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HOMES AND SAFE COMMUNITIES SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 7th December, 2016.

 

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

 

Also present: Councillors Ms. B.E. Brooks and N. Moore; Mr. D. Dutch and Mr. A. Raybould (Tenant Working Group).

 

 

580     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –

 

These were received from Mrs. A. Edwards (Tenant Working Group).  

 

 

581     MINUTES – 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 9th November, 2016 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

582     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

583     CUSTOMER SERVICE STRATEGY (HOUSING) – DRAFT FOR CONSIDERATION (REF) –

 

On 14th November, Cabinet approval had been sought to introduce a Customer Service Strategy for public housing.

 

The report advised that there was a strong and well established case for providing high quality customer services.  Whilst commercial businesses survival depended on customer loyalty and repeat business, public sector organisations only continued to expand and improve if they were able to meet the expectations of their customers.  Valued, loyal customers were the basis of all strong organisations and the Vale of Glamorgan Council was no exception.

 

In light of the above, a significant restructure of the Housing team had been carried out over the last 12-18 months.  A key aim was to create a customer focused team able to deliver high quality services to tenants and residents.  To facilitate this, a new staff team had been recruited, some of whom did not necessarily have a background in social housing.  The rationale being that “mind-set” and “attitude” were vital ingredients of an effective team.

 

The recruitment of the new team had also been supported by the creation of robust induction, training and support mechanisms to ensure staff continued to develop in their roles and deliver first class customer service.

 

The new Staff Charter had provided a further opportunity to convey the message and reinforce the importance of positive staff behaviours, through discussions at one to one's and appraisal.

 

An internal Staff Working Group had met to review current provisions for customer service and consider best practice, not just in other housing teams or Councils but in the commercial sector.  The themes identified by this group had helped identify the priority areas in the proposed strategy.

 

The review undertaken by the Staff Working Group identified six priority themes in need of attention.  These included: developing a customer first culture; broadening the Council’s knowledge about customers in order to deliver tailored services; broadening ways to access the Council’s services; improving the quality of services provided and canvassing opinions and using feedback to shape services.  There had also been consultation with tenants via the Tenants Working Group which identified key issues and considerations for inclusion in the Strategy.

 

Six priority themes formed the basis of the Customer Service (Housing) Strategy attached at Appendix A to the report and these gave rise to a range of initiatives and actions to improve the quality of services provided.  The case studies within the Strategy gave some examples of the different initiatives, whilst the Operational Delivery Plan at the rear of the document set out more specific details regarding each of the actions designed to achieve the strategic aims.  

 

Progress with implementing the Strategy would be measured via the completion of individual actions contained within the Operational Delivery Plan.  There would also be periodic reports to the Homes and Safe Communities Scrutiny Committee regarding the range of projects and initiatives taking place. 

 

In presenting the report, the Housing and Strategy Projects Team Leader informed the Committee that a great deal of background work had been carried out in order to formulate the Strategy, and it supported the Authority’s aim to be the best public housing provider in Wales.  Key aims had been identified as follows:

 

  • Embed a “customer first” philosophy within the Council’s staff team which ensures that tenants’ needs are first and foremost
  • Develop the Council’s knowledge base about its tenants and use this to deliver tailored services
  • Broaden the range of ways for customers to access the Council’s services, in particular access to online services in order to deliver services in a cost effective way
  • Regularly canvas the opinions of our customers; using this to assess the Council’s performance and to identify areas for improvement.

 

Members were informed that although they were looking to broaden the range of ways that customers could access services, particularly in relation to online services, they wanted to provide reassurance that it was not only about promoting online access, they would be visible in the community for customers, particularly those who were unsure about, or reluctant to access services online.  The principal aim of the Strategy was to ensure that high quality services were provided and that they got the basics right the first time.  Furthermore, they were looking to monitor and measure customer satisfaction in a reliable way.

 

The case studies within the Strategy highlighted the issues raised by customers, and Members’ attention was drawn to the operational delivery plan within the Strategy which set out the objectives and aims of the Plan. 

 

Following presentation of the report, a discussion took place in which the following issues were raised.

 

Query Raised

Response

A   Member expressed the view that the objectives identified in the Strategy   became areas of work in the delivery plan; therefore there were not any   outcomes or measures for the service.    The Member stated that they were glad to see that the document   recognised that a significant number of people did not want to access   services online, and was of the view that the Plan needed more information in   terms of what was being done for these people.

The   Housing and Strategy Projects Team Leader advised that he appreciated the   difference in the wording within the document and would ensure there was   consistency when the draft Strategy went back to Cabinet.  The Service Plan was fairly consistent and he   advised that some rewording could be done in relation to the success criteria.

A   Member expressed the view that the Plan should include ways of measuring   improvement and needed to be focused on outcomes.

The   Team Leader advised that the customers would ultimately judge the service   provided and they had received some extremely valuable information from   customers, which would be reported to the Committee in the New Year.  This would provide a baseline for future   improvement and once the team had embarked on the actions within the delivery   plan, this would assist them with looking at the improvements that were   required. 

A   Member advised that they had attended neighbourhood management roadshows,   however many tenants worked, therefore were unable to attend in the day and   asked whether roadshows could be held on evenings and weekends in order to   engage with all tenants.

The   Team Leader advised that this was a good a point and that they were aware of   this issue and were meeting with the neighbourhood management panels. Roadshows   could be geared towards the needs of the area.  In addition, he advised that the Tenants   Participation Strategy would be brought to a future meeting of the Scrutiny   Committee.

A   Member made reference to a case study within the report relating to a pilot exercise   to improve mobile working.  They were   pleased to see this as they knew of instances where repairs had been started,   however issues had arisen during the repair therefore it could not be fully completed   which frustrated tenants. 

The   Team Leader advised that, in terms of mobile working, staff added value as   they were in contact with customers, and there were more staff out in the   community in order to provide a better customer experience.  The aim was to ensure that staff were   productive and had the knowledge to resolve issues first time around. 

 

The   Operational Manager for Building Services advised that the ideal was customer   excellence and that issues were fixed on the first visit. Unfortunately   issues identified at the scene could lead to a job requiring a lot more work   and time, which therefore impacted on the diary time of the operatives.  The aim was to build capacity into the   system. The service needed to manage the issues which arose within the   resources available to the Authority.

A   Member made reference to gathering information from tenants about their needs   and preferences, and expressed concern that all groups of tenants were   captured within the survey results. 

The   Team Leader advised that a recent large scale survey had taken place which   had been carried out for certain demographic groups.  A weighting was applied to results by areas   to ensure that the different tenant groups were represented equally.

 

The   Operational Manager for Housing Services advised that in order to cover   different customer groups and ensure they had access to services some flexible   working had been adopted which meant some staff started later and worked   later into the evenings.  They were   also looking to expand access to online services rather than completely migrate   to an online service offering only.  A   large number of tenants had access to smart phones, therefore chose to access   services via their phones.  However if   it was a sensitive issue they would adopt a different approach.  The services were to be extended to   weekends with a pilot taking place currently.   

A   Member asked whether there was any flexibility in the process for staff   members to complete jobs on the first visit or was there more to be done?

The   Operational Manager for Building Services advised that the way the diaries   were managed meant that every minute was filled , which meant that there was   very little opportunity to do repairs if the job was bigger than anticipated .  The tradesmen were best placed to diagnose   problems, however they could not necessarily manage how the individual operatives   worked through their work schedule.  He   advised that capacity needed to be built into the service to address this   issue whilst still providing a value for money service.

A   Member asked whether the customer portal was live.

The   Team Leader advised that it was not live at present as there were some issues   with regard to Welsh translation.  They   were currently working on the portal and anticipated that it would be   launched within 12 months.

