Agenda and minutes

Vibrant and Sustainable City Scrutiny Panel - Thursday, 26th November, 2020 6.00 pm

Venue: Via Microsoft Teams

Contact: Martin Stevens  Email: martin.stevens@wolverhampton.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

[To receive any apologies for absence]. 

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Cllr Christopher Haynes, Cllr Beverley Momenabadi and Cllr Bhupinder Gakhal.

 

Cllr Jacqueline Sweetman sent her apologies in her capacity as the Cabinet Member for City Assets and Housing. 

2.

Declarations of interest

[To receive any declarations of interest]. 

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest. 

3.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 474 KB

[To approve the minutes of the previous meeting as a correct record].

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meeting held on 24 September 2020 were confirmed as a correct record. 

4.

Matters arising

[To consider any matter arising from the minutes].

Minutes:

There were no matters arising from the minutes of the previous meeting.

5.

Draft Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2021-2022 to 2023-2024 pdf icon PDF 551 KB

[To receive a report on the draft Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2021-2022 to 2023-2024]. 

 

[Report is marked: To Follow]

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Finance Business Partner introduced the report on the Draft Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2021-2022 to 2023-2024.  They were asking the Scrutiny Panel to provide feedback on the Budget relevant to the Panel’s remit and how it was aligned to the priorities of the Council.  In addition, they were asking for feedback on the Draft Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2021-2022 to 2023-2024.  The Panel’s response would then be submitted to Scrutiny Board and then onward to Cabinet.  

 

The Finance Business Partner commented that the Draft Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2021-2022 to 2023-2024 was appended to the main report.  It was different this year as there was a focus on the response to Covid-19.   It detailed the costs of Covid-19 for the year and the projected financial implications for the medium term, this was alongside the grants that had been received.  It considered the next steps the Council would need to implement in order to address the financial pressures faced by the Council.  The report also set out the “Relighting our City” agenda and explained the transition from the response to the recovery phase of the pandemic.  There was an assumption in the report that the Council were expecting the Government to provide sufficient grant funding to cover the cost of Covid-19.  The forecast deficit with this assumption for 2021-2022 was £4.5 million rising to over £19.6 million over the medium term.  Savings to help fill this gap were currently being considered by Directorates.  If grants were not received to meet the pressures of Covid-19, the deficit would be significantly more and could rise to £23.2 million in 2021-2022, increasing to over £40 million over the medium term. 

 

The Finance Business Partner remarked that on the previous day the Spending Review had been announced in Parliament.  There were some indications that the Council would receive additional funding to help cover the costs of Covid-19, but they were still assessing the implications of the announcement for the Budget moving forward. 

 

The Director for City Environment presented a slide on the key strategies and priorities of the directorate.  He made reference to the Climate Change Action Plan, the Council had adopted the Climate Change emergency proposals earlier in the year.  They would be working on the action plan and bring updates to Cabinet and Council in the coming months.  The Director referred to the Waste Transformation Programme, the Waste Service had been brought back in house over two years ago.  This had resulted in a much improved service being delivered to Wolverhampton residents and in particular over the last 10-11 months.  They would be addressing in the future how the Waste Service could become more integrated with Street Scene and street cleansing.  This would link with the Street Scene and Open Space Action Plans.  Environment and Commercial regulation meant they were able when necessary to enforce the law, when other measures had not been successful. 

 

The Director for City Environment stated that they would be bringing forward  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Housing and Connectivity pdf icon PDF 583 KB

[To receive a briefing note on Housing and Connectivity].

Minutes:

The Service Manager for Housing Strategy and Policy introduced a presentation on the subject of Housing and Connectivity.  The Council owned 22,000 residential properties across the City which were managed by Wolverhampton Homes and four tenant management organisations.  Wolverhampton Homes were the largest management agent.  Homes in the City had taken online applications forms for properties since 2009.  Since 2019 applicants had needed to have an email address to use the system.  A range of support was available to people applying for homes in the City.  There were step-by-step guides and signposts to agencies who could provide face-to-face support.  A total of 96% of property bids were made online.  The number of online bids had increased by 17% from 2018-2019.  There was a range of support available to customers who did not want to bid online.  Support was available for people with sight and hearing disabilities.  Language support was also available.   A range of improvements were planned including addressing how easy it was for people to understand the application form and how people applied online. 

 

The Service Manager for Housing Strategy and Policy remarked that only 11-13% of housing tenants reported housing repairs online which was approximately 500 per month.  Primarily housing repairs had been reported via the telephone.  During the first Covid-19 pandemic lockdown the online reporting function had been turned off.  This was to ensure that the tenants were able to be spoken to over the telephone to determine if a repair was possible in lockdown, that there were operatives available and that no one in the household was exhibiting symptoms.  The target for online repairs reporting to increase was a long-term one.  The target for next year, 2021-2022 had been set at 12%.  Wolverhampton Homes were continuing to invest in their online platforms and new interactive repairs reporting.

 

The Service Manager for Housing Strategy and Policy commented that Housing Options and Homelessness was a statutory function of the Council, which was delegated to Wolverhampton Homes to deliver.  Housing options and Homelessness had never had a digital platform, it was accessed via the telephone or face-face contact.  During the lockdown the service had to change because they weren’t able to deliver face-to-face services.  It had very rapidly moved online.  Documents had been submitted via email or via What’s App.  She had heard that this service had gone very well, but there would be a need to reinstate face-to-face services for some people in the future. 

 

The Service Manager for Housing Strategy and Policy stated that Wolverhampton Homes, every two years, conducted a Star Survey with a range of customer satisfaction questions.  For last Summer there had been over 2000 responses to the survey.  80% of tenants had listed the telephone as their preferred method of contact with Wolverhampton Homes. 10% had favoured the website and web chat with 4% favouring social media.  51% of tenants did use the internet for a variety of purposes such as internet shopping or banking.  This statistic indicated that there was potential to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Work Programme for the Vibrant and Sustainable City Scrutiny Panel pdf icon PDF 613 KB

[To consider the Work Programme for the Vibrant and Sustainable City Scrutiny Panel]. 

Minutes:

The Scrutiny Officer spoke on the Work Programme for the Vibrant and Sustainable City Scrutiny Panel.  He commented that the scrutiny theme for the year was how digital could be used to improve the lives of the residents of Wolverhampton.  For each item scrutiny considered it was important to relate this theme to the item.  For the next meeting of the Panel in January, the Panel had chosen to look at Transport in a connected City and feedback from the pilot on e-scooters by the WMCA.  In March, the Panel had chosen to look at the environment in a connected City and to receive a statement from the Portfolio Holder, where questions could be asked to the Portfolio Holder about his portfolio. 

 

The Scrutiny Officer stated that the Work Programme was a live document and could be adjusted as appropriate.  The Chair and Vice-Chair were keen to hear from the Panel Members on any information they would like to be included for the January and March items. 

 

A Panel Member spoke on the important issue of air quality and added that the carbon footprint of the Council would also be good to consider.  The Director added that he would be happy to speak to the Panel Member to obtain more details about the information he was seeking on the carbon footprint for the March item on the environment. 

 

The Vice Chair added that fleet procurement would be valuable to include for the item on Transport in January 2021. 

8.

Future Meeting Dates

The future meeting dates of the Panel are as follows:-

 

28 January 2021 at 6pm

 

25 March 2021 at 6pm

Minutes:

The future meeting dates of the Panel were confirmed as follows:-

 

28 Janaury 2021 at 6pm

 

25 March 2021 at 6pm

 

The meeting closed at 7:20pm.