Social Housing White Paper
Objective: What preparation is being done to ensure compliance with reference risks? Has self-assessment against this been undertaken?
Steve Slater (CBH Chief Executive)
Emma Wall (CBH Executive Director Property & Communities)
Emma Wall (CBH Executive Director Property & Communities) presented her paper, which sets out the progress made towards delivering on the framework set out in the government white paper, published in 2020. No legislation was included in the white paper, but as legislation is brought forward by government in response to regulatory requirements and any consultation, it is CBH and CBC’s role to respond in a prompt and efficient way to ensure that all requirements are being met. The outcome of two self-assessment activities are complete and included in the paper, demonstrating a positive direction of travel. Key deliverables for the next 12 months are also set out, to ensure the requirements of the white paper continue to be met.
In response to Members’ questions, the following responses were given:
- the white paper was a reaction to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, and the government had taken forward two main bills – the Fire Safety Act and the Building Safety Act, which include wide-ranging building regulatory reform involving significant changes to the way buildings are managed. Buildings are categorised as higher and lower risk, and Cheltenham is fortunate in having only lower risk buildings – no high-rise towers – although reasonable precautions and various measures and actions are still required for low-risk buildings. These are reported through the audit risk committee, which reports progress towards meeting the requirements to CBC on a monthly basis;
- CBH is working with ward councillors and CBC to address residents’ concerns about the standard of some social housing in mixed residential areas in Benhall and The Reddings ward, the potential fire risk they pose, and the lack of any communication on the subject since last year. The longevity of some pre-fab buildings – intended to last for 20 years, now 70 years old – is an issue, and work is being carried out in the background at present, to be reported soon, to move the project forward and ensure tenants can live in homes of which they can be proud. Some of the homes aren’t as energy-efficient as they could be and CBH doesn’t want tenants living in these conditions;
- the white paper puts residents and their welfare at the centre, and CBH and CBC are in the fortunate position of delivering housing in the community for the community, unlike housing associations which may manage 30k houses across several counties. Tenants are involved on the board, are part of a strong scrutiny panel, and help make the right decisions for other tenants;
- the biggest challenge is still around culture, and the ability of colleagues to empathise, understand, and really hear what tenants are saying, but CBH will continue to listen and act to ensure the best service possible for its tenants;
- regarding when the legislation associated with the white paper might come into being, some acts are already in place (building safety, fire safety); the housing ombudsman has introduced a number of changes to which housing authorities must quickly respond; and other legislation (such as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors) is taking its time due to the distractions of the last six months but will be coming forward in the next 12-24 months. Other legislation is further down the line, and will not materialise for 7-8 years.
The Chair thanked Emma for her presentation, and proposed inviting her back in 12-18 months’ time to report on progress.