Asset Management, Culture & Housing Cabinet Member – Minutes – 25 September 2014

111   (13) ASSETS OF COMMUNITY VALUE – NOMINATIONS REGISTER UPDATE The Director of Places submitted a report updating the Cabinet Member the progression of the Community Right to Bid process in North Lincolnshire.

The Community Right to Bid initiative allowed local community groups or parish councils to nominate buildings or land for listing as Assets of Community Value under the Community Right to Bid initiative.

For a local group to successfully nominate an asset it would have to show that:

·                  it was based within the local authority area (or a neighbouring authority); and

·                  it was a group that was qualified to make a nomination.

Listed assets must either improve, or had recently improved, the community’s social wellbeing or social interest.  They must also be likely of doing so in the future.

The Nominations Register set out the progress made for each nomination from the date it was received through to the listing review, as applicable.  The Nominations Register was appended to the report.

Resolved – That the latest information held within the Nominations Register be noted.

112   (14) DELEGATION OF AUTHORITY UNDER THE TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING ACT 1990 – The Director of Places submitted a report seeking authorisation for the Operational Housing and Environmental Health teams within the council to use Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (the Act) provided a local planning authority with the power to require the clean up of land and property when its condition adversely affected the amenity of the area.

The procedure was relatively straightforward to use and could have a real and tangible impact on an area.  Research showed that the threat of taking action was often sufficient to secure improvements.  This power was an important part of any initiative to deal with an empty home.

Empty homes were a wasted resource and had a negative impact on the surrounding community, attracted anti-social behaviour and reduced neighbouring house prices.

Many councils authorised officers to use Section 215 powers to tackle land and buildings in poor condition.  Currently only the Development Management team within the council had the delegated authority to take action.  They had used the powers to successfully secure improvements using informal and formal approaches, mainly against occupied homes and land.

Complaints relating to the condition of long-term empty homes were often made to the Operational Housing and Environmental Health teams.  There were a number of options available to tackle long-term empties.  Section 215 powers were particularly useful and commonly used in such situations.

Resolved – (a) That the delegation of authority to officers within the Operational Housing and Environmental Health teams to use Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 be approved, and (b) that a quarterly report be submitted to the Cabinet Member in order to update on the use of the delegated powers.

113   (15) HOME ASSISTANCE POLICY RELATED FEES – The Director of Places submitted a report seeking approval to increase the agency fees charged on grants provided through the council’s Home Assistance Policy.

The Home Assistance Policy outlined the help available to homeowners or tenants to fit disabled adaptations or repair their homes.  The policy had two elements, firstly the mandatory disabled facilities assistance and secondly, the discretionary assistance.

Councils were permitted to charge agency fees for dealing with disabled facilities grants (DFG) and other forms of assistance.  Appendix one to the report showed the rates currently charged within the Yorkshire and Humber region.  The council charged a 10 percent flat fee for all forms of assistance under the policy.

Councils relied on the money generated from fees to help meet the costs of providing these services.  This year the fees target was increased to part fund the continuation of the handyman service (which completed the smaller scale adaptations) and support staffing costs.

The handyman service, through its minor adaptations ensured a quick response to small-scale work and eliminated the need for the referrals to go through the normal DFG process.  The service was an important element of the whole process and an efficient way of dealing with such improvements.

Resolved – That the increase of the agency fees applied to Home Assistance grants from 10 percent to 12.5 percent be approved.

114   (16) REVIEW OF THE HANDYMAN SERVICE – UPDATE – The Director of Places submitted a report providing an update on the Handyman Service following a report previously submitted to the Cabinet Member.

The handyman service offered a quick and effective solution to a wide range of housing-related problems, at a reasonable cost and carried out by trusted individuals.  The services provided included fitting security measures and minor adaptations, small building repairs and gardening work.

The service provided an important role in supporting the elderly and disabled to live independently in their home.

The Public Health service recognised the role that the handyman service provided in meeting core public health outcomes. These included; reducing the time taken to discharge patients from hospital, reducing injuries due to falls in people aged 65 and over and reducing hip fractures in the same age group.  Consequently, Public Health had provided £49,000 grant funding to support the service.

The review of the service recognised its importance to elderly and disabled residents.  It reflected the need to ensure its continuation. However, it also recognised the need to seek efficiency savings in delivering the service.

