News Update – July 2021 – Election closes 31 July

This update touches on some recent developments.

Topics in this Update

Leaseholders’ Forum Elections
Complaints and the Housing Ombudsman
Chalcots Cladding Replacement
Cromer Street Cladding Replacement
Fire Safety Act 2021
Building Safety Bill
Resident Participation – Cabinet Adviser for Tenant Voice
Cabinet Member for Better Homes report June 2021
Day to day Reactive Repairs
Capital Works (Resident Engagement; Better Homes / External Works; Fire Safety)
Caretaking
Car Parking and Access Team
Renewal of the Housing CCTV Network
Meet the Regulator of Social Housing – webinar 11am on 15 July

Leaseholders’ Forum Elections
“Be a voice for Camden leaseholders”
Did you see this announcement tucked away on the back page of the June mailing of Camden Housing News – Summer 2021?
Camden Leaseholders’ Forum is a group of volunteers representing the voices of Camden leaseholders and freeholders. This year you have the opportunity to join them as an elected member.
So if you’re a Camden leaseholder, have ideas to improve Camden’s leaseholder services and want to make a real difference for homeowners, stand for election.
Send your name, address and reasons for standing (in 100 words or less) to Camden Tenant Participation by Saturday 31 July.

Complaints and the Housing Ombudsman
According to its Complaints Policy and Procedure, Camden Council’s definition of a complaint is ‘When someone lets us know that they are unhappy with our service and they want us to take action to resolve it’.

If you are not satisfied with the way Camden is handling a complaint you may refer the dispute to the Housing Ombudsman for a resolution. The Housing Ombudsman Service is set up by law to look at such complaints. The service is free, independent and impartial.

The Housing Ombudsman has issued a first call for evidence to support an investigation which will look at damp and mould. More information here, on the Housing Ombudsman website.

Chalcots Cladding Replacement
The Council has obtained planning permission (2021/0191/P) to re-clad the five towers on the Chalcots Estate. The original ACM cladding has already been removed.

The Council has analysed the expressions of interest for the Blashford Tower contract and has invited a number of contractors to
submit tenders. The detailed design for the four similar towers is progressing well and expressions of interest are being analysed. The aim is to have the contract for Blashford awarded in August 2021 and the contract for the four similar towers awarded in November 2021.

At the end of 2018 Camden secured £80 million funding from the Government and has undertaken to make up any shortfall from Council funds. Leaseholders will not be charged for replacing this cladding.

The Camden website has a dedicated Chalcots residents’ support page here.

Cromer Street Cladding Replacement
The Council has applied for planning permission (2020/5866/P – PlanningSearch) to re-clad the towers on the Cromer Street Estate in King’s Cross. Planning Committee meets on 8 July 2021.

Camden applied for a grant from the Government’s £1 billion fund for the remediation of non-Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) facades on residential buildings over 18 metres in height. The blocks deemed eligible are all on the Cromer Estate, they are safe to occupy however the current insulation does not meet the latest regulations for tall buildings. The Government department (MHCLG) has confirmed that 3 of the 11 blocks on the Cromer Estate are eligible for the funding which should result in Camden receiving circa £3m of funding. Work must start before the end of September 2021.

The Council is to award the contract to Lawtech Ltd for the replacement of the external wall insulation on up to 11 blocks on the Cromer Street Estate, with an estimated total construction value of £9,333,973. Work is to commence to the three blocks which have grant funding, with the ability to add the 8 smaller blocks following a review of the scope of works. See Camden’s website here for more information.

Fire Safety Act 2021
The Fire Safety Act clarifies that where a building contains 2 or more sets of domestic premises, the Fire Safety Order 2005 applies to:
– the building’s structure and external walls (including windows, balconies, cladding, insulation and fixings) and any common parts
– all doors between domestic premises and common parts such as flat entrance doors (or any other relevant door).
Individual flats are excluded. The government plans to issue guidance when the Fire Safety Act comes into force which will set out that if you are a Responsible Person (such as Camden as landlord), you must consider these parts when conducting fire risk assessments.

It is a very short Act, just 3 pages. The Act received Royal Assent on 29 April 2021. However, it is unlikely to be brought into force until the Government has issued its risk based guidance – expected to be published in September 2021.

