Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: The Breckland Conference Centre, Anglia Room, Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham, NR19 1EE

Contact: Democratic Services  01362 656870

Items
No. Item

58/22

Minutes pdf icon PDF 190 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 21 July 2022.

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 21 July 2022 were agreed as a correct record.

59/22

Apologies and Substitutes

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

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Birt, Eagle, Jermy, Kybird, Nairn and Wickerson. Councillors Atterwill and Clarke were in attendance as substitutes.

60/22

Chairman's Announcements (if any)

Minutes:

None.

61/22

Urgent Business

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.

62/22

Declaration of Interests

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:

None.

63/22

Non-Members wishing to address the Meeting

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

Minutes:

Councillor Bambridge, Executive Member for Housing & Homelessness.

64/22

Visit from UKPN pdf icon PDF 3 MB

To receive a presentation from UKPN on contingency plans for power outages and coping with demand for new properties and infrastructure.

Minutes:

Representatives from UK Power Networks (UKPN), Michael Horwood - Public Affairs Manager, Ian Turpin - Strategic Planning Engineer for Norfolk and North Cambridgeshire, and Jose Barros - Strategic Planning Engineer for Breckland, gave a joint presentation with an overview on Electricity Infrastructure to the Members of the Commission.

 

Mr Horwood explained that they specifically covered the area of the East of England, part of the Southeast and most of London, around 8.3m properties. He explained the complexities surrounding the transmission of electricity, distribution, and suppliers and that the cost of using the networks was included in energy bills, billed by the energy suppliers. He explained that power cuts to the network could happen at any time for any number of reasons and were a priority to fix, although he stated that power cuts were now much less of an issue than it had been in the past as the quality of the provision had improved over the years.

 

To report a power cut, residents should call the number 105, a free of charge number to connect and call from any mobile or landline – similar to 101 for the police. Residents could also check www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk to view details on any power cut and check for updates, expected time of repair, how many properties were affected and the reason for the power cut. UKPN had reduced the impact on power cuts year on year and today, customers connected to the network on average would experience a power cut for appx 28 minutes per year, compared to 64 minutes in 2010/11.

 

UKPN held a Priority Services Register to provide those in need with extra help throughout a power cut. The Priority Services Register was free to register and no cost to the individual or council for any assistance provided. It offered tailored support if needed such as home visits, hot meals, or keeping friends and relatives updated.

 

Mr Turpin stated that one of the biggest challenges ahead would be to meet the Net Zero Carbon Emissions objectives with three main challenges which included renewable generation, electric vehicles and heat electrification.

 

Mr Horwood explained how the electricity network had been upgraded to cater for increased demand, which could be through two ways:

 

1.    Natural growth:

 

·         As existing houses and businesses continued to use more electricity for low carbon technology including electric vehicles, heat pumps and solar panels, UKPN monitors the load on the network and increased capacity in line with forecasts about use on the network by existing properties.

·         These investment costs were paid for within the UKPN part of the average domestic electricity bill. Despite the current rising costs of energy bills, this part of the overall bill remained in the £80s this current year.

 

2.    Customers increasing their electricity supply (connections)

 

·         If a single customer wished to increase their electricity supply above their property’s standard connections agreement or they required a new connection, they could request UKPN for such work. For example, this could be developers building a new housing development  ...  view the full minutes text for item 64/22

65/22

Empty Properties

A presentation by Ellen Spencer, Private Sector Housing Team Manager on Empty Properties brought back into use.

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Housing and Homelessness, Councillor Gordon Bambridge explained that earlier in 2022 Breckland Council had set up an Empty Properties Steering Group and had started to look at the whole strategy of homes and housing within the Breckland area investigating every part of housing and how Breckland currently dealt with it. He hoped to have some direction on the way forward in Spring next year.

 

The Private Sector Housing Team Manager, Ellen Spencer explained that Breckland Council did not currently have an Empty Homes Policy. She then provided a presentation on Empty Homes in the Breckland area along with some options on what could be included within a new policy for dealing with empty homes.

 

Properties left empty for any period of time could become a problem for the following reasons:

 

·         Unsightly

·         Nuisance

·         Blight to neighbouring houses

·         Anti-social behaviour

·         Squatting

·         Arson

 

There were 1,333 households on the council’s housing register, with over 100 households in temporary accommodation, yet 140 homes had stood empty for 2 years or more.

