Agenda and draft minutes

Residents' Services Select Committee - Tuesday, 16th April, 2024 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 5 - Civic Centre. View directions

Contact: Liz Penny, Democratic Services Officer  Email: epenny@hillingdon.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

66.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Peter Smallwood with Councillor Philip Corthorne substituting.

67.

Declarations of interest in matters coming before this meeting

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

68.

To receive the minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 344 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting dated 13 March 2024 be agreed as an accurate record.

69.

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

Minutes:

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

70.

Review of Homelessness and the Customer Journey: Witness Session 2 pdf icon PDF 371 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee held its second witness session relating to its review of homelessness and the customer experience and heard from Dan Kennedy, Corporate Director of Central Services, and from Carys Hedley representing a partner organisation, Trinity.

The Corporate Director of Central Services began by discussing the challenges local authorities faced regarding homelessness, highlighting a reduction in private rental accommodation, and increasing unaffordability. He emphasised the difficulty for non-priority individuals, often single people, to access affordable housing and the Council’s reliance on the voluntary sector i.e. organisations such as Trinity and Thames Reach for support. The Select Committee heard that the Council had been working successfully in partnership with Trinity for a number of years.

Carys Hedley, Director of Services at Trinity, addressed the Select Committee detailing Trinity’s provision of 231 supported spaces and 41 long-term unsupported accommodation places in Hillingdon. She mentioned the support offered to families fleeing war and the reconnection service available to assist with tenancy sustainment.

Members heard that Trinity worked closely with the Council and most of the referrals they received came from the local authority. Trinity had been experiencing considerable challenges in recent years, particularly in relation to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates. It was now cheaper for people to stay in Trinity accommodation than move into the private rental sector. This was having a significant impact, and the service was becoming stagnant; people were ready to move on but were unable to afford private rentals therefore had nowhere to go. At times, people were offered accommodation outside of the Borough, but they were often reluctant to move away from a familiar area and their support network in Hillingdon. Another concern raised related to the pressure from the number of families and single homeless individuals housed in hotels.

The Select Committee was informed that the current supported housing offered floating support but did not have staff on site full time. Many of the referrals received were from those with complex needs including drug, alcohol and mental health needs. Trinity therefore planned to create a new service offering a specialist housing programme with full-time live-in support, in addition to the supported housing currently provided. However, it was acknowledged that this was extremely challenging given the lack of housing stock in the Borough.

Councillors sought further clarification regarding the nature of the specialist housing offer. It was explained that the plan was for this housing to assist in addressing the need for supported housing with on-site support for individuals with complex needs, including drug, alcohol, and mental health issues.

Members enquired about the impact of other boroughs placing residents in Hillingdon and vice versa. It was confirmed that Trinity prioritised Hillingdon residents but sometimes accepted others due to lack of suitable referrals. The difficulty in encouraging residents to accept housing offers outside their familiar borough was also highlighted.

The Select Committee sought to understand the processes of working with the Council and how to improve them. The strong relationship between Trinity and the rough sleeper team was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 70.

71.

Weed Control pdf icon PDF 302 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Stuart Hunt, Head of Green Spaces, was in attendance to respond to Members’ queries regarding his report on Weed Control as set out in the agenda pack.

Councillors expressed concerns about the challenges faced in the previous year and questioned the Council’s preparedness to ensure better service delivery in the current year.

The Head of Green Spaces acknowledged that there had been staffing and machinery challenges from the contractor, in addition to weather-related issues. He assured Members that organisational changes, including additional staff and backup machines, had been implemented to improve performance in the future.

Members sought further clarification regarding the Council’s recourse for the contractor’s potential defaulting. It was confirmed that mechanisms for improvement and penalties were in place and were written into the contract.

The Select Committee raised concerns about the EU’s ban on glyphosate and the UK’s licensing extension, questioning the research behind its safety. It was explained that glyphosate had been approved for use until December 2025 and that independent research was being conducted. The Head of Green Spaces also mentioned that if glyphosate were banned, the alternatives would not be as effective in terms of weed control. The Council limited its spraying and glyphosate was only used as and when required.

Members sought further clarity regarding alternative weed control products in light of modern technology. It was confirmed that the Council relied on external research groups for guidance.

In response to further questions from the Committee in respect of lessons learned from the previous year’s contractor performance, Members were reassured that more checks and balances were now in place to monitor performance.

In response to a question about contingency plans, it was confirmed that the Council had backup measures, including agency staff and licensed personnel, to manually weed if necessary.

RESOLVED: That the Residents’ Services noted the contents of the report and the update on weed control measures going forward for the next 12 months.

 

72.

Food Waste - Success of the Scheme pdf icon PDF 895 KB

Minutes:

Nicola Herbert, Head of Waste, was in attendance to respond to Members’ questions in respect of her report on the Success of the Council’s Food Waste Scheme as set out in the agenda pack.

With regard to the recent engagement exercise that had taken place to increase resident take-up, Members enquired where the targeted engagement areas for food waste collection had taken place. It was confirmed that the focus had mainly been in the southern boroughs, particularly Botwell, based on crew feedback and lower participation rates.

At the request of the Committee, it was agreed that, after the meeting, the Head of Waste would provide a list of the sites that had taken part in the food waste in flats trials, a list of the flatted sites that currently had a food waste bin and a list of the wards that had been visited during the 2023/2024 door knocking programme.  

Members sought clarity on current participation rates for food waste recycling, noting past efforts to increase them. The Committee was advised that targeted engagement had improved registration for the service from 20% to 60% of nearly 5000 targeted properties.

In response to questions regarding the continuation of green roadshows to boost food waste recycling, Members heard that these continued to be very successful, with 19 events in the previous year resulting in 240 new sign-ups.

Councillors questioned the appearance and functionality of food waste units installed in flats. It was explained that they were tailored to each site, with a focus on hygienic and user-friendly designs to encourage use and minimise cleaning. It was agreed that an image of the Glasdon food waste housing unit would be provided to the Committee after the meeting.

Further concerns were raised by Members about potential odour and vermin issues with food waste wheelie bins. The Head of Waste assured the Committee that trials showed no such problems and that the Council had measures to maintain cleanliness and safe distance from residences.

Councillors sought further clarity regarding future targets for food waste caddy distribution and stock management. It was confirmed that the goal was to add 20,000 properties to the service by the end of the financial year. Regular ordering approximately every three months would ensure supply.

In response to Members’ questions about the provision of biodegradable food waste bags and their durability, it was confirmed that residents would receive a yearly supply, with a maximum of two rolls per property to prevent wastage and inefficiency. If needed, additional bags could be ordered online or sourced from local libraries.

The importance of communicating the environmental impact of food waste in landfills was highlighted by the Select Committee. In response to this, it was clarified that, while Hillingdon Council did not landfill general waste, reducing food waste remained environmentally beneficial due to its high carbon content.

Members enquired about the financial benefits of food waste recycling and the use of the anaerobic digestion facility in Mitcham. It was explained that the cost savings  ...  view the full minutes text for item 72.

73.

Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 327 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RESOLVED: That the Forward Plan be noted.

74.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 230 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RESOLVED: That the Work Programme be noted.