Agenda and draft minutes
Venue: by video conference
Webcast: View the webcast
Councillor Martyn Holland
DECLARATION OF INTERESTS PDF 116 KB
Members to declare any personal or prejudicial interests in any business identified to be considered at this meeting.
No declaration of interests had been raised.
Members were advised that being a school governor did not preclude them from participating in business item number 7 on the meeting’s agenda.
URGENT MATTERS AS AGREED BY THE CHAIR
Notice of items which, in the opinion of the Chair, should be considered at the meeting as a matter of urgency pursuant to Section 100B(4) of the Local Government Act 1972.
No urgent matters had been raised.
MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING PDF 398 KB
To receive the minutes of the Performance Scrutiny Committee held on 25 November 2021 (copy enclosed).
10.05 am – 10.10 am
The minutes of the Performance Scrutiny Committee held on 25 November 2021 were submitted.
Matters Arising – The Scrutiny Coordinator referred to an update on issues requested by the Committee at the last meeting, including information on dementia awareness and care training, which had been contained in the Committee’s Information Brief circulated to members earlier in the week.
RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 25 November 2021 be received and approved as a correct record.
PROGRESS ON DELIVERING DENBIGHSHIRE'S HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS STRATEGY PDF 246 KB
To consider a report by the Senior Officer Strategic Planning and Housing Officer (copy enclosed) on progress made to date in delivering the revised Housing and Homelessness Strategy and Action Plan approved by County Council in December 2020.
10.10 am – 10.40 am
The Chair welcomed to the meeting Councillors Tony Thomas, Lead Member for Housing and Communities and Bobby Feeley, Lead Member for Wellbeing and Independence who had joint responsibility for delivering the Housing and Homelessness Strategy. The Head of Customers and Communities, Strategic Planning and Housing Manager, Senior Officer Strategic Planning and Housing and the Housing Development Manager were also in attendance for this item.
Councillor Thomas introduced the report (previously circulated) on progress made to date in delivering the revised Housing and Homelessness Strategy and Action Plan approved by County Council in December 2020. The Strategy included priority areas for action based on six key themes with progress on the action plan set out in an appendix to the report. Delivery of the action plan was overseen by the Strategic Housing and Homelessness Group (SHHG) together with allocation of the Social Housing Grant to help bring forward affordable housing development. Councillor Thomas highlighted key areas of progress including the launch of the empty homes matching service and work on creating a supply of affordable housing, including energy efficient Passivhaus standard homes with work on site in Denbigh and Prestatyn, together with progress on future planned developments.
Councillor Feeley drew attention to the comprehensive report and the revision of the Strategy to reflect the greater emphasis on addressing homelessness with a theme dedicated to the main concerns and projects in that regard. She was pleased to report that the Housing First project had been rolled out as business as usual and would be funded under existing budgets; work was underway to provide Denbighshire’s first temporary accommodation at Epworth Lodge, Rhyl, and Awel y Dyffryn Extra Care facility in Denbigh would be fully open in February. The Strategy promoted resilience and independence and also supported corporate priorities. Finally she took the opportunity to thank all the officers for their input in the process.
The Strategic Planning and Housing Manager added that, given the Strategy had only been adopted by Council in December 2020, its delivery was still in the early stages. However, most actions were on track for delivery despite a few experiencing minor difficulties with delays largely due to the impact of Covid-19 and issues relating to the Local Development Plan. She also reported upon the work of the SHHG in monitoring progress and welcomed scrutiny of the action plan.
The Chair noted that no major issues had been identified in terms of progress with the action plan. Consequently he asked the Committee to focus on the minor issues identified given that all other actions were on track or had been completed.
The Lead Members and officers responded to questions/comments as follows –
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Tai Teg was the affordable housing register and assurances were provided that it was regularly reviewed and councillors kept informed of any housing available in their areas; there was a link on the Council’s website to the relevant webpage
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>168 households were currently presenting as homeless which consisted of 218 individuals and the increase of those threatened with homelessness had largely been due to Welsh Government introducing a moratorium on evictions during the coronavirus pandemic which had since been lifted; significant work was ongoing to support those at risk of homelessness
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>the Council only had a duty to house Denbighshire residents and did not provide housing for people from outside the county who presented as homeless – in those cases the Homeless Prevention Team worked with the local authority in whose area they had last resided
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>for various reasons there were occasions where local authorities, including Denbighshire, housed homeless people outside of their own county area and ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
LIBRARY SERVICE STANDARDS AND PERFORMANCE PDF 141 KB
To consider a report by the Principal Librarian (copy enclosed) detailing the Council’s performance in relation to the 6th Framework of Welsh Public Library Standards 2017 – 2020 (extended for 2020 – 2021) and progress in developing libraries as places of individual and community wellbeing and resilience.
