Agenda and minutes

Rural and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 16th January, 2020 12.30 pm

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

No. Item


Healthy Conversation

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    Presentation by the Chief Officer Lincolnshire CCGs (East, South, South West & West), John Turner.



    The Chairman welcomed John Turner, Chief Officer Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) (East, South, South West & West), to the Committee. 


    Mr Turner introduced the Healthy Conversation item which looked at health through the district and Lincolnshire.   


    Background information


    He then gave the Committee some background information.  There were approximately three quarters of million people in the county of Lincolnshire which is currently covered by four Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), which from 1st April 2020 were being merged to one CCG, which was to be known as NHS Lincolnshire CCG, which was to be known as NHS Lincolnshire CCG.  The NHS was regarded as a vital and important institute across the Country and was a defining part of the UK.   As the Committee were aware the NHS had been struggling in recent years, notwithstanding the brilliant work carried out on a day to day basis in Lincolnshire (and across the country) the quality of care was not always what we would wish it to be.  


    Current key issues nationally include recruitment challenges, with 100,000 vacancies (including approximately 50,000 for nurses and 6,000 GPs), alongside the ongoing financial challenges.  With specific issues for Lincolnshire being the size of the areas covered, population dispersal and significant areas of depravation. 


    Nationally the long-term plan for the NHS was to work collaboratively with partners and in the coming months it was anticipated the long term plan for Lincolnshire would be published, which was consistent with the national plan.


    Healthy Conversation Consultation


    The Healthy Conversation took place between March and October 2019. Engagement took place with staff, residents and partners looking at the direction of travel for the health and care system in the County.  Events had taken place in Grantham and Sleaford and a range of meetings that had taken place across the County, alongside consultation via Facebook and Twitter.    The findings would be written up and presented to the governing bodies and the County Council Scrutiny body in the coming weeks.


    In broad terms the document looked at the health of the population in the County and South Kesteven area and what could be done to help and support people most effectively.   Key themes from the document are a focus on prevention – enabling people to remain within their own homes, better integration of services (both NHS and partner provision) and a focus on reduction of health inequalities. 


    The strategy recognised that to achieve its aims a more combined, integrated and proactive effort was required.


    The average life expectancy (and therefore age of the population) was increasing together with a range of conditions such as diabetes, asthma, multiple myeloma hypertension and early on set dementia.  Specialist staff would always be required in hospital, but proactive ways were needed with a reshaping of the health sector – particularly through prevention work to reduce hospital admissions.


    In relation to Grantham Hospital, there were a number of options currently under consideration, which include a 24/7 urgent treatment centre and the creation of a surgical centre of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 27.



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    The Committee to be notified of any substitute members.


    The Committee were notified that Councillor Linda Wootten was substituting for Councillor Ian Stokes and Councillor Baxter was substituting for Councillor Wheeler.



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


Disclosure of Interest

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


    The Chairman stated for clarity that he sat on the Lincolnshire Health Scrutiny Committee.


Action Notes from the meeting held on 21 November 2019 pdf icon PDF 206 KB

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    The notes from the meeting held on 21 November 2019 were noted.


Updates from the previous meeting

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    At the last meeting waiting list figures had been requested, these had been circulated by e-mail to Member’s, but the Chairman confirmed the numbers again. (Band 1, 2 and 3 total 782 people, Band 4 & 5 total 1089).   The slides from the voids update had also been circulated.


    The Cabinet Member for Communities and HR gave a brief update on the work that was being undertaken in relation to physical wellbeing following on from what John Turner has alluded to in his presentation about prevention and partnership working.  Previously there had been no budget for community interaction, however a small budget was proposed for the forthcoming year to help promote community interaction and reach out to communities with work being done in relation to loneliness, rural isolation and mental wellbeing. 


    The Head of Repairs and Improvements briefly updated Members on the condensate pipes that had been discussed at the last meeting.  Of the 215 properties affected, 162 had the work completed.  Access to the remaining 53 properties was proving more difficult, but appointments were being rearranged.  A protocol was also being put together in relation for the use of back up heating systems and hot water.


    A question was asked in relation to compensation payments and it was stated that, compensation payments were in relation to the Riverside properties and this would be given at the full council meeting at the end of January.


    In relation to the Tenancy Agreement a question had been asked about what clause 13 stood for on page 34 of the document.  The Assistant Director Housing said that this clause had been deleted from the document.




Housing Strategy Refresh pdf icon PDF 199 KB

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    Report of the Deputy Leader of the Council.

