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HOMES AND SAFE COMMUNITIES SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 8th November, 2017.

 

Present:  Councillor Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson (Chairman); Councillors Mrs. C.A. Cave, Ms. A.M. Collins, Mrs. S.M. Hanks, K.F. McCaffer, M.J.G. Morgan and Mrs. R. Nugent-Finn.

 

Also present:  Mr. D. Dutch, Mr. A. Raybould and Ms. H. Smith (Tenant Working Group Representatives).

 

 

446     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –

 

These were received from Councillor M.R. Wilson (Vice-Chairman); Councillors Ms. B.E. Brooks, B.T. Gray and Mrs. G. Doyle (Tenant Working Group Representative).

 

 

447     MINUTES –

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 11th October, 2017 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

448     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

449     PRESENTATION – VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, DOMESTIC ABUSE AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE –

 

The Principal Community Safety Officer introduced Julie Grady as the new Domestic and Sexual Abuse Co-ordinator. 

 

The Domestic and Sexual Abuse Co-ordinator gave the presentation, the purpose of which was to apprise Members of the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Act (Wales) 2015. The Officer highlighted the four main objectives of the Act: 

  • To work towards the Welsh Government’s strategic priorities as supported by the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act across the Vale of Glamorgan;
  • Promote awareness of, and to prevent, protect and support victims;
  • Strengthen the strategic leadership and accountability for violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence (VAWDASV);
  • Improve the consistency, quality and joined up service provision in Wales.

In referring to the objectives above, the officer also stressed the importance of the Local Authority engaging in more preventative work and educating the younger generation.  A key part of educating younger people was to address the topic of a healthy relationship and what this looked like in the home.

 

Conversation amongst the Committee during the presentation was stimulated by three key questions.  Question 1 was “What is domestic and sexual violence?”  In response to this, a Tenant Working Group Representative wished to clarify whether the Act was gender specific. 

 

The Domestic and Sexual Abuse Co-ordinator confirmed that only the first title heading was gender specific and therefore the terms “domestic abuse” and “sexual violence” related to both men and women. 

 

The Chairman answered that domestic and sexual violence was related to mental and physical abuse.  A Member agreed with this statement and in response to the officer’s second question which was “Who does it happen to?”, the Member stated that it was often very difficult if not impossible to identify a victim. 

 

The officer was pleased that Members had made this comment and advised that tackling stereotypes was one of the main challenges around her work. 

 

A Tenant Working Group Representative also wished to add at this point that it was not only the perpetrators who were good at hiding abuse, it was also the victims themselves.  The Representative agreed with the level of importance assigned to the topics by the officer under the point of public safety and requested, with the Chairman’s permission, that a copy of the Act be forwarded to all Committee Members for further information.  The Chairman agreed and advised that the Act would be forwarded by the Democratic Services Officer.

 

In presenting her third question, “Why does abuse happen?” the officer added that abuse was often centred round gaining power and control over an individual.  Psychological abuse would develop over time and on average a victim would suffer 38 incidents of abuse before reporting.  It was important for the Council to know and recognise the early stages and signs of abuse so preventative measures could be put in place and have the most effect. 

 

On 25th April, 2017 the Council hosted a Domestic and Sexual Violence and Substance Misuse Development Day, the purpose of which was to improve joint working arrangements and was attended by over 100 service users.  Research and comments made during this event had been used to make progress in the following areas: 

  • Mapping of services (remit and gaps);
  • Improve specific referral pathways;
  • Jointly tackle complex needs; and
  • Opportunity networking.

Under the slide entitled “Moving Forward”, the officer listed the key action points that were now taking place following the “Making Connections” event.  As well as the action points listed below, the Principal Community Safety Officer advised the Committee that additional staff training was required so that joined up working was brought to the forefront of working practices.  This would ensure that all needs of the victim and perpetrator would be considered at the same time: 

  • Development of joint training;
  • Appoint a single point of contact;
  • Pilot of advocacy support team;
  • Complex needs hub;
  • Working regionally with Cardiff.

