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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 6th October, 2011.

 

 

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

 

Also present:  Councillors P. Church and G. John, Mrs. W. Davies (Vale Housing Federation), Mr. G. Amos, Mr. J. Farrington, Mr. B. Fisher and Mrs. D. Hill (Tenant Panel / Working Group).

 

 

488     AWARD PRESENTATION - TENANT DEVELOPMENT CO-ORDINATOR -

 

Prior to the business of the meeting being transacted the Committee received Mrs. R. Gannon (Vice-Chairman of the Vale Housing Federation) who announced that on behalf of the Vale Housing Federation she had nominated the Council's Tenant Development Co-ordinator (Mrs. H. Powney) for an excellence award.  This nomination had culminated in the Welsh Tenant's Federation awarding a certificate of outstanding achievement for her work in engaging Vale of Glamorgan Council Tenants.  Accordingly, Mrs. Gannon presented the certificate to Mrs. Powney on behalf and with thanks of the Vale Housing Federation and Council tenants of the Vale of Glamorgan.

 

 

489     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors S.C. Egan, R.P. Thomas and Ms. M. Wright and Mr. M. Lawrence (Shelter Cymru).

 

 

490     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 7th September, 2011 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

491     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

492     REVIEW OF THE CORPORATE PLAN 2010-14 (REF - MIN. NO. C1411) -

 

Cabinet had on 7th September 2011 received a report which:

  • provided an update on arrangements to inform service planning for 2012/13 which would commence in October 2011 and to assist with the drafting of the Medium Term Financial Plan and took account of the revised Community Strategy for 2011-2021
  • provided an update on those new activities which supported the delivery of the Improvement Objectives which had been included in the revised Plan
  • the Plan had been amended to include a reference to a number of new initiatives e.g. working with Bridgend County Borough Council, greater emphasis on partnership working and area working
  • that the Plan would be submitted for comment to all Scrutiny Committees following which it would be ratified by Cabinet prior to its being submitted to Council for approval.

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the report be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement of the matter being referred to the Scrutiny Committee for information by the Cabinet.

 

 

493     SUPPORTING PEOPLE OPERATIONAL PLAN 2011/12 -2012/13 (REF - MINUTE NO. C1438) -

 

The draft Supporting People Operational Plan (SPOP) 2011/12 - 2012/13 had been submitted to Cabinet on 21st September 2011.  The main issues from the SPOP in respect of the delivery of provision of supported accommodation services for the Vale of Glamorgan included:

  • an assessment of the support needs of 6,608 individuals who had contacted the Housing Division and other voluntary and statutory agencies had identified 83.1% with a support need
  • a total of 2,598 units of support had been mapped throughout the county and the current supply of services in the Vale of Glamorgan showed that there were high levels of supported accommodation for older people and moderate numbers of people with learning difficulties, mental health issues and clients who were young and vulnerable
  • that there were lower levels of supported accommodation specifically for clients with a chronic illness, single parents and ex-offenders
  • that the Supporting People Planning Group had determined from the needs analysis that under the Supporting People grant regime there was a priority to develop, amongst others, a second Extra Care Scheme for clients with a physical mobility issue, mental health issue, learning difficulty, chronic illness or a combination of some or all of these problems
  • the Group had also determined that there was a priority to support the expansion of the Telecare Service and a need to develop floating support and supported housing clients of different ages jointly funded with community care requirements with various support and care needs
  • the Group had also determined that there was a priority to develop supported accommodation for clients under the age of 35 who were homeless due to the housing benefit changes being introduced, those with alcohol and drug issues, those who were young and vulnerable and those who had suffered or were in danger of suffering from domestic abuse together with additional floating support provision for various client groups across all tenures
  • the SPOP was estimated at £1.7m. and it was noted that there would also be capital funding requirements for some of the projects.  The funding of these projects would require further discussions with the Council’s partners and WG.

