Agenda and minutes

Service Delivery Committee
Tuesday, 19th January, 2016 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Offices, Station Road, Wigston

Contact: Samuel Ball  Email: samuel.ball@oadby-wigston.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

36.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

A minute’s silence was observed in memory of the late former Councillor, Mayor (1992-1993) and Honorary Alderman (2001) of the Borough, Mr R D Allen.

 

An apology for absence was received from Councillors Miss M V Chamberlain, Dr T K Khong and R H Thakor.

37.

Appointment of Substitutes

Minutes:

Councillor B Fahey substituted for Councillor Dr T K Khong.

38.

Declarations of Interest

Members are reminded that any declaration of interest should be made having regard to the Members’ Code of Conduct. In particular, Members must make clear the nature of the interest and whether it is 'pecuniary' or ‘non-pecuniary'.

Minutes:

None.

39.

Minutes of the Previous Meeting held on 13 October 2015 DOCX 87 KB

To read, confirm and sign the minutes of the previous meeting in accordance with Rule 17 of Part 4 of the Constitution.

Minutes:

In respect of ‘New Build Programme / Refurbishment’ (Minute Ref: 29) at paragraph 5, the Chair sought to clarify that two distinct subject-matters were reported: namely: (i) the purchase of former Council-owned properties under the Right to First Refusal (RFR) option afforded under the Right to Buy scheme; and (ii) the separate purchase of a private-sector property to which adaptations were currently being undertaken so to accommodate the intended occupants’ disability requirements.

 

RESOLVED THAT:

 

Subject to the point of clarification aforementioned, the minutes of the previous meeting of the Committee held on 13 October 2015 be taken as read, confirmed and signed.

40.

Action List Arising from the Meeting held on 13 October 2015 DOCX 31 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED THAT:

 

The Action List be noted by Members.

41.

Petitions and Deputations

To receive any Petitions and, or, Deputations in accordance with Rule 24 of Part 4 of the Constitution.

Minutes:

None.

42.

Committee Revised Financial Position 2015/16 and Draft Budget 2016/17 DOCX 87 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report and appendices (at pages 13 - 17) as delivered and summarised by Interim Chief Financial Officer (Section 151 Officer) which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Interim Chief Financial Officer stated that the recommendation at 2.2. as set out in the report (at page 13) should been excluded.

 

With reference to New Homes Bonuses (NHB’s) at paragraph 3 (at page 14) citing an increase in the same, Councillor J W Boyce requested that a report be brought to a subsequent meeting of this Committee addressing its long-term potential.

 

With reference to the Revised Budget for 2015/16 detailing the major variances at paragraph 4.1 (at page 15), the Member further requested that the budget be reviewed with the view to remove unnecessary budget heads (e.g. Senior Citizens Grants).

 

The Interim Chief Financial Officer stated that although the £128,000 increase in NHB’s was a reasonably healthy one based upon the current scheme, an ongoing central government-led consultation process was underway which sought to reduce this area of funding in future years. He advised that there was some uncertainty as to whether this would exclusively affect new grants or if it was to be applied retrospectively. He further provided an undertaking to review the Budget, accordingly.

 

RESOLVED THAT:

 

The revised General Fund revenue budget position for 2015/16 (as set out at paragraph 4.1. of the report) be noted by Members.

43.

Housing Finance Update - Housing Revenue Account (HRA) DOCX 66 KB

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report and appendices (at pages 18 - 20) as delivered and summarised by Interim Chief Financial Officer (Section 151 Officer) which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

With reference to rent levels for 2016/17 at paragraph 4 (at page 19), Councillor L A Bentley enquired as to whether there was a possibility of a further decrease in rents and its discernible impact upon Housing Revenue Account (HRA) and, consequently, the point of service-delivery. The Member further suggested that a review of the Council’s non-dwelling sites and assets be undertaken to ascertain, and capitalise upon, any potential better use(s) of the same.

 

The Interim Chief Financial Officer stated that the 1% reduction in rents per annum was to apply over the duration of the next four years, after which increases in accordance with CPI +1% would resume (subject to the discretion of central government policy). He advised that should rents continue to see a reduction by a further two to three years (2022-2023), the Council’s ambition for the redevelopment of its housing stock would not be achievable and would require a scaling-back of capital programmes and investment of £50,000 per annum: if extended over 30-years, the impact upon the HRA was said to be significant. In respect of non-dwelling sites and assets, it was reported that all local authorities were expected to undertake a purpose-review of their estates and dispose of any redundant holdings.

