SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION)
Minutes of a meeting held on 14th March, 2012.
Present: Councillor Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson (Chairman); Councillor J.C. Bird (Vice-Chairman); Councillors Ms. B.E. Brooks, S.C. Egan, N.P. Hodges, J.W. Thomas, R.P. Thomas, A.C. Williams, E.T. Williams and Ms M. Wright.
Also present: Messrs G. Amos, J. Farrington, B. Fisher and Mrs. D. Hill (Tenant Panel / Working Group); Mrs. J. Winney (South Wales Policy Authority); Inspector Winslade-Gregory (South Wales Police) and Mr. S. Thomas (Secretary, Vale of Glamorgan Taxi Association).
978 APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE -
This was received from Councillor R.J. Bertin.
979 MINUTES -
RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 9th February, 2012 be approved as a correct record.
980 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -
No declarations were received.
981 REQUEST FOR CONSIDERATION - IMPROVING SECURITY FOR HACKNEY AND PRIVATE HIRE LICENCES -
Councillor R.J. Bertin had submitted the following Request for Consideration in respect of the following:
“Given a terrorist involved in a London bomb plot was investigated for posing as a taxi driver in Wales and that the Police were involved due to concern over the use of fake ID, I would like to receive a report from both the Police and our Officers on how security has since been improved for the issue of hackney carriage and private hire licences.
Police have identified a number of security threats in the Vale including Dow Corning and Aberthaw Power Station where such fake ID could be used to gain access. We have an important role in preventing terrorism and we must ensure that we are doing all we can to do so including improving security on taxi driver’s licence issue.
Can you therefore inform us what steps have been taken to improve security and also inform us how many such licences under our authority have been found to be fraudulent and what has been done about this?
Furthermore, can a representative of the taxi operators also come along and also give evidence at this meeting?”
Further to the above matter Councillor Bertin had submitted his apologies as he was unable to attend the meeting due to ill health but submitted the following four questions to be addressed by Council officers and the Police representative:
“Question 1 - Was the person in question operating in the Vale of Glamorgan area?
Question 2 - If so, were the Police satisfied that security was not compromised in any way?
Question 3 - Were the Police now satisfied with the security of the Council’s Hackney and Private Hire licensing service?
Question 4 - Have we considered using “Verifeye” technology which took a picture of the person’s eye to improve security?”
The Director of Legal, Public Protection and Housing Services had submitted a report on Licensing Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle Drivers which was agendaed for consideration by the Committee. In commenting on the comprehensive report the Principal Regulatory Services Officer, in anticipation of questions on the above matter, drew the Committee’s attention to recent reports covered by the national and local media of two Cardiff brothers who were imprisoned for planning terrorism attacks on the London Stock Exchange. In referring to the first question received from Councillor Bertin, she confirmed that one of the two brothers was in fact subject to a report to the Licensing Committee in June 2011 following attempts of that individual to renew his drivers licence in September 2010 under what was now known as a false identity with that individual being licensed as a driver in the Vale of Glamorgan for the previous 12 months. The discovery of the false identity had been as a direct consequence of Vale Council licensing officers not being satisfied with information provided by the individual when the renewal of his driver licence was attempted and due to their alertness immediately contacted South Wales Police whereupon he was arrested and his true identity established. The Principal Officer reminded the Committee that officers had attended anti terrorism training in 2009 and this she believed provided confidence on the part of officers to challenge applications during the licensing process. The Council had a responsibility for licensing taxi drivers which powers had been delegated to the Licensing Committee. The powers and requirement for such drivers to be licensed were set out in the relevant legislation. The Principal Officer also pointed out that there were certain criteria that must be met in law before a person could be granted a Hackney Carriage or Private Hire Vehicle driver’s licence which related to the individual being a “fit and proper person” to hold such driver’s licence and must have held a DVLA driver’s licence for at least 12 months prior to the date of their application. This was the extent which the law provided for. In addition the requirement to hold a licence for 12 months was relatively straightforward, however, establishing the fitness and proprietary of an individual was a matter for the local licensing authority. Consequently, in the Vale of Glamorgan there were currently three criteria used for determining fitness and proprietary, namely:
· pass combined English / knowledge test
· valid Group 2 medical
· CRB check at three yearly intervals.
