Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee Room, Council Offices, Urban Road, Kirkby-in-Ashfield

Contact: Lynn Cain  Email: l.cain@ashfield.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

OS.15

Declarations of Disclosable Pecuniary or Personal Interests and Non Disclosable Pecuniary/Other Interests

Minutes:

No declarations of interest were made.

OS.16

Minutes pdf icon PDF 161 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED

that the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 25th September, 2019, be received and approved as a correct record.

OS.17

Scrutiny Review: Impact of Universal Credit pdf icon PDF 190 KB

Minutes:

The Scrutiny Research Officer introduced the report and reminded Committee that the review had commenced in June 2019 with an initial objective of gaining an understanding of the impact of the rollout of Universal Credit from both the Council and claimants’ perspective.

 

Members endeavoured to understand the requirements of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 including how the new Universal Credit regime would replace the existing system.   The fundamental changes were understood to enable the benefits system to be simplified with an overarching drive to reduce non-working households and cut welfare expenditure.

 

Members also considered how Universal Credit had affected Ashfield claimants following its phased introduction from June to November 2018.  The Council had been proactive in preparing for the changes and a Welfare Reform Board was established to enable officers to develop an action plan for managing the introduction of Universal Credit in Ashfield.

 

The Housing Management & Tenancy Team established a working relationship with the Department of Work and Pensions Team (DWP) to enable information to be shared and staff were trained to offer money management advice and support to new claimants during their transition.  A couple of roadshows were held which focussed on fuel and food poverty and again offered money management advice to visitors as necessary.

 

Committee Members acknowledged that the Council’s Housing Management & Tenancy Team had undertaken extensive preparation work in readiness for the introduction of Universal Credit and had continued to explore new and innovative ways to offer ongoing assistance to new claimants.  Members took the opportunity to commend officers for their hard work and ongoing commitment to the process.

 

An informal working group meeting had been held and this offered the opportunity for Members and officers to meet with a DWP representative and discuss their working relationship and the payment and support mechanisms currently in place including managed and advance payments and third party deductions.

 

The key review findings had emerged as follows:-

 

·         financial issues for claimants during the first payment waiting period;

·         minimal statutory support available to assist claimants with the transition process;

·         communication gaps for Councillors regarding their knowledge and understanding of Universal Credit;

·         the escalating financial impact to Ashfield District Council in relation to rent arrears;

·         social impact and hardships being experienced by claimants undertaking the transition process.

 

To inform Members further, the Service Manager for Scrutiny and Democratic Services circulated a list of testimonials to the Committee outlining real life experiences from claimants transitioning onto the Universal Credit regime.

 

The document evidenced that many different issues were being experienced by claimants and the Housing Team were always endeavouring to resolve them to ensure the transition process for the Council’s residents was as unproblematic as possible.

 

The Service Manager for Housing Management & Tenancy Services advised Members that current data revealed that there were currently 996 Universal Credit claimants at Ashfield with 472 now showing arrears.  The Universal Credit element of rent arrears for the Authority stood at around £192,000.  The figure had been higher but some excellent work undertaken by the Rent  ...  view the full minutes text for item OS.17

OS.18

Scrutiny Workplan 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 115 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Scrutiny Research Officer presented an update in relation to Workplan as follows:-

 

Universal Credit Review

As per the previous agenda item, the review had now been complete with a robust set of recommendations being presented to Cabinet in February 2020.

 

Wildlife Protection Review

The review was due to be progressed further at the next Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting scheduled for February 2020.

 

Crime and Disorder Meeting

The annual Crime and Disorder Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting was due to take place in March 2020 and would be considering the Community Safety Team’s partnership priorities.

 

Scrutiny Panel A

The Panel were due to commence a review into local bus provision and its impact on isolated groups and vulnerable people, at its next meeting.

 

Commercialisation Review

Members were requested to remove the Commercialisation and Income Generation Item from the Workplan as the initiative was currently being monitored by the Council’s Audit Committee and any further consideration by Members would result in an unnecessary duplication of work.

 

Scrutiny Panel B

The Panel had commenced the ‘Town Centre Regeneration’ review and early discussions had been encouraging with agreement to include a Scrutiny Member on the Discover Ashfield Board.  The review would now remain on hold for a short time whilst the Panel commenced the ‘Community Protection Officer Service’ review at its next meeting.

 

RESOLVED

that the update regarding the work of the Scrutiny Panels and Committee and progress against the Scrutiny Workplan, be received and noted.