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 SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION)

 

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

 

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

 

Also present:  Councillors Ms. B.E. Brooks, N. Moore and R.A. Penrose.

 

 

477     MINUTES – 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 2nd September, 2015 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

478     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST – 

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

479     CALL-IN: GYPSY TRAVELLER ACCOMMODATION ASSESSMENTS –

 

Committee, on 2nd September 2015, had recommended:

 

-         That Cabinet be requested to consider the inclusion of Councillor K.P. Mahoney plus one other Member of the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) on the Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment Steering Group.

 

Cabinet had, on 21st September 2015,

 

“RESOLVED – THAT the contents of the report and the recommendations of the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) be noted, and that Councillor Bronwen Brooks be included on the Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment Steering Group given the relevance of the group to her role as Cabinet Member for Housing Maintenance, Building Services and Community Safety.”

 

A call-in had been received from Councillor K.P. Mahoney, as follows:

 

“1)       Incorrect information on minutes line 8 page 5213.

 

2)         Ignoring recommendations of Scrutiny Committee.

 

3)        Bronwen Brooks had already failed to ensure the inclusion of a Council Member on the Steering Group as per the official guidelines, and this is not suitable for inclusion at this stage.”

 

Councillors Ms. B.E. Brooks and N. Moore were permitted to speak with the consent of the Committee.

 

In support of his Call-In, Councillor Mahoney advised:

 

-         Cabinet was treating Scrutiny Committee with contempt

-         the decision of Cabinet did not represent a fair representation on the Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA) Steering Group in that the Group should include independent people who could give their point of view. 

-         Councillor Mahoney spoke of the opening of the tender documents for the preparation of the Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment.

-         Cabinet had appointed Councillor Ms. B.E. Brooks to the Steering Group.  Councillor Mahoney asserted that Councillor Ms. Brooks had never shown an interest in becoming a member of this Group.

-         Councillor Mahoney asserted that, without this Committee’s recommendation to Cabinet, there would be no Councillor representation on the Steering Group. 

-         Councillor Mahoney enquired as to the point of Scrutiny Committees if their recommendations were dismissed by Cabinet.

 

In response, the Head of Housing and Building Services stated:

 

-         the guidance notes relating to the appointment of representatives to the Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment Steering Group was just that, guidance.

-         regarding Councillor Ms. Brooks’ involvement in the Steering Group, Committee were advised that Councillor Ms. Brooks was asked if she wished to be involved in the work of the Group and had agreed.

-         the Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment Steering Group was a Steering Group, and not a Scrutiny Committee.

-         the previous meeting of this Committee had requested that a report on the tender to employ a consultant for the preparation of the GTAA would be brought before a future meeting of this Committee.

 

The Chairman enquired if the guidance relating to the appointment of representatives onto the Steering Group specified whether this should be Members/ Opposition Members / Cabinet Members? and was advised that the guidance simply suggested ‘Members’. 

 

A Member advised the Committee that he had read the guidance notes regarding the composition of the Steering Group and, whilst not prescriptive, had suggested that the representative be the local authority Councillor with the Equalities Portfolio.  The Councillor reminded the Scrutiny Committee that this position was occupied by Councillor Ms. Brooks.  In other words, there was no scrutiny function specified in the guidance. 

 

Whilst Councillor Mahoney may be unhappy about the Cabinet decision, it was Cabinet’s responsibility to make the decision.

 

Councillor Ms. Brooks, in responding to the allegation that Cabinet had ignored the Scrutiny Committee’s recommendation, advised that the recommendation of Scrutiny Committee had been considered at the Cabinet meeting and the merits of the recommendation discussed.  Having considered the matter, Cabinet made the decision as was its right.

 

A Member expressed the view that it had been the intention of the last meeting of this Committee to have a Councillor representative on the Steering Group.  That decision had now been taken by the Cabinet.

 

Having been reminded that the decision of the Scrutiny Committee was that a Scrutiny Member be appointed to the Steering Group, the Member replied that the guidelines for the appointment of representatives to the Steering Group did not specify a Scrutiny Committee Member. 

 

Having discussed the matter at length, it was

 

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

 

Reason for recommendation

 

Having regard to the reasons for the Call-in together with the discussions that had ensued.

