Agenda item

Cabinet Member Updates

Members of the Council may ask the Cabinet member any question without notice upon an item on the report as published in this agenda;


5.1       Councillor Tindall        Leader of the Council (verbal update only)


5.2       Councillor England     Portfolio Holder Climate & Ecological Emergency


5.3       Councillor Wilkie         Portfolio Holder Place


5.4       Councillor Weston      Portfolio Holder People & Transformation


5.5       Councillor Tindall        Portfolio Holder Corporate and Commercial Services


5.6       Councillor Dhyani       Portfolio Holder Housing & Property Services


5.7       Councillor Bromham   Portfolio Holder Neighbourhood Operations


5.1       Leader of the Council


Cllr Tindall advised he was pleased to advise that Cllr Capozzi has agreed to be the Cabinet members for Corporate & Commercial and will be taking up the post directly following this meeting.


Cllr Tindall further advised a change in reporting for the Climate & Ecological portfolio which will now report to the SPAE OSC rather than the F&R OSC.


The Mayor advised that updates from the individual Portfolio Holders have been circulated with the agenda and invited questions.


5.2       Climate & Ecological Emergency


Cllr Wyatt-Lowe asked; is your use of Net Zero based on Co2 alone or does it include Carbon equivalent, methane and other gases?


            Cllr England referred back to the Climate Emergency Strategy produced under previous administration, confirming all the measurements of Carbon are Co2e, that ‘e’ stands for equivalent and that does include methane and other fast gases, which are gases which don’t existing very long in the environment but do a lot of damage while they are there.


            Cllr Wyatt-Lowe followed up and asked; presuming then that the polices take note of this and that you have thought of what measures you can carry out to achieve that whole package of reductions?


            Cllr England responded that plans are developing and are dependent on resources, but absolutely all the gases are included in what we are trying to do.  Cllr England added that we are also trying to prevent the escape of money; a lot of money to be saved and generated through the activities we are looking to deliver over next few years.


Cllr Douris referred to page 6 of the Portfolio Holder’s update, where it says ‘residents can save up to £720 a year following 4 simple steps’, and asked the Portfolio Holder; can you please justify to us what those 4 simple steps are?


Cllr England advised he does not have that information in his head but will arrange for the Social Media Team to circulate.


Action: Cllr England to arrange for the 4 simple steps information to be provided to Democratic Services for distribution. 


Cllr Barradell asked, when do you hope to be back on track with the carbon budget forecast?


Cllr England responded with his view that this is a difficult question, in particular the previous administration need to explain why they got so far off track in last few years. 


Cllr England explained that the situation is, if you look at chart carefully, it starts to dip quite sharply around 2019/20 as that is when the improvements we are looking for are supposed to start.  It is not a steady linear progression to zero, instead it drops much more steeply in first 5 years if all measure are put in place.  It is a reality that the steps taken by central government are wrecking the chances we have of meeting the specified line, but we are going to do our best. 


Cllr England advised there are two aspects to this; making a decision and putting resources behind it.  The current situation demonstrates that historically, we haven’t been ‘meaning it’, both at this Council level and, crucially, in central government, which was apparent having attended a net zero conference last summer where universally, cross party, it was agreed that central government are not doing enough.


5.3       Place


            There were no questions.


5.4       People & Transformation


            There were no questions.


5.5       Corporate & Commercial Services


            Cllr Elliot referred to the statement within the update that 96% of our commercial properties are occupied and asked; how many of those are on payment plans?


            Cllr Tindall responded that he does not have that information in front of him but commented that officers work very hard to make sure that the businesses, most of which are located in neighbourhood centres around hemel, maintain a good rent record and are thriving.  There are a number of measures put in place to help them if they run into trouble. 


Cllr Tindall confirmed that he will ask the question of how many of the 96% of occupied properties are on payment plans and feed that information back.


Action: Cllr Tindall to arrange for the data regarding number of tenants in commercial properties that are on payment plans to be provided to Democratic Services for distribution. 


Cllr Elliot responded that, as a follow on from that, he would also like to know the bad debt provision for the commercial asset side.


Cllr Tindall responded that he would also arrange for that information to be provided.


