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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 7th September, 2011.

 

 

Present:  Councillor Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson (Chairman); Councillors R.J. Bertin, Ms. B.E. Brooks, S.C. Egan, N.P. Hodges, J.W. Thomas, R.P. Thomas, A.C. Williams and E.T. Williams.

 

Also present:  Councillor P. Church; Mr. G. Amos, Mr. J. Farrington, Mr. B. Fisher, Mrs. D. Hill and Mrs. L. Wallace (Tenant Working Group / Panel); Mrs. W. Davies (Vale Housing Federation) and Mr. M. Lawrence (Shelter Cymru).

 

 

334     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors J.C. Bird and Ms. M. Wright and Mr. C. Curtis (Vale Housing and Homelessness Forum).

 

 

335     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 21st July, 2011 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

336     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

337     SUPPORTING PEOPLE CONTRACTS (REF - MINUTE NO. C1364) -

 

Cabinet had, on 6th July 2011, received a report which:

 

·         provided an update in relation to the outcome of the Supporting People Framework Agreement tender exercise, and

·         provided an update on the results of the Supporting People tender for the tenancy support service contracts.

 

In accordance with Cabinet Minute No. C859, the Council had been required to retender the Tenant Support Scheme (TESS) and supported accommodation services.  The contracts for TESS were reconfigured from seven to eight contracts in order to meet the needs of service users better and to minimise the time individuals referred for support spent on the waiting list.  The successful service providers who would deliver the services from 1st July, 2011 were listed as Taff Housing Association, Hafod Care, Solas Cymru Limited, Reach, Llamau and Atal y Fro.  The Staying Put and Independence Scheme contracts would be provided by Reach.  In total, the Operational Manager indicated that equated to a total of 238 units of floating support and that no job losses would be incurred as a consequence of the exercise. 

 

Cabinet had subsequently noted the establishment of a Supporting People Approved List of Providers and noted the outcome of the Supporting People tender.  Cabinet had also referred the report to this Committee for information.

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To be aware of the progress made.

 

 

338     SOCIAL HOUSING GRANT PROGRAMME 2011 - 14 (REF - MINUTE NO. C1365) -

 

Cabinet had been informed of the amount of Social Housing Grant allocated to this Council by the Welsh Government for the provision of affordable housing in 2011/12, the indicative forward allocations for 2012/13 and 2013/14 and those schemes being supported. 

 

The Operational Manager indicated that the level of Social Housing grant would be subject to a reduction of almost 40% over the next 3 years.  This Council had already allocated its full grant commitment for that period as detailed in the appendix to the report.  He added that, as with all other Councils in Wales, the programme was overestimated in order to build flexibility into the programme and to ensure the full spend of the grant.  In response to a question as to the process adopted by the Welsh Government (WG) should full spend not be achieved, he explained that the Council could ask WG for a dispensation; should WG not agree, that money would then revert to WG for onward distribution to other Councils.  He confirmed that this Council had, in fact, benefitted from the scheme.

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the Social Housing Grant programme expenditure as detailed in the Appendix to the report and the additional information provided at the meeting be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To have regard to the information provided.

 

 

339     IMPROVEMENT PLAN 2011/12 (CX) -

 

The Plan, as previously circulated to Members, incorporated improvement objectives from the Corporate Plan, performance information (data and text) providing a look back over 2010/11 and targets and actions for 2011/12.  Whilst the Plan was substantially complete, it was accepted that further minor amendments would be required to be made.  A supplementary report containing updated Performance Indicators (including the Welsh averages) was tabled at the meeting. 

 

The Operational Manager confirmed that the entire document would be proofread and all references to Barry College would be amended in the final report to Cardiff and the Vale.  In response to a question regarding the increase in reported incidents of domestic abuse, she indicated that this was a result of the increase in number of opportunities and in the confidence of those being abused to report such matters, drawing attention to the reduction in the number of repeat victims.

 

It was noted that the final draft would be submitted to Cabinet in September 2011. 

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the Improvement Plan for 2011/12 as currently drafted and amended by the updated information contained in the supplementary report be endorsed.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure that actions were taken to improve performance.

