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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 2nd December, 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, Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson and E. Williams.

 

Also present:  Councillor N. Moore.

 

 

633     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –

 

These were received from Councillors R.J. Bertin (invited to attend in relation to Agenda Item No. 5) and R.P. Thomas.

 

 

634     MINUTES – 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 7th October, 2015 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

635     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST – 

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

636     WALES AUDIT OFFICE REPORT: IS THE DISABLED FACILITIES GRANT SERVICE PROVIDING AN EFFECTIVE RESPONSE TO USER NEEDS (REF) –

 

Audit Committee on 21st September, 2015 received a report on the results of the review of Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) undertaken by the Wales Audit Office (WAO) during 2014/15. 

 

The review focused on whether the Council’s DFG service was providing an effective response to user needs. 

 

The WAO concluded that “the Council has met its original objective of improving the speed of delivery of DFGs but evaluation focuses on a narrow range of information and service planning is not sufficiently strategic because:

 

  • The focus on time targets for key stages in the process has improved delivery times and there appears scope for further refinement of processes;
  • Performance evaluation has been based upon a narrow range of indicators and there is scope to utilise other service related data to provide a better picture of performance.
  • The Council lacks a strategic plan for the service and data review suggests a probable future reduction in the number of disabled facilities grants at a time when the Council forecast increasing demand.” 

The report made four proposals for improvement: 

  • P1: Implement a process review that assesses arrangements from the service user perspective and has regard to the implementation of change by other Councils
  • P2: Establish a broader range of measures that enable the effectiveness of the DFG service to be evaluated in terms of meeting user needs and the efficiency of resources being deployed as well as monitoring the speed of delivery
  • P3: Adopt “plain English” principles to assess revisions necessary to current guidance documents and future publications / advice for service users
  • P4: Introduce measures that can be used to establish a corporate understanding of the way in which the service and others contribute to supporting independent living. 

Discussions ensued on the contents of the report, including the following: 

-               It was agreed that one of the objectives of DFGs was to permit people to live in their own homes for longer. 

-               Did the applicants feel that the DFG works had improved their lives?

-               Providing large, complicated documents to potential applicants for DFGs was not appropriate.  Simple overviews of the process would be more effective.

-               Improvements to the way DFG applications are dealt with had been impressive and the Council was now in the second quartile of Welsh Authorities. 

-               The budget for DFGs had recently been increased although there was potential for more certainty in budget setting and there was a concern that budget increases were potentially not sufficient to meet increasing demand.

-               There was a need to investigate how the DFG performance figures could be linked to other of the Council’s Performance figures.

-               In terms of assessing the effectiveness of an objective, i.e. to permit people to live in their own homes for longer, it would be necessary for baseline figures to be compiled.

-               Now that the Council was achieving an acceptable delivery time, it may be appropriate to consider the efficiency of the relevant staff.

It was appreciated that the Council was efficient when measuring the component parts of the DFG process.

-               The Chairman drew Committee’s attention to the final bullet point of Paragraph 11 of the report “service re-engineering – final stage process review undertaken January to March 2015”.  The Managing Director confirmed that the process had been undertaken. 

-               Committee was advised that other Councils reported performance figures regarding DFGs by exception.  It was suggested that this may be appropriate for the Vale.

-               A Member enquired as to what the Council attributed its improved performance to and was informed that it had not been as a result of increasing the budget – this had decreased over the years although the budget for actual DFGs had increased lately. 

 

Reasons for the improved performance had included:

-               The means test was now carried out earlier in the process.

-               Some of the assessments took place simultaneously.

-               There had been a move away from sending Building Works to tender to the use of a schedule of rates.

-               The increased level of scrutiny.

-               A Member enquired as to why DFG performance was reported to so many of the Council’s Committees, and was advised that this was considered appropriate in previous years as there had been a focus on securing improvements.

 

Following discussions, Audit Committee

 

RESOLVED – THAT the contents of the report and comments of the Audit Committee be referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) and Cabinet for their consideration.

 

Having considered the decision of Audit Committee, Scrutiny Committee

 

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

 

Reason for recommendation

 

Having regard to the contents of the report.

 

 

637     WARDEN AND ALARM SERVICE IN THE VALE (REQUEST FOR CONSIDERATION) –

           

Councillor R.J. Bertin had submitted a Request for Consideration for the Scrutiny Committee to receive a report on the future of the Warden and Alarm service in the Vale.

