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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 4th September, 2013.

 

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

 

Also present: Mr. G. Amos, B. Fisher and Mrs. A. Evans (Tenant Working Group).

 

 

357     APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE -

 

This was received from Councillor R.P. Thomas and Mr A Raybould (Tenant Working Group).

 

 

358     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 17th July, 2013 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

359     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

360     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL, 2013 TO 31ST JULY, 2013 (DDS AND DVSH) -

 

The Principal Accountant presented the report advising that under Public Sector Housing (HRA) the Housing Revenue Account was currently showing a favourable variance of £218,000.  There were adverse variances on both income due to voids of £68,000 and Housing Repairs of £28,000 which had been off-set by favourable variances on salaries of £116,000 due to vacancies in the housing teams, hostel and temporary accommodation running costs of £28,000, sheltered accommodation of £26,000, public sector management of £40,000, legal fees of £21,000, incentive to move scheme of £13,000, estate management of £10,000 and other net costs of £60,000.  With regard to the Housing General Fund this was showing a favourable variance of £181,000 which could increase to £300,000 by the end of the financial year if the current situation was maintained.  The reason for this variance was the reduction in the number of homeless individuals requiring emergency accommodation due to a long term increased focus on prevention by the Homelessness Team. Members were informed that there was currently only one individual in B&B accommodation.

 

Following a query from a Member regarding Welsh Government altering the arrangements for the HRA, the Head of Housing and Building Services advised that negotiations were taking place between Welsh Government and the Treasury in respect of the subsidy system the results of which could lead to a favourable impact on the business plan assumptions.

 

Appendix 2 to the report detailed the financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 31st July, 2013.

 

Having fully considered the report it was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position with regard to the 2013/14 Revenue and Capital budget be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In view of the contents of the report.

 

 

361     WELSH HOUSING QUALITY STANDARDS (WHQS) IMPROVEMENT WORKS (DVSH) -

 

The Head of Housing and Building Services in referring to the table attached at Appendix A stated that it was evident that operational performance was improving in terms of both delivery times and customer satisfaction.  Also of note was the fact that the Vale's in-house contractor, Building Services, was currently the top performing contractor in terms of delivery times for WHQS and void properties and in terms of general customer satisfaction.  Officers from the Property Services Department continued to have regular meetings with all contractors at both an operational and senior management level and complaints monitoring was being undertaken on a regular basis.  The Tenant Liaison Team continued to support tenants through the upheaval of works and ensure the tenants were informed at an early stage of the complex nature of the work being undertaken.  Officers from both Housing and Building Services and Property Services also continued to work together to seek appropriate forms of respite for those tenants who were unable to live in their own home whilst the works were being undertaken. The Chairman took the opportunity to ask the Head of Service to take back to the team the congratulations of the Committee which was echoed by all Members.  

 

In response to a query as to how many homes had further work undertaken over and above that which had been initially agreed, it was confirmed that nearly every one of the properties had.  Members also requested to receive further details in respect of priorities required and future planned work. 

 

In referring to tenant satisfaction and whether there was an opportunity for further improvement the Head of Service advised that the sharing of information and keeping tenants informed was an element that could be further improved upon. It was important to also keep tenants informed of when contractors would be returning to the properties to complete any work. The Tenant Liaison Officer also visits to follow up any issues and Mr. B. Fisher (Tenant Working Group Representative) advised that as a member of the Tenant Liaison Team he could assure Members that he had received good reviews from tenants in particular  that Building Services contractors had worked well.

 

Following a query regarding an isolated case the Chairman asked all present to raise issues of this nature directly with the Head of Service.

 

In referring to the contractor Ian Williams, Members queried the improvements that had been made to date with the Head of Service advising that she would provide further details on the specifics of the improvement in due course.

 

Reference was also made to the number of apprenticeships taken up with the Council with the Head of Service agreeing to provide this information to Members.

 

Having considered the report in detail it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the Chairman and Vice-Chairman and the Head of Service arrange to meet with Ian Williams and the Tenant Liaison Officer to discuss any outstanding issues.

 

(2)       T H A T the report detailing current performance and improvements to delivery times and customer satisfaction be noted.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To discuss improvements required of the contractor.

 

(2)       To ensure Members were furnished with the necessary performance information pertaining to WHQS to allow them to monitor the performance of the programme.

 

 

362     IMPROVEMENT PLAN 2013/14 (MD) -

 

The report outlined that the Part 2 Improvement Plan attached as Appendix A was a document primarily looking back over 2012/13 and contained key performance measures along with targets and actions for 2012/13.  Where available, it also contained Welsh average performance for benchmarking purposes.

