Housing news for Winchester City Council tenants and leaseholders
Changes to Welfare Benefits Explained Major changes are being made to the benefits system over the next few years because of the Welfare Reform Act 2012. Some of the changes took effect immediately after the Act became law, but others are scheduled for 2013 or later. See pages 4 and 5 for details. These changes could affect you!
Portfolio Holder for Housing Services, said: “Please read the information in this edition carefully. Anyone who thinks they could be affected by benefit changes should contact their Area Housing Manager
straightaway. We can provide advice and support and will do all we can to help. However, not paying rent is not an option and you could put your tenancy at serious risk if your rent account goes into arrears.”
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New Council Homes Work has started on building the first Council homes in the Winchester district for over 20 years. Building five new homes is underway in Micheldever and planning permission has been given
to start building new homes at Coles Mead in Otterbourne and Station Approach in Itchen Abbas. Speaking at the launch of the new Micheldever development, Cllr Ian Tait, Portfolio Holder for New Homes Delivery said: “I am delighted that we have the first five Council homes being built in the district. This is an excellent partnership scheme that will benefit many local people who currently cannot live in
Welfare Reform 4-5 Repairs Information 7-9 Downsizing Scheme, Loft Conversions 10
their local area. This is the start of an exciting new time for Council homes and we are working to extend this good work across other parts of the District.” Between 10 and 15 new homes should be available this year with building of over 100 planned to start in 2014.
thebigword telephone interpreting service The Council uses a 24-hour Telephone Interpreting Service, which also provides written or recorded translations. If you, a relative or a neighbour would like to talk to the Council through an interpreter, please contact your Area Housing Manager on 01962 84 84 00.
on disc On the house is available in large print, MP3 or on CD (audio). Please call the Tenant Involvement Team on
Freephone 0800 716 987.
TEXTPHONE This facility is available for readers who are deaf or hard of hearing. Please telephone 01962 878 982. If you have any particular needs which affect how you are able to use or be involved in our services or how you would like to receive information - for example translation, interpreters, Braille, audio tape, large print, sign language - please contact the Customer Service Centre either by telephone: 01962 840 222 or by email: customerservice@ winchester.gov.uk Winchester City Council, City Offices, Colebrook Street, Winchester, SO23 9LJ. telephone 01962 84 84 00 fax 01962 841 365 email firstname.lastname@example.org website www.winchester.gov.uk
New Phone App! There is a new quick and convenient way to contact us and report non urgent repairs, pay your rent or tell us about a host of other issues 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year using your smart phone or tablet device with our new app. â€œYour Winchesterâ€? is a simple way to report problems. No need to hang on the phone and no need to work out who you should send the report to. Just scan this image or go to the app store from your device, type in Your Winchester, download it and start using it straight away.
Changes to the Hampshire Home Choice Allocations Framework Officers from Winchester, East Hampshire, Havant and Test Valley Councils have been reviewing the way in which social housing is allocated. This follows the introduction of the Localism Act 2011 which gives councils greater flexibility to manage waiting lists and ensure social homes go to those who genuinely need them. Part of the review included an online customer survey for us to get the views of people who could be affected by any changes and asking them who they thought should be prioritised for social housing. Thank you to those who completed the
survey, your views have helped us to determine the Allocations Policy. Details of the new Allocations Framework are available on our website and Hampshire Home Choice at www.winchester.gov.uk/ Hampshirehomechoice Customers registered on Hampshire Home Choice will receive a letter informing them of the changes and advising them if they are affected. Advice and assistance is available to anyone who is affected by the changes. For more information, contact the Housing Needs team on 01962 84 84 00.
Telephone calls may be recorded. Printed on 75% recycled paper.
