Agenda item

(Eve Fawcett-Moralee)


Members gave consideration to a report which updated them on progress made in developing a viable housing solution for the South West Ward of Gainsborough.  The report summarised the findings of the option appraisal work undertaken since October 2019, to achieve the objectives the Committee had agreed should govern the preferred solution.


The report outlined the fundamental principles of the preferred solution aligned to the committee’s objectives and set out the Heads of Terms of the funding agreement between WLDC and the proposed partner.  These would contractualise the delivery and governance arrangements in an open and transparent manner.


In doing so, Members were asked to approve the proposed funding agreement as the preferred option and in turn seek approval from the Corporate Policy and Resources Committee for the financial implications of the decision.


The funding principles were outlined in detail, with Officers advising what resources the Council would put into the deal and what resources the partner would provide.  The long term outcomes it was hoped would be realised were also shared with the Committee, along with the income which would be lost as a result of asset transfer.


Debate ensued and whilst the Local Ward Member welcomed the investment, and considered the partner a credible one, who was forward thinking and active although he did have concerns as to whether the initial funding would be enough to deliver what was being envisaged.  There were also a number of questions as to and how and where such properties would be bought, the costs involved in renovating was questioned, and all were in agreement the scheme needed to deliver as large a number of properties as possible if it was to have the desired outcome.


The Committee were of the view that the report did not have enough detail around these factors and therefore any decision they made would be in principle only at this stage.  On that basis the following amendment was moved and seconded: -


That Members approve in principle the proposed funding agreement (including the transfer of 12 Council owned houses)………….. subject to receiving a detailed business plan.


On being put to the vote the amendment was accepted.   As the decision would now be an in principle one, it was noted the recommendation to forward this matter to the Corporate Policy and Resources Committee would be deferred at this time.


Further debate ensued and Members questioned the level of income generated from the current assets, with Officers accepting these were not value for money investments in their current form, hence recommending they form part of any new partnership arrangement approved.


Members again questioned whether pressure could be put on the relevant body to amend the rate of housing benefit payments for the Gainsborough area, which was a market driving force in the area.  


In responding to Members questions, Officers confirmed there would be little financial return from the proposal, the returns would be social and economic regeneration.  Any arrangement would see the council retain a proportion of any overage.  The preferred provider would not be permitted to sell the properties and was a not for profit organisation.  It was envisaged, ultimately the properties would be part of a community trust arrangement.  It was stressed the Council would not be assisting a private company to make money using Council funds.


The Committee wanted further assurance that they would have a role in owning the policy and monitoring its impact and success.  Any business plan submitted needed to cover all of the points raised at 5.13 of the report.


The Chief Executive gave assurance that the business plan would address all of those concerns expressed by the Committee.  Due to the far reaching implications of entering into any such partnership, the Chief Executive further suggested that once in receipt of the Business Plan, a workshop would be held with Members in order that they could scrutinise the detail and be confident in any decision.  Furthermore it was suggested the decision be made using the concurrent committee arrangements.


On that basis it was


RESOLVED that the proposed funding agreement with the provider named within the report be approved in principle (including the transfer of 12 Council owned properties) as the preferred option to deliver a viable housing solution for Gainsborough South West Ward, to meet the objectives agreed by the Committee on 17 October 2019, subject to receiving a detailed Business Plan.