Purpose of report: This report outlines the background to and drivers for the initiation of a county-wide housing, accommodation and homes strategy and sets out the initial findings of a baseline assessment exercise, upon which key priorities and action will be derived, through a partnership-based, collaborative deliberation programme.
Sinead Mooney, Cabinet Member for Children and Families
Michael Coughlin, Executive Director of Prosperity, Partnerships and Growth
Key points raised during the discussion:
1. A Vice Chairman asked for practical examples to show where the strategy would not infringe on the work of districts and boroughs. The Cabinet Member for Children and Families said that there were opportunities where areas of land owned by multiple partners that did not fall in the district or borough remit. This type of element would benefit districts and boroughs housing waiting lists and housing plan targets without undermining their sovereignty with housing or the planning process.
2. A Member explained that leaders and chief executives of the districts and boroughs had recently met to discuss the approach and how to move forward whilst considering a range of issues. The leaders for the districts and boroughs had expressed their concerns around the aims, objectives and progression of the strategy in a letter to go forward to the housing summit on 8 December 2022. The Cabinet Member for Children and Families noted the strategy had not yet been written and would include a response to the baseline assessment and feedback provided at a recent housing meeting which had included all the districts and boroughs. The Executive Director of Prosperity, Partnerships and Growth added that the statutory functions of the districts and boroughs would not be affected.
3. A Member reiterated that SCC needed to accept and address the serious concerns expressed by the districts and boroughs for progress to be made. The Cabinet Member for Children and Families confirmed that the strategy was not a statutory document and that engagement with districts and boroughs would continue on the strategic priorities and benefits.
4. A Member noted the requirement for Surrey County Council to champion good quality housing to help the delivery of better health, social and environmental outcomes across Surrey. The Cabinet Member Children and Families summarised the aim to engage with multiple housing providers and registered social landlords across Surrey to encourage good quality new as well as existing housing. The housing strategy would attempt to address gaps in equalities with the possibility of lobbying central government to open funding opportunities to enable essential improvements to existing housing stock.
5. A Member queried the cost of the consultancy in this phase, the costs expected for phase two and the number of full-time equivalent staff involved. The Executive Director of Prosperity, Partnerships and Growth confirmed the total budget of £80,000 had not yet been fully spent and all costs were expected to be met within this amount with no requirement for any additional full-time equivalent staff.
6. A Vice Charman in referencing chapter 4.1, paragraph 3 and the quote “many participants pointed to a lack of partnership between key players across the county in relation to the provision of housing and accommodation” asked how the case for investment in housing was currently being made and by whom. The Cabinet Member for Children and Families confirmed that the final document would address that significant gap as the strategy was developed and would be followed by a county wide review when the strategy had come into force. The Executive Director of Prosperity, Partnerships and Growth added that SCC would lead the call to action in its stewardship role to champion housing in Surrey within the context currently played by the districts and boroughs.
7. The Cabinet Member for Children and Families noted the Committees feedback to engage and consult with the districts and boroughs and reiterated that there had been constructive discussions and feedback arising from recent housing roadshows. The Cabinet Member for Children and Families noted that it was clear from the discussion with the CEHSC that further consideration was required around providing further clarity on the purpose of the strategy.
Resolved: (Stephen Cooksey and John Furey abstained)
The Communities, Environment and Highways Select Committee: