Agenda and minutes

Residents' Services Select Committee - Wednesday, 13th March, 2024 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 5 - Civic Centre. View directions

Contact: Liz Penny, Democratic Services Officer  Email:

No. Item


Apologies for Absence


There were no apologies for absence.


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 190 KB


In relation to the Community Infrastructure Levy and S106 Monitoring – Annual Report item, Members noted that, although “the statutory requirements in terms of the information required to be published had been met”, the Committee had previously been informed that they would be provided with said information but this had not happened.


RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting dated 13 February 2024 be agreed subject to the aforementioned amendment in relation to the information provided to Committee Members.


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.


Review of Homeless Prevention & the Customer Journey - Witness Session 1 pdf icon PDF 233 KB

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Dan Kennedy (Corporate Director of Central Services), Melissa Blower (Housing Improvement Programme Manager), Debby Weller (Head of Housing Strategy and Policy) and Maggie Nelson (Head of Housing Needs) were in attendance to present the report and answer Members’ questions.


The Corporate Director of Central Services acknowledged that the current situation in relation to homelessness was extremely challenging. There had been a 27% increase in demand with 100 people presenting as homeless each week. This was primarily being driven by evictions from private rental accommodation. It was noted that, over the last five years, there had been an increase in demand but a 41% reduction in affordable privately rented accommodation supply. The Council’s strategy focussed on homelessness prevention and boosting of supply; 500 new homes were to be purchased and officers were also exploring ways in which they could increase supply in the private rental sector. The Council was also investing in improved systems and processes to improve the customer experience.


The Head of Housing Needs addressed the Committee Members and provided an overview of the customer pathway from start to finish. Members heard that customers usually approached the Council via the website in the first instance by completing an online form. The information provided was assessed and advice and guidance given if necessary. If appropriate, the enquiry was then passed to the triage team who assisted the customer in providing the information required and determined which additional documents needed to be provided. This enabled the team to establish whether the customer was eligible for assistance; some applicants had limited / no recourse to public funds. If eligibility was established, the case was assigned to a case officer.


Once assigned to a case officer, the first stage was prevention; officers tried to intervene as early as possible e.g. by negotiating with landlords in an attempt to enable the tenant to stay in their current accommodation. If prevention was unsuccessful, the next stage was the relief stage at which point alterative accommodation was sought. A maximum of 56 days was allocated for both the prevention and relief stages of the process. During the relief stage, advice and guidance was provided to assist the client in securing accommodation. If they had a priority need for temporary accommodation, this would be provided. Temporary accommodation for larger families was difficult to source and very expensive, so these families were sometimes encouraged to remain in situ for as long as possible i.e. until a bailiff warrant was secured; however, they had the right to assist on temporary accommodation being provided if they did not wish to wait.


Once an individual or a family had been placed in temporary accommodation, officers then tried to secure private rented accommodation for them; affordability was a factor and the accommodation offered was sometimes out of borough. Once a property had been secured and the clients had moved in, the duty was discharged. If no accommodation had been organised by day 57 of the relief stage, officers would need to reach  ...  view the full minutes text for item 60.


Crime & Disorder Scrutiny: Safer Hillingdon Partnership Performance Update pdf icon PDF 248 KB

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Richard Webb, Director of Community Safety & Enforcement, was in attendance to answer Members’ questions regarding the Safer Hillingdon Partnership Performance Update report.


Members commented that much of the data provided in the report was a little unclear and out-of-date. It was confirmed that older data had been provided as it related to the end of the strategy period. It was acknowledged that a new dashboard would be required in the future to provide further detail and a level of insight previously not available. More work was needed in the serious violence strategy to engage communities and make a difference in terms of serious violence in the Borough.


With regard to the information set out on page 9 of the report regarding IRIS, Members noted that there was no mention of domestic abuse relating to men, the elderly and LGBTQ+ groups. It was important to ensure that GPs were fully trained to meet the needs of all.


In respect of the utilisation of resources as mentioned in the report on page 9, point 4, Members heard that a new joint process between the local authority and the Police was in place. Each month a review was conducted to ensure Police / Council alignment on matters which would make the biggest difference across the Borough. It was noted that the Council had a Safer Communities Team; however, the Council’s response to crime and disorder concerns covered several teams – it was important to pull together to address the problems most effectively. 


Members were informed that the IRIS project would provide training in GP surgeries noting that GP referrals into domestic abuse support services were currently very low. The aim was to ensure that all GPs were responding to the signs.


With regard to knife crime, it was recognised that this was a broad term – a further breakdown of the different types of knife crime could be requested. It was confirmed that the main issue related to young people carrying knives in the vicinity of schools rather than inside the schools themselves.


Members enquired how often the SHP priorities were reviewed noting the proliferation of burglaries in the Borough. The Committee was informed that the SHP reviewed its priorities annually – it was important to consider the impact of crime in addition to volume. The SHP was exploring better ways of factoring in all these elements.


