Agenda and draft minutes

Housing and Community Overview and Scrutiny - Wednesday, 7th October, 2020 6.30 pm

Venue: Microsoft Teams - Microsoft Teams. View directions

Contact: Corporate and Democratic Support  01442 228209

Items
No. Item

62.

Minutes

To confirm the minutes from the previous meeting

Minutes:

 

The minutes from the previous meeting were not available to sign.

 

 

63.

Apologies for absence

To receive any apologies for absence

Minutes:

There were no apologies for absence.

64.

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]

 

Minutes:

Councillor Barry declared an interest in item 6 as she was employed as a youth worker in Hertfordshire.
Councillor Banks declared an interest in item 6 as she was employed by Grovehill Neighbourhood Association.

 

65.

Public Participation

An opportunity for members of the public to make statements or ask questions in accordance with the rules as to public participation

Minutes:

There was no public participation

66.

Consideration of any matter referred to the committee in relation to call-in

None.

Minutes:

None

67.

Housing Income Collection pdf icon PDF 227 KB

Minutes:

S Mogan introduced the report to members and ran through its highlights.

 

Councillor Freedman thanked the officer for the report and suggested that the report should focus more on the known metrics such as how difficult is it to make contact once a tenant is identified as needing support and how much contact is required to get a response from them.

 

Councillor Adeleke was concerned that the system would not be able to recognise underlying issues. He referred to paragraph 3.11 and asked if there was a perception that tenants are scared to speak to rent officers. He also referred to the Universal Credit officer and noted the hard work this post had completed. He asked if there were plans to extend the contract beyond May 2021 as the current covid-19 situation is going to have a lasting impact.

 

S Mogan noted Councillor’s Adeleke’s concern about the system not recognising underlying issues. She explained that the system does not just look at rent arrears, it will look at payment patterns and if, for example, the tenant pays their rent on 25th of each month, it won’t highlight this as a risk until the payment has been missed. It is an intelligent system but will take the point away about it potentially missing important information, especially those tenants who pay their rent on time. In relation to the fear of talking to rent officers, she said the team are working hard to change that perception that they are debt collectors. When the team manage to contact a tenant in serious arrears, it often comes as a relief to the tenant as we are able to offer support and help them pay their rent and apply for any benefits they may be entitled too. There is a huge benefit to tenants if they remain in contact with rent officers. The intention is to review and extend the contract of the Universal Credit Officer.

 

Councillor Mahmood said arrears had gone up 1.06% which totalled £400k. He asked if this was correct.

 

S Mogan said the percentage of the arrears is worked out as a percentage of the gross debit which equals approximately £54 million a year.

 

Councillor Mahmood referred to paragraph 3.8 and the automatic reminders that are issued. He asked about the wording in these as this could cause stress to tenants.

 

S Mogan said there are a variety of letters than get sent out and are based on stages of the rent arrears that appear on the Housing Management system. There has been a 60-70% reduction in letters sent in quarter 1 and 2 this year compared to last as the team are making more phone contact with tenants. If a tenant is not engaging with the team, as a very last resort we send them a support letter explaining what we can do to help them and this is to encourage them to contact the team.

 

Councillor Mahmood asked if the letters threaten to take legal action in them.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 67.

68.

Anti-Social Behaviour update pdf icon PDF 302 KB

Minutes:

R Glanville introduced the report to members. He said he had received an enquiry from a member before the meeting requested seasonal patterns for reporting of ASB and said this is something he will provide after the meeting and will look to add detail of the length of time cases are open.

 

Councillor Adeleke said it was excellent and reassuring for tenants that reports of ASB are looked into within 24 hours. He had concerns that now the ASB had moved into the housing team, that private tenants would not be given the same level of service and asked what powers the team have and how private residents are supported.

 

R Glanville said moving the ASB team to housing meant they could specifically focus on council tenants and leaseholders. The report in the agenda addresses the private sector which falls under a different team and work closely with the police. There are a range of powers to tackle ASB; notice seeking possession, acceptable behaviour contracts, injunctions, closure orders. The measures are always proportionate and officers must complete a proportionality statement.

 

L Warden added that she was involved in the transfer of ASB officers from Regulatory Services into Housing. The team were sitting outside housing but were managing housing cases which made up about 80% of their case work so it made sense for them to work alongside the housing officers. They still have a number of cases involving private landlords and there are a few different routes, there is a Community Safety Action Group held on a monthly basis where cases are discussed and talk about a variety of methods and action plans for example, a Community Protection Warning/Notice or liaising with the landlords. Once a new post has been created, ASB issues affecting private residents will fall under the Community Safety Team and ASB cases affecting council tenants will be dealt with in the Housing team.

 

R Glanville said that the courts are now open but we make sure we engage with tenants. Last week, we were successful in securing a closure order in Grovehill due to the severity and the nature of the crimes being committed at the address. We will still push to take residents to court were necessary once all options have been exhausted.

 

Councillor Adeleke asked which age groups were the worst offenders.

 

R Glanville said we could looked to include supplementary information and there is a wide range of age groups.

