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HOMES AND SAFE COMMUNITIES SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 15th February, 2017.

 

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

 

 

808            APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors R.P. Thomas and E. Williams and Mr. D. Dutch, Mrs. A. Edwards and Mr. A. Raybould (Tenant Working Group/Panel).

 

 

809            MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 18th January, 2017 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

810            DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

811            REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL, 2016 TO 31ST DECEMBER, 2016 (DEH) -

 

The Committee received a report to advise of the position in respect of revenue and capital expenditure for the period 1st April, 2016 to 31st December, 2016 regarding those revenue and capital budgets, which form this Committee’s remit. 

 

The Revenue Budget and projected outturn for 2016/17 were shown in the below table and currently forecasted a balanced budget.

 

 

Revenue   Budget

 

Probable   Outturn

Variance

(+ )   Favourable

(-)   Adverse

 

£000

£000

£000

Public   Sector Housing (HRA)

768

768

0

Council   Fund Housing

988

988

0

Private   Sector Housing

11,021

11,021

0

Regulatory   Services

2,218

2,218

0

Youth   Offending Service

701

701

0

TOTAL

15,696

15,696

0

 

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

 

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

 

In terms of 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.

 

With regard to Private Housing, 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.  It was therefore anticipated that this service would outturn on target.

 

In terms of 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.  Other services were anticipated to outturn on target by year end.  

 

Attached to the report at Appendix 2 was a list of savings to be achieved this year for this Committee.  It was anticipated that all savings would be achieved this year, the largest of which was a general budget reduction of £330,000 from the Council Fund Housing budget.

 

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

 

The Operational Manager Accountancy outlined to the Committee the reasons for the underspends for this year’s budget.  In terms of the WHQS Internal Works, the final accounts were now being agreed with contractors and it was anticipated that expenditure in the year would be £2.127m less than the budget.  At the end of the programme, tenants who had previously rejected the offer of works had been contacted with a view to carrying out the planned works.  Refusals for the improvement works had been received from tenants and these totalled approximately 10%, it had therefore been requested that this funding be carried forward and utilised as required within the Housing Business Plan going forward.

 

In terms of the WHQS External Works, there had been delays in undertaking work this year due to difficulty in sourcing suitably skilled 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 £2.064m was carried forward into 2017/18 to enable completion of this scheme.

 

In regard to the Common Parts, the Committee was advised that 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 £1.2m was carried forward into 2017/18.

 

Following the presentation of the report, a Member asked for further clarification in regard to the £330,000 general budget reduction saving.  The Officer advised that the saving would be achieved from the Temporary Accommodation Budget. Bed and Breakfasts would only be used in an emergency and private rented accommodation would be used instead. 

 

Having considered the report, the Committee

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position with regard to the 2016/17 Revenue and Capital Budgets be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To take account of the contents of the report.

 

 

812            YOUTH OFFENDING SERVICE - SIX MONTH PERFORMANCE REPORT FOR THE PERIOD APRIL 2016 TO SEPTEMBER 2016 (DSS) -

 

The Committee received a report in relation to the performance of the Youth Offending Service during the period April 2016 to September 2016.

 

The Youth Offending Service (YOS) Manager advised that performance reporting by the YOS was always approximately one quarter behind because of the need for the Youth Justice Board (YJB) to validate data before circulation.

 

The performance report for April 2016 to September 2016 was attached at Appendix 1 to the report and included analysis of the performance data.  Members were minded to note that the YJB introduced changes to the Welsh Key Performance Indicators in 2015/16. 

 

Local performance measures had also been included to provide a greater depth of understanding of performance in specific areas.

 

The YOS Manager advised that performance data for First Time Entrants to the Youth Justice was for the 12 months from July 2015 to June 2016.  Performance reflected a 32.3% increase when comparing July 2014 to June 2015, however it was worth noting that this equated to an increase of 10 young people, making a total to 41.  As the Police National Computer (PNC) data was used to inform this performance measure, the YOS was currently unable to verify the information.  The YOS’s own internal reporting showed a 0% change as the service had 42 young people in its local cohort.

 

Members were informed that reduction in re-offending continued to be a key priority for the YOS.  The information presented in Appendix 1 produced by the YJB showed a decrease in the binary rate (number of young people reoffending) from 46.2% to 37.1%, when comparing January-December 2013 against January-December 2014.  The frequency rate of re-offending (number of re-offences committed by young people) for the same period demonstrated a slight increase from 2.83 to 2.85.

 

Members were advised that it was important to note that the YJB performance was always approximately 18 months behind.  Local performance information in relation to re-offending showed that both the number of young people offending and the number of re-offences had risen; 11 of the 15 young people tracked had re-offended within six months, committing a total of 48 offences.  The increase in re-offending could be seen across both Triage diversion and YOS statutory cases.

