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Disclosures of Interest and Whipping Declarations
In accordance with the Council's Code of Conduct, councillors are reminded that it is a requirement to declare interests where appropriate.
Councillors must also declare if they are subject to their party group whip in relation to any items under consideration.
The following disclosures were made:
To approve as a correct record the minutes of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission held on 6 March 2023.
The minutes of the meeting of the Commission held on 6 March 2023 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
Public Question Time
To answer any questions or hear brief statements from the public which are relevant to the items on this agenda. The period will end after 15 minutes or later at the Chair’s discretion.
No questions from the public were asked.
To consider report SHAP/87 of the Head of Strategic Housing.
Commission Members considered reportof the Head of Strategic Housing. In January 2023, the Commission had requested a report documenting the drivers of homelessness and how forecasts had been determined.
The Commission was informed that homelessness was a complex topic and driven by changes in personal circumstances created and impacted by many factors at both local and national level. These drivers could relate to the housing market (impacted by broader economic policy), living issues, national policy, changes to welfare benefit/taxation systems, global health and migration issues. Local housing authorities responded to these concerns depending on many factors, the most significant being the funding made available from central government and the supply of affordable housing. Demand outweighed supply, resulting in increased competition and pressure on all forms of housing, the use on temporary accommodation as well as other forms of use including hotels within the area. The Covid pandemic saw friends and family evictions escalate but also saw the local authority achieve success by liaising with many rough sleepers in a different way through the ‘Everyone In’ initiative. The cost of living pressures continued as households struggle with meeting accommodation expenses.
During the discussion, with the Head of Strategic Housing, Housing Options Manager, Deputy Chief Executive and the Cabinet Member for Housing the following points were expressed:
· Detailed information was provided on the modular housing scheme. Initial consultation was underway on one site and subject to Planning permission, (which would also include a consultation stage), the module units would be a rapid build. It was anticipated other modular projects would follow the same process. It was recognised that water neutrality had delayed the housing build programme, however the retrofitting scheme had allowed this to resume.
· Acknowledgement that there had been a reduction in the private landlord market due to a variety of reasons; new legislation, mortgages and disparity between local housing allowance and rents (which the council had previously lobbied against). The council worked with both landlords and tenants however it was noted that any incentivisation ultimately needed to be cost-effective.
· Noted that support was provided in relation to homelessness and cost of living in terms of the following: affordability of accommodation; funding applications; household support; multi-agency support involving Citizens Advice West Sussex providing debt advice.
· Recognition that the causes given for homelessness, both locally and nationally may differ from the drivers for homelessness.
· Clarification provided on the numbers of total households in temporary accommodation (application and associated household) and whilst some trends were apparent these tended to be for rough sleepers where the needs were of a complex nature over a slightly longer term.
· Confirmation that the percentage of properties allocated to homeless households via the housing register was not due to be increased as the system of using direct lets was being instigated.
· Clarification that in terms of providing accommodation, the term ‘settled accommodation’ was defined in legislation as ‘a reasonable prospect of being occupied of 6 months or more’. An individual can become homeless after 6 months ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
To consider report LDS/200 of the Head of Governance, People and Performance.
Commission Members considered reportof the Head of Governance, People & Performance. In June 2021, Councillor Belben under the Scrutiny Procedure Rules had requested a report on staff sickness levels with Covid19 and the effects and impacts of working from home. Following this, it was subsequently recommended that the OSC receive an annual update on staff welfare, sickness and morale.
During the discussion, with the Head of Governance, People & Performance, the HR and OD Manager and HR Consultant, the following points were expressed:
· The Council continued to monitor sickness absence and during the first three quarters of 2022-2023. Covid continued to be within the top three reason for sickness absence. However, during Quarter 4 the Council had seen a decline in reported sickness relating to Covid.
· The Council had continued to see an increase from its workforce taking up the counselling service and there was slightly more office based staff using this service compared to outside workers. Many employees who took up this offer requested further sessions beyond the normal 6 sessions earmarked for an individual employee.
· The Council maintained the programme of reflective practise, the aim was to develop personal awareness, resilience, skills, and competence across professional, interpersonal, and relational domains that enhance the workplace. The initiative had supported individual teams to use a confidential reflective space in which they can reflect upon, and how they feel about what they do, particularly the impacts the pandemic has had upon them and the service providers they work with. The sessions cover many aspects including managing work boundaries, threats to resilience, coping with change and maintaining well-being. Feedback had been positive across the organisation.
· A wide range of workshop sessions were offered through the Council’s Wellbeing Team:
Ø Starting the year- be kind to yourself in 2023. A guide to taking care of your mental health Motivation for the year ahead-kick start 2023 with healthy eating habits
Ø NHS Heart Health Check Food waste- top tips to reduce food waste and how to plan weekly meals
· Other initiatives offered included:
Ø Workplace Savings Scheme which enables staff to transfer money into a savings account directly from their salary
Ø Pension Benefits, with the recently introduced AVC scheme for participants off the local government pension scheme
Ø Energy at home – top tips on ways to make energy saving.
· Staff surveys continued to be carried out and the results from December 2022 remained positive, with a good response rate (60%). In all nine topic areas there were improvements since the previous survey. However, the survey indicated that there was still work to be done in some areas.
· It was recognised that whilst there was responsibility on the Council (as employer) to ensure it exercised its duty of care to staff there was also a need for staff to take responsibility for themselves, take advantage of the support and reach out when they were struggling.
Commission Members then raised a number of queries. The issues raised and the key responses included:
· Recognition that ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
The Commission is asked to ratify the appointments attached in OSC/310.
It was noted that there was an error in report OSC/310 and it should read ‘Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee (HASC)’.
That the Commission noted and approved the following memberships and appointments:
Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee (HASC)
It was moved by Councillor Charatan, seconded by Councillor Raja that Councillor K Khan be the Council’s representative for HASC. There were no other nominations.
Councillor K Khan was appointed as the representative for the Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee.
West Sussex Joint Scrutiny Steering Group (JSSG)
Councillor Ayling was appointed as Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission
Forthcoming Decision List - and Provisional List of Reports for the Commission's following Meetings
To consider any requests for future items. Those highlighted items have been referred to the Commission.
OSC – 26 June Cabinet – 28 June
The Commission confirmed the following reports:
OSC 26 June 2023 Cabinet 28 June 2023
1. Financial Outturn 2022-2023 (Quarter 4)
2. Treasury Management Outturn 2022-2023
3. Metcalf Way Depot Use Intensification – provisional referral
The Commission is also due to receive an update on K2 Crawley along with a Discussion from the Cabinet Member for Leisure & Wellbeing at this meeting.
Start Time of Overview and Scrutiny Commission
The Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission proposed amending the start time of the meetings of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission to 7.30pm for the remainder of the municipal year 2023-2024. A discussion took place on the advantages and disadvantages for 7.00pm and 7.30pm start time, together with a flexible option and following a vote, the Overview and Scrutiny Commission will remain at 7.00pm.
The Scrutiny Procedure Rules within the Constitution document the order of business for agendas of ordinary meetings of the Commission (and Scrutiny Panel meetings). The Chair may decide to amend the order at the meeting.
All Councillors should inform Democratic Services of absence or lateness.