Resolved – (a) That the current position regarding funding for the service and its continuation be noted, and (b) that consideration be given to the commercial element of the service and a report be submitted to the Cabinet Member at a later date exploring commercial opportunities.

115   (17) NO SECOND NIGHT OUT INITIATIVE – The Director of Places submitted a report providing the Cabinet Member with an update on the development of the ‘No Second Night Out’ initiative.

‘No Second Night Out’ (NSNO) was a government led initiative to reduce rough sleeping. The scheme aimed to ensure that no new rough sleeper spent a second night sleeping on the street to stop them becoming entrenched in the rough sleeping culture.

The government was currently preparing a ‘heat map’ for publication showing those local authorities that had formally adopted the ‘NSNO’ initiative (green), those authorities that were seriously considering adopting a formal ‘NSNO’ plan (orange) and those authorities that were not planning to do anything in regard to ‘NSNO’ (red).  Currently, North Lincolnshire was orange on the heat map.  The council were aiming to achieve green and to do so needed a “NSNO” policy, including an Assertive Outreach Worker.

Following a report submitted to the Cabinet Member in April, officers had progressed work towards adopting a formal ‘NSNO’ policy.   A sub-regional bid had been made to Department for Communities and Local Government for funding from the single homelessness pot to provide an Assertive Outreach Worker for 18.5 hours per week from October 2014 until March 2016. The council would share this post with North East Lincolnshire Council and it would be an extension to the current north bank provision.

The government was keen to ensure cross sector partners were involved.  The sub-regional bid clearly demonstrated this approach. Across the four Authorities, a bid had been submitted for £250,000.

Resolved – (a) That the progress made so far with meeting the requirements for a ‘No Second Night Out’ policy be noted, and (b) that a further update report be submitted to the Cabinet Member once the outcome of the bidding round was known.

116   (18) RECREATIONAL USE OF THE BLUE LAGOON LOCAL NATURE RESERVE – The Director of Places submitted a report seeking to formalise current ad-hoc arrangements following requests to make use of an area of the Blue Lagoon Local Nature Reserve for recreational activities.

The council had received requests from two locally based organisations to make use of the Blue Lagoon Local Nature Reserve (LNR) for recreational activities. The groups in question were the ‘Ashbyvillens’ Open Water Swimming Group (OWSG) and the Scunthorpe Model Boat Society (MBS). Over a number of years, these groups had attempted to secure the use of various sites within North Lincolnshire for their activities.

The ‘Ashbyvillens’ OWSG had previously used the Ashbyville site. However, due to some of the water safety issues affecting this site the council had actively discouraged its use.

The Blue Lagoon LNR was a more discreet site. It was situated some way from housing and not as immediately visible to children. It was therefore suggested that the area was made available for the ‘Ashbyvillens’ OWSG to use via a licence, subject to them satisfying various conditions. These could relate to nesting birds, other species and them holding adequate insurance cover.

The Scunthorpe MBS were previously also interested in using Ashbyville. However, they would now also prefer to use the Blue Lagoon LNR. It was therefore proposed to allow them to make use of the facility via a similar licence arrangement to the ‘Ashbyvillens’ OWSG.

Resolved – That the proposals to allow the ‘Ashbyvillens’ Open Water Swimming Group and the Scunthorpe Model Boat Society to make use of the Blue Lagoon Local Nature Reserve for recreational purposes via a licence from the council, subject to them meeting a number of prescribed conditions, including holding adequate insurance cover, be approved.

The corresponding report of the following item (Minute 117 refers) contains exempt information as defined in Paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended).

117   (19) PROPERTY TRANSACTION SCHEDULE – The Director of Places submitted a report for consideration, and where necessary, approval of a schedule containing the terms of all recently negotiated property transactions.

The schedule covered both operational and commercial property.

Resolved – That the schedule appended to the report be approved.

Note: Reports are in Portable Document Format (PDF) and therefore require a suitable reader to view them. A reader can be downloaded free from the Adobe website (full instructions for downloading the reader are provided on the site). 

Where there is no report this is because it is exempt, as it contains information which is considered to be of a confidential nature, as detailed in the Local Government (Access to Information) Act.