Further to discussion at Cabinet on the 15 November 2022, the committee are asked to note the following:
1. A clarification to the following paragraph. “13.8 The large increase in costs and in current PWLB interest rates will likely affect the potential viability of individual new build schemes when they are financially evaluated and members may want to consider the trade-off between delivering new Passive House plus developments and rent levels in order to deliver these schemes.
Clarification. This referred to the fact that the funding level of new unidentified schemes was based on this investment level, it did not mean to imply that the council had any agreed policy of future Passive House development.
2. An amendment to the following paragraph. “13.7 This has resulted in a significant increase in the investment requirement within the HRA 30-year Business Plan to deliver the same quantity of new homes as last year. The budgeted cost has increased from £536m to £719m within the plan, an overall increase of £182m or 34%. Table 12.6 over shows the forecast overall change in investment required and how this is to be funded. This shows that a significant part of the funding for this increased cost is coming from increased HRA borrowing, compared to last year there is an increase of 70% or £122m in the borrowing required to fund the programme.”
Amendment. The reference should be to table 13.8 not 12.6
1. It is recommended that the committee comment on the proposals within the attached Cabinet Committee: Housing report, ref CAB3365.
2. It is noted that the committee will be presented with the detailed Housing Revenue Account report at its meeting on the 7th February 2023 prior to Full Council on the 23rd February 2023.
Councillor Paula Ferguson, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community and Housing; introduced the report, ref SC078, and CAB3365 which set out proposals for the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Business Plan And Budget Options, (available here). Councillor Ferguson updated the committee regarding the following:
1. The latest position regarding the Government’s position on the rent setting ceiling.
2. The current and future cost pressures within the HRA and the impact on tenants from the cost-of-living rises
3. Clarification that section 7.4 on page 28 should read that all new homes should be built to high energy efficiency standards and not to “high energy Passivhaus Plus standard”
The committee was recommended to comment on the proposals within the attached cabinet report whilst noting that they would be presented with the detailed Housing Revenue Account report at its meeting on 7 February 2023 before Full Council on 23 February 2023.
The committee proceeded to ask questions and debate the report. In summary, the following matters were raised:
1. Would the potential additional staffing resource referred to on page 27, be agency staff or directly employed by the council, and would these be full-time or part-time roles?
2. What was the impact on the council's ambition of building 1,000 homes over the 10-year period from the need to mitigate the impact of phosphates and were there other agencies that could assist in resolving the issue that weren’t already engaged?
3. Could the meeting calendar for 2023/24 be adjusted to allow scrutiny of this paper before it was agreed by the cabinet?
4. Now that the details of the rent ceiling were known, would there be significant changes to the proposals in the paper? If additional modelling did take place, would members be further engaged in the discussions and future proposals?
5. Was there a need to allocate more funds in the budget to the retrofit programme
6. Was there an inconsistency in the numbers used in the general assumptions within this paper and the General Fund report, ref CAB 3374
7. Would a 6% rise in rents enable the council to expand the retrofitting programme?
8. Could a discussion be held on the retrofit programme and new build standards at a future meeting of the Cabinet Housing Committee?
9. Regarding the reserves within the HRA, what was the right approach to the use of these reserves during this unsettled period to maintain the level of activity required?
10. If there was a desire for a greater level of energy efficiency measures and/or higher quality standards, could reserves be used to bring this forward?
These points were responded to by Councillor Paula Ferguson, Councillor Martin Tod, Gillian Knight, Corporate Head of Housing, Richard Botham, Strategic Director and Laura Taylor, Chief Executive accordingly and were noted by Councillor Ferguson, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community and Housing.
1. That officers review the draft 2023/24 calendar of meetings to determine whether in future years this paper could be subject to cross-party review before the cabinet meeting.
2. That members be further engaged once the outputs from the further modelling of rent setting scenarios were known
3. That further discussion is held at an appropriate forum, for example, the Cabinet Housing Committee regarding the retrofit programme.
4. That the cabinet member and officers note the comments of the committee.