Agenda and draft minutes

Housing and Community Overview and Scrutiny - Wednesday, 9th September, 2020 6.30 pm

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Contact: Corporate and Democratic Support  01442 228209

No. Item


Minutes and action points pdf icon PDF 44 KB

To confirm the minutes from the previous meeting


The minutes from 1 July 2020 were agreed by the members present.



Apologies for absence

To receive any apologies for absence


Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Arslan.


It was also noted that Councillor Bassadone was having issues joining and that she will connect later.



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.

Councillor Mahmood noted that he is a Director of a company that receives government funding.



Public Participation

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





Budget Monitoring Q1 pdf icon PDF 186 KB

Additional documents:


F Jump introduced the report outlining the financial position for the Council for 2020/21 and stated that these figures were correct as of the end of June but in the current climate, a lot has changed since then. The figures in the report are consistent with those in the Covid-19 update report that went to Cabinet in June and another update will go in September and likely to be a revision to financial position. Most of the variances in the report are covid-19 driven and in terms of highlights, in the General Fund, currently expecting a pressure of £5.8 million and this does include some funding streams received from central government. Further details have been received from government about the loss of income and it is believed the council could receive between £1-1.5 million. On the Housing Revenue Account, the forecast is a surplus of £900k and this is being driven by a reduction in expenditure in relation to the number of repairs which is directly related to the pandemic and accessibility issues into properties. There is also a £7.3milion in slippage in the HRA capital programme.


Councillor Adeleke referred to page 5, paragraph 1.2. There has been a reduction in expenditure of £2.2 million on repairs which is part of surplus that is being quoted. He asked if this is something that would be revisited and if so, if something is due to be repaired, how is this cost factored into the budget forecast?


F Jump said that as we are unable to access properties, we will see a saving in the current financial year but the repairs work needs to be done. This is a timing issue rather a saving in expenditure. 


Councillor England said that Covid-19 is a massive uncertainty and asked F Jump if she was able to say when things will be clearer.


F Jump said that it is difficult to say, the forecast reflects our current position but things are changing daily (i.e. policies, a statement from the Prime Minister today) and could potentially see another lockdown in winter. She said the financial forecasts were prudent but changing.


Councillor England referred to the assumption that the council are not expecting another lockdown in winter and asked if they were referring to a local or national lockdown.


F Jump said she wouldn’t distinguish between them, either of those situation would have a similar impact on Dacorum’s position.


Councillor Mahmood referred to the £5 million plus pressure and asked if it was a pessimistic forecast or if things had improved since June.


F Jump said that it is a prudent forecast and that they are more optimistic since the lockdown ended. She added that they could be in a worse position if we were locked down again but could also see an improvement in the forecast depending on the situation for the remainder of the financial year.


Councillor Mahmood referred to the Capital Programme which has not been spent and asked how this would impact on  ...  view the full minutes text for item 56.


Housing Performance Q1 pdf icon PDF 233 KB

Report to follow.

Additional documents:


F Williamson introduced the report detailing the housing performance and ran through the highlights. She stated that members will note that overall performance is positive for quarter 1 despite being heavily impacted by the pandemic and the teams have responded well to the restrictions of lockdown, however some data is not available for this quarter, due to the service not being available during pandemic, such as some planned internal work to kitchens and bathrooms.


Councillor Freedman referred to the backlog of work and the task and finish group that had been brought into look at it. He said he has had several complaints from residents when there requests haven’t received a response. He understood that works would be taking longer and work being prioritised, he asked if the team were looking at getting communication out to residents to acknowledge there is a delay in responses and planned works.


F Williamson said that they were aware of this and there has been an increase in complaints and some communication issues. A task and finish group was set up to agree what the priority cases are and to identify those cases that need urgent intervention and ensure communication goes out to other tenants awaiting repairs. She added that scripts are being amended to reflect the backlog to advise tenants of any delays and timescales for completion of the work.


Councillor Mahmood asked if we were addressing the mental health of our tenants and what support we provide.


F Williamson said the department have been working with a number of agencies to provide support and we also provide life lines to private sector.


L Warden said officers had made contact with all tenants in a high risk group such as those who were over 70 or who has a health condition at the start of lockdown in order to offer support and make referrals to external agencies such as those who required food parcels. Work has been carried out with Community Action Dacorum and Age UK who have set up friending services for those who were socially isolated. The Supported Housing Officers have carried out extra work and identified tenants in different categories for weekly phone calls and some were phoned 2-3 times a week to maintain contact. Since the start of August, the officers have begun doorstep visits which was important as there was an increase in alarm faults because they were not able to test them. 85% of tenants in supported housing have now received a face to face visit and officers have made 143 referrals in August alone. It has been great to shift some services online and the majority of tenants have appreciated this but it has also identified that some need face to face contact in order for the council to offer the right support.

Councillor Mahmood asked for clarification on the red indicators on the risk register and section 114 in relation to homelessness.


F Williamson explained that a section 114 is a notice that the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 57.


Children Services and Community Safety Partnership, Customer Services, The Old Town Hall, Communications and Community Partnerships Q1 Performance pdf icon PDF 149 KB


M Rawdon introduced the report and provided an update on service performance over quarter 1 2020/2021 and also highlighted key achievements over this same period. He said members will note that services needed to be delivered in different ways due to covid-19 and services had to adapt and change to provide the response to covid-19. For example, the adventure playgrounds were shut and staff were redeployed to help across the organisation, mainly around assisting the housing cleaners and welfare calls to residents. The Old Town Hall team have supported Environmental Health making contact with residents and businesses. The Community Safety Team helped deliver food parcels to vulnerable residents.


Councillor Mahmood said the report was very good with lots of positive updates. He highlighted an error on page 16 in the report and asked for this to be amended.


