Venue: During the Covid-19 outbreak Committee meetings are taking place on Skype for Business
Contact: Democratic Services
The Mayor welcomed all those present to the meeting and explained how the virtual Committee meeting would proceed.
Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were received on behalf of Councillors Andrew Fry, Pattie Hill, Wanda King, Gemma Monaco, Nyear Nazir and Yvonne Smith.
Declarations of Interest
To invite Councillors to declare any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Other Disclosable Interests they may have in items on the agenda, and to confirm the nature of those interests.
Councillors Michael Chalk and Salman Akbar advised in relation to Minute Item No. 35 – Executive Committee – Amenity Standards Document for Privately Rented Properties in Redditch - that they were both landlords for properties in the private rented sector in Redditch. However, as neither Councillor was the landlord for any Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) it was noted that they did not have a disclosable pecuniary interest in the item, as the policy related only to HMOs.
the minutes of the Council meeting held on Monday, 20th July 2020 be approved as a true and correct record and signed by the Mayor.
To consider Announcements under Procedure Rule 10:
a) Mayor’s Announcements
b) The Leader’s Announcements
c) Chief Executive’s Announcements.
The following announcements were made during the meeting:
a) The Mayor’s Announcements
In addition to the list of civic engagements which had been recorded in the agenda for the meeting, the Mayor advised that there had been two further engagements since the previous meeting of Council:
· The Deputy Mayor had attended the VJ Day Commemoration at Plymouth Road on 15th August 2020 when he had laid a wreath.
· The Mayor had opened a coffee bar on Church Green East on 14th September 2020.
During consideration of this item the Mayor praised the hard work of local teachers in respect of both preparation for and the return to work from September. Children had returned to school and many were in new classes, including some in new schools, and they had been provided with excellent support in terms of settling back into school despite the challenges presented by Covid-19. Councillors Matthew Dormer and Bill Hartnett, as the political party group leaders, reiterated their support and admiration for teachers returning to school and welcomed the work of all staff employed by schools, including teaching assistants and cleaners.
b) The Leader’s Announcements
The Leader explained that he had attended meetings of the following boards since the previous meeting of the Council:
· The West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA’s) Board
· The WMCA’s Housing and Land Delivery Group
· A Task Group meeting organised by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP)
· The Worcestershire Local Engagement Board
· The Redditch Town’s Fund Board
c) Chief Executive’s Announcements
The Chief Executive confirmed that he did not have any announcements to make on this occasion.
Two questions were submitted for consideration in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 9.
Councillor Joe Baker asked the Leader the following question:
“What assessment has the Council Housing Department made of the potential number of evictions from the private rented sector as a result of rent arrears due to Covid-19, and the likely impact on emergency housing provision in Redditch?”
The Leader referred the question to the relevant Portfolio Holder for Housing and Procurement, Councillor Craig Warhurst, to answer.
Councillor Warhurst provided the following answer:
“Thank you for raising this important issue, Councillor Baker. As Members will be aware the government introduced various measures at the beginning of the pandemic for homeowners and tenants which helped minimise homelessness and it’s important that we remain focussed on keeping people in their homes so that all this good work is not undone.
Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing how many private renters in Redditch have accrued rent arrears as a result of the pandemic, and of course the cessation of the furlough arrangements may also influence this situation in the future.
Although we can’t predict the number of evictions that might be coming, what we can do is to prepare to help tenants in difficulty. We do know that there are around 4000 households renting privately in Redditch and we also know from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) that claims for Universal Credit so there is every need to plan ahead.
As a result I can advise members that we have devised a communications plan ready for launching that will use local media outlets and our own social media platforms to provide information and help for anyone in housing difficulty as a result of the pandemic.
Furthermore, work is also taking place to explore the potential for us to use some of the homelessness grants provided by central government to create a homelessness prevention fund geared towards supporting households affected by the pandemic.
I think we should acknowledge that any rise in homelessness will certainly impact on emergency housing provision. Any increase in demand has to be catered for and it is a risk faced by councils nationwide. From this perspective I should mention that the officers who deal with temporary accommodation have been meeting weekly during the last few months to monitor usage and to ensure a steady through-flow into a more settled outcome for residents. This approach has worked well to date and the demand on emergency housing has remained stable.
So to summarise, although we cannot say how many people may present with housing issues going forwards, we can say we have planned for an increase in demand and will do our best to provide help for local households in difficulty should they need it in due course.
from 5517 in March 2020 to just over 10,000 in August.”
