Agenda and minutes

Stronger Communities Select Committee
Tuesday, 15th June, 2021 7.00 pm

Venue: Conference Suite - Civic Offices. View directions

Contact: Rebecca Perrin 01992 564243  Email:  democraticservices@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

Webcasting Introduction

The Chairman will read the following announcement:

 

“This meeting will be webcast live to the Internet (or filmed) and will be capable of repeated viewing (or another use by such third parties).

 

Therefore, by entering the Conference Suite and using the seating area you are consenting to being filmed and to the possible use of those images and sound recordings for webcasting and/or training purposes.”

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman reminded everyone present that this meeting would be broadcast live to the Internet, and that the Council had adopted a protocol for the webcasting of its meetings.

2.

Substitute Members

To report the appointment of any substitute members for the meeting.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

It was noted that Councillor R Morgan and Councillor J McIvor had been appointed as substitute for Councillor K Williamson and Councillor H Brady respectively.

3.

Declarations of Interest

To declare interests in any item on the agenda.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

(a)          Pursuant to the Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct, Councillor S Murray declared a non-pecuniary, non-prejudicial interest at this meeting as a Trustee for the Citizen Advice Bureau.

 

(b)          Pursuant to the Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct, Councillor J H Whitehouse declared a non-pecuniary, non-prejudicial interest at this meeting as she was a Trustee of the Epping Reuse Centre.

 

4.

Notes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 1 MB

To agree the notes of the meeting of the Select Committee held on 30 March 2021 and 22 April 2021.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            RESOLVED:

 

That the notes of the meetings held on 30 March 2021 and 22 April 2021 were agreed as a correct record subject to the additional of Mr W Marsh to the attendance list on 22 April 2021.

5.

Terms of Reference & Work Programme pdf icon PDF 197 KB

(Chairman/Lead Officer) The Overview and Scrutiny Committee have agreed the Terms of Reference and the previous years work programme for this Select Committee. Members are invited at each meeting to review both documents.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee requested that the Terms of Reference were reviewed to reflect the Council’s Corporate Aims and Key Objectives.

 

The Chief Operating Officer advised that this issue would be discussed at the next Joint meeting of the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of O&S and Select Committee’s on 22 July 2021, as similar issues had been raised for the other Select Committees. The Terms of Reference would then be presented the O&S Committee for approval.

 

The Committee considered the work programme and requested the Allocation Policy, Tenancy Policy and Housing Strategy were added, to ensure that they were scrutinised before the proposed Cabinet decisions were made in 2022.

 

The Community and Wellbeing Service Director advised that the timeline for the policies was currently being discussed with the Housing Services Portfolio Holder and would be put into the work programme.

 

            RESOLVED:

 

1.    That the Committee’s Terms of Reference would be reviewed by the Joint meeting of the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of O&S and Select Committee on 22 July 2021 to ensure that they reflected the Corporate Aims and Key Objectives; and

 

2.     That the following items would be added to the Committee’s Work Programme;

 

·         Allocation Policy;

·         Tenancy Policy; and

·         Housing Strategy.

 

6.

The Social Housing White Paper pdf icon PDF 356 KB

To consider the attached report on the Social White Paper.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Housing and Property Director presented a report on the actions which would need to be undertaken to meet the requirements of Social Housing White Paper or “The Charter for Social Housing Residents” which had been published by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government on 17 November 2020.

 

The white paper set out wide ranging and compulsory changes to how social housing organisations operated and included themes from the green paper “A New Deal for Social Housing”. This had been re-drafted and expanded into seven themes with specific policies, measures and an enhanced role for The Regulator for Social Housing and Housing Ombudsman.

 

The seven themes were;

 

1.    To be safe in your home;

2.    To know how your landlord was performing;

3.    To have your complaints dealt with promptly and fairly;

4.    To be treated with respect, backed by a strong consumer regulator for tenants;

5.    To have your voice heard by your landlord;

6.    To have a good quality home and neighbourhood to live in; and

7.    To be supported to take your first steps to ownership.

 

The Housing and Property Director advised that the implications of the Social Housing white paper had set out new requirements for resident engagement and complaints. The changes were expected to deliver proactive oversight of consumer standards, which would provide the regulator with greater oversight of the performance of local authorities’ landlord function. There was also a greater emphasis on safety, resident voice, performance monitoring, home ownership with non-compliance and a new consumer standard resulting in unlimited fines, and reputational damage.

