Agenda and minutes

Residents' Services Select Committee - Thursday, 21st July, 2022 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 6 - Civic Centre, High Street, Uxbridge UB8 1UW. View directions

Contact: Liz Penny  01895 250185 or Email:

No. Item


Apologies for Absence


Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Ekta Gohil with Councillor Heena Makwana substituting.


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 118 KB


RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting dated 15 June 2022 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 of business were in Part I and would be considered in public.


Consultation on the Council Strategy 2022 - 2026 pdf icon PDF 63 KB

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Tony Zaman, Interim Chief Executive, and Dan Kennedy, Corporate Director of Central Services, provided an overview of the Council Strategy 2022-2026. The strategy set out the Council’s high-level objectives for the next four years and aimed to ensure services worked together across Directorates to achieve better outcomes for residents. It set out ambitions both for residents and for the Council. Five commitments to residents were incorporated within the strategy relating to: Safe and Strong Communities; Thriving, Health Households; a Green and Sustainable Borough; a Thriving Economy and a Digital-Enabled, Modern, Well-Run Council. Specific targets for the Council were not included in the Strategy but would be reflected in the annual delivery plan.


A consultation stage would actively seek the views of residents, partner organisations and businesses and would inform the final strategy which would be presented to Cabinet in October 2022. The consultation stage would also invite comments from the Select Committees.


Members enquired how the Council intended to interact with hard-to-reach communities noting that some residents would be reluctant or unable to use digital platforms. It was confirmed that community groups and faith leaders would be actively engaged. Ward Councillors would also be encouraged to promote services and assist residents in accessing help and support. Members heard that approximately 81,000 residents had already signed up to ‘My Account’ which was encouraging. It was hoped that this number would continue to increase; however, it was acknowledged that some residents preferred to access Council services in traditional ways.


Members noted the importance of residents having the confidence to access services independently rather than being reliant on their Ward Councillors. The Committee was informed that the NHS had been working on a project in North West London to gain a better understanding of local communities; the Council intended to ‘piggy back’ onto this in the future to target hard-to-reach communities. Moreover, services would be localities-based and differentiated according to the needs of local residents – this model would be included in the Council’s future service plan.


In response to further questions from the Committee, it was confirmed that the Council aimed to eliminate rough sleeping by 2024 in line with Central Government objectives. A target of zero had been set; however, Central Government had been informed that this would be difficult to achieve in Hillingdon given the existence of Heathrow Airport in the Borough. Members were informed that the Council had a responsibility to ensure that all new housing developments were appropriately located. Moreover, it was committed to enabling more residential properties in the Borough in line with planning policy.


Members requested further clarification regarding ‘My Account’ usage. It was confirmed that a heat map by Ward had been shared with the Cabinet Member. Analysis of ‘My Account’ usage information would enable the Council to target those areas / community groups with lower take up. In terms of access to technology, it was acknowledged that some residents were unable to afford broadband, buy devices etc. The Council would work in collaboration with  ...  view the full minutes text for item 14.


Empty Properties (Council Tax Premium & Empty Dwelling Management Orders) pdf icon PDF 95 KB


Iain Watters - Head of Finance – Financial Planning, Capital, Treasury & Systems, Maureen Pemberton – Head of Revenues, Debby Weller – Housing Policy and Strategy Manager and Mark Billings – Head of Housing Options, Homelessness and Standards presented the report which provided information in relation to the use of the Council Tax Premium and Empty Dwelling Management Orders.


Members were informed that there were currently approximately 1,100 empty and exempt properties in Hillingdon. It was confirmed that, since 1 April 2013, the Council had been able to charge an empty home premium on a property that had been unoccupied and unfurnished for two years or more. At the time the premium had been up to an extra 50% of the council tax on the property. Since 2019 it had been possible to increase this premium to 100% for properties that remained empty longer than two years. Further increases were now possible for properties empty for longer than 5 years (200%) and 10 years (300%). Hillingdon charged a 150% Empty Homes Premium at present.


