Timothy Wheadon, Chairman of Downshire Homes, will attend the meeting to provide the Commission with a briefing on the operation of the organisation and how its work supports the Council’s objectives.
Timothy Wheadon, Chairman of Downshire Homes had been invited to attend the meeting to provide the Commission with a briefing on the operation of the organisation and how its work supported the Council’s objectives.
As part of this presentation it was explained:
· Downshire Homes was not a social registered landlord
· Downshire Homes had received advice from Trowers Hamlin (legal) and Social Finance Ltd (financial)
· Reiterated the Executive recommendation which focused Downshire Homes activities on procuring accommodation to provide homes for homeless households, households with learning disabilities and/or autism and care leavers so as to reduce Council expenditure on accommodation
· Downshire Homes had 39 properties with a purchase price of £11.682m which was now worth £11.477m
· Seven more offers had been accepted on properties which were being processed
· Rent was charged to Downshire Homes residents at the Local Housing Allowance plus 2.5%
· After the first year a review had been undertaken by Social Finance Ltd. The current yield was 2.3% but this was due to charging an affordable rent level rather than market level
· In 2016/17 Downshire Homes had been affected by the increase in stamp duty costs from 2% to 8% which had contributed to the operating loss, but Downshire Homes’ activities had directly saved Bracknell Forest Council £560k
· Services provided by Bracknell Forest Council officers were recharged to Downshire Homes
· Downshire Homes’ objective to make a profit was a long-term issue
· It had been acknowledged by Downshire Homes Board that greater transparency was needed and they were planning to bring an annual report to the Executive followed by six monthly update.
· A regular review of Board members conflict of interest was undertaken and it was noted that when sitting as the Board then decisions were made in the interest of the company but the basis on which it had been set up were to reduce the Bracknell Forest Council’s spending. Downshire Homes had received advice on two occasions and it was agreed that it would be an issue if the role changed.
Arising from questions and discussions the following points were made:
· The Commission Chairman queried why the original resolution by the Executive was not reflected in the Memorandum of Agreement and the Chief Executive advised that the advice was that this should be cast as broad as possible so that Downshire Homes Ltd could undertake other activities that the Council wanted, such as key worker housing, without having to revise an Memorandum of Agreement.
· The Commission Chairman was concerned that the activities of Downshire Homes did not appear to be restricted at all given that their funding came from Bracknell Forest Council.
· There was no average stay in a household as tenants were monitored over periods of longer than six month then it could become their permanent home unless their circumstances changed.
· All of the money funding Downshire Homes came from the Council which the Council may have borrowed. This was charged at the rate of 0.5% above the rate charged to the Council if the Council borrowed the funding.
The Commission Chairman thanked the Chairman of Downshire Homes for his presentation and asked that the slides be circulated to members of the Commission.