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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 19th January, 2012.

 

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, A.C. Williams, E.T. Williams and Ms. M. Wright.

 

Also present:  Councillor P. Church (Cabinet Member); Messrs G. Amos, J. Farrington and B. Fisher (Tenant Panel/Working Group); and Mr. M. Lawrence (Shelter Cymru).

 

 

800     APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE -

 

This was received from Councillor S.C. Egan.

 

 

801     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of thee meeting held on 14th December, 2011 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

802     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

803     TARGET HARDENING TO THE HOMES OF VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC ABUSE (REF) -

 

The above matter had been previously considered by the Cabinet at its meeting held on 13th December, 2011 and at that time the Cabinet had resolved

 

“(1)      That Housing Services allocate Housing Services allocate up to a maximum of £15k. to the Council's Domestic Abuse Co-ordinator to enter into an agreement with Safe Partnership Ltd. to provide target hardening services for one year to the homes of people in danger of experiencing domestic abuse.

 

(2)       That the outcome of the pilot be reported back to Cabinet at the end of the period.

 

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

 

The report as presented to the Cabinet on the above date had been referred from the Cabinet to the Scrutiny Committee for its information.  The Cabinet, in authorising the funding in the sum of £15,000 towards the above objectives, would enable the Council’s Domestic Abuse Co-ordinator to engage services provided by Safe Partnership Ltd to fit target hardening equipment to victims’ homes who had suffered domestic abuse of any tenure.

 

It was noted that Safe Partnership Ltd. was a registered charity which already worked in partnership on its own on similar schemes in over 30 local authorities across the UK.  They would provide suitably trained and Criminal Bureau Checked security fitters to install the required equipment to properties.  The list of additional security devices was extensive and included locks, bolts, door chains and mirrors, mail safe letterboxes, fire safety equipment, personal and property alarms, security lighting and CCTV equipment.  The charity had also offered the Council up to £5,000 in match funding to commence work and it was proposed that the Housing Service committed up to £15,000 additional funding for the one year pilot.  It was anticipated that the initiative would partially reduce the void and re-let costs incurred for Council properties and reduce accommodation costs incurred when placing a victim, including their family, in temporary accommodation through the homelessness service.  The Operational Manager for Public Housing indicated that the Council’s Domestic Abuse Co-ordinator would monitor progress in delivering the above initiative and success of the initiative would be measured by providing stability for clients and to enable them to remain in their local communities.  The benefits for the Council related to greater control over financial resources and ensure that they were effectively utilised, focussing on those clients in most need.

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the Head of Housing Services submit a further report to the Committee identifying best practice and suitable case studies where the initiative had been operated in other parts of the UK.

 

(2)       T H A T, on completion of the pilot scheme, a further report be presented to the Scrutiny Committee on the success of the initiative.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To assess the benefits of the initiative in other parts of the UK.

 

(2)       To assess the benefits to the Vale of Glamorgan following the completion of the pilot.

 

 

804     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL 2011 TO 30TH NOVEMBER 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 £288,000 mainly due to a recharge of £121,000 for employee costs involved in the Housing Stock Transfer pre-ballot.  Further favourable variances related to employee vacancies (£74,000), supplies and services (£105,000), premises costs (£48,000), external income (£39,000),  and transport costs (£7,000).  It was noted that these savings had been partially offset by a current adverse variance of £106,000 for Housing Repairs.

 

The Private Sector / General Fund Housing and Community Safety was predicted to outturn on target and there was a current favourable variance of £34,000 due to savings of £14,000 for third party accommodation payments (bed and breakfast), a favourable variance of £19,000 in housing benefit receipts and £13,000 for supplies and services.  The underspend would be partially offset by an adverse variance of £7,000 in respect of employee costs i.e. agency cover.

 

As for the Capital Programme, Appendix 2 detailed financial progress on this at 30th November, 2011.  Variances between actual spend to date and profiled spend related to the following matters:

  • Housing Improvement Programme (Window and Door Replacements)
  • Housing Improvement Programme (Roof Renewals)
  • Castleland Renewal Area.

Appendix 3 provided non-financial information on capital schemes with a budget 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.

 

 

805     ANTI SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR DVD (DLPPHS) -

 

Anti social behaviour within the Vale of Glamorgan had decreased by 14.75% and the Safer Vale Partnership continually sought out new approaches and collaborations with other agencies to reduce repeat occurrences by providing better support to perpetrators. 

 

In November 2010 the Community Safety Police Representative for the Vale of Glamorgan submitted a proposal for a DVD resource to use within the four stage process for dealing with perpetrators on anti social behaviour.  It was proposed that the DVD would be used within the second stage of the process. 

