Agenda and minutes
Venue: Shrewsbury Room, Shirehall, Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY2 6ND. View directions
Contact: Julie Fildes Scrutiny Committee Officer
Apologies for Absence and Substitutions
Apologies were received from Councillors Andrew Bannerman, Charlotte Barnes, Pauline Dee and John Hurst-Knight.
Councillors Hannah Fraser and Andy Boddington attended as Substitutes for Councillors Andrew Bannerman and Charlotte Barnes.
Disclosable Pecuniary Interests
Members are reminded that they must not participate in the discussion or voting on any matter in which they have a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest and should leave the room prior to the commencement of the debate.
There were none disclosed.
Public Question Time
To receive any questions, statements or petitions of which Members of the public have given notice. Deadline for notification is 5.00pm on Thursday 4th December 2014.
There were no Public Questions.
Member Question Time
To receive any questions, statements or petitions of which Members of the Council have given notice. Deadline for notification is 5.00pm on Thursday 4th December 2014.
There were no questions from Members.
A copy of the Call-In Notice received from the Leader of the Council’s Liberal Democrat Group together with relevant appendices, marked as 5a.
Links to additional background information:
· LGA Empty Homes – Council action to tackle empty homes: http://www.local.gov.uk/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=5416e10f-218a-4994-811f-0e96ce93227c&groupId=10180
· House of Commons Library, Council tax: discount on second homes and long-term empty properties:
· House of Commons Library, Empty Housing:
The decision has been called in by the Liberal Democrat Group as detailed in the Call-In Notice. The Scrutiny Committee is asked to consider decision taken by the Portfolio Holder for Strategic Planning, Planning, Housing and Commissioning (Central).
Presentation by Jessica Moores and Julia Preston, Empty Homes Officers, on the Empty Homes Strategy. Portfolio Holder Decision report and appendices attached, marked as 5b. Also, Empty Homes Network Policy Statement, Discussion Draft, marked as 5c.
If having considered the decision, the Scrutiny Committee is still concerned about it, then it may refer it back to the Portfolio Holder for reconsideration, setting out in writing the nature of its concerns or refer the matter to Council. If the Scrutiny Committee does not refer the matter back to the Portfolio Holder or Council, the decision shall take effect on the date of the Scrutiny meeting.
The Chairman invited Councillor Roger Evans to outline the reasons for requesting the call-in of the Portfolio Holder’s decision to approve the Empty Homes Policy 2014-2017. Councillor Evans explained that he had requested the Enterprise and Growth Scrutiny Committee to examine the decision as Shropshire Council was failing to return sufficient empty properties to residential use. He continued that this view was supported by the National Statistics.
The Portfolio Holder for Strategic Planning, Planning, Housing and Commissioning (Central) welcomed the opportunity for the Enterprise and Growth Scrutiny Committee to review the Empty Homes Policy. He continued that he would also welcome the establishment of a Task and Finish Group to look at the policy in more detail, but was confident that it was as robust as resources would allow, and gave officers a clear process to follow when addressing the issue of empty homes and their return to the available residential housing stock. Referring to the paper tabled by Councillor Roger Evans [copy attached to the signed minutes] he stated that he was disappointed that the statistics contained within it were out of date and that it should be noted that Shropshire Council was in a better position than indicated by the information provided.
The Empty Homes Officers were invited to give their presentation. [Copy attached to the signed minutes.]
The Empty Homes Officer confirmed that the data used to produce the statistics for long term empty properties and exempt properties had changed. Prior to April 2014 the Council Tax section had not included in their Exempt Properties Monthly Report properties granted exemption where owners were in residential or hospital care. Once this data was included there appeared to be a substantial increase in properties classified as exempt, which was not the case. She also confirmed that residential units which were created in ex-commercial premises were not included in National Return to Use statistics.
In answer to a Member’s query, the Empty Homes Officer clarified that ‘Exempt’ meant exempt for Council Tax purposes. She explained that due to the demographic nature of the County, this figure was higher than the National average. She confirmed that all cases were considered on their individual merits, and there was often a clear relationship between exemption and the age of the resident.
Members noted that the New Homes Bonus (NHB) was paid on each dwelling returned to use, and the Council received on average, dependent on Council Tax banding, £1,500 per annum per unit for six years. Furthermore, to claim the grant it was necessary to identify the properties returned to use and apply for the funding. Additional staff resources in the Empty Homes Team to perform a data cleansing activity could generate a higher level of NHB payments.
The Empty Homes Officer confirmed that Oswestry, Whitchurch and Market Drayton were designated as Empty Homes Action Zones due to high concentrations of empty properties and high levels of affordable housing need. Grant funding was available for property improvement in these areas for projects ... view the full minutes text for item 50.
Dates for Future Meetings
Thursday 29th January 2015 at 10am
Thursday 2nd April 2015 at 10am
That the Committee next meets at 10.00am on Thursday 29th January 2015.