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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 6th January, 2016.

 

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

 

Also present:  Mr. A. Raybould (Tenant Working Group); Councillors Dr. I.J. Johnson and N. Moore.

 

 

730     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –

 

These were received from Councillor Mrs. V.M. Hartrey and Mr. G. Amos, Mrs. G. Doyle and Mr. S. Doyle (Tenant Working Group).

 

 

731     MINUTES – 

 

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

 

 

732     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST – 

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

733     PRESENTATION – HOUSING MANAGEMENT FUNCTION –

 

Committee received a presentation from members of the Housing Management Team on the theme “Housing Management – A High Quality, Tenant Focused Housing Service”.

 

The presentation covered the following:

 

Overview

  • Our “Journey”
  • Current priorities
  • Project work
  • Our aims for the future.

Our “Journey”

-               Challenging environment

-               New approach

-               Staff restructure.

 

Current Priorities

-               Anti-social behaviour

-               Increased visibility on estates

-               Environment / estate management

-               Community investment

-               Voids and lets

-               Customer service.

 

Project Work

-               Identifying vulnerable tenancies

-               Estate inspections

-               Performance management framework

-               Customer satisfaction

-               Recharges

-               Estate action plans

-               C1V

 

Aspirations for the future

-               Improved performance

-               Current service could be described as “one size fits all, few examples of services being tailored to tenants’ individual requirements”

-               Increase in tenant involvement

-               Estate action plans

-               Projects and initiatives.

 

Following the presentation, all present were invited to ask any questions. 

 

Members expressed the view that the presentation had been very positive and showed that attempts were being made to deal with tenants’ needs. 

 

In referring to the reference to the estate inspections, the view was expressed that very often, the same people turned out every time.  Committee was asked as to attempts to get the message over to the tenants in order to improve attendance at these events.

 

Committee was advised that public notice would be given on public notice boards.  There would also be letter-drops.  Public notice would also be given on the Website, with a view to attracting the younger tenants. 

 

A Member enquired as to what was meant by “identifying vulnerable tenancies”, and Committee was advised, by means of an example whereby Housing Services could possibly identify vulnerable tenants as a result of the data relating to that tenancy which was held on their system.

 

A Member expressed the view that many people say that the best way of improving an estate was to deal with anti-social behaviour. 

 

Committee was advised that to some extent this was true.  There was a need to take a measured and robust approach to this problem, including consideration of the use of legal action. 

 

Officers were asked if there were any plans to improve the perceived image of social housing and it was ventured that the image had improved over the past 15 years, mainly through the work of Social Housing providers, although it was acknowledged that Councils were catching up.

 

Committee was advised of work being undertaken locally, e.g. improving the exterior of properties and issuing publicity about the positive work being undertaken by the Housing Services Division of the Council.

 

In referring to anti-social behaviour, the Council advised that there was a likelihood that the Police would pass more and more complaints about anti-social behaviour to the Council to deal with.

 

Committee was advised that Housing Services had recently met with the local PCSOs and Housing Services was developing a relationship with these people. 

 

Members enquired what the expression “reducing waste” meant in terms of the housing function and were advised that it was the intention of Housing Services to undertake their work more efficiently. 

 

A Member recalled mentioning some time ago that tenants should be encouraged to improve their properties.

 

In reply, Committee was advised that the Council did not operate an incentive scheme.  The issue to consider would be “How would it improve people’s behaviour?”. 

 

A Member requested that a future meeting of the Committee receive a report on the effectiveness of tenant involvement. 

 

At the conclusion of the question and answer session, the Chairman thanked the members of the Housing Management Team for their efforts. 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the presentation be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T a future meeting of the Committee receive a report on the effectiveness of tenant involvement and that this be added to the Committee’s Forward Work Programme.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       Having regard to the contents of the presentation.

 

(2)       For the further information of the Committee.

 

 

734     DRAFT CORPORATE PLAN 2016-20 (REF) AND PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT FRAMEWORK (REF) –

 

Councillor N. Moore spoke on these items with the consent of the Committee.

 

It was decided that as the references from Cabinet were closely aligned, Agenda Items 5 and 6 be considered at the same time. 

 

For each of the items, the Leader of the Council presented the reports.

 

Both of these had been referred to all Scrutiny Committees for their comments.

