Agenda and minutes

Rural and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 10th September, 2020 1.00 pm

Venue: Virtual meeting - This meeting is being held remotely using Skype for Business. View directions

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No. Item


Comments form Members of the Public

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


    There were no comments from the members of the public. 


Register of attendance, membership and apologies for absence

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    No apologies for absence were received. 


Disclosure of Interest

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


    There were none. 


Action Notes from the meeting held on 18 June 2020 pdf icon PDF 193 KB

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    The notes from the meeting held on 18 June 2020, were agreed as a correct record. 


Updates from the previous meeting

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    There was nothing to report.


Verbal Updates from Cabinet Members

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

    ·       The Traveller Community

    ·       Disabled Facilities Grant

    ·       Housing Repairs


    The Cabinet Member for Communities delivered updates on the following subjects to the Committee.




    As of 6 September 2020, a further 18 cases of Covid-19 had been reported in the District; 10 more cases than the previous week.  There had unfortunately been a total of 471 cases within the District and tragically 72 Covid-19 related deaths. 


    Residents were urged to continue to wash their hands, wear masks and remain socially distant from those outside their own households. The Government had announced that as of 14 September 2020, groups larger than 6 made up of more than 1 household were no longer permitted to meet. This reflected a change to the current guidance in respect of group sizes that were permitted to meet whilst taking the necessary precautions.  


    The Council were continuing to promote the safety precautions set out by the Government to residents, by its social media channels. 


    The Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning delivered updates on the

    following subjects to the Committee.


    Traveller Community


    ·            The location of a Traveller site was on land owned by the Council, held within the HRA.


    ·            The land represented a potential future development opportunity which was in very close proximity to established social housing, which included flats, houses and properties where previous tenants had exercised their Right to Buy.


    ·            The Traveller site had been established for several months now and had involved the Council completing social assessment needs, as the traveller occupants included vulnerable adults.


    ·            Housing assessments had also been completed and offers of accommodation had been previously made, but they had been refused by the Travellers.


    ·            Legal preparation was now well advanced, Counsel had been instructed and the Council was seeking a court judgement to secure the removal of the Travellers.


    ·            Continued complaints from residents were still being received.  Horses which belonged to the travellers were regularly tethered and grazed on land adjacent to a children’s play area, close to the traveller site.


    ·            Final updating of statements from officers, photographic evidence, and site plan identification relating to the submission of evidence to Counsel would be completed the week commencing 14September 2020 September.  Securing of a court date would follow shortly after.  Full legal costs through to court were difficult to assess at that time, it would depend on total Counsel time involved, but were likely to be in the region of £10,000.


    ·            Plans to secure the traveller site and the land enclosing the play area were being finalised. It would involve hard barrier arrangements; costs were estimated at around £10,000.


    Disabled Facilities Grant


    ·            All contractors were now undertaking works on site with appropriate Covid-19 secure measures in place to protect them and residents, prior to attending and whilst they were on site. 


    ·            Some delays were experienced as contractors had backlogs of work due to Covid-19, additional controls meant that some jobs were taking longer to complete.


    ·            Several jobs were still on hold, which was at the clients’ request, due to shielding or other vulnerabilities.


    ·            External works such as ramps continued  ...  view the full minutes text for item 63.


Equality Annual Position Statement pdf icon PDF 217 KB

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    To consider the 2019/20 position statement for Equalities

    Additional documents:


    The Cabinet member for Communities introduced the report, presenting the Equality and Diversity Annual Position Statement 2020.  The Councillor requested that members consider the contents of the report and make comments, prior to its publication.


    The author of the report, Community Engagement and Policy Development Officer was introduced to the Committee and presented the contents of the Annual Statement. 


    The Equality Act 2010, section 149, imposed a duty on public sector organisations, to have due regard to:


    ·            Eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation


    ·            Advance opportunities for people who shared protected characteristics and those who didn’t.


    ·            Foster good relations between those who shared a protected characteristic and those that didn’t. 


    These were known as the three aims of the Equality Duty.


    In addition, there were two more specific duties 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 was to provide information which showed due regard had been given to the three aims of the Equality Duty and included demographic information, broken down by protected characteristic, of the district and SKDC’s workforce.


    The Annual Position Statement, which was found at Appendix A of the report, included the latest Equality Objectives which covered the period 2020 – 2024.  An action plan had been developed which would ensure that the Authority delivered the required outcomes.  All services areas were required to feed in and help deliver those objectives. 


    Whilst producing the Annual Statement members and officers were able to identify areas of underrepresentation in the Authority’s workforce.  The Statement would help improve awareness of equality responsibilities and further embed those within the workforce. 


