Housing Revenue Account - Revised Forecast 2020/21 and Budget Proposals 2021/22
Report of the Cabinet Member Finance and Assets
The Cabinet Member Finance and Assets introduced the report and thanked Cheltenham Borough Homes (CBH) for going above and beyond in terms of maintaining services during the pandemic whilst providing additional support. Demand for Universal Credit had increased by 30% whilst arrears were reducing, a tribute to work with tenants building up debt. Covid had impacted the capital investment programme to a degree with some delays. Customer satisfaction remained high.
In terms of the specifics, the Cabinet Member Finance and Assets referred to the social housing white paper which proposed a charter for tenants. Looking at that so far CBH were complying with this which was positive.
Universal Credit roll out was still ongoing and there had been a big increase in take up due to the pandemic. Government had temporarily increased the maximum that can be claimed by £20 a week and the Cabinet Member advocated that this should be maintained.
In terms of rent, national policy was CPI plus 1% .The rent would be slightly less than anticipated as inflation was 0.5% so that resulted in a 1.5% rent rise. Whilst there would be less rent receipts, CBH have been able to freeze the management fee.
Under right to buy there is permission to spend money received, but this is restricted by a time limit. As part of the consultation CBC was lobbying government for more flexibility in how that money is spent and the outcome of the consultation was eagerly awaited.
With regards to the proposed planning reform there was concern that the immediate impact may be the reduction of affordable housing being built and this had been raised in the council’s response to the consultation.
The top priority for the 2021/2022 budget remained the provision of customer services. Assumptions were made with regard to the same level of voids, that right to buy would continue and there would be continued support from Homes England. There were also assumptions that garage rents would increase in line with housing rents with a 1.5% rise. Cleaning charges were being kept to a minimum at 0.4% and the net effect of this was the projection of an increased surplus, which would be put back into the services.
Other budget priorities focussed on climate change and CBC and CBH were working closely on this. With regard to community investment, this related to health and wellbeing, community safety, education and training, skills, and enabling community involvement. The projection was that this would equate to £15 million of social value being added into the community for the coming year.
The capital programme for next year amounted to £24 million – £9 million into existing stock. It focussed on measures to tackle climate change. Safety was a significant issue emphasised by Grenfell, and it was confirmed that all fire risk assessments were up to date and more vigorous standards were being introduced, starting with sheltered housing and places occupied by more vulnerable people would be brought in over the coming year. Asbestos checks were all up to date, however there may be more vigorous testing brought in for this too.
Significantly £15 million would go into new build with a 500 home target over the next 5 years.
Alongside this, work was being progressed on the private rented sector.
Further into the future there is planned investment of £30 million capital spend with up to £25 million on new builds.
Finally, Members were referred to appendix 5 which illustrated the great work CBH undertook.
In response to a question on the 2 ½ year wait for a response from the government on the use of right to buy, the Cabinet Member agreed that he would raise this with the Cheltenham MP.
Members made the following comments in the debate:
- Members recognised the great work CBH was undertaking in terms of managing the housing stock and new build and supporting tenants and the example of the arrears reduction was given, a particularly significant achievement during these extraordinary times. Thanks were given to the interim Chief Executive of CBH, the Board and all staff at CBH for all they continued to achieve.
- Social media engagement with the community via the community investment officers was welcomed
- The issue of small brownfield sites was raised and it was requested that CBC and CBH work together with professionals on the possibility of using these for housing.
- It was requested that more work was undertaken to build relationships to tackle anti-social behaviour due to the impact that this was having with local communities.
The Cabinet Member Housing undertook to take the issue with regard to brownfield sites to CBH.
The Leader emphasised the social value work that CBH was undertaking, and thanked them for this.
Summing up, the Cabinet Member Finance commented that there were smaller brownfield sites and Members were requested to make CBH aware of them so they could be investigated for their viability. Finally, he thanked the Interim Chief Executive of CBH and the Cabinet Member Housing responded that as suggested, there is no reason that smaller sites cannot be used for building on.
The Mayor moved to a recorded vote.
RESOLVED (unanimously) THAT:
1. The revised HRA forecast for 2020/21 be noted;
2. The HRA budget proposals for 2021/22 (shown at Appendix 2) be approved, including a proposed rent increase of 1.5% and changes to other rents and charges as detailed within the report;
3. The HRA capital programme for 2021/22, as shown at Appendix 3, be approved.
FOR: (35): Atherstone, Babbage, Baker, Barnes, Barrell, Britter, Brownsteen, Coleman, Collins, Cooke, Dobie, Fisher, Flynn, Harman, Harvey, Hay, Hobley, Holliday, Horwood, Jeffries, Jordan, Mason, McCloskey, McKinlay, Oliver, Payne, Savage, Seacome, Stafford, Stennett, Sudbury, Wheeler, Whyborn, Williams and Willingham.
- 2021_02_22_COU_Final HRA Budget 2021-22, item 9. PDF 664 KB
- 2021_02_22_COU_Final HRA Budget 2021-22_appendix_1, item 9. PDF 31 KB
- 2021_02_22_COU_Final HRA Budget_Appendices 2-4, item 9. PDF 64 KB
- 2021_02_22_COU_Final HRA Budget_Appendix 5, item 9. PDF 2 MB