Venue: Council Chamber, Rushcliffe Arena, Rugby Road, West Bridgford. View directions
Declarations of Interest
There were no declarations of interest.
The minutes of the meeting held on 16 March 2023 were approved as a true record and were signed by the Chair.
Role and Remit of Communities Scrutiny Group
The Service Manager – Neighbourhoods will provide a verbal update
The Chair presented the terms of reference for the Communities Scrutiny Group to Members noting that the purpose of the Group was to positively and proactively contribute to the ongoing success and good management of the Council.
He said that the Group would achieve this by:
· Reviewing the Council’s partnerships to ensure that community needs were being met and the partnership was providing good value for money
· Identifying areas of community concern, exploring how this could be met and make recommendations to that effect
· Consider concerns specific to the local area in terms of health and wellbeing and make recommendations to improve the health and wellbeing of local residents
· Consider projects and initiatives to further the Council’s efforts to protect the environment of the Borough and promote environmental sustainability to our residents
· Reviewing the Council's policies and strategies as appropriate prior to adoption.
Report of the Director - Neighbourhoods
The Service Manager for Public Protection presented the report of the Director for Neighbourhoods and noted that as the Empty Homes Strategy was due for renewal at the end of 2023 it was timely for it to be reviewed by the Group today to help shape and form the Strategy going forward.
The Service Manager for Public Protection explained that whilst the empty homes function of Environmental Health work was discretionary, the impact was so great that the Council considered it necessary and valuable. He said that in 2019 there were over 500 empty properties across the Borough and that empty homes could be detrimental to the community through attracting vandalism, fly tipping, criminal and anti-social behaviours and could reduce the value of neighbouring properties.
The Service Manager for Public Protection said that bringing properties back into use assisted in meeting housing needs and improved the housing stock within the Borough and helped to regenerate blighted areas. They also contributed to the Council’s income through Council Tax contributions and Empty Homes Bonus.
The Service Manager for Public Protection said that it was not expected that the Government would make any significant changes to legislation, nor did the Council anticipate making significant changes to the Strategy subject to feedback from the Group. He referred the Group to suggested areas for review at paragraph 4.22 of the report.
The Empty Homes Officer explained that the Empty Homes Strategy was first implemented by the Council in April 2019 and at the same time it employed a part-time dedicated Empty Homes Officer. He said that early work involved creating processes and procedures and launching the website to provide a first point of reference.
The Empty Homes Officer highlighted key achievements since 2019, being that:
· 74 problematic homes had been returned into use with intervention from the Council
· 2,400 properties had returned to use without intervention but likely impacted by communications from the Council
· 61 enforcement notices had been issued by the Council
· The Council had developed a comprehensive database of all empty homes across the Borough
· Stricter enforcement procedures had been adopted, one enforced sale had been completed and four further enforced sales were progressing.
The Empty Homes Officer said that the number of long term empty homes had reduced from 511 at 2019 to 465 in 2023 and that on average 10% of long term empty homes were removed from the database every month, with a similar amount added. He said that the Borough remained below the national average of 1.02% for long term empty home against dwellings, standing at 0.83%.
The Revenues and Benefits Principal Officer provided a summary of Council Tax levies on empty homes, explaining that empty homes were deemed to be where they were not a person’s main home. He said that people could own as many homes as they wished but could only live in one main home. He explained that the classification for second homes were homes that were suitable for overnight accommodation but which did not ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
Report of the Director – Finance and Corporate Services
Councillor Barney referred to the work programme item for Flight Paths scheduled for the January 2024 meeting and suggested that as this would likely be a large item there would be merit in making this the only agenda item for that meeting. He also suggested that Councillor A Brown be invited to attend the meeting as he represented the Council on the Independent Consultative Committee.
It was RESOLVED that the Group agreed the work programme for the year 2023 – 2024 as set out below, with the recommendation that the Corporate Overview Group review the scheduling of the Community Facilities report in January to see if it could be scheduled for a different meeting.
5 October 2023
· Social Housing Models
· Work Programme
18 January 2024
· Flight Paths
· Use of Community Facilities (TBC)
· Work Programme
21 March 2024
· Carbon Management Plan Update
· Streetwise In-Sourcing
· Work Programme
Action Table – 20 July 2023