Agenda and minutes

Rural and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 20th February, 2020 2.00 pm

Venue: Witham Room, South Kesteven House, St Peter's Hill, Grantham NG31 6PZ

Items
No. Item

37.

Membership

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    The Committee to be notified of any substitute members.

    Minutes:

    The Committee was notified that Councillor Linda Wootten was substituting for Councillor Mike Exton for this meeting only.

38.

Apologies

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    Minutes:

    An apology for absence was received from Councillor Kaberry-Brown.

39.

Disclosure of Interest

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    Members are asked to disclose any interest in matters for consideration at the meeting.

    Minutes:

    For clarity the Chairman wished to place on record that he sat on Lincolnshire County Council’s Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee.  Councillor Linda Wootten also stated that she sat on the same Committee as well as the Public Protection and Communities Scrutiny Committee.

40.

Action Notes from the meeting held on 16 January 2020 pdf icon PDF 228 KB

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    Minutes:

    The notes from the previous meeting were noted and agreed.

41.

Updates from the previous meeting

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    Minutes:

    The Head of Repairs and Improvements gave an update on the condensate pipes that had been discussed at the September meeting of the Committee and subsequent meetings.  Of the 215 properties affected by the big freeze in 2018, 178 properties had the work completed on the boilers and condensate pipes, of the remaining 37, 14 appointments had been arranged.  Gaining access to the remaining properties was causing difficulties and statutory powers to gain access would be taken.   One Member felt that the boilers were a nuisance especially in relation to access to hot water at intermittent intervals.  On the whole Worcester Bosch boilers were good performing boilers and were the most efficient.  It was stated that going forward regulations would mean that gas boilers would be phased out.  The Chairman asked if an update could be given to a future meeting when the work was completed.

     

    Ø  Action Point

     

    That once the work on all the properties affected had been completed an update was given to a future meeting of the Committee.

     

    Another Member stated that all combi boilers were vulnerable in relation to their condensate pipes due to their design.  The Interim Strategic Director for Growth informed the Committee that the boilers in Council properties had been checked to ensure that they worked efficiently as part of the gas servicing carried out.

     

    The Chairman referred to the Committee’s previous proposals in relation to Stop the Knock which would be revisited later in the agenda.  In relation to the Healthy Conversation item, John Turner had indicated that he was happy to give a further update to the Committee at a future meeting.

42.

Safeguarding Policy pdf icon PDF 200 KB

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    Report of the Cabinet Member for Communities.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The Chairman welcomed the Cabinet Member for Communities to the Committee, who introduced the Safeguarding Policy which concerned the development of a joint Safeguarding Policy that had been designed to be relevant to all seven district councils across Lincolnshire.  The policy included a new requirement for Members to complete an e-learning module relating to Safeguarding within their first year in office with extra modules to be completed during their term of office.

     

    The Committee was informed that the policy had been created for all seven district councils with specific “tweaks” for each individual Council.  The Policy included a generic overview of safeguarding responsibilities.  As a district council, the responsibilities for safeguarding children were the same as those for safeguarding vulnerable adults - to report incidents or concerns to the responsible authority (Lincolnshire County Council) and work with other agencies to ensure the welfare of children and vulnerable adults within the district.  The policy also provided guidance on Early Intervention.

     

    The policy covered a three-year period between 2020-2023 and would be reviewed on a three-yearly basis unless legislation or statutory guidance required the policy to be updated in the interim.

     

    The Chairman indicated that Members needed to be aware of the policy in their role as elected Members but stressed that they were not safeguarding officers. They needed to know who the front-line officers were and what they needed to do if they found a safeguarding issue.

     

    A brief overview was then given of each chapter on which Members were given the opportunity to comment.

     

    Chapter 1 – generic overview and who had specific responsibility 

    Designated Safeguarding Officer, Harry Rai

    Prevent Lead, Mark Jones

    Operational Lead for Safeguarding and Deputy Prevent Officer, Carol Drury

     

    The level of training and knowledge required was determined by each person’s role and their level of contact to vulnerable persons.  Training was completed on a six-year rolling programme and all roles within an organisation had been categorised using the requirements of the National Competencies Framework for Children and Adults.  The greater the responsibility, the higher the number of years of training required.  Safeguarding was everyone’s responsibility.   When Members were first elected, they were given an overview of safeguarding. The policy sets out a new requirement for Members to undertake an e-learning module on Safeguarding with further modules to be undertaken during their term of office.  One Member stated that she had undertaken e-learning in her last job, it had been helpful, but she asked if there was anything to assist those who were not technologically confident or had accessibility issues.  The Community Engagement and Policy Development Officer stated that the system was user friendly and easy to navigate and help would be available for those who needed it.  The face to face briefing that Members had as part of the induction would also be kept in place.

     

    Chapter 2 – Safeguarding Children and Young People. This chapter dealt with all situations within the Council’s operation which could potentially involve children or young people.  Although people’s work  ...  view the full minutes text for item 42.

43.

Tenancy Strategy pdf icon PDF 210 KB

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    Report of the Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning introduced the item and stated that the Strategy aimed to make the best use of stock provision to meet the housing needs of communities and set clear guidance to other registered providers so that all housing in the district was used to its best ability.  The Strategy was to guide social landlords using best practice.  Private registered providers were required to publish their own tenancy policies but needed to take account of the Local Authority’s Tenancy Strategy.   He also referred Members to page 128 of the agenda which gave rent averages for the district. 

