Agenda and draft minutes

Business Support Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Thursday, 31 January 2019 6.30pm

Venue: Meeting Room 9 - Level 3, Gun Wharf, Dock Road, Chatham ME4 4TR. View directions

Contact: Michael Turner, Democratic Services Officer 

Items
No. Item

766.

Chairman's Announcements

Minutes:

a)     The Chairman announced the sad death of Councillor Carr, who had served as Chairman of the Committee since May 2016. Councillor Carr  had always taken his responsibilities seriously, carrying them out with fairness, good humour and civility. Councillors Etheridge and Murray also paid tribute to Councillor Carr, commenting on his many contributions to the Council and how important his family had always been to him.

The Committee asked that a letter of condolence be sent to Councillor Carr’s family.

 

Everyone present then stood for a minute’s silence in memory of Councillor Carr.

 

b)        The Chairman welcomed Dawn Hudd to her first meeting of the Committee following her appointment to the post of Assistant Director, Physical and Cultural Regeneration.

 

c)        The Chairman advised that, as a result of the decisions taken at the Council meeting last week to review the allocation of Committee seats, the seat previously allocated to the former UKIP Group had been re-designated as a vacancy. The vacancy as a result of the death of Councillor Carr had been filled by Cllr Fearn.

 

d)        The Chairman agreed to accept a petition from a member of the public regarding the Brook Car Park in Chatham. It was noted the petition would be dealt with in accordance with the Council’s Petitions Scheme.

 

 

767.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Fearn and Mrs Iles. 

768.

Record of meeting pdf icon PDF 113 KB

To approve the record of the meeting held on 29 November 2018.

Minutes:

The record of the meeting held on 29 November 2018 was agreed and signed by the Chairman as correct. 

769.

Urgent matters by reason of special circumstances

The Chairman will announce any late items which do not appear on the main agenda but which he/she has agreed should be considered by reason of special circumstances to be specified in the report.

Minutes:

There were none. 

770.

Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Other Significant Interests and Whipping pdf icon PDF 212 KB

Members are invited to disclose any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Other Significant Interests in accordance with the Member Code of Conduct.  Guidance on this is set out in agenda item 4.

 

Minutes:

Disclosable pecuniary interests

 

There were none.

 

Other significant interests (OSIs)

 

There were none.

 

Other interests

 

There were none.

 

Councillor Doe advised that, in relation to agenda item, he had received a dispensation from the Councillor Conduct Committee which allowed him to participate in any discussion on Medway Development Company Limited, as Director and Chairman.

771.

Attendance of the Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Housing and Community Services pdf icon PDF 573 KB

This report sets out activities and progress on work areas within the Housing and Community Services Portfolio, which fall within the remit of this Committee. This information is provided in relation to the Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Housing and Community Services being held to account.

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members received an overview of progress on the area within the terms of

reference of this Committee covered by Councillor Howard Doe, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Housing and Community Services, i.e.

 

• All Housing Services (including HRA)

• Homelessness and Housing Options

• Private sector housing

• Adult learning

• Libraries and Community Hubs

• Voluntary sector

 

Councillor Doe responded to Members’ questions as follows:

 

·         Rough sleeping – a Member queried how the reduction in

rough sleepers had been achieved and what was planned for existing rough sleepers when freezing temperatures were forecast. Councillor Doe advised that the arrangements for dealing with rough sleepers had been overhauled, helped by Government funding. Over 50 rough sleepers had been supported into accommodation and the emphasis was now focused on offering assistance to a hard core of rough sleepers. Other measures to tackle the problem included Housing First (a scheme to place rough sleepers into accommodation and support them to sustain their tenancy) and an increase in hostel provision. When the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol was in place outreach workers would look out for rough sleepers and assistance could be sought from Kingsley House.

 

A Member commended the work of the homelessness team and asked whether Housing First represented a long term solution to tackle rough sleeping. Councillor Doe commented that Housing First had the potential to dramatically reduce homelessness but could never eradicate it as there would always be some people who did not want to be helped. The key was to work with people on a one to one basis and encourage then to turn their life around. A Member disagreed with this outlook that there would always be some people who could not be reached and argued the approach should be to offer intensive support to people, many of whom had ended up making poor choices as a result of complex and difficult experiences. There was also a need for more affordable accommodation, particularly as targets had not been met, and the Council should also look at introducing a licensing scheme. In response, Councillor Doe emphasised that everything possible was being done to help people in this situation but, ultimately, there would always be an element of free will. The affordable housing target had not been met due to the late development of two external care schemes. More affordable housing would result from develpments planned in Medway. The Council did not have the resources to introduce a licensing scheme.

