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HOMES AND SAFE COMMUNITIES SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 9th November, 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, R.P. Thomas and E. Williams.

 

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

 

 

511     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillor Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson and Mrs. G. Doyle and Mrs. A. Edwards (Tenant Working Group).

 

 

512     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 12th October, 2016 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

513     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

514     HOUSING COMPLIANCE POLICIES (REF) -

 

Cabinet, on 31st October, 2016 was provided with a report on the draft Housing Compliance Policies relating to the Council’s duties as a Public Housing Landlord.

 

The Council, as a Landlord, had a number of legal obligations it must satisfy to ensure the Health, Safety and Welfare of its tenants.  These obligations formed part of an ongoing cyclical inspection and maintenance regime to ensure key elements in the home did not pose undue risk. As a social housing landlord the Council had a statutory duty to satisfy the requirements of the legislation above.  The policies, attached at Appendices 1, 2, 3 and 4 to the report, set the policy framework under which the duties contained within the statutory instruments were discharged.

 

The Council Housing Fire Risk Management Strategy aimed to define the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s approach to fire safety and management in its Council Housing stock, including communal areas as required under fire regulations.

 

The Council Housing Legionella Management Plan and Policy applied to all premises where hot and cold water systems were directly managed by Housing and Building Services.  The document also provided guidance to leaseholders, partners, etc., who had responsibility for managing water systems in the Council’s Housing owned premises.

 

The Council Housing Electrical Compliance Policy provided specific guidelines which enabled the Vale of Glamorgan Council to be assured it was fully compliant with its legislative responsibilities in relation to the safety of all its fixed electrical installations.  All fixed electrical installations within the Council’s Housing and Building Services property portfolio, were subject to regular inspection and testing with a few exceptions listed within the policy.  In addition, the policy aimed to ensure all portable equipment was inspected and tested regularly.

 

The Council Housing Gas, Oil, and Solid Fuel - Safety and Servicing Policy set out the Council's statutory obligations as a landlord for carbon fuel heating appliances to the Council’s housing stock and housing premises.  The policy identified the arrangements the Council had put in place to ensure the completion of annual safety inspections.  The servicing contract for all heating appliances also included the annual inspection of smoke, heat and carbon monoxide detectors installed in the Council’s Housing stock.

 

Following presentation of the report by the Operational Manager for Building Services, a member asked whether there were any issues in regard to the areas the policies covered. In response, the Operational Manager advised that the Fire Risk Management Policy had been based on fire regulations and all Council Housing properties had been risk assessed.  There were approximately 1,200 fire doors that were currently non-compliant and therefore needed to be replaced, which had been highlighted following an inspection by the Fire Service at some individual addresses. He advised that 100% of the housing stock had been surveyed and those properties with communal access were being prioritised where they were required to have fire doors.  The Council had informed the Fire Service that a plan had been formulated in regard to this issue and they were satisfied with this.  The smoke alarm systems in Council Housing also needed to be upgraded. At present the Council operated a Stay Put policy which was set out in the policy document.  The Operational Manager advised that the compartmentation of flats helped to keep properties safe. 

 

The risk in regards of legionella was mainly around shower outlets, which needed to be checked to ensure there were no dead legs and the Operational Manager advised that they were working to the legislation in relation to this area. In terms of the Electrical Compliance policy, electrical inspections were carried out every five years and any issues such as broken power points were addressed at the time of inspection.  The Policy also picked up the need for review of inspections.

 

All gas, oil and solid fuel appliances were serviced within 12 months of installation.  The Council operates an 11 month cycle for re-inspection and the Authority had performed at nearly 100%.  There had been some difficulty in gaining entry to certain properties, if this was the case, they worked with Housing service to gain entry, and if this failed, there was a legal process that is followed.  The Operational Manager advised that overall there were few risks and those that had been identified were being resolved. 

