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Council asking people of Sefton to help shape future of Borough’s housing

The cover of the draft Housing Strategy 2022- 2027Sefton Council is asking people to help shape the future of housing across the Borough.

A consultation, which lasts until Friday 29th July is now underway and details can be found at www.sefton.gov.uk/housingstrategyconsultation. The feedback will be used to help shape a new, 2022-2027 Housing Strategy .

Have your say.

More than bricks and mortar

Cllr Trish Hardy, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Housing, said: “Sefton Council knows housing is about more much more than bricks and mortar.

“It’s about people’s homes, which are a vital part of all our lives and have a direct effect on our health, wellbeing, quality of life and the opportunities available to us.

“Our homes need to be secure and safe bases from which we can support and enjoy our families, go about our jobs and education and make the best of our lives and how we want to live them.

“The Council has a key role to play in ensuring that is the case by ensuring the local people’s needs are met through a properly functioning housing market.

“This new Strategy that we want people to help us shape will sets out our vision for housing in the Borough, along with aims and objectives to achieve it.”

Quality

Key themes of Sefton Council’s draft Housing Strategy include Improving the quality of housing in the Borough and Providing homes that meet people’s needs.

Enabling people to live independently and Tackling Barriers to Obtaining Suitable Housing and Services for the most vulnerable are also main objectives along with Effectively using council-owned properties and assets to support additional housing.

Sefton Council’s Local Plan includes a commitment to enabling the development of over 11,500 new, high-quality homes across the Borough by 2030. Part of the Council’s plans to meet this target have included the establishment its own housing development company – Sandway Homes Limited.

Social housing

The Council has also registered with the Regulator of Social Housing to become a social housing provider, stock owner and landlord. For the first time since 2006 we will be able to provide Council-owned social housing to our most vulnerable residents with a range of good-quality, affordable homes.

Cllr Hardy added: “Housing affects everyone in Sefton so I would urge people to visit www.sefton.gov.uk/housingstrategyconsultation and give us their views.”

Have your say.

Extending Housing Licensing schemes

Sefton Council is also carrying out a 12-week consulting on plans extend its Housing Licensing schemes for a further five years.

Since March 2018, Sefton Council has had a Selective Licensing scheme for private landlords in the Bootle area. There is also another licensing scheme which is called ‘Additional (HMO) Licensing which is only for houses of multiple occupancy (rented to at least three people, who are not part of the same family) for privately rented property situated in parts of Seaforth, Waterloo, Brighton-Le-Sands and central Southport.

Since introduced Housing Licensing in 2018, serious health and safety hazards – including issues relating to fire safety, electrical hazards, damp & mould and excess cold – have been removed from hundreds of properties.

Find out more and have your say on extending Housing Licensing schemes here.

 

Almost all Sefton’s Council Tax band A to D properties eligible for £150 energy rebate, reminder

Energy RebateNearly every Sefton property in Council Tax bands A to D, is entitled to the payment, which was announced by the Government in February.

Eligible

Cllr Paulette Lappin, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Regulatory Compliance and Corporate Services said today: “We want everyone who is eligible, and that’s almost everyone whose Council Tax band is in A to D, to get this Council Tax Energy Rebate.

“If you get a letter from Sefton Council asking you to register your bank details, it’s because you are due that £150, so please follow the guidance on the letter and register today.”

By the end of last week, around 15,600 households in Sefton had registered after receiving a Council letter.

Sefton Council has now paid out almost £10 million of the one-off, £150 Council Tax Energy Rebate payments to around 65,800 of the Borough’s households. The Authority is now working hard to ensure the remaining eligible addresses receive theirs as soon as possible.

Payments

Payments so far have been to those households that pay their Council Tax by Direct Debit. Approaching 40,000 letters have also been sent to households that don’t pay by Direct Debit or where Council Tax and bank account details aren’t an exact match.

Cllr Lappin added: “The letters, on Sefton Council Headed Paper each contains a unique, 14-character key code made up of a mixture of numbers, upper-case and lower-case letters, along with details of where to register.

“If anyone is in doubt, I urge them to visit www.sefton.gov.uk/energyrebate where there’s lots of information about the scheme, who’s eligible and how to register if you receive a letter.

“We’ve even got a video there to help people make sure the letters are genuine.”

Exceptions

The few exceptions that are not eligible under the national scheme are:

  • those who did not live in Sefton on 1st April;
  • second home-owners;
  • houses in multiple occupation where the Council Tax bill is in landlord’s name.

Mechanism

Last week Cllr Lappin explained that since the the Government announced the one-off £150 payment to help people facing soaring household fuel bills alongside rising prices, increases at the petrol pumps and additional National Insurance payments the Council been devising the mechanism for making the payments.

She said: “We have needed to come up with a system that sees the £17,000,000-plus payments reach the people who need it and ensures we don’t see large amounts of public money falling into the wrong hands.”

Find out how you can get the Council Tax Energy Rebate.

Sefton Council writing to non-Direct Debit payers to ensure Council Tax Energy Rebate payments can be made as soon as possible

Sefton Council is sending letters to around 40,000 or so of the Borough’s Band A to D households to help ensure they receive their £150 Energy Rebate payments.

