Agenda and minutes

Rural and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Thursday, 12th September, 2019 2.00 pm

Venue: Newton Room - Guildhall Arts Centre, St. Peter's Hill, Grantham. NG31 6PZ. View directions

Items
No. Item

7.

Membership

8.

Disclosure of Interest

9.

Action Notes from the meeting held on 13 June 2019 pdf icon PDF 184 KB

10.

Updates from the previous meeting

    Minutes:

    The Chairman informed the Committee that he had met with the Assistant Director Housing in relation to the work programme which was attached to the agenda and that the Community Fund would be included on the work programme.

     

    >Action Note

     

    That the Community Fund be added to the work programme.

11.

Update from Cabinet

    Minutes:

    The Cabinet Member for Communities, Health and Wellbeing informed the Committee that he had met with the Community Engagement and Policy Officer to discuss social cohesion across the spectrum and this included loneliness.  Although there was no budget for this issue he was proposing to ask for a small amount of money to be able to contact and interact with the many communities within the district. 

     

    The Cabinet Member for Housing then gave a brief update to the Committee. He mentioned the continued improvements that were happening within the housing service and the funding in relation to Disabled Facilities Grants that had been referenced at the recent Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services OSC.  The funds had not all been spent although services did now include Occupational Therapists, figures were distorted as they did not include council house stock.  The Lincolnshire Health and Wellbeing Board were looking at DFG’s and the disparity collectively with funding across the district.

12.

Update on Condensate Pipes pdf icon PDF 217 KB

    Report from the Cabinet Member for Housing.

    Minutes:

    The Assistant Director Housing informed the Committee that the serve weather in early 2018 had resulted in the failure of 215 gas boilers in Council homes due to condensate pipes freezing.  The frozen pipes had been dealt with at the time or within three days.  Inspections of several affected properties had been undertaken by a technical advisor from the manufacturer Worcester Bosch.  He confirmed that the installations met the design requirements of the manufacturer but due to the excessively low temperatures additional measures could be taken to reduce the risk of further failures in similar cold weather conditions. 

     

    An inspection of the 215 properties affected had taken place and work to modify and safeguard against condensate pipes freezing and further heating failures had taken place in 145 properties.  The programme of work was continuing in relation to the 115 outstanding properties.  Mitigation measures recommended by the supplier and design changes on future new installations had been adopted.  Measures had been implemented to determine if any other Council homes were at risk of heating failures resulting from frozen condensate pipes should excessively low temperatures occur. 

     

    A question was asked if the elderly, vulnerable and disabled had been prioritized within the 215 and this was confirmed. The Councils own internal workforce had worked to carry out the inspections as well as the current contractors Liberty Gas.

     

    As part of the annual gas servicing and testing programme by the Liberty Group, inspections would be carried out on other Council owned properties to determine where external condensate pipe arrangements need protection against freezing.  Any work needed will be carried out in line with the supplier’s recommendations.

     

    A question was asked about carbon dioxide alarms and it was stated that these and smoke detectors were serviced annually.

     

    It was suggested that an updated position report be given to a future meeting of the Committee.

     

    A discussion followed on the location of pipes and their design and servicing.  It was stated that the Council had a statutory duty to service the gas installations within the council stock and this was done on a 12 month rolling programme.   Access to properties was then discussed and Members were informed that for 99% of the properties access could be gained.  For the remaining 1% where access became difficult the legal route was used.

     

    Further discussion followed on when work was carried out and the time of year, especially in relation to elderly and vulnerable residents and the type of boilers used, all were within their effective life cycle.  The Cabinet Member for Finance remarked on the timescale that it had taken for the work to be completed especially as there were still work needed on 115 properties, was this timescale acceptable?    Reference was made to the resources and capacity available and access to the properties which had made the timescales lengthy but his comments were taken on board by the Officers attending the meeting.  One Member referred to an issue at a location with the contractors of Liberty Gas  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12.

13.

Modernising Housing Services - Review and Restructure pdf icon PDF 212 KB

    Report from the Cabinet Member for Housing.

    Minutes:

    The Assistant Director Housing informed the Committee that a report on voids would be coming to the next meeting of the Committee.

     

    The Housing Services focused on the Council’s existing tenants and prospective tenants and covered areas including tenancy management, housing allocations and options, homelessness and temporary accommodation.

     

    A comprehensive review and restructure of the housing service was being undertaken as many policies and practices had become outdated and inefficient.  In January a process began to review key strategic and operational issues along with the need to modernise the whole service, building in resilience, flexibility and a greater strategic focus on performance to have a modern housing service. 

     

    Some of the aims of the review and restructure were to maximise the resources available by making the best use of skill sets, realigning posts to focus on key areas of demand and combining teams within services to help build resilience so support is available during fluctuations in workloads.  The review should be completed within four to five months and consultations have taken place with staff and tenants.

