Venue: The Norfolk Room, Conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Dereham
Contact: Committee Services Tel: 01362 865870
To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 29 July 2008.
The Minutes of the meeting held on 29 July 2008 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Vice-Chairman who had chaired that particular meeting.
Housing Performance and Improvement Plan – Monitoring Report July 2008 (Minute No. 25/08)
The Vice-Chairman was pleased to inform Members that the recommendation had been supported by Cabinet at its meeting on 9 September 2008.
Leisure PFI Update (Minute No. 26/08)
The Vice-Chairman was most concerned that Panel Members had not been informed of the Quest results for Thetford Leisure Centre as requested in the resolution.
Apologies (Agenda item 2)
To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were received from Mr F Sharpe and Mr M Broughton.
Presentation by Oliver Clark.
Oliver Clark, the Project Manager for Clarkson Business Services, gave a presentation on Smoke Free Compliance.
Under the direction of Nigel Burrows, the Council’s Environmental Health Officer, a needs assessment on the implications of smoke free compliance and the introduction of policies, had been undertaken.
120 businesses in the Breckland area had been selected and 110 premises had been visited. Each business had been provided with a Compliance Survey form to complete.
The questions and findings from the survey were as follows:
Response - 97/99% compliance
Lack of signage was the only reason for the small amount of non-compliance. To remedy this, further signage had been supplied.
Response – a small number of licensed premises had reported a loss of trade.
It had been found that those that had erected appropriate smoking shelters had continued with normal trade.
Response – nothing else requested.
Response –majority, no.
It had been found that businesses such as food manufacturing plants, large haulage firms and larger chains of hotels had their own policies. The remainder were introduced to a universal policy that could be downloaded from the following website: www.smokefreeengland.co.uk
Response - No (98%)
Those that had exceeded the minimum requirements were food processing plants and St Luke’s Mental Health Unit.
The Chairman asked whether anyone had tried to enforce an outside smoking ban. In response, Members were informed that it was the management of the business that could decide whether outside areas should be smoke free. A Member pointed out that the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital, which had banned all smoking inside and out of the premises before the legislation came into effect, had now removed most of its outside no smoking signs.
Response – a small number of licensed premises had smoking shelters; the legal requirement was that more than 50% of the wall area had to be left open. All of those checked had been compliant and had kept the business going.
Response – 97-99% were compliant.
The different sized signs for different areas and vehicles were explained. The 110 premises that had been visited were supplied with the correct signage and were all now fully compliant.
Members were informed that pre: July 2007, Breckland Council had arranged five open days in each of the market towns to advise the public on the new smoking arrangements. The response had been excellent and Breckland Council had been complimented on the information that had been provided.
Many questions had been raised with regard to this matter, such as:
Ø Did a vehicle have to be classed as smoke free if another colleague (who smoked) used the vehicle in question once a month?
Presentation by Clive Rennie (PCT).
Clive Rennie, the Assistant Director for Commissioning (NHS Norfolk), was in attendance for this item. A presentation was provided and had been attached to the Minutes for information.
The historical background was explained. Ministers had reaffirmed that there should be at least one GP Led Health Centre in each PCT area. On 23 November 2007, Ministers had announced a list of 38 PCTs that would receive additional funding to procure 100 new GP practices.
For each locality there was no prescribed national specification for the services provided. For any new services, the money had to be spent on new provision, not existing provision.
In Norfolk, as per other PCT areas, investment was for additional capacity i.e. extra GPs, nurses and support staff.
In March 2007, Norwich had been identified as the preferred location based on criteria set by the Department of Health i.e. deprivation, population etc for the first GP Led Health Centre. Consideration had to be given to developing more in other areas of Norfolk. As part of the development of the GP Led Health Centre, NHS Norfolk had agreed to re-provide the Dussindale Centre in the East side of Norwich into the new centre. The major rational for this re-provision was that a more central location was required to provide equity of access for all residents of the greater Norwich and for commuters and also to target the most deprived areas of Norwich. Anyone could register with this Practice within the designated catchment area of Greater Norwich; however, if you lived outside the catchment area, you would not be able to register with the practice but you would be able to receive services as a “walk-in” patient. Clive Rennie then explained how the process worked with medical records if someone registered with a GP Led Health Centre as well as their own GP.
Some Polyclinics, typically London based, could almost be described as ‘mini hospitals’ with services including MRI scanners. Urgent care could be provided. A Member asked whether urgent care would still be located in the hospitals accident & emergency department. He also wished to know what GP led stood for - if it wasn’t GP led, was it nurse led? In response, Clive Rennie advised that nurses could only carry out the service up to a certain point, beyond that, the Doctor had to take responsibility. It was much more cost effective to attend a walk-in centre rather than an A&E but the decision to attend the walk-in or A&E should be based on clinical severity of the presenting condition.
The Chairman felt that it would be a good idea to have a Polyclinic situated in every market town and he asked how it had been justified in clinical terms, to have the one and only Polyclinic in Norwich. It was explained that it was not clinically a better service, it was more about choice and the basis of the siting of the GP Led Health Centre in Norwich had been based on a number ... view the full minutes text for item 34.
Report by John Walker, Principal Officer – Housing Advice & Homelessness.
