[To review and comment on the performance and key areas for improvement]
Jenny Lewington, Service Manager Housing Strategy Policy presented the report on the performance of Wolverhampton Homes (WH) and the Tenant Management Organisations (TMOs) in managing and maintaining council owned dwellings during quarter one of 2019-2020. Overall WH and the three of the TMO’s had performed well, with only one indicator being outside of target during the quarter. The rest were either within target or within acceptable tolerance levels. Whilst Bushbury Hill Estate Management Board (EMB) had an excellent performance track for quarter one, three indicators were outside of target, two were within acceptable tolerance level and the remaining two were within target. The report also included performance of WH in the delivery of homelessness services as part of a service level agreement with the Council.
The Panel noted the overall performance across the Managing Agents. Members also commented that the impact of Universal Credit on rent arrears was beginning to become clear within the TMOs and WH. The Council would have to look at the problems associated with tenants accruing debt as a result of late payment of Universal Credit. The message would need to be conveyed to tenants that the Council recognised there are serious flaws in the Universal Credit process. However, tenants who received their rent through Universal Credit would be paid and they would have to pay their rent to the Council. The Panel was also pleased to note that targets for completion of Gas Certificates and safety were achieved. Regarding Bushbury Hill EMB’s performance on rent management, the Panel suggested that the Council, through its employees needed to assure itself that the Board had appropriate support and plans in place to improve performance across those indicators that were off target.
In response to the points made, Shaun Aldis, Chief Executive, Wolverhampton Homes, reported that the number of tenants in arrears had stabilised and evictions made were reducing. He also informed the Panel of service planning take place in order to address issues of resources and recruitment and for WH to develop their employees to support tenants and the Managing Agents. He hoped that this gave the Panel some assurance that the Housing teams were working well with tenants. The WH Chief Executive also informed the Panel of the number of tenants claiming Universal Credit, the numbers in arears and the largest amount currently owed by a tenant. When tenants were in the position of owing substantial rent arrears it was difficult for them to see a way out. For that reason, the service would be monitoring abandonments.
Councillor Steve Evans commented that the support and advice provided to tenants by council’s employees and WH, was making a difference to levels of rent arrears. He expressed an interest in seeing figures on the levels of evictions in the private rented sector as it was felt that a lot of those cases ended up presenting themselves to the Council to be accommodated. He also asked about levels of evictions in the Midlands from tenants who had moved from the South East because of the rent caps.
Councillor John Rowley informed the Panel that the Social Inclusion Board was working hard to keep evictions down to a minimum. Regarding Universal Credit, he said that the point must not be lost that a lot of people receiving Universal Credit were also in employment. However, the combination of their salary and Universal Credit payment was not enough for them to live on.
1. That the performance of the housing management agents for quarter one 2019-2020 be noted.
2. That the points raised by the Panel on the performance of Bushbury Hill EMB’s be taken up with the Board.