Top

Top

SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 10th September, 2014.

 

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

 

Also present:  Messrs. B. Fisher and A. Raybould (Tenant Working Group).

 

 

362            APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –  

 

These were received from Councillors Mrs. A.J. Moore and R.P. Thomas and Mr. G. Amos (Tenant Working Group).

 

 

363            MINUTES –  

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the following meetings be approved as a correct record:

 

-         16th July, 2014

-         22nd July, 2014.

 

 

364            DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

365            RESHAPING SERVICES – A NEW CHANGE PROGRAMME FOR THE COUNCIL (REF) –

 

Approval was sought from Cabinet, on 11th August 2014, for a 'Reshaping Services' strategy and associated change programme for the Council as outlined in Appendix 1 as attached to the report.

 

Central government’s austerity drive had created a period of unprecedented financial pressures in the public sector.  The Vale of Glamorgan Council’s budget had already been squeezed for 2014/15, with further substantial savings necessary in 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18.  The latest draft Medium Term Financial Plan now estimated that this would equate to a reduction of over £10m in 2015/16 and £32m in total over the next three years.  Failure to deliver the required level of savings would not be an option for the Council.   According to many analysts, a period of 'permanent austerity' was now likely for Council’s for the foreseeable future.

 

It was clear that the scale of the challenges to come would mean that 'business as usual', however well managed, would not be enough.  Continued incremental cuts to budgets would simply lead to a steady decline in the quality and availability of public services, dissatisfaction among those who use the services and poor staff morale.  

 

The challenge was therefore to consider alternative delivery models for services across the Council.  Only in this way can we hope to maintain a broad range of services and to an acceptable standard.   

 

However, given the Council's traditionally low funding base (20th out of 22 local authorities in terms of funding per head of population) the Authority was well versed in working together to find savings and had a long-established track record of achievement in this respect which should stand it in good stead in tackling future challenges.

 

A strategy encompassing the various models for service delivery and how it was proposed they were considered was set out in Appendix 1 as attached to the report.  The delivery of the strategy, which would be very challenging, would be done through the means of a comprehensive change programme involving the Council, its staff, partners, service recipients and other stakeholders.

 

It was anticipated that the programme as outlined would be driven and largely conducted in-house with existing staff.  However, additional external expertise would be required to advise in areas where in-house expertise was lacking, particularly in untried (for the Council) models of service delivery.  It was not possible at this preliminary stage to estimate what the costs would be, but it was anticipated they would be met from existing resources.

 

The latest draft Medium Term Financial Plan estimated that the Council would need to find savings of over £10m in 2015/16 and £32 million over the next three years.  This would be a major challenge for the Council which this change programme aimed to help address.

 

Cabinet had resolved –

 

(1)       That it be agreed in principle to institute a 'Reshaping Services' strategy and change programme.

 

(2)       That the report be referred to all Scrutiny Committees for consultation, with Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) being the lead Scrutiny Committee.

 

(3)       That the report be referred to the Vale Local Service Board, Community Liaison Committee and Voluntary Sector Joint Liaison Committee for consultation.

 

(4)       That engagement with Trade Unions on this report be instituted.

 

(5)       That briefing sessions on the issues raised in the strategy be arranged for Cabinet, Corporate Management Team, senior managers, Scrutiny Committees and the Vale Local Service Board

 

(6)       That a further report be presented back to Cabinet in the Autumn proposing a more detailed way forward and apprising Cabinet of comments received as a result of initial engagement with stakeholders. 

 

Having considered the decisions of Cabinet, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the decisions of Cabinet be endorsed.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

Having regard to the decisions of Cabinet.

 

 

366            REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 31ST JULY 2014 (DDS AND DVSH) –

 

Committee was advised of the position in respect of revenue and capital expenditure for the period 1st April to 31st July 2014 regarding those revenue and capital budgets which formed the Committee’s remit.

 

The current forecast for the Revenue Budget was for a balanced budget. 

 

Public Sector Housing (HRA) – the proposed restructure for Housing Services had yet to be implemented and, as a result, there was an underspend on profiled budget.  Additionally, there were underspends on premises costs at Ty-Iolo Hostel and community facilities at the sheltered complexes.  At this stage, it was still anticipated that the HRA would outturn on target, as a rationalisation of budgets was due to take place in the coming months to identify any surplus resources and target them where expenditure was needed.

