Top

Top

SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 18th July, 2012.

 

Present:  Councillor Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson (Chairman); Councillors:  R.J. Bertin, Ms. C. Curtis, J. Drysdale, Ms. R.F. Probert, R.P. Thomas, A.C. Williams and E. Williams.

 

Also present: Messrs. G. Amos, J. Farrington and B. Fisher (Tenant Working Group).

 

 

170     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillor Mrs. V.M. Hartrey and Mrs. W. Davies (Vale Housing Federation).

 

 

171     APPOINTMENT OF VICE-CHAIRMAN -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T Councillor Mrs. C. Curtis be appointed Vice-Chairman for the current municipal year.

 

 

172     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 18th April 2012 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

173     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

174     OVERVIEW OF KEY ISSUES FACING THE PUBLIC PROTECTION SERVICE -

 

The Head of Public Protection tabled a briefing note in relation to the key issues facing this service area and expanded as set out below.

 

The Public Protection Service spanned a range of diverse service areas namely, Regulatory Services which had the remit/responsibility for food hygiene, Health and Safety, Licensing and the Council's Dog Warden Service; Trading Standards; Private Sector Housing which encompassed Environmental Health Housing, Pest Control, Housing Assistance – Disabled Facility Grants, Renewal Areas; Pollution Control; the Civil Protection Unit; Community Safety and the Coroner's Service.

 

The key issues for each of the above service areas were as follows:

 

Regulatory Services

 

Food Hygiene

  • Proposals by the FSA to audit local authorities and rate local authorities on performance
  • Food Hygiene Rating (Wales) Bill which would place additional demands on the service
  • Increased numbers of outdoor events.

Infectious Disease

  • Emergency Out of Hours service - protocols and procedures were being developed.

Health and Safety

  • The Government’s focus was shifting the focus of health and safety enforcement to higher risk areas and dealing with serious breaches of health and safety regulations.

Licensing

  • Team support the quasi-judicial Licensing Committee
  • Wide range of premises licensed
  • Taxi licensing.

Dog Wardens

  • Collaborative working with Bridgend.  Development of business case and risk analysis
  • Retendering of kennelling service.

 

Trading Standards

  • Collaboration with Bridgend
  • Regionalisation of Trading Standards Service
  • Availability of specialist staff – animal health / feedstuffs, weights and measures, fair trading
  • Staffing levels
  • Implementation of No Cold Calling Zones.

 

Private Sector Housing

 

Environmental Health Housing

  • Introduction of HMO licensing scheme
  • Implementation of the Empty Homes strategy and delivering Welsh Government House to Homes initiative
  • Ensuring sufficient resources to meet impact of homelessness discharging to private rented sector
  • Determining and dealing with increase demand resulting from welfare changes.

PestControl

  • Achieving income target for the service
  • Introduction of mobile working and schedule solution.

Housing Assistance – DFGs

  • Reduction of the PI for the delivery of DFGs to Welsh Average, in particular for Children
  • Introduction of framework contract for adaptation works delivered through the agency service
  • £1.2m capital budget.

Renewal Area

  • Reducing Welsh Government funding
  • Securing funding to enable the completion of the face lifting scheme and other renewal works in the area
  • Tying into other relevant funding streams e.g. Barry Regeneration, Communities First
  • £1.4m capital budget.

Pollution Control

  • Possibility of an Air Quality Management Area and development of an action plan, if required
  • Providing expert advice on contaminated land, in particular for the Waterfront Development
  • Implementing EU Directive on bathing water quality in partnership with Visible Services and the Environment Agency
  • Dealing with neighbour noise nuisance in collaboration with the Safer Vale Anti Social Behaviour Unit.

 

Civil Protection Unit

  • To ensure there are effective Emergency Plans in place, and that they are reviewed periodically
  • To provide training for stakeholders to maximise preparedness
  • Provide a 24/7 emergency response service on behalf of the Council
  • Adverse weather co-ordination
  • Regionalisation and collaboration with neighbouring authorities.

 

Community Safety

  • Introduction of Police Crime Commissioners in November
  • Funding reductions impacting on services being delivered
  • Maintaining year on year reduction in crime and disorder
  • Maintaining co-location of agencies
  • Addressing key issues e.g. alcohol abuse, domestic violence and anti social behaviour.

 

Coroner’s Service

  • H.M. Coroner is appointed jointly be the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Cardiff County Council
  • Vale of Glamorgan is the lead agency and funded jointly with Cardiff
  • Lack of budget control
  • The Coroner is accountable to the Ministry of Justice
  • Accommodation in Central Police Station, Cathays, Cardiff.