As a point of interest for the Scrutiny Committee the Principal Officer indicated that the Council’s officers were currently consulting on proposals to introduce driver DSA tests as a requirement and latterly, on 20th March 2012, the Licensing Committee would be considering a report on matters relating to right to work within the UK. Reference was also made to the process for obtaining a CRB including the prescriptive list of documents where applicants were required to provide to prove their identity. She referred to the onus of proof being on the applicant to provide the necessary information and where this was not provided applications did not progress. It was also stressed that licensing officers were continually vigilant to identify fraudulent activity by applicants, however they were not experts in identifying fraudulent documents. To the best of her knowledge she could only recall one further instance in 2002 where identification fraud had been used to obtain a Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle driver’s licence.
The Principal Officer’s attention then turned to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exemptions) Order 1975 which meant that all convictions whether spent or not could be taken into account when determining such applications by the licensing authority. In addition she also referred to the Department of Transport Best Practice Guide which stated that “a criminal record check was an important safety measure and was widely required”. This requirement did not extend to requirement by law however, to the best of her knowledge the Council had not previously granted a “new” driver’s licence without a report from the CRB or Certificate of Good Conduct from the applicant’s Embassy. The Council had adopted a Policy on the Treatment of Convictions, Cautions and Charges when determining such licences. This Policy provided guidance for applicants, officers and members of the Licensing Committee, details of which were appended to the report. In conclusion she referred to the remit of the Council’s Licensing Committee and the role of officers in making recommendations to the Committee. She reminded the Committee from time to time applicants provided the Committee with information which meant that the Committee’s decision did not always run in line with the officer’s recommendation with the Committee considering every case on its individual merits and it was right and proper that they did so. Unfortunately however, there were individuals who would attempt to circumvent the process and licensing officers would continue to be vigilant in all matters relating to proof of identity. Notwithstanding this, she indicated that she was happy to consider any suggestions for improvement to existing arrangements put forward by the Scrutiny Committee. In addressing Question 4 as submitted by Councillor Bertin, she indicated that the use of “Verifeye” technology had not been considered by the Council for its introduction given that it had not been referred to in the Good Practice Guide and she was also unaware of the use of such technology by other Local Authorities.
The Chairman then invited Inspector Winslade-Gregory to address the Committee on Councillor Bertin’s Request for Consideration and invited him to comment on questions 2 and 4 as submitted by Councillor Bertin.
Inspector Winslade-Gregory thanked the Committee for the invitation to address them on the above matter and referred to Question 2 as submitted by Councillor Bertin. He indicated that he was extremely satisfied with the conduct of the Council’s licensing officers and that they were vigilant and confident in undertaking their role which he believed was a direct consequence of the training received from the Counter Terrorism Unit on related matters. Indeed, he indicated that it was testament to licensing officers that the matter under consideration by the Scrutiny Committee at the meeting was as a result of the training received with the result of individuals being apprehended. He also considered the very good partnership working that was ongoing between Council officers and the Police and that this partnership was preventing harm and assisting the country in preventing terrorism activity. In referring to current working practices, he considered these to be up to date and effective. He also stressed the importance that when new staff joined the Licensing Committee it was important that they received appropriate induction training on matters relating to anti terrorism.
In commenting on Question 2 submitted by Councillor Bertin, Inspector Winslade-Gregory indicated that given such matters were confidential by their very nature and it was inappropriate to provide a response at the Committee. In turning his attention to Question 3, he indicated that he was satisfied with the Council’s arrangements to deal with Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle licensing.
The Chairman welcomed Mr. Thomas, Secretary of the Vale of Glamorgan Taxi Association to comment on the issue under consideration.
Mr. Thomas, in thanking the Scrutiny Committee for the invitation to attend the meeting, referred to a recent decision of the Licensing Committee to grant a driver’s licence without a current CRB being obtained and referred to the Council’s Licensing Policy criteria. The Chairman at this point intervened in the proceedings and drew Mr. Thomas’ attention to the remit of the Scrutiny Committee insofar that it could only consider issues relating to policy and could not comment or intervene on the Licensing Committees determination of an individual application. She invited Councillor J.W. Thomas to comment on the matter given that he was also the Chairman of the Licensing Committee. Councillor Thomas referred to a previous meeting with the Vale of Glamorgan Taxi Association where, at that time, all matters relating to the application concerned were explained in detail to the Association representatives. The concerns expressed would be borne in mind by the Licensing Committee in the future. In response Mr. Thomas requested that the Council’s Licensing Committee in the future give more weight to officers’ recommendations prior to the granting of any application in such circumstances. The Principal Officer reassured the Scrutiny Committee that the Licensing Committee had never issued a driver’s licence on a “new” grant without a current CRB in place and the matter alluded by Mr. S. Thomas related to a “renewal” of a driver’s licence with that individual previously holding a satisfactory CRB check.
