Agenda and draft minutes

Scrutiny Board (Environment, Housing and Communities) - Monday, 17th October, 2022 10.00 am

Venue: Civic Hall, Leeds, LS1 1UR

Contact: Angela Brogden (0113 37 88661)  Email: angela.brogden@leeds.gov.uk

Link: to View Meeting Recording

Items
No. Item

24.

Appeals Against Refusal of Inspection of Documents

To consider any appeals in accordance with Procedure Rule 25* of the Access to Information Procedure Rules (in the event of an Appeal the press and public will be excluded).

 

(* In accordance with Procedure Rule 25, notice of an appeal must be received in writing by the Head of Governance Services at least 24 hours before the meeting).

Minutes:

There were no appeals.

 

25.

Exempt Information - Possible Exclusion of the Press and Public

1.  To highlight reports or appendices which officers have identified as containing exempt information, and where officers consider that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information, for the reasons outlined in the report.

 

2.  To consider whether or not to accept the officers recommendation in respect of the above information.

 

3.  If so, to formally pass the following resolution:-

 

RESOLVED – That the press and public be excluded from the meeting during consideration of the following parts of the agenda designated as containing exempt information on the grounds that it is likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, that if members of the press and public were present there would be disclosure to them of exempt information, as follows:

 

No exempt items have been identified.

Minutes:

There were no exempt items.

 

26.

Late Items

 

To identify items which have been admitted to the agenda by the Chair for consideration.

 

(The special circumstances shall be specified in the minutes.)

Minutes:

There were no formal late items.

 

27.

Declaration of Interests

To disclose or draw attention to any interests in accordance with Leeds City Council’s ‘Councillor Code of Conduct’.

Minutes:

Board Members did not raise any interests at the meeting.

 

28.

Apologies for Absence and Notification of Substitutes

To receive any apologies for absence and notification of substitutes.

Minutes:

Apologies were received on behalf of Councillor R Finnigan.

 

Apologies were also received from Cllrs Coupar and Harland who were unable to attend as Executive members.

 

29.

Minutes - 21 July 2022 pdf icon PDF 653 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting held on 21 July 2022.

Minutes:

RESOLVED – That the minutes of the meeting held 21st July 2022 be approved as an accurate record.

 

Matters Arising

Minute No.20 and Minute No.21 – it was noted that information provided on behalf of the Head of Policing and Crime was circulated to Panel Members on 5 October 22, along with further information about Community Payback Schemes.

 

Additionally, a visit to the Leeds Watch control room was facilitated on Friday, 30th September 22. A summary of the key issues raised during the visit was shared with Board Members.

 

30.

Reducing Poverty and Improving Financial Inclusion pdf icon PDF 479 KB

To receive a report from the Chief Officer Customer Access and Welfare on the approach to reducing poverty and improving financial inclusion in the city.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report of the Chief Officer Customer Access and Welfare provided an update on the approach to reduce poverty and improve financial inclusion in the city, with consideration as to the emerging cost of the living crisis.

 

Appended to the report included a copy of the ‘understanding and addressing the cost-of-living’ Executive Board report from the meeting held on 27th July 22.

 

The following were in attendance for this item:

o  James Rogers, Director of Communities, Housing and Environment

o  Lee Hemsworth, Chief Officer Community Hubs, Welfare and Business Support

o  Nick Hart, Deputy Head of Customer Contact (LCC)

o  Rebecca Owen, Advanced Customer Support Senior Leader (DWP)

o  Chris Joyce, Operational Leader (DWP)

o  Dianne Lyons, Citizens Advice

 

The Chief Officer Community Hubs, Welfare and Business introduced the report and provided a brief update on the service in terms of the impact on the cost of living. The report provided details on what is happening locally, as well as several changes in terms of the cost-of-living crisis and unprecedented rise in energy costs. It was noted that national research suggests that the impact on changes has adversely impacted lower income families and national changes to the energy cap have been introduced. Issues were highlighted in terms of:

·  Household support fund

·  Warm places in public buildings

·  Information available to the public on financial and money debt matters

·  A cost of living and welfare breakthrough group has been established

·  The cost-of-living operational group are meeting fortnightly

·  Together Leeds Campaign and the work on-going to create materials to use in public buildings to ensure information is accessible to all

 

The Advanced Customer Support Senior Leader (DWP) provided an update on Universal Credit and the role of jobcentres to help people back into employment, as well as the Leeds Social Justice Team supporting vulnerable residents in the community. It was also noted that youth employability coaches are focusing on young people in Leeds and trying to overcome barriers with stakeholders regarding the cost-of-living issues. Next steps for the service will focus on building existing relationships with external partners and focusing on mental health, substance misuse and signposting where appropriate.