In referring to matters contained within the presentation Councillor Bertin referred to compliance requirements in relation to external agencies i.e. Food Standard Agency and the Health and Safety Executive.  In response the Head of Service indicated that the Council would be shortly inspected to ensure it had an appropriate Enforcement Plan in relation to food hygiene etc. and adequate resources had been made available to deliver this.  Councillor Bertin also referred to existing collaborative working and asked the Head of Service to comment on any difficulties that had been experienced in undertaking joint working arrangements.  In response the Head of Service indicated that project management, trust and available resources were key to the successful implementation of any collaborate joint working arrangements.  In addition, it was also important to commission services to ensure continuity was maintained to the public. 

 

Following discussions regarding the service areas reported, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the Head of Service be thanked for his comprehensive and informative presentation.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure that Members were adequately informed of key issues within the above service area.

 

 

175     KERBSIDE RECYCLING ARRANGEMENTS (REF) –

 

The above matter had previously been considered by the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) at its meeting held on 17th April 2012.  At that time the above Scrutiny Committee had received a comprehensive report which encompassed the success of recently introduced kerbside recycling arrangements and their affects on residents living in multiple occupancy dwellings and a position statement of the Council concerning consideration of incentive schemes aimed at promoting kerbside recycling.

 

In commenting on the report it was considered that the above Scrutiny Committee the Director of Visible and Housing Services indicated that the use of incentive schemes were currently being considered with options favouring a combination of a recycling lottery and awards based on the performance of individual communities / wards.  Officers were undertaking work on both types of schemes but neither had been introduced to date as a result of significant service changes to co-mingling in September 2011.  The introduction of such schemes was likely to be introduced during the current financial year and to assist in this work had been commissioned to investigate ways of incentivising recycling in a particular geographical area.  The Gibbonsdown area had been identified as a pilot study as there were low levels of recycling collected compared to the proportion of residual waste placed out for collection.  In addition, many properties did not front the highway, which made the successful use of personal recycling receptacles more difficult.  It was anticipated that the study would be completed by the end of October 2012. 

 

His attention then turned to recycling arrangements for multiple occupancy dwellings, and to the weekly co-mingled recycling introduced which sought to address what was acknowledged as insufficient storage space in such properties.  In commenting on this particular point he alluded to the fact that the actual problem related to the mixture of storage capacity to accommodate the various elements of recycled waste categories and on occasions a refusal to use the services available.  In an effort to address such difficulties a range of bespoke measures aimed at ensuring that all residents benefitted from the full range of waste and recycling services had been introduced.  An audit was also currently being undertaken for the majority of multiple occupancy dwellings, of all the problems and a range of suggested solutions was to be identified.  The Director also acknowledged the different circumstances that existed with individuals and groups of tenants who resided in each flat.  Part of the above assessment would be to look at the feasibility of introducing a local bespoke collection service for such residents, particularly with the elderly and vulnerable in mind. 

 

Mr. Amos, in referring to the comments of the Director, expressed concern that elderly residents who were in Council properties did not have the capability to store a range of recycling receptacles within their properties, particularly, within sheltered housing accommodation.  This issue was also exacerbated by the physical capabilities of elderly residents placing these in an area where they could be received by the refuse collection service.  Having these issues in mind, he referred to the Council’s doorstep collection service and the apparent lack of information available to tenants and the public regarding the availability of such.  In response the Director alluded to what was formally known as the Assisted Collection Service which was provided by the Council on request via the Council’s Contact Centre.  The provision of the service to any resident within the Vale of Glamorgan was determined following inspection, however the assessment in itself was not a formal assessment and therefore potentially left the service open to abuse.  There were currently 100 properties receiving this service and officers were currently looking at the potential options for introducing technology to assist in delivery of the service to extending the service’s availability across the county.  Mr. Amos, having regard to the comments of the Director, suggested that the Council liaise with the various supported persons organisations that operated in the Vale who could assist in validating those tenants / residents who would benefit from an assisted collection service.

 

At this juncture the discussion then turned to the implementation of the co-mingling initiative with Councillor Drysdale enquiring as to the overall impact of collecting via the co-mingling initiative and whether there had been any unforeseen impact in terms of the reduction in quality of waste collected within the Vale of Glamorgan.  In response the Director indicated that the initially assessed rejection rate was less than 5% and this compared favourably against previous systems operated by the Council.  He also alluded to the fact that the contamination rate was not an issue but was also concerned regarding the Welsh Government’s stance with regard to their proposed insistence on complete separation of recycled waste.  He also alluded to a recent European Union ruling which seemed to support this stance but hoped that where it could be proved that an organisation’s business case was sound in terms of the use of co-mingling operations, that such operations would not be prevented from carrying on in the future.

 

Discussion then touched upon issues impacting on houses in multiple occupation and Councillor Drysdale enquired as to what could be done to improve the collection of recycled waste from such properties.  The Head of Public Protection referred to the current legislation and the options open to the Council to use in regard to tackling such problems and specifically referred to Management Orders.  Discussion ensued with various points being referred to in regard to the reinstatement of storage compounds at houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), in particular in respect of Council housing stock and Councillor Bertin referred to specific issues regarding the recycling of the waste within his Ward.  The Director, in commenting on the latter point, indicated that the issues affecting HMOs would need to be addressed as currently they impacted on the Council’s capability to improve on its performance targets.  He acknowledged that the issues were a combination of factors including storage and education and there would need to be some flexibility to introduce individual solutions for individual problems being experienced in specific areas of the Vale.  He was confident however that the Council would hit its performance target of 52% for 2012/13. 

