Venue: Committee Room 1, County Hall, Morpeth, NE61 2EF
Contact: Nichola Turnbull
Note: Due to Covid restrictions only those who have registered and are actively participating will be allowed access to the meeting. Any member of the press or public may view the proceedings of this meeting live on our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/NorthumberlandTV.
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Castle, Richardson and Watson.
Minutes of the meeting of the Communities and Place OSC held on 30 June 2021, as circulated, to be confirmed as a true record and signed by the Chair.
RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of the Communities and Place OSC held on 30 June 2021, as circulated, be confirmed as a true record and signed by the Chair.
DISCLOSURE OF MEMBERS' INTERESTS
Unless already entered in the Council’s Register of Members’ interests, members are required to disclose any personal interest (which includes any disclosable pecuniary interest) they may have in any of the items included on the agenda for the meeting in accordance with the Code of Conduct adopted by the Council on 4 July 2012, and are reminded that if they have any personal interests of a prejudicial nature (as defined under paragraph 17 of the Code Conduct) they must not participate in any discussion or vote on the matter and must leave the room.
NB Any member needing clarification must contact the Legal Services Manager at email@example.com. Please refer to the guidance on disclosures at the rear of this agenda letter.
Councillor Bridgett reported that he would need to disclose an interest if there was any discussion on the Energising Blyth Programme, included within the Forward Plan, as he was a member of the Advance Board who were handling the project. During the meeting he stated that he would also need to disclose a personal interest and would not take part in discussions regarding Advance Northumberland and their properties in the Hirst area.
To note the latest Forward Plan of key decisions. Any further changes made to the Forward Plan will be reported to the Committee.
The Committee considered the Forward Plan of key decisions (August to November 2021). (Schedule enclosed with the signed minutes as Appendix A).
In answer to a question, the Scrutiny Co-ordinator agreed to check the position regarding the Energising Blyth Programme which was not identified for scrutiny.
It was confirmed that the project was being regularly scrutinised by elected members at Blyth Town Council who were meeting monthly to discuss and receive updates on the project.
RESOLVED that the report be noted.
SCRUTINY OF CABINET REPORTS
The Committee were advised that the following report would be considered by the Cabinet on 7 September 2021. Members were requested to comment on the proposals in the report.
To present the draft Private Sector Housing Strategy 2021-2023, providing details of the proposed strategic objectives for the Council’s Private Sector Housing Service for the following three years.
The report presented the draft Private Sector Housing Strategy 2021-2023, which contained details of the proposed strategic objectives for the Council’s Private Sector Housing Service for the following three years. (A copy of the report is attached to the signed minutes as Appendix B.)
Councillor Horncastle, Portfolio Holder for Community Services, introduced the report making reference to the Northumberland Corporate Plan for 2018-21 and principles within the Draft Northumberland Local Plan which identified that having a roof overhead and a decent home was fundamental to the health and well-being of everyone living in Northumberland.
The strategy set out how the Council would work with partners, stakeholders and local communities to deliver services to support good quality housing and management standards within private sector homes in Northumberland and built on the aims and objectives of the previous strategy.
The following priorities were identified:
· Increase access to affordable homes in the private sector through bringing empty homes back into use.
· Ensuring a healthy private rented sector through improving the condition, safety and energy efficiency of private sector housing.
· Provide advice and support and take action where necessary for homeowners, landlords and tenants in the private sector.
· Provide services to assist access to sustainable tenancies in the private rented sector.
The following issues were raised by members:
· Some areas had a high percentage of empty properties and powers were needed to address exterior problems, in addition to internal standards, particularly where landlords were absent, as it impacted on attracting new residents.
· Registration or licensing of private landlords should be compulsory, rather than a voluntary scheme, as current.
· Covid-19 had demonstrated the strength of communities in areas but also the importance of quality housing given the restrictions and time spent at home. Individuals active in communities had been highlighted and should be invited to be involved in discussions in estate regeneration.
· Awareness of enforcement powers and protection available to tenant from legislation be raised.
· The Council needed to demonstrate it cared, was approachable, used enforcement powers to the widest extent when needed and could protect tenants.
· Refurbishing sub-standard properties in the public and private sectors was challenging as well as making properties more energy efficient and contributing to climate change aspirations.
· Up to date contact details be provided for social housing providers.
· It was hoped that implementation of the new Council Tax scheme which progressively increased the charges on empty properties, would act as an incentive to landlords to take action. Circumstances should be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
· Discussion be held with the Climate Change team regarding loan arrangements with Northumberland Community Bank to enable individuals to install otherwise expensive energy improvements and whether something similar could be used for private landlords to bring properties to a better standard, when new windows, doors, roofs were required.