 

General Fund Housing – there was a variance due to savings being made on the use of Temporary Accommodation for the Homeless.  If the current trend continued, it was anticipated that the General Fund Housing budget could outturn at around £250,000 underspend at year end.  It was still early in the financial year and Committee would be updated on any further change to this position as the year progressed.

 

Private Sector Housing / Community Safety – there was currently an adverse variance of £35,000 to the profiled budget.  This was due mainly to the additional Occupational Therapist temporarily employed to assist with the throughput of Renovation Grant applications.  It was projected that there would be sufficient underspend within the division at year end to cover this cost. 

 

Public Protection – there was currently an adverse variance of £1,000 to the profiled budget.  The budget was currently expected to outturn on target. 

 

Other services were anticipated to outturn on target by year end.

 

Appendix 2 to the report detailed financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 31st July 2014. 

 

For all schemes where it was evident that the full year’s budget would not be spent during the year, the relevant officers were required to provide an explanation for the shortfall and this would be taken to the earliest available meeting of the Cabinet.

 

Whilst discussing the report, Members took the opportunity to seek visits to the Redlands House and Golau Caredig Extra Care projects. 

 

Having considered the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the contents of the report, the financial measures taken and proposed be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T site visits be arranged to Redlands House and the Golau Caredig Extra Care projects.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To note the report and the financial measures taken and proposed.

 

(2)       To inspect the projects.

 

 

367            HOUSING (WALES) BILL (REF) –

 

Cabinet, on 16th June 2014, was updated on the contents of the proposed new Housing (Wales) Bill.

 

The Housing (Wales) Bill was launched by the Minister for Housing and Regeneration, Carl Sargent on 18th November, 2013 and had just completed Stage One of the National Assembly of Wales' four stage process. The General Principles of the Bill was approved at Plenary on 1st April 2014.

 

If the Bill passed through all of its stages, it could receive Royal Assent in summer 2014, with a staggered roll out of the legislation governing different aspects of the Bill being rolled out over a number of years.

 

There were seven key themes in the Bill, all of which would have an impact on the Council's service delivery. These themes were Regulation of Private Rented Housing for landlords and agents, Homelessness, Gypsies and Travellers, Standards for Social Housing, Housing Finance, Co-operative Housing and Council Tax for empty dwellings.

 

Changes to the legislation in respect of Homelessness and the private rented sector were expected to commence from 1st April, 2015 but implementation dates for the other changes were not known.

 

The Council was currently in the process of developing the Local Housing Strategy 2014-19 which would not only set out the Council's vision for Housing for the next five years, but would also drive service changes and improvements to meet the challenges of the new Bill.

 

Cabinet resolved –

 

(1)          That the proposed changes contained within the Housing (Wales) Bill be noted.

 

(2)          That further reports be submitted to Cabinet in respect of each element of the Bill to outline the options available to the Council.

 

(3)          That the report be referred to Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) and all Council Members for information.

 

In considering the reference, Members expressed a wish to speak on the issue of Council Tax on empty properties and it was suggested that an officer from the Council tax section of the Council attend the next meeting of the Scrutiny Committee to discuss the Council’s rationale.

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the decisions of Cabinet be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Council’s Revenues and Benefits Manager be invited to attend the next meeting of the Committee.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       Having regard to the decisions of Cabinet.

 

(2)       For the benefit of the Members of the Committee.

 

 

368            WHITE RIBBON CAMPAIGN – VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS (REF) –

 

Cabinet, on 16th June 2014, considered a request that the Council become a corporate supporter of the White Ribbon Campaign and to gain the White Ribbon Campaign Town award.

 

Every year in the UK more than one million women suffered domestic abuse and more than 360,000 were sexually assaulted.  Within the Vale of Glamorgan there were 1,874 reports made each year from victims of domestic and sexual abuse.

 

The Community Safety Partnership (Safer Vale) was responsible for the co-ordination of services and identifying gaps and improvements. Over the past few years there had been significant improvements made to provide improved awareness of the impact of domestic and sexual abuse and also the services that were available to victims and their families. Working with partners such as Atal y Fro, the Probation Trust and the Police, the Council had been able to assist and lead in many projects.

 

The White Ribbon Campaign (WRC) award was for Councils who demonstrated their commitment to the aims of the campaign that were as follows:

  • mobilising men so that the anti-violence against women and girls message increased in effectiveness and reach (involving men and boys in prevention activities)
  • addressing and altering social norms that led to violent behaviour against women
  • increasing awareness on the issue and providing services aimed at reducing the incidence of domestic violence
  • mobilising the entire local community under the goal of ending violence against women and girls.