 

The reason for Councillor Bertin’s request was:

 

It has been brought to my attention that changes are going to be made to the warden and alarm service for the elderly in the Vale.

 

It is my belief that this has come about via a cut in the ‘Supporting People’ programme by the Welsh Government meaning only those with greater need are now to be included in the above scheme.  I furthermore understand that this will hit around 9 in every 10 people living under this type of accommodation.

 

I would therefore like a report to ascertain the risks and impact this change will have, the number affected and the cost of this saving.  Can you also please let me know if you have any feedback to date following your letter sent out on the 14 September?

 

Would it be possible to carry out a risk assessment prior to implementation and a statement on the right to continue to live in these properties should the tenant not qualify for any future support?

 

The Request for Consideration was accompanied by a report entitled “Support for Older People Funded by Supporting People” and which apprised Committee of the requirements of the Supporting People Programme Grant Guidance dated June 2013 in respect of services for older people.

 

The Supporting People Programme was the policy and funding framework for delivering housing related support to vulnerable people in different types of accommodation and across all tenure.

 

Prior to the start of the Scheme on 1st April, 2003, tenants in Wales who received a warden and alarm service in social rented housing designated for older people (Council and Housing Association properties) who were on a low income were able to receive financial assistance to cover these costs from Housing Benefit. 

 

Council tenants in the Vale of Glamorgan however, were not at that time charged for the services as the cost was pooled across all tenants.  The Supporting People Guidance issued in 2002 stated that tenants should not be made worse off financially.  Therefore a sum equivalent to the cost of the existing tenants’ services was calculated and included by Welsh Government (WG) in the Grant that transferred to the Council on 1st April, 2003.  This was to ensure that the cost of the services to these tenants continued to be met until such time as they vacated their properties.

 

This protection from the charges had continued to date for the Council tenancies that existed prior to 1st April, 2003.  However, those tenants who moved into sheltered schemes or into properties with emergency alarms designated for older people over the age of 55 after that date had had a charge levied for both services.  If however the tenant was on a low income, they were able to apply for financial assistance to cover the costs.  In respect of the warden cost, 70% of the charge equated to housing management and could be covered by their Housing Benefit and 30% of the charge, which was for housing related support, could be covered by the Supporting People Programme Grant along with the alarm service provided to those tenants.

 

An independent review of the Supporting People Programme was commissioned in 2009 and one of the recommendations made in the report was that the eligibility criteria for older people receiving Supporting People funding should be based on need rather than age or tenure.

 

This recommendation led to a change in the eligibility of funding for older people services which was then included in the new Supporting People Guidance published by WG in 2012 and updated in June 2013.  These changes were now being implemented across Wales. 

 

In the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff the change was being managed by the Supporting People Regional Collaborative Committee which was made up of both statutory and voluntary sector members determined by WG.  This Committee had set up a Task and Finish Group to work with landlords and providers across the region to ensure that a consistent approach was taken to implementing the change and that consultation takes place with service users.

 

The Task and Finish Group had developed a new Needs Assessment form with guidance which had been sent to all landlords providing older people’s services across the region, including the Council.  These forms would be used to map the current support needs of the tenants.  It had also recommended and had approved by the Supporting People Regional Collaborative Committee the timeframe to implement the funding changes.  From 1st April, 2017, the Supporting People Programme Grant would no longer be able to cover the cost of the housing related support element of the warden service or the alarm costs unless the tenant was deemed to need the services.  However, it had not yet been determined if the Supporting People Regional Collaborative Committee would consider agreeing any financial protection for existing tenants.

 

The Council had five sheltered housing schemes across the County with 335 homes covered by the warden service.  There were also over 1,000 emergency alarms in properties designated for older people, including those in the sheltered schemes.

 

Anyone over the age of 60 can currently apply to live in one of the Council’s sheltered schemes or over 55 in an elderly designated home outside of a sheltered complex with an emergency alarm.  The properties were allocated through the Homes4U Scheme and no account was taken of whether the tenant needed these services.  The allocation was based on the bidding process only.  Therefore, in order to understand the impact of the changes of the funding entitlement of tenants, the Council had commenced the needs assessment process.

