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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION)

 

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 7th January, 2015.

 

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

 

Also present: Mr. B. Fisher (Tenant Working Group).

 

 

763     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE – 

 

These were received from Councillor Mrs. C.L. Curtis and Mr. G. Amos (Tenant Working Group).

 

 

764     CHAIRMAN’S ANNOUNCEMENT –

 

The Chairman paid tribute to Councillor Keith Geary who had recently passed away.

 

All present stood in silent tribute.

 

 

765     MINUTES – 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 3rd December, 2014 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

766     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

767     DISABLED FACILITIES GRANTS PERFORMANCE REPORT FOR QUARTER 1 AND 2 2014-15 (REF) –

 

Cabinet, on 15th December 2014, was apprised on the Council’s performance in delivering Disabled Facilities Grants during the first two quarters of 2014/15 and progress made on process changes.

 

The delivery time of Disabled Facilities Grants was a national performance indicator.  The Council had previously acknowledged its performance in delivering Disabled Facilities Grants had to be improved.  Despite this improvement in 2013/14, the Council remained in the bottom quartile of performance for Local Authorities in Wales. 

 

Performance of the Disabled Facilities Grant Service continued to improve during Quarters 1 and 2 2014/15.  During this period, the average time to deliver a Disabled Facilities Grant had reduced to 217 days.  The improvement was due to the changes made to the service during December 2013 and January 2014.

 

Cabinet had been informed that the Disabled Facilities Grant Performance Indicator was measured across all Welsh Local Authorities and reported as a national performance indicator.  The indicator sought to measure the customer’s experience of waiting for home adaptations and how it was measured was prescribed within national guidance.  The indicator sought to measure the time between a resident asking a Council for help to adapt their home to the time their home was adapted.

 

The indicator only measured the time the adaptation took for works funded by a Disabled Facilities Grant.  There were no equivalent nationally measured performance indicators for adaptations requested and completed within the Council’s or Registered Social Landlord housing stock. 

 

The guidance on measuring the Disabled Facilities Grant delivery time stated the time started at the point a resident contacts the Local Authority requesting help with adapting their home, or at the point the Council became aware that an adaptation was required for a resident.  The second starting point occurred when the resident was already accessing Council services and through that support the need to adapt their home was identified.  The clock stopped on a case when the adaptation was completed and safe to use. 

 

The Council measured the delivery time in line with this definition and in the spirit in which the indicator was developed.  However, Cabinet was informed that there was an alternative definition being used by some Councils.  In this alternative, enquiries for assistance to the Council by people wanting help to access their homes and bath were not considered a Disabled Facility Grant enquiry until the Occupational Therapist had visited the person and completed an assessment even though they may have specifically asked for a disability adaptation.  If the Occupational Therapist assessment identified the need for physical adaptation, i.e. a Disabled Facilities Grant, and not equipment or minor works, this was the point at which the time to deliver a Disabled Facility Grant was started when measuring the performance indicator.  If this starting point for the delivery time was used in the Vale of Glamorgan to measure the performance, the delivery time during Quarters 1 and 2 would be 161 days.  In relation to 2013/14 performance figures, from the information available, this would have placed the Authority second using this alternative definition.

 

Cabinet had resolved –

 

(1)          That the report on performance for delivering Disabled Facilities Grant during quarters 1 and 2 of 2014-15 be noted.

 

(2)          That the progress made on process changes to improve the delivery of Disabled Facilities Grants be noted.

 

(3)          That the report be referred to the Scrutiny Committees (Housing and Public Protection and Social Care and Health) for consideration.

 

(4)          That the Director of Development Services write to Welsh Government to make representations regarding the potential for discrepancies when compiling the data for this national performance indicator and requesting that guidance be issued to ensure consistency across Wales.

 

In considering the decisions of Cabinet, the view was expressed that finding reference to Disabilities Facilities Grants on the Council’s website was not an easy task as it was located within the Housing Renewal section of the website. 

 

Members were advised that plans were underway to move the reference to Disabled Facilities Grants to the Private Sector Housing part of the website and that consideration would  be given to it also being located within the Social Services part of the website. 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

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

 

(2)       T H A T members of staff involved in Disabled Facilities Grant be congratulated for their efforts.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       Having regard to the decision of Cabinet.

 

(2)       In recognition of the efforts of members of staff.

 

 

768     RENTING HOMES (WALES) BILL (REF) –

 

Cabinet, on 15th December 2014, was updated on the contents of the proposed Renting Homes (Wales) Bill. 