 

Members were informed that Appendix 1 contained additional information to provide an insight into the complex needs of young people within the Youth Justice System and the range of interventions provided by the YOS and its partners to try and address the underlying causes of offending.

 

The YOS continued to have a low custodial rate during the first six months of 2016/17, with one custodial disposal imposed due to the seriousness of the offence.  When comparing custodial disposals for 2015/16 the YOS had three disposals compared to six in 2014/15.  This demonstrated custody was used as a last resort.

 

In respect of engagement in education, training and employment, this indicator had changed and now reflected the number of hours’ education a young person had been offered, alongside the number of hours the young person attended the provision.  The information enabled stakeholders to identify if performance was being affected by a lack of suitable provision or if there were attendance issues which needed to be addressed. 

 

Data provided by the YJB indicated that during the year to date, young people of statutory school age were offered an average 22 hours at the start of their intervention, this decreased over time and ended on an average of 16.6 hours.  The average hours offered and attended by young people was less at 19.7 hours at the start and 13.1 hours at the end, all below the recommended 25 hours.

 

Young people above statutory school age were also offered and attended less than the recommended 16 hours provision, with the average hours being attended at the start as 4.8 hours and at the end 12.5 hours.  Despite a positive improvement in above statutory school age provision, concerns had been raised that there had been no increase in the average number of hours for school age children since 2014/15.

 

Further analysis by the YOS indicated that the number of children was low, some of these children had re-offended and were therefore included within the cohort more than once as subject to different interventions, whilst others had multiple complex issues and had exhausted a number of educational placements.

 

Regarding access to suitable accommodation, performance continued to be positive.  During the six month period, 19 young people had a closed community based penalty; all were in suitable accommodation at the start and end of their interventions.  Two young people ended a custodial sentence; both were in suitable accommodation at the start but only one at the end of their licence period.  Due to the low numbers this reflected a 50% decrease.

 

Performance in respect of access to appropriate support for substance misuse difficulties demonstrated the majority of young people referred continued to engage in assessment and treatment even if outside of the performance timeframes.

 

In terms of access to mental health services, improvement in this area was a key strategic aim of the Welsh Government / YJB Children and Young People First Strategy.  The measure had recently been revised and identified if young people are appropriately screened within 28 working days of referral date and where appropriate, received a mental health assessment within 28 working days of screening.

 

The report stated that Victim Participation was a local measure.  The YOS had a duty to comply with the Victim's Code of Practice and to promote community confidence in the Criminal Justice System.  In order to demonstrate the work undertaken by the YOS in relation to restorative justice, a local performance measure was introduced based on the former YJB measure (which was no longer in use), i.e. engaging 25% of victims in direct restorative practices.  The Vale of Glamorgan YOS operated a restorative ethos and actively promoted restorative practices, as demonstrated by the positive performance of above 50% victim participation for the period.

 

The YOS Manager informed the Committee that the performance reported was achieved within allocated resources although the Committee would be aware that it was not possible to guarantee sufficient contributions to the YOS budget long term because of its reliance on contributions from partner organisations and annual grants from various sources.  To date the YBJ grant for 2017/18 was unconfirmed.

 

The YOS Manager informed the Committee that the issue of there being no increase in the average number of hours of education provision for school age children since 2014-15 would be addressed with the Learning and Skills Directorate. 

 

A Member expressed concern that the data was out of date and in making reference to the local performance information, asked whether there was a specific trend locally, as there was a small number of individuals committing the majority of the offences and therefore the increase in referral rates.  The Officer advised that the team had been successful in prevention and diversion ensuring that individuals were diverted out of the Youth Justice System.  They had good performance statistics in terms of diverting individuals away from the Youth Justice System.  Furthermore, young people who became involved with the YOS were at an older age; had acute needs and were therefore in the system longer.  The YOS also had a duty to track them when they went to probation, so they were tracked beyond their 18th birthdays and were therefore still in the YOS performance data, even though the YOS was no longer working with them so unable to influence any outcomes.

 

A Member asked whether any guidance had been given in terms of funding from the Police and Crime Commissioner.  The Officer advised that they had met with the Commissioner recently and had been advised that the precept had only recently been decided, but that the Commissioner’s contribution to the YOS was likely to be at the same level as present and they hoped that there would be no reduction in funding.  

 

A Member asked whether the YOS Manager knew how many young people went on to get a job as a result of the work carried out by the team.  The Officer advised that one of the reasons they had commissioned Careers Wales was in order to assist young people in securing a job.  The team was striving towards this aim, and were providing young people with both vocational and academic education which would hopefully lead them into employment.  The Member asked whether it would be possible for the Officer to share statistics with the Committee, in relation to the number of young people (16+) who secured work as a result of the contact with the YOS, once this information had been received. 

