Agenda and minutes
Venue: Council Chamber, - Swale House. View directions
Contact: Democratic Services, 01795 417330 Senior Democratic Services Officer
Fire Evacuation Procedure
The Chairman will advise the meeting of the evacuation procedures to follow in the event of an emergency. This is particularly important for visitors and members of the public who will be unfamiliar with the building and procedures.
The Chairman will inform the meeting whether there is a planned evacuation drill due to take place, what the alarm sounds like (i.e. ringing bells), where the closest emergency exit route is, and where the second closest emergency exit route is, in the event that the closest exit or route is blocked.
The Chairman will inform the meeting that:
(a) in the event of the alarm sounding, everybody must leave the building via the nearest safe available exit and gather at the Assembly points at the far side of the Car Park; and
(b) the lifts must not be used in the event of an evacuation.
Any officers present at the meeting will aid with the evacuation.
It is important that the Chairman is informed of any person attending who is disabled or unable to use the stairs, so that suitable arrangements may be made in the event of an emergency.
The Chairman drew attention to the fire evacuation procedure.
To approve the Minutes of the Meeting held on 13 February 2018 (Minute Nos. 490 - 495) as a correct record.
The Minutes of the Meeting held on 13 February 2018 (Minute Nos. 490 – 495) were taken as read, approved and signed by the Chairman as a correct record.
Declarations of Interest
Councillors should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves or their spouse, civil partner or person with whom they are living with as a spouse or civil partner. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
The Chairman will ask Members if they have any interests to declare in respect of items on this agenda, under the following headings:
(a) Disclosable Pecuniary Interests (DPI) under the Localism Act 2011. The nature as well as the existence of any such interest must be declared. After declaring a DPI, the Member must leave the meeting and not take part in the discussion or vote. This applies even if there is provision for public speaking.
(b) Disclosable Non Pecuniary (DNPI) under the Code of Conduct adopted by the Council in May 2012. The nature as well as the existence of any such interest must be declared. After declaring a DNPI interest, the Member may stay, speak and vote on the matter.
(c) Where it is possible that a fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts would conclude that there was a real possibility that the Member might be predetermined or biased the Member should declare their predetermination or bias and then leave the room while that item is considered.
Advice to Members: If any Councillor has any doubt about the existence or nature of any DPI or DNPI which he/she may have in any item on this agenda, he/she should seek advice from the Monitoring Officer, the Head of Legal or from other Solicitors in Legal Services as early as possible, and in advance of the Meeting.
No interests were declared.
The Committee is asked to consider the Digital Strategy.
The Deputy Cabinet Member for Finance and Performance, the Head of ICT and the Transformation Programme Manager have been invited to attend for this item.
The Chairman welcomed the Deputy Cabinet Member for Finance and Performance, the Head of ICT and the Transformation Programme Manager to the meeting.
The Deputy Cabinet Member introduced the report which set out the direction the Council was taking with regard to offering a greater range of digital services for residents and businesses and encouraging innovation in this field, as set out in the Corporate Plan. The Transformation Programme Manager added that it was important not only to provide online services, but how Swale Borough Council (SBC) approached this, and also how on-line use was promoted. She explained that the aim was to achieve digital use, not by default, but by choice.
A Member welcomed the document and considered it summarised the direction that SBC was taking. He suggested there should be more detail within the document, e.g. apps that could be used to access Council services. The Transformation Programme Manager explained that this was a strategic document, but there would also be an action plan to take the Strategy forward.
A Member stated that it was important that the digital services were user-friendly, and he suggested a user-ability study was carried out to test the online services. He considered this approach would also help with digital education. The Member also highlighted the need to consider the diverse population and that translated options would also need to be available.
The Deputy Cabinet Member responded by advising that the design of the website was been carried out ‘bottom-up’. User groups were invited to give input at an early stage. The search engine on the SBC website would also be improved.
A Member suggested that consideration needed to be taken in areas of deprivation in the Borough, and also where there was a lack, or poor service, of Broadband.
A Member welcomed the report and considered the Strategy was crucial for the sustainability of the Council. He asked whether there were likely to be any job implications with an increase in digital take-up, and the reduction of telephone contact.
The Transformation Programme Manager explained that it was too early to forecast whether there would be any job losses. She explained that there was now more scope to carry out a wider range of work from home. The Deputy Cabinet Member further advised that within the wider Transformation Programme, a range of systems would be integrated in the future, with the aim to reduce bureaucracy.
A Member welcomed the improvements that were being made to the Council website. He stated that there were areas where Broadband quality was decreasing, as demand increased. He suggested information about the changes to the website and digital services could be communicated via workshops. He further suggested that a library of workshops could be filmed and used as a learning resource for Members.