Building Safety Bill
The Building Safety Bill was introduced into Parliament on 30 June 2021 and tabled in the Commons on 5 July, nearly a year since the Government began consultation on a draft. It is a large (218 pages) and complex Bill and the Government does not expect passage through Parliament to take less than 9 months. The Government’s policy paper and Outline Transition Plan may be found here.

The Bill and other documents may be found here.

Building magazine 6 July has an article on the Bill – linked here.

As may be expected, legal practices have something to say about the Bill. Here is a commentary by CMS.

Resident Participation – Cabinet Adviser for Tenant Voice
Camden Council established four Cabinet Adviser roles in December 2019 to provide evidence-based recommendation and policy making support to the Cabinet of the Council. The Cabinet Advisers are to be appointed yearly to engage, research and develop recommendations in a particular policy area, working with a Cabinet Member and wider elected members and the community.

Cllr Samata Khatoon was appointed Cabinet Adviser for Tenant Voice, to work with the Cabinet Member for Better Homes, Cllr Meric Apak. The brief is to make recommendations as to how the Council involves and engages with tenants in decision-making about their homes and communities and how Camden can broaden engagement and involvement in tenant oversight of services.

Cllr Khatoon’s report, June 2021, to the Housing Scrutiny Committee may be found here.

Cabinet Member for Better Homes – Report June 2021
Councillor Meric Apak, Cabinet Member for Better Homes, reported last month to the Housing Scrutiny Committee.
Cllr Apak’s Opening remarks:
“Since my last update to the Housing Scrutiny Committee, a lot has happened which I feel the committee ought to know about. I have tried to provide an overview, however, it has been difficult to do this without delving into the detail at times.
My report primarily attempts to set out the impact of the pandemic and the recovery plans. It also sets out what improvements we have brought about to address concerns raised before, despite the pandemic.”

Report content:
1. Introduction [see Opening remarks above]
2. Private Rented Sector and Homelessness
3. Update on works to the Chalcots and fire safety [see above]
4. The Voids Improvement Programme
5. Resident Engagement
6. Day to day Reactive Repairs [extracts below]
7. Capital Works [extracts below]
8. Estate Services [extracts below]
9. Grounds Maintenance and Tree Management
10. Responsive Security Patrol
11. Renewal of the Housing CCTV Network [extracts below]
12. Landlord Services

Cllr Apak’s Closing remarks:
“This report is in no way intended to pretend that everything in Housing works 100%, and that all our residents are completely satisfied. We are responsible for some 33,000 properties. Approximately 23,000 of these are tenanted, the rest being leaseholds. Like an iceberg, all the good work we do, is often beneath the surface and remains hidden, while the failures we experience is often exposed on the surface.

While we must always strive for perfection for our residents, we need to accept that sometimes things will go wrong. For me the overriding priority in all this is to instil a culture of ongoing learning and improvement with proactive resident centric communication and engagement. I trust that this ethos and approach has come through in this report and can be seen in the early adoption of new processes within our new inhouse structures.”
The full report by Cllr Apak may be found here

Day to day Reactive Repairs
The Cabinet Member for Better Homes reported last month as follows:
“Since being decoupled from the Contact Centre, the Housing repairs call centre continues to be very busy due to people being at home more and this leading to additional demand with 87,800 telephone calls presented to the team in the three months during Jan-March 21. In the same period last year, this figure was 61,785. Despite this volume, the team still answered 96% of all calls, with 95% answered within 2 minutes. The online reporting remains high, with over 1000 online requests reported in this period.

The team are working very hard with Camden colleagues to have an up to date online housing repairs reporting system available for our residents. This piece of work is using existing system applications in a way that can provide a front end reporting portal for residents to report a repair at a time that suits them.

Following extensive testing, the team have launched the Camden Account linked new online repairs reporting system on 17 May. This has been very popular.

