Agenda and draft minutes

Residents' Services Select Committee - Thursday, 19th January, 2023 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

41.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

There were no apologies for absence.

42.

Declarations of interest in matters coming before this meeting

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

43.

To receive the minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 357 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting dated 24 November 2022 be agreed as an accurate record.

44.

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 marked as Part I and would be considered in public.

45.

2023/24 Budget Proposals for Services within the Remit of the Residents' Services Select Committee pdf icon PDF 322 KB

Minutes:

Ceri Lamoureux (Head of Finance – Place) and Gemma McNamara (Director – Service Finance and Transformation) presented the budget report. It was confirmed that, following consideration by Cabinet in December 2022, the budget proposals for 2023/24 were now under consultation. Feedback from the Select Committees would be included in the report to be presented to Cabinet on 16 February 2023. It was noted that the current economic environment was challenging both in terms of inflationary pressures and legacy Covid-19 impacts. The Council had originally been expected to make savings of £10m; this had now increased to £20m.

 

Members requested further clarification regarding the £2.1m additional funding allocated to address issues of homelessness in the Borough (as set out on page 17 of the agenda pack) and enquired whether this would be sufficient. It was confirmed that the Council had modelled the predicted increase in demand due to the current cost of living crisis to arrive at this figure. In terms of Covid legacy issues, Members heard that the ‘new’ and ‘emerging’ issues set out in the report included matters related to Covid such as domestic abuse. New and emerging issues relating to Covid would be kept under review and monitored in the future.

 

Members sought clarity regarding the proposed savings relating to increased fees and charges (page 18 of the pack). The Committee was advised that Council Tax income would provide approximately 75% of the funding to subsidise areas subject to fees and charges.

 

In response to their queries regarding homelessness figures, Members heard that it was estimated some 500 homelessness cases would be received over the next financial year; many of these were likely to be private sector evictions. It was confirmed that there were increasingly more people housed in temporary accommodation; numbers of domestic abuse cases were rising, and demand continued to grow. It was confirmed that homelessness figures had been increasing year on year over the last 4 to 5 years. Action plans were in place to reduce reliance on temporary accommodation going forward but it was a worrying time.

 

Members noted that LED lights were to be installed within Cedars and Grainges car parks (page 19) and enquired whether other car parks would be included in the scheme in the future. It was confirmed that present plans focussed on Cedars and Grainges car parks only. However, the Director – Service Finance and Transformation would explore this matter further and feed back to the Committee through Democratic Services. In response to their questions regarding increases in fees for special collections, Members heard that this service would run on a cost neutral basis and any additional fly tipping resulting from the increased fees would be monitored. At the request of Members, it was agreed that the Director – Service Finance and Transformation would explore the matter of GLA funding for housing regeneration and provide feedback to the Committee via Democratic Services.

 

In response to further requests for clarification, Members were reassured that, despite the proposed increases, Hillingdon’s fees  ...  view the full minutes text for item 45.

46.

Tree Strategy pdf icon PDF 218 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Stuart Hunt, Head of Green Spaces, presented the Tree Strategy report to the Committee. Members were informed that, at present, there were no set guidelines; a clear and unambiguous Strategy was therefore required to facilitate a well-managed tree stock thereby leading to a reduction in insurance claims and emergency works.

 

Noting the sensitivity of the matter, Members respectfully sought clarification regarding current policy relating to memorials affixed to trees following tragic accidents. The Committee was advised that a Highways Policy was in existence which covered this – new memorials could remain in place for up to twelve months at which point they would be removed. Thereafter, those affixed to mark anniversaries and other important dates would be removed in a timely fashion.

 

In response to further questions from the Committee, it was confirmed that trees newly planted along highways were inspected regularly. Reports of any trees which required re-planting would be dealt with as soon as possible. In respect of root growth affecting paths and pavements, attempts would be made to retain mature trees whenever possible by ramping over any roots which were causing issues. As a last resort, trees could be removed and replaced with something more appropriate. 

 

Members were informed that, where possible, attempts would be made to locate new trees in the proximity of the site where trees had been felled. It was noted that it was important to maintain the green feeling of the Borough. If a tree was not suited to a particular location, a replacement, more suitable tree would be planted in the same area if feasible. Councillors heard that the Council aimed to retain its current 67 green flags this year.

