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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 2nd November, 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, R.P. Thomas, E.T. Williams and Ms. M. Wright.

 

Also present:  Councillors R.F. Curtis and N. Moore; Mrs. W. Davies (Vale Housing Federation); Mr. G. Amos, Mr. J. Farrington and Mr. B. Fisher (Tenant Panel / Working Group).

 

 

560     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors S.C. Egan and A.C. Williams; Mr. M. Lawrence (Shelter Cymru) and Mrs. D. Hill (Tenant Panel / Working Group).

 

           

561     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes held on 6th October, 2011 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

562     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

563     WATCH HOUSE BAY WATER QUALITY (REF) -

 

The above matter had been considered by the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) at its meeting held on 4th October, 2011.  That Committee considered a report which had been prepared in response to a Request for Consideration received from Councillor R.F. Curtis requesting that the Scrutiny Committee investigate reasons for why Watch House Bay had been included in the Marine Conservation Society’s 2011 Failed Beach Guide and what action the Council and / or its partner agencies needed to undertake to ensure all Vale of Glamorgan beaches passed future water quality tests.

 

The Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) at the time of considering the matter, received a comprehensive explanation of the issues surrounding the Council’s water quality sampling programme undertaken in June 2010 which had assessed the water quality at Watch House Bay as poor in line with EU Bathing Water Regulations.  It was these results used by the Marine Conservation Society.

 

The Scrutiny Committee also considered potential causation of contamination of two water courses and local land drainage matters affecting Watch House Bay.  Investigations had revealed that contamination had been evident in private drains between Old Village Road and Romilly Park Road, however CCTV surveys of the drains had failed to identify the actual source of contamination or any misconnections to enable enforcement action to be taken.  Investigation into these issues was ongoing.

 

The Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) subsequently recommended the following:

 

“(1)      T H A T the reasons why the water quality at Watch House Bay failed during 2010 and the actions undertaken by the Council to address the failure at the beach be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the report and the minutes of the meeting be referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) for consideration.

 

(3)       T H A T the Cabinet report referred to above be also presented to the Scrutiny Committee in due course.

 

(4)       T H A T the Public Protection section continue to discuss further ways of improving the current situation with Welsh Water as detailed above.

 

(5)       T H A T in future all Councillors within the Vale of Glamorgan Council be informed immediately any failures of any of its beaches occur within the County.

 

(6)       T H A T the above comments and recommendations of the Scrutiny Committee be referred to Cabinet for consideration.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In view of the information contained within the report and provided at the meeting.

 

(2)       For further consideration by the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection).

 

(3)       In order to apprise Members.

 

(4)       To consider further ways of improving the situation.

 

(5)       To inform Members.

 

(6)       For Cabinet consideration.”

 

Given that the matter had been referred to this Scrutiny Committee from the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment), the Head of Public Protection outlined the issues previously considered by that Scrutiny Committee.  In particular, he reiterated his comments made to the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) in that the current sampling programme was under review and would be the subject of a separate report to Cabinet in due course.  The key issue that the Cabinet would need to consider is whether sampling programmes should continue to be taken for non-statutory non-designated beaches in view of staffing and budget constraints.

 

Councillor Curtis, who was in attendance at the meeting, spoke with the consent of the Committee and set out his rationale as to why  he had requested the matter to be considered by the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment).  In commenting on the issue, he indicated that he was particularly concerned that this issue had been picked up by the national media and consequently any accusations of dirty beaches would have a serious knock on effect not just for local beaches but for beaches across the whole of the Vale of Glamorgan and as a consequence of this tourism in the Vale of Glamorgan could be negatively impacted upon. 

 

Councillor Bertin, in echoing Councillor Curtis’ comments, expressed the view that it was important for the Council and statutory agencies to identify the causation or any related issues surrounding contamination of both water courses as identified within the report.

 

The Committee in general terms found that it was important that the Council’s Communication Section make every effort to counter any negative press given to the Vale of Glamorgan and its environs ensuring facts were reported accurately and in a timely manner so as to provide appropriate and clear information to the community and wider general public. 

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement of action taken by the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) and officers to address water quality issues affecting Watch House Bay, Barry.

 

 

564     DRAFT HOUSING BUSINESS PLAN 2011 (REF) AND HOUSING BUSINESS PLAN - UPDATE (DFICTP AND DLPPHS) -

 

The Chairman agreed that agenda items 5 and 6 for consideration by the Committee be considered jointly given the relevance of the information. 