The Repairs Calls Centre has been busy since 17th May with approx. 850 – 1000 calls per day. This is higher than expected at this time of year but manageable. To help manage this demand we need to do things differently, we have heavily promoted the use of the call-back service and expanded SMS updates for all new repair requests, including Mechanical and Engineering. We now send out a series of text messages rather than just one previously. An SMS is sent at the time of the booking, 48 hours before it is due to take place and now at 7 am of the day of the appointment itself. Since this launch, the number of confirming appointment calls has fallen from 15% of all calls to 2%. Also, following feedback from residents and this committee, we have reduced the number of telephone options that residents need to press to speak to the correct person.

On the 17th of March, we introduced a brand new service to Camden, webchat. This service has exceeded all expectations, with over 800 web chat interactions taking place already. Resident feedback has been very positive, with over 95% resident satisfaction score recorded. As with the primary contact centre hours, the service operates between 9-5 pm Monday to Friday. The service is working closely with other colleagues across Camden to see how different services can positively use this new channel shift option.
Scoping work has started for a permanent back end solution focussed on repair reporting, assets management and cross housing directorate working.

Case management response times continue to improve, with 72% of all cases being answered in 10 days, up from 45% in 2020. In line with the new Housing Ombudsman requirements earlier this year, the team has adopted a straightforward lessons-learned approach to resident complaints and contacts. As part of their role, they regularly meet with key managers in Repairs and Contractors to focus on improving and reducing complaint themes and trends.
As part of our early work to improve transparency we are publishing our call handling and case management performance statistics on the Camden website.”

Capital Works
The Cabinet Member for Better Homes reported last month as follows:
Resident engagement on the forward programme
“Resident engagement took place in early 2020 with key resident groups including Tenant Resident Associations (TRAs), District Management Committees (DMCs), Camden Association of Street Properties (CASP) and the Camden Leaseholders Forum. This provided good feedback on the Better Homes programme and our approach to resident engagement.
During the workshops and engagement opportunities the key findings of the latest stock condition were shared and the proposed programme discussed. The feedback from resident groups has helped us to shape the forward programme. The key headlines from the consultation were as follows:
➢ Residents are supportive of de-prioritising internal works and focussing on external works
➢ Clear significant investment need remains – windows, remaining lifts and heating systems
➢ Residents broadly support an elemental approach where appropriate, e.g. tackling single elements such as windows as opposed to doing the whole external envelope
➢ Residents supported the introduction of cyclical maintenance programme with the aim of stopping problems getting bigger e.g. regularly inspect roofs and guttering
➢ Majority of the feedback supported the view that fire safety works should be a distinct programme
➢ The consultation also highlighted that a priority should be, improved communication with residents, resident involvement in the lifespan of the works, a named Camden officer as lead on all projects and a communication 10 strategy developed per programme that includes engagement with those who do not have IT access.
We analysed the stock condition survey, reviewed existing commitments and have carried out detailed scoping assessments to identify the required investment over the coming years.”

Better Homes / External Works
“The Better Homes programme of works includes the delivery of fire safety works at some locations where other external works are also taking place to ensure a coordinated approach to delivery and reducing the need for another project being delivered at the same site at another time or by another project manager.

The programme is being finalised and will be published on the Camden Open Data website.”
The External Better Homes Programme (years 2018/19, 2020/21 and 2021/22) may be found here.
Select ‘View Data’ then enter search criteria (such as name of property) in ‘Find in this Dataset’ and hit Enter.
The Dataset does not appear to have been updated yet. Let us know if you think it has been for your property. Projected elemental costs are estimated on a ‘cost per unit’ basis, varied only by whether the unit is on an estate or in a street property.

Fire Safety
“Key projects being delivered are based on the actions recommended in the Fire Risk Assessment (FRA). As the FRAs are undertaken at various properties across the borough the number of actions is likely to increase including the workload of this team therefore the programme will reflect this workload and work will be prioritised based on the level of risk and urgency. Works being delivered in this programme include:
➢ Installing new smoke and fire alarms;
➢ Installing emergency lighting;
➢ Redecoration of communal areas to class 0 standard;
➢ Replacing or upgrading fire doors;
➢ Fire signage;
➢ Installing door closers; and,
➢ Ensuring fire stopping is in place”

Fire Risk Assessments data may be found here.
Select ‘View Data’ then enter search criteria (such as name of property) in ‘Find in this Dataset’ and hit Enter
The Dataset does appear to have been updated. However, it does not seem to include every property where a fire risk assessment has been carried out.