     

    One Member asked about the tenant’s survey and where it went.  The tenant’s survey results had been reported to Cabinet last year and a survey was carried out every three years with the next one being in 2021.  Questions were asked about the numbers currently on the housing list, the numbers of void properties and choice based lettings. Further questions were asked about void turnaround periods and the Assistant Director Housing stated that if major work was in the pipeline on a void property then this work would be programmed to be completed before keys were handed over. 

     

    The Cabinet Member for Communities, Health and Wellbeing asked about assessing need within the housing register and whether work was being done in relation to downsizing and suitability of properties.  The Assistant Director Housing confirmed that work had started on a draft downsizing policy.  Another question was asked about the new tenancy agreement and it was confirmed that the document was currently out for consultation but would come before the OSC before going onto Cabinet. 

     

    >Action Note

     

    That the new draft tenancy agreement comes before the next meeting of the Committee.

     

    Further discussion followed in relation to homelessness and where the homelessness officers were based. It was stressed that homelessness happened anywhere so there was no set geographical base for the officers.  Members were then told of a recent case involving a homeless person and how the service had helped them.

     

    Members noted the report and the work carried out to date on the review and restructure of the Housing Services.

     

    Recommendation

     

    That the Rural and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee notes the review and restructure undertaken to improve the quality and performance of Housing Services.

14.

Equalities Annual Position Statement 2019 pdf icon PDF 203 KB

    Report from the Cabinet Member Communities, Health and Wellbeing.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The Community Engagement and Policy Development Officer presented the report which dealt with the Equality and Diversity Annual Position Statement 2019 which the Council had a duty to produce under Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010.  Public sector organisations when exercising public functions had to have due regard to:

     

    ·         Eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation

    ·         Advance opportunities for people who share a protected characteristic and those who don’t share it

    ·         Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who don’t share it

     

    These were known as the three aims of the general Equality Duty. There were two further requirements placed on public sector organisations which were to publish information to show compliance with the Equality Duty, at least annually and set and publish equality objectives at least every four years.  The publication must show information that the Council consciously had due regard to the requirements in relation to both the workforce and the people that that Council served. 

     

    There was not a prescribed format for the document and the organisation could present the information in any way that they choose.  The content of the document could go beyond the required information.  The Council’s Annual Position Statement provided the required information plus the background to its vision and priorities, values and behaviours and the good practice of our partners including our leisure providers to give an overview of the district.  Examples of good practice were included within the document.     The document, once approved would be published on the website.  Members asked that a link to the document be circulated to all Members for their information.

     

    >Action Point

     

    That a link to the approved Equality and Diversity Annual Position Statement 2019 is circulated to all Members.

     

    The Chairman informed the Committee that he was aware of 50 different nationalities within the district how did we engage with them. The Community Engagement and Policy Development Officer said that work was carried out across the district through faith groups and other groups to provide services and support.  Any documentation produced by the Council could be translated in to other formats as required, this could be a different language or for the visually impaired such as braille or audio translation.

     

    Members then discussed the graphs and information contained within the document. Questions were asked about the gender split within the Council (55% Male – 45% Female across the council as compared to a 48% Male – 52% Female split across the District) and schemes referred within the document.  Reference was made to the assisted garden scheme and the Committee were told that this scheme would be reviewed next year.  Members asked that the proposed review come before the Committee.

     

    >Action Point

     

    Assisted Garden scheme to come before the Committee next year, possibly in March 2020.

     

    The Cabinet Member then briefly spoke about his Cabinet portfolio responsibilities in relation to this area of work and how he intended to ask for a small budget for community group work that could be used  ...  view the full minutes text for item 14.

15.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 80 KB

    Minutes:

    The Committee were reminded that the Community Fund would be included on the work programme. The Chairman informed the Committee that the County Councils Health Scrutiny Committee would be meeting next Wednesday (18th September) at which an update on the Healthy Conversation is due to take place.  He was hoping that John Turner, the Accountable Officer South Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group would be available to attend the November meeting of the Rural and Communities OSC to give an update here and would be open to all Members.  As part of the Committee’s remit in relation to crime and disorder scrutiny it was hoped that Inspector Gary Stewart would be able to attend the February meeting of the Committee. The Customer Access Strategy was linked with the Chanel Shift and Customer Services item so this item was more likely to be looked at in March and would deal with how technology could be used to improve services and make savings.

     

    The Cabinet Member for Housing indicated that the Tenancy Agreement would be coming before the Committee possibly in November.  It was suggested that a further meeting maybe necessary in January but Members would be advised accordingly.  Reference was made to the need for more Council housing and the Cabinet Member for Housing indicated that work was being carried out to purchase land for the HRA.

     

     

     

16.

Close of meeting