HOMES AND SAFE COMMUNITIES SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
Minutes of a meeting held on 14th February, 2018.
Present: Councillor Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson (Chairman); Councillor M.R. Wilson (Vice-Chairman); Councillors Mrs. C.A. Cave, Miss. A.M. Collins, B.T. Gray, S.J. Griffiths, Mrs. S.M. Hanks, 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).
699 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –
These were received from Councillor Ms. B.E. Brooks and Mrs. G. Doyle (Tenant Working Group Representative).
700 MINUTES –
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 17th January, 2018 be approved as a correct record, subject to any reference made to the term “Management Companies” being amended to “Umbrella Companies” within Minute No. 605 – Presentation: Housing Solutions and Llamau Services in the Vale of Glamorgan.
701 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –
No declarations were received.
702 ANNOUNCEMENTS –
The Chairman welcomed Councillor Stephen Griffiths, who would be replacing Councillor McCaffer on the Committee going forward.
The Chairman drew the Committee’s attention to a letter received from Shelter Cymru offering their regretful resignation from the Committee. A report to consider the Co-opted, Non-voting Observer Representatives would be brought to the Committee ahead of the Council’s Annual Meeting. The Chairman requested that any suggestions for alternative organisations be considered by Members ahead of the aforementioned report.
The Chairman confirmed that since the last Committee meeting, when the request was raised, a letter had been sent to the Umbrella Companies for local lettings and rental agencies to express the advantages of accepting paper bonds from Council tenants. The Chairman advised that any subsequent responses would be shared with the Committee when received.
703 PRESENTATION: COMMUNITY COHESION –
The Chairman welcomed Ms. Siân Sanders as the Community Cohesion Regional Co-Ordinator for Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan and advised the Committee that Ms. Sanders’ presentation was the third of four scheduled presentations delivered by the Community Safety Team under the Principal Community Safety Officer.
The Community Cohesion Regional Co-Ordinator set out the aims of her presentation: to provide an overview of her role as Regional Community Cohesion Co-Ordinator, the National Community Cohesion Delivery Plan and some key aspects of local Vale of Glamorgan cohesion work and began by advising Committee of the Community Cohesion definition as adopted in Wales:
“Community Cohesion is what must happen in all communities to enable different groups of people to get on well together. A key contributor to community cohesion is integration, which is what must happen to enable new residents and existing residents to adjust to one another.”
As well as the UK Government’s three foundations to achieve its vision of integrated and cohesive communities:
(i) people from different backgrounds have similar life opportunities;
(ii) people knowing their rights and responsibilities;
(iii) people trusting one another and trusting local institutions to act fairly.
(Department for Communities and Local Government UK Government 2008)
Moving on to the topic of the Community Cohesion Strategy, the Co-Ordinator advised that in 2009 the Welsh Government launched their National Community Cohesion Strategy, ‘Getting on Together.’ The approach of the Strategy was broadly similar to that of the UK Government but distinct in the sense that it outlined the potential of social and economic deprivation to undermine community cohesion, recognising that even a community that was relatively homogenous in terms of race and religion, could become segregated if there were major inequalities in outcomes.
Since 2014 the Welsh Government had funded the eight Community Cohesion Co-Ordinators across Wales. Between them, they covered all 22 of the Welsh Local Authorities, about 2-3 each on a regional basis. The National Strategy was now accompanied by a Delivery Plan, which detailed four strategic objectives that the Co-Ordinators must deliver locally:
- Objective 1: work at a strategic level to break down barriers to inclusion and integration across marginalised groups;
- Objective 2: work at a local level to break down barriers to inclusion and integration for particular groups and communities;
- Objective 3: supporting migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and host communities during the integration process;
- Objective 4: tackling discrimination, hostility, tensions and extremism.
In conclusion, the Co-Ordinator informed Committee of five pieces of work currently underway or soon to be delivered within the Vale of Glamorgan in 2018:
The Community Cohesion Group (CCG) was a liaison body between the local community, Local Authority and Police, to be an effective intelligence gathering and tension monitoring tool. The key purpose of the CCG was to build the local communities’ trust and confidence in services to help inform the Local Authority’s approach going forward. This ensured that the Local Authority was responsive and proactive in addressing community concerns.
The Joint Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan CONTEST Board was a recent merger of the Vale of Glamorgan with the Cardiff CONTEST Board, which was the local partnership board for the National Counter-Terrorism Strategy CONTEST. The Board allowed for effective information sharing across each of the four strands of CONTEST – Protect, Prepare, Pursue and Prevent.