Councillor Baker asked the following supplementary question:
The Leader advised that ... view the full minutes text for item 33.
Motions on Notice (Procedure Rule 11)
There were no Motions on Notice on this occasion.
Members considered recommendations from the meetings of the Executive Committee held on Tuesday 4th August and Tuesday 8th September.
Amenity Standards Document for Privately Rented Properties in Redditch
Members discussed the report and in so doing commented that under the terms of the policy licences would be issued to landlords managing HMOs. Those landlords would be expected to maintain at least minimum standards, as detailed in the document. There were 80 HMOs in Redditch, so this was a significant form of housing for people in the private rented sector in the Borough. In the updated policy the definition of some key areas, such as the minimum bedroom size, had been clarified and many elements had been updated in line with best practice, including the fire safety standards.
During consideration of this item reference was made to changes to housing benefits and the impact that this could have on demand for accommodation in HMOs. Concerns were raised that HMOs housing five or fewer residents would not require a licence though it was noted that the Council had the discretion to update the policy at a later date to take into account these properties. Members highlighted the need for the content of the policy to be communicated to both landlords and tenants so that both understood the minimum standards required as well as their respective rights. There was general consensus that the majority of landlords in Redditch were very good but Members acknowledged that there were some rogue landlords and if they did not comply with the requirements set out in the policy the Council could take action against those individuals.
Creation of a Joint Worcestershire and Herefordshire Waste Partnership Strategy Officer
The report focused on the potential for a new officer post to be introduced which would involve the employment of an officer to co-ordinate responses to Government legislation on behalf of six district Councils in Worcestershire and the unitary authority in Herefordshire.
Members discussed the following points in relation to this report:
· The Government had consulted on proposed changes to Environmental Service provision at a local level, which had included the potential to introduce a food waste collection service.
· Concerns were raised that the introduction of a food waste collection service could contribute to an increase in financial costs to the Council as well as in the number of bins provided to each household.
· The Government’s proposals were at the consultation stage and no final decisions had yet been taken. Any legislation requiring changes to Council services would be the subject of a further report to Council.
· There would be the potential loss of income for the Council should the authority no longer be able to charge for garden waste collection services, which was an idea that had been discussed by the Government.
· The changes to recycling services would help to ensure that there was a standard approach across the country.
· The Council would need to issue effective communications about any changes to waste and recycling services to ... view the full minutes text for item 35.
To appoint Councillor Craig Warhurst to serve on the Audit, Governance and Standards Committee, replacing Councillor Joanne Beecham.
Members noted that Councillor Craig Warhurst would replace Councillor Joanne Beecham as a member of the Audit, Governance and Standards Committee. It was confirmed that this appointment did not alter the political balance.
During consideration of this item Councillor John Fisher, in his capacity as the Chair of the Audit, Governance and Standards Committee, raised concerns about the number of Executive Committee members serving on the Committee. Reference was made to the terms of reference for the Committee, which permitted Executive Committee members to serve on the Committee but excluded political party group leaders from serving either as appointed members or as substitutes. A request was made for the restrictions in respect of membership of the Audit, Governance and Standards Committee to be discussed further at the following meeting of the Constitutional Review Working Party.
Since the previous meeting of Council there have been two urgent decisions taken in accordance with the Council’s Urgency Procedure Rules (Part 6, Paragraph 5 and/or Part 7, Paragraph 15 of the Constitution), as specified.
Urgent Decisions have been taken on the following subjects:
a) Fees for Pavement Licences; and
b) Licensing Delegations and Public Participation at Licensing Committee Meetings.
The urgent decision notices and background papers have been attached to this agenda for noting.
The Mayor explained that there had been two urgent decisions taken since the previous meeting of Council on 20th July 2020. These urgent decisions had focused firstly on the fees for pavement licences that would be issued to premises under the Business and Planning Act 2020. The second urgent decision concerned delegations to Officers in respect of taxi licensing applications as well as public speaking rules at meetings of the Licensing Committee.
Urgent Business - general (if any)
To consider any additional items exceptionally agreed by the Mayor as Urgent Business in accordance with the powers vested in him by virtue of Section 100(B)(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972.
(This power should be exercised only in cases where there are genuinely special circumstances which require consideration of an item which has not previously been published on the Order of Business for the meeting.)
There were no general items of urgent business for consideration on this occasion.