CWAG News Update July 2021

CWAG News Update July 2021

This update includes the following: 

·       Positive council housing stories campaign
·       Housing Inquiry launched by House of Lords Select Committee
·       Recently published Housing Ombudsman Reports
·       Recent Government releases
·       Future CWAG Meetings - Timetable 2021


Positive council housing stories campaign

The LGA is developing a campaign to highlight positive council housing stories. The context is to push back on negative perceptions of social housing and promote the positive work councils are doing on housing.
It is proposed to create an on-line hub, containing a range of project material, case studies and podcasts, which can be used for press briefings and other campaigns. The aim is to provide an ongoing resource that will be continually updated.
The campaign will be organised under four key themes:
·       economic impact,
·       providing homes for all,
·       improving local places,
·       and improving living standards.
These themes will also encompass planning and homelessness through topics such as the financial impact of building 100,000 council homes per year, how council housing can support the homeless into safe homes, and how councils can tackle their climate challenge and support community resilience by improving homes and places.
The LGA is encouraging local authorities to submit ideas and case studies - please contact is you can assist.

Housing inquiry launched by House of Lords Select Committee

The newly created House of Lords Select Committee on the built environment has announced that its first enquiry will be an examination of demand for housing, including whether the government’s target to build 300,000 homes per year is relevant and achievable.
The enquiry will scrutinise the government’s housing plans and approach. It will consider a diverse range of issues including skills shortages in the construction industry, the implications of the pandemic on housing demand, proposed reforms to the planning system, housing standards and building safety, as well as the correct tenure balance between private ownership, privately rented homes, and social housing. Further details

Recently Published Housing Ombudsman Reports

The report recognises that building safety issues are extremely complex, and the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction is limited in this area. However, the Ombudsman has received a high volume of complaints relating to the way social landlords have responded to leaseholders and shared owners who are seeking to re-mortgage, staircase or sell. The report therefore focusses on issues of fairness and ensuring residents voices are heard.
The report suggests that social landlords, in their response to the cladding crisis, have tended to prioritise remedial works based on risk to residents. There have also been delays as organisations have waited for government advice. Whilst this a rational approach for the organisations involved, it fails to recognise the human impact on individuals trapped in a situation which was not of their making. There is a need for landlords to demonstrate empathy and be more proactive, taking steps to support residents.
The report sets out 3 key actions for landlords:
·       To provide a clear road map – with timescales – to all residents, especially those living in buildings below 18 metres.
·       To communicate effectively with residents, ensuring the strategy is robust, well-resourced and proactive.
·       To address the individual circumstances presented in a complaint and, where appropriate, exercise discretion as they would with other complaints.
This Insight Report covers the period January to March this year. It highlights an increase of 73% in the number of enquiries and complaints received by the service, based on a comparison between the period January to March 2020 and the same period in 2021.
Although complaints initially declined during the first Covid19 lockdown, numbers of complaints have been rising steadily to a point where they now significantly exceed pre-pandemic levels. The report suggests this may be the ‘new normal’ rather than a Covid related backlog of cases.
Whilst the latest Insight Report focusses on complaints from the Midlands and East of England region, the cases highlighted are of wider interest, covering common issues and themes evident in complaints handling by landlords. In several of the highlighted cases a finding of maladministration was as a result of poor handling of the complaint process by the landlord.
Key learning points include:
·       Communication is key - including keeping residents regularly updated and informed even when there is no new information available.
·       Accurate record keeping – the highlighted cases focussed on information / communication failures arising between contractors on site and landlords overseeing the repairs service.
·       Review requests must be given full consideration – the review process gives residents the opportunity to challenge decisions by correcting errors and sharing concerns. Landlords need to approach reviews with an open mind and give them full attention.
·       Investigate issues thoroughly when first raised – early investigation and resolution are key to reducing the volume of complaints, particularly relating to repairs.


   Recent Government Releases

On 16th June 2021, the government announced a further £160 million for the first wave of the £3.8 billion manifesto commitment to improve the energy performance of social homes. Applications for the first wave of funding will open in autumn 2021 with funded projects delivering up to March 2023.
Home Office consultation on new proposals to implement the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 recommendations on Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) in high-rise residential buildings. Consultation ends 19th July 2021.

Future CWAG Meetings

14th July 2021 - Building Safety Briefing
The next CWAG General Meeting will focus on Building Safety issues.The meeting will take place via Teams on Wednesday 14th July 2021 (9.30 - 11.30 a.m.)  For further details, and to book a place, please contact the Policy Officer.

Draft Meetings Timetable
The timetable of future CWAG meetings this year is as follows:
-          Tuesday 28th September 2021 – Annual General Meeting
-          Thursday 18th November 2021 – General Meeting (interim)
-          Tuesday 18th January 2022 – Finance Meeting
-          Thursday 17th March 2022 – General Meeting

Updates will be posted on the CWAG website