Agenda and minutes

Policy Development Panel - Wednesday, 22nd July, 2015 6.30 pm

Venue: Meeting Room 1, Council Offices, Priory Road, Spalding

Contact: Christine Morgan  01775 764454

Items
No. Item

11.

Declaration of Interests.

(Councillors are reminded that under the Code of Conduct they are not to participate in the whole of an agenda item to which they have a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest.  In the interests of transparency, councillors may also wish to declare any other interests that they have, in relation to an agenda item, that supports the Nolan principles detailed within the Code of Conduct.)

Minutes:

In the interests of transparency, Councillor Drury declared an interest in agenda item 4 (Addressing long-term empty homes), due to the nature of his work.  However, he did not consider himself as having a disclosable pecuniary interest and therefore advised that he would remain in the meeting for the debate.

 

 

 

12.

Street scene and pride in the District

At its meeting on 9 June 2015, the Panel requested that the relevant Portfolio Holder attend to discuss progress on issues around street scene, and pride in the District.  The Portfolio Holder for Place will be in attendance for this item.

Minutes:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              At the last meeting of the Panel on 9 June 2015, Councillor Woolf had raised concerns regarding the appearance of towns within the area, and how they could be made more inviting.  He had suggested that the Panel should look at what powers were available to the Authority to improve their aspect.  The Principal Democratic Services Officer had advised that in January 2014, similar issues had been raised and that the Portfolio Holder had attended the meeting.  The Panel requested that the relevant Portfolio Holder again be asked to attend the meeting in order that progress on issues around street scene and pride in the district could be discussed.   The Portfolio Holder for Place was therefore in attendance to address councillors’ concerns.

 

The following issues around littering, pride in the district and shop frontages were raised:

 

·         The Portfolio Holder advised that with regard to covered shop frontages, there was no legislation that could be used to prevent this. There were controls generally around advertising, but there was no legislation around the current appearance of shop fronts.  Some areas of the country such as Bath or York, had very tight legislation  around the appearance of shops however, these controls were not available in this area.

·         Councillor Booth commented that businesses should be worked with rather than legislated against.  There should be pride in the district overall, with problems such as littering being addressed.

·         The Portfolio Holder reported that the Pride Team was doing significant work to raise the standard of the area.  It was working to achieve a number of goals, for example, fixed penalty fines for littering.  The team was working as hard as it could with the limited resources at its disposal.

·         The Portfolio Holder advised that there was a new Enforcement Officer, and that this position had been paid for through re-targeted funding.  Although the role was proving successful, it was very difficult for the officer to catch people in the actual act of littering.

·         Councillor Reynolds asked whether CCTV could be used to identify people dropping litter.  The Portfolio Holder responded that once the new CCTV system was activated, it could be possible to use this route.

·         Councillor McLean asked if the Enforcement Officer could be asked to spend some of his time concentrating in particular areas where there were higher or particular instances of littering etc. The Portfolio Holder advised this could be done in areas where a problem was supported by evidence however, the Enforcement Officer was a scarce resource and his time had to be allocated carefully and effectively.

·         Councillor Woolf commented that it was good to see that the Pride campaign had so far been successful.  The tidiness of the town seemed to be improving.  However, ways needed to be found of making the towns more welcoming, and improving the appearance of shop frontages was an important element in this.

·         The Portfolio Holder responded that the area did not have the historical background of towns such as Bath and York, that were able  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12.

13.

Addressing long-term empty homes pdf icon PDF 63 KB

To set out details of the Council’s approach to returning long term empty homes to use (report of the Executive Director, Commercialisation enclosed)

 

This report is in response to a request for information from the Policy Development Panel. The Portfolio Holder for Housing and the Strategic Housing Manager will be in attendance.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Executive Director, Commercialisation, which set out details of the Council’s approach to returning long term empty homes to use.  The Policy Development Panel had requested that this information be provided.

 

The briefing report was attached at Appendix A, and provided an overview on the following:

 

·         Why the Council sought to return empty homes back to use;

·         The relationship between empty homes and the New Homes Bonus scheme;

·         The action that the Council took to return empty dwellings to use; and

·         The progress made against the actions within the strategy

 

The South Holland Empty Homes Strategy 2014-16 was also attached at Appendix B.

 

The Portfolio Holder for Housing and the Strategic Housing Manager were in attendance to answer the Panel’s questions.  The following issues were raised:

 

·         Councillor Lawton wished to acknowledge the work of Councillor Chandler and the Strategic Housing Manager in driving the Council’s approach to returning long term empty homes to use.

·         The Panel was advised that as at 10 July 2015, the number of empty properties had reduced from 450 to 213. 

·         Councillors were very complimentary of the report, stating that it was very comprehensive and informative.

·         Councillor Seymour asked how often enforcement powers were used.  The Strategic Housing Manager advised that there had been no enforcement action taken to date.  Currently, owners were being encouraged and supported to move homes back into use.  However, the Council was looking to take enforcement action on a small number of property owners, and it had various options at its disposal. 

