To receive a briefing from the Executive Member for Housing and Regeneration.
The Executive Member for Housing and Regeneration introduced the item. The Committee were told that there had been a significant increase in homeless applications since mid-June when the lockdown came to an end. The executive member stressed the need for the Council to lobby government to extend the eviction ban to avoid a homelessness crisis. A bed every night was working well and funding was secured until the end of the year. Through the next steps accommodation fund Trafford was bidding for capital funds to bring an empty property into use to support homeless people with complex needs.
The Corporate Director for Place added that during the early days of the COVID 19 pandemic there had been a reduction in homelessness applications, which then increased when lockdown ended. There was continued concern of a potential backlog of evictions and repossession action. There had been a significant reduction in the turnover of social housing stock, which the council used to house homeless people, and available affordable housing. Due to the lack turnover it was likely that the Council would see demand increase throughout the year.
Councillor Lamb asked about people being placed at the Amblehurst in sale and the number of people being placed in Trafford from other authorities. The Councillor noted that some people who had been placed at the Amblehurst had taken part in anti-social behaviour. The report stated that the Council did not always receive the section 208 notification from other Councils and the Councillor wanted to know why that was and whether anything could be done about it. The Councillor also asked what Trafford could do to ensure that the people placed in the borough but then took part in antisocial behaviour were addressed by the local authority that placed them in Trafford. The Executive Member for Housing and Regeneration responded that Trafford had performed two days of action Sale town centre recently and had found that the majority of those taking part in antisocial behaviour were not from the Amblehurst.
The Executive Member stated that many of the people placed at the Ambelhurst were particularly vulnerable people with drug, alcohol, and mental health issues. The Executive Member noted that Manchester City Council could have performed better when placing the residents in the Ambelhurts and asked the Committee to take into consideration that Manchester was a hub for homelessness and had more homeless people than the rest of the GM authorities. Manchester had some responsibilities for the individuals placed in other areas although anti-social behaviour and similar issues were not part of those duties.
The Corporate Director of Place added that Trafford were working with GMP, the community strategy Team and the Housing Team to address issues. With regards to section 208 notices work was ongoing across the GM authorities on how to manage placements better. The vast majority of authorities had a poor performance on the completion of 208 notices and authorities could not refuse a person that an authority wanted to place in their area, even without a 208 notice.
The Chair noted the response from The Executive Member for Housing and Regeneration and the Corporate Director of Place and requested that the Council continue to work on the completion of 208 notices for people placed in Trafford to ensure that the Council could meet their responsibilities to those people.
Councillor Williams informed the Committee that Trafford did not have as many people placed in the borough as other areas due to the high cost of accommodation and that Trafford also placed people in other authorities when trying to house homeless applicants. Councillor Williams noted that Salford Council had started work with registered providers of social housing to implement additional pre action protocol where they contacted the authority whenever a case went to court and not just when a warrant was issued. Councillor Williams then asked whether this was something the Council could consider. Councillor Williams noted that the Council had been excellent at sharing performance data with the Committee and elected members during the pandemic and asked that information be shared regularly on this issue so that members were aware of the situation.
Councillor Winstanley supported the statements made by Councillor Williams and asked whether there was anything that the Council could do to support residents when the suspension on evictions came to an end.
Councillor Blackburn asked for clarification as to whether support needed by people placed within Trafford was provided by Trafford or the placing authority. The Corporate Director of Adult Services responded that the responsibility lay with the placing authority for any ongoing social work activity. Councillor Blackburn asked whether that support was being provided. The Director of Adult services responded that support was being provided for all the people that Trafford were aware of and if it was found that a placing authority was not providing support Trafford would approach the authority to ensure support was provided. The Corporate Director of Children’s services added that the responsibility did lay with the placing authority but if a safeguarding issue arose Trafford had a duty to act and make sure that safeguarding was in place. If such an event occurred then the case management would then be passed back to the placing authority.
The Corporate Director of Place responded to Councillors Williams’ and Winstanley’s points. Trafford had something similar Salford’s approach in place and were working with registered providers at a GM level around protocols and understanding the current position around rent arrears within the stock to enable forward planning. The Council’s greatest concern was around private landlords and the issuing of section 21 notices rather than seeking rent arrears. Using a section 21 notice a tenant could be evicted within two months of the notice being granted so it was expected that there would be an increase of evictions two to three months after the end of the suspension. Work was ongoing at the GM level with representatives of private landlords but unfortunately not all private landlords were represented by those groups. The Executive Member for Housing and Regeneration added that the solution to the problem was in Central Governments hands and that the Council would continue to lobby for action to be taken.
Councillor Coggins supported the comments made by Councillor Williams and the Executive Member for Housing and Regeneration. Councillor Coggins welcomed that Trafford had gone a number of nights with no rough sleepers and hoped this would continue. Councillor Coggins also noted that a further suspension of evictions would only be a temporary solution and that the Council and Government needed to consider long terms solutions to these issues.
Councillor Barclay thanked officers for the report and the work that was being done. Councillor Barclay noted the report stated Trafford met with Manchester and other local authorities on a regular basis. The Councillor asked given this regular contact why it had taken so long to provide support for people placed at Amblehurst. The Executive Member for Housing and Regeneration responded that Trafford had been working with the Ambelhurst and Manchester throughout the pandemic and issues around the Ambelhurst had come up on a number of occasions during that time. Trafford were committed to supporting the residents placed at the Ambelhurst and would continue to work with Manchester to identify and resolve any further issues that may arise.
1) That the update be noted.
2) That the Committee request that the Council work alongside other Local Authorities to ensure 208 notices are completed before a person in placed within the borough.
3) That the Committee requests information on homelessness in Trafford be shared regularly with Councillors so they are aware of the Council’s position.