Agenda and minutes

Venue: Anglia Room, The Conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham

Contact: Democratic Services  01362 656870

Items
No. Item

52.

Minutes (Agenda Item 1) pdf icon PDF 851 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 21 July 2016.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting held on 21 July 2016 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

 

53.

Apologies and Substitutes (Agenda Item 2)

To receive apologies for absence and to note substitute Members in attendance.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Brame.  Councillor Wilkinson was present as his Substitute.

 

54.

Urgent Business (Agenda Item 3)

To note whether the Chairman proposes to accept any item as urgent business pursuant to Section 100(B)(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972.

Minutes:

None.

 

55.

Declaration of Interests (Agenda Item 4)

The duties to register, disclose and not to participate for the entire consideration of the matter, in respect of any matter in which a Member has a disclosable pecuniary interest are set out in Chapter 7 of the Localism Act 2011.  Members are also required to withdraw from the meeting room as stated in the Standing Orders of this Council.

 

Minutes:

No declarations were made.

 

56.

Non-Members wishing to address the Meeting (Agenda Item 5)

To note the names of any non-members or public speakers wishing to address the meeting.

Minutes:

Councillors Bambridge, M Chapman-Allen, S Chapman-Allen, Clarke, Cowen, Duigan, Hollis, Newton and Sharpe were in attendance.

 

Order of Items

The Chairman amended the order in which items on the Agenda were heard.

 

57.

Increasing Supply of Market Rented Housing (Agenda Item 9) pdf icon PDF 91 KB

Report of the Executive Member for Income & Prosperity, Councillor Phil Cowen.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Cowen, Executive Member for Income & Prosperity presented the report which proposed that the Council should invest in housing, providing quality private rented homes and generating an income at the same time. 

 

The Strategic Property Manager highlighted the salient points.  The purpose of the project was to diversify the council’s investment strategy; generate revenue; and reduce the risk of too much investment in one type of property.  The safest way to hold housing stock would be through a 100% owned company.  The towns of Dereham, Thetford, Attleborough and Swaffham had been identified as hot-spots for growth.  Further work would be needed for a full business case if supported by Members and opportunities outside the District could also be investigated.

 

Councillor Joel asked about the Council’s compulsory purchase rights and the Housing Support Manager confirmed that if the Council owned housing stock it would have the right to purchase empty properties in certain cases, but those properties would then become social housing, not private rented.

 

Councillor Oliver asked how the return on housing compared to other investments.

 

Commercial property provided a range of yields between 3-11%.  Housing would give a gross yield of 5-6%.  It was not as strong as commercial stock but the idea was to diversify the Council’s holdings which would also diversify risk.

 

The Executive Member for Income & Prosperity pointed out the social dimension.  The Council wanted to encourage more people into good quality housing and remove the stigma of rented accommodation.

 

Councillor Oliver asked about the possibility of providing a higher yield through quality covenants.  He was concerned that the Council might be put in a difficult position if tenants got into arrears.


The Executive Member explained that the project was at an early stage and those details had not been looked at yet. 

 

Councillor Jermy supported the proposals and asked if shared ownership was being looked at.  He was advised that the project was focussed on getting a commercial return on private rented accommodation.  The Breckland Bridge project was bringing sites forward that could provide shared ownership opportunities.

 

Councillor Jermy noted that in some places there were large areas of private rented properties and he asked if the Council would avoid adding to problems by bearing that in mind.

 

The Executive Member reiterated that only the market potential had been identified at the moment to try and get the maximum return on the Council’s money for minimum risk.  The report had come to Scrutiny to test Members’ feelings, before it was presented to Cabinet in October.  If approved at Cabinet the full Business Case would be prepared.

 

RESOLVED to support the recommendation to Cabinet that:

 

1)     a subsidiary company be set up and authority be delegated to the Chief Executive in consultation with the Leader to appoint the initial Director; and

2)     a detailed market research report be commissioned to support the investment / acquisition strategy.

 

58.

Presentation from Anglian Water (Agenda Item 6) pdf icon PDF 588 KB

To receive a presentation from Anglian Water.

Minutes:

Catherine Taylor (Growth & Planning Manager) and Chris Hayton (Planning Manager) from Anglian Water were in attendance.

 

Ms Taylor gave a presentation (copy attached) which explained:

 

·        Anglian Water’s position with regard to development, as they were not Statutory Consultees in the planning process;

·        the right to connect;

·        how Anglian Water was funded; and

·        how to bring growth schemes forward.

 

Particular reference was made to Dereham due to existing water-related problems and future growth proposals.  Capacity problems were caused by surface water being discharged to the system which had been designed to deal with foul water only.  Various ways were being sought to overcome the problems including mitigation measures.  A new sewage network was proposed to meet the demand from the expected development and that project was at stage two of a five stage process and was expected to be working by the end of 2018.

