The full Agenda report and appendices associated with this recommendation were circulated to all Members with the agenda for the meeting of Housing Committee and are available on the website.
Council is asked to note that the Housing Committee undertook a detailed review of the HRA Estimates 2022/23 at its meeting on 12 January 2022 and the Minute of that review is set out below in italics. Council is therefore asked to make provision as requested in Resolution (i) below in respect of these Estimates.
Minute of Housing Committee 12 January 2022
The Senior Accountant for Housing advised that the current year’s revised estimates revealed a difference of some £750k and a slight reduction in the surplus, the primary reason being ongoing repairs to the housing stock.
The revised estimate balance for 31 March 2022 was c£27m, with a further balance of £3m in the Major Repairs Reserve, however there were a number of costs on the horizon, including c£9m in major repairs.
A small repayment to the PWLB would be made in March 2022, which would be coming from capital receipts. Furthermore, it was now envisaged that while the Council would be repaying the PWLB debt to the original timescale, the intention going forward would be to service the original debt, by taking out further replacement loans when the finances required it.
£25m had been earmarked for new builds over the next five years, however approval to release those funds would be sought from this Committee, along with Corporate Management Committee and Full Council.
Current guidance from the government allows providers of Social Housing to increase rents by a maximum of CPI + 1%. Given the high level of Housing repairs required, officers recommended a rent increase of 4.1% with effect from April 2022. This would amount to an average rent increase of £4.50 per week.
However, there was nothing in the estimates to suggest that heating and hot water charges needed to be increased in IRL accommodation, so this would remain unchanged. In response to a Member’s query, the potential trajectory had been analysed and officers were confident that an increase was not required. Furthermore, lots of effort was going into making properties more fuel efficient.
Whilst special provision had not been made for inflation, officers were monitoring the current position, and if needed it would be reflected in the thirty year business plan, which would be coming to the next Housing Committee meeting.
The Corporate Head of Housing advised that a thorough analysis had taken place of the potential tenants who might be affected by a rent increase. Those on housing benefit or universal credit would not be impacted due to a similar increase in their benefits.
Focus was being placed on those in arrears to try to understand their circumstances. Whilst a small minority in high arrears did not engage with the Council, a large number would potentially be able to benefit from the increase in discretionary housing payments.
The Head of Housing Services & Business Planning added that it was anticipated that 99% of rent was expected to be collected this year, even allowing for the pandemic. The Council had a decent track record in recent years in collecting rent.
Resolved that –
i) The draft revenue estimates for 2022/23 were approved, and Full Council were requested to make provision accordingly.
ii) The Committee granted permission for officers to seek written consent from the Secretary of State to top up the DHP allocation by a sum of £30,000, which may only be used to assist in providing DHP to HRA tenants in need; and
iii)The proposed changes in rents and charges (including those for Housing General Fund services) for 2022/23 be approved to be effective either from the first rent week of April 2022, or 1 April 2022 as appropriate.
Council considered a recommendation from the Housing Committee which had met on 12 January 2022 on the HRA Estimates 2022/23.
The Chairman of Housing Committee moved the Estimates for approval which represented a major investment in the Council’s Housing service, subject to a correction regarding the transfer of £235,000 from the Major Repairs budget previously approved (of £9,055,000) to fund the following specific work streams where costs were to be incurred during 2022/23, namely Disabled adaptations (£200,000), Communal decorations (£27,000) and Rolling repairs (£8,000)
This did not represent a change in the overall approved budgets or constitute a request for additional funds, but would ensure each of these budget lines was clearly identified.
RESOLVED that –
Budgetary provision for the draft HRA revenue estimates, as corrected, for 2022/23 be approved.