 

The Cabinet, at its meeting held on 19th October 2011, had considered a draft Housing Business Plan 2011.  The Cabinet at that time had received a detailed and comprehensive report which set out the Council’s arrangements in regard to a revised Business Plan which included a detailed financial forecast in the form of a 30 year financial model.  That report also included changes made to the base model assumptions contained within the Plan including the latest financial projections in regard to the financial detail of the Plan and associated sensitivity analysis and risk assessment. 

 

The Cabinet having considered the matter subsequently resolved:

 

“(1)      T H A T the changes to the draft Housing Business Plan as outlined in the report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the draft Plan be referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) and to the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection).

 

(3)       T H A T the draft Plan be referred for consultation with the Tenants Panel.

 

(4)       T H A T the Housing Business Plan be brought back to Cabinet following consultation.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1)       To update the draft Business Plan with the latest available information.

 

(2)       To provide opportunity for comment from the Scrutiny Committees.

 

(3)       To seek the views of tenants.

 

(4)       To report the proposed final Housing Business Plan prior to its submission to Council.”

 

In conjunction with the above, the Head of Housing Services had submitted an update report for consideration by the Scrutiny Committee which set out detailed information in regard to changes to the base model of the Housing Business Plan which had been revised and incorporated the most recent investment requirement as identified by Savills who were commissioned to revisit the Stock Condition Survey.  In addition, the draft Housing Business Plan had been adjusted accordingly to reflect “stock-sensitive” items as well as the Welsh Housing Quality Standard work which had been undertaken subsequent to the Condition Survey. 

 

In commenting on the detail of the report the Head of Housing indicated that the Council aimed to achieve the WHQS for all its dwellings by the year 2016/17.  This was for reasons of affordability and an assessment of the availability of the professional and construction resources required to deliver the substantial programme of works.  He indicated that between now and March 2017 the Business Plan was modelled on a total capital investment of £80m. in monetary terms and a further £136m. would be spent on years 7 -30 in maintaining the WHQS.  In total this represented a total outlay of circa £215m. over the life of the 30 year Plan.  The above levels of investment would be reliant on the Major Repairs Allowance (MRA) funding from the Welsh Government and also the Council utilising its own resources i.e. useable capital receipts and revenue contributions to fund the expenditure. 

 

A financial analysis had been carried out on the Council’s ability to achieve the level of investment required and specified above whilst maintaining a viable Housing Revenue Account.  A number of assumptions had been used in the financial modelling, the main assumptions being namely:

 

·       Inflation - 2% (based on the UK government inflation target) as specified in Welsh Government Housing Determination.

·       Stock level at 1st April 2011 - 3,946 dwellings.

·       Minimum level of Balances to be maintained, this being set at £600,000 (real terms) which approximates to 5% of gross expenditure.  This was considered to be a prudent level for HRA surplus balances.

·       Supervision and Management costs - based on 2011/12 budget, costs associated to these to rise with inflation.

·       Revenue repairs fixed at a total cost of £3,000,000 for 2011/12 budget.  Reducing to £2,400,000 after 2016/17 when the major internal and external works had been completed, again costs to rise in line with inflation target.

·       Average rents at £72.24 per week in 2011/12 calculated on a 52 week basis, increasing by inflation plus 1% per annum as per notional rent increases advised by the Welsh Government for Housing Subsidy purposes.

·       HRA Subsidy variables with the management and maintenance allowance being adjusted accordingly to ensure that the total HRA Subsidy increased no more than inflation on a year to year basis.  The Business Plan had therefore assumed a 2% increase in subsidy year on year.

·       Other Revenue Income and Expenditure being based on the 2011/12 budget and included additional items with figures based on today’s prices and uplifted at the rate of inflation in the Business Plan.

·       The Plan was no longer reliant on Right-To-Buy sales as it had been assumed that no further Right-To-Buy sales would occur for the life of the Plan.

·       The use of useable capital receipts - Year 1 (2011/12) £1,751,314; Year 2 (2012/13) £378,511; Year 3 (2013/14) £246,175; Year 5 (2015/16) £385,707; and Year 6 (2016/17) £376,932.

·       Expected Penarth Heights HRA Useable Capital Receipts over the period Year 1 to Year 6 to total £1,287,325.