 

Having regard to the above, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the arrangements in respect of the Council’s operation of kerbside recycling be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement of action taken to date.

 

 

176     EMPTY HOMES STRATEGY 2012 – 2017 (REF) –

 

The above matter had been considered by the Cabinet at its meeting held on 18th April 2012.  The Cabinet, having considered the matter, had referred the matter on to this Scrutiny Committee to ensure that the Committee monitored the Council’s performance against the Action Plan on a six monthly basis. 

 

The proposed Strategy (attached at Appendix A to the report) set out the Council’s plans to bring empty homes back into use over the next five years.  It outlined a co-ordinated, proactive approach to tackling empty homes in partnership with relevant Council departments and stakeholders. 

 

The aims of the proposed Empty Homes Strategy were to:

  • monitor empty homes
  • provide advice, assistance and guidance to landlords and property owners
  • reduce the negative effect of empty homes on our communities
  • reduce the number of empty homes
  • return empty homes to use
  • promote the empty homes initiative.

 

Through the Strategy, the Council would target problematic empty homes that were: inactive in the housing market, unlikely to return to use without intervention from the Council and were the subject of valid complaints from the public, partners and Councillors. 

 

The Strategy would not cover short term empty properties, such as: transitional vacancies, due to the property being advertised for sale or rent, properties undergoing renovation prior to sale or rent, infrequently used properties such as holiday or second homes or student accommodation.

 

The Strategy proposed a range of services to assist landlords and property owners bring empty properties back into use, including: advice and assistance, the services of a social lettings agent, Landlord Accreditation Wales, property guardian schemes, financial assistance and incentives.

 

The Council had extensive legislative powers to intervene where it considered a property was unsafe or in an unacceptable condition.  These powers included:  enforcement activity such as serving Improvement, Abatement of Nuisance or Prohibition Notices on owners; Demolition Orders, Management Orders, slum clearance, Compulsory Purchase Orders and Empty Dwelling Management Orders under the Housing Act 2004. 

 

Enforcement in relation to empty properties fell within the service objectives of the Public Protection Service.  Empty homes were primarily dealt with by the Council’s Environmental Health (Housing) Enforcement Team in partnership with the Housing Department.

 

In April 2012, the Welsh Government introduced the “Houses to Homes” initiative.  This provided £5m. between the local authorities to bring empty properties back into use.  This national loan scheme would be delivered through a local authority and the Welsh Government had invited interest. 

 

To qualify for the “Houses to Homes” funding, local authorities had to work collaboratively utilising the six regions model.  Of the £5m. funding available across Wales, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan Councils had been allocated approximately £750,000.  The Vale’s share was £212,000 and this apportionment had been based on the level of housing stock in each local authority area.  The funding was a one-off amount and there would be a yet to be agreed cut off date for it to be spent.  The Vale of Glamorgan Council was working collaboratively in order to appropriately deliver the loan scheme and work was underway to ensure the scheme was available to empty property owners in the Vale of Glamorgan. 

 

The Strategy had been developed in partnership by the Council’s Public Sector Housing, Public Protection, Legal, Council Tax, Planning and Development Control departments and the Council’s partner Registered Social Landlords. 

 

Cabinet, in September 2011, granted authority to consult on the Strategy.  The consultation lasted six weeks and ended on 16th December 2011. 

 

Five consultation questionnaires were completed and returned.  These responses agreed with the aims and objectives of the Strategy.  No amendments had been made in response to the consultation questionnaires received. 

 

The Public Protection department had identified efficiency savings from the Grant Agency Service in order to appoint a temporary Empty Property Co-ordinator within Environmental Health for a period of 2 years.  The post would provide support to implement the Strategy and act as the public point of contact for empty properties and develop and manage public information on empty properties in the area.

 

The Council would also seek the support of partner Registered Social Landlords to enable an Environmental Health Officer or equivalent to be employed three days a week to take forward enforcement action that would include Compulsory Purchase Orders.  The Private Sector Housing Enforcement team would lead the implementation of Strategy.

 

Also tabled for the benefit of the Committee was an updated Action Plan which provided further information on progress made in the first quarter reporting period. 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the contents of the Empty Homes Strategy for the period 2012-2017 be endorsed and that this Scrutiny Committee receive in future six monthly monitoring reports on performance against the actions contained within the above Plan.

Reason for recommendation

 

To monitor the performance of the service.

 

 

177     REVIEW OF DISABLED FACILITIES GRANT SERVICE IMPROVEMENTS (REF) –

 

The above matter had been subject to consideration by the Cabinet at its meeting held on 18th April 2012 whereupon, at that time, they referred the matter to this Scrutiny Committee for consideration. 

