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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 9th February, 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, N. Moore, J.W. Thomas, R.P. Thomas, A.C. Williams and E.T. Williams.

 

Also present:  Messrs G. Amos and J. Farrington and Mrs. D. Hill (Tenant Panel / Working Group).

 

 

881     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors Ms. M. Wright; Mr. B. Fisher (Tenant Panel / Working Group); Mrs. W. Davies (Vale Housing Federation).

 

 

882     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 19th January, 2012 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

883     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

884     REVISED SERVICE PLANS (CX) -

 

The Council had recently received its 2011 Improvement Assessment letter from the Auditor General which made one recommendation for improvement in regard to “Establishing a transparent programme for the development of outcome focused measures moving from reporting arrangements that focus primarily on performance indicators and on the completion, or otherwise, of an action”.

 

The development of outcome focused measures had been identified as an area for improvement in most Welsh Councils and represented a significant challenge in the current financial climate.  The Council had recently commissioned the Local Government Data Unit to work with three service areas to develop outcome focused performance measures as a pilot.  This work would inform a Council-wide approach which would thereafter be rolled out to all service areas in 2012/13.  It was noted that the Wales Audit Office would be involved in this process to inform the corporate approach.

 

The Head of Performance and Development indicated that work had commenced with Visible Services, Public Protection and Customer Relations to revise the current service plan format to enable services to improve how they measure and provide evidence of their contribution to the priority outcomes identified within the Council’s Corporate Plan.  He also indicated that revised service plan formats would address the following key questions:

  • What is the service, what does it do and why is it important?
  • What is the plan for, how will it be used and by whom, and how will it be monitored?
  • How did you decide what your service objectives are?
  • How does your work fit with corporate objectives?
  • What relevant actions have you undertaken to achieve your service objectives? 
  • What impact have these actions had?
  • What do you plan to do in the coming year?
  • How will you know if you are achieving your objectives (including what measures you will use to help understand how well things are progressing)?
  • How does your performance against your objectives help deliver the corporate objectives?

Revised draft service plans for the three pilot areas would be reported to the relevant Scrutiny Committees during March 2012 with the approach rolled out Council-wide thereafter with the new format to be utilised from the financial year 2013/14. 

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the work currently being undertaken to revise the format of service plans in response to the Auditor General for Wales’ recommendation as outlined the 2011 Improvement Assessment Letter be endorsed.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To improve the effectiveness of scrutiny of the Council’s performance.

 

 

885     WELSH GOVERNMENT CONSULTATION - SHARED PURPOSE -SHARED DELIVERY (CX) -

 

The views of the Council’s Scrutiny Committees were being sought along with the views of Local Service Board (LSB) partners on the Welsh Government proposals set out in its consultation document “Shared Purpose - Shared Delivery”.  The deadline for comments to the Welsh Government was 30th March, 2012. 

 

The new Guidance intended to integrate local service planning, streamline partnership working and strengthen the strategic role and accountability of the LSB.  The draft Guidance was proposed to replace existing statutory guidance deriving from a number of pieces of legislation in regard to Community Strategies (Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009), Children and Young People’s Plans (Children Act 2004, Children and Families Measure 2010) and Health Social Care and Well-being Strategies (NHS Wales Act 2006).

 

The overarching strategic partnership in the Vale was the LSB and this was chaired by the Leader of the Council with membership encompassing senior representatives of key organisations operating in the County e.g. South Wales Police, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and Cardiff and Vale College.

 

The draft Guidance required the production by LSBs of a single integrated plan which would replace the existing statutory plans and strategies and would underpin clear lines of accountability and performance management arrangements with a view to delivering high level outcomes through multi agency working.  Such Plans were anticipated to be in place by April 2013 and the view of the Welsh Government was that LSBs should:

  • Agree strategic priorities for multi-agency working to support the agenda set out in Programme for Government and respond to clearly evidenced local needs.
  • Achieve improvements by ensuring appropriate systems are in place and that managers and frontline staff across agencies are working together effectively and that agreed priorities are reflected in individual organisations' corporate plans.
  • Ensure partnership and delivery structures are fit for purpose and accountable.
  • Challenge where there is underperformance or coasting and implement changes that reflect evidenced best practice to improve outcomes for the local population.
  • Review and report annually on progress; to the public, Welsh Government, democratically elected members, and LSB member organisations.