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Estate Improvements Estate Services Team (left to right): Sarah Charlton, Caroline Robinson, Paul Dewhurst, Fiona Churcher, Selo Kaymak, Kelly Morris, David Lumby, Heather Wensley
A new Estates Services team has been set up to provide a dedicated focus on estates and neighbourhoods. The team will be responsible for delivering estate improvements from an increased budget of £350,000 for the 2013/14
year. Projects to be delivered across the district from April 2013 include improved parking, external lighting, improvements to garage areas and bin areas, benches, fencing and door entry systems.
The Estates Services team will also be working on improving estate services to tenants and leaseholders, including the grounds maintenance and cleaning services. The new team also brings together the Garage Officer, Winnall flats’ Caretakers and the Tenant Involvement team. The team will work with tenants and leaseholders to involve residents, to ensure we continue to improve the standard of estate services.
Converting Empty Units into New Homes
Welcome to Heather Wensley
As well as building new homes, the Council is also looking to convert unused buildings into new homes. Two new properties were created in Compton, near Winchester. The properties, both two-bedroom flats, used to be the old Post Office until the business closed a few years ago. The conversion was completed in September 2012, helping to house two households on the Hampshire Home Choice housing register.
Heather Wensley joined the Housing Services team in October 2012, as the Tenant Involvement Support Officer, working alongside David Lumby to support tenant involvement activities across the district. Heather has a background in retail, and brings with her lots of relevant skills and a wealth of enthusiasm to her new role.
A former shop premises in Cromwell Road, Stanmore was converted in October 2012 to create a new two-bedroom house. The shop which had been empty for many years, had in the past been vandalised and was boarded up. It was given a new lease of life and is now a fantastic family home.
Cromwell Road after
Heather is also working on developing and promoting the Council’s Tenant Involvement Facebook page. Go and have a look at it!!
Cromwell Road before Compton old Post Office
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www.facebook.com/ WinchesterTenants page
Welfare Reform Are you of “Working Age” and in receipt of some form of welfare benefit payment? If so, changes being introduced in April could affect your ability to pay your rent.
e= Working Ag rs to from 16 yea dit age pension cre 1 ½) (currently 6
Please read the following pages very carefully. If you think the changes may affect you, please act now! Contact your Area Housing Manager on 01962 84 84 00 for help and advice on what to do next.
Housing Benefit Size Criteria From April 2013, housing benefit will be reduced for tenants who are working age and living in a property that is larger than their household is deemed to need. Tenants who are under-occupying by one bedroom will have their eligible rent used to calculate housing benefit reduced by 14% and for those under occupying by two or more rooms, the reduction will be 25%. If you are affected, there are a number of things you can do:
Make up the shortfall in rent yourself Please contact us to set up a direct debit, get a payment card or discuss the ways you can pay the shortfall.
Make sure you are getting all the benefits you are entitled to We can refer you to the Benefits and Money Advice Service to ensure you are not missing out on any benefits which would help you meet the shortfall in your rent.
Take in a lodger You will need to speak to your Area Housing Manager as you will need our permission first. You should also think about whether this will affect any other benefits you receive and any taxes that you pay.
Find work If you are able to work but are not working at the moment and would like to find out how to get back into employment or training, contact your nearest Jobcentre plus for help or visit www.gov.uk for further information.
Move to a smaller home You could look for a mutual exchange by registering on www.homeswapper.co.uk which is free for Council tenants, apply for a transfer by joining the Hampshire Home Choice register on www.winchester.gov.uk/ Hampshirehomechoice or look for a home in the private sector. If you are interested in downsizing you may be eligible for help under our downsizing scheme (see page 10 for details).
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There are some people who will be allowed a spare bedroom, for example if you are disabled and need an overnight carer, if you are a foster carer, have adult children in the Armed Forces or have a severely disabled child who needs their own bedroom for medical reasons. Also, limited funds (known as Discretionary Housing Payments) are available to help tenants who have special circumstances (such as disabled tenants who have had their property substantially adapted for their needs) to meet their shortfall. Any Discretionary Housing Payment will be based on the income and circumstances of your household and any payment is likely to be for a short period only. If these circumstances apply to you, please contact your Area Housing Manager on 01962 84 84 00 or the Benefits Section on 01962 848 539. It could be difficult to make up the shortfall between the reduced housing benefit you receive and the rent you have to pay. If you fall in to rent arrears you will risk losing your home so please contact us now if you are struggling to pay and we can offer you help and advice or will put you in contact with someone who can give you the information and support you need.
