Council taking action to address housing issues
East Suffolk Council has undertaken an in-depth, four-month review of its Housing Landlord Service and is now taking steps, with the guidance of the Regulator of Social Housing, to resolve a number of outstanding issues.
Following the appointment by the Council of a new Head of Housing last Autumn, the review, which relates to the Council’s own housing stock, commenced, and an independent consultancy provided support through this process.
The findings indicate that improvements are required in a number of areas, primarily in relation to the Council’s rent-setting policies and Health & Safety data records. As a result, East Suffolk has now referred itself to the Regulator of Social Housing, and they will now consider the information provided to them by the Council before determining whether any action needs to be taken.
A significant amount of work is already underway, to enable East Suffolk to be fully compliant with all standards set out by the Regulator, and the Council is now engaging with all its tenants to explain the situation, how this may affect them and the improvements that will now be made.
The action plan, prepared by senior officers at the request of the Leader of the Council, sets out the steps the Council will be taking to ensure all relevant Regulatory Standards are met. It covers a number of key areas, including the development of a more robust rent and service charge policy, a forensic audit of all tenancies and the creation of a comprehensive governance process.
The rent issues relate to decisions taken by the former Waveney District Council, predecessor authority to East Suffolk. However the Council will also be commissioning a comprehensive, external, independent Governance review to understand how these issues were not identified and resolved sooner, and to ensure that more robust mechanisms are put in place to prevent any issues such as this recurring.
The Council has also now appointed a Compliance Consultant to ensure the right policies, processes and mechanisms for monitoring are in place.
Cllr Steve Gallant, Leader of East Suffolk Council, said: “I am grateful to officers for the thorough and diligent review they have undertaken, however their findings are deeply disappointing, and reporting our position to the housing regulator is entirely the right approach.
“I want to personally reassure all our tenants that any discrepancies in relation to rent payment will be resolved and a drop in the standards they should expect will be confronted and addressed. They are, and will remain, our number one priority and we are taking this matter incredibly seriously. We also know that they will have questions and we will make it as simple as possible for all tenants to get the information they want and need.
“As soon as the issues came to my attention a group of senior officers began the development of a robust plan to manage this situation and ensure it is rectified promptly.
We have also assured the Regulator that these matters are being treated with the utmost importance and will be prioritised to ensure no unnecessary delays.”
The Council has written to every tenant in the district explaining the situation. It has also created a web page which will be updated regularly with new information and answers to any frequently asked questions: www.eastsuffolk.gov.uk/housing2022