To consider the approach for consultation on the draft Cumbria Choice Allocations Policy.
The Deputy Leader and Housing and Innovation Portfolio Holder presented the report, which explained that approval of the Cumbria Choice Based Lettings Allocations Policy, operation of which had begun in May 2011, would ensure that there was greater clarity for households in South Lakeland who were currently registered for social housing or who might register in the future. The proposed Policy would help to ensure that there was a consistent and fair approach amongst registered providers with regard to letting homes in South Lakeland to meet the greatest housing needs. The revisions would meet legislative changes relating to the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and resultant Statutory Guidance. It was expected that the proposed changes would simplify the operation of the policy to the benefit of all who use it and to customers.
The report detailed consultation which had already taken place, following which a number of changes were required to the Policy to satisfy legislative change, reduce any ambiguities in the operation of the policy so it was applied consistently and fairly and to ensure greater clarity and simplicity. It was, therefore, being proposed that a local consultation be launched in South Lakeland to provide further opportunity for comments from key stakeholders. The consultation responses could then be considered at the July Overview and Scrutiny Committee and the July Cabinet meeting for recommendation to Council. The Deputy Leader and Housing and Innovation Portfolio Holder drew attention to the fact that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, at its meeting on 22 June 2020, had given consideration to the consultation process. The Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) explained that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had, at that meeting, established a small working group of Members to consider the Policy with a view to providing feedback to the Committee’s July meeting.
Attention was drawn to the fact that this was a common Allocations Policy, the Cumbria Choice Based Lettings being a partnership comprising the six housing authorities in Cumbria and eight housing associations, all partners had to seek approval from their respective organisations to enable the revised Policy to be published by July.
Discussion took place during which a number of queries were raised and answered by the Principal Specialist People.
Concern was raised that the proposed wider local connection criteria outlined within the draft Cumbria Choice Based Lettings Allocations Policy may conflict with the local connection policies of the National Parks. This could impede future developments should the Cumbria-wide local connection criteria be used. It was suggested that this needed to be clear in the draft Policy. In response, the Principal Specialist People explained that Section 106 Agreements used for planning applications would take precedence over the Cumbria Choice Based Lettings Allocations Policy local connection criteria. These were set by each of the planning authorities. Social housing owned by Registered Providers were typically covered by Section 106 Agreements and these would be used when determining whether an applicant qualified for these properties. However, she pointed out that the main stock holder in South Lakeland was South Lakes Housing, and that the majority of their housing stock was ex-Council stock and, for this, the Choice Based Lettings Allocations Policy local connection criteria would apply, with the exception of houses and bungalows in rural areas which were captured by the Council’s Local Lettings Policy.
The need for flexibility for people who lived near the border of districts outside of Cumbria, i.e. Lancaster, was raised, as there were examples where constituents lived very close to the border but fell outside of the defined locality. The Principal Specialist People responded, saying that there was some flexibility within the draft Allocations Policy if there was no one identified who met the local connection criteria. Additionally, there were various factors that could be considered as a local connection, including working in the locality, having close family in the locality or needing support from relatives in the locality. The Right to Move was also set out within the draft Policy, as this was statutory provision that could assist applicants who needed to move from outside of Cumbria for work purposes, and the draft Policy gave a percentage of lettings to be made in this way.
In response to a suggestion that the draft Policy should include some right of appeal as this would be otherwise unfair, the Principal Specialist People advised that the draft Cumbria Choice Allocations Policy set out the right for a review of decisions and how a review would be requested and carried out.
The Principal Specialist People undertook to provide written responses to those Members who had raised queries and the Deputy Leader and Housing and Innovation Portfolio Holder agreed to address a request for care that the Policy did not inhibit new development within the Yorkshire Dales National Park areas of Sedbergh and Dent.
A vote was taken on the proposals during which all Cabinet Members confirmed that they had, without interruption, heard the full presentation and discussion on the item.
RESOLVED – That
(1) the consultation draft Cumbria Choice Allocations Policy be noted; and
(2) the approach outlined at paragraph 4.2. of the report for local consultation in South Lakeland be approved.
Reasons for Decision
The proposed amendments to the Policy will assist the Council in meeting the priority to provide ‘Homes to Meet Need’.
Alternative Options Considered and Rejected
Members could choose not to undertake a further local consultation. This is not recommended as due to the COVID-19 pandemic there were limited responses to the Board consultation process. The local consultation would give further opportunity for responses.