Venue: Council Chamber - Rotherham Town Hall, Moorgate Street, Rotherham, South Yorkshire S60 2TH. View directions
Contact: Katherine Harclerode, Governance Advisor The webcast can be viewed online: http://www.rotherham.public-i.tv
To consider and approve the minutes of the previous meeting held on 7 February 2023 as a true and correct record of the proceedings.
1. That the minutes of the previous meeting held on 7 February 2023 be 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.
As a tenant of the Council, Cllr McNeely declared a personal interest in respect of agenda items 6 and 7.
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.
The Chair advised that there were no members of the public or representatives of media organisations present at the meeting and there were no questions in respect of matters on the agenda.
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.
The Chair advised that there was no reason to exclude members of the press or public from observing any items on the agenda.
To consider a report presenting a summary of the findings of the review and the associated action plan.
Consideration was given to a report providing a summary of the findings of the review of communications with tenants and the associated action plan. The findings and recommendations were summarised by the Chief Executive Officer of Rotherham Federation of Commuinties. The review had been conducted by the Tenant Scrutiny Panel, a key component of the Council’s Tenant Engagement Framework. The Tenant Scrutiny Panel tenants to scrutinise landlord services and standards with the aim of improving performance, value for money and tenant satisfaction. The Panel is facilitated by Rotherham Federation of Communities (Rotherfed) on behalf of the Council and consists of tenant and resident representatives from across the Borough. The Panel had completed the review of how the Council communicates with tenants, with reference to the requirements within the Social Housing White Paper. Following completion of the Tenant Scrutiny Review, the report and recommendations had been discussed with the Housing Service and other relevant council services, and an action plan had been agreed to support delivery of the recommendations. The Assistant Director of Housing expressed gratitude to the Panel for their work.
In discussion, the Chair thanked the Panel and noted the importance of communications and the impact on residents if communications are not done well. The Chair noted the recommendations contained within the report apply more widely throughout the Council’s communications. The CEO of Rotherfed affirmed the importance of the plain language and the barriers that are created by use of jargon and acronyms. The CEO of Rotherfed also noted the strength of feeling in support of staff training. Timescales for progress in the implementation of the action plan would also be relevant, because it was not possible to implement every change at once. Sensitivity around bereavement, for example, was noted by the CEO of Rotherfed as one of the primary takeaways.
Members expressed gratitude for the high quality of the review content and the recommendations. Members acknowledged that the six-minute target represents an industry average, but it was felt that this was not good enough. The response from the Assistant Director of Housing described current work on customer experience to get call times down. There was consideration of coordinating generalist versus specialist expertise in answering calls to help reduce call times.
Members emphasised social media as a further area for development, and ensuring information was provided in a way that was easy for people to access. The response from the Assistant Director of Housing noted discussions around production of the Home Matters newsletter in a variety of formats. As part of the Tenant Satisfaction Measures (TSMs) the Service also had a goal to collect survey data from tenants using standardised national questions. This data would provide insights regarding preferences of tenants. It was confirmed that there was a corporate RMBC social media page, although there was no specific page for Housing. Many organisations make more use of social media. The Service could explore how this could be expanded. Ward Housing Hubs Capital Investment schemes within the wards were ... view the full minutes text for item 61.
To consider for information a report providing an update on progress over the period July to December 2022 (Q2/Q3).
Consideration was given to a report presented for information which provided an update on progress in implementation of the Housing Strategy over the period July to December 2022 (Q2/Q3). The Strategy recognises the key issues affecting housing in Rotherham and the impact these have on residents. The Strategy also sets out how the Council will work in partnership to address the issues identified. The report presented an update on each of the six key priorities comprising the Strategy:
· High quality new homes
· Affordable homes to meet local need
· Investment in existing homes
· Bringing empty homes back into use
· Supporting people to live independently
· Strengthening communities
The Assistant Director of Housing noted that the context had changed significantly since the Strategy was agreed, and challenges were summarised. Progress on Housing Development was emphasised, including examples of how the Council is innovating to deliver 1000 new homes by 2026.
In discussion, Members noted the number of one-bedroom bungalows built in the 1950s which do not have room for modern living, including space to have visitors, meals, hobbies, medical equipment, modern appliances and technology. If there could be a programme for extending those, this would be welcome.
Members requested further assurances that investment in existing homes would be done proactively instead of reactively. The response from officers noted that in some parts of the borough, the Service is carrying out proactive investment. In Maltby the Service is working to get 140 houses to net zero, replacing some structural elements to do that. The issue was the cost, with difficult choices for the Council to make to achieve a balance between proactive, reactive, and growth initiatives. The Service was doing a lot of work around damp and mould, looking at ways to prevent it before people experience this. There were trade-offs around choices.
Members requested further details around the empty homes being brought back into use. The response from officers noted this was something the Service had recently started up again. An empty homes event had generated leads. Often the Service could not find or engage the owner of an empty home. The Service were ambitious to do more on empty homes. A summary of the homes brought back into use and current work was provided. The rationale for the prioritisation of hardest first was also given. Those left empty for less than 6 months usually come back in to use on their own. A technical point was made on what is funded by the Housing Revenue Account and how much work can go out to local officers to assist with properties on that basis. It was emphasised that anyone who has a lead should report these to the empty homes officer.
Relating to investment in existing homes, clarification was requested around a specific case that would benefit from better insulation for mould prevention. The response from officers offered to follow up on the specific case. It was noted that the Service were doing targeted, proactive works around mould prevention at an additional 400 ... view the full minutes text for item 62.
To consider and approve an updated outline schedule of proposed scrutiny work.
Consideration was given to an updated outline schedule of scrutiny work. The Chair advised that outcomes from the review of selective licensing would be submitted to the next meeting, to coincide with completion of the Service’s engagement activity with landlords and tenants.
The Chair also advised that Members had completed a scoping exercise for the review into nature recovery. The purpose of the review was to consider strategic approaches already in place and propose any additional interventions that can help the Council achieve its targets and fulfil its responsibilities under the Environment Act 2021. The review would proceed in two steps.
In the first step, Members will assess the state of biodiversity in Rotherham. With a view to protecting existing biodiversity, members will meet to establish the state of biodiversity in Rotherham. This step sought to examine pollution levels in air, soil and water and the associated impact on biodiversity. The impact of wildlife crime would also be considered. Consultees will be asked to highlight species and ecosystems currently at risk. The outcome of the first step will identify where efforts should be focussed to ameliorate effects of pollution where possible and protect existing biodiversity.
In the second step, members examine biodiversity improvement actions currently in place. With a view to enhancing biodiversity, this step will seek to establish what action is already being taken by the Council, by community organisations and by partners to achieve targets and uphold duties under the Environment Act 2021. The outcome of this second step will identify possible additional interventions to be made.
1. That the report and proposed schedule of work and scope of review of nature recovery be noted.
2. That authority be delegated to the Governance Advisor in consultation with the Chair and Vice-chair to make changes to the schedule of work as appropriate between meetings, reporting any changes back to the next meeting for endorsement.
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 urgent items of business requiring consideration at the meeting.
Date and time of the next meeting
The next meeting of the Improving Places Select Commission will take place on 9 May 2023, commencing at 1.30 pm in Rotherham Town Hall.
1. That the next meeting of the Improving Places Select Commission will take place on 9 May 2023, commencing at 1.30 pm in Rotherham Town Hall.