The Principal Officer for Housing and Homelessness presented the report.
The Strategy Action Plan was reviewed every year. The review helped the Council to understand where it was in terms of homelessness in the District. The detail helped the Council to understand what the actions were and whether these actions were still relevant.
This year, the review had been undertaken by Oliver Lawer, the recently appointed Housing Officer for Strategy and Development. What had been found was that the Council needed to do more for younger people and to diversify its temporary accommodation portfolio.
The volume of homelessness in Breckland had not increased for temporary accommodation but had increased with the recent ‘credit crunch’.
The Chairman asked whether there would be a Cabinet Member introduction paper included with the Action Plan. The Panel was reminded that the document had not been adopted by Cabinet; however, when the full re-write of the Strategy had been completed it would be presented to Cabinet for adoption.
A number of spelling errors in the document were highlighted.
There was no mention of Rough Sleepers in the document and a Member asked whether the Council would be undertaking a further count. In response, the Housing Officer advised that the amount of rough sleepers in Breckland had increased. The Government had suggested that local authorities should undertake such counts every five years; however, it was felt that it would be in the Council’s best interest, in the light of the current financial climate, that a further count be organised before the winter months. By completing this task, the Council could establish what services it ought to be providing for such persons. Some immigrants were not eligible for this service but if there was greater evidence the Council could lever more resources to help these people.
The Chairman asked that the rough sleeping element be added to the document.
Members were informed that the Council had a fund that was used for on the spot payments to prevent homelessness in Breckland. In response to a question with regard to the credit crunch and whether there had been extra provisions put aside, the Principal Housing Officer advised that the Housing Team had a good relationship with a particular Citizens Advice Bureau which would be offering extensive money advice to those who needed it. Further to this, the Government had announced that a Mortgage Rescue Scheme was being introduced. Further information was awaited and the Housing Team would be attending the forthcoming conference that had been set up for this purpose. As there had been 115 outright mortgage repossessions so far this year, an article about credit debt and how to overcome it had been included in the recent edition of Breckland Voice. There were also many self help clinics on the website.
Referring to the Homelessness budget, the Strategic Housing Manager informed the Panel that there was a healthy prevention pot. The Team would be looking at how it could cope with the credit crunch element as ... view the full minutes text for item 35.
Housing Waiting List - Allocations Policy and Choice Base Lettings (Agenda item 9)
Presentation by Darryl Smith, Principal Housing Officer (Strategy and Enabling).
The Principal Housing Officer (Strategy and Enabling) was in attendance for this item. Members were briefed on the Housing contract and the Housing Register which went live in July 2007.
The new partnership between Breckland Council and ARP Trading Ltd to operate and administer the Breckland Housing Register from July 2007 had been the first step in a series of changes designed to improve the way in which the service was delivered.
There were currently 3016 people on the Housing Register. Each housing application took, on average, 8 days to process (the contractual time limit was 7 days). Since April 2008, 349 vacant dwellings had been made available to rent. These vacancies accounted for a high number of newly built social housing. Additionally, on a number of private developments some housing had been passed over to social landlords and housing that was already socially owned was becoming available due to private purchases and shared ownerships schemes.
The contract seemed to be working well, and as part of the process, ARP had to produce monthly newsletters for all applicants on the Breckland Housing Register. These newsletters provided advice and information on various housing related matters.
A presentation on Choice Base Lettings was then provided.
There was a Government target for every local authority to have a Choice Base Lettings Scheme in place by 2010.
As an example, the presentation had been based on another local authority’s site that was already being used which provided Members with a flavour of what the Breckland site would eventually look like.
The introduction of the Choice Base Lettings Scheme was the second step of a series of changes and was considered to be the most substantial improvement. This internet based scheme allowed people to register an interest in an individual property. The information could be easily accessed on what homes were available and where, together with key details about the property itself e.g. photographs, the number of bedrooms, the rent to be charged and council tax banding. New properties would include floor plans and a map link would also be made available. There had been lots of support and assistance in the development of this process. A language facility would also be provided.
Every applicant would have their own login name, and as well as housing information, the site would also be linked to homelessness advice. Eligibility would be limited; for example, a single person could not bid for a three bed house.
Applicants could then ‘bid’ to be considered for a property within their ‘band’. The priority ‘bandings’ were explained and a paper was circulated for information. Members noted that the banding system was much easier than the current points system. A person would have to have a local connection before a ‘banding’ could be given. Many checks would be carried out to ascertain whether that person did indeed have a local connection.
The Choice Base Lettings Scheme offered a variety of bidding and information platforms including the use of the internet, text message ... view the full minutes text for item 36.
To receive the Work Programme and note any amendments.
A revised work programme was circulated and noted.
The Panel raised concern that all future meetings listed were being held in Dereham and not around the District as previously agreed. This matter would be raised with the Member Development and Scrutiny Officer.
It was agreed to add the following items to the work programme:
Next Meeting (Agenda item 11)
To note that the next meeting of Policy Development and Review Panel 3 will be held on Tuesday, 21 October 2008 at 10.00 am in the Norfolk Room.
The arrangements for the next meeting on Tuesday, 21 October 2008 were noted.