 

 

480     CALL-IN: GYPSY TRAVELLER ACCOMMODATION ASSESSMENTS –

 

Committee, on 2nd September 2015, had recommended:

 

-         That Cabinet be requested to consider the inclusion of Councillor K.P. Mahoney plus one other Member of the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) on the Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation. Assessment Steering Group.

 

Cabinet had, on 21st September 2015,

 

“RESOLVED – THAT the contents of the report and the recommendations of the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) be noted, and that Councillor Bronwen Brooks be included on the Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment Steering Group given the relevance of the group to her role as Cabinet Member for Housing Maintenance, Building Services and Community Safety.”

 

A call-in had been received from Councillor A.G. Bennett, as follows:

 

“That the Cabinet decision to only include a Cabinet Member to the Steering Group, although welcome, does not provide sufficient scrutiny of the Assessment Process as recommended by the H&PP Committee and should be reconsidered by the Cabinet to include Members from outside the Executive of the Council.”

 

Councillors Ms. B.E. Brooks and N. Moore spoke on this matter with the consent of the Committee.

 

In support of his Call-In, Councillor Bennett stated that he believed that the Scrutiny Committee’s recommendation had represented a way forward.  Whilst welcoming Councillor Ms. Brooks’ appointment to the Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment Steering Group, the reason for Councillor Bennett’s Call-In was to seek to ask Cabinet to consider appointing a further Member to the Steering Group from outside the Executive.

 

Councillor Bennett requested that Cabinet be asked to reconsider appointing a Member of this Scrutiny Committee to the Steering Group and, if necessary, Councillor Bennett volunteered to be that person. 

 

Members of the Scrutiny Committee appreciated that this was not a request for Councillor Ms. Brooks to stand down from the Steering Group, it would be a request to enhance the membership of the Steering Group.

 

Following discussions, it was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T Cabinet be requested to reconsider its decision of 21st September, 2015 and to consider the appointment of Councillor Bennett to the Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment Steering Group.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To enable non-Executive Members to express a view of the work of the Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment Steering Group.

 

 

481     CALL-IN: HOME OFFICE SCHEME TO SUPPORT THE SETTLEMENT OF SYRIAN FAMILIES IN THE UK –

 

Cabinet, on 21st September 2015, had

 

“RESOLVED –

 

(1)       THAT the Council’s participation in the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme be supported.

 

(2)       THAT the Council’s participation in the Home Office Scheme associated with the resettlement of Afghan individuals and families, be supported.

 

(3)       THAT the current limitations in terms of financial support for the Syrian Resettlement Scheme be recognised and clarity be sought from Welsh Government and HM Treasury on the necessary funding and long term support.

 

(4)       THAT pursuant to resolutions 1 and 2 above, delegated authority be granted to the Head of Housing and Building Services in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Housing, Building Services and Community Safety to contribute to a regional and national approach to both these challenges whereby the Council works in partnership with neighbouring authorities, the Welsh Local Government Association, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and other key partners in Wales.”

 

Cabinet resolutions numbers (1) and (4) had been “called-in” by Councillor K.P. Mahoney for the following reasons:

 

“1)       Vale of Glamorgan tax payers are already contributing to the £1.1bn aid fund that the UK Government has, and is, giving to Syrian refugees.

 

2)         The Vale of Glamorgan Council has not enough housing to allocate to our existing population in the Authority at present.

 

3)         I exclude Afghan interpreters abandoned by the British Army from my objections.”

 

Councillors Ms. B.E. Brooks and N. Moore spoke on this item with the consent of the Committee.

 

In support of his Call-In, Councillor Mahoney made the following case:

 

-         there were 3,083 families waiting for housing in the Vale of Glamorgan.

-         parts of the world were witnessing mass genocide.

-         however, the Vale of Glamorgan Council was unable to house all of its own people

-         Councillor Mahoney’s concern was that the decision of Cabinet represented sheer tokenism

-         why was Cabinet not offering housing for refugees from Sudan, Congo etc.

-         there were 24 Labour / Llantwit First Councillors on this Council.  They did not have a mandate to dip into rate-payers’ money for their consciences

-         there were 7.5 million potential refugees in Syria; this country could not house them all

-         Councillor Mahoney blamed the past two British Governments for the situation in the Middle East; he described this initiative as being sheer ‘tokenism’

-         Councillor Mahoney stressed that he was not taking about Afghan translators who, he claimed had been ‘abandoned by the Army’

-         Councillor Mahoney remembered, as a child, the 50,000 Ugandan Asians who settled in this country; it was Councillor Mahoney’s assertion that the country did not have the capacity to accept the Syrian refugees.

