Agenda and minutes

The Economy, Housing and the Arts Policy and Accountability Committee - Thursday, 16th July, 2020 6.30 pm

Venue: Online - Virtual Meeting. View directions

Contact: Charles Francis  Email:

Link: View live stream on YouTube

No. Item


Apologies for Absence


There were no apologies for absence.



Roll-call and Declarations of Interest

To confirm attendance, the Chair will perform a roll-call. Members will also have the opportunity to declare any interests.


If a Councillor has a disclosable pecuniary interest in a particular item, whether or not it is entered in the Authority’s register of interests, or any other significant interest which they consider should be declared in the public interest, they should declare the existence and, unless it is a sensitive interest as defined in the Member Code of Conduct, the nature of the interest at the commencement of the consideration of that item or as soon as it becomes apparent.


Where Members of the public are not allowed to be in attendance and speak, then the Councillor with a disclosable pecuniary interest should withdraw from the meeting whilst the matter is under consideration. Councillors who have declared other significant interests should also withdraw from the meeting if they consider their continued participation in the matter would not be reasonable in the circumstances and may give rise to a perception of a conflict of interest.


Councillors are not obliged to withdraw from the meeting where a dispensation to that effect has been obtained from the Standards Committee.


Councillor Adronie Alford declared a non-pecuniary interest in relation to Item 6 – The Economy – Recovery Overview and Lessons Learnt, as she had been a user of Adult Education Services in the past at the Macbeth Centre. As this did not give rise to a conflict of interest, Councillor Adronie Alford remained in the meeting and participated in the item.



Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 456 KB

To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 27 January 2020.



Councillor Alford expressed concern that the agenda had not included an update on the work of the Arts Commission.  The Chair explained he understood the importance of bringing a report on the Arts Commission to a Committee meeting. However, he felt that items relating to changes to the Council’s Housing Allocation Scheme and the Covid-19 pandemic needed to be considered as a priority.


The Chair confirmed that a report providing an update on the Arts Commission would be considered at the next meeting.


In relation to the actions of the previous meeting, Councillor Rowan Ree highlighted he had not received information on the following: planning fees, cost savings from the fire safety plus scheme and information on the small tap big change programme.


The Clerk confirmed this information would be re-circulated outside the meeting.




That the minutes of the meeting held on 27th January were agreed as a correct record.





Public Questions

For the Chair to invite those members of the public that have registered to speak, to ask questions on the reports within the agenda.


To ask a public question, you will need to register to speak at the meeting.


To do this, please send an email to

by 12pm on Wednesday 15 July 2020 and joining instructions to the Microsoft Teams meeting will be sent to you.





There were no public questions received.



Proposed Changes to the Council's Housing Allocation Scheme pdf icon PDF 241 KB

The Council is statutorily obliged to adopt and operate a Housing Allocation Scheme which sets out the rules by which it allocates affordable rented accommodation. This report sets out proposed changes to the scheme, which will help ensure that those residents with the greatest need are prioritised for the right housing solution.


Gerry Crowley (Head of Allocations and Lettings), introduced the report which set out six proposed changes to the Council’s Housing Allocation scheme. The Housing Allocation Scheme sets out the rules by which the Council allocates affordable rented accommodation. The purpose of these changes was to help ensure those residents with the greatest need were prioritised for the right housing solution.


Details were provided on the six proposed changes, which were:


1.    To improve the way in which the Council allocates its housing stock and to ensure this is done in a fair and transparent way by introducing an online digital platform. The platform will enable the Council to advertise its housing stock to those on the housing register and allow applicants to play a more active role in their housing journey.


2.    To take action, to ensure that those residents living with disabilities are prioritised for the right housing solution.  Therefore, accommodation which has been adapted or is deemed adaptable by our Occupational Therapy service is prioritised for those that need it most. 


3.    To help more young adults leaving care with the best possible start as they transform to adulthood, by increasing their priority award to Band 1 whilst increasing the annual quota for Children Leaving Care from 30 to 40 housing lets.


4.    To avoid and reduce the number of households in expensive temporary accommodation, officers recommend a change to the policy which will allow those homeless households that work with our housing prevention service and have their homelessness successfully prevented by accepting accommodation in the private rented sector, to remain on the housing register.