 

Anglian Water proposed that a Partnership Working Group should be set up to look at surface water management in Dereham.

 

The Planning Manager said that a trial Group had been piloted in Essex following flooding of 1200 homes there.  It had worked very well and had provided a single point of contact for communication purposes.

 

Councillor Webb asked for more details of the new sewage scheme for Dereham.  She was informed that the Environment Agency had approved discharge to the Rivers Tudd and Wensum and had advised the acceptable ammonia levels.  It was also clarified that there would be more works to Mattishall and Swanton Morley, but not to the Dereham treatment works. 

 

With regard to Norwich Road in Dereham, Anglian Water was continuing to look for solutions to the problems there. 

 

The Chairman asked for a written response from Anglian Water setting out what works had taken place in Norwich Road and what further solutions were being considered.

 

Councillor Wilkinson suggested that the Working Group should be linked to the Local Plan Working Group and include Officers from Planning.

 

The Chairman thought it was too late for involvement in the Local Plan as that would be going out for public consultation in September.  She felt that Anglian Water should advise on the set up of the Group.


Councillor Crawford hoped the Partnership Group would be for the whole District not just for Dereham.

 

Councillor Oliver asked for some specific information on the amount of head-room allowed for in pipes when planning for new growth and Ms Taylor agreed to provide a written response to that.

 

Mr Cripps, a previous resident of Greenfields Road now living off Yaxham Road, had complained about the flooding issues for years and thought that the problems had been caused by builders filling in drainage ditches and trees being removed.  He had also noticed that when roads were resurfaced the surface water did not always run into the drains.


The Chairman said that when the Highways Authority was invited to the Commission that question should be raised with them.


Councillor Bambridge asked that the proposed Partnership Working  ...  view the full minutes text for item 58.

59.

Action Plan following recent flooding at Elizabeth House (Agenda Item 7)

Verbal update by the Executive Member for Place, Councillor Lynda Turner.

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Place had sent her apologies.  The Chairman introduced Simon Taylor-Avery, the new Facilities Manager who had only recently arrived at the Authority.  She asked Members to make a note of any questions for the Executive Member to answer at the next meeting.

 

The Facilities Manager reminded Members of the events of 23 June 2016 when 30% of the ground floor of Elizabeth House was flooded.  It had been determined that the problems had been caused by the underground storage tanks overflowing because they could not cope with the amount of water from the downpipes.  The submersible pump had also failed.

 

Since then a drainage contractor had been engaged. The underground tanks had gathered a lot of sludge over the years which had now been cleared.  The tanks had been emptied and the pump had been serviced.  An alarm had been installed to give warning if the pump failed again.  A portable pump had been purchased and a removable flood barrier had been fitted to the main door of the Committee Suite for use when storms were forecast.

 

There were a number of other options, including digging new drains and buying new pumps but they were expensive and it was believed that the measures already taken were sufficient to prevent a recurrence.

 

Members were reminded to e-mail any questions for the Executive Member for Place to the Chairman and the Scrutiny Officer in time for the next meeting.

 

60.

Performance Overview Report - Quarter 4 2015/16 and Quarter 1 2016/17 (Agenda Item 10) pdf icon PDF 84 KB

Report of Deputy Leader and Executive Member for People & Information, Councillor Sam Chapman-Allen.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Deputy Leader and Executive Member for People & Information presented the report which was for Members to note.  It outlined the Council’s overall performance for Quarter 4, which had been ‘Fair’ and for Quarter 1, which had been ‘Good’.  The Customer Contact Centre (CCC) had been an area of concern and attention had been focussed on improving its performance.  It was likely to achieve ‘green’ status in Quarter 2.

 

Councillor Jermy asked if the improvement in performance was a result of less calls being received or more effort being put into answering the calls.  He also asked how customer satisfaction was monitored.

 

The improvement was a combination of resolving staffing issues, seasonal variation and improved performance.  Work had been undertaken to understand the workflows and the types of calls and the team were currently looking at how to get feedback.

 

The Executive Director Governance advised Members that a Council-wide survey was taking place for the whole of September to log the calls coming in to the Council.

The Performance Board had done a lot of work and devised a robust action plan to move the CCC from ‘red’ through ‘amber’ and soon on to ‘green’.  They had changed procedures and would be implementing an intelligent queueing system which would offer callers a maximum of five options to speed up their transfer to the right person.

 

The Deputy Leader explained that a ‘smarter’ approach was being introduced for the CCC.  One call could cover several issues.  Callers were also being helped to use the website.