·       Estate Improvements - an allowance of £50,000 per annum for years 2 to 6 had been set aside to improve the safety of estates through community safety initiatives such as fencing, street lighting, landscaping or for play equipment for young people and tenants, community groups and individuals could approach the Council to access such funding to make such improvements.

·       Other Capital Spend in regard to allowances for Disabled Adaptations: further investment in regard to Ty Iolo Hostel, Barry and Evans Street Hostel, Barry and temporary accommodation.

·       Assumption that the Major Repairs Allowance grant would remain at £2.7m. per annum for the life of the 30 year Plan. 

 

To summarise, the Head of Housing indicated that the Council could meet and maintain a minimum WHQS by the end of the financial year 2016/17, whilst still maintaining a surplus revenue balance over a 30 year period.  The total amount of borrowing to achieve this was £32.02m. Prudential (unsupported) borrowing and it was anticipated that the Authority could repay any outstanding debt by 2028/29 which was a period considerably earlier than previously planned for in earlier editions of the Plan. 

 

The 2011/12 HIP budget would be regularly monitored and discussed at programme meetings to ensure that the programme remained on target with work being undertaken on the following improvement programme:

 

 

Amended

Budget

£

Public Sector Housing

Housing Improvement Programme

 

Windows, doors and door entry systems

775,000

Elec and Smoke Alarm Testing, Rewiring, etc.

100,000

Central heating and Boiler Renewals

2,000,000

Redlands House Improvements

30,000

Sheltered Scheme Boilers

200,000

Hafan Treharne Hostel Improvements

270,000

Roof Renewals

1,115,000

Council Housing Adaptations

490,000

Total Housing Improvement Programme

4,980,000

 

In addition to the above, the Housing Works represented a significant programme and the following chart provided a breakdown of the number of kitchens, bathrooms and boilers etc. that would be delivered over the five year period up to the end of the financial year 2016/17:

 

 

Total No.

2012/13

2013/14

2014/15

2015/16

2016/17

Kitchens

3,600

360

810

810

810

810

Bathrooms

3,200

320

720

720

720

720

Boilers

3,100

310

698

698

698

698

Heating Systems

2,500

250

563

563

563

563

Rewiring

3,300

330

743

743

743

743

Roofs

1,400

140

315

315

315

315

 

The Head of Housing further indicated that most of the above works would be delivered through four main contracts operating within four Improvement Areas already determined by the Cabinet.  These were the Rural Vale; Barry split into two areas and Penarth / Dinas Powys.  A set amount of work within each of the areas would be retained from the main contracts for the in-house DLO to deliver.  It was expected that the tendering exercise in respect of this would be expedited in early December 2011 with tenders being returned during April 2012 with a view to appointing contractors to undertake works during May / June 2012. 

 

In referring to the sensitivity analysis undertaken regarding risk, the Head of Housing indicated there were risks that the assumptions used in the Housing Business Plan did not materialise e.g.

 

·       inflation running at 1% higher than anticipated over the life of the Business Plan i.e. 3%;

·       the cost of home improvements increased by 1% above inflation during Years 1 to 7, this included both revenue repairs and major investment;

·       the cost of the improvements and repairs increased by 1% above inflation per annum for the life of the Plan;

·       or interest rates were 1% higher than expected;

·       the annual Major Repairs Allowance from Welsh Government was half that anticipated i.e. £1.3m. per annum; the annual Major Repairs Allowance (MRA) from WG was for Years 1 to 7 only;

·       interest rates 2% higher for Years 4, 5 and 6 than assumed and rent increases were 0.5% less than assumption made within the Plan.

 

Having regard to the above and related issues it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the reference received from Cabinet dated 19th October, 2011 regarding the above subject be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the changes to the draft Housing Business Plan as set out in the report to the Cabinet of 19th October and as outlined by the Head of Housing Services in his update report be noted.

 

(3)       T H A T the minute of this Scrutiny Committee be referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) for consideration.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In acknowledgement of the matter being referred to the Scrutiny Committee by the Cabinet.

 

(2)       In acknowledgement of work undertaken in respect of a revised Housing Business Plan and action to progress the same.

 

(3)       As the lead Scrutiny Committee.

 

 

565     SUPPORTING PEOPLE PLANNING GROUP - MINUTES OF MEETINGS -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of meetings of the Supporting People Planning Group dated 21st March, 30th March, 11th April, 28th April and 21st June 2011 be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement of the need to apprise the Scrutiny Committee of progress made by officers in delivering the Supporting People Operational Plan.