The Cabinet had subsequently resolved

 

(1)       That the Supporting People Operational Plan 2011/12 - 2012/13 be approved.

 

(2)       That the use of the urgency decision procedure under Article 13 of the Council’s Constitution be agreed to enable the SPOP to be submitted to the Welsh Government by 30th September 2011.

 

(3)       That the report be referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) for information.

 

Discussion centred on the implications of the Plan for existing 'floating support' for older and vulnerable tenants who resided in non-sheltered accommodation.  The Head of Housing indicated that as it stood at the moment no specific resources for this facility had been identified, however, he stressed that support was currently provided by tenure.  However, the proposals of the Welsh Government appeared to suggest that support in the future should be based on need.  This could mean grant being removed from tenants of sheltered housing where no defined support needs were identified.  Officers were currently in discussions with the Welsh Government on such matters.  A number of comments with regard to concerns were expressed by Members of the Scrutiny Committee particularly given that there appeared to be discussions on going between tenants within sheltered accommodation units and officers regarding future warden service provision.  Councillors Bertin and Brookes indicated that they hade been aware of rumours that the current warden service would be withdrawn.  The Head of Housing indicated that the current warden service was likely to have to be reviewed once the Welsh Government guidance had been released.  The general view of the Committee was that the Head of Housing should provide appropriate updates to the Committee on progress with regard to this matter including associated proposed consultation arrangements with tenants accommodated within sheltered accommodation.

 

At this juncture, brief discussion then centred on concerns raised by the Tenants Panel in regard to the potential integration into existing sheltered accommodation of non-elderly tenants.  The Head of Housing indicated that there were no such plans to integrate such.

 

The attention of the Committee then returned to the issue of a 'floating warden' service and the representative of the Vale Housing Federation expressed concern that if such a service was introduced this would have a detrimental impact on residents who were vulnerable.  The Head of Housing reminded the Committee that consultation would be undertaken with all tenants currently within sheltered housing accommodation to ascertain future provision required by those tenants.  He further reminded the Committee that there was currently a limited warden service provided by the Council which was supported by the VCAS alarm service.  He also advised that because of tenants and his own concerns about the robustness of the VCAS system, approval was being sought from Cabinet to upgrade the alarm system to TeleV at the Council's expense.  He agreed to circulate at the next meeting the minutes of the Supporting People Planning Group minutes following a request by the Committee to do so.

 

Having regard to the above and related issues it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the Supporting People Operational Plan 2011/12 - 2012/13 be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the minutes of the Supporting People Planning Group be submitted to the next meeting of the Scrutiny Committee for consideration and that the future submission of such minutes to the Scrutiny Committee be reviewed at that time.

 

(3)       T H A T the Head of Housing be requested to submit update reports on future developments in regard to the Supporting People Operational Plan, in particular implications for the Council’s existing warden service for sheltered housing accommodation.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To apprise Members of current arrangements.

 

(2)       To apprise the Scrutiny Committee of the deliberations of the Supporting People Planning Group.

 

(3)       To apprise the Committee of future operational arrangements.

 

 

494     CONSULTATION ON PROPOSED EMPTY HOMES STRATEGY 2012-17 (REF - MINUTE NO. C1439) -

 

Cabinet, at its meeting held on 21st September 2011, had considered the above proposed Strategy which set out the Council’s plans to bring empty homes back into use over the next five years, outlining a co-ordinated pro-active approach to tackling empty homes in partnership with relevant Council departments and stakeholders. 

 

The aims of the draft Strategy were to monitor empty homes, provide advice, assistance and guidance to landlords and property owners, reduce the negative effect of empty homes in communities, reduce the number of empty homes, return empty homes to use and promote the empty homes initiative.  The Strategy had been developed in partnership by the Council’s Public Sector Housing, Public Protection, Legal, Council Tax, Planning and Development Control Department and the Council’s partner Registered Social Landlords.

 

Cabinet had resolved

 

(1)       That consultation be undertaken on the draft Empty Homes Strategy 2012-17.

