Venue: Council Chamber, The Forum. View directions
Contact: Corporate and Democratic Support 01442 228209
To confirm the minutes from the previous meeting
The minutes of the meeting held on 9 March 2021 were agreed by the members present and then signed by the Chairman.
Apologies for absence
To receive any apologies for absence
There were no apologies for absence.
Declarations of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest
A member with a disclosable pecuniary interest or a personal interest in a matter who attends a meeting of the authority at which the matter is considered -
(i) must disclose the interest at the start of the meeting or when the interest becomes apparent
and, if the interest is a disclosable pecuniary interest, or a personal interest which is also prejudicial
(ii) may not participate in any discussion or vote on the matter (and must withdraw to the public seating area) unless they have been granted a dispensation.
A member who discloses at a meeting a disclosable pecuniary interest which is not registered in the Members’ Register of Interests, or is not the subject of a pending notification, must notify the Monitoring Officer of the interest within 28 days of the disclosure.
Disclosable pecuniary interests, personal and prejudicial interests are defined in Part 2 of the Code of Conduct For Members
[If a member is in any doubt as to whether they have an interest which should be declared they should seek the advice of the Monitoring Officer before the start of the meeting]
There were no declarations of interest.
An opportunity for members of the public to make statements or ask questions in accordance with the rules as to public participation
There was no public participation.
Consideration of any matter referred to the committee in relation to call-in
The Chairman advised there were no outstanding action points from the previous meeting.
Councillor Tindall referred to page 15 and noted there was an ICT budget of £50 per year for each councillor. He asked if there was a document that provided more information on exactly what formed part of the standard ICT equipment issued to councillors and what the additional £50 budget could be used for.
M Brookes advised that the response to the action point was the information they proposed to circulate in member’s news but there was no specific document that contained the information.
Councillor Tindall highlighted that the response says the £50 does not form part of the standard ICT issued to councillors. He suggested that if there was a standard ICT package issued to councillors then it must be written down somewhere.
L Roberts confirmed the ICT department had that information. M Brookes asked for that information to be sent on to members. Action: L Roberts
Councillor Symington referred to her question from the previous meeting regarding the TTRO (Temporary Traffic Regulation Order) in Berkhamsted High Street. She asked if the response had been circulated to all members as she didn’t recall seeing it.
B Hosier advised that communication was still ongoing between Berkhamsted Town Council and the Leader of Dacorum Borough Council. He believed there was a meeting that took place last night but he wasn’t aware of the outcome as yet.
Councillor Symington drew attention to the action point response. She asked if HCC (Hertfordshire County Council) had given their approval so that the Portfolio Holder Decision sheet could be drafted, and where we were in the call-in process.
B Hosier explained that the Portfolio Holder Decision hadn’t been submitted yet due to late changes made by Berkhamsted Town Council. He advised that there was full agreement with HCC about the proposals but Berkhamsted Town Council wanted something changed in terms of the number of parking spaces so they have been in dialogue with the Leader of the Council and had a meeting last night to decide what they were formally going to propose to the Leader. The Leader would then make a decision and it would depend on that decision whether a Portfolio Holder Decision would need to be submitted or not.
Councillor Symington asked if it was possible for the decision to be communicated to members.
B Hosier confirmed he would share the information once he has been advised of the decision.
Councillor Symington said it was her understanding that the TTRO was Covid related to improve circulation in the High Street. She was curious to know why the process was taking so long, given that we were now trying to come out of the Covid period that we’ve been living with for the past 15 months. She said she understood that it was a temporary TRO but felt an explanation was needed as to why it was taking so long to implement something that other councils have implemented all over ... view the full minutes text for item 26.
Leisure Contract Operational & Financial Implications of Covid-19
Full details can be found in the Part II Minutes.
N Howcutt introduced the report and advised it was a provisional report because they were still producing the final financial statements for this year but this was the end trading position for the Council. He gave a high level synopsis of where this put the Council. He welcomed questions from the committee.
Councillor Tindall referred to paragraph 4.3 on page 30 of the report relating to commercial property income. He felt the figures stated were perfectly understandable but asked if they were thinking of developing a multiyear strategy due to the long recovery of Covid.
N Howcutt advised one of his key deliverables this year was an Asset Management Strategy for the next 3-5 years, particularly focusing on the commercial property portfolio. He said that was partly due to the response to Covid and the need to assess the portfolio but it was up for renewal this year anyway so the timing worked well.