 

 

566     WELFARE BENEFIT REFORM (DLPPHS) -

 

The report sought to apprise the Committee of the UK Government’s proposals for Welfare Reform which would directly affect both Social Housing Tenants and potentially the allocation of vacant Social Housing accommodation. 

 

The implications of the above Reforms had been previously reported to the Scrutiny Committee earlier in the year.  The Head of Housing indicated that proposals within the Reforms were likely to have a significant and detrimental impact specifically on tenants within the Vale of Glamorgan resulting in pressures on the Council in the following areas:

 

·       demand to downsize from existing Social Housing Tenant working age and living in properties exceeding the proposed size criteria

·       Homes4U applicants of working age and on benefits only being prepared to consider accepting social rented properties that met the size criteria they were eligible for

·       significant difficulty in attracting private landlords to accept tenants on benefits

·       an increase in private sector evictions as landlords refused to renew tenancies of those tenants on benefit in favour of working applicants

·       an increase in demand for social housing from single people under 35

·       more demand on the homeless service through the impact of the increase in non dependent deductions and

·       local letting policies may be restricted e.g. if the use of more flats to house for households with dependent children occurred.

 

Of particular concern to the Head of Housing was the impact on the Council’s ability to house homeless / potentially homeless applicants as a result of the UK Government Reforms.  He indicated that there were significant changes proposed which would impact on the Council’s ability to utilise the private rented sector.  He considered, as with many Government policies, that there was clear conflict with on the one hand the proposals to enable the Council to discharge its homelessness duties by securing good quality and affordable rented housing and the proposals contained within the Welfare Reform Bill which would see the level of Housing Benefit paid to tenants living in private rented accommodation reduced considerably.  Coupled with this, the current  low levels of mortgage availability was likely to see increased demand from the private rented sector and therefore generally higher rents as a consequence.  In addition, much of the Council’s very good work over recent years in securing private rented housing e.g. Vale Assisted Tenancy initiative; Private Sector Leasing; Social Lettings Agency may be adversely affected by the restrictions in housing benefit allowances which in turn would place a greater burden on the Council to provide Bed and Breakfast accommodation and thus increasing costs for the Council in an environment where scarce social housing resources already existed.  It was likely, in the Head of Housing Services’ opinion, that the likely scenario would arise where becoming homeless would be the only road into Social Housing if the Reforms came into existence.  He also had significant concerns regarding the proposals which would see the increase in shared accommodation rate age limit from 25 to under 35 to take effect from April 2012.  This meant that applicants under 35 and living in private rented accommodation would only be entitled to Housing Benefit rate of occupying a room within a shared house - significantly lower than the Housing Benefit rate for a one bed self contained property. 

 

In response to a question from Councillor Brooks, the Head of Housing indicated that the all-Wales Chief Housing Officers network was currently assessing the exact impact on all Welsh councils in Wales and work was currently ongoing to assess how those individuals could be identified who were most likely to be affected as a consequence of the proposed Reforms.  He further indicated that the Council was working with Registered Social Landlords to address issues around the supply of affordable smaller units of accommodation and in addition it may be the case that the Council may need to be creative with its use of existing housing stock e.g. redesigning larger dwellings to make smaller units. 

 

Councillor Bird referred to the potential for rentals at the lower end of the private sector market to be more affordable as a consequence of the Reforms.  In response the Head of Housing indicated that all the information available to date i.e. the lack of availability of mortgages would result in the better conditioned properties demanding higher rentals within the private sector.  As a consequence the poorer and most vulnerable in society were likely to only be able to afford properties which were in poorer condition and with additional risks for such tenants. 

 

In commenting on the matter, the Chairman echoed the concerns raised by the Committee and requested that the Head of Housing submit regular reports on a quarterly basis to the Scrutiny Committee for consideration. 

 

Having regard to the above and related issues, it was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T a detailed assessment of the potential impact of the proposed Reforms on Social Housing tenants and applicants in the Vale of Glamorgan be undertaken and that a further report be submitted to the Scrutiny Committee on completion of the assessment.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

So that the impact of the proposed Reforms can be understood and that an action plan for the management of the Reforms could be established including a review of the way the Council utilised Social Housing Stock and let vacant dwellings and also to allow the Council to plan for any increases in homelessness as a direct result of the proposed Reforms.

