Agenda and draft minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Board
Wednesday, 15th January, 2020 2.00 pm

Venue: Town Hall, Scarborough

Contact: Sandip Mahajan 

Items
No. Item

1.

Declarations of Interest pdf icon PDF 81 KB

Members are reminded of the need to consider whether they have a disclosable pecuniary, prejudicial or other (personal) interest to declare in any items on this agenda. Details of any interest must be declared at the start of the meeting or as soon as any interest becomes apparent during the meeting. The attached form must also be completed. Any advice required should ideally be sought before the day of the meeting.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest made.

2.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 146 KB

To approve as a correct record, and sign, the minutes of the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting held on 30 October 2019. 

Minutes:

Resolved - That the minutes of the meeting held on 30 October 2019 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman. 

 

3.

Public Questions

To consider any public questions submitted, of which due notice has been given, and which are relevant to the business of the Overview and Scrutiny Board.

Minutes:

There were no public questions received but the Chair reported that there had been good interest which was very welcome and comments received on car parking, gulls management and public toilets had been circulated to members.

4.

Update on Residents' Car Parking Discount Scheme and Proposed Review of Fees and Charges pdf icon PDF 591 KB

Progress report reviewing first half-year of residents’ discount scheme - operation, budgetary impact, any proposed changes; and request for review on fees and charges for 2020-21. Note - report to follow.

Minutes:

Jane Wilson, Car Parking Manager provided an interim six-month update on the residents’ car parking discount scheme. At the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting on 12 November 2018, Members had endorsed introduction of the scheme initially on a one-year trial basis for the 2019-20 financial year (April 2019 to end March 2020). They had requested an interim update prior to a comprehensive update in mid-2020, i.e. after the scheme had run for a full year.

 

Residents who requested the free discount pass would get 20% off short stay car parking charges (1-4 hour parking). Based on actual parking machine transactions, assuming residents made up 60% of transactions and visitors 40%, and that most residents did take up the pass then it had been estimated that the 20% discount would equate to around £50,000 lost income. Introduction of the scheme also required various one-off admin and set-up costs (e.g. signage) which had been estimated to be around £35,000, i.e. £85,000 total cost for the first year and then £50,000 thereafter if the scheme continued.

 

Members had been asked to consider introduction of winter charges in some car parks where winter charges did not exist to fund the discount costs. They endorsed introduction of the discount pass but not the charges at that time.

 

Jane Wilson reported that 1,935 residents had taken up the pass to date (nine months into the scheme). This amounted to approximately 1.5% of residents. This meant the lost income due to the 20% parking discount only amounted to £2,500. Taking into account general increases in fees and charges which other residents and visitors were paying then the budget outturn for parking overall was a surplus of £70,000 after the first six months and forecast to be £90,000 for the year end, i.e. the initial shortfall of £85,000 had not materialised as a cost pressure.

 

Members welcomed the useful report and suggested that more effective ongoing publicity was needed, e.g. social media to promote awareness of the residents’ discount pass. They recognised that this had taken place when the scheme was launched and that people still might not take note of publicity.  The full year report later in the year might cover other aspects such as improved working with the on-street parking authority, North Yorkshire County Council.

 

Members were also informed that the request for Overview and Scrutiny to set up a short ‘task and finish’ car parking review group to make recommendations on parking fees and charges for the new financial year, 2020-21 had been superseded by the Council’s budget-setting process for 2020-21 having already commenced. Therefore it was proposed that, a review could take place later in the year looking at fees and charges for the 2021-22 financial year.

 

Members would also consider the potential for a review covering a wider scope, e.g. environmental impacts. Some initial suggestions including promoting awareness of parking being free in the evenings after 18.00, setting charges in both in peak and off-season which promoted visitor numbers to help boost local  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Review of the Selective Licensing Designation of Private Rented Accommodation in parts of the Castle and North Bay Ward pdf icon PDF 315 KB

To consider the work and effectiveness of the two Selective Licensing Designation areas undertaken in July 2017 and June 2019 and in order to help inform development of the next proposed designation area.

Minutes:

Andrew Rowe, Housing Manager provided a progress report on the effectiveness of the existing two Selective Licensing areas and consultation on a proposed third area for designation.