 

Councillor J W Boyce stated that the disposal of the Council’s highest-valued housing stock would not proportionately yield a commensurate return. He further expressed serious reservations in respect of the approximate, accumulative shortfall of £250,000 from the 1% reduction in rents and its impact on future capital projects.

 

The Interim Chief Financial Officer advised that, due to the ongoing consultation process, there was still uncertainty as to criteria to be used to identify the Council’s highest-valued housing stock. It was suggested that this may involve the taking of a percentile-value calculated upon the valuation(s) of those highest-valued properties. He emphasised that the levy in question was compulsory and therefore would either necessitate the disposal of property or a payment rendered to the value thereof.

 

Councillor Mrs S Z Haq sought clarification as to “void” at paragraph 3.4 (at page 18).

 

Councillor Mrs L M Broadley sought further clarification as to the determination of “high-value” housing stock and whether the proceeds of the levy were to be retained by central government. The Member further raised concerns in respect of the ever-increasing diminution of housing stock, particularly under the new Right to Buy (RTB) scheme, and the impact upon the housing needs of social tenants. She was hopeful that the levy’s proceeds would be reinvested into social housing projects in the Borough.

 

The Interim Chief Financial Officer was unable to provide further clarification to the points sought above until such time as the outcome(s) of the consultation process were known.

 

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED THAT:

 

The report be noted by  ...  view the full minutes text for item 43.

44.

Community Services Update DOCX 93 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report and appendices (at pages 21 - 31) as delivered and summarised by Interim Community Services Manager, together with the supplementary agenda update (at page 1), which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Interim Community Services Manager directed Members’ attention to particularly significant and noteworthy sections and paragraphs contained in the report. With reference to voids at paragraph 4 (at page 23), he added that a weekly-review process had been implemented to monitor the same and an update report detailing a comprehensive assessment of property voids was to brought to the next meeting of this Committee on 22 March 2016.

 

With reference to future development and purchase opportunities at paragraph 11 (at page 26), the Chair opined that it was not advisable to enter into competition with the local Housing Association (HA) in terms of a “bidding war” for the provision of social and affordable housing. He welcomed the possibility of development and, or, purchase opportunities at Station Road, Wigston and Canal Street, South Wigston and suggested that a feasibility study be undertaken to assess the latter option.

 

With reference to the Housing Related Advice (HRA) services at paragraph 12 (at page 27), Councillor D M Carter enquired as to whether it was possible to distinguish between those providers that operated inside vis-a-vis outside the Borough.

 

The Interim Community Services Manager advised that of the nine known providers, Age UK, Christians Against Poverty, Helping Hands (HH), the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and the Red Cross had facilities accessible from within the Borough whereas Shelter, Housing Aid, The Bridge, Research Projects and the Saffron Resource Centre operated from Leicester City. He stated that the joint-initiative to use HH and the CAB would ensure the improved delivery of advisory services to Borough residents.

 

With reference to the Choice-Based Lettings (CBL) statutory consultation at paragraph 13 (at page 27), Councillor J W Boyce sought to clarify that the ‘Resident Forums’ referred to the Housing Resident Forum and not the three, Community Resident Forums.

 

With reference to voids at paragraph 4 (at page 23), Councillor J W Boyce questioned the “average” lengh of the void turnaround time (i.e. excluding the major works exceptions) and requested that greater clarity was needed.

 

The Interim Community Services Manager stated that the subject of clarity was, in part, a reporting issue inasmuch as lengthy void periods (for the reasons aforementioned) counted against any meaningful average. He added that the facility did exist statistically exclude the same and that the Housing Options Team had been tasked to improve this reporting mechanism. He noted that the turnaround times were greater than ideally anticipated and that new initiatives were to be implemented (viz. quicker maintenance, earlier advertisement during completion of works etc.) in order to substantially reduce this. He further stated that the implications stemming from a low-demand for sheltered accommodation were to be addressed through the multiple-offer provisions(s) as allowed by the CBL scheme.

 

With reference to gas  ...  view the full minutes text for item 44.

45.

Community Services Update - Rent Arrears for Quarter 3 DOCX 65 KB

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the supplementary agenda update (at page 1) which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

46.