 

As part of the Internal Audit Plan 2011/12, a review was undertaken of the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Grant Agency Service procedures in relation to the awarding and delivery of Disabled Facility Grants. 

 

The Audit Opinion concluded “the effectiveness of the internal control environment was unsatisfactory and therefore only limited assurance could be placed upon the systems of internal control.  This overall opinion was supported by the identification of a combination of fundamental and / or substantial weaknesses were action was considered imperative to ensure that the Council was not exposed to high risks”.

 

However, the Audit Implementation Plan only contained one priority 1 recommendation which did not relate to the service provided but related only to the date used to calculate the national performance indicator.  The team had been using DFG Completion Date and not the Certified Date.  This recommendation was implemented before the Audit Report was received, and all performance data reported during 2011-12 had been calculated using the certified date.  On review of the impact of this finding on the 2010-11 performance, it had been calculated that the average number of days to complete a DFG would have been reduced by 15 days. 

 

The Internal Audit Report also identified a number of areas that required improvement. 

 

Recommendations from the Internal Audit had been included in the Action Plan attached to the report at Appendix 1. 

 

During August 2011, the Wales Audit Office conducted a review of the DFG service and concluded that “the Council was not yet delivering Disabled Facilities Grants effectively, but significant changes were underway that should improve performance”. 

 

In relation to proposals for improvement, the Wales Audit Office had recommended:

  • improved performance through implementing the Internal Audit’s recommendations
  • more modern methods of procurement to be considered
  • customer feedback obtained, reviewed and processes amended when necessary
  • improvement to the scrutiny, oversight and strategic management of the service by the wider development of qualities and quantity measures to enable Members to evaluate the service and outcomes.

The proposals for improvement had been included in the Action Plan. 

 

Over the past six months, changes had been implemented within the DFG service, and further actions were being progressed.

 

At the end of the 3rd Quarter of 2011/12, data indicated that the average number of days to complete a DFG from its first point of contact was 396 days.  Forecasts indicated that the service’s performance at the end of the reporting year would be better than predicted and would be around 400 days.  For 2010/11, the Welsh average for the delivery of DFGs was 387 days.  The Vale’s current average performance was within 9 days of this average and would also surpass the Council’s target time for 2011/12 of 500 days. 

 

The improvement to the service’s performance during 2011/12 had been achieved through tighter management of cases.  This improvement would continue into 2012/13 as changes to work procedures and procurement methods were implemented.

 

To introduce modern procurement methods into the service, the DFG team had been working with the Council’s Property Section to develop framework contracts.  The first of these contracts concerned the design and installation of stairlifts. 

 

In addition to the stairlift framework, a framework contract was being developed to complete bathroom and kitchen adaptations and to alter access into and around the client’s home. 

 

The introduction of both framework contracts would improve the quality of service to clients who chose to use the Council’s Grant Agency service to delivery adaptations.  Through these contracts, the time delay between the schedule of works being completed to works starting on site would be reduced and again would have a positive impact for both service users and the Council’s performance indicator. 

 

To enable Members to scrutinise the DFG process in more detail, from April 2012 additional local performance measures would be reported to Committee that broke the DFG process down into three stages.  These would be:

  • time between OT first contact and OT request for joint visit for DFG
  • time between OT and DFG joint visit and approval of DFG
  • time between approval of DFG and completion of works.

In addition, these performance measures would be broken down further to report against children and adult DFGs.

 

From April 2012, customer satisfaction and outcome measures from a client perspective would also be collated on completion of each DFG.  This data would also be available to Scrutiny Committee and would be detailed in the Service Plan.

 

For the benefit of the Committee and updated Action Plan was tabled which included up to date information regarding progress made to date on improvements to the DFG Service, including comments and where actions had been completed they had been identified as such.

 

In referring to the document and the tabled information Councillor Drysdale expressed concern that the performance framework to monitor both framework contracts were not sufficiently robust and that targets as proposed were not sufficiently challenging.  The Head of Public Protection, in welcoming these comments, indicated that at the time when the quarter 1 performance monitoring report is submitted to the Committee for consideration Members at that time could give consideration to the appropriateness of targets and whether these should be amended to address any issues identified.

 

Discussion ensued with Councillor Drysdale seeking clarification in regard to arrangements for reducing the DFG waiting list and whether officers consider engaging with interested tenants to assess if they were prepared to become quality assessors for work undertaken in homes.  In response the Operational Manager for Public Housing indicated that under the auspices of the Tenants Working Group there was an Outcome Group looking at performance outcomes and he would seek to explore the implementation of such an initiative with the same, but this would only be in regard to Council owned properties.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the review of Disabled Facilities Grant Service Improvements be noted and that the Operational Manager for Public Housing investigate the feasibility of utilising tenants to undertake DFG assessments in Council owned properties.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To assess the practicalities of introducing such an initiative.

