Top

Top

SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 13th March, 2013.

 

Present: Councillor Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson (Chairman); Councillor Mrs. C.L. Curtis (Vice-Chairman); Councillors J. Drysdale, Mrs. V.M. Hartrey, Mrs. A.J. Moore, Ms. R.F. Probert, R.P. Thomas, A.C. Williams and E. Williams.

 

Also present: Messrs J. Farrington, B. Fisher and Mrs. D. Hill (Tenant Working Group).

 

 

977     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillor R.J. Bertin and Mr. G. Amos (Tenant Working Group).

 

 

978     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 13th February, 2013 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

979     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

980     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL, 2012 TO 31ST JANUARY, 2013 (DDS AND DVSH) -

 

The Revenue Budget and projected outturn for 2012/13 was detailed at Appendix 1 to the report.

 

Public Sector Housing (HRA) was predicted to outturn with a favourable variance of £279,000.  The variation was made up on an adverse variance on the housing repairs demand led responsive maintenance service of £120,000 which had been offset by favourable variances on salaries of £144,000 due to vacancies, income of £10,000, premises costs of £17,000, transport costs of £16,000, Council run temporary accommodation of £93,000 due to the hostel being refurbished and other supplies and services of £119,000.  As a result of the underspend there would be a greater HRA Working Balance to be carried forward into future years.

 

In regard to the General Fund Housing, this was showing a favourable variance of £15,000 on salaries but was expected to outturn on target by the year end.

 

As for Private Sector Housing and Public Protection, both these areas were predicted to outturn on target.

 

Appendix 2 to the report detailed the financial progress of the Capital Programme as at 31st January 2013.  As reported to the last meeting, the underspend in respect of the Castleland Renewal Area in the sum of £445,000 would be slipped into the 2013/14 financial year. 

 

The Housing Improvement Programme budget had recently been reviewed and agreed under officers’ delegated powers to achieve maximum expenditure by the end of the current financial year.  The amended budgets were set out in Appendix 2 to the report.

 

As stated in previous reports to the Committee, Appendix 3 provided non-financial information on capital construction schemes with a budget of over £100,000.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the current position with regard to the revenue and capital monitoring for 2012/13 be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure that Members were aware of the position with regard to the 2012/13 revenue and capital budget.

 

 

981     PUBLIC PROTECTION - PROPOSED FEES AND CHARGES (DDS) -

 

Consideration was given to proposals set out in the report to increase fees and charges in respect of those functions managed by the Council's Public Protection Service and were the responsibility of the Council's Executive. 

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection): accepts the report and refers the matter to Cabinet for further consideration.

 

(2)       T H A T the schedule of fees and charges as set out in Appendices 1, 2 and 3 of the report be accepted to take effect from 1st April, 2013 and be referred to Cabinet for further consideration.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1&2)  To notify the Cabinet of the Scrutiny Committee's view on the matter and to allow the Cabinet to give consideration to increasing fees and charges in line with inflation, statutory requirements and reflect more accurately the actual cost of providing services.

 

 

982     SERVICE PLANNING 2013/2017 (MD) -

 

The Council’s 2011 Improvement Assessment made one improvement proposal i.e. “continuing the development of outcome focused measures by moving from reporting arrangements that focus primarily on performance indicators and on completion, or otherwise, of an action and ensuring that:

 

·         intentions are expressed in a way which allows progress to be measured; and

·         reporting arrangements consistently provide Members with an evaluation of performance in the context of the objective that the Council is aiming to achieve.”

 

The development of outcome focused measures had been identified as an area for improvement in most Welsh Councils.  During the Autumn of 2011, the Council commissioned the Local Government Data Unit to work with three service areas (Visible Services, Public Protection and Customer Relations) to develop more outcome focused service plans as a pilot.  This work had been used to inform the revised form for 2013/2017 service plans. 

 

The Wales Audit Office (WAO) had been consulted during the process in order to ensure that the revised service plan format addressed the issues outlined in the improvement proposals. 

