Venue: Thetford Town Council, King's House, Thetford
Contact: Committee Services Tel: 01362 865870
To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 1 April 2008.
The Minutes of the meeting held on 1 April 2008 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were received from Mrs D. Irving, Mr R. Kemp and Mr. J. Labouchere.
Housing Benefits - Anglia Revenues Partnership (Agenda item 6)
Presentation by Rick Steels from Anglia Revenues Partnership.
The Revenue Services Manager, who was also the Project Manager for Local Housing Allowance (LHA), provided Members with a brief overview of the scheme which had taken three months to complete.
It was explained that the reason behind the introduction of LHA was that the Government was encouraging tenants to take responsibility for themselves. From 7th April 2008, when LHA came into force, a tenant could not now request that their payments be made direct to the landlord. There were certain circumstances, however, in which landlords must still be paid directly by the Councils, where there was discretion to so, to protect those requiring safeguard considerations due to vulnerability. The Vulnerability & Safeguarding Policy circulated set out the guidelines under which consideration should be given to individual cases and decisions made. This Policy had yet to be ratified through the Anglia Revenues Joint Committee.
LHA only affected tenants already receiving Housing Benefit who had moved into accommodation rented from a private landlord; it did not affect council tenants or persons living in other social housing.
The benefit paid under this new scheme was based on the number of bedrooms it was deemed were required for the claimant and their household and which area they lived in.
The number of bedrooms required for each household was dependant upon the number of adults and the number, age and sex of any children also resident. Examples of this scheme were provided.
The Broad Rental Market Area (BRMA) was the geographical area used for the determination of LHA. Our BRMA included the areas for Bury St Edmunds, central Norfolk and Norwich and Kings Lynn. The Rent Service had provided local authorities with information that had helped identify the extent of the BRMAs and therefore which properties fell within them. The BRMA figures provided were the starting point of what benefit a person was going to receive.
Since the introduction of LHA, there had been major changes in how benefit claims were processed. The Revenue Services Manager had been working very closely with other authorities to ensure consistency across borders and therefore reducing significant costs. Funding for the introduction of the LHA had been provided by the Department for Work and Pensions. A large part of the funding had been put into upgrading current software. Firstly, a project team had been established to test the software, to revise documents, to change benefit claim forms, upgrade the website and produce leaflets. A progress report was regularly reported to the Joint Committee.
At the last count, since LHA came into force, there were only 81 customers receiving this type of benefit. There had been two requests from tenants for the benefit to be paid direct to landlords. The real affect of LHA would not be felt for two to three years. A post implementation plan was in place to ensure that LHA was fit for purpose.
The Chairman asked whether there had been any significant changes in the amount of benefit paid. In response, the Revenue ... view the full minutes text for item 19.
Tim Edmunds, Developer and Travel Planning Services Manager of Norfolk County Council, will be in attendance for this item.
Mr Tim Edmunds, Developer and Travel Planning Services Manager for Norfolk County Council, was in attendance for this item.
The Chairman reminded Members that this item was in response to concerns raised at previous meetings with regard to the monitoring of the Green Travel Plan, particularly with regard to car parking issues. The Panel was informed, however, that since the granting of the planning application some joint parking arrangements had been instituted with the adjacent Sports Centre. A Member pointed out that he had noticed that private cars were being parked in the ambulance bays.
Mr Edmunds highlighted the fact that when the application for the erection of the Healthy Living Centre had been submitted, Norfolk County Council had recognised that there was insufficient parking on the site.
Copies of an internal email was circulated to prove that Norfolk County Council had been listening to public concern and evidence that planning permission had been granted before the receipt of the requested Transport Assessment. In his opinion, approval had been given by Breckland Council without detailed consideration of the proposals from a highways and transport point of view. Mr Edmunds said that he had been highly disappointed that this had happened but was pleased that permission had been granted subject to the implementation of a Green Travel Plan, albeit a voluntary one. He explained that NCC would rather have had a regulatory travel plan as it would have had more ‘teeth’ that underlined planning obligations paid by the developer. The issue with a voluntary Travel Plan was trying to enforce it. NCC had, however, undertaken a number of improvements themselves but these had unfortunately fallen on the public’s purse, given that there was not opportunity to secure funding from the developer.
A Member explained that the reason planning permission had been granted at that time had been due to a funding deadline. If planning permission had not been granted, the funding would have been lost. In response, Mr Edmunds stated that if there had been a deadline issue, then an invitation to attend the Development Control Committee would have been helpful. He reminded Members that Norfolk County Council was significantly involved in the delivery of planning across Norfolk and it wished to support and attend planning committees to defend its advice, particularly when the authority was recommending that a proposal be refused.
In summarising the aforementioned issues the Chairman stated that he hoped that the Green Travel Plan would be adhered to. In conclusion he suggested that when the results of a required Transport Assessment were not known that the Development Control Committee should ask a Norfolk County Council representative to attend to help the committee better understand any outstanding transport or highway issues.
Mr Edmunds advised that investigations were underway with regard to possible pedestrian crossing measurements and that he had looked at the subway which, in relation to the surveys undertaken, was well used. Further to this, NCC was aware of the Growth Point issue in the Thetford area. ... view the full minutes text for item 20.
To receive the Work Programme and note any amendments.
The schedule was noted, subject to the following amendments and additions:
It was understood that Oliver Clark would be attending to speak on the Smoke Free Compliance item scheduled for 29 July.
Members were asked whether there were any further issues with regard to the Healthy Living Centre. The Panel agreed that the matter of private cars parking in the ambulance bays should be addressed by writing to the Healthy Living Centre. The agreement of NCC on the need for more signage still remained.
The Chairman raised the question of the relevance of Poly Clinics in rural areas and asked the Member Development Support Officer to find out whether there was anything on this matter on NCC Health Scrutiny Committee’s work programme. If this matter had not already been included it was to be added to Panel 3’s work programme accordingly.
Next Meeting (Agenda item 9)
To note that the next meeting of Policy Development and Review Panel 3 will be held on Tuesday, 29 July at 10.00 am.
The Chairman stated that he might be on holiday for the next meeting and asked the Vice-Chairman to chair the meeting in his absence.
The arrangements for the next meeting on Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 10.00am in the Norfolk Room were noted.