Overview and Scrutiny Committee Minutes

Date:
Tuesday, 19th July, 2016
Time:
7.30pm
Place:
Council Chamber, Council Offices, Gernon Road, Letchworth Garden City
 
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor Cathryn Henry (Chairman), Councillor Steve Hemingway (Vice-Chairman), Councillor Ian Albert, Councillor Clare Billing, Councillor Jean Green, Councillor S.K. Jarvis, Councillor Alan Millard (Substitute), Councillor Janine Paterson and Councillor Frank Radcliffe.
In attendance:
Councillor Terry Hone (Executive Member for Finance and I.T.), Councillor Bernard Lovewell (Executive Member for Housing and Environmental Health), Norma Atlay (Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance), Andy Godman (Head of Housing and Public Protection), Ian Couper (Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management), Martin Lawrence (Strategic Housing Manager), Gavin Ramtohal (Contracts Lawyer), Oliver Furbur (Project Manager - Waste Management), Chloe Hipwood (Service Manager - Waste and Recycling), Toby Le Sage (ICT Business Manager), Rachel Cooper (Payment and Reconciliations Manager), Anne Banner (Benefits Manager), Helen Rae (Active Communities Manager), Gemma Mitchell (Active Communities Officer), Brendan Sullivan (Scrutiny Officer) and Hilary Dineen (Committee and Member Services Officer).
Item Description/Decision
PART I
19 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Bill Davidson, Steve Deakin-Davies, Elizabeth Dennis, Paul Marment, Gerald Morris and Michael Muir.

Having given due notice, Councillor Alan Millard advised that he would be substituting for Councillor Gerald Morris.
20 MINUTES
RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the Meeting held on 7 June 2016 be approved as a true record of the proceedings and be signed by the Chairman.
21 NOTIFICATION OF OTHER BUSINESS
No other business was submitted for consideration by the Committee.
22 CHAIRMAN'S ANNOUNCEMENTS
(1) The Chairman reminded those present that, in line with Council policy, the meeting would be audio recorded;

(2) The Chairman welcomed Councillors Terry Hone (Executive Member for Finance and I.T.) and Bernard Lovewell (Executive Member for Housing and Environmental Health) to the meeting;

(3) The Chairman informed Members that she had agreed to move Item 17 - The Corporate Plan and it would now be considered after Item 10 - Adoption of an Updated Common Housing Policy.

(4) The Chairman informed Members that when considering items regarding Shared Service for Waste and Street Cleansing. It would be necessary to consider Item 24 - the Part 2 element, prior to Item 22 - the Part 1 element;

(5) The Chairman drew attention to the item on the agenda front pages regarding Declarations of Interest and reminded Members that, in line with the Code of Conduct, any Declarations of Interest needed to be declared immediately prior to the item in question.
23 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
There were no presentations from members of the public.
24 URGENT/GENERAL EXCEPTION ITEMS
No urgent or general exception items were received.
25 CALLED IN ITEMS
Since the last meeting, no decisions had been called-in by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
26 PRESENTATION BY THE EXECUTIVE MEMBER FOR FINANCE AND I.T.
Prior to the presentation, the Chairman reminded Members to consider whether any issues raised would warrant becoming a Task and Finish Group topic.

She also asked Members to be mindful of the remit of this Committee and that of the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee.

Councillor Terry Hone, Executive Members for Finance and I.T., thanked the Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation on the issues within his Portfolio as follows:

FINANCES
This was the area covered by the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee and therefore would not be covered during this presentation.

However, Members should be aware that finances are getting more and more challenging each year and, as a consequence, decisions become harder.

REVENUES AND BENEFITS
The team was responsible for:
• Administration and Recovery of Council Tax
This involved collection of Council Tax on behalf of NHDC (14p/£1), Hertfordshire County Council (77p/£1), the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Parishes.
Collection rates were very high (typically 99 percent)

• Administration and Recovery of Non-Domestic Rates
Much of the funds collected are on behalf of Hertfordshire County Council and Central Government.
The future of the NNDR system is under review at the moment, therefore there was some uncertainty as to future administration and income from this source.
Collection rates were typically around 97 percent.

• Administration and Payment of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction including recovery of Overpayments, preparation of Benefit Subsidy Claim and completion of all Government Returns
This was an important area, which was important to get right, making sure that the right people get the right amounts of benefit.
This was a complicated area, particularly for claimants, with many different types of benefits and the introduction of Universal Credit and benefit caps. The benefits system was constantly changing and NHDC had expert Officers available to ensure our knowledge was up to date and current.
The Department not only administered benefits, but calculated amounts due and encouraged uptake of benefits.

