Agenda and minutes

Service Delivery Committee
Tuesday, 7th July, 2015 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Offices, Station Road, Wigston

Contact: Democratic Services  Email: committees@oadby-wigston.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

An apology for absence was received from Councillors Miss M V Chamberlain and Dr T Khong.

2.

Appointments of Substitutes

Minutes:

None.

3.

Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

None.

4.

Minutes of Previous Meeting - 10 March 2015 DOCX 24 KB

Minutes:

A Member enquired as to whether a verbal update was to be given at this meeting in respect of Bennett Way (Min Ref. 62). The Chair confirmed this was to be included in the Community Update by the Head of Community.

 

RESOLVED:  That the minutes of the previous Committee meeting held on Tuesday 10 March 2015 be taken as read, confirmed and signed.

5.

Petitions and Deputations

Minutes:

None.

6.

Community Update pdf icon PDF 89 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report and appendices delivered by the Head of Community as set out in the report (at pages 6 - 12) which should to be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

Rent Arrears

 

The Head of Community reported that rent arrears were comparatively higher at the end of this March and measures were to be implemented to examine services to enable collections and support tenants experiencing difficulties in paying. She advised Members that the issue of arrears did not involve significant numbers of bedroom tax cases but rather implicated the “working poor”. Members were advised that the Community Team are liaising with other service-areas in order to maximise the incomes of those affected and to facilitate tenant re/payment plans. The service was noted to be worked by temporary officers with an aim to seek permanence staffing levels to ensure greater stability. The work was considered to be a priority for the Community Safety Manager who continues to monitor the situation on an ongoing, weekly-basis.

 

A Member enquired as to the exact quarterly percentage for rent arrears with reference to the 3% target (at page 9). The Head of Community advised that the percentage for rent arrears currently calculated at above 3.5%.

 

A Member was of the opinion that the issue of rent arrears was likely to worsen given the government’s budget to render the working poor marginally poorer and vice versa. There was uncertainty as to ongoing housing benefit entitlement, suggesting the need to devise an action plan (to include the resources to service the same) relating to the collection of rents. A more realistic budget provision and collection target was also sought in this respect (at page 7).

 

The Head of Community commented that the comparative analysis work undertaken district-by-district concluded that the Borough had the highest proportion of “working poor” suggesting more residents were in lower-paid employment. It was cited that the Chartered Institute of Housing advised a 98% rate of collections for those top-performing organisations, from which a recommendation was being sought to incorporate into the HRA business plan.

 

Gas Safety

 

The Head of Community gave an update on gas safety performance as requested by Members that this is a Standing Item.

 

A Member sought clarification as to the Council’s assurance regarding gas contractors’ compliance, gas safety certification and that all fitters are qualified.

 

The Head of Community reassured Members that gas safety certification was a prerequisite to contract procurement, adding that contractors were auditing on a monthly basis and that a 100% rate of compliance was recorded until the end of July.

 

Update on Capital Programme 2014/15 and Decent Homes

 

The Head of Community directed Members’ attention to Appendix 1 of the report (pages 11-12), adding that the volume of work has been achieved within the Capital Programme across several areas. Work at Boulter Crescent was reported to be at a halfway point and other projects such as subsidence works are completed. 

 

A Member noted the achievements made  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Choice Based Letting System pdf icon PDF 55 KB

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report and appendices delivered by the Head of Community as set out in the report (at pages 13 - 14) which should to be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

She stated that the report was for information only in terms of the district-wide sub-group’s progress in securing an IT-based choice-based letting system without a formal recommendation as a decision had yet to be made.

 

The Vice-Chair described the scheme as notable example of a good-working partnership and enquired as to whether it had impacted on re-housing lists and waiting times.  The Head of Community advised that, although such a question was a difficult one, the scheme has provided for better transparency to dispel erroneous perceptions surrounding waiting-time: the provision of more affordable housing was said to be the solution to reduce waiting times.

 

A Member stated that a recommendation was effectively made out at para. 4 of the report (at page 13) for the negotiation of a further 12 month contract extension, and proposed a substantive recommendation for the same.

