Agenda and draft minutes

Overview Committee
Thursday, 29th August, 2019 6.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Blackdown House, Honiton

Contact: Debbie Meakin  01395 517540 email  dmeakin@eastdevon.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

19.

Public Speaking

Information on public speaking is available online.

Minutes:

Adam Powell, Secretary for the Tiverton and Honiton Constituency Labour Party, read out the following statement:

“On behalf of the Tiverton and Honiton Labour Party I would like to offer some comments and observations on East Devon’s recent Review of Policies on Poverty. The report is obviously a result of detailed research.

Despite East Devon being an affluent region of the U.K., poverty is a real issue, and getting worse.

To quote:

11,956 households having two or more scores for deprivation,

7 wards with more serious deprivation [scores on 3 or 4 measures] in over 100 households,

6344 children growing up in poverty in East Devon,

Half the people in poverty live with someone registered disabled.

 

This is clearly not a credit to our affluent East Devon, that people flock to visit.

 

This report is academic, how many people in this room have experienced:

Not being able to feed their children in the summer holidays,

Not being able to ever afford a family holiday,

Not being able to afford school uniforms,

Not being able to afford to the rent,

Living in damp, housing where the children have no space to do their homework,

Or a case I heard about recently ‘Only being able to afford Weetabix for Sunday lunch for a family of four’.

 

Firstly this review needs an action plan of how to locate these East Devon people who are clearly needing extra help. A law was passed a few weeks ago in Sweden making it illegal to beg on the streets unless you registered on line for a permit to beg. The aim was not to punish beggars, but to make contact so they can be helped. East Devon we need to identify children, families, disabled people, and even working people who are simply, for what ever reason, are not able to afford their basic needs. The data needs joining up; free schools meals registers, ESA [employment support allowance] claimants, etc.

 

Secondly this council has failed in its target to build more truly affordable homes, dry and warm, and spacious enough for human beings not just to survive but to thrive. When we have a secure home we can benefit from good education; from the early years to sixth form and beyond to adult education as well. This can break the cycle of poverty and make society richer.

 

This council has failed to build quality social housing, we have failed to invest in education, the results are a poor society that suffers from physical and mental health prematurely. This is proven, now we need to act.

Many families in poverty are working, individuals holding down two or three low paid jobs are common. These people are not only financially poor, but also short of time to spend with their families. This council needs to positively nudge employers to pay the living wage [at least £10/hour] and champion those that do. East Devon falls short of their own targets on job creation.”

20.

Minutes of the previous meeting held on 25 July 2019 pdf icon PDF 198 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meeting held on the 25 July 2019 were confirmed as a true record.

21.

Declarations of interest

Guidance is available online to Councillors and co-opted members on making declarations of interest.

Minutes:

Minute 25. East Devon Policies on Poverty.

Councillor Ian Hall, Personal, Devon County Councillor.

 

Minute 25. East Devon Policies on Poverty.

Councillor Mike Allen, Personal, Volunteers for local food bank.

 

22.

Matters of urgency

Information on matters of urgency is available online.

Minutes:

There were no matters of urgency.

23.

Confidential/exempt item(s)

To agree any items to be dealt with after the public (including press) have been excluded. There are no items that officers recommend should be dealt with in this way.

Minutes:

There were no items classified in this way.

24.

Council Plan draft pdf icon PDF 155 KB

The Portfolio Holder for Corporate Services will present this draft for discussion.  The committee are asked to provide feedback on the priorities and actions.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman welcomed the Portfolio Holder for Corporate Services to the meeting, to present the emerging draft Council Plan 2020 – 2024.

 

The Portfolio Holder explained the purpose of the plan is to set the strategic priorities for the Council.  Drawing up the plan was a collaborative process, and she welcomed any input on it from the Committee and other councillors present.  The draft plan would also be considered by the Scrutiny Committee, before going to Cabinet on the 30 October, with the final revised version being presented to Council on the 11 December.  She specifically thanked the Strategic Lead Organisational Development, Transformation and Equalities for all her hard work in helping prepare the plan.