• Administration of Council Tax Reduction Scheme
The Council Tax Reduction Scheme was now in its fourth year. In the first two years all working age claimants were required to pay at least 33.13% of their Council Tax, the Council had been able to reduce this to 25% in the last two years, due to a diminishing fall in the case load. When the Scheme was implemented in April 2013, there were 9,065 claimants and this has reduced to 7,871 in May 2016.

• Investigation and Prosecution of Council Tax Reduction Scheme and other Corporate Fraud
It was important that we acted within the law and ensured that any fraudulent claims were acted upon, prosecuted and funds recovered.

FRAUD
The Council was now a partner in a new Shared Anti-Fraud Service (SAFS) with five other Councils in Hertfordshire. This new service investigated Council Tax Reduction Scheme and other Corporate Fraud such as Procurement Fraud, Tenancy Fraud and Business Rate Fraud.
Performance of SAFS is reported to the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee.

Members asked how many people in North Herts were on full Housing Benefit, how many on part Housing Benefit and how many had appealed successfully. They queried how the success of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme was assessed.

The Executive Members for Finance and IT advised that he would circulate the requested information to all Members of the Committee. In respect of assessing the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, he advised that the reduction in the number of claimants had been important as it demonstrated that people were getting back into work and no longer claiming benefits.

Members asked how cost effective the scheme of writing to single person households had been.

The Executive Member for Finance and IT advised that the letters aimed to encourage people to declare changes of circumstance.

The Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance advised that letters were targeted, through use of a company that interrogated Experian and other sources to identify houses with more than one person. This had been quite successful in identifying fraudulent claims of single person discount.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
This was an integral part of the business, which not only supported the basic business, but could be quite technical. When NHDC considered a shared service for IT, it was noted that our systems were sophisticated and far advanced to that of our neighbours.

TECHNICAL SERVICES TEAM
Responsible for:
• Infrastructure Management
• Security (Virus, Hacking)
• Application Support - Patches
• Application Development
• Integration
• Disaster Recovery

BUSINESS TEAM
Responsible for:
• Project Management
• Helpdesk Support
• Software Support
• Information Management
• I.T. Hardware Asset Management
• GIS
• Land & Property Gazetteer
• FOI & Data Protection
• Information Governance/Compliance

There had been many changes over the past few years significantly that of Homeworking, which required the correct hardware, software and security to enable this to happen successfully. In the near future IT will have a great input into the Office Accommodation Project, particularly regarding the staff move to Town Lodge for 6 months and then the subsequent return to DCO, all of which would require IT support and equipment being provided in the right place at the right time.

The Team were also working to provide space on the servers, which could potentially be let out to other people.

Members asked what Health and Safety checks were undertaken for staff either when starting to work from home, or on a regular basis and whether there were plans to use the highly skilled staff in NHDC to generate revenue by offering their skills to other Authorities and how often the balance between in house services, contracted out services and contracted in services were considered to check that the balance was right.

The Executive Member for Finance and IT advised that it was always considered whether we could provide services to other Authorities, but this was fully dependent on capacity. This has been successfully operated in Legal Services and occasionally in IT but it was important that any income generation was not at the expense of in house services. The administration was always open to considering all options regarding provision of services, including IT, however any package would have to be comprehensively investigated, including any effects on other departments.

The ICT Business Manager advised that IT currently had two contracts in place with Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council and Hertsmere District Council to provide the Land and Property Gazeteer. In respect of Health and Safety for staff members working from home, there was a form that was completed to ensure this was in place.

The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management advised that homeworking was also supported by e-learning modules

ASSET MANAGEMENT
The assets owned by NHDC generate approximately £1 million a year in rental income.

Assets include commercial assets such as a garage and industrial buildings; leisure assets including two open air pools and four leisure centres; community assets such as community centres and halls and green space such as parks and gardens around the District

ESTATES MANAGEMENT
This small team manages the land and buildings owned by NHDC as well as managing the disposal of surplus assets and leases for all assets that were let to other organisations.

Receipts from surplus assets can be used to fund capital projects and can help contribute towards manageable housing growth, economic regeneration and community inclusion.