 

Following discussion of the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the views of the Homes and Safe Communities Scrutiny Committee be incorporated within the further report to be considered by Cabinet on the draft Customer Service Strategy (Housing).

 

(2)       T H A T the Scrutiny Committee receive six monthly monitoring reports in relation to the Operational Delivery Plan for the Customer Service Strategy.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In order that the views of the Homes and Safe Communities Scrutiny Committee could be considered by Cabinet when it received a further report on the draft Customer Service Strategy (Housing) for final approval.

 

(2)       To ensure the actions identified are progressed.

 

 

584     DRAFT SUPPORTING PEOPLE LOCAL COMMISSIONING PLAN 2017-2020 (REF) –

 

On 28th November, 2016 Cabinet had been updated on the progress made with the draft Supporting People Local Commissioning Plan 2017 - 2020 for submission to the Regional Collaborative Committee (RCC) and Welsh Government (WG) for the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff, and apprised of the Council's indicative allocation of Supporting People Programme Grant for 2017/18 from WG.

 

The Supporting People (SP) Programme was the policy and funding framework for delivering housing related support to vulnerable people in different types of accommodation and across all tenures. In accordance with the WG Guidance for Supporting People, all Local Authorities were required to develop a rolling three year Local Commissioning Plan, which had to be submitted to the Regional Collaborative Committee for the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff.

 

The development and co-ordination of the Local Commissioning Plan was undertaken by the Supporting People Local Planning Group (SPLPG) as required by WG.  Membership of the SPLPG was made up of officers from the Housing Division, Social Services Department, the Wales Probation Service, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and the Voluntary Sector (the Chair of the Vale Housing and Homelessness Forum).

 

Attached at Appendix 1 to the report was a copy of the Draft Local Commissioning Plan 2017-2020.  The final Local Commissioning Plan was required to be submitted to the RCC and WG by the end of January 2017.

 

Following the announcement of the WG draft budget for 2017, Local Authorities received notification of their indicative Supporting People Programme Grant.  All Local Authorities were told their allocations would remain the same as 2015/6.  For the Vale of Glamorgan this meant the budget remained static at £3,466,829.23.

 

In presenting the report, the Strategy and Supporting People Manager for Housing Services advised that the aim of the Plan was to make individuals less dependent upon institutions and the Authority aimed to ensure that they received the support they needed to improve their quality of life and secure accommodation. 

 

The Authority’s partnership organisations had been consulted on the Local Commissioning Plan and it included a lot of headline data, which indicated the needs in the Vale of Glamorgan.  Working Groups had been held in ordre to ensure that as much information as possible had been captured.  There was a need to remodel service provision and the homeless and individuals with mental health problems were to be prioritised as the groups which had the greatest need for services. 

 

In 2012 following a review of Supporting People there had been a shift in emphasis for services to be more needs led and tenure neutral.  To ensure compliance the Supporting People Team had retendered schemes and made savings of approximately £150,000.  It had been indicated that the budget for 2017/18 would be static, however, WG had indicated that there would be significant cuts in the following two years. 

 

A Member asked whether the Authority had specific tender briefs for spot purchasing service providers in order that their terms and conditions could be monitored.  The officer advised that they did not specify tender briefs, that was more focus on domiciliary care, however they did monitor the service providers contractually and ensured that they paid the Living Wage and challenged them if they did not.  Service providers were required to meet financial criteria in relation to TUPE of staff. 

 

A Member noted that they had received consultation responses from 20% of service users and asked whether they had consulted all users.  The officer advised that they consulted all users and had Contract Monitoring Officers who would meet with service providers across key service areas and would inspect, audit and monitor all of them. 

 

A Member asked whether the third priority, Domestic Abuse, was being addressed and the officer advised that there was currently a new pilot for domestic abuse where the Council had dispersed refuge provision being utilised for 12 months as a pilot across the Vale which it was hopeful would then become a regional project with Cardiff next year, budget permitting.

 

The Chairman asked whether they were meeting the demands in terms of the mental health client group.  The officer advised that they tried to ensure they met the needs of all the priority groups through increasing the amount of hours based support more people are being seen than previously.  There had been an increase in demand for  all services including homelessness services, yet with the new ways of working they had reduced the waiting list from 175 to 12.  The Committee was informed that the Vale of Glamorgan Council had received a highly commended award from Cymorth for its Commissioning practices.    

 

A Member expressed the view that the services provided by the team were very valuable and asked what the length of time was between referral and the provision of the service.  The length of time had been reduced by working with service providers and it was now down to a few weeks, however it depended upon the client’s level of need.  If an individual was in crisis they would be seen straight away.  Previously the waiting time was over a year, however the process had been redesigned and reduced down to a matter of weeks. 

 

The Operational Manager for Housing Services advised that the team had done a lot of hard work in the last 12 months.  A retendering exercise had been carried out between nine to 12 months and they were mindful of the budget situation in regard to supporting people, which was ring-fenced.  There were a lot of small community services and “salami-slicing” of services would no longer work and a different approach was required.  He expressed the view that since the introduction of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act, the Supporting People Programme had saved Health and Social Services a lot of money and a lot of prevention work had taken place.  Fantastic services were being provided and he thanked the staff.  The Strategy would be brought to Cabinet for adoption by the end of January 2017 as part of the regional plan for Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.

 

A Member made reference to the retendering exercise and asked whether there was a high turnover in regard to service providers or whether the Authority had a small group of providers.  The officer advised that they had a Preferred Provider Framework Agreement and they had a stable pool of providers.  If a bid was lost, the staff would transfer over with the contract to the new service provider.  They were fortunate in the Vale, as they did not often have new providers which ensured a local connection for the service users. 

 

Following consideration of the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the contents of the report be noted and the Scrutiny Committee’s comments be fed into the report which was to be referred back to Cabinet for agreement of the final Plan.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To allow the views of the Homes and Safe Communities Scrutiny Committee to be incorporated within the Cabinet report on the draft Supporting People Local Commissioning Plan 2017-2020.

 

 

585     INITIAL REVENUE BUDGET PROPOSALS 2017/18 (DEH) –

 

The Scrutiny Committee was consulted on the initial budget proposals for 2017/18 and was advised of the amended original budget for 2016/17 for services which formed part of the Committee’s remit.

 

The Council’s budget was determined largely by the Revenue Support Grant (RSG) settlement set by the Welsh Government (WG).  The provisional RSG settlement was received from WG on 19th October, 2016.  The final settlement was likely to be received in December 2016.

 

The Council was required under statute to fix the level of Council Tax for 2017/18 by 11th March, 2017 and in order to do so, would have to agree a balanced revenue budget by the same date.  To be in a position to meet the statutory deadlines and the requirements for consultation set out in the Council’s Constitution, much of the work on quantifying the resource requirements of individual services needed to be carried out before the final RSG settlement was notified to the Council.

 

Appendix 1 to the report set out the Amended Budget for 2016/17 for services within the Committee's remit, together with the necessary adjustments to be made to the original budget. 

 

Asset Rents, International Accounting Standard (IAS) 19, Transfers and Recharges, these adjustments had no overall effect on the net budget of the Council.  These were accounting adjustments largely outside the control of services.  They reflected charges for the use of capital assets, changes to inter-service recharges and transfers and pensions adjustments to comply with accounting standards.   

 

The following table compares the amended budget with the projected outturn for 2016/17.

 


 

 

       2016/17

Amended

Budget

2016/17

Projected

Outturn

Variance

(+) Favourable

(-) Adverse

Directorate/Service

£’000

£’000

£’000

Youth   Offending Service

701

701

                           0

Regulatory   Services

2,218

2,218

                           0

Council   Fund Housing

988

988

                           0

Private   Housing

11,021

11,021

                           0

Total

14,928

14,928

0

 

Regulatory Services – The allocation of £2.218m represented the Vale of Glamorgan's budget for its share of the Shared Regulatory Service (SRS).  A separate set of accounts was maintained for the SRS and was periodically reported to the Shared Regulatory Service Joint Committee.  At this stage in the year it was anticipated that the SRS would outturn on target.

