Venue: Conor Room - City Hall
Contact: Democratic Services Officer 90320202 x6301
Apologies were reported on behalf of Councillors Bunting, Cobain, de Faoite and Maghie.
Declarations of Interest
No Declarations of Interest were reported.
Affordable Warmth Scheme Update and Service Level Agreement
As per Committee request, representatives of DfC and the NIHE will be in attendance at the meeting.
The Building Control Manager reminded the Committee that Belfast City Council had been engaged in a partnership with the Department for Communities (DfC) and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) in the delivery of the Affordable Warmth Scheme (AWS) since 2014.
It was reported that the scheme aimed to address fuel poverty for the most vulnerable households in the city by targeting those households that met certain criteria, as identified by Ulster University, to provide home improvement measures such as loft and cavity wall insulation, replacement boilers and new double-glazed windows.
The Building Control Manager reminded the Committee that, at its meeting on 13th June, it had considered a report to bring forward a request from the DfC regarding the signing of the interim Service Level Agreement (SLA) from the period 1st April, 2022 to 31st March, 2024 and to inform the Committee that communication had also been received from DfC on 1st June, 2023 giving Councils 3 months’ notice, ending the Council’s role in the administration of the Affordable Warmth Scheme on 31st August, 2023.
Furthermore, at its meeting on 13th June, the Committee had agreed to defer the decision of the request from the DfC to sign the interim SLA provided for the period 1st April, 2022 to 31st March, 2024, acknowledging that the DfC had put the Council on notice terminating the arrangement on 31st August, 2023, and that representatives of DfC and the NIHE be invited to attend a Special meeting of the Committee.
He highlighted that Building Control Officers had liaised with Legal Services regarding the implications of signing or not signing the SLA as requested by the DfC. Legal Services had confirmed:
· Council officers could ask the Committee to consider the request from the DfC to sign the SLA from 1 April 2022 until 31 March 2024, as the notice period had been written into the SLA; and
· There would be no implications for Belfast City Council if the Committee decided not to authorise approval to sign the SLA, as an SLA was not legally enforceable.
The Chairperson introduced Mr. D. Polley, Director of Housing Supply Policy, and Mr A. Boyce, Head of Affordable Warmth and Energy, representing the Department for Communities, Ms. E. Stubbs, Assistant Director of Regional Services, and Ms. R. O’Neill, Energy Efficiency Schemes Manager, representing the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, to the Committee and they were admitted to the meeting.
Mr. Polley provided a summary of the changes to the Affordable Warmth Scheme. He advised that the decision to remove targeting and therefore council involvement from the AWS had been approved by the Permanent Secretary under the Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions Act. He explained that the impact on public services included a severe pressure on both the AWS 2023/24 capital and resource budgets with capital reduced by 12.5% and resource reduced by 5%. The associated EQIA detailed the potential savings measures, which would allow the Department to live within its Budget allocation including ... view the full minutes text for item 3.