 

The Renting Homes White Paper was published by the Welsh Government in 2013 and set out proposals for improvements to the law for renting homes. The changes proposed in the White Paper were designed to replace what was currently a confusing and complex area of law with a clearer, simpler and more straightforward legal framework. Primarily the changes related to tenancy agreements or the contracts in place between landlords and tenants.

 

The White Paper was subject to consultation during 2013. Responses to the Welsh Government were broadly positive, with 95% of respondents supporting changing the legal framework for renting homes in Wales.

 

The proposals in the White Paper were being progressed by the Welsh Government in the form of the Renting Homes (Wales) Bill.

 

The Renting Homes (Wales) Bill was expected to be considered by the National Assembly for Wales in 2015. If passed by the Welsh Assembly, the changes may take effect in late 2015 or early 2016.

 

The foundations of the Welsh Government's proposals were based on the Renting Homes White Paper that was written by the Law Commission. The Renting Homes Bill, if introduced, would include two types of tenancy or rental contracts that would apply to all rented homes, whether they were rented by a Local Authority, Registered Social Landlord or private landlord:

 

The two types of rental contract were:

  • A Secure Contract.
  • A Standard Contract.

Organisations that represented the private rented sector rose concerns about the proposed Bill during the consultation process. The Council, in its wider strategic housing role, would work with landlords to assist and support them to meet the requirements of the Bill.

 

The proposals to reform tenancy law would not fundamentally alter the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords from those that currently existed; rather, they were designed to create a simpler, more logical and clearer legal framework to replace the complexity of current law.

 

It was proposed that all current housing tenancies would convert automatically to one of the two new types of rental contract on a set date. This would affect all tenancies in place in the Vale of Glamorgan, including those managed by the Council, Registered Social Landlords, private landlords and letting agents. The Welsh Government indicated that they did not consider it necessary from a legal perspective for all tenants to sign up to new rental contracts.

 

The Welsh Government had drafted the secure and standard contracts, along with accompanying guidance notes. The consultation on the content, format and layout of these documents ended on 14 October, 2014.

 

Cabinet had resolved – 

 

(1)          T H A T the proposed changes contained within the Renting Homes (Wales) Bill be noted and the report be referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) for information.

 

(2)          T H A T further Cabinet reports be submitted in respect of the options available to the Council in implementing the changes required to meet the requirements of the Bill.

 

It was reported that Welsh Government was committed to communication with tenants and landlords, and that there was an expectation that Councils would start this process prior to the Act’s implementation, although no firm proposals had been issued by Welsh Government. 

 

Members suggested that work commence on the production of a Communication Plan, in consultation with the Council’s Media and Engagement Team. 

 

Having considered the decisions 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.

 

 

769     SITE INSPECTIONS (MD) –

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the attendance of the following Councillors at the sites indicated below on 3rd December 2014 be noted:

 

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors J.C. Bird, Mrs. C.L. Curtis, Ms. R.F. Probert, R.P. Thomas and E. Williams.

 

(a)   Redlands House, Redlands Avenue, Penarth

Councillor C.J. Williams (Chairman); Councillor J. Drysdale (Vice-Chairman); Councillors Mrs. V.M. Hartrey and Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson.

(b)   Golau Caredig Extra Care Housing, Barry

Councillor C.J. Williams (Chairman); Councillor J. Drysdale (Vice-Chairman); Councillors Mrs. V.M. Hartrey and Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To advise the Committee.

 

 

770     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 30TH NOVEMBER 2014 (DDS AND DVSH) –

 

Committee was advised of the position in respect of revenue and capital expenditure for the period 1st April to 30th November 2014 regarding those revenue and capital budgets which fell within 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 completed and as a result there was an underspend against profiled budget.  In addition, there were underspends on premises costs at Ty-Iolo Hostel and communal facilities at the sheltered complexes.  At this stage, it was still anticipated that the HRA would outturn on target.  A rationalisation of budgets was due to take place in the coming months to identify any surplus resources and target them where needed.  In addition, any savings would be used to fund the Housing Investment Programme which would reduce the reliance on Unsupported Borrowing.

 

General Fund Housing – there was currently a £298k underspend against profiled budget due to the 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 would outturn at around £390k. underspend.  As previously reported, due to the uncertain pressures for the remaining part of the financial year on the homeless budget, it was still felt appropriate at this time to show a balanced budget.

