Agenda and minutes

Housing and Community Overview and Scrutiny - Wednesday, 2nd November, 2022 7.30 pm

Venue: Conference Room 2 - The Forum. View directions

Contact: Corporate and Democratic Support  01442 228209

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 287 KB

To confirm the minutes from the previous meeting


Cllr Imarni opened the meeting at 7.30pm. The minutes of the previous meeting were unanimously approved.



Apologies for absence

To receive any apologies for absence


Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Mahmood and Councillor Pringle for lateness



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]





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


There were no such matters.



Action Points pdf icon PDF 321 KB


The Chair advised that most action points had been covered with some outstanding.


The Chair noted the Part 2 agenda item at the end of the meeting, noting that attendance will just be the Committee and presenter.



Q2 Budget monitoring Report


There was no report so the item was deferred.



Q2 Performance Report - Housing pdf icon PDF 497 KB

Additional documents:


NBeresford took the report as read, noting the performance highlights, including the positive trends in relation to repairs performance and collection as a percentage of the rent roll. Activity underway to support residents with rising costs of living was also noted. The report also outlines performance challenges and interventions in train to bring improvements to challenges identified.


Cllr Barry-Mears commented on gas safety PP01, on page 22 of the report, and asked what 99.4% equates to when looking at how many people don't have gas safety.


NBeresford confirmed that she would check this and provide the information to the councillor.


Cllr Barry-Mears noted the supplier issues causing delays to some emergency and non-emergency repairs since 2019 and that some people are still experiencing these issues. Cllr Barry-Mears asked if this will be looked into further.


NBeresford advised that the report highlights some of the challenges experienced and that there are wider issues related to Brexit and Covid, and that some planned work was stopped during the pandemic in line with guidance. There is now a period of catching up in addition to addressing supplier issues. MPurnell is working closely with suppliers and procurement teams to move this forward and NBeresford confirmed that she would ask him to provide further details to the councillor. (ACTION: NBeresford)


Cllr Wyatt-Lowe referred to item 4.3 of the report regarding the performance of Tunstall, noting the increasing pressure as winter approaches, and that they have failed to meet targets. Cllr Wyatt-Lowe asked what improvement processes are in place ahead of going into winter.


JMaxwell confirmed that there are regular meetings with Tunstall regarding the contract and their obligations around it. They currently have issues with recruitment, and weekly meetings are being held to review staffing numbers and how this is affecting the service. Ensuring this performance improves is a priority. Cllr Wyatt-Lowe commented that pressure should be put on Tunstall and queried when their contract is due for renewal. JMaxwell confirmed that the contract is due for renewal mid-2023 and that the council will go to different suppliers to see which can offer this service. There will also be an option to review the terms of the contract, such as putting in penalties if the contract is not adhered to. The focus currently is on working with the contractor for them to improve the service and recruitment of staff. Cllr Wyatt-Lowe asked that there be a focus on these issues when the contract is up for renewal to ensure that the council is receiving a service that is fit for purpose.


The Chair commented on the labour and skills shortage, noting that they should review how they are writing contracts to help eliminate issues within the industry, and that the council may need to look to bring in more apprentices. The Chair stated that they would not be able to tender this in the same way as in the past and that DBC may need to consider bringing some work  ...  view the full minutes text for item 51.


Q2 Performance Report - People & Communities pdf icon PDF 638 KB

Additional documents:



The report was taken as read, and the performance of the Old Town Hall was noted with regards to sell-out shows.


Cllr Barry-Mears commented on the graffiti, noting that she had met with the Prevent Officer for Hertfordshire, who highlighted a rise in anti-Semitic graffiti, particularly in Adeyfield, and asked if this was being monitored.

Cllr Banks noted this had not been brought to the team's attention, though the tagging of graffiti is fed through the police to check with schools and other partners to help recognise individuals. It was confirmed that this would be fed back to officers.


Cllr Harden commented on leadership tiers and that he was surprised it was JDoe's responsibility to be at the Committee meeting.


The Chair stated that they would ordinarily expect a representative present, either the author of the report or someone knowledgeable enough to present the report and answer arising questions. The Chair noted that this was the first time an agenda item had been brought to the meeting with no one to present it.


Cllr Ransley noted an increase in graffiti in Tring, noting that one of the subways from the junior and infant schools has been repeatedly graffitied in the last three years. Cllr Ransley commented that the team had painted black squares over offensive words and that this was then targeted with further graffiti. Cllr Ransley asked if they could approach others who may want to paint the space and to provide ownership.


NBeresford advised that underpasses are the responsibility of HCC and that she would feed this back for discussion.


The Chair noted a scheme in West London that sponsors artists and that this can help prevent graffiti.


Cllr Wyatt-Lowe commented that some artist projects have helped stop graffiti and that she would like to see more of this, adding that they could look at having an official graffiti wall where people could express themselves. Cllr Wyatt-Lowe noted that graffiti is an outlet and they should therefore channel it in a more positive way.


