Agenda and minutes

Rural and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 18th June, 2020 2.00 pm

Venue: This meeting will be held by remote conferencing using Skype for Business

Note: Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, this meeting will be held remotely. Joining details are included on the agenda cover sheets 

No. Item

Opening Remarks from the Chair

The meeting started with the Chair expressing gratitude to NHS and key workers during lockdown and this sentiment was echoed by the Vice-Chair who gave her thanks to those who worked within the community hub as well as those volunteers who worked across the council.


Comments from Members of the Public

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    To receive comments or views from members of the public at the Committee’s discretion.


    No comments were received from members of the public.


Register of attendance, membership and apologies for absence

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    No apologies for absence were received.


Disclosure of Interests

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


    There were no disclosures of interest.


Action Notes from the meeting held on 20 February 2020 pdf icon PDF 224 KB

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    The following correction was made to the previous meeting’s action notes - change “The Chairman reiterated her thanks to the Community Engagement and Policy Development Officer for her work in putting the document together. She proposed that Committee agree to the mandatory safeguarding training by elearning, to recommend that the Cabinet adopt the Policy with fewer acronyms and that the Safeguarding credit cards be circulated to all Members of the Council” to read “The Chairman reiterated his thanks to the Community Engagement and Policy Development Officer for her work in putting the document together. He proposed that Committee agree to the mandatory safeguarding training by elearning, to recommend that the Cabinet adopt the Policy with fewer acronyms and that the Safeguarding credit cards be circulated to all Members of the Council” (amended wording shown in bold)


    Subject to the amendment above being made, the notes from the previous meeting were agreed as a correct record.


Updates from the previous meeting

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    There were no updates from previous meetings.


Verbal Update from Cabinet Members

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    Verbal updates throughout Covid-19 pandemic, on the current situation:

    ·       Garden Maintenance

    ·       Frozen Pipes

    ·       Disabled Facilities Grants

    ·       Housing Repairs

    ·       Homelessness

    ·       Local Lessons from Covid-19

    ·       Stop the Knock


    The Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning delivered updates on the following subjects to the Committee.


    Garden Maintenance Scheme

    The draft garden maintenance scheme for 2020/21 was almost complete and would be brought to the committee for scrutiny at the meeting on the 11 September 2020. Garden maintenance works had been interrupted due to staff being seconded to critical roles during Covid-19 and this had resulted in a backlog of work that was to be completed as staff returned to their substantive roles. The Cabinet Member wished to convey his thoughts to the wellbeing of residents who may have been affected by the suspension of garden maintenance.  


    Frozen Pipes

    Frozen pipes occur at temperatures below -11°c and the council had identified 200 properties that were at risk. Work had been completed to remedy this issue in all but 27 properties. The work to resolve these issues had been suspended during Covid-19 and would be restarting on 1 July 2020.


    Disabled Facilities Grants

    Work had been suspended for all but the most critical cases during lockdown. The Cabinet Member informed the committee that there were twenty cases ready for site work to be completed. However, processing of applications continued in preparation for the restarting of works.  The installation of stairlifts and external works had now resumed (following Covid-19 risk assessments for each case and then only with the full agreement of the applicant).  Other works were expected to re-commence from 29 June.  20 cases were ready for works to be started on site and it was expected that Occupational Therapists would re-start assessments shortly.  The demand for Disabled Facilities Grants had not reduced, however, there would be a “lag” as Occupational Therapy assessments started to come through and contractors returned to work.  Members thanked the staff who facilitated disabled facilities grants and installed equipment and thanked them for the excellent work that they carry out for South Kesteven residents.


    Housing Repairs

    Members were informed that the focus remained on conducting urgent repairs. These were repairs which must be completed within twenty-four hours of being reported. Some external non-urgent repairs had started from 1 June 2020 and it was planned to start some internal routine repairs from 1 July 2020. There was a backlog of repairs and work had started to prioritize the backlog and in doing so to consider the individual needs and vulnerabilities of residents. A member asked if dangerous cladding was an issue within the district and the Cabinet Member stated that any issues with cladding had been resolved in a previous project.



