Nottingham Post

Checks on all 26,000 of city’s council homes



ALL 26,000 Nottingham council homes are to be checked in a bid to make sure they are up to new standards.

New benchmarks have been set by the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH), which all landlords must now follow.

The new regulatory regime was establishe­d under the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023, following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017. A Nottingham City Council report recently revealed that “considerab­le work” was needed for the authority’s housing stock to get it up to the new regulatory standards.

The council now directly manages social housing after winding up its arms-length management organisati­on, Nottingham City Homes (NCH).

Moving NCH in-house came after it emerged that millions of pounds in rentpayers’ money from the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) was unlawfully diverted to the general fund for other services.

During a housing and city developmen­t scrutiny committee meeting on Monday, councillor­s were told that a full condition check had not been done by NCH for at least eight years.

Geoff Wharton, consultant strategic director of housing, said: “If we look at what we inherited, we have got a stock condition that hadn’t been done for at least eight years. We have now addressed that. There are going to be boots on the ground in the next few months and they are going to do a 100 percent stock condition survey in the next year.”

The HRA issue was uncovered in 2021. A report by Richard Penn, a local government expert, concluded it occurred due to poor governance practice, principall­y at the city council but also at Nottingham City Homes. It added there had been a serious failure of governance at NCH, where the chief executive and others had sufficient knowledge of the Housing Revenue Account ringfence to know that returning surpluses to the council to help with general fund budget pressures “could not be justified but they went along with it”.

The report, alongside another investigat­ion by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountanc­y, concluded existing arrangemen­ts between NCH and the council did not allow for the money to be “adequately protected”. They both recommende­d NCH be brought in-house.

During the meeting, Sajeeda Rose, corporate director for growth and city developmen­t, said councils typically conducted due-diligence tests before deciding to bring similar organisati­ons in-house. “We did a full lift and shift,” she said. “We are in a position where we are making those changes and those improvemen­ts at the same time. The benefits are actually we are improving as we go. The disadvanta­ges are we are playing catch-up in terms of past policy changes. “Very few councils do a full stock condition survey. A lot of authoritie­s do 20 percent samples, 10 percent samples.” The Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) now has a full year of inspection­s planned. Documents highlight that it expects “only a few” housing services to achieve the highest rating. If a service gets the lowest two ratings, the RSH will work with the provider to make sure changes are made.

There are going to be boots on the ground in the next few months and they are going to do a 100 percent stock condition survey in the next year

Geoff Wharton

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