Agenda and minutes

Overview & Scrutiny Panel - Thursday, 24th November, 2022 7.00 pm

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

Contact: Charles Hungwe 

Link: This meeting will be livestreamed


No. Item


Apologies for Absence


Apologies were received from the following members:


Councillor Coleman-Cooke, substituted by Councillor Wright;

Councillor Huxley, substituted by Councillor Whitehead.


Declaration of Interests pdf icon PDF 87 KB

To receive any declarations of interest. Members are advised to consider the advice contained within the Declaration of Interest advice attached to this Agenda. If a Member declares an interest, they should complete the Declaration of Interest Form


There were no declarations of interest made at the meeting.


Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 85 KB

To approve the Minutes of the Overview and Scrutiny Panel meeting held on 25 October 2022, copy attached.


Councillor Paul Moore proposed, Councillor Tomlinson seconded and the Members agreed that the minutes of the Overview and Scrutiny Panel meeting held on 25 October 2022 were a correct record.


A Briefing on Manston Processing Centre and its effect on the local area


The Chair invited Members who had requested to speak under 20.1. Councillors Yates, Albon and Rawf made comments as follows:


  • Members thanked Thanet District Council (TDC) officers who had gone to the Manston Processing Centre and intervened regarding the infectious diseases issue at the centre;
  • Members acknowledged the work done by officers to try and keep residents safe;
  • One member indicated that they wanted to promote the Kent Refugee Action Network and Refugees at Home as great organisations that provided support for refugees and asylum seekers in Kent;
  • The Panel was asked to note the conditions that the migrants were living at the Centre and the fact that staff were also working under those poor standard conditions;
  • The Panel was asked to recognise that those conditions were a disgrace;
  • The staff who worked at the Centre did an exceptional job;
  • The centre was supposed to be used by about a total of 1,000 migrants and they would be moved on within 24 hours;
  • However in practice this was not the case as the individuals stayed longer than the 24 hours and there were about 4,000 individuals at one point;
  • The issue of immigration was a national issue. However the council should make representations to the government through the local MPs urging the government to provide safe routes for refugees to come into the country and stop human traffickers from taking advantage of the refugee situation.


The Chair requested for the details of the Kent Refugee Action Network and Refugees at Home to be shared with all Members. 


Councillor Ash Ashbee gave an update as follows:


  • In December 2021, the council was first informed that the processing centre for asylum seekers was going to be set up by the Home Office, at the Ministry of Defence site at Manston;
  • The understanding was to provide a temporary staging point for asylum seekers, prior to getting more permanent placings elsewhere and that no individual would stay at this centre for more than 24 hours;
  • The Leader of Council attended a meeting with the Permanent Secretary on 13 December 2021, where the plan to set up Manston as the processing centre was confirmed;
  • The Leader then convened an urgent informal cabinet meeting to discuss the council’s position on this matter;
  • After this cabinet meeting the leader wrote to the then Home Secretary, Priti Patel  MP on 15 December 2021 to express the council’s grave concerns about the suitability of Manston site and the prospects of expanding beyond its scope; 
  • No reply was received to that letter from the Home Secretary;
  • Recent reports suggested that the Home Secretary had been advised by civil servants since last December of the legal difficulties in failing to find alternative accommodation to Manston;
  • Manston site was being managed entirely by the Home Office or its agents;


  • The council had no role in the management of the Manston site and was therefore not always kept informed of the number of individuals at the site or how long it would continue  ...  view the full minutes text for item 415.


Decarbonisation of the Council’s Housing Stock pdf icon PDF 97 KB

Additional documents:


The meeting resumed at 20:15hrs


The Chair invited Councillor Yates to speak under Council procedure Rule 20.1 Councillor Yates thanked officers for the successful bid of £4.3 million decarbonisation fund that was made by the Housing Team.


Sally O’Sullivan, Tenant & Leaseholder Services Manager, led the discussion and made the following points:


  • This was a strategy for how Tenant and Leaseholder Services (TLS) would reduce greenhouse gas emission, to ensure the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Housing stock supported the government's aims for decarbonisation and meeting net zero by 2050. It linked into the Council’s Net Zero strategy. This strategy was especially important because of the way it would affect council tenants, many of whom were in fuel poverty. The adoption of this strategy would lead to the following:


1.  Reduction of fuel consumption for our residents, making their homes warmer and more comfortable using less energy;

2.  The work to be carried out would be highly disruptive and residents would have to learn how to live in a different way or use new technologies;

3.  The new build properties that would come into the social housing stock would already be high performing and council officers would need to ensure they can demonstrate to tenants how this could be achieved.


