Agenda and draft minutes

Business Support Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 28 January 2021 6.00pm

Venue: Virtual Meeting

Contact: Steve Platt, Democratic Services Officer 

Media

Items
No. Item

680.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Clarke, Johnson, Murray, Opara and Williams.

 

(During this period, the Conservative and Labour and Co-operative political groups had informally agreed, due the Coronavirus pandemic, to run meetings with reduced number of participants. This was to reduce risk, comply with Government guidance and enable more efficient meetings. Therefore, the apologies given reflected that informal agreement of reduced participants.)

681.

Record of meeting pdf icon PDF 137 KB

To approve the record of the meeting held on 26 November 2020.

Minutes:

The record of the meeting of the Committee held on 26 November 2020 was agreed and signed by the Chairman as correct. 

682.

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.

683.

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 declared an OSI in agenda item 7 (Attendance of the Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Housing and Community Services), because he is the Chairman and Director of Medway Development Company (MDC) Ltd and Medway Commercial Group (MCG) Ltd and he relied on a dispensation granted by the Councillor Conduct Committee to enable him to take part in the discussion.

 

Other interests

 

In relation to item 6 (Medway Community Lottery), Councillor Hackwell declared that he was a trustee of a local charity.

 

In relation to item 7 (Attendance of the Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Housing and Community Services), Councillor Hackwell declared that his wife was a part-time assessor and tutor with Adult Education.

684.

Establishment of a Medway Community Lottery pdf icon PDF 261 KB

To note the Cabinet’s agreement to the launch of an on-line Medway Community Lottery (“the Lottery”) to help fund discretionary support for the local voluntary and community sector and to enable such organisations to raise funds which will directly benefit local people and communities. This report was considered by the Cabinet on 17 November 2020.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

The Chairman welcomed to the meeting Phil Wright of Gatherwell, the External Lottery Manager for Medway Community Lottery. Mr Wright gave a presentation to the Committee, explaining that Gatherwell had experience of running lotteries for 86 local authorities with the aim of increasing funding for good causes.

In his presentation, and in response to questions from members of the Committee, Mr Wright and officers made the following points:

·      Tickets cost £1 and could only be bought in blocks or through direct debit or regular card purchases to stop impulse gambling.

 

  • 50% of the sale of a ticket was directly paid to the good causes specified by individual lottery players; 10% was paid into a central fund; 20% was paid in prize money to participants; and 20% was the associated running cost.
  • The Chief Legal Officer said that the Council’s costs would be met from the central fund. No decision had yet been taken on the remaining amount in the fund.
  • Participants choose 6 numbers and the more numbers that were matched with the numbers drawn, the greater the prize. If winners had opted to share their details, these would be shown on the website.
  • The protection of lottery participants’ data was paramount; Gatherwell was payment card industry compliant and independently audited.

 

  • Lottery winners were given the opportunity to donate their prize back to the cause they were supporting.

 

  • There was no risk to the Council to cover the cost of prizes as this risk was managed by Gatherwell.

 

  • It was planned to launch Medway Community Lottery on 8 March 2021 with tickets on sale in April for the first draw in May.

 

  • It was projected that between 0.5% and 1.5% of the local 16+ population would participate in the lottery.

 

  • In terms of marketing, the aim was to involve as many causes as possible, subject to them meeting the Council’s criteria, as this would increase the amount of money raised. One means of promoting the lottery was through participating organisations’ Facebook page.

 

  • The Chief Finance Officer agreed to ascertain whether it was a requirement for lottery cheques to have two signatories.

 

  • All of the 86 local authority community lotteries that had been established were continuing to operate.

 

  • Part of the fee paid to the Lotteries Council went to organisations that supported people with a gambling problem.

 

  • Gatherwell would be raising the minimum age for players from 16 to 18 in advance of the National Lottery, which was making this change from October 2021. At present only 0.054% of players were under the age of 18.

 

  • Gatherwell had not received any feedback that their lotteries had adversely affected lotteries operated by charities in the local authority area.

 

  • Gatherwell had experience of rebranding a community lottery where two local authorities had merged.

 

Decision:

 

On behalf of the Committee, the Chairman thanked Phil Wright for attending the meeting to give his presentation and answer Members’ questions.

685.

Attendance of the Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Housing and Community Services pdf icon PDF 504 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 activities and progress made on work areas within the Housing and Community Services Portfolio, which fell within the remit of the Committee. These were as follows:

 

·            Disabled adaptations to housing

·            Homelessness and housing options

·            Housing management and allocations

·            Housing strategy

·            Private sector housing

·            Housing Landlord Services

·            Development of the Council’s housing stock

·            Libraries and Community Hubs

·            Adult Learning

·            Climate Change

·            Voluntary Sector

·            Medway Development Company Ltd (MDC).