 

In April 2015, the Welsh Government had passed the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act which placed a duty on the Council to carry out sustainable development.  The Act required the Council to set and publish wellbeing objectives by April 2017 that maximised its contribution to achieving the wellbeing goals which were identified in the report considered by Cabinet. 

 

The Draft Plan attached at Appendix B to the report had been drafted in parallel with the Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) and during a time of significant and sustained pressure on public finances.  The priorities for the next four years had been developed in full recognition of the financial climate and the achievability of the actions associated.  There was also a recognition that in light of future budgetary decisions there would be a need to review and potentially amend the Plan.  Increasingly, the Council would need to work with its partners and communities to identify alternative ways of delivering services.

 

In developing the Plan, the need to refresh the Council’s vision and values was recognised.  It was proposed that the Council’s revised vision for the Vale of Glamorgan would be – “Strong communities with a bright future”.  This built on the wording of the current vision, but expressed it more concisely to allow it to be more easily incorporated in a range of documents and materials. 

 

Work had also been undertaken to review the values.  The proposed values built on the Council’s existing set of values and aimed to use plainer language to make them easier to understand. 

 

The proposed values were: 

  • Ambitious – forward thinking, embracing new ways of working and investing in our future
  • Open – open to different ideas and being accountable for the decisions we take
  • Together – working together as a team that engages with our customers and partners, respects diversity and is committed to quality services
  • Proud – proud of the Vale of Glamorgan: proud to serve our communities and to be part of the Vale of Glamorgan Council.

The draft Plan had been developed with due regard to the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act, the proposed wellbeing outcomes being: 

  • An inclusive and safer Vale
  • An environmentally responsible and prosperous Vale
  • An aspirational and culturally vibrant Vale
  • An active and Healthy Vale.

The Committee was advised that for each of the four wellbeing outcomes, there would be two wellbeing objectives and these outcomes and objectives would be developed through the consultation process.

 

In terms of the Performance Management Framework (PMF), the relevant Cabinet report outlined that the Council had a strong performance management track record which had been evidenced in previous Annual Improvement Reports by the Wales Audit Office.  However, the recent Annual Improvement Report for 2014/15 had identified the following two proposals for improvement: 

  • P1 – refine performance reporting arrangements to ensure data was presented in a way that provided a balanced picture of performance and of the outcomes being achieved
  • P2 – improve reporting so that cross-directorate / cross-service activity was considered in the context of delivery of priorities rather than completion of service-based actions.

The Council’s PMF set out the way in which the Council undertook performance management across the Council.  This Framework enabled the Council to regularly assess, report and scrutinise performance in order to support continuous improvement of its activities.

 

The PMF brought together the Council’s key planning, monitoring and evaluation processes through an integrated suite of documents.  These included the Community Strategy, Corporate Plan, Service Plans, Team Plans, and Personal Development Plans.  This demonstrated the contribution made at a variety of levels of the organisation to the Council’s priority outcomes.  These were supported by other key strategies and plans such as the Medium Term Financial Plan, Workforce Plan and Corporate Asset Management Plan. 

 

The report outlined that the Corporate Plan would be monitored on a quarterly basis by an overall corporate health scorecard report and supplemented by specific quarterly reports for each of the four wellbeing outcomes. 

 

“Corporate health” would be illustrated from a number of perspectives: 

  • Performance against wellbeing outcomes / objectives
  • Resources (finance / savings, people, assets and ICT)
  • Customer focus and risks.

The report would incorporate a Red, Amber, Green (RAG) status for each wellbeing outcome to give snapshots of overall progress against the wellbeing outcomes.  A brief position statement would be provided for the quarter covering the wellbeing outcomes and corporate health performance overall.  A brief summary of achievements by outcome would be provided as well as areas of underperformance / key challenges across the corporate health perspectives being highlighted with remedial actions to address these going forward.

 

The measures included amending the Scrutiny Committee structures from May 2016 to align it with the wellbeing outcomes of the Corporate Plan.  It was proposed that the Terms of Reference for the existing “service based” Scrutiny Committees be reviewed to reflect the Council’s four wellbeing outcomes and to support the cross-cutting nature of the new Plan. 

 

In addition to the four wellbeing outcome-based Scrutiny Committees, the existing Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) would be replaced with a committee responsible for Corporate Resources and Performance.  In addition to this, the Council would therefore have the following Scrutiny Committees in operation: 

  • An Inclusive and Safe Vale Scrutiny Committee
  • An Active and Healthy Vale Scrutiny Committee
  • An Environmentally Responsible and Prosperous Vale Scrutiny Committee
  • An Aspirational and Culturally Vibrant Vale Scrutiny Committee.