Councillor England thanked M Rawdon for the report and recognised the challenges faced and the achievements. He recognised the improvement in answering the CSU phone lines. He asked M Rawdon what he thought the main factor was in this improvement.


M Rawdon said he thought this was due to the fact that we could quickly deploy our staff so that they could all work from home. Part time working from home was introduced in the team 12 months ago in order to try and retain our staff, so the transition was not a difficult process. We have noticed that there were a lot of residents unable to make face to face visits and therefore forcing to make calls or go online and this has showed there is not a great need for services of the CSU to always meet face to face. He thought the staff were more productive at home.


Councillor England said that the reports show great levels of performance and asked if they will retain home working once the pandemic has passed. He referred to the paragraph on communications and asked if it was possible to get some numbers from the website in terms of which pages are being visited most frequently and which campaigns are most popular.


M Rawdon said those statistics are available and will incorporate in the next report.


Councillor Adeleke said well done to M Rawdon and his team on a good report. He referred to the team’s charity efforts on behalf of the council and asked if there was any attempt to publicise this. He added to Councillor England’s comments re home working and was concerned that not everyone is comfortable with working from home and asked if staff would have a choice on where to work. He gave his thanks to Councillor Banks for arranging to have the war memorials cleaned.


M Rawdon said the food parcels were part of the wider Herts Help campaign so not sure what messages they have publicised, we can look at speaking to Communications department about how we get the positive messages out. In terms of the CSU, we can deliver the service whilst working from home  ...  view the full minutes text for item 58.


Old Town Hall Update pdf icon PDF 104 KB


Councillor Banks presented the report to the committee as the portfolio holder. The Old Town Hall has been hugely impacted by Covid-19 and is one of the few services that remains closed. There is currently no date set for when to reopen the hall and the paper highlights the impact on the hall and its staff.


Councillor Mahmood asked if the Old Town Hall could stream events as there are no current plan to open.


M Rawdon said that technology is very costly and as the building is so old the costs are increased and currently do not have the budget available. He suggested that films could be shown.


Councillor Mahmood asked if we could record the performances and then stream them.


L Roberts said that they don’t have the licences required it’s not just as simple as that because it’s the artists content. She explained that they had looked at all options but there just not viable.


Councillor England asked about the ventilation in the hall and if it would be feasible for people to sit in the hall for a performance when it could be opened. 


S Railson said that there is no air conditioning in the main auditorium but there is an air filtration system in the cellar. There is a ceiling fan and windows in the auditorium.


Councillor England said he thought this would be a barrier to using the space. He was thinking that it could be used as an extension of space for local schools.


S Railson said it is a generous space. She referred to government guidance which acknowledged that older buildings would not have a filtration system in place and rely on natural ventilation. 


Councillor Adeleke referred to the report that mentions the capacity with social distancing is 45 seats and he said we need to look at the long term use for the hall. He also asked what the prospects were for the staff employed at the Old Town Hall.


M Rawdon said in the short term whilst the hall is unable to open, we are making sure we are in the best position possible to reopen as soon as given the go ahead. In relation to staff, we can look at deploying staff into other areas of the council that need support during the covid-19 response.


L Roberts said that we will have a better indication over the next few weeks about a second spike in the pandemic and the impact on current timelines. The work that has been done to date in the report, shows we are able to reopen when possible. Some casual staff have been able to let go but there are other staff who we will be looking to redeploy and have lots of transferable skills to help in other departments.


Councillor Mahmood referred to section 5 of the report and activities that could take place at the Old Town Hall. He asked if this will be pursued.


M Rawdon said that the Council need to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 59.


Housing Housemark Covid Impact pdf icon PDF 296 KB

Report to follow.

Additional documents:


L Warden introduced the report to members. Housemark are a benchmarking company who we provide data to regarding performance and costs so get evidence to see if getting value for money and best outcomes. Covdi-19 has had a significant impact on delivery of services and HouseMark started a monthly data collection so housing providers could track their progress and to predict future issues.


Councillor Mahmood asked if the colourful leaflet in the report was the national picture of the figures against our own.


L Warden said this was the executive summary. It shows we have taken strong steps at the beginning to manage performance.


Councillor Mahmood asked if it was possible to have the national figures compared to our own in future reports. He then referred to 3.15 in relation to the increase in universal credit. He asked if it impacts Dacorum because we would receive rent later.


L Warden said she would include comparison figures in future reports. In relation to Universal Credit, there is an impact on workload at the start due to the verification process as we have to provide details to the DWP. There is a five week delay but some pressures is that some tenants have been receiving benefits for some time but are not used to the new process.


Councillor Mahmood referred to anti-social behaviour during lockdown and asked if the new restrictions meant that there is more work for the council or just the police. He thanked the housing teams for their hard work during the pandemic.


L Warden said that there was a slight dip in ASB cases reported in August. There were 21 cases reported compared to 30 the previous month. We are working with our partners including the police to tackle the issue. In relation to the lockdown restrictions, the legislation intends to make it the responsibility of the police and the focus of local authorities is on enforcement on businesses. However, a lot of calls come through to the council but if any relate to flouting lockdown restrictions are passed onto the police.


Councillor Adeleke asked who gives the external providers guidance of what to follow regarding PPE.


F Williamson said that the contractors have to provide us with their risk assessed method statements and we review them against our guidelines and to ensure that they are appropriate. We provide them with information on tenants who may be shielding or are high risk who may require additional measures. We have been getting feedback from tenants, as to what they feel are priorities to make them feel safe when they have operatives coming to their home.



Work programme pdf icon PDF 108 KB


The work programme was agreed.


Councillor England asked about the Climate emergency lead report and Councillor Imarni said it was on the action log.