As a White Ribbon Town (or County) the Council would be awarded a certificate or plaque that offered public recognition of its commitment to ending violence against women and girls.

 

Following the Council expressing an interest to become a White Ribbon Town, an action plan would need to be completed in order that the Council could demonstrate its commitment to achieving the standard required.  Once the action plan was finalised and agreed, progress would be monitored by the WRC programme.

 

Cabinet had resolved –

 

(1)          That the work to be progressed in order to gain the White Ribbon Award be supported.

 

(2)          That updates on progress be submitted to the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) via the regular Safer Vale progress reports.

 

Having considered the decision of Cabinet, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the decision of Cabinet be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

Having regard to the decision of Cabinet.

 

 

369            DRAFT LOCAL HOUSING STRATEGY – PUBLIC CONSULTATION (REF) –

 

Cabinet, on 14th July, had agreed to a public consultation being held on the draft Local Housing Strategy 2014-19, attached at Appendix 1 to the report.

 

The Council had a statutory role to play in the functioning of the housing market, as set out in two pieces of legislation:

  • Section 8 – Housing Act 1985 – required local authorities to consider housing conditions / needs in their locality;
  • Section 3 – Housing Act 2004 – required local authorities to keep housing conditions in private sector housing in their area under review.

The draft Local Housing Strategy 2014-19 as attached at Appendix 1 to the report set out the locally agreed, long term vision for housing; it provided a statement of local strategic housing-related objectives and target outcomes.

 

The Strategy covered a period of five years; however the vision was viewed over a longer period of time within the context of the Community Strategy. The wording of the aims and objectives of future strategies could vary, but the intentions remained the same.

 

The approach adopted locally followed the national approach taken by the Welsh Government, that the aims and objectives of the Strategy were designed to improve people’s lives, it would:

  • provide more housing of the right type and offer more choice
  • improve homes and communities, including the energy efficiency of new and existing homes            
  • improve housing-related services and support, particularly for vulnerable people and people from minority groups.

The draft Local Housing Strategy 2014-19 set out the vision for housing in the Vale of Glamorgan which was:

 

"all residents in the Vale of Glamorgan had access to good quality, suitable, housing and were able to live happily and independently in vibrant, sustainable communities".

 

In order to achieve the vision for housing in the Vale four key aims had been identified, each of which was supported by a number of objectives which would form the basis of the actions identified in a strategic partnership Action Plan:

 

Aim 1: To provide more homes and more choice; ensuring that all residents had access to suitable and affordable accommodation.

 

Aim 2: To improve homes and communities; by ensuring housing was maintained and fit for purpose, increasing the supply of good quality, energy efficient homes in vibrant and sustainable communities.

 

Aim 3: To provide better housing advice and support; ensuring that residents had access to the housing and services they needed to live independently and plan their housing futures.

 

Aim 4: To promote equality of access to housing and housing services.

 

The draft Local Housing Strategy 2014-19 had been informed by the views of partners including relevant Council departments.  A Local Housing Strategy Evidence Gathering Day was held on 19th February to inform the development of the strategy.

 

The Local Housing Strategy Evidence Gathering Day included presentation, workshops and consultation exercises focusing on a number of housing topics.

 

The results of the Local Housing Strategy Evidence Gathering Day would be published on the Council’s website as part of the public consultation exercise.  A summary of the Local Housing Strategy Evidence Gathering Day was provided in Appendix 2, as attached to the report, which included a list of partner organisations.

 

Approval was sought for the consultation strategy which detailed the ways in which  consultation with the public would be facilitated.  The period of public consultation would provide the public and partner organisations with the opportunity to provide feedback on the draft Strategy.

 

The public consultation strategy would include:

  • a press release to the local media
  • a page on the Council’s website advertising the consultation opportunity, highlighted to the public by the e-news and social media
  • a feedback questionnaire, including an online version and the ability to use Contact One Vale to provide feedback over the phone
  • hard copies of the draft Local Housing Strategy 2014-19 in Vale libraries, Council buildings and the Members’ Room
  • a 'drop in' event, where a Council Officer would be available to speak to the public
  • the draft Local Housing Strategy 2014-19 will also be sent to all relevant partners, Council departments and neighbouring Local Authorities for comment
  • consultation in partnership with the Vale Centre for Voluntary Service; ensuring their members were made aware of the Strategy and the consultation opportunity.
  • consultation with the Citizens Panel; utilising the contact details available to send a link to the strategy and the consultation opportunity to members.