 

 

178     CORPORATE IMPROVEMENT OBJECTIVES 2012/13 (REF) –

 

The above matter had been previously considered by the Cabinet at its meeting held on 18th April 2012 and had been referred to this Scrutiny Committee for consideration.

 

Currently, the Corporate Plan included a mixture of improvement objectives (defined as those areas where improvements were needed because of existing deficiencies) and other Council priorities.  The Council’s improvement objectives needed to focus specifically on those areas where there was a need for improvement. 

 

Corporate Plan objectives would not be amended for 2012/13, but a full review of the above Plan 2010/14 was planned during 2012 post Local Government elections. 

 

As an interim measures to address the issues raised by the Auditor General in his Annual Improvement Report, an analysis of the Corporate Plan had been undertaken to identify the Council’s key Improvement Objectives for 2012/13 along with relevant actions and measures that contributed towards achieving these.

 

Eight Improvement Objectives were proposed for 2012/13 following an analysis of the Corporate Plan and a review of service performance to date, corporate risks and findings from recent Wales Audit Office reviews / improvement studies and other regulators’ inspections.

 

Attached to the report set out in Appendix 1 were the proposed Objectives and detailed at Appendix 2 was the rationale for the proposed Improvement Objectives.  The 2012/13 Improvement Plan Part 1 would need to be amended to reflect the revised Improvement Objectives including, relevant performance measures. 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the proposed Corporate Improvement Objectives for 2012/13 be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To reflect the Committees endorsement of the proposed objectives.

 

 

179     CONSULTATION ON PROPOSED HOMELESSNESS PREVENTION STRATEGY 2012 – 2017 (VSH) –

 

The views of the Scrutiny Committee were sought in respect of the above draft Strategy which would be the subject of a consultation exercise with various relevant stakeholders.

 

The Council was facing significant pressures which were likely to worsen as the impact of the economic downturn continued to bite; the Welfare Reform agenda was introduced which would see Housing Benefit reduced for single claimants under 35 years and for existing social housing tenants of working age under-occupying social tenancies; and the introduction of the Universal Credit which would be paid direct to the claimant rather than the current practice of housing benefits being paid to the landlord.

 

To date, the Council had experienced an 11% increase in homelessness applications during 2011/12 compared to the previous year and there was every indication that the trend would continue.  In addition to the matters referred to above, the Welsh Government's recent White Paper - 'Better Lives and Communities', currently subject to consultation, proposed significant additional duties on Housing Authorities in particular:

  • a commitment to end family homelessness by 2019 be removing the intentionality test for households with children;
  • the introduction of new corporate duty for local authorities to take all reasonable steps achieve a suitable housing solution for all households who were homeless or threatened with homelessness;
  • a requirement to extend the statutory definition of threatened with homelessness to 28 days to 56 days.

The Council had a small housing stock of 3,950 Council dwellings and a Registered Social Landlord stock 2,377, amounting to approximately 11% of the total stock in the Vale of Glamorgan.  It was noted that the Welsh average was 16% social housing stock.

 

Currently due to the make up of the Council stock, single people/childless couples accepted as homeless were housed primarily into 2 bedroomed general purpose flats.  However, post the introduction of the Welfare Reform Agenda in April 2013, it was likely that individuals would refuse that size accommodation on the basis of financial hardship, which would result in higher bed and breakfast usage with additional costs to the Council. 

 

The Council in the past had been successful in preventing homelessness through a range of early intervention measures and in developing a portfolio of temporary housing through partnerships with private sector landlords, registered social landlords, a Social Lettings Agency and our own housing resource.  However, the Council had 85 accepted homeless households in temporary housing awaiting rehousing. 

 

The proposed draft Strategy would build on homeless prevention and early intervention, including initiatives to spend to save; school awareness sessions and a multi-agency One Stop Shop for 16-26 year olds.  In addition the draft Strategy would also focus on increasing supply both in respect of working with partners to bring empty homes back into use in the private sector; freeing up the private rented sector through the 'Lend a Hand' mortgage initiative; encouraging private landlords to let via a number of initiatives to the Council's homeless clients; and to convert existing privately owned buildings into shared housing.

 

In the future any new housing build with Registered Social Landlord partners would also need to take the needs of smaller households into account.

 

The draft Strategy in itself set out the Council's plans for its homelessness prevention initiatives over the next five years details of which were set out in Appendix 1 to the report and this outlined a co-ordinated, proactive approach to tackling homelessness in partnership with relevant Council departments and service users. 

 

The Strategy had been developed in partnership with the Council's Public Sector Housing, Environmental Health (Housing), Financial Services (Housing Benefits), Social Services, Supporting People, Housing Strategy and various external partner agencies. 