 

Questions on the plan, and suggestions for amendments generally, included:

·         Summary information in the plan was based on data held by the Council, and information provided by Exeter University specifically on CO?;

·         That the plan was not sufficiently creative or aspirational;

·         That budget shortfall figures should be consistent through the document

 

Specifically on priority one: outstanding place and environment:

a.    Expand on working with Natural England to include working with East Dorset on a new national park;

b.    What was the latest decision on the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan;

c.    CPRE report wants to build more homes than are needed;

d.    What was meant by promoting open spaces on a commercial basis;

e.    Accessible green space at Cranbrook should be credited to Cranbrook Town Council, not the District;

f.     There is no reference to the playing pitch strategy – suggested that there is reference both to that, and to providing opportunities for sport, culture and leisure as part of preparations for the next Local Plan and the GESP;

g.    Proposals for housing design have drifted and should be a focus for planning

h.    Make specific reference to working with health support groups (there are a number, based in each town and in other areas) across the District, as well as enable links to local community hospitals;

i.      Include cycle paths in future infrastructure, in reference to Cranbrook;

 

In response to the points on priority one: outstanding place and environment:

a.    Building a case for a new national park covering the AONB areas in Dorset and East Devon is expected to take ten years or more, outside the period of the draft plan, and therefore it was deemed sensible to wait for an outcome of the review, before configuring that into a council plan;

b.    No decision has been taken on the GESP; an update report on progress by the new councils on it would be provided to the Strategic Planning Committee in November;

c.    Location of new housing will take into account all evidence, including the CPRE report, as has been set out in previous reports to the Strategic Planning Committee; the GESP and Local Plan are subject to consultation processes;

d.    Events run on council land is what is meant by promoting open spaces on a commercial basis, to help generate additional  ...  view the full minutes text for item 24.

25.

East Devon Policies on Poverty pdf icon PDF 514 KB

Paper prepared by Councillor Mike Allen for discussion by the committee.

Minutes:

Cllr Allen presented his paper to the committee.  His paper outlined how poverty is defined currently, and how a new way of measuring poverty the Department of Work and Pensions takes account of factors other than income.

 

His paper covered the many causes of poverty, and the practical implications for those living in poverty. The paper also covered statistics for the District.

 

He suggested a number of measures that the Council could use to take action on local poverty, which are detailed in the recommendation to Cabinet below.

 

Debate on the item included:

·         Further discussion should take place on the issue when a report prepared by officers was presented to the committee in November, which included the work undertaken to date alongside the Devon Strategic Partnership Group;

·         Data from intelligence already held from council tax and benefit records needed to be presented to get a clear picture of what impact there is on the District;

·         Any measures for alleviating poverty must include helping people with dealing with personal debt;

·         More officer resource should be considered in order to build on work already undertaken by officers in both revenues and benefits, and the housing service, to hep signpost where help could be found;

·         Concentrate on the root causes of poverty and look to educate where possible; including working with housing providers to help identify those who need help;

·         Not enough housing stock is key issue, as is the impact of universal credit;

·         Wait for report in November and consider alongside the proposals in Councillor Allen’s paper.

 

 

 

RECOMMENDED to Cabinet:

that in the preparation of the Council Plan, and subsequent service plans and related budgets, the following proposals on dealing with poverty are taken into account:

1.    Council should have two basic aims, that:-

1.1. No one in East Devon is destitute without immediate help, and

1.2. Nobody is in poverty for more than two years duration.

2.    To achieve this we should address the following key issues:

2.1. Boost incomes and reduce relative housing costs;

2.2. Work with partners to deliver an effective benefit system;

2.3. Deliver actions with Business and Public Sector to improve education standards, raise skills and improve work placements;

2.4. Strengthen families and communities to help those at risk of poverty; and

2.5. Promote long-term economic growth to reduce dependency on agriculture, tourism and catering industries

3.    Cabinet should organise lobbying of Government Policymakers by the Council and with Partners Aimed to improve Welfare, Housing Policy and Employment Law using this report as a basis.

4.    There is now a general power to give financial assistance for home repairs, providing the Council has a published policy for providing such assistance. Council should develop a clear Private Sector Housing strategy which plays a key part in delivering the various duties and powers the Council has regarding housing, such as:

4.1. assessing the quality, condition and management of the housing stock in the private sector

4.2. tackling poor housing conditions and take action where the meet the requirements of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 25.

26.

Review of the Council's Governance Arrangements - update

Minutes:

The Chairman advised the committee that circumstances had prevented a meeting between him and the Portfolio Holder for Transformation, but that work would continue on this issue.

 

An additional meeting for the committee was set for the 17 October 2019 to debate this issue only. Further discussion had also been timetabled in for the scheduled meeting in February 2020.

27.

Overview Forward Plan including update on active scopes pdf icon PDF 114 KB

This item includes a verbal update on the scope for income generation, specifically broadband provision; and the vitality of high streets task and finish forum.

Minutes:

The Chairman updated the committee on two issues:

 

·         High Streets Task and Finish Forum would get underway later in the year, following discussion with the Portfolio Holder Economy in relation to his plans for a wider economic review of key towns of the District. A recently published report by Manchester Metropolitan University on the subject would be circulated to councillors;

·         Broadband work continued, being actioned by Councillor King.  A recent announcement had been made by Government of a Rural Connected Communities competition.

 

The forward plan for the committee was noted.