 

The Committee requested further clarification in respect of tree maintenance; particularly in respect of caring for newly planted trees to ensure they were able to thrive. It was noted that some such trees would die in hot weather if not properly cared for. In response, officers confirmed that attempts were made to water newly planted trees regularly for the first three years of growth; however, this had been particularly challenging over the last few years. Plans were in place to bring maintenance back in-house and it was anticipated that newly planted trees would be visited more regularly in the future. More drought tolerant species would be planted where possible and trees would preferably be planted in green areas where they could establish better. Members noted the importance of maintenance and suggested that a paragraph on this be incorporated into the Strategy.

 

In response to further requests for clarification from the Committee, it was confirmed that the reference to ‘tenants’ back gardens’ on page 6 of the Tree Strategy should read ‘tenants’ gardens’ (in general) - the Strategy would be amended accordingly. In relation to ‘risk’, this was something tenants took on as part of their tenancy agreement. However, it was recognised that some tenants were unable to take on this risk for a variety of reasons; in such cases the Council could  ...  view the full minutes text for item 46.

47.

Housing Transformation Project pdf icon PDF 266 KB

Minutes:

Mark Billings, Housing Director, presented the report. Members heard that, in July 2022, PwC had introduced Perform Plus in the Housing Management, Housing Needs and Private Sector Housing Services. Perform Plus was a coaching programme for managers and their teams which aimed to build engagement and empower staff to adopt new ways of working. Elements of Perform Plus had been introduced to teams through on the job coaching via PwC over a 14-week period, between August and November 2022.

 

Members heard that, as part of the development of Perform Plus, each team had identified a vision, success factors and enablers to achieve success. The teams had developed a problem-solving tracker, best practice guides and 100 day delivery plans. The new approach encouraged officers to be more open and share best practice. ‘Huddles’ had been introduced which gave the teams an opportunity to touch base, set targets for the week, share their successes and adopt a move active approach to problem solving. The project had facilitated new ways of working and had enabled officers to deliver services differently and feedback had been very positive so far. It was reported that the 100-day delivery plans were now coming to an end at which time PwC would visit again.

 

At the request of Members, it was agreed that the Housing Director would confirm the total cost of the project. The Committee heard that ‘rock’ and ‘sand’ as referenced in the report related to the prioritisation of workload. Ways in which officers worked together was key to success, especially in such a stressful environment. The new approach ensured everyone ‘met’ on a daily basis even if some officers were working remotely.

 

In response to further questions from the Committee, it was confirmed that, whenever possible, a case officer would work on a case from start to finish; however, it was recognised that this was not always possible as staff sometimes left and some cases could be very lengthy. It was recognised that it was confusing for residents when several people were involved in a case. Officers were looking at offering pre-application housing advice to support residents prior to them submitting a housing application. Members heard that residents could apply online but were also able to access the service in person at the Housing Reception.

 

At the request of Members, it was agreed that the Housing Director would provide an update to the Residents’ Services Select Committee at a future meeting once the new way of working had bedded in. Case studies would also be provided at that time. Democratic Services would add this to the Work Programme.

 

Members sought clarification regarding the objective of the transformation project. It was confirmed that the aim had been to increase morale and productivity in staff and to work more effectively in the future. It was anticipated that the new system would free up officer time and ensure residents received a better service. With regard to future projects, Councillors were informed that a team had recently been set  ...  view the full minutes text for item 47.

48.

Select Committee Review: Alley Gating - Scoping Report pdf icon PDF 141 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Helena Webster, Community Engagement and Town Improvement Manager, presented the scoping report commenting that the alley gating review was very welcome and would provide an opportunity to shape the service to the benefit of residents. It was confirmed that the scoping report set out the background to the scheme. Members heard that there were a number of older schemes in the Borough; it would be useful to assess these as part of the review. It was noted that delivery and implementation of the alley gating scheme was well embedded but there could be lessons to be learnt regarding support for residents with older schemes. Members commented that a list of all the older schemes would also be useful.  

 

In terms of witnesses, it was anticipated that Hillingdon residents, together with officers from other local authorities, would be invited to contribute. Natasha Norton, Community Engagement Project Officer, was preparing a list of local authorities which already had alley gating schemes in place - it was reported that, of the neighbouring boroughs, only Ealing currently had an alley gating scheme. Members suggested that it would be interesting to hear from a witness representing a controversial scheme which was not universally welcomed. It would also be useful to hear from the Police and from officers representing other Council departments impacted by the implementation of alley gating schemes. A site visit was another option.

 

RESOLVED: That the Select Committee commented on and approved the scoping report to initiate the review.

49.

Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 328 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

50.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 570 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

At the request of Members, it was agreed that a site visit to Yiewsley amenity site would be added to the Work Programme. The Committee also requested a live presentation on Locata to demonstrate how it worked.

 

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