 

The Chairman asked if there were any other areas of concern and the Operational Manager advised that, as a result of a Wales Audit Office inspection, it had been recommended that the Authority complete a gap analysis in order to ensure that all corporate buildings were compliant.  Building Services had a Compliance Team and most of the schools in the Vale had signed up to a Service Level Agreement (SLA), however 14 schools had not.  At present there was no central database of compliance, however, following the gap analysis, the data would be collated and certificates would be obtained to ensure all corporate buildings were compliant.  The issue had been recognised and a budget put aside to address the analysis.  The exercise was due to be completed by the end of the year and would be repeated thereafter.  Following the conclusion of the exercise, they would assess where they were in terms of safeguarding issues. 

 

The Chairman asked whether the 14 schools that had not signed up to the SLA were non-compliant.  The Operational Manager advised he was unable to confirm this, however advised that these schools were engaging their own contractors for works and inspections.  These schools had been advised what they should be achieving in terms of compliance and what they needed to do in order to achieve this, which was the purpose of the gap analysis.  Members expressed concern that there was no central database for compliance. 

 

A Member asked whether the 14 schools had been asked to produce inspection certificates. The Operational Manager advised that the gap analysis applied not only to schools but to all corporate buildings and consisted of a combination of paper exercises and site visits.  Once the gap analysis had been completed, the information could be collated, put onto a central web-based database that officers could have direct access to and he could attend a future meeting of the Committee and report on where the Authority was corporately.

 

The Chairman asked whether the gap analysis exercise would be carried out for properties with private landlords.  The Operational Manager advised that, in the main it was not, however it may have implications for leasehold landlords.  He advised that if a private landlord installed a door, in such a property, which was not compliant, the Authority would ask them to replace it or they would be advised that the Authority would do this for them. He confirmed that this was in relation to private landlord properties where the Authority owned the freehold of the building. 

 

Following consideration of the report, the Committee

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the contents of the report and the draft Housing Compliance Policies be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T a further report be provided to the Committee in a year’s time in order that the Committee could evaluate the impact of the new policies.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To note the contents of the report and the draft Housing Compliance Policies.

 

(2)       To evaluate the impact of the Housing Compliance Policies.

 

 

515     THE YOUTH JUSTICE PLAN 2016/17 (DSS) -

 

The Youth Offending Service (YOS) Manager presented the report, the purpose of which was to inform the Committee about the Vale of Glamorgan Youth Justice Plan 2016/17. 

 

Section 40 of the 1998 Act placed a duty on the Local Authority to produce an Annual Youth Justice Plan, in consultation with its statutory partners.  The Plan confirmed how Youth Justice Services were to be provided and funded, how the teams were established, composed and funded, what functions they were to carry out and how they would operate.  The Plan was submitted to the Youth Justice Board (YJB) and published in accordance with directions of the Secretary of State.  This duty was one of the requirements of the terms and conditions of the Youth Justice Grant.

 

The format of the YOS Youth Justice Plan was determined by the YJB and it had to address the following areas: 

  • structure and governance;
  • resources and value for money;
  • partnership arrangements; and
  • risks to future delivery. 

The Plan needed to demonstrate how the grant was being used exclusively for the delivery of Youth Justice Services and achieving value for money.  It included performance information, which was validated quarterly and annually by the YJB.  This was a requirement of the terms and conditions of grant as it indicated compliance with the YJB Data Recording Guidance.

 

A copy of the Vale of Glamorgan Youth Justice Plan 2016/17 was attached at Appendix 1 to the report.  It has been designed to provide an overview of changes to governance or service delivery and to incorporate the YOS response to HM Probation Inspectorate's thematic inspection reports during 2015/16.  Delays in implementing the Assetplus assessment framework by the YJB and a number of long-term absences in the YOS meant that many of the actions contained within last year’s Plan had been carried forward, as they remained current. 

 

There had been no significant changes to the structure or operational functions of the YOS, or the corporate environment within which it operated.  Currently the greatest risks were: 

  • national uncertainty about the future of Youth Justice Service; and
  • reducing grant and partner contributions. 