Assets were disposed of for “best consideration”, which may not necessarily be the highest price, but included consideration of the best option for the residents of North Herts. When considering disposal of land for housing, NHDC often took the opportunity to negotiate for provision of social housing.

When managing assets such as car parks consideration was given as to whether to continue managing them in house, get third party in to manage them or to sell them. The decisions were based not only on money, but on the needs of residents for those car parks and how that need would best be served.

BUILDING MANAGEMENT
This team was responsible for a wide range of activities including:
• Managing the day-to-day running of the Council’s offices;
• Managing the maintenance (both planned and ad-hoc) of our buildings and facilities across the District comprising of:
28 car parks (2 of which are multi-storey)
12 community centres
10 pavilions
3 cemeteries
4 splash parks.
• Managing corporate construction projects.
• Ensuring compliance with Health and Safety legislation by managers and staff.

Challenges

• The Council had a very ambitious capital programme. Each element requiring input from this team and therefore resources had to be managed to support this.

Members asked whether NHDC would dispose of community centres if lease renewals were not agreed and whether the centres would be available for use by all.

The Executive Member for Finance and It advised that the most preferable position was that the community groups operated the community centres. The Council’s finances were limited and leases were being negotiated on a full repairing basis. NHDC would support the community centres where it was practical and reasonable to do so and each centre was considered on a case by case basis taking into account income and usage.

The Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance reminded Members of the £1 million fund that community halls can bid for to undertake capital works.

The Chairman thanked Councillor Hone for his presentation.

RESOLVED:

(1) That the Executive Member for Finance and IT be requested to circulate the following information to all Members of the Committee:
• How many people in North Herts were on full Housing Benefit;
• How many people in North Herts were on part Housing Benefit;
• How many people in North Herts had successfully appealed against a benefit decision.

(2) That the Scrutiny Officer be requested to investigate the Community Halls Strategy with a view to adding Community Centre Leases to the list of future Task and Finish Group topics.

REASON FOR DECISION:

(1) To ensure that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee has up to date information regarding the claiming of benefits within North Herts;

(2) To enable the Committee to consider suitable topics for Task and Finish Groups.
27 PRESENTATION BY THE EXECUTIVE MEMBER FOR HOUSING AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Councillor Bernard Lovewell, Executive Members for Housing and Environmental Health, thanked the Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation on the issues within the housing element of his Portfolio as follows:

OVERVIEW
Housing is extremely important in the lives of residents in North Herts, particularly for those who don’t have housing and it was disappointing that the Government didn’t give this subject a higher profile and importance.

OBJECTIVES OF THE PORTFOLIO
A very wide range of services and functions that all related in some way to the following:
• The provision of housing and housing related services
• The promotion of public health and the safeguarding of personal wellbeing
• The protection of the environment

HOUSING SERVICES - KEY AREAS OF ACTIVITY
• Housing Strategy and Policy
• Housing Development
• Common Housing Register
• Nominations to vacancies
• Provision of housing advice and management of homelessness
• Placements in to temporary accommodation, including bed and breakfast (B&B) units

SOME HIGHLIGHTS
• Facilitated the delivery of 87 affordable housing units in the last two years, with a further 300 expected by March 2018.
• 1103 formal housing advice cases managed in the last financial year.
This was an important and valuable part of the work undertaken, but it should be acknowledged that it was very time consuming.
• The launch of Syrian Resettlement Scheme.
Two families were due to arrive in August 2016 and would be placed in social housing.
• A new Joint Housing Protocol agreed.
The protocol aimed to prevent youth homelessness and/or young people entering the care system.
Nine Hertfordshire District/Borough Councils, Herts Young Homeless and Herts County Council were involved.
• Over 900 social housing units let to households in the last two years via the Common Housing Allocation Scheme (CHAS).

UPDATE ON THE CHAS
• The current version was launched in March 2014.
• 1668 new cases were added between 1 April 2014 and 30 June 2016.
• Equality information regarding the relevant groups, over the last two years of activity:
• 13 percent of registrations were of black and minority ethnic (BME) households whilst 12.8 percent of lets were made to BME households;
• 8.1 percent of registrations were of households of a minority religion whilst 7.3 percent of lets were made to households of a minority religion
• On average 97.2 percent of registrations were of heterosexual households (2.8 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender [LGBT] households), whilst 97.1 percent of lets were made to heterosexual households (2.9 percent to LGBT households);
• The data suggested that households with a medical priority, including those with disabled household members, were better able to access properties than those without a medical need.
• On average one quarter of registrations were of households with a medical need, whilst one third of lets were made to households with a medical need;
• Overall, the data strongly suggested that the allocation system, as a whole, was operating without bias towards or against households with protected characteristics.