To further evidence the need for more effective joint working, the officer referred to a Domestic Homicide Review (DHR) within the Vale of Glamorgan.  In August 2016, Police attended the home of a Barry resident who was suffering from severe burns.  The individual died as a result of her injuries and the perpetrator was convicted of murder and currently serving a life sentence.  This incident had resulted in the Vale of Glamorgan’s first DHR since the introduction of them in 2011. 

 

The purpose of a DHR was to establish what lessons were to be learned from a domestic homicide regarding the way in which local professionals and organisations worked individually and together to safeguard victims.  The review would also identify clearly what those lessons were, both within and between agencies, how and within what timescales they would be acted upon, and what was expected to change as a result.  By applying the lessons learnt to service responses including changes to policies and procedures as appropriate, the Local Authority would be able to prevent domestic violence and abuse homicide and improve service responses for all domestic violence and abuse victims and their families through improved intra- and inter-agency working. 

 

The Officer then moved on to apprise the Committee of the National Training Framework on VAWDASV.  Under Section 15 of the Act and Section 16 of the Government of Wales Act 2016, the Local Authority had a statutory responsibility to deliver under two main functions: 

  • To provide consistent, proportionally disseminated training for relevant authorities to fundamentally improve the understanding of the general workforce and, therefore, the response to those who experienced VAWDASV;
  • To align existing specialist training to further professionalise the specialist sector, to improve consistency of specialist subject training provision nationally and set core requirements of specialist service provision.

The Vale of Glamorgan Council was promoting the Welsh Government’s Level One training for all Staff and Members.  This was an e-learning course based on the topic of domestic violence which was available to Members via MemberNet.  Also, whilst discussing the role of technology in providing training, the Domestic and Sexual Abuse Co-ordinator shared her hope that there would eventually be a joint information interface that all public safety partners would be able to view and utilise to create more joined up thinking and a higher level of communication amongst professionals.  The aim of the interface was to allow the service professionals to talk amongst themselves more frequently and accurately to avoid any miscommunication or details when supporting victims. 

 

The Chairman asked who would be responsible for funding the interface.  The Principal Community Safety Officer advised that the Vale of Glamorgan Council was currently researching and looking at current providers already on the market and hoped that in the next couple of months the Local Authority would be able to collate a business case to be presented to the Safer Vale Partnership.

 

The Chairman thanked the officer for her presentation on a summary of her work and offered to provide formal support if required when trying to generate a business case for the ICT interface.  The Chairman also endorsed a Member’s suggestion that more extensive training on violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence be arranged and offered to all Elected Members as soon as possible.

 

 

450     CCTV PROVISION WITHIN THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN (DEH) –

 

The Principal Community Safety Officer presented the report to provide an update regarding the current CCTV service provision within the Vale of Glamorgan following the service transfer to Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC).  A site visit was also undertaken on 8th November, 2017. 

 

The aim of the report was to provide Members with reassurance regarding the CCTV provision in the Vale of Glamorgan following the service transfer out of the local area.  In 2013, Cabinet approved the development of a business case for transferring the operational function of CCTV from the Vale of Glamorgan Council to BCBC.  Cabinet approved the business case on 20th October, 2014 and the operational CCTV service transferred and relocated to BCBC on 1st April, 2016. 

 

As part of the original business case it was agreed that the monitoring and strategic management of the service would be held by the Vale of Glamorgan Council and would sit within the Community Safety Team. 

 

In September 2016, a number of operational problems with the service were noted, including a large number of faults with the camera stock.  An improvement plan was agreed by Cabinet on 3rd July and had now been implemented resulting in significant operational improvements.  The service was now operating effectively and in line with service requirements.

