Venue: Wantsum Room, Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone. View directions
Contact: Gaetano Romagnuolo Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 03000 416624
10:00 - 11:45
1. Following introductions by the Chair and Members of the Committee, the Committee’s guests were asked to introduce themselves and explain their roles. Rebecca Spore explained that she was Director of Infrastructure at Kent County Council (KCC). This meant she was responsible for property, estate and asset management. She also looked after KCC holdings from a landowner perspective. Mark Cheverton, Senior Asset Manager, led the property policy team within Infrastructure and oversaw the policy framework within which KCC’s asset are managed to ensure that it appropriately discharged its duties in accordance with relevant legislation.
2. By way of context, Ms Spore explained that there was a limit to the extent of the direct influence that KCC could have on affordable housing. KCC was not a statutory housing authority and this responsibility lies with the borough/district councils across Kent. KCC had a strategic role but the formal extent of affordable housing would be defined by local plans and policies at the borough/district level. Ms Spore and Mr Cheverton were attending the sessions to provide the perspective KCC has as a landowner. KCC primary responsibilities are to secure best value in accordance with S123 of the Local Government act, whilst this is primarily focused on maximising the return there are situations when other factors such as affordable housing would be taken into account when KCC realised assets it held for disposal, this must be in line with a KCC policy.
3. In response to questions, the guests of the Committee covered a range of areas. The first one raised was that of partnership working with borough/district councils. It was explained that there were specific projects underway. One such was the Live Margate project where KCC was working with Thanet District Council. This involved acquiring some properties together. There was a clear policy intention here to acquire HMO properties (houses in multiple occupation) and replace them with better quality ones. Thanet Council led on delivering affordable housing and KCC on private ownership. In this instance profit was not the key driver for KCC, which looked to recovers costs and promote regeneration. In broader terms, the picture of working with borough/district councils varied across the county. The Growth, Environment and Transport directorate at KCC lead on establishing district deals that would underpin joint regeneration plans. They didn’t manifest across the whole of Kent, with Thanet and Ashford notable exceptions.
4. In answer to a specific question about the use of pension funds for investment, it was explained that the pension fund as constituted did not invest in Kent itself. As a general point however, pension funds were quite keen to work with organisations on different types of housing projects and investment. This was a long-term income stream for them, and local authorities were often seen as stable partners.
5. KCC had to work within a framework underpinned by section 123 of the Local Government Act. This was essentially a best value duty meaning an obligation to extract the maximum value from land. This could ... view the full minutes text for item 1.
12:00 - 12:45
1. The Chairman welcomed the guests to the Committee.
2. Mr Heley and Mr Baker introduced themselves to the Committee and briefly talked about Housing Growth in Essex.
3. What interplay is there between districts? Are the district Leaders welcoming of additional affordable housing?
Mr Baker confirmed that a significant amount of work had been undertaken to establish positive relationships with Essex County Council (ECC) housing partners and support their wider housing aims. He explained that an ECC housing strategy is being developed by ECC’s Housing Growth Unit which will go out to public consultation soon. The strategy consultation document was submitted to Essex County Council’s Place Scrutiny Committee in January and was generally welcomed, it was also shared with Essex’s district and borough housing officers to seek and incorporate feedback before formal consultation commences. He emphasised the importance of ensuring that the appropriate language was used within the document recognising the distinctive housing roles that different organisations play. Mr Baker outlined the three strategic goals included in the emerging ECC housing strategy:
i. Growing Essex while protecting the best of the county - maintaining a focus on quality growth and ensuring that housing growth supports wider policy objectives e.g. environmental sustainability and supporting local districts to deliver the required amount of housing including affordable housing.
ii. Enabling people to live independently throughout their life Promoting accessible housing provision that allows people to remain independent and healthy for longer, the provision of specialist accommodation when needed and the potential for new technology to enable people to remain in their own homes.
iii. Supporting people to have a stable home Partnership work to tackle rough sleeping, homelessness and the inappropriate use of temporary accommodation in Essex.
4. Can you tell us more about the establishment of Essex County Council’s dedicated Housing Growth Unit and its main aims/objectives?
Mr Heley said that the dedicated Housing Growth Unit had been established to work across Essex, in partnership with colleagues across the Council and with the 12 local housing authorities, to help deliver ambitions for housing growth. He said that, work over the last 12 months had been focused on developing and submitting three Housing Infrastructure Fund bids to government seeking investment to deliver infrastructure that supports housing growth. He said that to date the government have announced that two HIF bids have been approved in Essex meaning that £317m in funding for new road and sustainable transport infrastructure has been secured subject to agreement of terms and conditions. He emphasised the importance of the County Council having the capacity and capability to understand and engage with the housing delivery elements of the bid and not just infrastructure aspects. He said that as the bidding authority Essex County Council would be held accountable for housing delivery related to the funding as well as infrastructure delivery. He added that Essex County Council were passionate about ensuring that the money that came into the county delivered the right amount of affordable housing to its residents. He ... view the full minutes text for item 2.