 

The timescales for implementation of the proposals in the Charter were not yet known, however driving up levels of satisfaction in the areas of Neighbourhoods and Communications would  continue to be a key priority for the Council over the coming months and it had been proposed that a review be carried out against the paper and subsequent action be created. 

 

The Committee asked the following questions;

 

·         Was data available on the residents’ feedback? The Housing and Property Director advised a summary would be included in the minutes or sent to members directly.

·         Would Officers agreed that the legislation could still differ somewhat compared to the white paper and therefore it would be wise to not concentrate too finally on the detail? The Housing and Property Director commented that the Council had two people who fed into the forums which included the Tenant and Leaseholder Federation Chairman, Mr W Marsh and the Head Asset and Facilities, Mr D Epton, so they felt well informed.

·         Did officers respond to the green paper, and if so, did they feel that their comments had been addressed in the white paper? The Housing and Property Director advised that the Council had responded to the green paper and there had been no surprises. 

·         Could the data collected on landlords be used to rank them or highlight potential issues; and how did the Council measure the outcomes of complaints  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Our new approach to residents involvement pdf icon PDF 2 MB

D Fenton to update on the new approach to residents involvement. 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Housing and Property Director gave a short presentation regarding the changes that had occurred to resident involvement in estate and land management. (A copy of has been attached to the minutes).

 

The Committee asked the following questions;

 

·         How did the Council engage with ‘hard to reach’ tenants? The Housing and Property Director  advised that the officers had recognised that tenants needed a variety of options, rather than just meetings at the Civic Offices. Therefore they had expanded communication through estate meetings, virtual meetings, surveys, in local schools and webinars.

·         What was the process for a virtual inspections?; what issues were being raised and how were they dealt with? The Housing and Property Director informed members that officer used mobile devices when out on estates and the issues would then be recorded through a workflow system and actioned accordingly.

·         Did ‘Housing News’ still exist and if so, how was it disseminated? The Housing and Property Director advised that it was still produced in a digital format.

·         How were the costs of the improvements to housing estates distributed across housing estates of mixed tenure? The Housing and Property Director advised that leaseholder paid a service charge, and where legally required, a Section 20 would be served. Further investigation would be required to determine if costs could be split costs across the HRA and General fund, on mixed tenure estates.

·         How were costs associated with communal areas attributed to Leaseholders? The Housing and Property Director advised that a dedicated team worked out the costs, which were based on the rateable value of the property.

·         Would a Debden Tenants Association resume? The Housing and Property Director advised that the Estate and Land Management Manager, R Smith would contact Councillor Wixley regarding creating a new Debden Tenants Panel.

·         How many tenants or residents attended the webinars? It was noted that the webinar figures would be included in the minutes of the meeting.

 

*Figures supplied following the meeting

Webcast title

Live date

All views ?

Housing service webinar

2021-01-20 14:40:00

154

Housing service webinar

2021-04-30 12:30:00

93

 

RESOLVED:

 

1.    That the Committee noted the new approach to resident’s involvement; and

2.    The Housing News would be distributed to Members.

8.

Customer Service Update pdf icon PDF 312 KB

To consider the attached report updating on ‘what our customers are telling us’ and the Customer Strategy.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Customer Services Manager gave an update on the Council’s Customer Service in the following areas;

 

·         What the residents were telling us;

·         Complaints;

·         Recycling Outlets; 

·         What had worked well; and

·         The Customer Strategy.

 

She informed the Committee that significant changes had been made to the website customer satisfaction survey, which had enabled residents and the Council to respond more easily. In regards to the complaints, the majority of these had been in relation to  business grants which had not been upheld. From the data it appeared that the complaints were not process driven but regarding the outcome. Furthermore, residents had now familiarised themselves with other recycling sack outlets in the District which could remove the need for residents visiting the Civic Office only for recycling sacks.   

 

The re-opening of the Broadway Cash Office had received positive customer feedback  and in the first month the Cash Office had taken almost £210,000 in total of which £109,000 was cash.The kiosks at the Civic would open once the building was Covid safe for external customers.  The long term solutions for cash paying customers had been looked at and a report on this would follow in September.