 

A Member enquired as to whether a provision was in place to enable tenants to substitute and/or exchange properties. The Head of Community advised that such a mechanism was extensively developed last year operating as a separate scheme, with signings to various websites (including a nation-wide platform) and information disseminated to tenants. The Member suggested that periodic updates be circulated to tenants about this mechanism so to accommodate any changes to tenants’ requirements and circumstances.

 

RESOLVED THAT: 

 

1.         The report be noted by Members.

2.         A further 12 month contract extension be negotiated.

8.

Housing Allocations Policy - Right to Move pdf icon PDF 59 KB

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report and appendices delivered by the Head of Community as set out in the report (at pages 15 - 17) which should to be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

She said the report sought the approval from Members to revise the Housing Allocations Policy as a statutory requirement to reflect the legislative changes as outlined in Appendix 1 (at page 17), adding that the “Right to Move” was another government-originating  initiative akin to that of the “Right to Buy” initiative.

 

The Chair advised Members that the report had to be noted, accordingly.

 

A Member sought clarification as to the following information:

 

(i)         if 1% of the total lettings and not lettings stock was to be made available under the initiative;

(ii)        if the initiative solely applied to social tenants moving from one district to another, as opposed to from the private-rented sector, and the Housing Associations’ involvement; and

(iii)       if those exercising the right automatically displaced existing, resident-Borough applicants on the housing waiting list.

 

The Head of Community confirmed the above, adding that applicants would be routinely added to the register and their housing needs assessed in accordance with the standard adopted criteria: there would be no extraordinary priority/treatment with the same right being afforded to residents of this Borough to move locality. She stated that an allocation of up to 1% of the lettings was to be made available, subject to applicant demand.

 

The Member raised a concern as to the number of prospective applications given the desirable suburban character of the Borough, questioning whether the Council was obliged to accept all applicants or up to the 1% threshold.

 

The Head of Community advised the threshold was capped at 1% and that the research suggested the number of applications would be fewer than expected due to the need for applicants to secure/demonstrate long-term employment in Borough, which is accepted to be less competitive in terms of job-creation.

 

The Chair requested that, in view of the amendment made by Leicester City Council to their Allocation Policy prescribing a minimum two-year residency condition, this Borough’s minimum six-month residency condition be reviewed at the next meeting of this Committee with a view to amend the Policy in accordance with that of Leicester City Council.  

 

A Member opined that the initiative was another measure imposed by central government, dictating what can and cannot be done in the Borough: it was said that if the Council enjoyed more autonomy, the likelihood of success would be more favourable. The Member raised a hypothetical concern as to the position an applicant would find himself in should he subsequently become unemployed after securing tenancy. He welcomed the policy review so to eliminate any unfair advantages gained or disadvantages suffered as a result.

 

A Member raised a question as to the reputational damage to be potentially suffered to the Borough and thus agreed with the foregoing discussions.

 

A Member denounced the initiative as particularly poor example of politics  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Homeless discharge of duty to the Private Sector pdf icon PDF 50 KB

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report and appendices delivered by the Head of Community as set out in the report (at pages 19 - 20) which should to be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

She informed Members of the current arrangements for temporary accommodation following the closure of Graytone House Hostel last December. A report was previously put before Members outlining the previous difficulties in sourcing a short-term lease for an appropriate property in the Borough in view of the market. The Council has continued to look at the proposal with a view to source a long-term lease. Discussions have been had with a registered partner of Council-owner property in the hope that they are agreeable to returning the lease to provide the required temporary accommodation.  It was noted that there was some uncertainty as to how long this process would continue but reassured Members that interim provisions were in place.

 

A Member enquired as to what limitations, if any, prohibited residents of Kennedy House claiming homelessness following its imminent closure given residents’ purported right to housing having been resident in the Borough for a period of six months. It was also asked what contingency plans were in place should the registered partner not agree to go ahead so to avoid potentially placing residents in already scarcely available Council-house properties.

 

The Head of Community advised that the closure of Kennedy House was to be given separate consideration in an independent report at a later point in the meeting (agenda item 12). She confirmed that the proviso (as amended 18 months ago to address the same Members’ concern) for six-month residency in the Borough applied to “stable” residency only, so excluded housing entitlement to hostel-type residents for want of “permanent” residency.

