Agenda and minutes

Improving Places Select Commission - Tuesday 19 March 2024 1.30 p.m.

Venue: Council Chamber - Rotherham Town Hall, Moorgate Street, Rotherham, South Yorkshire S60 2TH. View directions

Contact: Barbel Gale  The webcast can be viewed online:

No. Item


Minutes of the previous meeting held on 6 February 2024 pdf icon PDF 525 KB


To consider and approve the minutes of the previous meeting held on 6 February 2024 as a true and correct record of the proceedings.






That the minutes of the previous meeting held on 6 February 2024 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.




There were no declarations of interest.


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 were no items of business on the agenda that would require the exclusion of the press or public from the meeting.


Tenants Scrutiny Panel Review - Voids Lettable Standard pdf icon PDF 523 KB


To consider the report which provides Improving Places Select Commission with a summary of the findings of the review and the Council’s response to each of the actions included in the Tenants Scrutiny Review Action Plan.



Additional documents:


The Chair explained this item was to highlight the work that the Tenant Scrutiny Panel had carried out on Voids and the lettable standards of those Voids.  This was work that the Tenant Scrutiny Panel felt they could add value to, and he expressed his thanks to the work of the Panel. He then welcomed Lynsey Stephenson, Head of Housing Property Service to the meeting.


The Head of Housing Property Service echoed her thanks to the Tenant Scrutiny Panel for the comprehensive review which focused on the lettable standards involved with the termination and re-letting process. The Panel looked at benchmarking with other housing providers to assess their lettable standards. They conducted property inspections before and after work to evaluate the conditions left by outgoing tenants and the state of properties upon completion. Consultations were held with various staff members, including voids supervisors and cleaning staff. Additionally, communications with tenants were also reviewed during the review, including termination letters, and termination forms. Feedback from tenants, both outgoing and incoming, was gathered to inform the formulation of eleven recommendations.


The Housing Property Service had considered each recommendation carefully, and an action plan was developed detailing how to progress them. While some recommendations had not been pursued due to contractual limitations or existing practices, efforts had been made to align with legislative changes and ensure properties met necessary standards, including the installation of carbon monoxide and smoke alarms.


It was highlighted that certain examples, such as those concerning gas testing turnaround times, were discussed. It was noted that reducing such turnaround times might require additional resources, such as more appointment slots and standby staff, which could potentially impact other aspects of the service and further investigation was needed in those areas. Furthermore, observations were made regarding items not currently included in the lettable standard, such as surfing curtain battens, clothes posts, and fencing, which are practiced by other housing providers. While acknowledging these observations, it was emphasised that the tenancy agreement clearly outlines tenant responsibilities for such items. It was clarified that while these considerations are not discounted, implementing them may incur additional costs that could affect other service elements. Each recommendation was addressed with various actions, some already completed and closed, others yet to be progressed, and some currently under investigation.


The Chair expressed gratitude for the service work and raised concerns about costs, emphasising that any extensions would impact the housing revenue account, also he sought clarification regarding smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.


The Head of Housing Property Service explained that legislation mandates carbon monoxide alarms and highlighted access issues, such as with fire doors, affecting existing tenants. She described efforts to replace fire doors and emphasised the importance of maintaining proper fire protection levels, also she mentioned that in December they successfully took someone to court because they had been persistently not allowing access to replace the fire door. She also mentioned conducting fixed wire tests and installing carbon monoxide and smoke detectors during void processes to ensure  ...  view the full minutes text for item 62.


Update: Tenants Scrutiny Panel Review - Improving Communication with Tenants pdf icon PDF 276 KB


To consider the report and the accompanying presentation which provides an overall summary of progress made in response to the recommendations and the associated action plan.



Additional documents:


The Chair welcomed James Smith, Tenant Engagement Manager to present a progress update on delivery of the action plan that was developed in response to the Tenant Scrutiny Panel investigation into how the Council could improve communications with tenants. It was a wide-ranging review that spanned many services because communication affected everyone.


He explained that communicating with tenants was intertwined with the consumer regulations and the action plan was a good starting point with more work to be conducted.


The Tenant Engagement Manager recaptured that the initial improving communications report was heard by this Commission on March 2023, the report detailed nine recommendations A - I and a further four suggestions made by the Scrutiny Panel, and the report so set out a 12-month review period.


He highlighted that all nine actions and the four further suggestions had been achieved, the Tenant Scrutiny Panel was happy with the progress, and they signed off the plan earlier this year. He pointed out three key outcomes that have helped them to achieve the vast majority of recommendations and further suggestions within the report.