10.40 am – 11.10 am
Councillor Tony Thomas, Lead Member for Housing and Communities introduced the report by the Principal Librarian (previously circulated) detailing the Council’s performance in relation to the 6th Framework of Welsh Public Library Standards 2017 – 2020 (extended for 2020 – 2021) and progress in developing libraries as places of individual and community wellbeing and resilience.
Councillor Thomas reminded the Committee that library authorities in Wales had a statutory duty to deliver a comprehensive and efficient service to its residents and the report compared Denbighshire’s performance against the national standard. He commended the valuable service provided in Denbighshire which had also been heavily impacted by Covid-19 and took the opportunity to thank staff for their excellent service during difficult times, noting staff had been redeployed at an early stage in the pandemic to commence the proactive calling of residents. The performance data for 2020 – 21 included 12 core entitlements which Denbighshire continued to meet, together with 6 quality indicators for which a self-assessment had been carried out and detailed in the report. A number of interesting and informative case studies had also been provided on service activity.
The Head of Communities and Customers highlighted the success of the library service and how service provision had been adapted in line with the changing Covid alert levels and to operate in the modern world, citing the 166% increase in digital downloads during the first lockdown as an illustrative example. She referred to the tremendous work being carried out in the library service which had been reflected in the positive report but recognised the work required going forward to build community capacity and cohesion in which the library service had a key role.
During debate the Committee welcomed the positive report and recognised the importance of the library service to residents’ wellbeing and the valuable contribution made within communities. Members provided examples of service provision in their individual ward areas and commended the initiatives and range of services provided, including work with partners, and thanked all the staff involved.
The Lead Member, Head of Communities and Customers and Principal Librarian responded to questions as follows –
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>in line with general levels of town centre footfall, library visits had not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels and that situation had been mirrored across Wales; work was being carried out to re-engage with schools and welcome back partner service provision/group activities in libraries to increase attendance; it was also recognised that people needed to rebuild their confidence to re-engage with different services/facilities in their communities
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>it was acknowledged that the library service was more than just a building and physical visits, with people using libraries in very different ways as evidenced by the digital access to services including the Order and Collect Service
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>the memory bags to support people living with dementia were borrowed in the same way as a library book and had been very popular; funding had also recently been received to start a collection of jigsaws for people living with dementia and it was hoped that they would prove just as popular
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>the financial contribution by Rhuddlan Town Council and St. Asaph City Council to their local libraries together with the partnership working and shared vision for libraries working within communities had made those libraries so successful – the Chair suggested there may be merit in progressing that partnership approach to support local libraries in other towns/communities across the county
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>whilst there had been a decrease in the take up of the 2021 Summer Reading Challenge it continued to be an extremely successful scheme and Denbighshire continued to perform well and further work ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
REDUCTION OF SINGLE USE PLASTICS AND CARBON REDUCTION IN THE SCHOOL MEALS SERVICE PDF 154 KB
To consider a report by the Principal Catering and Cleaning Manager (copy enclosed) providing an update on progress, and the challenges, in relation to reducing single use plastic and reducing carbon within the School Catering Service.
11.20 am – 11.50 am
The Chair welcomed all present for this item, including Councillors Huw Hilditch-Roberts, Lead Member for Education, Children’s Services and Public Engagement and Brian Jones, Lead Member for Waste, Transport and the Environment whose portfolios covered the service area and the environment respectively, together with the Head of Highways and Environmental Services and Principal Catering and Cleaning Manager. A warm welcome was also extended to two pupils from Ysgol Dinas Bran’s Student Council who would be invited to ask questions on the item.
Councillor Huw Hilditch-Roberts introduced the report by the Principal Catering and Cleaning Manager which provided an update on progress, and the challenges, in relation to reducing single use plastic and carbon within the School Catering Service together with estimated associated costs. In terms of context he advised that the report had been based on the current service provision situation and that implementation of the Welsh Government’s decision to provide free school meals to all primary school children would have a significant impact on the service.