    Members highlighted an additional word within the Statement and asked if the references to the different religions could appear in a more consistent format. 


    The Committee queried why there was such a high percentage of officers who had not provided information relating to their protected characteristics as part of equality and diversity monitoring.  Members were concerned that perhaps they were not provided the opportunity to give that information.  The Community Engagement and Policy Development Officer advised that the level of information an individual gave in relation to their sexuality, religion etc. was provided on a voluntary basis and there was no obligation to divulge it.  All officers were asked as part of equality and diversity monitoring, however the data showed that there was a high number who did not wish to share that information. 


    Members asked if there was to be further opportunity to undertake further equality and diversity training, as they felt what was received in the past had been beneficial. It was also felt that this type of training should be mandatory for all elected members.  It was advised that there was no mechanism to mandate members to undergo equality and diversity training.  Members Services created the training schedule and the relevant officers would be able to advise when further training was planned.


    It was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 64.


Feedback from the Workshop to Explore Future Working with the Voluntary and Community Sector

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    Verbal update from a recent workshop of the Committee


    A working group met on 27 July 2020 and held a workshop which discussed the Council’s current involvement which the voluntary and community sector.

    The membership of the working group included; members of the Rural and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee, the Cabinet Member for Communities and relevant officers. 


    The workshop covered five topics:


             Councillors – considering the important role Members play

             Conversation and Communication

             Working together

             Celebrating Community Heroes; and

             Grants and Funding Pots.


    As the next item to be considered by members at the meeting was a report regarding Grants and Funding Pots, verbal feedback on the other 4 topics would be provided.


    Feedback from members on the first item had related specifically to the South Kesteven Community Hub and the support provided to communities by the Council and its voluntary and community sector colleagues during lockdown.  Members felt the Community Hub had been invaluable during the Covid-19 pandemic and the fact that information had been sent to vulnerable residents at the start of lockdown had ensured residents were aware of how they could get in touch with the Council and what assistance and support was available to them. 


    Under topic two Members had discussed the introduction of a voluntary and community sector forum.  Members were asked if it was more important to focus on County wide groups or more local ones.  It was agreed that local groups should be the focus and that a database of local groups should be compiled. 


    Members also discussed whether the introduction of an e-newsletter would provide an important link to communities. Members agreed this would be a useful tool but also advocated the use of already established communications such as SK Today and parish newsletters to spread the word.  It was noted that the website required updating and much of the information needed streamlining so that it was more consistent.


    When exploring innovative ways to integrate the delivery of services between the Council and the voluntary and community sector Members provided the following insights:


    ·       The Council should look to groups such as Rotary and Lions clubs for the larger projects that offer volunteering opportunities. These groups were keen to be involved in larger community projects


    ·       Volunteers should never be seen as a money saving scheme to use volunteers to deliver Council services


    ·       Volunteering provides mutual benefit; we can all gain a lot from the process.


    ·       Volunteering has a positive impact on community spirit, mental health and wellbeing


    ·       Volunteering can lead to employment.  Employers look favourably on people who volunteer as it shows local interest.  The Council should consider providing volunteers with certificates to prove their involvement


    Members were reminded that the work of local volunteers had been acknowledged with certificates of appreciation during Volunteer Week 2020.  The workshop considered how volunteers could feel more welcomed and appreciated.  It was noted that volunteers did not enjoy being called ‘Heroes’ and much preferred the term ‘Champion’.  The Grantham Journal Business Awards could potentially include an award which  ...  view the full minutes text for item 65.


Review of Community Funding pdf icon PDF 285 KB

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    Review of existing community funding streams

    Additional documents:


    The Cabinet Member for Communities supported by the Community Engagement and Policy Development Officer presented a report to Members which provided a review of existing community funding streams. There were currently three funding streams, which directly supported voluntary and community groups:


    ·            SK Community Fund: annual funding pot of £100,000 from 2020/21 - this was open to applications from constituted community groups for capital projects and events. Awards were determined by a panel of elected Members, based on agreed criteria


    ·            Ward Member Scheme: annual funding pot – originally set at £26,000 for 2020/21 but increased to £56,000 as a direct response to the Covid-19 outbreak.  Awards were determined by individual elected Members; and


    ·            Foodbank Support Fund 2020/2: one-off support fund of £15,000 for Foodbanks located within South Kesteven. Via the completion of a simple form, Foodbanks could access the fund which would support their operation in any way required and for any amount, whilst there was still budget remaining.


