Agenda and minutes
Venue: Ewyas Harold Memorial Hall, Pontrilas Road, Ewyas Harold, Herefordshire, HR2 0EL
Contact: Sarah Buffrey
To receive a verbal update on recent flooding events from the Chief Executive.
Urgent agenda item added by the leader of the council in light of recent flooding emergency.
Following the update, 15 minutes will be set aside for questions from members of the public. There will also be an opportunity for comments and questions from group leaders.
The chief executive gave a briefing on the recent flooding in the county. The text of the briefing is attached as appendix 1 to these minutes.
Following the briefing questions were permitted from those present, including members of the public and attending councillors.
Points raised in the discussion included:
· Business flood recovery grants of £2,500 were available to small and medium sized enterprises and the council was apply to process applications very quickly, other support was being investigated subject to government rules;
· The council was also looking at providing temporary alternative work spaces for businesses whose premises were out of action;
· Businesses who had not suffered flood damage but had suffered indirectly such as by road closures were also encouraged to apply to the scheme and set out the details of their losses, applications would be considered on a case by case basis;
· The challenges of encouraging landowners to take responsibility for run off from their land and to work collaboratively;
· Following years of budget reductions the council could no longer afford to fund maintenance on land that it did not own and was seeking new ways of working with landowners and parish councils;
· The council was considering the relationship between the locality stewards and Balfour Beatty Living Places and exploring having the stewards employed by the council to strengthen their independence;
· Culverts and drainage should be considered when roads were re-surfaced to prevent the new surfacing being washed away during heavy rainfall or flooding;
· The council had declared a climate emergency and was moving towards being carbon zero, this would include being more resilient in the future to the impacts of the climate changes already experienced;
· A suggestion that communities should be able to bid for capital works to improve drainage and prevent flooding;
· Concerns about the ability to get insurance and the cost of premiums where insurance was available;
· The need for improved communication and support.
Councillors thanked all those who had worked to provide support to households and businesses impacted by the flooding and praised communities for coming together. The need for better government guidance and improved strategic approach was recognised. This would need to be raised at a national level.
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies were received from Councillor Pauline Crockett.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
To receive declarations of interests in respect of Schedule 1, Schedule 2 or Other Interests from members of the committee in respect of items on the agenda.
To approve and sign the minutes of the meeting held on 30 January 2020.
Resolved: That the minutes of the meeting held on 30 January 2020 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairperson.
To receive questions from members of the public.
Questions received and responses given are attached as appendix 2 to the minutes.
To receive questions from councillors.
There were no questions received for this meeting.
To review performance for quarter 3 2019/20 and the budget outturn.
To provide assurance that progress is being made towards achievement of the agreed revenue budget and service delivery targets, and that the reasons for major variances or potential under-performance are understood and are being addressed to the cabinet’s satisfaction.
The cabinet member finance and corporate services introduced the report and summarised key areas of performance. The report reflected performance to the end of December 2019. The highlights included:
· A small projected overspend of £51k which it was hoped could be addressed by the end of the financial year;
· 70% of measures showing equivalent or improved performance from the same point in the previous year;
· A review of the capital programme would be undertaken including adjusting timelines as necessary to make them more realistic;
· An increase in the number of council staff taking up the flu vaccination through the Council’s workplace programme;
· Key Stage 2 results from primary schools put Herefordshire in the top 20 of education authorities nationally, there had been some backsliding on performance at secondary schools but Looked After Children were now showing better improvement on performance;
· Further support to the NMiTe university project and the Hereford Enterprise Zone;
· Continued work on measures to address the Lugg catchment phosphate moratorium;
· Continued progress on delivery of superfast broadband and improved fibre connections in rural areas.
The head of corporate performance explained that the council was now in the final year of the current corporate plan and that two thirds of the current delivery plan actions were on track as complete or due to be completed by the end of the year. He highlighted changes to the corporate risk register where three risks had been removed, the risk around information governance had been increased and five new risks had been escalated and added to the corporate risk register as explained in the report.
In discussion of the report it was noted that:
· The council would be moving to new indicators for 2020/21 with the approval of the new county plan;
· Sickness absence figures related to average days absence in a 12 month rolling period and showed an upward trajectory compared with the same point in the previous year, the chief executive agreed to provide further information on the actions being taken to manage this;
· The proportion of 16 and 17 year olds participating in training had reduced slightly but the council was highly engaged with apprenticeships and was actively looking to do more to promote these options;
· Commissioning of major council contracts included requirements for the provision of apprenticeships and the council also promoted these through its relationship with Hoople, the chief executive agreed to provide further information on this area of work;
· As corporate parents all councillors and officers had a responsibility to support and encourage children in care and care leavers to participate in education and training, the cabinet member for children and families highlighted that the council would shortly be appointing a champion for young people;
· The legal services team were in the process of reorganisation and it was hoped that recruitment to vacant posts would commence this year however experience had shown that Herefordshire struggled to recruit in this field;
· The number of people killed or seriously injured was monitored very carefully as the county’s ... view the full minutes text for item 134.
