North Lanarkshire Council, like many other Scottish local authorities, has been undertaking an Options Appraisal, funded by the Scottish executive, to consider who should own and manage the council's housing stock in the future.
Overall the consultant's findings were extremely positive and reflected well on the way the housing stock has been managed and owned in the past. Throughout North Lanarkshire they found the housing stock to be in generally good condition for its age and type.
A final survey, which involved over 12,000 tenants, showed that 91% of tenants, who expressed an opinion, said they were satisfied with the housing service and wanted the council to remain as their landlord. 97%, who expressed an opinion to a further question, wanted to see improvements to services and the council to remain their landlord.
The decision, by the housing and technical services committee, to retain the stock is supported by the vast majority of tenants whose views have been critical to the process. A wide range of consultation has taken place and over the course of the options appraisal, thousands of tenants took part in surveys, questionnaires, roadshows, conferences and focus groups. In addition, a tenants panel was established involving representatives from a range of tenant and resident groups, to consider the implications for tenants in more detail. Their opinions were carefully considered and fully reflected in the committee's decision to retain the housing stock.
This is the first time North Lanarkshire Council has undertaken such a comprehensive study of its housing stock. One advantage of completing such a huge exercise is that a wealth of information and data has been gathered which will help the council to plan and target housing investment most effectively.
One of the most important issues that requires to be considered by the department is the need to look at areas where there is little demand for the range and type of local authority housing that exists. By reviewing the supply of the council's stock, the consultants found that much of the housing is larger sized properties and can be in areas where demographic and social changes mean that there may be little or no demand for this type of housing. This looks set to continue in the future and is one issue that requires further study.
Gerry McLaughlin, convener of housing and technical services committee, commenting on the council's decision said:
'This is a major decision for North Lanarkshire Council. By deciding to retain our housing stock we are reaffirming our commitment to developing and improving housing services for all North Lanarkshire residents.
'It is pleasing that so many tenants took the opportunity to get involved in the process. Getting tenants involved in decisions about their housing is a priority for this authority. We want to build on the work and effort that has taken place and the development of a tenant participation strategy will make sure we do this.
'The challenge for us now is to ensure we meet tenants' expectations and tackle some of the ongoing issues they have highlighted. It is only by working in partnership with tenants and all sections of the community that we can do this and continue to ensure we provide safe, attractive and desirable homes for tenants now and in the future.'
COUNCIL ANNOUNCES WIDER ACCESS TO WAITING LISTS
Local authority tenants across North Lanarkshire will now have greater access to housing waiting lists as a monthly list, available for public inspection, is to be introduced by the council.
This decision marks the first step in providing tenants with up-to-date information at the touch of a button.
Lists will be published on a monthly basis, for each area office and will show the reference number, position on waiting list and effective date for each area, broken down by category, size requested and, where relevant type of house required. This information will be made available to anyone who has applied for housing and individuals can easily access details by having their unique waiting list reference number to hand.
Whilst the lists will be able to provide people with up-to-date information in relation to their individual applications and position on the housing waiting list, it will not divulge the applicant's personal details, including medical circumstances or of vulnerable people living alone.
The publication of a monthly list is just the first step in providing easily accessible housing allocation information to its customers and plans are already afoot that could see new technology being used as a vehicle for applicants to access their information.
Cllr McLaughlin said:
'The suggestion to introduce this system was put forward by an officer/member working group set up to look at issues relating to housing allocation, but before any system could be put in place a number of factors had to be taken into consideration.
'The department had to look at issues surrounding client confidentiality, what information should be made available and how this could be accessed. Today's decision reaffirms this authority's commitment to being open and accountable to all its residents.
'Officials will continue to look at ways of making this information more widely accessible to the general public by exploring the ideas of using interactive terminals positioned in council offices and via the internet. Copies of these lists will also be made available at first stop shops and to elected members on a monthly basis.'
It is anticipated that access to these lists will be available from housing offices in the near future.