    In addition to the three funding streams there was LotterySK, which provided a platform for groups to raise money through lottery ticket sales.  60p of every ticket sale went to support local voluntary and community groups.  From each £1.00 ticket purchased, the group that the purchaser wished to support would receive 50p and the SK Community Fund would receive 10p.  If no group was specified, then 60p would be allocated to the SK Community Fund. 


    It was the purpose of the report to focus specifically on the SK Community Fund and discuss its operation and impact.  Members of the working group were asked to propose amendments to its criteria. 


    Background of the fund was provided to the Committee. The fund was established in 2015 and until March 2020 was administrated as part of a Service Level Agreement by Lincolnshire Community and Voluntary Service.  The Fund was now managed directly by the Authority. 


    It was highlighted to members the types of projects that the fund supported and the level of grants which they were eligible to receive.  The level of funding enabled applicants to seek up to 80% of the cost of their project.  Since the introduction of the fund, 18 funding rounds had taken place and it had supported 93 capital projects and events. 


    As the agreement between South Kesteven District Council and Lincolnshire Community Voluntary Service had come to an end, alongside a reduction in the funding pot from £150,000 to £100,000, a sensible point to review the criteria of the fund had been identified.  It was important that the fund continued to meet the needs of the community and the priorities of the Council. 


    Due to the impact of Covid-19, the review, which had been scheduled for March 2020, could not take place.  At this point the fund had been temporarily closed to applications, until the necessary changes were able to take place. 


    Covid-19 had a significant impact on communities, both financially and emotionally.  The proposals set out within the report were intended to strengthen the connection with the community  ...  view the full minutes text for item 66.


Lincolnshire Homelessness Strategy Review and the Impact of the Homelessness Reduction Act: SKDC perspective pdf icon PDF 305 KB

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    Report detailing local homelessness information, and the SKDC view of the Lincolnshire Homelessness Strategy Review


    Members considered the report of the Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning on a review of the Lincolnshire Homelessness Strategy and the Impact of the Homelessness Reduction Act (2017).


    It had been two years since the Homelessness Reduction Act (2017) came into force in England, on 3 April 2018.  There were three main changes, which were:


    ·            The definition of homelessness had changed from being threatened with homelessness within 28 days to 56 days


    ·            The introduction of prevention and relief ‘duties’ rather than ‘powers’


    ·            New ‘duty to refer’, which required certain statutory agencies to refer homeless and potentially homeless people to housing authorities (this was introduced in October 2018)


    The Local Government Information Unit (LGUI) report ‘The Homelessness Reduction Act: is it making a difference?”, was published on 7 May 2020. It incorporated findings from two reports: “A Foot in the Door” by Crisis and “Caught in the Act” by Shelter.  The main findings were:


    ·            People were more likely to receive personal assistance from local authorities, especially single adults


    ·            Councils helped about two in five households to resolve their homelessness problem


    ·            Just one in five households assisted through the prevention duty end up staying in their existing home


    ·            ‘Digital gatekeeping’ and other barriers existed at some local authorities


    ·            Personalised plans were too general and not always followed up by councils


    ·            The duty to refer was having limited success but did not include enough public bodies


    The report stated how the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) showed figures relating to the national homelessness picture, including the causes of homelessness. Members were also provided with the SKDC comparison. 


    It was important to look at how implementation of the Act could be improved, both Shelter and Crisis were adamant that the solution to homelessness did not lie in better legislation. Councils had made better use of their discretionary housing payments, to help those with rent problems or negotiate with landlords on the tenant’s behalf.  Many customers wanted to be seen by a housing officer in person, rather than via the telephone or online. 


    The introduction of a statutory code of practice which provided a clear and enforceable set of standards for local authorities would hopefully improve standards nationwide. Better partnership working, which included the duty to refer across other bodies and increasing awareness of their obligations under the Act would also contribute to reducing homelessness. 


    In 2017 the MHCLG provided councils in England with £73,000,000 in funding over three years, as part of ‘New Burdens’ funding.  It was felt that this was not sufficient by many local authorities. South Kesteven District Council had received £27,536 in New Burdens Funding.


    South Kesteven was part of a countywide Lincolnshire Homelessness Strategy (2017 – 2021) and the report highlighted several achievements made as a part of the Strategy.  In addition to this South Kesteven was also part of the Lincolnshire Rough Sleeping Strategy (2019 – 2021), a countywide action plan was to be drawn up to tackle the challenges identified by  ...  view the full minutes text for item 67.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 232 KB

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    The Committee noted the contents of the Work Programme.


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

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    The Chairman had no further business to discuss.



Close of meeting

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    The meeting closed at 15:27.