Housing Allocations Policy - Adapted Properties DOCX 59 KB

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report (at pages 32 - 33) as delivered and summarised by Interim Community Services Manager which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

Councillor J W Boyce stated that the recommendation at paragraph 2 (at page 32) made economic-sense and would serve to benefit those individuals with immediate disabled adaptations needs.

 

Councillor J W Boyce moved the recommendation contained in the report.

 

Councillor Mrs L M Broadley stated that should any given property not be matched to a household’s requirements, that the property in question ought not to be left void but be brought back into re-occupation within a reasonable period of time.

 

Councillor Mrs L M Broadley seconded the recommendation contained in the report.

 

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED THAT:

 

The amendment to the Housing Allocations Policy (as set out at paragraph 4 of the report) to permit properties with pre-existing adaptations for the disabled to be matched to households that require those adaptations in preference over those who do not be approved.

47.

Homeless Prevention Funds Policy DOCX 60 KB

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report (at pages 34 - 35) as delivered and summarised by Interim Community Services Manager which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED THAT:

 

The making upto 20% of the Homeless Prevention Budget available to those who whilst meeting the existing criteria are deemed ‘not in priority need’ be approved.

48.

Empty Homes Strategy and Corporate Enforcement Update DOCX 65 KB

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report (at pages 36 - 38) as jointly-delivered and summarised by Interim Community Services Manager and Interim Chief Financial Officer (Section 151 Officer), in the absence of the Director of Services, which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

Empty Homes Strategy

 

Councillor D M Carter welcomed the actions taken by Officers in seeking to bring back into occupation those 35 properties that have been empty for more than 2 years. He further enquired as to any targets set, and the timeframes in which those targets were to be achieved, in respect of the remaining 22 non-responding property owners.

 

The Interim Community Services Manager advised that the Environmental Health Team had been tasked with continuing to formally pursue the non-responders in question and that an enforcement action-plan was to be devised, accordingly.

 

With reference to the proposed delegated authority at paragraph a.3. (at page 37), Councillor J W Boyce enquired as whether Offices had a workable policy framework so to render any enforcement action safe and consistent and to ascertain realistic achievement levels within this policy area.

 

The Interim Community Services Manager stated that it was his intention to shortly formulate a sufficiently-robust, written Policy to expedite the enforcement process.

 

Councillor L A Bentley enquired as to the financial-viability, and the risks attached thereto to this Council, in so offering 100% discretionary grants under the Private Sector Housing Renewals (PSHR) Policy given the potentially indeterminate and unpredictable nature and extent of property renovation works.

 

The Interim Community Services Manager advised that grant applications under the PSHR Policy would be carefully considered upon merit and on a case-by-case basis and that the necessary funds would be made available, accordingly.

 

The Interim Chief Financial Officer reiterated the need for a like-for-like approach in respect of any grant offers made whilst taking a holistic assessment of the totality of the costs, the revenue streams available and the measure of beneficial occupation likely to be achieved.

 

Councillor Mrs L M Broadley enquired as to whether the 150% council tax rate levied against empty properties had proved successful insofar as encouraging their reoccupation and if any counter provisions were in place to prevent the dual-occupancy of properties serving as a loophole to avoid the increased  levy.

 

The Interim Chief Financial Officer advised that all the 35 properties aforementioned have been, or continue to be, subject the increased levy. He added that options were available to close the loophole to which the Member referred and that information on the same would be brought back to a sequent meeting of this Committee.

 

The Vice-Chair enquired as to whether the option of a CPO was still available against properties that had been empty for two years or more.

 

The Interim Community Services Manager answered affirmatively,

 

Corporate Enforcement Update

 

With reference to the costs of electrical rewiring at paragraph b.3.2 (at page 37), Councillor K J Loydall enquired as to the realistic prospect of recharging the costs to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 48.

49.

Brocks Hill Country Park Update DOCX 67 KB

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report (at pages 39 - 41) as delivered and summarised by Interim Chief Financial Officer (Section 151 Officer), in the absence of the Director of Services, which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

With reference to the Stepping Stone Project at paragraph 3.3 (at page 41), the Chair noted that a net return has been accrued to this Council in the past through its partnership contribution to the project’s budget as administered by Leicestershire County Council.