 

The officer went on to advise that there were currently 77 CCTV cameras across the Vale of Glamorgan with 61 cameras located within the Barry area (15 covering priority areas), 12 in Penarth and 4 in Llantwit Major.  The cameras were actively monitored 125 hours per week by BCBC trained staff who liaised directly with the Police when suspicious activity was witnessed.  For the remaining 43 hours in the week the cameras would still be recording and if an incident occurred that required Police assistance, then a BCBC trained operator would be available to respond on an agreed overtime rate. 

 

A new maintenance agreement for the cameras had been negotiated for both the Vale and Bridgend, resulting in an increased number of maintenance visits per year and improved call out times.  The terms of the agreement included a same day engineer visit and a fully comprehensive maintenance and service package for the 15 cameras deemed as priority.  

 

With regard to monitoring the service, a performance management framework had been agreed and would be provided to the Vale on a monthly basis.  This process had commenced in September 2017 and the officer advised that she would provide the Committee Members with the incident statistics for October 2017 following the meeting.  The incident statistics related to: 

  • Number of incidents
  • Number of third party viewings
  • Number of play backs over the telephone
  • Number of cameras not fully operational.

The Principal Community Safety Officer highlighted that whilst CCTV was an excellent tool for preventing and detecting crime and disorder, it was also very costly to install, maintain and monitor.  It was not a statutory function for the Local Authority and therefore the expansion of CCTV relied heavily on provision of external funding.  Due to the reduced funding opportunities and costs, expansion of the CCTV system was limited and was only considered in areas of high priority.  There were other forms of crime prevention and detection that could be used in order to provide reassurance and incidents were managed on a case by case basis, to ensure that the most appropriate response was provided.

 

The Head of Housing and Building Services reminded Members of the limitations around the Local Authority’s financial budgets and that there would not be any further funding for CCTV in the future.  Therefore, the Local Authority would need to maintain the current supply as far as possible.  Both the Community Safety and Housing Teams had their own supply of mobile cameras which could be used at their disposal.  These cameras had been used in the past to tackle fly tipping issues and antisocial behaviour.  This in turn gave reassurance to the general public without having to find extra capital and revenue costs.  The Head of Service concluded his statement by summarising that the mobile cameras would be a cheaper solution but had some of the same benefits.  He then reiterated the Principal Community Safety Officer’s statement that cameras often “moved” crime rather than “stopped” crime. 

 

To ensure that the service provided by BCBC was communicated and transparent with partners, and internally within the Local Authority, a number of engagement visits had taken place or were in the process of being organised.  Ongoing meetings with South Wales Police ensured that information was exchanged and that priority areas maximised the use of the CCTV resource, Business PACT and Neighbourhood Watch Committee. 

 

Now that the responsibility for CCTV provision had moved back to the Community Safety Team, publicity to involve the community, appeal for information and to inform them of the impact of CCTV was in the process of being drafted.  It was hoped that this would raise awareness and assist further in the prevention and detection of crime and disorder. 

 

In conclusion, the Principal Community Safety Officer apprised the Committee that the budget for the CCTV provision was due to be transferred to the Community Safety section in November 2017.  The annual cost for the CCTV service, including maintenance and circuit charges, for the first year of the joint service was £91,220.  Discussions were taking place between BCBC officers and Vale of Glamorgan officers to identify ways to work together to be able to provide more sustainable and economic services. 

 

A Member asked the officer how much a new camera would cost to install.  In reply, the Principal Community Safety Officer advised that if a need was identified then a site survey would be undertaken.  The site survey would assess the area and what equipment, installation and other maintenance costs would be required.  The cost for the camera unit itself at around a few thousand pounds was considerably lower than the installation costs.  The purchase and installation costs would then need to be followed by a yearly maintenance cost as well as monitoring costs.  Therefore, each camera installation would be different, based on the location and equipment required.