 

Councillor Mahoney asserted that this was the latest ‘pet’ project.

 

In response, a Member stated that the refugees were escaping a terrible war and were trying to establish a decent life for themselves and their families.  A relatively small number were being accepted by Britain.  This decision had not been taken to ‘make us feel good’ - the country was doing what it could to help.

 

Views in support of the Cabinet decision were expressed by other Members of the Committee, although concerns about cultural differences were expressed.

 

Members were aware that private landlords may be used to accommodate the refugees.  As a result, their presence would not impact on the levels of people awaiting housing accommodation by the Council.

 

In response, Councillor Moore refuted any claim that this initiative was ‘tokenism’ and informed the Committee that this was a ‘humanitarian act’.

 

A fund of £100,000 had been established which represented a unilateral approach to deal with the refugee crisis. 

 

Councillor Moore said that the refugees would not be allocated accommodation on the basis of their culture.   

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council was working closely with Cardiff Council, and the UK Government would pay all costs of resettling refugees for the first year.

 

The resettled refugees were likely to be families and not single people. 

 

The resettled refugees would probably be accommodated in private lets which would not affect the Housing Waiting List.


Councillor Ms. Brooks added that words such as ‘fad’ and ‘tokenism’ had been used in the debate.  These were words that she would not have used.  Whilst these words were easy to say, they were damaging in their effect.

 

Whilst appreciating that this was a highly charged issue, Councillor Ms. Brooks stated that she would never turn her back on a humanitarian issue. 

 

Councillor Ms. Brooks said she would put on record that the Vale of Glamorgan Council would never use Council housing to house the Syrian refugees. 

 

In summing up, Councillor Mahoney noted that private landlords would be making their properties available for the Syrian refugees and enquired why they did not make their properties available for people on the Vale of Glamorgan Housing Waiting List. 

 

Finally, Councillor Mahoney suggested that all the Labour and Llantwit First Members on the Vale of Glamorgan Council pay £4,000 each towards the Syrian Refugees.  If that happened, he would contribute a sum of £4,000 himself.

 

Having considered the discussions, it was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the decision of Cabinet on 21st September, 2015 be supported.

 

Reason for decision

 

Having regard to the discussions at the meeting.

 

 

482     GAMBLING ACT 2005 STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES (REF) –

 

Licensing Committee, on 1st September, 2015 considered the revised Gambling Act 2005 Statement of Principles. 

 

The Gambling Act 2005 gave effect to the Government’s proposals for reform on the law of gambling.  The Act placed a duty on the Council to develop a Statement of Principles that promised the three licensing objectives: 

  • preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, or being used to support crime
  • ensuring that gambling was conducted in a fair and open way
  • protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited.

The draft Statement of Principles would be subject to extensive consultation with members of the trade, responsible authorities, current licence holders and Elected Members. 

 

There would be a nine week consultation period. 

 

The Statement of Principles would take effect from 31st January, 2016.  The Statement must be published, available at Council buildings and notices placed in a local newspaper four weeks in advance of the effective date, which would be 3rd January, 2016.

 

Licensing Committee had

 

RESOLVED -

 

(1)       That the Council’s proposed Gambling Act 2005 Statement of Principles be endorsed for consultation.

 

(2)       That the proposed Gambling Act 2005 Statement of Principles be referred to Cabinet and Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) for information.

 

(3)       That the Licensing Committee be provided with feedback from the consultation prior to the final draft Statement of Principles being recommended to Council for approval.

 

A Member enquired if, when the Statement of Principles was published on the Council’s website it would contain a ‘health’ warning and was advised that yes, this would be the case. 

 

Having considered the decisions of Licensing Committee of 1st September, 2015, it was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the decision of Licensing Committee be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

Having regard to the decision of the Licensing Committee.

 

 

483     DISABLED FACILITIES GRANTS PERFORMANCE REPORT FOR QUARTER 1 2015-16 (REF) –

 

Cabinet on 21st September, 2015 was informed of the Council’s performance delivering Disabled Facilities Grants during quarter 1 of 2015-16, and the progress made on process changes.

