Housing is a huge political issue locally and nationally. On Hammersmith and Fulham Council the official mechanism for scrutiny of this subject is Economic Regeneration, Housing and the Arts Policy and Accountability Committee. The next gathering was due to take place on March 19th. But I was surprised to be sent the following announcement from the Council.
“Please be advised that the Chair of the Committee, in consultation with the Chief Whip, has cancelled this meeting due to insufficient business.”
I have responded as follows:
“I am concerned by this decision.
You say it is due to “insufficient business”.
However as you know the Work Programme had four items for March 19th:
1. Resident Involvement – Daniel Miller To consider the Council’s work to involve Council tenants and leaseholders in the management of their homes. The report will include an update from each of the residents groups on their work to date.
2. Tenants and Residents Halls – Glendine Shepherd To discuss the council’s work to try to get tenants and residents halls used more.
3. The Council’s home energy strategy and measures to tackle fuel poverty – Nick Austin / Justine Dornan To review the work of the Council to make homes as fuel efficient as possible and how vulnerable residents will be protected during the winter.
4. Communal Heating Charges – Kath Corbett To consider whether improvements could be made to the way in which residents with communal heating are billed.
There were also another seven “Potential Future Items” – Industrial Strategy, Housing for disabled people, Aids and Adaptation, Mitie Health and Safety Compliance Checks and Culture Led Place Making.
Many of these are already long overdue. Are all the officers due to be giving reports on holiday on March 19th? Please may I have an explanation.
The Chairman of the PAC, Cllr Alan De’Ath, is paid a £5,000 a year in an Special Responsibility Allowance to chair six meetings a year. Now it will be five meetings.
The Council’s “Governance and Scrutiny” department employs 10.6 full time equivalents. It has an annual budget of £486,100.
In that context the decision seems difficult to justify.”