The proposals were not merely a change in the name of Committee, but rather they represented a refocusing of scrutiny activity on the way in which the Council’s actions were delivered against its intended outcomes. 

 

Quarterly wellbeing outcomes and objectives reports would be reported to the relevant Committee, with the overall corporate scorecard being presented to the Corporate Resources and Performance Committee. 

 

Members were offered an opportunity to comment on the contents of the report and the following comments were made:

 

-      The proposals represented a huge improvement on the previous Corporate Plan and offered clarity and simplicity.

-      Doubts were expressed about the use of the words “inclusive” and “aspirational” in the titles of the proposed Scrutiny Committees in that these were words that were not in use generally by the public.

It was suggested that more appropriate titles for two of the Scrutiny Committees would be

  • A Safe Vale with a High Quality of Life
  • High Achieving and Culturally Vibrant.

-      It was suggested that the use of the word “proud” as a description of one of the values did not represent an approach to improving services.  It was suggested that a more appropriate word would be “effective”.

-      Members ventured that the proposals would result in more work for the Committees and partners.

Committee was advised that the proposals would not necessarily mean more work for the Committees, but that a new approach was needed which focussed on outcomes.  The proposals were not just about achieving the performance targets, but could also involve Committees inviting partners (both inside and outside the Council) to attend the Scrutiny Committees in respect of their contributions to achieving shared outcomes.  

-      Will the new Scrutiny Committees receive extra resources?

No, but the Scrutiny Committees may operate in a more efficient manner.

-      Where would the Shared Regulatory Service fall in terms of Scrutiny?

It was advised that Shared Regulatory Services had its own joint Scrutiny arrangements as previously notified.

-      The proposals would involve more work for the Chairs of Scrutiny Committees to ensure that the work of the Committees does not get bogged down.  Whilst the Committee would not be able to ignore the small things, it may be necessary for prioritisation to take place. 

The proposed Scrutiny Committees may wish to consider receiving exception reporting.

-      There were a number of areas which should be addressed:

  • “prevention” needs to be treated as a core function, i.e. preventing problems before they become problems.  It was appreciated that “prevention” was a non-statutory concept.
  • The list of items in the Draft Corporate Plan appeared very much to be “business as usual” yet the narrative of the Draft Plan states that things will not be “business as usual”. 
  • The Draft Corporate Plan should say more about energy conservation and food in that the Council should make more allotments available and should encourage market gardening in the Vale. 
  • The Council should encourage “local spend” and try to ensure that money stays within the area, thereby helping to create employment.

-      Committee was advised that all of the points made during the consultation process would be reported to Cabinet when the Draft Corporate Plan 2016-20 and the PMF are reported for approval.

-      In referring to the comments earlier in the meeting about the use of the word “proud”, a Member stated that he supported the use of the word “proud” and expressed the view that this word should also be aligned with the word “respect”. 

 

In referring to the Draft Corporate Plan 2016-20, the Chairman referred to the Action contained within Wellbeing Outcome 1, Objective 2 (providing decent homes and safe communities) entitled “Increase the quantity and improve the quality of private sector rented accommodation” and advised that he had been informed that it would not be possible to increase the quantity of private rented accommodation for the following reasons:

 

“The Draft Plan” has not taken account of changes to UK legislation that will significantly impact on the “buy to let” market. 

 

The key changes are as follows: 

  • From April 2016 there will be a 3% stamp duty surcharge on residential property in England and Wales in regard to purchases not intended to be a main residence. 
  • From April 2019 Capital Gains Tax made following the sale of a residential property that is not a primary residence will be due within one month of sale rather than at the end of the tax year.
  • The level of tax relief on mortgage interest payments investors are able to claim will reduce to 20% by 2020.

These changes would have a significant impact on the “buy to let” market and as such there would be significantly less private rented accommodation coming onto the market. 

 

Furthermore, it was believed that the Draft Corporate Plan had not taken account of recent Welsh Government legislation in that the Housing (Wales) Act and the Renting Homes Act would make it significantly less attractive to let private rented accommodation.

 

It was suggested that the words “increase the quantity and” be deleted as it was unachievable. 

