Review of services provided by Private Sector Housing Team
What do the Private Sector Housing Team do?
The Private Sector Housing Team (PSH) is responsible for a variety of services including:
Enforcement of standards; in all living accommodation throughout the domestic sector, primarily in the private rented sector.
- Disabled adaptations; providing cost effective improvements to help disabled occupants safely live in their homes.
- Empty Homes; using enforcement and other initiatives to return long term empty properties into use.
- Home Energy Conservation; supporting improvement in energy efficiency of the domestic sector, reducing carbon emissions and fuel poverty through advice, grant and loan funding.
- Home Renovation; funding options to bring private sector housing up to decent home standards.
- Licensing Houses in Multiple Occupation; mandatory control of higher risk properties condition and management.
- Accreditation; voluntary scheme to support landlords and create higher standards for poorer landlords to attain.
Why is the council consulting on changes to the service?
As public sector spending continues to reduce as the government continues its austerity measures to reduce the national deficit, South Gloucestershire Council has been set an additional savings target of £36m by 2019/20. This is on top of the savings of £43m we delivered by the end of 2014/15.
This level of savings, called the Council Savings Programme, will require significant changes to services over the next six years as the role of the council evolves to meet these reductions in its resources.
Savings of this scale mean that we must completely re-think our approach given the challenges ahead. We recognise that we can’t continue to do everything that we have done in the past, much as we might wish we could. We need to prioritise our actions and activities where we can deliver most benefit for local people whilst meeting our savings targets.
To meet this challenge the council is reviewing all of the discretionary services it currently provides and is exploring the way it delivers statutory services to ensure that they are provided in the most efficient and effective way.
As part of the Council Savings Programme, the Private Sector Housing (PSH) team have to achieve an annual saving of £168,000 from 2015/16.
The service currently comprises 13 (FTE) staff and the current annual budget is £858,600, reducing to £708,600 in 2015/16. The savings required (£168,000) will further reduce the budget by approx. 24% to £540,600 by April 2015.
To meet these financial savings the council is considering a number of options which will impact on the Private Sector Housing service.
What are the options?
Option 1: Reduce or terminate the Home Improvement Agency contract from April 2015 (Discretionary Service)
The Council currently have a contract with WE Care & Repair (West of England) ‘WECR’ as a Home Improvement Agency Service at a cost of £189,000 per annum which provides the following services:
- information and advice on housing related issues
- general casework including general benefit advice and signposting to charitable funding
- hospital related casework to expedite discharge and reduce bed blocking by fast tracking adaptations.
- technical support for disabled facilities grant applicants in respect of adaptations
- home independence and mobility support providing assessments at the Celestine or Waterloo centre
The contract is due to expire in October 2016. There is no penalty for early termination, subject to negotiation in the light of restricted budget availability. The total annual savings from terminating the contract early could be up to £189,000
The Private Sector Housing team is responsible for disabled facilities grant cases as it makes the mandatory decisions in respect of eligible works and availability of grant funding, authorising interim and final payments. Of the 286 disabled adaptations delivered in 2013/14 by the PSH team through disabled facilities grants and Community Care (Delayed Discharges) Act 2003, 10 received additional input/support through the Home Improvement Agency service.
Grant applicants would continue to receive advice and support from the Private Sector Housing team. For other aspects of the Home Improvement Agency service, service users could be directed to other council servicers and providers of information and advice.
Hospital discharge and OT elements of independence work could be continued by retaining a contract from any remaining budget.
Option 2: Reduce or terminate the Home Improvement Agency contract from October 2016 (Discretionary Service)
An alternative would be to let the contract run until it is due to expire in October 2016. However delays in delivering the savings between April 2015 and October 2016 would equate to approx. £256,000 that would be very difficult to find elsewhere in Private Sector Housing budgets.
Option 3: Withdrawal of all other discretionary elements of work
This option presents a maximum total saving of £48,000 and further savings will still need to be identified.
Services that could be affected are landlord accreditation and empty homes management. A small element of the Home Energy Conservation work and fuel poverty service is considered to be discretionary and could offer a saving of around £8,000.
The consultation options paper provides further information on what services are mandatory and which are discretionary.
Option 4: Income Generation/Maximisation
Some income generation may be realistic and this is being explored by the Council. It is very unlikely that any income generation will meet the savings target identified, although it may make a contribution towards it.
It may be possible to increase charges and / or introduce new charges to the customer for some of our services, (including licensing of houses of multiple occupation and tighter enforcement action) thereby generating income that can be off-set against our savings target. However, at this stage, detailed propositions have not been drawn up as this option is regarded as high risk both in terms of actual income to be realised and the potential for adverse impact on vulnerable and low income customers.
Option 5: Charge Disabled Facilities Grant work to the capital budget
Currently the mandatory work undertaken by the Private Sector Housing Team in relation to Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) is funded from the revenue budget. The DFG works themselves are funded from a capital budget. An agent’s fee, if incurred, (in accordance with the Housing Renewal Grant (Services and Charges) Order 1996 which covers items that can be included e.g. from simply completing application forms up to technical and structural surveys needed for adaptations) can be legitimately capitalised along with the works costs. There is therefore a case that some of the work currently undertaken by officers could also be capitalised.
South Gloucestershire Council already tops up the grant it receives from Government to cover disability adaptations by 25%. It may in future be possible to fund some of the work associated with disability adaptations from the council’s reserves or capital budget. However this is unlikely to meet the entire savings target in the long term and could limit the resources available for other council services.
Option 6: Maintain the Status Quo
If the council chose to maintain the status quo and protect Private Sector Housing funding, savings of £168,000 would still need to be found from other council service areas. If you think the council should make savings from other services, please specify these and the reasons why in your response to this consultation.
Find out more and have your say
We welcome comments on the proposals outlined between 1 August and 10 October 2014.
A copy of the initial draft equality impact assessment is available and we would also welcome comments on this.
We are particularly keen to find out if you feel that all relevant areas are being considered and whether you think there are any specific impacts or alternatives that the council should consider.
Information is also available from your local South Gloucestershire library and One Stop Shop.
You can find out more or tell us your views by:
- Completing our online consultation feedback survey
- Download a copy of our feedback form and post it to the address below
- Email: email@example.com
- Write to: FREEPOST RTCT-JXLE-EET, South Gloucestershire Council, Corporate Research & Consultation Team, Private Sector Housing Consultation, Civic Centre, High Street, Kingswood, BRISTOL, BS15 9TR
- Phone: 01454 868154
If you would like someone to talk to your group or organisation about these proposals, please contact us using the details above to arrange.
Consultation is now closed - An update
Thank you for your input to the recently held public consultation regarding the options to change the way we deliver services provided by the Private Sector Housing function within South Gloucestershire Council.
The consultation closed on the 10th October with over 250 responses received and over 100 received in the last 4 weeks of the consultation period. A number of these of these are detailed reports rather than survey responses. We have been working through the responses but the comments made are wide ranging and raise alternatives that require further investigation and assessment.
Originally we planned to take a report to the Communities Committee in November, where elected Members would make the decision regarding Private Sector Housing services to be delivered in the future to enable a saving of £168,000 in our overall annual operating costs.
However, in order to take into account the complete consultation response and ensure the proposals for change are modified appropriately it has been decided to postpone a decision until the Communities Committee meeting of the 27th January 2015, to ensure the Committee has sufficient and robust information available to it to make a decision on the changes to be made.
Further details about this meeting and the results of the consultation will be published here in due course.
1 Aug 2014 at 00:00
10 Oct 2014 at 23:59
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