Agenda and minutes

Residents' Services Select Committee - Wednesday, 12th April, 2023 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 5 - Civic Centre. View directions

Contact: Liz Penny, Democratic Services Officer  Email:

No. Item


Apologies for Absence


Apologies for absence were received from Cllr Sital Punja.


Declarations of interest in matters coming before this meeting


There were no declarations of interest.


To receive the minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 247 KB


RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting dated 15 March 2023 be agreed as an accurate record.


To confirm that the items of business marked as Part I will be considered in public and those marked Part II will be considered in private


It was confirmed that all items were in Part I and would be considered in public.


A Review of Alley Gating in Hillingdon: Witness Session 3 pdf icon PDF 231 KB

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It was noted that this was the third and final witness session relating to the Committee’s review of alley gating in Hillingdon. Elleni Yiangu, Gating Officer and Yasmin Basterfield, Safer Communities Team Leader, were in attendance representing Ealing Council. A report setting out Ealing’s alley gating scheme had been included in the agenda pack and Members were invited to ask questions in relation to this. It was noted that, in Ealing, alley gates would only be gifted to residents on private land and in ASB hotspots.


In response to questions from the Committee, it was confirmed that Ealing Council kept records of key holders’ details for one year after an application had been received; this information was never shared and was deleted after a year for GDPR reasons.


With regards to bank accounts, Members heard that Ealing bore the full initial cost of providing alley gates in the borough; thereafter ongoing maintenance costs etc were the sole responsibility of the residents. Generally, one lead resident would be responsible for setting up a bank account and no known issues with frozen bank accounts had been experienced to date. It was confirmed that Ealing always used the same contractor; officers would check their eligibility first then refer residents to the contractor directly to obtain keys. Alternatively, residents could approach their neighbours.


In response to further questions from the Committee, Councillors heard that, in Ealing, 100% consent of all homeowners was required prior to installation of alley gates. In cases where a resident, or residents, did not wish to consent, officers would contact them directly to establish why. If landlords were out of the country, the approval of managing agents or whoever was residing in the property would be sought. Members were informed that two applications had been rejected recently as developers had an interest in the land.


Members sought further clarification regarding the monitoring of ASB in Ealing. It was confirmed that not all cases were monitored; only those where there had been high levels of ASB prior to installation of alley gates. In one such case a significant reduction in burglary had been observed following installation of gates in a problematic area.


Members thanked the officers for their report and attendance at the Committee.


RESOLVED: That the Residents’ Services Select Committee noted the evidence heard at the witness session and sought clarification as necessary in the context of the review of alley gating in Hillingdon.


Crime and Disorder Scrutiny - Police Performance Data pdf icon PDF 236 KB

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Chief Inspector James Herring and Inspector James McGahan of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) were in attendance and presented the crime performance data figures covering the period March 2022 – February 2023 vs March 2021 – February 2022. Key points highlighted included:


1.    Each Borough in West London now had a senior Leader – for Hillingdon this was Superintendent Antony Bennett. The aim was to increase the number of police officers in the Borough in the long term;


2.    One priority area for the BCU Commander was tackling violence – particularly Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG). The Town Centre Team had been very successful, but the Partnership Tasking Team would be lost in 2023. New initiatives included a neighbourhood police week of action and working with female officers to improve trust and confidence;


3.    There had been an uplift in robbery, burglary, vehicle crime, theft and arson in the current year whilst figures for possession of weapons had declined;


4.    In terms of Ward figures, there had been a significant increase in crime in Heathrow Villages in the past year. The Chief Inspector would be meeting with colleagues later in April to discuss this further. It was possible that Heathrow’s increased opening hours could be having an impact on this;


5.    There had been a notable decrease in crime in some wards including Ruislip Manor, Pinkwell, Charville, Hillingdon East and Ickenham & South Harefield which was to be welcomed;


6.    There were significant resourcing challenges being faced by the MPS – Operation Stabilise sought to address this;


7.    Body worn cameras were encouraged when officers carried out stop and search and initiatives were in place to train new recruits.


Members noted that certain communities were very reluctant to engage with the Police as they distrusted them – the latest negative publicity regarding the Met had not helped. It was suggested that police officers should patrol local areas more so as to be more visible, build trust and enable the residents to get to know them better.


In response to this, it was confirmed that a current key priority was to build trust and confidence in local communities. Recruitment and retention of officers were particularly challenging at the moment, but the aim was to keep neighbourhood officers in post for longer.  It was important to maintain the levels of all police officers including PCSOs.


Further to their enquiries regarding communications, Members were informed that OWL was a very useful tool. Other options including “Nextdoor” and social media platforms such as Twitter were also very useful in increasing engagement with communities.


Members requested clarification as to the meaning of ‘I’ and ‘S’ call volumes as set out on pages 34 and 35 of the agenda pack. It was confirmed that these related to response times - ‘I’ calls had to be dealt with within 15 minutes and ‘S’ calls within one hour.


Members expressed concern regarding the push to go online noting that this was impractical for some  ...  view the full minutes text for item 75.


