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HOMES AND SAFE COMMUNITIES SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 12th July, 2017. 

 

Present:  Councillor M.R. Wilson (Vice-Chairman in the Chair); Councillors Ms. B.E. Brooks, Ms. C.A. Cave, Ms. A.M. Collins, B.T. Gray, Mrs. S.M. Hanks, M.J.G. Morgan and Mrs. R. Nugent-Finn.

 

Also present: Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson.

 

 

129     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson (Chairman) and Mrs. K.F. McCaffer.

 

 

130     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 14th June, 2017 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

131     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

132     FIRE PREVENTION IN THE COUNCIL’S HOUSING STOCK (DEHS) -

 

The Operational Manager for Building Services presented the report to update Members on the standard of fire prevention and early detection for the Council’s housing stock.  The officer also introduced Mr. Andy Gwatkin, a Health and Safety Officer for the Vale of Glamorgan Council.  Mr. Gwatkin had previously worked for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service prior to his employment with the Council.  Mr. Gwatkin was invited to Committee to provide assurance to Members on the position of compliance within the Council’s housing stock in respect to fire safety. 

 

Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in Kensington and Chelsea, this report had been requested to provide assurance to Members on the proactive approach by Housing and Building Services in the management of fire risk within the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s housing stock.

 

Whatever actions or precautions the Council had taken; it was not possible to stop fire events within its buildings.  However, the Housing and Building Services team operated a range of monitoring systems and processes which were supported by building technologies to control the spread of fire within the property to provide the best opportunity for residents to be safely evacuated and the Fire and Rescue Service to control the incident.

 

To protect the safety of Council tenants, Housing and Building Services had the following management procedures in place, which were summarised below and set out in the ‘Council Housing Fire Risk Management Policy and Procedures’ document attached at Appendix 1 of the officer’s report.

 

The first line of protection was in the provision of fire detection and alarm systems. As part of the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS) investment programme, fire detection systems had been installed within all the Council’s housing stock.  All fire detection and alarm systems were serviced annually through a servicing contract, with additional testing being completed for communal systems.  Any defects found within these systems were remedied immediately.  The officer also advised that tenants were encouraged to test smoke alarms within properties on a weekly basis. 

 

The Operational Manager for Building Services advised that emergency lighting, within the communal fire evacuation routes, in blocks of flats with shared access was regularly tested and received an annual inspection to ensure it functioned to the design requirements.  Any defects found within these systems were remedied immediately.

 

All flatted accommodation with communal access was subject to a ‘Fire Risk Assessment’ (FRA) as required under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.  The Council had current risk assessments for all communal access blocks, with a programme of works in place to address works that were found necessary following such inspection.  As part of the FRA, monthly block inspections were conducted to ensure all fire evacuation routes and exits were not compromised as a result of issues arising within the blocks.  Appropriate action was taken to ensure any defects found were actioned at the earliest opportunity where concerns were raised as a result of these inspections.

 

The officer advised the Committee that Awbery House was the largest multiple occupancy building within the Council’s housing stock, being six storeys tall, with any building being two storeys or above requiring fire breaks to deter fire spreading.

 

Work undertaken to the Council’s housing stock met the latest requirements on fire regulation and in many cases exceeded the requirements set out.  The external wall insulation system recently installed to the Council’s housing stock exceeded the requirements set out in the regulations with extra fire breaks being installed to all flatted blocks.

 

The Housing and Building Services team also had a programme of upgrades for individual sites as part of the WHQS improvement programme and this saw many of the Council’s buildings being upgraded to the latest standards in respect of fire safety.

 

Following the Grenfell Tower disaster, the Housing and Building Services team had delivered a programme of reassurance to Council tenants to reinforce the proactive programmes of work already being delivered and to assure them; their safety was paramount in the work programmes the Council delivered.  The Operational Manager for Public Housing Services advised following a query from a Member with regards to safety correspondence sent to tenants, that a letter had been sent to communal flats residents only with the sole purpose to stop escalating concern.