 

Private Sector Housing – there was currently a favourable variance to the profiled budget of £60k for this service, due mainly to the additional management fees received within the Disabled Facilities Grant Team.  This was due to the faster throughput of capital Disabled Facilities Grants completed to date this year.  It was anticipated that these fees should now cover the costs of the additional Occupational Therapist employed by the service to assist with the grants throughput and a balanced budget was forecast by year end.

 

Public Protection – there was currently a favourable variance of £50k to the profiled budget, due partly to lower than profiled expenditure on general supplies and services to date but also due to income receipts being ahead of profile.  Higher than anticipated income had been received from Houses in Multiple Occupation licenses / Empty Homes receipts and Food Hygiene certificate appeals.  Indeed, income levels within the Pest Control service which had previously been reported as low earlier in the year had recovered well and were now in fact ahead of profile.

 

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

 

Appendix 2 to the report detailed the financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 30th November 2014. 

 

For all schemes were 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. 

 

It was reported that the last two entries under the heading 'Private Housing and Community Safety' as shown on Appendix 2 to the report should have been shown under the heading 'Housing Improvement Programme'. 

 

Having considered the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the position with regard to the 2014/15 Revenue and Capital Budgets be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

That Scrutiny Committee note the position with regard to the 2014/15 revenue and capital monitoring.

 

 

771     SCRUTINY DECISION TRACKING OF RECOMMENDATIONS AND WORK PROGRAMME SCHEDULE 2014/15 (DR) –

 

Committee was advised of the progress in relation to recommendations that had been made by the Scrutiny Committee for the following periods:

  • April 2011 – March 2012
  • April 2012 – March 2013
  • April 2013 – March 2014
  • July – September 2014
  • October – December 2014.

With regard to the work programme schedule which was attached at Appendix F to the report, the Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer informed Members that the schedule was a proposed list of items for consideration and that the list may be subject to change depending upon the prevailing circumstances.

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the progress in relation to the Scrutiny Committee’s recommendations be noted and that the following recommendations be agreed as completed:

 

10 September 2014

Min. No. 366 – Revenue and Capital Monitoring for the Period 1st April to 31st July 2014 (DDS and DVSH) – Recommended

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

 

  

 

Members visited the two sites on 3rd December 2014.

Completed

08 October 2014

Min. No. 510 – Quarter 1 Housing and Building Services Performance Report 2014-15 (DVSH) – Recommended

(3)   That a further report be brought before a future meeting of the Committee advising of the range of options available to older people, as referred to in Action Reference HS/A092.

(4)   That Committee receive a report / presentation on the responses received as a result of the different consultation methods employed.

 

 

 

(3)   Added to work programme schedule.

Completed

 

 

(4)   Added to work programme schedule.

Completed

(5)   That a report / presentation be brought before a future meeting of the Committee regarding the way in which the Council assures that private sector housing was fit for purpose.

(5)   Added to work programme schedule.

Completed

Min. No. 511  – Scrutiny Decision Tracking of Recommendations and Work Programme Schedule 2014/15 (DR) – Recommended

(2)   That Cabinet be requested to provide feedback on Minute No. 280(4) of the meeting of the Scrutiny Committee held on 22nd July 2014 relating to the Regionalising Regulatory Services Project, namely

'(4)   That clarity be provided regarding the ways in which members of the public who do not have access to digitalised means of communication can interact with the Shared Service.'

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(3)   That the updated work programme schedule be uploaded to the Council’s website.

 

  

(2)   Council, on 12th November 2014, were informed that this was a concern raised by Scrutiny Committees, staff and the trade unions during the engagement process. It is recognised that in developing the service, there is a need to maintain a link between the service and community.  There will be Elected Member representation from each Council on the Joint Committee. The proposed shared service would continue to operate in all three Council areas, maintaining an office location in each to handle face-to-face contact with service users and Elected Members.  This will be supported by ICT to enable effective and efficient working and communication within and across the three areas.  (Min No 600 refers)

Completed

 

 

(3)   Work programme updated and uploaded to the Council’s website in November 2014.

Completed

03 December 2014

Min. No. 662 – Quarter 2 Development Services Performance Report 2014/15 (DDS) – Recommended

(3)   That a future meeting of the Committee receive a report outlining the arrangements in place in the event of an incident at Hinckley Point.

 

 

 

Added to work programme schedule.

Completed

 

(2)       T H A T the updated work programme schedule be uploaded to the Council’s website.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To maintain effective tracking of the Scrutiny Committee’s recommendations.

 

(2)       For information.

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