 

A Member thanked the officer for a very informative and interesting site visit arranged on the morning of the Committee and asked whether a viewing station was still planned for the Vale of Glamorgan.  The officer confirmed that a meeting on this matter would be taking place on Friday, 10th November and the hope was that the viewing station would be held in the Barry Police Station.  However, there was not currently a fibre link in place for that building.  Discussions were underway with the Police service around the installation costs of a fibre link.  The Local Authority would still need to research other possible Local Authority sites before a decision was made.  This would ensure that the best location and the most cost effective location was chosen. 

 

A Member asked if all 77 cameras were currently operational.  In response, the officer advised that due to the nature of the technology, it was not possible to have 100% of the cameras operational at the same time.  Once a repair was established or a part was ordered, there would be a delay on the works taking place.  There were currently four cameras out of action pending a contract bill following a site survey assessment. 

 

A Tenant Working Group Representative queried if there were any dummy cameras in the Vale of Glamorgan, to which the officer confirmed that there were no dummy cameras in operation in the Vale of Glamorgan.

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the current arrangements for the provision of CCTV in the Vale be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the incident statistics for October 2017 be provided to the Committee Members following the Committee meeting.

 

Reasons for recommendations

(1)       To provide reassurance to Members regarding the CCTV provision in the Vale of Glamorgan following the service transfer to Bridgend County Borough Council.

 

(2)       That Members are aware of the incident statistics collated since September 2017.

 

 

451     CUSTOMER SERVICE STRATEGY (HOUSING) – SIX MONTHLY MONITORING REPORT (DEH) –

 

The Head of Housing and Building Services advised that the Customer Service Strategy had been approved by Cabinet in February 2017 and incorporated feedback from the Committee.  One of the recommendations was to provide Committee with six monthly monitoring reports.  The report presented to Members included progress against the actions identified in the operational delivery plan attached at Appendix A.

 

There had been significant progress with implementation and the majority of actions were either complete or on target to be completed by the target date.  There were however a number of actions which were either not yet completed or were falling slightly behind.  The standard Red, Amber and Green classifications had been used to highlight the progress against each action.  Green represented all actions which were complete or on target, Amber was used for actions that were at risk of missing target and Red was used for actions that had already missed target or were very likely to miss the target. 

 

A number of steps had been taken to make it easier for tenants to get in touch directly with the Housing Team and to access important information.  Two tenants’ newsletters had been posted to all tenants and each edition had included a wide range of news regarding community events, advice on benefits and general information.  Both editions to date had also contained a full list of staff in the Neighbourhood Team, including the areas they covered, direct telephone numbers and e-mail addresses.  The officer advised that the next edition was due to be published in Spring 2018.

 

The officer commended the work of the Contact One Vale Centre (C1V), however, the Local Authority also wished to promote direct contact between tenants and officers to encourage greater progress and communication.  On the topic of communication, the officer advised that the new apprentice, in the Housing Team, had started in their post and was undertaking research into advancing electronic access to services and reporting so that tenants were more able to access online services. 

 

There were a number of ongoing actions designed to improve information provided to customers, these included improving the information on the external website and introducing a “self-service” ethos to tenants, for example, report repairs, check rent balances and update a re-housing application online.  Prior to going live, further work was required in respect of Welsh translation to ensure that customers were able to correspond with the Council in both Welsh and English.  On this matter, the officer advised the Committee that currently there was not an immediate result to tenants’ enquiries at the first point of contact as the tenant had to contact the officer to start a request process and wait for a result.  However, the Local Authority wanted to produce a more automated process and the development of online services would quicken the “first contact to end result” process. 

 

Work had been undertaken to improve the customer contact experience, including developing the “knowledge base” used by call handlers in the Council’s C1V.  The C1V staff were able to use more detailed information to resolve more Housing calls at first point of contact.  In addition, C1V staff were able to access Housing’s back office IT systems in order to confirm rent balances and payment details.  This resulted in fewer calls needing to be transferred and less service requests for call backs being raised.