 

Discussion ensued on the contents of the draft Strategy and in particular to the detail set out within the proposed Action Plan.  Whilst the Committee accepted that the document in itself as a strategy document was to be welcomed they felt that there was insufficient data included within the Action Plan and appropriate targets which in themselves would set the scene in terms of the scale of the issues the Council would need to address.  In particular specific reference was made to the absence of data in regard to homelessness and it was requested that such information be considered for inclusion within the draft Action Plan before the final Strategy was agreed by the Cabinet.

 

In addition to the above concerns, Councillor Drysdale referred to the implications of the Welfare Reform Agenda and the particular aspects in terms of how they impacted on over-occupancy and financial hardship that tenants were likely to experience as a consequence.  He enquired of officers if consideration would be given to exploring initiatives such as tenants being permitted/encouraged to take on a lodger with a view to alleviating potential financial hardship.  In response the Operational Manager indicated that the Council already had a number of initiatives embedded which worked in partnership alongside a number of external stakeholders and he referred to for example, the Vale Assisted Tenancy Service, the Tenant Incentive Scheme.  He also referred to the comments made regarding appropriate data to be included within the Action Plan and indicated that officers were currently looking at the feasibility of developing a database with interested stakeholders.

 

In addition to the above matters, brief discussion also centred on the current homelessness service provided by the Council which was a predominantly prevention based service.

 

Having regard to the above comments and the contents of the proposed draft Strategy it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T Cabinet approves the detail of the draft 'Homelessness Prevention Strategy 2012/2017' and associated Action Plan subject to further consideration being given to the inclusion of all appropriate data including targets within the said Action Plan.

 

(2)       T H A T a further report be submitted to this Scrutiny Committee on conclusion of the consultation exercise for further views to be obtained prior to the final Strategy and Action Plan being approved by Cabinet.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To inform the Cabinet of the Scrutiny Committee's views on the matter.

 

(2)       To allow the Scrutiny Committee a further opportunity to provide further input to the process on receipt of the full consultation responses prior to the final Strategy and Action Plan being approved by the Cabinet.

 

 

180     YOUTH OFFENDING SERVICE YEAR END REPORT (CX) –

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the end of year report for the period 2011/12 in respect of the Youth Offending Service be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement of performance of the service during the financial year 2011/12.

 

 

181     QUARTERLY SERVICE PLAN ACTION MONITORING AND END OF YEAR PERFORMANCE MONITORING 2011/12 – PUBLIC HOUSING (DLPPHS) –

 

In referring to the actions which had slipped / not started Councillor Drysdale specifically referred to action PH/A135 (OA) – Develop a regeneration strategy in Gibbonsdown and Buttrills in consultation with residents and the Communities First Partnership Board and reminded officers that the Council had a responsibility to deliver this element of the WHQS.  In response the Operational Manager for Public Housing alluded to the Council’s business case  and that following the Tenants’ Ballot the decision to retain the stock in Council ownership funding would be available but limited in terms of the environmental improvement works and previous reports had been considered by the Scrutiny Committee which dealt with this particular matter.  However, in acknowledging the current circumstances he indicated it was the intention that the Council would work with tenants to identify environmental priorities / improvements within each local community.  Having regard to the outcome of the Tenants’ Ballot, it was accordingly recommended by officers that this action be deleted.

 

In referring to the latter point made by the Operational Manager, Councillor Drysdale stressed the importance of engaging with tenants on any proposals but also significantly to follow through to completion of any projects that were prioritised by tenants for estate generation.  Brief discussion touched upon the form of advice that could be given to tenants when identifying projects for estate regeneration that could be realistically delivered.

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the end of year report for Public Housing be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the following actions identified within the report as indicated below be deleted:

  • PH/A133 (OA) Transfer the Council housing stock to Heritage Coast Homes
  • PH/A135 (OA) Develop a regeneration strategy in Gibbonsdown and Buttrills in consultation with residents and the Communities First Partnership Board
  • OAOBJ6/M02 – Leaseholders forum established (number of leaseholder representatives).

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In acknowledgement of performance of the service during the financial year 2011/12.

 

(2)       To approve deletion of certain actions.

 

 

182     QUARTERLY SERVICE PLAN ACTION MONITORING AND END OF YEAR PERFORMANCE MONITORING 2011/12 – PUBLIC PROTECTION (DLPPHS) –

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the end of year report for Public Protection be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the actions identified in the report and as indicated below be deleted:

  • PP/A118 (OA) – Progress the Welsh Healthy Options award.

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In acknowledgement of performance of the service during the financial year 2011/12.

 

(2)       To approve deletion of certain actions.

 

 

183     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL 2012 TO 31ST MAY 2012 (DLPPHS) –

 

The current forecast for the Revenue Budget for 2012/13 was detailed in Appendix 1 to the report. 

 

The Public Sector Housing (HRA) Account was predicted to outturn on target however there was currently an adverse variance of £113,000 on housing repairs compared to the profiled budget.  It was noted that this variance would be offset by favourable variances on Salaries (£47,000), Income (£10,000), Premises Costs (£21,000), Transport (£1,000) and other supplies and services (£56,000); resulting in the current net favourable variance of £22,000.

