Agenda and minutes

Community Scrutiny Committee
Tuesday, 19th November, 2019 10.00 am

Venue: Chamber, County Hall, Carmarthen, SA31 1JP. View directions

Contact: Kevin J Thomas  01267 224027

Items
No. Item

1.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE

Minutes:

An apology for absence was received from Councillor C. Campbell – Executive Board Member for Communities and Rural Affairs.

2.

DECLARATIONS OF PERSONAL INTERESTS INCLUDING ANY PARTY WHIPS ISSUED IN RELATION TO ANY AGENDA ITEM

Minutes:

There were no declarations of personal interest.

 

There were no declarations of prohibited party whips.

3.

PUBLIC QUESTIONS (NONE RECEIVED)

Minutes:

No public questions had been received.

4.

UNIVERSAL CREDIT FULL SERVICE UPDATE FOR CARMARTHENSHIRE pdf icon PDF 257 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee was reminded that at its meeting held on the 14th February, 2019 (Minute 5 refers) it had, following consideration of a report on the roll-out of Universal Credit within Carmarthenshire, requested an update report be in six months with invitations to attend being extended to the Department for Work and Pensions and Carmarthenshire Citizens Advice. In accordance with that decision the Chair welcomed to the meeting Adele Lodwig and Maria Brookfield from the Council’s Housing Division together with Menna Davies - Department for Work and Pensions and Hayley Price and Suzanne Gainard - Carmarthenshire Citizen’s Advice.

 

The Committee thereupon received an update report on the effect of universal credit on council tenants together with presentations from the above named attendees on the roll-out of Universal Credit within Carmarthenshire from their individual organisation’s perspective e.g.:-

 

-       Department of Work and Pensions –introduction and implementation of Universal Credit, including current arrangements for new claimants and the managed migration by December 2023 for all existing claimants receiving legacy payments.

-       Carmarthenshire Citizen Advice – providing advice and support for existing legacy benefit claimants moving to universal credit and all new claimants via a variety of avenues e.g. face to face, including office based interviews and home visits, web-chat, national phone service and I.T. support in completing on-line forms. That advice included individual assessments and whether it would be beneficial for existing legacy benefit claimants to remain on those benefits or to transfer to universal credit

-       Carmarthenshire’s Housing Division-– adoption of a pro-active approach for its tenants by providing early contact and identifying any who could, potentially, be at risk under the new arrangements. A pre-tenancy team had been established to help and support prospective tenants to manage their finances and tenancies. That included the early submission of benefit claims to ensure the commencement of benefit payments coincided with the start of the tenancy, as payments could not be backdated.

 

Members of the Committee were afforded the opportunity of asking questions on the report/presentations which included the following:-

 

·         Reference was made to the increased use of food banks within Carmarthenshire, as detailed within the report. It was acknowledged that whilst food bank usage had increased, it could not be wholly attributable to the introduction of Universal Credit with. It was however noted that the application process for universal credit was complex, particularly during the early stages when claimants were not receiving payments, with the average time between claim submission and initial payment being 5 weeks, paid in arrears. Claimants facing financial hardship during this period were signposted to food banks and other avenues for assistance. Advance payments of up to 100% were available, repayable over a twelve month period. It was also acknowledged that whilst the initial roll out had not been successful, potentially leading to an increase in the numbers attending food banks, the removal of the initial 7 day waiting period before entitlement to Universal Credit could begin had, hopefully, alleviated the level of need.

·         In reference to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

REVENUE & CAPITAL BUDGET MONITORING REPORT 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 197 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the 2019/20 Revenue and Capital Budget Monitoring reports for the Housing, Regeneration, Planning and Leisure and Recreation Services for the period up to the 31st August, 2019. It was noted that the revenue budget was forecasting a £703k overspend, the capital budget a £169k underspend, whilst the Housing Revenue Account was forecasting a £32k underspend.

 

The following questions/issues were raised on the report:-

 

·         Reference was made to the site visits undertaken in May, 2019 to the St Clears Leisure Centre, Y Gat and the Pendine Outdoor Education Centre. An update was requested on any progress achieved since that time on their future development.

 

The Head of Leisure advised that investigations/reports were currently being undertaken on options for the three venues and would be progressed through the Council’s democratic process in due course.

 

With regard to the St Clears Leisure Centre, a new operating model was being examined and it was hoped a partnership arrangement could be entered into with the community council. Work in excess of £600k had been identified as being required to upgrade the facility and a capital bid was being prepared for consideration for inclusion within the Council’s five year capital programme. Whilst that bid would, if accepted, fall within year 5 of the programme, it was hoped any variances to the programme could allow it to be brought forward.

 

The position at Y Gat was that consultations were being undertaken with the Community Council on its future operation. In relation to the Pendine Outdoor Education Centre, several options were being considered and consultations undertaken with schools on the type of facility they would like to see provided.

 

·         Reference was made to the projected £463k overspend within the Planning Division and clarification sought on what measures were being introduced to address that shortfall, which had been a recurring theme over previous years.

 

The Development and Built Heritage Manager advised that whilst the projected overspend was significant, the division was aware of a number of pending planning applications the fees from which would assist in its reduction. With regard to addressing the recurring overspend, that was being examined on both a national and local basis. Locally, consideration was being given to introducing a discretionary charging policy which could include a charge for pre-planning advice.

 

On a national level, a change in legislation in 2015 meant that whilst fees for major schemes such as wind farms were payable to the Welsh Government, the work and associated costs incurred in their determination fell on local authorities. The Welsh Government was currently examining the level of planning fees, which could see an across the board increase, and planning charges being determined on a full cost recovery basis. Representations had also been made to the Welsh Government over a number of years for the introduction of increased fees for retrospective planning applications and charges for enforcement action. However, no timescale had been set for any amendments to the planning fee regime within Wales

·         In response to a question  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

FORTHCOMING ITEMS pdf icon PDF 150 KB

Minutes:

The Committee considered a list of forthcoming items to be considered at its next scheduled meeting to be held in December 2019.

 

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that the list of forthcoming items for the Committee meeting scheduled to be held in December 2019 be agreed.

7.

MINUTES

7.1

3RD OCTOBER, 2019 pdf icon PDF 349 KB

Minutes:

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on the 3rd October, 2019 be signed as a correct record.

7.2

16TH OCTOBER, 2019 pdf icon PDF 248 KB

Minutes:

UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on the 16th October, 2019 be signed as a correct record.