The proposals also would require what was needed to be included in a single integrated plan in terms of a long term vision, analysis of local need, a 3-5 year action plan, an information strategy and an engagement strategy.  The integrated plan should also include information about LSB governance, performance management and scrutiny arrangements.

 

In referring to the report and appendix, the Head of Performance and Development indicated that the LSB had already implemented much of the Welsh Government’s proposal and work was proceeding to enhance partnership working and further align the work of different partnerships.  Work would need to be undertaken to develop an information strategy and engagement strategy in line with the proposals.  The Head of Service also referred to Chapter 3 of the Guidance which set out proposals for strengthening accountability and performance management which also included scrutiny and inspection and audit.  He drew the Scrutiny Committee’s attention to page 17 of the document which specifically referred to scrutiny and joint scrutiny arrangements and further indicated that this was closely linked to the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 which had the intention of providing new powers to local authorities’ scrutiny committees to scrutinise other public service providers in their area in addition to Council services.  He indicated that the consultation document recognised the important contribution of scrutiny but acknowledged that at this stage some of the detail was still unclear.

 

Councillor Moore, in referring to the document and also to his comments made at a previous meeting of the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment), indicated that it was difficult for members of the Scrutiny Committee to comment on the proposals, particularly Scrutiny arrangements given that elements of the proposals were still unclear.  He did however feel that it was important that the Scrutiny Committee was aware of the LSB partners’ responses on the draft proposals and requested that these be submitted to a future meeting of the Scrutiny Committee for consideration.

 

Having regard to the above and related issues, it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the Welsh Government Consultation in regard to Shared Purpose - Shared Delivery be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the response of the LSB partners to the above document be submitted to the Scrutiny Committee for consideration.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In acknowledgement of proposals contained in the Welsh Government Consultation - Shared Purpose - Shared Delivery.

 

(2)       To apprise the Scrutiny Committee on LSB partner responses to the draft proposals.

 

 

886     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL 2011 TO 31ST DECEMBER 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 £278,000 mainly due to a recharge of £121,000 relating to backdated employee costs for those involved in the Housing Stock Transfer pre-ballot.  Further favourable variances related to employee vacancies (£32,000), £126,000 for supplies and services, £66,000 for premises costs, external income of £45,000 and £7,000 for transport.  It was noted that the savings would partially offset current adverse variances of £119,000 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 £31,000 due to savings of £12,000 for third party accommodation payments (bed and breakfast), a favourable variance of £20,000 in housing benefit receipts and £15,000 for supplies and services.  This underspend would partially offset an adverse variance of £7,000 in respect of employee costs due to agency cover and £9,000 relating to other budget costs.

 

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

 

-                      Castleland Renewal Area where delays had been encountered in obtaining homeowners’ written agreement to the facelift scheme due to the large number of let properties in the Castleland Ward.  Work was proceeding on site but it was unlikely that the time lost could now be caught up and it had been requested that the sum of £165,000 be carried forward into 2012/13 in order to complete the works early in the next financial year.

 

The Head of Housing, in referring to the report, expressed his gratitude to the wardens at Crawshay Court, Llantwit Major who had supported residents in their move to an hotel in Llantwit Major whilst urgent work was undertaken at the residential home. 

 

Councillor Brooks referred to the Castleland Renewal Area proposed slippage requirement and enquired as to what measures had been undertaken to contact landlords of let properties so as to ensure the necessary works could be carried out in an efficient and timely way.  In response the Principal Housing and Inclusion Officer indicated that officers had made strenuous efforts to contact landlords so as the necessary documentation could be completed to enable those relevant properties to be included within the scheme.  Without the necessary permission the Council was unable to proceed to effect repairs which raised the potential for properties not to be improved as part of the Renewal Area scheme. 