The Committee was guided through the report which referenced the following –
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>the current model for school catering relied on income from drink sales in secondary schools with drinks generally sold in single-use plastic containers. Options to eradicate the sale of drinks in single-use containers included (1) not selling drinks with pupils bringing their own drinks to school resulting in a £220k pressure, or (2) selling drinks decanted into re-usable containers
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Option 2 had been trialled at Ysgol Glan Clwyd and the difficulties encountered together with the financial impact had been set out in the report, with the service concluding the trial could not be rolled out to all secondary schools given it was too logistically challenging; lack of space in some schools; waste created from non-recyclable plastic drink cups, and it was not financially viable
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>the service had made good progress in other areas to reduce single use plastics and had reduced food item packaging purchased and disposed of. However, there was an increase in price for recyclable alternatives and concerns that those items were not being recycled by students. Where possible the use of plastic cutlery had been stopped and food was served on plates but many schools did not have the dining room capacity to accommodate pupils
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>detailed actions taken by the service to deliver the catering function in a low carbon way and future challenges in terms of improving recycling by pupils with a new post to promote behaviour change, and discussions on the potential reduction of red meat on menus which was a sensitive issue.
Councillor Hilditch-Roberts emphasised the commitment of the service to reducing single use plastics and carbon despite the challenges faced with progress in a number of areas. He reiterated the significant financial impact associated with actions identified in the report - £220k per annum for stopping the sale of drinks in secondary schools, and £197k per annum for selling/decanting drinks into reusable cups. That deficit would need to be met by an increase in revenue subsidy, an increase in school meal prices, or by passing the costs on to schools. The expansion of the service to provide free school meals for all primary schools would also increase its carbon footprint. It was noted that the current model treated all schools equally and unless an individual school wished to take a different approach (and fund any budget gap) the consistent model across schools would be retained.
Councillor Brian Jones reported on previous work undertaken with a view to reducing single use plastics leading up to the current report, and he highlighted the need to align ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
SCRUTINY WORK PROGRAMME PDF 154 KB
To consider a report by the Scrutiny Coordinator (copy enclosed) seeking a review of the committee’s forward work programme and updating members on relevant issues.
11.50 am – 12.05 pm
The Scrutiny Coordinator submitted a report (previously circulated) seeking members’ review of the committee’s work programme and providing an update on relevant issues.
Discussion focused on the following –
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>the Scrutiny Chairs and Vice Chairs Group had allocated an item to the next meeting on 17 March in relation to Staff Absences and Turnover in Denbighshire during 2020/21 & 2021/22 and its impact on Customer Service and had also decided to reschedule the two education items listed for 17 March to the July meeting to be considered by the new Committee following May’s elections
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>the Scrutiny Chairs and Vice Chairs Group had previously resolved that no scrutiny committee meetings should be held after the commencement of the pre-election period (18 March) unless urgent business necessitated a meeting being held – therefore the Committee’s last scheduled meeting for the current Council term was 17 March
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>members were encouraged to submit any proposal forms regarding topics for scrutiny by the new Council directly to the Scrutiny Coordinator.
RESOLVED that, subject to the inclusion of the items requested during the course of the meeting and the amendments outlined above, the Committee’s forward work programme as detailed in Appendix 1 to the report be confirmed.
FEEDBACK FROM COMMITTEE REPRESENTATIVES
To receive any updates from Committee representatives on various Council Boards and Groups
The Chair reported upon a meeting with David Wilson, Audit Wales at which Scrutiny’s role in examining matters such as staff absences, retention and recruitment were discussed. The Committee would be given an opportunity to fulfil its role in relation to this at its March meeting, and all members were encouraged to attend and provide effective challenge.
Councillor Peter Scott advised that the Flood Risk Management and Riparian Land Ownership Task and Finish Group would be submitting a report to Communities Scrutiny Committee on 10 March 2022.
Councillor Hugh Irving represented scrutiny on the Queen’s Building Project Board and he reported that the situation remained challenging, and officers were working hard to address ongoing unanticipated problems associated with the project. A report on the detail of the project would be submitted to Cabinet in February.
The Chief Executive praised the level of debate and scrutiny during the meeting and also the contribution of the students from Ysgol Dinas Bran within that process which had provided a greater understanding of the complexities involved.
RESOLVED that the feedback from representatives following their attendance at various meetings on the Committee’s behalf be received and noted.
In closing the meeting the Chair thanked the Committee’s support officers.
The meeting concluded at 12.50 pm.