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The Government will be introducing a ‘cap’ on the maximum amount of benefit a working age household can receive. If your combined income from certain benefits is more than the cap, your housing benefit will be reduced. The level of the cap will be £500 a week if you are a couple, with or without dependent children, or a single parent; and £350 per week for single people without children. If you are likely to be affected by the limit, you would have received a letter from us and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). If you have been contacted about the benefit cap, please get in touch with your Area Housing Manager or call the DWP Helpline on 0845 605 7064 (8am to 6pm). For more information on what benefits are included in the cap and which won’t be counted, as well as who won’t be affected, (for example people who qualify for Working Tax Credit or Disability Living Allowance,) please contact your Area Housing Manager on 01962 84 84 00 or the Benefits Section on 01962 848 539.
Other Changes to Benefits There are a number of other changes which will be introduced between 2013 and 2017. These include: G
Replacing Disability Living Allowance with a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for people of working age.
Replacing the current complex system of working age benefits and tax credits with a new benefit called Universal Credit.
Changes to Pension Credit to include a new housing element to help with the payment of rent for people of pensionable age. We will keep you updated about these and any other changes as we learn more about them. Look out for articles in On the House and on our website. If you are likely to be affected by the changes you will be contacted by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) or the Council nearer the time.
More information on the size criteria and the benefits cap is available in our leaflets. Please contact us for a copy.
Money Matters – General hints & tips The downturn in the economy, along with rising fuel prices continues to put pressure on household budgets. Changes to the welfare and benefits system from April will only add to this pressure. It is essential that everyone ensures they review household budgets and choose the right spending priorities. Please remember, rent and Council tax are priority debts and are not something that can be ignored at the expense of other bills.
Pay your rent by direct debit Setting up a direct debit which leaves your account just after you are paid your salary or benefits is a good way of making sure your rent is paid on time.
Organise a bank account Changes to benefits such as the introduction of Universal Credit will mean the benefits you will receive will be paid directly to you. You’ll need a bank account and it’s a good idea to have one which allows you to set up a direct debit to help you pay your rent and other bills. If you need help setting up an account, please contact us.
Be prepared for your benefit meetings If you are invited to an appointment with the Job Centre, make sure you attend and take along all the paperwork they have asked to see.
Avoid using loan sharks and pay-day loans Loan sharks and pay-day loans can be tempting as they offer fast money. But there are some big problems with using them – mainly high fees and interest rates – which can see you having to pay a lot of money for the loan. If you are struggling to make ends meet, please contact us and we can talk through the options available to you.
Hampshire Credit Union
Spring into Action: With a feast of fashion and foreign flavours! Where: St John’s House, The Broadway When: Saturday 4th May 10:30 – 15:00 Join Winchester City Council and A2Dominion for a day of fun with Oxfam Charity fashion shows, Zumba dancing, beer, wine and free food tasting from around the world! You can also chat to our housing officers for advice along with other organisations. Its free to enter and all are welcome!! Advice stands: G Winchester City Council G A2Dominion G Citizens Advice Bureau G uSwitch G Winchester Job Club G Credit Union
Hampshire Credit Union is a ‘not for profit’ organisation which offers a wide range of banking and savings facilities to Hampshire residents including a new ‘Jam Jar’ account. This account allows benefit payments or wages to be paid in; separate ‘jars’ to be set-up for essential bills including rent and utilities and the balance to be transferred to a Credit Union Refreshments and snacks will also be PrePaid card or into another available from South Central Forum. account. The Credit Union has a satellite service point in the Contact: The Tenant Involvement Council’s Customer Service Centre Team – 0800 716 987 in Colebrook Street (currently every Thursday from 9.30 until 2.30) or alternatively can be contacted by telephone on 023 9282 7980 or online at www.usal.org.uk. The Credit Union is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services We will be holding more Money Matters events and Authority. offering benefits advice at Street Meets and other tenant meetings in your area. Look out for these on our website and Facebook page.
