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Overview & Scrutiny Committee (Communities and Services) Minutes    

Date: Tuesday 26 January 2021       Time: 06:00 PM       Location: Virtual Meeting       Contact:

Attendance Details

Present:Councillor Barry Answer, Councillor Bill Drewett, Councillor Stephen N. Garner, Councillor Ann Norman, Councillor Daniel Redfern, Councillor John Smart, Councillor Sue Swinscoe, Councillor Sidney Walker, Councillor Stuart Wallace, Councillor Sonya Ward
In AttendanceAttendees
In Attendance:Jill Finnesey, David Evans, Paul Dawson, Sally Dilks, Gabriella Wright
ItemDescriptionBackground InformationDecision



None were received.

Proposed as a true record of the meeting by Councillor John Smart and seconded by Councillor Stuart Wallace.

The proposal was accepted by a unanimous show of hands by the Committee.

Minutes accepted as a true record of the meeting.

The report of the Housing Operations Manager was summarised by the Housing Team Leader.
The Committee was advised that on Homefinder there were currently 6842 registered applicants this was a reduction of 1000 in comparison to last year.
Within the 6842 applicants, 500 properties have been let and 700 applicants have been removed from the waiting list after a routine renewal process.
This process includes the applicants being contacted and their details checked to see if they are the same and also to check if they want to remain on the list.
The Officer advised the Committee that currently there were 109 applicants in Band 1- priority need.
This number has been increased by the number of applicants joining the Waiting List with severe medical needs, that require them to be in ground floor flat or bungalow accommodation.
The Committee was advised that there were currently a large number of these types of properties currently having maintenance works completed on them.
There have been a number of updates on the website that have made the process of applying for housing, more efficient and streamlined. Applicants are able to upload eligibility documents and supporting information and for the first time complete a Medical and Welfare Form which previously were all paper based.
The Officer updated the Committee that Homefinder did not advertise for a number of weeks in the initial lockdown. The Officer advised the Committee that properties can be viewed properties virtually. This was introduced to ensure that properties could be viewed during the restrictions and lockdowns in a Covid secure manner.
The Committee was advised about an online triage form for the Homeless which was introduced in early March. This has meant that people could log onto the system and register as homeless without having to visit the Civic.
This also had positive benefits as the team were able to review the homeless applications, more quickly and ensure that those in the most need were helped first.
The Committee was advised that the Housing Needs Service, was still receiving over 2000 enquiries each year. This is despite the Covid regulations related to Possession Hearings, the same number of people are coming though as homeless. Over the last 12 months the team have taken over 800 cases. 54 homeless decisions have been taken with 36 having a statutory duty on the local authority to re-house these people.
The vast majority of applicants remain in their current accommodation or have been offered alternative accommodation in the private sector, supported sector or social housing prior to any homeless decision needing to be made.
The Committee was informed of an Everyone in Policy – this was a result of the Government legislation that put a duty on authorities remove all rough sleepers off the streets and place them into accommodation.
The Officer advised that during the first week of the initial lockdown 20 rough sleepers were placed into accommodation. The majority of these rough sleepers were found move on accommodation and still remain there. The Majority are working towards being rehomed by the authority in the future.
The Officer updated the Committee on the recently introduced First Steps Programme with Action housing. This is where the authority are looking to place rough sleepers with support being provided by Action Housing.
This was funded by a successful application to the Ministry of Housing. There are currently 8 places that are in use. This accommodation does not just comprise of Mansfield District Council, it also incorporates accommodation from some of the Homefinder partners and other Housing Associations.
The Officer reported that the updated figures on rough sleepers indicated that there was only one in Mansfield according to the count that was completed. This was in comparison to 22 in November 2019, and 7 prior to the Winter Night Shelter which opened in December.
The Officer advised the Committee that the Winter Night Shelter started on 7 December 2020. Usually this had been achieved by working with Churches to provide accommodation. However, this year because of Covid there was a directive not to provide any type of dormitory accommodation.
There were 6 places in the YMCA for rough sleepers The YMCA support staff concentrate on support with the residents at the temporary winter provision and with their move on plans.
The Committee was informed that SWEP (Severe Weather Emergency Provision) was deployed twice. These procedures come into effect when the weather temperatures drop to zero or below for 3 consecutive nights. 4 rough sleepers were housed under SWEP approximately 2 weeks ago and in the last period of SWEP that was running until the morning of 26 January there was just one rough sleeper accommodated under SWEP.
The Hospital Discharge System was reported as still in operation, this system offers help and advice to anyone who is going to be discharged from hospital or will be discharged as homeless. So far this year 60 people have been assisted by this scheme.
The Assist Team are also still delivering Outpatient medication out as part of the NHS Hospital Trust and checks are still being carried out on properties to ensure where a person is to be released from the hospital that their accommodation is safe and fits their needs.
Councillor Barry Answer queried if there was a programme in place to reduce the number of voids currently at 170.
The Member stated that he felt that the ability to view properties online was a real benefit and that he felt that this practice should continue to do this wherever possible in the future.
The Member further queried the SWEP arrangements that finished on 26 January 2021, where 1 rough sleeper was found in need of accommodation and asked if the Manor Hotel, Mansfield was still being used for this purpose.
The Officer responded that with regards to the 170 void properties. That the situation was being reviewed to see if additional support from partners could be used to do assist in clearing the backlog of repairs.
The Officer informed the Committee that the 170 Voids figure had been slightly inflated due to the Fire Stopping Works that were being completed in the Void Properties. The Officer explained that the fire stopping works were used to add a layer of protection between properties to prevent the spread of fire from one flat to another.
The Fire Stopping Works are now going to be completed as Programme Works. There are currently 79 properties out of the 170 that require these works.
The Officer advised that the use of video viewing started back in March 2020 and the Officer agreed that it was possibly a way forward. Potentially advertising the properties on the website so that potential applicants can view it when it was advertised could make the process more efficient for the applicant.
The Officer confirmed that Mansfield Manor is still being used for the SWEP accommodation.
Councillor Sonya Ward commended the team for the work that they are doing. Then asked if homelessness had actually increased since the initial phase to get people housed through the pandemic.
The Officer responded that they are still having the same results that they have seen every year of between 2000 and 2500 people a year. The Officer advised the Committee that although the Section 21 notices being served give 6 months’ notice prior to eviction. The shock of being given their notice prompts people to contact the Housing Needs team. It has therefore not slowed down applications.
The Member queried the number of rough sleepers and what the situation was now. Is it still lower than before the pandemic?
The Office responded that it was. A lot of work was completed to support the rough sleepers to demonstrate that with good standards of behaviour in terms of their license agreement the authority would look to move them on to alternative accommodation. The Officer advised that there had been very few failures, as most people wanted to engage. Only approximately 3 have returned back to the streets.
There was a unanimous show of hands to accept the report for noting.

Briefing Paper
Report accepted for noting

The Interim Environmental Health Manager advised the Committee that the purpose of the report was to provide the Committee with a brief overview of the Environmental Health and the Dog Control Service. Also to provide a summary of the recent service activity.
The Officer advised that Committee that the Environmental Health Service comprised of three teams which included the Environmental Public Protection Team, the Food and Health and Safety Team and a small team of support officers.
The Environmental Public Protection Team undertake nuisance complaints and investigations on waste on land, noise, smoking chimneys, bon fires, light pollution, air quality monitoring within the district, the undertaking of contaminated land infection reviews, this team also investigates companies that if they were to fail could cause significant pollution such as Cement batch, car re-sprayers and petrol stations. There is also a Dog Control Service as part of the Environmental Public Protection Team.
The Food Safety Team deal with issues related to food safety issues and health and safety issues, they investigate infectious disease controls that include Covid 19 investigations and enforcement. They also investigate food poisoning cases.
The Dog Services picks up the stray dogs that are in the district, investigate dog fouling on the streets and provide dog related advice and education.
Since March 2019 the Dog Service approach changed in line with guidance however, the service has continued to be provided whilst the teams have worked remotely.
Visits and inspections have continued, the team has fully implemented bubble working arrangements so that the team could continue to provide a resilient service for the community.
The Officer provided an overview of the activity over the past year. The Environmental Public Protection Team has continued to investigate numerous complaints. A Noise App was introduced late 2019. This has proven to be a very useful tool in proving noise pollution related issues. The team have been able to continue with the noise investigations during the Covid pandemic. This has been helped by the ability of the public to record a lot of the information on line through the website.
There have been 887 complaints regarding nuisance related issues. The Annual Air Quality Status Reports have been completed. The Committee was advised that the Air Quality within the district remains good.
The Food and Health and Safety Team have continued to respond to complaints about food safety and carried out inspections where necessary.
Due to the pandemic there have been delays within the Court system, some cases have been progressed to Court and others are awaiting a Court date.
The Department also carried out observations for exhumations in the Cemetery.
The Dog Control Service has continued to collect any stray dogs and has remained operational 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Due to microchipping legislation and people staying more at home, the authority has been able to reunite a lot more owners with their dogs and not had to have them placed in to the authority’s kennelling facilities. The authority received the RSPCA Four Print Award in 2020.
The main activity service in conjunction with the Licensing Team, Environmental Public Protection and Food Health and Safety Team has involved responding to the Covid pandemic.
A lot of advice has been provided to the business sectors, business inspections have taken place ensure that the business have complied with the legislative changes and that they are working in a Covid secure manner i.e. maintaining social distancing, hand sanitiser stations etc., where it has been necessary enforcement action has been taken when businesses have failed to comply with the legislation.
The team have also investigated a series of Covid related outbreaks which were mainly in work place settings. The team have been working closely with the Police, Public Health England and Nottinghamshire County Council Public Health Team. We have also worked very closely with internal partners Community Safety, Marketing and Communications and Emergency Planning.
Councillor Stuart Wallace queried how the process of Air Quality Monitoring was completed?
The Officer responded that there were two methods of assessment, there is a real-time analyser which is in Pleasley. This is based on pollution from cars that is downloaded. The information provides 15 minute averages, hourly averages and weekly averages and this data can be accessed and analysed to provide reports.
There are also a series of diffusion tubes that collect NOx which is also related to traffic pollution. There are 23 locations around the district which are sited on the busiest main roads, with close proximity to housing. A calculation will be made on how close the housing is to the road to make the assessment. All of the areas of high pollution are covered. There is a downward trend particularly over recent months of the pollution levels improving which is good news.
Councillor Sidney Walker stated that he had received a lot of complaints from registered Scrap dealers who have reported that people who are not registered are walking onto peoples gardens and taking items. This is happening particularly In Clipstone and Forest Town. It appears that there aren’t any checks on these.
The Officer responded that this is within the remit of the Licensing Team which do are within Environmental Health. The Officer requested that details of this to be emailed to her. This would then be passed onto the Licensing Team for investigation.
Councillor Walker responded that he would pass the information of the Licensing Team Leader.
The Head of Health and Wellbeing stated that as soon as any Member has been made aware of any issue that this should be reported immediately so that it can be dealt with as quickly as possible.
Councillor Walker advised that he had only been made aware of this today and that he would contact Suzie Best tomorrow.
Councillor Barry Answer queried how many businesses have been visited to check for Covid secure measures and the Member wanted to know if any enforcement action has had to be taken against companies not providing Covid secure measures?
The Officer responded that at this time the data was not available to report the exact number. Some of the inspections have resulted from observations for example where people are not observing socially distant measures when queuing outside a premises.
When the Town Centre opens and the legislation changes further visits will be carried out. The Officer advised that the figures were available if it is needed.
Covid Marshalls are also now completing some inspections of premises also.
The Officer advised the Committee that some enforcement action had taken place for non-wearing of face masks in Barbers, Cafes that have allowed people to eat indoors and also against a gym that was open when it should have been closed.
We continue to monitor this and work closely with the Police and Trading Standards to ensure that there is a consistent enforcement approach and that it is the most appropriate agency that takes the required action.
Councillor Sonya Ward extended her thanks to the team as they have been on the front line with Covid 19. The Member advised that she had, had occasion to contact Environmental Health on quite a few occasions and every time the response has been really fast and efficient.
The Member had a query related to the Dog Service as the Member had noticed that in the past there had been photographs of stray dogs on the Mansfield District website and My Mansfield Facebook. During lockdown this has appeared to have stopped. What is happening to the dogs that have been picked up during the Pandemic? The Member was aware that rescue centres have been closed during the pandemic.
The Officer responded that both the Dog Service and the Kennels have continued to operate throughout the pandemic. I am pleased to say that there has not been much need to put dogs into Kennels as there have not been as many stray dogs as usual.
Unfortunately initially the photographing of dogs did stop and the beginning of the lockdown however, this service has been reinstated. Since the reinstatement of the service only 1 dog has been collected and put into kennels.

The Chair stated that 887 complaints were reported. How does this compare with last year? Have there been more since Covid? Is there any data on this?
The Officer responded that there was an influx of noise complaints when we first went into lockdown around March 2020. The authority changed the approach slightly on how this was dealt with, as because there had to be an understanding that people were now working from home so what was not normally considered as a potential nuisance now had to be considered. However, aside from the peaks and troughs, numbers have remained consistent over the years.
The Chair stated that he had received many complaints regarding Dog Fouling on the streets. The Chair felt that there appeared to be more fouling since the lockdown than before and queried it this was the case.
The Officer advised that the data was not within the report. The Officer advised that the figures could be provided to the Committee if required.
That this was an issue that is a persistent issue around the district, and the service will be reviewed to find more innovative ways to deal with dog fouling
The Chair responded that this was just a general question related to the number of complaints that he had received.
A unanimous show of hands accepted the report for noting

Briefing Paper
Report accepted for noting.
Published 02/03/2021 11:44:17