 

(2)       That the amended report be referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) for information.

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the proposed Empty Homes Strategy 2012-17 be endorsed.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To apprise Members of current arrangements regarding the proposed draft Strategy.

 

 

495     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL 2011 - 31ST AUGUST 2011 (DLPPHS) -

 

The Revenue Budget and projected outturn for 2011/12 were shown in Appendix 1 to the report. 

 

The Public Sector Housing (HRA) was predicted to outturn on target with a current favourable variance of £276,000 mainly due to a recharge of £121,000 of employee costs involved in the Housing Stock Transfer pre-ballot.  There were also further favourable variances related to £75,000 for employee vacancies, £88,000 supplies and services - primarily legal and consultancy fees, £32,000 for premises costs and £6,000 for transport costs.  These had also partially been offset by a reduction of external income of £48,000 due to higher than expected void properties due to the delayed opening of Ty Iolo Hostel. 

 

The Private Sector / General Fund Housing and Community Safety indicated a predicted outturn on target. There was also a current favourable variance of £39,000 which was linked to supplies and services.

 

As for the Capital Programme, Appendix 2 detailed financial progress on this as at 31st August 2011.  Variances between actual spend to date and profiled spend related to the following matters:

  • Housing Improvement Programme (Essential Heating) - expenditure was slightly behind the profile due to work load in the Property Section
  • Castleland Renewal Area - expenditure was behind profile due to initial delays getting home owners to sign up to the facelift scheme.

Appendix 3 provided non-financial information on capital schemes with a budget of over £100,000.  Where a budget shown in Appendix 2 was more than £100,000 but was made up of several schemes that individually were less than £100,000, the scheme was not included in Appendix 3.

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position with regard to 2011/12 Revenue and Capital Monitoring be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To apprise Members of the current position with regard to revenue and capital monitoring expenditure.

 

 

496     BRIDGEND COUNTY BOROUGH COUNCIL - INVESTIGATION OF THE EFFECTIVENESS OF PARTNERSHIP AND COMMUNITIES TOGETHER (PACT) MEETINGS (CX) -

 

An invitation had been received from the above Council requesting the Committee to consider proposed arrangements for undertaking the above investigation on the basis of  joint working arrangements.  If the Committee deemed it appropriate to undertake a joint review, the next step would be for the Scrutiny Committee to nominate three Members to serve as co-optees on the PACT Research and Evaluation Panel.  In terms of time commitment it was expected that six meetings would be held at three to four weekly intervals between now and March / April 2012.  The venue for meetings would be at the Civic Offices, Bridgend and held during the day time.

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T in light of the Committee's current work programme commitments that the invitation received from Bridgend County Borough Council to participate in their Investigation of the Effectiveness of Partnership and Communities Together on a joint basis, be declined with regret.

 

(2)       T H A T this Council's previous work on PACTs be made available to Bridgend County Borough Council to assist them in their investigation should they wish access to this information.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To advise Bridgend County Borough Council of the Scrutiny Committee's stance on the matter.

 

(2)       To assist Bridgend County Borough Council with their investigation.

 

 

497     COMMUNITY SAFETY PERFORMANCE MONITORING (DLPPHS) -

 

The Community Safety targets for 2011/12 had been endorsed by the Safer Vale Strategic Group and were monitored regularly to ensure that those objectives were achieved. 

 

The report set out progress towards these targets for Quarter 1 which indicated that there had been a further 14% reduction in all compared to the same period (April - June) in 2010/11.  Specific figures were as follows:

  • Most serious violence: Target 25 incidents, Actual 15 incidents – Achieved (40% below target)

Over 50% of the incidents of most serious violence during this period were alcohol related.  The substance misuse co-ordinator for the Safer Vale Partnership leads on the education aspect of alcohol consumption which is vital in ensuring that people identify with the need for safe levels of alcohol consumption.