    Additional documents:


    The Interim Strategic Director Growth presented the report which dealt with the refresh of the Housing Strategy adopted in April 2018.   A midterm review of the Strategy had been undertaken and had identified areas which needed to be changed although the key themes were still relevant and up to date.  Changes that had been identified for enhancement were:


    -        Supporting Housing Independence for older people and other vulnerable groups – remodelling and technology – this looked at housing being fit for purpose and being able to be adapted to meet people’s needs which changed over time.

    -        Provide the conditions for Tenant Involvement – this related to improving the conditions to engage in a more meaningful way and be fit for the tenants needs going forward and supports the approved Tenant Involvement Strategy.

    -        Improve Housing Services and Options – this related to making sure the service was adequate and flexible and included choice based lettings.

    -        Regenerate our Priority Neighbourhoods – this related primarily to estates in Grantham, Harrowby and Earlesfield and how it was recognised that quality of life was affected by the surrounding physical environment and how this could be regenerated. 

    -        Energy Efficiency – Tackling Fuel Poverty/Climate Change in new developments and current Housing – this was looking at efficiencies and what funds, grants and technology were available both in relation to existing stock and new developments to reduce costs for tenants.


    Another area that had been enhanced in the Strategy was the development of new housing across all tenures to prioritise a balanced housing market as there was a clear housing shortage and need.


    A discussion on the Strategy followed with the following points being made:


    -        The difference between the dates in the report and Strategy – date should be from 2020.

    -        Page 220 reference to 502 affordable homes created – were these through Section 106’s – not all were, there was a mixture of 106 and direct builds

    -        What was a healthy house?  A healthy house definition related to having a more than ‘asset’ approach when looking at how our homes supported residents who lived in them and lead to a direct impact on the quality of life and included the environment, efficiencies and internal changes.

    -        Page 22 facts and figures stated needed to be checked.

    -        Page 24 figures shown for new homes per annum had been increased needed amending (625 to 650).

    -        Under occupancy charge was still in operation.


    A Member asked about the differences between the two documents as there seemed to be little difference other than the figures and reference was made to building targets that had been raised at a recent Companies Committee.   It was stated that the main changes to the document were shown within the key outcomes on page 17 of the document.  The refresh showed that the majority of the outcomes and priority themes were still valid and so only the additional priorities were highlighted as material changes.  The document had  ...  view the full minutes text for item 33.


Customer Experience Strategy pdf icon PDF 202 KB

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    Report of the Cabinet Member for Communities and HR.

    Additional documents:


    The Cabinet Member for Communities and HR briefly introduced the item and referred to the need to modernise and make changes to ensure that the customer service delivery was fit for purpose.  The Strategic Director, Transformation and Change then gave an overview of how customer access had changed significantly over the last few years.    There had been an increase in online demand with people moving away from using a desktop PC to using mobile phones, although there was a vast array of digital ways to access services.      It was vital that the Council created a modern, flexible customer experience which offered a choice and delivery which was convenient to all customers, businesses and visitors.  To do this services needed to maximise the use of all channels available, face to face, via the telephone, web, chat and Skype using language that gave a consistency of offer across all channels.  Changes would continue in technology over the next three to four years and it was vital that the Council had the flexibility to embrace them and engage in a different way.  Currently 87% of retail purchases were made online, people wanted the convenience of doing things 24/7.  The skills required by a customer service officer five years ago were based on telephony skills, now the skills required were based more on digital skills. 


    Interactions with the Council during 2018/19 could be split as follows:


    39,133 telephone calls handled by switchboard operators

    95,547 telephone contacts through the customer service centre

    461,171 visits to the Council website home page


    On line demand had grown significantly. The average cost of interactions using the latest industry benchmarks put face to face at £8.62, compared with £0.15 for online, although the Councils costs (face to face) were slightly higher.


    The vision contained within the Customer Experience Strategy was split into four key themes.  Theme one was the Operating Model which covered accessibility and sustainability.  Theme two covered Technology, how operating systems could be integrated, how the 150 services could be joined together.  Theme three covered Customer Ethos, how a customer first ethos is embedded within the organisation so it could act as one.  Theme four covered the measurement and management of the customers voice and how information could be used to continue to modernise customers experience across all services.  Understanding the types of transactions and how these can be managed in a different way.