Councillor Tindall referred to paragraph 5.1 on page 35 regarding pressures on the waste service. He questioned if the missed bins recorded were the usual missed bins or if that included assisted collections. He said it was important that the assisted bin collections were never missed.
N Howcutt advised there were several KPI’s around missed bins that were reported quarterly to the Strategic Planning and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee (SPAE OSC). He explained that part of the issue they had with missed bins was when a resident calls DBC about a missed collection they will usually say you missed my bin rather than I forgot to put my bin out so from that perspective there is a lack of clarity in what’s really going on. He said that Covid had put a massive pressure on the waste service yet they continued to collect all types of waste throughout the pandemic. He also pointed out the issue of parked cars/vehicles blocking roads due to more people working from home but the staff had carried on throughout and done an exceptional job.
Councillor Tindall said he appreciated all of that and felt the operatives should be congratulated on their efforts. He still expressed concern about the lack of clarity in the figures and asked whether extra effort could be made to define whether the missed bins were due to accessibility difficulties etc. or if it was assisted collections that had been missed.
N Howcutt said he would feed that back to the service.
Councillor Tindall referred to the £60k pressure in planning. He questioned if the pressure was due to an increase in staffing levels or if it was just a temporary maternity leave cover.
N Howcutt replied it was a combination of the two; there was maternity leave that needed covering but also some additional resources were brought in when the level of planning work exceeded what was achievable.
Councillor Adeleke sought clarification on the £90k pressure for Neighbourhood Delivery.
N Howcutt advised it covered two things; the Assistant Director of Neighbourhood Delivery which had been ... view the full minutes text for item 28.
N Howcutt introduced the report of the finance and resources performance report and the operational risk reports which were attached as appendices. He advised that a lot of this performance would be what members have seen throughout the year and there was no significant changes. In terms on quarter on quarter change, we have seen one red KPI (Key Performance Indicator) turn to amber which covered new applications for Housing Benefit and that is because the workload from the pandemic has started to lessen. He felt this may be a good sign for the economy and meant services may be able to get back to pre-pandemic performance levels. He said the red KPI’s outlined were all Covid related indirectly and these were discussed in detail at the last meeting. He welcomed questions from the committee.
Councillor Adeleke referred to page 54 regarding Council Tax collections. He queried what recovery measures they had in place and will it be fair and proportionate.
N Howcutt advised collection rates were down 1.6% on target, 1.2% year on year but that was far better than most of our neighbouring authorities. He said we took a very hands on approach early on allowing residents to opt for 10 monthly payments starting in June instead of April but that was when we thought the pandemic would be over in a few months. The government’s hardship fund was used to pay the first £250 of those individuals receiving council tax support which helped our collection rates and that is happening again for 21/22. He felt we were trying to support those most vulnerable and hopefully will see more improvement in terms of collection rates for 21/22.
Councillor Adeleke then referred to page 55 regarding commercial assets. He noted from the report that they had 22 void properties and 76% of them needed substantial remedial work. He asked if this was something they were planning to undertake or would these properties be sitting on the back burner for now.
N Howcutt said although 22 void properties seemed a large number that was only 5-6% of our entire portfolio. He explained they do try and maximise the use of the portfolio and generally look at the 93% mark completion rates. During Covid they were unable to let those properties as people couldn’t visit them etc. but now that we’re out of lockdown they’re assessing those properties to decide what the best action for them was. He added that would be done as part of the Asset Management Strategy.
Councillor Adeleke suggested that as they were unable to carry out maintenance works on council properties, they could divert those resources for work on commercial assets instead.
N Howcutt said he would challenge that point as they had still been maintaining council properties and had been working very closely with commercial partners to ensure essential works have been undertaken. He also said they had taken advantage of the Covid restrictions in some cases, for example with The Old Town Hall, as ... view the full minutes text for item 29.
M Brookes introduced the report and drew attention to the key service highlights; one of the biggest achievements being the delivery of the Elections for the Police and Crime Commissioner, Hertfordshire County Council and two Borough Councillors. He explained the Elections were delivered during particularly challenging times because of Covid and all the additional health and safety measures that had to be put in place throughout the whole process. He said the team had worked really hard to make it work. He welcomed questions from the committee.
Councillor Tindall thanked M Brookes and his team for smooth running of the Hertfordshire County Council Elections.
Councillor Adeleke thanked the Democratic Services team for supporting meetings throughout the pandemic. He also thanked the outgoing Mayor, Councillor Terry Douris, for the past two years of being Mayor of Dacorum throughout the pandemic.