These are mostly households that don’t pay their Council Tax by Direct Debit. Payments are already going out to the 75,000 eligible households that pay through Direct Debit.

Register securely

The letters being sent out are for people to register securely online to receive their payment. Each letter will show a unique code that the household can use to confirm their details. The code can only be used once, and the household will need their Council Tax account reference to hand when they register.

People receiving the letters and wanting more information can find details of the Council Tax Energy Rebate Scheme, including Frequently Asked Questions and an easy-read guide, at www.sefton.gov.uk/energyrebate.

This video explains how it works and what to look out for.

Eligible households

Cllr Paulette Lappin, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Regulatory Compliance and Corporate Services said: “Having started the process of the 75,000 or so £150 payments for those people who pay by Direct Debit, we are now determined to get payments out directly to the remaining 40,000 eligible households who pay in other ways.

“I’m pleased to say that in just one day we have received details from over 4,370 households that will enable us to process their payment.

“I would urge anyone who receives one of our letters, containing a unique code for them to register online to do so straight away to help us speed up the process. There is advice and an easy-Read explanation on our website at www.sefton.gov.uk/council-tax.

“We appreciate there are those people who do not have internet access and we are helping them through our Contact Centre on 0345 140 0845 but the more people who use the easy online route, the quicker we can make that service for those who really need it.”

Warning

Cllr Lappin went on to say that some scams relating to the Energy Rebate scheme in other areas have been reported and to remind Sefton residents that the Council will never telephone residents or cold call at their doors asking for bank details. She said residents should beware of anyone who contacts them in these ways.

Households that don’t pay Council Tax because they are on a low income or subject to exemptions will also receive the letters inviting them to register for the rebate via an online form. Households will not be able to apply without this letter. The Council will also be writing to households where the Direct Debit is being paid from a bank account not in the name of the person(s) liable for the Council Tax bill.

There are also some cases where people have moved in the last few weeks and the Council is following up on these changes of address to ensure payments are made to the right people.

People receiving these letters are being asked to respond by the end of June and in cases where people’s bank details are not provided, the £150 will be credited to the property’s Council Tax account.

Payments

Cllr Lappin continued: “Since the Energy Rebate scheme was announced in February, we have encouraged people to sign up for Direct Debit payments as they are the easiest way we can make sure people receive the one-off £150 payment.

“Around 75,000 of those payments have been or are about to be made.

Those receiving a letter from the Council about the scheme are encouraged to respond as quickly as possible with the information requested to ensure payment can be made. Anyone receiving a payment not due to them should contact the Council as not declaring it could be classed as fraud.

Public money

Cllr Lappin added: “Since the Government announced the one-off £150 payment to help people facing soaring household fuel bills alongside rising prices, increases at the petrol pumps and additional National Insurance payments, we have been devising the mechanism for making the payments.

“We have needed to come up with a system that sees the £17,000,000-plus payments reach the people who need it and ensures we don’t see large amounts of public money falling into the wrong hands.

“I would urge anyone who receives a letter from us to use the unique code to send us their bank details so that we can get the payment to them as soon as possible.”

More information

Information about the Council Tax Energy Rebate Scheme, including Frequently Asked Questions and an easy-read guide, is available at www.sefton.gov.uk/council-tax.

Sefton’s Council Taxpayers can still sign up to pay their Council Tax by Direct at https://forms.sefton.gov.uk/ddcounciltax/ You will need their Council Tax account reference to hand.

Council Taxpayers in Sefton can also opt to receive their bill electronically, which is easier plus it saves paper. You can sign up for paperless e-billing at https://forms.sefton.gov.uk/ebill/ Once again, you will need your Council Tax account reference to hand.

Sefton Council responds to “inadequate” Ofsted rating

Sefton Council has received the latest report following Ofsted’s Inspection of Local Authority Children’s Services (ILACS) which was carried out over a 3-week period at the end of February (2022)

The report concluded that Sefton’s Children’s Services at that time were rated as “Inadequate”.

Responding to the Inspector’s report, Martin Birch, Director of Education and Children’s Services who joined Sefton Council in April this year, said: “Whilst we are very disappointed about the overall outcome of the Inspection, Ofsted has acknowledged the improvements we have made since last year’s pandemic focused inspection, but these improvements have clearly not been fast enough in some parts of the service.

“We accept the findings of the report, and we are absolutely ready and willing to take these recommendations on board, learn, and improve.

“We take Ofsted’s findings incredibly seriously and we have already started making changes in response to the report.

“We knew from the findings of the report that there was much work to do in order to make the necessary changes to the department, and that this process would need both additional investment and time to improve. During 2021/22, the Council agreed a further circa £10 million investment of both permanent and temporary funding, and agreed to support the service to increase staffing levels with a new structure being approved in October 2021.

“Ofsted have recognised in this report how changes over the last year are starting to make a positive difference in areas such as the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub and the Fostering Service but most importantly, inspectors did not find any children at risk of immediate harm.  Our dedicated staff have a renewed sense of optimism and are committed to delivering the improvements needed.