Caretaking
The Cabinet Member for Better Homes reported last month as follows:
“Throughout the pandemic and since the launch of the enhanced service, we have received positive feedback and appreciation from residents about the services Camden Caretakers have continued to deliver, keeping estates clean and safe. Standards of cleaning are high, with A or B grades achieved consistently across 90-95% of stock, and the latest Keep Britain Tidy report has noted improvements on external estate cleaning…

A core commitment of the enhanced Caretaking Service is improved resident engagement. Since September, despite Covid restrictions, we have contacted every estate TRA in Camden to introduce the enhanced service, offering to meet with residents either in person or virtually to better understand local priorities and identify uplift and improvement projects. To date we have conducted more than 25 joint walkabouts/inspections and attended around 25 resident led meetings.

Our mobile Caretaking Support and Response team delivers a schedule of project work, performing uplift and improvement tasks that complement the core duties performed by Caretakers each day. This team will work with residents and staff to deliver estate wide improvements such as painting, graffiti removal, stain removal, jet washing, and deep cleaning… This team has made an enormous impact to the service and has gained a reputation for excellence in the 8 months it has been operational, as noted at DMCs and exemplified in a number of appreciations received from residents.

The service has made good progress implementing outcomes from the 2019/20 Caretaking Review: Camden Caretakers now deliver cleaning and support resident safety in all common areas on estates; a full workforce training programme is almost complete with the final element due to rollout over the summer; Caretakers are now connected with access to email and other online staff resources. The Caretaking service is leading conversations on estate improvement with our colleagues and partners.”

Car Parking and Access Team
The Cabinet Member for Better Homes reported last month as follows:
“… Throughout this period, this team has directly supported NHS, front line services and essential Council staff by providing over 200 parking spaces on estates, complementing the work being done by colleagues in the street parking team.

The team has successfully implemented the first estate Traffic Management Order on the Maiden Lane Estate in 2020 and are currently reviewing how to progress this across other estates. Work is also underway with corporate parking colleagues to introduce a self-service permit system, mirroring the service due to be introduced for on street parking.

Dedicated bicycle storage facilities provide residents with secure storage away from communal fire escape routes. To date we have facilitated access to more than 15 bicycle facilities across our estates, with another 10 confirmed for 2021/22. Another 27 estates are under consideration to receive additional bicycle facilities. Finally, and in collaboration with colleagues in Transport Planning, we are supporting investigations into the feasibility of installing electric vehicle (EV) charging points on estates. While this work is at an early stage, the team is ready to support with traffic management orders for EV dedicated charging bays.”

Renewal of the Housing CCTV Network
The Cabinet Member for Better Homes reported last month as follows:
“Improvements in the new CCTV Control Room continues. We continue to have a Police Officer working alongside the CCTV operators five evenings a week and this is working well. The control room has supported both the Police and Council in identifying breaches in Covid regulations and monitoring public areas…

The renewal of the Housing CCTV network is progressing, with the initial work focussed on installing a future proofed, rooftop network of transmitters… This work will be completed over the Summer and we will then be able to start installing the new high quality cameras. In the future all new CCTV cameras will be connected direct to the CCTV Control Room for live monitoring by the staff and to take advantage of the smart analytics available in the control room software – like groups gathering in an area of concern (please note it is against the council’s policy to use facial recognition software in any of its camera systems and there are no plans to do so). As part of the renewal of the Housing CCTV Network the Council will be engaging with residents, the community safety team and Police to work out the best locations and types of cameras to be used on each estate.”

Meet the Regulator of Social Housing – webinar 11am on 15 July
The webinar is open to all residents, but will be most relevant for tenants that rent their homes.

Last year, the government published its Social Housing White Paper. In this, it asked the RSH to change the way it carries out consumer regulation in social housing and to create a new consumer function. During this first webinar, you’ll hear about how regulation in the social housing sector works at the moment and the changes the White Paper is introducing, and about the opportunities coming up to engage further with the RSH. The aim of the session to provide a clear picture of how regulation works and to equip participants with the knowledge they need to fully engage in the conversations about regulatory change.

For more information and to register for this webinar (web seminar) see here.