Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Big plans, bright future

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

Date:
Thursday, 16th February, 2012
Time:
2.30pm
Place:
Lecture Theatre, Stockton Central Library, Church Road, Stockton-on-Tees, TS18 1AU
 
Please note: all Minutes are subject to approval at the next Meeting

Attendance Details

Present:
Cllr Derrick Brown, Cllr Julia Cherrett, Cllr Michael Clark, Cllr Evaline Cunningham, Cllr Robert Gibson, Cllr Mohammed Javed, Cllr Andrew Sherris, Cllr David Wilburn
Officers:
Graham Birtle, Anthony Duffy, Sarah Whaley(DNS), Linda Stephenson(DNS)
Apologies for absence:
Cllr Tina Large
Item Description Decision
Public
HCS
59/11
EVACUATION PROCEDURE
The Evacuation Procedure was noted.
HCS
60/11
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
There were no declarations of interest.
HCS
61/11
MINUTES - 8TH DECEMBER
AGREED that the minutes be signed.
HCS
62/11
DRAFT MINUTES - 5TH JANUARY 2012
AGREED that the minutes be approved.
HCS
63/11
EIT GATEWAY REVIEW OF BENEFITS SERVICE - ACTION PLAN FOR AGREED RECOMMENDATIONS
AGREED that the Action Plan be approved subject to the amendments outlined above.
HCS
64/11
SCRUTINY DEVELOPMENT SESSION
AGREED that

1) the information noted

2) further information be provided as requested.
HCS
65/11
WORK PROGRAMME
AGREED that the information be noted.
HCS
66/11
CHAIR'S UPDATE
AGREED that the information be noted.
2.30pm-3:45pm

Preamble

ItemPreamble
HCS
61/11
Consideration was given to the minutes from the meeting which was held on the 8th December 2011.
HCS
62/11
Consideration was given to the minutes of the meeting which was held on the 5th January 2012 for approval.
HCS
63/11
Members were presented with the Action Plan setting out how the agreed recommendations from the EIT (Efficiency, Improvement and Transformation) Gateway Review of the Benefits Service would be implemented and target dates for completion.

The Benefits Manager gave the Committee a brief overview of the Action Plan and discussion took place around recommendation 1 and 4.

With reference to recommendation 1 which indicated a saving of 180,000, members sought clarity as to how this saving had been reached. The Benefits Manager explained to the Committee that there was in fact more posts than people due to vacant positions not being filled when they became vacant. This would safeguard current staffing levels resulting in current staff taking up the vacant posts.

Recommendation 4 detailed a three month trial currently being carried out to recover the overpayment of benefits. Members heard that the Community Protection Service's Enforcement Officers were handling 50 cases and were to visit each resident in an attempt to collect the overpayment debt. The Committee was informed that the Officers were using a non-confrontatinal approach where needed and fed back vital information to the benefits office which could help each indiviual case. Overpayment debts could range from approximately 50-3000 per individual. Members queried the cost of recovering the smaller amounts versus the actual amount recovered and questioned whether or not it was worthwhile.

The Committee expressed concerns as to using uniformed officers to collect outstanding debts, both for the residents and for the safety of the Officers. Members heard that should the trial prove successful then additional training could be given although Community Protection Service's Enforcement Officers did have some experience of collecting unpaid Fixed Penalty Notices for a range of offences.

The Benefits Officer reminded Members that during a previous Housing and Community Safety Select Committee meeting, discussion had taken place regarding the possibility of using external bailiffs to recover outstanding monies. Members expressed concern if this approach was to be taken and impressed upon officers that this would not be a preferred option. The Benefits Officer explained that the comments had been taken into account which resulted in the trial as outlined above.

Members asked that an update regarding the trial be brought back to a future meeting of this Committee should the decision be made to continue with it.
HCS
64/11
The Scrutiny Officer informed members that due to the Efficiency, Improvement and Transformation(EIT) reviews coming to a close, the process which had been used prior to EIT would now be re-introduced.

Members received a presentation highlighting the necessary tools and ingredients needed for a successful outcome.

It was explained that Members would have the opportunity to evaluate the work which they had carried out, review the process and look at the aftermath of the recommendations.

Members asked if there was an exemplary review which could be used as a basis for future reviews which was proven to have worked well. The Scrunity Officer agreed to look into this further.
HCS
65/11
Members received an overview of a seminar which was attended by the Vice Chair of the Housing and Community Safety Select Committee and the Scrutiny Liaison Officer. The 'Fresh NE Seminar' held on the 7th February 2012 tackled the issues of illicit Tobacco, Plain Packaging and Point of Sale.

Members received information which detailed the headlines and were informed that the slides from the seminar would be presented to this Committe at a future meeting to aid in the Committees next review focusing on Tobacco Control.
HCS
66/11
The Chair informed the Committee that after the presentation of the Community Safety Review at Cabinet, it was recommended that the review topic be discussed at a future meeting of Exectuive Scrutiny for consideration of the transformational element of the review.

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