 

The officer highlighted that the “customer first” culture within the Housing Department had radically changed in the last three years.  The team was far more visible and proactive in their roles.  The team members themselves had developed a “team aim” and a suite of “values” that they would demonstrate when dealing with customers.  A significant number of team members had also taken part in the “Aspiring Leaders” programme which had equipped them with a range of tools and techniques to become more effective and better able to assist customers.

 

In referring to the Operational Delivery Plan and its objectives, the Head of Housing and Building Services advised that the strategy was broadly on target, and progress had been made in a number of areas.  Work was already underway to address some of the Red action points: 

  • Undertake service testing to review quality of customer experience
  • Consult with local residents to identify key issues and future estate priorities
  • Publish dates and times for estate walkabouts in advance and encourage tenants to join in.

Under Objective 1: Embedding a Customer First Culture within the Housing Team, the officer advised that the action point to undertake service testing to review quality of customer experience was a little behind schedule, however, following a question from the Committee Chairman as to when this would be completed, the officer confirmed by the end of the current financial year.  Work had just started with the Tenant Working Groups to set up meetings to arrange plans in the future.

 

The action point, “to Consult with local residents to identify key issues and future estate priorities”, was behind schedule, however, the first draft of the Estate Action Plan had been seen by the Head of Housing and Building Services and officer audits were currently underway before the draft was taken to the Tenant Working Groups.  Following this, the Estate Action Plan would go out for consultation. 

 

The officer addressed the third action point categorised as red under Objective 3: “Developing the ways customers can access housing services”.  The action point to publicise dates and times for estate walkabouts in advance and encourage tenants to join in was ongoing and the officer confirmed that estate walkabouts had begun.  Elected Members had also been involved in the walkabouts, however, there had been a limited take up from members of the public. 

 

A Member asked if the future scheduled dates for estate walkabouts could be e‑mailed to Committee Members following the meeting to encourage their involvement, to which the officer agreed to share the dates via the Democratic Services Officer.

 

The Chairman referred to the action point titled “improve quality of information held on the Housing pages of the external website” and noted that the item was currently labelled as Amber.  Given the importance of this action point, the Chairman asked if the improvements would be made by March 2018 as indicated.  The officer confirmed that work on the improvements had already begun and the new apprentice within the Housing Team had started to look at other external websites and would be liaising with tenants to help build and redesign the online web pages.  The officer was confident that improvements would be delivered by March 2018. 

 

In relation to the one week notice currently given to housing tenants to move into a new property, the Chairman queried whether this notice period was too short.  In response, the Head of Housing and Building Services advised that if a tenant’s contract was terminated in the usual way, then the Council would have four weeks notice before an assessment was carried out on the property and any maintenance works carried out ahead of the property being advertised on Homes4U. 

 

A Member stated that she was unaware of the content contained in the Tenant Newsletter and asked if the previously distributed newsletters could be uploaded to MemberNet for information.  Also, on that matter, could future newsletters also be uploaded onto the MemberNet page.  The officer was happy to agree that the previously distributed newsletters be made available to Members via MemberNet following the Committee meeting.  Also, in response to a further request raised by the member, the officer agreed to share the dates of future estate walkabout events so that members may join events in their local Ward.

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the six monthly monitoring report in relation to the Customer Service Strategy (Housing) be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the dates for future Estate Walkabout Events be provided to Committee Members.

 

(3)       T H A T previously published and future tenant newsletter editions be uploaded to MemberNet.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To ensure the actions identified in the Strategy are progressed.

 

(2)       That Members are aware of the event details to help promote and take part in the events.

 

(3)       That Members are aware of information provided to tenants and are able to refer to previous editions for information.

 

 

452     2ND QUARTER SCRUTINY DECISION TRACKING OF RECOMMENDATIONS AND UPDATED WORK PROGRAMME SCHEDULE 2017/18 (MD) –

 

Members were advised of progress in relation to the Scrutiny Committee’s recommendations and asked to confirm the updated work programme schedule for 2017/18.

