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HOMES AND SAFE COMMUNITIES SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 14th September, 2016.

 

Present:  Councillor C.J. Williams (Chairman); Councillor J. Drysdale (Vice-Chairman); Councillors A.G. Bennett,  J.C. Bird, Mrs. C.L. Curtis, Mrs. V.M. Hartrey, Ms. R.F. Probert, and E. Williams. 

 

Also present:  Mr. D. Dutch and Mr A. Raybould (Tenant Working Group).

 

 

323     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE – 

 

These were received from Councillor R.P. Thomas and Mrs. G. Doyle (Tenant Working Group).

 

 

324     MINUTES – 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 25th July, 2016 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

325     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

326     ANNOUNCEMENT –

 

Prior to commencing the meeting, the Chairman paid tribute to Mr G. Amos of the Tenant Working Group, and the Committee stood for a minute’s silence.

 

 

327     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 31ST JULY 2016 (DEH) –

 

The Finance Support Manager presented the report, the purpose of which was to advise of the position in respect of revenue and capital expenditure for the period 1st April to 31st July, 2016 regarding those revenue and capital budgets which form the Committee’s remit. 

 

The current forecast was for a balanced budget with projected outturn for 2016/17 shown in the table below:

 

 

Revenue Budget

 

Probable Outturn

Variance

(+ ) Favourable

(-) Adverse

 

£000

£000

 

Public   Sector Housing (HRA)

(22)

(22)

0

Council   Fund Housing

744

744

0

Private   Sector Housing

11,262

11,262

0

Regulatory   Services

2,056

2,056

0

Youth   Offending Service

696

696

0

TOTAL

14,736

14,736

0

 

A graph and table setting out the variance between the profiled budget and actual expenditure to date was attached at Appendix 1 to the report. 

 

With regard to the Public Sector Housing (HRA), it was expected that this budget would outturn on target with any underspends in year being offset by additional contributions to the Capital Expenditure thus reducing the reliance on Unsupported Borrowing.

 

For the Council Fund Housing, it was anticipated that this budget would outturn on target, although there was slight underspend to date as a result of staff vacancies.

 

With regard to Private Housing, there was currently a small adverse variance as the favourable variance relating to additional Disabled Facility Grant fee income was slightly outweighed by the adverse variance on Renewal Area fee income.  It was still anticipated that this service would outturn on target by year end.

 

For the Regulatory Services, the allocation of £2.056m represented the Vale of Glamorgan’s budget for its share for the Shared Regulatory Services (SRS).  A separate set of accounts would be maintained for the SRS and was periodically reported to the Shared Regulatory Services Joint Committee.  At this stage in the year it was anticipated that the SRS would outturn on target.

 

In terms of the 2016/17 savings targets, attached at Appendix 2 was a list of savings to be achieved this year for this Committee. It was anticipated that the majority of the savings would be achieved by year end.

 

With regard to capital expenditure, Appendix 3 detailed financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 31st July, 2016.  Appendix 4 provided non-financial information on capital construction schemes with a budget of over £100,000.

 

In referring to the number of capital projects in which there was a delay to the start of the building works, a Committee Member queried whether the Council would be able to catch up.  In reply, the Operational Manager – Building Services stated that there were a number of varied reasons why some projects had been delayed. Some related to environmental issues such as birds nesting at Rhoose Road which could now be progressed as the bird season had now ceased.  Furthermore, there was some difficulty being experienced with contractors in relation to the quality and finish of work and so the Council was in contact with a number of construction companies.  In addition, the Council had deferred payment to a number of contractors until certification showed that the work was completed to a satisfactory standard.  It was felt that the service would be able to recover and catch up, but this would depend upon how quickly contracts could complete the necessary refurbishment work. 

 

The Committee then discussed an exercise undertaken a few years ago in which contractors were asked to attend a meeting of the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) in order to ascertain progress on works in relation to the Welsh Housing Quality Standards.  The Committee discussed whether a similar exercise was needed again, but Members were mindful that more information needed to be received before this could be determined.  It was therefore agreed that a report be presented at a future meeting to outline a breakdown of the external works as a way to highlight any issues and the actions being undertaken to address these.

 

RECOMMENDED – 

 

(1)       T H A T the position with regard to the 2016/17 revenue and capital budgets be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T a report in relation to the Welsh Housing Quality Standards and the issues being experienced with certain contractors be presented at a future meeting.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In order for the Scrutiny Committee to note the position with regard to the 2016/17 revenue and capital monitoring.

 

(2)       In order for the Committee to receive an update on the Welsh Housing Quality Standards.

 

 

328     THE BREATHALYSER PILOT (DEH) –

 

The Principal Community Safety Officer presented the report, the purpose of which was to inform Members of the initial outcomes of the breathalyser pilot in operation throughout Barry. 

 

As a background summary, the report advised that there were 189 licensed premises in Barry and the Vale of Glamorgan.  The late night economy in Barry was mainly focused around a number of pubs and clubs.  With so many licensed premises there was always the potential for alcohol related problems.