 

Council Fund Housing – It was anticipated that this budget would outturn on target, however, this was after a planned transfer from reserves to fund specific posts and issues arising as a result of the introduction of the Housing Act.

 

Private Housing – It was still anticipated that this service would outturn on target.  There was currently a small favourable variance as a staff vacancy was aiding the adverse variance on Renewal Area fee income.  Disabled Facility Grant fee income however remained above profile to assist the overall position.

 

Savings 2016/17

 

As part of the Final Revenue Budget Proposals for 2016/17, a savings target of £9.289m was set for the Authority.  Attached at Appendix 2 to the report was a statement detailing the savings targets relating to this Committee for 2016/17 and the projected outturn.  At this stage of the year it was anticipated that all the savings would be achieved. 

 

Budget Strategy

 

Cabinet approved the Budget Strategy on 25th July, 2016.  The Budget Strategy for 2017/18 outlined that in order to establish a baseline, services should prepare initial revenue budgets based on the cost of providing the current level of service and approved policy decisions and including the existing savings target.  This meant the cost of price increases and any allowable pay awards should be included as advised by the Head of Finance.

 

Increases to budgets approved during the course of a financial year could restrict the freedom the Council had to allocate its resources to priorities during the following budget cycle when it was aware of all the competing demands.  Consequently:

 

-           Supplementary estimates would only increase the base budget if Council had given specific approval to this effect.  Increases met by virement within a year would not be treated as committed growth.

-           Directors should find the cost of increments and staff changes from their base budget unless the relevant specific approval had been given for additional funding.

-           The effect of replacing grant from outside bodies that had discontinued would not be treated as committed growth.  In addition, before any project or initiative that was to be met either wholly or partly by way of grant may proceed, the exit strategy must be approved.

-           Certain items of unavoidable committed growth would continue and these included the effect of interest changes and the financing cost of the Capital Programme, increases in taxes, increases in levies and precepts charged by outside bodies and changes to housing benefits net expenditure.

-           Services would be expected to achieve savings already approved by Cabinet as part of the 2016/17 final budget proposals and Directors were asked to continue work on achieving their Reshaping Services savings targets.

-           It was envisaged that the costs of service development would need to be met from within the respective Directorates.

 

Having regard to the above, it was therefore proposed in respect of the 2017/18 Budget Process that Directors be instructed to prepare initial revenue budgets in accordance with a timetable agreed by the Head of Finance.  Preparation should be on the following basis:

 

-           Capital charges, central accommodation costs and central support costs to be estimated centrally.

-           Services to prepare baseline budgets on current service levels as set out in the 2016/17 Final Revenue Budget report.

-           Budgets to be broken down subjectively and objectively in as much detail as deemed appropriate by the Head of Finance.

-           Budget reports to include revised estimates for 2016/17.

-           Full account to be taken of the revenue costs, other than debt charges, of new capital schemes coming into use.

-           Minimum savings targets to be met initially as detailed in the 2016/17 Final Revenue Budget report.  Any savings made directly by services over and above individual service targets to count towards future saving targets or to meet unavoidable service cost pressures.

-           Directors would continue to draw up Service Plans that set out the aims and objectives for the service and any possible future developments and efficiencies.

 -          As stated previously, it was expected that the revenue costs of service development would need to be met from within the respective services (in particular, from the savings made).  As such, no revenue bids were initially to be made. However, services may still be asked to identify and prioritise any burgeoning revenue cost pressures for consideration.

 

Medium Term Financial Plan

 

The Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) 2016/17 to 2019/20 was presented to Cabinet on 26th September, 2016.  It assumed a reduction in WG funding of 3% for the years 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20.  This resulted in the requirement to find savings of £24.146m over this period, with £7.783m currently being identified.  There were therefore further savings to be identified of £16.363m over the three year period.    

 

The latest Plan factored in a managed level of cost pressures, a notional increase in Council Tax of 2% each year, price inflation of 1% and annual pay awards of 1% each year from 2017/18.

 

In 2016/17, the Minimum Funding Commitment (MFC) for schools, equivalent to 1% above the WG’s block grant settlement was an increase of 1.8%.  The Plan stated that if the Council's funding from WG reduced by 3% in 2017/18, it would expect the MFC to be at a lower level and included a figure similar to the 2015/16 MFC which was based on an increase of 0.6%.

 

Provisional Settlement 2017/18

 

The Council's provisional settlement was announced by WG on 19th October, 2016.

WG had advised the Council that its provisional SSA (Standard Spending Assessment) for 2017/18 was £215.917m.  SSA represented WG's view of the relative resources needed to provide a standard level of service in each Local Authority in Wales and its primary use was to allocate RSG to these Authorities.

 

The Council would receive from WG Revenue Support Grant of £109.193m and a share of the Non-Domestic Rates (NDR) of £40.976m.  Together these figures constituted the Council’s provisional Aggregate External Finance (AEF) of £150.169m.  WG reported that this represented a cash reduction of 0.2% (£0.352m) for 2017/18.  However, when taking into account new responsibilities, this actually represented a cash reduction of 0.35% (£0.53m).  This was a smaller reduction than the 3% projected in the MTFP.

 

There were transfers into the RSG settlement for 2017/18 as follows:

 

-           Food Hygiene Rating Schemes - £2,000.

 

2017/18 Initial Budget Proposals

 

As part of these initial proposals, it had been necessary to revisit the cost pressures facing services in order to build up a complete and up to date picture of the financial position of the Council and an updated list relating to this Committee was shown in Appendix 3 to the report.  These were not shown in any order of priority.  The final proposal for the increase in the National Living Wage from 1st April, 2017 had yet to be announced, however, it was considered that the 2017/18 pay rates used in these budget proposals for Vale of Glamorgan staff should cover the potential increase. 

 

Details of the proposed areas for savings for 2017/18 to 2018/19 for this Committee were attached at Appendix 4 to the report.  The savings did not include the cost of any potential redundancies.  As part of the Budget Strategy 2017/18, Directors were requested to continue to progress the Reshaping Services programme.  As part of the 2016/17 budget setting process it was recommended that Tranche 3 of the Reshaping Services programme should commence.  A review was being undertaken in order to identify future projects and the Council was currently developing proposals. 

 

A summary of the overall base budget for 2017/18 relating to this Committee was attached at Appendix 5 to the report.  This had been arrived at by adjusting the 2016/17 budget for items such as inflation and unavoidable growth, but did not include identified cost pressures or savings.  These were shown as a note to the table and were further detailed in Appendices 3 and 4 respectively.   Adjustments shown included the following:

 

Asset Rents, International Accounting Standard (IAS) 19 – Related to accounting items outside the control of services.  They reflected charges to services for the use of capital assets and adjustments in respect of pensions to comply with accounting standards.

 

Recharges / Transfers – Related to changes in inter-service and inter Directorate recharges.  The budget transfers that related to the reorganisation of the Learning and Skills Directorate were shown in a separate column.

 

Inflation – The total figure for inflation related to general price increases and a 1% allowance for pay awards.

 

Committed Growth – This related to the transfer into the RSG of £2k for the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.

 

Once the base budget for 2017/18 has been established, it must then be compared to the funding available to identify the extent of any shortfall.  With a projected AEF of £150.169m and Council Tax at a current level of £62.84m, total available funding would be £213.009m.  When compared to a base budget of £216.996m, this would result in a funding deficit for 2017/18 of £3.987m.  This deficit was mainly attributable to the allocation of committed growth and pay and price inflation.