 

The Council had a statutory duty to consider and approve applications for Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) where there was an identified need and the property could be reasonably adapted. DFGs funded the adaptation of privately owned homes to allow residents to live as independently as possible in their own home for as long as possible.

 

The delivery time of DFGs was a national performance indicator.  The Council had previously acknowledged its performance in delivering DFGs had to be improved, but despite this improvement in 2013/14, the Council remained in the bottom quartile of performance for Local Authorities in Wales.  However, for 2014/15, the Council's performance continued to improve dramatically both in real terms and in relative terms when compared to other Local Authorities.  The Local Government Data Unit had recently published its Local Government Performance Report for 2014/15 and one of the indicators included within that report related to the time taken to deliver DFGs.  For 2014/15 the average number of days taken to deliver DFGs across Wales stood at 231.  This compared to 199 in the Vale of Glamorgan.  The Vale of Glamorgan was now (for 2014/15) ranked 8th in Wales and sat in the second quartile. For 2014/15, the Vale of Glamorgan showed the third fastest improvement in performance when compared against 2013/14 figures.

 

A detailed breakdown of the DFG service performance at the end of quarter 1 and DFG capital expenditure profile to 25 August, 2015 was attached at Appendix 1 to the report before Cabinet.  The continued improvement in Quarter 1 was in part due to the introduction of the framework contract.

 

There was an identified capital budget for the approval and payment of DFGs.  There was a predicted shortfall in the capital budget for DFGs as shown in Appendix 1 as attached to the report.  It was envisaged that once the backlog of applications had been dealt with, the number of applications being processed would reduce to normal throughput levels.  £900k per annum was included in the Council’s currently approved Capital Programme between the years 2015/16 and 2019/20 for DFGs. However, there had been a steady increase in the number of applications being received which was a trend that was likely to continue.  The report proposed that in order to properly plan for further applications and in order to meet demand, a further £200k be added to the DFG 2015/16 capital budget, to be funded by a contribution from the Policy revenue budget.  This would ensure there was sufficient funding to complete this year's applications without creating a new backlog.  A capital bid would also be made to ensure sufficient funding was identified in the Council's Capital Programme for future years.

 

After this item was presented, the Managing Director highlighted the graph in Paragraph 5 of the report that clearly showed the Council’s sustainable improvement over time from the lowest to the second quartile.  He noted that the Wales Audit Office was going to present a report to the Council’s Audit Committee that addressed the growing demand and funding for DFGs.  He concluded that the Council would have to consider an appropriate budget setting based on the increased performance.

 

Cabinet had

 

RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T the report on performance for delivering Disabled Facilities Grants during quarter 1 of 2015-16 be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the request to allocate an additional £200k to the Disabled Facilities Grants capital budget in the 2015/16 Capital Programme, funded by a contribution from the Policy revenue budget, be endorsed and this request be referred to Council for approval.

 

(3)       T H A T the report be forwarded to Scrutiny Committees (Housing and Public Protection) and (Social Care and Health) for consideration.

 

(4)       T H A T thanks be given to the department and staff for their ongoing hard work and commitment.

 

Having considered the decision of Cabinet, Scrutiny Committee

 

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

 

Reason for recommendation

 

Having regard to the decision of Cabinet.

 

 

484     LETTINGS OF SOCIAL HOUSING AND IMPLICATIONS OF WELFARE REFORM CHANGES –

 

Committee received a presentation on the changes to the rules concerning a number of benefits which was enacted on 8th  March, 2012 as a result of the Welfare Reform Act 2012. 

 

Amongst the provisions of the Act were changes to Housing Benefits, which came into force on 1st April, 2013.  These changes included a spare bedroom subsidy, more widely known as the ‘Bedroom Tax’ which reduced the amount of benefit paid to claimants if they were deemed to have too much living space in the property they were renting.

 

The presentations highlighted the following areas:

 

-         changes in demand

-         void performance

-         impact on rent arrears

-         rent arrears

-         housing benefit

-         number of cases affected by the Welfare Reform

-         new legislation (i.e. the Housing (Wales) Act 2014)

-         future developments.

 

The presentation also highlighted issues surrounding Awberry House.

 

The summary of the presentation was that: 

  • there had been little tangible impact on performance for voids and lettings
  • demand was still high and there was a potential mismatch between supply and demand
  • the Council had been assisted by the increase in the Private Rented Sector
  • it was acknowledged that there had been an impact on tenants.

