Agenda and draft minutes

Housing and Community Overview and Scrutiny - Wednesday, 10th November, 2021 7.30 pm

Contact: Corporate and Democratic Support  01442 228209

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 153 KB

To confirm the minutes from the previous meeting


The minutes from 13 October 2021 were agreed and signed by the Chairman.



Apologies for absence

To receive any apologies for absence


Cllrs Bassadone, Oguchi and Ransley sent their apologies for the meeting. 



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.



Public Participation

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





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





Berkhamsted Sports Centre pdf icon PDF 826 KB


M Brookes presented the report and introduced Richard Thompson of Hadron Consulting and David McHendry of Knight, Kavanagh and Page. M Brookes provided an update from April 2021 and confirmed they are currently at stage 2 and working with key stakeholders, developing site options, assessing the facility mix, and developing the initial capital cost and business revenue plan.  Following this, authority will be sought from Cabinet to progress to stage 3 to develop the design for planning application and undertake first stage contractor procurement.  Stage 4 will then look to develop the technical side of the scheme, and a report will come back to Cabinet at the close of stage 4. 


R Thompson of Hadron Consulting provided an overview of stage 2, noting the challenges of the site and the number of engagement meetings held so far.  A number of facility mixes were proposed, and a hybrid model of the essential and desirable facility mixes was presented with a wet side, dry side, community side, and outside facilities.  External facilities would comprise of around 150 car parking spaces and a number of options to improve Lagley Meadow. 


The Chairman queried if the proposal showed a nursery or creche.  R Thompson confirmed that the plan incorporates the Happy Days Nursery already onsite.

Cllr Mahmood asked if the square meterage of the pool and fitness area remain the same as the current design.  D Hendry of Knight, Kavanagh and Page advised that the swimming pool area has increased with the inclusion of the teaching pool and splash pad.  The health and fitness area is also larger with additional studios, which is a key driver for income generation.  


R Thompson presented the strategic moves, noting particular attention to the sloped area from Douglas Gardens to Gossoms End, the Lagley Meadow connection, and looking to make an active roofscape.  Looking at the design approach, R Thompson presented the existing site and advised that the nursery and 5-a-side pitches will need to be temporarily or permanently removed to allow room for construction of the new centre.  The nursery are being engaged with to arrange a temporary facility and then bring back into the scheme, and football will be provided for elsewhere.  The current constraints of the site were noted with underground utilities, which would require considerable funds to move, and keeping the existing site open. 


Cllr Adeleke asked how much the existing site would be expanded by.  R Thompson noted the current site ownership and confirmed that the new centre will be larger at just under 7,000sqm compared to 5,000sqm at present, though the overall site area will remain the same.  New access from Gossoms End will bring traffic in off the main road and into a new car park, which will provide temporary parking during construction. 


R Thompson next looked to the landscape strategy, noting that they are compensating for any tree loss to create new site access and that both entrances will be fully accessible.  There are a number of intentions  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Quarter 2 Budget Monitoring Report pdf icon PDF 196 KB

Additional documents:


F Jump introduced the report for the forecast outturn position as at Q2.  An overall pressure of £1m is forecast, of which £0.7m is Covid-related and the proposal is to fund this pressure from the economic recovery reserve. 


The housing revenue account is seeing revenue pressures of £0.8m, which is made of up a number of over and underspends, as detailed in the report.  Capital schemes are broadly on budget, against the general fund there is slippage of £0.1m, and against the housing revenue account there is slippage of £11.7m, of which most is against the new build programme and relates to delays experienced with third parties.


Cllr Harden referred to item 4.1 in the report and 3.4 around temporary accommodation and asked for further context on funding.   F Jump explained that they are seeing a shortfall against the income targets due to working practices that needed to be introduced, and they are not currently at full capacity and this is impacting budgets.  Works are continuing on these properties to make them fit for purpose and these properties therefore can’t be used. 


Cllr Harden asked if the council are working to encourage the recruitment to fill capacity or if this will be resolved at a later date.  F Jump stated that she didn’t believe there was an issue with works being undertaken, and that they need to consider how many clients can be housed at a particular time due to restrictions.


Remaining on item 4.1, Cllr Adeleke asked how severe the situation is with staff sickness.  F Williamson advised that they have had 4 members of staff off and that throughout the pandemic they have experienced issues with individuals with periods of sickness but also with people being asked to self-isolate.  There are currently 2 members absent at present. 


The Chairman noted items 5.1, 5.10 and 5.11 and that the bad debt provision is better than expected.  The Chairman referred to item 5.12 and the depreciation and revaluations.  F Jump advised that professional evaluations were undertaken as a result of publication of the final accounts, and this has indicated an increase in value of council housing stock, which will impact the depreciation of assets charged through the housing revenue account and has therefore increased as a result.  The Chairman asked if this was with a particular set of properties.  F Jump explained that, given the number of properties, even a small increase in valuation will have a large impact on the depreciation charge.


Cllr Harden noted item 6.4 and commented on the delay in developing housing schemes due to awaiting planning consent or responses from Hertfordshire County Council and asked if the council were working proactively to address this.  F Jump advised that they are actively pursuing all avenues and reassured members that they are doing all possible to expedite these programmes.


