Suggestions made to future-proof key council services
Westminster City Council has agreed to all 31 recommendations in the Future of Westminster Commission’s Housing Review.
The council’s Cabinet agreed to the key suggestions and is now looking at how to take those forward, do further development work, or consider as part of other plans.
The Future of Westminster Commission was tasked to review and make recommendations on the delivery of key council services.
Within the Housing Review, which was conducted by residents, experts and local leaders, three lines of enquiry were created for the Commission to advise on:
• increasing the supply of genuinely affordable housing to meet housing need in the city;
• options for improving the way the Council responds to homelessness and housing needs;
• the quality of services provided to the Council’s own tenants and leaseholders.
Recommendations from the review include property MOTs for vulnerable residents, a tenants’ charter and a stricter definition of affordable housing. The report also outlines where changes could be made to better support those experiencing homelessness and those sleeping rough in central London.
According to the report, on current estimates the council must plan to have at least 3,200 good quality Temporary Accommodation (TA) units by 2024/25 and capacity to place at least 650 households each year into TA.
Of the current 2,800 households in TA, around 1,150 are in Westminster, 1,650 are out of borough, including 90 out of London.
The report identifies that Westminster is reliant on leased private sector properties to provide TA (75%). Only 10% of TA is owned by the council itself. The report notes the council has made a huge commitment to acquire permanent properties for use as a TA, worth £168m between 2023-2027, but says the council should go further if it can to maximise the General Fund capital budget available.
The Commission recognised many of the new policies the council has adopted in recent months, namely, shifting the emphasis away from building intermediate homes toward creating more social housing and the creation of a Corporate Housing Improvement Programme which will enable the authority to adopt many of the recommendations set out in the review.
The Future of Westminster Commission’s Housing Chairman, Steve Hilditch, said: “Our review of Housing contains a really positive progress report on what the council, supported by the Commission, has achieved in the first year of administration.
“But we’ve also sets out some challenges for the future. It is vital to keep up the pace of reform, an excellent first year needs to be followed by even more intensive action, delivering all the initiatives that have been started, especially in housing supply where the council’s mission must be to make sure that no opportunity to provide social rented homes is missed.
“Investing in homelessness services will be critical because numbers are likely to continue to rise. The key areas are prevention, making sure decision-making is as good as it can be, and providing more support to households in temporary accommodation.
“It’s also vital that we see investment in services to tenants and leaseholders, especially repairs. The council is doing innovative work on damp and mould but must ensure that the scale of activity meets the scale of the problem.”