Councillor N. Hodges referred to existing policy and procedures and expressed disquiet at the Licensing Committee’s previous decision to grant a driver’s licence without the presence of a current CRB. Whilst acknowledging that the Licensing Committee had discretion to consider every case on its own merits, he referred to best practice and considered that consideration of an application could not be given adequate weighting without the availability of all relevant information in his opinion. He also urged the Licensing Committee in the future to delay the approval of any such applications until the appropriated CRB check had been obtained.
Having considered the above and the contents of the report, it was
RECOMMENDED - T H A T the Council’s Licensing Committee give more weight to officer recommendations in their deliberations when they consider any applications for a Hackney Carriage or Private Hire Vehicle licence when a current CRB was not in place.
Reason for recommendation
To ensure that the protection of the public was at the forefront of the Licensing Committee’s deliberations when considering such applications.
982 DRAFT ALCOHOL MISUSE STRATEGY CONSULTATION (REF) -
The above matter had been considered by the Cabinet at its meeting on 1st February, 2012 and at that time the Cabinet had resolved
'(1) T H A T the draft Alcohol Misuse Strategy be approved for consultation.
(2) T H A T the report be referred to the Scrutiny Committees (Housing and Public Protection), (Lifelong Learning) and (Social Care and Health) and Licensing Committee as part of the consultation process.
(3) T H A T a further report on the Alcohol Misuse Strategy be presented to Cabinet following the consultation period.
Reasons for decisions
(1) To ensure that Cabinet are satisfied with the draft Alcohol Misuse Strategy and make relevant comments.
(2) To ensure Scrutiny Committee and Licensing Committee consultation on the proposed Alcohol Misuse Strategy.
(3) To enable the Cabinet to consider the Alcohol Misuse Strategy following the consultation."
The above draft Strategy had been designed to meet the needs of the population of the Vale of Glamorgan and had been prepared in partnership with the relevant external stakeholders. It was proposed that the implementation of the Strategy would be overseen by the Area Plan Board which encompassed both Cardiff and the Vale Health Board area as well as the Vale of Glamorgan Community Safety Partnership. The consultation period had been extended to the end of March 2012 in order to ascertain the views of all the Council's Scrutiny Committees.
The Strategy had been developed in response to a number of factors particularly having regard to the Wales National Database which indicated that alcohol remained the highest source of referrals into substance misuse services across the Vale of Glamorgan and a recent Vale of Glamorgan Young Persons Consultation Report which highlighted that nearly all young people in the Vale of Glamorgan had tried alcohol, with the typical aged first try of the substance being 12 years old and with at least a quarter moving towards a pattern of weekly alcohol consumption. In addition, alcohol was one of the major aggravating factors in 11% of all recorded crime between April and November 2011 and 9% of all anti-social behaviour. In the Vale of Glamorgan, 30% (352) of all overall recorded crime where violent offences took place were alcohol related for the period.
The aim of the above Strategy was to reduce the harm associated with alcohol in relation to both health related harm and adverse effects on the community as a whole. The Strategy would be based on the undermentioned themes as well as the mechanisms that would aid delivery:
· education and prevention
· harm to the individual
· harm to the community.
The Strategy also aimed to build on current capacity of services by developing skills amongst the workforce at youth service and health service level to deal with presenting alcohol related issues. It would address the current underfunding of services that supported alcohol related issues.
Councillor Elmore referred to the data contained within the consultation document and given the varying demographics between the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff requested that Ward specific information be made available to all Members of the Council so that they could ascertain specific issues regarding alcohol misuse within their Wards and related crime. Councillor Johnson referred to the work of the Youth Offending Service and enquired whether they had been included in the preparation of the Strategy. In addition, he also referred to the services currently provided at Cadoxton House and enquired if young people were in attendance at this establishment to provide support for alcohol misuse and treatment. The Vice-Chairman also referred to the contents of the Strategy and requested that an appropriate definition of what a unit of alcohol is be provided within the Strategy. Lastly, the Chairman referred to the lack of information relating to crime generated by young people who were influenced by alcohol and suggested that such information be also included.
In response, the Principal Community Safety Officer gave an undertaking to circulate to all Members of the Council Ward specific information concerning the subject matter. She also confirmed that the Youth Offending Service had been involved in the development of the Strategy and currently officers in partnership with other statutory bodies were looking to develop a separate service for young people but not necessarily based at Cadoxton House. Regarding the description of an alcohol unit she agreed that this should be included and also gave an undertaking to refer this to the statutory planners. Lastly, in response to the Chairman's comments she indicated that this information was not currently made available by the police or the NHS, however, this issue would be raised with the partners with a view to capturing this information in the future.
