To consider the report of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Task and Finish Group on damp and mould in Gloucester’s rented accommodation.
12.1 As Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Task and Finish Group on damp and mould in Gloucester’s rented accommodation, Councillor Conder introduced the report and provided Members with an overview of the project. She reminded Members that the Task and Finish Group was commissioned by the Committee back in January 2023, following the publication of a coroner’s report in November 2022 linking the death of a two-year old child in Rochdale to exposure to mould in his home environment.
12.2 Councillor Conder confirmed that the Task and Finish Group had met regularly between February and May 2023 and had held evidence sessions with Directors and Senior Managers of several local Registered Social Housing Providers, local voluntary advice agencies and the City Council’s Private Sector Housing Team. She advised Members that the full findings of the Task and Finish Group were outlined in Appendix 1 of the report, which included summaries of the sessions, conclusions, and recommendations.
12.3 The Chair commented that the Task and Finish Group deserved credit for their report and evidence gathering. He felt that the recommendations were sensible, however in relation to Recommendation 6, he suggested adding reference to circulating the information document via the council’s social media channels.
12.4 Councillor Wilson referred to the transfer of housing stock and asked whether the stock was of decent home standard. The Housing Innovation Manager reminded the Committee that the Task and Finish Group investigation and report was Member-led. He noted that he was aware of a small number of properties with problems however these tended to be linked to the age of the properties, with particular issues amongst homes built during the 1960s and 1970s. In relation to the broader housing stock, he noted that properties tended to be in reasonably good condition.
12.5 In respect of Recommendation 1, Councillor Wilson queried whether the City Council had sufficient resources to implement a landlord accreditation scheme. The Housing Innovation Manager noted that this had not been a priority in the past, however the idea would be to provide responsible landlords with accreditation confirming that they were good landlords. Councillor Conder confirmed that despite the evidence gathering of the Task and Finish Group, there was still limited information on the private rented sector as there was currently no national regulation in this area.
12.6 Councillor Pullen commented that the enquiry had been fascinating and thanked the Officers, Social Housing Providers and the local voluntary advice agencies who had taken part and supported the project. He stated that Task and Finish Group Members had learnt that in the past, damp and mould growth was more likely to have put down to a lifestyle issue. He noted that the project had confirmed that the issue was far more complex, with the condition of properties being a major factor. He also outlined that it had been made evident to Task and Finish Group Members that there was a correlation between damp and mould growth and the rising cost of living, as some residents were struggling to heat and ventilate their homes due to rising energy bills. Councillor Pullen advised the Committee that all of the Social Housing Providers who took part in the project were very responsive and appeared keen to move the issue forward, with some providers going the extra mile to undertake extensive checks on residents.
12.7 Referring to the recommendation to implement a landlord accreditation scheme, Councillor Pullen stated that he recognised the resource implications, however as a Task and Finish Group Member he felt that this was a recommendation that he felt strongly about, and expressed the view that it would be a positive move for the council to recognise the quality of standards in private sector housing.
12.8 Councillor S. Chambers noted that she had a keen interest in this area and outlined some innovative new solutions she had been made aware of such as balcony ventilation.
12.9 Councillor Durdey expressed the view that the Task and Finish Group Report was a good report, however he noted that there were wider challenges with limited housing stock.
12.10 Councillor Hilton noted his support for a landlord accreditation scheme. Referring to Recommendation 3 to hold a Member Development session on the role of the Private Sector Housing Team, he commented that it was important that the session included practical advice and a detailed process for Members reporting housing hazards on behalf of residents. The Democratic and Electoral Services Officer noted that this recommendation had been widened during the final stages of the project to include reference to all housing hazards, rather than focusing only on damp and mould. The Housing Innovation Manager further noted that he was happy to offer more than one Member Development session, acknowledging that this was a complex area.
12.11 Councillor Campbell paid tribute to the Task and Finish Group for their work and noted that they had covered lots of ground in the report. She reflected on her recent experience of assisting a resident who was experiencing an issue with damp and mould, and noted that the Social Housing Provider dealt with the issue very swiftly. Councillor Conder noted that there could be additional challenges with leasehold flats and absentee landlords.
12.12 Councillor Castle asked for clarification as to what was meant by Category 1 and Category 2 hazards which the Housing Innovation Manager provided.
RESOLVED – That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee APPROVE the recommendations of the Task and Finish Group on Damp and Mould in Gloucester’s Rented Accommodation for consideration by Cabinet, subject to the following amendment:
1) Amending the wording of Recommendation 6 to include reference to sharing the information resource on the City Council’s social media channels.