Cllr Adeleke raised a point of order that there should have been a declaration at the beginning of the meeting that it was being recorded.  The Chairman  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


Quarter 2 Performance Report - Housing pdf icon PDF 236 KB

Additional documents:


F Williamson presented the report, noting this was the first performance data on the new system, which has resulted in a formatting change.  F Williamson noted SH03A and confirmed that the figure of 1,606 days is a cumulative figure and not the number of days taken to allocate general needs property in the period, and that this is then divided by the number of properties allocated and results in an average time of 33 days. 


Looking at Q1 and Q2, F Williamson confirmed that an external consultant was commissioned to undertake a service review of the housing service, and an action plan has been developed from this, which aligns with a number of areas already within the plan over the coming 2-3 years.  F Williamson confirmed that she will bring progress against these actions to future scrutiny committees.  Overall, it was recognised the housing service provided a good quality service during the pandemic, though there are a number of areas where there are options for improvement that will be taken forward.


F Williamson then looked to Q2 and advised there have been a number of challenges in the construction sector, which has impacted performance with Osborne and also specialist material supplies, and work is being done to mitigate the impact to tenants.  F Williamson confirmed that the service has been kept within target for emergency repairs, though standard repairs are taking longer, and backlog repairs are now increasing.


Looking at performance highlights, F Williamson reported that the Private Rented Sector team have continued to work to licence further HMOs and have increased a further 10 since Q1, resulting in 113 HMOs licensed in the borough.  The Tenancy Sustainment Team are seeing a rise in demand for services with a number of households still requiring support, both in financial support and also paying bills as a result of rising energy costs.  F Williamson confirmed 99.94% compliance in Q2 for gas servicing, and all those out of target were referred to the Tenancy team, and the compliance figure is now at 100% as of October.


The homelessness team have been working to prevent homelessness, particularly from the private sector, and some cases are being referred to courts for possession, and the team have been successful in ensuring that 36 cases in Q2 were prevented from a homeless presentation. It was also noted that Natasha Beresford, Group Manager for Strategic Housing, was recognised for an Inspirational Colleague of the Year Award for work undertaken during the pandemic.


On performance challenges F Williamson noted the material shortages and a number of surveys are being run across the sector to better understand these.  Sub-contractors and individual traders are being offered more lucrative work, and work is ongoing with Osborne to ensure they can engage the supply chain.  There was also a 2.6% decline in rent collected in Q2. 


There are ongoing issues letting some properties within the sheltered accommodation schemes, especially those with communal facilities.  Dispersed schemes have a high-level of demand and are let  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.


Quarter 2 Performance Report - People & Communities pdf icon PDF 905 KB


L Roberts presented the Q2 performance results, noting that a number of retained services relate to customer services, the Old Town Hall and communications, and community safety partnerships and community partnerships are now covered by L Warden. 


L Roberts confirmed that measurable targets were achieved other than the average wait time for phone calls due to an increase of 1,500 calls compared to Q1 and a number of leavers from the customer service unit.  Replacements have now been recruited and are now in the process of being fully trained. 


Cllr Harden referred to item 2.1 on the performance of the CSU, noting the challenge with the average wait time and that CSU12 doesn’t have recorded statistics.  Cllr Harden asked how long the pre-booked scenario has been implemented and if staff are being managed on call-handling.  M Rawdon advised that pre-booked appointments have been in place for around 6 months and that incoming calls are triaged with around 2-3 in-person appointments per week and most appointments taking place over the phone.  M Rawdon confirmed that staff are multi-skilled in handling customers over the phone or in person and a customer review is ongoing to look at the future service model.


Cllr Harden asked if they were receiving a negative response from the public on the lack of in-person appointments.  M Rawdon confirmed that no formal complaints have been received and that satisfaction remains high.  L Roberts added that if they can deliver to customers over the phone then they will and that they will provide in-person appointments where necessary. 


Cllr Harden noted an error on item 3.5.6 and clarified that it should state that funding is from April 2022, not 2021.


Cllr Mahmood noted a concern regarding the increase in reported safeguarding issues and asked if those handling these cases are fully qualified to do so.  L Roberts confirmed a national increase of referrals and that there is a strong triage system in place with appropriately qualified people to discuss each individual case.  M Rawdon advised that mandatory safeguarding training is in place for all staff and advanced training for those dealing with vulnerable people, and a safeguarding officer acts as a triage to discuss any issues.


Cllr Adeleke commented on item 3.1.2 and asked for further information on the Old Town Hall review and asked how it differed from the working party made up of members.  M Rawdon confirmed that a review will be conducted on the programme, customer feedback and how to best utilise the asset.  In response to member involvement, it was confirmed that alongside the Old Town Hall review is a review of the Old Town with Hemel Place and information will be reported in due course.  L Roberts added that the Old Town Hall will be recognised as part of Hemel Place strategy and the individual conducting the report has experience and the key findings will be reported back.


With regards to communications, Cllr Adeleke asked if the large screen in the town centre could be  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.


Action points from 13 October 2021 pdf icon PDF 276 KB


The Chairman noted that those involved in the outstanding action points weren’t present.


Action point 1 – completed.


Action point 2 – to be chased with A Care.

Action: A Care

Action point 3 – to be chased with J Deane’s replacement and arrange a Teams meeting though this may not be until the new year.

Action: The Chairman


Action point 4 – completed. 



Work Programme pdf icon PDF 199 KB


The work programme was noted.  Any additional items for future meetings can be emailed to The Chairman.


The Meeting ended at 21:55