 

 

340     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING: 1ST APRIL TO 31ST JULY, 2011 (DLPPHS) -

 

The Revenue Budget and projected outturn for 2011/12 were shown in Appendix 1 to the report.  The Housing Revenue Account was predicted to outturn on target.  The Housing General Fund was also predicted to outturn on target.  As regards the Capital Programme 2011/12, details on financial progress as at 31st July, 2011 were appended to the report.  Budgets for 2011/12 had been profiled on a monthly basis and where there was a significant under / over spending of the profiled budget, an explanation would be provided and the scheme would be reprofiled if necessary.  For all schemes where it was apparent that the full year’s budget would not be spent during that year, officers would be required to provide an explanation for the shortfall to the earliest available Cabinet meeting.  Committee noted that Cabinet had approved an increase of £2m. to the current year’s Capital Programme in order to achieve the significant improvements to the Council’s housing stock, as reflected within Appendix 2 to the report. 

 

Appendix 3 provided non financial information on capital schemes with a budget of over £100k.  Discussion ensued in relation to the difficulties experienced by contractors in gaining access to some properties.  The Operational Manager, whilst understanding the concerns expressed in relation to delays in essential maintenance being undertaken, confirmed that there were measures in place to overcome those difficulties, primarily through negotiation.  He agreed to discuss further the suggestion from Mr. Amos that Tenant Groups could be used in those negotiations since some tenants might be more responsive to other tenants than to Council officers/contractors.

 

At the request of the Chairman, the Operational Manager briefly updated the Committee on the situation at Harbour View.  He stated that negotiations with the one remaining leaseholder on site were ongoing and that an appeal was scheduled to be heard in October against the Council’s Compulsory Purchase Order.  The traveller encampment remained on site.

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position with regard to the 2011/12 revenue and capital monitoring be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

So that Members are aware of the position with regard to the 2011/12 revenue and capital monitoring relevant to this Scrutiny Committee.

 

 

341     FIRST QUARTER PERFORMANCE MONITORING REPORTS (DLPPHS) -

 

The first quarter PIs were reported in respect of Building Services, Public Housing and Public Protection.  Having regard to the content of the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T comments be inserted against all PIs showing red.

 

(2)       T H A T it be noted that, in respect of HHA017aQ, the increase in the number of homeless households in Bed and Breakfast was attributable to the closure of the Hostel and that a reduction in that figure was anticipated now that the Hostel had reopened.

 

(3)       T H A T, in relation to L826Qa and L826Qb (the average number of calendar days taken to complete emergency and urgent repairs respectively) Mr. Farrington be furnished with further details since he considered the actual performance to be over optimistic. 

 

 

342     HOMELESSNESS LEASING SCHEME (DLPPHS) -

 

Members were updated on the progress and success of the Homelessness Leasing Scheme and the expansion of the scheme in excess of the original 10 properties identified within the pilot.  The Operational Manager reported that the 10 Hafod Housing Association properties in the Scheme were mainly single person accommodation and, from inception, had been filled continuously.  Attention was drawn to a likely increase in homelessness among single people as a consequence of forthcoming Welfare Reforms.  An increase in the provision of leased properties to 30 would immediately give an additional 20 spaces, thereby reducing the need to utilise Bed and Breakfast accommodation.  It was considered helpful to build into that approval the flexibility to add additional properties onto the Scheme should demand require it which would assist the Housing Advice Team in meeting the requirement to provide good quality affordable temporary accommodation as quickly as possible.

 

In response to a question as to the average stay of a young person in the properties on the Scheme, the Operational Manager referred to the average number of days that all homeless households spent in temporary accommodation other than Bed and Breakfast which averaged 110 days.  Other questions touched upon the costs incurred by the Council in terms of, for example, furniture, given the turnover of those properties and the criteria used to assess homelessness.  The Operational Manager confirmed that such costs were not excessive and that the very fact that spend on Bed and Breakfast accommodation was reduced saved the Council money overall.  No formal consultation had been undertaken either with Hafod or with the tenants during the pilot but the overall view expressed was that the Scheme had been very successful.  The Operational Manager indicated that work was ongoing with people within the hostel and other temporary accommodation to assess their views. 

