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Overview and Scrutiny Committee by chenmeixiu


									       Overview and Scrutiny Committee                                         5 April 2004

                           OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

                                            5 APRIL 2004

       Present:- Councillors Potter (Chairman), Stock (Vice-Chairman), D J Aldis, P A Bevan,
       Bragg, Bucke, Cossens, Dew, Dimmock, Dixon, Griffiths, Henderson, C Jessop, H G
       Jessop, Lines, Payne.

       Substitute Member:- Councillor Downing (for Councillor Leatherdale).

       Also Present:- Councillors Double, Johnson, N W Turner.

       In Attendance:- Overview and Scrutiny Manager, Head of Housing Services, Assistant
       Head of Environmental Services (Residential Health), Senior Solicitor, Democratic
       Services Officer.

                                      (7.30 p.m. – 10.18 p.m.)


       Apologies for absence were submitted from Councillors Leatherdale and White.

127.   MINUTES

       The minutes of the special meeting of the Committee held on 23 March 2004 were
       approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

128.   FORWARD PLAN NUMBER 30: 1 APRIL 2004 – 31 JULY 2004

       The Committee reviewed Forward Plan Number 30 for the period 1 April 2004 to 31 July
       2004 in accordance with Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rule 12.

       The Chairman reminded Members that, in accordance with the Committee’s new
       procedures, only those items that were new to the plan had been reported.

       RESOLVED – That the contents of Forward Plan Number 30 for the period 1 April 2004
       to 31 July 2004 be noted.


       Further to minute 191 of the public meeting of the Cabinet held on 17 March 2004, the
       Committee’s comments were sought on the contents of the Cabinet’s initial proposals for
       the Council’s Housing Strategy 2004/09.

       The Head of Housing Services, supported by the Assistant Head of Environmental
       Services (Residential Health) and the Housing Portfolio Holder (Councillor Johnson),
       gave a comprehensive presentation on the contents of the draft Housing Strategy. The
       presentation was conducted in sections in order to allow Members’ questions and debate
       at appropriate junctures.

       The first section of the presentation dealt with:-

          Setting the Scene
          The Corporate Dimension
          Our Housing Priorities
Overview and Scrutiny Committee                                               5 April 2004

   The Need for Affordable Housing
   The Planning Dimension

Questions were raised relating to the provision of financial assistance, when were the
new approaches to homelessness coming in and the % of persons who were homeless.
There was concern from a number of Members that the data used to support the Strategy
came from different time-spans and it was questioned whether such data should be both
more up to date and time consistent in when it was gathered. Supporting this view was
the fact that property prices had increased substantially in recent times against income
that was rising by 2% a year. It was therefore felt that using an August 2002 house price
survey undervalued property in the District. It was clarified that it was necessary to phase
surveys over a period of time due to the major technical nature of each one and the
impracticality of completing them all at the same time. There was also concern over the
confidence that could be given to such a diverse range of figures as the statistics showed
that in 13 years there had been a 12% increase in population and yet it was suggested
that there would be a 10% increase in properties needed over the next five years.

It was further felt that highlighting Householder Income at only two specific named sites
would leave other areas unclear as to the relationship of income and housing need
specific to their area. Whilst it was acknowledged that Jaywick received specific mention
in the Strategy due to the deprivation in that area some Members were disappointed that
Harwich East did not get mentioned in the Strategy as it was recognised similar issues
affected that ward.

Where the Strategy referred to in-migrant households unable to afford market housing
and the estimate of those currently living outside the District that were likely to move into
the District in that situation, Members expressed concern at the possibility that Housing
Associations could be deliberately moving people in as they considered the area a
“cheap” area. There was also concern expressed that the Strategy stated that the
Council should encourage the owner-occupier sector to build small one and two bedroom
houses only. Some Members felt that would not appear to support the Council’s aim to
promote the economic development of the District and secondly that it would put people
into “a rut” if they were wishing to start families. It was also suggested that if the Council
were to sell off some of its land for housing development that it should ensure that the
Council led by example and make such land available for affordable housing.

Clarification was also given that rural affordable housing would be for the benefit of those
existing people within that community and not be taken by outsiders so forcing local
people to leave.

It was noted that there was a significant gap between the number of new Registered
Social Landlord dwellings completed in the last three years compared to need.

A Member pointed out that the table in the presentation under the need for Affordable
Housing showed some statistics as %s and others as total numbers and felt that was
inconsistent in its approach and that all information should be in the same format.

It was questioned whether the whole issue of meeting housing needs was a vicious circle
and that the more the District addressed the need of social housing the more people
would be attracted to the District, so raising the need still further.

The validity of the statistical data in support of additional affordable housing was
questioned by some Members and it was clarified that the Housing Needs Survey had
been conducted in accordance with Government guidance and with an appropriate
sample level in order to give a high level of confidence in the findings to enable it to
sustain robust legal challenge if required.
Overview and Scrutiny Committee                                              5 April 2004

Additionally, it was clarified that the Housing Needs Survey confirmed the pressures that
were currently being experienced in practice by the Council and that there were high
numbers of households in the District who were living in unacceptable housing conditions
but could not be assisted because of the acute shortage of affordable rented

The issue of part of the District being a holiday resort and attracting a large number of lets
during the winter which then become a housing issue during the summer months was
pointed out by a Member.

