Agenda and minutes

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

Contact: Democratic Services  01362 656870

Items
No. Item

68.

Minutes (Agenda Item 1) pdf icon PDF 691 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 1 September 2016.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting held on 1 September 2016 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

 

69.

Apologies and Substitutes (Agenda Item 2)

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

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Councillors Bishop and Crawford.

 

Councillors Wilkinson and Newton were present as their Substitutes.

 

70.

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.

 

71.

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:

Councillors Brame, R Richmond and Stasiak declared that they were Landlords and had rental properties in the District.

Councillor M Chapman-Allen declared that she had been in the employ of the Citizens Advice Bureau some years ago.

 

72.

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, Claussen, Sharpe and Turner were in attendance.

 

73.

Presentation from Housing Associations (Agenda Item 6) pdf icon PDF 153 KB

To receive a presentation from Flagship and Broadland Housing Associations.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Housing Association representatives Stephanie Davis and Andrea Rutterford had been invited to give presentations to the Commission.

 

Ms Davis, the Registered Housing Manager for Broadland Housing Association advised that they were taking a pro-active approach to minimise the length of time that a property was empty as families were waiting to be housed and void properties produced no income.  New procedures had been introduced which included:

 

·        Inspecting properties prior to the tenant leaving

·        Providing an in-house repair and maintenance service

·        Investing in technology which in future would allow for reporting of problems and booking of appointments on-line.

·        Intelligent scheduling to cut down on travelling times

·        Convenient appointment times to suit the customer

·        Anti-social behaviour policies and procedures had been reviewed

·        Pro-active estate management and a team of eight to support tenants in their homes

·        Empty properties had a seven day ‘turn around’ time and they attempted to do all repairs in that time.  However, the average time was 11 days and that was the target for the current year.

 

There were challenges ahead.  The two main concerns were there were not enough properties and that the effects of welfare reform and the introduction of Universal Credit were unknown.  If the Association could not collect rent it could not provide a service.

 

Andrea Rutterford, Flagship Homes Head of Housing explained their approach.

 

·        They worked with new tenants to prepare the right home.  The viewing process had been extended and expectations were made clear so that the customer was set up to succeed.

·        They also had an in-house repairs team and the service was being extended to provide grounds maintenance, etc.  Repairs could be logged on-line and appointments were arranged to fit around customer availability.

·        Assets were managed over a longer term and asset evaluation, including factors such as crime rate and fuel poverty, was carried out.

·        New technology was being used.  They were looking at the use of drones for roof inspections for example.

·        All Housing Officers had mobile tablets which enabled them to be out and about and more accessible to customers.

·        New tenants were visited within six weeks of occupancy and annual inspections were carried out.

 

Welfare reform was the key area of focus.  They were working in partnership with the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) and Local Authorities to identify customers affected by benefit changes.  Home visits were carried out and support and advice was offered.  Partnership working was crucial.  Flagship was part of the early intervention hub and would be based in Thetford with other agencies.

 

Members with specific questions were asked to provide the details to the Housing Association representatives so that they could investigate the circumstances and provide a response.

 

Councillor Jermy raised the issue of void properties as people were desperate for housing.  He asked about the target times for getting properties back into use.

 

Broadland had an 11 day average.  They had just carried out a restructure which should result in better performance, but they were unlikely to improve on 11 days  ...  view the full minutes text for item 73.

74.

Housing and Homelessness Strategy (Agenda Item 7) pdf icon PDF 105 KB

Report of Executive Member Growth, Charles Carter.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Bambridge presented the report on behalf of Councillor C Carter, Executive Member for Growth, in his absence.  He said it was a key policy document which set out the Council’s housing agenda for the next four years.

 

The Strategic Housing Manager set the national policy context of the document and the consultation process.  He gave a presentation (attached) which explained the huge changes in the housing agenda and the significant shifts in Government Policy. 
There were three priorities:  to prevent homelessness; to improve health outcomes through improved housing; and to provide strong support for housing growth.

 

The next step would be a public consultation for 28 days, after which the strategy would come back to Scrutiny in January/February 2017.