CHALLENGES
• The introduction of Welfare Reform created affordability problems for some claimants in rented housing who were not working;
• Demand for social housing was high, with 2,264 households currently registered and new applications exceeding 100 a month;
• Demand for general housing advice was high;
• There was constant pressure on homelessness services;
• Use of B & B temporary accommodation had been high over the last 18 months;
• There were difficulties accessing the Private Rented Sector (PRS) as housing benefit levels were not high enough to fully cover rents and landlords were generally unwilling to consider those who were not working;
• Due to difficulties accessing the PRS, homelessness prevention levels had fallen to 134 in 2015/16.

CAUSES OF HOMELESSNESS
The most common causes of homelessness were parental/family/friend eviction and the ending of a privately rented tenancy. A lot of work was being undertaken to prevent homelessness for these reasons.
This was followed by violent and non violent breakdown of relationships.

RISKS
• Demand for housing services was anticipated to remain high;
• The introduction of Right to Buy II and Starter Homes (Housing and Planning Act 2016) could have a negative impact on supply;
• Sector wide measures for all social landlords to reduce rental values by 1 percent for four years from April 2016 could potentially impact on service standards and/or development plans.

PRIORITIES
• Maintain efforts to access the private rented sector;
• Continue to prevent homelessness wherever possible;
• Facilitate the delivery of as many affordable homes as possible;
• Implement the updated Common Housing Allocation Scheme (if agreed by Cabinet);
• Review accommodations for single homeless people, who the Council has a duty to house;
• Prepare and undertake a Peer Review of the homelessness service.

Members asked whether this Council could learn anything from East Herts District Council, who appeared to be doing well in terms of homelessness and whether it would be possible to convert any of the large amount of assets owned by NHDC into a hostel.

The Strategic Housing Manager informed Members that East Herts worked in a slightly different way to this Council in that those threatened with homelessness were given high priority and placed in social housing rather than temporary accommodation. The concern was that this process could potentially incentivise homelessness as a fast track into social housing. The Updated Common Housing Allocation Scheme (Minute 28 refers) gave a balanced approach to the management of homelessness.

In respect of use of empty buildings owned by NHDC, the Executive Member for Housing and Environmental Health advised that ways in which these could be used to solve problems and provide an income for NHDC were under review.

Members asked whether a private rented sector licensing scheme could have a positive effect on the supply of this sort of housing and whether agents were approached regarding the supply of private rented housing. They queried whether the Council could use some of its capital funds to become a landlord and therefore create income and increase supply of needed social housing.

The Executive Member for Housing and Environmental Health advised that that the Council worked with agents throughout North Herts, but they did not always respond when contacted. This seemed to be due to housing market conditions in the area meaning that agents can easily rent their properties without the involvement of the Council. In respect of licensing, this would be resource intensive and not increase supply.

The Strategic Housing Manager informed Members that agents often provided a barrier to accessing private rented housing. In respect of licensing, the sector was not in a bad condition and there was already a robust regime in place to investigate reports regarding private rented sector housing conditions.

The Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance informed Members that there was an allowance made in the Capital Budget for investigations to be made into setting up some sort of Property Company. In respect of Housing Benefit the change to Universal Credit, where the payment for rent has to be made to the claimant rather than the landlord, had a negative effect on the willingness of private landlords to rent to housing benefit claimants.

Members expressed concern that Right to Buy II would have a negative impact on the supply of social housing and asked whether the estimates of providing 300 more affordable units was realistic, and whether this scheme could also act as a disincentive for the Council to start a property company, if then faced with tenant’s right to buy.

The Executive Member for Housing and Environmental Health advised that the Government had a firm policy to build 1 million homes by 2020, of which a substantial number would be social/affordable housing, also North Herts Homes had advised that the right to buy did not cause them a significant problem at the moment. The only real solution was to build more houses.

The Chairman thanked Councillor Lovewell for his presentation.

RESOLVED: That the Committee and Member Services Officer be requested to circulate the PowerPoint presentation to all Members and substitutes of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to monitor homelessness within North Hertfordshire.
28 ADOPTION OF AN UPDATED COMMON HOUSING ALLOCATION SCHEME
Prior to the item being heard Councillor Clare Billing declared a declarable interest in that she worked for Aldwyck Housing Association as a Housing Officer. She advised that this was not within North Herts and therefore would not preclude her from taking part in the debate and vote.

