New way for Sandwell residents and leaseholders to have their say on housing and services
Published 12th May 2021
Sandwell Council has announced plans for a new panel for residents and leaseholders as part of proposals to encourage people to have their say on council housing and services.
The council’s Cabinet is being recommended to approve a report on 19 May that proposes a new way to support the engagement and participation of the borough’s residents and leaseholders in council housing matters.
The proposed model reflects good practice and changes in legislation and regulatory standards, and supports two of the council’s strategic outcomes from its Sandwell Vision 2030 – Big Plans for a Great Place: strong resilient communities, and quality homes in thriving neighbourhoods.
Both Sandwell Vision 2030 and the Sandwell Plan affect the communities and residents of Sandwell, and support the need to engage and empower tenants and residents within the borough’s communities. The impact of Covid-19 has also reinforced the need to engage with communities in the design and delivery of local services.
The Cabinet report follows on from the Charter for Social Housing Residents Social Housing White Paper 2020, which is part of the government’s ongoing response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the Hackett review. The charter ensures that residents in council housing are safe, are listened to, live in good quality homes, and have access to redress when things go wrong.
In addition, the principles and actions contained in the Tenant Participation Advisory Services’ updated National Engagement Standards will be used as a framework to guide the council’s work during the political and regulatory changes ahead.
Sandwell Council currently supports:
- a Tenant Complaints Panel, which provides tenants with an opportunity to make an appeal and to be given the option to be heard by a group of their peers
- the Sandwell Community Information and Participation Service, which enables tenants to influence decisions affecting their homes and neighbourhoods
- the Tenant Review Panel (TRP), comprises nine tenants and one leaseholder, and supports service improvements and scrutinises elements of housing services. A representative of this group sits on the council’s Safer Neighbourhoods and Active Communities Scrutiny Board.
The new draft Resident and Leaseholder Involvement Model to be discussed at Cabinet includes consultation and workshops as key elements, with clear channels of communication, robust governance (with a Resident and Leaseholder Scrutiny Panel), a Tenant Audit Programme, Youth Involvement/Care Leavers and other initiatives to develop guiding principles and formal participation. It is anticipated that the involvement model will evolve over time.
The involvement model will encompass a set of principles that will be developed by residents, officers and a councillor representative, acknowledging that it will require different approaches dependent on the purpose and level of involvement of those taking part.
The benefits of having a councillor representative within the model would enable them to be part of the group and its discussions; they would provide a voice and be an advocate through political channels; and they would foster good relationships and improved communication between the Cabinet and Scrutiny functions, joining up areas of interest.
Cabinet will be asked at the meeting to approve the dissolution of the current Tenant Review Panel; to establish a new Resident and Leaseholder Scrutiny Panel; to set up a new Resident and Leaseholder Involvement Model; to approve the governance arrangements for the panel and the model, including their terms of reference; and to confirm the councillor representative.
If Cabinet agrees the new model, then an Implementation Group made up of tenants and officers would replace the Tenant Engagement and Participation Working Group and support the development of the Scrutiny Panel, and develop further detail behind the involvement model.
If the Cabinet decides to maintain the current structure, this will not support the changes in legislation and the regulation standards.
Councillor Maria Crompton, Deputy Leader of Sandwell Council, said: “The legislative, statutory and regulatory changes, as well as the impact of Covid-19, reinforce the need to support and develop tenant involvement and participation within the borough. The changes have provided Sandwell Council with the opportunity to strengthen the tenants’ voice within the authority and wider neighbourhoods, and build strong, resilient communities with our partners”.
John Cash, the Chair of the outgoing Tenant Review Panel, said: “The TRP was of its time and the White Paper gives tenants more power and the proposed involvement model will enable us to move on and make changes, giving leaseholders, tenants and residents a bigger voice and more representation. I look forward to a wider audience being involved, a real mixture of people, young and old, reflecting the different communities we and the council serve. The Tenant and Resident Scrutiny Panel which supersedes the TRP has more scope, is more accountable to tenants, residents and leaseholder, and I hope that their views will be taken seriously in a non-political manner.”
Councillor Iqbal Padda, Cabinet Member for Engagement and Equality, said: “By strengthening tenant engagement and participation, we will create a stronger relationship between the council and our tenants, enhance information and communication, provide opportunities for tenants to develop and foster a greater sense of place within the community”.
Councillor Keith Allcock, Cabinet Member for Homes, said: “Involving tenants in the council’s housing services will improve services, deliver better value for money, and improve their experience and satisfaction. These refreshed and strengthened methods of tenant involvement will enhance the quality of homes in thriving neighbourhoods”.