 

The Housing Service had written to all tenants outlining the process and undertaking a number of informal meetings at sheltered scheme coffee mornings to reassure residents.  Scheme wardens were also providing direct support and assistance to residents to help understand the needs assessment process.  The Operational Manager for Housing and the Housing Solutions and Supporting People Team Leader had also recently met with the Sheltered Housing Tenants Forum at a question and answer session and had agreed to further consult with this group as the process developed.

 

Having considered the Request for Consideration together with the contents of the report, it was

 

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

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To make Scrutiny Committee aware of the requirement for the Council to ensure that warden and emergency alarm services funded by the Supporting People Programme Grant comply with the Welsh Government Guidance issued in June 2013.

 

 

638     INITIAL REVENUE BUDGET PROPOSALS 2016/17 (DEHS) –

 

Scrutiny Committee was consulted on the initial budget proposals for 2016/17 and were advised of the amended original budget for 2015/16 for services which formed part of the Committee’s remit.

 

The Council’s budget was determined largely by the Revenue Support Grant (RSG) settlement set by the Welsh Government (WG).  In previous years, the provisional RSG settlement was received from WG during October, with the final settlement being received during December.  This year, however, the initial budget proposals had not yet been received.

 

A statement on the timing of the WG’s Budget for 2016/17 was released by the Minister for Finance and Government Business on 6th October, 2015.  It stated that the late timing of the UK Government’s Spending Review presented WG with significant challenges for the preparation and publication of the Draft Budget 2016/17.  WG would not know their Budget for 2016/17 until 25th November, 2015.  WG was facing unprecedented levels of uncertainty and consequently would not publish the Draft Budget for 2016/17 until 8th December, 2015 and the Final Budget on 1st March, 2016.

 

A joint letter dated 26th October, 2015 had been received from the Minister for Public Services and the Leader of the Welsh Local Government Association, outlining the outcome of their joint discussions regarding the timing of the release of the settlement.  They provided a timetable which showed that Local Authorities would be advised of the Provisional Settlement on 9th December, 2015 and of the Final Settlement on 2nd March, 2016 but the Final Budget would be debated by WG on 9th March, 2016. 

 

The Council was required under statute to fix the level of Council Tax for 2016/17 by 11th March, 2016 and in order to do so, would have to agree a balanced revenue budget by the same date.

 

Revised Budget 2015/16

 

Appendix 1 to the report set out the Amended Budget for 2015/16, together with the necessary adjustments to be made to the original budget for the Committee.

 

The following table compared the amended budget with the projected outturn for 2015/16:

 

 

       2015/16

Amended

Budget

          £’000

2015/16

Projected

Outturn

£’000

Variance

 (+)Favourable

 (-) Adverse

     £’000

 

Directorate / Service

Youth Offending Service

679

679

                           0

Regulatory Services

2,107

2,107

                           0

Council Fund Housing

1,116

         1,116

                           0

Private Housing

11,308

11,308

                           0

Committee Total

15,210

15,210

0

 

The projected outturn for services relating to this Committee was a balanced budget when compared to the amended budget.

 

Youth Offending Service – It was anticipated that this service would outturn within budget at year end.

 

Regulatory Services – This budget represented the Vale’s contribution towards the Shared Regulatory Service which was formed on 1st May, 2015.  Although anticipated savings for 2015/16 will be slightly reduced by the one month delay in populating the staffing structure, the effect was mitigated by the reduction in anticipated staffing costs due to the number of staff leaving the Shared Service pool before going live.  At this stage, it was therefore projected that the service would outturn within target.

 

Council Fund Housing – The Council Fund Housing budget was likely to outturn at £250k underspend based on current trends.  As previously reported, the variance was due to savings being made on the use of temporary accommodation for the homeless.  Due to the uncertain pressures for the remaining part of the financial year on the homeless budget, it was felt appropriate at this time to show a balanced budget. 

 

Private Housing – As there had been additional demand for Disabled Facility Grants this year, the fee income would exceed target.  Income targets for the Renewal Area had not currently been achieved so would offset the Disabled Facility Grants increase.  As such, this service was projected to outturn within target by year end.

 

Savings 2015/16

 

Attached at Appendix 2 to the report was a statement showing the progress made against the savings targets set for this Committee for 2015/16.  Services were projecting to achieve the majority of their savings and where savings may not be achieved, further information was provided.  The Appendix showed that currently there was a £10k projected deficit against the target.