 

In response to questions from Board Members, the following was confirmed:

·  Job centres are managing resources and whilst it is a challenging environment for staff, the service adapt to find different ways to work with stakeholders. It was also confirmed that several work coaches were employed during the pandemic and were made permanent. Work coaches can be deployed across Leeds to where resources are needed.

·  Eastgate Jobcentre is due to close in March 2023 and colleagues will be moved across to Leeds Park Place Jobcentre to help support residents in the areas affected. However, it was confirmed there will be no significant change in service delivery. The social justice team will work with vulnerable people out in the community.

·  The kickstart scheme and youth employability coaches work with young people to help them into employment. The kickstart scheme works with employers to ensure  ...  view the full minutes text for item 30.

31.

Local Welfare Support Scheme Review Update pdf icon PDF 473 KB

To receive a report from the Director of Communities, Housing and Environment which provides details on the review of the Leeds City Council Local Welfare Support Scheme (LWSS); setting out the progress since the last update to Scrutiny and proposing a revised policy document and next steps.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report of the Director of Communities, Housing and Environment provided details on the review of the Leeds City Council Local Welfare Support Scheme (LWSS), setting out the progress since the last update to Scrutiny and proposing a revised policy document and next steps.

 

A copy of the proposed revised policy document was appended to the report.

 

The following were in attendance for this item:

o  James Rogers, Director of Communities, Housing and Environment

o  Lee Hemsworth, Chief Officer Community Hubs, Welfare and Business Support

o  Nick Hart, Deputy Head of Customer Contact

 

The Deputy Head of Customer Contact introduced the report and provided the Board with highlights from the report on the improvements that can be made to the scheme for residents suffering financial hardship. Several improvements are required to be made, and areas to progress on are as follows:

·  Procurement exercise for white goods.

·  The development of an online form for agencies and customers in addition to the option to telephone for the referral process.

·  Partnership working to re-establish a relationship with the Furniture Reuse Network, to reduce waste and buy more goods for more customers.

·  A Cash Grant Pilot in partnership with Trussell Trust. LCC will seek to adopt a cash grant offer as part of the LWSS review and additional methods for the customer to collect a cash reward will also be considered.

·  To increase fuel awards.

·  Revised eligibility criteria.

·  Introduction of a digital offer is being considered, to tackle digital exclusion.

·  Removal of the £10,000 low-income threshold and introduction of variable low-income threshold.

·  Introduction of an intensive support programme to focus on debt management and budget support.

·  The introduction of new payment methods such as cash and bank transfers.

 

In responding to the update, Board Members made the following comments:

·  The cash grant pilot is welcomed but it was noted that bank transfers to people using their overdrafts can result in money being used for fees.

·  Concern was expressed about residents not having access to appropriate ID and there being a need to provide help to those residents to access birth certificates etc. Officers confirmed that whilst work has been done to reduce the requirement to produce ID, where this is still required, efforts will be made to cater in a more diverse way.

·  To be mindful of disability and language barriers on the accessibility of information.

·  To consider how the partnership with the Furniture Refuse Network can be promoted.

 

The Chair thanked those in attendance.

 

RESOLVED – To:

a)  note the contents of the report, including updates provided during the meeting.

b)  agree on the contents of the revised policy document, subject to the document being easily accessible and interpreted by all.

 

32.

Work Schedule pdf icon PDF 402 KB

To consider the Scrutiny Board’s work schedule for the 2022/23 municipal year.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report of the Head of Democratic Services presented the Scrutiny Board’s work schedule for the 2022/23 municipal year. Appended to the report also included copies of the minutes from the Executive Board meetings held on 27 July 22 and 21 September 22.

 

Members were informed that there is an additional Board meeting on Thursday, 1st December 22 and a remote working group scheduled to take place on Friday, 4th November 22.

 

RESOLVED – To note the contents of the report and work schedule.

 

33.

Date and Time of Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Scrutiny Board (Environment, Housing & Communities) will take place on Thursday 10 November 2022 at 10.30am. There will be a pre-meeting for members of the Scrutiny Board at 10.00am.

Minutes:

The next meeting is scheduled to take place Thursday, 10th November 2022 at 10.30 a.m. (there will be a pre-meeting for Board Members at 10.00 a.m.)

 

The meeting concluded at 11:47 a.m.