  • The strategy provided information on the expectation of the performance of newbuilds but its main focus was on current stock that was poorly performing;
  • Firstly, it examined the data that the council already had and what could be done to add onto this current information about the council properties. There was a need to come up with a plan to improve on the data currently held by the council as such information underpinned the Council’s efforts for prioritising the programme for retrofitting the Current council stock;
  • This strategy had three objects and these were to:


1.  Get all properties to Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) C by 2030;

2.  Reduce energy consumption for residents;

3.  Offset carbon emissions.


  • To achieve these objectives, there were three principles to work by and these were:


1.  Tackle the council’s worst performing properties first;

2.  Fabric First, No Regrets - this would mean that the council would ensure that its homes were well insulated first as this had an immediate impact on the residents fuel consumption. Once this was in place would be in a better position to find a clean heat solution that compliments the building. That would mean the council would have no regrets on what would already have been done and not have to redo any previous works;

3.  And to have meaningful resident involvement.


·  It was predicted that it would cost the council £40 Million to achieve the Net Zero target;

·  A further £4 million was required for professional fees;

·  Therefore, the Council was going to try and tap into as much funding as possible. Currently officers were exploring such finding streams as Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF), (Energy Company Obligation (ECO4), Local Authority Delivery (LAD) scheme and Home Upgrade Grant (HUG);

·  The  ...  view the full minutes text for item 416.


Quarter 1 Budget Monitoring Report 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 75 KB

Additional documents:


Matt Sanham, Acting Director of Operations introduced the report and made the following comments:


·  This report had already been taken to cabinet on 13 October 2022;

·  A forecast overspend had been made of just under £1.8 million against the General Fund revenue budget;

·  One of the main reasons for the overspend was the additional demand in the housing service with more homelessness placements;

·  In response to this the council had revised and was delivering on the new Homelessness Strategy Action Plan. Officer were regularly monitoring the levels of homelessness, recruiting new staff and commissioning new services to address the increasing need for support;

·  Additionally agency staff had been brought in by the waste and recycle service;

·  Gas and electricity cost increases had also affected the budget performance;

·  The General Fund Capital Programme reflected substantial underspend. This was due to the phasing and timing of grant funded projects some of which were recommended to be slipped into the later years of the capital programme;

·  In the HRA there was marginal cost overspend of £119k against the General Fund budget. On the other hand with the Capital Programme there proposals for the variations of a number of budgets so that the budget profile was closer matched to the revised expectations for the time and future spending


Members made comments and asked questions as follows:


·  Waste and Recycling: The Council relies heavily on agency staff. Was the council trying to investigate possible alternatives around growing staff in the service without relying more on agency staff?

·  The crematorium income: Increasing cost of gas would seriously affect cremation costs. Would these costs be passed on to families or would government assist councils?

·  The Coastal Project income from Southern Water: Some o the money had been offered to town councils to refurbish the lifts;

·  Ramsgate Town Council had been waiting for some feedback from TDC regarding this fund.


Matt Sanham responded to Member comments and questions as follows:


·  The council had always relied on agency staff for the waste and recycling service because on the nature of the business. If for example was unable to turn up to work, the council would be forced to resort to agency staff to ensure that the service was not disrupted;

·  Covid affected the service to an extent as crew staff work in close quarters. That meant that if one member of staff got covid, a number of the staff working in the same crew would most likely be affected. During covid there was an average of fifteen staff who would be off sick due to covid at any one time, forcing the council to resort to agency staff;

·  There was generally a shortage of HGV driver across the country and as a result costs or drivers were going up. In other sectors some HGV drivers were paid as much as £60k per year which the council could not afford;

·  Council was working on coming up with a training programme to train up new drivers, whilst retaining the current ones;  ...  view the full minutes text for item 417.


Housing Estate; Strategy, Policy and Standards pdf icon PDF 93 KB

Additional documents:


Sally O’Sullivan, Tenant and Leaseholder Services Manager introduced the report and made the following comments:


  • Service standards were a set of commitments to council residents. They provided information about the level of service they could expect from the council. These standards also provided guidance to officers to the level of service they should be providing;
  • Residents were involved in the development of these standards to varying degrees;
  • Repairs service standard - This standard described the service that was delivered by the council’s partnering contractors, Mears and Gas Call. It also provided information to Council tenants about what to expect from the repairs service, that included on the following issue:


  • The different ways in which they can report a repair;
  • How long different categories of repairs will take to be carried out;
  • How an appointment will be made;
  • What to expect from a contractor when they come to their home;
  • How we monitor the service.