 

A Member queried how the Council supported tenants to remain vigilant about fire safety within their homes.  The Operational Manager for Public Housing Services advised that information was available to tenants via the Vale of Glamorgan website and correspondence, in the form of newsletters, had been distributed in the past, with regards to fire safety.

 

The Principal Community Safety Officer also added that free home fire safety checks were available via the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, details of which could be forwarded to Members following the meeting.

 

Consideration was being given to the installation of sprinkler systems at certain housing properties owned by the Council.  Whilst sprinkler systems were a requirement for all new build properties being constructed by the Council, the retrospective installation of sprinklers was currently not mandatory and as such the installation of these systems would be guided through a review of the FRAs undertaken in Council accommodation.

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the contents of the report be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To provide assurances to Members on the position of compliance within the Council’s housing stock in respect of fire safety.

 

 

133     CLOSURE OF ACCOUNTS 2016/17 (DEHS) -

 

The Finance Support Manager presented the report, the purpose of which was to update the Committee of the provisional financial position for the 2016/17 financial year. 

 

The officer advised that following the end of the financial year, Scrutiny Committees were provided with provisional outturn figures for the Council.  The Statement of Accounts would be approved by Council before 30th September, 2017, following an audit by the Wales Audit Office. 

 

Revenue

 

Council on 2nd March, 2016 (Minute No. 885) agreed the Authority’s budget requirement for 2016/17.

 

The following adjustments to the revised budgets were highlighted within Appendix 1 of the officer’s report with no overall effect on the Authority:

  • IAS 19 Retirement Benefits - The purpose of the Standard was to ensure that the operating costs of providing retirement benefits to employees were recognised in the accounting period in which they were earned by the employees.  Figures provided by the actuary differed from that estimated and the movements needed to be incorporated into the accounts.
  • Asset Rents - This charge could vary each year due to an increase / decrease in the valuation of assets.  The movements needed to be incorporated into the accounts.

The following table compared the amended budget and the actual expenditure, including transfers to and from reserves, for the Committee.  The final column showed the net transfers to reserves for each Directorate which had been included within the actual expenditure figures. 

 

Service

 

Year - 2016/17

Original Revenue Budget

Amended Revenue Budget

Total Provisional Actual

Variance +Favourable  () Adverse

Net Transfer to /(From) Reserve

 

         £000

         £000

         £000

         £000

£000

Youth Offending Service

696

707

704

+3

 

Regulatory Services

2,056

2,221

2,221

0

 

Council Fund Housing

744

1,011

1,011

0

 

Private Housing

11,262

11,033

10,979

+54

 

TOTAL

14,758

14,972

14,915

+57

+1,080

 

 

The report detailed the variances which were set out by the Finance Support Manager as follows:

 

Youth Offending Service - Favourable variance of £3k 

 

There was a favourable variance of £67k on staffing due to vacancies and sickness. This had allowed a transfer to reserve of £64k which would be used to fund CCTV equipment and an upgrade to the heating system at Salisbury Road and to offset reductions in future grant funding. 

 

Regulatory Services - Breakeven

 

The Regulatory Service had entered into a collaboration with Bridgend and Cardiff Councils.  The Vale of Glamorgan Council had acted as host for a Shared Regulatory Service since 1st May, 2015.  Following a drawdown of £69k from the Visible Services  Reserve to cover the Vale of Glamorgan Council's contribution towards implementation costs incurred by the Shared Service during 2016/17 (covering costs of IT), there was a favourable variance of £140k on the available Regulatory Services base budget held by the Vale of Glamorgan Council.  This underspend had been transferred into the Regulatory Improvements reserve and would be used towards future unexpected costs not borne by the Shared Service. These figures related to the Vale of Glamorgan Council's element of the Shared Service only and not the service as a whole which was reported separately to the Joint Committee.

 

Council Fund Housing - Breakeven

 

There was an adverse variance of £51k on temporary accommodation for the Homeless.

 

There was a favourable variance of £43k of which £22k related to the Homelessness team as the Council was able to claim additional Transitional grant funding from Welsh Government and £21k related to the Community Safety team.

 

There was a net transfer from reserves of £8k.  There was a planned transfer from the Homelessness and Housing reserve of £29k. The Community Safety budget transferred £21k into the reserve which would be used in future to purchase Target Hardening kit. 

