Cabinet - Tuesday 14 March 2023, 4:45pm - Start video at 0:05:08 - Tunbridge Wells Borough Council Webcasting

Tuesday, 14th March 2023 at 4:45pm 









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Seat 3 - 0:00:00
Seat 3 - 0:00:04
Good afternoon.
my name is Councillor Ben Chappelow and I'm the leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, and I will be chairing this meeting this afternoon, welcome to this meeting of the Cabinet on Tuesday, the 14th of March 2023 before we start, please can you give your full attention to the following safety and broadcasting announcements,
thank you Chair,
in the event of the fire alarm ringing continuously, you must immediately evacuate the building at walking, pace and officers will scour a scorching via the most direct available route, this is a public meeting, proceedings are being webcast live online and recording will also be available for playback on the council's website shortly afterwards. you should all be aware that any third party is able to record or film council meetings unless exempt or confidential information is being considered, and the council will not accept liability for any third party recordings
in order to ensure the continuous livestream. Can I ask everyone not to connect to the Wi-Fi? While we're broadcasting is very important, the outcomes of the meeting are clear. At the end of each agenda item, the Chair will ask whether the matter is agreed in the absence of clear majority or if the chair decides a full, Vitous desirable. My vote will be taken by a show of hands members should raise their hand to indicate their vote when called and keep their hand at work until the count has been announced. Members requesting a recorded vote must do so before the vote is taken. Thank you Chair,
thank you, Caroline, for the benefit of the recording. The following. Members of the cabinet are present at Councillor. Wendy Fitzsimmons, Councillor David Heywood, Councillor Christopher Hall, Councillor Hugo Pound Councillor Justin Rutland, Councillor Nancy Waun and Councillor Ben Chappelow.
We also have present the following Members of tomorrow's Borough Council staff, William Benson Lee Collier, Gary Stevenson, to debt value, and Caroline Brit
for the benefit of any members who may be watching, I'd like to explain a couple of things, each report on the agenda today has previously been considered by the relevant Cabinet Advisory Board. and the views expressed by the board have been taken into consideration.
members of the cabinet have had their agendas for over a week and we've had the opportunity to study the papers too and to ask any factual questions of staff ahead of this afternoon's meeting.
when each agenda
item is being considered, the cabinet member will provide an overview of the report, members of staff who have written a report will be available to answer any questions that members of the Cabinet may have will then move into member discussion, and I will first parcel questions before opening the floor for the bait at the end of the debate I will ask Cabinet Members to confirm that they have fully understood the matter and are content that any proposals and or actions have been fully captured. we will then proceed to the remit recommendations and vote.

1 Leaders Introduction and Announcements

agenda Item number 1 leaders, announcements and cabinet announcement, we have none.
Item number 2

2 Apologies

apologies for absence, we've had apologies for Councillor Luke, Everett.

3 Declarations of Interest

item number 3 declarations of interest members of the Cabinet ask if they have any declarations of interest to make on items in this afternoon's agenda, does anyone have any declarations to make?
we have known, thank you very much.

4 Notification of Visiting Members wishing to speak

5 Minutes of the meeting dated 9 February 2023

item number 4 is a notification of visiting persons registered to speak, and I can confirm that we have none, so we'll move swiftly on to item number 5, which are minutes of the meeting dated the 9th of February 2023.
does anybody have any met amendments to these minutes at all?
Councillor Hugo pounds,
I don't have the wording correct, but I hope an officer will be able to advise me under the Asset Management Plan 23 24, the commentary from Councillor Sarah Hamilton, the first bullet reads The Wesley Centre should be listed under the category of community and I think that that is only a
a half sentence, unless community is a category that I don't recognise.
community Asset solicitors, let us look to that and we will crack the records.
thank you so.
how is there any other amendments to the minutes
I see none, so if we can agree that we will take those minutes as they are plus Hugo's amendments, are we agreed,
thank you very much,
a question Item number 6 is questions from members of the council and I can confirm that we have none.
so we'll move on to question Item

6 Questions from Members of the Council

7 Questions from Members of the Public

7, which are questions from members of the public,
and I can confirm that we have no registered speakers or questions on that one either.

8 Consideration of the Forward Plan as at 6 March 2023

item number 8 is a consideration of the forward plan as, at the 6th of March,
do any members of the cabinet or have any comments on that one
night, I see none OK, so are we agreed on the forward plan
agreed, thank you.
OK, so we're moving on to.