An action emerging from the most recent CONTEST Board was for the Vale’s ‘Prevent’ Lead Officer and the Community Cohesion Co-Ordinator to advise and support the Vale Safeguarding Officers on mainstream training on ‘Prevent’ and the Modern Slavery Act 2015. This would support local staff to identify those who may be vulnerable to radicalisation and those who may be victims of trafficking.
Migration Trend Reports would be developed and shared with the CCG and other key officers in the Council to promote an understanding of patterns of settlement for migrants, black and minority ethnic groups and religious communities living in the Vale of Glamorgan. The most recent CCG included a presentation on this and was useful in identifying where EU nationals, particularly from accession countries, were living in the Vale. This would also support South Wales Police to identify any correlation with hate crime data.
An Intersectionality Event had been organised (on Tuesday, 6th March, at the Memo Arts Centre, Barry) in partnership with the LGBT Café which looked at the progress made by the LGBT community and the challenges they still faced in 2018. Given the current level of media interest and misconceptions about the LGBT community, particularly in online circles, members of the group wanted to have a particular event which focused on the experiences of members of the trans and non-binary community. The event would support the Local Authority to progress towards Stonewall’s LGBT Champion Status and offered a chance for the Vale to deliver pioneering work for a marginalised community.
In response to a Member’s question on how community acceptance was encouraged during the settlement of Syrian refugee families, the Co-Ordinator advised that funding was made available from the Home Office to employ case workers who were assigned to specific families to support them through the transition.
On the same topic, a Tenant Working Group representative asked if the case workers also provided advice and guidance to established residents of the same community.
The Co-Ordinator advised that the additional funding available to support refugees arriving through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) scheme meant that such engagement with neighbours, where appropriate, was possible. The Resettlement Co-Ordinator continued to work closely with local residents to support the new arrivals’ successful integration. The Head of Housing and Building Services also added that resettlements to date within the Vale of Glamorgan had been successful. A lot of preplanning and conversations with local residents had taken place before case workers were even involved and the families were actually housed.
A Member referred to the anti-hate related bullying pilot model currently being developed in Cardiff schools which the Co-Ordinator raised during her Objective 4 description and asked how this was funded.
The Co-Ordinator confirmed that there was no direct funding for the pilot and that the schools involved had taken on any financial burden to help start / build the pilot model. Once the model had been established, and subject to evaluation, the model would be rolled out in the Vale in 2019.
A Member referred to the ‘inequalities of outcome’ point as part of the distinction for the Welsh Government Community Cohesion Strategy and highlighted that this presented a huge amount of possibilities going forward for the Local Authority to enhance opportunities. The Member asked the Co-Ordinator her thoughts on how the Council could enhance opportunities and therefore minimise inequalities.
The Co-Ordinator advised that a lack of contact with diverse groups often resulted in a lack of confidence and interaction therefore, the primary method for building confidence was to promote and educate on the diverse groups through as many avenues as possible such as social events.
In response to a Member asking how Councillors were able to find out about cohesion projects which were taking place within their Ward, the Co-Ordinator confirmed that the best avenue would be to contact her directly. The Chairman advised that the Co-Ordinator’s details were included in the presentation provided, that would be made available to Members electronically following the meeting, and thanked the Co-Ordinator for an interesting presentation.
704 PRESENTATION: MANAGING ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR FROM A SOCIAL LANDLORDS PERSPECTIVE –
The Head of Housing and Building Services introduced Nick Jones, the Housing and Strategic Projects Team Leader for the Council, and Kirsty Ellis, the Head of Housing Newydd Housing Association.
The Housing and Strategic Projects Team Leader began the joint presentation by highlighting the strong similarities in the work undertaken by both the Vale Housing Team and the Newydd Housing Association, who were the Vale’s largest housing partner. The aim of the presentation was to advise Members on the way anti-social behaviour (ASB) was dealt with by social landlords.
In addressing the definition of ASB as per the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, the Officer summarised matters that were considered anti-social and gave examples of common misconceptions that had been historically reported. There were several legislative Acts that defined the Council’s Policy and therefore its commitment to tackling ASB. The Policy affirmed the importance of prevention work. The Officer advised that prevention work to date had proved very effective and alongside pre-tenancy work, was a successful approach to supporting tenants. The pre-tenancy work taking place supported individuals to adjusting to tenancy terms with the aim of avoiding instances of ASB in the future.
