Agenda and minutes

Lewes District Council Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 12th September, 2019 2.00 pm

Venue: Ditchling Room at Southover House, Southover Road, Lewes, BN7 1AB

Contact: Committee Services on 01273 471600 

Items
No. Item

1.

Appointment of a Vice-Chair

Minutes:

The Chair, Councillor Joe Miller, proposed Councillor Liz Boorman as Vice-Chair and this was seconded by Councillor Nancy Bikson.

 

RESOLVED – that Councillor Liz Boorman be appointed as Vice-Chair of the Scrutiny Committee.

2.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 141 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 27 June 2019 were submitted and approved, and the Chair was authorised to sign them as a correct record.

3.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Christine Brett.

4.

Declarations of Interest

Disclosure by councillors of personal interests in matters on the agenda, the nature of any interest and whether the councillor regards the interest as prejudicial under the terms of the Code of Conduct.

Minutes:

Councillor Steven Saunders declared a non-pecuniary interest in item 10 on the agenda, Scrutiny Seaford Health Hub Panel Update, as a member of the Wave Leisure Trust. It was noted that Councillor Saunders had no involvement in the Panels’s work.

5.

Urgent Items

Items not on the agenda which the Chair of the meeting is of the opinion should be considered as a matter of urgency by reason of special circumstances as defined in Section 100B(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972. A Supplementary Report will be circulated at the meeting to update the main Reports with any late information.

Minutes:

There were no urgent items.

6.

Written Questions from Councillors

To deal with written questions from councillors pursuant to Council Procedure Rule 12.3 (page D8 of the Constitution).

Minutes:

There were no written questions from Councillors.

7.

Quarterly Performance report - Quarter 1 pdf icon PDF 78 KB

Report of Director of Regeneration and Planning.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Millie McDevitt, Performance and Management Lead, introduced the report which provided detail of the Council’s performance in Quarter 1 2019/20 (1 April – 30 June 2019). During discussion the following points were highlighted:

 

Target completion dates for Council projects – the Committee sought clarification on a number of completion dates for projects included in the Regeneration and Business, and the Finance and Corporate Projects and Programmes sections of the report. Officers agreed to discuss the issue with the relevant project managers and where available to provide detail on interim milestones/dates and on the status of those projects.

 

Calls to the Contact Centre – Officers advised Members that during quarter 1 the volume of calls to the Contact Centre had increased significantly, generated predominantly through the issuing of council tax, business rate bills and election related enquiries. There had also been two elections in May (European and local elections). The performance indicators for this area were under review and would in the future look at the quality of the call response as well as the speed of the response. Members suggested that the volume of calls answered during peak times be analysed.

 

Homes First presentation – Simon Watts, Interim Lead, Homes First Property Services, updated the Committee on the work being undertaken towards managing void properties and re-let times ‘Key to Key’. During discussion the following points were highlighted:

 

  • The charge-back process allowed the Council to recover costs for voids and all other day-to-day repairs where tenants caused damage. The Homes First team was responsible for managing void repairs and Mears managed day-to-day repairs. Collection rates were currently low and work was being done towards improving the monitoring of the process. A sundry debtor’s account would be set-up and tighter control would be introduced to ensure tenants took more responsibility for any damage. The main incentive for tenants who left properties in a poor condition was that, at some point, they may need to join the property list again. There would also be opportunities for money orders (through the County Court) to be included in cases of repossession.

 

  • The void timetable had been officer led using good practice. The opportunity for Member input into the timetable would be suggested to the Council’s Corporate Management Team.

 

  • Each void property was pre and post inspected and a number of properties were turned around in five days. However, there were properties requiring significant refurbishment, modernisation and investment, increasing the average cost across all void properties. There was not currently sufficient data across the Council’s stock to determine the condition of the properties, including the presence of asbestos, requiring the Council to undertake full refurbishment and demolition (R&D) surveys. As an organisation, Mears sub-contracted any work involving asbestos, which extended the period of re-let time and added to the overall costs. Existing contracts would be reviewed and where possible value-for-money would be improved.

 

8.

Request for a Climate Change Scrutiny Panel pdf icon PDF 83 KB

Report of the Deputy Chief Executive.

Minutes:

Jo Harper, Head of Business Planning and Performance, introduced the report which requested the Scrutiny to consider the establishment of a Scrutiny Panel on Climate Change in line with resolutions made by both the Cabinet and Full Council (following the declaration of a climate change emergency).

 

During discussion the following points were highlighted:

 

Members agreed that appointing a Panel was a positive step towards supporting the Council in addressing climate change issues and a composition of five Members was appropriate. It was further agreed that, in principle, the Panel would operate until 2030 (the duration of the Council’s Climate Change Strategy), but that a more practical approach was for an annual review of the Panel’s duration to be undertaken.

 

RESOLVED by a majority vote that:

 

a)    A Climate Change Scrutiny Panel, comprising five members of the Scrutiny Committee, be established to fulfil the tasks set out at para 2.1 in the report as follows

 

o   To scrutinise the progress of work being undertaken by the council in tackling climate change.

 

o   To receive progress reports on the strategy, policy and actions enacted by the council to address the climate emergency.

 

o   To monitor the implementation of recommendations made by the Climate Action Group, agreed by Cabinet on 1 July 2019.

 

o   To undertake policy development activities assisting in the formulation of climate change mitigation and adaptation proposals.

 

o   To invite appropriate experts to provide advice and information to help inform policy development work in relation to climate change.

 

o   To promote the council’s work in this area, engaging with and building partnerships, alongside the Cabinet Member for Sustainability; and

 

b) That the Panel meet at regular intervals on an annual basis, with the duration of the Panel to also be reviewed on an annual basis.

9.

Request for scrutiny of Cabinet decision on the demolition of offices and construction of housing at 20 Fort Road, Newhaven pdf icon PDF 58 KB

Report to follow

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Leighton Rowe, Housing Policy and Development Manager, introduced the item and provided a summary of the scheme:

 

The decision to progress the scheme for 13 flats (7 one bedroom and 6 two bedroom) had been taken by the Full Council in February 2018 and focused on reducing the number of households in temporary accommodation.

 

Several other sites in the district had been considered (Lewes, Peacehaven). The Seaford site had been identified as one where the scheme could be built out expediently, in order to respond to the need for housing.

 

The Council’s Regeneration Team had looked at alternative uses for the building and when the original report was produced it had been determined that there was an oversupply of office and employment space.

 

A development opportunity to include the wider site (including the neighbouring fire station) had been considered. However, there were a number of issues that made this a complicated option.

 

The Newhaven Neighbourhood Plan had identified the site as suitable for six homes (as part of renovation scheme); however, it was considered that the site would have more potential following a full demolition and the building of 13 flats.

 

The contract had been looked at again as the costs had risen and the current overall estimate was £2.9 million. The scheme was for modular housing and a local supplier/builder, based in Newhaven, was being considered. Several specifications that met the Council’s sustainability and fire safety requirements had been built into the scheme and had been costed for.

 

The scheme build had a 60 year life-span and had originally been promoted as a temporary accommodation development to reduce the numbers in bed & breakfast. However, there was also the opportunity for the whole scheme to be delivered as the Council’s own housing stock.

 

·         Councillor Saunders had asked for the scheme to be considered by the Scrutiny Committee. His concerns were:

 

o   A reason had not been provided for not considering sites in other areas where demolition would not be needed.

 

o   There had always been a need for office and business start-up space in Newhaven. The Council Offices were suitable for conversion to this type of space.

 

o   The demolition of the council offices site would be costly, including removal of asbestos if it was present.

 

o   The land value, when added on to the overall costs made the scheme unviable and was not the best use of the Council’s funds.

 

During discussion the following points were highlighted.

 

·         Had Lewes District Council borne all the costs to date for the scheme?

 

·         The Council had paid the architects fees. Other work had been undertaken by officers and was part of Council’s own staffing costs.

 

·         What was the square meterage of the units?

 

·         The two bedroom units were 70 square meters and the one bedroom units were 50 square meters. The average cost was £223,000 per unit (£3436 per square meter, including communal spaces). The current estimate for the value of the built-out development was £2.7 million. An independent valuation would  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Scrutiny Seaford Health Hub Panel - update pdf icon PDF 38 KB

Scrutiny Committee to receive a verbal update on the progress of the Scrutiny Seaford Health Hub Panel.

Minutes:

Councillor Christine Robinson, Chair of the Scrutiny Seaford Health Hub Panel, updated the Committee on the Panel’s work. Councillor Robinson highlighted the following points.

 

  • The Panel, comprising Councillors Robinson, Liz Boorman, Brett, Burman and Clay (as a substitute for Councillor Ross), had been established to look at the implications of the Seaford Health Hub proposals.

 

  • The “Downs Development Neighbourhood Voice” had presented a petition containing in excess of 1,500 signatures to the 15 July Full Council meeting asking for a halt to the Development on the Downs Leisure Centre site. The Petition was referred to the 25 September Full Council meeting for debate. The Scrutiny Seaford Health Hub Panel was asked to consider the petition also.

 

  • The Scrutiny Committee was requested to approve the Panel’s terms of reference and upon conclusion of its work the Panel proposed that its recommendation(s) would be made directly to the Cabinet. The Committee was asked to agree this course.

 

  • The Panel did not feel It was appropriate to comment at the time on any of the representations as it had not heard from all those who had made representations and been invited to respond.

 

Catherine Knight, Assistant Director Legal and Democratic Services, advised Members that there was a likelihood that there was a Scrutiny Committee meeting scheduled for 28 November

 

During discussion the following points were highlighted:

 

·       There had not been any clear evidence provided as to why the Dane Road site could not be reconfigured to meet the requirements of the GPs.

 

o   The issue had been discussed at the Panel’s most recent meeting and would form part of the final report and evidence gathering.

 

RESOLVED to note the Panel’s update and agree that the final report and recommendations be presented to the Cabinet for consideration.

11.

Chair of the Council's Annual Business Report pdf icon PDF 69 KB

Report of Assistant Director of Legal and Democratic Services

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Catherine Knight, Assistant Director of Legal and Democratic Services, introduced the report which provided details of the work of the Chair of Lewes District Council, Councillor Stephen Gauntlet and  the Vice-Chair, Councillor Johnny Denis, throughout 2018/19. The report also detailed the engagements attended by the Chair and Vice-Chair during the period.

 

There was no discussion on this item.

 

RESOLVED to note the report.

12.

Forward Plan of Decisions pdf icon PDF 180 KB

To receive the Forward Plan of the Council.

Minutes:

The Chair, Councillor Miller, introduced the report and advised Members that it was a standing item on the agenda for noting.

 

There was no discussion on the item.

 

RESOLVED to note the Forward Plan of Decisions.

13.

Scrutiny Work Programme pdf icon PDF 55 KB

To receive the Scrutiny Work Programme.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Catherine Knight, Assistant Director, Legal and Democratic Services, introduced the report which included a draft of the Committee’s work programme for 2019/20. The Committee was advised that some of the topics already discussed in the meeting could be considered for inclusion in the work programme. The Committee was also advised that, where it proved to be useful, presentations on topics could be provided prior to the start of Scrutiny Committee meetings.

During discussion the Committee requested that the following items be considered as part of its work programme:

·         Waste and Recycling in the District, information for residents on recyclables to include levels of fly-tipping and enforcement.

·         The setting up of the Scrutiny Climate Change Panel which, in part, may also to the Planning policy for alternative energy supplies for new housing (Private and Lewes District Council Provision) and impact on build costs.

·         Annual Lewes District Community Safety Partnership Report to include anti-social behaviour in the District.

·         Tourism in the District.

·         Sustainable Transport and supporting the economy, which could include cross-border work looking at park-and-ride, the A259 and A27

·         Supporting Young people in the District, including youth services, how to get young people on the housing ladder.

·         Briefing on Newhaven developments and more broadly the approach to development on small sites and sustainability.

 

RESOLVED to agree the Committee’s draft work programme..