 

RESOLVED THAT:  The report be noted by Members.

10.

Homelessness temporary accommodation for families pdf icon PDF 55 KB

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report and appendices delivered by the Head of Community as set out in the report (at pages 19 - 20) which should to be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

She informed Members of the current arrangements for temporary accommodation following the closure of Graytone House Hostel last December. A report was previous put before Members outlining the previous difficulties in sourcing a short-term lease for an appropriate property in the Borough in view of the market. The Council has continued to look at the proposal with a view to source a long-term lease. Discussions have been had with a registered partner of Council-owner property in the hope that they are agreeable to returning the lease to provide the required temporary accommodation.  It was noted that there was some uncertainty as to how long this process would continue but reassured Members that interim provisions were in place.

 

A Member enquired as to what limitations, if any, prohibited residents of Kennedy House claiming homelessness following its imminent closure given residents’ purported right to housing having been resident in the Borough for a period of six months. It was also asked what contingency plans were in place should the registered partner not agree to go ahead so to avoid potentially placing residents in already scarcely available Council-house properties.

 

The Head of Community advised that the closure of Kennedy House was to be given separate consideration in an independent report at a later point in the meeting (agenda item 12). She confirmed that the proviso (as amended 18 months go to address the same Members’ concern) for six-month residency in the Borough applied to “stable” residency only, so excluded housing entitlement to hostel-type residents for want of “permanent” residency.

 

RESOLVED THAT:  The report be noted by Members.

11.

Disabled Facility Grants (DFG’s) pdf icon PDF 117 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report and appendices delivered by the Head of Community as set out in the report (at pages 21 - 25) which should to be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

She stated that the report detailed the commitments for the last three financial up to, and including, this financial year. It was noted that although the Council was in receipt of a grant from Leicestershire County Council to discharge its statutory duty, this grant was successively insufficient each year thus requiring top-up funding to ensure minimal backlogs and maximum service-delivery. A top-up of £78,068 for this financial year (down on previous years) was sought in order to deliver the programme for 2015/16, returning to 2012/13 funding levels with reference to Table 1 (at page 21). Further information was provided to Members on 2016/17 at Appendix 1 (at pages 24-27), subject to the budget integration in terms of various health and social care services.

 

Other areas of work referred to include the Light Bulb Project, an integrated housing-care initiative which shall determine whether DFG’s are to be determined by Leicestershire County Council or this Council in the future with further information awaiting. It was confirmed that the Council continue to have a good ongoing working relationship with its local Occupation Health provider.

 

The Chair raised a concern regarding the discrepancy between this Council being legally responsible for discharging its statutory duty in respect of DFG’s whilst Leicestershire County Council being in account of the essential budget.

 

A Member stated that if the Light Bulb Project was to become the delivery mechanism for DFG’s, an invoice may be raised against this Council for the additional funding. The Member said that the Project would require the appropriate governance and financial controls and needed to be relayed back to Leicestershire County Council in time for budgetary preparations commencing in September. He said the Project lacked clarity thus rendering the matter of budgeting more difficult.

 

RESOLVED THAT:  Members recommend to the Policy, Finance and Development Committee that the additional capital funding of £78,068 be made available.

12.

Closure of Kennedy House Hostel pdf icon PDF 57 KB

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report and appendices delivered by the Head of Community as set out in the report (at pages 28 - 29) which should to be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

She reported that most residents from Kennedy House originate from outside of the Borough as it was a pan-district used facility and also accommodated a number of homelessness cases due to a historical policy flaw. Pro-active steps were said to have been taken to mitigate any risk of short-notice housing relief, with Officers having collated a preliminary register of eight cases under the jurisdiction of the Borough who have begun to assess these individuals’ support needs. She advised that three cases have been identified as belonging to Blaby District Council who have been advised of the same. She cited a Supreme Court ruling insofar this Council’s responsibility to initially house affected residents which may potential entertain a financial implication, however confirmed that reserve funding was available to meet any temporary accommodation costs.

 

The Chair informed Members that Kennedy House had served notice to its residents on 07 July, although this was yet to be confirmed by the House.