The Executive Member for Housing and Environmental Health presented the report of the Head of Housing and Public Protection entitled Adoption of an Updated Common Housing Allocation Scheme.

He summarised the background and the reasons for the amendments and explained that the current scheme had resulted in those who had been evicted for rent arrears or anti-social behaviour being excluded from applying for further social housing and living in temporary accommodation for a long time. This had resulted in large numbers of people being placed in temporary accommodation.

The amendments sought to recognise those people who had subsequently started to repay arrears or had altered their behaviour and enable them to apply again for social housing.

There had been a very positive reaction to the amended policy from North Herts Homes. Howard Cottage Housing Association were not as enthusiastic, but discussions with them were continuing.

The Strategic Housing Manager drew attention to Paragraph 8.5 of the report which listed the key proposals to reduce pressure on temporary accommodation, each of which would have a significant impact on the small number of people who had taken measure to rehabilitate themselves.

The Executive Member for Housing and Environmental Health informed Members that one of the conditions for tenants in this situation would be that they enter into an agreement to repay any outstanding rent arrears. It was also possible for the landlord to place the tenant on a Shorthold Tenancy for six months.

Members undertook comprehensive discussions regarding the need for tenants to make consistent repayment of rent arrears and that anti social behaviour should be reduced significantly before being considered able to reapply for social housing.

Following these discussions, Members acknowledged that those who made real efforts to repay rent arrears or change their behaviour should not be penalised unnecessarily and were supportive of the updated scheme.

RECOMMENDED TO CABINET:

(1) That the updated version of the Common Housing Allocation Scheme be approved:

(2) That Cabinet delegate to the Executive Member for Housing and Environmental Health, in conjunction with the Head of Housing and Public Protection, the power to make minor amendments to the Common Housing Allocation Scheme and to agree the launch date for the commencement of the updated Scheme on behalf of the Council.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to consider the report entitled Adoption of an Updated Common Housing Allocation Scheme prior to consideration by Cabinet.
29 REGULATION OF INVESTIGATORY POWERS ACT UPDATE AND USE OF SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES IN INVESTIGATIONS UPDATE
The Committee and Member Services Officer advised that there had been a telephone inspection of the use of the powers within this Act.

RESOLVED: That the content of the report entitled Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act Update and Use of Social Networking Sites in Investigations Update be noted

REASON FOR DECISION: To comply with best practice guidance and the Committee’s terms of reference.
30 COMMENTS, COMPLIMENTS AND COMPLAINTS (3CS) FULL YEAR UPDATE - 1 APRIL 2015 TO 31 MARCH 2016
The Customer Services Manager presented the report entitled Comments, Compliments and Complaints (3Cs) Full Year Update - 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016.

She drew attention to the newly developed summary page, which demonstrated some of the key areas of the report.

The number of 3Cs had reduced and were at the lowest for three years, having previously increased following the changes to the waste and recycling service.

The number of 3Cs resolved within 10 working days had reduced from 73 percent in 2014/15 to 67 percent in 2015/16. Work was being undertaken with Service Managers to consider how this could be improved. The Policy was amended last year to allow for complaints not responded to within the set timescales to be escalated to Stage 2, although no complaints had been escalated for these reasons.

Twelve complaints were received by the Local Government Ombudsman, the decisions on all 12 were no fault found.

In terms of Housing, there had been nine complaints in 2015/16 of which three had escalated to the LGO relating to the allocations process and homeless applications. The compliments for Housing had doubled and focussed on the professionalism, empathy and interest shown by the Housing Team.

Members discussed whether the separation of 3Cs into those received directly and those regarding contractors were valuable or whether they should be considered together as they were all about services provided by the Council, whether or not they were provided by a contractor.

The Customer Services Manager advised that information had become separated over the years as attention on contractors became more apparent.

Under the proposed new Waste contract it was proposed that call handling would be brought back in house.

A Member expressed concern about equality issues and suggested that it was not possible to detect if any group is disadvantaged as we still don’t collect equality information from complainants

The Customer Services Manager advised that she had consulted with neighbours regarding their practices and considered how this information could practically be gathered as most people asked for the information did not return the forms, although this would be kept under review.

Members approved of the summary page and suggested that national comparison data should be included.