 

There was also a planned transfer from the Rural Housing Needs reserve of £14k to part fund the Rural Enabler post which was also partially funded by Welsh Government grant and contributions from Housing Associations.

 

Private Sector Housing - Favourable variance of £47k

 

There was a £13k adverse variance as the Renewal Area’s supplies budget, i.e. costs of survey fees, consultants and legal fees, exceeded the budget. 

 

There was a favourable variance of £60k.  There was a favourable variance of £46k on Disabled Facilities Grant agency fees as the number of grant applications processed had remained high during 2016/17.  Though the Renewal Area Team’s fee income had been slow earlier in the year, the position improved by year-end, reflecting the higher volumes of capital works carried out towards the end of the year and was £14k ahead of the target at year-end.

 

There were planned drawdowns from reserves of £75k, £46k for the costs of an Occupational Therapist from the Disabled Facilities Reserve and £29k from the Temporary Empty Homes Officer Reserve.

 

Rent Allowances / Council Tax Benefits - Favourable variance of £7k

 

There was a favourable variance of £907k.  £193k related to Discretionary Housing payments, which were used to provide support to claimants adversely affected by some of the key welfare reforms. The saving was due to a lower take-up from claimants than anticipated, however, there remains uncertainty over future demand. There were also favourable variances of £167k from recovered overpayments and associated subsidy and £547k on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme due to lower than anticipated take-up.

 

This enabled transfers to reserves of £900k with £500k allocated to the Council Buildings Fund and £400k to the Visible Services Reserve for Big Fill.

 

As part of the Final Revenue Budget Proposals for 2016/17, a savings target was set for the Committee.  Progress on the achievement of these savings had been monitored and reported to Committee during the year.  Appendix 5 to the report confirmed the final status of these savings at the end of 2016/17.  The services had been able to find all its savings in year.   

 

Housing Revenue Account

 

Council on 2nd March, 2016 (Minute No. 883) agreed the Authority’s 2016/17 Housing Revenue Account (HRA) budget.

 

The 2016/17 HRA budget resulted in a deficit of £510k compared to the amended budget deficit of £768k.  A breakdown was shown in Appendix 2 of the officer’s report.  The HRA reserve opened at £1.468m and closed at £958k.

 

The net favourable HRA revenue budget variance of £258k was identified over the following areas.

 

Supervision and Management General – Favourable Variance £441k

 

There were favourable variances in Asset Management and Development of £98k on staffing, £15k on Supplies and Services and £6k on Transport. Favourable staffing variances in the rest of the service were £142k. There were further favourable variances in Supplies and Services such as promotions, software / hardware and other non-staffing costs relating to Housing Management of £84k, Support and Central Management Costs of £39k, Incentive to Move Scheme £30k and Tenant Participation of £27k.

 

Supervision and Management Special Services – Favourable Variance £239k

 

This budget was split into three areas: Ty Iolo Homeless Hostel, Vale temporary accommodation and Vale Special Services.  The term 'Special Services' related to communal costs for all housing areas throughout the Vale of Glamorgan, including sheltered accommodation, such as grass cutting, rubbish removal, communal lighting, security, warden salaries and environmental improvements.  The favourable variance was the result of a favourable variance of £25k at Ty Iolo mainly due to staffing and an adverse variance £3k on Temporary Accommodation.  There was a favourable variance of £217k on Special Services, which was made up of £84k relating to Premises and a saving on Sheltered Schemes of £133k.

 

Housing Repairs – Favourable Variance £78k

 

There were favourable variances of £308k on responsive repair call-outs and £47k on planned maintenance, mainly as a consequence of the housing stock being brought up to Welsh Housing Quality Standard.  Expenditure on gas servicing, asbestos, fencing and other cyclical charges have all reduced compared to previous years, resulting in a favourable variance of £144k. These favourable variances were offset by an adverse variance of £421k on void costs.

 

Capital Financing Costs – Favourable Variance £213k

 

Interest charges were less than originally estimated due to a lower borrowing requirement during the year as a result of a larger revenue contribution to capital and in addition, the Council’s loan pool rate was lower.