A question was raised by a Member as to the possibility of the Council building new
properties but it was explained that the Authority had not the funds to consider that at the
present time.

The second section of the presentation dealt with:-

   Assisting the Private Sector
   Homelessness – New Solutions to Old Problems

It was clarified for a Member that once an individual had been served with a notice to quit
they were homeless and the Council’s responsibility started to occur. A Member
questioned whether grants to Private Sector Landlords were just an opportunity for
landlords of “buy to let” properties to have cheap enhancements and so be able to
increase their rents but it was confirmed that the grants were in fact loans that had to be
paid back to the Council.

The third section of the presentation dealt with:-

   Tackling Anti-Social Behaviour
   Delivering “Decent Homes Plus”

Concern was expressed that the capital allocation showed a balance each year until 2010
after work on achieving decent homes to part of the stock, so allowing money to be spent
on “Decent Homes Plus”. It was questioned why such money was not fully utilised in the
shortest possible time to get all Council properties up to Decent Homes standard. It was
explained that the properties were phased as the needs arose as some currently meeting
Decent Homes standard would fall below that in future years. Also, some Decent Homes
Plus standards such as CCTV and smoke alarms were quite basic and therefore needed
to be introduced as soon as possible.

The final section of the presentation dealt with:-

   Allocating Resources
   The Action Plan
   Suggested Areas for Change

The following suggested amendments were put forward by the Head of Housing Services
in respect of how the draft Housing Strategy could be further improved before being re-
submitted to Cabinet.

   Amend to reflect changes to: Corporate Plan, Review Local Plan and Regeneration
   Clearer statement of Key Worker position;
   Jaywick position to be updated;
   Additional emphasis on the need for affordable housing in rural areas;
   Resources chapter to provide more information in respect of sources of funding;
   Where possible establish stronger links with other cross cutting issues…health,
    transport etc; and
       Overview and Scrutiny Committee                                            5 April 2004

          Strategy to be updated to reflect end of year position including progress report on
           previous action plan.

       It was asked whether consideration should be given to a new social housing development
       near the border with Colchester as that neighbouring area was the source of much
       employment but it was pointed out to the Member that the location and type of housing
       was addressed by the Local Plan and not the Housing Strategy.

       It was moved by Councillor H G Jessop, seconded by Councillor Stock and:-

       RESOLVED – That the Cabinet be informed that the Committee supports the contents of
       the draft Housing Strategy 2004/09, subject to the proposed amendments put forward by
       the Head of Housing Services and the comments made by Members, as outlined above,
       being taken into consideration by the Cabinet.


       In accordance with Rule 7 of the Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules, Members’
       approval was sought to a draft work programme for the Committee for the coming
       municipal year and a review of the work carried out by the Committee in the current
       municipal year for onward submission to the Annual Meeting of the Council for final

       Members supported the proposed work programme but felt that it was important to
       respond to those third parties who had put forward suggested topics that had not got into
       the programme, so that they did not feel it had been a waste of their time. It was agreed
       that there should be more use of “task and finish” sub-committees to investigate issues
       in-depth and report back to the Committee.

       There was some concern expressed that the scoring mechanism meant that some good
       “housekeeping” items would never get on the list and an opportunity would be missed to
       improve the internal workings of the Council. It was pointed out that some support
       service areas had already been the subject of a Best Value review and had resulted in an
       improvement plan moving the service forward with efficiencies.

       It was felt that the work programme needed to be kept light to allow any CPA
       improvement areas to be incorporated in the work schedule, but that if there was room
       further items could be added at a later stage.

       It was moved by Councillor Lines, seconded by Councillor Payne and:-

       RESOLVED – (a) That the contents of the review of the work carried out by the
       Committee in the current municipal year, as set out as Appendix “A2A” to the Report of
       the Overview and Scrutiny Manager be noted.

       (b) That, subject to resolution (c) below, the proposed work programme for 2004/05, as
       set out in Appendices “A2D” and “A2E” to the aforementioned report, be approved for
       submission with the review of the Committee’s work in 2003/04 to the Annual Meeting of
       the Council to be held on 5 May 2004 for final approval.

       (c) That a report be submitted to the Committee following all the issues raised by the CPA
       Inspectors’ findings, whether as a result of this any additional items could be included in
       the Work Programme, and to enable the Committee to consider further the use of “task
       and finish” sub-committees in carrying out their Work Programme.
       Overview and Scrutiny Committee                                           5 April 2004


       It was moved by Councillor Stock, seconded by Councillor Cossens and:-

       RESOLVED – That under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public
       be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it
       involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraphs 7 and 12 of
       Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act:-

       Special minute of the special meeting of the Committee held on 23 March 2004.


       The special minute of the special meeting of the Committee held on 23 March 2004 was
       approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman, subject to the paragraph
       referring to the categorising of villages being amended to include a reference to Elmstead


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