9 Local Authority Housing Fund Application

item number 9, which is the local authority housing fund application, and I'm not going to ask cabinet member Hugo, Pound member for housing and planning to talk speak and present this item
should go, please
thank you very much Ben
so before you agenda item 9 is the local authority housing fund
before I introduced the item and the accompanying paper
I just want to mention a few words of thanks by background and a little bit of an explanation as to why we are here at a special cabinet meeting
and also to confirm that.
Gary Stevenson, is the officer responsible and is in the room with us today and can answer questions if Members have any further questions.
so I just by way of background, first of all, I'm very grateful to the Chair of Overview and Scrutiny Committee for waiving the right for calling on this matter. which means? that we are not delayed in being able to make this decision today, I think that Councillor Holt recognised that, with the deadline that we've been given by the government, which is that we need to make a decision by and submit a memorandum of understanding by the 15th of March, that, had he not waived, the right to a call in it may have seriously prejudice the Council's ability to pass it or participate in this in this scheme, so we're grateful for that.
this whole matter has been in front of the Housing Advisory Panel, it went before the communities and economic development Cabinet Advisory Board, and only last week
it was in front of overview and scrutiny last night, and it is before us today, and there are quite a lot of comments and questions and challenges that I'll share with you from each of those different for that we have presented to.
but very quickly, in terms of background, the local authority housing fund, as I think I've almost everybody here and is fully aware, it's a very large government scheme, which is essentially the government, providing some funding to ensure that authorities that have made a significant contribution to the housing of migrants, particularly Ukrainian and Afghan families
whose housing stock is under stress.
have some opportunity perhaps to both provide housing in the short term to those Ukrainian and Afghan families, but in the much longer term, in perpetuity, it will provide housing stock for this Council to use for those on the housing waiting list.
so the government has recognised the fact that this borough has done significant good work
over the last few years in welcoming refugees and therefore they are offering us the opportunity to purchase 15 properties, of which they will make a contribution of 40% of the cost of those properties for an 14 of them, and for one larger property which needs to be four-bedroomed,
they are making a contribution 50%, of the cost, on top of that they're also providing 20,000 pounds per property for any upgrade or refit that might be required to make it wholly appropriate for the families whom we will be accommodating.
so the government is providing essentially 40% of the funds to buy these properties and the council is being required to provide 60% of the funds
we do have quite a large pot of section 1 0 6 money available to us that is money that has been paid over the years by developers
for the provision of affordable housing of various tenures when they have been unable to do so within developments that we have approved and they have built out so we have a large pot of money which currently stands at over 4 million pounds and is soon to be supplemented by further contributions from developers as new developments come on board.
and therefore for this Council to use 3.2 million pounds of that or up to 3.2 million pounds to provide a 60% that is required to purchase the 15 properties seems like a very reasonable and right thing to do, and particularly because, as I said earlier, these properties once acquired, will remain in perpetuity and as part of our housing stock, and will therefore be used for families within the borough.
there isn't a great deal more to say other than what I think the easiest thing to do is to run through some of the questions that were raised by a Cabinet Advisory Board by the Housing Advisory Panel and by Overview and Scrutiny Committee, so this matter has been pretty rigorously
challenged and tested already and in in the most constructive way I have to say that the passage of this
paper through those three panels and boards and has been really very constructive and helpful, and I'm very grateful to lots of members who have views and comments about it, so some of the questions, for instance arising from those meetings are it says within the paper that all the properties will obviously meet the minimum MBC standard
there has been a challenge which I think is fair, that we should aspire to it being more than the minimum BBC standard if we are going to be acquiring those properties for the longer term and I think that officers have already taken that on board and recognise that's right.
we also will be seeking a where possible to acquire properties that already have
alternative energy sources, such as air source, heat pumps,
and there will be some consideration about whether that might be part of the upgrade that could be used
as part of the purchase.
to ensure that there is as little refit as necessary or as possible and at the point at which we hand them on as general housing stock available to our residents.
we will not be purchasing properties outside the borough, and I think that that has now been.
fairly formally agreed,
it is not an attractive prospect to buy properties, albeit that they may be cheaper, particularly on the south coast, if it then meant that all of the houses that we owned and we were providing to both Afghans and Ukrainians and later to our own residents were down on the south coast rather than in our borough so we will not be buying outside the borough.
the most of the properties we will be acquiring will be two and three bedroom family homes, as they will not be one bedroomed units. There is a requirement, and, as part of the agreement with the government, to buy one four-bedroomed homes, and that is the home that is largely because Afghan families who are in bridging hotel accommodation currently tend to live into generationally. They have larger families and it is recognised that we do need to provide at least one four-bedroom property, but as the government's providing 50% of that cost, which is 285,000, they are assuming that that property will cost us something in the region of 550,000 pounds, and that is definitely achievable. We believe in the current market
if we can't acquire properties for whatever reason in the period that the government has given us,
then there may be a reduction in funding, in other words, be made written some of it, the only real
requirement is that we do find one of those larger properties of four bedrooms because that is the at predicates everything else that that they will be determining to give us.
the location of the houses that we are looking for will take into account education and transport facilities, they will also take into account the social network of both of those communities and as a way of supporting them into independent living and, hopefully, employment and happier lives essentially
