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Agenda item

STRATEGIC RISK REGISTER DEEP DIVE - PROPERTY

To consider a progress report on individual risks identified in the Council’s Strategic Risk Register.

Minutes:

The Committee considered a deep dive into the Strategic Risk “Property” which included the sub-risks (a) Property Failure due to poor maintenance or lack of Inspection Regime and (b) Failure to meet statutory obligations as a significant housing landlord across the town.

 

a)      Property Failure due to poor maintenance or lack of Inspection Regime

 

Mr Steve Thompson, Director of Resources, and Mr Paul Jones, Head of Property Services, presented an update in relation to sub- risk (a). Mr Thompson explained that the Council operated a complex property structure, noted responsibility for Council buildings, wholly-owned companies, schools and housing. He also added that responsibility for management of the sub-risk lay with himself and Mr Jones.

 

In order to mitigate against the sub-risk and ensure that the Council adhered to all relevant regulation Mr Jones explained that Property Services undertook regular compliance testing. This informed the Council’s five-year Condition Plan, information from which was shared with wholly-owned companies (WOCs). While the Council held ultimate responsibility for property operated by WOCs, they maintained a day-to-day responsibility for monitoring compliance and condition. If any issues were identified they would then report back to the Council to ensure that a remedy could be applied.

 

Challenges in mitigating the sub-risk included increasing material costs making remedial work more expansive. It was recognised that this was national issue. A further challenge was also posed by the ongoing impacts of climate change and the aim to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2030, particularly in respect of improving properties energy efficiency. Mr Jones advised that addressing these challenges would require an exploration of new ways of working and new systems of ensuring compliance.

 

The Committee noted that the Equalities and Sustainability statements contained within the items covering report appeared to be similar and queried if any analysis of either of these area had been undertaken as part of the deep dive. Ms Tracy Greenhalgh, Head of Audit and Risk, responded that the wording was standard for deep dive covering reports. She add that if Executive of Portfolio Holder decisions were required relating to property, however, analysis of the equalities impact and sustainability considerations would be undertaken and included in related reports and decisions notices. All of which would be available for Councillors to review.

 

Assurance w sought regarding issues in insurance for WOCs with Mr Jones explaining that the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) would be undertaking a review of the Council’s housing WOCs and that the outcome of this would influence the approach taken by the Council towards the other companies. He added that the details of the different Service Level Agreement in place with WOCs would also need to be taken into consideration as part of any future work. The Committee was informed that the work by CIPFA would begin in March 2024.

 

Members raised the national issue of failing Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) and queried if the use of the material had impacted on the Council’s property portfolio. In response Mr Jones reported that RAAC had only been identified in part of one of Blackpool’s schools, which had subsequently been partial closed as a safety precaution. No other uses of RAAC had been identified within the Council’s portfolio, however Mr Jones also advised that further investigations would take place to confirm that this was the case.

 

b)      Failure to meet statutory obligations as a significant housing landlord across the town.

 

Ms Vikki Piper, Head of Housing, presented an update in relation to sub-risk (b). She advised that work had been undertaken to prepare Blackpool’s social housing stock for the impact of new legislation being prepared by the Government. This work was in response to the publishing of the Social Housing White Paper by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) in November 2020. Under the legislation the Council will be responsible as landlord for the housing stock of its WOCs, and be subject to inspections by DLUHC.

 

The white paper and legislation had been influenced in part due to the death of a child in social housing in Rochdale caused by damp and mould. The Council had therefore been asked to supply data on existing damp and mould cases within Blackpool and the work planned to address them. In addition to this the Council had also commissioned a stock condition survey and CIPFA to review WOCs regarding there compliance with regulations and advise on the level of oversight required by the Council as shareholder. The outcome of the review and CIPFAs recommendations would be present to the Shareholder Committee for consideration.

 

It was noted that the impact identified in the Net Risk Score for sub-risk (b) was shown as four while the same section for sub-risk (a) showed an impact score of five. Ms Piper explained that this was as a result of the Council being the landlord but not the operator of the property in sub-risk (b), unlike in sub-risk (a).

 

Members of the Committee highlighted that the new legislation required the Council to have individuals in place holding relevant housing qualifications and asked if the Council had this in place or if new staff would have to be recruited or trained. In response Ms Piper stated that the Council was looking at what existing staffing resources were in place, noting that Blackpool Coastal Housing Ltd had a number of members of staff with the relevant qualification.

 

The impact of the work to ensure compliance with the new legislation was discussed with Ms Piper advising that there would be a cost to both the condition survey and review undertaken by CIPFA. In relation to CIPFA it was expected that this work would costs approximately £70k. She added that going forward there would also be additional costs for inspections to be undertaken.

 

Resolved: That the update be noted.

 

Mr Jones and Ms Piper left the meeting following this item.

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