The former Minister for Justice commissioned Charlie Taylor, former Chief Executive of the National College of Teaching and Leadership, to conduct a review of the Youth Justice System.  The terms of reference for the review were to examine the evidence and current practice in preventing youth crime and rehabilitating young offenders, how the system could interact more effectively with wider services for children and young people, and whether current arrangements were fit for purpose. 

 

An interim report of emerging findings was published in February 2016.  It focused on the youth custodial estate, especially potential devolution of greater responsibility for youth custody to local areas, regional bodies and the Welsh Government, in order to establish smaller secure schools with a focus on education.

 

Although reference was made to Youth Offending Teams (YOTs), the requirements of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and whether YOTs remained the best way to deliver services in the community, no clear direction had emerged in relation to the future of Youth Justice to date.  Publication of the final report had been delayed, creating uncertainty regarding the future of the YJB and YOTs, particularly if changes were made to the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and there was a move towards smaller secure schools with responsibility devolved to Local Authorities.  The risk was that the expertise and professionalism which existed currently in YOS could be lost because of uncertainty about function, structure and funding.  For this reason, the new Plan focused on future change and challenges, including the collaboration agenda, resources and value for money, partnership arrangements and risks to future delivery.

 

There had been a reduction of 12% in the grant funding received from the YJB for 2016/17, creating a deficit in the YOS budget which would be offset against reserves for this year. 

 

A review of the contribution to YOTs by the National Probation Service took place during 2015/16.  The outcomes would be phased in over three years starting in 2016/17.  The Vale of Glamorgan YOS would see an increase in seconded officer time, following the recruitment of a replacement Probation Officer, but a reduction in cash contribution.

 

During 2016/17, the YOS Police Officer retired.  Although an appointment was made, the incumbent was in a protected post and unable to be released until September 2016.  As part of its commitment to the YOS, South Wales Police provided some part-time cover but the budget breakdown reflected a decreased contribution shown due to the limited provision between April and September 2016.

 

In presenting the report, the YOS Manager provided clarification that the University Health Board would be carrying out the Populations Needs Assessments, but not the Wellbeing Assessments, which would be carried out separately for Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan Councils by their respective Public Service Boards. 

 

The YOS Manager informed the Committee that Bridgend Court was now closed; therefore those cases which were previously heard at this court were being heard at Cardiff Court.  The YOS team was unsure how this would impact on the service, however, it was likely that the Court service would need to be spread over a number of days rather than one. 

 

A Member asked how the additional funding from the Health Board would impact on the service and the YOS Manager advised that the YOS does not have a seconded mental health nurse and that the YOS service would use the agreed referral pathways to access services for children and young people.

 

The YOS Manager advised that there has been an increase in health provision through the allocation of additional funds to the UHB by Welsh Government, it was hoped that this would make access to services easier.  There would also be an increase in delivering services on a commissioning basis with access via referrals.  The Chairman queried the impact of sickness absence, and in response the YOS Manager advised that the team had a number of long term absences, some between three and six  months, which had impacted negatively on the team’s productivity.    

 

A Member queried whether, as the Vale’s YOS team was working with two other Councils in the Court setting, there likely to be more collaborative working in the future.  The YOS Manager advised that Cardiff YOS team provided cover for initial court hearings; however, if there were complex cases, the relevant Youth Offending Officer from the Vale’s team would be required to attend the Court.  Previously there had only been one set day for the Vale’s court hearings, however, as it was now a merged bench, the hearings could take place across three days, Tuesdays to Thursdays, therefore the Vale YOS team needed to have one officer on call for court attendance during these times. 

 

The Chairman asked about the future of Youth Justice Service in terms of the review.  The YOS Manager advised that the review had not been good for team morale and although funding had been secured for this year there was uncertainty in terms of future funding for next year.  The Chairman asked why there was no information within the Plan in regard to progress on actions and was advised that the document had yet to be updated, as the report was drafted at the beginning of September 2016. 

 

A Member queried the difference between the figures in the Plan for young people who had suitable accommodation at the start and at the end of 2015/16.  The YOS Manager advised that key performance indicators were measured for young people at the start and the end of their order, and if individuals had moved out of accommodation this would be reflected in the yearly performance figures.