(1) T H A T the draft Alcohol Misuse Strategy be endorsed.
(2) T H A T the Principal Community Safety Officer circulate details of the Young Persons Consultation Survey including Ward specific information to all Members of the Council.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) In order to provide a response to the Cabinet in response to the draft Alcohol Misuse Strategy.
(2) To ensure that all Members of the Council were apprised of Ward information in respect of alcohol misuse and related crime.
983 POLICE AND CRIME COMMISSIONERS (DLPPHS) -
Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) would take office in England and Wales following their election on 15th November, 2012.
The PCCs role would be similar to the role of the existing Police Authorities and his responsibilities would include:
· Secure an efficient and effective police force for their area.
· Appoint the chief constable, hold them to account for the running of the force and if necessary dismiss them.
· Set the police and crime objective for their area by producing a five year police and crime plan.
· Set the annual force budget and the police precept and produce an annual report setting out progress against the objectives in the Police and Crime Plan
· Contribute to the national and international policing capabilities set out by the Home Secretary in the Strategic Policing Requirement.
· Co-operate with the criminal justice system in their area.
· Work with partners and fund community safety activities to tackle crime and disorder.
The introduction of PCCs would have a considerable impact on local authorities as there was a mutual duty on the PCC and the existing Community Safety Partnerships (CSPs) to co-operate. Both would need to have regard to each others priorities when drawing up the Police and Crime Plan in the case of the PCC and the Strategic Assessment by the CSPs. Importantly, funding which previously had been allocated direct from the Home Office to CSPs would now be allocated directly to the PCC once elected.
To ensure local accountability, a Police Crime Panel (PCP) would need to be established in each force area to scrutinise the work of the PCC.
The PCC would also have a fundamental impact on CSPs (Safer Vale) in the case of the Vale of Glamorgan. It was noted that currently the Police Authority were considered a 'responsible authority' under the Crime and Disorder Act 1988. However, PCCs were not considered a responsible authority therefore it would not be a member of the CSP.
The PCC would have several options to them as the Commissioner of Crime and Disorder Services i.e. to retain current funding levels to CSPs; invest most of current funding into front line policing, with little funding for community safety preventative measures or commission all services, with the CSP having to compete with voluntary, charitable and private sector providers.
The Safer Vale Partnership were currently preparing for the election of the PCC by ensuring that services that were currently commissioned would deliver robust outcomes that could be evidenced through effective evaluations. Joint working opportunities were being reviewed with Bridgend CSP in terms of merging functions to reduce costs and provide efficiencies without impact on service delivery.
(1) T H A T the report be noted.
(2) T H A T a progress report be submitted following the induction of the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales in November 2012.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) To apprise the Committee of the role of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
(2) In acknowledgement of the Scrutiny Committee's role in fulfilling crime and disorder obligations in monitoring progress made by the Safer Vale Partnership.
984 ESTABLISHMENT OF POLICE AND CRIME PANELS (DLPPHS) -
The Operational Manager Democratic Services apprised the Committee on the requirements of the Police and Social Responsibility Act 2011 and specifically the requirement to establish Police and Crime Panels.
The above Act brought in new structural arrangements for national policing, strategic police decision-making, neighbourhood policing and policing accountability. One of the main thrusts of this legislation was to establish elections for Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), the first of which would take place in November 2012 and secondly, the establishment of Police and Crime Panels (PCPs) who would hold the PCC to account. PCPs would be constituted from locally elected Councillors in addition to a number of lay members.
The Operational Manager further indicated that the UK Government indicated that arrangements should be developed locally and consequently guidance had been issued by both the Local Government Association in conjunction with the Centre for Public Scrutiny and the Welsh Local Government Association. In issuing the guidance the Local Government Association had indicated it intended to provide a summary of the key issues both local authorities and police authorities should address in establishing accountability arrangements for the PCC.
In referring to specific issues relating to the role of the PCC and the PCP, the Operational Manager indicated that there was an expectation for PCCs to work closely with partners and that partnership working would be important if they were to operate effectively. Under Section 10 of the above Act, the PCC was required to co-operate with Local Community Safety Partners to achieve the objectives of the Police and Crime Plan. This Strategic Plan would need to be published by April 2013. In referring to the specific role of the PCP, the Operational Manager indicated that this Panel would be regarded as a scrutiny body, existing to scrutinise the PCC, to promote openness in the transaction of police business and to support the PCC in the effective exercise of their functions. The specific functions of the PCP were set out in paragraph 8 to the report.
