendation 16f, which proposed a ballot of tenants and leaseholders, was not agreed unanimously by all panel members.

e.    The Committee was advised that the external political climate was looking increasingly uncertain; particularly in light of the UK’s exit from and future relationship with the EU. The recent General Election result, the resulting protracted process of forming a government and the increased likelihood of another General Election also suggested an increasingly unstable political climate. In light of these reasons, the panel member advocated that the HDV should be put on hold to allow other options to be explored and the business plan to be reconsidered.

f.     The Chair of the Children and Young People Scrutiny Panel had three broad areas of concern: A lack of  robustness in the related Equality Impact Assessments; the apparent misapprehension that the HDV was not the only way to mitigate the Council’s exposure to Right to Buy, and the need to ensure that there was the requisite levels of officer experience and independent advice underpinning the Council’s decision making going forward. In response to the last point, the Chair of the Housing & Regeneration Scrutiny Panel drew the Committee’s attention to recommendation 9 of the report. The Committee were advised that recommendation 9 should be amended to read: “A professional independent advisor should be appointed, by the Council to support  the HDV Board to ensure Haringey board members had a clear understanding of the matters put before them and the implications of any decision made by the board.”

g.    Concerns were raised that the original business case for the HDV dismissed the option of establishing a company that was wholly owned by the Council. A number of other local authorities, such as Brighton & Hove City Council  had adopted this model and the Committee was asked to reflect on why, by contrast, there were no examples of 50/50 ventures being implemented. In response to a suggestion that the crucial difference was the scale of development being proposed under the HDV, the Chair of the Housing & Regeneration Scrutiny Panel drew the Committee’s attention to recommendation 19; which proposed the establishment of a wholly-owned housing company to purchase and manage HDV affordable homes and target rent social homes. 

h.    Clarification was sought around whether there would be any decant costs and who would pay those and when. Clarification was also sought on the level of financial risk to the Council if the HDV was paused at this stage. In response it was noted that as per legal advice sought in relation to the previous report on the HDV, there was no liability to the Council if it withdrew prior to signing the agreement at Cabinet on 3rd July.

i.      The Board noted that recommendation 4 around establishing a robust set of measures to audit the work of the HDV should  be amended to reflect the fact that it would be the responsibility of Corporate Committee to oversee the audit process not Cabinet.

j.      The Legal advisor to the Board commented that recommendations 28 and 29 were actions for the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and asked the Committee to note that it would be for OSC to implement.

 

The Committee AGREED that the text of Rev. Nicholson’s deputation be appended to recommendation 14 of the report and that Cabinet be asked to note its contents.

 

RESOLVED

 

      I.        That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee considered the findings of the Housing & Regeneration Scrutiny Panel at Table 1 of the report.

 

    II.        That, with the Committee’s comments and amendments incorporated, the report be submitted to Cabinet, on 3rd July for response.

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