Agenda item

Members' questions

To receive any Members' questions (to follow).


Question 1


Councillor R Henson asked the Executive Member for Environment and the Public Space if he could set out the measures the Council was taking to work with the police and other partners, both to combat illegal drug use in East Hertfordshire, and to promote the safety and wellbeing of residents.


In response, the Executive Member for Environment and the Public Space detailed the work of the East Herts Community Safety Partnership.  The Council played a lead role in this multi-agency partnership and the Executive Member highlighted some of its activities.  In particular, he referred to the Anti-Social Behaviour group which organised a highly successful diversionary activities programme.  The Council enjoyed a close working relationship with the police, which included regular weekly meetings, at which crimes under investigation were discussed.


Question 2


Councillor N Symonds stated that, whilst acknowledging the excellent work that the Benefits team did, it concerned her that over two thousand people were taken to court which added court fines of £80 to debts they already had with the Benefits section.  She was also concerned that some of these people might have mental health issues which Benefits were not aware of, or other disabilities.  She knew that court was the absolute last resort, but asked the Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing what could be done by the Authority to help the most vulnerable residents.


In reply, the Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing agreed that the Benefits team did an excellent job.  However, he believed the question related to the Revenues team who managed a council tax base of approximately 60,000, of which about 3% received a summons.  He also agreed that the legal process was always a last resort and that discussions with clients often prevented the need for a summons to be issued.


The Executive Member also detailed the various training undertaken by Officers, for instance in dealing with vulnerable clients, perhaps with dementia and mental health issues.  Officers also provided advice sessions and there was also the referral service to the Citizens Advice Bureau.  Finally, he undertook to provide detailed statistics in writing.


Question 3


Councillor T Page asked the Executive Member for Development Management and Council Support if she was satisfied that section 106 agreements, under the Council's control, were properly formulated, monitored, and directed to local need.  Bearing in mind that significant sums were reserved for major community infrastructure projects beyond its immediate responsibility, he asked if the Council could demonstrate that it was successful in working with partners to ensure that there was no irrecoverable loss of earmarked funds.


In reply, the Executive Member for Development Management and Council Support reminded Members of the current policy position and the framework within which the Council operated.  She referred to the National Planning Policy Framework and the Community Infrastructure Levy which had enabled provision to be extended to other services, e.g. health.  However, there were also constraints in terms of scheme viability.


The Executive Member referred to the regular monitoring undertaken by Officers working in partnership, in particular, with Hertfordshire County Council.  Outstanding schemes were reported to the Corporate Management Team and Internal Audit to ensure delivery of projects.  She recommended that a quarterly schedule be produced and reported to Members and drew attention to a forthcoming training event for Members.


In response to a supplementary question on influencing partners, in particular Hertfordshire County Council, the Executive Member commented that the Head of Communications, Engagement and Culture was in constant dialogue with partners and that she was unaware of any funds ever being lost.


Question 4


Councillor P Phillips referred to David Cameron's announcement at Conservative Party Conference earlier this month to incentivise developers to deliver truly affordable housing for first time buyers.  He asked the Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing if, the recent change in the Council’s Affordable Housing Policy, needed an urgent review to allow the Council to take a lead with developers in moving this proactive policy forward, particularly in light of the difficulties this Council had had delivering social housing numbers in recent years with the existing policy.


In reply, Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing reminded Members with the background to the Council’s Affordable Housing policies and the necessary changes that had arisen due to legal rulings.  Indeed, the latest change, a reversion back to the Council’s original policy, was proposed for Members to consider later in the agenda (Minute 359 refers).  As the Bill had yet to be passed into law, he did not agree that there was a need for an urgent review as the District Planning Executive Panel was progressing many issues for Council to determine.  He expressed his confidence that an appropriate policy would emerge.  Finally, he undertook to provide statistics on affordable housing provision in writing.

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