 

Rents, Rates, Taxes and Other Charges – Favourable Variance £15k

 

This was due to an underspend on Council Tax payable on long term voids.

 

Increase in the Provision for Bad and Doubtful Debts – Favourable Variance £5k

 

It was anticipated that the bad debt provision would need to be increased by £75k. The outturn was mainly in line with this at £70k. However, the impact of further welfare reforms would put added pressure on rent collection rates in the future.

 

Capital Expenditure from Revenue Account – Adverse Variance £798k

 

Savings within the HRA as outlined above had made it possible to increase the contribution made from revenue to capital expenditure.  This had led to a decrease in the prudential borrowing requirement for the 2016/17 Housing Investment Programme.

 

Rent Collected on Dwellings – Favourable variance £41k

 

This favourable variance was largely due to a lower level of voids and write-offs undertaken during the year.

 

Non Dwelling Rents – Breakeven

 

Rents collected on garages were as budgeted.

 

Interest Received – Breakeven

 

Interest received was as budgeted.

 

Charges for Services and Facilities – Favourable Variance £24k

 

The level of income received for services and facilities was higher than anticipated.

 

Capital

 

Council, on 2nd March, 2016 (Minute No. 884) agreed the Authority’s capital budget for 2016/17.

 

Attached at Appendix 3 of the officer’s report was a breakdown of the 2016/17 Capital Programme by scheme.  The overall outturn for this Committee was a variance of £2.9m.  The major variances were outlined by the officer as:

 

Welsh Housing Quality Standards (WHQS) External Works - Expenditure brought forward of £488k

 

There was £737k of expenditure on the walls, roof and windows elements of this scheme which were undertaken ahead of plan.   There were however contractor delays in undertaking external work to the Hawksley and Airey properties and it was anticipated this work would be completed this financial year.  It had therefore been requested that £249k be carried forward into 2017/18 to enable completion.

 

Jenner Road - Slippage £215k

 

The roofing element of this scheme was complete while there was outstanding work on the walls element.  There had been delays in the scheme due to difficulties in gaining access to properties and weather issues earlier in the year.  It had therefore been requested that £215k be carried forward into 2017/18 to allow for completion of these schemes.

 

St. Lukes - Favourable variance £204k

 

This scheme was completed with payment of the final account and retention outstanding.  Slippage of £81k had been requested due to a revised specification which resulted in improved rates for the contract. 

 

Williams Crescent - Favourable variance of £777k

 

The roofing and walls elements of this scheme were completed with the settlement of the final account outstanding.  The communal element of the works would be undertaken in 2017/18 and therefore slippage of £277k had been requested. 

 

Emergency Works - Favourable variance of £409k

 

There were various emergency works carried out in 2016/17 for which final accounts had yet to be settled.  It had therefore been requested that £51k be carried forward to 2017/18.  A new budget had been included in the 2017/18 Capital Programme.

 

Aids and Adaptations - Favourable variance £210k

 

Welsh Government Enable grant funding of £44k was received in 2016/17 thus reducing the expenditure against this budget.  There was a new budget already included in the Capital Programme for 2017/18 therefore no slippage was required.

 

Regeneration - Slippage £196k

 

The demolition works at Brecon Court were nearing completion and it had been requested that £196k was carried over to 2017/18.

 

Common Parts - Slippage of £234k

 

There had been a delay in undertaking these works as the start of works were reliant upon external works being completed.  Work had commenced and would be ongoing and therefore it had been requested that £234k be carried forward into 2017/18.

 

Environmental Works - £245k slippage

 

There were ongoing environmental works, including works to garages, highways and the Buttrills Scheme. It had therefore been requested that £245k was carried forward to 2017/18.

 

New Build - Variance of £280k

 

Work had commenced on site at Francis Road, Barry to build three new bungalows and they were due for completion in August 2017.  A budget for this scheme had already been included in 2017/18 Capital Programme therefore no slippage was required.