 

Consequently, the service planning arrangements had been reviewed to reflect the new senior management restructure and there were fewer plans (eight in total) for 2013/14 providing a strategic overview for each Directorate.  Coupled with this, a new service plan template had been approved by the Council’s Corporate Management Team in August 2012.  The new plans addressed a number of key questions aimed at enabling services to improve how they measured and provided evidence that the contribution to the priority outcomes identified in the Council’s Corporate Plan.  Workshops had been undertaken reflecting new service planning areas and those involved, Directors, relevant Cabinet Members, Heads of Service, Operational Managers and other key service officers.  The Council had agreed with the WAO to use the revised plans as supporting evidence in meeting its obligations for self assessment under the Local Government Measure. 

 

Members of the Council had previously been informed of the new revised service plan format via a report to all Scrutiny Committees during 2012.  In addition, pilot plans were considered by relevant Scrutiny Committees during 2012/13 and circulated to all Elected Members.

 

Following a review of the existing service performance measures, proposed measures for 2013/14 would be presented to all Scrutiny Committees July 2013 along with end of year performance reporting.

 

The Scrutiny Committee on commenting on the contents of the service plan, considered that whilst there were a number of good points contained within the document, felt that overall the document was not sufficiently strong in terms of outcome focus.  Brief discussion also centred on the proposed establishment of a rural Vale Tenant and Residents Association and separately, a Tenants Young People’s Forum with it being suggested that neither should be established unless there was an identified demand for such arrangements to be put in place by tenants.  Reference was also made to the Vale Assisted Tenancy Scheme and arrangements under the above initiative to support tenants.  Comparison in provision to the CanDo Lettings Scheme were also referred to, with the Operational Manager for Public Housing providing clarification in respect of the points raised.

 

Brief discussion also touched upon affordable housing schemes and the need for these to be sustainable and addressed through the planning process and matters relating to the Welfare Reform Agenda, specifically the accommodation cap and arrangements the Council had in place in regard to providing advice to tenants in the social and private housing sectors.

 

Having regard to the above matters, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the changes to service planning arrangements as detailed in the report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Housing and Building Services Service Plan for the period 2013-2017 be endorsed.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1&2)  To improve the effectiveness of scrutiny of the Council’s performance and to meet the Auditor General for Wales’ recommendation as set out in the 2012 Annual Improvement Assessment Report.

 

 

983     QUARTERLY PERFORMANCE MONITORING – QUARTER 3 – BUILDING SERVICES (DVSH) –

 

The Committee gave consideration to the service’s performance with particular consideration being given to the following matters:

 

Performance Indicator

Comment

L826Qd (HLS010Qa) – The average number of working days taken to complete emergency repairs

Undertaking a data cleansing exercise to review figures.  No actual 2011/12 – PI amended for 2012/13.

L826Qe (HLS0100Qb) – The average number of working days taken to complete urgent repairs.

Undertaking a data cleansing exercise to review figures.  No actual 2011/12 – PI amended for 2012/13.

L907Q – The average number of working days / shifts lost per full time equivalent employee in Building Services due to sickness absence.

This measure has fractionally exceeded the target set, primarily due to long term sickness.  Short term sickness remains relatively low.  All sickness absence is managed in accordance with the Corporate Absence Management policy.  No actual 2011/12 – all sickness and leavers PIs have been amended in line with the corporate restructure.

L935Q – Percentage of employees that leave the employment of Building Services during the year.

27 members of staff left out of an average headcount in the service of 391.5.  The majority of leavers were part time cleaners.  No actual 2011/12 – all sickness and leavers PIs have been amended in line with the corporate structure.

 

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 in Quarter 3.

 

 

984     QUARTERLY PERFORMANCE MONITORING – QUARTER 3 – PUBLIC PROTECTION (DVSH) –

 

The Committee gave consideration to the service’s performance with particular consideration being given to the following matters:

 

Performance Indicator

Comment

L922Q – Percentage of employees that leave the employment of Public Protection during the year.

5 members of staff have left the service over the course of the financial year so far (2 retirements and 3 resignations).  3 of these members of staff left in Q1, which is why the figure has significantly increased since last quarter.  No actual 2011/12 – All sickness and leavers PIs amended in line with the corporate restructure.

PPN001iiQ – The percentage of high risk business that were liable to a programmed inspection that were inspected for food hygiene.

Q3 2012/13

Other Food Hygiene related work has deflected resources away from the planned inspection programme.  These include:

-      13 Level 2 Food Hygiene and 10 HACCP courses run in the Q3 in conjunction with the FSA

-      Preparation of 4 prosecution cases pending

-      Preparation and attendance at court by 2 officers.