    The Committee then discussed the Strategy and the following comments/questions followed;


    -        What was the difference between webchats (person) and chatbots (through a virtual worker with a different level of functionality, using knowledge based frequent questions to respond to a question not a person)?   Webchats have the benefit going forward where you could request an email copy of the “conversation” for your records.  As services are built, allows to detect if people aren’t getting the information correctly the first time by use of the web pages.

    -        It was felt that not enough promotion was given in relation to Ward Councillors and how  ...  view the full minutes text for item 34.


Stop the Knock

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    A presentation on the Stop the Knock publication and a briefing on the current practices of the Council with respect to the use of civil enforcement agents to inform the scope of any further work to be commissioned by the overview and scrutiny committee if deemed necessary.



    Motion submitted to Council on 28 November 2019 by Councillor Baxter


    In 2018/19, South Kesteven used bailiff services on 2,115 occasions. Over 96% of these concerned overdue Council Tax payments while the remainder related to Business Rates. This figure has increased by 3% since 2016/17.


    The use of bailiffs can be expensive and time-consuming for the council. It can also be very stressful for the debtors especially if they are already suffering financial hardship.


    The Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs the National Debtline, recommends six steps for all lower-tier local authorities to implement in order to improve debt collection practice. More details are available at


    This motion recommends South Kesteven adopts the Six Steps (Currently the Council only has one of the six steps in place which is ‘step 2’ concerning referrals to free debt advice).


    This Council resolves to:


    1)    make a clear public commitment to reduce the council’s use of bailiffs over time.

    2)    review the council’s signposting to free debt advice, including phone/online channels

    3)    adopt the Standard Financial Statement (SFS) to objectively assess affordability

    4)    put in place a formal policy covering residents in vulnerable circumstances

    5)    exempt council tax support recipients from bailiff action

    6)    sign the Council Tax Protocol and review the authority’s current practice against the ‘Supportive Council Tax Recovery’ toolkit


    The detail implementation of the six steps above shall be the responsibility of the Rural and Communities OSC in collaboration with the relevant portfolio-holder.




    The item had been placed on the agenda following a motion which was submitted to Council on 28th November 2019.  Due to purdah no motions were debated at the November meeting and they were rolled over to the January meeting of Council.  The Chairman of the Rural and Communities OSC agreed for the issue to go on the agenda for the next meeting of this Committee.


    The Head of Customer Experience and IT gave a presentation to the meeting on the current practices in relation to debt collection for Council Tax and Non Domestic Rates (NDR) both of which were governed by a legal framework.


    In South Kesteven there were in the region of 64,800 dwellings and 4,600 non domestic rate properties.  During 17/18 in year enforcement agents had been used on 2,044 occasions for Council Tax (3% of dwellings) and 71 occasions for NDR (2% of properties).  There had been a 0.5% reduction from the previous year for Council Tax but a rise of 2.9% for NDR.


    The Head of Customer Experience and IT then gave details of how officers dealt with customers in relation to enforcement agents.  All officers were trained in how to deal with customers including where there was a vulnerability and the steps they could consider when dealing with an application.  All officers were hands on and supportive and worked with individuals to try and find ways to make payments wherever possible including directing them to Citizens Advice or making appointments on their behalf.  Once a debt was the subject of a liability order software was used to process each case with the most effective recovery option.  Where no other option was considered appropriate, a notice letter was sent seeking payment or inviting the client to contact the Council.  The instruction of enforcement agents was taken as a last resort after a manual check had been carried out.  The manual check enabled officers to take a different recovery path if it was considered appropriate.  


    A case study was then given where a vulnerability was found by an enforcement agent who immediately ceased action and contacted the revenues and benefits team of his concerns. The revenues and benefits officer then contacted the relevant people (social services, wellbeing team, environmental services) to ensure the appropriate support was provided outside of her work hours to ensure the necessary support was in place.  Without the intervention of the agent the resident’s circumstances may not have improved.


    The “Stop the Knock” initiative and objectives came out of the Money Advice Trust, a charity run by the National Debtline that recommended six steps for lower tier authorities to implement in order to improve debt collection practices.


    The six steps were;


    1.              Make a clear public commitment to reduce the council’s use of bailiffs over time.

    2.              Review the council’s signposting to free debt advice, including phone/online channels

    3.              Adopt the Standard Financial Statement (SFS) to objectively assess affordability

    4.              Put in place a formal policy covering residents in vulnerable circumstances  ...  view the full minutes text for item 35.


Close of Meeting

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    The meeting closed at 4:16pm.