 

This initiative had been explored by the Safer Vale Partnership and it was subsequently agreed to commission the production of a DVD in collaboration with Safer Bridgend and Vibe Experience Ltd. with existing partnership funding allocated to complete the project.  The production of the DVD was subsequently completed and launched in April 2011 and first used at stage 2 appointments from 11th May 2011. 

 

The DVD had been shown at 106 stage-2 interviews between the period 11th May to 30th September 2011.  Only six perpetrators out of the 106 had continued in their anti social behaviour since the DVD had been included as part of the interview process.  Those young people attending appointments and viewing the DVD having reported a greater appreciation of the consequences of their actions. 

 

A significant outcome from the DVD had been the reaction of parents and guardians who, having watched the resource, now realised the impact that anti social behaviour had on their local community. 

 

It was noted by the Committee that a number of ex-anti social behaviour perpetrators from within the Vale of Glamorgan had agreed to participate in the DVD production. 

 

Following the Committee’s viewing of the DVD the Chairman expressed on behalf of the Committee their thanks to the individuals who had participated in the DVD and to officers and to partnership organisations for producing the same.   Mr. Amos of the Vale Housing Panel indicated that the Panel had been aware of the DVD’s existence and extended an invitation to officers to attend a future meeting of the Vale Housing Panel to show the DVD resource.  The Principal Community Safety Officer agreed to liaise with the Vale Housing Panel to arrange a suitable date to provide a showing of the DVD.

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T a progress report be submitted on the development and impact the DVD had in relation to reducing anti social behaviour.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To raise Scrutiny Members’ awareness of the new DVD.

 

(2)       To ensure that the Committee fulfils its crime and disorder obligations in monitoring progress made by the Safer Vale Partnership.

 

 

806     WELSH HOUSING QUALITY STANDARD ACTION PLAN (VERSION 15) HOUSING REVENUE ACCOUNT ASSET MANAGEMENT STRATEGY (DLPPHS) -

 

The report sought to apprise the Committee of the updated Action Plan in relation to the above matter.  The updated Housing Business Plan was approved by Cabinet on 16th November 2011 for submission to the Welsh Government.  The Action Plan had been modelled on the Council delivering a significant improvement programme and meeting the basic requirements of the WHQS by April 2017.  This level of investment where necessary would provide internal improvements which would provide tenants with modern facilities such as a good standard of kitchens and bathrooms; modern heating systems; up to date wiring along with ensuring that the external structures were in good condition and wind and waterproof.  In addition £50,000 per annum for estate improvements had been included for undertaking projects in relation to community safety initiatives i.e. lighting, fencing or landscaping (from years 2 to 6). 

 

It was noted that some of the Council’s existing housing stock was not sustainable and could not be improved to a reasonable standard within the finances available to the Council and decisions would need to be made at a later date as to the best way forward for these homes.

 

The Council’s Asset Manager provided the Committee with a brief résumé of actions contained within the Housing Asset Management Strategy attached at Appendix A to the report. 

 

The Chairman in referring to void properties referred to her personal knowledge and concern in respect of the number of void properties she was personally aware of.  She considered that many of these properties had been empty for substantial periods of time and with no apparent activity underway by the Council to put these properties back into occupational use.  In response the Operational Manager (Public Housing) indicated that the delays in dealing with long term voids was unacceptable and discussions were currently in hand with all relevant officers regarding this issue.  He indicated that some were proposed to be reassessed in regard to sustainability issues.  He also acknowledged the loss of rental income to the Council as a consequence of such delays.  The Committee shared the concerns of the Chairman where other examples of long term voids and delays in dealing with the same in Penarth were referred to.  Particular concern was made in regard to the public’s perception of the Council where properties were empty for long periods of time with no repairs being undertaken.  In referring to the subject, Councillor J.W. Thomas questioned whether the current performance target of 38 calendar days was appropriate given the concerns raised and alluded to the possible need to adjust the target to a number of days less than the current target.  In response, the Council’s Asset Manager indicated that it was envisaged that the WHQS Action Plan would address the various issues currently impacting on void properties. 

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the updated Action Plan in relation to the Welsh Housing Quality Standard be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To apprise the Committee of the updated Action Plan to achieve the Welsh Housing Quality Standard and maintain it.

 

 

807     QUARTER 2 ACTION MONITORING - PUBLIC HOUSING (DLPPHS) -

 

The Operational Manager (Public Housing) referred to performance in regard to the above matter.  The Committee noted that with regard to the actions contained within the service plan a total of 38 actions, 18 were completed, 14 were on track with a further 6 identified as slipped or not started with the associated reasons for slippage indicated in the report. 

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position with regard to Public Housing Quarter 2 action monitoring be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement of action taken in meeting action targets.

