Agenda item

Presentation to Council by Representatives of Valleys to Coast


The Chief Executive presented a report that introduced representatives of Valleys to Coast, ie Jo Oak, Chief Executive and Darrin Davies, Corporate Director – Development and Growth, who then gave a presentation upon the latest work of the organisation.


The presentation initially outlined V2C’s agenda, which was


  • Their current position
  • Their immediate priorities
  • Their impact and ambition
  • Clarification around empty homes
  • Opportunities for questions


In terms of the current position, the Officers explained that V2C had received the highest level of compliance for their governance and financial viability following a recent regulatory review.


Rent levels had been set at 6.5% increase on average (in line with other Welsh HAs and on average £20 lower than rent cap), with rent freeze and additional support for most vulnerable.


Continued partnership working was being developed to better support their customers, including the Housing Health and Innovation programme across Cwm Taf Morgannwg region.


Works had also taken place in terms of supporting Bridgend Town Centre by encouraging colleagues back to the office and re-introducing the organisations reception area.


In terms of the organisations more immediate priorities, these were outlined as follows:-


1.    Tackling dampness, condensation and mould - working collectively with other Welsh HAs & LAs and responding to the Housing Minister

2.    Preventing and tackling homelessness - increased support for customers through cost of living crisis; working in partnership with BCBC and others; investing in new homes to meet demand

3.    Addressing under investment in Bridgend through our ‘Missing Piece’ agenda, so we can do more for our customers and communities.


The Chief Executive of V2C advised that with regards to the organisations impacts and ambitions both currently and moving forward, these were to share with members that its Turnaround Programme has had a positive impact across the business, and for customers, with a repairs backlog reducing in number down as well as complaints also reducing and positive resolutions happening quicker for property tenants.


All the above was being driven forward with plans to create a wholly owned subsidiary to further improve and grow their repairs and maintenance service.


V2C had also launched its ambitious Safe and Happy Sustainable Future strategy to work towards carbon neutrality.


Furthermore, £1.2m had been secured to invest in an optimised retro fit programme. This would commence with improved heating systems to around 200 homes; external wall insulation to around 200 homes; and energy efficient lighting to communal areas at its sheltered schemes.


In relation to clarification in respect of Empty Homes, the Officers explained that Valleys to Coast is not the only RSL in Bridgend and that this on occasions led to some misunderstanding locally about the extent of  ownership of some empty homes.


There was also some misconception over the number of homes V2C owned in relation to properties lost through the Right to Buy Scheme.


With regard to void properties, the Officers explained that there were presently 138 empty homes (voids) in the Bridgend area, with 63 currently undergoing construction work to prepare for re-let. In terms of 23 of these properties, works there had been completed and were now ready to be let. The works on 10 properties had been issued to contractors with the relevant works pending. 6 properties were awaiting asbestos reports and/or kitchen plans, with 3 of these awaiting clearance. 23 properties were awaiting inspection (including those where such inspections had already been scheduled).


The V2C Officers also advised, that homes can be empty for a number of reasons, for example, work in progress; specific adaptations pending; scheduled for major works; awaiting compliance testing or safety reports; awaiting utilities; awaiting clearance or those located in a hard to let area.


In conclusion, it was confirmed that since the start of the 2022-23 financial year, V2C had brought 289 empty homes back into use, including 16 ‘high value’ voids.


As this concluded the presentation, the Mayor asked Members if they had any questions of the Officers.


A Member noted that the largest success he had noted since he had become a County Borough Councillor last May, was the much needed clear-up of the Wildmill Estate, through collaborative working between BCBC and V2C. However, as part of the Council’s draft budget proposals, there was a suggestion to reduce the size of BCBC’s Enforcement team. He therefore asked, how this would affect future works such as this within this area and the wider areas of Bridgend.


The Chief Executive, V2C stated that there was accountability between organisation partners to ensure that there would be positive outcomes when work of this nature was scheduled and subsequently undertaken. Expectations have been set in terms of clearing the likes of fly tipping and improving the green areas within Wildmill and she was sure that despite any reductions in workforce, works such as this would be continue to be carried out in the future so as to build on the very positive strides that have been made in hotspot areas such as Wildmill, in the future.


A Member asked what powers V2C had when it came to tenants showing anti-social behaviour and therefore causing agitation and problems for neighbouring residents, ie non-criminal behaviour.


The Chief Executive, V2C advised that V2C would investigate problems such as this either in isolation or with partners such as the MASH team or the South Wales Police. V2C could carry out legal proceedings against such perpetrators which could lead to tenants then facing eviction, however, this could result in the problem just being moved from one community to another where the tenant moved to. Or the tenant could become homeless which would exacerbate that particular problem which was increasing. Therefore, in most cases V2C and other key agencies would in the first instance look to resolve issues with the tenant and try and address their behavioural problems in order to resolve matters, without the need for further action having to take place.


A Member who was a representative on Bridgend Care and Repair advised that she recently visited a V2C property where there was a vulnerable tenant, who hadn’t had a shower for a number of weeks. She asked how often V2C staff inspected properties to ensure that tenants such as this could be identified in order to ascertain whether or not they required further support. She also asked if tenants were required to move out of their property and into another, if works were required to the dwelling.


The Chief Executive, V2C confirmed that annually V2C staff inspected properties as part of a yearly inspection programme, to conduct property safety checks. There were more regular inspections during the pandemic, but of course, Covid had now subsided. There was also an ‘Eyes On’ campaign, where representatives of V2C interacted with tenants on safeguarding issues and property repairs and reported these back, in order for appropriate action to be taken. There was also a referrals process, working with partners such as BCBC, where problems with tenants, repairs, litter and a whole host of other issues were reported and listed to be actioned.


In terms of tenants having to move out of their property when repairs were being undertaken to it, this all depended on the extent of what was required to be carried out. This was considered in relation to the size of the works and any safety elements that needed to be considered. These were discussed with the customer. On occasions rather than move a tenant to an alternative property for this purpose, they could be re-located to a hotel or guest house for a short period of time.


A Member noted that there had been instances of a repairs backlog for V2C tenants properties, which often resulted in a ‘bottle neck’ of these developing, which then delayed such repairs being resolved. He had received this feedback from some constituents, though on occasions when he made a referral to V2C directly on these same issues, he had always found that the problem was actioned by the organisation quickly. He asked if this was the case and if so, what was being done to rectify such delays.


The Chief Executive, V2C acknowledged that complaints from tenants in this area had been a problem previously, though further work had been committed to this area of work and the situation had improved. She added that she would prefer tenants to contact the organisation direct, rather than through any partner, as cutting out these often speeded up the response whereby then action was taken more quickly. Often if complaints were made and not actioned speedily enough for the tenants liking, they would then look to take legal proceedings against V2C which could become protracted and could delay the problem even longer and was often avoidable through dialogue between tenant and housing association. She advised the Member to have a further discussion on this, outside of the meeting.


For further debate that ensued on this topic, please refer here to the meeting link ££££££.           


RESOLVED:                               That the report of the Chief Executive and the presentation from Valleys to Coast colleagues, be noted.

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