Agenda item

Introduction to the Review, Setting the Scoping Framework and Timescales

1.    To receive a brief introduction to the review.

2.    To discuss, amend, as necessary, and agree the scoping framework (attached).

3.    To determine any background information the Panel requires further to the information presented in the Scoping Framework.



Councillor Lunnon welcomed the Panel to the first meeting of the Housing Associations Review and provided some background information. 


The purpose of the Panel was to seek clarification as to the regulation of social landlords and housing associations.  There was a need to scrutinise the current situation and operations with regards to a limited number of housing associations within the town, together with service standards, satisfaction and amount of customer contact received, ideally with witness sessions from various housing associations.  It was felt important to explore options to improve the work between the council and various RSLs, resulting in a positive outcome for all parties.


It was noted the OSC had previously received a report (SHAP/69) containing information on the housing associations operating in Crawley and third-party data was difficult to mandate, particularly as the Council was not the regulator for RPs. 


It was discussed at the OSC Training Session and approved at the Overview and Scrutiny Commission in June 2023 that the follow up would be beneficial in the format of a ‘Spotlight’ Scrutiny Review.  A Spotlight Review usually takes 2-3 sessions (4 maximum) and involved:


1.    Introduction, scoping and identifying witnesses.

2.    Witness sessions.

3.    Finalising recommendations (or obtaining additional information if required).

4.    Finalising recommendations (if not completed in 3).


It would be important for the Panel at end of each meeting to think about what recommendations may be relevant for the final report as it was not advisable to wait until the last meeting and have to review each meeting in infinite detail.


The Chair then asked Ian Duke, Deputy Chief Executive and Lead Officer of the Panel to provide some background information.  It was acknowledged that following the OSC meeting, concerns had been raised (particularly around anti-social behaviour, maintenance and customer contact) regarding a limited number of registered providers (RPs).  In some instances there was third-party involvement, particularly estate management companies, however it was thought that responsibility and cooperation should be evident to assist partnership working. There were many RPs within the town, however the council had few contacts, with the exception of formal processes such as NASB, Planning and Environmental Health.


It was recognised that RPs tended to operate on a larger (regional) scale which may result in disparity across areas. The Council operated a choice based lettings scheme so that households on the housing register choose which properties they bid for.  An update was requested whether since 2018 (SHAP/69) there had been a change in landlord preference.  Competition across different areas was welcomed and relationships between RPs and the council can be forged through the enabling function and quality checks were in place prior to this collaboration proceeding.


The Regulator of Social Housing regulated registered social housing providers including local authorities and housing associations. The Regulator of Social Housing set consumer and economic standards which RPs of social housing had to meet. The Decent Homes Standard was due to be updated in the near future but it was important to note that the new consumer standards were currently out for consultation and it was intended the revised standards would apply to all RPs with effect from April 2024.


The Panel acknowledged the scrutiny functions were specifically referred to in the Local Government Act; including making recommendations on “matters which affect the authority’s area or the inhabitants of that area”.  This could be interpreted as: “….To review and scrutinise the performance of other public bodies and partnerships in the district, with a specific obligation on crime and disorder and serious violence duties and invite reports from them by requesting that they address the Committee, and local people, regarding their activities and performance.” In addition, the Crime and Disorder Act, placed a duty on partners to take into consideration the effects of crime and disorder are adhered to.


It was therefore felt there may be a wider need to invite RPs to a meeting to discuss potential ways of sharing best practice, expertise and learning between organisations to address any of the concerns.  Panel members recognised the importance of understanding the processes and systems for each organisation in order to benefit from a constructive exercise resulting in positive outcomes.  Furthermore, it may be important to request feedback from all the RPs within the borough and it was noted that this could be undertaken through alternative methods to a witness session if the need arose and be carried out via email.  However, that responses may be limited, and the review scope was to focus on those specific RPs together with adding value.


It was noted that Tenancy Strategies also identified key areas that registered providers who have housing stock in Crawley were asked to take into account when formulating their tenancy policies:

·         Meeting social obligations as well as regulatory requirements

·         The provision of tenancy support services to tenants to prevent homelessness

·         Making best use of housing stock to support the Council in meeting housing need

·         Ensuring that accessing social housing is equitable for all


As the majority of housing associations operate on a regional basis, their Tenancy Policy would be regionally rather than locally based and as such will need to “have regard” to the Tenancy Strategies of the range of local authorities across their operating areas. The Council’s current Tenancy Strategy 2019-2024 (report SHAP/77) were approved in 2019, with work on the new Strategy anticipated to early 2025 for approval November 2015 and it would be important if any recommendations could feed into this.


Panel Members then discussed the draft scoping framework. There was a general view that the scope should include maintenance, particularly in relation to the public realm and the overall environmental appearance, together with general customer satisfaction.  With regards to witnesses that may be invited, it was felt that the Panel would benefit from potential witness sessions with Moat Housing Association, Hyde Housing Association, Clarion Housing and Guinness Trust, with the possibility to liaise with others via email. It was acknowledged that the Regulator of Social Housing may provide a valuable insight, along with gaining a council’s perspective from the Head of Strategic Housing and the Head of Crawley Homes in terms of RPs and anti-social behaviour. The Panel requested an overall update since SHAP/69 together with some information around ASB areas, enquiries and general processes.  This would assist the Panel to understand the challenges the services face both now and in the future. It was agreed that it was necessary to obtain further information from witnesses connected with the issues.


The Scoping Framework was agreed as set out as an appendix to these minutes.




1.         That evidence gathering interviews be arranged with the Head of Strategic Housing, the Head of Crawley Homes and the Cabinet Member for Housing (witness sessions).

2.         That the Scoping Framework was agreed as set out as an appendix to these minutes.

3.         That Panel Members identify a clear set of questions to ask representatives attending witness sessions.


Supporting documents: