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Agenda and minutes

Homes and Environment Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 13th December, 2017 1.00 pm

With effect from 1 April 2016 Agenda and Minutes will be available in both Welsh and English. Reports are working documents and produced in English only in accordance with Welsh Language Standard 41 of this Council’s Final Compliance Notice from the Welsh Language Commissioner.

Venue: Meeting Room 1, Guildhall

Contact: Craig Stevens  Scrutiny Facilitator

Webcast: View the webcast

Items
No. Item

30.

Apologies for absence

Additional documents:

Minutes:

An apology for absence was submitted on behalf of Councillor T Alan Edwards.

31.

Declarations of personal interests, if any

Members are reminded of their responsibility, under Paragraph 11 of the Members’ Code of Conduct, to declare the existence and nature of any personal interest in respect of any of the business to be transacted at this meeting

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members were reminded of their responsibility, under Paragraph 11 of the Members’ Code of Conduct, to declare any interests in relation to any of the business to be transacted at this meeting.  The following declarations were made:

 

Mr Jerry O’Keeffe – Item 5 – Environmental Enforcement Performance.

Personal – As a serving JP.  Mr O’Keeffe stayed in the room for the discussion of the item but withdrew from the meeting prior to the Committee’s formulation of recommendations.

32.

Confirmation of Minutes pdf icon PDF 76 KB

To sign as a correct record the Minutes of the Meeting held on 8 November 2017

Additional documents:

Minutes:

AGREED – That the Minutes of the Meeting held on 8 November 2017 be signed as a correct record.

33.

Thanks

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Referring to the recent heavy snow fall and extremely low temperatures the Chair on behalf of the Committee thanked the Lead Member and staff from the Environmental Services section for the significant work undertaken in supporting residents in very difficult circumstances.

34.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 85 KB

To consider the report of the Head of Finance

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Finance submitted a report (HF/135/17s) to assist the Committee in considering and agreeing its work programme.

 

Members considered the topic selection form appended to the report in respect of Glyphosate Herbicides agreed that this item should be scheduled in the work programme.

 

AGREED –

 

(i)         That the topic selection form in respect of Glyphosate Herbicides be accepted on to the work programme.

 

(ii)        That the work programme be agreed.

35.

Environmental Enforcement Performance pdf icon PDF 176 KB

To consider the report of the Lead Member for Place – Environment and Transport

Additional documents:

Minutes:

(Declarations of interest in relation to this item are set out in Minute 31 above)

 

The Lead Member for Place – Environment and Transport submitted a report (HEP/96/17s) to provide an update on the Council’s environmental enforcement service and a review of performance of Kingdom, the third party contractor engaged by the Council since 1 April 2017 to undertake environmental enforcement duties across the County Borough.

 

The Chair reminded the Committee that the request to consider this topic had been submitted by Mr Jerry O’Keeffe, Chair of the Audit Committee who then briefly outlined the background to the request.

 

Members considered the report and asked questions of the Lead Member and officers present.  In debate the following matters were highlighted:

 

·         Clarification sought on the level of income received by the Council arising from the contract with Kingdom.  It was reported that in the last financial year the Council had received approximately £11k.

·         Concern was expressed that, as demonstrated in the report, in excess of 90% of FPNs issued related to dropped cigarettes and there was a perception that Kingdom officers were targeting the more easy enforcement cases.  Members requested a change in the balance between cigarette litter and other types of litter and a need for more emphasis on dog fouling enforcement.  The Lead Member responded that Kingdom operated on a ‘no tolerance’ approach and all types of littering and dog control orders would be enforced.  The Lead Member referred to the Keep Wales Tidy All-Wales Local Environmental Audit and Management Systems (LEAMS) report advising that Wrexham reflected the national picture in respect of street cleanliness.  He further offered to circulate a copy of the report to Committee members.

·         Clarification sought as to the level of influence the Council had in setting the priorities for Kingdom officers.  The Lead Member reported that Council officers met regularly with Kingdom officers to review key performance information and to offer targeted information.

·         Dog fouling was identified as a priority but catching instances of this was difficult.

·         Assurance sought that every ward was receiving at least one visit by Kingdom officers per week and it was requested that the balance of enforcement be shifted away from the town centre to the more rural areas.  The officer reported that all wards received  a minimum of one weekly visit and Members were encouraged to share any intelligence that they had to enable targeted enforcement in their wards.  The Lead Member advised that Members could meet with Kingdom officers to discuss ‘hotspot’ areas within their wards for visits.

·         Clarification sought in respect of the use of enforcement on private land and the need to balance its use.  It was reported that this was permitted in accordance with legislation.

·         Concern expressed regarding the current appeals process and requested that an independent person review cases.  The Lead Member reported that the model for appeals met legislative requirements.

·         Accepted that improvements in respect of littering had been realised arising from the contract with Kingdom.

·         Concern expressed that the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 35.

36.

Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation in the Private Rented Sector pdf icon PDF 183 KB

To consider the report of the Lead Member for Place - Housing

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Lead Member for Place – Housing submitted a report (HEP/99/17s) to highlight the pressures in respect of licensing the private rented sector following a request arising from the Committee’s consideration of the Local Housing Strategy.

 

Members considered the report and asked questions of the Lead Member and officers present.  In the ensuing debate the following matters were highlighted:

 

·                    Noted that there had been a reduction in the level of resource from 6.9 FTE to 3.15 FTE dealing with increasing work pressures.  Staff resources had been prioritised to deal with the processing of licences under the 2016 -2021 additional licencing scheme which had resulted in some programmed inspections for licenced properties had been postponed.  However, Members were assured that all licensed properties would have at a minimum of one inspection during the 5 year period and properties were risk assessed to determine the frequency of intervention inspections.

·                    The use of various data sources to cross reference against registered HMOs to highlight possible high risk properties in relation to energy efficiency requirements that may need to be investigated and possible enforcement action taken, and to locate unregistered HMOs.  Members were encouraged to share any local data with the service.

·                    Clarification sought on the number of HMOs that were private student lets.  The officer undertook to circulate this information.

·                    Noted that all rented properties, included properties rented on domestic mortgages, were required to be registered.

·                    Concern of the Committee that the level of staff resources may not be able to adequately sustain the level of service required to locate and regulate private rented properties in Wrexham.

·                    Clarification provided on the spectrum of enforcement action and intervention taken in line with the Council’s enforcement policy against landlords who did not comply with the required standards.

·                    Opposition to the development of a shared service with other Local Authorities in a regional or sub-regional model.

 

AGREED –

 

(i)         That in light of the increasing emphasis from Government on the private rented sector and HMOs it be recommended that we do our utmost to restore the staffing levels to that of 2 years ago and increase the number to deal with the growing workload as outlined in paragraph 4.15 of the report.

 

(ii)        That the Committee express complete opposition to transforming the service to a shared service with other authorities to make financial savings which would lead to a reduction in the number of officers and further reduction in the quality of service provided by the department.

 

(iii)       That the Committee’s thanks to the service for the work that they are undertaking in very difficult circumstances be recorded.