 

If all identified cost pressures were funded, this would increase the shortfall to £11.447m.  If all proposed savings were achieved, the shortfall would be reduced to £4.426m as shown in the table below.

 

Projected Budget Shortfall   2017/18

 

 

£000

Funding Available

 

Provisional AEF

150,169

Council Tax (Assumes no increase) *

62,840

Projected Funding Available

213,009

 

 

Base Budget

216,996

 

 

Projected Shortfall Against Base Budget

3,987

 

 

Assume all Cost Pressures Funded

7,460

 

 

Projected Shortfall with Cost Pressures funded

11,447

 

 

Assume all Savings Achieved

(7,021)

 

 

Projected Shortfall for 2017/18

4,426

* This assumes no increase in Council Tax at this stage.

 

This shortfall was based on the assumption that the savings target set for 2017/18 would be achieved in full.  However, a high proportion of these savings related to Reshaping Services schemes which reflected a new way of working and therefore required a lengthy period of time to implement.  While all services were working towards achieving their 2017/18 targets, not all savings may be achieved in full from 1st April, 2017.

 

The above projections included an assumed pay award of 1% for 2017/18 and the possible impact of the National Living Wage.  Any changes to the current assumptions would be assessed as part of the Final Budget Proposals report.

 

Further work would be undertaken by the Budget Working Group (BWG) in order to achieve a balanced budget for the final budget proposals for 2017/18.  This would include a review of the use of reserves, a possible increase in Council Tax, a review of all cost pressures, possible changes to the approved saving targets, a review of the inflation assumptions and the current financial strategies.  The BWG would also consider the results of the budget engagement process in determining priorities for future savings and service delivery.  It would also ensure that budget proposals considered the requirements of the Well-being of Future Generations Act and the Council's four well-being outcomes as detailed in the Corporate Plan.

 

There would be difficulties in maintaining the quality and quantity of services in the future without exploring opportunities for collaboration and alternative forms of service delivery.  The Council would continue to develop its Reshaping Services programme via Tranche 3 schemes.

 

The BWG held a series of meetings in November 2016 with the relevant Cabinet Members and officers to consider the budget proposals and they would submit their recommendations so that the Cabinet may make its final budget proposal.  Before making its recommendation, the BWG would consider the comments made by Scrutiny, together with the results of consultation.  The final proposals to Cabinet would include a review of the financial strategies required to achieve a balanced budget, which was sustainable in future years.  Currently, the approved timetable required Cabinet to approve the final budget proposals by no later than 20th February, 2017 and that Cabinet’s final budget proposals would be considered by Council at a meeting to be held on 1st March, 2017 to enable the Council Tax to be set by 11th March, 2017.

 

In presenting the report, the Finance Support Manager advised that the Committee was asked to note any changes to the original budget due to technical adjustments and that the proposals related to the initial budget proposals for 2017/18.  The main headline of the report was that the settlement from Welsh Government was better than anticipated. 

 

The Committee was advised that the current deficit was £2.9m and services were facing varying degrees of financial burdens.  The projected shortfall was for £11.4m and approximately £7m of savings had been agreed which would reduce the deficit to approximately £4.4m.  At present it was not a balanced budget, however the Authority needed to have a balanced budget in order to set the Council Tax rate.

 

The Committee was informed that in terms of revenue cost pressures for 2017/18 there was only one, which was the Renewal Area Wind Down, a cost pressure of £60,000 had been flagged up.  The proposed savings 2017/18 to 2018/19 were minimal and approximately £6,000.  It was clarified that these were only the initial proposals.

 

The Committee was informed in regard to the reserves which were attached to the report at Appendix 6.  A review had been carried out by the BWG and there was one issue which related to a transfer of £72,000 of the reserve which had been allocated for the provision of a temporary Empty Homes Officer, which was now to be reallocated to the Disabled Facilities reserve to extend the funding for the Occupational Therapist post. 

 

The Chairman asked what the impact of the loss of the temporary Empty Homes Officer would be, and it was confirmed that this post would cease as it was a temporary post.  A Member expressed the view that it was a priority to use the money for Occupational Therapist and requested that a wrap up report be brought to a future Committee to see how the Empty Homes work had benefited the Council and what achievements had been made.  The Committee was informed that the Empty Homes work would continue but become more mainstream and incorporated within the Environmental Health Service, and confirmed that officers would still be dealing with clients’ queries in relation to this area of work.

 

A Member queried the £798,000 reserve within Appendix 6 and the Finance Support Manager advised that this was part of the review.  It was there as a buffer for the Shared Regulatory Services collaboration and set aside for licensing, gaming, health and safety and private housing issues and to be used for any future issues arising from the Shared Services collaboration. 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the amended revenue budget for 2016/17 be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the initial revenue budget proposals for 2017/18 be noted.

 

(3)       T H A T a wrap up report on Empty Homes be brought to the Committee in the new year.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1&2)  having regard to the contents of the report.

 

(3)       To provide the Committee with a final report on the work carried out in regard to Empty Homes.

 

 

586     INITIAL CAPITAL PROGRAMME PROPOSALS 2017/18 (DEH) –

 

The Committee was provided with an update on the progress of the Capital Programme for 2016/17 and was requested to consider the initial capital proposals for 2017/18. 

 

Appendix 1 to the report detailed financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 30th September, 2016.  

 

The changes detailed below were reflected in Appendix 2 to the report.

 

WHQS Externals – There had been delays in undertaking work this year due to difficulty in sourcing suitably skills labour, ecology issues such as nesting birds and bats and leaseholder issues.  It was anticipated that work would be completed in the next financial year and it had therefore been requested that £7.23m be carried forward into 2017/18.

 

Aids and Adaptions – There had been an increase in demand in this area and to cover required works it had been requested that the budget for 2016/17 be increased from £400,000 to £500,000.

 

Common Parts – As a result of the delay in undertaking the externals works, the start of works under this heading had been delayed as the external works needed to be completed first.  Work was now due to commence however it had been requested that £1.7m be carried forward into 2017/18.

 

Environmental Improvements – In a similar manner to the Common Parts work, the delay in external works had delayed the commencement of this scheme.  Work would commence this year and a programme of works was being prepared for 2017/18.  It had been requested that £400,000 be carried forward to 2017/18.

 

New Build – Proposals for new build schemes were being developed and work on site was due to commence prior to the end of this financial year however a full spend was not anticipated and it had been requested that £1.4m be carried forward into 2017/18 to allow schemes to be undertaken. 

 

2017/18 to 2021/22 Capital Programme

 

The Welsh Government (WG) announced the provisional 2017/18 General Capital Funding, on 19th October, 2016.  The 2017/18 Capital Settlement was a flatlined capital settlement which for the Vale of Glamorgan Council equated to General Capital Funding of £5.405m which was made up of £2.045m General Capital Grant and £3.360m Supported Borrowing.

 

There was no indication of the level of funding likely beyond 2017/18 and therefore in line with the approach adopted in the Medium Term Financial Plan the proposals assumed a reduction of 10% for each year of the Programme from 2018/19.

Appendix 2 to the report set out the Initial Proposals for the Capital Programme between 2017/18 and 2021/22 for schemes relating to this Committee.

 

The Council would seek to mitigate the projected deteriorating funding situation by looking to progress only those schemes which were deemed to be a key Corporate Priority and make a clear impact to the Wellbeing and Future Generation priorities. The Council would seek assurances that schemes included in the Capital Programme could be delivered on time and within budget.

 

The Major Repairs Allowance (MRA), which was the grant that provided capital funding to the Housing Revenue Account (HRA), had not yet been announced by the WG for 2017/18.  Cabinet would be advised once the announcement was made.  An assumption had been made in Appendix 2 that the grant would continue at the allocation reflected in the current business plan of £2.76m in 2017/18 and throughout the period of the Capital Programme.

