The recommendations in the extract minute from the Cabinet were proposed by Councillor Derek Bastiman and duly seconded. The Portfolio Holder for Public Health and Housing, Councillor Chatt commended the proposed merger to Members, noting that a stronger, larger organisation would result, benefiting from Coast and Country Housing’s broader experience, led by a more professional board and more able to deliver the social housing and related services the Borough needed. Councillor Inman then addressed the meeting, raising concerns about certain aspects of the report: that the In-depth Assessment of Yorkshire Coast Homes by the Homes and Communities Agency had not in the end taken place (there had been an internal Options Appraisal instead), that clearly mistakes had been made by YCH, and the poor tenant response to the limited public consultation on the merger proposals. She felt the information in the report was incomplete, there was a lack of transparency, and proposed instead that the Council defer its decision, pending a wider public consultation exercise and In-depth Assessment by the HCA , to enable the Council to make a more informed decision on this important matter. Councillor Derek Bastiman rejected the criticism that the process had been less than transparent and that mistakes had been made by the YCH Board, noting the Overview and Scrutiny Board’s constructive pre-decision scrutiny of the proposals as recognised by the Board’s Chair, Councillor Siddons, and that YCH Board Members, including Members of this Council, had worked tirelessly since the inception of the housing association to deliver decent homes to tenants. However, times had changed, and YCH needed to move to the next level with the support and experience of Coast and Country Housing which had demonstrated the excellence of their product, including extra care housing, which he hoped could be delivered in the Borough by the new housing association. Councillor Randerson applauded the vision and professionalism of the two housing associations’ Chairs and Chief Executives as evidenced at the recent Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting, and envisaged a bright future for the Borough’s tenants. He added that there was little sense in deferring the decision, since from midnight, the Council would have no say in the matter anyway as new regulations came into force to reduce the level of public sector influence in Registered Providers. Instead the two Chief Executives had committed to regular attendance at the Overview and Scrutiny Board to enable Borough councillors to monitor the new organisation’s progress. However, Councillor Randerson did feel the Borough Council should bear some responsibility for overseeing the effective demise of YCH and for their failure to build enough affordable homes. Councillor Derek Bastiman firmly rejected this accusation. Councillor Chatt commended YCH’s current level of tenant involvement, on which the new organisation sought to build.
RESOLVED that the Council:
i Approve the Heads of Terms for inclusion within a ‘Commitments Agreement’ that aims to safeguard the interests of the Council and residents, and
ii Delegate authority to Director (LD), in consultation with the relevant Portfolio Holder, to enter into the required legal contracts to facilitate the merge, on the basis of no financial detriment to the Council
b. In addition, approve:
iii that an appropriate observer from Scarborough Borough Council be nominated to the new housing association board for a period of not less than three years to be reviewed thereafter;
iv that scrutiny of the new housing association be strengthened, by the Overview and Scrutiny Board inviting representatives of the new housing association to attend Board meetings to report on its activities on a twice yearly basis initially until such time as an annual basis is deemed sufficient by the O&S Board and the housing association;
v that any programme for new home building and/or the refurbishment of existing properties be allocated proportionately between the Scarborough Borough Council and Redcar and Cleveland areas;
And note that
vi following approval of the Heads of Terms in the Commitments Agreement as proposed in the report, there is still further work to do on the detail of the Agreement requiring ongoing discussions and partnership working between the Council and the new housing association.
To retain a strong strategic partnership with the newly formed housing association in accordance with the Council’s Housing Strategy and in the interests of residents.