 

Budget Strategy

 

The Budget Strategy for 2016/17 outlined that in order to establish a baseline, services should prepare initial revenue budgets based on the cost of providing the current level of service and approved policy decisions and including the existing savings target.  This meant the cost of price increases and any allowable pay awards should be included as advised by the Head of Finance.

 

Medium Term Financial Plan

 

The Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) 2015/16 to 2018/19 was to be presented to Cabinet on 14th December, 2015, to coincide with the presentation of the Draft Corporate Plan. 

 

The 2015/16 Final Revenue Budget Proposals set savings targets between 2016/17 and 2017/18 of £17.822m (excluding schools).  This was based on the anticipated reduction in funding from WG of 4% in 2016/17 and a further 2% in 2017/18, which was in line with the assumptions made in the latest MTFP.

 

The latest Plan factored in a managed level of cost pressures, a notional increase in Council Tax of 2% each year, price inflation of 1% and annual pay awards of 1% each year from 2016/17. 

 

Provisional Settlement 2016/17

 

The provisional settlement from WG would not be published by WG until 9th December, 2015. The Council was unable to wait until this date to commence its budget preparations for 2016/17 and therefore the report had been based on the projections previously used as part of the MTFP 2014/15 to 2017/18.

 

Based on the projection of a 4% reduction in funding from the WG in real terms, the Council was projected to receive £111.537m from WG as RSG and a share of the non-Domestic Rates of £34.845m.  Together these figures constituted the Council’s projected Aggregate External Finance (AEF) of £146.382m.  It was noted that a 1% change in AEF equated to around £1.5m. 

 

2016/17 Initial Budget Proposals

 

Details of the proposed areas for savings for 2016/17 to 2017/18 for this Committee were attached to the report at Appendix 4.  The savings did not include the cost of any potential redundancies.  As part of the Budget Strategy 2016/17 Directors were requested to continue to progress the Reshaping Services Programme.

 

Appendix 5 to the report showed a summary of the overall base budget for 2016/17 for the Committee.  Adjustments shown included the following:

 

  • Asset Rents, International Accounting Standard (IAS) 19 – relates to accounting items outside the control of services.  They reflect charges to services for the use of capital assets and adjustments in respect of pensions to comply with accounting standards
  • Recharges / Transfers – relates to changes in inter-service and inter-Directorate recharges
  • Inflation – the total figure for inflation related to general price increases and a 1% allowance for pay awards
  • Committed Growth – this sum related to the increase in employers’ National Insurance.

 

Further work would be undertaken by the Budget Working Group (BWG) in order to achieve a balanced budget for the final budget proposals for 2016/17.  This would include a review of the use of reserves, a possible increase in Council Tax, a review of all cost pressures, possible changes to the approved savings targets, a review of the inflation assumptions and the current financial strategies.  The BWG would also consider the results of the budget engagement process in determining priorities for future savings and service delivery and the impact of the revised Corporate Plan. 

 

Having considered the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the amended revenue budget for 2015/16 be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the initial revenue budget proposals for 2016/17 be noted.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1&2)  Having regard to the contents of the report.

 

 

639     INITIAL CAPITAL PROGRAMME PROPOSALS 2016/17 (DEHS) –

 

Committee was provided with an update on the progress of the Capital Programme for 2015/16 and were requested to consider the initial capital proposals for 2016/17. 

 

Appendix A to the report detailed financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 30th September, 2015. 

 

Penarth Renewal Area – the total estimated spend for the Penarth Renewal Area had increased from £100k to £155k, due to the cost of an extra property being added to the contract and also due to unforeseen items of work that were identified during the contract period.  A virement of £55k had therefore been requested from the Castleland Renewal Area budget to the Penarth Renewal Area budget.

 

Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) – there was a predicted shortfall in the capital budget for DFGs.  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.  However, there had been a steady increase in the number of applications being received which was a trend that was likely to continue.  As a result, Emergency Powers had been used to approve an increase of £200k in the 2015/16 DFG budget, funded by a contribution from the Policy revenue budget.  This would ensure that there was sufficient funding to complete this year’s applications without creating a new backlog.