 

Acute Alcohol Intoxication (AAI) could be defined as a condition that followed the administration of a psychoactive substance that resulted in disturbances in the level of consciousness, cognition, perception, judgement, affect, or behaviour, or other psychophysiological functions and responses.  Alcohol intoxication was manifested by such signs as facial flushing, slurred speech, unsteady gait, euphoria, increased activity, volubility, disorderly conduct, slowed reactions, impaired judgement and motor inco-ordination, insensibility or stupefaction.

 

Violent behaviour fuelled by AAI in and around pubs and clubs on weekend nights presented a significant public health and criminal justice problem.  Studies had shown that the peak time for violent behaviour was weekend nights and the peak location was in and around pubs and clubs.  Many people were injured during these instances of violence and sometimes these injuries could be life changing.

 

In 2015, there were 413 instances of violence recorded in the Vale of Glamorgan between 18:00 and 06:00 on Friday night into Saturday morning and Saturday night into Sunday Morning, of these, 61 were linked to, or mentioned, a licensed premises.  There were 218 instances of violence with injury of which 41 were linked to, or mentioned, a licensed premises. 

 

Locally, the evidence for, and potential barriers against, the use of breathalysers was taken to pub watch meetings for consultation with licence holders.  There was an overwhelming consensus that it was believed they would facilitate a reduction in violence and acute alcohol intoxication in the night time economy especially in Barry.  It was felt that there would be no benefit in promoting this scheme in areas where violence or acute alcohol intoxication prior to entry is not an issue. 

 

A joint bid between the Community Safety Partnership and South Wales Police was put forward to the Cardiff and Vale Area Planning Board to apply to the Welsh Government Substance Misuse Action Fund Capital allocation for 11 breathalysers that would be deployable across the Vale of Glamorgan.  The bid was accepted and the scheme was launched on 18th December, 2014 in readiness for the Christmas and New Year Period.

 

The breathalysers were used whenever door staff were on duty, so every Friday and Saturday night and other key events where intelligence had suggested that additional security was needed such as certain sporting events, Halloween, bank holidays, New Year's Eve etc.

 

The breathalysers chosen were carefully selected on their appropriateness to the night time economy setting.  The 'alcoblow' model purchased required the individual to blow on the device rather than in a tube thus removing the revenue cost of purchasing replacement tubes.

 

The device operates a green-amber-red traffic lights system of revealing intoxication as opposed to giving a reading of alcohol in the breath.  This was seen as important in order to not have to set a minimum level of intoxication for refusal of entry.  Given that it was now established that no amount of alcohol is 'safe' it was felt that in order to be in keeping with this important public health message, no amount was set to determine whether you were too drunk to enter a venue and that this instead was based on the discretion of the door staff.

 

Venue managers were asked to sign a Service Level Agreement for the use of the breathalysers and their door staff were given training on how to use the device.  Rather than being used as an enforcement tool where individuals were randomly breathalysed and refused or permitted entry based solely on the reading from the breathalyser (a tactic utilised in Liverpool, which feedback had suggested was successful) the devices were used on individuals who door staff would otherwise have refused to because of their obvious signs of intoxication.  The device therefore was used as an aid, and had the purpose of being a highly visual demonstration that acute intoxication was something that was being tackled and was not permitted in our late night economy.

 

In order to ensure the successful implementation of the scheme it was agreed that door staff would not have to keep records of the number of times the breathalyser was used as it was unrealistic to expect paper work to be completed meaningfully or accurately by individuals undertaking such a role.  Instead feedback had been gathered and monitored by the Licensing Officer for South Wales Police.  Reports were then provided to the bimonthly Area Planning Board Alcohol Group who was responsible for monitoring the pilot.

 

To date, the breathalysers had been seen as a positive implementation and had resulted in a number of positive refusals into venues of individuals who were acutely intoxicated.  Door staff had reported that they had noticed a significant improvement in the attitude of individuals being turned away where, with the “proof” provided through the use of a device individuals have left courteously rather than becoming aggressive and continuing to insist upon gaining entry.

 

During the Christmas period in 2014, there were 13 instances of violence and / or violence with injury in the Vale of Glamorgan between 18:00 and 06:00 on Friday night into Saturday morning and Saturday night into Sunday morning in and around licensed premises.  This figure went down to seven during the Christmas period 2015.  Although it was not possible to attribute this in its entirety to the breathalyser pilot, it was anticipated that the breathalysers had helped to diffuse situations that would otherwise have resulted in violence and had contributed to individuals not being able to become intoxicated when in the late night economy.

 

Discussions were currently underway for the pilot to be expanded into other pubs across the Vale.

 

Discussions were also being held with Community Safety teams to look at rolling out additional breathalysers to support the prevention of underage drinking.  The device had a unique feature which allowed it to detect if alcohol was present in a glass by holding the device above the liquid that was suspected to contain alcohol.  This was piloted in Cardiff during an under 18s event and proved successful in identifying alcoholic drinks thus enabling a greater level of preventative and educational work.