 

ICF Longmeadow Court - Slippage of £141k

 

This scheme was funded by ICF grant.  Works started on site in February 2017 and were nearing completion.  It had been requested that £141k was carried forward.

 

Castleland Renewal Area - Slippage of £171k

 

The slippage was mainly required due to the delay in works to Gladstone Park of £66k where a redesign took place in order to maximum works that could be undertaken from available resources and £60k at Coigne Terrace as no tenders were initially received when first sent out to tender and therefore the scheme had to be retendered.

 

Penarth Renewal Area - Slippage of £161k   

 

Works started in Autumn 2016 to complete remedial works.  Due to difficulties with neighbours agreeing access for scaffold to be erected in their gardens, the work was delayed while the issue was resolved.  Work began again in March 2017 and was now progressing.  The carry forward of £161k had been requested to continue works in 2017/18.

 

Reserves

 

The officer advised that a reserve was an appropriation from a revenue account and did not constitute a cost of service until the expenditure was eventually incurred.  A reserve did not cover a present obligation or liability and was a voluntary means of setting aside monies for future requirements either capital or revenue.

 

A provision was a charge to revenue and was included as part of the cost of the relevant service at the point the provision was created.  A provision covered a present obligation or liability that had occurred to a past event and was compulsory under accounting regulations.

 

The Committee's reserves, as at 31st March, 2017 were attached at Appendix 4 of the officer’s report.

 

Managing Director's Emergency Powers had been used to approve slippage of some budgets underspent in 2016/17 into 2017/18.  This would fund the completion of schemes as shown in Appendix 6.

 

Major Repairs Allowance - The Major Repairs Allowance (MRA) was a grant given to the Authority by the Welsh Government and could be used for capital expenditure on Housing Revenue Account (HRA) assets.  The Authority’s MRA for 2016/17 was £2.77m.  Works totalling £15.533m were spent on major improvements to the Council's housing stock, £2.77m of which was funded from the MRA, £268k from Housing capital receipts, £78k from WG grant and £7.017m from Housing revenue and reserves, as well as £5.4m of unsupported borrowing. 

 

After careful consideration of the officer’s report, the Committee

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the financial measures taken and proposed within the report be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To make Members aware of the provisional financial position and actions that had been taken.

 

 

134     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 31ST MAY, 2017 (DEHS) -

 

The Finance Support Manager presented the report to advise the Committee of the position in respect of revenue and capital expenditure for the period 1st April to 31st May, 2017 regarding those revenue and capital budgets, which formed the Committee’s remit. 

 

Council on 1st March, 2017 (Minute Nos. 864, 863 and 862 respectively) approved the Revenue, Capital and Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Budgets for 2017/18.  Reports monitoring expenditure were brought to the Committee on a regular basis.

 

Revenue

 

The Revenue Budget and projected outturn for 2017/18 were shown in the table below.  As it was very early in the financial year, the current forecast was for a balanced budget.


 

 

Revenue Budget

 

Probable Outturn

Variance

(+ ) Favourable

(-) Adverse

 

£000

£000

£000

Public   Sector Housing (HRA)

(131)

(131)

0

Council   Fund Housing

 

1,126

1,126

0

Private   Sector Housing

 

11,003

11,003

0

Regulatory   Services

 

2,166

2,166

0

Youth   Offending Service

 

701

701

0

TOTAL

 

14,865

14,865

0

 

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

 

Public Sector Housing (HRA) - The HRA was expected to outturn on target and any underspends in year will be offset by additional contributions to Capital Expenditure thus reducing the reliance on Unsupported Borrowing.

 

Council Fund Housing – As it was at an early stage in the financial year, it was anticipated that this budget would outturn on target.

 

Private Housing - As it was very early in the financial year there was currently no variance to the profiled budget.

 

Regulatory Services - The allocation of £2.1666m 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 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. 

 

2017/18 Savings Targets

 

No savings targets had been allocated to services that fell under the Homes and Safe Communities Scrutiny Committee for the current financial year to date. 


Capital

 

Appendix 2 of the officer’s report detailed financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 31st May, 2017.