     

    The Interim Strategic Director for Growth then gave the Committee details on the Strategy.  The Localism Act 2011 required all Local Housing Authorities to produce a Tenancy Strategy to help guide social registered providers which operate in their area to make decisions about what type of tenancies to offer.  The Council’s current Tenancy Strategy was published in 2013. The use of assured or secure and flexible tenancies appropriate to the household’s need or property type was supported by the Council.  Where flexible tenancies were used the Council wished to see fixed term tenancies of five years or more. Longer term tenancies tended to create more buy-in by tenants from a financial and social aspect.

     

    Consultation had taken place with all 25 private registered providers of social housing across South Kesteven.  Two responses had been received from Cross Keys Homes and Muir Group and these were outlined in the report. Overall the responses were supportive of the criteria for use of fixed term tenancies.  Pay to Stay was no longer supported nationally and had been removed from the Strategy. Other amendments to the Strategy were outlined under section 7 and section 5.  Subject to comments made by the Committee the Tenancy Strategy was due to go to Cabinet for approval in March 2020.

     

    Discussion on the Strategy followed with the following comments/questions raised:

     

    -       SHMA stands for Strategic Housing Market Assessment.

    -       It was felt that there had been a poor response to the consultation. The Interim Strategic Director for Growth indicated that close working was carried out with some of the registered providers who were already familiar with the document.

    -       The amendments to section 7, following consultation with Housing Providers – ‘Tenants with large rent arrears (threshold amount would need to be set)’ changed to ‘Tenants with large rent arrears (the threshold amount to align with the amount used by our Rents Team in the serving of a notice seeking possession of the property)’ had not yet been made to the draft strategy presented to Members, as officers were awaiting feedback from the Committee first. These changes would be made following the meeting.

    -       Facts and figures contained in the document were taken from the 2014 Peterborough Sub Regional Strategic Housing Market Assessment of which South Kesteven was a part.

    -       Members asked whether the picture on page 132 of the agenda (page 6 of the Tenancy Strategy)  ...  view the full minutes text for item 43.

44.

Best Practice Policy and Protocol on Debt Collection pdf icon PDF 208 KB

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    Report of the Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    At the last meeting of the Committee three recommendations were made and forwarded to the Cabinet.   At the Cabinet meeting a request was made for the Committee and Officers to develop those recommendations and create a Best Practice Policy and Protocol on Debt Collection and produce a report with recommendations for the Cabinet to consider in more detail.

     

    The report before Members was to approve a way forward to develop the policy/protocol looking at best practice policies and agree a format to work towards recommendations being put before the Cabinet at its April meeting. 

     

    Reference was made to the legal requirement to collect council tax and non-domestic rates, which should be collected as normal.

     

    The Chairman stated that a very long discussion had ensued at the last meeting of the Committee and the recommendations put forward had been unanimously supported.  He was happy to recommend that Officers continue to put together a policy/protocol based on work that was currently undertaken and the comments made at the last meeting of the Committee.   It was proposed that once the policy/protocol was adopted that six month review was undertaken by the Committee.

     

    The Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources stated that the Council did need to retain the ability to collect council tax and needed processes in place to do this.

     

    The recommendations were put forward, seconded, and agreed by the Committee.

     

    Recommendations:

     

    1)    That Officers are requested to develop an appropriate written policy/protocol on debt collection taking account of the comments made at the January meeting of the Committee.

    2)    That the draft policy/protocol is e-mailed to Members of the Committee including Councillor Baxter for comment.

    3)    That the final policy/protocol is presented to Cabinet in April 2020 for approval.

    4)    That the policy/protocol is reviewed six months after adoption.

45.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 95 KB

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    Minutes:

    The Chairman informed the Committee that Inspector Gary Stewart from Lincolnshire Police had been invited to the meeting but had been unable to attend.  It was within the remit of the Overview and Scrutiny Committees to have a Crime and Disorder meeting during the year and he asked if Members wanted Inspector Stewart to be invited to the next meeting of the Committee.  Members agreed to have the invitation re-issued, but if Inspector Stewart could not attend, they asked that Mark Jones, Community Resilience Lead be invited to the meeting. 

     

    Ø  Action Note

     

    That Inspector Gary Stewart be invited to attend the next meeting of the Committee, if he is unavailable, Mark Jones, the Community Resilience Lead to attend.

     

    Other items for the March meeting to include Homelessness and Community Cohesion.

     

    Items for the April meeting to include the Assisted Garden Maintenance Scheme and rural access to leisure facilities.  Disabled Facilities Grants and the Community Infrastructure Levy to be referred to future meetings of the Committee.

     

    The Chairman stated that if any Member had an interest in a particular area within the remit of the Committee that they wished the Committee to look at then they should e-mail him direct.

     

    A suggestion was made that those areas already discussed by the Committee should be deleted from the work programme.

     

46.

Extra meeting of the Rural and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee

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    Members to agree the date of an additional meeting.

    Minutes:

    The Committee agreed to hold a further meeting on Thursday 19 March 2020 at 2:00pm.

     

    Ø  Action Note

     

    That a further meeting of the Rural and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee to be held on Thursday 19 March 2020 at 2:00pm.

47.

Close of meeting

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    Minutes:

    The meeting closed at 4:04pm.