Agenda and minutes

Overview & Scrutiny Panel
Thursday, 20th February, 2020 7.00 pm

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

Contact: Charles Hungwe 

Items
No. Item

224.

Apologies for Absence

225.

Declaration of Interests pdf icon PDF 87 KB

226.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 82 KB

227.

No Pre Decision items on this agenda

228.

Cabinet Member Presentation - The Future of Council Housing Stock Management - An Update Report pdf icon PDF 255 KB

    The presentation would concentrate on providing an update on the preferred option to bring council housing stock into council management.

    Minutes:

    Councillor Whitehead, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Housing & Safer Neighbourhoods, presented an update report on the future of East Kent Housing (EKH) and highlighted the following points as part of the update:

     

    ·  Thanet Council was to be ‘Landlord’ again of the council’s housing stock. There was a need to increase our housing stock and support local residents, many of whom were vulnerable;

    ·  Cabinet agreed to bring the management of its housing back ‘in-house’ at the extraordinary Cabinet meeting on the 17th February 2020. There was overwhelming support from Members to do this, in order to deliver on the capital programme and the corporate improvement plan;

    ·  In the future, Thanet would be focused on improving health and safety standards, spending more on vital building maintenance and maintaining the quality of services our residents already expected from East Kent Housing;

    ·  Members were aware of the risks regarding staffing, performance dips, increased costs during the transition period and reputational risks;

    ·  However this should be seen as an opportunity for greater control and scrutiny, enhanced resident involvement, easier decision making and more local procurement, which would enhance the housing experience for the tenants who rely on council services.

     

    Further details from the presentation can be found in the slides attached as an annex to these minutes.

     

    Members asked the following questions:

     

    ·  How many staff members would be moved over? How would we ensure their welfare, and could we be selective in our future recruiting process?

    ·  How would this impact the current funding for the housing service?

    ·  Why was the response rate from the consultation so low, and did this really mean there was overwhelming support to bring the service back in-house?

    ·  Could we have conducted better scrutiny on the performance of EKH?

    ·  When do we expect the housing stock maintenance to be taken back in-house?

    ·  Would there be an extensive quality control scheme?

    ·  How would tenants be involved in the maintenance process?

    ·  What were the priorities of the new East Kent Housing interim Chief Executive during this transition period?

     

    Councillor Whitehead, Mr Bob Porter, Head of Housing & Planning and Mr Tim Willis, Deputy Chief Executive responded as follows:

     

    ·  It was difficult to work out how many staff members from East Kent Housing would be TUPE’d to Thanet, as it was at the individual employee’s choice to make amongst the four partner councils;

    ·  It was also important to work out a local arrangement for those staff members not protected by TUPE;

    ·  TDC would identify the skills set required for potential staff

    ·  TDC would take legal advice on the process. The Council had not started engaging the EKH staff. Staff retention was a key principle of the council on such matters;

    ·  There would be a potentially good transfer rate of officers willing to join TDC to a point that  there might even be vacancies that would still need to be filled;

    ·  The council would aim to minimise redundancies and support staff during this difficult time by recruiting a Transition Manager to oversee the process;  ...  view the full minutes text for item 228.

229.

East Kent Housing Performance Report Q3 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 112 KB

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    This report was presented by Mr Porter, outlining performance between October and December 2019. Crucially that:

     

    ·  Rents arrears continued to increase. EKH explained that it was largely due to the roll-out of Universal Credit. However the data also seems to indicate that even rent arrears by individuals not on Universal Credit was increasing. This issue required further investigation;

    ·  Capital Programme delivery was a long way short of the target as in previous years, with some significant projects that remained un delivered;

    ·  Performance on Voids had been deteriorating. EKH explained that the properties affected by asbestos required asbestos surveys and major asbestos removal works. This issue also needs further investigation in order to improve Voids performance;

    ·  Health and Safety issues were highlighted by Internal Audit. They pointed some areas that required improvement and there were now some measures in place to address those concerns;

    ·  EKH had started providing a monthly update on Health and Safety. The most recent report provided this week still reflected some areas that were still non compliant;

     

    ·  The performance improvement action plan was being updated. This Plan (a voluntary undertaking by TDC) would be discussed and agreed with the Regulator before it was published;

    ·  Data integrity was previously a big issue. However reasonable assurance had been received from Internal Audit. The integrity performance rating had since moved up significantly;

    ·  Gas safety which previous had limited assurance had now been moved to substantial assurance by Internal Audit;

    ·  Water safety had moved to reasonable assurance;

    ·  An external consultant had been recruited to conduct spot checks which could be compared to the contractor’s data;

    ·  Quarterly performance reports would continue to be presented to the Panel.

     

    Members responded with the following questions:

     

    ·  Were rent arrears rising because of universal credit?

