Agenda and minutes

Scrutiny Committee
Tuesday, 5th December, 2023 7.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Civic Centre

Contact: Email: 

No. Item


Apologies for Absence and Substitutions


Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Kay Morrison. Councillor Lanie Shears attended as a substitute for Councillor Morrison.


Declarations of Interest

To receive Councillors’ declarations of interest (if any) in relation to any matters on the agenda.


Councillor Matthew Saggers raised a pecuniary interest as a non-executive director of HTS.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 185 KB

To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 31 October 2023.


RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 31 October 2023 are agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chair.


Matters arising




Written questions from members of the public

To receive any questions from members of the public in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 10.




Written questions from Councillors

To receive any questions from Councillors in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 10.




Responses of the Cabinet to Reports of the Scrutiny Committee

To consider responses (if any) of the Cabinet to reports and recommendations from the Committee.


Councillor Tony Edwards confirmed that the Corporate Plan went to Cabinet for approval in November 2023.


Roofing and Major Repairs to Council Houses pdf icon PDF 155 KB

Additional documents:


The Committee received a report on roofing and major repairs to council houses.


Councillor Dan Swords, Leader of the Council, confirmed that 73 per cent of the backlog of repairs had been cleared and advised that the remaining backlog of repairs should be completed by the end of the financial year.


The Committee noted the amended procedures put in place for logging repairs. For roofing repairs, Wendy Makepeace, Assistant Director Housing, advised that two dedicated members of staff would inspect and survey any potential repairs. The Council would follow this up with further surveys and add the repair to the roof programme. For general repair jobs, tenants were being asked to submit photographs to give HTS operatives a better idea of the repair required before they attend the property.


It was noted that the Council now received weekly update reports from HTS which split outstanding jobs into trades, number of jobs etc. The data helped with prioritisation of repairs where needed, for example, with vulnerable tenants.


The Committee raised some concerns over the lack of clarity for the number of backlog repairs and work in progress (WIP) repairs. It was confirmed that there were currently 3,950 jobs outstanding in total with 1,231 of these jobs being backlog jobs (from June 2023 and earlier). The intention was for the backlog jobs to be completed by the end of the financial year.


Councillor David Carter, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Housing, confirmed that every tenant would now be contacted following completion of their repair. The satisfaction rate was at 90 per cent.


Councillor Dan Swords confirmed that the repair timeframe had reduced to 60 days. It was still the ambition for the timeframe to reduce further to 30 days by the end of the financial year.


The Committee suggested that HTS needed to be more proactive with work to avoid repairs arising later on, for example, clearing gutters before they became an issue. Councillor Dan Swords noted that a full stock condition survey had been instructed. Tenancy audits would also undertaken and the schedule of works was due to be reviewed in January 2024.


It was noted that HTS would be introducing a new IT system next year which would integrate more smoothly with the Housing Orchard system.


Councillor Tony Edwards noted that he previously suggested that a Tenants Repair Charter be introduced to give tenants information on their repair at the start of the process. Councillor Dan Swords advised that this was being worked on.


Councillor Dan Swords agreed to send the Committee clearer figures on the number of repairs outstanding.


RESOLVED that the Committee noted:


A     Improvements to the business process, following the review of both the major works and the roofing referral processes. (Major Works - Cabinet report 30 November 2023).


B     The continued improved performance against the backlog of responsive repairs works and clearance of the backlog of street property roofing projects.



New Estate Developments pdf icon PDF 255 KB


The Committee received a report on lessons learned with new estates development.


Councillor Michael Hardware, Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, advised that encouraging developers to perform their S106 requirements was not uncommon. However, he noted that legal action against a developer for this reason had not been done in recent history.


Councillor Joel Charles advised the Committee of the history with regard to the Gilden Park development. He explained that residents and local councillors have tried to communicate and engage with the Consortium since 2021. This included site visits, meetings with residents and an action tracker which was developed relating to the S106 agreement. Councillor Joel Charles welcomed the injunction but advised he did not trust the Consortium to follow up with the completion of the requirements under the S106 agreement.


Councillor Joel Charles advised that a residents association was set up in November 2023. The association has suggested a number of recommendations including;


a)    Communication – The Council should have worked with residents quicker to create a residents association

b)    Enforcement – Further investment is needed in the planning team

c)    Future legal strategy – The Council should consider stronger penalties and plan for the worst case scenario 


The Committee noted that the report detailed seven trigger points (paragraph 21) which were largely on track. However, there had been some slippage with the landscaping and the football pitches due to the adverse weather and it being the wrong time of year. Councillor Michael Hardware advised that it would not be reasonable for the Council to enforce these trigger points as this stage as there was a reasonable reason for the delay. 


Councillor Dan Swords confirmed that further enforcement action would be taken if there was a timeframe slip for any substantial item and if the legal advice received suggested that the Council could secure a successful injunction.


Andrew Bramidge, Chief Executive, confirmed that the Council would not have been able to successfully secure an injunction in October 2023 as the Consortium had lodged timescales with the Court.


With regard to investment in the planning team, Andrew Bramidge advised that the Council had made a bid for government funding for a new planning post for the enforcement of S106 agreements. If the bid was unsuccessful, the Council could look at sharing officer resources with other North Essex authorities. Furthermore, Andrew Bramidge advised that the team was also looking at increasing the capacity of the administration resource to give existing planning officers more time to follow up on enforcement matters.


Pauline Elliott, Head of Planning, noted that the recent Government Autumn Statement suggested that statutory planning fees could be increased which potentially could secure an extra £60,000 for local councils. Pauline Elliott suggested that this could be retained within the planning service.


Councillor Michael Hardware noted that developers need to consider their exit strategy at the start of the planning and development process. It was suggested that the Legacy Strategy could be agreed at the planning stage.


RESOLVED that the Committee  ...  view the full minutes text for item 109.


Work Plan pdf icon PDF 109 KB

To review the Committee’s work plan for the current year.


The Committee received a report summarising its work plan for 2023/24.


Councillor Tony Edwards advised that the new Princess Alexandra Hospital item would be deferred to 2024/25 as the business case for the new hospital had not yet been completed.


RESOLVED that the work plan, as amended, be noted.


References from Other Committees




Matters of Urgent Business

Such other business which, in the opinion of the Chair, should be received as a matter of urgency by reason of special circumstances to be specified in the minutes.