 

Members were advised that Appendix 2 included requests for unspent committed expenditure to be slipped from 2016/17 into 2017/18.  A request for the slippage had been approved by Managing Director’s Emergency Powers.

 

Salisbury Road Boiler - A delegated authority had been approved to allocate £45k of the Social Services Asset Renewal budget to the renewal of the boiler at the Youth Offending office at Salisbury Road.

 

Castleland Renewal Area - A delegated authority had been approved to increase the Capital Programme by £85k to continue upgrading the Gladstone Gardens by upgrading the footways; improving the access points into the park; installing new site furniture; improving the pond; and the planting of trees, shrubs and bulbs.  This was to be funded from s106 monies.

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position with regard to the 2017/18 Revenue and Capital budgets be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

That Scrutiny Committee note the position with regards to the 2017/18 Revenue and Capital monitoring.

 

 

135     END OF YEAR (2016-17) PERFORMANCE REPORT: AN INCLUSIVE AND SAFE VALE AND TARGET SETTING UPDATE FOR 2017-18 (DEHS) -

 

The Operational Manager for Public Housing Services presented the report, the purpose of which was to present end of year performance results for the period 1st April to 31st March, 2016/17 for the Corporate Plan Wellbeing Outcome 1, An Inclusive and Safe Vale.  The report also presented the proposed targets for improvement for 2017-18 for new local and national performance indicators aligned to the Corporate Plan Wellbeing Outcomes.

 

The overall performance for the period 2016/17 as aligned with the Corporate Plan Wellbeing Outcome was attached at Appendix A to the officer’s report.  The Corporate Performance Measures Framework for 2017-18 and associated targets as aligned to the Council's Well-being Outcomes were agreed by Cabinet on 3rd April, 2017.

 

The officer advised that overall, an Amber RAG status had been attributed to Wellbeing Outcome 1, An Inclusive and Safe Vale, to reflect the good progress towards achieving improved outcomes for residents and Vale of Glamorgan customers during the year. 

 

At end of year, planned activities relating to 10 out of 16 Corporate Plan actions under this Well-being Outcome had been completed giving a performance status of Amber for actions.  Good progress was made in relation to four Corporate Plan actions (IS006, IS010, IS013, IS016) although minor delays meant that these would now be carried forward into 2017-18, resulting in an Amber status being attributed to these actions.

 

The two remaining actions were attributed a Red status to reflect the limited progress made this year.  These related to delivery of the Financial Inclusion Strategy (IS002) and the Council Housing Improvement Programme (IS007).  Whilst some progress had been made in a number of areas of the Financial Inclusion Strategy, overall progress was limited.  Delays occurred earlier on in the year as a result of membership changes within the Financial Inclusion Group.  Subsequent plans to present an amended action plan in December were put on hold in order to reflect the Welsh Government’s recently published Financial Inclusion Strategy Action Plan.  This work would now be carried forward into 2017-18 as outlined in the Housing and Building Services Service Plan (HS/A024 and HS/A025).  Slippage in completing all internal and external (WHQS) Wales Housing Quality Scheme works had affected the delivery of the Council Housing Improvement programme.  Whilst internal works were largely complete (99.95%), significant delays in external works were due to onsite ecology related issues which had prohibited when works can start and finish, and a shortage of materials.  Currently 61.54% of external works had been completed with the remaining anticipated to be completed by the end of 2017 in line with Welsh Government. 

 

An overall Amber performance status had been attributed to measures contributing to this Well-being Outcome.  Of the 18 measures for which end of year data was available, 11 had met or exceeded target (Green), 2 measures were within 10% of target (Amber) with the remaining 5 measures being attributed a Red RAG status.  These measures related to: Communities First clients entering employment (CPM/070); Communities First Clients who reported feeling more confident about seeking employment (CPM/069); tenant satisfaction with the outcome of an anti-social behavioural complaint (CPM/030); housing stock where work that met the WHQS had been completed (CPM/009); and tenant satisfaction with WHQS works (CPM/011).