    ·  Did other councils respond similarly to the gas safety checks information?

    ·  Tenant repairs were low, but should they not be done by the external contractors?

    ·  Why was there a significant lag on the number of complaints closed on time?

    ·  How could we ensure there wasn’t a slip in performance? What specific measures could be put in place?

     

    Mr Porter responded as follows:

     

    ·  East Kent Housing did make contact with people moving on to Universal Credit. It was not as a result of a shortage of staff struggling to collect rent payments, but it is harder for universal credit tenants to meet payment commitments;

    ·  All other councils in the East Kent Housing group responded the same as Thanet to the reports on gas safety checks; 

    ·  The question on low tenant repairs would best be directed to East Kent Housing. There had been a recent change in their gas contractor. While EKH advised that they were getting through their workload, that seemed not to be the case;

    ·  The significant time lag in complaints being closed on time should be acknowledged as not being good enough; 

    ·  TDC was committed to continuing the services that were currently being provided by EKH;

    ·  Senior officers met monthly with EKH officers to monitor performance;

    ·  The Chief Executives of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 229.

230.

Corporate Performance Report Quarter 3 2019-20 pdf icon PDF 109 KB

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

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

     

    ·  The Council was currently in a transition period where, as a result of the new corporate plan with new corporate priorities (focussing on Growth, Environment and Communities) that was introduced in October last year, new performance targets and indicators would be used as of 1 April 2020;

    ·  The new form of data analysis would allow for easier explanation of performance figures and this would include information on public opinion;

    ·  Quarter 3 and Quarter 4 performance reporting would continue to use the current reporting format;

    ·  16 targets out of 24 were at or exceeding target. Three were at amber and five were below target;

    ·  The report generally showed improved performance, although there were eight targets of concern;

    ·  The public perception regarding satisfaction levels for street cleansing had gone down. On the other hand recycling satisfaction levels had increased;

     

    ·  Days in hotel accommodation had gone down, which reflected good performance, by the Housing Team;

    ·  Sickness stats were below target but was moving in the right direction;

    ·  Council tax and business tax collection was within target;

    ·  Officers were working on improving performance in those areas whose performance indicators were amber and red;

    ·  A vehicle procurement process was currently underway to replace the aging waste & recycling collection fleet. It was hoped that the new fleet would be in place by October this year.

     

    Members responded by asking the following questions:

     

    ·  Indicators were about to be rewritten – was there any opportunity for Member involvement and how were the targets set?

    ·  Can the Council improve recycling rates even more?

    ·  What was the cause of the rising number of empty properties?

    ·  Were waste collection rates below targets because of parked cars blocking waste vehicles or where there additional challenges faced by the service?

     

    ·  When recycling collection was missed, were residents affected advised why their recycle was missed?

    ·  Why was domestic clinical waste collection being carried out monthly as opposed to the weekly collection?

    ·  Would there be a charge for domestic clinical waste collection?

    ·  What new targets would be included and how else would they change?

    ·  Could more information be provided about the education enforcement officer’s role?

     

    Ms Thorpe, Mr Porter and Mr Willis responded as follows:

     

    ·  The council used a performance management framework, which sets out how it should manage its performance;

    ·  A lot of the targets were previous statutory requirements which the council was required by government to report on a national level;

    ·  TDC decided to carry on with those targets, as it set its own benchmarking;

    ·  The changes coming in April would provide an opportunity to refresh how performance data could be better presented;

    ·  Some of the data currently collected did not accurately present a valid representation of our successes and failures. There was therefore a need to capture meaningful data to enable Members to hold corporate services to account for performance and to reassure the public that the council was responding and tackling their concerns;

     

    ·  Members were welcome to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 230.

231.

Review the Overview and Scrutiny Panel Work Programme for 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 96 KB

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The Chairman reminded the meeting of the need to get updates on all recommendations that were awaiting implementation. These were highlighted in Section 3.0 of the work programme report.

     

    Mr Porter advised Members that officers were still following up on a letter sent to KCC by the Cabinet Member for Housing & Safer Neighbourhoods in August 2019, regarding the Disability Facility Grants (DFGs) as reported in Section 3.5 of the Panel report. The Panel had requested that “KCC ring fenced the £405k (Top sliced/payment to KCC projected for 2019/20) for use by Thanet residents”.

     

    The Chairman acknowledged the need for a future scrutiny work programme that reflected more Member generated items, rather than those that just come out of the processes of conducting council business. Councillor Bayford suggested that the Panel should perhaps hold a workshop soon to identify topics that Members could examine as part of scrutiny review projects. The workshop could also look at scrutiny items from neighbouring seaside authorities to see how TDC could conduct better scrutiny.

     

    Members noted the report.

232.

Forward Plan & Exempt Cabinet Report List pdf icon PDF 80 KB