 

Councillor Oliver asked about the percentage of calls abandoned compared to the average wait time and asked if the latter included people who had waited before abandoning.  It was confirmed that calls were only classified once; abandoned calls did not feature in the waiting time numbers.

 

Councillor Joel congratulated the CCC on their improvement and asked if the new website had helped to reduce the number of calls.  The Corporate Improvement & Performance Manager agreed to get that information and distribute it to Members.

 

Councillor R Richmond said that he had received good feedback from residents who were very pleased with the service they received from CCC staff.

 

Councillor Bambridge congratulated the CCC staff.  He suggested that there should be an automatic answer and recall system to avoid callers having a long wait.  He was advised that the new system would include a facility to leave details and be called back.


The Chairman thanked the Deputy Leader and Corporate Improvement & Performance Manager.

 

61.

Housing Allocation Policy (Agenda Item 8) pdf icon PDF 85 KB

Report of the Executive Member for Growth, Councillor Charles Carter.

Minutes:

The Housing Support Manager presented the report.  The proposals had been discussed at the previous meeting and more information had been requested.  He tabled a flow chart of the existing and proposed process for dealing with an application.  He was recommending a change in the process to enable the Team to give more meaningful options to applicants. 

 

Currently an officer took one to two hours to validate each application.  Under the new process it was proposed that applicants should be invited to a brief 15 minute interview prior to them submitting their application.  At that interview a trained officer would be able to advise if it was appropriate for them to enter the housing register.  If they were suitable they would apply in the usual way, be automatically banded by the system and able to bid for properties, only at that stage would their application be formally validated.

 

The new model would free up officer time for other purposes, such as engaging with private landlords.  The Team wanted to be able to help people they did not want to be tied up doing no-value admin work.

 

Councillor Joel asked if the initial interview could be by telephone.  The Housing Support Manager explained that he hoped to get the team out into the District to make them more accessible, so that applicants would have a choice of venue, but could have a telephone interview if preferred. 

 

Councillor Bishop asked about people occupying houses with more bedrooms than they needed.  She was informed that there were ‘swap-boards’ on some websites that offered the chance to change accommodation.  Information was being sought from the Housing Associations on that issue to bring to a future meeting.

 

Councillor Jermy asked if a 15 minute interview was long enough and he was advised that other authorities used a similar system.  The interview was purely to get an understanding of the applicant’s immediate need.

 

Councillor Jermy said it was a much improved report but he still felt there was not enough information and not enough resource in the housing options scheme.

 

Having considered the proposed changes it was RESOLVED to RECOMMEND TO COUNCIL the change in the allocations policy.

 

Councillor Jermy abstained from voting.

 

62.

Task and Finish Groups (Agenda Item 11) pdf icon PDF 93 KB

To receive an update on the progress of the Task & Finish Groups.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Wilkinson (Chairman of the Transformation T&FG) said that they would be focussing on the benefits and the impacts of the co-location of the DWP in the Council Offices.  A report should be ready for the next meeting. 

 

Councillor Stasiak (Chairman of the Performance T&FG) said they would start by looking at the Council’s assets and then move on to review commercial income.

 

The Chairman asked for verbal updates for the October meeting and a final report for the November meeting.

 

63.

Outside Body Feedback (Agenda Item 12)

To receive an update from representatives on Outside Bodies.

 

Minutes:

Councillor Sherwood had provided feedback from The Queen Elizabeth Hospital NHS Trust which had been circulated to Members.

 

Councillor Wilkinson advised that the next meeting of the Norfolk Health Scrutiny Committee would take place the following week.

 

64.

Scrutiny Call-ins (Agenda Item 13)

To note whether any decisions have been called-in for scrutiny.

Minutes:

None.

 

65.

Councillor Call for Action (Agenda Item 14)

To consider any references.

Minutes:

None.

 

66.

Work Programme (Agenda Item 15) pdf icon PDF 116 KB

(a)          A copy of the Commission’s work programme is attached.  The Commission is asked to agree any additions, deletions or amendments to the programme as appropriate.

 

(b)        Member Issues:  In accordance with the Commission’s protocol for member leadership, which states that members of the Commission will take the lead in selecting topics for overview and scrutiny and in the questioning of witnesses, members are invited to put forward items for selection for future review.

 

A copy of the Key Decision Plan is attached for Members’ information.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The work programme was noted and the Chairman warned Members that the meeting scheduled for 5 January 2017 which had been cancelled, might still be needed.

 

67.

Next Meeting (Agenda Item 16)

To note the arrangements for the next meeting to be held on 13 October 2016.

 

Minutes:

The arrangements for the next meeting to be held on 13 October 2016 were noted.