RESOLVED:

(1) That the continued good performance in managing 3Cs between 01st April 2015 and 31st March 2016 be noted:

(2) That the reduced volumes of 3Cs, when compared to the previous three years be noted:

(3) That the Local Government Ombudsman has not upheld any complaints of those that have been referred to her office and have been considered;

(4) That the Customer Service Manager be requested to develop the Dashboard as a way of presenting relevant information regarding 3Cs to future meeting of this Committee.

REASON FOR RECOMMENDATION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny to consider details regarding Comments, Complaints and Compliments made to NHDC and their contractors.
31 PERFORMANCE INDICATOR MONITORING REPORT - 2015/16 YEAR END
The Payment and Reconciliations Manager presented the report entitled Performance Indicator Monitoring Report 2015/16 Year End and drew attention to the following:

LI036 - NUMBER OF HOUSEHOLDS WHO HAD POTENTIAL HOMELESSNESS PREVENTED
The decrease in performance was mainly due to problems in accessing the private rented sector.

NI191 - KG RESIDUA; WASTE PER HOUSEHOLD / NI192 - PERCENTAGE OF HOUSEHOLD WASTE SENT FOR REUSE, RECYCLING AND COM0POSTING / LI048 - KG OF RESIDUAL WASTE FROM HOUSEHOLDS PER HOUSEHOLD / LI049 - PERCENTAGE OF WASTE FROM HOUSEHOLDS RECYCLED OR COMPOSTED
These indicators, relating to waste and recycling currently showed as amber. Although the NHDC targets had not been met, the LGO benchmarking data shoed that NHDC remained in the top quartile for both waste to landfill and recycling.

NI157ai - PERCENTAGE OF MAJOR PLANNING APPLICATIONS DETERMINED WITHIN THE RELEVANT STAUTORY OR AGREED TIME PERIODS
Currently NHDC was achieving 38.57 percent over target of 40 percent, which was the level at which Government sanctions would apply.

DC002 - NUMBER OF PLANNING APPLICATIONS WHERE THE FEE HAS BEEN REFUNDED DUE TO THE APPLICATION NOT BEING DETERMINED WITHIN 26 WEEKS.
The target was set for zero refunds. Two applications, for the same property, had been referred to an external consultant and the fees refunded amounted to a total of £770.

RESOLVED: That the report entitled Performance Indicator Monitoring Report 2015/16 Year End be noted.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to monitor Performance against targets.
32 MONITORING REPORT ON PROJECTS IN THE PRIORITIES FOR THE DISTRICT FOR 2015/16
The Payment and Reconciliations Manager presented the report entitled Monitoring Report on Projects in the Priorities for the District for 2015/16 and drew attention to the following:

REDEVELOPMENT AND REFURBISHMENT AT NORTH HERTS LEISURE CENTRE
This had a revised due date. The contract had now been signed, following intensive negotiations with the contractor. Work commenced on site on 31 May 2016 and was expected to be completed in April 2017.

DISPOSAL OF SURPLUS COUNCIL LAND
NHDC completed the sale of land at Lloyd Way, Kimpton in June 2015 and Lumen Road, Royston in March 2016.
The sale proceeds would fund future projects included in the Capital Programme and both areas would be developed to provide new homes.
The disposal of land at Yeomanry Drive, Baldock was on hold subject to reviewing options for market housing.

REGENERATION OF JOHN BARKER PLACE
NHH had confirmed its commitment to redevelop the site, but had commented recently that they wished to review the scope of the scheme and would be talking to Planners in due course.

WESTMILL COMMUNITY CENTRE
The Community Centre had been completed and the transfer of the property to NHDC and the Lease were almost complete. The existing Community Centre would be demolished in due course, with the Multi Use Games Area being provided shortly after. The estimated delivery date for this project was 31 August 2016.

DATA AVAILABILITY
All of the data reported was available to Members on Covalent through the Intranet and training was available upon request.

Members commented that it would be useful to note how many projects were on track and how many were not. They commented that due dates should not be amended and that milestone dates should be noted and commented on.

Although acknowledging the progress made on some projects, Members wished to express their disappointment at the progress made regarding others.