“Our main area for improvement must now focus on the need for better permanence planning for cared for children, to ensure that all children know what their long-term plan is, so that they feel safe and secure about their future. We want this for all our children and to make our support for vulnerable children and young people as good as it can be.

“The next step will now be to continue working with our Improvement Board and support from the Department of Education to deliver our action plan to address the recommendations made.  Our ambitious plans will be a collective top priority for everyone responsible for caring for vulnerable children; elected members, council employees across the organisation and various partner agencies – all playing a part in driving improvements to the system so we can all deliver better outcomes for children.  Our children and young people will remain at the heart of everything we do, and their voices will be strong in their care plans and the voices of all children and young people will be strong in future Council consultation and engagement activity. It is vital that each and every one of them receives the support and care they need and deserve.”

Cllr Mhairi Doyle MBE, Cabinet Member for Children’s Social Care, said: “It is no secret that most local authorities continue to face severe financial challenges. We have made a call on Government, along with leaders from across the Liverpool City Region, to tackle growing issues nationally with the recruitment and retention of children’s social workers as these present a significant challenge not just in our region, but across other parts of the country.

“During 2021/22 we have put an extra £10 million into the budget to increase the numbers of Social Workers, better support foster families, and improve safeguarding and edge of care services, in addition to making available additional resources in recognition of demographic pressures facing the service and rising costs.

“The Covid pandemic has had massive impacts on a large number of Sefton families, many of whom are now in need of additional support from the Council’s service areas, including Children’s Services.  Demand is at unprecedented levels, which is why the Council will continue to call on Government for additional resources to support our improvement plans and to address the challenges we face in the recruitment of permanent social workers and in the children’s care market.

“There is still much work to, but we are confident that with our committed workforce, and the significant financial investment into Children’s Services, our ambitious plans can be delivered, and improvements made at pace.

“Improving our service is not just about improving the Ofsted rating, it’s about making sure children benefit from the best services possible, making sure they are safe, protected and inspired to reach their full potential.”

Sefton Council consultation on extending its five-year Housing Licensing schemes is underway

A consultation is underway to see whether local people want Sefton Council’s housing licensing schemes for privately rented properties extended for a further five-years.

Since March 2018, Sefton Council has had a Selective Licensing scheme for private landlords in the Bootle area. There is also another licensing scheme which is called ‘Additional (HMO) Licensing which is only for houses of multiple occupancy (rented to at least three people, who are not part of the same family) for privately rented property situated in parts of Seaforth, Waterloo, Brighton-Le-Sands and central Southport.

Proposing to extend

With the current schemes due to end on 28th February 2023, Sefton Council is now carrying out a 12-week consultation on its proposal to extend them until February 2028.

You can find information about the proposals and a link to the consultation here. 

Improved standards

Cllr Trish Hardy, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Housing, said: “Introducing the current licencing schemes has enabled Sefton Council to work with private landlords in the areas covered to improve their standards of management.

“This, in turn, has resulted in improved living conditions for their tenants as well as improvements for the wider areas, such as reduced anti-social behaviour.

“By extending the scheme for a further five years, we want to build on this success and bring about further benefits for landlords, tenants and those communities.”

Hazards removed

Since the introduction of the Scheme in March 2018, serious health and safety hazards have been removed from over 300 licensed properties. These includes issues relating to fire safety, electrical hazards, damp & mould and excess cold.

Although nearly 60% of the properties inspected did not initially meet the required housing standards, 98% of these were subsequently improved.

And, over 80 Landlords have received Civil Penalty Fines for failing to licence their properties.

Benefits for tenants, landlords and neighbourhoods

Cllr Hardy added: “Our view is that by renewing these schemes we can deliver benefits for tenants, landlords and the neighbourhoods they cover and the costs for landlords would start from just 2.67 per week.

“Of course, we want local people’s input before moving forward so would urge anybody likely to be affected, whether they rent a property, they’re a landlord or live in the proposed areas, to take part in the consultation at www.sefton.gov.uk/licensing-consultation.”

Anyone wanting to be kept updated on the proposed housing licensing schemes, can contact landlord.licensing@sefton.gov.uk .

There are links to more information about Selective Licensing and Additional (HMO) Licensing in Sefton here.

This consultation is being carried out on behalf of Sefton Council by independent market research company M.E.L. Research, an accredited Market Research Society Company Partner that abides by the MRS Code of Conduct.

Future of housing in Sefton

Sefton Council is also asking people to help shape the future of housing across the Borough.

A consultation, which lasts until Friday 29th July is now underway and details can be found at www.sefton.gov.uk/housingstrategyconsultation. The feedback will be used to help shape a new, 2022-2027 Housing Strategy .

Key themes of Sefton Council’s draft Housing Strategy include Improving the quality of housing in the Borough and Providing homes that meet people’s needs.

Enabling people to live independently and Tackling Barriers to Obtaining Suitable Housing and Services for the most vulnerable are also main objectives along with Effectively using council-owned properties and assets to support additional housing.

Have your say.

 

 

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