[To review and comment on the contents of the draft Annul Governance Statement]
Peter Farrow, Head of Audit presented for review and comment, the Annual Governance Statement for the 2017-2018. The Council was required under Regulation 6 of the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015, to produce the Statement to be included in the Annual Statement of Accounts, to be signed by the Leader of the Council and the Managing Director.
Kate Martin, Service Director of Housing, was in attendance for this item and gave a brief overview of the housing related key areas and actions for improvements within the Annual Governance action plan.
Responding to questions regarding risks to the Council of the tenant management organisations (TMOs) not carrying out works to the properties they manage on behalf of the Council and managing concerns about the performance of TMO Boards. The Service Director of Housing reported that under Housing (Right to Manage) Regulations 1994, TMOs answered to their Board. Since they managed the housing stock on behalf of the Council responsibility ultimately rested with the Council. If the Council had concerns regarding the performance of a TMO board, there was a process for resolving concerns or disputes. Limited resources were in place to undertake the level of program monitoring proposed. Once all of the audit reviews are complete the Service Director would assess the position. Cabinet had already agreed resources to support Bushbury Estate Management Boards.
Mike Ager, Independent Member commented that he believed this was the first time the Committee had received this level of detail on housing issues. Peter Farrow, Head of Audit reported that Wolverhampton Homes prepared its own assurance statements that fed into the Council’s Annual Governance Statement. If there are any significant issues regarding Wolverhampton Homes processes they would be fed into the Council’s Annual Governance Statement.
Councillor Philip Bateman MBE asked the Head of Audit if he was confident arrangements were in place to ensure the Committee received sufficient notice on housing concerns, and how the Committee would receive information on housing matters. The Head of Audit reported that information would be presented in the strategic risk register report and performance of Wolverhampton Homes and the TMOs was monitored by the Cabinet (Performance Management) Panel. The Council also had elected representatives on Wolverhampton Homes Board.
Grant Thornton added that the Council was the parent company of Wolverhampton Homes and the TMOs and it should not feel disempowered. It could ask for audit work or information on controls in place.
Councillor Philip Bateman MBE also referred to recent analysis from the Local Government Association (LGA) which concluded that councils’ ability to replace homes sold under Right to Buy (RTB) would be all but eliminated within five years without major reform of the scheme. Against the background of the LGA report he asked how robust the Council’s resources were to continue to move forwards in replacing homes sold under RTB. He asked for a report on the position in the short to medium term. It was agreed that the Service Director of Housing report back to the Committee on this issue.
1. That the contents of the Council’s Annual Governance Statement for 2017-2018 be received and noted.
2. That the Service Director of Housing submit to a future meeting a report on the Council’s ability to replace homes sold under Right to Buy in the short to medium term.