Agenda and minutes

Overview & Scrutiny Panel
Tuesday, 19th November, 2019 7.00 pm

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

Contact: Charles Hungwe 

Items
No. Item

204.

Election of Chairman

    Minutes:

    Councillor Campbell proposed and Councillor Parsons seconded that Councillor Paul Moore be the Chairman for the meeting.

     

    CouncillorRusiecki proposed and Councillor Lynda Piper seconded that Councillor Lynda Piper be the chairman for the meeting.

     

    When put to the vote, the Panel agreed that Councillor Moore be the Chairman for the meeting.

     

    Councillor Moore in the chair.

     

    The Chairman requested for nominations for the vacant Vice Chairman post.

     

    Councillor Huxley proposed, Councillor Parsons seconded and Members agreed that Councillor Campbell be the Vice Chairman for the remaining part the municipal year (2019/20).

205.

Apologies for Absence

206.

Declaration of Interests pdf icon PDF 87 KB

207.

Minutes of extraordinary meeting pdf icon PDF 79 KB

208.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 78 KB

209.

Review of Unauthorised Traveller Encampment in Thanet - Report back by the Traveller Review Group pdf icon PDF 231 KB

    Report to follow.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Gavin Waite, Director of Operational Services introduced the item for discussion and advised Members that officers were going to provide the technical information relating to the review leading up to the recommendations made by the review group. Mr Waite then requested Eden Geddes, the former Community Safety Manager (now with the Multi-Agency Task Force) to introduce the legal framework for addressing the issue under review.

     

    Mr Geddes made the following comments:

     

    • Section 124 of the Housing Planning Act placed a duty on local councils to assess housing needs of all the residents in its area, including housing needs for the traveller community;
    • The assessment would include determining the space for the caravans to be placed;
    • The Equality Act 2010 also provided rights to all individuals including the right to equal treatment;
    • Nomadic lifestyle is lawful and recognized by legislation to be such;
    • On the other hand trespassing is unlawful and a civil crime;
    • Prior to issuing out a Section 77 eviction notice, the council had to identify welfare concerns of the affected individuals;
    • Other issues that included anti-social behaviour, impact on local settled communities and landowners were taken into consideration when issuing S77 notices for unauthorised encampments;
    • Decisions to evict had to be balanced, necessary, legal and proportionate;
    • Preventive injunctions could be used. However the council had to fulfill all requirements in order to employ that legal tool. TDC did not currently fulfil such legal requirements.

     

    Contributing to the discussion, Penny Button, Head of Safer Neighbourhoods made the following comments:

     

    • There had been a marked increase in unauthorised encampments in the district and these were largely dominated by two families;
    • Historically the encampments were on KCC land but there had been some change in such activities taking place on council and private land;
    • The Panel set up the review group to study and report back on their findings and recommendations;
    • Currently council was collecting waste left behind by the unauthorized encampments as part of the regular waste collection for the area;
    • On an occasion when a specific collection was made for one of the encampments, it cost council approximately £500;
    • It was being proposed in the current draft Local Plan to set aside five pitches that could be used for establishing authorised encampments for travellers;
    • There were three distinct types of encampment sites that a council could provide. The review group concentrated on temporary tolerated sites;
    • In informing the review group recommendations, an options matrix was used which highlighted the advantages and disadvantages for each site;
    • The travellers’ representatives were invited to the group’s meetings. Unfortunately they did not attend;
    • Three sites that included Potten Street Car Park, Tivoli Brook and Ramsgate Hover Port were identified as the proposed temporary tolerated sites that could be recommended to cabinet for consideration.

     

    Ms Lorraine Lucas and Ms Sonya Smyth spoke under the public speaking procedure rules.

     

    The following Members spoke under Council Procedure Rule 20.1:

     

    Councillor Stuart Piper;

    Councillor Albon;

    Councillor Yates.

     

    Responding to the review report back Members made comments and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 209.

210.

Draft Housing Strategy 2020-2025 pdf icon PDF 289 KB

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Councillor Whitehead, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Housing and Safer Neighbourhoods introduced the item for debate and thanked the Housing team staff for the thought and care they put into producing the proposed housing strategy. The strategy was evidence of the council’s commitment to local residents.