 

A statement on the timing of the Welsh Government’s (WG) Budget for 2016/17 had been released by the Minister for Finance and Government Business on 6th October, 2015.  It stated that the late timing of the UK Government’s Spending Review presented WG with significant challenges for the preparation and publication of the Draft Budget 2016/17.  WG would not now know their Budget for 2016/17 until 25th November, 2015.  WG was facing unprecedented levels of uncertainty and consequently would not publish the Draft Budget for 2016/17 until 8th December and the Final Budget on 1st March, 2016.

 

A timetable published by WG showed that Local Authorities would be advised of the Provisional Settlement on 9th December, 2015 and the Final Settlement on 2nd March, 2016 but the Final Budget would be debated by WG on 9th March, 2016. 

 

In order to be in a position to meet the statutory deadlines and the requirements for consultation set out in the Council’s Constitution, much of the work on quantifying the resource requirements for the Capital Programme would be carried out before the initial and final General Capital Fund settlement is notified to the Council.  Therefore, in line with the approach adopted in the current Medium Term Financial Plan, the proposals assumed a reduction of 10% for each year of the Programme for 2016/17 and onwards.  This had been reflected in the proposed Capital Programme 2016/17 to 2020/21 which was shown in the table at Appendix B to the report. 

 

The Major Repairs Allowance (MRA), which was the grant that provided capital funding to the Housing Revenue Account (HRA), for 2016/17 had not yet been announced by WG.  Members would be advised once the announcement was made.  An assumption had been made that the grant would continue at the allocation reflected in the current business plan of £2.76m in 2016/17 and throughout the period of the Capital Programme. 

 

In addition to external funding, the Council would finance part of the Capital Programme from its own resources, e.g. capital receipts and reserves.

 

New capital bids had been invited for return by 30th September, 2015 and the number of bids received was low (3 from Learning and Skills, 12 from Social Services, 11 from Environment and Housing, and 2 from Managing Director and Resources).  Departments had been requested to rank their own bids in order of importance before submission and bids from each Department were forwarded to the Corporate Asset Management Group (CAMG) for evaluation.  The CAMG had used the criteria set out in the Budget Strategy so the bids were prioritised in terms of their corporate priority and the risk they posed to the Council if they were not pursed. 

 

It was noted that only those schemes assessed as corporate priority 1 or higher and medium risk or higher were included in the proposals. 

 

Renewal Area – an award of specific grant funding had been received from WG to enable capital works to be undertaken in the Castleland Renewal Area during 2016/17.  It had been requested that £677,981 be included in the 2016/17 Capital Programme for this grant.

 

Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) – a capital bid amendment form had been submitted to request additional funding in future years for DFGs.  This would ensure that there was sufficient funding to complete future years’ applications without creating a new backlog.  It had been requested that the Capital Programme be increased by £400k in 2016/17 and £450k in 2017/18, to be funded from a reserve set up from a revenue underspend in 2015/16. 

 

The 2015/16 Housing Improvement Programme budget totalled £87.011m and £63.156m of this allocation related to the buy-out from the housing subsidy system.  The funding of the 2015/16 Programme had been amended as set out in the following table:

 

Funding

Current  2015/16 £'000

Amended  2015/16                  £'000

Major Repairs Allowance Grant

2,760

2,760

Other Grant

2,069

2,069

Housing Capital Receipt

754

897

Housing Reserves

2,676

5,334

Unsupported Borrowing (Including HRA Buyout)

78,752

75,951

Total

87,011

87,011

 

Having considered the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the changes to the 2015/16 Capital Programme be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the initial capital budget proposals for 2016/17 be noted.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       Having regard to the position with regard to the 2015/16 Capital Programme.

 

(2)       Having regard to the contents of the report.

 

 

640     INITIAL HOUSING REVENUE ACCOUNT BUDGET PROPOSALS 2016/17 AND AMENDED BUDGET 2015/16 (DEHS) –

 

Committee was consulted on the Initial Housing Revenue Account budget proposals for 2016/17 and was informed of the amended original budget for 2015/16. 

 

Each Local Housing Authority was required under Section 74 of the 1989 Local Government and Housing Act to keep a Housing Revenue Account.  Section 76 of the Act required local authorities to set a budget for their Housing Revenue Account (HRA) on an annual basis.  The budget must be such that the Housing Revenue Account was not in deficit at the year end. 

