Agenda and minutes

Business Support Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 7 July 2022 6.00pm

Venue: St George's Centre, Pembroke Road, Chatham Maritime, Chatham ME4 4UH. View directions

Contact: Steve Platt, Democratic Services Officer 

Media

Items
No. Item

100.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Curry, Murray and Williams.

101.

Record of meeting pdf icon PDF 208 KB

To approve the record of the meeting held on 10 May 2022 and the record of the Joint Meeting of Committees held on 18 May 2022.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The record of the meeting held on 10 May 2022 and the record of the Joint Meeting of Committees held on 18 May 2022 were agreed and signed by the Chairman. 

102.

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.

103.

Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Other Significant Interests and Whipping pdf icon PDF 471 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)

 

Councillor Doe disclosed that he was a Director of Kyndi and Medway Development Company (MDC) and he relied on a dispensation granted by the Councillor Conduct Committee to enable him to take part in the discussion of the report at agenda item 5 (Attendance of the Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Housing and Community Services).

 

Other interests

 

Councillor Buckwell disclosed that he was an Immigration Judge and did not take part in the discussion on refugees under agenda item 6 (Attendance of the Portfolio Holder for Resources).

 

Councillor Opara disclosed that her business had participated in the Kickstart scheme, as HR was included in the report at agenda item 6 (Attendance of the Portfolio Holder for Resources).

104.

Attendance of the Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Housing and Community Services pdf icon PDF 596 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 considered a report setting out activities and progress on work areas within the Housing and Community Services Portfolio, which fell within the remit of this Committee.

 

The following issues were discussed:

 

Homelessness and housing options:

 

·      Asked to comment on the practice of relocating people out of the area and accepting homeless people from other areas, the Portfolio Holder said that the object was to avoid sending anyone out of area. The service was sensitive to the fact that people had links and support networks within Medway which would be lost if this happened.

 

·      The Portfolio Holder was asked to comment on the risk of homeowners, for the first time, losing their homes as a result of the cost of living crisis. He said that he had held discussions with officers about this and the situation would be monitored. Support that could be offered included discussions with mortgage companies, signposting residents to the Citizens Advice Bureau, and financial advice. There would always be circumstances which could lead to people becoming homeless, such as family arguments, and the lockdowns had led to an increase in such circumstances. The Council had been successful in helping to prevent this, for example by supporting reconciliation efforts. The aim was to identify the issue and support people before a situation reached the point of possible homelessness. However, sometimes people were determined to go down the repossession route, for example where the relationship between landlord and tenant had completely broken down.

 

·      Asked how many of the 310 households in temporary accommodation were in Medway and how many included children, the Portfolio Holder said that he believed all were in Medway. The service tried to house families with children as quickly and sympathetically as possible, recognising that children needed a strong base. Where it was no longer possible for a young person to live in the family home, the Council had a number of tools to assist, which included placing them in temporary accommodation whilst alternative solutions were sought. He confirmed that no children were in bed and breakfast accommodation. The Portfolio Holder highlighted the close links which had been strengthened between Housing and Children’s services.

 

Housing management and allocations

 

·       The Portfolio Holder responded to concerns expressed about some Housing Associations’ unresponsiveness when contacted by the Council or tenants. He considered that some had become too large. There remained the option to remove a Housing Association from the Council’s list should there continue to be issues. Complaints could also be made to Homes England which could result in a loss of funding. It was requested that Councillors be sent a point of contact for all social landlords.

 

·       Responding to a case where an applicant had waited 11 years for accommodation, the Portfolio Holder said that this was very much a one-off case and was likely to be due to someone wanting a specific property.

 

Housing strategy

 

·      Commenting on the initiatives introduced in response to the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, the Portfolio Holder said that these were  ...  view the full minutes text for item 104.

105.

Attendance of the Portfolio Holder for Resources pdf icon PDF 752 KB

This report provides an overview of activities and progress made on work areas within the Resources Portfolio, which fall within the remit of this Committee. This information is provided in relation to the Portfolio Holder for Resources being held to account.

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report setting out activities and progress on work areas within the Resources Portfolio, which fell within the remit of this Committee.

 

The following issues were discussed:

 

Transformation and digital services:

 

·      In view of residents’ different views on the extent to which services were accessible digitally, the Portfolio Holder was asked if the right balance was being achieved. He responded that the use of digital services was promoted and was increasing. However, it was recognised that there were residents who did not have access to digital services and whilst this continued, non-digital services would be available.  Responding to a question on the benefit of face-to-face contact, for example at Community Hubs, the Portfolio Holder recognised the good service that the hubs provided. He had observed that during the lockdowns, some older people had learnt how to use digital services but emphasised that services should be readily available to all.

 

·      On the suggestion of a directory of the different ways that Council services could be accessed, he said that it was important that residents were signposted to the right service, either on-line or by Community Hubs.

 

·      Asked to expand on the digitisation of Planning microfiche files, the Portfolio Holder said that the Council’s planners regularly needed to refer to previous planning applications and the digitisation of microfiche and paper records would improve their accessibility.

 

·      The Portfolio Holder responded to a question on the use of partner organisations’ CCTV records, referring to CCTV consortium meetings and his liaison with his counterpart at Gravesham Council. He said that his initial focus was on those cameras connected to Kyndi’s system and the host of others owned by the Council. The Portfolio Holder referred to the appointment of an officer who was the main point of contact for all CCTV.

 

·      On the implications of the transfer of the sign shop services, the Portfolio Holder said that this was to realise the commercial potential of the service which had previously operated on a cost/break even basis.

 

·      Concern was expressed that requests for signage were not being processed quickly enough. The Portfolio Holder agreed to make enquiries about the specific issues raised. He would also raise it at the next Medway Norse Liaison Board meeting.

 

·       Asked if the Love Medway app would be reinstated, the Portfolio Holder agreed that this would be beneficial.

 

·       With reference to the review of new legislation to enforce moving traffic offences, such as yellow box junctions, concern was expressed that drivers were sometimes caught in box junctions due to the inconsiderate driving of drivers in front of them. It was hoped that wider video evidence would be available to demonstrate this. The Portfolio Holder said that the details had yet to be finalised but agreed that it needed to be fair.

 

·       Whilst welcoming the support for Ukrainian refugees within Medway, concern was expressed that there had not previously been the same level of support for refugees from other countries. The Portfolio Holder agreed that helping people in distress was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 105.

106.

Work programme pdf icon PDF 175 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:

 

The Committee received a report on its current work programme and discussed the issue of document retention, particularly emails, once an employee had left the Council. This issue had arisen at the meeting of the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 8 June on the Gillingham Football Club School.

 

It was requested that this Committee be informed of the processes and practices relating to the retention of records used to inform decisions taken under the Employee Delegation Scheme. This would be discussed at the next agenda planning meeting.

 

A Member recalled a discussion at the last meeting that the Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Opposition Spokesperson would have early sight of the Cabinet report responding to the Committee’s recommendations on the call-in of decisions relating to a proposed development of Queen Street.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee:

 

a)     agreed the Committee’s work programme at Appendix 1; and

 

b)     noted the work programmes of the other overview and Scrutiny committees at Appendix 2.