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the contents of the presentation be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

Having regard to the contents of the presentation.

 

 

485     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 31ST AUGUST, 2015 (DEHS) –

 

Committee was advised of the position in respect of revenue and capital expenditure for the period 1st April, to 31st August, 2015 regarding those revenue and capital budgets which formed this Committee’s remit. 

 

The current forecast was for a balanced budget.

 

Public Sector Housing (HRA) - whilst vacancies in the new structure still existed, there were some savings on salary costs.  The lack of staff resource had impacted on the supplies and services budget to date but now that the Housing Management was almost fully staffed, budgets set aside for Environmental Improvements, for example, were likely to be fully spent by the end of the financial year.  Any underspends this year would be off-set by additional contributions to Capital expenditure to reduce the reliance on Unsupported Borrowing.  The HRA was therefore expected to outturn on target. 

 

Council Fund Housing - there were some savings against profile on staffing and the Temporary Accommodation Budget.  Whilst the introduction of the Universal Credit in February 2016 would have an adverse effect, it was possible that the Council Fund Housing Budget may outturn with a favourable variance at year end, and the position would continue to be assessed and Committee updated on any further change as the year progressed. 

 

Private Housing - there was currently a favourable variance of £6,000 to profiled budget.  The fee income on the Renewal Areas continued to be behind profile but it was possible that this position would improve towards the end of the year.  At this stage, it was anticipated that this service would outturn on target.

 

Public Protection - the management positions within the Shared Regulatory Service had now been appointed and the staffing structure had now been finalised.  Appointments to the lower tiers of staff should all be completed by Christmas.  At this stage, it was anticipated that the Shared Regulatory Service would 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 August, 2015.

 

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 shall be taken to the first available Cabinet. 

 

Having considered the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position with regard to the 2015/16 Revenue and Capital Budgets be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

That Scrutiny Committee note the position with regard to the 2015/16 Revenue and Capital Monitoring.

 

 

486     QUARTER 1 PUBLIC PROTECTION PERFORMANCE REPORT 2015-16 (DEHS) –

 

Committee received the performance results for Quarter 1, 1st April - 30th June, 2015-16.

 

Overall the service was well on track to achieve the objectives contributing to its service outcomes with 90% of actions currently on track.  10 of the 34 actions aligned to outcome 1 within the Development Services Plan related to Public Protection, of which 9 were on track for completion and only one action was not due to be started. No actions were reported as slipped for the Quarter. 

 

15 of the 20 performance indicators aligned to Outcome 1 were Public Protection measures.  Of these, 10 had met or exceeded their target, 2 were within 10% of target and 3 had missed their target by more than 10%. 

 

The three performance indicators where slippage was reported were as follows: 

  • PPN/001ii - the percentage of high risk businesses that were liable to a programmed inspection that were inspected, for food hygiene.  This measure missed its target as 25% of premises were not due a food hygiene inspection during Quarter 1.
  • PPN/001i - the percentage of high risk businesses that were liable to a programmed inspection that were inspected, for trading standards.  This measure missed its target as four high risk businesses were still due to be inspected and were weighbridges and required the hire of specialist equipment to carry out the inspection.  Due to collaboration with Cardiff and Bridgend, the equipment was being hired centrally to be used by all three authorities.  However, all these businesses would be inspected before the year end. 
  • PPN/008i - the percentage of new businesses identified which were subject to a risk assessment visit or returned a self-assessment questionnaire during the year, for Trading Standards.  A programme of inspections for new businesses had been agreed to ensure that targets were met in Quarters 2, 3 and 4.

Having considered the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the service performance results and remedial actions to be taken to address service underperformance be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T progress to date in achieving key outcomes as outlined in the Corporate Plan 2013-17, the Outcome Agreement 2013-16 and the Improvement Plan Part 1 2015-16 be noted.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To ensure the Council is effectively assessing its performance in line with the requirement to secure continuous improvement outlined in the Local Government Measure (Wales) 2009.

 

(2)       To consider the Quarter 1 Public Protection performance results as at 30th June, 2015 in order to identify service areas for improvement.