Cabinet had resolved –

 

(1)       That the consultation strategy as detailed in the body of the report be approved.

 

(2)       That the draft Local Housing Strategy 2014-19, as attached at Appendix 1 to the report be approved as a consultative document for a period of four weeks with effect from 1st September, 2014.

 

(3)       That the report be referred to Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) for consideration as part of the consultation process and that a pre-scrutiny meeting be held with Members of the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) to further consider the details of this report.

 

(4)       That a further report be provided back to Cabinet with the final Local Housing Strategy 2014-19 along with feedback from the public consultation exercise and with an estimate of any extra resources required to meet the strategy.

 

In considering the consultation document, a number of points were raised, namely:

 

-         there should be an "Action" included within the Strategy document "To consult and inform our tenants"

-         page 30 of the Strategy document referred to Local Authority Build Programmes.  When will the Council receive a report on this

-         the chart on page 46 of the Strategy document refers to "fitness" rates.  It was pointed out that this should read "unfitness" rates.

 

With regard to the second point above, Committee were advised that it was hoped that a report on this would be presented to Cabinet in 2014.

 

Having considered the consultation document, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the draft Local Housing Strategy document be endorsed.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

Having regard to the contents of the document.

 

 

370            SCRUTINY COMMITTEES’ DRAFT ANNUAL REPORT – MAY 2013 TO APRIL 2014 (DR) –

 

The Scrutiny Committees’ Annual Report was attached at Appendix 1 to the report and included details of the work of all five of the Council’s Scrutiny Committees for 2013/14.  The report represented an overview of work of the Scrutiny Committees during the year and Members were requested to refer specifically to the relevant sections for the Committee and to make any amendments / suggestions as appropriate. 

 

Having considered the report, the Committee

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the contents of the draft Annual Report for the period May 2013 to April 2014 be approved, subject to any further amendments being agreed in consultation with the Chairman and that the Annual Report be submitted to Full Council in September 2014. 

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To approve the draft Scrutiny Committees’ Annual Report to allow for it to be submitted to Full Council in September 2014.

 

 

371            OUTCOME AGREEMENT 2013 – 2016: END OF YEAR REPORT FOR 2013/14 (DVSH) –

 

Committee received a report on progress with the achievement of the Outcome Agreement that had been agreed with the Welsh Government on 1st April 2014. 

 

The Council had entered into four previous agreements with the Welsh Government.  These agreements had been based on the premise that the Council shared common objectives and that agreements could be entered into to assist in achieving these objectives.  Welsh Government paid a grant to the Council to incentivise achievement of targets, to the value of £1.2m per year. 

 

Based on the Council’s own self-assessment, it had been concluded that overall, the Council had been successful in achieving the majority of targets and actions relating to year 1 of the Agreement.

 

Specific to this Committee, the Council had been fully successful in achieving the intended outcomes for the year in respect of improvements to social housing.  All actions and targets had been fully achieved.  WHQS works were on track and overall, tenant satisfaction had increased across all framework contractors.  Contractors continued to support the Council in community investment through apprenticeships and local labour. 

 

In appreciating the significance of the integrity of each Performance Indicator in contributing towards the Council’s achievement of satisfactory Outcome Agreements, Members ventured that not all Performance Indicators were calculated in the exact same way across Wales as a result of differences in interpretation of the Guidance issued by WAG. 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the achievement of year 1 outcomes be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) be advised of this Committee’s concern that Performance Indicators across Wales may not be universally comparable in view of differences between Local Authorities in interpretation of guidance issued by WAG.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       That the Committee is advised of the achievement of the outcomes listed in the Agreement.

 

(2)       To advise Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) of the concerns of this Committee.

 

 

372            YOUTH OFFENDING SERVICE: END OF YEAR PERFORMANCE REPORT APRIL 2013 – MARCH 2014 (DSS) –

 

Committee were informed of the performance of the Youth Offending Service during the period April 2013 – March 2014. 

 

It was reported that Performance Reporting by the Youth Offending Service (YOS) would always be approximately one quarter in arrears because of the need for data validation by the Youth Justice Board. 

 

The overall picture for the year demonstrated a continued reduction in first time entrants during 2013/14 – down from 45 in 2012/13 to 36 last year.  All areas across South Wales were starting to see a levelling out of numbers.  In this context, it was pleasing to see a reduction again this year, especially as any increase or decrease when dealing with such low numbers could create large fluctuations in percentages. 

