A REPORT setting out Cambridge City Council’s plans to invest in its housing service to improve efficiency, target resources on those people in greatest need and make provision for savings, has been published.
The Housing Revenue Account Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) describes how the council will allocate funds to deliver housing services.
It sets out the council’s intention to invest in 500 new council homes using £70million granted by the government as part of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough devolution deal, alongside its own Right to Buy receipts from council house sales.
The report also describes the council’s proposal to identify £250,000 of savings from its housing service for 2018-2019.
Savings are needed to ensure the council can deliver services on a reduced budget, taking account of changes to government policy and the continued requirement to reduce rents.
Efficiency measures already made include bringing the housing team together in one area office and reducing the turnaround time to let a standard council home to a new tenant.
A review of management and staff levels has already achieved savings in the current year, alongside changes to the planned maintenance programme to council homes.
The council is working on further initiatives to refocus the services it provides, and to clarify which repairs tenants are responsible for. It is also exploring options for sharing some housing services with other councils.
Two years ago, the government instructed councils to cut social housing rents by 1% annually for four years and 2018-19 will be the third year of reductions, subject to any revised instructions from government.
The effect of this, over the four years, will be to reduce income to the council from rents by over £6million per year by 2019-20.
Other legislative changes are expected to put pressure on the housing budget, including mandatory fixed term tenancies and the proposed sale of high value assets, although the detail for both of these national policies is still awaited.
Cllr Kevin Price, Executive Councillor for Housing, said: “It is really good news for local people that we have funds to build more council homes. Cambridge is in the midst of a housing affordability crisis and there is demand for genuinely affordable homes.
“Those people who are in greatest need and who are finding life difficult remain our top priority.
“Although we have funding for at least 500 new council homes in the next five years, our Housing Revenue Account finances still face challenging times and that means we have to keep seeking out ways of improving our efficiency, in order to be in a position to meet housing need in the longer term.”
Councillors will discuss the report at Housing Scrutiny Committee on 21 September.