 

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED THAT:

 

(i)     The report be noted by Members; and

(ii)    Delegated authority to the Interim Chief Financial Officer (Section 151 Officer) to review in-year the continued funding towards the Stepping Stone project as necessary, following further proposals for the project from Leicestershire County Council, be authorised.

50.

Operations and Facilities Services Update DOCX 67 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report and appendices (at pages 42 - 50) as delivered and summarised by Interim Chief Financial Officer (Section 151 Officer), in the absence of the Director of Services, which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Chair announced that across all the Leicestershire District and Borough Councils for 2014/15, this Council was: the best-performing in respect of the lowest rate of residual household waste (361.63 kg per household); and in the top-performing quartile in respect of the reuse, recycling and composting of household waste (48.84%) (Report to the Meeting of Thursday, 21 January 2016, Environment and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Leicestershire County Council at page 47 - Appendix).

 

With reference to Ervins Lock Footbridge at paragraph 3.1.1 (at page 42), Councillor L A Bentley expressed serious reservations as to the lengthy-protraction of the project and the potential dissipation of the £55,000 budget-allocation. He stated that although the potential use of the existed bridge was considered, it was never pursued. He emphasised that a significant number of residents had expressed that a means of crossing the waterway was urgently needed and that renewed efforts were essential to realise this sooner rather than later.

 

Councillor J W Boyce agreed with the sentiments of Councillor L A Bentley.

 

The Chair informed Members as to the revised 5-day opening arrangements of the Oadby Waste Site, as circulated within a information leaflet issued by Leicestershire County Council (LCC) (‘Essential Information for Leicestershire Residents’).

 

Councillor Mrs L M Broadley expressed concern as to the high, itemised price-tariff for the disposal of non-household items at the Waste Site (as of April 2016) citing, amongst other things, an increased potential for fly-tipping within the Borough. She requested that a letter be drafted to LCC outlining this Council’s concerns regarding the aforementioned implications of itemised-charging for non-household items.

 

Councillor J W Boyce stated that the issue of fly-tipping was a pan-County subject-matter to be discussed with all Leicestershire District and Borough Councils.

 

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED THAT:

 

The report be noted by Members.

51.

Customer Services Transformation - Progress Report DOCX 65 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report and appendices (at pages 51 - 54) as delivered and summarised by Interim Chief Financial Officer (Section 151 Officer), in the absence of the Director of Services, which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

Councillor Ms A R Bond stated that the Helping Hands Advisory service was operating from the Trinity Methodist Church, Oadby.

 

With reference to the monthly statistics for October 2015 (at page 54) citing a substantial increase in face-to-face enquires, Councillor J W Boyce stated the increased turnover was a measure of the success achieved in terms of the improved efficiency provided to Borough residents through the provision of self-service facilities. He described this measure as both demonstrating customer-service and, moreover, transformational progress and commended all those involved in realising this.

 

Councillor L A Bentley agreed with Councillor J W Boyce. With reference to the pedestrianisation of Bell Street, Wigston at paragraph 4.1 (at page 53), he requested that the black granite blocks be re-positioned to prohibit vehicular to the same.

 

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED THAT:

 

The report be noted by Members.

52.

Leisure Contract - Progress Report DOCX 67 KB

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report (at pages 55 - 57) as delivered and summarised by Interim Chief Financial Officer (Section 151 Officer), in the absence of the Director of Services, which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

Councillor J W Boyce acknowledged the Council’s achievement in respect of the opening, and at a notable saving, of two new swimming pool facilities at Parklands Leisure Centre, Oadby and Station Road, Wigston within a single one-year period.

 

Councillor Mrs L M Broadley echoed the sentiments of Councillor J W Boyce.

 

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED THAT:

 

(i)     The report be noted by Members; and

(ii)    The leisure facilities be endorsed and promoted to the wider audience.

53.

Customer Service Charters - Exception Report DOCX 61 KB

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report (at pages 58 - 60) as delivered and summarised by Interim Chief Financial Officer (Section 151 Officer), in the absence of the Director of Services, which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

With reference to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests at paragraph 3.4 (at page 59), Councillor J W Boyce enquired as to whether 100% of all FOI request received were responded to in full over time.

 

The Interim Chief Financial Officer answered affirmatively.

 

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED THAT:

 

(i)     The proposed Service Delivery Charters be considered; and

(ii)    The performance standards that have not met the set target (as set out in paragraph 3 of the report) and the reasons why this has been be noted by Members.