 

In addition to external funding, the Council would finance part of the Capital Programme from its own resources, e.g. capital receipts and reserves.  

 

The table below details the General Capital Funding and internal resources required to fund the proposed schemes for the Council as a whole.

 

Analysis of Net Funding   Required for the Indicative 2017/18 Capital Programme

GENERAL FUND

£’000

£’000

 

Welsh Government   Resources

 

 

 

Supported   Borrowing

3,360

 

 

General   Capital Grant

2,045

 

 

Total Welsh Government   Resources

 

5,405

 

Council Resources

 

 

 

General   Capital Receipts

1,006

 

 

Reserves/Leasing

7,142

 

 

Total   Council Resources

 

8,148

 

Net   Capital Resources

 

13,553

 

HOUSING   REVENUE ACCOUNT

 

 

 

Housing   Reserves

3,631

 

 

Housing   Unsupported Borrowing

12,473

 

 

Net Capital Resources

 

16,104

 

Total Net Capital   Resources

 

29,657

 

 

Capital Bids 2017/18 to 2021/22

 

New capital bids were invited for return by 30th September, 2016 and the number of bids received was in line with previous years since the five year Capital Programme was introduced (2 from Learning and Skills, 11 from Environment and Housing and 3 from Managing Director and Resources) in addition a joint bid had been submitted from Housing and Planning.  Departments were requested to rank their own bids in order of importance before submission and bids from each Department were forwarded to the Insight Group for evaluation.

 

The Insight Group used a number of criteria to assess the Capital Bids. The first criteria used was to classify the nature of the bids, the criteria used is set out below:

 

Priority   Level

Criteria

A

Health   and Safety legislation

B

Other   Legislation / Statutory Requirement

Ci

Economic   Sense/Invest to Save

Cii

Corporate   Plan

Ciii

Sufficiency

D

Condition   / Suitability

E

Welsh   Government Requirements

F

Low   Priority

 

Where bids were rated an A or B on the above criteria there would clearly be a legal obligation to ensure that works were progressed in a timely manner within the confines of the funding available.  Schemes that represented an invest to save opportunity or support the achievement of corporate priorities should also be prioritised.

 

In addition, in accordance with the criteria set out in the Budget Strategy, the bids were prioritised in terms of their corporate priority and the risk they posed to the Council if they were not pursued.  The risk assessment element was undertaken in line with the Council's Corporate Risk Management Strategy, detailed within the report.

 

The bids were also reviewed for the contribution that they made to the Wellbeing and Future Generations criteria as set out below:

 

-           Long Term

-           Integration

-           Collaboration

-           Prevention

-           Involvement.

 

Each scheme was awarded one point for every one of the outcomes that it met to a maximum of five.

 

Only those schemes assessed as corporate priority 1 or higher and medium risk or higher were included in these proposals.  In addition the schemes put forward should contribute to at least three Wellbeing and Future Generations outcomes and should have a scheme priority factor of either A/B/Ci/Cii/Ciii.  The bids that did not meet these criteria were excluded from consideration as there was insufficient funding available.  There were no such bids for this Committee.

 

The following table sets out the bid that has been proposed to be funded for this Committee.

 


 

Successful Bids

 2017/18

 2018/19

 2019/20

 Total

 

 £'000

 £'000

 £'000

 £'000

Housing   Regeneration Area

      150

      300

     300

       750

 

The Initial Revenue Budget Proposals report, presented to Cabinet on 14th November, 2016, projected that the outturn for the Policy budget in 2016/17 would be a favourable variance of £4m.  It proposed that £3m should be transferred into the Visible Services reserve and part of this funding related to a joint bid submitted by the Housing and Development Services departments, for an amount of £1.927m, to fund the Gypsy / Traveller site scheme.  However, Cabinet on 14th November, 2016, minute number C3362, stated that transferring of money into the Visible Services Reserve was considered to be premature, given the context of the budget and therefore recommended "That the sum of £4 million be set aside to the General Fund and consideration be given for that allocation to be used to offset the shortfall in the revenue budget and/or used for capital schemes, the details of which will be considered by the Budget Working Group (BWG) before the final revenue proposals are presented to Cabinet and Council for approval".  Minute C3363 which related to the Initial Capital Programme Proposals report stated that the schemes which were proposed to be funded from the £3m should be reduced accordingly and resolved "That the Initial Capital Programme Proposals for 2017/18 to 2021/22, as amended by reason of resolution (2) of the Initial Revenue Budget Proposals 2017/18 report, be approved for consultation with the relevant Scrutiny Committees". Appendix 2 attached to the report had therefore been updated to reflect this change.

 

Housing Improvement Plan

 

The 2016/17 Housing Improvement Programme budget currently totalled £34.147m. It had been requested above that £10.73m be carried forward into 2017/18.  The amended programme also reflected the £100,000 increase in the Aids and Adaptations budget.  The funding of the 2016/17 programme had therefore been amended as set out in the table below:

 

 

Funding

Current  2016/17 £'000

Amended  2016/17                  £'000

Major   Repairs Allowance Grant

2,770

2,770

Other   Grant

251

251

Housing   Capital Receipt

0

0

Housing   Reserves

2,931

6,231

Unsupported   Borrowing

28,195

14,265

Total

34,147

23,517

 

In presenting the report, the Finance Support Manager advised that the main issue was the underspend in the Welsh Housing Quality Standards (WHQS) work as there had been delays in delivering the WHQS external work.  Attached to the report at Appendix 2 was the progress on the proposed Capital Programme for 2017/18 to 2021/22.  The Committee was informed that the funding from WG was static and cuts of 10% for each year beyond 2018 had been assumed.  Capital bids had been requested by the end of September and two had been proposed.  The Committee was informed that there was no figure attached to the Council Fund for the Gypsy Traveller Site but that £1.9m had been allocated to fund the Gypsy Traveller Site Scheme.  However, Cabinet considered that the money would be better put into the General Fund reserve and therefore this was in abeyance at present. 

 

A Member expressed the view that the Committee had not seen progress in regard to environmental work as part of the WHQS programme or in relation to the Environmental Improvement Strategy and asked whether the Committee could receive the Strategy fairly soon in order to see the priorities and progress made in delivering these works.  In response, the Operational Manager for Housing Services advised that the draft Strategy was being worked on and was scheduled to be considered by Cabinet in February 2017.  The Team intended to deliver key actions before they delivered the Strategy itself and that the Strategy would be referred to the Committee for comment following consideration by Cabinet.  They were also working with the Tenant Groups and carrying out engagement work. There would be increase in environmental improvement activity in the near future, but a report would be brought to the Committee as soon as possible.  

 

The Chairman alluded to the funding in relation to the Gypsy Traveller Site Scheme and asked for an update in regard to this.  The Operational Manager for Housing Services advised that the Strategy Leadership Group was looking at the recommendations of the Gypsy Traveller Assessment.  They had started consultation and engagement with the travellers at the Hayes Road site which had been very fruitful and the travellers had advised of their aspirations for a new site.  There was a capital allocation for a site and there were ongoing discussions in order to develop something that the travellers would want.  The funding commitment was based on specific funding from WG for a full site design.  At present the plans were for 17 pitches at Hayes Road and two in Llangan, where there were already some travellers living.  This would meet the assessed needs under the adopted Gypsy Traveller Assessment.  The plans were currently under scrutiny via the Local Development Plan (LDP) process and where need was identified, the Authority needed to satisfy that need.  There was ongoing work with the Housing and Planning Departments in liaison with the Gypsy and Traveller community.  The Chairman asked how the number of pitches could be calculated if the need was so fluid.  In response, the Operational Manager advised that the Gypsy Traveller Assessment was for the next five years and was the best estimate based on travelling patterns.  It was informed by a whole host of information and whilst it was a five year assessment, if they became aware of a significant shift in terms of numbers, the Local Authority would need to carry out a further assessment.  