 

Reoffending continued to be a priority for the YOS.  The information was obtained from the Police National Computer and it would always be approximately 18 months of out date.  There was an increase in reoffending for the period 1st July 2011 to 30th June 2012.  Again, this was in line with trends reported across South Wales Youth Offending Services and on an all Wales basis. 

 

Reoffending rates were inevitably linked to the risk of custodial sentencing.  The custodial rate for the end of the year showed that 9 young people were sentenced to custody, which equated to 6% of the total number of young people supervised by the YOS.  Work was currently being undertaken with Cardiff YOS and the Cardiff and Vale Magistrates Court to ensure that there was no inappropriate use of custody, as this should be seen as the sentence of “last resortâ€.

 

Engagement in education, training and employment had been identified as a priority area for the YOS Management Board this year, as not all the young people were receiving the statutory 25 hours of education.  Analysis of the figures for 2013/14 highlighted the fact that 75% of the young people involved with the YOS who were of statutory school age attend alternative educational provision.  As this only provided a maximum of 15 hours per week, it adversely affected the performance of the YOS.  The figures could be influenced by young people reoffending, moving in and out of county, going to custody and a lack of educational placements post 16.

 

In respect of access to suitable accommodation, there were currently no concerns identified in relation to this measure.

 

Finally, the figure for young people who could access appropriate support for substance misuse difficulties reflected the fact that young people who engaged with the YOS had more complex needs and an increasing number of them needed Tier 3 services (i.e. more specialist help).

 

Having considered the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the contents of the performance report be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure that Elected Members are able to exercise effective oversight of the Youth Offending Service performance against national and devolved Performance Indicators.

 

 

373            THE YOUTH JUSTICE PLAN 2014/15 (DSS) –

 

Committee was informed of the Vale of Glamorgan Youth Justice Plan 2014/15. 

 

The success of the Youth Offending Service (YOS) in reducing or diverting young people out of the Youth Justice System has meant that those now entering the system present more complex and / or acute needs.  The increasing complexity of YOS service users had been recognised by the Youth Justice Board.  Work was currently taking place nationally to enhance both the quality of assessments and interventions delivered to young people to effect change.  By introducing new models of working, Youth Justice Services were attempting to take the next step in breaking the cycle of offending and reoffending by young people which could result in periods of custody and young people moving through the system to become prolific adult offenders.  The success of preventative services had demonstrated that it was more cost effective and beneficial to individuals and society if the Council worked in partnership to tackle the causes of offending and reoffending. 

 

At a strategic level, the YOS Management Board would continue to engage all partners in highlighting the need for YOS resource commitment to be maintained, despite the reduction in numbers of young people;  and to facilitate young people’s access to the mainstream services that would prevent and / or reduce their offending.

 

Outlined within the Youth Justice Plan in Section 2 were the operational activities the YOS was planning to undertake during the next 12 months, i.e. reviewing all its current systems, training managers and staff in readiness for the introduction of the new assessment model, introducing specialist tools i.e. screening for speech, language and communication difficulties.  The changes were designed to ensure that staff were competent and capable of making effective risk management and safeguarding decisions and exercising the flexibilities and freedoms outlined in revised National Standards 2013.

 

The YOS expected to face considerable challenges in delivering these changes when all agencies were faced with financial constraints and competing pressures.

 

Members observed that the YOS was being faced with a combination of increased workload and reduced resources. 

 

Members enquired as to what extent the Management Board was working to find a solution and were informed that the Management Board was taking a very robust approach.  The Head of the Youth Justice Board Wales had been invited to its meeting in June 2014 and the Management Board had voiced its concerns to him about the levels of funding and additional areas of responsibility being devolved to the Local Authority / Youth Offending Service.  This was based on the fact that the levels of funding being received were insufficient to meet demand.

 

The Head of the Youth Justice Board Wales had stated that he would be prepared to attend Cabinet to answer questions if so required.

 

Additionally, the report before Members today was to be reported to Cabinet. 

 

The report had also been discussed in CMT, and agreement had been reached that the Managing Director write to all statutory partners following today’s meeting.

 

Having considered the report, it was

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the Youth Justice Plan be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T Committee recognise the potential risks should the contributions to the Youth Offending Service from key agencies continue to reduce and that Cabinet be informed of these concerns.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To meet the statutory requirements of grant terms and conditions provided by the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, to achieve continuing improvements in the performance of the Youth Offending Service and to ensure that Members can exercise oversight of this key area of work for the Council. 

 

(2)       To advise Cabinet of the concerns of this Committee.