  • Serious sexual offences: Target 15 incidents, Actual 21 incidents – Not Achieved (40% over target)

In 90% of the cases the offender was known by the victim.  In 29% of cases the offence was historic.  In 19% of cases the offender was a partner or ex partner.  The Partnership had been working to raise the profile of reporting sexual violence in response to a Welsh Government initiative.  It may well be the case that victims were feeling more confident about reporting historic cases and cases where the offender is the partner due to the Partnership input and the availability of the sexual assault referral centre (SARC) in Cardiff.

  • Domestic Abuse: Target 17% repeat victims, Actual, 14% repeat victims – Achieved (3% under target)

The multiagency work that had been invested into domestic abuse had seen the number of repeat victims reducing year on year.  The opening of Cadoxton House in the near future should also help reduce the number of repeat offences further.

  • Criminal Damage: Target 407 incident, Actual 336 incidents – Achieved (17% under target)

Approximately 40% of the offences of criminal damage related to vehicle damage.  Historic analysis identified that this could be due to antisocial or alcohol related criminal damage, kicking wing mirrors etc. or attempted theft from motor vehicles.

 

The Partnership monitored areas to determine if any hotspots existed and work would continue so that areas were effectively targeted.

  • Burglary: Target 97 incidents, Actual 68 incidents – Achieved (30% under target)

In almost 1/5 of burglaries access was gained through the rear door, 53% of these doors were unsecure. 

 

The Partnership would look to address the issue of home and garden security through tools such as community messaging.

  • Robbery: Target 6 incidents, Actual 8 incidents – Not Achieved (33% over target)

All incidents of robbery were personal robbery.  A number of the offenders were younger, which fits the profile identified in the Strategic Assessment.  The Vale had very low levels of robbery in comparison to similar authorities, however, where possible the Partnership will ensure that messages of personal safety were distributed to specific target age groups.

  • Antisocial Behaviour: Ongoing

The new stage two process run by the ASB Unit now included a thought provoking DVD commissioned by the Safer Vale Partnership.

 

To date the stage two process for antisocial behaviour had been a success.  Very few offenders who have attended a stage two and viewed the DVD have reoffended.

 

The analyst will be attending a training course for the new ASB database reporting tool.  This will enable a greater level of reporting with more detail, which will increase the value of operational planning to reduce incidents of antisocial behaviour.

  • Metal thefts

Metal thefts were monitored regularly in the Vale.  Schools have been approached in order to raise awareness of lead theft, especially during the school holidays.  A regular report was also run in order to identify locations when cable had been dumped, which may indicate hotspot metal theft areas. The Safer Vale Partnership have recently commissioned a task and finish group to deal with this increasing problem in our area.

  • Engagement: Ongoing

The Partnership had recently met with Ministry of Defence (MOD) Police to scope the use of community messaging and setting up Neighbourhood Watch schemes.  The meeting was very positive and work with the MOD Police is ongoing.

  • Priority and Prolific Offenders (PPO) / Integrated Offender Management (IOM) – Ongoing

The IOM meetings were progressing well and a number of agencies were on board in order to make this a success.

  • Substance Misuse - Ongoing

Cadoxton House was nearing completion.

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T progress towards meeting the Community Safety targets for Quarter 1 be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To enable the Committee to monitor progress towards meeting crime and disorder targets. 

 

 

498     SAFER VALE STRATEGIC ASSESSMENT (DLPPHS) -

 

The Strategic Assessment was a statutory document which was produced annually to identify the strategic focus of the Community Safety Partnership. 

 

The current management group had highlighted a need for local targets driven by local priorities and accordingly the draft Assessment used data and consultation feedback to identify these local targets.  Targets identified within the Assessment complimented the community safety objectives within the existing Community Strategy.  The overall outcome of the Partnership was for “residents and visitors to feel safe and that the Vale was recognised as a low crime area”. 