 

The Council’s Leader, with permission to speak, advised that the initial funding for the Gypsy Traveller Site Schemes had been set aside into the General Fund reserves, and following the BWG meeting, a decision would be made as to whether it would be put back into the Capital Programme.  In terms of the LDP, a letter had been sent to the travellers at Hayes Road to advise them that no enforcement action would be taken for five years, however they were looking to find a resolution to the situation in two years. 

 

A Member made reference to the pitch site at Llangan and alluded to a previous the legal case in relation to this site.  The Operational Manager for Housing Services advised that anticipated challenges would be considered by the Legal Services Section and the Inspector would be advised of this at the LDP hearing.   In regard to reserve sites, land in the Council’s ownership and private ownership had been considered. Some were easier to consider than others, depending on the location and the aspirations of the gypsy traveller community.  Officers would continue to lobby WG for assistance and delivery of sites in terms of capital funding.  The fund was previously approximately £1m and had been increased to £2m due to new housing legislation and it was likely that WG would get a large number of bids for funding for these sites. 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the progress relating to the 2016/17 Capital Programme be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the initial Cabinet budget proposals for 2017/18 be noted.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       Having regard to the position of the 2016/17 Capital Programme.

 

(2)       Having regard to the contents of the report.

 

 

587     INITIAL HOUSING REVENUE ACCOUNT BUDGET PROPOSALS 2017/18 (DEH) –

 

The Committee was consulted on the Initial Housing Revenue Budget proposals for 2017/18 and was informed of the amended original budget for 2016/17.  Each Local Housing Authority was required under Section 74, of the 1989 Local Government and Housing Act to keep a Housing Revenue Account.  Section 76 of the Act required Local Authorities to set a budget for their Housing Revenue Account (HRA) on an annual basis.  The budget must be set so that the sum held in the Housing Revenue Account reserve at year end was not in a deficit position.

 

During the course of the year, Local Authorities must review their HRA expenditure and income.  If on the basis of the information available, the balance of the HRA reserve was heading for a deficit, then steps must be taken as were reasonably practical to prevent this deficit.  A Local Authority was not prohibited from being in deficit but would need to demonstrate that the deficit had arisen through exceptional circumstances and that it had revised its original proposals so far as reasonably practical to avoid the deficit.  Such a deficit should be carried forward and must be made good the following year.

 

Each Local Authority should endeavour to have a working balance on the HRA reserve, for any exceptional circumstances that may arise.

 

The level of rent increase was based on a rent policy introduced by the Welsh Government.  At the time of writing the report, an announcement had not yet been made, therefore, an average rent increase of 3.5% had been included in the 2017/18 initial budget proposals, which was equivalent to the proposals in the Housing Business Plan – February 2016.

 

Set out below is a table comparing the original budget with the proposed amended budget.

 

 

2016/17

Original   Budget

2016/17   Proposed Amended

Budget

Variance   Favourable (-) Adverse (+)

 

£'000

£'000

£'000

Housing   Revenue Account

(22)

768

+790

 

The net operational budget for 2016/17 had changed from a surplus of £22,000 to a deficit of £768,000.  A review of the current budget had found potential net savings for the year of £2.51m.  The main reason for this was that the estimated increase in the provision for bad and doubtful debts had been reduced by £1.018m as the Universal Credit and its effects were not likely to impact on Housing rent collection in 2016/17.   There had been little increase in the actual level of rent arrears in this financial year and it was not anticipated that the provision would need to be substantially increased.  In addition, there had been a reduction in the Repairs and Maintenance budget of £400,000 which partly related to an external painting programme which was now due to commence in 2017/18 following the completion of the WHQS external works programme.  A reduction in Capital Financing Costs of £649,000 was anticipated, there had been an adjustment in central recharges resulting in a decreased charge of £269,000 and the projected charge for Council Tax at void properties was £40,000 less than anticipated.  Other budgets that were anticipated to outturn with an underspend were Incentive to Move £20,000, survey costs £65,000, compliance costs £42,000 and software costs of £40,000.  There were other minor reductions of £68,000.  These savings had been offset by a reduction in expected rental income from dwellings of £101,000. 

 

The balance on the HRA reserve brought forward as at 1st April, 2016 was £1.468m and was higher than required.  In order to minimise the amount of unsupported borrowing required in year to fund the Housing Improvement Programme, it was prudent to use HRA revenue reserves up to a minimum balance.  The level of Capital Expenditure funded from the Revenue Account (CERA), had been recalculated at £6.231m, which was an increase of £3.3m.  This would leave a balance on the HRA reserve at year end of £700,000, which was in line with the minimum amount required which had been assessed as at least £600,000.

 

The Budget Strategy for 2017/18 outlined that, in order to establish a baseline, services should prepare revenue budgets for next year based on the cost of providing the current level of service and approved policy decisions.  This meant that the cost of price increases and pay awards should be included.

 

Due to the nature of the HRA in that it was ring fenced and any growth had to be funded from the balance, no cost pressures had been formally identified.

 

The proposed 2017/18 budget was set out at Appendix 1 to the report and was identified over the following areas. 

  • Supervision and Management (General)
  • Supervision and Management (Special)
  • Repairs and Maintenance
  • Capital Financing Costs
  • Rents, Rates, Taxes and Other Charges
  • Increase in Provision for Bad Debts
  • Contribution from Revenue Account to Capital (CERA)
  • Dwelling Rents
  • Non Dwelling Rents
  • Interest
  • Charges for Services and Facilities.

 

The charges for rent and other services provided by the Housing Service were reviewed annually.  These would be subject to a future report once the guidance had been received from WG regarding the setting of rents for 2017/18.  Set out below is a table summarising the original budget for 2016/17 with the proposed budget for 2017/18.

 

2016/17

Original

Budget

Inflation /

 Pay Award

Committed

Growth /

(Savings)

Estimated   Rent

Increase

Increase/   (Decrease) in CERA

2017/18

Proposed

Budget

£000

£000

£000

£000

£000

£000

(22)

136

(138)

(579)

700

97

 

                   

 

A provision for general inflation included an allowance of 1% pay awards in 2017/18.  1% increase in pay amounted to approximately £26,000.

 

The net saving of £138,000 was due to a number of factors:

 

  • An increase in Capital Financing charges of £223,000 in relation to unsupported borrowing being taken out in 2016/17 to fund the Housing Improvement Programme.
  • An increase in staff costs for increments and staff changes of £79,000.
  • A reduction of £290,000 in central recharges.
  • A reduction in the cost for Council Tax at void properties of £67,000.
  • Various other minor savings of £83,000.

 

An increase in Capital Expenditure from Revenue Account (CERA) to finance the Housing Improvement Programme of £700,000 had been assumed.  The amount of revenue contribution required was dictated by available revenue balances and the value of the Housing Improvement Programme.  Adjusting the level of CERA by this amount would leave a balance on the HRA Reserve of £603,000, which was in line with the current minimum requirement.

 

Having considered the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the amended Housing Revenue Account budget for 2016/17 be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Initial Housing Revenue Account budget proposals for 2017/18 be noted.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To facilitate monitoring of the amended Housing Revenue Account budget.

 

(2)       having regard to the Initial Housing Revenue Budget proposals for 2017/18.

 

 

588     UPDATE ON THE HOUSING IMPROVEMENT PROGRAMME (DEH) –

 

The Committee received a report which provided performance information relating to the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS) Improvement works in Council housing in the Vale of Glamorgan. Members of the Committee had requested that an update report be provided to ensure appropriate monitoring of the financial risk of such a high profile contract.

