To consider the report of the deputy chief executive – transformation and operations.
Cabinet considered the report of the deputy chief executive – transformation and operations on work the council was progressing under the Afghan and Ukraine refugee accommodation workstreams.
In December 2022, the government had announced a scheme to part fund accommodation that was to provide sustainable housing for refugees under the Afghan and Ukraine schemes. The council had been offered a £3,756,708 grant to deliver 23 homes that met the eligibility criteria outlined in the Local Authority Housing Fund prospectus.
The Cabinet member responsible for housing reported that she was proud of the council’s involvement in supporting refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine in their time of need. The government grant should be taken up to provide these homes. The number of homes was not enough to provide for the many refugees staying in South Oxfordshire, but it was a start and was welcomed. The Cabinet member proposed accepting the grant and signing a memorandum of understanding with the government department. This would involve setting up a team to deliver these homes, through purchasing individual houses, and managing them thereafter.
In answer to a question from members, the head of finance reported that Cabinet was being asked to agree to continue to participate in the scheme by signing the memorandum of understanding. He had carried out an initial assessment of the financial risks, a broad-brush high-level modelling exercise, and had concluded that the scheme should be pursued, subject to more detailed financial checks. Officers would need to assess and be confident in the costs on a house-by-house basis. It was anticipated that the council could proceed to purchase these properties without the need to set up a Housing Revenue Account. Signing the memorandum of understanding was a non-binding commitment; the council did not have to proceed if the project was not financially viable. Although the council had allocated funds towards this project in its budget, there was no financial commitment to proceed at this stage until further work had been completed and the council satisfied with the costs.
Cabinet was pleased with the work undertaken to date on welcoming and supporting refugees in South Oxfordshire. Now the council needed to work on providing sustainable, settled accommodation to support these refugee families, either by purchasing properties or by seeking accommodation through registered housing providers. Cabinet supported the recommendations to accept the grant and sign the memorandum of understanding but noted that further detailed work would be carried out to assess the financial risks. The project also supported the council’s housing delivery strategy. Members noted the timeline for this work.
(b) accept the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) grant of £3,756,708 (total allocation) to deliver 23 homes that meet the eligibility criteria outlined within the Local Authority Housing Fund prospectus, and to authorise the Deputy Chief Executive – Transformation and Operations to sign the Memorandum of Understanding with DLUHC, which sets out the understanding between both parties for the use of funding.