Agenda and draft minutes

Extraordinary, Overview & Scrutiny Panel
Tuesday, 1st October, 2019 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Council Offices, Cecil Street, Margate, Kent. View directions

Contact: Charles Hungwe 

Items
No. Item

190.

Apologies for Absence

191.

Declaration of Interests pdf icon PDF 87 KB

192.

OSP call-in of an Individual Cabinet Member decision - Port and Harbour Projects - Variation to 2019/20 Capital Programme pdf icon PDF 175 KB

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Mr Coombes and Mr Murphy spoke under the Overview & Scrutiny Panel procedures for public speaking.

     

    Councillor Stuart Piper and Councillor Bailey spoke under Council procedure 20.1 and made the following points:

     

    • There was little doubt that the decision was made hurriedly;
    • Expected the reasons for that approach would be explained when the report was made to Full Council;
    • Why did council need two pontoons when initially only one was required?
    • What was the business plan behind the purchase of the pontoons?
    • Did the pontoons still had long to serve before they were replaced?
    • No due diligence of the due process was done in purchasing these pontoons;
    • Did council have firm commitments from that there would be future business activity at the port as asserted in the officer report that accompanied the decision?

     

    Giving the background to the decision Councillor Bayford, Leader of Council made the following comments:

     

    • The capital programme had a budget provision for the replacement of Berth 4/5;
    • A consultant was appointed who carried out the costings for fixed berths costs and they confirmed that those costs were higher than purchasing the two pontoons. The cost would have been well over £2million;
    • The council became aware that there were two pontoons available for sale as a package of two, by a construction company. A proposal for the purchase of the pontoons was considered by a cross party working party and agreed as a viable proposal;
    • The windfarm business would justify this purchase and this seemed like a prudent and smart decision.

     

    Members responded to the submissions with comments and questions as follows:

     

    • It was useful to discuss the proposals in a cross party meeting;
    • Nobody objected to the proposals;
    • However this decision could have considered as a cabinet decision where other members could have had an opportunity to take part in debate before a decision was made;
    • Did the harbour pontoons require planning permission?
    • Was any part of the harbour infrastructure designated as being listed and if they were they would be a need to get planning permission;
    • Could Members of the Panel be given an opportunity to study the legal advice relating to the decision?
    • Was the purchase of the second pontoon part of the business plan?
    • Who inspected the pontoons to determine that they were still in good working condition and how much did it cost the council to hire such service?
    • How long would it take Council to get a return on its investment in the harbour?
    • What was the life expectancy of the two pontoons?
    • Will there be any dredging required to enable the pontoons to fit in properly and had that been costed?
    • Was there going to be any further decision to be made regarding the procurement of the pontoons?

     

    In response to comments and questions from the Panel, Councillor Bayford, Mike Humber, Head of Maritime and Technical Services and Gavin Waite Director of Operational Services made the following points:

     

193.

East Kent Housing Q1 Performance Report for 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 203 KB

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Deborah Upton, Chief Executive of East Kent Housing introduced the item and made the following points:

     

    • The performance are that was challenging for the organisation was the capital programme;
    • The minor works/major works voids were within set targets;
    • The major challenge posed by the major works voids was due to the 14 days mandatory moratorium before any work could be done to empty property where asbestos had been detected;
    • With regards to universal credit and income collection, the overall performance was within target;
    • Staff were picking up cases were rent arrears were increasing over the year. Rent support for those individuals who were moving to universal credit was about 5-8 weeks and this was contributing to rent arrears;
    • In the ;last quarter, TDC gave additional funding and this helped residents to stay in their accommodation without being in arrears;
    • Staff were mildly confident that the targets would be achieved by the end of the financial year.

     

    Members of the Panel made comments and asked questions as detailed below:

     

    • What specific measures were being taken to address slippage regarding the capital programme delivery?
    • EKH had shown limited or no assurance after the gas inspection was conducted;
    • EKH had let down the council and exposed residents to health risks;
    • Did EKH have plans for environmental consideration like installing solar panels?
    • There were some businesses that were installing these panels for free. Had EKH considered approaching these providers?
    • EKH performance was totally unacceptable. The sooner the housing stock was brought back into council control, the better;
    • This was a massive failure by EKH, especially in view of the Greenvale fire incident;
    • The failures put TDC into an illegal position as a landlord.

     

    In response Ms Upton and Mr Matt Gough, Director of Customer Services said the following:

     

    • Staff were monitoring very closely the performance of the capital programme;
    • Agreed that this was not a good position for EKH to be in. Senior management had asked for the audit to be conducted and they were now acting on the issues raised by the audit;
    • Significant changes had been made by the Chief Executive to the management structure;
    • There was a small budget for insulation of the properties as part of the environmental improvements;
    • There were no financial incentives for installing solar panels as this was expensive.

     

    Councillor Game, Cabinet Member for Housing and Safer Neighbourhoods added that cabinet was in the process of preparing an options report that was to be considered on 17 October.

     

    Thereafter Members noted the report.

194.

TDC Corporate Performance Report for Quarter 1 2019-20 pdf icon PDF 212 KB

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Hannah Thorpe, Head of Communications and Digital introduced the item for debate and highlighted the following points:

     

    • Council was in a period of transition regarding the corporate priorities as there was a new corporate statement for 2019-2023 to be proposed for adoption at the 10 October Full Council meeting;
    • In the meantime 2016-19 Corporate Priorities were used to measure performance for Q1 2019/20;
    • In the main there were some positive performances;
    • A high profile education programme had been carried out in summer. However there was still a need to increase public awareness regarding litter as more litter was being dropped in public spaces;
    • A vehicle replacement programme was coming soon which would help improve waste collection;
    • Council ,was keen to work with other coastal areas to exchange experiences on how to manage a clean environment;
    • TDC staff had been involved in a litter picking campaign on 20 September. It was hoped that this campaign would be made a regular event moving forward;
    • Decision time scales for homelessness had been improved and the number of applications had reduced as a result;
    • Tackling ASBO was moving in the right direction;
    • Targeted work had improved the handling of complaints;
    • Staff sickness levels had gone down;
    • FOIs were below target. However a new Head of Legal and Interim Head of Governance were now in post, which would improve the staffing levels for the department;

     

    Members made comments and asked questions as follows:

     

    • There was great work being done by the Homelessness Team;
    • Planning stats were also very good;
    • There were some concerns with litter picking in places where works were being carried out by Southern Water or Virgin Mobile in some streets and litter was not being picked;
    • Staff sickness was still too high. What was the cause of the sickness was it stress related and was it long term?
    • Was there a need to change the culture within the organisation in order to reduce sickness levels?
    • Some of the missed waste collection was due to wrongly parked vehicles in some streets. There was a need to provide more clarity on the problems that were encountered by staff during waste collection;
    • Some of the public bins were overflowing. There should be a faster route for councillor reporting on such issues;
    • There was a need for more education on disposing of dog waste;
    • Huge bins that had been set up in some parks had greatly improved the park environment;
    • Signage on bins could be improved and beaches should be cleaned early in the mornings;
    • Messages to take litter or waste home should be put across more politely;
    • Could council consider introducing smaller but more frequently paced public bins?
    • There were a high number of homeless women. Could the council consider setting up homeless units for women alone?
    • Could a message be passed on to Malcolm, a member of the street cleaning team for a good job he is doing in Ramsgate.

     

    Responding to Members comments Ms Thorpe and Bob Porter, Head of Housing and Planning  ...  view the full minutes text for item 194.