 

 

567     SCRUTINY DECISION TRACKING OF RECOMMENDATIONS (DLPPHS) -

 

The report detailed progress in respect of uncompleted recommendations made by the Scrutiny Committee in relation to the first and second quarters of 2011/12, details of which were set out in Appendix C and D to the report; the financial year 2009/10 (Appendix A) and the financial year 2010/11 (Appendix B).

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the following actions detailed below be accepted as completed:

 

06 April 2011

Min. No. 1100 - Consultation On Proposed Private Sector Housing Renewal Policy 2011-14 (REF) - Recommended

(2)   That a summary of the consultation responses in respect of the draft Housing Renewal Policy 2011-13 be submitted to this Scrutiny Committee for consideration.

(3)   That, when available, the draft Empty Homes Policy be submitted to this Scrutiny Committee for consideration.

 

 

(2) Consultation report presented to Cabinet on 6th July 2011 who referred it to this Committee on 21st July (Min. No. 241). 

Completed

(3) Report submitted to 6th October 2011 meeting.

Completed

21 July 2011

Min. No. 251- Scrutiny Committees' - Draft Annual Report May 2010 - April 2011 (DLPPHS) - Recommended

That the draft Annual Report for the period May 2010 - April 2011 be approved and be submitted to the meeting of Council on 28th September, 2011.

 

The Annual Report was submitted to Council on 28th September 2011.

Completed

07 September 2011

Min. No. 341 - First Quarter Performance Monitoring Reports (DLPPHS) - Recommended

(3)   That, 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. 

 

 

The Head of Building Services has contacted Mr. Farrington and furnished him the further details he had requested.  The matter was resolved to Mr. Farrington’s satisfaction.

Completed

Min. No. 342 - Homelessness Leasing Scheme (DLPPHS) - Recommended

(2)   That 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.

 

 

Cabinet, on 21 September, approved the recommendation (Min. No. C1426 refers).

Completed

Min. No. 343 - Introduction of Local Letting Policy - Awbery House, Barry (DLPPHS) - Recommended

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

 

 

Cabinet, on 21 September, approved the recommendation (Min. No. C1427 refers).

Completed

 

(2)       T H A T progress against the remaining recommendations identified as ongoing as detailed in the report be noted.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1&2)  To apprise Members of progress with Scrutiny Committee recommendations.

 

           

568     ACTION AGAINST METAL THEFTS (DLPPHS) -

 

Councillor Curtis, who spoke on the above matter with the consent of the Committee, referred to his Request for Consideration as submitted, including making reference to a number of examples of metal thefts which had been covered in the national and local media which had caused considerable concern and upset to those local communities.  In alluding to his rationale for requesting a report to be submitted to the Scrutiny Committee on the number of incidents within the Vale of Glamorgan of metal thefts, he called for a mandatory system to be introduced to supervise scrap metal merchants, such mandatory system including a requirement to provide two proofs of identity and the recording through photographic devices all customer vehicles entering such establishments.  He also felt that it was necessary, given the level of criminal activity, that scrap metal dealers be required to use a cashless system of payment so that all customer accounts could be traced in the event that the scrap metal proved to be stolen.  He also considered that given the rise in such thefts these were now blighting local communities to the extent that considerable dismay was being shown by the general public and disgust and referred to the recent thefts of materials from war memorials and cemeteries.  He tabled two documents for the Scrutiny Committee’s consideration, one related to an article regarding the theft of brass memorial plaques from Barry cemetery with the latter tabled item which set out a number of adverts which he had obtained from local press which encouraged the dealing of scrap metal for payments of cash.  He felt that both were unacceptable to him, to his colleagues and to the communities who had been adversely affected by such thefts. 

 

A number of Members echoed the concerns raised by Councillor Curtis particularly given that Council premises had been previously targeted i.e. schools, Civic Offices, Barry Library with the associated additional costs that the Council had incurred as a consequence including increased insurance premiums and repair costs associated with the damage.  Councillor Bertin suggested that where appropriate the use of “smart water” be used to protect the Council’s property.  In addition, Councillor Thomas referred to the difficulty in detection given that unscrupulous scrap metal dealers often carried out superficial checks on individuals selling scrap metal and referred to his recent visit to a dealership in Bridgend where very superficial checks of identity had been undertaken by the dealer concerned.  He also referred to adverts stating cash payments and associated ease of tax evasion as a consequence.