 

Councillor Jermy was disappointed that the relevant Cabinet member was not present again.  He welcomed the report which covered a lot of issues and dealt with a lot of housing problems.  It was easy to say that the solution was more houses, but there were other things that could be done.  There were numerous empty properties in the District and a large number of single occupant properties with spare rooms.  He asked if the Council would have its own version of Right to Buy and Help to Buy.  The report did not mention the housing mix.  It was important to provide the right sort of housing; there were no small, single storey homes available for instance.  He referred to page 40 and said more emphasis needed to be put on the fact that rents were out of control as a percentage of wages.

 

The Housing Manager agreed that empty properties needed to be looked at.  He was seeking a restructure of the housing service to bring in specialised officers, including enforcement officers and they would work to bring properties back into use.

 

The Strategic Housing Manager would incorporate information about tax changes to empty homes in the report.  There could be scope to introduce a rent/wage ratio.  He would seek to address that.  Some people were trapped in private rented accommodation and ways needed to be found to help them.  There was a new Rent to Buy scheme which offered reduced rent for five years giving occupants the opportunity to save and buy.  The Council did not have its own Help to Buy scheme.

 

The Chairman noted that not all areas needed smaller houses some villages had too many.

 

The Strategic Housing Manager said that he would look at the definition of starter homes to see if it gave scope for influence to meet local needs.

 

Councillor Webb asked about the Gypsy and Traveller research and was advised that the information would be included in the final document.  She thought that Members should be consulted on the full document.

 

Councillor Bambridge confirmed that he would ask the Executive Member for Growth to ensure that Members and Town and Parish Councils were consulted on the document.

 

Councillor Sharpe noted that the demographic analysis on page 39 gave different figures to the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 74.

75.

Presentation from the Citizens Advice Bureau (Agenda Item 8) pdf icon PDF 300 KB

To receive a presentation from the Citizen Advice Bureau.

Minutes:

Steve Cheshire, Chief Execuitve Norfolk Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), Melanie Jones, Diss & Thetford CAB and Marie Peck, Mid Norfolk CAB had been invited to address the Commission.

 

They gave an abridged version of the attached presentation and explained the numbers of people they helped and the range of issues and problems that they were faced with.  They worked with other agencies to provide a joined-up service and to give the best help to clients that they could.  They could offer a range of advice covering such issues as debt, homelessness, fuel poverty and health issues.  The quality of the advice they gave was assessed monthly.

 

The CAB service was staffed mainly by volunteers who were all trained and insured.  It took over eight months to fully train a volunteer and on-going costs were over £3,000 per volunteer.

 

Previously clients could only access advice by visiting the CAB.  Now there were on-line facilities available including web-chat.  However, face to face consultations could still be arranged.

 

It was noted that more and more people were presenting with complex issues needing a lot of help with more than one problem.  Clients were predominantly families on low income affected by benefits changes.

 

Councillor R Richmond thought that CAB offered an incredible service and applauded their work.  He was aware that they were willing to visit Parish Councils to give a presentation if requested.

 

Councillor Jermy had attended such a presentation at Thetford Town Council and had been impressed by the quantity and variety of their work.  He hoped that CAB was aware that the Council was also working hard to address the same issues.  He asked if CAB kept a record of why people needed advice.  The food bank in Thetford supplied the local Councillors with information about the numbers of people accessing their service and he thought it would be useful if CAB did the same.

 

CAB provided an annual report to the Council as part of their grant conditions.

 

The Chairman asked where CAB got its funding and she was advised that they obtained funding from a variety of sources including the District and County Councils.  There were also initiatives such as the Help Through Crisis project which gave lottery funding.  Most of the grants were ring-fenced.

 

Councillor M Chapman-Allen had worked as a volunteer for CAB for six years and thoroughly recommended it as very rewarding work.  She asked what the major challenges were in the future and was advised that apart from money shortages it was the constant welfare changes which were hard to keep abreast of.  

 

The Chairman thanked the representatives for coming and asked Members to send any questions to her to pass on.

 

76.

Action Plan following recent flooding of Elizabeth House (Agenda Item 10)

To receive a verbal update specifically regarding IT protection.