 

During the course of the year, Local Authorities must review their HRA expenditure and income and if, on the basis of the information available the account was heading for a deficit, they must take steps as are reasonably practicable to prevent this deficit.  A Local Authority was not prohibited from being in deficit but would need to demonstrate that the deficit had arisen through exceptional circumstances and that it had revised its original proposals so far as reasonably practicable to avoid the deficit.  Such a deficit should be carried forward and must be made good the following year.

 

Each Local Authority should endeavour to have a working balance on the HRA, for any exceptional circumstances that may arise.

 

The level of rent increase was based on a rent policy introduced by the Welsh Government (WG) but recent events in England regarding social rents had brought this policy into question.  It was anticipated that WG would amend the existing policy but at the time of writing the report, an announcement had not yet been made.  Therefore, an average rent increase of 3.5% had been included in the 2016/17 Initial Budget Proposals, as per the Housing Business Plan - December 2014.

 

Set out below is a table comparing the original budget with the proposed amended budget.

 

 

2015/16

Original   Budget

2015/16   Proposed Amended

Budget

Variance   Favourable (-) Adverse (+)

 

£'000

£'000

£'000

Housing Revenue Account

(129)

1,265

    1,394

 

The net budget had changed from a surplus of £129,000 to a deficit of £1,265,000.  A review of the current budget had found a potential net saving this year of £455,000.  The main reason for this was that the estimated increase in the provision for bad and doubtful debts had been reduced by £902,000 as the Universal Credit and its effects were not likely to impact on Housing Rent collection until 2016/17.  There had been little increase in the actual level of rent arrears in this financial year and it was not anticipated that the provision would need to be substantially increased.  In addition there had been a reduction in the Repairs and Maintenance budget of £300,000 which was originally identified for an external painting programme which was now unlikely to commence until 2016/17.  These savings had been offset by an adjustment in the rental income expected of £253,000 which related to properties that were no longer accounted for in the HRA, £120,000 which related to feasibility studies on sites for development, £281,000 increase in Capital Financing Costs following the final HRAS buyout settlement agreement and other cost increases of £93,000.  These adjustments alone would give an amended HRA budget of £584,000. 

 

The level of HRA reserves brought forward was £1,876,000 and was higher than anticipated.  In order to minimise the amount of unsupported borrowing required in year to fund the Housing Improvement Programme, it was felt prudent to use HRA revenue reserves up to a minimum balance.  The level of CERA (Capital Expenditure funded from Revenue Account) had been recalculated at £5,334,000 which was an increase of £1,849,000.  This change would leave a minimum HRA reserve of £611,000 which was in line with the level set in the latest Housing Business Plan. 

 

The Budget Strategy for 2016/17 outlined that, in order to establish a baseline, services should prepare revenue budgets for next year based on the cost of providing the current level of service an approved policy decisions.  This meant that the cost of price increases and pay awards should be included. 

 

Due to the nature of the HRA in that it was ring fenced and any growth had to be funded from the balance, no cost pressures had been formally identified.

 

The charges for rent and other services provided by the Housing Service were reviewed annually.  These would be subject to a future report once the guidance had been received from WG regarding the setting of rents.  Set out below is a table summarising the original budget for 2015/16 with the proposed budget for 2016/17:

 

2015/16

Original

Budget

Inflation   /

 Pay Award

National   Insurance Change

Committed

Growth   /

(Savings)

Estimated   Rent

Increase

Increase/   (Decrease) in CERA

2016/17

Proposed

Budget

£000

£000

£000

£000

£000

£000

£000

(129)

130

34

1,408

(604)

(851)

(12)

 

A provision for general inflation included an allowance of 1% pay awards in 2016/17 which equated to approximately £18,000. 

 

The impact of the changes to Employer National Insurance Contributions for Housing staff had been identified as £34,000. 

 

A decrease in Capital Expenditure from Revenue Account (CERA) to finance the Housing Improvement Programme of £851,000 had been assumed.  The amount of revenue contribution required was dictated by available revenue balances and the value of the Housing Improvement Programme.  Adjusting the level of CERA by this amount would leave a minimum HRA Reserve of £623,000 which was in line with the latest Housing Business Plan. 