 

Members were advised that performance information would be used by the Wales Audit Office to assess the Council's capacity to improve and therefore was of critical importance for the reputation of the Council.  The Plan was substantially completed although further minor amendments would be required following additional information to be provided by Chief Officers, changes to performance information provided by the Local Government Data Unit and from proof reading.  The information would then be included prior to the final draft being presented to Cabinet.

 

Reference was made to Objectives 1, 2 and 5 which fell within the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection's) remit.  It was noted that for 2012/13 the targets that had been set had been achieved.   

 

It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the Improvement Plan 2013/14 be endorsed.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure that actions are taken to improve the performance of the Council.

 

 

363     REGULATORY REPORTS - IMPROVEMENT TRACKING (REF) -

 

The Audit Committee had referred the report to the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) for consideration, in particular for the Scrutiny Committee to determine whether the actions contained therein should be removed from  tracking reports.  It was noted that the Council was subject to a number of regulators who passed judgement on its work and made various recommendations/proposals for improvements to services.  The Action Plan attached as an Appendix to the report included a list of recommendations/proposals that had been made in regulatory reports since January 2011.  The main actions for the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) were referred to at pages 41 - 47, Actions 1 -5.

 

It being noted that the Committee would receive regular updates on the progress for DFGs, the Chairman referred to the fact that the service area had already seen improvements over the years and had sustained improvement. It was therefore  

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the report be accepted and the actions noted as completed be removed from the tracking report.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In view of the improvement that had been undertaken.

 

 

364     DISABLED FACILITIES GRANTS DELIVERY IMPROVEMENTS (REF) -

 

Cabinet had received a report on 15th July, 2013 which had advised that the changes made in the processing of Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) to improve the delivery time and to agree further changes planned for 2013/14. 

 

Appendix 1 to the report referred to a completed Action Plan of improvements to which dealt with previous actions and audit recommendations.

 

The Head of Service in presenting the report also advised that in response to a query from the Scrutiny Committee regarding the good work being undertaken in Merthyr in comparing the Council’s service with Merthyr Tydfil's it was his view that the majority of good practices had already been incorporated into the Vale's service as outlined at Appendix 3 to the report.  It was noted that the Scrutiny Committee Corporate Resources would also be receiving a full presentation at an Extraordinary meeting on 1st October, 2013 to consider in detail the administration of Disabled Facilities Grants.

 

Members In referring to Action 10, that 'a Declaration of Interest be completed on an annual basis and a copy forwarded to Legal Services' it was noted that no standard form or policy in the Vale Council had been identified.  It was therefore suggested that the Head of Human Resources be requested to consider this matter and ascertain a protocol for such a process.  In acknowledging that a further report was also being presented to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the report be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In view of the progress to date.

 

 

365     SCRUTINY COMMITTEES' DRAFT ANNUAL REPORT - MAY 2012 - APRIL 2013 AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE WORK PROGRAMME (MD) -

 

In accordance with Section 6.03d of Article 6 of the Vale of Glamorgan Council's Constitution the Scrutiny Committee must report annually to Full Council on their workings and make recommendations for further work programmes and amended working methods as appropriate.  The Constitution also provided that Scrutiny Committee Work Programmes be included in the Committees' Annual Report.

 

The Democratic and Scrutiny Officer in outlining the report tabled revised appendices as detailed below:

 

  • Call-ins and Requests for Consideration - following a request from a Member of the Council that further details with regard to the titles of Call-ins and Requests for Consideration be included the Appendix had been revised.
  • Memberships of Scrutiny Committees - the revised Appendix took into account all the membership changes for the period May 2012 to April 2013.

Following consideration of the draft Annual report and the work programme attached at Appendix 2 it was subsequently  

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the content of the draft Annual Report for the period May 2012 to April 2013 including the revised tabled Appendices be approved subject to any further minor amendments being agreed in consultation with the Chairman and that it be submitted to Full Council.

 

(2)       T H A T the Committee's Work Programme for 2013/14 attached at Appendix 2 to the report be confirmed and uploaded to the Council's website with the addition that the following two reports be included in the schedule:

 

  • Environmental Improvements of the WHQS
  • Tenant Engagement.

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To approve the draft Scrutiny Committees' Annual Report to allow it to be submitted to Full Council in September 2013.

 

(2)       To confirm the Scrutiny Committee's Work Programme, it being noted that the schedule of approved list of items for consideration may be subject to change depending on prevailing circumstances.

 

 

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