Cllr Banks asked that any instances of graffiti be reported via the council webpage, adding that some projects have been successful and should therefore be pursued.


Cllr Adeleke referred to Cllr Wyatt-Lowe's comments, advising that each local area in Paris has to legally provide an area for people to express themselves.


Cllr Adeleke asked if they could take the approach taken to fly-tipping in areas where graffiti is a particular problem.


Cllr Banks confirmed that she would pass this comment back to officers. (ACTION: Cllr Banks)


The Chair commented that she was in favour of sponsoring graffiti artists rather than criminalising them, given that aerosol cans can't be used inside and the restrictions they have should be acknowledged through the provision of space.


Cllr Banks agreed, adding that it would require an artist-led project.


Cllr Dhyani asked what happened to the artwork on the Plough subway.


Cllr Banks stated that her understanding was that they were stolen or damaged. Cllr Banks noted  ...  view the full minutes text for item 52.


HTIP workstream deep dive; commissioning and contracting pdf icon PDF 616 KB


ALinden presented the report, noting that they are currently in phase 1 of the work with a view on mitigating risks. Recommendations have been set up on housing compliance regarding asbestos, electrical, fire, gas and lifts. This work commenced in September and should be completed by January 2023. Phase 2 focuses on ensuring contractor performance, that risk is being managed and that there is compliance with current legislation regarding policies. How contracts are managed going forward is also being looked at to ensure best value for money, and Phase 2 will also look at commissioning and procurement of contractors through a more robust approach to secure better value for money and outcomes.


No questions were raised on the item.




Complaints Policy pdf icon PDF 1 MB


HPeacock presented the policy, noting that it is a part of the Customer Strategy, as approved by Cabinet in February 2022. The strategy focuses on putting the customer at the centre of services and providing a positive customer experience, which includes looking at the complaints process with the aim to make it more effective and positive. The first phase looked at mapping the existing complaints process through workshops with customers and officers. This process identified a number of pain points within the policy and procedures behind it, and the second phase of implementation is taking these lessons learned by amending the policy to reflect these lessons. The key changes within the policy include speeding up response times to provide a more effective and efficient response. The other change is regarding the levels of responsibility where a team leader completes stage 1 and head of service or above completes stage 2. This recognises the understanding of issues that team leaders will already have as well as providing a wider pool of officers to respond to complaints, thereby improving response rates. Calling customers to address informal complaints has also been added to the policy to ensure that officers are having conversations with customers and helping mitigate any issues before becoming formal complaints.


Cllr Harden asked what is the preferred method of communication to the council from a resident.


HPeacock responded that the majority of complaints are via the webform on the intranet and internet pages, though further statistics on contact routes could be provided.


Cllr Harden commented that there is an issue that people are unable to get through to officers via telephone and that they need to consider how they manage the expectation people have that someone will pick up the call. Cllr Harden stated that they also need to look at how they promote the preferred route of communication to help reduce complaints.


Cllr Harden commented that people are unable to call up to book bulky item collection and that Homelessness can't be contacted out of hours via phone.


On contacting the Homelessness service, NBeresford advised that this can't be contacted directly out of hours, though this issue has been addressed and scripting has been reviewed with the Customer Service Unit to allow the handler to assess the call and then contact the out of hours homelessness officer. The number isn't readily shared with residents, though officers proactively engage with call handlers.


Cllr Hollinghurst commented that he was pleased to hear that the issue has now been addressed, noting that homelessness needs to be on the menu when people are calling the out of hours number.


HPeacock noted that officers will receive training on the process for handling complaints and what customer expectations are. The expectation on officers is also addressed through the strategy and ensuring that this is embedded in all their work.


Referring back to Cllr Harden's earlier comment regarding bulky item collections, HPeacock advised that they are working in partnership with Ignite on a series  ...  view the full minutes text for item 54.


Exclusion of the public

To consider passing a resolution in the following terms:


That, under s.100A (4) of the Local Government Act 1972 Schedule 12A Part 1 as amended by the Local Government (Access to Information) (Variation) Order 2006 the public be excluded during the items in Part 2 of the Agenda for this meeting, because it is likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted, that, if members of the public were present during those items, there would be disclosure to them of exempt information relating to the financial and business affairs of the Council and third party companies/organisations.


Local Government Act 1972, Schedule 12A, Part 1, paragraph 3.



That, under s.100A (4) of the Local Government Act 1972 Schedule 12A Part 1 as amended by the Local Government (Access to Information) (Variation) Order 2006 the public be excluded during the items in Part 2 of the Agenda for this meeting, because it is likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted, that, if members of the public were present during those items, there would be disclosure to them of exempt information relating to the financial and business affairs of the Council and third party companies/organisations.


Local Government Act 1972, Schedule 12A, Part 1, paragraph 3.




Housing Services Management Structure


Full details can be found in the Part 2 minutes.