 

The net growth of £1,408,000 was due to a number of factors:

 

  • An increase in Capital Financing charges of £877,000 in relation to unsupported borrowing being taken out in 2016/17 to fund the Housing Improvement Programme, and adjustments required following the HRAS buyout.
  • An adjustment to the net rental due from dwellings of £260,000 to account for properties no longer accounted for in the HRA. 
  • An increase in staff costs for increments and staff changes of £40,000.
  • An increase of £60,000 in central recharges.
  • A contribution of £22,000 to support Safer Vale for activities which benefit Council tenants and leaseholders.
  • An increase of £133,000 on the bad debt provision, to reflect the assumption that 6% of net rental income would need to be provided for to mitigate the potential increase in arrears following the introduction of Universal Credit in February 2016.
  • Various other minor adjustments of £16,000.

 

Having considered the contents of the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –-

 

(1)       T H A T the revised budget estimate for 2015/16 be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Initial Housing Revenue Account budget proposals for 2016/17 be noted.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To facilitate monitoring of the amended Housing Revenue Account budget.

 

(2)       Having regard to the Initial Housing Revenue Budget proposals for 2016/17.

 

 

641     QUARTER 2 PUBLIC PROTECTION PERFORMANCE REPORT 2015-16 (DEHS) –  

 

The performance results for Quarter 2, 1st April - 30th September, 2015-16 were presented to the Committee.

 

Overall the service was well on track to achieve the objectives contributing to its service outcome with 93% 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 one was not due to have started.  No actions were reported slipped.

 

15 of the 18 performance indicators aligned to Outcome 1 were Public Protection measures.  Of these, eight had met or exceeded their target, three were within 10% of target and four had missed their target by more than 10%.

 

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

 

  • DS/M008b: The average number of calendar days taken to deliver a non-agency Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) missed target because the three cases completed by non-grant agency services within the quarter had higher than the average grant expenditure involving one multi-faceted / complex case with a through floor lift having a grant approval figure of over £28,000.
  • DS/M009a: The average number of calendar days taken from Occupational Therapist (OT) first contact to recommendation in the delivery of a DFG had missed target as one OT post had been vacant since June 2015.  The post had now been filled with the post holder commencing in November 2015.
  • PPN001i: The percentage of high risk businesses that were liable to a programmed inspection that were inspected for trading standards.  Of the remaining five premises due for inspection, three were for high risk Food Standards and were scheduled to be carried out by the Food Safety Team at the same time as the Food Hygiene inspection, one of which was due during Quarter 3 and two during Quarter 4.  It was reported that since the report had been dispatched, the relevant premises had been inspected.
  • PSR009a: The performance in relation to the average number of calendar days taken to deliver a DFG for children and young people had been adversely affected by only one case being completed within this quarter due to its complexity. 

 

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 2 Public Protection performance results as at 30th September, 2015 in order to identify service areas for improvement.

 

 

642     QUARTER 2 HOUSING AND BUILDING SERVICES PERFORMANCE REPORT 2015-16 (DEHS) –

 

Committee were presented with the performance results for Quarter 2, 1st April - 30th September, 2015-16.

 

Housing and Building Services was on track to achieve the objectives contributing to its service outcomes with 72% of all service plan actions either completed or on track to be completed.  Six actions were reported slipped and four were not due to have started this quarter.  Of the 10 Corporate Plan actions, 70% (seven) were on track to be completed, 20% (two) had slipped and one not due to have started this quarter.

 

Of the 12 Performance Indicators that were monitored on a quarterly basis, five (50%) met or exceeded target during the quarter, three (25%) were within 10% of target and three (25%) had missed target by more than 10%.  A performance status was not applicable for one measure.  Of three Outcome Agreement measures, two were within 10% of target and one had slipped. 

 

The three indicators that had missed target were as follows:

 

  • HS/M005: whilst the average number of days to let an empty property had not met target, improvements identified in Quarter 1 were currently being progressed.  In addition, a process review group had also met to re-engineer the process and identify further efficiency opportunities.  It was anticipated that the void target would be met by the end of the year.
  • HS/M003: the average satisfaction score for how tenants rated the overall process of improving homes had missed its target.  However, no comment or remedial action had been provided in response to the underperformance.
  • HHA017b: the average number of days that all homeless households spent in other forms of temporary accommodation continues to miss target at Quarter 2.  Alternative suitable permanent and temporary housing solutions of all tenures continued to be secured in line with the Temporary Accommodation strategy.  This had resulted in 85 new private rented sector tenancies and 31 H4U tenancies commencing between April 2015 and the end of September 2015. 