 

The Scrutiny Support Officer drew the Committee’s attention to the recent additions on page 2 of the work programme, the first of which was the addition of three further presentations from the Principal Community Safety Officer.  The second was a recommendation from Cabinet for the Committee to receive the six monthly monitoring report in relation to the operational delivery of the Vale Timebanking project.

 

The Timebanking project offered potential to increase levels of volunteering, participation and engagement amongst Council tenants.  It was a creative way of incentivising people to take an interest in their communities.  In order to pilot Timebanking within the Vale, an organisation called Spice would be used to manage the introduction of the scheme.  Spice was founded in South Wales as a social enterprise which developed a unique time-based currency referred to as credits.  For every hour participants “deposit” in a timebank through volunteering, they were then able to “withdraw” equivalent support themselves.  There were several models for Timebanking.  The option that would appear to best meet the needs of Vale of Glamorgan tenants was based on rewards schemes.  Rather than volunteers “withdrawing” an hour of another volunteer’s time, they were able to claim a time credit voucher.  Credit would then be redeemed in various places throughout the UK, including cinemas, leisure centres and sporting events.  Activities “cost” different amount of credits, therefore the number of hours collected through volunteering would determine the activities accessed. 

 

Timebanking brought many benefits including making use of assets and resources within a community or group; building social networks for people; encouraging people to work together; and gaining new skills.  The introduction of a pilot Timebanking project within the Vale of Glamorgan was agreed by Cabinet on 23rd October, 2017. 

 

The Chairman suggested that the second presentation from the Principal Community Safety Officer entitled “Prevention of Terrorism” be added to the forward work programme under January 2018.  Also, that the invitation to Llamau be set for the same month.  The Committee agreed with both of the Chairman’s suggestions.

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the status of actions listed in Appendix A to the report be approved and the following actions deemed completed:

 

12 July 2017

Min. No. 135 – End of   Year (2016-17) Performance Report: An Inclusive and Safe Vale and Target   Setting Update for 2017-18 (DEHS) – Recommended

(2)   That following review the proposed targets   for 2017/18 aligned to Wellbeing Outcome 1 priorities be endorsed and   recommended to Cabinet.

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

(2)  All   the Scrutiny Committees’ comments have been incorporated into a report which   IDT submitted to the Cabinet meeting on 31st July.

Cabinet, on 31st   July, noted the Scrutiny Committees’ comments.

(Min No C38 refers)

Completed

(3)   Added to work programme schedule.

Completed

06 September 2017

Min. No. 233 – The Youth Justice Plan 2017/18 (DSS)   – Recommended

(2)   That a report on the effect of Court closures   for the YOS and its service users be brought to the Committee at a future   date.

Added to work programme   schedule.

Completed

Min. No. 236 – Environment and Neighbourhoods   Strategy (Housing) – Six Monthly Monitoring Report (DEH) – Recommended

(2)   That a report detailing estate gradings   and improvement works to be planned in the future following neighbourhood   feedback be presented to Committee at a later date.

(3)   That a report on the remit of the   Community Investment and Involvement Officer posts and the expected outcomes   through the officers’ work be brought to the Committee at a future date.

(2)   Added   to work programme schedule.

Completed

(3)   Added to work programme schedule.

Completed

Min. No. 238 - 1st Quarter Scrutiny   Decision Tracking of Recommendations and Update Work Programme Schedule   2017/18 (MD) – Recommended

(3)   That the work programme schedule attached   at Appendix C to the report be approved and uploaded to the Council’s website   once including the six monthly report from the Civil Protection Unit.

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

Completed

 

(2)       T H A T the changes to the forward work programme as suggested by the Chairman and noted above be approved and once made, the work programme be uploaded to the Council’s website.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

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

 

(2)       For information.