 

Members welcomed the success of the Scheme and paid tribute to the Operational Manager and his staff for their efforts in tackling homelessness. 

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the progress being made with the Homelessness Leasing Scheme be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Cabinet be requested to support an increase to the number of properties on the Scheme from 10 to 30, with the flexibility to add additional properties in the future should the Scheme continue its success and demand continued.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       So that Scrutiny is informed of the current success of the Homelessness Leasing Scheme.

 

(2)       For Executive decision and to ensure that the Scheme can expand to meet identified needs.

 

 

343     INTRODUCTION OF LOCAL LETTING POLICY - AWBERY HOUSE, BARRY (DLPPHS) -

 

The Operational Manager indicated that housing officers, in discussions with the local community and resident groups, had been asked to consider the introduction of a Local Lettings Policy in respect of Awbery House, the thrust of which would be to stabilise the community through an age-related restriction.  As accommodation suitable for young persons and couples, the flats had attracted a disproportionately large amount of younger people with a criminal justice or anti social behaviour background.  The building itself was in a poor internal condition, unkempt communal areas, extensive damage to Council property and issues with the disposal of rubbish since its redesignation from being an older persons’ accommodation.  He drew attention to the fact that the introduction of age-related criteria was not unique in the Vale and that experience from earlier dedesignation schemes had shown that persons aged 40 and over co-existed better with older tenants than persons under the age of 40.  The exercise in profiling the existing tenants at Awbery House had indicated that 56.5% of the tenancies were currently allocated to people under the age of 40 and that, of those, 61.5% were at varying stages of action under the Council’s Anti Social Behaviour Policy.  An analysis of the crime and anti social behaviour for Awbery House and the wider Buttrills Estate indicated an increase in both crime and anti social behaviour recorded and an increase of reported neighbour nuisance of 110% over the period April 2010 to April 2011.  In total, there had also been 103 reports of all anti social behaviour over the same period.  The profiling had also identified that 83% of residents were in receipt of full Housing Benefit and that only 5 residents received Housing related support.  He confirmed that tenants under the age of 40 would not be evicted but that enforcement action would be taken in relation to any breaches of the Tenancy Agreement and/or Council policy.

 

Two tenants groups in the area had been consulted already about the proposals and had been positive about the proposed local lettings criteria.  He continued by stating that there was a significant degree of discontent within Awbery House.  It was recognised that the Housing Department would need to devote resources to ensure more intensive management of the estate and more of a visible presence for the duration of the Local Lettings Policy to assist in supporting tenants and that the introduction of the Plan in itself would not solve all the problems currently being experienced.  The Policy itself would be evaluated in 12 months time to ensure that it had met and continued to meet its objectives of promoting a more stable community.  The Plan would also be discussed at future resident groups meetings in the area as a further method of the evaluation of its effectiveness. 

 

Members drew attention to the general dilapidation of the area and poor internal condition of Awbery House itself.  The Operational Manager, in recognising the points made, referred to the Department’s limited resources and to the requirement to use those resources cost-effectively and where the benefit of any expenditure was considered to be sustainable.  Initial proposals in respect of Awbery House were to stabilise the position there and to undertake environmental enhancements, effecting other refurbishment/improvements when it was considered that a stable situation had been achieved.

 

Further discussion ensued on the need to enforce requirements stipulated within the Tenancy Agreement and the Council’s duty of care to its tenants.  Mr. Amos, whilst confirming that members on the Tenants Panel unanimously endorsed the implementation of the Policy, drew attention to the 2 final bullet points of the consultation document as appended to the report, asking for consideration to be given to amending each.  The Operational Manager indicated that he would consider the points made.

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T Cabinet be requested to approve the introduction of a local lettings policy in respect of Awbery House, Barry.

 

(2)       T H A T further consideration be given to the issues raised in relation to the final two bullet points of the consultation document.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To create a stable and sustainable community within the flats at Awbery House.

 

(2)       For clarification.

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