To approve the Housing Allocation Scheme for Herefordshire 2020.
The cabinet member housing, regulatory services and community safety introduced the report. She highlighted that the council was required to have an allocation scheme for determining priorities for allocating housing even though it did not currently own any housing stock. The delivery of the new scheme had been delayed due to difficulty with the IT system but this time had been used to further review the scheme and to take on board the requirements of the homelessness reduction act.
In discussion of the report it was noted that:
· The operational housing team worked closely with strategic housing to ensure that the policy worked on the ground and discussions has also taken place with a range of internal colleagues and external partners in developing the revised scheme;
· The housing associations had agreed in principle to pay for the addition of Band E for existing tenants and general applicants who did not have an identified housing need, the details of how this would operate were still under negotiation;
· The equality impact assessment was queried and officers confirmed that individuals with disabilities would likely access housing through specialist schemes rather than Homepoint, and those who were unable to use a computer would receive support from the council or housing association to make an application;
· There was an intention to include private landlords on the Homepoint system in future, once the initial phase with the housing associations had been delivered;
· The new system had an increased character limit for information about properties and this should include the energy performance of the property, cabinet members requested that the importance of including energy efficiency information be raised with landlords;
· The changes to the categories could lead to an increase in numbers on the waiting list however those in higher categories would still have preference, a longer waiting list might be seen as a more accurate reflection of need and would be reviewed after a year to judge the impact of the revised scheme;
· Properties around the borders of the county would be listed according to which authority they paid council tax to;
· The changes to criteria giving priority for military personnel were introduced by the government in a series of measures to support them and their families;
· Post graduate students might be eligible if they could demonstrate their local connections and employment status;
· Medical needs would be considered based on the information provided by applicants and referred to experts such as an occupational therapist, housing staff would not be assessing medical conditions but would make decisions on the information and expert advice provided.
Group leaders were invited to comment. The reasons for the delay to the implementation of the new system were understood and the implementation of the new scheme was welcomed.
It was agreed that:
(a) The revised Housing Allocation Scheme at Appendix 1 is approved;
(b) Any minor amendments to the scheme necessary to enable implementation are delegated to the Cabinet member housing, regulatory services and community safety.
The report is to outline further delivery of the “better ways of working” initiative that enables employees to work flexibly and to consolidate use of premises. This decision will specifically relate to the future occupancy of the Nelson House building and consider changes to Plough Lane and Elgar House offices to accommodate any increased occupancy of these buildings. The report will include details of any required financial investment and associated savings, details of any required procurement and any guidance to changes to staff working practices that will enable the improved usage of the workspace.
The cabinet member commissioning, procurement and assets introduced the report supported by the strategic property services manager and the assistant director corporate support. It was highlighted that the principles of better ways of working (BWOW) had been in place at Herefordshire Council for around 10 years and this represented the next phase. Objectives included keeping the cost of back office functions to a minimum and being mindful of the declared climate emergency. A key element of this next phase was to move staff out of Nelson House in Hereford in order to release the lease on that property and to increase usage of the Plough Lane offices. The move was expected to improve collaborative working and integrate staff from children’s and adults social care.
In discussion of the report it was noted that:
· There were a lot of potential benefits to the approach but also some issues that would need to be addressed such as confidentiality requirements and sufficient parking for those staff who had emergency duties and required access to a vehicle;
· The desks currently in use at Plough Lane were quite deep and it was felt that by using narrower desks more staff could be accommodated in the same space without overcrowding;
· The council had been trialling new software to improve access to conference calling facilities and refurbishments of the multi-agency offices would increase capacity and encourage more staff to use them;
· Adaptations would be made to ensure that there were suitable areas for confidential discussions;
· Assessment of tenders for contracts such as providing new furniture and equipment would take account of the climate emergency, score bids against their ability to recycle and on their social value
· There would be specific consultation with staff moving from Nelson House to Plough Lane and reminders to staff currently in the Plough Lane offices of the standards they should be operating in terms of desk ratio and clear desk policies;
· Many staff who worked at Nelson House already used the car parks at Plough Lane so the impact on parking would be modest, it was recognised that there was more that could be done to encourage different ways of travel to Plough Lane;
· There was scope for increased flexible working subject to the specific needs of each service and ability to respond to public demands as the Plough Lane offices were open from 7am to 7pm;
· The wellbeing of staff was important and changes would include things like use of breakout spaces which could have a positive impact and the views of unions would also be taken on board.
Group leaders were invited to comment on the report. Key points noted were:
· Changes to working patterns could be disruptive to staff;
· The multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) had particular requirements and these needed to be addressed in its move to Plough Lane, the strategic property manager confirmed that discussions had already taken place to ensure that these requirements could be met.
The chief executive noted that a recent difficulty with the fire ... view the full minutes text for item 136.