 

 

·         Emergency accommodation for vulnerable rough sleepers – a Member queried how much was delivered by external organisations and Councillor Doe replied that a Charter had been agreed to ensure the Council and other agencies worked together in a co-ordinated way. Details of respective roles could be provided.

 

·         Homelessness – a Member asked for details of the new Homelessness Hub and its location. Councillor Doe responded that this would be operational in a matter of weeks and would be located in Chatham. Regarding the landlord helpline aimed at preventing  ...  view the full minutes text for item 771.

772.

Becoming a Single Use Plastic Free Council pdf icon PDF 272 KB

This report outlines progress in becoming a single use plastic free Council.

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report on progress in becoming a single use plastic free Council.

 

A Member welcomed the progress that had been made and asked for an update on how long the contracts with the existing catering providers were in place for and also if the events infrastructure framework would be in place for  April 2019 as planned. The Head of Category Management advised that the deadline for existing contractors becoming single use plastic free had been optimistic in terms of assuming how receptive they would be. Progress was now dependant on when the infrastructure framework was in place as this would now cover all catering provision and not just events catering as originally envisaged. This was expected to be in place around July/August.

 

A Member argued that any existing catering provider who had not yet engaged with the Council on this issue should not be considered for an extension to their contracts. The Head of Category Management replied that where there was a lack of co-operation the Council could not unilaterally alter contracts.

 

The view was expressed that, once the Council had become fully single use plastic free, it should then lead by example by promoting the message across businesses, partners and residents.

 

A Member made the point that the Council should look at this issue more broadly and consider the environmental impacts of all its activities. The Chief Legal Officer agreed to look at carrying out an environmental audit across all purchasing and see if this could be incorporated into the refreshed procurement strategy.

 

Decision: 

 

The Committee agreed to:

 

a)     note the update on progress made to becoming a single use plastic free Council, and;

 

b)     welcome the suggestion that an environmental audit be carried out across all of the Council’s purchasing activities with a view to incorporating this into the procurement strategy.

 

 

773.

Medway Norse Update pdf icon PDF 143 KB

This report represents a review of the performance of the Joint Venture from the perspective of the Council client for first six months of the 2018/19

financial year and is accompanied by an update on the Joint Venture’s

achievements and financial performance prepared by the Partnership Director.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report which represented a review of the performance of the Joint Venture from the perspective of the Council client for first six months of the 2018/19 financial year. The report was accompanied by an update on the Joint Venture’s achievements and financial performance prepared by the Partnership Director.

 

Referring to the horticultural works figures, a Member noted that 32% of planned works had been completed and asked if the remaining works were in specific areas or more widely spread. The Partnership Director replied that this figure was the position at the point the report had been written. Since then the outstanding works had been completed.

 

A Member expressed disappointment at the amount of commercial growth achieved, queried the ability of Medway Norse to generate income from non- council services and asked what proportion of the reported £292,338 generated from commercial growth was external to the Council. The Partnership Director advised that £16,000 of that figure represented council contracts. The target was to grow by 10% per annum and Medway Norse was bidding for contracts within and outside Medway with an expectation that commercial growth would increase by £200,000.

 

During the discussion the following questions and points were made:

 

·         Budget pressures facing Medway Norse – the main budgetary pressure was the increase in the National Living Wage from April which would produce a £200,000 pressure. The Chief Finance Officer clarified the £112,000 referred to in the report was the unfunded uplift for 2018/19 and the £200,000 figure was the uplift for 2019/20. The Council’s draft budget for 2019/20 sought to address both pressures.

·         Medway Norse’s preparedness for Brexit – internal discussions had taken place and had identified that very few of the workforce were EU citizens and the majority of suppliers were UK based.

·         Preparation for delivering the waste contract – options were being considered for a yard for vehicles and staff and a solution was expected to be found shortly.

·         Café at Eastgate House – the relationship with the Adult Education Centre had improved and the number of people visiting the café had increased.

·         Handing back services to the Council – there were no plans to hand any service back to the Council in the next 12 months.

·         Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) – referring to the possible introduction of a charge for non-Medway residents if Kent County Council introduced a charge at their sites, a Member asked for an assessment of the impact this might have on Medway’s HWRCs. The Partnership Director commented the operational implications of a charge were being discussed but there would be an impact on queues and there were concerns around security.