As a result there have also been some missed targets by some officers.  They have now been set updated performance targets which will be monitored on a weekly basis.  It is still anticipated that the target will be met by the end of Q4.

PPN001iQ – The percentage of high risk businesses that were liable to a programmed inspection that were inspected for trading standards.

Q3 2012/13

All high risk visits due during Q1-3 have been completed (this is not 75%).

All 5 high risk visits outstanding will be completed by the end of Q4.

PPN001ivQ – The percentage of high risk businesses that were liable to a programmed inspection that were inspected for health and safety.

Q3 2012/13

High risk inspections due during Q1-3 were completed.  High Risk premises project work is carried out on an all Wales basis and has been profiled for completion during Q4, therefore is not due.

PPN008iiQ – The percentage of new businesses identified which were subject to a risk assessment visit or returned a self-assessment questionnaire during the year for food hygiene.

Q3 2012/13

Other Food Hygiene related work has deflected resources away from the new business inspection programme. These include:

-      13 Level 2 Food Hygiene and 10 HACCP courses run in the Q3 in conjunction with the FSA

-      Preparation of 4 prosecution cases pending

-      Preparation and attendance at court by 2 officers.

At this time it is still anticipated that the target will be met by the end of Q4.

PSR009aQ – The average number of calendar days taken to deliver a Disabled Facilities Grant for children and young people.

Additional resource has been invested to address the time it takes for children’s need to be assessed, and priority has been given to processing the DFG applications and work.  This will help mitigate the delays clients in the system have experienced.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the position in regard to Public Protection Quarter 3 Performance Monitoring be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement of action taken in meeting performance in Quarter 3.

 

 

985     QUARTERLY PERFORMANCE MONITORING – QUARTER 3 – PUBLIC HOUSING (DVSH) –

 

The Committee gave consideration to the service’s performance with particular consideration being given to the following matters:

 

Performance Indicator

Comment

HHA002Q – The average number of working days between homeless presentation and discharge of duty for households found to be statutorily homeless.

Reason that target being missed is due to WHQS work delays.

HHA017bQ – The average number of days that all homeless households spent in other forms of temporary accommodation.

Reason that target being missed is due to WHQS work delays.

L822aQ (previously L822Q)(HLS014A) – The average number of calendar days taken to let lettable units of permanent accommodation during the financial year.

The high figure is due to the delays with the WHQS voids.

L824Q (HHA011Q) – The percentage of households accepted as statutorily homeless during the year to whom a full homelessness duty has been discharged by the same local authority within the last 2 years.

This stat is such due to the re-offending behaviour of our prison leaver category group, a number of whom have re-presented after being released from prison.

L910Q – The average number of working days / shifts lost per full time equivalent employees in Housing Services due to sickness absence.

This is in excess of the target predominantly due to long term sickness.  Short term remains low for this stage in the year at 1.79 days per FTE.  All sickness is managed in accordance with the Corporate Absence Management policy.  No actual 2011/12 – All sickness and leavers PIs amended in line with the corporate restructure.

L936Q – Percentage of employees that leave the employment of Housing Services during the year.

5 members of staff have left the service.  Whilst this is significantly above target, the target was set low due to good performance last year.  No actual 2011/12 – all sickness and leavers PIs have been amended in line with the corporate restructure.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the position with regard to Public Housing Quarter 3 Performance Monitoring be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement of action taken in meeting performance in Quarter 3.

 

 

986     HOUSING IMPROVEMENT PROGRAMME - PROGRESS UPDATE (DVSH) -

 

The purpose of the report was to update the Scrutiny Committee on the delivery of the above programme to meet the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS).  The report in itself and as indicated by the Operational Manager for Assets was the first quarterly monitoring report on the performance of contractors with further quarterly monitoring reports to be presented to this Scrutiny Committee in the future. 

 

In referring to the report the Operational Manager for Assets indicated that the Cabinet had previously appointed four external contractors following a detailed procurement exercise via the OJEU procedure namely:

 

·         Contract A (Western Vale and Rural Areas - Lovell Partnership Ltd.)

·         Contract B (Barry Area 1 - Dyfan and Gibbonsdown - Ian Williams Ltd.)