 

The Private Sector / General Fund Housing and Community Safety budget was predicted to outturn on target.

 

Appendix 2 to the report set out financial progress in regard to the Capital Programme as at 31st May 2012.  It was noted that this appendix did not include requests for unspent committed expenditure to the slipped from 2011/12 into 2012/13.  Any requests for slippage would be included in the Closing Down report which would be considered by a future meeting of the Cabinet and also reported to Full Council for approval.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the position with regard to the 2012/13 Revenue and Capital Programme monitoring be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement of the current position with regard to the 2012/13 Revenue and Capital Programme.

 

 

184     CLOSURE OF ACCOUNTS 2011/12 (DLPPHS) –

 

The report set out the provisional financial position for the 2011/12 financial year.  The report also constituted an account of the major financial issues during 2011/12 financial year.  Set out below was a table comparing the amended estimate and the actual expenditure for the areas within this Scrutiny Committee’s remit:

 

Service

Amended Revenue Estimate

Total Provisional Actual

Variance Favourable  () Adverse

 

       £’000

          £’000

             £’000

 

 

 

 

Public Protection

2,363

2,361

2

Private Sector Housing / Community Safety

2,721

2,712

9

 

 

 

 

Grand Total

5,084

5,073

11

 

The main reasons for the variances were set out in paragraphs 8 to 11 of the report and overall there was a favourable variance of £11,000. 

 

In regard to Public Protection there was a net favourable variance of £2,000 after transferring £38,000 to the Public Protection Reserve.  The overall favourable variance was £40,000 and was made up of staff related savings £53,000 arising from Licensing / Trading Standards / Environmental Services £37,000 and Emergency Planning £16,000.  This underspend had been offset by an overspending in the Coroner’s Service of £13,000 which was attributable to increased costs on mortuary facilities. 

 

The Housing General Fund showed a net favourable variance of £9,000 after transferring £443,000 to reserves made up of £15,000 for a Prison Leavers Housing Advisor and Welfare Reform £428,000.  The overall favourable variance of £452,000 was attributable to the following:

  • Housing Services which showed a favourable variance of £34,000 and attributed to net additional income of £47,00 from grants / agency fees.  This had been used to offset an overspend of £13,000 attributable to a greater number of homelessness being housed in bed and breakfast accommodation. 
  • As for Rent Allowances / Council Tax Benefits – this showed a favourable variance of £418,000 was attributable to an underspend of £231,000 on rent allowances and Council Tax benefit payments due to recovered overpayments and associated subsidy, audit fee savings £27,000 and a saving of £160,000 on the payment of rent allowances / Council Tax benefit.

The Housing Revenue Account showed a surplus of £2,755,000 compared to the Revised Estimate surplus of £2,204,000 as detailed in Appendix 2 to the report.  The working balance which opened at £11,375,000 and was increased during the year by a transfer from the Repairs Reserve of £752,000.  The working balance closed at £14,882,000.  The main reasons for the variances related to the following matters:

  • Supervision and Management General – this showed a favourable variance of £410,000
  • Supervision and Management Special – this showed a favourable variance of £95,000
  • Contribution to Repairs Fund – this showed an adverse variance of £293,000
  • Capital Financing Costs – this showed an adverse variance of £33,000
  • Rents, Rates Taxes and Other Charges – showed a favourable variance of £59,000
  • HRA Subsidy Payable – this showed a favourable variance of £54,000
  • Bad and Doubtful Debts – this showed an adverse variance of £2,000
  • Capital Expenditure from Revenue Account – this showed a favourable variance of £203,000
  • Rent collected on dwellings and garages – this showed favourable variances of £8,000 and £3,000 respectively
  • Interest received – this showed a favourable variance of £31,000
  • Charges for Services and Facilities – this showed a favourable variance of £16,000.

The Housing Repairs Fund for 2011/12 opened at £752,000 but to enable the repairs costs to be shown in one area it was agreed to transfer the full amount into the overall Housing Revenue Account rather than having a separate fund.  The main balance carried forward was £14,882.

 

The overall result for Housing was a favourable movement of £551,000 compared to the budget, £493,000 being lower expenditure and £58,000 being greater income.

 

As to the Capital Programme, the overall outturn for the Directorate of Legal, Public Protection and Housing Services was an underspend of £627,000 and Appendix 3 to the report detailed an outturn by scheme.  The major variances were as follows:

  • Window and Door Replacement – underspend £73,000
  • Central Heating and Boiler Renewal – underspend £94,000
  • Harbour View lease repurchase – underspend £79,000
  • Penarth Renewal Area – underspend £91,000
  • Castleland Renewal Area – underspend £202,000.

In regard to Reserves, it was indicated that this was an appropriation from a revenue account and did not constitute a cost to the service until the expenditure was eventually incurred.  A reserve did not cover a present obligation or liability and was a voluntary means of setting aside monies for future requirements either capital or revenue. 