RESOLVED:

(1) That the Payment and Reconciliations Manager be requested to include original milestone dates in future reports;

(2) That this Committee’s disappointment regarding delivery against some of the key projects for 2016/16, particularly regarding delays in achieving key milestones, be noted.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to monitor the delivery of key projects
33 ANNUAL SAFEGUARDING PERFORMANCE UPDATE FOR APRIL 2015 - MARCH 2016
The Active Communities Manager presented the report entitled Annual Safeguarding Performance Update for April 2015 - March 2016.

NHDC had always had a statutory duty in the safeguarding of children. The safeguarding of vulnerable adults had been more discretionary in nature until the introduction of the Care Act (2015). This gave the Council statutory responsibilities regarding cooperation, making referrals and providing information regarding the safeguarding of vulnerable adults.

This had resulted in an increase of Officer Resource due to the way in which we respond to cases, the level of information provided and the level of auditing.

Paragraphs 7.5.1 - 7.5.3 of the report gave details of the additional duties placed on Local Authorities regarding Prevent, Female Genital Mutilation, Forced Marriage and Honour Based Abuse.

Section 8 of the report gave details regarding the rates of referrals and Appendix 1 outlined some statistics from the Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Board.

In the last year:
• Significant numbers of staff had been trained to level 1 and level 2;
• Training for taxi drivers had been rolled out, specifically regarding Child Sexual Exploitation;
• Training regarding Child Sexual Exploitation had been offered to Licensed Premises, Hotel and B&B owners;
• A number of Officers had been trained to deliver WRAP training (workshops raising awareness of Prevent);
• NHDC had been audited by the Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Board for the Section 11 of the Children Act as well as learning and development processes and procedures in various areas relating to child sexual exploitation.

The Policies for Safeguarding of Children and Vulnerable Adults were currently being reviewed

RESOLVED:

(1) That the annual report of progress made against the Council’s fulfilment of the statutory duty to maintain an effective safeguarding function with regard to children be noted:

(2) That the annual report of progress made against the Council’s fulfilment of the statutory duty to maintain an effective safeguarding function with regard to vulnerable adults be noted:

(3) That the sufficient and robust processes in place at NHDC for application and review of safeguarding processes be noted;

(4) That the Head of Policy and Community Services be requested to continue to provide an annual review and presentation to this committee.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to consider the actions taken and polices regarding the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults.
34 REVISED POLICIES FOR SAFEGUARDING CHILDREN AND SAFEGUARDING VULNERABLE ADULTS
The Active Communities Manager presented the report of the Head of Policy and Community Services entitled Revised Policies for Safeguarding Children and Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults.

Members were fully supportive of the revised policies.

Members debated the benefits of training regarding Safeguarding for Members and agreed that the Group Leaders should be requested to consider the issue.

RECOMMENDED TO CABINET:

(1) That Cabinet request that the Group Leaders consider whether all Members should receive training regarding Safeguarding of Children and Vulnerable Adults;

(2) That the policies be recommended for endorsement by Council.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to consider the revised policies regarding safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults prior to consideration by Cabinet.
35 THE CORPORATE PLAN 2017 TO 2021
The Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance presented the report entitled The Corporate Plan.

She explained the reasons for the report and its role in the corporate business planning process.

The Executive Member for Policy and Green issues and the Leader of the Council had both had a role in developing the Plan and the Foreword by the Leader, which was to be incorporated into the final plan, had been tabled.

The Corporate Plan identified the high level projects that the Council would undertake and recognised that it was necessary to work with partners to deliver the objectives.

The Plan listed the specific areas of work that already been identified, some of which were either in the Capital Programme or included in Service Plans and some which spanned more than one year.

Members were concerned that the Plan was not forward thinking enough or ambitious enough and that it was disappointing to see the same projects as in previous plans. They acknowledged that much of what the Council did was statutory duties and concerns were expressed that some high-profile projects undertaken recently had not been achieved on time or on budget.

The Corporate Plan should consider what the Council wished to achieve and how they would ensure that this could be achieved in a timely and cost effective manner.

They considered that there should be a statement in the document about the financial climate and acknowledging the statutory duties, with costings, to help readers understand the issues.

There should also be more about the things that the Council does well and the objectives should be smarter.

The Strategic Director for Finance Policy and Governance confirmed that a lot of things undertaken were about “business as usual” for instance waste collection represented a spend of approximately 40 percent of the Council Budget and that greater detail was found in the various strategies referred to in the plan. She would discuss the issues raised with the Executive Member.