 

Councillor Moore referred to the Roof Renewals contract and expressed concern regarding the delay in commencing work on the programme.  In response, the Head of Housing acknowledged that delays had occurred in progressing the contracts for this programme of works however he indicated that contractors were on site in relation to Phase 1 and contractors had been appointed to undertake the further two phases and he was monitoring the situation closely. 

 

Having regard to the above and related issues, it was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position with regard to the 2011/12 Revenue and Capital Monitoring be noted and that the proposed slippage in the sum of £165,000 in regard to Castleland Renewal Area Scheme be endorsed.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

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

 

           

887     LOCAL HOUSING STRATEGY 2007-12 (DLPPHS) -

 

The report sought to update the Scrutiny Committee on progress against the Local Housing Strategy Action Plan for 2007-12, the report in itself forming part of the Committee’s six monthly monitoring arrangements.

 

The Head of Housing Services indicated that this would be the last in the series of six monthly update reports on the above strategy as it was at the end of its five year life span and further indicated that the Public Sector Housing Department intended to develop a new strategic plan for housing, incorporating:  service standards, performance monitoring information, intended outcomes and the Council’s Outcome Agreement with the Welsh Government.  He also referred to notable achievements against the updated action plan as referred to in Appendix 2 of the report and included the following matters:

 

Private Sector Housing

  • Declaration of the Castleland Renewal Area in April 2010. The Castleland Renewal area office was now open to the public. The Housing Improvement Programme had been developed and started in July 2011.
  • Landlord Forum Meetings have been combined with National Landlord Association Branch meetings, two meetings held and future meeting dates arranged.
  • Local Landlord Accreditation Wales Course held in November 2011 and further courses planed for March 2012.
  • Work ongoing to improve landlord information via Vale of Glamorgan Housing website.
  • An Empty Homes Strategy had been written and a six-week consultation held. Discussions were ongoing between Public Sector Housing and Public Protection in relation to resourcing the strategy.
  • Reported overall energy efficiency improvement across the Vale was 25% over baseline established in 1997.  Partnership working was in place to ensure improvement in domestic energy efficiency continued.

Public Sector Housing

  • The Public Sector Housing Department achieved the Vale Equality Standard Level 4 ahead of the 31st March 2011 target date.
  • Significant work had been undertaken to establish a research base in relation to the housing needs of older people.
  • A review of Council owned sheltered housing and significant tenant consultation had been undertaken.
  • 1,000 older people (aged 55+ as per the Welsh Government definition) who live in Cowbridge and Penarth were surveyed in relation to their future housing needs and an assessment of Council and RSL owned sheltered and designated older persons housing had been conducted.
  • The information gathered would contribute to the development of an Older Persons Accommodation Strategy and mapping the need for Extra Care housing in the Vale.
  • Development of extra care housing:
  • Capital funding had been secured and planning approval granted for the Vale of Glamorgan's first extra care scheme on the Theatre Royal site in Barry. The scheme was anticipated to start on site in March 2012.  
  • A proposal for an additional extra care scheme was being considered; the preferred site had been identified. Currently awaiting results of exploration works (highway access, drainage and land ownership of possible ransom strip) before discussions can be undertaken with possible RSL partners.
  • Cabinet have agreed that funding would be made available from the General Fund to move current VCAS customers onto the new TeleV system.  Moving from VCAS to TeleV would enable users to access telecare services when needed.

Homelessness, Housing Advice and Supported Housing

  • Educational material, to teach secondary school children about housing and homelessness, was distributed to schools during 2010/11 and a second year of educational programmes has been running from September 2011.  This action had also been extended to include pupil referral units with an educational resource.
  • A 'one stop shop' had been developed for young people accessing housing advice and experiencing homelessness. This was a partnership between the Council's Homelessness and Housing Advice Team, Children's Services and Llamau.
  • As part of the Young Person's plan for homelessness, the Council was: reviewing the current supply of accommodation available, developing a gateway into supported accommodation, making the move on strategy more robust and looking at options for shared accommodation in the private rented sector. There was still a need to analyse the issues which young people faced in relation to accessing housing, such as: limited housing options, rent levels and prejudice.
  • A legal and procedural review of the issues that prevent women experiencing domestic abuse from staying in their own homes had been completed. A written procedure had been developed and agreed by the Housing Department and Atal Y Fro which would improve information sharing and help women to either remain in their own home or find suitable alternative accommodation.
  • Move-on accommodation, for women ready to move out of the Atal Y Fro refuge; potential sites have been considered and a bid made to the Barry Regeneration Area Fund for property acquisition and building works.  Site identified and deal agreed with vendors by United Welsh HA.  A revised lower funding bid had been submitted to the Barry Regeneration Fund (BRA) at their request and Social Housing Grant (SHG) agreed to make up the difference in cost. Currently awaiting confirmation from BRA that bid successful and Member consultation will then take place.