     

    Mr Porter, Head of Service for Housing and Planning made additional introductory comments as follows:

     

    • The purpose of the strategy was clear in the document. There was a need to get input from partner organisations as they had a key role to play in providing appropriate housing for Thanet;
    • The proposed strategy included the content on the statutory homelessness strategy in order to provide a cohesive housing policy for the district;
    • The Local Plan set out the housing numbers required and it was currently a great challenge to work towards meeting those targets. Currently the council was at a third of the required housing supply;
    • The district was faced with viability challenges to do with new build property and these challenges contributed to homelessness;
    • Households on low income were increasingly living in low quality housing;
    • Private rented housing had doubled to 26% of the local housing market over the past 15 years;
    • Older population had also increased over the years and the council had to provide appropriate housing for them;
    • The proposed strategy was still in draft stage and would be amended as it went through the decision making process up to the point it was adopted by Full Council in February/March 2020.

     

    Councillor Stuart Piper and Councillor Bailey spoke under Council Procedure 201.

     

    Members responded by making comments and asking questions as detailed below:

     

    • They were satisfied with the holistic approach to providing housing in the district;
    • There was little detail about protecting green wedges and the environment;
    • There were significant differences between allowances paid in Thanet as compared to the national average. There was a need to address this anomaly to bring the level of allowances in line with actual costs for housing rent costs;
    • Would the council consider supplying prefabricated housing in Thanet as these would be quick to put up;
    • This was an ambitious plan. There were problems regarding monitoring the private sector housing provision. How was the council going to monitor the quality of housing in the private sector?
    • Did residents living in private rented housing know how to access council services if they needed help with poor conditions on their privately rented accommodation?
    • When providing housing to young people, consideration should be given to those young people who may not be on the housing list but may face housing need after falling out with their parents. These young people usually found it difficult to get housing assistance from the council.

     

    Mr Porter responded as follows:

     

    • Issues regarding the environmental impact and land use would be covered in the Local Plan; Housing development would on the other hand require building consent and the issue would be how housing structures could be designed to maximise thermal efficiency and reduce  ...  view the full minutes text for item 210.

211.

EKH Quarterly Performance Report Q2 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 208 KB

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Ms Deborah Upton, Chief Executive Officer of East Kent Housing introduced the report for discussion. Ms Upton made the following comments:

     

    • The majority of indicators reflected improvement for the period under review;
    • With regards to universal credit and rent arrears: EKH had started working with the Job Centre once every five weeks in Margate and Ramsgate, as a pilot project to assist individuals who were in the Job Centre system. This had resulted in thirteen residents being assisted to sent up repayment plans for their rent arrears;
    • For the last six months EKH has worked with three hundred residents to help them with financial support including helping Thanet residents claim £65k of back paid benefits.;
    • With regards to the capital programme: Historically the capital programme had been under performing.
    • A new consultant was currently working on Royal Crescent to develop a programme that would see a full spend of the capital programme. Royal Crescent was the main contributor to the underspend;
    • A new gas contract had started and the work was progressing on well as the contractor was on target. They were being monitored closely.

     

    Councillor Stuart Piper spoke under Council Procedure 20.1.

     

    Members thereafter made comments and asked questions as detailed below:

     

    • Ms Upton had a mammoth task under difficult circumstances;
    • There was a need to understand the problems that led to the council making the decision to bring back in house the management of its housing stock, particularly the health and safety concerns;
    • There was a meeting between the four partner councils and the regulator in recent weeks. What was the outcome of that meeting?
    • Were the properties that were still not compliant to the health and safety regulations being used?
    • How were insurance issues relating to these properties being managed?
    • Considering that residents were living in those properties, did this situation not open council to litigation?
    • Was there a timetable for reaching full compliance?

