Agenda item


Report by the Strategic Housing Manager.


The Strategic Housing Manager presented the report, which set out progress against the delivery of the Housing Improvement Plan.


The report outlined the background to the development of the Housing Improvement Plan in response to the Audit Commission’s inspection report in May 2005.  The recommendations contained in the Improvement Plan formed the basis of the Council’s Annual Delivery Plan and the Strategic Housing Service Plan for 2007-08 and 2008-09.  These documents in turn influenced the staff appraisal process and the development of statutory documents, such as the housing and homelessness strategies.


Progress against the targets contained in the Plan had been consistent since its adoption, despite pressure on the team to respond to other national and local targets not contained within the Improvement Plan itself.


The majority of targets had been met.  Several targets were in the final stages of delivery, although some targets remained to be met as they were influenced by corporate rather than strategic housing issues or timescales.


The Strategic Housing Manager explained progress against the items contained in the Strategic Housing Performance and Improvement Plan and highlighted the following matters:


  • Migration to customer services centre:  This was on hold pending the corporate service review of Business Transformation and also related to requirements for development of a corporate access strategy. 

  • Development of a diversity strategy:  The BME housing research study was completed and a Norfolk-wide Action Plan was in process of development.  A report on this subject had been made to a previous meeting showing positive results.

  • Affordable housing policy:  A review of affordable housing policies was presently being undertaken through the LDF process and a new affordable housing policy was due to be completed during the year following the LDF consultation process.  The timeframe on the LDF process was variable but the housing team were working closely with the planning policy officers.

    In connection with this item, members discussed the potential economic implication of a 40% affordable housing policy on planning applications.  It was explained that it would not be a blanket policy but the Council had to take account of what was a reasonable percentage of affordable housing to be applied to a site.  Detailed background affordability assessments were made on all planning applications before recommendations were proposed and members could request this information when considering applications.

  • Norfolk-wide physical and sensory disability strategy:  Breckland was the lead authority on this item for the Norfolk Supporting People client group and was a member of the commissioning body of the group.  The draft strategy had been completed and would now go out to public consultation.  This work was being undertaken in tandem with the Norfolk Supporting People Strategy.  Regional funding changes under the Local Area Agreement framework would play an important role in this area in future.

  • Empty property and fuel poverty strategies:  These formed part of the private sector housing strategy, which was currently under review.  The strategies on empty properties and fuel poverty were also under review, looking at how people accessed grants and loans etc.  Fuel poverty was one of the national performance indicators.

  • Intervention strategies to target disrepair in the private sector:  A district-wide rural scheme was in development and being discussed with the Government Office for the Eastern region.

  • Review and improve target timescales allocated to dealing with DFGs: This was a complex system.  Changes had been proposed to the application process to help applicants and improve the process of distribution of grants but the amount of funding available was constrained.

A further update would be given to the Panel at its July meeting.  In the meantime, focus would be given to the corporate issues affecting the Improvement Plan.


Members discussed the question of value for money (VFM) of the housing service and whether the cost of the service would reduce if extra funding could be drawn down.  The Strategic Housing Manager explained that a VFM review was to take place this year.  A number of funding bids had been submitted for a number of initiatives.  However, the point was made that the cost of the service was influenced by the needs to improve and meet demand for the service.


            RESOLVED that


(1)         the report be noted; and

(2)         bearing in mind the Audit Committee’s role in regard to the issue of Value for Money, the Overview and Scrutiny Commission be asked to consider whether it or the Panel should review the results of the VFM review of the housing service prior to or after consideration by the Audit Committee.

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