·            Medway Commercial Group Ltd (MCG).

 

Councillor Doe, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Housing and Community Services attended the meeting and responded to Members’ questions and comments as follows:

 

     Capacity of the Welfare Reform team – Asked whether the team had enough resource to support residents, the Deputy Leader stressed the importance of providing advice in this area to people whose mental health might be under pressure. Adding that it was not easy to measure need, given that it was variable, he assured the Committee that if it was established that the team was under resourced, this would be addressed.

 

     Adult Learning – In response to a question on the role the service would play in helping people get back in to work post-Covid, the Deputy Leader advised that he had joined the Members’ Skills Board to facilitate closer liaison and a joined-up approach to this issue. He added that the Board was very sensitive to the need for more adult education referrals and better incentives for people to take up skills training opportunities as a way of increasing their confidence. This required the co-operation of the Job Centre and Job Centre Plus and this was being addressed.

 

      The Deputy Leader also cited the example of funding that had been secured for an education centre at the Britton Farm Development.

 

     Libraries and Community Hubs – The Deputy Leader agreed that the role of libraries had evolved beyond the traditional model and said that the Community Hub principle was applied to every library so that they provided a central position for the Council within neighbourhoods. The aim was for each Community Hub to offer a range of services to meet the specific needs of its local area.

 

In response to a question on the click and collect service that had been in operation during the Covid pandemic, the Deputy Leader highlighted that the Community Hub concept was to encourage people back into the buildings as this would allow them to access a range of Council services as well as encourage them to take out books by a range of authors rather than sticking to their favourite author, thereby enhancing their reading experience. He was confident that previous customer levels would be achieved through a post-Covid relaunch of the service.  

 

Asked about the proposal for a Community Hub in Rainham, the Deputy Leader referred to the challenge in finding a suitable venue and feedback that had been expressed in favour of retaining the existing building. The proposal therefore required further consideration during which  ...  view the full minutes text for item 685.

686.

Medway Norse Update pdf icon PDF 229 KB

This report represents a review of the performance of the Joint Venture from the perspective of the Council client for the second quarter of the 2020/2021 financial year. It is accompanied by an update on the Joint Venture’s achievements and financial performance prepared by the Partnership Director at Medway Norse. This report was considered by the Cabinet on 15 December 2020.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report which reviewed the performance of the Joint Venture from the perspective of the Council client for the second quarter of the 2020/2021 financial year. It was accompanied by an update on the Joint Venture’s achievements and financial performance prepared by the Partnership Director at Medway Norse.

 

The Partnership Director highlighted the Covid-related challenges that the Medway Norse workforce had faced during the quarter, in particular the increased amounts of waste collection undertaken.

 

The following issues were discussed:

 

  • Industrial relations with Unite the union – The Partnership Director reported that industrial relations were better than this time last year and there was healthy interaction with Unite, although there remained a position of non-recognition.

 

  • The potential for expanding into security and CCTV services – The Partnership Director reported that over the past 2 or 3 years an opportunity had arisen for Medway Norse to form a security part of the business. Norse security had a modern surveillance system based in Norwich.

 

  • Deep cleaning of schools – The Partnership Director advised that Medway Norse regularly received compliments for its cleaning services and undertook considerable work sanitising schools.

 

  • Increase in missed waste collections – The Partnership Director considered that the rate remained very similar to previous years and any increase preceded the Norse contract.

 

  • Policy on tree planting to avoid causing structural issues in nearby properties – The Partnership Director confirmed this was considered by the relevant team. He referred to the replacement tree planting programme in avenues which should not cause structural damage.

 

  • Praise for staff – Several Members wished to record their thanks to Medway Norse staff. The Partnership Director said that he would pass this back to the workforce and also recognised the support given by voluntary groups in maintaining the county parks.  

 

Decision:

Members noted the contents of the report and its Appendix.

(In accordance with Council Rule 12.6, Councillors Khan, Maple and Andy Stamp asked that their votes in favour be recorded).

 

687.

Housing Revenue Account Capital and Revenue Budgets 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 735 KB

This report presents the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) capital and revenue budgets for 2021/22 and provides details of proposed rent and service charge levels for 2021/22. The report also contains the latest revised forecasts of the HRA Business Plan. The comments of this Committee will be reported to the Cabinet on 2 February 2021 and Council on 18 February 2021.

Minutes:

Discussion:

The Committee considered a report presenting the Housing Revenue Account capital and revenue budgets for 2021/22 which provided details of proposed rent and service charge levels, and raised the following questions and comments:

·       Void management – It was important to acknowledge that vacant properties were sometimes unavailable for rent because they were in need of repair or refitting.