  • Much of this standard was dictated by the contracts the council had in place. However, Council had consulted the Thanet Tenant & Leaseholder Group (TTLG) on the Mears customer pledge. This document set out standards of behaviour for the operatives and call centre staff and as a result of the feedback from the TTLG, further training was put in place for the call centre staff;
  • The Lettings standard informed residents on what they could expect when they move into one of the council homes. The standard provided them with information on what would happen when they sign a tenancy agreement, what information they would receive and what standard to expect their new home to be in when they move in;
  • To inform this standard, officers surveyed all new tenants from the previous six months. The purpose of this exercise was to learn from residents’ experience and find out what was important to them when moving in;
  • A message that came through this survey was the concern about the quality of the information given to new tenants and this feedback prompted the development of a new resident handbook.


Members made comments as follows:


  • Members fully supported the new proposals as contained in the officer report;
  • Tenants Groups were a useful platform for creating wider consultation with residents on any new changes;
  • Some residents had been asked by the council to remove wall gardens in communal areas in tower blocks without prior explanation;
  • This had caused some distress to residents;
  • It was important that on implementation of any new policies that resident’s involvement and consent was considered.


Sally O’Sullivan and Bob Porter, Corporate Director of Place responded to comments from Members as follows:


  • It was unfortunate that residents were asked to remove their wall gardens from communal areas;
  • However this had been done as a result of the feedback from the Fire Risk Assessors;
  • A fire risk assessment was carried out and required that the wall gardens be removed from communal areas in tower blocks;
  • The fire risk assessment came up with a position of zero tolerance wall gardens  ...  view the full minutes text for item 418.


Housing Services Standards; Repairs and Lettings pdf icon PDF 93 KB

Additional documents:


Sally O’Sullivan and Bob Porter, Corporate Director of Place responded to comments from Members as follows:


  • The strategy was the vision the council had for its estates. It described four main objectives that were believed would enhance the estates as a place to live and these were as follows:


1.  Promote Community;

2.  Improve estate appearance;

3.  Better vehicle management;

4.  Safe place to live.


  • The strategy also described:


·  How we will approach our estates to achieve our objectives;

·  How we will prioritise our estates for review and improvement works.


  • Having an estate policy was a regulatory requirement. This estate policy applied the rules around how the strategy objectives would be delivered. It also described residents and Council responsibilities in achieving those objectives;
  • The estate standard lets council tenants know what work council did to maintain and take care of the communal areas in and around its blocks of flats;
  • This included communal cleaning, how the communal repairs, grounds maintenance and car parks were dealt with;
  • The policy lets residents know what they were responsible for, which included the storage of belongings in communal areas and the disposal of refuse and how the council monitored the standard in partnership with residents;
  • Residents were highly involved in the development of these documents. Information gathered from the estate inspections was used as well as information collected from two resident focus groups.


Members made comments as follows:


  • Members supported the policies which were comprehensive and had been well written;
  • The removal of carpets would counteract the insulation efforts being made to these properties by the council. If there was already a decent carpet in the property, why would such a carpet not be left in that home, after it had been deep cleaned?


Sally O’Sullivan and Bob Porter, Corporate Director of Place responded to comments from Members as follows:


  • Carpets were in most cases not in a good condition to be left in the properties that were being repaired;
  • These old carpets often carried parasites and it was good practice to remove and replace them;
  • Assistance would be provided to those households that would struggle to buy new carpets.


Members noted the report.


Review of Overview & Scrutiny Panel Work Programme for 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 91 KB

Additional documents:


The Chair confirmed that the presentation by the Leader on the efficacy of using cabinet advisory groups in decision making would now be coming to the Panel meeting on 17 January 2023.


Councillor Leys requested and Members agreed that Councillor Kup, the Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Youth Engagement be invited to a future Panel meeting to make a presentation the council’s Toilet Management Strategy.


Councillor Wing also requested and Members agreed that the Panel be given an update on the Parking Review and Enforcement Strategy.


Members noted the report


Forward Plan & Exempt Cabinet Report List pdf icon PDF 75 KB

Additional documents:


Members noted the report.