·         Villager bus – Members were assured this service was still operating.

·         Sports pitches - in response to whether there were any plans to introduce innovations, Members were advised that Medway Norse had invested in new line marking equipment and this service would be promoted to academies, football grounds etc.

 

Decision: 

 

The Committee agreed to note the report.

 

 

774.

Housing Revenue Account - Capital and Revenue Budgets 2019/2020 pdf icon PDF 799 KB

This report presents the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) capital and revenue budgets for 2019/20, provides details of proposed rent and service charge levels for 2019/20 and also contains the latest revised forecasts of the HRA Business Plan.

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report which presented the Housing Revenue Account

(HRA) capital and revenue budgets for 2019/20 and provided details of

proposed rent and service charge levels for 2019/20.

 

With regard to how the extended five year contract with Mears would be monitored, the Head of Strategic Housing advised that performance was measured and discussed monthly with Mears. A request for information on any break clauses in the contract would be provided to Members.

 

A Member asked if the Government had indicated what the position would be after the final year of the rent reductions the Council had been required to make. The Head of Strategic Housing responded that his assumption, based on indications from the Government, was for rent increases of consumer price inflation plus 1%.

 

Clarification was requested on what contingencies were in place in the 2019/20 financial year for the impact of Universal Credit (UC) arrears on the HRA account and also council tax arrears. The Committee was advised that, as well as bad debt provision, the welfare reform team would look to mitigate any impacts of UC. However, this still presented a significant risk for the HRA account. The Council was actively working with tenants to provide support to ensure rent continued to be paid and tenancies were sustained.

 

A Member queried the loss of income from the 225 properties expected to be lost as a result of Right to Buy. The Head of Strategic Housing clarified this loss was over a 30 year period and details of Right to Buy discounts would be clarified. A Member queried how Right to Buy receipts could be used and was advised that the formula for determining this was quite complex but broadly, after allowances which the Council could deduct from the receipt, the Government received 70% and the Council’s share was 30%.

 

Following a query about garage voids, the Head of Strategic Housing commented these were advertised locally and undertook to provide details of the number of voids.

 

A Member referred to the HRA working balances and, noting that the actual balance exceeded the recommended best practice guideline, queried whether this was appropriate given the need for more affordable housing. Officers responded that a prudent approach had been taken in the light of government policies, such as the high value asset levy) and the risk of future changes in Government policy which could impact on the HRA.

 

Decision: 

 

The Committee agreed to recommend the following to the Cabinet:

 

a)     a proposed rent decrease of 1% for the housing stock as set out in Appendix A to the report (based upon 53 collection weeks) with effect from 1 April 2019;

 

b)     a proposed average rent of £82.47 per week based on a 53 week rent cycle be agreed for the six new build one bedroom bungalows at Perham Green Twydall (estimated let date Autumn 2019);

 

c)     the baseline garage rent for Council tenants be increased by £1 from £8.12 to £9.12 with effect from 1 April 2019 per  ...  view the full minutes text for item 774.

775.

Draft Capital and Revenue Budgets 2019/2020 pdf icon PDF 390 KB

This report provides an update on progress towards setting the Council’s draft capital and revenue budgets for 2019/20. 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report which provided an update on progress towards setting the Council’s draft capital and revenue budgets for 2019/20. In accordance with the Constitution, Cabinet was required to develop ‘initial budget proposals’ approximately three months before finalising the budget and setting council tax levels at the end of February 2019.

 

The draft budget was based on the principles contained in the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) 2018-2023 approved by Cabinet in September and reflected the latest formula grant assumptions.

 

A Member queried the reasons for the extra addition of Medway Matters given the overspend reported and asked for an update following the recent Government announcements of a reduction in Public Health funding and additional local authority funding to prepare for Brexit. The Chief Finance Officer advised that the extra edition of Medway Matters was a result of a request from the Administration; that the Public Health Grant adjustment represented a £7,500 reduction and no conditions had been imposed on how the Brexit funding could be used. 

 

Decision: 

 

The Committee agreed to:

 

a)     note that Cabinet has instructed officers to continue to work with Portfolio Holders in formulating robust proposals to balance the budget for 2019/20 and beyond, and;

 

b)        note the proposals outlined in the draft capital and revenue budgets in so far as they relate to the services within the remit of this Committee.

776.