 

 

487     QUARTER 1 HOUSING AND BUILDING SERVICES PERFORMANCE REPORT 2015-16 (DEHS) –

 

Committee received the performance results for Quarter 1, 1st April - 30th June, 2015-16.

 

Overall the Department was considerably on course to achieve the objectives to its service outcomes.  72% of actions were either completed or on track to be completed.  Of the 36 actions, one was complete, 25 were on track, four had slipped and six were not due to start during this Quarter.  70% of Corporate Plan actions were on track for completion (of the 10 Corporate Plan actions, seven were on track, two had slipped and one was not due to have started this Quarter).  There were currently no Improvement Objective actions or measures.  There were no Outcome Agreement Actions.  Of the three Outcome Agreement Measures, two were within 10% of target and one had missed target by more than 10%.

 

Of the 12 Performance Indicators, five met or exceeded the target, three were within 10% of the target and three missed the target by more than 10%.  A performance status was not applicable for one measure.

 

The four actions where slippage was reported were as follows: 

  • HS/A076 - the development of an Asset Management Strategy and associated Action Plan had slipped to enable the impact of the Housing Revenue Account buyout to be taken into account and for the financial impact of the external WHQS works to be validated before developing the full report.  The project would now be suspended for one year to enable all financial implications currently impacting on the HRA to be considered. 
  • HS/A048 - the development of a Tenant and Leaseholder Engagement Strategy had slipped as the final consultation on the strategy would be undertaken in August and reported to Cabinet in September 2015. 
  • HS/A091(CP/H10) - the review of the governance arrangements of the Supporting People Regional Collaboration Fund Committee had slipped as the next steps were still awaited from Welsh Government, the Memorandum of Understanding had been delayed and was with Welsh Government lawyers. 
  • HS/A105 - the review of internal stores had slipped as until the National Procurement Service tenders were completed, this evaluation was unable to progress.

The three indicators that had missed target related to: 

  • HS/M005 - the average number of days to let an empty property.  This could be attributed to a restructure within Housing and Building Services.  New processes, training and regular monitoring had been implemented for new staff within the team which would contribute to improved performance during Quarter 2.
  • HS/M002 - the percentage of housing stock where work meets the WHQS standard.  The external work programme had started and was building momentum with more and more properties being completed which would improve performance in future Quarters.
  • HHA017b - the average number of days that all homeless households spent in other forms of temporary accommodation.  There had been an increase in the average number of days due to a number of long term single households.  The Housing Solutions Team had adopted a strategy for this particular group that would greatly improve move-on opportunities in future Quarters.

Having considered the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the service performance results and remedial actions to be taken to address service underperformance be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T progress to date in achieving key outcomes as outlined in the Corporate Plan 2013-17, the Outcome Agreement 2013-16 and the Improvement Plan Part 1 2015-16 be noted.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To ensure the Council is effectively assessing its performance in line with the requirements to secure continuous improvement outlined in the Local Government Measure (Wales) 2009.

 

(2)       To consider the Quarter 1 Housing and Building Services performance results as at 30th June, 2015 in order to identify service areas for improvement work.

 

 

488     INSPECTION OF PRIVATE SECTOR PROPERTIES FOR HOMELESSNESS PURPOSES (DEHS) –

 

Committee were advised of the procedure for ensuring that all private rented sector accommodation secured by the Housing Solutions Service was suitable, appropriate and met the required standards.  The report also highlighted the increased demand on resources required to continue to provide inspections based on current practices. 

 

On 17th September, 2014, the Housing (Wales) Bill became the Housing (Wales) Act 2014.  A significant part of the new legislation is concerned with homelessness, the specifics of which came into effect on 27th April, 2015. 

 

One of the main purposes of the legislation was to ensure that fewer households experienced the trauma of homelessness and that this was countered through early intervention and more effective use of the private rented sector (PRS). 

 

The new legislation recognised that there was a shortage of social rented properties, and introduced the capacity for a local authority to be able to discharge its homelessness duty into the private rented sector.

 

It was recognised that PRS housing may not be appropriate for all applicants.  In particular, local authorities must also consider the suitability of accommodation for the individual and must be satisfied if such factors as support needs, location, cultural needs, size, affordability and condition have been taken into account. 

 

The Council had worked closely with the private rented sector since the introduction of its Vale Assisted Tenancy Scheme in November 2004.  It had continued over the years to build on relationships both with landlords and letting agencies operating in the Vale.