 

Following consideration of the report, the Committee

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

T H A T the contents of the Youth Justice Plan 2016/17 be noted and the potential risks to the Youth Offending Service, should core contributions from key agencies and grants continue to reduce, be recognised.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To meet the statutory requirements of grant terms and conditions provided by the YJB for England and Wales, to achieve continuing improvements in the performance of the YOS and to ensure that Members can exercise oversight of this key area of work for the Council.

 

 

516     2ND QUARTER SCRUTINY DECISION TRACKING OF RECOMMENDATIONS AND UPDATED WORK PROGRAMME SCHEDULE 2016/17 (MD) -

 

The Committee was advised of the progress in relation to the recommendations that had been made by the Scrutiny Committee for the period July to September 2016 and to confirm the Work Programme schedule for the Scrutiny Committee for 2016/17, attached to the report at Appendices A and B respectively.

 

A Member queried when a report would be received on the Welsh Housing Quality Standards and issues being experienced with certain contractors, as was requested by the Committee at its September meeting and was advised that the Committee would be receiving an update report on the Housing Improvement Programme at the December Committee meeting.

 

In discussing the Forward Work Programme, the Vice-Chairman suggested that the Environment Neighbourhood Strategy be prioritised. 

 

Mr. Dutch, a representative of the Tenant Working Group/Panel, apprised the Committee in relation to a long standing issue in regard to bins stores on an estate in the Buttrills Ward.  He advised that the residents had been told that the issue would be resolved by the end of March 2017; however no work had begun to resolve it.  The bin stores were open air and regularly raided. A Member advised that the Compass Tenants Association had raised this issue approximately two years ago; however, it had still not been resolved and requested an update.  Members expressed the view that the Cabinet Member should be made aware of this issue.

It was also stressed that they should go to their local Member in regard to this issue. 

 

Mr. Raybould, a representative of the Tenants Working Group/Panel, raised the issue of the Vale Community Alarm Service and expressed the view that tenants required information about their responsibilities in regard to the system and felt that a leaflet would be useful.  A Member alluded to a report which had been considered by the Committee approximately a year ago and the Committee was of the view that an urgent report on the Vale Community Alarm Service should be brought to a future Committee meeting.

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the following recommendations be deemed as completed:

 

25 July 2016

Min. No. 219 –   Corporate Safeguarding Update (REF) – Recommended

(2)   That a further report be provided at a   future Committee meeting.

Added   to work programme schedule.

Min. No. 224 –   Barry Communities First Cluster Programme Performance 2015-16 (HRP) – Recommended

(2)   That an update on the progress and   performance of the Barry Communities First Cluster be provided for the next   reporting year.

Added   to work programme schedule.

Min. No. 225 – 1st   Quarter Scrutiny Decision Tracking of Recommendations and Work Programme   Schedule 2016/17 (MD) – Recommended

(2)   That the work programme schedule attached   at Appendix C be approved and uploaded to the Council’s website.

Work   programme schedule uploaded to the Council’s website.

14 September 2016

Min. No. 327 –   Revenue and Capital Monitoring for the Period 1st April to 31st July   2016 (DEH) –   Recommended

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

Added   to work programme schedule.

 

(2)       T H A T a report on the Environment and Neighbourhood Strategy be prioritised on the Work Programme.

 

(3)       T H A T the Cabinet Member for Housing, Social Care and Health be made aware of the issue in relation to the bin stores in the Buttrills Ward.

 

(4)       T H A T an urgent update report on the Vale Community Alarm Service be brought to a future meeting of the Committee.

 

(5)       T H A T the Work Programme Schedule attached at Appendix B be amended as above and uploaded to the Council’s website.

 

Reasons for recommendations -

 

(1)       To maintain effective tracking of the Committee’s recommendations.

 

(2)       To apprise the Committee in relation to the Environment and Neighbourhood Strategy.

 

(3)       To expedite the resolution of this long standing issue.

 

(4)       To update the Committee in regard to the Vale Community Alarm Service.

 

(5)       For information.

 

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