Agenda and draft minutes
Venue: Council Chamber - Sandwell Council House, Oldbury. View directions
Contact: Democratic Services
Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from Councillors Kausar and K Singh.
Declarations of Interest
Members to declare any interests in matters to be discussed at the meeting.
There were no declarations of interest made.
To approve the minutes of the meeting held on
1 April 2021 as a correct record.
(1) that the minutes of the meeting held on 01 April 2021 were received.
(2) that the notes of the meeting held on 02 September 2021 were noted.
Additional Items of Business
To determine whether there are any additional items of business to be considered as a matter of urgency.
There were no additional items of business to consider.
The Domestic Abuse Team Manager presented the item to the Board, explaining that the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 had been passed and meant that Local Authorities now had a new statutory duty to provide specialist support for victims of domestic abuse in safe accommodation. The Council was required to:
· assess the need for victims of domestic abuse and their children in safe accommodation services in their areas;
· produce a strategy to detail how it would respond to the duty;
· commission support to victims and children in safe accommodation
· appoint a domestic abuse local partnership board for the purposes of providing advice to the authority about the exercise of the authority’s functions;
· report back annually to central government that it had met these obligations.
Councillor Randhawa arrived at 5:52pm during consideration of this item.
The Domestic Abuse Strategic Partnership (DASP) board, Sandwell’s statutory board, had now established a Task and Finish Group and the draft Safe Accommodation Needs Assessment had been completed.
The Safe Accommodation Strategy had been widely consulted on across the Council and DASP partners and was published on 25 October 2021 to comply with the statutory requirement. The final Safe Accommodation Strategy was required for publication by 5 January 2022. An implementation plan was being developed and would be regularly monitored by DASP. The Council had also been allocated New Burdens Funding to support the delivery of the new safe accommodation duty and proposals being developed.
The Domestic Abuse Team Manager provided a definition of safe accommodation as defined in the statutory guidance as:
· domestic abuse refuge accommodation;
· specialist safe accommodation (i.e. dedicated specialist support to victims with relevant protected characteristics and/or complex needs);
· dispersed accommodation (safe self-contained and semi-independent accommodation);
· sanctuary schemes providing target hardening of properties along with specialist support and move-on and / or second stage accommodation.
A definition of specialist support for victims of domestic abuse as defined in the statutory guidance was also provided. This included:
· Advocacy support
· Domestic abuse prevention advice
· Specialist support for victims designed specifically for victims with relevant protected characteristics or with additional and / or complex needs
· Children’s support
· Housing-related support
· Advice service
· Counselling and therapy
It was explained that the above list was not exhaustive and other relevant support services could be put in place based on victims’ needs.
The needs assessment had been undertaken by Linxs Consultancy Limited and included data collection and analysis, analysis of current services and wide-ranging consultation programme which included survivor testimonies and stakeholder feedback. The need assessment found that the safe accommodation system in Sandwell was highly effective. A range of accommodation types and levels of support provided by Black Country Women’s Aid (BCWA) meant that survivors were routinely accepted regardless of the level of risk or complexity of presenting needs. There was also good outcome tracking for those who were declined a space in accommodation.
The needs assessment also identified a number of gaps, as outlined in Appendix 1 of the report, which the strategy aimed to address. Following analysis ... view the full minutes text for item 5/21
The Business Manager for Community Partnerships provided an overview of the Social Housing White Paper, and explained that it had been introduced by the Government to improve regulation around consumer
standards. This White Paper was part of the government’s ongoing
response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the Hackett review.
The white paper set out seven key promises to tenants in Social
· To be safe in your home
· To know how your landlord is performing and hold it to account
· To have your complaints dealt with promptly and fairly
· To be treated with respect
· To have your voice heard by your landlord
· To have a good quality home and neighbourhood to live in
· To be supported to take a first step to ownership
The Business Manager for Community Partnerships outlined the current structures and commissioned services to support tenants’ voice, including the Tenants Complaints Panel, Sandwell Community Information & Participation Services (SCIPS) and the Tenant Review Panel (TRP). The TRP was made up of 9 tenants and 1 leaseholder but currently had 4 vacancies; this had been the case for some considerable time.
