West Norfolk Council plans new Freebridge forum

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A new committee is being proposed which West Norfolk Council leaders say will enable them to work more closely with the borough’s main social housing provider.

Officials have put forward proposals for a new strategic forum between the authority and Freebridge Community Housing.

If approved by the council’s cabinet next Tuesday, it would mean its leader, Nick Daubney, chief executive Ray Harding and housing portfolio holder Adrian Lawrence would represent the council at forum meetings.

A report to be considered by the cabinet said that, although there had been an “effective relationship” between the council and Freebridge since housing stock was transferred to the company in 2006, there was no formal platform for discussions between the two organisations at a senior level.

It continued: “In recent years FCH have developed into an increasingly important partner to the Borough Council not only in terms of the provision of social and affordable housing but also on wider community issues.

“Close working with FCH is vital in relation to speedily addressing the need of homeless people and families to whom the Council owes a statutory duty, as well as in terms of providing homes for people on the housing register.”

The report said the proposal was being made at a time of “significant” change in how registered housing providers, like Freebridge, operate.

The report said: “National policy changes have necessitated the need for most housing providers to review their business plans based on reduced income assumptions.

“New cost pressures will lead to decision-making and policy changes that will possibly have impacts on stake-holders, including councils.”

Although the council already has two seats on the Freebridge board, officers say the current arrangements are no longer appropriate.

They say the committee would examine ways in which the organisations could work more closely together, both for the benefit of Freebridge tenants and the wider community.

The report added: “The proposed forum will help maintain understanding and trust into the future.”