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Contact: Democratic Services Team
Apologies for absence and substitutions
Councillor David Potter was replaced by Councillor Paul Harvey, and Councillor Tony Capon was replaced by Councillor Nick Robinson.
Declarations of interest
There were no declarations of interest.
To consider any items of business, other than those shown on this agenda and which, by reason of special circumstances to be stated at the meeting, in the opinion of the Chairman, should be considered at the meeting as a matter of urgency.
The Chair reported that the previous appointment of Cllr Kim Taylor as Vice Chair had been constitutionally sound.
The committee agreed and approved the appointment.
Minutes of the meeting held on 21 July 2020
The minutes of the meeting held on 21 July 2020 were confirmed by the committee as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
Contact Officer: Tom Payne
There will be a presentation in response to the Motion from full Council that “a retrospective analysis of the crisis be conducted by the Scrutiny Committee with a view to learning lessons and sharing best practice in case of a second wave later this year, with possible input to feed into a future public inquiry”.
The presentation includes an overview of the council’s response to Covid-19 to-date, the lessons identified and the arrangements that are in place moving forward.
Presentation to follow.
The Leader of the Council introduced a presentation providing a retrospective review of the council’s response to the pandemic and the incidence of Covid cases within the borough. It was explained that the review aimed to highlight lessons learned over the past six months and to share instances of best practice to be adopted in the case of a second wave later in the year.
It was further explained that the presentation was in response to the motion raised at council on 13th July and was a general overview, with EPH and CEP committees examining specific areas of the council’s response in more detail.
Members thanked the officers for the comprehensive report.
In response to a query it was reported that the equalities and diversity officer had been in regular contact with various groups and communities within the borough (including non-English speaking and the deaf), to ensure that Covid advice and information could be read and understood.
It was explained that key advice had been communicated to businesses throughout the area. Officers went door-to door to smaller businesses and also through the BID in the town centre. It was clarified that the environmental health and licensing teams were playing a key role in relation to providing advice and ensuring that correct Covid practices were being observed.
It was clarified that the timeline between 23rd May and 7th May for finding accommodation for rough sleepers may be a little misleading as the 7th May related to an announcement at the end of the process to sum up all the work that had been undertaken, rather than the full amount of time taken to accommodate the residents.
It was explained that communications to local businesses in relation to grants and funding available had been both proactive and reactive, liaising with business associations, the LEP, BID, local Chamber of Commerce and utilising IncuHive. Further, officers had held direct surgeries and updated the council website with a FAQs section.
It was clarified that testing was controlled nationally by the Department of Health and Social Care. Concerns in relation to the availability of tests locally had been had been raised with central government.
It was noted that there were 3 mobile testing units across Hampshire using 9 various sites. The council were supporting two sites in the borough at West Ham and Viables, and were also currently working to identify walk-in test sites.
It was clarified that when providing an emergency response key services were legally allowed to share information to ensure that vulnerable people were adequately protected. It was suggested that information sharing locally had improved significantly throughout the crisis and was currently fairly robust.
A member of the committee commented that at the outset of the pandemic assistance had been sought to provide care home staff temporary accommodation in Whitchurch. It was felt that there had been a marked reluctance from the Hampshire & Isle of Wight local resilience forum to provide any help, and the member hoped that the ... view the full minutes text for item 20/20
Contact Officer: Kate Randall
The report summarises the annual review (2019/20) of the Council’s housing allocations scheme. Scrutiny Committee has undertaken an annual consideration of the yearly reviews since 2017.
The Annual Review of the Housing Allocations Policy was introduced by the Portfolio Holder for Homes and Families.
It was clarified that reference in the report to ‘town’ referred to Basingstoke, and ‘rural’ was classified as anywhere outside the urban location of Basingstoke town centre.
The Portfolio Holder for Homes and Families commented that the council had a very good working relationship with the two main housing providers in the borough, Vivid and Sovereign, and in response to a query it was clarified that the council had found no cause to challenge any allocations or refusals made by the registered providers over the past year.
It was clarified that the high delivery of affordable homes was as a consequence of the council’s high delivery of homes overall.
A member commented that in relation to item 2.8, whilst 53% of letting properties in rural parishes were let to households with a local connection to the parish, the remaining 47% were not. The Portfolio Holder for Homes and Families commented that whilst this may be the case, the ability to make a bid had been available to all on the register. Further it was highlighted that whilst all people on the housing list would have a local connection within the borough, the policy also allowed people with specific connections in rural areas to have priority if they chose to bid.
In response to a suggestion that a number of families allocated homes in flatted developments felt trapped by their situation, the Head of Housing and Social Inclusion explained that the housing policy wording was open to pragmatic interpretation which allowed for discretional revision of cases where required. It was clarified that assessments were individual and circumstances based rather than generic.
The Portfolio Holder for Homes and Families expressed hope that the review of the Local Plan would enable the council to provide more direction to developer’s in relation to the type of affordable housing built and thereby more accurately meet the needs of those on the housing register.
A member suggested that HMOs were not a good strategic option for solving the problem of housing single people. It was suggested that they were not liked and posed problems in relation to insufficient amenities and facilities.
The Portfolio Holder for Homes and Families commented that a lot of issues arose from the management of HMO’s, and that he was keen to encourage registered providers to take over the management. The Head of Housing and Social Inclusion further stated that there were some great opportunities and schemes coming forward in relation to the contribution that well managed and good quality HMOs could make.
It was queried how residents under-occupying a property could be incentivised to move. In response, the Housing Needs and Homelessness Manager explained that those deciding to move would be prioritised to Band 1 immediately, however there had to be recognition that moving was also an emotional process and so ultimately had to be a decision for the resident.
It was clarified ... view the full minutes text for item 21/20
Contact Officer: Suzanne Jones
In addition to presenting the 2020/21 forecast position as at the 30 June 2020 for revenue expenditure and income against working budgets, the report sets out the funding position resulting from Covid-19 and rebases the budget taking account of the implications that are currently known.
The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Service Improvement introduced the Quarter 1 Revenue Monitoring Report and Covid-19 Financial Impact Update 2020/21.
Members expressed thanks for the detail of the report.
Concern was expressed at the potential for paying excessive amounts to agency staff rather than recruiting properly for a permanent appointment during the recruitment freeze. The Executive Director of Corporate Services assured the committee that agency staff would only be employed to fulfil position’s deemed necessary whilst a full time permanent candidate was sought.
It was noted that the council had lobbied government for additional funding to support struggling local businesses, particularly with the furlough scheme coming to an end.
The Executive Director of Corporate Services clarified that whilst there was a current identified budget deficit of £2.21m it was expected that this would balance at the end of the year following receipt of income from the income compensation scheme.
A member queried the proposal to shut down public conveniences within their ward. The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Service Improvement commented that due to the current economic climate hard decisions were having to be made and frontline services prioritised. It was suggested that the member may wish to discuss the matter further with the Portfolio Holder for Environment and Enforcement.
Resolved: the Committee note the report.
Review of Work Programme
The committee reviewed and agreed its work programme with the following comments:-
· It was noted that an MTFS and budget plan report would be received in November;
· Cllr Miller hoped to have completed the S106 Task and Finish group report for November;
· BVA representative to be invited to the November meeting as an initial stage in responding to Cllr Taylor’s ‘Effectiveness of pandemic support to the voluntary sector’ work suggestion form; and
· Oversight of Major Projects: Current Position briefing paper to be bought to January’s meeting in response to Cllr Taylor’s ‘Oversight of Major Projects’ work suggestion form.
It was further noted that a meeting of the Performance panel would be scheduled and its agenda would include regular updates on the performance of current projects.