The Officer went on to advise that it was a conscious decision not to adopt a formal procedure for tackling ASB as the Council wished to avoid mismatched perceptions and attempting to define ASB.
A twin track approach of enforcement alongside support was also affirmed in the Council’s Policy and every attempt was made to communicate with individuals, both reporting and causing the ASB. It was important to understand the wider picture to offer the right support and to share accurate information with relevant partners. The Officer advised that a daily Council Tenant ASB report was received from the Police to help the Council in tackling any behaviour and to offer support. This was a new but encouraging process. Other methods for dealing with cases of ASB were as follows:
- Victim centred action plans;
- Partnership work with the Safer Vale Team – joint visit(s), problem solving groups (monthly);
- South Wales Police - Information Sharing Project;
- Introduction of a restorative approach focusing on “vulnerability” to tackle the cause of ASB before it occurred.
The Head of Housing for the Newydd Housing Association began her section of the presentation by echoing the Council’s twin track approach, as mentioned above, in the work undertaken by Newydd. As a Registered Social Landlord (RSL), Newydd was mindful of tenancy terms and the common ASB complaints that may arise and would attempt to mitigate these issues when housing a tenant in a property. For example, in a new build property consideration would be given to the lifestyle of the tenant and adaptations would be made, such as carpet being added to the stairs to limit movement noise.
In cases of ASB, moving the individuals causing the issue would only move the issue to a different location rather than resolve the issue. Therefore, prevention work was crucial. The Newydd ASB Policy was now more “loosely” designed, to allow incidences to be dealt with on a case by case basis and to focus on the individual involved.
Newydd was also developing a new model of tenancy training to education tenants on their tenant responsibilities and support individuals to keep their tenancies as well as adopting a “smaller patches” approach to office working which allowed staff to better understand the needs of their clients. A key challenge for the organisation in the future would be the development of Universal Credit and the effect this would have on their clients and therefore tenancies.
A Member asked if there were statistics available on the number of individuals evicted due to ASB in comparison with rent arrears. In response, the Vale Officer advised that statistics were previously collected by the Welsh Government but that process had subsequently stopped. Statistics were recorded by the Local Authority but not for direct comparison purposes. It was often difficult to track the tenancy journey of individuals if they had continually switched between private and social tenancies. The Newydd Officer also added that the issue of rent arrears was the main cause of eviction, in the vast majority of cases, in comparison with ASB.
A Member asked further of the prevention work, mentioned by both presenters, and in particular to the use of mediation between the complainant and perpetrator. The Head of Housing for Newydd Housing Association confirmed that Newydd actively used face-to-face mediation, however, this was not always successful. Mediation was useful for the individuals involved to understand the impact of their behaviour on others however, counselling and employment training were also effective prevention tools.
A Member asked the officers how mediation to tackle ASB instances were handled on estates when properties were both privately and Council owned. The Head of Housing and Building Services confirmed that to address and contact private tenants the Housing Team would work closely with the Safer Vale Team to take advantage of their established partnerships, such as with the Police as well as contacting other Council departments directly, such as Environmental Health.
A Member thanked the Head of Housing for Newydd Housing Association for her presentation and her refreshing attitude to change and then asked about support available for individuals who were not yet ready for a tenancy. The Member was aware of the Tenancy Ready scheme and asked if this was currently mandatory.
The Newydd Officer confirmed that Newydd hosted the Tenancy Ready project which was funded by the Vale Council and that the project was not currently mandatory for individuals seeking a tenancy, unless they were under the age of 35 and/or housed as part of the Homes4U scheme or residing within a shared housing scheme. The Tenancy Ready project had been very successful to date and the Officer hoped that in the future it would become mandatory for all new properties looked after by Newydd. Newydd also hoped to establish ‘Meet Your Neighbour’ days; which would encourage community meetings as another effective way of preparing individuals and building community spirit.
The Chairman thanked the Newydd representative for attending Committee and all Officers for a detailed and honest presentation. The Chairman stressed that it was every person’s responsibility to support and recognise the support needed for any individuals causing any ASB issues.
705 ENVIRONMENT AND NEIGHBOURHOODS STRATEGY (HOUSING) – SIX MONTHLY MONITORING REPORT (DEH) –
The Housing and Strategic Projects Team Leader presented the report to update the Committee on progress implementing the Environment and Neighbourhoods Strategy (Housing). The Strategy was approved by Cabinet in February 2017 with the recommendation that the Homes and Safe Communities Scrutiny Committee receive six monthly monitoring reports that highlighted progress against the actions identified in the Operational Delivery Plan.