 

Set out in the report were the targets identified in the Assessment through intelligent led business processes:

  • Objective One: Reduce the level of violent offences and alcohol related violent offences in the Vale of Glamorgan

Most serious violence target: Reduce or maintain 2010-11 performance, upper target: 86 incidents.

  • Objective Two: Reduce the impact of domestic abuse on victims, families and the wider community and ensure that help and support are available

Serious sexual offences: Reduce or maintain 2010-11 performance, upper target: 57 incidents

 

Domestic abuse: Reduce or maintain 2010-11 performance, repeat incidents to account for 17% or less of total incidents.

  • Objective Three: Reduce the level of serious acquisitive crime and criminal damage in the Vale of Glamorgan

Criminal damage: Reduce or maintain 2010-11 performance, upper target: 1,524 incidents

 

Burglary: Reduce or maintain 2010-11 performance, upper target: 366 incidents

 

Robbery: Reduce or maintain 2010-11 performance, upper target: 24 incidents

  • Objective Four: Reduce the impact of Antisocial Behaviour (ASB) in the Vale

The Partnership will aim to increase data sharing with schools enabling a more rounded multiagency response.

 

The Partnership will train front line staff from relevant agencies in the use of the ASB system and ASB process.

 

As far as possible the Partnership will align the ASB processes between Safer Vale and Safer Bridgend in light of potential Partnership mergers.

 

The Partnership will work towards a holistic service for ASB victims of all ages.

  • Objective Five: Make the Vale of Glamorgan a safe place to live work and visit, free from crime and the fear of crime

The Safer Vale consultation analysis will be used to raise the profile of the partnership and community cohesion in a targeted way to the people and places that required it most.

 

The Partnership will raise the profile of CCTV in the Vale of Glamorgan through press and publications.

 

The Partnership will react accordingly and advise in relation to any incidents of illegal / rogue traders.

  • Objective Six: Integrated offender management (IOM)

The Partnership will help to implement the IOM project to help stabilise the lifestyles of the most prolific offenders in the Vale that are a substantial cost to all agencies.

  • Objective Seven: Reduce the impact of substance misuse in communities

Substance misuse is a running priority for the Partnership.  Cadoxton House and the joint service review will be major ongoing projects during 2011-12.  The progress will be monitored regularly within the Partnership to ensure delivery and sustainability.

  • Objective Eight: Prevention of Terrorism

This is a core role of the Partnership.  Work would continue to educate front line staff under the prevent strand of the CONTEST Strategy.

 

In commenting on the above matter, Councillor E.T. Williams referred to statistics for the year March 2010 to 2011 in regard to incidents of fires within residential homes.  These statistics produced by South Wales Fire and Rescue Service indicated that 46 residential fires took place in this period, he indicated that 24 of the incidents when investigated found that there was no smoke alarm installed within the property.  In addition, investigations by the Fire Service of the other properties inspected revealed that smoke detectors fitted had either been disarmed or that batteries were not working.  A number of properties had poorly sighted alarms which created a problem in that they were unable to detect outbreaks of fire.  He reminded the Committee that South Wales Fire and Rescue Service had indicated that their assistance was readily available on request to householders in regard to providing fire safety advice.  In response to Councillor Williams' comments the Principal Community Safety Officer indicated that two programmes were currently being developed with a view to providing advice to householders on fire and home safety with the support of the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and South Wales Police.  It was the intention to target high risk groups.  The delivery of both programmes was subject to funding being made available. 

 

Discussion then touched upon incidents of violent crime, particularly alcohol related violence and domestic abuse.  The Principal Community Safety Officer indicated that a number of measures had been put in place to address both these areas. 

 

Having regard to the above and related issues, it was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the information contained within the Strategic Assessment which detailed the strategic priorities for the Safer Vale Partnership be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgment of action taken to date to ensure that the Strategic Assessment met with the Council’s existing community led strategy.

 

 

499     MATTER WHICH THE CHAIRMAN HAD DECIDED WAS URGENT -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the following matter which the Chairman had decided was urgent for the reason given beneath the minute heading be considered.