     

    Responding to Member questions and comments, Ms Upton and Mr Porter said the following:

     

    • The regulator had been involved since the council made a self referral once the health and safety issues were first discovered;
    • A significant amount of work had been carried out by both the council and EKH to correct the situation;
    • the regulator was looking for assurances and detailed proposals for attaining full assurance;
    • A specialist company was contracted to review the current situation and propose the way forward;
    • The regulator had asked the partner council to get into a voluntary undertaking of how they were going to arrive at full compliance;
    • TDC had insurance cover for its buildings;
    • Mitigation arrangements were in place to minimize the risk relating to non compliance. These measures included increased site visits;
    • For the affected buildings, there were additional preventative measures such as inspections, overnight security, extra testing and extra bin collections;
    • TDC was exposed to risk and hence the need to achieve full compliance;
    • There was a project plan in place with a timetable for completing the compliance tasks;
    • Officers could bring this  ...  view the full minutes text for item 211.

212.

Corporate Performance Report Quarter 2 2019-20 pdf icon PDF 211 KB

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Ms Hannah Thorpe, Head of Communications introduced the report made the following comments:

     

    • Quarter 2 performance was being reported soon after the Panel had received the Quarter 1 report. Therefore there would be limited updates to share with Members;
    • The council was in a transitional period with regards to the monitoring of its performance;
    • This was because of the new corporate priorities that were adopted in October this year. However these priorities would be used to set new performance indicators and measures as from 1 April 2020;
    • Fifteen targets out of the twenty four were at or exceeding target. Five were amber and five were below target;

     

    Clean and Welcoming Environment

    • Three targets were green, one was amber and two were red. The areas of focus were as per the previous quarter, which were litter and waste collection;
    • The waste collection team was experiencing access problems for larger vehicles as a result of broadband and utility works in some streets. The Council continued to exceed targets on clearance of detritus and litter picking;
    • Officers were looking to improve the reporting of waste collection stats to reflect the performance more accurately, particularly missed bins (to reflect bins not collected because they had not been put out by residents or were not collected  due to contamination); 

     

    Supporting Neighbourhoods

    • Five indicators were exceeding target and one was within 5%. Thirty nine empty homes had been brought back to use in the period under review;
    • The number of homeless cases prevented had increased to 179 in this quarter. The target was 76. The number of days taken to make homeless decisions and the number of days in hotel accommodation was at the lowest ever;
    • There was also a drop in the use of temporary accommodation placement;
    • The Housing Team was continuing to take robust action against landlords to improve living conditions in order to improve on the amber for this dwellings indicator, which was just outside the target of seventy one.

     

    Promoting Inward Investment

    • Performance was exceeding target on all three measures.

     

    Statistical Information

    • There were nine measures being reported on, four of those were green, three were amber and three were red;
    • Complaints response rate continued to improve in this quarter and the performance was well exceeding the target. This was due to targeted management intervention;
    • Sickness days had improved this year compared to years’ previous performance. However these days had increased slightly this quarter. This was being monitored closely by management;
    • FOI performance was improving, although it was still below target. Council was currently working with the Information Commissioner to improve performance. An internal review had been conducted to better understand the performance. Additional resources had been assigned to the team;
    • Housing benefit and council tax benefit remained ahead of target;
    • Reporting of business rates and council tax collection had been improved to include expected collection rate at the end of each quarter.

     

    Councillor Campbell proposed, Councillor Rusiecki seconded and Members agreed to note the report.

213.

Review the Overview and Scrutiny Panel Work Programme for 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 264 KB

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Speaking under council procedure 20.1, Councillor Stuart Piper requested that the Panel scrutinise why the Standards Committee meetings were being cancelled at short notice and why the General Purposes Committee (GPC) was not meeting to transact outstanding business matters.

     

    The Vice Chairman of the Panel suggested that the General Purposes Committee membership could call for a GPC meeting to consider any matters that fall under their remit.

     

    Mr Hughes advised that four members of the General Purposes Committee could write to Democratic Services requesting for a meeting to be arranged and specify the business to be transacted at that proposed meeting.

     

    Councillor Campbell proposed, Councillor Lynda Piper seconded and Members agreed the membership of the General Purposes Committee used the council procedures for requesting a committee meeting.

     

    Thereafter Members noted the report.

214.

Forward Plan & Exempt Cabinet Report List pdf icon PDF 249 KB