 

A Member added that although Kennedy House had informed the neigh-bouring Day Centre that notice had been served, they did not confirm if they shall be vacating the premises entirely, raising questions as to what the House’s prospective purpose/intentions were. He requested that Officers make enquires when next in contact with the House to ascertain any future Council involvement, stating that its closure may not be an overall negative.  

 

RESOLVED THAT:  The report be noted by Members.

13.

Food Law Enforcement Service Plan pdf icon PDF 50 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report and appendices delivered by the Head of Community as set out in the report (at pages 30 - 52) which should to be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

She noted that the report required approval annually to comply with the Council’s statutory duty. The plan had been prepared by the Environmental Health Team Leader, who has since left the Authority. The Head of Community confirmed that Finance had since verified the figures contained in the report as correct.

 

A Member requested that in the future a draft of the Service Plan be brought to this Committee in sufficient time for Member’s to have an input.

 

RESOLVED THAT: 

 

1.         The Food Safety Delivery Plan for 2015/16 be noted and approved by Members.

2.         The substitution of new roles of officers within the detailed plan as and when appropriate resources are recruited to the Environmental Health Team be authorised.

14.

Leisure Contract Performance Monitoring pdf icon PDF 55 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report and appendices delivered by the Director of Services as set out in the report (at page 53) which, together with Appendix 1 circulated at the meeting as it was omitted from the report,  should to be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The report was said to provide an overview of performance for the first contract year, with 426,000 attendances recorded marking a significant increase from previous years. It was reported that gym and group-class memberships had increased by 77% and 66% respectively, totalling 3, 086 new members. The health and safety incident record was noted to be below the leisure industry’s average. The Building Programme in respect of Parklands Leisure Centre and Wigston Swimming Pool were confirmed as on target for November 2015.

 

A Member requested that a system of checks be implemented for accurate recording for profit-sharing purposes.

 

A Member stated that profit-sharing in place on certain activities may or may not have been paid due an inadequate profits audit. He enquired as to whether recourse to a process could be made to audit the accounts to ascertain accurate profit records so to request the appropriate amount due.

 

The Director of Services confirmed that there had been close-monitoring of the contract and suitable audits undertaken.

 

RESOLVED THAT:  The report be noted by Members.

15.

Brocks Hill and Operations Update pdf icon PDF 93 KB

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report and appendices delivered by the Director of Services as set out in the report (at pages 56 - 62) which should to be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

Brocks Hill

 

The first part of the report was said to provide an update on the activity at Brocks Hill Country Park and Centre as was reflected at the Greening of the Borough Working Group (at pages 56-57).

 

A Member enquired as to the progress made from the interim arrangements for SLM and café delivery to cater events. The Director of Services stated that the procurement was due to begin imminently.

 

Operations

 

The issue concerning bus shelters were raised before Members in considering alternative provisions and shelter designs for the future. She reported that research had been undertaken in respect of a proposal for an advertising company to install and maintain bus shelters in the Borough at minimal or no cost to the Council, in return for advertising rights granted to the company on the shelters installed (subject to content approval). Further enquires made confirmed that a Council contribution to the capital cost of the shelter would return a negotiable proportion of the advertising revenues generated and multiple shelter designs were available for Members to consider.

 

Three options were outlined, namely:

 

(i)         to continue with the current, bespoke corporate design;

(ii)        to continue with the refurbishment of existing shelters, installing new-design shelters on an ad-hoc basis endorsed by Leicestershire County Council; or

(iii)       a combination of the above two options. It was noted that more information was needed before a final decision could be made, particularly in respect of revenue-sharing if Members wish to pursue the advertising company’s option.

 

The Chair stated that although the advertising company had given some indication of sites that may be suitable with further information to be obtained from the company on further sites across the Borough. It was suggested that the standard Borough design be used on such sites due to its proven vandal-proof properties with ongoing maintenance work to be assigned to offenders under the Community Payback Scheme.

 

A Member agreed that more information was needed regarding inter alia longevity, resilience and repairs/maintenance before a final decision was made. He agreed with the Chair’s recommendation for the interim period.  