 

Committee was advised that in the context of the tax changes, this was a good point although it was not yet known what effect the recently announced changes would make to the overall supply of private rented accommodation. 

 

The Council would contribute to increases potentially, in that it had the “Houses into Homes” and “Home Improvement” loan products which would be available to landlords to address vacant properties in need of investment (as well as the Town Centre loan which would facilitate significant new RSL homes).  In the Upper Holton Road and Main Street regeneration areas, the Council was also encouraging landlords to bring vacant above floor units into residential use with grant aid.  These would be marginal by comparison to the overall Vale-wide stock, so any significant downturn as a result of tax changes had the potential to negate these gains.  The Council would need to monitor what effect the changes made.

 

In terms of the Draft Corporate Plan, it was thought that there was a case for changing the words from “increase the quantity and improve the quality of private sector rented accommodation” to “facilitate new and improve the quality of private sector rented accommodation”.

 

Members of the Committee expressed agreement with the proposal.

 

Draft Corporate Plan 2016-20

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T Cabinet be informed of the views of the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) as expressed above.

 

(2)       T H A T the words “increase the quantity and improve the quality of private sector rented accommodation” as contained in Wellbeing Outcome 1, Objective 2 be amended to read “facilitate new and improve the quality of private sector rented accommodation”.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       Having regard to the contents of the Draft Corporate Plan 2016-20.

 

(2)       To take account of changes to UK legislation that will significantly impact on the “buy to let” market.

 

Performance Management Framework

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T Cabinet be advised of the views of this Scrutiny Committee as outlined above.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

Having regard to the contents of the Performance Management Framework.

 

 

735     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 30TH NOVEMBER, 2015 (DEH) –

 

Committee was advised of the position in respect of revenue and capital expenditure for the period 1st April to 30th November, 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) – the HRA was expected to outturn on target.  Any underspends in the year would be offset by additional contributions to Capital Expenditure to reduce the reliance on Unsupported Borrowing. 

 

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.  However, 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 previously reported, the fee income on Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) was higher than originally anticipated due to the high number of applications received during the year.  Income on the Renewal Area however, was continuing to lag behind profile, thus offsetting the favourable variance on DFGs.  At this stage it was anticipated that this service would outturn on target at year end.

 

Regulatory Services – the new Shared Service for Bridgend, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan became operational on 1st May, 2015. The last staff appointments as a result of the restructure were due to be completed by Christmas.  Work would now be undertaken by the new management team to rationalise current working practices, with the emphasis on agile working across the three Authorities.  It was anticipated that the budget would outturn on target. 

 

In considering matters relating to the Shared Regulatory Service, a Member requested that a report be brought before a future meeting of the Committee identifying the employment status of former Vale of Glamorgan Regulatory Services staff.

 

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 30th November, 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 was to be taken to the earliest available Cabinet. 

 

Having considered the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the position with regard to the 2015/16 Revenue and Capital Budgets be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T a report be brought before a future meeting of the Committee identifying the employment status of former Vale of Glamorgan Regulatory Services staff.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       That Scrutiny Committee note the position with regard to the 2015/16 revenue and capital monitoring.

 

(2)       For the information of the Committee.

 

 

736     3RD QUARTER SCRUTINY DECISION TRACKING OF RECOMMENDATIONS AND WORK PROGRAMME SCHEDULE 2015/16 (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
  • 3rd Quarter October – December 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.

 

In considering the Forward Work Programme, a Member expressed concern about changes in the level of service being provided by the Joint CCTV Service and requested that a report be included within the Committee’s Forward Work Programme.

 

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:

 

07 October 2015

Min. No. 480 – Call-In:   Gypsy Traveller Accommodation Assessments – Recommended That 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.

Cabinet,   on 2nd November, 2015 RESOLVED – That   having considered the request of the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public   Protection), the recommendation to appoint Councillor Bennett as an   additional member to the Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment   Steering Group be agreed.

(Min. No. C2955 refers)

Completed

Min. No. 490 – 2nd   Quarter Decision Tracking and Work Programme Schedule (MD) – Recommended

(2)   That the updated Work Programme schedule   be uploaded to the Council’s website.

Work programme schedule   updated and uploaded to the Council’s website on 26th October,   2015.

Completed

 

(2)       T H A T an item be included within the Forward Work Programme about the level of service being provided by the Joint CCTV Service.

 

(3)       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&3)  For information.

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