Venue: The John Meikle Room - The Deane House. View directions
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To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies were received from Councillors Janet Lloyd (via zoom), Mark Lithgow and Roger Habgood
To approve the minutes of the previous meeting of the Community Scrutiny Committee held on 25th May 2022.
The minutes of the previous meeting held on 25 May 2022 were approved, subject to changes in items 6,7,8 – Text “chair noted” to be amended to the “committee noted”. (Cllr Mansell prop and Cllr S Coles Sec. Unanimous)
Declarations of Interest
To receive and note any declarations of disclosable pecuniary or prejudicial or personal interests in respect of any matters included on the agenda for consideration at this meeting.
(The personal interests of Councillors and Clerks of Somerset County Council, Town or Parish Councils and other Local Authorities will automatically be recorded in the minutes.)
Members present at the meeting declared the following personal interests in their capacity as a Councillor or Clerk of a County, Town or Parish Council or any other Local Authority:-
The Chair to advise the Committee of any items on which members of the public have requested to speak and advise those members of the public present of the details of the Council’s public participation scheme.
For those members of the public who have submitted any questions or statements, please note, a three minute time limit applies to each speaker and you will be asked to speak before Councillors debate the issue.
We are now live webcasting most of our committee meetings and you are welcome to view and listen to the discussion. The link to each webcast will be available on the meeting webpage, but you can also access them on the Somerset West and Taunton webcasting website.
There were no requests for public participation.
Community Scrutiny Request/Recommendation Trackers
To update the Community Scrutiny Committee on the progress of resolutions and recommendations from previous meetings of the Committee.
No outstanding items to report
To receive items and review the Forward Plan.
The Committee noted the Community Scrutiny Forward Plan. (Unanimous)
Update from Avon and Somerset Police
Chief Inspector Justin French and Inspector Mike Griffiths have been invited by the Chair to update the Committee on the work of Avon and Somerset Police.
Unparished Area Crime Statistics for the unparished part of Taunton were read out by Insp. Mike Griffths for the last 3 months. This consisted of 844 crimes broken down as follows:-
It was stated that this was typical for a town centre which included a high street (daytime) and night-time economy as well as some residential areas. Crime had reduced in these areas during the pandemic but was returning to pre-pandemic levels.
During the debate the following points were raised:
Offences against the person – violence. Is this centred around the night-time economy and is alcohol a contributing factor? Does it escalate around the weekend when there are more people in the town centre. For example, historically Thursday night when there was a concentration of marines in the town, there was known to be a lot of fighting at kicking out time.
How can this be improved, especially in the rural areas? How can Councillors help with relaying messages about crime prevention and other statistics in their ward areas?
To consider the report from Executive Councillor for Community, Councillor Chris Booth.
3.2 of the Scrutiny Terms of Reference state that the Scrutiny Committee may review and scrutinise and ask questions of the Leader, lead Councillors, the Executive in relation to their portfolios.
Various policies and support initiatives are being put in place to deal with the cost-of-living crisis.
· Cost of Living Emergency Fund to be distributed via CAB. There is currently 50K set aside for this budget.
· Household Support Fund – Administered by SCC.
· The Community Pantries at Rowbarton and Minehead are at capacity and operating well. Rockwell Green Pantry is due to open imminently. These are stocked by Fareshare (ambient food) with some surplus being provided by other suppliers. Users are currently charged £3.50 per week across all the pantries and the team are testing to see if there is some degree of consistency around this. The offer needs to be standardised so that participants know what they can expect for their money.
· CCTV is proving to be a challenging multi-agency project due to the variety of equipment in the different geographical areas. There is a need to replace old hardware in some areas which adds to the cost of the service.
· Somerset West Lottery. Work is now being undertaken to merge this with the Mendip lottery to create one lottery for the whole of Somerset under the new unitary authority.
