Each representative from Your Housing Group (YHG) was introduced to the Panel.
Members considered a briefing paper introduced by Sharon Wheeler – Property Manager, which provided a performance and development update on YHG business areas identified in the legacy agreement and related to business activity between April 2018 and December 2018.
YHG had recognised the need to enhance customer experience and take steps to reconnect with its customers and neighbourhoods. A new project to enhance customer engagement was being rolled out in the Moorlands from the beginning of February along with a programme of tenancy visits. These visits would include meeting with customers, collection of key personal data, property inspections, establishing concerns and identifying issues which may put a customer’s tenancy at risk. Appropriate action would then be taken such as a referral to another YHG team or an external agency.
Property Agents would carry out regular neighbourhood inspections to check on cleaning and grounds maintenance of communal areas and to better identify and deal with nuisance such as fly-tipping or vandalism. Property Agents would maintain regular contact with Neighbourhood Champions (to be recruited) and they and other customers would be invited to join the Property Agents in doing their inspections.
Customers would also be provided with Neighbourhood plans which were specific local plans which contained key information.
Staff continued to work agilely, used hubs in Leek and Biddulph, along with a weekly surgery.
YHG continued to be 100% compliant in terms of domestic gas servicing, asbestos checks, electrical safety and legionella testing in flatted blocks.
The Development Team were currently looking at the development of two sites in the Staffordshire Moorlands area. This included a site at Cheadle, for shared ownership and affordable rent and a site in Leek which would be split into a number of phases. Further information on this scheme would be provided at the next meeting that YHG were due to attend.
Further detail on the amount to be spent on repairs would be circulated to the Panel after the meeting.
All tenancy sign ups to general needs housing in the Moorlands area were now digital except where this posed specific challenges for the customer due to disability or vulnerability. A new digital portal had also been rolled out across the Group.
YHG continued to run 3 weekly workclubs in the area, which were held in Leek, Biddulph and Cheadle.
The Officers also informed the Panel of regeneration and land use initiatives which included improvements to commercial units.
Panel members described the different levels of customer service received in relation to housing repairs and it was felt that is was difficult for tenants and non tenants to make a complaint to YHG. A case of a property being unfit to live in was reported along with a broken light on Hencroft in Leek which had not been repaired, despite numerous requests for this to be rectified.
Members were advised that there was a free all purpose telephone line for customers to use and the YHG website. All complaints were dealt with by a dedicated complaints team which reported to the Chief Executive. Face to face appointments were also available on Mondays at Moorlands House and the Neighbourhood Inspections/Walk-a-bouts would start to take place. Members were asked to give details of individual cases to Sharon Wheeler at the end of the meeting and apologies were given for the incidents described to the Officers. Members also asked to be notified of the dates the Walk-a-bouts would take place.
Members raised the outstanding issue with the lease for the Haregate Community Centre and it was confirmed that this was being addressed.
Detailed discussion took place around the potential sites for development, right to buy, further rent level constraints, staffing numbers and the likelihood of the mill on Station Road in Biddulph being developed.
The representatives were asked how realistic the recruitment of the Neighbourhood Champions would be and in response, the Panel was advised that smaller focus groups would be more productive than the previous arrangements for customer involvement. Property Agents had been asked to recruit 5 Neighbourhood Champions each and it was hoped that there would a total of 100 Neighbourhood Champions across the YHG.
A member of the Panel was concerned about the former Lightwood Home site in Cheadle as it had not been developed for a number of years. Brian Cronin - Chief Executive YHG, explained that more funding was required and as Ascent was a for profit organisation it hadn’t been possible to receive grant funding. Going forward, YHG would be able to apply for Homes and Communities Agency grant funding and hopefully be in position to land bank in the Moorlands area. The Development Director would be invited to attend the meeting in 6 months time when there should be more clarity around this matter.
Members requested an update on the property in Leek which Borderland Voices had previously occupied and Sharon Wheeler agreed to look into this matter and report back to the Panel.
The Chair passed on thanks to the YHG representatives for attending the meeting.
DECIDED: That the update be noted.