The Operational Manager also referred to other related matters in regard to the establishment of PCCs, namely functions and procedural rules for operation, specific duties around formal audit, focussing on the consideration of finance reports. Prior to any decisions being made regarding the composition of a PCP the role and functions which needed to be considered and determined in relation to the following matters:
· which authority will lead / chair? (N.B. The Welsh Local Government Association [WLGA] had expressed an interest in undertaking the lead role in terms of administering PCPs.)
· how will panel arrangements and rules of procedure be set out?
· how will the PCP, PCC and other local community safety partners define their inter-relationships?
· in particular, what will be the division of responsibilities between the PCP (at force level) and local Crime and Disorder Scrutiny Committees (at local level)?
· will the PCP's focus be mainly reactive scrutiny or proactive policy development (the nature of the PCP's role suggests that both will need to be carried out, but the balance will need to be decided)?
· how will the public be involved?
· how will decisions be made?
· how will the Panel be supported and resourced?
The Operational Manager also indicated as far as the composition of the PCP was concerned, the Act made detailed provisions which took account of the following:
· where a force area consists of ten or fewer authorities, the number of members of the PCP will be ten, not including the co-opted members
· where a force area consists of more than ten authorities, there will be as many members as there are local authorities in the force area, plus two co-opted members
· additional councillors maybe co-opted onto the PCP, as long as two lay co-optees area also included, the size of the PCP does not exceed 20 and the Secretary of State approves the co-options
· composition should be carried out in accordance to the 'fair representation objective', essentially each authority in the force area must be represented by at least one member if the total number of authorities in the area is less than ten, and one member if the number of authorities is ten or more
· where agreement cannot be reached, the Secretary of State has the power to make nominations
· the PCC cannot be a member of the PCP
· sitting MPs, Welsh AMs, MSPs, MEPs, staff of the PCC and civilian police staff may not be co-opted onto the PCP
· by and large, beyond these principles the choice of who sits on the PCP will be down to the authorities involved. However, in Wales, and in those parts of England where agreement cannot be reached, the Home Secretary will nominate members.
It was further noted that relevant authorities within the area would need between them, to make decisions on the under mentioned issues which in turn would need to be set out in the PCP arrangements, namely:
· Who will sit on the PCP, and how can we assure equity of representation?
Ø How do we ensure the PCP is politically proportionate across the force area?
Ø How will seats be assigned to individual authorities?
Ø Will Executive, or non-Executive, Members sit on the PCP?
Ø What will happen in committee system authorities?
Ø Who will the lay members / co-optees be, and what process will be used to appoint them?
· How will changes in political control in authorities within the force area, and other necessary membership changes be dealt with?
· Will a "special responsibility allowance" be assigned?
· What happens if a decision cannot be reached?
· What happens in Wales?
The Operational Manager, in referring to the scrutiny role of the PCP, indicated that membership of the same would not be confined to non-Executive members of local authorities. He suggested that representatives appointed by local authorities to the PCPs could well be either the Council Leader or the relevant portfolio Cabinet Member. In addition, he indicated the Home Office had made available a small amount of funding to support a “host” authority. The WLGA had subsequently written to local authorities on this point indicating that they were prepared to undertake this role. Taking account of available resources that currently existed to support the Council’s decision-making processes and scrutiny function he considered that it was unrealistic to expect the Council to seek to be the “host” authority and suggested that the Scrutiny Committee may wish to consider supporting the WLGA or, in any event, not opposing another local authority, who might wish to be the “host” authority.
Having regard to the report and to the above issues it was
(1) T H A T the report be noted.
(2) T H A T a further report be submitted to a future meeting regarding arrangements for the operation of the Police and Crime Panel.
(3) T H A T Cabinet be requested to approve offering no objection to the WLGA or, indeed, another local authority becoming the “host” authority.
Reasons for recommendations
(1&2) To raise awareness of the role of the Police and Crime Panel.
(3) To agree how the Panel will be supported and resourced in the future.
985 COMMUNITY SAFETY PERFORMANCE MONITORING (DLPPHS) -
The report set out progress towards targets for Quarter 3 which indicated that there had been a 9% reduction in all crime compared to 2010/11. Specific progress in meeting targets for 2011/12 were set out below:
· Most serious violence: Target 65 incidents, Actual 46 incidents – Achieved (29% below target)
Approximately 50% of the incidents of most serious violence during this period were alcohol related. 21% related to domestic abuse.
· Serious sexual offences: Target 45 incidents, Actual 48 incidents – Not Achieved (7% over target)
In 72% of the cases the offender was known by the victim and in approximately 42% of cases the offender was a partner, ex partner or family member. In approximately 30% of cases the offender was a friend or an acquaintance.