The Officer advised that the report was the second six monthly monitoring report provided to the Committee since the Strategy was approved and there had been steady progress made on implementation with the majority of actions being classed as Green (either complete or on target to be completed by the target date). The Operational Delivery Plan was attached at Appendix A to the report and categorised the actions under four objectives:
- Objective 1: Increasing safety of residents and homes;
- Objective 2: Improving the appearance and cleanliness of the community environment;
- Objective 3: Increasing opportunities to access open spaces;
- Objective 4: Increasing community engagement and residents’ pride in their area.
The RAG classification (Red, Amber and Green) had been used to highlight the progress against each of the actions. Out of 32 action points, only two were highlighted as Amber and therefore actions at risk of missing target. There were no actions classified as Red to demonstrate that the target had been missed or very likely to be missed.
- Encourage tenants to take part in estate walkabouts, including consideration of incentives;
- Undertake resident consultation regarding specific plots of green space to identify possible uses.
The Officer advised that two key elements of the Strategy were targeting large sums of capital investment into a smaller number of areas in order to maximise the impact and to work closely alongside local residents to provide the opportunities for them to input into required improvement works.
To this end, the Buttrills Estate in central Barry would benefit from significant estate improvement works over the next two years. Following a wide ranging consultation with local tenants and residents, a programme of works was agreed, the contract had been let and contractors had started on site. The improvements being carried out included: new roofs, replacement windows, upgrades of communal areas, external wall insulation plus external landscaping. Significant progress had been made already but work would continue on site for the next 18 months.
The physical appearance of estates was a continued priority in the Strategy and a “photobook” had been created using a catalogue of photographs to define different environmental standards. Frontline staff were actively using the photobook during the monthly estate walkabouts.
With regard to estate walkabouts, there had been an increase in the number of tenants taking part in some areas; however, low levels of engagement remained in others. Cabinet had approved the Vale Timebanking Pilot Project which incentivised tenants to take part in volunteering activities. Time credits (which could be redeemed at a range of outlets and leisure facilities) would be offered to tenants who took part in estate walkabouts and other community activities. Walkabouts continued to be an excellent method for building the relationships between tenants and neighbourhood managers.
A number of community “helping hand” events had now taken place as part of the initiatives to improve the appearance of estates. These had involved tenants, contractors and partner agencies and had been very well received. At Llantwit Major, a waste amnesty resulted in the removal of a large amount of rubbish and household items which had been building up in homes, outhouses and gardens. The events had been an effective means of raising the profile of the Neighbourhood teams and enabled staff to establish themselves as a key point of contact and build relationships with the tenants. A toolkit for running these events had been developed and would improve the success of future events in different areas.
Another important element of the Strategy was estate action planning. The development of tailored estate action plans which picked up local issues and priorities was underway and draft action plans were in place for a number of estates.
There was still progress to be made with regard to a small number of actions including: making the best use of open spaces on Council estates. There were significant parcels of land on some Council estates and these were not often used for the benefit of the community. As a consequence, over the next few months, staff would be identifying a small number of pilot sites and were seeking to engage the community in how they would like to see the space used. The Officer advised that this need not require large sums of investment and were very often small initiatives such as benches or some signage which would result in positive changes to the way the land was used.
In concluding the presentation of the report, the Officer stated that there were still some changes to be made regarding the use of the small pot of revenue money for estate improvements. There were some good examples of this fund being used to make improvements to recycling and waste disposal at blocks of flats, however, there was scope for further publicity of this funding so tenant groups across the Vale could make applications for creative solutions in their area.
A Member asked whether it would be possible to make the Photobook facility available to Members; to use when engaging with their local Ward residents in person. In response, the Housing and Strategic Projects Team Leader confirmed that enquiries would be made to make the facility available to Members and that the facility did not include personal information so it would be a safe facility for Members to engage with. Also, reports generated from the photobook facility were displayed in communal areas for Members’ information. The Head of Housing and Building Services also added that over the next twelve months the Authority would be looking to install safety lockers, which would be lockable cabinets on display in communal areas which would display results of recent inspections and health and safety equipment.
A Member referred to paragraph 4 of the officer’s report which stated “large sums of capital investment into a smaller number of areas in order to maximise the impact” and queried why this was not classed the same as the Wales Housing Quality Standards (WHQS) funding. The Housing and Strategic Projects Team Leader advised that the direct reference to the Buttrills Estate in central Barry referred to works that would be taking place to the outdoor environment. The WHQS funding was directed at the interior and exterior of existing buildings.
