Strategic Risk Areas - red equals highest risk and highest impact (5/5)
The following new risk areas have been added to the Strategic Risk Register:
Cost of living crisis
The cost of living crisis caused by rising rates of inflation and fuel/energy costs, may result in more families and households to fall into unemployment and poverty, which may lead to increased level of service demand on the Council and place additional pressure on front-line services.
Recruitment and retention
Failure to recruit and retain sufficient permanent staff to a significant number of posts, including senior managers, leaves services without sufficient and/or sufficiently qualified staff leading to services being impaired and an overreliance on agency/interim staff.
Increased demand from migration and people movement
There is a risk that a sustained increase in migration and movement of
people could result in increased demand on the Council's critical front-line services (including housing, education and looked after children), which may result in service deterioration, financial pressures and also impact on the wider cohesion of the community.
NEU Video on the Cost of Living Crisis calling for support for June 18th demonstration
The full report is available HERE. It is important for the reader to assess whether the Action Plans adequately address the risks in the various areas. I include two extracts below.
The Cost of Living Crisis is clearly important in Brent. The Risk Register states:
COST OF LIVING CRISIS (A)
The cost of living crisis caused by rising rates of inflation, National Insurance, and fuel/energy costs, may result in more families and households to fall into poverty and unemployment, which may lead to increased level of service demand on the Council and place additional pressure on front-line services.
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS, PROGESS AND CONCERNS
The Brent Resident Support Fund (RSF) is a discretionary support fund available to Brent residents who are in financial difficulties, for example struggling with food, utility bills and other household essentials. For 2021/22, the RSF budget was £3million.
The government announcement of 3 February 2022 regarding Energy Bills Rebate included provision for most properties in council tax bands A to D to receive a £150 rebate payment. It is estimated that the total amount paid could be up to £14.5m at full take-up.
The announcement also made provision for local authorities to create a fuel rebate discretionary scheme to support some properties in bands E to H. The government have provided funding of £1,933,800 allowing the Council to establish a scheme to support bill payers not eligible under the main scheme for properties in bands A to D.
A cross-Council Cost of Living Crisis Group has been set-up to look at the impact of the crisis across all services and to ensure a joined-up approach.
A Food and Fuel Poverty Toolkit has been prepared which contains links and signposts to various organisations to support residents. Staff and Members have been briefed and trained on this and it has been presented at departmental management teams and relevant services.
A Financial Inclusion Dashboard is in place which draws together data from across various datasets, including council tax support and benefits. This is used to identify residents who may need targeted supports (i.e. in arrears). It also provides a strategic oversight for senior management.
1. Further enhance the Financial Inclusion Dashboard by introducing additional datasets to help identify residents in need of targeted support.
2. To use the Food and Fuel Poverty Toolkit to prepare a leaflet to be sent to all residents signposting them to various organisations that can provide support.
3. To continue to roll-out training regarding the Food and Fuel Poverty Toolkit crisis toolkit to partners and the third-sector.
4. A report will be taken to Cabinet for approval in June 2022, outlining all the measures currently in place and other planned actions to be taken by the Council. The report will also seeks approval for additional funding for RSF for three years from 22/23
The need for truly affordable housing, including Council housing, has been a major theme of this blog. In this section I was looking for an action concerning the issue particularly in the light of the concerns raised by Philip Grant over the Cecil Avenute development.
During the election campaign candidates at the Housing Hustings were concerned about developers 'getting away' with low levels of truly affordable housing and there were suggestions that the Council should engage its own in-house experts in Viability Assessments, rather than external providers. Developers use Viability Assessments to demonstrate that a development is not financially viable, or does not provide an adequate return if they provide the amount of afforable housing that the Council expects. There was also support for a separate Housing Scrutiny Committee. These issues are not addressed:
LACK OF SUPPLY OF AFFORDABLE ACCOMMODATION (D)
There is a risk that as a result of the limited supply of affordable accommodation, in the Private Rented Sector , settled Temporary Accommodation (TA) and Social Housing, progress made towards increasing the sufficient supply of accommodation to meet the demand from homeless households could be reversed. This could lead to greater reliance on emergency temporary accommodation, which would have impacts on the wellbeing and quality of life for residents, and also provide an additional burden.
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS, PROGRESS AND CONCERNS
In 2012, Brent had 3,176 homeless households living in TA, which was the largest number in the country. By 2018, this number had reduced to 2,450 and it now stands at 1,584. With progress being made on the New Council Homes programme, we believe we will meet the need for 1-3 bedroom properties. The picture is more limited for families in need of a 4+ bed accommodation, where will believe a significant shortfall will remain.
The recent economic downturn related to the Covid pandemic and the cost of living crisis has resulted in many households facing the risk of homeless. Some of these households are affected by the Overall Benefit Cap, which makes finding alternative private rented accommodation in the borough extra difficult. This means that the families are unable to afford Private Rented Accommodation (at the LHA rate) or settled temporary accommodation, in TA leasing schemes.
The greatest control we can exert on the model is building new Council-owned supply, and encouraging RSLs to build what we need. We can also exert control through social housing re-lets/voids, private rented sector offers, and new build social housing. The Team are also working with the affected families to support them to secure work, and so be exempt from the cap, as well as identifying households who are accruing debt, in order to proactively make contact and offer assistance at an earlier stage, to prevent homelessness.
The Housing Needs Service are working with Notting Hill Genesis HA, who supply TA through the HAL scheme, to procure more property in the North of Brent, where LHA rates are lower.
1. To continue delivering the NCHP at pace, with a focus on large family homes.
2. To continue to look at additional purchases of street properties that meet specific needs.
3. To continue review and explore options for the building of a new temporary accommodation scheme that would provide an additional 100 units of temporary accommodation.
The highest risk/impact area is the increase in the Dedicated Schools Grant High Needs Block Deficit. (C) This is the funding need for special needs pupils who have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) which was in deficit by £10.5m in 2020/21. This has is being addressed by putting in early support to reduce the need for EHCPs, creating more places for such children within the borough and ensuring that costs are collected other local authorities that have children in Brent schools. In addition to these actions there is a short statement on lobbying central government. An action that could of course be applied to the funding of local government in general.