An update from the Cabinet Members on key areas within their portfolios are attached.
The Cabinet Member for Housing will be in attendance to answer questions from the Committee.
5.1 The Committee received written updates from the Cabinet Member for Finance, Property and Corporate Services and the Cabinet Member for Housing on the key issues within their portfolios.
5.2 Councillor Rachael Robathan, Cabinet Member for Housing, wished to put on record her thanks to Kevin Day, CityWest Homes Manager at Little Venice Towers, for his work in keeping residents updated on fire and gas safety issues and measures associated with the blocks following the Grenfell Tower Fire.
5.3 The Committee then submitted questions to the Cabinet Member for Housing.
Retrofitting sprinklers within CWH flats over 10 Storeys
5.3.1 The Cabinet Member was asked whether a feasibility study had been fully developed. Councillor Robathan stated that it had. She confirmed that retrofitting sprinklers was technically feasible and the study had taken into account matters such as potential low water pressure. She explained that the feasibility study has considered a range of issues including which type of sprinklers would be best to install and how best to retrofit them. The committee heard at its meeting on 11 September there are regulatory limitations on freeholders to require leaseholders to undertake certain works within their properties. She explained that leaseholders accounted for 71% of the flats in one of the Little Venice Tower blocks.
5.3.2 Councillors asked about the insurance implications if only some flats within a block have sprinklers installed. Jonathan Cowie, CEO, CityWest Homes, advised that such a scenario could also have implications for obtaining fire safety approval from the London Fire Brigade, Building Control and building regulations. It was an issue that the Council intended to lobby central government on.
5.3.3 The Cabinet Member was also asked about the retrofitting of sprinklers in high rise private residential dwellings. She advised members that local authorities have been tasked to undertake full surveys of all privately clad buildings in their areas. The Council had almost concluded this work. The Council is required to ensure that the freeholders of these buildings comply with regulations including any subsequent changes to them. The Council will lobby the Mayor of London and central government to take on some of this responsibility.
5.3.4 The Cabinet Member asked the committee to consider establishing a task group to examine on the various options for retrofitting sprinklers in CWH properties that will be worked up and ranked, based on need and risk. The committee agreed to the suggestion.
Intermediate rent levels in new WCH affordable housing schemes
5.3.4 Westminster Community Home’s (WCH) new affordable housing scheme at Ladbroke Grove provides intermediate homes for rent for local Westminster workers and residents. Weekly rents on 2 bed homes are £285. The Cabinet Member was asked about the household income required to be eligible for such a home, affordability and how this matched against the salaries of people living in Westminster who are in housing need. Councillor Robathan advised that a family would need to earn approximately £39,000 to qualify for the scheme. Under the Mayor of London’s intermediate housing policy households are eligible for intermediate housing schemes as long as annual earnings do not exceed £60,000. She stated that the Council wants to make intermediate housing available to families on much lower than the maximum qualifying figure. She explained that while the Council need to deliver more social rented housing there is little intermediate housing in the Borough and more needs to be delivered to achieve mixed communities
CityWest Homes Call Centre
5.3.5 Members asked when the problems at CityWest Home’s new call centre would be resolved. The Cabinet Member acknowledged residents’ frustrations with delays in calls being answered. She was confident that the teething problems had almost been resolved.
5.4 ACTIONS: Establish a task group to consider the range of options for retrofitting sprinklers in CWH residential properties over 10 storeys, submitting recommendations to Cabinet. (Action for: Aaron Hardy, Scrutiny Manager)