·         Contract C (Barry Area 2 - Remaining Areas of Barry - Apollo Property Services Ltd.)

·         Contract D (Penarth and Dinas Powys - SMK Building and Maintenance Ltd.).

 

At that time the Cabinet had also agreed that the Council's Building Services would be allocated work packages as part of the Improvement Programme which included sheltered housing accommodation across the Vale of Glamorgan.  Building Services had also been appointed to refurbish the Council's void housing stock.

 

It was noted that all contractors had formally commenced work on site on 3rd September, 2012 following a mobilisation lead-in period of three months (Lovell’s commenced 17th September 2012). 

 

In referring to protecting the Council's interests and interests of the tenants to ensure that the wider benefits of the Housing Improvement Programme were delivered in the Vale of Glamorgan, the Operational Manager (Assets) indicated that a number KPIs had been developed to monitor the performance of all contractors and were categorised into the following areas:

 

·         overall performance

·         quality of service

·         community impact

·         environmental impact

·         a considerate contractor

·         financial accountability.

 

In total 16 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) had been developed to measure the performance of all external contractors and the Council's Building Services.  Set out in Appendix 1 to the report was the 1st Quarter report September to December 2012.  However, it was noted that future quarterly performance reports would be reported in the following periods January to March, April to June, July to September and October to December.

 

The Operational Manager also referred to the total number of Council homes upgraded during the period September 2012 to December 2012 details of which were set out in paragraph 7 of the report.  In summary a total of 140 properties had been upgraded to the WHQS for internal works.  This included the four main component areas i.e. renewal of kitchens, renewal of bathrooms, heating systems and re-wiring.  Additional responsive repairs had also been undertaken at the same time when identified in the validation survey (as part of the whole house delivery approach).  He further acknowledged that whilst from a tenant's perspective i.e. that 85% of tenants were satisfied with the quality of work carried out and that the percentage of properties that were completed right first time equated to 87%, he was disappointed that the first quarterly results had highlighted that contractors were not meeting the agreed 15 day turnaround time (if no structural or other major works had been identified) and provided the Scrutiny Committee with an explanation of the problems that contractors were experiencing whilst undertaking work in relation to the Programme.  He referred to the additional works not identified when the validation survey had been undertaken which in the main related to damp and structural works.  These works were having a significant adverse impact on the property turnaround times.  He further made reference to the need for improved communication to be undertaken with tenants at the validation survey stage.  Where works had been identified and extend beyond the turn around period that tenants should be advised of the likely delay and that the turnaround period for work would automatically increase to 20 days.  He anticipated that the identification of additional days required undertaking work within a property would take account in most eventualities all the work albeit he accepted that major structural works may require further extensions of time over and above the 20 day turnaround period.  He also alluded to issues encountered with certain contractors, in particular health and safety matters, and the turnover of tradesmen which had also created delays in the completion of works.

 

The Operational Manager's attention then turned to the matter of void properties and he acknowledged that the performance in this area had been less than satisfactory and problems had been encountered which was, in the main, linked to the unprecedented number of void properties being processed.  In referring to the fact that the majority of voids had been assigned to the Council's Building Services Division to complete, he indicated that the quality of the returned properties was good with 86% completed right first time and to the expected quality.  However, the overall results showed that only three properties had been delivered within the agreed timescales.  He also referred to a number of reasons for delays in returning properties within the timescales details of which were set out in paragraph 17 of the report.  In an effort to improve performance with void properties, the Operational Manager indicated that it had now been decided to reallocate void property work amongst the existing five contractors with the effect as from 1st April, 2013.  Building Services would only be assigned 22 void properties which would be “'open” at any one time.  The other four contractors would operate under the same arrangements and their work would be monitored to ensure compliance and delivery of properties within agreed timescales. 

 

In touching upon the community benefits, the Operational Manager referred to specific matters contained in paragraph 23 of the report. 

 

In summing up, the Operational Manager in referring to overall performance to date indicated that the quality of workmanship was good, that meeting the 15 day timescale for turning properties around was an issue and accepted that there needed to be an improvement, that void properties must be returned as quickly as possible and that measures were now in place to address issues of concern to Members. He also reminded the Committee that the general condition of the Council’s housing stock was poor.

 

At this juncture a question and answer session took place with the Scrutiny Committee expressing concern in respect of the following:

 

·         The apparent unawareness of contractors to comply with Health and Safety welfare of their operatives.