 

The pilot was due to run for a year, following which an evaluation would take place looking at the impact of the breathalysers on the night time economy as a whole and the impact on and around individual premises.  The evaluation would compare figures reporting violent crime in the night time economy over the year that the breathalysers were in action and the year that the breathalysers were not and would look at EU data to analyse instances and severity of acute alcohol intoxication.  The evaluation would also look at qualitative data through questionnaires to licensed premises using the breathalysers to get an idea of how the breathalysers might have impacted on the behaviour and activity within their venues as well as interviews with the door staff to gather evidence on how they had perceived a difference in managing access to venues with the aid of the breathalysers.

 

Discussions with Cardiff University were also being held to consider the feasibility of running a more elaborate evaluation of the pilot.

 

The unit cost of one breathalyser was £180 with an additional £15.00 cost per unit for a silicon protection cover.

 

A Committee Member queried what was the level of alcohol intake which would result in a red reading.  In reply, the Principal Community Safety Officer stated that the new system would rely on the discretion of door staff in order to make a decision of whether someone needed to be tested.  Usually eight to ten units would result in a red reading.

 

In response to a query as to whether there were plans to roll this project out further, the Principal Community Safety Officer explained that this pilot would be evaluated across Cardiff and the Vale, however indications are that the pilot has been successful and she saw no reason why this could not be extended.

 

In reply to the Committee’s queries around gaining the support from the Police and Local Health Board to support the payment for the rollout of the scheme, Members were advised that the money for this trial had come from Welsh Government via the Area Planning Board of which Police and Health were a statutory member.  Funding options would be reviewed as part of the evaluation.

 

In referring to instances of drunk and disorderly individuals in High Street and Broad Street in Barry, a Committee Member stated that they had received anecdotal evidence of antisocial behaviour and assaults on the weekend which were very much alcohol related, and the Member was very keen for these instances to stop.  The Member was therefore keen to assess how far this pilot could go and whether closer work with Licensing could be considered as well as making it an obligation for pubs and clubs to use the devices to reduce violent crime and antisocial behaviour.  In response, the Principal Community Safety Officer stated that part of her role was to engage with people experiencing antisocial behaviour and it was a struggle to encourage people to come forward.  She would be happy to speak to residents in Barry and would consider taking any proper enforcement action.  She advised that new legislation was in place which made it easier for the local authority to impose sanctions which meant that the Council could react more quickly, especially in areas where there were high levels of violent crime.

 

A Committee Member queried whether South Wales Police were on board with this initiative.  In reply, stated that the idea for this pilot came from the Police Licensing Officer and so it was their idea and concept.  Part of the problem in tackling antisocial behaviour was that there had been an increase in incidents and the Council was working hard to identify the reasons for this.  It was known that cases were now more complex with more issues around the family network.  The service was proactive in looking at solutions and there was a strong partnership with South Wales Police.  The Council was now more prepared to use legislation which provided new powers to tackle antisocial behaviour that were not available in the past.  This meant that the Council could act more quickly.  She added that the links with South Wales Police were strong, although in some parts, Police were more proactive and it was not always easy to build up a relationship due to the turnover in officers. 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the update on the Breathalyser Pilot and future plans for this initiative be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To assist the Committee in fulfilling its role of scrutinising partnership action to reduce crime and disorder and the fear of crime.

 

 

329     SCRUTINY COMMITTEES’ DRAFT ANNUAL REPORT MAY 2015 TO APRIL 2016 (MD) –

 

The Scrutiny Committees’ draft Annual Report for May 2015 to April 2016 was presented for Members’ consideration and approval. 

 

At the Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairman Group held on 19th July, 2016 a Scrutiny Committees’ draft Annual Report was submitted for initial consideration / comment prior to it being formally reported to all five Scrutiny Committees. 

 

At that meeting, Members of the Group raised a number of issues relating to the style / format / layout and the length of the Report.  It was therefore suggested that the work of the Scrutiny Committees be described in a far more concise way, for example by simply alluding to a few highlights rather than a detailed description and narrative.  Subsequently, the Head of Democratic Services was requested to explore alternative formats for the Scrutiny Committees’ Annual Report and to submit a revised suggested format.

 

Attached to the report at Appendix 1 was a revised version of the draft Annual Report which was more concise and was considered to be more user-friendly in terms of the likelihood of engagement with the public.

 

The Committee, in considering the Annual Report, agreed that the following paragraphs would be included under the heading Housing and Building Services Service Plan 2015-19:

 

“Scrutiny reviewed and commented on the Building Services Change Plan leading to the delivery of improved maintenance and repair services to the tenants in the Vale.  Members provided regular challenge and comment in relation to the restructure of the Housing and Building Service, resulting in significant improvements to the Housing Landlord Service.

 

The Committee also received numerous reports and presentations as a result of the implementation of the Housing (Wales) Act 2015 and supported the adoption of a new housing solutions approach to homeless people resident in the Vale.  A new Housing Solutions Team was established to deliver the statutory duties flowing from the legislation.”

 

On the whole, the Committee considered that in places the revised version was still a bit ‘wordy’ and that there was further scope for simplification.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the draft Scrutiny Committees’ Annual Report for 2015-16 be approved subject to the inclusion of the aforementioned paragraphs.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To approve the draft Scrutiny Committees’ Annual Report and to allow it to be submitted to Full Council in September 2015.