 

The Chairman asked whether the discrepancy between the YOS’s own performance data for First Time Entrants, and that of the PNC occurred often.  The Officer advised that the information for this measure was collected via the PNC and they were therefore unable to obtain a list of names in order to compare the two sets of data.  The YOS was currently in negotiations to enter into an information sharing agreement with the Ministry of Justice to access information from the PNC.

 

The Officer clarified that, rather than as stated within paragraph 18 of the report, the indicator for access to mental health services for young people in the Youth Justice System was defined as the percentage of young people identified as requiring a mental health assessment within 28 days of referral date, and also, of those young people who were identified as requiring mental health treatment, who received that within 28 working days of assessment.

 

The Chairman asked what penalties there were if the target of 25 hours of education provision per week for young people referred to the service was not reached.  The Officer advised that the Education Department could prosecute the parents; however this was rather challenging to enforce. 

 

A Member expressed the view that it was a difficult job to do without the added problem of funding and the Committee recognised the difficulty of the situation.

 

The Chairman asked whether other Local Authorities were in the same position and whether they met to discuss YOS issues.  The Officer advised that there was South Wales YOS Managers Group and a YOS Managers Cymru Group which would meet to discuss service issues with a view to finding resolutions.

 

Following consideration of the report the Committee

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the contents of the Youth Offending Service Six Month Performance Report for the period April 2016 to September 2016 be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To note the contents of the report in order to ensure that Elected Members were able to exercise effective oversight of the Youth Offending Service performance against designated indicators (UK, devolved and local).

 

 

813            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 must address the following areas:- 

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

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

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Youth Justice Plan 2016/17, updated to January 2017, was attached to the report at Appendix 1.  Revisions to the Plan had 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 2016/17. 

 

Members were informed that there had been no significant changes to the structure or operational functions of the YOS, or the corporate environment within which it operated.  The focus of the Plan for 2016/17 was implementation of the new assessment framework, Assetplus, and its impact on practice.  Implementation was on track with regular monitoring meetings taking place to ensure that the practice changes required were embedded.

 

The YOS Manager advised that the risks the YOS continued to face were: 

  • national uncertainty about the future of YJS; 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 during 2015.  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. 

 

The final report was published in December 2016.  The report acknowledged the success of both the YJB and YOS in formalising partnership working and ensuring that there was a focus on children who offend, as children first and offenders second.  The report also acknowledged the successes achieved in the reduction in numbers of children entering the YJS and those in custody, reducing from on average 3,000 to 900. 

 

Members were informed that although a great deal of success had been achieved in reducing first time entrants and the use of custody, tackling the numbers re-offending remained a priority.  Many of the children within the YJS came from the most dysfunctional and chaotic families where drug and alcohol misuse, physical and emotional abuse and offending were common.  The causes of childhood offending needed a multi-agency response and YOS alone could not address all the underlying issues.

 

The report therefore recommended a reduced role for the centre and the devolution of responsibility for the YJS to Local Authorities which held the statutory responsibility for educating and protecting children, thereby providing stronger incentives to tackle promptly and proportionately the factors which placed children at risk of offending by focusing on improving their welfare, health and education.

 

The YOS Manager advised that alongside the publication of the final report, the UK Government published a response diluting the proposals outlined within the Youth Justice Review Report.  It acknowledged the successes and indicated that both the YJB and Youth Offending Teams would remain but that improvements would be made to the framework within which the YJS operated.  These improvements would focus on reviewing the governance and performance standards of the YJS, reviewing how Police dealt with children, the operation of the Court system and the use of Youth Custody.  Members were informed that the YOS was awaiting advice from the UK Government in relation to the next steps.

 

A Member enquired as to whether the YOS had a designated Police Officer.  The YOS Manager advised that a full time Police Officer had been engaged in September 2016.

 

A Member expressed concern in regard to the recommendation in the Youth Justice Review Report in relation to devolving responsibility for the YJS to Local Authorities and suggested that in light of this and the response from the UK Government, the Committee should write to the Ministry of Justice in regard to this issue, also expressing concern about the lack of resources in Local Authorities for delivering Youth Offending Services. 

 

The Member also asked whether there was a consultation period in regard to these reports. The YOS Manager advised that the reports were not being consulted on, however, YOS Managers Cymru had provided a response, as had the Association of YOS Managers in England and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services.  One of the main issues in regard to the reports was that there were only 15 YOS teams in Wales, whereas there were 140 plus in England, therefore the reports focused primarily on the service in England. 

 

The Chairman asked how the new Assetplus Assessment Framework would change the provision of Youth Offending Services.  The YOS Manager advised that it would provide a more holistic approach. Assetplus would provide more detailed analysis in terms of past and future behaviours and they hoped it would have a positive impact on the service. 