·         The wide variation of performance amongst the contractors’ completion rates.

·         The unsatisfactory preparedness of certain contractors despite a three month lead in time.

·         That there appeared to be a weakness in the work validation survey method to identify repairs.

·         That the absence of the inclusion of financial information within the report prevented the assessment of the impact of additional works that were likely to have on the overall achievement of the Programme.

·         That the Council’s communication strategy needed to be revisited to ensure that tenants were adequately apprised of the proposed completion of work within their properties and where works were forecasted to take longer, that tenants be notified of such delays and that clear lines of accountability were established with contractors.  This was regardless of the proposed revisions to turnaround times from 15 to 20 days.

·         That whilst welcoming proposed revisions for the completion of works on void properties, these revised arrangements did not outweigh the concerns of the Committee in regard to additional costs the Council was likely to experience in regard to loss of rent income, Council Tax income and costs associated with temporary accommodation.

·         The possible impaired capability of contractors to complete existing repairs to properties with the additional inclusion of void property repairs.

 

Having regard to the above, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

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

 

(2)       T H A T progress in respect of performance in the period September to December 2012 be noted with concern.

 

(3)       T H A T the Director of Visible Services and Housing be requested to invite representatives of the five contractors engaged to undertake the Council’s Housing Improvement Programme to the next meeting of the Scrutiny Committee having regard to contractor performance identified in the report.

 

(4)       T H A T the Director of Visible Services and Housing be requested to submit in future accumulative quarterly performance monitoring reports to the Scrutiny Committee to appropriately advise of progress against each key performance indicators (including relevant financial information).

 

(5)       T H A T the Director of Visible Services and Housing submit to the next meeting of the Scrutiny Committee financial information relating to the value of all additional repair works not identified at the validation survey stage for all properties where work had been undertaken as part of the Programme.

 

(6)       T H A T the Director of Visible Services and Housing submit to the next meeting of the Scrutiny Committee a comprehensive breakdown of the additional costs to the Council incurred as a consequence of the under performance in the delivery of void properties e.g. loss of revenue from rent income / Council Tax and the increase in costs associated with the use of temporary accommodation (B&B etc.).

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1&2)  In acknowledgement of progress to date.

 

(3)       To allow the Scrutiny Committee to address areas of concern.

 

(4)       To ensure appropriate and adequate monitoring arrangements were in place.

 

(5)       To ensure that the Programme was delivered within time, cost and that quality was maintained.

 

(6)       To ensure that indirect costs associated with void properties were adequately identified and to allow the monitoring of the same to be undertaken.

 

 

987     SECTION 180 VOLUNTARY SECTOR FUNDING ACHIEVED OUTCOMES (DVSH) –

 

Since 2005/06 the Council had provided Section 180 funding to three voluntary sector organisations who provided four services, in addition to the Council, to homeless persons in the Vale.  These were:

 

·         Tabernacle Home Access Project – accommodation finding and bond services - £5,000

·         Llamau – JIGSO project – advice and assistance to single people aged 26 or over who were homeless or threatened with homelessness (including a bond service, landlord and tenant support and general housing advice) - £12,000

·         Llamau – furniture grants to homeless people who could not fund the purchase of furniture - £6,000.

 

The above funding allocations reflected the Council’s objectives identified in the Housing Strategy Action Plan under Strategic Aim 3: To eradicate homelessness and ensure the public have accessible, high quality advice and information on housing matters.

 

Having regard to the recent impending Welfare Reform changes coupled with implications expected in 2015 through the introduction of the Housing White Paper, homelessness presentations were anticipated to increase by 25%, placing further pressure on Council resources.  The combination of such changes meant that greater emphasis would need to be placed on homelessness prevention and redirecting potentially homeless households away from the statutory route provided by the Council. 

 

Taking account of the above issues, the report outlined the activities associated with the Section 180 funded schemes evidencing the vital role each project played in the provision of homeless service advice, support and prevention assistance which relieved pressure on the Council’s statutory functions.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the impact of Section 180 Council funded homelessness schemes in reducing and preventing homelessness in the Vale of Glamorgan be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement of the important role these organisations and projects played in supporting the Council’s homelessness service.

 

 

Share on facebook Like us on Facebook