Agenda and minutes
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Items No. Item
Apologies for Absence
Declarations of Interest
Personal- Has coordinated events for Happy Harold
RESOLVED – that the minutes of the meeting held on 5th September 2019 be approved by the Chair as a true record.
With the committees consent the Chair moved this item on the agenda.
It was highlighted that the data in the report was from September. Updates to this are unavailable due to the Assistant Director Financial Services & Revenues unable to attend the meeting due to ongoing Budget commitments.
The current deficit has reduced from £195,000 to £159,000. The Councils current funding settlement amount from national government should be known soon. There are other factors contributing to the Councils final sum that would need consideration. The budget will be published in January but may be subject to change before the budget council meeting February.
Councillors commented that the reduction in deficit had been through the use of funds from the transitional reserves and asked if they would run out. The officers advised that when councillors voted on the budget in February they agreed to transition reserves. They suspect that they would need to be used again next year but when they would eventually run out.
Councillors commented that a lot of the savings were one off salary savings. They enquired about departmental efficiency savings for the long term. Officers responded that the salary saving were a combination of not needing to recruit or not being able to. Efficiencies savings were being continued to try to be found. Previous efficiencies had been used in budgets to prevent redundancies but the council now needs to consider this option in order to save money.
There was a significant overspend in the homelessness of £355,263. This was due to the significant demand for bed and breakfast temporary accommodation and a lack of affordable social housing properties for people to move into. Councillors asked when this would reach a saturation point. Officers agreed that it was unsustainable.
To help with this situation the council has brought a batch of properties intended for temporary accommodation use. The council intends to buy a second batch. This will allow us to save on costs and also control the standard of accommodation people are receiving. There is still a need to strengthen structures that help homeless people external to the council. At a later date an expert will be brought in review what we are currently doing to make sure we are doing everything viable.
The Assistant Director Housing & Built Environment is exploring a number of options including the Councillors suggestion of setting up a Housing Revenue Account to help acquire homes.
The Councillors spoke about how we have spent £65,000 on Cliff railways which generates revenue for the council. They questioned why £11,000 had been spent on Happy Harold (open topped tram bus), as it doesn’t make any revenue. Should the funding be stopped and Happy Harold retired to a museum.
Officers responded that the repairs to the Cliff railways were more complicated than anticipated and became more expensive. The decision to fund Happy Harold is a political one.
Councillor Rogers declared an interest as she is currently helping to coordinate Happy Harold events. The £11,000 was needed as running ... view the full minutes text for item 32.
Councillors looked at the performance summary section of the report first and looked at the performance indicators. Councillors were keen to celebrate the successes of several areas and ask for clarity in others. These included;
· Street cleansing: this had recently been brought back in house for the Council to run. Councillors were pleased with the project management to set this up but also how successful it has been in improving the cleanliness of the town.
· Planning: the department has exceeded targets despite having staff shortages. Councillors recognised this had not been an easy task in these circumstances.
· Housing benefit: the days to process a new claim were met the indicator but some councillors would like to see this quicker as they feel this could impact tenant and landlords relationships
· Council tax and Business rates: Councillors asked that it looked like collection rates were at approximately 60%. The officers responded that this will increase as the year goes on (cumulative figure). The figure was lower due to no Recovery staff recruited. There are now agency staffs in place and improvements are expected.
· Long term empty properties & neglected and derelict building improvement: Councillors could not see the correlation between these two targets (number 11&12). Officers advised that the figures were currently incorrect. Staff shortages and new software systems contributed to this. The figures for Q3 will be better.
· Homelessness: Councillors congratulated the work by officers on helping homeless residents. Officers confirmed that the increase in homelessness cases has correlated with overspend on bed & breakfast accommodation. Councillors should except to see this decrease as there are fewer cases but also shortened stays. Currently there are large shortages of social housing that prevents people from moving from temporary accommodation.
In order to move people from temporary accommodation into private landlord run accommodation, it has to meet liveable standards. Housing stock has improved in the town’s private sector due to schemes such as selective licensing. Councillors raised that some of their ward residents were experiencing poor conditions from Housing Association properties. Officers raised that there are regular meetings with the Housing Associations and the performance indicators are regularly met by them. The Housing Associations have also made improvements at the Councils previous requests. Councillors believed that when residents ask for improvements or complain that this takes a very long time to resolve and residents have to live in poor conditions during this time. It was suggested given how important Housing was to Councillors that there was a meeting with relevant Councillors and Officers as well as representation from the local Housing Associations.
· Elections: Councillors recognised the effort that Officers put into the recent election especially given the 5 week turnaround. They wanted to thank all Officers for their contribution to this.
· Museums: Councillors were very pleased with the figures. The new manager was recognised for this and the secured funding for outreach work.
· White Rock theatre: Councillors would like more information on the outreach work. ... view the full minutes text for item 33.
The work programme was discussed and Scrutiny looked at the progress made and the following was raised;
· The briefings and updates section will be replaced with the Housing Overview and Scrutiny Section
· There was to be an update on the Councils Solar Project. Scrutiny would still like this.
· Scrutiny would like a report from Safer Hastings. Residents are concerned by organised crime, drugs, sex trafficking and modern slavery. They would like to see the impact on the borough and the preventative measures in place to combat this.
· Councillor Barnett will be organising a meeting to progress the work further on the regeneration review.