Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Big plans, bright future

Housing & Community Safety Select Committee (ceased to operate 03/06/2015) Minutes

Date:
Thursday, 3rd November, 2011
Time:
1.30pm
Place:
Lecture Theatre, Municipal Buildings, Church Road, Stockton-on-Tees,
 
Please note: all Minutes are subject to approval at the next Meeting

Attendance Details

Present:
Cllr Julia Cherrett(Chair), Cllr Derrick Brown(Vice Chair), Cllr Michael Clark, Cllr Evaline Cunningham, Cllr Robert Gibson, Cllr Mohammed Javed, Cllr Andrew Sherris
Officers:
Mike Batty, Julie Nixon, Julie HIggins, Linda Stephenson(DNS), Graham Birtle, Anthony Duffy, Sarah Whaley(LD)
Apologies for absence:
Cllr David Wilburn
Item Description Decision
Public
HCS
34/11
EVACUATION PROCEDURE
 
HCS
35/11
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
AGREED that the declarations be noted.
HCS
36/11
MINUTES FOR SIGNATURE - 23RD JUNE 2011
AGREED that the minutes be signed.
HCS
37/11
MINUTES FOR SIGNATURE - 30TH JUNE 2011
AGREED that the minutes be signed.
HCS
38/11
DRAFT MINUTES - 15TH SEPTEMBER
AGREED that the minutes be approved with the following amendments.

1) that the word 'he' be changed to 'she' on Councillor Cunningham's declarations of interest.

2) that the recommendations at item 4 - EIT Review of Community Safety and Security Services, highlight that recommendations were agreed, reluctantly, by the Committee.
HCS
39/11
WORK PROGRAMME
AGREED that suggestions for future topics be brought back to the Housing and Community Safety Select Committee meeting on the 8th of December 2011 for discussion.
HCS
40/11
EIT REVIEW OF COMMUNITY SAFETY AND SECURITY SERVICES
AGREED that:

1) the proposed savings be accepted.
HCS
41/11
EIT GATEWAY REVIEW OF HOUSING BENEFIT AND COUNCIL TAX BENEFIT SERVICE
AGREED that:

1) the information be noted

2) further information be provided as requested and detailed above.
HCS
42/11
CHAIR'S UPDATE
 
1.30pm - 2.50pm

Preamble

ItemPreamble
HCS
34/11
The evacuation procedure was noted.
HCS
35/11
Cllr Evaline Cunningham and Michael Clark declared personal non prejudicial interests in relation to Item no.7- EIT Review of Community Safety and Security Services as they were both members of Unison.

Cllr Robert Gibson declared a personal non prejudicial interest in relation to Item no.8 - EIT Gateway Review of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit Service as he was a Member of the Tristar Board.
HCS
36/11
Consideration was given to the minutes of the meeting which was held on the 23rd June 2011 for Signature.
HCS
37/11
Consideration was given to the minutes of the meeting which was held on the 30th June 2011 for Signature.
HCS
38/11
Consideration was given to the minutes which were held on the 15th September for Approval.
HCS
39/11
Members were informed that the Efficiency Improvement and Transformation(EIT) Review Programme had now come to an end. The Committee was invited to put forward any suggestions it might have within its remit. Future reviews could apply similar efficiency/value for Money(VFM) approaches to those used during the last 3 years of EIT Reviews.

The Scrutiny Officer presented Members with a list of Cabinet portfolios and past reviews, which also identified topics that had never been reviewed. The list was to assist the Committee to make an informed choice of which topics to review in the future.

In relation to the topic 'Liaison with Tristar Homes' which was included on the list, Members discussed the possibility of reviewing the offer document which was sent to Tristar tenants to determine how much of the offer document Tristar had delivered.

It was suggested that possible topics be brought back to a meeting of this Committee on the 8th December 2011 for discussion.


HCS
40/11
Members received information regarding the EIT Review of Community Safety & Security Services from the Head of Community Safety which included the outstanding information requested from the meeting which was held on the 15th September 2011.

The main issues discussed were as follows:

- discussions that took place with Unison on the 15th September 2011 and with Unite on the 19th September 2011.

- whether to retain four, three or two Senior Neighbourhood Enforcement Officers. The Committee concluded that the 'two Seniors' model was the best option.

- 80-85% of original target to be achieved.

- Hartlepool Borough Council, the lead authority for Cleveland Emergency Planning Unit(CEPU) was confident that 10% savings from all four local authorities in year 1(2011/2012) would be achieved and a further 5% in year 2012/13 and a final 5% in 2013/14.

- schedule of proposed savings as presented.

- the Committee expressed concern regarding the acceptance of the proposed savings.

HCS
41/11
Members received information regarding the EIT Gateway Review of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit Service from the Head of Housing and the Benefits Manager.

The main issues discussed were as follows:

- background information in relation to the Service being transferred to the Department of Work and Pensions(DWP) by 2017 following the publication of the Welfare Reform Bill. Members heard that annual reviews would be carried out until 2017.

- issues regarding staff and their future as the Service enters into change prior to the hand over to DWP in 2017.

- the current Service and how it was provided.

- influences and impact on the Service.

- increase in workload due to the recession.

- uncertainties regarding operational costs and future of credit crunch funding and government subsidies.

- the options considered to reach the savings targets as presented of 180k, 320K and 500K.

- the officers preferred option of a target of 180k savings achieved by a restructure of the service. It was also suggested that these savings be retained within the services budget to help manage the service transfer to DWP and help with the future setting up of the council tax collection service. Members felt that at this time the savings should be put back into Stockton Council's central budget and not be kept within the current service.

- the reasons the higher savings of 320k and 500k were not focused on were given as having a detrimental effect on the time it would take to process changes in circumstances resulting in overpayments. This would reduce or disqualify the service from DWP Subsidy of which, they currently receive 100% due to the speed in which changes are currently processed.

- claim processing and automative processes, were considered to be as accurate as human calculation.

- new claim interviews.

- discretionary housing payments.

- recovery of overpayments of an estimated 100k and the possible methods to be implemented to recover those debts including using a debt collection agency. The Committee expressed concerns using this method and felt alternatives should be sought as this could look unfavourably on Stockton Borough Council. The Benefits Manager expressed that this method would only be used as a last resort.

- combined payment scheme.

- good relationships with advice agencies such as Citizens Advice Bureau.


The Committee requested the following information

- that the new arrangements for recovery of old outstanding housing benefit overpayments and the possible arrangements to introduce debt collection agencies to collect outstanding overpayments be brought back to this Committee.

- that annual updates of the Housing Benefits Service be brought back to future meetings of this Committee.

- the Officers make reference to Members concerns within the body of their report.
HCS
42/11
The Chair had no additional infomation to impart.

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