The Head of Housing Services then turned to arrangements for the future, indicating that a new strategic plan for Housing would consider the following issues: 

 

Welfare Reforms

  • The Coalition Governments Welfare Reform proposals were likely to have a significant impact on the Council's ability to provide accommodation for people in need. Under the Welfare Reform proposals, social tenants, under state retirement age, will receive housing related benefits based on size of property deemed necessary by the Government. The Coalition Government's Welfare Reform proposals would also impact on existing social tenants currently under occupying according to the Government's formula.
  • The likely outcome of the Welfare Reform proposals was that there would be far more tenants in financial hardship and seeking a move to a smaller property. The availability of smaller properties was limited and the Council was unlikely to be able to provide alternative accommodation to all of those tenants affected by the Welfare Reforms.
  • Homeless applicants were likely to refuse the offer of a social tenancy which was too large for their needs; which would invariably increase the use of bed and breakfasts as temporary accommodation. The associated costs of bed and breakfast were therefore likely to increase.
  • The Public Sector Housing and Finance departments were currently assessing the full impact of these proposals.

Affordable Housing

  • The Vale of Glamorgan had a significant need for affordable housing. The Council's Local Housing Market Assessment 2010 identified overall housing need of 915 affordable housing units per annum.  This increase was principally because overall affordability levels in the County had worsened and the overall supply of current housing stock had reduced (Cabinet Minute C1154).
  • The SHG programme in Wales for 2011-12 has a budget of £69.2 million, a reduction of £31.6million (32%) from 2010-11. This budget had also been top sliced to fund other housing commitments e.g. Physical Adaptation Grant leaving only £41.02 million available to develop new affordable housing schemes across all of Wales.
  • The Vale of Glamorgan’s SHG allocation was as follows:

2011/12          £1,296,499.51

2012/13          £1,247,788.38

2013/14          £1,105,635.27

 

The full grant allocation had been committed to planned developments. Failure by the Council to ensure that the allocated budget for each year was spent would result in any under spend being redistributed by the Welsh Government to another local authority. 

  • Because of the very low settlement awarded to the Vale of Glamorgan over the three year programme, it was imperative that the Authority ensures that schemes were prioritised appropriately to meet identified housing need and other funding streams were maximised (Cabinet Minute C1365).

Housing in the Rural Vale

  • The Vale of Glamorgan Council's Rural Affordable Housing Needs Survey 2010 provided a detailed analysis of the extent of housing need in the communities of the rural Vale of Glamorgan. It calculated that there was an annual requirement of 250 affordable units per year in the rural Vale (Cabinet Minute C1153).
  • In 2010 the Council was successful in bidding for Social Housing Management Grant, from the Welsh Government, to fund a full time post to develop affordable housing in the rural Vale.
  • The Affordable Housing Enabler for the rural Vale had been in post since December 2010. The post had undertaken invaluable work in the past 12 months raising the awareness of the need for affordable housing in the rural Vale and developing a strong evidence base of housing need information.
  • The Affordable Housing Enabler had developed partnerships with rural communities, Community Councils, Councillors and partner agencies. In addition, consultation had been conducted with individual communities. The work currently being undertaken by the Affordable Housing Enabler would contribute to the development of a robust response to the affordable housing needs of rural communities.

A report would be presented to Cabinet on the above issues including details for proposals to develop a new Housing Strategic Plan.

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the report be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement of progress made to date in regard to the Local Housing Strategy Action Plan 2007-12.

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