Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Tuesday 2nd November, 2021 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Wallfields, Hertford. View directions

Contact: Peter Mannings  Tel: (01279) 502174 Email:  peter.mannings@eastherts.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

208.

Apologies

To receive apologies for absence.

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Minutes:

There were no apologies for absence.

209.

Minutes - 7 September 2021 pdf icon PDF 104 KB

To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 7 September 2021.

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Minutes:

Councillor Snowdon proposed and Councillor Goldspink seconded, a motion that the Minutes of the meeting held on 7 September 2021 be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

 

After being put to the meeting and a vote taken, this motion was declared CARRIED.

 

RESOLVED – that the Minutes of the meeting held on 7 September 2021, be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

210.

Chairman's Announcements

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Minutes:

The Chairman reminded Members that the meeting was being webcasted and they should use their microphones when addressing the meeting to guide the cameras.

211.

Declarations of Interest

To receive any Members’ Declarations of Interest.

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Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

212.

Proposed East Herts Private Sector Housing Assistance Policy pdf icon PDF 163 KB

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Minutes:

The Executive Member for Neighbourhoods submitted a report in respect of the proposed East Herts Private Sector Housing Assistance Policy. The Head of Housing and Health said that the policy detailed the way in which the Council provided financial and other assistance to owners and occupiers of private sector housing within East Herts.

 

Members were advised that the report and the proposed policy set out how the Council could assist those in the private housing sector. The main shift in focus was moving away from a grant based system to a loans based regime and it was hoped that the Council could assist a greater number of residents through this policy.

 

The Executive Member for Neighbourhoods said that moving from a grant to a loan policy provided the Council with the ability to support much more vulnerable families. He said that this had been agreed as part of the budget process for 2021/22.

 

Councillor R Buckmaster asked whether Housing Associations were eligible to claim for the loans referenced at paragraph three of the report. Councillor Boylan said that Housing Associations were not eligible to apply for decent homes loans as these were intended to support vulnerable home owners where the property did not meet the government’s decent homes standard.

 

Councillor Boylan said that housing associations were not eligible as they were subject to separate national arrangements whereby resources and other assistance was made available to them to ensure that all of their properties met the decent homes standard by the national target date back in 2010. He stated that since 2010, housing associations had become subject to the homes standard that had been set by the regulator of social housing. Councillor Boylan said that funding from Homes England was available to support business plans of housing associations.

 

Councillor R Buckmaster asked if the Executive Member could explain what was recommended for those who did not qualify for a loan, such as those in old properties who could not install cavity wall installation.

 

Councillor Boylan said that these new loans were intended to support the most vulnerable. There was a test of resources available to establish applicants who could otherwise apply for a commercial loan. He said that in this way the Council could focus its efforts and resources on those residents unable to pay for this on the open market.

 

Councillor Boylan talked about the test of resources and touched on the advice being given to residents if the amount the Council believed they could contribute exceeded the cost of the works. He said that the smaller homes insulation grants for loft or cavity wall insulation were not means tested and were made available to all as a relatively simple step to makes homes more energy efficient.

 

Councillor Boylan said that for harder to treat properties, including those with solid or non-cavity built walls, the Council would actively continue to advise residents of existing locally or nationally administered schemes. He talked about the regular monitoring of possible new  ...  view the full minutes text for item 212.

213.

Performance Report for Q1 and Q2 of 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 234 KB

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Minutes:

The Executive Member for Financial Sustainability submitted an update report regarding progress towards the 4 SEED themes set out in the Council’s Corporate Plan.

 

The Chairman said that emailed answers would be forwarded to Members in the absence of the Executive Member for Corporate Services. The Scrutiny Officer said that she would email responses from the Executive Members to Overview and Scrutiny Members.

 

Councillor Goldspink said that she was happy to support the noting of the report. She asked for a list of the acronyms in future as she had struggled to find the meaning of some of these in the papers.

 

Councillor Curtis said that the wording “digital be default” corporate priority when this should have read “digital by design” as per the SEED acronym. He made a general comment about the completion of actions and said that Overview and Scrutiny Committee had not had the opportunity to review these actions.

 

Councillor Curtis referred to fibre broadband direct to new developments. He commented that this would be in place for the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town and he asked whether there was any clarity as to whether this would be provided for other developments.

 

The Chairman said that he would ask Officers to circulate some written responses to Members which would include the matter of contracts and overdue reports. He said that Members could email specific queries to Executive Members.

 

The Head of Legal and Democratic Services clarified that the wording of “digital be design” had now been changed to “digital by default”. Councillor Devonshire asked a question about the Millstream Property Investment Business Plan and the wording in respect of purchasing properties. He sought and was provided with clarity on this issue.  Councillor Bell said that she believed that the Council already owned the land in Watton at Stone.

 

Members received the report.

 

RESOLVED – that the update report be noted.

214.

Communications Update pdf icon PDF 257 KB

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Minutes:

The Head of Communications, Strategy and Policy submitted an update report in respect to of the Council’s corporate communications activities, including recent highlights, performance monitoring, challenges and work underway to develop a new strategy and plan.

 

The Chairman said that there were some questions notified to the Executive Member in advance and he would ask Officers to circulate the written responses to Members. Members received the report.

 

RESOLVED – that the update report be noted.

215.

Overview and Scrutiny - Draft Work Programme 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 78 KB

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Minutes:

The Scrutiny Officer said that this was the usual work programme Members received at each meeting of Overview and Scrutiny Committee. She said that a number of substantive items had been delayed to the meeting on 18 January 2022.

 

Councillor Curtis said that he had requested an update report in respect of the healthy hubs and the role out of these.

 

Councillor Bell commented on the massive increase in complaints from residents in housing association properties in her ward. She said that the communication between parties had been quite poor in recent months.

 

Councillor Bell asked whether it could be time to consider calling the housing associations in to attend Overview and Scrutiny to answer questions as to how they had been handling requests and complaints now that we were almost two years into the pandemic. She felt it would be a good time to see how the housing associations were meeting the needs of residents. The Chairman urged the Member to complete and submit a Scrutiny Proposal request form for further consideration.

 

Councillor Curtis commented on the possibility of a future agenda item in reviewing investment opportunities and initiatives in East Herts. The Chairman urged the Member to complete and submit a Scrutiny Proposal request form for further consideration.

 

It was moved by Councillor Goldspink and seconded by Councillor Ward-Booth, that the report in respect of digital exclusion be moved to the March 2022 meeting instead of January 2022 and that the report due to be submitted in January 2022 in respect of supporting vulnerable residents be made an update report only.

 

After being put to the meeting and a vote taken, the motion was declared CARRIED. It was moved by Councillor Ward-Booth, and seconded by Councillor Bell, that the draft consolidated Work Programme be approved, as amended.

 

After being put to the meeting and a vote taken, the motion was declared CARRIED.

 

RESOLVED – that (A) the main agenda items for the next meeting be agreed.

 

(B)   the proposed Consolidated Work Programme, included at Appendix A, be approved as amended.

216.

Urgent Items

To consider such other business as, in the opinion of the Chairman of the meeting, is of sufficient urgency to warrant consideration and is not likely to involve the disclosure of exempt information.

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Minutes:

There was no urgent business.