Agenda and minutes

Improving Places Select Commission - Tuesday 14 July 2020 1.30 p.m.

Venue: Virtual

Contact: Katherine Harclerode, Governance Advisor  The webcast can be viewed at

No. Item


Minutes of the previous meeting held on 9 June 2020 pdf icon PDF 97 KB


To consider and approve the minutes of the previous meeting held on 9 June 2020, as a true and correct record of the proceedings.


The minutes of the previous meeting, held on 9 June 2020, were approved as a true and correct record of the proceedings.


Declarations of Interest


To receive declarations of interest from Members in respect of items listed on the agenda.


A personal interest was declared in respect of Council tenancy by Councillor Rose McNeely.


Questions from members of the public and the press


To receive questions relating to items of business on the agenda from members of the public or press who are present at the meeting.


There were no questions submitted from members of the press or public.


Exclusion of the Press and Public


To consider whether the press and public should be excluded from the meeting during consideration of any part of the agenda.


There were no items of business for which it was necessary to exclude members of the press or public.




To receive communications from the Chair in respect of matters within the Commission’s remit and work programme.


There were no communications presented.


Homelessness Prevention and Rough Sleeper Strategy 2019-22 - Progress Update pdf icon PDF 227 KB


To consider a report providing a progress update on performance within the 2019-20 reporting period and the first two months of 2020-2021, up to the end of May 2020.

Additional documents:


Consideration was given to a report providing a progress update on performance within the 2019-20 reporting period and the first two months of 2020-2021, up to the end of May 2020. The six key aims of the Strategy were identified: to support people with complex needs; to prevent homelessness and offer rapid housing solutions; to increase support prevent homelessness among young people; to end rough sleeping and begging in Rotherham; to improve access to tenancy support, employment and health support services; and to ensure there is enough emergency accommodation. Progress toward these aims was outlined in the report, by means of graphs and charts of performance figures. These figures indicated that this year has presented 15% more cases of homelessness than the previous year. This increase is due to legislation now being embedded such that other agencies were now referring homeless people to the service. Escalation triggers had therefore been introduced to flag business critical areas so that responses and resources could be deployed to implement solutions. Caseloads started to increase towards the end of March 2020, however the average caseload reduced due to more staff being recruited to the team—and further staff are expected to be recruited in the next six months. Figures were presented as to both increasing and declining trends in homelessness, and the three-phase response method was illustrated. Progress against each of the Strategy’s six aims was specified and projections for expansions and partnership efforts in the coming six months were described.


In discussion, Members requested that assurances be provided that the end of the evictions embargo would not bring demand beyond what can be accommodated. Officers provided assurances that more staff were being recruited and trained and would be ready to meet any demand. The courts are taking a gradual approach to conduct a set number per week. The Council will have three of those slots per week. It has been made clear that unless there are extreme circumstances the preference will be in favour of the defendants. Private landlord tenants who have been served notice, we are already working with those individuals. There was a sophisticated dashboard that is used to monitor trends as they emerge.


Members also requested clarification around how long it might be before households in temporary accommodation could be provided with something more permanent. Officers provided assurances that the service had already accommodated many of the people in need. It was clarified that it has not been the same people throughout the measurement period who have made up the total number. The people all have a move on plan. A twice weekly visit is conducted for documentation and food delivery monitoring. Everyone is moved on to more permanent housing as soon as possible.


Members asked if there is a way to route charity funds toward Shiloh. Officers explained that funding is not guaranteed, although it has increased over the last few years. If staff salaries are grant funded, that can come to an end. IN that event, staff often must  ...  view the full minutes text for item 80.


Housing Revenue Account - Rents and Service Charges - Response to the pandemic and future provision pdf icon PDF 137 KB


To consider a report outlining the success of the new service model, the response to the pandemic and the development of future provision.


Consideration was given to a report outlining the success of the new service model for the Housing Income Recovery Service, which was restructured in 2018; the response to the pandemic; and the development of future provision. The Transformation Programme was designed to reflect current thinking in the field and had been built upon a set of principles encompassing contemporary operational practices, placing the customer at the heart of the service delivery model, despite the service having the ability to deliver life changing sanctions.


The outcome of the 2018 Transformation Programme was to create a Housing Income Recovery Service, restructured and very specifically focussed on maximising housing income in all its forms, with a joining up of responsibility for the collection of both current and former tenants’ rent arrears. In addition, a new and better-equipped Financial Inclusion and Tenancy Support Service was created. This part of the service developed and delivered practical interventions and projects to enable tenants to get the maximum benefit from their income. 


In 2019, the Advocacy and Appeals Team also became part of the Financial Inclusion Service, to deliver debt advice and specialist benefit advice to people living with cancer.  The appeals part of the service supported people with appeals on Employment Support Allowance (ESA). It was shown through quantitative figures and qualitative individual narratives that the Appeals part of the service has a strong performance record of making a difference in material outcomes for individuals.


The success of the transformation of the Housing Income Service was demonstrated through performance data. Although official year-end data was forthcoming via Housemark, RMBC outperformed all others in the Northern Benchmarking group (which include organisations such as Sheffield CC, Hull CC, Wakefield, St Leger Homes, Nottingham) on rent collection.  At the end of the 2019/20 financial year, rent collection was the highest for over a decade.


Facts and figures were presented to show how many properties of which types the Council managed as well as information around how the pandemic had affected rents collection and tenant arrears. It was remarked that there had been on average a £5.17 decrease in the balance of residents in arrears. It was noted that the team had won awards and had developed a reputation for sharing good practice.


It was observed that the period of the pandemic and initial recovery had shown that the service was not only high performing but also able to flex to meet the needs of its customers with staff maintaining high levels of performance while working from home. It was noted that practical support and advice had been developed and sent to all tenants through a leaflet developed in response to the pandemic.Collaborations had been undertaken with the Employment Solutions Team within Financial Inclusion to help meet the emerging needs of tenants following the pandemic. These efforts included provision of technology courses and support for finding work opportunities, preparing for interviews, or with moving to an area where work could be obtained. Other efforts including redeployment of staff to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 81.


Improving Places Select Commission Work Programme 2020-21 pdf icon PDF 104 KB


To approve the Work Programme of scrutiny for the 2020-21 municipal year.


Consideration was given to a revised work programme and schedule that had been compiled in consultation with officers and Members. It was emphasised that an update in respect of progress toward the priorities would be provided at subsequent meetings of the Commission. It was emphasised that these priorities also have been planned with a degree of flexibility built in to accommodate matters that may come up, especially as the Council responds to the current pandemic situation. Members and officers were thanked for their contributions to the work programme.




1.    That approval be given to the work programme for the 2020-21 municipal year as set out in Appendix 1 of the report.


2.    That authority be delegated to the Chair, in consultation with the Governance Adviser, to amend the work programme in between Commissions as appropriate.


Urgent Business


To consider any item which the Chair is of the opinion should be considered as a matter of urgency.


The Chair advised that there were no items of business requiring urgent consideration by the Commission.


Date and time of the next meeting


The next meeting of the Improving Places Select Commission will take place on Tuesday 8 September 2020 commencing at 1.30 p.m.


The Chair announced that the next virtual meeting of the Improving Places Select Commission was scheduled for 8 September 2020, commencing at 1.30 pm.