 

Since 2012, all PRS accommodation being considered as a housing solution to prevent homelessness was inspected by an officer from the Environmental Health team. 

 

The properties were inspected, having regard to Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004 and Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).  Under HHSRS, 29 potential hazards were considered.  Where hazards were identified, they were rated in line with national statistics, likelihood and outcomes to determine a score and branded A‑J.  Hazards banded C or above were classed as the more serious Category 1 hazards and those below were categorised as less serious Category 2 hazards.

 

A property with a number of Category 1 hazards and/or a significant number of Category 2 hazards would be rejected as unsuitable for use by the Housing Solutions Service.  Landlords were provided with schedules of remedial works to give them the opportunity to improve unsuitable properties. 

 

It was also important to note the ingoing tenant’s vulnerabilities.  Age and number of bedrooms required were also considered and assessed against any identified hazards, ensuring the assessment undertaken was robust when determining the suitability of a property. 

 

Since 2012, a total of 372 referrals for inspection had been made to Environmental Health.  The number of referrals had remained static at around 80 per annum in 2013 and 2014, but had increased significantly in 2015 to 114. 

 

It was anticipated that the use of the PRS would continue to grow and as a result the Housing Solutions Team was expecting to secure an additional 180 rented properties in this financial year.  Since April 2015, 66 new tenancies had been secured and let in the private rented sector.  In comparison, just 23 Council tenancies were let to homeless households, thus evidencing how important the PRS was in preventing and alleviating homelessness. 

 

It was acknowledged that the anticipated increase in the number of additional PRS referrals was likely to result in increased workload for officers within both service areas and a number of options would need to be considered to meet this increased demand.

 

Options could include increased staff resources, reductions in the number of inspections based on current knowledge or risk or the use of non-technical staff for inspection purposes.  Whilst there was no legal requirement to undertake any inspections at all unless the tenant or perspective tenant had raised a concern, it was felt that some form of inspection would be necessary.

 

Any suggested change to the existing inspection arrangements would be subject to a further report. 

 

Having considered the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the current arrangement for the inspection of private rented sector properties in relation to preventing homelessness be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the potential future growth of the use of private rented sector, and the resource implications as a result be noted.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       For information.

 

(2)       To inform and assist Scrutiny of future property inspection options.

 

 

489     UPDATE ON REGULATORY SERVICES COLLABORATION PROJECT (HSRS) –

 

Committee received an update on the development of the Shared Regulatory Service between Bridgend, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan Councils. 

 

As part of the Welsh Government’s Regional Collaboration Fund, the Bridgend, Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Councils considered and approved a shared service opportunity in relation to Regulatory Services. 

 

The proposal was put forward as a way to address the dwindling resource base available to the services and envisaged an integrated service, operating under a single management structure for the Trading Standards, Environmental Health and Licensing functions, with a shared governance arrangement ensuring full Elected Member involvement.

 

The scope of the regional service was captured in a Joint Working Agreement between the local authorities plus a Joint Business Plan and a Core Services document which set out exactly what was in scope and what was not.  Crucially, the model of delivering placed the customer at the centre of all that the organisation would do, and the key role of administration and support was clearly recognised as the vital interface between service users and the delivery of the services they required. 

 

The Joint Working Agreement provided the constitution for a Joint Committee to be formed and its role of overseeing the implementation, development and ongoing operation of the Shared Regulatory Service.  The first meeting of the Joint Committee took place on 20th April, 2015 with a second meeting taking place on 30th June, 2015.

 

The Head of the Shared Regulatory Service, Dave Holland, was appointed in April 2015. 

 

Some 170 ‘in-scope’ employees were successfully transferred to the Vale of Glamorgan Council (as host employer) on 1st May, 2015 and paid under their newly transferred contracts on 15th May, 2015.

 

Post transfer induction/introduction sessions were completed for all ‘in-scope’ employees during the first three weeks of May 2015 in order to ensure that pre-transfer assurances had been followed through.