 

He outlined the national legislation which gave local authorities powers to designate areas for selective licensing for a period of five years. Proposed areas needed to meet essential criteria, e.g. poor quality of private sector housing for rentals, significant deprivation, anti-social behaviour or migration issues. The range of issues were often common in coastal towns which usually had houses of multiple occupation (HMOs), older housing stock and other social challenges. Some optional criteria was allowed as part of the licensing process, e.g. requiring a landlord to be a ‘fit and proper’ person.

 

The primary aims of selective licensing were to improve the condition of this private sector housing thereby the quality of tenants’ lives and where possible the wider local environment. Private landlords were required to register under the scheme, be inspected and comply with any reasonable improvements requested. Failure to do so would lead to appropriate enforcement action and eight landlords had been prosecuted locally.

 

Applicants had to pay a registration fee of £550 with additional charges for landlords with multiple properties, discounts were offered for early payment etc. Digital applications were promoted resulting in a streamlined process.

 

A challenging area of work was identifying private properties and landlords as no register had existed. Useful information had been secured establishing that there were far more private rentals and landlords than previously thought.

 

Significant income had been raised which was more than expected mainly due to the number of rentals and landlords unearthed. This income needed to be for improvement purposes intended through licences to cover costs of the selective licensing service but not for profit. Proactively securing improvements was a primary benefit and a much better approach than previously when action was reactive and dependent on tenants complaining. In addition, a small budget of £20,000 existed for local area environmental improvements which could help tackle issues such as fly-tipping and litter for wider area benefit.

 

The selective licensing initiatives to date concerned Scarborough Town and nearby areas. The first designation had been introduced in mid-2017 as ‘Scarborough North’ and 540 licences had been issued to date. Inspections had resulted in 700 category one hazards being identified which were mainly due to age of properties and failure to maintain/improve properties over time. These hazards included poor heating, damp and safety issues and prompt improvement was required otherwise appropriate enforcement action would be pursued. So far, 250 (35%) of the hazards had been resolved. In addition, another 4,000 lower level improvements needed had been identified.

 

Partnership working was a key element of the inspections which were jointly undertaken with the Community Impact Team (local community safety partnership) comprising of the police and fire services. The partnership approach extended to working with landlords. The register and network of landlords was growing so it was possible to share advice and best practice. Landlords were more confident  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Local Gull Populations and Public Safety Project - Evaluation of Action Plan in 2019 and Proposed Action Plan for 2020 pdf icon PDF 285 KB

To provide feedback on the Action Plan delivered in 2019 and agree an Action Plan the Council can take forward into 2020 to continue addressing the ongoing public safety/health issues caused by the local gulls population.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Jonathan Bramley, Environment and Regulation Manager presented a report on rolling actions to control local herring gulls and kittiwakes in terms of public nuisance. Overview and Scrutiny received annual updates and had endorsed the Action Plan for 2019 which was being reported upon and support was also sought for the proposed 2020 Plan.

 

The Council had been operating a ‘disruption and dispersal’ programme for three years (removing herring gull eggs and nests during the April to August breeding season) delivered by an environmental health contractor, NBC Environment, around the most populous town centres of Scarborough, Whitby and Filey.

 

The programme had been part of a wider Action Plan to manage and minimise the impact of local gull populations on people and properties. Other measures considered were educational awareness of issues to people particularly schools and takeaway businesses. Some work had taken place with schools in 2019 and previously including developing a wider understanding of wild birds, e.g. with birds of prey displays. The local town council at Whitby has also been involved in some of the schools work.

 

Due to finite resources, one action had not been delivered in 2019 to encourage takeaway businesses to promote ‘do not feed gulls or litter’ messages on chip boxes. However, some businesses had developed initiatives, e.g. messages on (environmentally-friendly) chip boxes.

 

Members had also considered outcomes of a Hull University research study in 2018 which had been commissioned to review local habits and programme impact actions. This had been inconclusive due to changing climatic conditions (‘unseasonal’ extreme weather) so it had not been possible to substantiate programme effectiveness. A second round of research had been undertaken in 2019 and a copy of the report was available for Members.