 

·       Garage rents – The proposed increase of 5% in garage rent seemed high given that the occupancy rate was only 73% and it was suggested that more should be done to increase occupancy levels. In noting this, the Head of Strategic Housing reported that the policy on garages had been relaxed to allow the storage of items other than cars.

 

·       Proposed social rent increase – It was questioned whether an increase in social rent of CPI plus 1%s was reasonable in the current circumstances. The Head of Strategic Housing advised that the Council’s social rents were the lowest in Medway and that there had been a four-year rent freeze despite an increase in costs. He outlined the safeguards that were in place to support tenants on low incomes.

 

·       Rent arrears in the last year due to the pandemic – The Head of Strategic Housing advised that there had been no noticeable increase in rent arrears during the pandemic and that there had been no evictions due to rent arrears.

 

·       Backlog of housing repairs due to the pandemic – The Head of Strategic Housing reported that the backlog in housing repairs from the first period of lockdown had been cleared although a further backlog was building during the current restrictions as non-emergency works had again been suspended.

 

·       Delay in the HRA development programme due to the pandemic – The Head of Strategic Housing advised that a re-tender exercise was underway for phase four of the development programme. The housing market was responding well during the pandemic and there was currently no impact on the programme as a result of the pandemic.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee recommended to the Cabinet:

 

a)      A proposed social rent increase of CPI plus 1% for the housing stock as set out in Appendix A of the report (based on 52 collection weeks) with effect from 05 April 2021.

b)      A proposed affordable rent increase of CPI plus 1% for the housing stock as set out in Appendix B of the report (based on 52 collection weeks) with effect from 05 April 2021.

c)      A proposed rent increase of 5% to be applied to all garage tenure types with effect from 05 April 2020 as stated in section 4 of the report.

d)      That the service charges increases/decreases as set out in Appendix C of the report for 2021/22 be approved.

e)      That the revenue budget for the HRA service for 2021/22 as per Appendix D of the report be approved.

f)       That the proposed 3 year planned maintenance capital programme budget and the funding be approved as set out in section 8.5.3 & 8.5.4 of the report.

g)      To  ...  view the full minutes text for item 687.

688.

Draft Capital and Revenue Budget 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 338 KB

This report presents an update on progress towards setting the Council’s draft capital and revenue budgets for 2020/21. In accordance with the Constitution, Cabinet is required to develop ‘initial budget proposals’ approximately three months before finalising the budget and setting council tax levels at the end of February 2021. The draft budget is based on the principles contained in the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) 2021-2023 considered by the Cabinet on 17 November.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

The Committee considered a report presenting an update on progress towards setting the Council’s draft capital and revenue budgets for 2020/21, and raised the following questions and comments:

 

  • Potential redundancies – Concern was raised regarding the possibility of redundancies as a result of the budget proposals. The Chief Finance Officer responded that he was not aware of any measures underpinning the proposals contained within the Cabinet report that would require redundancies.

 

  • Fees and charges – Concern was raised regarding the proposal to increase crematorium fees from £480 to £710, given the increase in demand for the service during the pandemic. The Chief Finance Officer confirmed that this proposal was being reconsidered.

 

Decision:

 

a)   The Committee noted that Cabinet has instructed officers to continue to work with Portfolio Holders in formulating robust proposals to balance the budget for 2021/22 and beyond.

 

b)     The Committee was supportive of the proposals outlined in the draft capital and revenue budgets in so far as they related to the services within the remit of this committee, and also agreed to forward the comments from the individual Overview and Scrutiny Committees, as set out in Appendix 4 of the report.

 

(In accordance with Council Rule 12.6, Councillors Khan, Maple and Andy Stamp asked that their votes in favour be recorded).

689.

Voluntary Sector Task Group pdf icon PDF 181 KB

This report sets out Cabinet’s consideration of the Voluntary Sector Task Group’s recommendations.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

The Committee received a report on Cabinet’s consideration of the recommendations of the Voluntary Sector Task Group. The Cabinet had instructed officers to undertake a full assessment of the recommendations and report back on the effect the pandemic has had on the needs of the sector, and the Committee noted the revised recommendations approved by Cabinet.

Members were pleased to note the agreed recommendations,particularly the development of a business case to create a voluntary sector liaison post and the development of a written document between the Council, NHS and VCS that signified its commitment to work in partnership.

A brief update was given on the progress to date in taking forward Cabinet’s decisions. A more detailed progress report would be provided when the Committee undertook it’s six month review. 

Decision:

The Committee noted the report.

(In accordance with Council Rule 12.6, Councillors Khan, Maple and Andy Stamp asked that their votes in favour be recorded).