The Website improvements were made as a result of the communication review and included making plans to introduce a housing section to the Council's existing complaints web pages also full review of the tenant engagement website was undertaken. The tenant engagement webpages underwent significant improvements, featuring enhanced interactivity and content co-designed with the dedicated screen team, comprising of tenants who collaborated on various projects. Additionally, he highlighted that tailored communications training had been developed, which was implemented for housing managers and their teams through a train-the-trainer approach. Over the past year, the screen team had played an instrumental role in refining communications, from webpage and web form design to enhancing letters and influencing the Council’s Home Matters magazine which was sent to all tenants. Their broad involvement contributed to achieving key outcomes and implementing recommendations.


The Tenant Engagement Manager highlighted that website improvements had directly contributed to meeting recommendations C and D, particularly in terms of website accessibility for tenants.


He noted that staff training had played a significant role in achieving one recommendation. Despite being singular in number, this co-designed training was crucial as it equipped teams with the communication skills vital for interacting effectively with tenants for years to come. The training featured interactive content and customer videos illustrating the impact of good communication on tenants.


The final key outcome in blue on the right-hand side related to our Screen Team, which facilitated the achievement of three recommendations and three further suggestions. Over the initial 12 months, the screen team contributed not only to improving communication effectiveness but also to enhancing accessibility and communication strategy. Their success integrated them into our regular business operations, and they continued to influence communication design and strategy moving forward.


He went on to explain that some of the recommendations fell outside of those three main outcomes, which were detailed below:


Recommendation B was achieved not by one overarching strategy but by  ...  view the full minutes text for item 63.


Scrutiny Review Recommendations – Nature Recovery pdf icon PDF 903 KB


To note the report from the Head of Democratic Services outlining the findings and recommendations from the Scrutiny Review of Nature Recovery undertaking by Members from Improving Places Select Commission which was presented to the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board on 13 March 2024.




The Chair proceeded with the Scrutiny Review Recommendation conducted on Nature Recovery. The Commission considered a range of activity including response to climate change, and the aligned causes of the nature crisis. This extensive piece of work began in March last year and concluded towards the end of the previous calendar year. It involved various external organisations and individual experts, all of whom contributed significantly to the review and the Chair expressed his thanks to all of the individuals and partner agencies who contributed to the review. The Chair expressed gratitude to Katherine Harclerode and Caroline Webb, acknowledging their valuable input.


Twelve recommendations were made as a result of the motion to the Council, detailed in the report and appendices. Whilst unusual this review had been considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board first, this was to ensure it was expedited within this municipal year. The recommendations would now move to the Cabinet for further consideration, with the hope that they provided a solid foundation for future action, supported by external expert organisations.


Resolved: That the Improving Places Select Commission noted the report from the Head of Democratic Services outlining the findings and recommendations from the Scrutiny Review of Nature Recovery undertaking by Members from Improving Places Select Commission which was presented to the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board on 13 March 2024.


Improving Places Select Commission - Work Programme 2023-2024 pdf icon PDF 132 KB


To consider and endorse the outline schedule of scrutiny work for the 2023/24 municipal year.




Consideration was given to the Work Programme circulated with the agenda.


The work program was discussed, highlighting various topics to be covered and recurring items. Additionally, a member of the public suggested considering developments in Herringthorpe for scrutiny, although it's uncertain how it would fit in given the committee's scope as it related to a planning matter.


Councillor Tinsley raised a time-critical issue regarding the government's public consultation on permitted development rights. The consultation includes proposals for enlarging homes, upward extensions, demolition and rebuilding, electric charging points, and air source heat pumps. These changes could potentially allow significant developments without the need for planning permission.  He noted that the closing date for consultation was 9 April 2024.


Councillor Tinsley highlighted the importance of addressing these proposals promptly, as they could impact planning regulations in the future. He noted examples where permitted development led to significant changes without planning permission, emphasising the need for careful consideration and potential feedback to the Planning Board.

The Chair emphasised the importance of ensuring a response from officers in Planning to the consultation on changing permitted development rights to avoid potential negative impacts on constituents in the future. They suggested forwarding the matter to planning officers to discuss what response they may submit in consultation with the Planning Board members.


Regarding the work programme, the Cllr expressed a desire to see what the next council year brings for the Commission and noted that items listed for the next Commission will be considered for discussion in the new municipal year.


Resolved: That the Improving Places Select Commission recommended that officers in Planning feed into the Government’s consultation on permitted development rights.


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 urgent items of business requiring the Commission’s consideration.


Date and time of the next meeting


The next meeting of the Improving Places Select Commission will take place on Tuesday 4 June 2024 commencing at 1:30pm in Rotherham Town Hall.




Resolved: That the next meeting of the Improving Places Select Commission will take place on 4 June 2024 commencing at 1:30pm.