 

At the time of target setting this year (April 2017), data was only available for Quarter 3 and it was therefore not possible to propose targets for a number of new annual performance indicators which were set to establish baseline performance in 2016-17.  In addition, a new national performance indicator dataset was agreed at the end of April for 2017-18 and there was a need to set targets for those measures which we had previously collected and reported but now no longer formed part of our Corporate Performance Measures Framework.

 

Appendix B outlined the proposed targets for these measures.  All proposed targets were supported by a rationale, explaining why the target had been set at that level.  The rationale would clearly provide the reason that had driven the decision to set target at that level.  

 

Of the two measures where a target was required for 2017-18, it was not possible to propose a target for one (CPM/120) which related to the percentage of all domestic violence incidents which were repeat offences.  This data was no longer collected by the Police force, consequently this measure had been proposed for deletion.  The remaining target related to a national public accountability measure performance (CPM/244 (PAM/023) - percentage of food establishments which were 'broadly compliant' with food hygiene standards. The proposed target for the measure had been set to improve on the previous year's (2016-17) performance.

 

The consideration of these proposed performance improvement targets by Members was a key feature of the internal challenge process.  Following review/endorsement by the Committee, the performance targets would be reported to Cabinet on 31st July for approval.

 

The Chairman introduced the Operational Manager for Customer Relations to discuss digital inclusion and how it related to the Financial Inclusion Strategy addressed within the End of Year Report.  The officer advised that the primary aim of digital inclusion was to ensure that all members of the public had access to skills and services to help them progress.  This tied directly into the Financial Inclusion Strategy as it would support Vale of Glamorgan residents with access to job markets, benefit claim support as well as general social inclusion. 

 

Target groups and marketing plans were identified following information gathered as part of the “Get the Vale Online” initiative.  The initiative consisted of drop in centres, 14 provided on a weekly basis, across the whole of the Vale of Glamorgan and provided workshops to develop skills and confidence to use technology and/or access other supportive organisations.  Demographic statistics were also collected during the initiative that would continue to inform the Digital Inclusion Strategy update in the future.  The Operational Manager for Customer Relations advised that the statistics would be made available to the Committee Members following the meeting via the Scrutiny Support Officer.  An update to the Digital Inclusion Strategy was crucial to address the increasing amount of customers accessing services online. 

 

Following all officer presentations and during discussion of the End of Year Report Appendices, the following questions were raised by Committee Members:

 

Member Questions

Officer Response

With regards to Service Action Plan HS/A001: Deliver the relevant parts of the Financial Inclusion Strategy Action Plan and refine the strategy based on any emerging national policy decisions / new local evidence, how are the younger generations considered within this to gain access to Universal Credit?

The Operational Manager for Public Housing Services provided a brief context to the Financial Inclusion Strategy (FIS) for the benefit of Members new to the Committee. 

 

The Strategy and its Action Plan were co-ordinated by the Financial Inclusion Working Group who benefitted from input from both the Public Service Board and Shared Bodies Education Working Group.  Unfortunately the Chairman’s seat on the Financial Inclusion Working Group was currently vacant and Action Plan points had stalled due to this.

 

Changes to the Strategy were due to be presented to the Public Service Board in   December 2017 however, the Welsh Government had recently published its own Financial Inclusion Strategy Action Plan.  The Group had therefore agreed to review the actions, taking the national Action Plan into account, and once the new permanent Chairman was in place, to appoint leads and timescales.  Actions in relation to refining and delivering the FIS remained within the 2017/18 Housing and Building Services Service Plan.

 

With regards to access to the Universal Credit application process, the Council recognised the importance of necessary computer skills required to make an application and were aware of the 12 weeks assessment period following an application.  As a Housing Department this was a recognised challenge and a lot of work was required to address this in the future.  The Vale of Glamorgan Council were proud of the work already received around benefit reform and were pleased to say that there had not been any tenant evictions to date following reforms.  Feedback from tenants about this had been very positive.

 

The Head of Shared Regulatory Services also advised that the Wales Money Lending Unit was covered under the remit of the Shared Regulatory Services and fitted within the Financial Inclusion topic.  The Unit had been operating over the last 8 years and would be of interest to the Committee in the future.   