Councillor Symington also thanked the team for the smooth running of the Election process. She highlighted an issue with Polling Cards not being delivered in one of the Boroughs villages and believed this wasn’t picked up until the day of the Election. She questioned how they would ensure that doesn’t happen in future.
M Brookes advised it was a failure by one person and was an isolated issue. He said the Polling Cards were delivered to the village as soon as they became aware of the issue. He reassured the committee that the team were looking at different options to ensure that doesn’t happen again in the future.
Councillor Symington noted from the report that there were PSPO’s in six areas. She asked if it was obvious to residents living in those areas and what public information was available for those areas.
M Brookes advised that signs were put up in the relevant areas and these ones in particular were replacing alcohol bans which were in place anyway so it was just a change of format.
Councillor Symington felt it was important that people were aware they were in an area that was being monitored but without being intrusive.
Councillor Douris referred to page 69 regarding HNL’s (Household Notification Letters) and sought clarification on what a route 1 property was.
M Brookes said he would provide a written response. Action: M Brookes
The report was noted.
FR/031/21 QUARTER 4 PERFORMANCE REPORT – PERFORMANCE, PEOPLE AND INNOVATION
L Roberts introduced the report and drew attention to a couple of points; one of the most important things they were focusing on was the support and health and wellbeing of all staff and that had resulted in a number of different things being delivered. This support will continue to be delivered to help staff as they work from home but also when they start to return to working in the office. In addition to that they were looking at how we can get further support from the Herts Protection Board to help improve that service. We have also received some funding from them.
In terms of ICT, obviously we’ve all been incredibly dependent on our IT services and overall the performance indicators were good. She said it had been challenging for the IT team to support staff remotely because they have to work out which end has the problem but overall they’ve done really well.
She welcomed questions from the committee.
Councillor Symington asked what the plan was for people working at home and returning to the Forum.
L Roberts advised they had been running a series of surveys with staff to try to understand any potential concerns about returning to the office and they had 399 responses which was fantastic. She said that unsurprisingly staff were looking for a hybrid return so they want to make use of the efficiencies that come from people working at home. Another survey is being carried out for Team Leaders and managers of each service to understand what their requirements are. She highlighted that the current government advice was to work from home where possible and that advice will continue to be monitored. She summarised that they’re using this opportunity to engage with staff and to make the building work best for all of us going forward.
Councillor Symington felt that members have had very little opportunity to interact with staff due to working from home so she suggested it would be useful for members to be advised if and when teams return to the office and on which days.
L Roberts said it was a bit of a balancing act because they needed to consider everyone’s requirements but that was something they intended to do. She advised they would circulate information from the Communications team and that would be included in Members News so that Councillors were aware of what everyone was doing.
Councillor Guest queried if they were recording Covid and non Covid related absences.
L Roberts confirmed they do record both but separately. She highlighted that the sickness absence for this quarter was better than the last quarter.
Councillor Adeleke questioned if the short term sickness had increased due to Covid.
L Roberts said it was her understanding that the sickness was not a result of Covid but just the usual coughs, colds and respiratory related illnesses. She advised there has been an issue with mental health but the ... view the full minutes text for item 31.
There were no changes made to the work programme.
The Chairman reminded the committee to let him know if there was anything they would like to see added to the work programme.
Councillor Tindall explained there were a couple of issues that had materialised over the last few days that he had been made aware of through his position as Hertfordshire County Councillor. The first issue was around electrical vehicle charging points and the other was about a cut of £40m in government funding. He felt we always seemed to focus on what has happened in previous quarters/years but suggested it would be advantageous to be looking at what was actually happening now. He said he would be writing to the Chairman and Vice-Chairman regarding his thoughts and suggestions.
The Chairman welcomed the suggestion but highlighted that officers would need sufficient warning to prepare reports.
Councillor Townsend looked forward to receiving the email from Councillor Tindall. He then questioned if there was a Terms of Reference in the Constitution to define the scrutiny process. He felt it would be useful to see that information and have a refresher on what they’re trying to achieve in the scrutiny process.
M Brookes confirmed there was a Terms of Reference in the Councils Constitution so he could forward that on to members. Action: M Brookes
The Chairman suggested it might be useful to have a refresher scrutiny training session as they hadn’t had one for a few years.
Councillor Douris said he would take that suggestion on board and see if it can be scheduled on the work programme.