 

The WHQS programme of work had been operational now since 2012.  Work initially commenced on the internal upgrades to the properties with new kitchens, bathrooms, heating, and rewires being installed to meet the standards set out by the Welsh Government.  These works have now been substantially finished with approximately only 400 homes which had been identified for such work not receiving it.  These 400 properties have not received the work because the tenants declined the improvements (this was recorded as an acceptable fail under the WHQS guidance and therefore still counted as a pass in terms of the Council's reporting process).  All tenants who declined the initial offer of internal works during the programme, had been approached again to check if circumstances had changed and where tenants had subsequently opted to have the work completed, this had been delivered.  Any property which had not received the internal works is upgraded as part of the void process for the new tenant.

 

Work was now underway to repair and improve the external fabric of the buildings where necessary and included: new roofs, windows and doors, brickwork and rendering repairs, external painting and external wall insulation.  Each property was surveyed to identify the necessary work before the contractors were instructed to complete these repairs and improvements.

 

To facilitate the external repairs and promote best value, three contractors had been appointed by the Council to undertake the roofing work required.  Satisfaction results for these three new work streams were included in the appendices to the report.

 

The external works were necessary to keep the Council's housing stock in a good condition and in certain locations had a significant impact on the streets appearance, which had resulted in greater pride in certain areas. 

 

In April 2016, the management of the WHQS programme transferred from the Council's Property Services Team to Housing and Building Services.  The team now managing the contract was working hard to ensure the work delivered by the contractors was to the best standard and within appropriate timescales.  This had resulted in some challenges for the contractors in trying to resource the projects with suitably experienced labour and the difficulty in engaging appropriate levels of site resource had been noticeable in some areas.

 

Housing and Building Services were now working hard with the contractors to agree the final accounts for blocks of work which had now been completed.

 

Performance information attached at Appendix A to the report indicated that all contractors were now failing to achieve the targets set for the relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

 

There were several reasons for this apparent reduced performance.  Firstly, the external works had a large impact on tenants' daily lives, with scaffolding being erected around the property for several months whilst the work was completed.  Whilst this inconvenience improved the external appearance of the property, it did not have the same impact as a new kitchen, bathroom or heating system.  As a result, the satisfaction scores provided by tenants had been seen to be lower.  Contractors had found it difficult to recruit and engage suitably experienced staff to resource the contract.  The project management team had requested the removal of a number of operatives from site because of a poor standard of workmanship and unsafe working practices.

 

Satisfaction figures are provided on a scale from one to ten therefore, whilst the overall average figure was seen to reduce, the level of satisfaction (scores above six), remained high.

 

When undertaking the work to the external fabric of the properties it was necessary to complete an ecology survey to ensure any protected wildlife that might be living in the property was not disturbed.  A number of roof surveys had found birds nesting and bats roosting in the roof space.  It had therefore been necessary to delay certain works for the bird nesting season to elapse before work could progress.  In the roofs where bats had been roosting it had been necessary to obtain and comply with a bat license before the works could progress.  This too had caused some delays in progressing the work.

 

Work had also commenced on rebuilding 16 post war prefabricated bungalows; these were designed by the aircraft manufacturer 'Hawksley' and were erected between 1947 and 1951 to address the housing shortage.  The rebuilding of these units included a complete demolition of the existing bungalow from floor slab up with a new brick / block structure, rebuilt in its place.

 

In presenting the report, the Operational Manager for Building Services informed the Committee that the  three additional contractors had been engaged and the performance information was attached to the report at Appendix A.  In referring to the satisfaction results, the Operational Manager advised that there were a number of elements which impacted on the satisfaction results such as the duration of the works, in particular external works which had caused tenants three to four months of disruption.   

 

Committee was informed that the Quarter 2 figures for one particular contractor was based on seven returns, which was rather low and not reflective of the general quality of work delivered.  The satisfaction scores were varied for the different categories, which included communication, process, quality of work and overall service.  The comments received included issues with contractors not cleaning up after works, this issue had been referred back to the contractors as they were expected to clean up following works.  The comments received were not necessarily reflective of the good work being done, however, comments reflecting dissatisfaction were addressed.  The team was keen to ensure they delivered as high a quality of service as possible, however, when the number of surveys returned were low, a few dissatisfied results could make a big difference to the overall satisfaction scores.  The Operational Manager advised that even if contractors had scored 7 and 8 across the work streams, this was given a satisfaction rate of 75%, which was still below the set target, but could be viewed as satisfied.  Part of the aim of the results table was to show the progression from the start, and throughout a project.  Satisfaction rates were now at 80% - 90%, and therefore on target. 

 

The Operational Manager advised only the main contractors had Resident Liaison Officers for the works.  The role of the RLOs was to keep residents informed of key aspects of the work.  Additionally  the Council employed Tenant Liaison Officers and Housing Improvement Surveyors to monitor the works and ensure tenants were satisfied with the final product. 

 

A Member expressed the view that some companies had a poor attitude to local government funded schemes, in that tenants should not complain as they were not paying for the work being done and also asked if there were any financial penalties for over-running on works.  The Operational Manager advised the Council’s Management Team did not tolerate this kind of attitude and if the Authority was not satisfied with the quality of the work, they held back payment and would not pay until it was satisfactorily completed.  In regard to late completion of work, he advised the contracts had been written four to five years ago, therefore there was no provision to penalise contractors for over-running on works, however they now ensured that contractors could only have a limited number of properties open at any one time and would not release any more to them until they had finished the open properties.  He advised that the start time for some works had been delayed as an asbestos survey was required, therefore although scaffolding had been erected, work had not started as they were awaiting the results of the survey.  This however meant a potential delay of three weeks between the erection of the scaffolding and works commencing.  Furthermore, the roofing contractors were struggling to resource the amount of works they had been provided with and they were currently addressing this issue with the contractors.

 

A Member asked whether the Authority was happy to continue working with the contractors currently engaged.  The Operational Manager advised that they had a range of contractors and would happily continue working with some, however there were some who needed to improve their services prior to any decision being made about re-engagement.  He advised the main issue was the contractors management arrangements, as some contractors did not use their own labour but contracted out, therefore the Client Management Team had to try and manage the workforce through a third party.  He informed Committee some contractors had been dismissed as they had not been performing and it reflected poorly on the Authority.  It would be counter-productive to dismiss a contractor at this stage as there was a legal process that would need to be followed, and it would take time to engage a new contractor.

 

A Member expressed concern that the Authority was experiencing the same issues as three years ago and was therefore in the same position now and was concerned that lessons had not been learnt.  The Operational Manager advised that there had been a dramatic change in the ethos of the works in the last year.  The Director of Environment and Housing advised that Housing Services had only taken on the WHQS Programme in April 2016 and advised that if they had drawn up the contracts, penalties for poor performance would have been incorporated.      

 

A Member also expressed concern regarding long standing issues which had started to be resolved but were now reoccurring and asked for an update on the progress with the Jenner Road works.  The Operational Manager advised that two areas of work had progressed well, however there were issues in regard to another set of works and the Authority would continue to work with the leaseholders to resolve.

 

A Member expressed the view that targets of 100% were very ambitious, although commendable, and asked whether the statistics were used in monitoring meetings with the contractors. They felt that the statistics would be better displayed in graph format and furthermore, the statistics should be analysed in order to see whether they were becoming worse or were very low.  The Member was pleased to note that the Authority’s own Buildings Team had received the highest satisfaction scores.