· The grants scheme has now been taken back in-house from Somerset Community Foundation, so is administered by the SWT team led by Christine Gale. It was noted that SWT was rarely recognised for its grants when the foundation was assessing them in the past, so this will now be rectified. A lot of work to support the VCSE through grants and support is continuing together with assistance from Spark. Spark have also been helping the West Somerset Food Cupboard become a charity, vet volunteers and attract funding for their projects.
· The TYCC – legacy funding has now been allocated to the YMCA building for repairs to the roof, as well as distributed to the equestrian centre at Norton Fitzwarren.- Cllr Lisgo queried this and asked for the criteria on which these applications had been assessed. (Christine Gale followed up this query which has been progressed on the Written Answer Tracker).
During the debate the following points were raised:
· West Monkton also has established a community fridge, but this is a separate scheme run by the parish council. All volunteers are expected to hold food hygiene certificates. This is open to the public.
· Wivey Food Shares and Wivey Grows are also tackling food poverty in the Wiveliscombe area. Would be good to tap into and support this resource.
· Cllr Martin Peters asked whether the 50K budget allocated to tackle the cost-of-living crisis could be increased to help more people. This money has been earmarked from a previous underspend in last year's budget. If more funds can be found from other sources this will be supplemented, but at the present time this is limited to the 50K.
Cllr Lisgo reiterated the recommendation that was passed by Full Council to ensure that the VCSE was financially supported during the transition to the new unitary authority, and this would ... view the full minutes text for item 19.
This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor Francesca Smith, Portfolio Holder for Housing
Report Author: Kerry Prisco, Management Accounting and Reporting Lead
This report contains information related to Somerset West and Taunton Council’s (SWT) Housing Revenue Account’s (HRA) financial performance for the 2021/22 financial year. The outturn figures included are provisional subject to the completion of the external audit of the statutory financial statements. The audit is due to be completed between July and September with the findings due to be reported to the Audit and Governance Committee on 27th September this year.
Kerry Prisco presented the report on the provisional outturn of the HRA financial monitoring. This has been a very challenging economic environment for the HRA with greater financial restraints put upon the service but coupled with greater pressures and demands for delivery from both a political and regulatory point of view.
There have been backlogs in responsive, planned maintenance, as well as compliance works due to rising costs in materials adding additional pressures. Covid has continued to impact business operations by increasing costs in such areas as deep cleaning on shared accommodation and staffing requirements being maintained in tenancy support. Covid has also caused delays in delivery of the capital programme, as such the senior housing management team have proposed budget returns to reel on the capital programme.
The positive financial impact of this is that it increased investment income. In addition, there have also been two further financial one-off adjustments this year, which has helped the overall out-turn position.
· The first is the successful open contract project which identified major repairs as part of the void process, could be capitalised, and this reduced pressure on the revenue account.
· The second is that debtors in balance have been resolved during the year, resulting in a favourable one-off adjustment.
So, whilst the overall favourable position of the HRA 2021/22 is a net underspend of £170k: the unstable economic operating environment, along with the regulatory and political pressures means the HRA will still experience high levels of volatility and financial movements that are high risk in the financial year coming up.
Earmarked reserves are put to be at 54k and are committed to support spending in future years. During the year approval was given to return 1.044m of earmarked reserves that are no longer required, and these were put back into General Reserves.
General Reserves are projected to be 3.413m, so that is 1.4m above recommended balance of 2million. That additional balance on reserves should provide sufficient capacity to support the medium-term financial plan.
In terms of the capital out-turn position the actual spend for the year related to capital maintenance for the existing housing stock, and for development of new stock.
The Housing SMT are proposing to return of 11.8m of capital money to general reserves and this will positively impact the 30 years financial business plan., as well as the council’s treasury management strategy.
During the debate the following points were raised:
· The assumption on voids is that they are running on 2% void rate. Is this an accurate assessment as this can have quite an effect on the HRA.
The 2% void rate is improving. An improvement plan was implemented in January to reduce the turnaround time and there have been gains but the system still needs refining. Most of the delays occur around the choice-based lettings as there are no provision for refusals within the parameters.
It is also dependent on the volume of repairs required on the void property. Some take a lot longer to complete. ... view the full minutes text for item 20.