 

Customer Strategy

 

It was noted that the new welcome lounge and partnership hub at the Civic offices had been progressing and partners included Food Bank, Phoenix Futures, Nacro, VAEF, ECC Family Solutions, DWP, CAB, CHESS Homeless, Changing Pathways and Peabody. It was envisaged that services and partners would be aligned and available on the same days/times, to provide a one stop multi agency approach for residents.

 

There had been ‘Customer Shoes’ behavioural training session for staff, which had providedcoaching for difficult and challenging customer conversations and a holistic view of customer behavioural training was being considered across all service areas.

 

The Corporate Communications had invested extensive support in the delivery of the recent County, District Police Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC) and Town and Parish elections and results of the elections had been posted via the website and social media. The election count centre at North Weald Airfield had featured extensively in the local TV news coverage broadcast by BBC London and the team had also supported the webcasting for virtual and face-to-face meetings in the Civic Office.

 

New and re-elected Members had attended the Civic Offices for their induction session and further work continued into Members technology and reviewing Members contact with officers.

 

The Committee asked the following questions;

 

·         What was meant by ‘long term solutions for cash payments’ in relation to the Broadway cash office? The Customer Services Manager advised that the cash office at the Broadway would not be removed, although consideration was being given to what other options could be provided for cash paying residents across the District.

·         What type of new queries had been received over the pandemic period; and what provisions were in place for staff following a difficult call? The Customer Services Manager advised that queries were mainly to do with what support the Council was offering and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Exclusion of Public and Press

Exclusion: To consider whether, under Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public and press should be excluded from the meeting for the items of business set out below on grounds that they will involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in the following paragraph(s) of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act (as amended) or are confidential under Section 100(A)(2):

 

Agenda Item No

Subject

Exempt Information Paragraph Number

11

Waltham Abbey Community & Cultural Hub

3

 

The Local Government (Access to Information) (Variation) Order 2006, which came into effect on 1 March 2006, requires the Council to consider whether maintaining the exemption listed above outweighs the potential public interest in disclosing the information. Any member who considers that this test should be applied to any currently exempted matter on this agenda should contact the proper officer at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.

 

Confidential Items Commencement: Paragraph 9 of the Council Procedure Rules contained in the Constitution require:

 

(1)        All business of the Council requiring to be transacted in the presence of the press and public to be completed by 10.00 p.m. at the latest.

 

(2)        At the time appointed under (1) above, the Chairman shall permit the completion of debate on any item still under consideration, and at his or her discretion, any other remaining business whereupon the Council shall proceed to exclude the public and press.

 

(3)        Any public business remaining to be dealt with shall be deferred until after the completion of the private part of the meeting, including items submitted for report rather than decision.

 

Background Papers:  Paragraph 8 of the Access to Information Procedure Rules of the Constitution define background papers as being documents relating to the subject matter of the report which in the Proper Officer's opinion:

 

(a)        disclose any facts or matters on which the report or an important part of the report is based;  and

 

(b)        have been relied on to a material extent in preparing the report and does not include published works or those which disclose exempt or confidential information (as defined in Rule 10) and in respect of executive reports, the advice of any political advisor.

 

Inspection of background papers may be arranged by contacting the officer responsible for the item.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

That the public and press be excluded from the meeting for the items of business set out below on the grounds that they would involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in the paragraphs of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972:

 

Agenda                                                                                   Exempt Information

Item No           Subject                                                           Paragraph Number

 

11                    Waltham Abbey Community & Cultural Hub                                      3

 

10.

Waltham Abbey Community & Cultural Hub

To consider the attached report to create of a Community and Cultural Hub in Waltham Abbey.

Minutes:

The Community and Wellbeing Services Director presented a business case for the creation of a Community and Cultural Hub in Waltham Abbey.

 

The Committee discussed the proposals and reasons set out by the Council in partnership with Essex County Council. The hub was aimed to support the economic and social regeneration of Waltham Abbey Town Centre.

 

            RESOLVED:

 

The Committee supported the initial proposals for a Community and Cultural Hub in Waltham Abbey.

11.

DATES OF FUTURE MEETINGS

To note that the next meeting of the Select Committee will be held at 7.00pm on 21 September 2021.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee noted that the date of the next meeting was 21 September 2021.