The Committee received and considered the report from the Resident Engagement Officer.
The Resident Engagement Officer gave an overview of the development of the resident Engagement Strategy and sought endorsement of the strategy to support and expand how the Council engaged and involved tenants across the Housing Service.
Councillor Candon asked for clarification as to how the Community Representatives were selected and asked that all Members be informed of the Community Representatives in their ward so that they engage with them and work alongside them for the betterment of the ward. The Housing Director assured Members that the Community Representatives were not in place to replace the role of a ward Councillor in any shape or form.
Councillor Wainwright agreed that he shared the same concerns of Councillor Candon. The role of a Community Representative was to be applauded but it must not be to the detriment of a ward Councillor. He asked how the Community Representatives had been selected and appointed and asked for details of the budget set aside to support these roles. The Housing Director reported that tenants were offered a range of initiatives to get involved as it was imperative that the Housing Service understood what was happening on our estates at grass root level.
Councillor Williamson reported that he was aware what was happening on the estates in his ward but that when he tried to contact Graham Hollingdale at Norse to discuss issues that he could never get through to him on the phone. The workload was too big and diverse for MESH, Make it Happen or Community to tackle in their present formats and the Tenants Forum had been disbanded but had been disillusioned that they had not been listened too. However, the Housing Department had committed Members willing to assist them in tackling issues on their estates which he felt was being overlooked or dismissed.
All Members were of the opinion that they needed a broader understanding of how tenant participation worked in the housing sector.
Councillor Williamson referred to the Action Plan detailed in Appendix B and asked whether the data was qualitative or quantitative when demonstrating success as there were no outcomes listed and suggested that a report should be drafted to members from the information contained in this Action Plan. The Resident Engagement Officer informed the Committee that there was a list of over 300 tenant volunteers who were willing to undertake engagement via a number of different formats from receiving a newsletter to taking part in a focus group. The Director of Housing reported that she understood Members concerns regarding the Action Plan and assured them that it would be populated with outcomes and benchmarks going forwards.
Councillor Wells suggested that a name change from Community Representative to Community Champion might be advisable. Councillor Wainwright asked for sight of the handbook which had been developed for Community Representatives as he was unaware that such a document existed. The Housing Director agreed to provide all members with a copy of the Handbook.
Councillor Flaxman-Taylor asked if there was any other initiatives pending apart from a Tenant Survey and that from a Member perspective, this report was very disappointing as there was a lot of work being undertaken in the background, by stealth it felt like, than Members were aware of. She further asked what the response time was for resolving issues raised by Community Representatives as for Members, this usually took a very long time, as officers did not get back to members promptly to discuss issues when contacted. The Housing Director asked Members to flag any outstanding issues to her and she would follow them up as a matter of urgency.
The Housing Director once again assured Members that their role was key and was not being replaced or diluted by Community Representatives and that resident engagement was a learning process.
Councillor Martin reported that she welcomed the strategy but agreed that it required some refinement but it was imperative to build trust with tenants to ensure they received the best Housing Service the Council could offer. She asked for confirmation as to what an e-zene was and that she was unaware of the dedicated resident engagement email address and what purpose it served. The Resident Engagement Officer reported than an e-zene was a monthly email giving new opportunities, and complemented the Tenants News & Views and he would add all Members to the distribution list.
The Housing Director reported that she had taken on board all of the Members comments and she would arrange a Briefing Session for Members and provide regular feedback on a 6 monthly basis.
That the Committee adopt the Resident Engagement Strategy.