·         Councillor Booth asked what the procedure was when a property was identified but ownership could not be identified.  The Strategic Housing Manager advised that the Council used various methods and sources to find this information out.  Local knowledge was also very useful.

·         Councillor Woolf asked, where an occupier/tenant died, and there were no beneficiaries, how was the Council able to bring these properties back into use?  The Strategic Housing Manager advised that probate properties were difficult to bring back into use, as the Council could do very little whilst they were under probate.  These properties were not included in calculations for the New Homes Bonus.

·         Councillor Drury asked if there were any schemes whereby either the local authority or other organisations could acquire a property, bring it up  to standard and then sell it on.  The Strategic Housing Manager advised that there was currently no such branded scheme however, this option was being explored with some properties. 

·         Councillor Lawton reiterated that the team were undertaking a lot of work on prevention, rather than enforcement, that it was a very complex area, and that enforcement was the last resort.

·         Sometimes simple, positive work and providing guidance could bring homes back into use.  There was a small hard core of properties that were difficult to bring back into usage.

 

AGREED:

 

a)    That the update provided by the Portfolio Holder for Housing and the Strategic Housing Manager be noted; and

 

b)    That a further update  ...  view the full minutes text for item 13.

14.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 68 KB

To sign as a correct record the minutes of the meeting held on 9 June 2015  (copy enclosed).

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 9 June 2015 were signed by the Chairman as a correct record.

 

Councillor Dark advised that a response to minute 10(g) was still outstanding.  It was agreed that a response would be sought prior to the next meeting in September.

 

Members were advised that the request at minute 10(h) for a list of the Authority’s current policies was being dealt with.  A list was currently being compiled and once complete, would be circulated to Panel members.

 

 

15.

Questions asked under Council Procedure Rule 10.3.

Minutes:

There were none.

16.

Tracking of recommendations

To consider responses of the Cabinet reports of the Panel. 

Minutes:

There were none.

17.

Items referred from the Performance Monitoring Panel

Minutes:

There were none.

18.

Key Decision Plan pdf icon PDF 121 KB

To note the current Key Decision Plan, published 14 July 2015 (copy enclosed). 

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the Key Decision Plan, published on 14 July 2015.

 

AGREED:

That the Key Decision Plan be noted.

19.

Policy Development Panel Work Programme pdf icon PDF 64 KB

To set out the Work Programme of the Policy Development Panel (report of the Interim Executive Manager – Governance, enclosed)

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Interim Executive Manager, Governance, which set out the Work Programme of the Policy Development Panel.  The Work Programme consisted of two separate sections, the first setting out the dates of the future Panel meetings along with proposed items for consideration, and the second setting out the Task Groups that had been identified by the Panel.

 

An action plan addressing the recommendations of the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field Task Group was tabled at the meeting.  The Panel was advised that although actions were at various stages of completion, many of them would be completed by September.  Councillor Dark advised that one of the recommendations of the Task Group had been for improved management at the Field, particularly in controlling service costs.  At the last meeting he had requested that information on this be provided prior to the update on progress of the Task Group’s recommendations in September.  This had not yet been received and he again requested the information.  Councillors also asked whether the open day would be taking place in August 2015.  The Shared Executive Manager, Public Protection advised that it would be, that it would be called ‘Shout and About’ and that it would be targeting clubs,

 

Councillor McLean asked about the possibility of the introduction of an internal Council apprenticeship scheme, and suggested that councillors could be included in the development of this.  The Shared Executive Manager, Public Protection advised that he and the Shared Executive Director Strategy and Governance had met with representatives from Boston College with regard to pushing this issue forward and developing apprenticeships in the future.  He advised that officers would be working with Portfolio Holders on this initiative.  Currently, this was an officer-led scheme however, if there were any issues, councillors could provide input.  It was agreed that an update on the situation would be brought to the Panel’s meeting on 13 January 2016.

 

In relation to the Pride initiative mentioned earlier in the minutes, Councillor McLean advised that he had drawn together information from a survey that he had himself undertaken, involving people in the Spalding area.  He questioned whether this information could be used towards this initiative.  Councillors commended him for this work however, it was agreed that this could not be dealt with independently, that Councillor McLean should take his findings to his Group and if they were backed, then they could potentially be taken further. It was also suggested that he should speak to the Portfolio Holder for Place about his ideas.

 

Councillor Woolf questioned whether the Leisure Task Group should remain on the Work Programme.  The Shared Executive Manager, Public Protection advised that officers were currently looking at and reviewing issues around Leisure and that the Task Group should stay on the Panel’s Work Programme. 


AGREED:

 

a)    That the report be noted;

 

b)    That the Panel be advised of the current situation regarding management at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field, particularly in relation to the control of service  ...  view the full minutes text for item 19.