Agenda and draft minutes

Agenda and draft minutes

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Items
No. Item

28.

Declarations of interest

Minutes:

None.

29.

Chair's Announcements

Minutes:

The Chair alerted the Committee to the fact that an urgent key decision had recently been made by the Chief Executive under emergency powers and that Cllr Gant had agreed to waive the Committee’s right to scrutinise the matter. Cabinet would receive a report on the matter at its meeting the following week.

30.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 392 KB

 

Recommendation: That the minutes of the meeting held on 06 July 2020 be APPROVED as a true and accurate record.

 

Minutes:

The Committee resolved to APPROVE the minutes of the meeting held on 6 July 2020 as a true and accurate record.

31.

Discretionary Housing Payment Policy pdf icon PDF 255 KB

Cabinet, at its meeting on 09 September, will consider a report on the Discretionary Housing Payment Policy. This item provides  the Committee with an opportunity to comment on the report and make recommendations to Cabinet if it wishes.

Marie Tidball, Cabinet Member for Supporting Local Communities;Paul Wilding, Rough Sleeping and Single Homelessness Manager; and Richard Wood, Strategy & Service Development Manager, have been invited to attend for this item.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Cllr MarieTidball, Cabinet Member for Supporting Local Communities,  introduced the report. The current version of the policy had been introduced in 2013 against a backdrop of significant welfare reform and underpinned by a drive to prevent homelessness.  In 2019/2, for example, 602 Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) applications had been made of which 85% had been successful however it had become apparent that the policy needed to be revisited in the light of the economic consequences of Covid-19. She paid tribute to the work of the Welfare Reform Team not just in relation to this report and the application of the DHPP but also their wider work in supporting vulnerable members of the community. 

Paul Wilding, Rough Sleeping & Single Homelessness Manager, reminded the Committee that the DHPP was discretionary. It deliberately left some room for flexibility of implementation, neither absolutely ruling any particular set of circumstances in or out. This flexibility assisted in getting the help to those who most needed it. It was recognised that, in parallel with the flexibility, there was a need to ensure consistency of decision making. This was addressed by the way in which officers in the Welfare Reform Team cross-checked their decisions with one another (particularly in relation to more complex cases) and the regular review of a 10% case sample.

The Committee noted the challenge of identifying those who were likely to be entitled to DHP given that the Department of Work and Pensions does not share information about those who are in receipt of Universal Credit (UC). It was explained that notwithstanding this challenge, great efforts were made locally (e.g. liaison with the Job Centre) and the better use of other local data to identify those who might benefit. Representations continued to be made to Government about the need for data about UC entitlement to be made available to the council.

The application of conditions as a requirement for the provision of DHP was determined on a flexible basis to best meet the circumstances of a particular applicant, this would, on occasions, mean the application of more than one condition.

The Committee noted the challenges for some members of the community in accessing or applying for DHP. This was of particular concern for those for whom English was not their first language and or did not have access to the internet. The position had been made worse by the absence of Advice Centres serving some parts of the city. It was agreed that access to a drop in facility with access to translation would be helpful as would data about the access to DHP by the BAME community.

Members of the Committee were reminded that if they came across any particular cases where access to the service was proving difficult they should bring them to the attention of the Welfare Reform Team or Cllr Tidball.

It was suggested that there would be merit in wider advertising/communication about the availability of DHP. It was however noted that wider communication had been shown  ...  view the full minutes text for item 31.

32.

Air Quality Action Plan pdf icon PDF 172 KB

Cabinet, at its meeting on 09 September, will consider a report on the Air Quality Action Plan. This item provides the Committee with an opportunity to comment on the report and make recommendations to Cabinet if it wishes.

Councillor Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford; and Mai Jarvis, Environmental Quality Team Manager have been invited to attend for this item.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford, introduced the report. The Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) fulfilled a statutory duty. It also provided the Council with an opportunity to demonstrate its desire for a more aspirational approach to the delivery of clean air than was expected by the Government. The need for a robust approach to air pollution was a matter of social justice given the profound impact of poor air quality on everyone, but in particular, on some members of the community including young, elderly and minority groups. The Council already had a good track record of measures to tackle air pollution, working in close partnership with the County Council where necessary and was well placed to address the target for the reduction of air pollution set out in the report. The introduction of a Zero Emission Zone, and “Connecting Oxford” for example, would be critical factors in the achievement of the target.

The Committee welcomed this important report. BAME members of the community were likely to be particularly badly affected by poor air quality and it was suggested that this should be made more explicit.

Central to the AQAP was the objective of achieving a “local annual mean NO2 target of 30 micrograms by 2025”. It was agreed that this should be defined more clearly. While this new target was admirable, sight should not be lost of the current target of 40 micrograms which had yet to be achieved.

The AQAP referred to both NO2 and NOX emissions with targets set in the former but measured in some places by reference to the latter. Some clarification of the distinction and relevance of the two would be helpful.

No sanctions would be available for failure to meet the Council’s self-imposed target, but the Council would continue to press for measures (and funding) to deal with air  pollution from, for example, canal boats burning solid fuel..