    All approaches for accommodation as a result of homelessness made to the council during lockdown had been offered accommodation and put into some form of temporary housing. This had incurred additional costs as the council’s supply of temporary accommodation had initially been exceeded in a three-week spike in demand at the beginning of April. At that point, alternative accommodation options such as bed and breakfasts had been used. Minor voids had been  ...  view the full minutes text for item 53.


SK Community Hub (The Hub) pdf icon PDF 224 KB

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    Report summarising local community response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and what has been learned so far.

    Additional documents:


    The Cabinet Member for Communities thanked all members and officers who worked in the community Hub, conducting befriending calls and offering their support to residents during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Cabinet Member went on the discuss how the Hub was created in an extremely narrow timeframe and how the Hub looked to mainstream and build on the success of the Hub as staff began to transition back to their substantive roles.


    The Community Engagement and Policy Development Officer informed the committee that the Hub was created due to initial confusion as to which authority would provide direct support to residents. Seventeen SKDC staff volunteers, all without any background in this new type of support, had worked in the Hub. The Hub worked closely with the Lincolnshire Resilience Forum as this was the organization tasked by central government to provide support to residents. From 21 March 2020 communications were sent out to local community groups, organisations and individuals to gather volunteers to assist residents during lockdown. This resulted in the Hub having coverage of 29 wards within the district, with the remaining ward covered by volunteers working within that area separately from the Hub.


    By 18 June 2020, the Hub had received 2,000 calls and had worked with groups such as BHive and Evergreen to coordinate the volunteer response to these calls. There were many advantages of working with local groups, such as the ability to respond quickly to shopping requests which could, if required be repaid on invoice to residents at a later date and the use of experienced local coordinators. All groups registered with the Lincolnshire Resilience Forum were able to make use of Lincolnshire County Council indemnity insurance. This covered both the group and the individuals volunteering within the group.


    Members heard that as restrictions eased the pressures on the Hub would be reduced but there was a need to build on the excellent work of the Hub and create a legacy. The committee heard that ongoing cover for the Hub would continue to be provided by staff who remained unable to return to their substantive roles due to ongoing restrictions. There was also a need to remain vigilant in case of a second wave of the virus. Members were informed that should such a wave occur the Hub was positioned to quickly respond.  Members heard that there was a need to transition incoming calls into the existing Customer Services team and the council’s out-of-hours offer.


    The committee heard that volunteer groups that had worked with the council during Covid-19 could now start to return to their business-as-usual work, transition to other purposes, or disband. The Hub would support groups that decided to transition to other purposes post Covid-19. To this purpose the work of the Hub in creating a list of volunteer groups had given the council a great opportunity to engage further with voluntary and community groups in future. The Community Engagement and Policy Development Officer told the committee of a planned community forum which would  ...  view the full minutes text for item 54.


2020/21 Committee Work Programme pdf icon PDF 114 KB

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    To populate the draft Work Programme for the Committee for the 2020/21 municipal year

    Additional documents:


    The committee noted and agreed the work programme, and requested the following items be added:


    10 September 2020:

    -          Verbal update on work to support local businesses through Covid-19

    -          Garden Maintenance scheme 2020/21

    Meeting to be confirmed:

    -          Update on progress of Stop the Knock, following approval by Cabinet and implementation

    -          Site allocations for the travelling community


Any other business which the Chairman, by reason of special circumstances, decides is urgent

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    The Chair raised the issue of the change of Grantham Hospital’s remit to a Covid-19 Urgent Treatment Centre. He informed the committee that this issue would be raised at an upcoming meeting of Extraordinary Council for debate. He spoke of the importance of Grantham A&E (Accident and Emergency) and noted that it had been closed overnight for 4 years on a temporary basis. It was questioned if the maternity wing could have been used as the Urgent Treatment Centre at an earlier meeting of Lincolnshire County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee. Members shared their concerns of their dwindling hopes for a return of an A&E Department at Grantham Hospital. Members expressed their ongoing support for the essential provision that Grantham Hospital provided and re-iterated the need to keep campaigning to re-open the A&E department.


Close of meeting

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    The meeting closed at 15:25.