Housing Revenue Account - Revised Forecast 2022-23 and Budget 2023-24
Report of the Cabinet Member Finance and Assets
The Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets presented the report, which summarised the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) revised forecast for 2022/23 and the Cabinet’s budget proposals for 2023/24. He emphasised the impact of the cost of living crisis and financial turbulence on the HRA, with excess cost inflation, increased interest, energy costs and additional compliance costs increasing overall expenditure in the HRA by £2.5m next year. Whilst the budget proposal was for rents to increase, this had been capped at 7%.
The long-term impact of high inflation and the rent cap on the 30-year outlook was substantial, with capacity in the HRA reducing by an estimated £79m. This reduced capacity meant that the scale and pace of investment in existing and new homes needed to be carefully managed to ensure that vital services to residents were protected. While the scale and pace of demonstrated the council’s commitment to its ambitious plans for delivering new homes, improving the quality of existing homes and protecting services for tenants.
He highlighted a number of key points, including £63m over three years for additional affordable homes, £32m investment in improving existing homes and £6m specifically for energy improvement measures for the least efficient houses. A further detail which did not go out with the consultation paperwork was at paragraph 5.5. Cheltenham had been allocated £2.36m from the government’s Local Authority Housing Fund to support refugee guests, predominantly from Ukraine and Afghanistan. The total cost of providing those homes was estimated to be around £6m, following a list of criteria given by the government, including a condensed timescale for their provision. Officers from CBC & CBH were already working hard on this.
The 2023/24 proposals continued their focus on supporting tenants through the cost of living crisis, with CBH’s Benefit and Money Advice and Training and Employment teams targeting resources in a proactive and preventative approach that was really working for tenants in need. The Help2 initiative was equally beneficial, working with a range of partners and agencies. Funding for these services had been protected, recognising the challenging period ahead for their tenants and communities
The budget continued to invest in their priority to deliver net zero homes, and continued with their ambitious investment in delivering more affordable homes. All of this investment would help improve outcomes for residents and our communities, reduce inequality and support the economic recovery of Cheltenham throughout this challenging period. The cost of living crisis, energy crisis and continuing housing crisis had put a real strain on CBH officers but their work in support of tenants had been exemplary, and he put on record his thanks to all of them for their efforts and continued hard work. He also thanked the Executive Leadership Team and the CBH Board, and commended the HRA budget proposals to Council.
There being no Member questions, the Mayor moved into debate, where the following points were made:
- CBH was to be congratulated on the transformation of the council’s housing stock over the last few decades. Back in the 1980s, the stock had been appalling, with record levels of complaints and outstanding repairs;
- CBH’s exemplary service to tenants deserved high praise, and the way refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine have been supported as they settle in the town;
- central government seems to announce grant funding on a whim, offering only a tiny window for millions of pounds in funding and putting unnecessary pressure on officers as a result. This was not the way things should be run, with local authorities forced to bid against each other. Local authorities should have been given more discretion over how to spend the money as well;
- echoing the Cabinet Member’s words about the challenge of moving forward in tough economic circumstances, and his thanks to senior officers, it was noted that balancing the budget had been tough but they were continuing to deliver affordable carbon-neutral homes, with 24 coming at 320 Swindon Road, nine under S106 with a local developer this year, a future pipeline of £69m over the next three years and ambitions for 70 more on existing HRA land-led schemes. It was not just about new homes, but also about ensuring a continued, valuable service for tenants, including repairs, maintenance, community investment, and financial advice;
- thanks to CBH for the work they did, especially in the more deprived areas of Cheltenham. CBH had worked hard to find ways to tackle deprivation, though there was no quick fix. Hopefully there would be good news about the bid soon;
- Cheltenham is extremely fortunate to have CBH in the town. They not only provided good quality homes but also had a social conscience, which was more important now than ever. Mental health and wellbeing issues needed to be taken seriously by housing providers, and it’s doubtful that any tenants in the country were being served better than here. The report contained alarming details about the impact of the cost of living crisis, supply chains, the cost of fuel and rent caps on the HRA, but they were reassured that the officers were capable of dealing with it.
The Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets thanked Members for their comments and agreed with the points raised. The tight timescales for grant applications placed undue pressure on officers, but CBH did an outstanding job in coping with it.
1. the HRA budget proposals for 2023-24 be approved;
2. a rent increase of 7% for social rent homes, affordable rent homes and shared ownership homes be approved (capping affordable rented homes rent at the Local Housing Allowance where applicable);
3. change to other rents and service charges as detailed in the report be approved;
4. the HRA capital programme for 2023-24 as shown at Appendix 3 and Appendix 4 be approved;
5. entering into a Memorandum of Understanding with DLUHC (Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) be approved, in respect of £2.36m grant for the provision of 21 affordable homes during 2023-24 under the Local Authority Housing Fund (Subject to DLUHC notifying CBC that their proposed grant funding allocation has been confirmed);
6. the performance and satisfaction targets set by CBH for 2023-24 be ratified;
7. the revised HRA forecast for 2022-23 be noted.
FOR: 31 (Cllrs. Andrews, Atherstone, Babbage, Baker, Bamford, Beale, Britter, Chelin, Chidley, Clark, Collins, Dobie, Fifield, Fisher, Flynn, Harvey, Holliday, Jeffries, Joy, Lewis, McCloskey, Nelson, Payne, Pineger, Sankey, Seacome, Tailford, Tooke, Wheeler, Williams, Willingham)
- Report - HRA Budget 2023-24, item 10. PDF 483 KB
- Appendix 2 - Operating Account, item 10. PDF 21 KB
- Appendix 3 - Major Repairs Reserve, item 10. PDF 18 KB
- Appendix 4 - Property Improvement and Major Works, item 10. PDF 18 KB
- Appendix 5 - CBH Booklet, item 10. PDF 1 MB
- Appendix 6 - CBH Targets, item 10. PDF 61 KB
- Restricted enclosure View the reasons why document 10./7 is restricted