In terms of Empty Dwelling Management Orders, the Committee heard that these were a useful tool but were currently used as a last resort due to the risks involved – it was often difficult to recover the costs involved in getting a property up to standard. The preferred approach at present was to offer advice and persuade owners to bring properties back into use. It was acknowledged that this was an area for review; further investigation was required to better understand the options open to officers and which were most beneficial / cost effective. Enforcement action was an option but none of the enforcement options were straightforward and all would require further resource.


Members requested further clarification regarding properties exempt from Council Tax – class F (6 months exemption following the grant of probate / letters of administration after the death of an occupier). It was confirmed that such situations would be monitored carefully and appropriate action taken. There was sometimes a delay in applications for probate or there could be a dispute therefore this was at times a lengthy process. In cases where the deceased had no family, the Council would look at land registry records or conduct other research in relation to the case.


The Committee requested further information regarding the 163 properties currently attracting the Empty Property Premium of 150%. It was confirmed that a breakdown of the banding for these properties could be obtained. 


In response to further questions from the Committee, it was confirmed that, where a property was found to be unoccupied, the recovery of an outstanding tax debt was challenging; the liable party had to be identified and located first to enable recovery action to be taken. An external inspection unit would be utilised to pursue the case and a statutory process through court would ensue which could ultimately lead to a charging order or forced sale.


Members enquired whether current legislation enabled the Council to do its job effectively.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.


Select Committee Review: Policy Review Discussion and Guidance pdf icon PDF 118 KB


Members were thanked for the ideas provided to date. Further suggestions for review topics / information items included:


1.    Housing Repairs – Members noted that, at present, kitchens / bathrooms were only refurbished after a set period of time had elapsed; it was suggested that there should be some flexibility and frequency of repairs prioritised depending on need (potential review topic);

2.    Homelessness / Clients presenting to Housing Services – the process to be as supportive as possible and all avenues to be explored to ensure people were re-homed appropriately (potential review topic);

3.    The impact of HS2 on residents’ services (parking, traffic etc) – information item to add to the work programme;

4.    Climate Action Plan – climate change and its impact on how the Council managed services – to be followed up after October 2022;

5.    Alleygating – Democratic Services to explore previous work on this topic – possible information / review item to add to work programme;

6.    Enforcement of removal of ‘To Let’ signs / flyposting within the Borough (Members heard that the Borough Solicitor had previously written to estate agents stating that To Let signs must be removed at the appropriate time);

7.    ‘A Thriving Economy’ (Council Strategy 2022-26) – ‘support thriving multi-purpose, viable town centres, including creating a new master plan for Uxbridge’ – potential longer-term review topic;

8.    Enforcement of Deliveroo drivers who occupy parking spaces and are not fined for doing so. Democratic Services to ask the ASB team to incorporate this into their information report to be presented to the Committee in September 2022 or ask Roy Clark to prepare report if his area.


It was agreed that Democratic Services would explore the feasibility of the proposed Homelessness / Housing Repairs review topics and report back to the Committee in September 2022. The proposed additional information items would be added to the Work Programme.


RESOLVED: That the Residents’ Services Select Committee:


1.    Noted the guidance on undertaking policy reviews in Appendix 1;


2.    Sought to make use of the scorecard to assess any policy review topic ideas; and


3.    Developed a shortlist of two potential topic ideas for officers to scope further and report back to the Committee on feasibility.


Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 83 KB

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Members noted that a number of the officers who appeared on the Forward Plan no longer worked at the Council, namely: James Rodger and Victoria Boorman. Democratic Services agreed to amend the Forward Plan accordingly.


RESOLVED: That the Residents’ Services Select Committee noted the Cabinet Forward Plan.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 56 KB

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RESOLVED: That the Residents’ Services Select Committee considered the report and agreed any amendments.