 

Following the consideration of the report, the Committee

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the progress made towards delivering the Vale of Glamorgan Youth Justice Plan 2016/17 be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Ministry of Justice be informed of the Committee’s concerns in relation to the recommendation that responsibility for the Youth Justice System be devolved to Local Authorities, particularly in light of the reduction of grants; and that the content of the letter be approved by the Chairman of the Committee.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1)       To meet the statutory requirements of grant terms and conditions provided by the YJB for England and Wales, to achieve continuing improvements in the oversight of this key area of work for the Council.

 

(2)       To inform the Ministry of Justice of the concerns of the Committee.

 

 

814            3RD QUARTER 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 and were asked to confirm the Work Programme for the Scrutiny Committee for 2016/17. 

 

The Operational Manager for Building Services provided a brief update to the Committee on the progress of works at Long Meadow, as the Committee had requested that a site visit be arranged once the service was up and running.  It was advised that the work was due to be completed by the end of March 2017.

 

The Vice-Chairman expressed the view that the Committee recommendations in relation to requests for reports should not be listed as ongoing on the decision tracking document and should only be listed as completed once the Committee had received the requested report and there was general agreement from the Committee in regard to this.  He also suggested that requested reports listed on the Work Programme should be scheduled for upcoming Scrutiny Committee meetings. Members put forward suggestions as to which reports they would like to see prioritised with a view to arranging a meeting in April 2017 if these reports were available.

 

Following consideration of the report the Committee

 

RECOMMENDED -


(1)       T H A T the status in respect of the following recommendations be deemed as completed:

 

12 October 2016

Min. No. 448 –   Quarter 1 (2016-17) Performance Report: An Inclusive and Safe Vale (DEH) – Recommended

(1)   That the target set for Performance   Indicator HA/M005 – The average number of days to let an empty property, be   amended from 28 days to 33 days and for this to be referred to Cabinet for   its approval.

Cabinet,   on 31st October, 2016, resolved that the contents of the report be   noted and considered alongside Agenda Item 9, the Quarter 1 (2016-17)   Corporate Plan Performance Report.

(Min.   No. C3340 refers)

Cabinet   resolved

[4]   That recommendation one from the Scrutiny Committee   Homes and Safe Communities, as outlined in Appendix 2 to the report, be   agreed and the target set for Performance Indicator HA/M005 – The average   number of days to let an empty property, be amended from 28 days to 33 days.

(Min.   No. C3342 refers)

Completed

(3)   That a report on CCTV operations be   presented to Committee at a future meeting.

Added   to work programme schedule.

Completed

9 November 2016

Min. No. 514 –   Housing Compliance Policies (REF) – Recommended

(2)   That 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.

Added   to the Committee’s work programme schedule.

Completed

Min. No. 516 – 2nd   Quarter Scrutiny Decision Tracking of Recommendations and Updated Work   Programme Schedule 2016/17 (MD) – Recommended

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

Added   to the Committee’s work programme schedule.

Completed

(3)   That 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.

An   e-mail was sent on 6th December, 2016 to all Committee Members and   the Tenant Working Group/ Panel representatives to provide them with an   update in relation to this matter.

Completed

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

Added   to the Committee’s work programme schedule.

Completed

(5)   That the Work Programme Schedule attached   at Appendix B be amended as above and uploaded to the Council’s website.

Work   programme schedule updated and uploaded to the Council’s website.

Completed

7 December 2016

Min. No. 583–   Customer Service Strategy (Housing) – Draft for Consideration (REF) – Recommended

(1)   That 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).

Comments   to be included in report to Cabinet. 

Completed

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

Added   to work programme schedule.

Completed

Min. No. 584 –   Draft Supporting People Local Commissioning Plan 2017-2020 (REF) – Recommended

That   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.

The   Strategy and Supporting People Manager, having reviewed the minutes, was of   the view that there was nothing said that could be fed into the report as the   questions asked were for clarification purposes only and all were answered at   the meeting.

Completed

Min. No. 585 –   Initial Revenue Budget Proposals 2017/18 (DEH) – Recommended

(2)   That a wrap up report on Empty Homes be   brought to the Committee in the new year.

Added   to work programme schedule.

Completed

Min. No. 588 –   Update on the Housing Improvement Programme (DEH) – Recommended

(2)   That 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.

Added   to work programme schedule.

Completed

(3)   That 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.

Added   to work programme schedule.

Completed

 

(2)       T H A T the following reports be prioritised with the view to arranging a meeting of the Committee in April 2017: 

  • Environment and Neighbourhood Strategy
  • Lettings Strategies
  • Report on CCTV Operations
  • Vale Community Alarm System Update Report.

(3)       T H A T the updated Work Programme Schedule be uploaded to the Council’s website.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

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

 

(2)       In order to prioritise the reports requested by the Committee.

 

(3)       For information.

 

 

 

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