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Repairs Information 2013/2014 Stock Condition Survey Council homes are generally in good condition, although too many have not been surveyed in recent years. To make sure we spend money where it is needed most, we will shortly be surveying every Council home in the district. We are in the process of appointing a firm of surveying consultants to complete the surveys whilst the Asset Management Team led by Keith Miles, will use the results to allocate annual spending from 2014 and beyond. No doubt there will be some surprises in store but it promises to be an exciting time for the Council in delivering a whole new programme of work over the coming years. We will be writing to you shortly with details of how and when you can expect to be involved.
“Green Cards” What do we do with them? You must sometimes wonder why we ask you to return your customer satisfaction cards to us; what do we do with them other than produce tables of statistics? Well, each and every response that we receive from you either by post or over the telephone is logged against the job number on our computer system. According to what you tell us, we can use the information to commend our contractors on a job well done; or perhaps we can follow up on a report of bad workmanship. We are able to monitor if tradesmen are offering you ID and if they are sticking to the appointment times. All of the information that you feed back to us helps us to manage our contractors effectively, ensuring that you receive the best possible service.
Asset Management Team (left to right): Barbara Howells, Keith Miles, Sarah Trollope
Winnall Flats Update Following an extensive tenant and leaseholder consultation the decision has now been taken to offer full gas central heating to all homes in the four high rise blocks at Winnall. This will involve bringing in new gas mains and the installation of piping to all flats whether or not residents choose to take up the option of gas heating. This will enable future incoming tenants to be readily connected without further disturbance to the fabric of the building. Work is expected to start in April and we would hope that it will be finished in time for a much cosier winter this year! Residents will be kept fully informed at all stages of the installation.
On the whole you tell us that you are satisfied with the standard of work from our contractors. If you are not happy with any of the maintenance services we provide, don’t suffer in silence – tell us. Help us to bring about continuous improvement to make a good service even better.
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Repairs Information 2013/2014 Discretionary Work Scheme The new Discretionary Decorating/Minor Improvements scheme was launched in October 2012 and the first 1,100 tenants were invited to apply. The majority of work has now been completed and Decorating Vouchers have been issued. We will be approaching tenants in all roads listed on this page offering improvements in the next year and the offer will be extended to all tenants by 2016. Instead of the old paper vouchers system we have elected to use electronic cards so that you may visit your chosen store any number of times and easily keep a check on your available balance. These cards will be valid until the 31 March the year following their issue. Tenants have told us that they’re delighted with the scheme which has given them the opportunity to spend extra money where they need it most. The scheme does not affect the Council’s responsibility to undertake the routine maintenance of your home.
Tenant Comment Mrs Prescott of Highcliffe said: “The scheme was a wonderful idea. It gives people the flexibility to do things for themselves with the vouchers, or if you can’t manage yourself you can get jobs done for you.”
External Repairs and Painting As last year, all homes included in the Discretionary Works Programme will also be included in the annual repairs and painting programme (see below for this year’s list). All affected tenants and leaseholders
will receive a hand-delivered letter at the time of the survey to let them know exactly what work will be carried out, who the contractor is and when work will start.
