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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 21 October 2013

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Housing, Building Maintenance and Community Safety

 

Consultation on Draft Anti - Social Behaviour Policy

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To advise Cabinet of problems with the current anti-social behaviour policy for council tenants and of progress on the development of a more suitable policy for dealing with anti-social behaviour in the future.

2.         To seek the views of Cabinet on a proposed new policy as part of the consultation process.

Recommendations

1.         That Cabinet note the progress to date of the policy review and endorse the principles of the proposed new approach for dealing with incidences of anti-social behaviour involving our tenants.

2.         That Cabinet provide its initial comments on the draft policy.

3.         That this report be passed to Housing and Public Protection Scrutiny Committee for their consideration.

4.         That a further report on the final draft policy be tabled at Cabinet advising of the full results of the stakeholder consultation.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To ensure Cabinet is aware of the progress with the policy development process.

2.         To ensure the policy takes account of Cabinet's initial views.

3.         To ensure that Cabinet is aware of the consultation process associated with the policy.

4.         To ensure Cabinet receive the final policy for their agreement featuring the consultation responses.

Background

3.         Earlier this year a senior officer working group recognised that the current methods of dealing with anti-social behaviour were unwieldy and hampered efforts to resolve matters.  Consequently the officers recommended a peer review and a new draft policy.  The working group consisted of the Director, Operational Managers from the legal and housing sections, the manager of Safer Vale and the Acting Housing Manager.

4.         The government is currently working on a draft Anti-social Behaviour Bill, which is intended to streamline the range of measures available to landlords to combat the problem.  While the bill is not expected to become law until 2015, the new Vale of Glamorgan approach will take account of the spirit of the change, which sets out to provide an opportunity to address the underlying causes of ASB, improving the likelihood of achieving a long term sustainable positive outcome for the community.

Relevant Issues and Options

5.         The existing policy was adopted by Cabinet on 16th March 2011 [Minute C1254] in response to criticism from the Local Authority Ombudsman which included a decision of maladministration against the Council.  In practice the existing policy and procedure have proved difficult to implement.  It has been shown to be too onerous when dealing with routine matters and lacks flexibility.  The overall process is time consuming.  For example there are 28 standard letters; this inhibits the early resolution of both routine and complex cases.

6.         The current procedure is highly prescriptive and places undue emphasis on enforcement and not enough on prevention and good estate management.  This leads to officers being driven by the need to complete the process of producing standard letters and issuing warnings on time rather than concentrating on the people concerned and achieving satisfactory outcomes for them.  A copy of the current policy and procedure is attached at Appendix 1.

7.         The Director and senior officers met with the Ombudsman Service to advise them of the direction we were considering.  While unable to comment on proposed policies he was fully accepting of the Council's position and supportive of any changes to the current processes which would improve outcomes for complaints.

8.         The current definition of anti-social behaviour is very broad and includes many issues that should be considered as estate management problems.  The council currently deals with severe cases of harassment and drug related disorder using the same process as litter, untidy gardens and inappropriate parking.  Applying the current procedure to every case is time consuming and in many instances inappropriate.  

9.         The new policy [Appendix 2] will adopt the standard definition of anti-social behaviour as set out in the Crime and Disorder Act: “Any conduct that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not in the same household.† There will be a parallel policy for dealing with estate management issues [Appendix 3].

10.      The new policy also takes account of the “Wales Housing Management Standard for Tackling Anti-social Behaviour.â€

11.      The Council commissioned Wales & West Housing Association, which has an excellent reputation in this field to review the current set up and the association, has assisted council officers in drafting the new policy and procedure.

Progress to Date.

12.      Wales and West has met several times with senior officers to ascertain in-house views and understand the direction that the council was seeking to take.

13.      The Association conducted a seminar with the Council’s front line staff to listen to their ideas and concerns.

14.      Wales & West regularly participates in Safer Vale activities and has built in appropriate links and triggers to promote better collaboration between the housing management team and Safer Vale.

15.      Wales & West produced a draft for consideration.

The proposals include:

·           Clearer distinction between estate management and anti-social behaviour

·           Clearer communication with tenants and better management of their expectations

·           Less focus on process and standard letters

16.      Greater focus on outcomes and tenant satisfaction.

Planned completion.

17.      We are currently embarking on a consultation process.  In addition to this paper, the process will include consultation with the Housing Services Review Group a tenant consultative body, formal consultation with significant partners such as Safer Vale, a staff working group and written consultation with other interested groups.  Further consultation will be undertaken with all tenants in line with statute.

18.      The consultations will be concluded during this financial year.

19.      On conclusion of the consultation process we will amend the draft as appropriate and prepare a paper for Cabinet approval.

20.      Staff training will commence following Cabinet approval to ensure that the change is introduced in an effective manner, with an aim of having this new policy operational on 1 April, 2014.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

21.      The cost of the work commissioned from Wales & West is allowed for in the existing budget.

22.      Resources for the consultation process will be met from existing budgets.

23.      There are no additional resources required to complete this project.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

24.      The new policy will provide the Council with an effective tool to promote community cohesion, reduce fear of anti-social behaviour and ensure the sustainability of the areas where tenants live.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

25.      As a social landlord the Council is required by law to have policies and procedures for dealing with anti-social behaviour.

26.      The new policy will contain guidance on the use of legal sanctions to combat anti-social behaviour.

27.      The guidance will ensure that the Council does not act illegally and complies with all relevant statutory legislation.

Crime and Disorder Implications

28.      The new policy should enable the Council to concentrate resources on reducing serious anti-social behaviour.

29.      Where anti-social behaviour is dealt with effectively, there will be a reduction in crime and disorder.

30.      The new policy should enhance collaboration with other agencies such as Safer Vale and the police service.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

31.      The new policy should enable the Council to better protect vulnerable members of society and deal with hate crime.

32.      As a major housing policy change an equality impact assessment will be undertaken.

Corporate/Service Objectives

33.      Objective 4: To enhance tenants’ quality of life by making relevant improvements to their homes and communities.

34.       Objective 5: To deliver a timely, high quality, responsive housing management and maintenance service.

Policy Framework and Budget

35.      This report is within the policy framework and budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

36.      As this is a Vale wide issue no specific ward member consultation has been undertaken.

37.      The housing section is required to consult with tenants on any material changes to its policies and this consultation will be undertaken as advised in the body of this report.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

38.      Housing and Public Protection.

Background Papers

None.

 

Contact Officer

Alan Sinclair, Housing Manager 01446 709831

 

Officers Consulted

Safer Vale

Legal Section

Housing Accountant

 

Responsible Officer:

Miles Punter - Director of Visible Services and Housing

 

 

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