I would like to question the financial position of the 21st Century Council project in light of the problems being experienced in the Housing Service and the questions being raised by Involved Tenants via TLIP and directly with the full Council.
The Leader of the Council has already acknowledged that you are in breach of your Statutory Duties, a situation that should have been considered under risk management. Many of the concerns being raised appear to stem back to the original business case approved by the Executive on 29/9/16. The HRA/Housing Service appears to have been overlooked or at least misrepresented in that business case. Page 9 states:
“The funding source for each of these full time equivalents needs to be considered so that officers and Members can interpret how savings identified in transitioning to the new ways of working can be realised. £4.7m of funding within the scope identified above is grant or ring-fenced funding. As a result it may not be as easy to realise savings within this grant funding due to conditions associated with the funding source. This will need to be managed on a case by case basis in the detailed planning of the programme when the benefit management plan for the programme is created.”
Either the £4.7m is erroneous or the £15/16m of ring-fenced HRA/Housing Service is outside the scope of the project.
If the £4.7m is erroneous it raises questions about the validity of the costs and potential savings shown in that report. If the HRA/Housing Service is not within the scope of the project then the position of Head of Housing should not have been removed. A full consultation with all affected Tenants, as required by the HCA, should have been budgeted for, either within the project or the HRA but neither includes this cost.
These issues have not been raised, changed or approved by the Executive, and decisions are being made without due regard to your statutory duties.
The Executive and the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee need to investigate the financial position in detail and the decision making process to reassure all Members that the facts and figures that you are being given are accurate.
Will the Leader of the Council agree to this investigation and ensure that a full report is issued to the Executive and the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee?
I do understand your concerns to protect the services provided for our tenants and I share this objective. Our tenants are important to us and it is a key priority of the Council to continue to provide high quality services to you all and we seek to provide for the housing needs of all our residents.
In terms of the business case your question contains a misunderstanding. To clarify the £4.7m that the business case refers to is in relation to grant and ring fenced funding for staffing costs only; and was accurate at the time the business case was compiled. It relates to staff outside of the General Fund, which does include HRA and other ring fenced areas of expenditure. This does not mean that these areas are outside the scope of the C21 Council programme, but it means that only £4m of the estimated £4.5m annual savings is attributable to the General Fund.
I would also assure you that the business case is only the starting point for detailed service design. As service areas are considered the figures are updated and detailed design work is undertaken with those closely involved in delivering the services and in this way, the starting point of the business case assumptions are thoroughly tested as the new design emerges. I do not therefore consider that a referral to Overview and Scrutiny, which is your suggestion, on the business case is necessary.
I note your comment re the Head of Housing but would assure you that a service post with oversight of the operations of the housing revenue account is provided for within the transition arrangements and the future management structure will be part of the design work. In fact I understand that you held a meeting today with senior officers and your representatives regarding your involvement in the design process for our services to tenants and I will re-iterate that as tenants you will be involved in the design process.