A Member advised of the ‘waste amnesty’ included in the next Cabinet report, and asked officers how Cabinet’s suggestion would be adopted. In reply, the Head of Housing and Building Services confirmed that plans for improving recycling such as adding internal bin stores were planned for the future. Recycling rates within social housing was significantly less than in private housing and the Housing Team would work with their colleagues in the Cleansing Department to help educate and support Council tenants. The recent amnesty days held on estates were successful in clearing large debris and rubbish from estate areas and were welcomed by Council tenants as it was a cheaper method for disposing of larger items.
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the six monthly monitoring report in relation to the Operational Delivery Plan for the Environment and Neighbourhoods Strategy (Housing) be noted.
Reason for recommendation
To provide an opportunity for Scrutiny to make any comments and to ensure the actions identified are progressed.
706 VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL ANNUAL SELF-ASSESSMENT (MD) –
On behalf of the Director of Environment and Housing, the Head of Housing and Building Services presented the report, the purpose of which was to meet the requirements of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009 and the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. A self-assessment of all Council services had taken place to meet the following objectives:
- To drive continuous improvement in Council services and maximise their contribution to achieving the national well-being goals;
- To ensure the annual Council Self-Assessment reflected the key challenges facing both the Council as a whole and informed the Council’s plans for improvement for 2018/19;
- To ensure the Council implemented its regulatory recommendations / proposals for improvement and responded appropriately to the recommendations / proposals for improvement identified through the WAO’s programme of national Local Government Studies for the period 2011-2015.
The Self-Assessment document was intended to provide an honest and balanced account of the Council’s achievements and identify areas of for improvement and was made available to Members in advance of the meeting via a hyperlink in the officer’s report. The extensive document contained three appendices:
Appendix A – Service position statements covering all Council services;
Appendix B – Insight Action Tracker providing a summary of the Council’s progress to date in relation to the Council’s integrated planning priorities identified in last year’s Annual Self-Assessment and also incorporated all the Council’s regulatory recommendations / proposals for improvement;
Appendix C – Progress against previous regulatory recommendations / proposals for improvement between 2011 and 2015.
The Officer advised that the report was the second of its kind reporting performance against the Corporate Plan 2016-2020 and progress was now available for a full year. Consequently, it had been possible to undertake a comprehensive self-assessment presented by the Corporate Plan Well-being Outcome areas for the first time. The Self-Assessment covered the period April 2016 to December 2017. The report drew on: the individual service self-assessments covering the 14 Service Plan areas; the Council’s progress to date in achieving the Year 2 priorities of its Corporate Plan Well-being Outcomes and Corporate Health priorities; the views of the Council’s regulators in the Annual Improvement Report and its progress to date in relation to Council audit recommendations / proposals for improvement.
Pages 10-20 of the Self-Assessment provided an overview which outlined the achievements to date and the Council’s priorities for 2018/19 in relation to Well-being Outcome 1, “An Inclusive and Safe Vale” which tied directly into the remit of the Committee. The Officer also highlighted that Members had already been provided with the information contained within the assessment document via the quarterly performance reports provided to Committee.
A Member acknowledged the size of the document and highlighted that Member briefings, held prior to Committee meetings, had been arranged for much small documents historically, for example, the recent Statutory Planning Guidance. He also expressed an interest in seeing what effect the Self-Assessment document had had in retrospect.
(1) T H A T the Council’s Annual Self-Assessment report, including identified priorities for 2018/19 onwards, be endorsed.
(2) T H A T the contents of the Council’s Annual Self-Assessment be used as the basis for service planning for 2018/19.
(2) T H A T the current progress reported against previously regulatory recommendations / proposals for improvement arising from local and national Local Government Studies for the period 2011-2015 relevant to their respective Committees, be noted to enable completed actions to be closed and the remaining actions incorporated in and monitored via the Council’s Insight Action Tracker for 2018/19.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) To meet the requirements of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009 and the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 to undertake a self-assessment of all Council services and use this information as the basis to drive continuous improvement of Council services and maximise their contribution to achieving the national well-being goals.
(2) To ensure the Council’s Annual Self-Assessment reflects the key challenges facing both the Council as a whole and informs the Council’s plans for improvement for 2018/19.
(3) To ensure the Council implements its regulatory recommendations / proposals for improvement and responds appropriate to the recommendations / proposals for improvement identified through the WAO’s programme of national Local Government Studies for the period 2011-2015.