Venue: Via Microsoft Teams (Virtual Meeting)
Contact: Martin Stevens Email: email@example.com
Apologies for absence were received from Cllr Christopher Haynes and Cllr Martin Waite.
Declarations of interest
There were no declarations of interest.
[To approve the minutes of the previous meeting as a correct record]
The minutes of the previous meeting held on 30 January 2020 were approved as a correct record.
[To consider any matter arising from the minutes]
The Vice Chair stated that at the last meeting of the Panel, there had been some recommendations made regarding the Housing Allocations Policy. The Panel had asked for further analysis on the implications of the removal of the Local Connection clause and feedback and analysis from the formal consultation process in respect to the proposed removal of the clause. He asked if the Director could bring this information to the next meeting of the Panel. The Director for City Environment stated that he was more than happy to circulate the requested information before the date of the next meeting and if there were any questions arising from this information, they could be answered at the next meeting of the Panel.
[To receive a presentation from the Director of City Environment on the areas that fall within the remit of the Panel relating to the Council’s response to the Covid-19 Crisis and Plans for Recovery].
The Director for City Environment gave a presentation on the Directorate’s response to the Covid-19 crisis and the plans for recovery. He thanked all the staff and teams across the City Environment Directorate for their work during the pandemic. The key focus had been to maintain the frontline services. A major priority had been to ensure public and employee safety. Key checks and risk assessments taking into account all the relevant national guidance had been undertaken. They used their work they had completed on business continuity to consider which services could still continue. They had at one point closed the HWRCs (Household Waste and Recycling Centre) and markets and suspended bulky waste collections based on a wide range of considerations around Public Health and the safety of staff and residents.
The Director for City Environment commented that as part of the shielding programme they had identified the residents which needed extra support during the pandemic. On 23 March 2020 they had launched the “Stay Safe, Be Kind” hotline. This hotline was crucial for vulnerable residents and provided support such as for emergency food parcels, help with shopping and medication and debt advice. The Food Hub had been setup at Aldersley Leisure Village and was officially launched on 31 March 2020. Staff had been redeployed to work at the food hub from across different Council departments. Considerable thought had been given to the food parcels nutritional content to ensure residents could maintain a healthy diet during the pandemic. In total 1.2 million meals were delivered by the Food Hub to approximately 7,500 people who were shielding. They had also supported the City food banks and 800-1000 food parcels were now being delivered.
The Director for City Environment remarked that a crucial workstream had been supporting vulnerable homeless people. Within 72 hours a new hostel had been established within the City. Over 150 people had been supported, with 100 of those successfully supported into appropriate, safe and suitable accommodation. The hostel had been a good example of partnership working and considerable learning had been taken on board for future years.
The Director for City Environment stated that there had been 230,000 customer service contacts since the start of March. The entire contact centre staff of 103 employees had been working remotely. The phone call abandoned rate was at 5% which was far better than their target of 15%. The markets had begun reopening from the 9 May in a three phased approach. The crucial part of re-opening the markets had been to ensure that correct social distancing measures had been put in place. Occupancy and footfall to the markets was continuing to increase.
The Director for City Environment remarked that all general, recycling and green waste had continued throughout the pandemic. The passenger transport service had supported the crews to ensure the waste collection workers were kept safe, meaning they did not all have to travel together in the same cabin. The HWRCs had been closed but reopened on 11 May and ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
[For Scrutiny Panel Members to receive a presentation on “Connected City” and for a discussion to take place about a future Work Programme for the Panel].
The Scrutiny and Systems Manager gave a presentation on “Connected City” and the Work Programme for the Vibrant and Sustainable City Scrutiny Panel. Scrutiny Board had met on the 14 July 2020 and had agreed a cross cutting Connectivity and Digital Theme for all the Scrutiny Panels for the remainder of the municipal year. For all items added to the Work Programme, Scrutiny Board had requested that connectivity and digital considerations should form part of the discussion. The outcomes and recommendations from all Panels would then be reported to Scrutiny Board to unify into one comprehensive report based on a Connected City Theme. The report and any recommendations could then be submitted to Cabinet for consideration. Some good questions for the Panel to consider, she suggested were as follows: -
How do we use and engage connectivity and digital means to help support:
· The creation of vibrant highstreets
· Good and sustainable housing
· A well connected and sustainable transport system
· Our existing community assets (and to continue to progress them)
· Climate and environmental concerns and issues
· Becoming a digital and cultural hub for the West Midlands
· A vibrant and sustainable City that is fit for future generations.
When considering adding items to the work programme she felt it important to ask the following questions: -
1) Does it link to the agreed Connected City theme?
2) Is the issue in the public interest?
3) Can Scrutiny add value by looking at it?
4) Where is the evidence to support looking at this issue?
5) Can we evidence impact?
6) Is there a change to National Policy?
7) Does it affect citizens across the City?
8) Are there performance concerns?
9) Is it a safety issue?
The Vice Chair suggested air quality as an item for consideration for the Work Programme and specifically how that could be linked to the new LED light programme and other air monitoring digital devices to monitor the effectiveness of new measures on the environment.
A Member of the Panel commented that some people did not have adequate digital provision in their households. It was important to address these issues. Another Member of the Panel added that some people’s digital skills had vastly improved during the course of the pandemic because they had been forced to adapt. This was clearly a positive step, it was however important to ensure the health and wellbeing of the citizens of Wolverhampton. The lack of social contact, increased screen time and more isolation was undoubtedly having an impact.
The Vice Chair suggested for the housing item planned for the next meeting, whether there was merit in addressing how people applied for housing online. The Director responded that access to housing services online could be included as part of a discussion document for the next meeting. He thought it was important to focus on digital and connectivity for the items moving forward into the municipal year. He agreed with Members comments that staff wellbeing was very important particularly given the likelihood of ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
Future Meeting Dates
The future meetings dates of the Vibrant and Sustainable City Scrutiny Panel are as follows :-
26 November 2020 at 6pm
28 January 2021 at 6pm
25 March 2021 at 6pm
The future meeting dates of the Panel were confirmed as follows:-
26 November 2020 at 6pm
28 January 2021 at 6pm
25 March 2021 at 6pm
The Chair thanked Officers and Members for their contributions to the meeting.
The meeting closed at 7:22pm.