Grange Road Nicholson Place
Springvale Tovey Place Vian Place
Valley Court Walpole Road Wavell Way
Folly Field Malt Lane Penfords Paddock Vernon Close
Hollands Close The Hallway
Micheldever Warren Cottages
Brentness,Church Road Donigers Close
Beech Grove Gorse Down Hilly Close
Hillview Red Leaves
Wood Lane Close
Colden Common Fleming Place New Road Springhouse Close
Compton Godwin Fields
Curdridge Botley Road
Denmead Anmore Road Furzeley Corner Mill Road
Dickson Park Elizabeth Close Heathlands Elizabeth Road Sloane Park Garnier Park Soberton Roberts Close Bold Forrester Cottages The Circle The Spur South Wonston Wykeham Fields Downs Road Groves Close Winchester City
Bailey Close Chatham Road Cobbett Close Lent Hill Court Library House Minden Way Somers Close The Valley Thurmond Crescent Thurmond Road
Kilmeston Westwood View
Kings Worthy Harwood Place Pound Road Ramsey Road
Eastgate Street Godson House Greyfriars Lawn House Mews Lane Windsor House Alresford Road
Winnall Baigent Close Shepherds Road
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Repairs Information 2013/2014 Garage Maintenance In previous years, limited budgets meant the Council had little to spend on maintaining garages. However, we have doubled investment this year and recognise some garages are in poor condition. It will be necessary to prioritise work for those garage blocks which are most in need of maintenance rather than restricting work to geographical areas. The Council will need to consider the most cost-effective options which may include the demolition and rebuilding of a number of garage blocks whilst targeted repairs will be undertaken on others. Please report any maintenance issues with your garage through Customer Services in the usual way.
Electrical Test Programme A rolling programme of Electrical Tests is carried out at a number of properties throughout the district each year. Any works that may be identified will then be scheduled in the following few months. If your home is due for an electrical test we will write to you to let you know when it is likely to happen and which contractor will complete the work for us.
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Heating Systems Replacement / Renewable Energy We will be spending ÂŁ1.5m on replacement boilers in the next year. The Council will also use Government grants to continue to fund the installation of a number of alternative energy heating systems predominantly in rural areas where mains gas is not available.
Annual Servicing of Gas, Solid Fuel and Oil Fired Appliances This annual MOT for your heating and hot water system is without doubt one of the most important activities that Property Services undertakes every year. Not only is the Council legally obliged to undertake an annual inspection and service of these appliances; it ensures that you are kept safe and well in your own home. This also applies to gas supply pipes that may be fitted even if you do not use gas. Our current access rate stands at 98.9%. The majority of tenants have no hesitation in co-operating with us in this. However itâ€™s disappointing that we are still forced to take the strongest possible steps to gain access to all those homes where tenants have not co-operated,
including gaining orders for possession of homes from the Court. Liberty Gas will continue to work with you to make flexible appointments to carry out the servicing. They will also check and service your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors ensuring the safety of your home.
Kitchens / Bathrooms We now spend up to ÂŁ2million each year and continue to make steady progress on replacing older kitchens and bathrooms. Properties will be surveyed in turn based strictly on the installation date of the current fittings. As always though, should you be experiencing maintenance problems in your kitchen or bathroom, these should always be reported through Customer Services.
External Windows / Doors More money is also being spent on replacing old doors and windows. Surveys will take place throughout the coming year at properties where windows have not yet been fitted with double glazing. Where planning regulations permit, schemes of work will be drawn up to fit properties with suitable energy efficient windows and doors. In restricted areas the Council will investigate the installation of secondary double glazing.
Thinking about moving to a smaller home? Are you living in a property that is too big for you? Would you like help to move to a smaller home? Over time, many people’s housing needs change; perhaps your children have moved on and you’ve found yourself in a home that is larger than you need. You may find it difficult to keep warm and afford heating and electricity bills or are struggling to maintain the property and the garden. Downsizing to a smaller property can have lots of benefits and has the added value of freeing up family-sized accommodation, which is in very short supply in Winchester, so it can be offered to those that need it most.
The Winchester City Council Downsizing Scheme can help tenants who are under-occupying their home to move to a smaller property. If you qualify for the scheme, there are a number of ways which we can help you: G
We will give you a high priority on our housing waiting list and can help you to identify and bid for properties you are interested in. We can offer you a cash incentive, up to £1,000.
Alternatively, we can use up to £1,000 to help with the moving process, such as packing and removals, arranging disconnections / reconnections of utility services and appliances and providing decoration / fixtures / fittings at your new home.