· Fuel poverty was increasing in rural areas where raising standards was generally more expensive due to the construction of older properties, some parts of the county did not have access to mains services, including those ... view the full minutes text for item 11.
OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY REPORTS
To receive Active Northumberland’s Annual Outcome Report 2020-2021.
Agenda items 12a) and 12b) were considered together.
To receive Active Northumberland’s Annual Service Report April 2020 – April 2021.
The Committee received Active Northumberland’s Annual Outcomes Report 2020-21 and Annual Service Report for 2020-21, as requested by the Committee at the meeting on 13 January 2021. (A copy of the reports are attached to the signed minutes as Appendices C and D.)
Nigel Walsh, Head of Cultural Services explained that he was responsible for the leisure client function and was joined by Mark Warnes, Active Northumberland’s Chief Executive and Joanne Farrier, Head of Commercial and Resources. He referred to the 4-year partnership agreement with Active Northumberland to manage the Council’s leisure services at 9 leisure centres and a number of additional sites. Partial and full closures during the pandemic had a significant impact on access, participation and revenue generation.
Joanne Farrier presented the Annual Service Report and Annual Outcome Report for 2020-21 and provided a brief background for Active Northumberland, a registered charity formed in 2014 from the merger of 4 different leisure service providers. The presentation set out:
· Background information on the facilities managed, Board members, number of employees.
· Enhancement of Website and App to enable online digital booking, online digital exercise classes during lockdowns, outdoor fitness sessions and bootcamps when permitted, use of facilities and staff as test centres.
· Financial highlights: a loss of £1.85 million at 31 March 2021; management of utility consumption and work to mitigate utility tariff increases; comparison of income streams between 2019-20 and 2020-21.
· Participation and performance.
· Pursuance of Quest quality assurance accreditation.
· Future Aims for ‘Mams on the Move’, group exercise programme, Learn to Swim and working with swimming clubs to develop a performance programme to represent the county nationally.
· Catering Opportunities, rebranding of HIVE cafes and promotion of good nutrition?and importance of?hydration.
· Service Improvement Aims.
· Capital and remedial works - essential work had been brought forward to minimise the impact on customers when sites reopened; development of spa services to aid mental wellbeing.
The following issues were raised by members:
· Investment in existing or provision of new facilities were required in towns such as Rothbury and Bedlington and should be included in any strategic review. Residents and school children from Rothbury were incurring significant mileage to use facilities and access swimming lessons in Alnwick, contrary to the green agenda. It was suggested that the Councillor raise this issue with the Portfolio Holder and Leader as it was an issue for the Council’s Administration and not within the responsibility of Active Northumberland. Opportunities for the site at Rothbury were being investigated. The nature and size of the county meant that there were access issues, particularly for residents in rural areas.
· Consideration be given to opportunities to improve the fitness of residents with long covid, such as a mobile scheme, as travelling from rural areas would be exhausting.
· Provision of equipment and/or specialist staff which could be used by amputees, people with other disabilities or recovering from long covid.
· In areas of deprivation, some families did not have the money to pay for children to use facilities at leisure ... view the full minutes text for item 12b
REPORT OF THE SCRUTINY CO-ORDINATOR
The Overview and Scrutiny Committee operates within a work programme which is agreed at the start of the Council year. The programme is reviewed at each meeting so that it can be adjusted to reflect the wishes of the Committee and take account of any changes to the latest Forward Plan (which outlines decisions to be taken by the Cabinet). The Committee is asked to review and note its work programme for the 2021/22 council year.
The Committee reviewed its work programme for the 2021/22 council year. (Report enclosed with the signed minutes as Appendix E).
The Scrutiny Co-ordinator provided the following update on reports after the discussion at the previous meeting: -
Climate Change Action Plan – 6 October 2021
NE Public Transport Strategy Update – 6 October 2021 (date to be confirmed).
Active Travel and School Safety – October 2021 (date to be confirmed).
Active Northumberland – January / February 2022 (discussed earlier in the meeting).
Members with any queries or suggestions were asked to contact the Scrutiny Co-ordinator, Chair or Vice-Chair.
Members enquired whether the Communities & Place OSC could receive:
· A presentation on Broadband and Telecoms, particularly the recently announced North of Tyne Combine Authority fund for 5G technologies in rural areas.
· An update on Community Policing from the Police Crime Commissioner and Chief Constable of Northumbria Police.
· Northumberland Fire & Rescue Service on the recent audit and the position on retained firefighter availability.
· Highway maintenance.
· Update on performance from Neighbourhood Services following the summer grass cutting season and impact on the arrangements for enhanced services with Town and Parish Councils.
The requests would be referred to the Chairmen’s Group.
RESOLVED that the work programme be noted.