The Housing Ombudsman Service is setting up a new Resident Panel. The aim is to create a stronger resident voice, as well as to seek input and feedback around the development of our service.
It will operate virtually and have around 100 members. The whole panel will meet online twice a year to discuss key areas of work such as the development of our annual business plan and three-year corporate plan. In addition, there will be opportunities to take part in smaller group activities. These could include discussions on topics such as residents’ experience of using our service or our thematic reports investigating further into issues arising through complaints.
The service is currently recruiting members to join the panel. If you are interested you can go to their new website page where there is further information and a short application form to complete. The deadline for completing the form is 25 February 2021, and the first virtual meeting is due to take place on 23 March 2021.
Emergency and essential repairs to continue during lockdown
The Council will continue to carry out emergency and essential repairs inside tenants’ homes, and repairs to communal areas will continue if it is safe to do so during the current lockdown.
However, some repairs may take longer to be resolved. We will still respond to all emergency repairs in six to 24 hours, but tenants will now need to wait up to 20 working days (previously 10 working days) for essential jobs.
Emergency repairs include suspected gas or carbon monoxide leaks, loss of hot water or any other works needed to keep homes safe.
Urgent repairs include restoring partial loss of power, such as to sockets, serious leaks or other problems that are likely to lead to further damage if they aren’t fixed.
Please do not report any repairs that are not urgent or an emergency (for example cosmetic plastering, or a dripping tap) as we will not be able to book them.
Save time and book online. You can report emergency and essential repairs on 020 7974 4444 (option 3 then 1) but it is always quicker to report online at camden.gov.uk/housing-repairs
Please bear with us
Staff are working really hard to keep your homes in good repair during this difficult time. As always, your safety is their priority. Please bear with us as this may mean we take longer to get to your job, as staff make sure that they wash their hands and tools and change PPE between jobs. This is to keep you and them safe and to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
You may wait slightly longer than normal if you call us to report repairs – this is because some of our operators have been moved temporarily to other parts of the Council to help in the Covid-19 response. You can save time by booking repairs online at camden.gov.uk/housing-repairs
Only report an emergency repair in a real emergency
Our repairs team will always attend an emergency request to make sure that you are safe and secure, but at the moment, even more than ever, they need to focus on genuine emergency jobs. If our staff are called to an emergency request that isn’t an emergency or is different to what was described in the booking, they will not be able to carry out the repair and you will be asked to book a separate appointment.
Thank you for your patience and understanding. We will let you know if anything changes.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been hard for everyone. While we are so proud of how our communities have supported each other, we know that many have lost their jobs or had their hours reduced and that families are struggling to manage.
Some tenants and some of the businesses and organisations that rent other properties from us have been struggling to pay their rent, and some have stopped trading.
We expect to lose an estimated £5 million this year in rent and charges because of the pandemic, and that we will need to find another £4.9 million next year to keep your housing services running as they are. We expect that the coming years will be tough financially too.
We have asked the government for help but so far they haven’t offered any funding.
Share your views
Officers from your housing services have been there on the front line to keep you safe and well throughout the pandemic. We want to keep it that way. I will be taking a report to the Council’s Cabinet in January to recommend that we do this by increasing rents and charges from April 2021.
Please note that we propose keeping average weekly increases to rent and charges under £2 and that if you receive universal credit or housing benefit, your benefit will be adjusted to pay for any increase.
You can read more about our financial challenge, the proposals for increasing rents and charges and the help available for tenants in the leaflet which you can download below.
Although this is not a formal consultation, you know your housing services best and we’d like to hear about any ideas you have for how we can make savings or be more efficient. Your views and ideas will feed into the report I will take to Cabinet in January. Cabinet will consider the report and make a decision about whether to increase rents and by how much.
If you have any comments about the proposed rent increase or ideas for where we could make savings locally please let us know at camden.gov.uk/housing-funding by Monday 4 January 2021.
A building owner can perform certain types of work without needing to apply for planning permission. These are called “permitted development rights”.
They derive from a general planning permission granted not by the local authority but by Parliament. Bear in mind that the permitted development rights which apply to many common projects for houses do not apply to flats, maisonettes or other buildings. Similarly, commercial properties have different permitted development rights to dwellings.
In some areas of the country, known generally as ‘designated areas’, permitted development rights are more restricted.
Changes to planning regulations to “reduce red tape” should make it easier for housebuilders, but could potentially lead to lower quality housing being built.
Many felt there should have been a requirement for “net zero carbon” new developments, especially given the Government’s international carbon emissions commitments (and their own legislation) – this might be addressed by future regulations.
There is a new “Permitted Development right” for owners of detached blocks of flats to add up to two extra floors, without needing full planning permission. This can impact leaseholders by increasing the building value and making it harder to buy out the freehold (let alone the disruption caused by an owner actually adding two extra floors).
An explanation of permitted development rights will need to wait for a different post.
For those interested, here is a link to the draft legislation:
During the coronavirus pandemic, funding has been made available to house rough sleepers in hotels, under the “Everyone In” scheme. 160 rough sleepers are currently being housed by Camden Council in temporary accommodation.
Despite rumours that the Westminster Government are not going to continue the scheme once the current funding runs out, the Council have confirmed that funding will continue for at least the next three months.