Action: Cllr Tindall to arrange for the data regarding bad debt provision for commercial assets to be provided to Democratic Services for distribution. 


Cllr Guest asked; has the Portfolio Holder read the budget consultation result summary where 78% of respondents were least in favour of charging more for green waste collection?


Cllr Tindall responded that he did review it and advised that it was necessary to take a view; on the one hand there is a need to achieve a balanced budget and keep services in line with the increased cost, particularly after Prime Minster Truss wrecked the economy a year or two ago.  Also, we have a duty to maintain as low an increase as possible in order to not put additional pressure on our residents with cost of living pressures; we believe we struck the right balance.


Cllr Guest responded; as this budget proposes to do exactly what 78% of those who replied said they didn’t want it to do, how can this administration claim to be a listening administration?

Cllr Tindall responded that they listened overall to residents, both those who responded to that survey and those that provided feedback by other means.  Took account of current budget proposals, took account of the fact central government has not provided sufficient funds for this year, as in previous years, for local government across the board.  We have had to rely on other charges and means of income, as did the previous administration.  This increase doesn’t go into large amounts of money.


5.6       Housing & Property Services


Cllr Guest advised that some weeks ago herself and Cllr Pound attended a meeting between Dacorum Borough Council officers and residents of the Great Sturgess sheltered housing scheme, at which officers said the supporting people charge for residents in schemes with a Supported Housing Officer will be increasing from £6.90 a week to £21.00 a week phased in over 5 years and asked; why is this being done?


Cllr Dhyani advised that for more than 10 years we have not been charging in line with the actual costs/charges, no review had been carried out, this is a build-up we now have to recover.  It is a service we provide to supported housing residents in terms of having warden services.  Previously there were some government grants which were withdrawn, but we had continued to give that discount to residents.  When we reviewed and found a large gap to make up, we decided instead of charging residents the large difference in one year, it will be a gradual increase over 5 years to ensure it doesn’t hit as hard as it could.  Consultations were held within the schemes and residents have expressed they understand and support the increase.


Cllr Guest commented that after the funding was removed in 2011 the previous Conservative administration froze the supporting people charge, but in its first budget the new Liberal Democrat administration is increasing it progressively over next 5 years.  Cllr Guest asked the Portfolio Holder; are some of the most vulnerable, elderly members of the community the right ones to choose to raise funding in this way?


Cllr Dhyani responded by asking; what then do you propose we do to bring this in line?  What we are charging for these services has fallen behind; the funding will not come from elsewhere; they are well received services that residents want to continue receiving.  Based on what we have heard from residents, there are not any concerns about this increase.


Cllr Williams commented that later in the meeting we will be asked to approve a rent increase of 7.7% as part of the budget, commenting that whilst he does not disagree with the increase, he has been advised that tenants have today received letters advising them of the increase.  Cllr Williams asked; do you think it is right that tenants are being advised of this increase before it has been agreed by Full Council?


Cllr Dhyani responded to confirm that letters have gone out, advising she would be happy to provide a copy and advising that they have hosted quite a few visiting sessions for residents to help if they don’t understand, having checked with residents this has been well received.


Cllr Williams responded to advise that was not his question, clarifying that he was asking if it is appropriate that the democratic process has been bypassed and residents have been notified prior to Council making a formal budget decision.


Cllr Dhyani responded that this has been brought before Tenants Leaseholder Committee and as she understand, has also been reviewed at scrutiny committee, therefore believe it has been through the correct process, but happy to discuss with officers and get written response to circulate.


Cllr Williams advised, that with respect, the question has not been answered.


Cllr Tindall commented that an offer has been made to discuss this outside meeting and to provide a follow up response; we will need to find out what officers have done so that information can be provided. 


The Mayor commented that this response should also include clarification that this went through scrutiny as suggested.  The key matter is; was this letter informing them of something or consulting with them on the Boroughs intention of potential increase?


The Mayor asked Cllr Williams if he accepts that action?


Cllr Williams confirmed he would accept it, but expressed he is not content that it was an appropriate answer, or that the Portfolio Holder has answered in an appropriate way so not content.