· Domestic Abuse: Target 17% repeat victims, Actual, 8% repeat victims – Achieved (9% under target)
· Criminal Damage: Target 1,164 incident, Actual 964 incidents – Achieved (17% under target)
Almost 51% of the offences of criminal damage related to vehicle damage and 20% related to damage to a dwelling.
· Burglary: Target 276 incidents, Actual 183 incidents – Achieved (34% under target)
Approximately 37% of properties were insecure at the time of the burglary with approximately 57% of the incidents occurring within Barry.
· Robbery: Target 19 incidents, Actual 18 incidents – Achieved (5% below target)
The majority of incidents of robbery occurred in Barry with mobile phones and cash being the most common property taken. The overall level of robbery in the Vale of Glamorgan is very low.
· Antisocial Behaviour: Ongoing
The antisocial behaviour database ASBIT would have been in place for a 12 month period to 12th April and would be used to provide a reliable baseline to monitor performance and the effectiveness of interventions in the future.
· Engagement: Ongoing
The Safer Vale Christmas campaign had been successful e.g. burglaries had decreased by 15%.
· Priority and Prolific Offenders (PPO) / Integrated Offender Management (IOM) – Ongoing
IOM was currently being implemented in the Vale of Glamorgan with implementation of the scheme anticipated post April 2012.
RECOMMENDED - T H A T the progress towards meeting the Community Safety targets for Quarter 3 be noted.
Reason for recommendation
To enable the Committee to monitor progress towards meeting crime and disorder targets.
986 TENANT PARTICIPATION STRATEGY 2012/15 (REF) -
The above matter had been considered by the Cabinet at its meeting held on 15th February, 2012 whereupon at that time it
(1) T H A T the Tenant Participation Strategy 2012 - 2015 and Action Plan as attached to the report be accepted.
(2) T H A T the policy implications for the Vale of Glamorgan Council be noted.
(3) T H AT the report be referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection).
Reasons for decisions
(1) To ensure a continuation of the Council's tenant engagement activities.
(2) To ensure that the Council continues to meet the requirements of the Welsh Government's National Tenant Participation Strategy.
(3) To ensure that the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) monitors Public Sector Housing's performance against the Action Plan on a 6 monthly basis."
The Head of Housing Services referred to the Welsh Government's requirement for each local authority to submit its second Tenant Participation Strategy to be assessed by the Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS). TPAS had submitted guidance on the content and structure of the Local Authority Tenant Participation and in order to ensure continuing compliance with the WG, the Tenant Participation Strategy 2012-2015 had been developed. The draft Strategy as appended to the report was as the consequence of the Welsh Government's expectation that local authorities fundamentally review their existing Strategies and Action Plans to develop a revised submission for assessment by the Welsh Assembly Government with the deadline for second round submissions being 31st October, 2011. The Welsh Government appointed TPAS Cymru to assess the submissions.
It was noted that the Strategy as submitted had been developed in the format and layout advised by TPAS with the areas covered in the Strategy specified by the WG. The draft Strategy also included a post ballot update and updated action plan in line with priorities identified by tenants during the pre-ballot consultation exercise. The aim of the Strategy was to improve the quality and delivery of the Housing Service, contribute to wider community development and achieve full WHQS by increasing the participation and control the tenants had over the Housing Service and landlord functions. This was the long term goal of the Strategy and was translated into a number of objectives which were more specific namely
Objective Number 1: To improve the day-to-day delivery of the housing service and to ensure that the services available are appropriate to the identified needs and circumstances of our customers.
Objective Number 2: Ensure that the Council listens and learns from its communities, is honest in its approaches, transparent in its planning and decision making and accountable to tenants through the mainstreaming of tenant participation.
Objective Number 3: To enable tenants to have a greater influence over planning and reviewing services, decision making and budget setting by increasing their capacity to participate and removing barriers to involvement.
Objective Number 4: Improve the quality of life and the environment in the communities that tenants live in and create a strong sense of community in which residents feel they are able to make a contribution to the future of the area.
The Head of Housing Services indicated that TPAS's initial assessment had identified the Strategy as being exemplar and held it up as best practice. Outcome monitoring of the Strategy would be assessed by TPAS as part of its commitment to the Strategy. In addition, feedback and comments from the members of the Vale Housing Panel had been incorporated into the finished document and the draft Strategy had been submitted to the Welsh Government by the deadline which was 31st December, 2011.
