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To agree the minutes of the previous meeting.
The minutes of the Strategic Planning and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 31 January and 7 February 2017 were confirmed by the members present and signed by the Chairman.
Apologies for Absence
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies were received from Councillors E Collins, S Hearn and Ransley.
Declarations of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest.
There were no declarations of interest.
There was no public participation.
Consideration of any matter referred to the Committee in relation to Call-In
Skinner introduced the report to members and said it was an
improving picture from Q2 with a current underspend of
£250,000. In this quarter, the vacancy provision has improved
and there have been some minor additional government grants of
£45,000. There are still some pressures within the service
and they are the same pressures that have been seen across the year
in employees, waste services and building control.
Councillor C Wyatt-Lowe referred to paragraph 3.4 which mentioned an underachievement of income in the commercial waste sector. Was there a particular sector of businesses that were lost?
C Thorpe said the council had lost a few commercial customers but this was due to businesses closing or moving out of the borough and not due to a lack of service.
Councillor C Wyatt-Lowe asked if it was a particular sector of businesses.
C Thorpe said it was across the range – from businesses to restaurants. Some have changed the size of their containers which also decreases the income.
Councillor Matthews referred to paragraph 3.1 and the pressures in building control. He asked if there was any progress in filling the vacant posts.
J Doe said there was significant progress being made. There have been three trainee appointments who have been gradually introduced into the service. The agency staff costs wont fully disappear until permanent staff are appointment in the more senior roles. We are also looking at the pay scales.
Councillor C Wyatt-Lowe referred back to paragraph 3.4 and the £190,000 underachievement in income. She said the report mentioned that this could be due to the uncertainty in the housing market after the EU referendum. Councillor C Wyatt-Lowe said she did not feel this was the case in Dacorum and could the officers expand on this?
D Skinner said there was an initial slow down and we might see a slight spoke in 2017/18 after the market recovers. It was a lull rather than a stop. The uncertainty has meant businesses have had to take pause.
J Doe echoed the comments made by D Skinner. Some major applications have come in recently like the Maylands Gateway Site which has produced £90,000 in fee income. There has been a mixed reaction from house builders – some have put plans on hold and some have continued as normal.
Councillor Riddick asked if the 20% increase from the Housing and Planning Act had been factored in.
J Doe said it hadn’t at the moment. The Director of Finance has just written to the government accepting the 20% increase.
Councillor C Wyatt-Lowe asked for more detail on the £45,000 grants.
D Skinner said the grants were given for several different things. When the government changes policies, the grants are given. They are minor when looked at individually but they are quite a good sum when put together.
Councillor C Wyatt-Lowe said there was ... view the full minutes text for item 46.
Report to follow
Doe introduced the report to members and highlighted the main
points. It had been a good quarter for performance, especially in
regards to planning applications. There have been some delays in
the validation of planning applications and this was due to some IT
issues that the department experienced.
J Doe said yes. The major applications take up a lot of officers time whereas an officer can be dealing with 30/40 smaller applications at one time.
Councillor Matthews referred to the performance indicators and asked how Dacorum’s refusal rate compares to the national average.
J Doe said that it is not one that the government monitors. J Doe said in his experience, councils accept 80-90% of applications. Dacorum provides pre-application advice and do encourage applicants to take this advice. A fee is levied on this service so it does generate income.
Councillor Hicks asked if a decrease in the rate of planning applications allowed officers to catch up.
J Doe said it can do. It gives officers more time to continue with improvement projects. However, he stressed the increase in major applications and said these were very time consuming.
Councillor Anderson noted the council had met the annual target of 430 new homes.
J Doe said these new homes are evenly spread but there is slightly more in Hemel Hempstead as it is bigger than the surrounding areas. Last year, the council built 650 new homes.
Councillor Matthews said a senior member of the planning team was going on maternity leave. Will there be a replacement?
J Doe said they had appointed somebody on a temporary contract for 18 months. They will start on 27th March and has previously worked with Central Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes councils.
Councillor Riddick said the enforcement team were operating with just one staff member. Has this improved?
J Doe said the enforcement team are back at full strength and there was a slight slippage on the performance targets.
That the Strategic Planning and Environment Overview and
Scrutiny Committee approve the report.
Walker introduced the report to members. She said there had been a
slight slippage this quarter on hygiene inspections but this was
due to staff levels and the time of year. Two trainee Environmental
Health officers have been recruited in January 2017 which has
reduced the vacancy rate in the department. The Primary Authority
Partnerships have been dissolved and are now with Luton Borough
Councillor Riddick referred to 3.2 in the report. Did the
investigation into legionnaires reveal anything?
Councillor Riddick asked what type of business was closed down for poor food hygiene and can they be named.
E Walker said it was a takeaway business and was not happy to release the name as it was a voluntary closure.
Councillor Riddick referred to 4.5 and the waste fixed penalty notices. Is this returning significant income?
D Austin said this was new legislation and can be used in small fly tipping offences and it is more pragmatic to issue a fine. Serious and serial fly tippers will still proceed to court. There are no fines to report in quarter 3 but in the quarter 4 update, there will be news on a successful prosecution on a serial fly tipper.
Councillor Riddick referred to 5.4 and said he had noticed vans pulling up and letting several dogs run loose on Boxmoor Trust land and there is public access here. This brings the issue of dog fouling. Is there anything the council can do?
D Austin said he would take the comments on board. We do have a dog warden and a good relationship with the Boxmoor Trust.
Councillor Anderson asked for an update on the Hand Arm Vibration prosecution.
D Austin said the case is ongoing. We are now compliant but this prosecution relates to historical cases.
Councillor Riddick asked if there was progress with recruiting and retaining employees.
E Walker said they had recruited two new trainees and we are growing our own talent. There are also a couple of posts being advertised now.
Councillor Riddick said the problem with trainees is they take a while to train and a more experienced officer has to help them. It is a difficult balancing act.
D Austin said it was part of a solution for the medium term. We are trying to emphasise what a great place Dacorum is work with the new building and flexible working.
Councillor Riddick asked if there was a way of retaining the staff once they’d completed their training.
D Austin said they are tied for a fixed term after completing their training. If they ... view the full minutes text for item 48.
Thorpe introduced the report to members – he said most of the
department’s performance will be included in the presentation
after this. In waste services, village collections have commenced
in Flamsted and Markyate and vacancies
have been filled. The refuse calendars went out before Christmas
and the Christmas period was smooth and was not affected by adverse
weather. There were site tours to the recycling facility in
Crayford and the Anaerobic Digestion Plant in Chertsey. In terms of
sickness, there is now only one long term sick record in Clean,
Safe and Green and one in Waste Services. There has been a decrease
in long term sick. Return to work interviews
are being complied with. There is a seven day target to
conduct these interviews and in this quarter, the average was 3.1
Thorpe said the idea was that if motorists could not see the
access, then they would slow down. It is essentially a traffic
C Thorpe said it was unfair but it just shows the trend is down on the period before.
Councillor Riddick gave his personal thanks to C Thorpe for responding so promptly to a resident’s concerns regarding fly tipping. He also congratulated the officer on the improving sickness. Councillor Riddick asked if the roundabouts are sponsored to keep costs down.
C Thorpe said a number of roundabouts were sponsored – on the Link Road and in Kings Langley.
Councillor Riddick asked if this was a difficult market to expand.
C Thorpe said that it has actually increased this year. The roundabouts attract more revenue because it has done so well in the past.
That the Strategic Planning and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee approve the report.
Environmental Service Review Update
A presentation will be given at the meeting
C Thorpe gave a presentation showing members the performance and achievements of the department over the last year. The main points of the presentation were: