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Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Council Chamber, Civic Centre, Home Gardens, Dartford, Kent, DA1 1DR

Contact: Email: memberservices@dartford.gov.uk 

Items
No. Item

1.

Welcome and Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

The Chairman welcomed new Members to the first meeting of the Cabinet Advisory Panel A since the local elections in May 2019. He explained that the Panel was not a decision making body but had an important advisory role to the Cabinet and that these meetings offered the opportunity for Members to consider the items going forward to the Cabinet and to offer advice or make recommendations.

 

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Cutler and Nicklen.

2.

Urgent Items

The Chairman will announce his decision as to whether there are any urgent items and their position on the agenda.

Minutes:

There were no urgent items.

3.

Items Reserved for Debate

Minutes:

The Chairman advised that the following agenda item had been drawn down for debate:

 

15. Revenue Budget Monitoring 2019/20

 

Accordingly, Members endorsed the Officer recommendations in respect of the following items:

 

9.   Treasury Management Annual Report

 

10. Write-off of National Non-Domestic Rates

 

11. Write-off of Council Tax

 

12. Housing Benefit Overpayment Write-offs

 

13. Capital Programme including Prudential Indicators – Outturn 2018/19

 

14. Revenue Budget Monitoring – Outturn 2019/19

 

16. Capital Budget Monitoring 2019/20

 

A.  Write-off of National Non-Domestic Rates – Exempt Appendix A

 

B.  Write-off of Council Tax – Exempt Appendix A

 

C.  Write-off of Housing Benefit Overpayments – Exempt Appendix A 

 

4.

Declarations of Interest on Items in Part A of the Agenda or Items Reserved for Debate

To receive declarations of interest from Members including the terms(s) of the Grant of Dispensation (if any) by the Audit Board or Managing Director.

Minutes:

Councillor D J Reynolds declared a personal interest in two items in Part A of the agenda; item 7 Draft Housing Allocations’ Policy – July 2019 and item 8 Draft Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2019-2023, as his partner works for the Council in the Housing Solutions Team.

 

There were no other declarations of interests in respect of items in Part A of the agenda or the item drawn down for debate.

 

5.

References from Committees

None at this stage.

Minutes:

There were no references from other committees.

6.

Draft Housing Allocations' Policy - July 2019 pdf icon PDF 303 KB

Summary:

 

The Housing Allocations’ Policy was adopted by the General Assembly of the Council on 18 March 2013 as the Council’s framework for the allocation and management of future tenancies from 29 April 2013.  Subsequent reviews of the Policy were carried out in March 2014 and September 2018.

 

In order to ensure a consistent approach, a further review of the Policy has been undertaken and changes made, where appropriate, to reflect new legislation and operational methods.

 

Recommendation:

 

That the Cabinet agree the amendments to the Housing Allocations’ Policy as set out in the body of the report and approve the revised Policy, attached at Appendix A to the report.

 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Housing Solutions and Private Sector Manager presented a report which detailed the outcome of the latest review of the Housing Allocations’ Policy which had been originally adopted by the Council on 18th March 2013 as the Council’s framework for the allocation and management of the future allocation of properties. All housing authorities were required to have a Housing Allocations’ Policy setting out how social housing properties would be allocated to eligible applicants in housing need. The policy had subsequently been reviewed in 2014 and 2018. In order to ensure a consistent approach a further review of the policy had been undertaken and amendments made, where appropriate, to reflect operational changes (including working practices) following the implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, and the new policy met the requirements of current legislation. The report detailed the proposed changes to the Housing Allocations’ Policy and the general layout had also been revised to ensure ease of understanding, clarity and transparency. 

 

A Member said that sometimes people in Band A on the housing priority list had to wait a long time before a property became available to meet their specific needs. He wondered whether a way could be found to speed up this process, perhaps by increasing the budget. The Housing Solutions and Private Sector Manager explained that where an applicant had a medical or welfare need this went through a medical assessment process and a property then had to be identified to meet those medical needs. It could take some time to find a property that met those needs or could be adapted to do so. An Occupational Health Therapist was embedded in the Housing Solutions Team to make the medical assessment process as speedy as possible.

 

Another Member referred to the process by which the Council allocated properties, detailed in section 5 of the report. She said that this involved bidding for properties using the internet but asked whether there were other ways of bidding for those without access to the internet as this did not appear to be stated anywhere. The Housing Solutions and Private Sector Manager explained that the Council is a member of Kent Homechoice, a Kent-wide choice based lettings scheme, and that Kent Homechoice had focussed on internet applications as it had found that other methods of applying were not being used. However the Housing Solutions Team would accept requests by telephone and would also fill in forms for those unable to do so by themselves on request and the telephone number was widely available. The Member also sought and received clarification on the circumstances in which an applicant might be removed from the Band A listing.

 

A Member asked for clarification of one of the criteria in Annex 2 regarding the assessment of people who needed to move on medical or welfare grounds  in Band A and the meaning of criteria e, ‘severe and enduring mental health issues significantly affected by current accommodation’. In particular he asked whether this could be expanded  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Draft Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2019-2023 pdf icon PDF 288 KB

Summary:

 

The Homelessness Act 2002 requires local housing authorities to carry out a review of homelessness in their district at least every five years. The aim of the review being to inform, develop and publish a Homeless Strategy.

 

A review of homelessness was carried out in 2017 and a new Homeless Strategy 2018-2023 was adopted by the General Assembly of the Council on 19 March 2018.

 

This report presents an update to the Strategy, in light of new legislation and operational methods, including a requirement for the Council to publish a strategy for tackling rough sleeping.

 

Recommendation:

 

That the Cabinet approve the Homelessness and Rough Sleeper

Strategy 2019-2023, attached at Appendix A to the report.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Housing Solutions and Private Sector Manager introduced a report which detailed changes to the existing Homelessness Strategy 2018-2023 and the proposed Draft Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2019-2023. The Housing Act 1996 and the Homeless Reduction Act 2017 placed a duty on local housing authorities to provide advice and assistance to homeless people and people threatened with homelessness in their areas. In order to ensure that a strategic approach was taken towards the Council’s delivery of homelessness advice and assistance by the Housing Solutions Team, the Housing Service carries out a review of homelessness and produces a Homelessness Strategy every five years as required under the Homelessness Act 2002. However in 2018 the Government announced new measures for tackling rough sleeping nationwide and that local authorities must prepare and publish a strategy in their area by December 2019, with a view to eliminating rough sleeping by 2027 and reducing it by half within the next couple of years. The existing strategy had therefore been updated to comply with the new legislation and changes in operational measures to meet the statutory requirement to publish a strategy for tacking rough sleeping. Although rough sleeping in the Borough was comparatively low, there were estimated to be 12 people sleeping rough at the time of the last rough sleeper count in 2018, it was recognised that rough sleeping could have a distressing and detrimental impact on people and the Council’s aim was to reduce the levels of rough sleeping in the borough as far as possible. The aim of the Strategy was to ‘proactively prevent homelessness and rough sleeping though strong partnership working, and to provide an inclusive and accessible service to all’.

 

The proposed Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2019-2023 detailed the list of achievements from actions referred to in the previous Strategy and set out new actions to be delivered up to 2021.

 

A Member asked how ‘rough sleeping’ was defined and whether the strategy would also cover ‘sofa surfers’. It was explained that ‘rough sleeping’ referred to people sleeping outside. Dartford did not have a significant number of ‘rough sleepers’ although the 12 recorded at the last count had increased from 9 at the previous count a year earlier, but these numbers were lower than those experienced by neighbouring authorities. A Member wondered whether the Strategy should include a specific objective to eliminate rough sleeping in the Borough and also suggested that it could be helpful for the report to include case studies or examples of outcomes.

 

The Housing Solutions and Private Sector Manager said that it would be possible to include case studies and outcomes. In terms of eliminating rough sleeping completely in the Borough this was not realistic as 5 or 6 of the rough sleepers out of the 12 recorded at the last count had been foreign nationals for whom public funding was not available. The Council was committed to reducing the level of rough sleeping insofar as this was possible and took steps to ensure that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Annual Treasury Report 2018/2019 pdf icon PDF 453 KB

Summary:

 

To inform the Cabinet of the outturn position (subject to audit) of the Council’s investments and borrowing for the 2018/2019 financial year and of the outturn position of the Council’s treasury indicators.

 

Recommendations:

 

1.    That the Cabinet notes the outturn for the Council’s treasury management operations for 2018/19; and

 

2.    That the Cabinet notes the outturn for the Council’s treasury indicators.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Cabinet Advisory Panel endorsed the recommendations contained in the report.

 

9.

Write-Off of National Non-Domestic Rates pdf icon PDF 144 KB

Summary:

 

To consider writing-off National Non-Domestic Rate debts where it has not been possible to obtain payment because of insolvency, because the ratepayer cannot be traced or where the debt is otherwise irrecoverable.

 

Recommendation:

 

That the sums shown in exempt Appendix A in the confidential part of the report, amounting to £1,108,229.03, be written-off as uncollectable.

 

Minutes:

The Cabinet Advisory Panel endorsed the recommendations contained in the report.

 

10.

Write-Off of Council Tax pdf icon PDF 144 KB

Summary:

 

To consider writing off Council Tax where it has not been possible to obtain payment because the taxpayer cannot be traced or the debt is otherwise irrecoverable.

 

Recommendation:

 

That the sums shown in Exempt Appendix A to the report, in the closed part of the agenda, amounting to £14,468.64, be written off as uncollectable.

Minutes:

The Cabinet Advisory Panel endorsed the recommendations contained in the report.

 

11.

Housing Benefit Overpayment Write-Offs pdf icon PDF 129 KB

Summary:

 

To consider the write-off of a Housing Benefit Overpayment where recovery is prohibited, is not considered appropriate or where the customer has absconded.

 

Recommendation:

 

That the sum of £39,792.31, shown in Exempt Appendix A to the report, on the closed part of the agenda, be written-off as irrecoverable.

Minutes:

The Cabinet Advisory Panel endorsed the recommendations contained in the report.

 

12.

Capital Programme including Prudential Indicators - Outturn 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 243 KB

Summary:

 

To inform Cabinet of the final pre-audit figures for the 2018/19 Capital Programme, the capital resources that were used to fund it and those that remain available to fund future investment.

 

Recommendations:

 

1.    That Cabinet note the draft outturn for the Capital Programme for 2018/19.

 

2.    That Cabinet note the draft outturn position for 2018/19 on Capital resources, and the balance available to be carried forward into 2019/20.

 

3.    That the Cabinet recommend the total capital budget carried forward into 2019/20, as set out in Appendix C to the General Assembly of the Council.

 

4.    That Cabinet note the outturn position on the Capital Prudential Indicators as shown in Appendix D.

 

5.    That Cabinet agree a virement of 2019/20 budget from the new homes budget to the projects listed in Appendix C

 

6.    That the General Assembly of the Council be asked to agree the capital budget carried forward into 2019/20 as per Appendix C, thereby increasing the total capital budget to £30.771m

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Cabinet Advisory Panel endorsed the recommendations contained in the report.

 

13.

Revenue Budget Monitoring - Outturn 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 212 KB

Summary:

 

To inform Members of the detailed final pre-audit 2018/19 figures for the General Fund and Housing Revenue Account, including reasons for significant variances compared to the probable outturn.

 

Recommendation:

 

That the 2018/19 outturn for the General Fund and Housing Revenue Account, together with the reasons for significant variances compared to probable outturn, be noted.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Cabinet Advisory Panel endorsed the recommendations contained in the report.

 

14.

Revenue Budget Monitoring 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 112 KB

This report is ‘to follow’.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Cabinet Advisory Panel considered a report which updated Members on financial performance against the 2019/20 budget to date for the General Fund and the Housing Revenue Account.

A Member asked for clarification on the vacancy savings of £136,000 reported for the first quarter of the financial year and wondered whether there was a causal link between this and the high level of staff absences.

The Financial Services Manager explained that the vacancy savings principally accrued for three reasons. The first was that, whilst some posts were filled on a part-time basis, it was the Council’s practice to continue to budget for them on a full-time basis as if the current part-time postholder left it was possible that the post would be filled by someone working full-time. Also some employees opted out of the pension scheme but provision for their pension payments needed to be retained in the budget in case they changed their mind or left and were replaced. Some vacancies arose due to restructuring or where somebody had left, given that it often took longer than a person’s notice period to recruit a replacement. Of the £136,000 reported the amount directly related to actual vacancies was £87,000 (£81,000 once advertising was discounted).

A Member asked how the Council sought to deal with workforce stress. The Strategic Director (External Services) explained that the Council took employee mental health very seriously and had recently delivered a number of wellbeing events including training on stress management.   

A Member commented on the projected net overspend on the Dartford festival and suggested that rather than continuing to report a significant overspend each year it might be better to set a more realistic budget for this. The Financial Services Manager explained that budgets were looked at in detail every year, including over/underspends, and that in terms of special events the Council was looking at ways to generate additional income to offset expenditure.  

The Cabinet Advisory Panel endorsed the recommendations contained in the report.

 

15.

Capital Budget Monitoring 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 295 KB

This report is ‘to follow’.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Cabinet Advisory Panel endorsed the recommendations contained in the report.

 

16.

Write-off of National Non-Domestic Rates - Exempt Appendix A - Exempt Category SO46(1)(b)

Minutes:

Members noted the contents of this exempt appendix.

 

17.

Write-off of Council Tax - Exempt Appendix A - Exempt Category S)46(1)(b)

Minutes:

Members noted the contents of this exempt appendix.

 

18.

Write-Off of Housing Benefit Overpayments - Exempt Appendix A - Exempt Category SO46(1)(b)

Minutes:

Members noted the contents of this exempt appendix.