If you are interested in downsizing and would like more information about the Scheme, please contact 01962 84 84 00.
Do you need more space? Would a loft conversion help you and your family? In addition to building new Council homes, we have been contacting tenants who are registered on Hampshire Home Choice because they need more bedrooms, to see if their home is suitable for a loft conversion or an extension. This would allow the family who are currently overcrowded to remain in their property rather than move to larger accommodation. We will be repeating this scheme, so if you would like to be considered next time, please register on Hampshire Home Choice and we will contact you.
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Save Energy, Save Money A good way to save money and reduce your energy bills is to take steps to make your home more energy efficient. Not only will it cut costs but will help the environment too. G
Turn off lights when leaving a room.
Don’t leave appliances on standby.
Use lowenergy light bulbs, they use 80% less energy.
Don’t charge up laptops and mobile phones unnecessarily
Wait until you have a full load before you use the washing machine, tumble dryer or dishwasher. One load uses less energy than two half loads.
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Turning the heating down by 1°C can save up to 10% on the cost of fuel bills.
Don’t over-fill the kettle for one drink. Use the kettle water to heat vegetables.
Close curtains at dusk and put curtains across doors to keep in the heat. Keep your freezer full, an empty freezer uses more power than a full one. When replacing appliances, check the energy rating is ‘A’ rated.
Save on your energy bill by switching supplier. Use one of the approved online price comparison services listed on the Consumer Focus website. For more information www.consumerfocus.org.uk or call the Citizen’s Advice consumer service on 0845 40 40 506 for a pricing factsheet.
The Home Heat Helpline is a free phone service set up to help fuel poverty and vulnerable energy customers worried about their bills. Call 0800 33 66 99 or visit www.homehealthelpline.org.uk
The winter fuel payment is an annual payment to help people who have reached the age for claiming state pension with the cost of keeping warm during the winter. For further advise on Winter Fuel Payments call 08459 15 15 15 or visit www.direct.gov.uk
Your Area Housing Manager Changes have been made to the Area Housing Manager patches. The map shows you who is your Area Housing Manager and how to contact them. More detailed information, Abbotts including street listings Weeke Barton for patches is available 3 on our website. 4 City
1 Compton & Otterbourne
Jayne Stanbury 01962 848 436 email@example.com Bishops Waltham, Boarhunt, Denmead, Shedfield, Shirrell Heath, Southwick, Swanmore, Upham, Waltham Chase
Chris Pope 01962 848 100 firstname.lastname@example.org Curdridge, Droxford, Durley, Hambledon, Highcliffe, Soberton, Titchfield, Wickham
7 Gareth Darke 01962 848 198 email@example.com
Abbotts Barton, Winnall
Michaela Knowles 01962 848 506 firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Gevaux 01962 848 466 email@example.com
Natalie Cain 01962 848 142 firstname.lastname@example.org
Headbourne Worthy, Kingsworthy, Martyr Worthy, Weeke
Alresford, Bighton, Bishops Sutton, Bramdean, Cheriton, Compton, Crawley, East Stratton, Easton, Exton, Hursley, Itchen Abbas, Itchen Stoke, Kilmeston, Littleton, Meonstoke, Micheldever, South Wonston, Sparsholt, Stoke Charity, Sutton Scotney, West Meon
Maria Dore 01962 848 260 email@example.com Central Winchester
Steve Machen (Assistant Area Housing Manager) 01962 848 374 firstname.lastname@example.org Colden Common, Otterbourne, Owslebury, Twyford
This map is based upon Ordnance Survey material with the permission of the Ordnance Survey on behalf of Her Majesty's Stationery Office © Crown Copyright. Unauthorised reproduction infringes Crown copyright and may lead to prosecution or civil proceedings. Winchester City Council Licence No LA08610X © Winchester City Council.
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HS0041-02674 April 2013 Produced by Winchester City Council