Draft Capital and Revenue Budget Proposals 2019/2020 (Report back from other Overview & Scrutiny Committees) pdf icon PDF 112 KB

This report presents for consideration the comments of all Overview and Scrutiny Committees on the provisional draft budget for 2019/2020 proposed by Cabinet on 20 November 2018.

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report which set out the comments of all Overview and

Scrutiny Committees on the provisional draft budget for 2019/20 proposed by

Cabinet on 20 November 2018. These would be considered at the Council

budget meeting on 21 February 2019 together with the Cabinet’s budget

proposals.

 

Decision: 

 

The Committee agreed:

 

a)     that all the comments of the Overview and Scrutiny committees, as set out in Section 3 of the report, together with this Committee’s comments under agenda item 9, be forwarded to Cabinet on 5 February 2018, and;

 

b)     to recommend to Cabinet that the Council’s mod.gov e-petition scheme not be upgraded until such time as additional funds become available.

 

777.

Council Plan Refresh 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 328 KB

This report sets out proposed changes to the Council Plan.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report which presented a summary of the proposed measures to be used for monitoring the Council Plan 2019/20. The Committee also considered an addendum report which set out details of changes to two of the Council Plan measures. The latter report explained that national data had been received in respect of two of the measures (i.e. ASCOF 2A (2) (Permanent admissions to care homes) and EDU3 (b) (The percentage of children who were persistently absent from school)). As a result, the targets relating to these two measures had been amended to bring them in line with national performance.

 

The following measures were discussed:

 

PH14 (Excess weight in 4-5 year olds) – in response to a query, officers clarified that although the proposed target percentage figure had increased in relation to the existing target, this did in fact represent a reduced target. In this case the aim was to minimise and therefore a higher target value was a reduced target (i.e. less challenging).

 

FIN (Unmodified/positive value for money conclusion from the Council’s external auditors) – a Member made the point that it was possible that a non-value for money issue, such as an adverse Ofsted report, could also lead to a qualified opinion from the external auditor.

 

DIGI TU 01 (Digital take up) – a Member asked if more thought could be given to this target to ensure it was meaningful.

 

HC3 (No. of households with dependent children in B&B who have resided there for 6+ weeks at the end of the quarter) -  a Member proposed that there should be an additional measure so that the overall direction of travel regarding children in temporary accommodation was reflected, with a possible target of the number of children in temporary accommodation in Medway. 

 

Decision: 

 

The Committee agreed to:

 

a)        note the revised measures as set out in paragraph 1.2 above;

 

b)        note the proposed changes to programmes and measures of success as listed above and in Appendix 1 to the report at agenda item no. 11 and recommend to Cabinet that an additional measure is added to the Council Plan aimed at reflecting the overall direction of travel regarding children in temporary accommodation, and;

 

c)         note that, with regard to those Council Plan measures still awaiting a proposed target that Full Council will be asked to delegate authority to the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Resources, to agree the final measures.  

 

778.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 198 KB

This item advises Members of the current work programme and allows the Committee to adjust it in the light of latest priorities, issues and circumstances. It gives Members the opportunity to shape and direct the Committee’s activities over the year. 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report regarding the Committee’s work programme.

 

It was proposed that the capacity of the voluntary sector in Medway item in the date to be determined section of the work programme be considered at the July meeting.

 

A Member referred to the bid to the future high streets fund and suggested that the Chairmen and Opposition Spokespersons on the Business Support and Regeneration, Culture and Environment O&S Committees be invited to a meeting to discuss the bid.

 

Decision: 

 

The Committee agreed to:

 

a)     note the work programme set out in Appendix 1 to the report and also to move the capacity of the voluntary sector in Medway item in the date to be determined section of the work programme to the July meeting.

 

b)     note the work programmes of the other overview and scrutiny

       committees set out in Appendix 2 to the report;

 

c)    add to the work programme for the July meeting a report setting out all

Council services which have been transferred to Medway Commercial

Group and Medway Norse which have come back to the Council,

together with details of what action the Council subsequently took;

 

d)     agree to start the next Task Group in the Summer and note that, at the

July meeting, Members will be asked to select a topic for the next Task

Group from the three listed in paragraph 3.4.1 of the report and to also launch the process for selecting the next round of review topics, and;

 

e)     request that the Chairmen and Opposition Spokespersons on the Business Support and Regeneration, Culture and Environment O&S Committees be invited to a meeting to discuss the future high streets fund bid.