Directors' Question Time 2017
Each year at our AGM we hold a Directors’ Question Time session where CGA members can put questions to our Executive Leadership Team. Below is a summary of the questions received on the night. You can download a PDF version here.
With Government cuts affecting local authorities and community activities in particular, is CGA still committed to supporting local communities going forward?
Does CGA have plans to recruit any more CGA staff to support community groups at a local level like they used to?
We’ve been able to attract external funding to support a lot of the work we do in the community, certainly with regards to skills and employment. As part of the funding, the Community Empowerment Team has already been able to recruit one member of staff and is recruiting a second member of staff to help with the delivery! It’s in our title - Community. We want to make sure there is a continued investment in communities.
Why can’t CGA guarantee that the workmen or representatives visiting my home will be able to phone me a few minutes before they arrive? I, like a lot of residents, work full time but am able to get home within 10 minutes.
We are looking at a new IT system and that’s something we’re looking forward to introducing. In the meantime if any of our residents are in that situation where they are working or have family commitments but are able to pop home, let us know that when you phone us to book your repair and we’ll make sure that we give you a call.
When people are turned down for a property due to financial assessments and changes to welfare benefits, how are we going to support them to get a property and become a CGA tenant?
Since the housing element of universal credit has been cut for 18-21 year olds what is Gateway going to do to support young people to set up a tenancy?
We introduced financial assessments 2 or 3 years ago and the reason for that was that we didn’t feel it was right for us to be setting up potential new tenants to fail their tenancy. We were getting applications from people who unfortunately on the amount of money they had coming in or due to the amount of debt they had simply couldn’t afford to sustain a tenancy.
It is particularly difficult for the younger people, 18-21 year olds, if those individuals aren’t in work, the level of benefits that they receive once the cut to the local housing allowance comes in from April 2019, that will see them only entitled to a shared room rate of rent which is approximately £21 a week less than the rent on one of our one bedroom flats. If their income is only £70 a week, to put £21 a week towards rent before they have paid any other bills or council tax, is simply not sustainable.
If you are having financial difficulty or you know someone that is, please contact us and we will see if there’s anything we can do to support you.
Why are homeowners that live on CGA estates excluded from voting?
CGA is a housing association that is principally here to service our tenants. A key part of the model is that tenants have voting rights and are able to vote on some of the key decisions that affect the running of the organisation. We do have the opportunity for homeowners to have their views listened to and to be Associate Members and we also have the under 16s membership as well.
Will CGA start to use Social Media to pick up on area problems, particularly environmental issues and ASB issues?
It’s not something we’ve discussed, but it’s a very good point. I will take that back to the team as a suggestion.
Could Gateway ring-fence more jobs for Gateway tenants in the future?
As you know in the past we have advertised to our tenants in Gateway News or we’ve leafleted our estates. It’s really important that we have tenants working for us and one of the ways we do that is through Preston Vocational Centre. We try and encourage people that have studied at the centre to get apprenticeships in our organisation. Hopefully going forward we’ll be able to do more of this, so there are more people who live in our homes that are employed and are able to contribute to the communities they live in.
When they did the foundation dig at the former Savick pub site – Why were there no residents involved? The shop owners weren’t even there.
That was a small ground breaking ceremony event and because we’d already started work on the site it meant there was little room. At that point, it wouldn’t have been appropriate to do a larger event with a larger number of people. However, those properties are still being built at the moment and hopefully we’ll have an event at the end.
Are there any volunteering opportunities at Preston Vocational Centre?
There are! If anyone else would like to volunteer, please give us your details before you leave or give us a call on 0800 953 0213.
We really benefited from the Christmas Toy Appeal last year. Will this be continuing into the future?
Yes, definitely. It’s a fantastic piece of work that our Rents and Tenancy Support Team work on. We’ve been running it for 3 years and will continue to do it. The team raises money all year. The difference it makes to those families is very valued. If anyone knows of any families that may benefit from it please do pass on their details and we will certainly look into that.
