Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday 11th November 2020 7.30 pm

Venue: via Zoom

Contact: Helen Johnson 

No. Item



To note any substitution of Members made in accordance with Council Procedure Rules.


The following substitution was made in accordance with Council Procedure Rules:


Councillor P.Hebden for Councillor S.Wrenn.




An apology for absence was received from Councillor S.Wrenn.



To confirm as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 2 September 2020 (previously circulated).


Councillor Zukowskyj raised an issue with the minutes of the last meeting. He felt they did not reflect comments made at the meeting on the issue of housing maintenance as they were under the title housing maintenance repairs. It was not just repairs discussed but also general maintenance and upkeep of houses.


The Minutes of the meeting held on 2 September 2020 will be examined by officers and brought back to the next meeting of the committee for approval.



To note declarations of Members’ disclosable pecuniary interests, non-disclosable pecuniary interests and non-pecuniary interests in respect of items on the Agenda.


Councillor G.Hayes declared a non-pecuniary interest in item 7 of the agenda as a Council tenant.


Councillors L.Chesterman and P.Zukowskyj both declared a non-pecuniary interest by virtue of them being Hertfordshire County Councillors.



To note the status of actions identified at previous meeting of the Committee.


The status of actions agreed at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on 2 September 2020 in the report of the Corporate Director (Public Protection, Planning and Governance) was noted.


Councillors asked for an update on Queensway House Cladding. Officers confirmed that an update on Queensway House Cladding will be posted on the Members Information Hub and would include information on the number of tenants and leaseholders who were still living in the flats. Officers are working with tenants to find alternative accommodation prior to demolition and redevelopment of the site and are regularly updating tenants on progress.


Councillors also queried if the Budget Setting and Corporate Plan Task and Finish Group was scheduled to report back to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to look at actions that had been undertaken. Councillor Hayes, chairman of the Task and Finish Group, confirmed that this was due to report back in January so that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee can make recommendations to Cabinet.



Report to inform Members about the council’s Responsive Repairs Service, so that Members have the opportunity to learn more about the service.

Additional documents:


Following meetings between Officers and the Chair and Vice-Chairs of the Committee, a report had been prepared outlining how the service works, how performance is measured and the impact of Covid-19 on the service.


The purpose of the report was for the Committee to consider whether there are particular areas of the repairs service that they wish to scrutinise. One of the options available would be to set up a Task and Finish Panel.


The report highlighted that:


   A range of research and analytical methods were used together with the collection of data related to the service and that data was used to establish trends and measure performance against targets.


   Contractual KPIs were developed as part of the contract with Mears. These are regularly monitored and reported, and cover responsive repairs and planned works as well as perception of the service by residents.


   Impact of Covid on service delivery during Lockdown had an immediate effect on the service delivery. Staff worked from home and a few did continue to work in the office to oversee the emergency works and the management of the empty properties.


   During the lockdown, the amount of cases declined and a number of staff were furloughed by Mears.


   Between June and September, staff from Mears did return to work at different stages. It was challenging as work levels started to increase and they had to monitor the daily increase of specific trades and also meet the demands of the works being raised.


   Extra time was given to reassure customers on the process they would be following to undertake work safely. Extra time was needed before and after the job to ensure that everything is thoroughly cleaned. This meant that some of the normal success measures such as operative productivity were likely to not be at their normal level. The impact here would be that some tenants maybe waiting longer than usual for their repair. The Council have been putting messages on the website to keep customers updated on the service provision so that they are clear of what is happening with any impact on the service.


   The call statistics for April (2,976) and May (1,264) showed a decline in calls to the team compared to last year April (4,643) and May (4,069), there was pressure on the team with the increase in calls, the peak being August (5301). 


   At the same time there was a decrease in jobs being raised, April (931) and May (1,065) compared to last year April (1,873) and May (1,800), again rising over the months as the service started to get back to a normal trend.


   It was noted that there were 2,976 calls in April 2020, however there were only 931 raised repairs, the calls were a mix of customers cancelling works and chasing work to be undertaken.


   The significant reduction in the number of repairs that were carried out during the pandemic, resulted in less satisfaction surveys being sent out.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.



The pro-forma sets out a draft of the Committee’s work programme for comment. The work programme enables forward planning of items to be considered. In addition, the Forward Plan and Key Decision List are attached for Members to consider and the Scrutiny Scoring Form is available to assist in determining the value of any potential scrutiny.

Additional documents:


Members considered the Committee’s work programme. The work programme enabled forward planning of items to be considered to take place. In addition, the Forward Plan was attached to assist members in considering items for scrutiny. Members should be thinking about what they want to see at meetings to add value to the work of the committee and to the Council.




Councillor L.Chesterman raised Homelessness as a scrutiny item as there were some big issues there, particularly when we had the “all in” policy in the first lockdown. Homelessness should be a current priority especially if there are people out on the streets in cold weather. 


Budget Setting


Councillor Hayes confirmed that the Budget Setting and Corporate Plan Task and Finish Group would be reporting back to this committee on 13 January 2021.


Review of provision of health services in the borough


Councillor L.Chesterman confirmed that the “provision of health services” in the borough was a statutory item and that is why it is in the work programme.


Review of provision of the discharge of crime and disorder services in borough


Following a query from Councillors, Officers confirmed that these obligations are met and discharged through the Community Safety Partnership; this again is a statutory item that we have as a requirement for scrutiny. It was suggested that officers could provide a broad overview of the CSP or a detailed analysis of one or two aspects of the partnership. This could help form part of the information and potential scrutiny around homelessness. DrugLink provides services to people with addiction, but it is actually a housing project and provides the Council’s housing first service.


It was proposed for Officers and partner organisations (like DrugLink) to give the committee a brief overview of what they do and how we work together on homelessness: looking at what works well, what doesn’t and learning for future. Bottom line costs were also requested. This is to include details on how many people have lost their private rented accommodation not just people who were living on the streets.




(1)   Members agreed that a report on Homelessness should go to the next committee meeting.


(2)   Members agreed that a report on the work of the Community Safety Partnership should go to the next committee meeting.