 

There were many reasons why a home may be empty:

 

·         Probate

·         Too costly to repair

·         Negative equity

·         Land banking

·         Builder investment

·         Storage

·         Too much to cope with

·         Illness

·         Memories – good and bad

·         Family dynamics – inherited property

 

The Private Sector Housing Team had tried different approaches, some of which had worked, including friendly persuasion, grants or loans and linking the owner with housing associations, estate agents or letting agents.

 

As a discouraging measure, Breckland Council currently charged full council tax plus the maximum premium for homes left unoccupied/empty. This meant if a property was left empty for over 2 years it incurred a 100% premium which meant a 200% charge, over 5 years empty it incurred a 200% premium which meant a 300% charge and if over 10 years empty it incurred a 300% premium which meant a 400% charge.

 

A further discouraging measure was continued enforcement which could be dealt with by different teams within Breckland Council including:

 

·         Environmental Protection Act 1990

·         Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1948

·         Building Act 1984

·         Town and Country Planning Act 1990

·         Housing Act 2004

·         Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982

 

Furthermore, if a homeowner did not respond to an enforcement notice, Breckland Council could carry out the work and put a charge on the property with the Land Registry.

 

It also had an option to enforce the sale of a property if there were enforcement debts due to work in default or council tax debts. If the owner did not repay the outstanding debt, a legal charge could be attached to the title deeds of the property and Breckland Council would apply to the Land Registry to enforce the sale of the property according to the Law of Property Act 1925.

 

The Empty Properties Steering Group, met to look at the worst empty properties in the district and use a scoring matrix to identify which properties had the most blight to neighbourhoods and what options were available, with all departments,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 65/22

66/22

Task and Finish Groups

To consider reports from Task & Finish Group Chairmen in respect of the following meetings:

Minutes:

It had been agreed that the report of the Task & Finish Group – Serco Contract, would be available for the next meeting on 20th October 2022.

67/22

Outside Body Feedback (Standing Item)

To receive an update from representatives on Outside Bodies.

 

Minutes:

None.

68/22

Scrutiny Call-ins (Standing Item)

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

Minutes:

None.

69/22

Councillor Call for Action (Standing Item)

To consider any references.

Minutes:

Councillor Atterwill suggested that it would be beneficial if Primary Care Providers could attend a future Overview and Scrutiny Commission meeting, including dentists with and overview of where the service currently was on provision of care. It seemed extremely difficult to secure a visit to either a dentist or GP and felt it would be good to understand the level of the problems they were facing and to establish whether Breckland, as a Council, could do anything to support them. He also felt that the Ambulance Service should be invited as there were definite problems with wait times outside of hospitals for A & E and reaction times to 999 calls and it would be good to know the issues they were facing and again to ascertain whether Breckland Council could assist at all.

 

The Executive Director, Steve James suggested that discussions should be had first with his counterparts within the Clinical Commissioning Group to establish who should attend in order to meet the above proposal and report back to the Chairman. The Chairman agreed and also confirmed that this should cover three separate areas, dentistry, Primary Care and the Ambulance Service, including response times.

 

The Chairman updated Members on a previous call for action in respect of Banham Poultry. The ownership of Banham Poultry had changed hands, and enforcement action did proceed, and it was suggested that Banham Poultry be invited to a future meeting to update Members on the outcome and improvements made.

70/22

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 218 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 Chairman drew Members’ attention to a referral from full Council on fuel poverty, to the Overview & Scrutiny Commission to report and update on what this Council was undertaking to support those impacted by the cost of living and increased fuel costs. This would enable Members to review the proposed changes from Energy Company obligation (ECO3) (closed 31 March 2022) to ECO4 and how this Council could support the Government changes along with wider activity within the Councils remit.

 

The Chairman asked for Banham Poultry to be added to the work programme at a future date to update the Commission on changes implemented since the enforcement action and change of ownership.

 

He also asked for the previous call for action from Councillor Nairn in respect of NCC verges and grass cutting to be added to the work programme for a follow up since the change in contract from BDC to NCC.

 

The Chairman pointed out that he had seen a recent report by the Inspectorate in terms of the Firs Service that state improvements were needed and felt that it would be useful to request a visit from the Fire service in the future, to provide an update on the improvements made and if they were working.

 

Councillor Turner requested that an update on the outcomes of the Task and Finish Group report for the Serco Contract should be requested in April 2023 to check progress.

71/22

Next Meeting

To note the arrangements for the next meeting to be held on 20 October 2022 at 10.00am in the Anglia Room, The Conference Centre, Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham, NR19 1EE.

 

Minutes:

The arrangements for the next meeting on Thursday, 20 October 2022 at 10.00am in the Anglia Room were noted.