 

 

808     SCRUTINY DECISION TRACKING OF RECOMMENDATIONS (DLPPHS) -

 

The report detailed progress in respect of uncompleted recommendations made by the Scrutiny Committee in relation the first and third quarters of 2011/12, details of which were set out in Appendices 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:

 

6 October 2010

Min. No. 525 - Homeswapper Scheme (REF - Min. No. C1046) - Recommended

That the position be noted and a further report submitted after 12 months operation of the scheme.

Update report submitted to Committee on 1st December 2011 (Min. No. 649 refers). 

Completed

03 November 2010

Min. No. 603 - Pest Control Update Report (LPP) - Recommended

That a further report on the impact of introducing charges for rodent control outside domestic premises be made to the Cabinet and this Scrutiny Committee in 12 months time.

Report assessing impact of fees reported to Committee on 14th December 2011 (Min. No. 706 refers).

Completed

06 October 2011

Min. No. 493 - Supporting People Operational Plan 2011/12 -2012/13 (REF - Minute No. C1438) - Recommended

(2)   That 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.

Minutes of this Group were considered by the Committee on 2nd November 2011 (Min. No. 565 refers).

Completed

02 November 2011

Min. No. 566 - Welfare Benefit Reform (DLPPHS) - Recommended

That 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.

Added to work programme schedule.

Completed

Min. No. 568 - Action Against Metal Thefts (DLPPHS) - Recommended

(1)   That 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)   That 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)   That 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)   That the activities of the Safer Vale Partnership in tackling metal thefts in the Vale of Glamorgan be publicised on the Council’s website. 

Cabinet, at its meeting on 16th November 2011, resolved that the recommendations of the Scrutiny Committee be endorsed subject to the following:

(i)   The Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Safety being designated responsible for writing to all Welsh Government AMs, Welsh MPs and the WLGA.

(ii)   Further clarification being sought with regard to recommendation (2).

(Min. No. C1503 refers).

Completed

01 December 2011

Min. No. 646 - Initial Revenue Budget Proposals 2012/13 (DLPPHS) - Recommended

(2)   That the initial revenue budget proposals for 2012/13 be noted subject to the cost pressures set out in Appendix 3 of the report being prioritised as indicated below and referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) for consideration:

·        Priority 1 – LPPH2 - Public Protection - Food Safety:  2.5 full time equivalent Environmental Health Officers to address the current shortfall which had been identified in the Council’s Food Law Enforcement Plan 2011/12.  This additional resource is required to ensure the Council is able to deliver its statutory responsibilities in respect of food safety and infectious disease control.

·        Addressing the shortfall at this time is important for the following:

-     Currently we are unable to meet the level of enforcement specified in the Food Standards Agency (FSA) Code of Practice and therefore vulnerable to severe criticism in the event of an e.coli outbreak

-     The Welsh Government through FSA Wales is looking to band local authorities in Wales on their performance in delivering food law enforcement.  (Currently we do not have sufficient resources in our revenue budget to meet the FSA Code of Practice.)

-     Currently we are significantly under resourced in comparison to Bridgend Council who have fewer food premises than the Vale.

·        Priority 2 – LPPH3 - Trading Standards:  DEFRA funding for animal health reduced for 2011/12.  This Section is at present funding the shortfall for the current financial year.  However the Section has been required to make additional savings to its budget and DEFRA indicate that a further cut of a similar amount would be made in the next financial year.  Consequently this post which was originally funded by DEFRA will be funded mainly by the Authority.  It is anticipated that the external contribution for 2012/3 towards the post will be approximately £6,000.  Furthermore the skill set for this post is unique and it has taken two years to train the officer to the appropriate standard. 

Training is ongoing.  If the funding is lost and the post cut, no one could take up the duties for at least 18 months.  In addition the shortfall would not leave sufficient revenue for outsourcing the function.

·        Priority 3 – LPPH4 - Coroners: The Cardiff and Vale University Health Board have reviewed the provision of Mortuary Support Services and Post Mortem fees charges.  The additional cost of providing the service will be approximately £70,000.  Cardiff Council will bear the majority of the costs - £50,000, the increase accruing to the Vale of Glamorgan will be £20,000.

Matter referred to Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) on 20th December, 2011 for further consideration, which were noted and referred to Cabinet.  Cabinet will consider these on 18th January 2012.

Completed

 

Min. No. 647 - Initial Housing Revenue Account Budget Proposals 2012/2013 And Revised Budget 2011/2012 (DLPPHS) - Recommended

(2)   That the initial budget proposals for 2012/13 be noted and referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources).

Matter referred to Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) on 20th December, 2011 for further consideration, which were noted and referred to Cabinet.  Cabinet will consider these on 18th January 2012.

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.

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