Mr. Amos, in referring to the Cabinet minute and the Cabinet report referred to the reference contained therein to 'increasing participation and control tenants had over the housing service' and expressed reservation on this point given the absence of targets within the associated action plan.
In acknowledging the sentiments of Mr. Amos the Head of Housing indicated that targets for inclusion within the Strategy Action Plan would be subject to consultation with the Tenants Panel. However, the Council would retain overall responsibility of the Council's Housing Stock having regard to its statutory obligations.
Discussion ensued on the role of the Tenant's Panel involvement in identifying issues where mutual agreement could be reached on identified areas. It was suggested that the Head of Housing Services liaise with housing representatives of the Tenant's Panel on this very matter and develop a way forward within the spirit of the new Strategy.
Having regard to the report and the above issues it was
(1) T H A T the Tenant Participation Strategy for 2012/15 be noted.
(2) T H A T the Head of Housing Services liaise with the Tenant's Panel regarding areas to be identified where mutually agreed control could be agreed.
(3) T H A T the Scrutiny Committee receive six monthly progress reports monitoring the Public Sector Housing Performance against the Action Plan.
(4) T H A T the Head of Housing Services submit a further report on details of proposed targets to be included within the above Action Plan.
Reasons for recommendations
(1 & 2) In acknowledgement of the content of the new Strategy.
(3 & 4) To allow the Scrutiny Committee to monitor progress against actions and to agree targets within the new Action Plan.
987 REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL, 2011 TO 31ST JANUARY, 2012 (DLPPHS) –
The Revenue Budget and projected outturn for 2011/12 was detailed at Appendix 1 to the report.
Public Sector Housing (Housing Revenue Account) was predicted to outturn on target. There was a current favourable variance of £228,000 mainly due to a recharge £121,000 relating to backdated employee costs for those involved in the Housing Stock Transfer pre-ballot. Further favourable variances related to employee vacancies £26,000, £140,000 for supplies and services, £51,000 for premises costs, external income of £36,000 and £7,000 for transport costs. These were off set by an adverse variance of £132,000 for housing repairs and £21,000 for Third Party payments.
In regard to Private Sector / General Fund Housing and Community Safety – The Housing General Fund was predicted to outturn on target.
As for the Capital Programme for 2011/12 as detailed in Appendix 2, not all schemes would be spent by the year end.
Issues relating to expenditure including necessary virements on the Housing Improvement Programme were set out in paragraph 8 of the report.
Appendix 3 provided non-financial information on capital schemes with a budget over £100,000.
RECOMMENDED - T H A T the current position with regard to the revenue and capital monitoring for 2011/12 be noted.
Reason for recommendation
To ensure that Members were aware of the position with regard to the 2011/12 revenue and capital budget.
988 DRAFT SERVICE PLANS 2012/13 - BUILDING SERVICES (DFICTP) -
The Head of Building Services referred to the key aims for the Building Services Division over the next three years which were to seek collaborative arrangements with other services providers; to further develop mobile working and extend throughout all areas of the Service and to quantify the value of services provided to ensure they were competitive. Of the main service areas that had been targeted for growth and development these included undertaking work within the WHQS Improvement Programme, work that was currently sub-contracted due to the specialist nature of workloads and to work in collaboration.
In terms of the financial challenges and pressures facing the service, these related to the repair and maintenance budgets coming under pressure which would have a direct financial impact on the service; possible increases in staffing costs as a result of Job Evaluation and the ability to match the recharges for the cost of work undertaken by the private sector building contractors engaged in WHQS Improvement.
The key financial risks facing the service related to the inability to react and match the current competitive nature of the building maintenance and improvement market.
Other main service areas that would be examined to identify savings and efficiencies these included the review of non-operational overhead costs; the full assessment of the impact of mobile working and a further review of transport and material costs.
Reference was also made to the cross cutting objectives of the Service namely:
· to exercise robust financial management and explore all opportunities to improve efficiency and service quality including collaborative working;
· to implement good staff management practices and to ensure there were sufficiently trained staff to provide services to meet further needs and
· to meet and respect the needs of customers, colleagues and future generations.
The Head of Service indicated that Level 3 of Green Dragon had been achieved.
He referred to Corporate Improvement objectives CIO15, 27 and 28 as contained therein and alluded to economic growth and employment opportunities. Seven full time employees were currently being recruited with a further four apprentices planned for next year. The service intended as part of its collaboration remit to engage further with schools and colleges with a view to increasing work based placements.
The main service objective was to maintain all Council buildings ensuring that they were warm, dry, clean, safe and secure.