RECOMMENDED TO CABINET:

That the Corporate Plan include statements regarding the following issues:
(i) Recognising the financial climate and constraints;
(ii) Acknowledge statutory duties together with either costs or percentage of budget spent on each duty;
(iii) More positive statements about the projects, with some detail about how these will be achieved on time and within budget;
(iv) Positive statements regarding what NHDC does well.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to consider the report entitled The Corporate Plan prior to consideration by Cabinet.
36 TASK AND FINISH GROUP ON PERFORMANCE INDICATORS
The Scrutiny Officer tabled a paper detailing the conclusions of the Task and Finish Group on Performance Indicators, which had been held immediately prior to this meeting of the Committee.

The Chairman of the Task and Finish Group informed Members that the Group had concluded that most of the Performance Indicators either related to the day-to-day work of the Council, which was already closely monitored by Officers, or were outside of the Council’s immediate control.

This Committee should concentrate on areas that either could be influenced, or were a cause of concern and the best way to achieve this would be to receive an exception report regarding Performance Indicators.

The Chairman should receive the report one month before the Committee meeting to enable time to invite the relevant Officer or Executive Member to attend the meeting to discuss any particular issue.

The Committee would then consider the exception report at the meeting.

The monitoring of key projects should be handled in a similar manner, with an exception report being sent to the Chairman one month before the Committee meeting to enable time to invite the relevant Officer/Executive Member to attend.

The monitoring reports should be quantitative and focus on whether projects are on time and on budget.

The Member workshop was not an efficient or effective way to set performance targets and these should be ceased, with targets in future being set by Executive Members, in discussion with senior officers.

Executive Members making a presentation to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee should include a list of performance indicators and the progress made against targets set.

Members were supportive of the recommendations of the Task and Finish Group and asked that they be presented to Cabinet.

RECOMMENDED TO CABINET:

(1) That Members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee receive Performance updates one month before Committee meetings;

(2) That Members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee receive Project updates one month before Committee meetings;

(3) That the Chairman of Overview and Scrutiny Committee, together with the Group Leaders, review the reports in (1) and (2) above. The Chairman will then request that the relevant Officers and/or Executive Members attend the upcoming Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting to address particular issues. In some instances it may be necessary to schedule a Task & Finish Group or Call-In an item;

(4) That the Member Workshop on Performance Indicators be discontinued;

(5) That, following the annual adoption of the Corporate Plan, Executive Members, together with Senior Officers, be requested to set performance and project targets;

(6) That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee review these performance and project targets and receive an update from the relevant Executive Member on at least an annual basis.

REASON FOR DECISION: To consider the recommendations of the Task and Finish Group on Performance Indicators prior to consideration by Cabinet.
37 MEMBERS’ QUESTIONS
No questions had been submitted.
38 RESOLUTIONS OF THE OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
RESOLVED: That the actions resulting from the resolutions of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee be noted.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to review and monitor the progress of resolutions made.
39 OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE WORK PROGRAMME
RESOLVED: That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programme be noted.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to plan and carry out its workload efficiently and effectively.
40 SHARED SERVICE FOR WASTE AND STREET CLEANSING
This item was considered after the Part 2 item (Minutes 42 refers).

The Service Manager - Waste and Recycling presented the report of the Head of Leisure and Environmental Services entitled Shared Service for Waste and Street Cleansing.

Members were supportive of the recommendations but were keen that the Council’s position be well protected via the proposed Inter Authority Agreement.

RECOMMENDED TO CABINET: That the recommendations in the report entitled Shared Service for Waste and Street Cleansing be supported.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to comment of the report entitled Share Service for Waste and Street Cleansing prior to consideration by Cabinet.
41 EXCLUSION OF PRESS AND PUBLIC
RESOLVED: That under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public and press be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the said Act (as amended).
PART II
42 SHARED SERVICE FOR WASTE AND STREET CLEANSING
  • Cover Page
  • |
    Appendix A1 - Final Outline Business Case
  • |
    Appendix A2 - Final Outline Business Case Appendices
This item was considered prior to the Part 1 item (Minutes 40 refers).

The Service Manager - Waste and Recycling presented Appendix A to the Part 1 report of the Head of Leisure and Environmental Services entitled Shared Service for Waste and Street Cleansing.

RESOLVED: That Appendix A to the Part 1 report entitled Shared Service for Waste and Street Cleansing be noted.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to comment of the report entitled Shared Service for Waste and Street Cleansing prior to consideration by Cabinet.
Published on Thursday, 25th August, 2016
10.45p.m