 

It was further indicated that a Provision was a charge to revenue and was included as part of the cost of the relevant service at the point the provision was created. A provision covered a present obligation or liability that had occurred to a past event and was compulsory under accounting regulations.

 

In addition, funds no longer required as reserves could be transferred to the General Fund to be used for other purposes  and set out at Appendix 4 was a schedule of the reserves as at 31st March 2012.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the provisional financial position for the 2011/12 financial year be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To apprise Members of the position with regard to the provisional financial position as detailed above in relation to the Closure of Accounts for 2011/12.

 

 

185     SCRUTINY FORWARD WORK PROGRAMME 2012/13 (DLPPHS) –

 

The Council’s Constitution required that all Scrutiny Committees determine their forward work programme for each financial year.  In undertaking their monitoring and evaluation roles, all Scrutiny Committees throughout the year would consider as part of their work programmes the matters set out in paragraphs 4 to 6 of the report. 

 

Each Scrutiny Committee was being requested to make a proposal on a topic which would be considered for an in-depth review under the auspices of a Task and Finish exercise.  The proposals of each Scrutiny Committee would be considered by the Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group who would consider all the proposals as submitted and prioritise the top two for those to be undertaken during the current municipal year.

 

The following suggested review topics for the Scrutiny Committee related to:

  • endorsing the proposed topic of the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) relating to the Welfare Reform Agenda
  • co-operative solutions for the provision of Council services.

Having given consideration to the above matters, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the work programme for the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) for 2012/13 be endorsed as set out in paragraphs 4 to 6 of the report.

 

(2)       T H A T a joint priority topic for review in respect of the Welfare reform Agenda and co-operative solutions for the provision of Council services as referred to above be agreed and forwarded to the Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group for further consideration.

 

(3)       T H A T any Task and Finish Group comprise of the following Members subject to recommendation (2) above:

 

  • The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection), Councillors J. Drysdale, Mrs. V.M. Hartrey and E. Williams.

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1&2)  To confirm the Scrutiny Committee’s work programme for 2012/13.

 

(3)       To appoint Members to the Committee’s Task and Finish Group subject to further deliberations on the priority of reviews by the Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group.

 

 

186     SCRUTINY COMMITTEES’ ANNUAL REPORT MAY 2011 – APRIL 2012 (DLPPHS) –

 

Consideration was given to the above report which was set out at Appendix 1 to the report and contained the work of all the Council’s Scrutiny Committees for the previous year together with the forward work programmes. 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the draft Annual Report for the period May 2011 to April 2012 be approved and be submitted to the meeting of Council on 26th September, 2012.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

The Council’s Constitution requires each Scrutiny Committee to approve its work programme.

 

 

187     SCRUTINY DECISION TRACKING OF RECOMMENDATIONS (DLPPHS) –

 

The report detailed progress in respect of uncompleted recommendations made by the Scrutiny Committee for the financial year 2010/11 (Appendix A); the financial year 2011/12 (Appendix B) and the 1st Quarter reporting April – June 2012 (Appendix C).

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

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

 

18 April 2012

Min. No. 1113 - Corporate Improvement Objectives 2012/13 (REF) –

Recommended that the Key Corporate Improvement Objectives for 2012/13 as set out in Appendices 1 and 2 to the report be supported in principle, subject to the following recommended amendments and that these be referred to the Council meeting on 25th April, 2012 for consideration.

(i)        T H A T the Key Corporate Improvement Objective No. 2 description for 2012/13 be amended from “To reduce the time taken to deliver Disabled Facility Grants to children and young people and adults to achieve the Welsh average performance of 2011/12.” to “To reduce the time taken to deliver Disabled Facility Grants to children and young people and to adults to achieve the Welsh average performance of 2010/11 as a minimum.”

 

(ii)      T H A T the Key Corporate Improvement Objective No. 2 target for 2012/13 in respect of :

(a)   “The average number of calendar days taken to deliver Disabled Facility Grants” be corrected from “WA 387 days in 11/12” to “WA 387 days in 10/11”.

(b)   “The average number of calendar days taken to deliver Disabled Facility Grants for Children and Young People” be corrected from “WA 478 days in 11/12” to “WA 478 days in 10/11”.

 

(iii)   T H A T the Key Corporate Improvement Objective No. 5 measure progress indicator description be amended from “Percentage of housing stock where WHQS works have been carried out” to “Percentage of housing stock where work that meets the WHQS have been competed in full”.

 

 

 

Council, on 25th April 2012, resolved that the proposals of the Cabinet, as set out in Cabinet Minute No. C1708, 18th April, 2012, be approved for incorporation in the Part 1 Improvement Plan 2012/13 together with the revisions put forward by the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) above (Min. No. 1156 refers).

Completed.

 

(2)       T H A T the 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.

 

Share on facebook Like us on Facebook