5.    To qualify to join the Council’s housing register, applicants are required to meet the local residency criteria, i.e. resident in the borough for 5 of the last 7 years. So young people with SEN are not disadvantaged, it is proposed to change the policy, to ensure that time spent outside the borough to access SEN services will be disregarded, this will ensure that young people with special education needs are not disadvantaged as they transition to adulthood.


6.    To propose that Local Lettings Plans are automatically implemented for all new housing developments consisting of five or more social housing units. The lettings plans will prioritise qualified local residents living on the effected estate or the immediate locality before opening up to the rest of the housing register

The Chair thanked officers for the comprehensive overview and invited questions from the Committee.


In relation to the first proposed change, Councillor Adronie Alford explained she was worried about residents having the necessary access to go online and secondly, she asked, what actions were officers taking to manage the expectations of those residents applying online for housing. In response, Gerry Crowley explained that although all the fine detail was still a work in progress, residents would be able to use computers at a variety of municipal buildings, and an accessibility programme would be also rolled out in parallel (to new Housing Allocation Scheme). He  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


The Economy - Recovery Overview & Lessons Learnt pdf icon PDF 165 KB

This report details those measures taken by the Economy to mitigate the impacts of Covid-19 on the department during the initial ‘response’ phase, those lessons learnt to date, and those plans currently being implemented by services during the transition from response to ‘recovery’ phase.

Additional documents:


Mark Meehan (Chief Housing Officer), provided a brief introduction. He explained that Chris Reynolds, (Programme Manager, The Economy Department), would provide the Committee with a short slide presentation which covered those measures taken by the Economy to mitigate the impacts of Covid-19 on the department during the initial ‘response’ phase, those lessons learnt to date, and those plans currently being implemented by services during the transition from response to ‘recovery’ phase.


Chris Reynolds explained that in June 2020, the Economy Department undertook its own ‘lessons learnt exercise’ where services were asked to consider what we’ve learnt from the crisis, have changed and want to keep, stopped and can let go, need to return to in some form and need re-imagining. All these findings were recorded in a ‘lessons learnt log’.


Chris Reynolds explained that the consistencies observed across the department included:


·       That Economy Department services were robust and had adapted quickly to a more solution-based and risk-focused approach to service delivery.


·       That The Economy Department had a committed workforce that had adapted quickly to the situation and was focused on delivering services in new ways.


·       That the workforce transition to remote working had been facilitated by the technology systems in place which had been functioning well. 


·       That borough residents had proven to be amazingly resilient but needed further support to develop IT capabilities and the confidence to adapt to new ways of working.


The presentation provided details on a series of key changes and developments across the constituent departments within The Economy Department and some of the key service headlines were as follows:


·       Homelessness services have continued to improve the welfare of rough sleepers and enhance Partnerships with the voluntary sector, businesses and statutory agencies. Emergency accommodation has been delivered to over 275 rough sleepers and people at risk of rough sleeping at pace, and into good quality emergency accommodation. 52 people accommodated without recourse to public funds.


·       Growth & Planning services have evidenced that they can be delivered almost entirely remotely, with decisions continuing to be made to enable development/regen in the borough. The Development Team has delivered positive/alternative methods of consulting with residents and stakeholders, trialling live/online consultations, as well as innovative new technics, such as ‘fly-throughs’ (virtual/online journeys) of developments.


·       Neighbourhood services have continued to improve resident welfare and minimise the impacts to Sheltered Housing residents. The team have increased the number of phone lines open to residents to compensate for reception closures and remote working, and supported residents by carrying out a schedule of telephone welfare checks and delivering regular service update newsletters to sheltered residents. The team are in the process of carrying out phone surveys with all 950 Sheltered residents to address the current gap in direct customer feedback about our service.   


·       Economic Developments Enterprise Team introduced a three-month rent holiday to commercial tenants and market traders. Employment Brokerage support for residents and employers is now online and phone based, and the team continues to share jobs and apprenticeship  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.




The Chair introduced the item and suggested the Committee could be provided with an update on the work of the Arts Commission and Upstream to the next meeting.