Venue: Committee Room, Municipal Buildings, West Street, Boston, PE21 8QR
Contact: Janette Collier, Senior Democratic Services Officer Tel. no: 01205 314227 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To sign and confirm the minutes of the last meeting, held on 17th July 2019
The Minutes of the Committee’s last meeting, held on the 17th July 2019, were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
To receive apologies for absence and notification of substitutes (if any).
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Tom Ashton, Richard Austin BEM and Anton Dani. Councillor Peter Bedford was in attendance as a substitute for Councillor Austin.
(A Report by Andy Fisher, Head of Regulatory Services)
Portfolio Holder: Councillor Aaron Spencer
The Head of Regulatory Services presented a report which set out the performance monitoring information relating to the Council’s Corporate Priorities 2- People and 4- Public Service for the period 1st April to 30th June 2019.
The report was being presented to give Members the opportunity to consider whether there were specific matters of interest or concern that they wanted to add to the Committee’s work programme to receive reports at future meetings.
A Member suggested that the Committee could receive a report on the new arrangements for gym membership through the Council’s agreement with Thrive Tribe to assess how this was working out, perhaps after it had run for a period of months.
In response to questions, it was explained that the target for Improved Housing Standards had been reduced. As previously reported, this was partly due to staffing difficulties, but also because proactive visits, which targeted Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), were not uncovering the level of category 1 hazards expected; this was a very positive position for the Council.
(A Report by the Corporate Management Team)
Portfolio Holder: Councillor Aaron Spencer
The Head of Regulatory Services presented a report, which set out proposals for a refresh of the Transformation Programme to meet the challenges of the projected budget position for the next four years and the need to make net budget savings of almost £1m.
The Council’s current Transformation Programme (TP) ran from 2016/17 to 2019/20 and covered the period of the Government’s four-year settlement.
Following a period of consultation, through the Scrutiny process and the public, the proposed TP refresh would be brought back to Cabinet for review then Full Council for approval in September.
The draft programme was arranged within the following four main themes to build on the success of the current TP:
· Service Modernisation
· Income Generation
· Policy Changes
It was noted that, although the way services were organised was likely to change, the TP did not propose the absolute removal of any of the range of services currently being delivered.
Provisional settlement figures for 2020/21 were not expected until later in the year; therefore, the specific timing and number of projects to be included next year would not be finalised until the draft budget proposals for next year were presented early in 2020.
The proposedTP for 2020/21 to 2023/24 was attached to the report as Appendix A and the public consultation responses were attached as Appendix B.
The Head of Regulatory Services added that the Council’s situation could change to some extent following an announcement by the Chancellor the previous day.
During Members’ debate, it was agreed that Portfolio Holders should be present at future meetings in order for Committee Members to challenge and scrutinise their decisions. Also, it was considered that the Committee should have been provided with the detail behind the TP proposals.
In response to questions, it was explained that the current council tax levied on empty properties had not proved successful as a financial penalty; it was hoped the proposed increase would be.
Members recognised the need to save money. One put forward a proposal, which was copied and circulated to the meeting, regarding TP15, Environmental Operations Fees and a review of the charging structure with respect to income generation. It was proposed that the annual charge for Green Waste collection be increased from £30 to £45 for the first bin and from £15 to £45 for the second. This proposal was not seconded, but it was discussed at length.
Members voiced concern that the detailed proposal circulated should have been available to all Committee Members prior to the meeting and that the report contained insufficient detail for approval. Also, concern was expressed regarding the amount of savings proposed when the Council had saved so much already.
The proposer explained that the information had been sourced from the Portfolio Holder and only just received. It was noted that the detail of the ... view the full minutes text for item 11.
HOMELESSNESS ASSISTANCE POLICY DEVELOPMENT
(A Presentation by Andy Fisher, Head of Regulatory Services )
Portfolio Holder: Councillor Martin Griggs
There is no report with this item.
The Head of Regulatory Services gave a presentation with the aim of developing and defining a set of parameters for a new Homelessness Assistance Policy that could be referred to Cabinet for formal adoption.
The presentation explained what homelessness was, what the Council’s statutory prevention and relief duties were, and described the broad range of activities that homelessness prevention entailed.
Homelessness was defined within the Housing Act 1996 as amended. There were two key aspect to Homelessness in law: being ‘threatened with homelessness’ and being ‘homeless’. The Homelessness law had changed fundamentally in April 2018, the biggest change for over 40 years. The presentation illustrated what the homelessness process looked like before and after April 2018.
Currently, the common prevention and relief options included provision of:
· Rent Deposit/Rent in Advance payments
· Homelessness Prevention/Hardship Payments
· Mortgage Rescue support
· Facilitation of free Legal Advice to defend possession proceedings
· Travel payments to help applicants access accommodation available to them elsewhere
· Sanctuary and security schemes to prevent people at risk of abuse becoming homeless
· Mediation between landlords and tenants
The Head of Regulatory Services advised the Committee that, to be effective, the Council’s homelessness prevention and relief policy had to be flexible. It had to enable the Council to provide meaningful support to applicants, which meant paying out money as well as providing advice, but this expenditure could be fully funded from ring-fenced external homelessness support grants.
The Council’s current policy set a prescriptive framework of individual measures with detailed qualification metrics and strict financial limits. The Head of Regulatory Services asked Members to consider whether they wished to recommend to Cabinet that the Council’s continue with the policy as it was. Alternatively they could recommend that Cabinet supported delegation of an upper financial limit to the Council’s specialist officers to do ‘anything reasonable’ that they considered would give eligible applicants threatened with homelessness, or who were homeless, a reasonable prospect of retaining or securing suitable accommodation for at least six months. Finally, Members could consider recommending something else.
Also, the Head of Regulatory Services asked what the Committee would recommend regarding whether financial support should be offered in the form of a grant or a loan; whether a finite limit should be applied to any financial support; and whether eligibility should be means-tested, and, if so, on what basis.
In response to questions, it was explained that the service was struggling to deal with homelessness. It was difficult spending available money under the current prescriptive policy. The maximum loan allowed was £1,500, which did not cover rent deposits. Landlords asked for significantly more, only agreeing to take people on if rent was covered for six months in advance. If a landlord was matched with a good tenant, the tenancy would then continue. Officers reported that the current prescriptive framework was not helping people.
The majority of expenditure was in the form of loans currently, though most applicants were on out of work benefits. A flexible policy could be drafted to delegate authority to ... view the full minutes text for item 12.
(For Members to note/discuss the Committee’s current work programme)
Members agreed that the following items be added to the work programme:
19th December 2019
· Homelessness case studies
6th February 2020
· Draft Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS)
· Drug and Alcohol Issues in Boston, Challenges and Solutions – invite Lincolnshire Police and Addaction to attend
2nd April 2020
· Presentation from Thrive Tribe and the Head of Place and Space regarding gym membership (Health Activity referrals)