 

 

500     SAFER VALE STRATEGIC ASSESSMENT (REF) -

Urgent by Reason of the Need to Make a Decision Prior to the Next Meeting of the Scrutiny Committee

 

The above matter had been considered by the Licensing Committee at its meeting held on 4th October, 2011.

 

The Licensing Committee, having considered the Assessment had been made aware at that time of reports that South Wales Police would not be providing a presence in Cadoxton House and that there were rumours that the Police Public Protection Unit may be relocated to Cowbridge.  The Licensing Committee had also separately expressed concern on learning the news that the Police presence at the Community Safety Partnership Offices in Barry Fire Station may also be withdrawn. 

 

The Licensing Committee subsequently

 

"RESOLVED -

 

(1)       T H A T the information contained within the Strategic Assessment be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Chief Constable be advised of the concerns of the Committee with regard to

 

-          the Police presence at Cadoxton House

-          any proposal to withdraw the Police presence from Barry Fire Station.

 

(3)       T H A T Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) be invited to support the resolution at (2) above.

 

(4)       T H A T the Community Safety Partnership inform the Authority’s Licensing Section of any incidents involving licensed premises.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1)       To enable Committee to consider the strategy focus for Safer Vale during 2011/12.

 

(2)       To express Committee’s concern at any proposals that may weaken the effectiveness of the substance misuse / domestic abuse service.

 

(3)       To seek the support of Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection).

 

(4)       To assist in the compilation of intelligence concerning licensed premises within the Vale of Glamorgan.”

 

Councillor J.W. Thomas, who was the Chairman of the Licensing Committee, felt that it was appropriate to raise the matter with the Scrutiny Committee given its responsibility for crime and disorder matters.  He was concerned that the alleged withdrawal of South Wales Police presence from the facility at Cadoxton House was of concern given the level of funding that had been made available to refurbish the part of the facility to be occupied by South Wales Police to the standard they had specified. 

 

In commenting on the matter the Head of Public Protection advised the Scrutiny Committee that he had been advised verbally by South Wales Police of their intention to withdraw their presence from Cadoxton House.  He further indicated that the Community Safety Partnership had also written to South Wales Police seeking confirmation of their formal withdrawal from the facility.  However, to date no such confirmation had been received.  He was currently in exploratory discussions with other partners on occupancy of the facility should the Police confirm their plans to withdraw.

 

Councillor Church, who was the Cabinet Member with the responsibility for crime and disorder matters, spoke on the matter with the consent of the Committee and confirmed that no formal indication from South Wales Police had been received.  He indicated that he had been verbally informed by Superintendent Paul James of the Police's intention to withdraw from the facility and consequently he had written to the Chief Constable seeking clarification on this matter.  He further indicated that he had had contact with Chief Superintendent Lianne James and a meeting would be held shortly to discuss such matters.  His personal view was that the Police should compensate the CSP for the funding element met to refurbish the facility. 

 

He was hopeful that discussions would result if not anything in a smaller Police presence at the facility as an alternative.  He further pointed out that the Community Safety Partnership shared the concerns expressed by the Scrutiny Committee.

 

The Principal Community Safety Officer indicated that the facility had been nominated by the Council for a Building Excellence Award. 

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the resolutions of the Licensing Committee of 4th October, 2011 be endorsed.

 

(2)       T H A T the Head of Public Protection be requested to write on behalf of the Scrutiny Committee expressing concern at the intended withdrawal of South Wales Police's presence from Cadoxton House especially in light of the funding expended in meeting their requirements and requesting Chief Superintendent Lianne James to attend a future meeting of the Scrutiny Committee to provide an explanation of South Wales Police's rationale for withdrawing their presence from Cadoxton House.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In support of the stance taken by the Licensing Committee.

 

(2)       To allow the Scrutiny Committee to scrutinise the decision of South Wales Police to withdraw from Cadoxton House.

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