 

A Member also agreed although queried the vandal-proof qualities of any alternative design given the amount of glass incorporated: the report did not specify if the advertising company would meet any of the replacement costs.

 

A Member stated that adequate seating provision must be provided for in any new design to accommodate the needs of those who were unable to stand for long periods of time (i.e. the elderly). It was also said that any new bus shelters ought to be correctly installed (i.e. inwardly facing the road).

 

The Chair stated that all new bus shelters were now provided with seating-perches with existing shelters were being retrofitted with seats resourced via the Residents’  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.

16.

Provisional Committee Budget Outturn Report - 2014/15 pdf icon PDF 70 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report and appendices delivered by the Principal Accountant as set out in the report (at pages 63 – 72 but excluding page 68 having been included in error) which should to be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

He advised that an under-spend in the general fund was reported in Committee expenditure owing to accounting regulations in terms of how revenue grants appropriated to the reserves for service-specific purposes are to be publish in the final accounts so to provide a more comparative analysis. The grants were said to be appropriated as they were due to be spent next year.

 

A number of medium-sized under-spends across the budget were all identified (at page 66), most notably in:

 

(i)         Community Development due to salary compression and the movement of the senior systems budget to another area;

(ii)        Brooks Hill due to a significant increase in income of 27% since 2014/15 with parts of the expenditure transferred to the Capital Programme so to discharge some s. 106 monies;

(iii)       Day Centres due to the non-payment of a group’s management fee at Bassett Street;

(iv)       Transport of approximately £20,000 due to fewer vehicle repairs, re-shaping of purchases and lower fuel costs in the last 12 months; and

(v)        Refuse and Recycling.

 

A fall of approximately £100,000 in recycling dispoal income was reported as a result of adverse market forces and the economy. The take-up of green wheeled bins for garden waste has seen a reduction of £28,000 in spending on bags in addition to new income streams of £8,000 through the purchase of extra bins, with the savings materialising earlier than expected and/or budgeted for.

 

A Member enquired as what the variance of £7,000 under the Grand Union Canal Footbridge Scheme related to (at page 71) and sought assurances that the £48,000 under the same scheme (at page 74) still remained in the budget and was not subject to time-limits. The Principal Accountant advised that it was agreed at a meeting of the Policy, Finance and Development Committee in February 2015 that some of Capital Programme Budget was to be carried over into 2015/16, inclusive of the £48,000. The variance was a result of intended initial works on the scheme which did not take place and the £7,000 was to be carried forward into next year (subject to approval). The availability of s. 106 funds was said to be monitored to ensure they were spent in time.

 

A Member enquired as to whether the £67,000 apportioned to reserves would be returned. The Principal Accountant confirmed this would be the case, with some attributable to the under-spend on Sports Services Commissioning.

 

A Member enquired as to reduction in the fees of the bowling clubs. The Principal Accountant confirmed that the income budget had been reduced by approximately £1,000 so that teams were able to play without paying a fee. He stated that the variance was too insignificant for it to be featured in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 16.

17.

Committee Budget Review - April to May 2015 pdf icon PDF 54 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report and appendices delivered by the Principal Accountant as set out in the report (at pages 73 – 74) which should to be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

He stated that discussions with Officers were due to be held to seriously consider expenditure over the next 12 months, budgets for the following year and identify any issues in capacity going forward given the overspends across numerous cost centres. It was also noted that income at Brooks Hill had fallen in the same quarter of last year due to a loss of a community-group booking.

 

A Member enquired as to whether it was possible to secure funding for festive lights via the Residents’ Forums as opposed to extending a revenue. The Principal Accountant stated that a request for this had been received from the Residents’ Forums and more requests were to be expected. Alternative funding provisions were currently being investigated in respect of the matter.

 

A Member stated that the core-funding for festive lights was contained in the main budget, with additional lights having been purchased by the Residents’ Forums. He further questioned the consistency of this report to the preceding one in terms of an under-spend which ought to be reflect in next year’s budget. The Principal Accountant advised that it was too early in the year to forecast expenditure levels. He noted that there had been under-spends which were budgeted for so reductions were not immediately forthcoming.

 

RESOLVED THAT:  The current positions be noted by Members.