and therefore they will not be however tempting it might be they will not be in isolated rural communities, they will undeniably be on at accessible locations across the borough.
and finally from last night there was a fairly strong steer from Overview and Scrutiny which I take on board. We haven't confirmed this absolutely, but I think it probably is right,
and that we should be seeking freehold properties, not leasehold properties, because then, of course, as we are going to own them in perpetuity, to own, the freehold seems any reasonable,
so that gives you a flavour of where we're going. I know that everyone here is familiar with the background if you have any further questions you can ask me and Gary is also available to respond to anything that you have. Thank you to.
thank you, Hugo does anybody have any questions for Hugo or Garrick at this stage?
Councillor Justin Rutland.
thank you thanks everybody, yeah I was just reading the report today and I was thinking about a once we have the properties, how will we go about allocating them to to households, will there be a set out process, or how would it work?
yeah, thank you, so I think we need to finalise the allocation process and have we've got something that's was documented, but it will take account of the circumstances of the families concerned, location of the property that's available at the time and the size of that property, so there will be some some measures that we can put against those there's a criteria to assess against, but we'll make sure that's documented once we're ready to go with properties.
thank you as anybody else got any questions.
Hugo, can I just
ask you to go back over what happens once the Ukrainian families hopefully will go back to Ukraine to the properties, I think there were some questions about that, just to clarify for people who might not be familiar with the scheme if you
cannot be grey.
while I'm sure Gary will correct me if I am, if I get it wrong, but my understanding is that
once we have determined the criteria by which we offer, both Afghan and Ukrainian families, these properties.
that they will have right of tenure,
they will be set, I believe, at a social level, rents
of some of those families that will mean that they will be in receipt of some form of benefit to help to pay for that,
but increasingly we hope that people will be employed and therefore be independent of, the welfare.
although it's unclear, the government is saying that and at the point at which there is no local need for Ukrainian families to be housed,
then they become available to the Council, I think there is no requirement, but there is an expectation that we might lift our heads up and out of the borough and say we have now got properties that might be available, do you still have Ukrainian families who would benefit from being here?
but I don't think that that is actually defined absolutely within the memorandum of understanding
having spoken to.
a number of people from Tunbridge Wells, welcomes refugees, which is a fantastic charitable concern here, and in Tunbridge Wells and others. The view is that particularly our both Afghan families and Ukrainian families will not want to necessarily reside in the properties that we provide for them early on. They will want to both aspire and move on to different sorts of properties and be supported by a network of a community of their choosing, and therefore the anticipation is that it won't be very long. Particularly, we hope for Ukrainians who either would return home or find their own property that they will become available to us. The answer in relation to the Afghan families, I think is is a longer journey,
but the idea is that we will seek guidance from government about what is the point at which we can release properties, because there is no longer any need for either Ukrainian or Afghan families to take them
great thank you, and I fairness I hope Gary would agree with that answer.
and I think that's really important that
one so that need has been met, then they will still now register for our housing waiting list, which is, I think, good news for the BOP OK, so let's open up the the I unless or any other item questions
the matter is open for debate.
I go for it or does it add, one more thing is that you know our decision today
is not about who the families are, it's not about where the properties will be, particularly the decision that we're making today is due be signed, the memorandum of understanding with the government that they will be making a contribution of 40% of the cost of these acquisitions and that we will be making a contribution of 60% of the acquisition cost and so that that is all that we are currently working on it is, as I described last night not a very neatly packaged parcel yet and in that the government only notified us as a district at the beginning of this year of this initiative, and they gave us a deadline of the 15th of March, and therefore Gary and his team and Stuart Clifton particularly, and his team have worked really hard and quickly to bring us through this cycle so that we can make a decision, but there are loose ends, I don't deny and we will be able to come back to Cabinet and to all of those cabs and committees in future if necessary.
thank you, yeah, I think it's it's a very good
and I'd just like to thank the officers as well, who've put it together in record time because the vagaries of how local government finance works, there's always more pitfalls and than it first appears, so thank you very much Gary to you and your team. for getting this sorted really quickly, and we're working towards a deadline of tomorrow, 5 o'clock, so unless there are any other comments,
I'll proceed to the recommendations
recommendation 1, that Cabinet agrees to the council participating in a local authority housing fund, recommendation 2 that Cabinet approves the use and release of up to 3.2 million in section 1 0 6 commuted sums for the purpose of providing affordable housing in the borough as a council's capital contribution to deliver 15 properties in line with the local authority housing fund's objectives,
recommendation 3, that delegated authority be given to the Head of Housing, Health and Environment to sign a memorandum of understanding MOU with the Department of levelling up housing and communities, the all you, HC, or colloquially called D-lock
item recommendation 4 that delegated authority be given to the Head of Housing, Health and Environment in consultation with the Director of Finance Policy and Development, the director of changes and communities they had of Kent Mid Kent, legal services and portfolio holder for housing and planning to negotiate and enter into any legal documents, contracts or partnerships agreements to acquire and deliver the 15 properties
all we agreed.
thank you, we are agreed unanimously,

10 Urgent Business

11 Date of Next Meeting

the next item on the agenda is item number 10, which is urgent business, and I'm pleased to confirm that we have none, which means that. we move on to at the date of the next meeting, which is agenda item 11, and if there's anybody out there who wants to full fill their boots with cabinet meetings, it's next week
which were back into our normal cycle, which is Thursday, the 23 of March 2023 at 6.30 p.m. At the Town Hall in Tunbridge Wells, thank you for listening if you're online, thank you for attending and for the people who are here and, thank you very much. The meeting is closed.