The Committee emphasised the importance of community engagement given the diverse communities across the Borough. The Director of Community Safety & Enforcement concurred with this and recognised the importance of involving local communities in helping to form the Strategy and determine priorities; this was not embedded in processes at present. Members were informed that the SHP would be meeting the following week and a Community Engagement event was one item for discussion.


Councillors enquired whether members of the Safer Neighbourhood Board (SNB) could be more involved with the work of the Safer Hillingdon Partnership (SHP). The Director of Community Safety & Enforcement explained that the Chair of the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 61.


Tree Planting pdf icon PDF 768 KB


Stuart Hunt, Head of Green Spaces, and Sophie Coughlan, Arboricultural Manager, were in attendance to answer Members’ questions in relation to the Tree Planting report.


Members sought clarification regarding the apparent dip in the number of trees planted in the Borough this year. It was confirmed that, in previous years, the figures had included the planting of Whips; this year more Standards had been planted than Whips which accounted for the dip in numbers.


Councillors enquired how often trees were planted in the same area as trees which had been cut down. Members heard that these figures were not recorded. However, it was important to note that trees fared better when planted in areas where the residents wanted them. If a tree had been removed, residents could submit a request for a replacement tree; however, it was not always possible to replace like for like.


Members were informed that sponsorships in collaboration with residents were also encouraged; a one-off sponsorship fee was chargeable and multiple residents could come together to sponsor a tree as a group should they wish to do so. Trees for Streets carried out leaflet drops in relation to this, and further information would be provided in Hillingdon People magazine. Sponsorships could also come from companies – particularly in the case of more deprived areas. Members welcomed this approach and felt businesses should be encouraged to support the Trees for Streets initiative. It was confirmed that the map on page 83 of the agenda pack reflected sponsorships only; additional tree planting was carried out across the Borough to even things out and ensure good coverage.


The Committee sought further clarification regarding the information in the table on page 81 of the agenda pack which showed the numbers of trees removed / planted year by year. It was confirmed it could take ten or more years for Whips to be helpful in tackling air pollution. However, Whips reached maturity much better than Standards and were generally more successful. The figures in the table showed the total number of trees planted but a breakdown of these figures separating out Standards and Whips could also be provided.


In response to further questions from the Committee, Members were advised that, when deciding on locations for tree planting, all things were taken into account in an attempt to ensure ‘right tree, right place’. A lot of trees had been planted around schools to act as pollution screens. Members suggested that the Council could possibly do more tree planting on housing land / TfL land in the pockets of space available. A more joined up approach would be welcomed.


Councillors heard that watering had been brought in-house during the summer of 2023. This had enabled the Council to be more in control and act more quickly if trees were struggling. The same procedure was planned for the summer of 2024. Climate change was a challenge, but officers were learning what worked well and sought to plant resilient species where possible to suit the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 62.


Strategic Climate Action Plan pdf icon PDF 216 KB

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Ian Thynne, Head of Environmental Services, was in attendance to answer Members’ questions regarding the Strategic Climate Action Plan.


Members noted that the Strategy relied heavily on carbon offsetting which was difficult to measure. The world was moving away from carbon offsetting, and it was important to understand what came next. The Committee heard that the Council’s approach to carbon offsetting was not yet fully established. The aim was to reduce emissions first and consider the purchase of green energy. There was also a potential train of thought around the local authority producing its own energy.


The Committee observed that, once the Council sold energy into the grid, it had to buy it back at the market rate. It would be beneficial if the Council could create and use its own energy. Planting trees was not an adequate solution to address climate change. Emissions in public buildings should be further investigated with a view to reducing consumption and it was important to have a vision for the future.


The Head of Environmental Services acknowledged that this topic was still relatively new; local authorities were trying to find their feet and work through how much carbon needed to be offset. Building performance was a factor; good progress had been made to date, but it was acknowledged that further planning would be needed.


Members observed that the green nature of the borough was an asset. However, it was important to move away from the language of ‘carbon offsetting’ and embrace a new term ‘carbon credible’. This would enable the Council to be more innovative in its approach.


It was confirmed that the Head of Environmental Services would be reviewing the Strategic Climate Action Plan in 2024 which would present a good opportunity to take stock of the current situation and plan for the future.


In response to further requests for clarification from the Committee it was confirmed that housing stock was not included in carbon offsetting figures to ensure there was no double counting – the local authority did not have control of all housing stock energy.


Members enquired how the Council could work with big businesses and energy companies. The Head of Environmental Services confirmed that, as this was all relatively new, it was important to get the Council’s own house in order in the first instance using the Government funding available. The next step would be to approach big businesses and work with partners. Tentative discussions had already taken place with Brunel University and Heathrow airport.


Councillors noted that Breakspear Crematorium was one of the few services which currently ran at a profit in partnership with Harrow. Members enquired whether future expenses relating to the upgrade of the Crematorium could potentially be shared with Harrow. The Head of Environmental Services agreed to explore this further outside of the Committee meeting and report back.


RESOLVED: That the Residents’ Services Select Committee noted the content of the Strategic Climate Action Plan progress report.


Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 328 KB

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RESOLVED: That the Forward Plan be noted.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 230 KB

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RESOLVED: That the Work Programme be noted.