The Mayor asked Cllr Williams if he is happy that the Portfolio Holder will look into whether the scrutiny process has been followed properly and confirm if the letter was consultative or informative?


Cllr Tindall raised a point of clarification that the question Cllr Williams posed was; should this letter have gone out before the Council had taken a decision on the budget item that refers to the contents of that letter; that was Cllr Williams question and we will undertake to establish what happened and what the process was, as well as what happened in previous years, to respond to that point.


Action: Cllr Dhyani to arrange for confirmation of whether the rent increase letter sent out was informing residents of a rent increase, or consulting on the potential for a rent increase. 


Cllr Santamaria addressed the Portfolio Holder and referred to the number of ways engagement has been increased, with opportunities for residents to scrutinise aspects of our work, asking; can you please tell us how residents are responding to this change in approach and tell us of any improvements it has yielded?


Cllr Dhyani responded that we have delivered lots of sessions to create more engagement with residents.  There is a new initiative started by repair team, where once a week residents can drop in to discuss issues with officers directly.  Also held a walk in session on 30th Jan to help people with rent, allocations policy etc.  We want to build a good relationship which will help us find our right strategy for the future.


5.7       Neighbourhood Operations


Cllr Anderson advised that he understands the Portfolio Holder nearly had a bicycle accident riding over the entrance to Gadebridge park opposite Marlowes, with the new barrier down, and he himself nearly went into it in his car with the barrier up because it wasn’t big enough to secure the park, but big enough to cause significant damage if I did not stop.  Cllr Anderson asked; does the Portfolio Holder agree that the new barrier does not increase security of the park and has in fact reduced the safety and needs to be replaced with a proper barrier that does the job properly?


Cllr Bromham confirmed it is an observation he has made previously about that barrier, the issue has been raised with officers and he expects it to be actioned soon as he agrees the barrier is not as visible as it should be.


Cllr Douris referred to the of electric trial 26 ton dust carts and asked; what are the vehicle charging arrangements are for those, how long it takes to charge and where this will happen?


Cllr Bromham confirmed the vehicles are charged in the depot overnight and commented that as a service they are learning all the things that will need to be taken into account when we fully electrify with new generation of bin lorries.  There is limited power available, the grid connections are one of the big challenges for the bin lorries; to be charging large number of vehicle’s.  We have learned other things about operation of an electric fleet, such as they are very good in start stop operation but use a lot of charge to go all the way to Watford to unload; all this will need to be taken into account when we design our new depot or depots.


Cllr Douris asked; can you give me a reasonable idea of how many times they have been out on runs and roughly how many miles they have done?


Cllr Bromham advised they have been running for a couple of weeks on full rounds.  In terms of exact mileage, that will become part of a report on the whole trial of these vehicles, therefore do not feel there is any benefit in reporting very specific things like that at the moment but instead propose we wait to the end of the trial to report all significant findings.


Cllr Maddern advised that in her capacity of Herts County Councillor she has received a lot of complaints from people about the removal of all the dog waste bins all the way along canal by The Canals and River Trust.


Cllr Bromham responded this is an important issue, approximately 45 bins have been removed by The Canals and Rivers Trust, motivated by reduction in funding from central government; they cannot afford to service them anymore.  The Canal and Rivers Trust approach is a towpath code to take rubbish home, but in urban areas we do understand there is still an issue and to that end one of the things I am trying to drive is procedure and efficiency, one of which is a database mapping all the bins in the Borough, each with a photograph and detail of what type of bin it is.  We can look a t where the bins have gone from towpath and ensure there is a good network of bins , accessible also by road, one of officers in my portfolio is having regular meetings with The Canals and Rivers trust for this and a lot of other issues.


Cllr Adeleke advised his question also relates to bins, specifically dog waste bins and referred to the report where it states you are carrying out the mapping of dog bins and asked, is there any plan to increase or decrease the number of bins or is it just a mapping exercise?


Cllr Bromham responded that there is no objective to increase or decrease but to provide overview of where bins are located.


Cllr Adeleke asked if it would be possible to get an additional dog waste bin in Chipperfield.  It was suggested that this matter be picked up with the Portfolio Holder outside the meeting.  


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