Issue - meetings

Annual review of housing wholly owned companies

Meeting: 23/06/2021 - Cabinet (Item 22)

22 Annual review of housing wholly owned companies pdf icon PDF 255 KB

This report provides a review of the following 4 companies - Seascape Group Limited, Seascape South Limited (SSL), Seascape Homes and Property Limited (SHP) and Bournemouth Building Maintenance Limited (BBML).

The report sets out the growth plans for each company, an operational update from the last year and the 2021/22 annual plan for each.

The Seascape Group, including its two subsidiaries SSL and SHP, has much scope for growth in activity and sizeable income generation opportunities as a result.

SSL has been impacted by Covid during the last year but plans are in place for recruiting additional senior commercial expertise and capacity and to bring this forward as soon as possible in line with the Council’s Smarter Structures programme.  This additional capacity will develop opportunities, drive marketing and promotion, manage contract growth and drive forwards operational efficiencies.

Staffing resources are already being scaled up to ensure the capacity to deliver the ambition for SHP.  SHP will increase its property portfolio within management as a result of a scaled up property acquisition programme by the Council over the next few years as part of the emerging Council New Build and Acquisition Strategy (CNHAS).  SHP will also provide a delivery vehicle for building out the pipeline of Council owned sites for private rent or private sale homes. 

A review of BBML operations in the context of BCP Council recommends that it is now timely for the BBML operation to be integrated within the Council’s wider staff operations.  The current mixed model of employment and delivery across the Property Maintenance teams makes it difficult to gain reliable strategic and financial oversight.  One consolidated employment and operating model will ensure an effective and streamlined base position on which to build further improvements, efficiencies and transformation.

This report recommends that Hixsons Limited is appointed for a further year in order to audit the 2020/21 company accounts.  It is a requirement of the Shareholders Agreement for both BBML and SGL that authority is sought from the council as sole shareholder for the appointment the external auditor.

Decision:

RESOLVED that: -

(a)           the plans to further grow the two Seascape Group subsidiaries be supported;

(b)           the appointment of Hixsons Limited as the external auditor for BBML, Seascape Group Limited (SGL) and MD Care to audit the 2020/21 company accounts be approved; and

(c)           the appointment of Paul Whittles, Finance Manager as temporary Director of Finance for Seascape Group Limited be approved.

Voting: Unanimous

Portfolio Holder: Homes

Reason

The Seascape Group subsidiaries – SSL and SHP – provide valuable services and will generate additional income to BCP Council as the sole shareholder to help continue delivering Council services to the vulnerable people.

It is a requirement of the Shareholders Agreement for both BBML and SGL that authority is sought from the Council as sole shareholder for the appointment of the external auditor and for the appointment of Directors.

Minutes:

The Portfolio Holder for Homes presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each Member and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'G' to these Minutes in the Minute Book.

Cabinet was advised that the report provided a review of the following 4 companies - Seascape Group Limited, Seascape South Limited (SSL), Seascape Homes and Property Limited (SHP) and Bournemouth Building Maintenance Limited (BBML), and that the report sets out the growth plans for each company, an operational update from the last year and the 2021/22 annual plan for each.

In relation to this Cabinet was informed that The Seascape Group, including its two subsidiaries SSL and SHP, has much scope for growth in activity and sizeable income generation opportunities as a result, but that SSL has been impacted by Covid during the last year but plans are in place for recruiting additional senior commercial expertise and capacity and to bring this forward as soon as possible in line with the Council’s Smarter Structures programme, it was advised that this additional capacity will develop opportunities, drive marketing and promotion, manage contract growth and drive forwards operational efficiencies.

Further to this Cabinet was advised that staffing resources are already being scaled up to ensure the capacity to deliver the ambition for SHP, and that SHP will increase its property portfolio within management as a result of a scaled up property acquisition programme by the Council over the next few years as part of the emerging Council New Build and Acquisition Strategy (CNHAS).  It was reported that SHP will also provide a delivery vehicle for building out the pipeline of Council owned sites for private rent or private sale homes. 

Cabinet was advised that a review of BBML operations in the context of BCP Council recommended that it is now timely for the BBML operation to be integrated within the Council’s wider staff operations, and that the current mixed model of employment and delivery across the Property Maintenance teams makes it difficult to gain reliable strategic and financial oversight.  In relation to this Cabinet was informed that one consolidated employment and operating model would ensure an effective and streamlined base position on which to build further improvements, efficiencies and transformation.

In addition Cabinet was informed that the report sought approval for  Hixsons Limited to be appointed for a further year in order to audit the 2020/21 company accounts, and that it is a requirement of the Shareholders Agreement for both BBML and SGL that authority is sought from the council as sole shareholder for the appointment of the external auditor.

The Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Board addressed the Cabinet advising that at their recent meeting whilst the Board had been supportive a request had been made for future reports to include the companies business plans with future reports.

Thanks were expressed to the trades people who had had to adapt their ways of working during Covid.

RESOLVED that: -

(a)           the plans to further grow  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22


Meeting: 14/06/2021 - Overview and Scrutiny Board (Item 38)

38 Scrutiny of Homes Related Cabinet Reports pdf icon PDF 255 KB

To consider the following Homes related reports scheduled for Cabinet consideration on 23 June 2021:

 

   Annual review of housing wholly owned companies

 

The O&S Board is asked to scrutinise the reports and make recommendations to Cabinet as appropriate.

 

Cabinet member invited to attend for this item: Councillor R Lawton, Portfolio Holder for Homes

 

The Cabinet report for this item is included with the agenda for consideration by the Overview and Scrutiny Board.

Minutes:

Annual Review of Housing Wholly Owned Companies – The Portfolio Holder for Homes presented the report. A copy of which had been circulated to Board members and a copy of which appears at appendix D to these minutes in the Minute Book. Following the introduction, the Portfolio Holder responded to a number of issues raised by Board members including:

 

·       That the main purpose of the companies was not to make a profit but they were a vehicle to help families and provide housing for those who were homeless within the BCP area.

·       There was a concern raised that the audit fees had doubled as a result of the pandemic which seemed extraordinary. It was noted that a procurement exercise for a new auditor was conducted in April 2020 and fees across the board had increased considerably. However, there was concern expressed that the Council was not getting value for money.

·       It was noted that a company secretary had been in post previously, but they had left, recruitment was underway to appoint someone to the post temporarily.

·       A Board member recorded their thanks to Dan Povey, the accountant responsible for this as he was due to leave and had done an excellent job.

·       Happy for business plan to be part of the report – will make sure this is part of the report in the future. Did have a company secretary in place but he left and are looking to recruit a new one.

 

The Chairman thanked the Portfolio Holder for the report but noted that it said very little about what the companies were doing and suggested that further detail be included in future.