 

Councillor Hodges, in referring to the recent media reports of thefts from war memorials, enquired if the Council’s Merchant Seamen Memorial outside the Civic Offices had adequate protection i.e. an appropriate security device had been applied to the commemorative plaques.  He also enquired of the Head of Public Protection as to what Trading Standards could do to deter unregistered operatives from participating in such activities, including the ability of the Council or other enforcement bodies impounding vehicles and seizing of their assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act.  In response the Head of Public Protection indicated that there were currently some good practices being undertaken by local authorities across Wales i.e. Rhondda Cynon Taf and this Council in conjunction with the Safer Vale Partnership were looking at these with a view to possibly introducing such practices.  He also indicated that the Safer Vale Partnership was currently engaged in a multi agency operation and strategic approach to tackling metal thefts within the Vale.  He reminded the Committee that metal theft was a national problem costing the UK economy an estimated £770m. per annum.  Criminals tended to see metal thefts as posing less risk of arrest and conviction, and many areas of the UK had seen increases in occurrences in line with inflating market prices for metal.

 

The Principal Community Safety Officer in referring to the report tabled for the Committee’s consideration, indicated that the Vale of Glamorgan’s level of metal theft actually fell by an estimated 9.2% from April to August compared to the same period for 2009/10.  She also indicated that activities were in hand with the Safer Vale Partnership and “Operation Regulate”.  This operation approached the issue from three angles, prevention, intelligence and enforcement.  The report detailed the areas of prevention, intelligence and enforcement activities currently being undertaken as part of that operation.  As for action taken to date, the Principal Community Safety Officer indicated that scrap metal dealers within Barry had been visited to ensure compliance with licence and regulations; details of scrap metal dealers were being made available on a central database that the Police could easily access; schools in the Vale of Glamorgan had been contacted with crime prevention advice in relation to metal thefts, especially lead thefts; a report had been produced to monitor the fly tipping of stripped cable throughout the Vale of Glamorgan which provided intelligence for hotspot locations; rogue trader day targeted potential metal thieves by stopping vehicles in scrap yard areas; a number of residents had been subject to theft of seemingly unwanted items that had been left in their gardens and a campaign to raise the profile of kerbside collections had been undertaken in order to reduce the number of households leaving metal products such as washing machines and fridges in their back gardens; and the level of reported metal thefts along with motive and locations would be monitored and appropriate action through the Safer Vale Partnership would be taken.  The Scrutiny Committee noted that the use of “smart water” was cost prohibitive.

 

Councillor Curtis, in summing up his concerns on this matter, referred to a current Private Members Bill presently under consideration in the House of Lords and called on the Scrutiny Committee and Cabinet to support its passage through both Houses. 

 

Having regard to the above and related issues, it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the Cabinet is requested through the Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Safety and the Leader to write to the Secretary of State for Justice requesting the following:

 

            (i)         That the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 be amended with a view to introducing a robust licensing regime with scrap metal dealers paying a licence fee to fund the regulation of the licence.

 

            (ii)        That the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 be applied to seize assets of individuals successfully prosecuted for metal theft.

 

            (iii)       That the Police be given additional powers to search and investigate all premises operated by scrap metal dealers and where criminal activity detected be given the powers to close such dealers.

 

            (iv)       That a cashless payment system be introduced for the dealing of scrap metals including the requirement for individuals to produce photo identification and appropriate means of recording details of vehicles entering scrap metal dealers’ premises via photographic devices.

 

            (v)        That Magistrates be given additional powers to vary licensing conditions and to prevent the reopening of previously closed metal dealerships successfully prosecuted for handling stolen property.

 

            (vi)       That individuals engaged in such criminal activity be dealt with by the Courts in a way that the punishment was proportionate to the consequence of the crime.

 

(2)       T H A T the Cabinet is requested to give its support to the Private Members Bill introduced by Lord Faulkner of Worcester currently being considered in the House of Lords to address the growing problem of metal thefts.

 

(3)       T H A T the Head of Public Protection, on behalf of the Scrutiny Committee, write to all Welsh Government AMs, Welsh MPs and the WLGA requesting the need for legislative action to be taken to address scrap metal thefts to safeguard communities and local economies.

 

(4)       T H A T the activities of the Safer Vale Partnership in tackling metal thefts in the Vale of Glamorgan be publicised on the Council’s website. 

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1&2)  To seek the Cabinet’s support.      

 

(3)       To further raise the profile of scrap metal thefts and the need for further urgent action to be taken to address the issue.

 

(4)       To ensure that appropriate information was disseminated to the community of the Vale of Glamorgan.