Housing Living Standards pdf icon PDF 805 KB


In relation to the Housing Living Standards report included in the agenda, Debby Weller - Head of Housing Strategy & Policy, Michelle Greenidge – Private Sector Housing Manager, Mark Billings – Director of Housing and Gary Penticost – Director of Operational Assets were in attendance to answer Members’ questions. Members heard that all reported defects were identified by officers and photos taken.


Members sought clarification of the use of the word ‘adequate’ in relation to private sector housing, noting that some dwellings which passed scrutiny were far from acceptable. It was claimed that, in some cases, sub-standard accommodation had a valid gas safety certificate. Members enquired how private landlords could be made to adhere to the Council’s standards of accommodation.


In response to this, Members heard that a gas safety certificate was a legal requirement and checks had to be carried out on an annual basis. Old boilers did not necessarily need to be replaced if they were still working well. The Private Sector Housing Manager confirmed that a Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) evaluation tool was used to identify hazards in a property – hazards were assessed against a set of criteria and, if they were not considered to be category 1 or 2 hazards, there was little the Council could legally do about them. At the request of Councillors, it was agreed that the Committee would be provided with a list of the 29 hazards against which properties were assessed. It was confirmed that gas operatives were required to appear on a list of Gas Safe registered operatives; the Council could ensure they were genuine by checking the list. As of 1 October 2022, landlords were also required to provide carbon dioxide detectors in their rented properties. Any landlords acting illegally were taking a huge risk, but little could be done about this unless a problem arose.


In reply to their questions, the Committee Members were informed that approximately 350 households in the Borough were currently in private temporary accommodation; about 100 of these dwellings had been inspected to date. It was not possible to visit every dwelling, but there was a new requirement for a contract with the local authority regarding standards. Members heard that the Council was part of a Pan-London programme ‘Setting the Standard’ which aimed to ensure bed & breakfasts and studio flats used by local authorities for nightly paid temporary accommodation met a decent level of quality and management standards. The Landlord Engagement Team also inspected family sized accommodation. It was important for the Council that temporary accommodation used was of a good standard.


Members enquired whether feedback from those in temporary accommodation was sought. It was confirmed that an officer contact was provided to enable people to report problems, but no feedback was collected at present. The Director of Housing agreed to explore ways in which this could be done.


With regards to Automatic Opening Vents (AOVs), Councillors were informed that these were generally required under building regulations for buildings over  ...  view the full minutes text for item 76.


Hillingdon's Library Service's Draft Strategy 2023-2027 / The Future of Harlington Library pdf icon PDF 301 KB

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Darren Deeks, Libraries Service Manager, and Councillor Eddie Lavery, Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services, were in attendance to respond to questions from the Committee in relation to the Library Service Draft Strategy 2023-2027 and the Future of Harlington Library.


Members sought clarification as to why residents were not using libraries as much as they had pre-pandemic. The Libraries Service Manager indicated that usage figures were improving; however, pre-pandemic levels had not yet been reached. It appeared that people’s habits were changing, and this could be attributed to a number of factors such as flexible working, the reluctance of some older people to mix with others and limits on capacity for safety reasons. Hillingdon was performing well compared to other London boroughs.


The Committee noted that, as indicated on page 85 of the agenda pack at item 4, three Hillingdon libraries had lower active membership than Harlington Library. It was confirmed that Harlington Library had been sited in the school for over a decade which restricted its use as it did not feel like a public library.


With regards to the tiered grading system, Councillor Lavery advised the Committee that the tiers were based on usage and visit numbers. Flagship libraries had a large footfall and were well used while smaller libraries tended to serve the local community. It was important for the Council to maintain coverage across the Borough. Footfall would be monitored on an ongoing basis to inform decisions. Harlington Library was the only proposed closure due to its own particular circumstances whereby it was predominantly only used by school children.


In response to further questions from the Committee, it was confirmed that satisfaction levels were generally high. A library home service was available for those who needed it. Councillor Lavery confirmed that libraries were tailored to the requirements of local areas and facilities offered were driven by demand; for example, computers were heavily used by young people in Botwell. Officers were looking to expand the offer for young people to include sign language and other activities of interest.


In respect of seasonality of study, Members enquired whether hours of operation would reflect this. It was confirmed that Hillingdon strove for consistency across the Borough to ensure level access on a daily basis. Residents were generally happy to accept lunch time closures which also enabled students to take a break from their studies. 


Councillor Lavery informed the Committee Members that libraries were an essential part of community hubs. The Council was looking at ways to make best use of all its assets across the Borough and considering all options including locating banking and police surgeries within libraries. Members heard that a pilot was underway regarding HSBC in Eastcote Library and Barclays at Ruislip Manor library was under consideration. Ways in which the Adolescent Team could use libraries was also being explored.


In terms of the digital offer, the Committee was advised that there had been an increase in the use of Borrow Box, but the range of books was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 77.


Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 328 KB

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RESOLVED: That the forward plan be noted.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 149 KB

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RESOLVED: That the Work Programme be agreed.