 

The gull management budget was £36,000 to support delivery of the Action Plan. The focus of this year’s Plan was to increase public communications and awareness messages and introduce targeted street cleansing of herring gull and kittiwake mess. Jonathan Bramley added that another proposed action had emerged for offering businesses an option to request netting / fire gel to ‘proof’ their buildings against kittiwakes / herring gulls. This would be on a ‘match’ funded basis, e.g. costs shared on a 50/50 basis. This would be subject to sufficient budget remaining from the £32,000 budget of which an under-spend was forecast. The service would be provided on behalf of the Council by an external contractor. Demand for this service option and projected costs had not been modelled yet so endorsement in principle was sought subject to officers undertaking viability work before, if viable, proceeding,

 

Online reporting of herring gull ‘muggings’ (incidents) had been introduced in 2016 which helped record numbers and details of incidents. The total numbers in 2019 were lower than previous reporting years which may have been higher due to increasing awareness of the reporting mechanism from 2016. The Chair of the South Bay Traders Association had circulated to the Board, views that gulls remained an issue needing management and that educational awareness  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Draft Public Toilets Strategy pdf icon PDF 229 KB

To comment upon the draft Public Toilets Strategy. Note - report to follow.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Paul Thompson, Operations Manager presented the draft Public Toilets Strategy. He described public toilets (commonly referred to as public conveniences) as an essential public amenity for people of all ages whether residents, visitors or working/studying.

 

Public toilets were a discretionary service which historically local councils did choose to provide but in recent times this had varied with budget pressures, demand, disuse/disrepair and anti-social behaviour. These factors had been the subject of various reviews into public toilets provision across the Borough.

 

Public feedback generally supported having public toilets for health and wellbeing for people of all ages particularly for the Borough’s sizable elderly population and also for tourists given the value of the local visitor economy. Free or low charges were often quoted too.

 

Paul Thompson noted that the market had changed and there was voluntary and private sector provision, e.g. free usage by cafes, alongside the wider public sector such as parish councils and the National Park. However, the Council was still the main local provider with its own portfolio of thirty toilets. He added that these needed to be maintained properly to a good standard.

 

The key strategic themes were to provide public toilets which were sustainable; accessible and well designed; and ensured good equitable and sign-posted network coverage across the Borough. Best practice had been explored to help develop the Strategy, e.g. a toolkit to support effective decision making on any future provision. The Strategy would have in-built flexibility to adapt to future demand and changing needs.

 

The proposed Strategy outlined a comprehensive ten year programme of investment, refurbishment and maintenance across the Borough. This included the headline findings of a full condition audit into the thirty toilets by consultants tabling the current condition (usability) of each, works required and urgency (short, medium or long-term) and costs.

 

Paul Thompson explained that £1.1million investment was proposed for the first two years of the Strategy, £400,000 for years 3-4 and £300,000 in year 5, i.e. £1.8m in all. In due course, it was hoped that long-term sustainability would take over with good savings on revenue (running) costs.

 

Members had received comments from residents and local ward members who requested that they should be consulted concerning specific local provision to help ensure that their knowledge supported effective decisions. Some specific local toilets, e.g. one on Marine Drive, not owned by the Council, were not part of the proposed Strategy so local ward members requested they were considered. 

 

The Board welcomed the Strategy and that no closures were planned instead improving upon the existing asset base. Members noted the need to ensure revenue and other costs were manageable and that best value for money should be continually sought. Furthermore, that the budget implications of no charges to use public toilets needed to be properly considered during budget discussions. Paul Thompson confirmed that there the revenue budget was robust and value for money would be secured through open tendering etc.

 

The Board felt that the Strategy presented robust, sustainable and quality long-term provision  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Overview and Scrutiny Board Work Programme and Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 381 KB

To review the Board’s current Work Programme and the Cabinet Forward Plan.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Board considered its Work Programme for 2019/20.

 

Under the gull management item earlier in the agenda, a potential scrutiny review of the issues had been suggested.

 

Concerns were raised about the performance of the two local train operators, Northern Rail and Trans Pennine Express, and the severe impact this was having on residents commuting to work and visitors. Members were informed that officers had meetings with the operators and that a briefing note would initially be prepared for members before any further considerations.

 

Resolved - That the Work Programme was approved as presented subject to the addition of a potential scrutiny review on gull management and any Board consideration of the performance and service of the two local train operators, Northern Rail and Trans Pennine Express.