 

A Member queried the 2016/17 Quarter 1 satisfaction results for SMK, in regard to the overall performance for external works, as they seemed to have dropped significantly. The Operational Manager clarified that this was an error in the figures as the survey results had not been multiplied by 10 to give a percentage.  The Operational Manager further advised that they shared individual feedback with the contractors, and addressed these concerns with individual contractors where satisfaction figures dropped below a certain level.  They were able to address the main issues generated from individual feedback and they tried to visit all tenants where satisfaction levels were low.  The biggest issue currently was in relation to gardens being damaged due to scaffolding, and advised that the contractors were dealing with this issue and any issues were fed back to the contractors at the monthly meetings.

 

A Member expressed concern in relation to the cost of works to leasehold tenants.  The Operational Manager for Housing Services advised that leasehold tenants paid a service charge annually, which was very low, which paid for services such as insurance and grounds maintenance and advised that in the 1980s the Authority had decided not to adopt a sinking fund for leasehold tenants.  Leaseholders had not contributed to the large scale repairs and the current programme of repairs was the largest undertaken in the last 20 to 30 years.

 

The Chairman asked whether there was also a calculation error in the figures for Lovell Partnership Quarter 2 overall performance for external works and SMK Quarter 1 2016/17 for percentage of properties completed on time and the Operational  Manager confirmed that this was the case.

 

The Chairman made reference to some recent publicity in regard to the WHQS works and the Operational Manager advised that an article had been posted on the internet which included information taken from the report in regard to the satisfaction levels for the works.

 

A Member asked how robust the checking strategy was and whether they were confident of the completion timescales for the works.  The Operational Manager advised that the checking process was extremely robust and it was bolstered with the greater presence of client supervision on the ground.  He reiterated that they were not accepting work if it was not to an appropriate standard and if work was not completed to this standard the contractors would need to go back. 

 

A Member queried the possibility of investigating the appropriateness and feasibility of a sinking fund for future repairs to leasehold properties.  The Cabinet Member, with permission to speak, advised they would need to negotiate this with leaseholders and also with Legal Services and it was an involved issue.  The Operational Manager for Housing Services asked if the Member wished to consider whether this issue could be brought back to the Committee following completion of the works in Summer 2017 and the Member advised that they were happy which this approach. 

 

A Member put forward a suggestion that the lead Scrutiny Committee, Corporate Performance and Resources, should oversee a review of future contracts, to include lessons learned from the WHQS programme, in terms of ensuring that future contracts contained robust protection for the Authority and its tenants. The Director of Environment and Housing Services advised that these issues had been raised at the Audit Committee, and at present a review of contracts across the Authority was being carried out. He advised that he would be happy to bring a relevant report to the Scrutiny Committee which would incorporate the contract review work of the Audit service.  The Cabinet Member advised that despite some problems, she had faith in the officers, a lot of work had been carried out, and although there was a lot to resolve, she was confident that the issues would be resolved and offered her thanks to the teams in delivering the works.  She asked that any specific complaints be channelled through herself or the Operational Manager for Building Services. 

 

Following consideration of the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the current performance of the contractors on the Welsh Housing Quality Standard Improvement Programme be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T a report be brought to the Scrutiny Committee following completion of the Welsh Housing Quality Standard works in Summer 2017 in regard to investigating the appropriateness and feasibility of starting a sinking fund for future repairs to leasehold properties.

 

(3)       T H A T a report on future housing works contracts be brought to a meeting of the Scrutiny Committee for consideration, which would also include the contract review work being carried out by the Audit service.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       Having regard to the contents of the report.

 

(2)       To consider the appropriateness and feasibility of starting a sinking fund for future repair schemes for leasehold properties.

 

(3)       In order that the Committee could consider the contract review work being carried out to ensure that future contracts for housing repairs contained robust protection for the Council and its tenants.

 

 

589     QUARTER 2 (2016-17) PERFORMANCE REPORT: AN INCLUSIVE AND SAFE VALE (DEH) –

 

The Committee received a report to inform it in relation to the performance results for Quarter 2, 1st April to 30th September 2016/17 for the Corporate Plan Well-being Outcome 1 “An Inclusive and Safe Vale”.

 

In presenting the report, the Operational Manager for Housing Services advised that the format of the report had changed since last year as performance management had changed with the introduction of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.  In terms of its Performance Management Framework the Council had recently adopted a new Corporate Plan (2016-20) which reflected the requirements of the Act, and identified four well-being Outcomes and eight Objectives for the Council.  The Committee was informed that overall, the Well-being Outcome of “An Inclusive and Safe Vale” was Green.  The report also indicated the key achievements and challenges for attaining this Outcome and how these would be managed.  The report also detailed the relevant Corporate Plan Objectives.  Positive outcomes for these Objectives should mean positive outcomes for the overall Outcome of “An Inclusive and Safe Vale”. 

 

There were 6 Corporate Plan actions, 16 Service Plan actions and 30 Performance Indicators for Objective 1, “Reducing Poverty and Social Exclusion” and 10 Corporate Plan actions and 30 Performance Indicators for Objective 2, “Providing Decent Homes and Safe Communities”. For Objective 1, two of the action statuses were Green, three Amber and one Red.  For Objective 2, 9 action statuses were Green and 1 was Amber. There were two Red statuses for Housing Performance Indicators, which were HS/M005: Average number of days to let an empty property and also HS/M002: Percentage of housing stock where work that meets the WHQS has been completed.  The overall status for Objective 1 was Amber and for Objective 2 Green. 

 

The Committee was informed that the Performance Indicators were very new therefore at present were not a good indication of performance, but they would be developed. 

 

The officer advised that if the Authority wanted to be one of the best in terms of housing, then it should subscribe to HouseMark, which would enable the Authority to provide a much more detailed picture in terms of housing management and the Authority would also be able to compare its current performance with previous performance.

 

The performance in terms of absence management was good and within target, although there were some challenge in this area.  There were some recruitment difficulties, one being for the role of Head of Housing and Building Services, which had yet to be recruited.  There was a Senior Management Appointment Committee in December, with the aim of recruiting a suitable candidate in the New Year. 

 

The Committee’s attention was drawn to emerging risk, which primarily related to a 59% reduction in the regional funding to the Housing Solutions Service, which potentially could have a massive impact on services.   

 

A Member queried the survey of Council housing tenants undertaken during the Summer of 2016 and expressed surprise that this had not been sent to the Committee on Council tenants’ satisfaction and also questioned the usefulness of signing up to HouseMark.

 

The Director of Environment and Housing Services advised that a draft report in relation to the results of the survey would be reported to the Committee in the New Year and would provide a lot more detail.  Outcomes were difficult to measure and they were looking at tenants’ responses in order to get a good picture of the service.  He accepted the point about HouseaMark, and was aware of its deficiencies however felt that there would be more benefits for the Authority in being a member than not.  He also advised that, at present, there was very little management data to be inputted into the performance report.

 

A Member queried the Red status of Performance Indicator HS/M005: Average number of days to let an empty property where the target was 33 days for Quarter 2 2016/17, and asked what the current status was.  The Operational Manager for Housing Services advised that figures for November were under target, however contractors did not work over the Christmas period, therefore they anticipated a dip in the figures, however, confirmed that they were on track to hit the target for this indicator.

 

Following consideration of the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the progress to date in achieving key outcomes, in line with the Corporate Plan Well-being Outcome 1 – “Citizens of the Vale of Glamorgan have a good quality of life and feel part of the local community”, be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the performance results and remedial actions taken to address areas of underperformance and to tackle the key challenges identified be noted.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To ensure the Council clearly demonstrates the progress being made towards achieving its Corporate Plan Well-being Outcomes aimed at making a positive difference to the lives of Vale of Glamorgan citizens.

 

(2)       To ensure the Council is effectively assessing its performance in line with the requirement to secure continuous improvement outlined in the Local Government Measure (Wales) 2009 and reflecting the requirement of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act that it maximises its contribution to achieving the well-being goals for Wales.

 

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