 

Councillor Mahmood referred to paragraph 4.4 and the different case numbers that have increased during lockdown. He asked if the table was broken down into the average duration of time taken to resolve cases and the nature of the ASB.

 

R Glanville said we do see a peak in reported ASB in the summer months and this obviously increased during the pandemic. The most common behaviour reported was noise nuisance and the use of cannabis and drugs. The team don’t have powers of entry but work closely with the police when they are  ...  view the full minutes text for item 68.

69.

Supporting Young People Programme through the Active Dacorum Hub pdf icon PDF 228 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

A Care introduced the report to members. The report outlines information about projects the team are looking to run and how this will be funded and sustained. The money for this project was set aside many years ago for the Highfield Youth Club which did not materialise and was then used to create the Cycle Hub at Cupid Green. This is no longer running and so the council are looking to provide activities for young people to engage in activities to support their physical and mental health. There are a number of proposed activities and these are costed out in the report. There is an allocated budget for monitoring, consultation and evaluation to understand what is and isn’t popular and to gain some evidence to focus on what works and how to develop it for the future.

 

Councillor Adeleke said he thought this was an excellent initiative and he was a hundred percent behind any projects that support the youth in the community. However, he had a number of concerns and asked why the Cycle Hub was not successful. He added that the project was designed to plug the gap for young people aged 11-16 but he did not feel there was an adequate explanation as to what they are doing now or what they needed support with. He had concerns that members were not invited to provide their views on the initiative. He referred to the impact on covid-19 and said all the activities listed are group activities and felt it was reckless to provide these activities at this point in time. He felt that the team were determined to spend the money allocated and he could not see how some of the costings were arrived at.

 

Councillor Banks said the Grovehill ward councillors were not consulted and neither were the Woodhall Farm members. She had some input as the portfolio holder. She gave some background into the Highfield Youth Club and said the project never materialised and only got as far as identifying the land it would be provided on. The money for this project is sat in reserves waiting to be spent and it was originally used to set up the Cycle Hub but they were not able to engage in providing further facilities/activities. Apex have now taken on the facility are delivering a wider facility which now has a keep fit studio, gym and on-site café. This should be a Dacorum wide facility and she said she had questioned officers about how they were going to include the town and villages across the borough.

 

A Care said she did not make it clear than it was Councillor Banks as the portfolio holder was consulted, not the Grovehill councillors. She said the team know there is a gap and it is known nationally, that mental health and obesity are key concerns for young people and these has been made worse by the current covid pandemic. At this stage, the report is for comment and feedback and needs  ...  view the full minutes text for item 69.

70.

DBC Physical Activity and Sports Action Plan pdf icon PDF 236 KB

Minutes:

C Foster introduced the report to members and said there have been a lot of changes because of the pandemic and some activities have moved online which demonstrated how technology can support the delivery of sports and activity. A virtual wellness festival took place online with a range of activities including yoga, mindfulness and healthy eating. There were seven activities with 445 people attending. The Run Your Town event will be held virtually this year on the weekend of 17-18th October and we are asking residents to sign up to walk/run 5km or 10km for a £5 donation and all proceeds will go to the local NHS charity as chosen by the Mayor. All participants will receive a medal. The Active Dacorum Hub is open now as a multi-use communal venue and the aim is to engage all residents in their physical and mental wellbeing. C Foster said she was able to utilise s.106 funding to resurface the tennis courts and add netball courts at Cupid Green.

 

Councillor England thanked C Foster for their engagement in the changes to the report he had proposed, he said they had done a good job and it was good to see some numbers. He recognised that covid-19 has impacted the programme and makes it difficult to evaluate what is being done. He said he felt strongly that adventure playgrounds and community centres should be involved. He suggested a goal of a greater percentage of projects tackling inactivity.

 

C Foster said Dacorum is a large borough and the project has to start somewhere. The first task was to find a use for the closed building at Cupid Green playing fields and this has now been achieved. She said she was passionate about creating community partnerships which should allow us to look at other locations. In relation to inactivity, this is being tackled again through partnership working and working with Sports England and the planning team to set up a working group to look at the results from the Local Plan and awaiting on the indoor feasibility study to be published by the end of the year. There are certain areas with a shortfall, such as artificial 4G pitches and local football facilities which is run by the Football Association. She said she would be happy to receive any suggestions or invite interested members to the working group.

 

Councillor Adeleke asked how many projects C Foster envisioned would happen for the whole year and is there a target to achieve.

 

C Foster said the action plan was a working document and there aren’t any specific targets. New items can be added as the plan evolves.

 

Councillor Adeleke asked about community grants and how are they policed to ensure the money is being spent for what it was intended for. If a group is successful at being awarded a grant, he asked if they would be able to apply again.

 

A Care said there was three grants rounds a year. If a community group applies  ...  view the full minutes text for item 70.

71.

Work programme pdf icon PDF 289 KB

Minutes:

Councillor England requested an update on when the committee would be able to consider the climate change emergency.

Action: Councillor Imarni to get an update from the Climate Change Lead Officer