 

The Chairman thanked the officers for their input and suggested that a report on Financial Inclusion streams and methods of engaging residents with ICT be brought to the Committee sometime over the next municipal year.

The performance indicator CPM/030HS/M041: Percentage of tenants that were satisfied with the outcome of an anti-social behaviour complaint has a Red RAG status and negative direction of travel.  How were the Council improving on this?

The Operational Manager for Public Housing Services advised the Committee of the two staged approach for dealing with a complaint.  Stage 1 was to mediate with the person who had been complained about and explain the reasons why the complaint was justified.  This was followed by a request to stop the anti-social behaviour causing the complaint.  Stage 2 would be to convict or place an injunction if the request to stop had been ignored. 

 

As an organisation, it was very difficult to match an individual’s expectation / satisfaction of a complaint being mediated with the protocols and   responsibilities put upon the Council.  The Council had a duty of care towards vulnerable individuals and therefore would take a balanced approach to help resolve any issues.  Expectations surrounding a complaint would often be simple, however, the process for dealing with them was not. 

Appendix B described improvements required for Performance Indicator PAM/023: Percentage of food establishments which are “broadly compliant” with food hygiene standards.  How would this description compare to the more commonly recognised number grading system and could we adopt this to aid the general public’s understanding of what the   Council wished to achieve?

The Head of Shared Regulatory Services advised that the term “broadly compliant” was part of nationally set standards and the term did translate to food hygiene level 3.  The Vale of Glamorgan Council was aiming for a level 3 standard and had continually improved over the last two years.  The officer agreed that the understanding of the general public would be helped by using more commonly recognised numerical terms and would therefore take the point on board for the future.

Under Objective 2: Providing decent homes and safe communities, the population indicator CPM/130 (HS/M034): Number of homeless households per 1000 population (snapshot per quarter), there was no target figure.  Why was this?

The figures referred to were a national measure and the Vale of Glamorgan rated very well within the last national figures published.  The Operational Manager for Public Housing Services continued to advise that as the figures were national the Council was not required to set its own on a local level. 

There were very few statistics received from the police force included within the report.  This was concerning, what was the reason for this?

The Principal Community Safety Officer provided the Committee with an explanation as to the difficulty of collating police statistics.  Annual statistics from the police force could prove unreliable as the methods for categorising and collating the information was often changed on a yearly basis. 

 

Previously, the information gathered/categories assigned to an incident, at a first response stage, would often change following further investigation by police officers.  However, the police were now required to categorise an incident at the first response stage and were   unable to change at a later stage.  This resulted in information not being a true reflection of the incident.  Victims would also report incidents to Third Sector organisations and/or agencies, so statistics from the police were not an accurate overall picture.

Were the Council going to collect data, going forward, for the Performance   Indicator CPM/122 (SRS/M001): Reduction in the number of people falling victim to rogue traders?

The Head of Shared Regulatory Services highlighted the future actions referred to   within the performance indicator table in Appendix A of the officer’s report:

  • taking firm action against perpetrators;
  • raising awareness and equipping residents to avoid scams and incidents of doorstep crime;
  • homes of vulnerable residents were being equipped with call blockers to ensure that only telephone calls from friends and family were able to get through.

Data would be collected in the future now that the move to the single Tascomi database had taken place.  Two years of data would be required to produce accurate data.   

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the performance results and progress towards achieving key outcomes in line with the Corporate Plan Wellbeing 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 following review the proposed targets for 2017/18 aligned to Wellbeing Outcome 1 priorities be endorsed and recommended to Cabinet.

 

(3)       T H A T a report on Financial Inclusion Streams, including methods of engaging residents with ICT, be provided at a future committee meeting.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To ensure the Council was 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 so that it maximised its contribution to achieving the well-being goals for Wales.

 

(2)       To ensure the Council reported a relevant set of performance indicators against which it could demonstrate achievement of its Well-being Outcomes and consistently sets challenging yet realistic performance improvement targets for those priorities in line with requirements under the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009.

 

(3)       To keep Members of the Scrutiny Committee apprised of the Financial Inclusion Streams, including methods of engaging residents with ICT, adopted by the Council.

 

 

 

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