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Place introduced the item.  Members had received a briefing at the previous meeting from the Facilities Manager.  An update was tabled which showed the actions that had been taken, those that were required and others which might be needed in the future. 

 

The Breckland Place Manager recapped the incidents that had occurred on the night of 23 June 2016 when the Council offices had suffered extensive flooding.  Despite that there had been no interruption to service the next day.  The problems had been exacerbated by storage tanks being blocked by silt and debris and failure of the pump.  The tanks had been cleared, the pump had been serviced and an additional pump had been purchased as a back-up which was not reliant on electricity.  A flood barrier had been fitted to the outside door to prevent water ingress.

 

Councillor R Richmond asked about the tank cleaning and the Breckland Place Manager advised that they would be regularly maintened in future.


The Chairman thanked the Executive Member for her update.

 

77.

Task and Finish Groups (Agenda Item 11)

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

Minutes:

Councillor Stasiak (Chairman of the Performance T&FG) told Members that they had had the second of three meetings.  The Portfolio was well balanced. They had looked at cost, base rent levels, occupancy levels and had discussed investing outside the District.  They would be recommending that the Commission should look at the Corporate Asset Strategy in future.

 

Councillor Wilkinson (Chairman of the Transformation T&FG) had received a full report on the DWP co-location within the building.  Residents were happy and no complaints had been received from them, the DWP or Council staff.  They would be looking at office space for future opportunities.

 

The Chairman asked if it was easier for the Council and DWP staff to work together and the Executive Director Place advised that there had been a meeting the day before attended by the Chief Executive and the Regional Director of DWP looking at how to increase service integration.

 

Councillor R Richmond said that he had received positive feedback from residents.  He asked if there was further floor space available.


The Executive Director Place said the current building was close to capacity.  The Transformation Programme was looking at how space was used and there was a long-term piece of work to look at the strategic site as there might be a business case for future expansion.

 

78.

Exclusion of Press and Public

Minutes:

RESOLVED that under Section 100(A) of the Local Government Act 1972 the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Act.

 

79.

ICT Strategy (Agenda Item 9)

To receive a presentation from Executive Member People & Information, Gordon Bambridge.

Minutes:

The Executive Member for People & Information presented the ICT Strategy Review which would go to Cabinet and Council.  It looked at how the ICT service worked and at the infrastructure.

 

The current service was provided by Norfolk County Council.  Needs had changed and with the digitalisation agenda it was an opportunity to improve the service and make it more fit for purpose.  Seven options had been identified.

 

The Executive Manager Information gave more details in a presentation to Members and outlined the benefits of making improvements.

 

Members felt that they needed more in-depth information before they could make any recommendation.  A full report was requested for the next meeting.

 

80.

Outside Body Feedback (Agenda Item 12)

To receive an update from representatives on Outside Bodies.

 

Minutes:

Councillor Wilkinson had sent a full report on Norfolk Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee by e-mail to Members. 

 

It was noted that the South Norfolk Community Care Trust were not responsible for recruiting doctors and that Health Education England would be the correct organisation to invite to Scrutiny to discuss that issue.

 

The Chairman pointed out that Anglian Water had not answered one of the questions raised at the previous meeting and a full response was being sought.

 

Councillor Wilkinson mentioned that the YAP which had previously received grant funding of £11,500 were hoping to continue under the new Early Help umbrella.

 

81.

Scrutiny Call-ins (Agenda Item 13)

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

Minutes:

None.

 

82.

Councillor Call for Action (Agenda Item 14)

To consider any references.

Minutes:

None.

 

83.

Work Programme (Agenda Item 15) pdf icon PDF 360 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 full report on the ICT Strategy would be added to the November meeting.  Highways England would not be invited to that meeting to discuss the A47 as that would be an item for the Town & Parish Council Forum.

 

84.

Next Meeting (Agenda Item 16)

To note the arrangements for the next meeting to be held on Thursday 24 November at 14:00 in the Anglia Room, Elizabeth House, Dereham.

 

Minutes:

The arrangements for the next meeting on 24 November 2016 were noted.