A summary of the activity that had taken place to date was provided, following the initial review which was bought to this Scrutiny Board on 30 January 2020. The following was outlined:
· Initial discussions took place with the Cabinet Member for Homes, the Scrutiny Board and the TRP
· Established a working group to explore and codesign different
models and structures
· Consultation with existing engagement & participation structures
· The Tpas, a national organisation specialising in tenant engagement, had been engaged as a Critical Friend
· Feedback to Working Group on Consultation and presentation
from Tpas on good practice models
· Following above discussions draft Terms of Reference and
Engagement Model were presented to the Working Group
· Update provided to Cabinet Member for Homes and TRP
· A Cabinet workshop took place on 10 March 2021
· Cabinet considered and approved the proposals on 24 May 2021
Following approval by Cabinet, the TRP was disbanded and the new Tenant & Leaseholder Scrutiny Group had been established. A new Tenant Involvement model had been created and the Councillor Representative of the Group had been confirmed as the Chair of the Safer Neighbourhoods and Active Communities Scrutiny Board. The Tenant Engagement and Participation Working Group had set up an Implementation Group. This group has undertaken the recruitment and selection process to recruit to the Tenant and Leaseholder Scrutiny Group.
The recruitment process had been codesigned with tenants and leaseholders. The recruitment and selection panel was made up of the Housing Service Manager, Nigel Collumbell, the Chair of SCIPs and a representative from Tpas. A key aim of the process has been to recruit a broad range of representation, a varied approach to the communications on the application process was undertaken to attract the right applicants.
The deadline for applications was 29 October 2021 with interviews scheduled for 1 December 2021. 53 applications had been received in total from across all six towns in the borough.
From the ... view the full minutes text for item 6/21
Upgrade and Expansion of the CCTV & Concierge Service
The CCTV Control Room Manager presented the report to the Scrutiny Board, outlining that the Cabinet had approved the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) – Housing Investment Programme report on 18 October 2017, which set out a refreshed 10-year HRA investment plan to enable the delivery of new build projects, continued investment into existing stock and communal spaces. The report contained an allocation of £1.2 million to help prevent crime and anti-social behaviour by extending our coverage of CCTV.
A resident consultation on the planned proposals relating to the Upgrade and Expansion of the Council's CCTV & Concierge Service was scheduled to be completed by the end of November 2021 and the phased planning to implement these proposals was now underway.
The current service provided a 24-hour 365-days a year CCTV and
Concierge service to approximately 50% of the Council’s high-rise blocks. Residents without access to these services had regularly requested provision which would bring parity of service delivery across all high-rise blocks and would enable all tenants to benefit from the following:-
It was explained that these services made a significant contribution to ensuring community safety and perceptions of safety for residents, not least some of the most vulnerable residents. Over the past year the team had dealt with 101,647 intercom calls via the concierge service, providing additional support and advice to tenants and issuing immediate warnings to those identified as acting in an anti-social manner both within communal areas and outside blocks. CCTV footage had also enabled other sanctions to be taken against identified individuals where this had been necessary.
Currently tenants paid a service charge of £8.57 a week, which consisted of:
Should all high-rise blocks receive the service the increase in number of tenant’s paying a service charge would reduce individual payments to approximately £6.87 per week or £357 per year. These charges were covered by Housing Benefit and the Housing Costs element of Universal Credit for those in receipt of it.
The procurement process was set to take place in the new year and the CCTV Control Room Manager hoped that the scheme would be welcomed by residents.
From the comments and questions raised by members of the Scrutiny Board, the following responses were made, and issues highlighted:
- For those eligible to receive Universal Credit the service charge would come out of their housing costs element.
- Officers had been petitioned several times by ... view the full minutes text for item 7/21
To consider items on the Cabinet Forward Plan
The Cabinet Forward Plan was noted by the board
To consider items on the work programme for upcoming meetings of this scrutiny board
The Democratic Services Officer explained that an additional meeting on the 9 December 2021, had been added to consider the Tenancy Conditions Consultation Feedback. At the Board’s next meeting there would also be a detailed discussion to identify additional items for the boards work programme in the new year.
Councillor Fisher stated that the Police and Crime Commissioner had announced they were closing a number of police stations in the borough; Tipton; Wednesbury and Oldbury. He questioned whether the topic could be raised by the Chair or the relevant Cabinet Member as he felt it was important that the station remained open for use by Police Community Support Officers and the community. The Chair noted this requested and stated that it would be taken on board.
Councillor Fisher asked that a petition on a highways crossing and pedestrian crossings more generally be considered on the Work Programme or raised with the relevant Cabinet Member. It was explained that this topic would come under the Terms of Reference of the Economy, Skills, Transport and Environment Scrutiny Board and should be referred to that Board for consideration.