 

The post transfer restructuring consultation process was underway following discussions about principles and protocols with the Trade Unions and would continue in accordance with the schedule as set out below:

 

CONSULTATION   / MANAGING CHANGE PROPOSED TIME-LINE

 

Key   Activities

Description

Time-scale

 

Transfer   Date

Formal   transfer of staff to host employer

1st   May 2015

 

Management   of post transfer restructuring consultation process

 

 

Commence   consultation process

-      indicative structure
  -    selection and assimilation process
  -    approach to mitigating   redundancies
  -    meetings with trade unions
  -    meetings with staff group
  -    continuation of 1-1 sessions
  -    consider outcomes from   consultation
  -    refine proposals as appropriate
  -    respond to staff/unions
  -    finalise prior to next stage

 

June   to September 2015

Populating   the new organisational structure

 

To   be managed on a “tier by tier” basis
  -    dealing with matching issues

-    invitation for selection process

-    selection for new posts

-    processing voluntary redundancies

 

September   to November

2015

 

 

Implementation   of new staffing structure

-   implementation of new structure

-   processing redeployment

-   processing termination as appropriate

November   2015

 

A key point of agreement with the Trade Unions and staff was the need to bring forward the appointment process for the second tier managers within the new structure (i.e. the three Operational Managers).  This was completed and the appointments made on 10th July, 2015 in line with the new operating model, of Neighbourhood Services, Commercial Services and Business and Enterprise Services. 

 

An ICT Project Manager had taken up his post and had been consulting with Regulatory representatives from Bridgend and Cardiff Councils.  Three key projects had been identified, two of which had gone through project scoping and initiation phases:

  • Develop a new website for the Shared Regulatory Service.  This would include auditing and migrating existing Regulatory content from the partner LA websites, holding workshops with the key service staff to capture functionality, identifying and prioritising website functionality and phased delivery of the new website.  The website was scheduled to launch in November 2015.
  • Shared service software and systems audit, to identify the software and systems that were currently in place and in use in the shared service and report and make recommendations towards more joint systems.  Mobile working pilots were underway and progress to date had been good.

Finance Officers from all three authorities had met several times to discuss and clarify financial procedures for the Shared Service going forward.  This process would continue in the short term.

 

Reports submitted to the Joint Committee in June included the food law plans for the three Authorities which longer term would be managed into one plan and the WAO assessment of the Environmental Health Services for each Council.  In November, the Committee would receive the Section 18 health and safety plans for the Councils and updates on changes in legislation. 

 

A Member enquired as to how many redundancies would arise as a result of the merger, and the Head of the Shared Regulatory Service advised that it was not possible to answer this question until the matching exercise was complete. 

 

Having considered the report and accompanying presentation, it was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the contents of the report and presentation be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To apprise Committee of the progress made in setting up the new Shared Regulatory Service.

 

Members of the Committee were aware that this was the final meeting of the Committee prior to Mr. Alun Billinghurst’s retirement and all Members asked that their appreciation of Alun’s work over the years be placed on record.

 

 

490     2ND QUARTER DECISION TRACKING AND WORK PROGRAMME SCHEDULE (MD) –

 

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

  • Municipal Year April 2011 - March 2012
  • Municipal Year April 2012 - March 2013
  • Municipal Year April 2014 - March 2015
  • 2nd Quarter July - September 2015.

With regard to the Work Programme schedule, which was attached at Appendix E 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 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:

 

2 September, 2015

Min. No. 333 –   Call-In: Gypsy Traveller Accommodation Assessments – Recommended

(2)   That Cabinet be requested to consider the   inclusion of Councillor K.P. Mahoney plus one Member of the Scrutiny   Committee (Housing and Public Protection) on the Gypsy and Traveller   Accommodation Assessment Steering Group.

Cabinet,   on 21st September 2015, resolved that the contents of the report and the   recommendations of the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) be   noted, and that Councillor Bronwen Brooks be included on the Gypsy and   Traveller Accommodation Assessment Steering Group given the relevant of the   group to her role as Cabinet Member for Housing Maintenance, Building   Services and Community Safety.

(Min.   No. C2910 refers)

Completed

Min. No. 336 – The   Youth Justice Plan 2015/16 (DSS) – Recommended

That   the contents of the Youth Justice Plan 2015/16 be noted and that Committee   continue to be made aware of the risks posed by reductions in core   contributions and grants to the Youth Offending Service from key agencies.

Added   to work programme schedule.

Completed

Min. No. 337 – 1st   Quarter Scrutiny Decision Tracking of Recommendations and Work Programme   Schedule 2015/16 (MD) – Recommended

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

Uploaded   to the Council’s website.

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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