The Head of Service attention then turned to specific actions contained within the Draft Plan and referred to risks and actions in relation to cost pressures and budget issues, improving performance and monitoring systems. To this end he referred to the development a new SMS service which was recently launched which reminded tenants by mobile phone texts of pending appointments. He also referred to those actions that had not been completed including, consultation surveys and proposals to carry these forward into 2012/13. He also referred to specific actions within the Draft Plan including, those actions that had been completed and to those areas where the Service excelled.
The Vice – Chairman referred to the new SMS service and congratulated the Head of Service and his staff involved with the mobile working initiative. He suggested that the Committee receive an appropriate presentation in the future on the matter.
(1) T H A T the Draft Service Plan in respect of Building Services for the period 2012/13 be accepted and the Committee receive a presentation on the SMS initiative to a future meeting.
(2) T H A T proposals to carry forward actions BS/A74, BS/A77, BS/A36, BS/A690 and the two satisfaction surveys be approved.
(3) T H A T actions BS/A83 and BS/A82 be deleted from the Draft Plan for 2012/13.
Reason for recommendations
(1-3) In acknowledgement of monitoring requirements and to ensure that work in respect of the above actions for the reasons indicated in the report were either carried forward or deleted.
989 DRAFT SERVICE PLAN 2011/12 - PUBLIC HOUSING (DLPPHS) -
The Head of Housing referred to the key aims for the service over the next three years which included proposals to develop good quality, affordable and appropriate accommodation to meet identified housing need; to ensure existing housing was maintained and fit for purpose and neighbourhoods benefit from renewal schemes; to eradicate homelessness and ensure that the public had accessible, high quality advice and information on housing matters; to develop appropriate housing and support solutions to meet specific needs within the community and to work in partnership to make the Vale a safe and healthy place for residents of all ages.
In referring to the priorities for the forthcoming year he indicated that particular emphasis will be made in regard to improving the standard of tenants' homes by increasing the number of properties which met the Welsh Housing Quality Standard through an £80 million initial improvement programme. He reminded the Committee that demand for housing accommodation continued to outstrip supply which needed to be met by increasing the number of new affordable social housing units. In addition, he referred to the relevant performance actions contained within the Draft Plan which would enable the provision of a robust Homelessness and Support Services to the most vulnerable in the community given the current economic climate coupled with the impending Social Welfare Reforms in the benefits system in particular the ‘bedroom tax’ and the likely impact.
One of the key aims within the Draft Service Plan was to ensure that the Housing Division maximised the use of the resources, particularly through various grant streams and other sources of external funding. In addition and alongside the securing of funding for key projects and initiatives it was proposed to review the existing services and facilities to consider whether current charges levied were fit for purpose.
In addition to the above matters over the next three years, there were a number of key risks which would need to be mitigated including, the viability of the HRA, potential reduction in revenue and Grant funding (particularly Social Housing Grant) and an increase in Homelessness. It was proposed to annually review service provision to establish potential efficiencies and continue to look at new ways of working collaboratively and in partnership with all sectors.
He then drew the Committee's attention to a number of specific actions contained within the Plan and also to those actions that had been completed, areas of success and to those activities where the division excelled. In regard to those actions that had not been completed during the current financial year, he proposed that action PH/A116 be carried forward into 2012/13 and be redefined. He also sought consent of the Committee to delete action OA for the reason set out in the report.
(1) T H A T the Draft Service Plan in respect of Public Housing for the period 2012/13 be accepted.
(2) T H A T actions PH/A116 be carried forward into 2012/13 and redefined.
(3) T H A T action OA be deleted from the Draft Plan for 2012/13.
Reason for recommendations
(1&2) In acknowledgement of monitoring requirements.
(3) In acknowledgement of the outcome of the Stock Transfer ballot.
990 QUARTERLY PERFORMANCE MONITORING - QUARTER 3 - BUILDING SERVICES (DFICTP) -
RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position with regard to Building Services Quarter 3 performance monitoring be noted.
Reason for recommendation
In acknowledgement of action taken in meeting performance indicator targets in Quarter 3.
991 QUARTERLY PERFORMANCE MONITORING - QUARTER 3 - PUBLIC HOUSING (DLPPHS) -
RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position with regard to Public Sector Housing Quarter 3 performance monitoring be noted.
Reason for recommendation
In acknowledgement of action taken in meeting performance indicator targets in Quarter 3.
992 QUARTERLY PERFORMANCE MONITORING - QUARTER 3 - PUBLIC PROTECTION (DLPPHS) -
RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position with regard to Public Protection Quarter 3 performance monitoring be noted.
Reason for recommendation
In acknowledgement of action taken in meeting performance in Quarter 3.