Question for Diane, what’s the one thing you will miss most about CGA?
Gateway is all about people so it will be all the people all the tenants and all the staff.
We do regular inspections of all our communal areas and report these kinds of things to the Neighbourhood Care team. However, we can’t be everywhere and rely on our residents to flag up things when they can. We will look at the Larches area regularly.
Has CGA stopped the yearly plan for maintenance? E.g. Gutter clearing, painting etc.
We have a cyclical programme which works on 2 local community areas every year. Last year it was Ashton & Ingol and this year we are on Deepdale & South Ribbleton.
Is it not possible to add solar panelling at the same time as re-roofing? Is this not the future?
This all depends on funding. We will continue to look out for affordable opportunities in terms of energy efficiency but will always spend your money in the best way possible.
Can you tell us a bit on the adaptations policy for disabled tenants?
We do lots of adaptations for our tenants every year. Please have a look at our aids and adaptations page here http://bit.ly/2fLn18x.
Could Community Gateway work closely with Environmental Health to tackle private and CGA gardens?
We do work closely with Environmental Health when the issue relates to a CGA property. However we would not have the resources to assist Environmental Health in dealing with private gardens.
Does Gateway agree with multi storey buildings being used to accommodate people with Learning Disabilities, is this not going back to mini institutions?
When we redeveloped Trinity Fold we were very clear on the number of homes within the building and that each home should be self-contained with security of tenure as we felt that there should be more choice than the traditional shared accommodation option. We recognise the importance of familiar surroundings, having control over where people live, the support they receive and feeling part of the community.
Therefore should CGA develop new homes for people with Learning Disabilities in the future we would be more interested in developing a community model that offered more flexible living such as the proposals for developing Whyndyke Farm in Blackpool as that promotes healthy communities.
When will Windsor Court Community Centre be redecorated with new blinds as well?
We have replaced the carpets in the centre within the last 12-months, we do plan to assess all the sheltered housing community centre’s in 2018 with a view to redecorate where required and if the blinds are broken then we would replace them straight away.
What is the impact of bedroom tax, and how are customers managing?
Under-occupancy charge (also known as bedroom tax) was introduced in 2013, and since that time our Tenancy Support Team have been providing assistance to those customers affected. The type of support has varied greatly depending on the customers’ individual needs, but has included such things as making additional claims for benefits, budgeting advice, and where requested support has been provided to assist the customer to downsize to a smaller property.
Why is there a set figure for gas and electric for the financial assessment?
An income and expenditure check forms part of our financial assessment process to ensure the property will be affordable for the customer. As everyone has to pay for their gas and electric, we have to ensure that this is taken into account in their budget. The amount a customer pays for their gas and electric will vary greatly depending on how much they use, and the new customer may not know how much this will be until they move into their new property. As a result, we use an average figure based on what we believe a customer will use. However, it is essential to note that this is just a starting point, and if the customer provides information to say they spend less than this amount, we will amend our assessment form. Likewise, we will increase this amount where a customer advises they spend more.
Will there be a minutes silence for Rose Kinsella?
We highlighted Rose and the fantastic work she had done in the community at the beginning of the AGM.
Can CGA work more hand in hand with PCC to resolve issues such as abandoned cars?
CGA continues to work in partnership with the local authority to address issues across our estates including abandoned vehicles. In some instances however, it is not possible for the Council to assist CGA when the land is ours and likewise when the land is Preston City Councils we do not have the resources or powers to assist the Council.
When are parking bays on Forton Road being done?
We appreciate the problem with car-parking; not only at Forton Road, but at all of the estates in Preston and nationally.
Unfortunately, we do not have any plans to create or extend car parking facilities at this time and are focusing on ensuring our homes meet the strict standards set out by our regulators. This includes fire, gas and water safety; along with the Decent Homes Standard. As things change in the future, so may our plans, but at this stage, car-parking is not part of the investment teams plans.