To consider report CH/186 of the Head of Crawley Homes, which was referred to the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission held on 23 September 2019.
The Committee considered report CH/186 of the Head of Crawley Homes. The report was summarised by the Housing Portfolio Holder who explained that the introduction of Universal Credit has caused an increased workload for Crawley Homes Housing Officers, and that there was a necessity for further posts to be created in order to provide efficient collection of rent. It was noted that a change from the original recommendation (two additional posts with a further four) was to become four additional posts with a further two. Further posts were also required in the Cleaning and Clearance Team due to the number of new flats built and needing cleaning services, as well as a recommendation to increase funding for the Older Persons Services Team in order to offset funding cuts from West Sussex County Council. The Cabinet further noted the bid for additional requirements due to be made through the Budget Advisory Group in the future.
The Overview and Scrutiny Commission’s comments on the report were presented to the Cabinet following consideration of the matter at its meeting on 23 September 2019. The Cabinet discussed Universal Credit and the issues surrounding its introduction, including an extended waiting period for receiving benefit payments. Members agreed that the new positions were necessary to assist with offsetting this and offered their empathy to those affected, as well as their appreciation to housing staff who had been under pressure. It was also noted that the Council had previously lost information regarding those in receipt of housing benefits during the national switch to Universal Credit.
That the Cabinet:
a) Approves four FTE additional posts of Housing Officer immediately with the provision of two further FTE posts to enable efficient rent collection following changes relating to Universal Credit. To delegate the appointment of the further four posts to the Head of Crawley Homes in consultation with the Head of Finance, the Cabinet Member for Housing and Leader of the Council.
b) Approves an additional 1 FTE post in the Cleaning and Clearance team to provide cleaning services to new build flats.
c) Approves an increase in funding of £13,500 for the Older Persons Services Team following the removal of the grant funding from WSCC as outlined in paragraph 6.1.5 of report CH/186.
d) Notes that a bid will also be made through the Budget Advisory Group for an additional resource to manage increased requirements on fire risk management, and for additional cleaning requirements at Bridgefield House, Three Bridges when this scheme is handed over in 2020. This will be additional to the posts identified in report CH/186.
e) Requests Full Council to agree the additional budget of £265,500 per annum for the additional posts required in the 2019/20 budget (pro rata), and additional one off setting up costs as outlined in report CH/186.
Reasons for the Recommendations:
1) Welfare reform and the introduction of Universal Credit (UC) have meant a significant increase in volume of work within the housing management team and additional Housing Officer posts are required to ensure that rent is collected and the work is manageable within the team.
2) New build properties including blocks of flats with requirements for cleaning have been added to the Council’s housing stock. With further flats being handed over additional cleaning staff are required to maintain the buildings.
3) The Older Persons Services team budget is impacted by a reduction of £70,000 per annum from September 2019 of supported people funding from WSCC and additional funding for one post is required to mitigate the removal of grant funding.
4) Crawley Homes staff are currently working on the best way of delivering increased inspections and duties surrounding fire risk assessments following the fire at Grenfell Tower. This will form part of the Budget Advisory Group process but is highlighted to inform members of further revenue implications.