690.

Council Strategy and Council Plan Refresh 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 197 KB

The Council Strategy sets out the Council’s key priorities, the outcomes we expect to achieve and the programmes that will deliver. The Council Plan is the delivery plan which sets out the measures that will be used to track performance against the Council’s key priorities. Following consultation with directorates and Covid19 recovery workstreams, this report proposes the Council Strategy 21/22 and the Council Plan 2021/22. Members are asked to consider these proposals and forward any comments to Cabinet on 2 February 2021, prior to consideration by Full Council on 18 February 2021, for implementation from April 2021.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

The Committee considered a report on the proposed Council Strategy 2021/22 and Council Plan 2021/22 and raised the following comment:

 

·       Reduction in performance targets – Concern was expressed regarding the proposed reduction in target for certain Council Plan performance measures in view of reduced Council activity due to the pandemic. One example was PH13 – rate per 100,000 of self-reported 4 week smoking quitters age 16+. It was suggested that the existing targets be retained and that an accompanying narrative should explain why the target had not been met due to the focus being on Covid related activity. The Head of Performance and Business Intelligence agreed to ask colleagues in Public Health to respond.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee:

 

a)     supported the refreshed Council Strategy as shown in Appendix 1 of the report.

 

b)     supported the refreshed Council Plan measures as shown in Appendix 2 of the report.

 

(In accordance with Council Rule 12.6, Councillors Khan, Maple and Andy Stamp asked that their votes in favour be recorded).

691.

Risk Management, Emergency Planning and Business Continuity pdf icon PDF 265 KB

This report informs members of the Council’s responsibilities for Risk Management (RM), Emergency Planning (EP) and Business Continuity (BC) and how these management processes complement each other to protect the Council.

Minutes:

Discussion:

The Committee considered a report which informed members of the Council’s responsibilities for Risk Management (RM), Emergency Planning (EP) and Business Continuity (BC) and how these management processes complemented each other to protect the Council.

 

During the discussion, the following issues were raised and responded to:

 

·        Risk Register – The risk register should largely reflect the risk registers of Kent and the United Kingdom. In response the Head of Performance and Business Intelligence set out the ways in which risk information and best practice was shared, both within the South-East and nationally. She assured Members that this joint working enabled horizon scanning to identify potential issues for Medway’s Strategic Risk Management Group to consider.

 

·        Emergency Planning Team – Assurance was sought regarding the resilience of the Council’s Emergency Planning Team which had previously been reduced from six members of staff to two. The Head of Performance and Business Intelligence undertook to liaise with the Assistant Director, Front-Line Services and respond to the Councillor.

Decision:

 

Members noted the report.

 

(In accordance with Council Rule 12.6, Councillors Khan, Maple and Andy Stamp asked that their votes in favour be recorded).

692.

Risk Strategy Annual Review pdf icon PDF 172 KB

In accordance with the Council’s Risk Management Strategy, this report presents the annual review of the Risk Strategy.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

The Committee considered a report on the annual review of the Risk Strategy, and raised the following question:

 

·       Risk registers of Council organisations – Clarification was sought on whether the same system was used for the risk registers of all Council organisations such so that they were similar and comparable. The Head of Performance and Business Intelligence said that she had held discussions with both MDC and MCG on the risk matrix that they used and she was confident that the way in which they presented and scored risk was very similar to the Council. She undertook to raise this again when she next met with them.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee:

 

a)     The Committee reviewed the 2021/22 Risk Management Strategy at Appendix 1 to the report, setting out the Council’s approach to Risk Management; and

 

b)     noted that the Strategy would be submitted to Cabinet for approval on 2 February 2021.

 

(In accordance with Council Rule 12.6, Councillors Khan, Maple and Andy Stamp asked that their votes in favour be recorded).

 

693.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 179 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 considered a report regarding the Committee’s current work programme.

 

In addition to the changes proposed in the report, it was proposed that the Committee receive a six month progress report on the outcome of the Voluntary Sector Task Group recommendations at the appropriate meeting in the 2021/22 municipal year.  

 

Members took the opportunity to pay tribute to the considerable contribution made by Julie Keith who had retired as Head of Democratic Services.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee:

 

a)   agreed the proposed changes to the Committee’s work programme (Appendix 1 to the report) as set out in paragraph 3 of the report and the addition of a six month progress report on the outcome of the Voluntary Sector Task Group recommendations at the appropriate meeting in the 2021/22 municipal year; and  

 

b)   noted the work programmes of the other overview and scrutiny committees (Appendix 2 to the report).

 

(In accordance with Council Rule 12.6, Councillors Khan, Maple and Andy Stamp asked that their votes in favour be recorded.)