Agenda and minutes

Venue: Bromley Civic Centre

Contact: Philippa Gibbs  020 8461 7638

Items
No. Item

37.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND NOTIFICATION OF SUBSTITUTE MEMBERS

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Christopher Marlow, David Cartwright and Robert Evans; Councillors Christine Harris, Keith Onslow and Kieran Terry attended as substitutes.

38.

DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

Minutes:

Councillor Stephen Wells declared an interest in item 5 on the Executive’s agenda - Empty Homes Premium - as the owner of an empty property in the borough.

39.

QUESTIONS FROM COUNCILLORS AND MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC ATTENDING THE MEETING

In accordance with the Council’s Constitution, only questions specifically relating to reports on the agenda can be taken at this special meeting. Questions should be received by the Democratic Services Team within two working days of the normal publication date of the agenda, by 5pm on Wednesday 24th July 2019.

Minutes:

No questions had been received.

40.

PRE-DECISION SCRUTINY OF EXECUTIVE REPORTS

Members of the Committee are requested to bring their copy of the agenda for the Executive meeting on

Minutes:

The Committee considered the following reports on the Part 1 agenda for the meeting of the Executive on 2nd August 2019:

 

(4)  COUNCIL TAX SUPPORT/REDUCTION SCHEME 2020/21

Report FSD19068

 

The Committee considered a report seeking a decision on the Authority’s recommended Council Tax Support/Reduction scheme to be included in the annual public consultation exercise.

 

Members considered that, in view of the financial pressures on the Council, increasing the level of contributions from claimants occupying larger properties should be considered. It was confirmed that some authorities did do this. Additional information would be circulated before the Executive’s meeting.

 

RESOLVED:

 

(1) That the Executive be recommended to agree that the Council Tax Support/Reduction (CTS) be forwarded for public consultation based on 75% liability for working-age claimants; all other elements of the scheme remain unchanged, subject to annual benefit uprating, legislative changes to the Council Tax Support/Reduction scheme and maintaining alignment with the Housing Benefit scheme.

 

(2) That the Executive be recommended to consult on requiring higher contributions (100%) from working age claimants in larger properties above band E.

 

(5)  EMPTY HOMES PREMIUM

Report FSD19063

 

The Committee considered a proposal that a public consultation exercise be undertaken recommending that the Empty Homes Premium be introduced from April 2020.

 

A Member queried the amount (£59k) given in paragraph 5.1 of the report for additional collection costs. The Head of Revenues and Benefits explained that this was more than just sending out additional invoices and agreed to circulate a breakdown of these costs. 

 

The Director of Housing explained that the Council had a number of initiatives to deal with empty properties, including offering grants and advice 9including on insurance for landlords with tenants on benefits) and matching landlords to letting agencies. There was an empty property team and a rolling programme of contacting owners of properties that were empty for a long period (usually more than six months.) In addition, the Council could take enforcement action in the form of management orders or compulsory purchase orders.  A Member asked whether the Council could offer incentives and top-ups of housing benefit to encourage private landlords to take on tenants on benefits - the Director of Housing confirmed that this could be done, but the Council’s policy was to find more effective ways to help than providing on-going large top-ups. 

 

The Committee proposed that the Council should apply the maximum premiums, although it was noted that the 300% extra for properties empty for more than ten years could only be applied from 2021/22 onwards, so a decision was not required for another year.

 

Additional information would be circulated before the Executive’s meeting on the potential additional income from applying the premium, the linking of empty periods and the additional collection costs of £59k.

 

RESOLVED: That the Executive be recommended to agree that:

 

  1. A public consultation exercise be undertaken on the introduction of the Empty Homes Premium;

 

  1. The Authority recommends in the consultation document that the maximum “Premium” be introduced from the financial year 2020/21 at the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 40.

41.

SCRUTINY OF PROPERTY TRANSACTIONS

Minutes:

The Head of Asset and Investment Management apologised to the Committee that his report was not yet available as the time needed to analyse the data and check it with Finance had been under-estimated. The report would be ready for the next meeting in September. He did outline that the Council’s property assets were valued at £458m, produced income of £10.7m pa and investment returns of £7.9m pa. 

 

Councillor Gareth Allatt had seen a draft of the report, and raised a number of issues for inclusion in the final version -

 

·  Valuations. External auditors had queried the basis of valuation; it was explained that Cushman and Wakefield had not initially carried out valuations based on the latest guidelines (from November 2018). This had been rectified and the differences in outcomes were minimal. It was confirmed that site visits/visual inspections had been carried out.

 

·  Small parcels of highway land. These were not included in the valuation required for the statutory accounts but had been valued separately at £40m to give Members an overall picture. 

 

·  Lease documentation. Leases were stored in the Legal Deeds Room, but Cushman and Wakefield held electronic copies of all documents. Signing in/out procedures were in place for the paper documents.

 

·  Rent arrears and aged debtor reports. There was considerable interaction with Liberata to ensure that rent arrears were followed up. 

 

·  Tenancies voiding on expiry/lease breaks. A simple format was needed to show forthcoming tenancies voiding.

 

·  Expected rental values. It was confirmed that regional trends were analysed by Cushman and Wakefield in plotting expected rental values.

 

·  Property Schedules. Schedules needed to show tenant names (it was useful to know whether they were local or well-known national organisations) and separate tabs were needed identifying types of assets - i.e. toilets, Metropolitan Open Land, car parks etc. empty properties needed to be easily identified.

 

 Other Members added further comments -

 

·  The report should identify surplus properties that should be sold.

 

·  The service level agreement with Cushman and Wakefield should be examined to ensure that the contract was being adhered to and the Council was not losing money due to rent increases not being implemented. The Chairman stated that Cushman and Wakefield should attend the committee the next time that the Amey contract was scrutinised. 

 

The Head of Asset and Investment Management confirmed that the report had been requested in May. There had not been any delay with Cushman and Wakefield providing the information. He explained that they had inherited the Council’s database but, although the lease records were good the information had not previously been required in the format requested by the Committee. 

42.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 1972 AS AMENDED BY THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT (ACCESS TO INFORMATION) (VARIATION) ORDER 2006, AND THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000

The Chairman to move that the Press and public be excluded during consideration of the items of business listed below as it is likely in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings that if members of the Press and public were present there would be disclosure to them of exempt information.

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the Press and public be excluded during consideration of the items of business referred to below as it is likely in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings that if members of the Press and public were present there would be disclosure to them of exempt information.

 

The following summaries

refer to matters involving exempt information

 

 

43.

PRE-DECISION SCRUTINY OF EXEMPT EXECUTIVE REPORTS

Minutes:

The Committee considered the following reports on the Part 2 agenda for the meeting of the Executive on 2nd August 2019:

 

(10)  AWARD OF EXCHEQUER SERVICES CONTRACT

Report FSD19074

 

The Committee considered the report and made recommendations to the Executive.

 

(11)  LEASE OF THE PLAYING FIELD AT THE WIDMORE CENTRE TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR HOUSING COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Report ECHS19075

 

The Committee considered the report and made recommendations to the Executive.

 

(12)  AWARD OF CONTRACT: PROVISION OF HOUSING IN BURNT ASH LANE

  Report DRR19/044b

 

The Committee considered the report and made recommendations to the Executive.

 

 

 

 

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