There was  concern that at time when the Council was facing significant financial challenge,  the success of the Plan was dependent to some extent on Council funding. Cllr Hayes was however confident that the plan was achievable and realistic, noting the success in attracting external funding, such as that received for the improvement of the city’s buses and the commitment of Oxford Direct Services to the electrification of its significant vehicle fleet.

The plan would be subject to public consultation and the Committee was keen that this should be as inclusive and wide ranging as possible. It was confirmed that the consultation would include a questionnaire and that good use would be made of the Council’s good relationship with schools (and therefore pupils) in the City. Young people were some of the most powerful advocates of the importance of clean air.

Air quality measurements were available for all to see on the Councils website.  The ability for members of the public, eventually, to see measures of air pollution at a local street level would be desirable and would be worked towards. Currently there  ...  view the full minutes text for item 32.

33.

Work Plan and Forward Plan (including selection of review group topics) pdf icon PDF 506 KB

The Scrutiny Committee operates within a work plan which is agreed at the start of the Council year the latest version of which is attached.  The work plan is driven to a very large extent by the Cabinet Forward Plan.  A summary of the latest version of the Forward Plan is attached.

 

The Committee is also asked to consider the attached report concerning potential review group topics to inform selection of the next topic. The report also deals with related administrative matters.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Scrutiny Officer tabled a note which detailed a few suggested  changes to work plan as provided with the agenda pack. The changes presented were agreed.

 

There was some discussion about the addition of an item going to Cabinet in relation to the conversion of Boswells to a hotel and concerns lest this was a planning issue which might compromise Councillors’ subsequent involvement with a formal planning application. The Scrutiny Officer reassured the Committee that the purpose of the report was not a planning issue but rather to agree  a joint venture between developer and City Council to enable the building to be redeveloped for hotel use. It was agreed that this should be added to the work plan for consideration at a future meeting, which may be the Finance & Performance Panel or Companies Panel, depending on timings.

 

The need to delay the Tourism Review  Group update by a month (because of pressure on the October agenda) was agreed to be regrettable but unavoidable and hopefully not a delay which likely to have significant consequences.

 

Review Groups

 

Cllr Aziz spoke to the previously distributed rationale for the establishment of a review group on domestic abuse.

 

Cllr Simmonds spoke to the previously distributed rationale for the establishment of a review group on the climate emergency.

 

In subsequent discussion it was agreed that all three potential subjects (the other being citizen engagement) were worthy of Scrutiny’s attention but recognition that there was only capacity for one review group. It was agreed therefore that, having selected one, requests should be made for the remaining two to be dealt with by reports to the Committee.

 

On being put to a vote the majority voted in favour of a review group on domestic abuse. It was further agreed that the group should be chaired by Cllr Aziz and that it should comprise 6 members.

 

 

 

34.

Report back from Panel representatives and on recommendations to Cabinet from the Committee and its Panels. pdf icon PDF 257 KB

Since the last meeting of the Scrutiny Committee, the Housing & Homelessness Panel has met. Councillor Shaista Aziz will provide a verbal update.

 

At its meeting on 15 July, Cabinet received the Committee’s recommendations in relation to Local Growth Funded Workspace Projects and the Finance & Performance Panel’s recommendations in relation to Social Value and the Q4 Integrated Performance Report. Copies of Cabinet’s responses to those recommendations are attached.

 

At its meeting on 12 August, Cabinet received the recommendation of the Housing & Homelessness Panel in relation to the Housing Delivery Plan. A copy of the Cabinet’s response to the recommendation is attached.

 

Minutes:

Cllr Aziz updated the Committee on the recent work of the Housing and Homelessness Panel.

 

The Committee noted Cabinet’s responses to its more recent recommendations.

35.

Draft Annual Report pdf icon PDF 515 KB

Each year Scrutiny provides an Annual Report on the activity of the Scrutiny function over the last civic year. The Committee is recommended to read the draft text of the 2019/20 Annual Report and to agree it having raised any necessary amendments.

The draft report  will be issued as a supplement.

 

Minutes:

The Committee noted the draft text of the Annual Report which would be finalised by the Scrutiny Officer in discussion with the  Chair and Vice Chair.

36.

Dates of future meetings

Meetings are scheduled as followed:

Scrutiny Committee

·       06 October

·       03 November

·       01 December

 

Standing Panels

·       Housing & Homelessness: 03 September, 08 October, 05 November

·       Finance & Performance: 02 September, 29 September, 14 December

·       Companies Scrutiny:  14 September,14 December

 

All meetings start at 6.00 pm.

 

 

Minutes:

Meetings are scheduled as followed:

 

Scrutiny Committee

·         06 October

·         03 November

·         01 December

 

Standing Panels

·         Housing & Homelessness: 03 September, 08 October, 05 November

·         Finance & Performance: 29 September, 14 December

·         Companies Scrutiny:  14 September,14 December

 

All meetings start at 6.00 pm.