Slippage was reported for five actions under Outcome 1. 

  • In relation to the development of a Tenant and Leaseholder Engagement Strategy, a report would be taken to Scrutiny in January 2016 (HS/A048).
  • The development of an Environmental and Neighbourhood Improvement Strategy and associated operational plan had slipped as the Housing and Strategic Project lead appointment had been delayed until 2nd November.  This action would be prioritised for completion by March 2016 (HS/A073).
  • The development of an Asset Management Strategy and associated action plan had slipped to enable the impact of the Housing Revenue Account buy out to be taken into account and for the financial impact of the external WHQS works to be validated before developing the full report.  This strategy was now planned to be drafted over the next six months before being presented to Cabinet in the first quarter of the 2016/17 financial year (HS/A076).
  • Limited progress had been made in the review of the governance arrangements of the Supporting People Regional Collaboration Fund Committee as the next steps were still awaited from Welsh Government.  The Memorandum of Understanding had also been delayed and remained with Welsh Government lawyers (HS/A091).
  • The implementation of the newly adopted Local Housing Strategy had slipped due to vacancies within the Strategy Team.  An external recruitment process had been undertaken for a Rural Housing Enabler and Affordable Housing Enabler (HS/A123). 

A detailed report of the Directorate’s overall performance was provided at Appendix 1 to the report. 

 

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 the 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 2 Housing and Building Services performance results as at 30th September, 2015 in order to identify service areas for improvement work.

 

 

643     COUNCIL TAX CHARGING POLICY FOR SECOND HOMES IN THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN (DEHS) –

 

Committee received a report which advised on the current policy in place regarding Council Tax charges for second homes in the Vale of Glamorgan and the new legislation being introduced from 1st April, 2017 as part of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. 

 

In the Vale of Glamorgan there were currently 603 second homes (excluding caravans which cannot be occupied all year round), these are furnished but unoccupied properties where the owners have provided proof that it was not their sole or main residence.  59 of these properties had planning restrictions which prevented them from being occupied for at least 28 days in each financial year (Chalets) and 93 of these properties had been vacant for less than six months and mainly comprised furnished, rented accommodation where landlords were in the process of trying to obtain new tenants.  Together with the following expected exemptions, it would dilute the number subject to this second home premium.

 

The Welsh Government (WG) had recently consulted on exemptions from the second homes premium and, if implemented, would prevent the Council from charging premiums on the following types of second homes:

 

  • Furnished properties where probate or letters of administration had been granted within the last 12 months;
  • Furnished annexed accommodation which was treated as part of the main dwelling;
  • Furnished properties that were actively being marketed for sale or let for up to two years;
  • Furnished properties where the owner was living in a job related dwelling as their main residence;
  • Furnished properties where the owner was a minister of religion;
  • Furnished properties where the owner was residing in accommodation provided by the Armed Forces.

 

Whilst Local Authorities currently had the discretion to charge up to 100% of the Council Tax levy on second homes, the policy in the Vale was to apply a second homes discount and to charge only 50% of the relevant property band which Officers felt was the most financial prudent percentage to apply.

 

The discretion for Local Authorities to apply the second home discount of 50% would continue from 1st April, 2017.  If the Council was to change its policy and remove this discount, it must give second home owners at least 12 months’ notice before it can implement the change.  In addition, if the Council increased the charge for second homes to 100%, its Revenue Settlement Grant (RSG) from WG would be reduced by the same amount.  This meant that there would be no financial benefit to the Council and a possible risk of lower collection.

 

If, however, the Council made a policy decision to increase the Council Tax charge to 100% and introduced a premium of 100%, making a maximum of 200% using the discretionary powers contained in the new Act, it would be able to retain any additional funds generated.  Whilst the decision would remain with the Council on how this funding should be spent, WG would encourage Local Authorities to use the additional revenue raised to help them to address their local housing needs.

 

A Member expressed a wish to receive a report on the Council’s policy regarding empty homes, to consider if the position of a premium to the Council Tax chargeable on the property would give the Council leverage to bring the property back into gainful use. 

 

Councillor N. Moore (with the permission of the Committee) agreed to speak with officers to see if there was likely to be a cost benefit. 

 

Following discussions, it was

 

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

 

Reason for recommendation

 

For information.

 

 

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