The Head of ICT took the opportunity to remind Members that it was Swale’s Communications Team who must take credit for the delivery and content of the Council website, not ICT. He further advised that ... view the full minutes text for item 605.
The Committee is asked to consider the Discretionary Housing Payment Policy.
The Deputy Cabinet Member for Finance and Performance and the Revenue and Benefits Manager have been invited to attend for this item.
The Chairman welcomed the Deputy Cabinet Member for Finance and Performance, and the Revenue and Benefits Manager to the meeting.
The Deputy Cabinet Member introduced the report which set out the annual budget awarded from Central Government to provide payments to those Housing Benefit customers who had a shortfall between their rent and their Housing Benefit. He explained that this was an annual report and the Committee had the opportunity to review the Policy before it was formally adopted.
The Revenue and Benefits Manager explained that the Policy was out for consultation, prior to it being submitted to Cabinet on 30 May 2018.
A Member stated that he would like to see greater joined-up working with other agencies, that there needed to be more signposting, and it was important to ensure that the payments were awarded to the right people.
The Revenue and Benefits Manager explained that so far 110 responses had been received to the public consultation on the scheme, although only 52 responses had been fully completed. In response to a question, she advised that the consultation took about six minutes to complete online. The Revenue and Benefits Manager explained further the process of who received the payment, either to the claimant or to the landlord direct.
A Member questioned whether there was an opportunity for fraud to take place. The Revenue and Benefits Manager explained that they were aware that fraud could be committed, but this was rare, as a thorough investigation was always carried out on any rent arrears. She explained that most cases involved vulnerable people, and the department worked closely with other agencies.
In response to a question, the Revenue and Benefits Manager explained the process of who was given payment. Long discussions were held to decide if help would be given, and help would be turned down if the person had built up rent arrears, was working, but had spent their money inappropriately. A balance was needed as the person could end up in bed and breakfast accommodation if a payment was not made, resulting in further costs to the Council.
A Member asked if there was a cap on payments? The Deputy Cabinet Member advised that claims were made on a case-by-case basis and that if a resident kept coming back, he considered there was something wrong in the system.
A Member asked if there was any flexibility if the resident was not claiming benefits. The Revenue and Benefits Manager advised that the resident had to be in receipt of housing benefit or Universal Credit, but it was possible to negotiate with a landlord and go ahead and pay when the resident received those benefits. She further advised that if a person was declared bankrupt, the rent arrears would be written-off.
A Member asked whether the categories included in the tables on pages 12 and 13 of the report were mandatory? The Revenue and Benefits Manager advised that the categories came from the Department of Work and Pensions, and they enabled them ... view the full minutes text for item 606.
The Committee is asked to consider the Swale Strategic Air Quality Action Plan 2018-22.
The Cabinet Member for Environmental and Rural Affairs, the Chief Financial Officer, the Mid-Kent Environmental Health Manager and the Environment Protection Team Leader have been invited to attend for this item.
The Chairman welcomed the Cabinet Member for Environment and Rural Affairs, the Chief Financial Officer, the Mid-Kent Environmental Health Manager and the Environmental Protection Team Leader to the meeting for this item.
The Cabinet Member introduced the report which set out the Swale Strategic Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) 2018-22 which would provide clear objectives for delivering air quality improvements in the Borough. He advised that work was evolving and at an early stage and he welcomed input from the Committee. He stated that the impacts of air quality had become more widely known and publicised. Five Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) had been established in the Borough, each with their own Action Plan. The Cabinet Member explained that these had only had minor success, and so an improved approach was needed. He advised that there was now an Action Plan for the whole of Swale. Consultants had been employed and had produced their report (Appendix II).
The Mid-Kent Environmental Health Manager explained that this was an overview of the AQAP. She stated that there was clear evidence that pollution came from vehicles and drew attention to table 6.1 (Strategic AQAP measures) and table 6.2 (Local AQAP measures) within the Interim Strategic Air Quality Action Plan 2018 – 22, some of which had been initiated already. A detailed traffic survey had been carried out on each of the five AQMAs. The Mid-Kent Environmental Health Manager advised that now it was time to look at potential action that could be taken. She welcomed the Committee’s comments.
The Chairman advised that the Committee should only be looking at the information that was presented to them, as it was not possible to speculate on potential issues of any future development.
The Chairman suggested the report be split, and Members considered the officer report first, pages 23 to 27, then Appendix I (The Interim Swale Strategic AQAP 2018-22), section by section. Appendix II consisted of data, and Members were advised to speak to officers outside the meeting if they had any comments to make on that part of the report.
Officer report – pages 23 to 27
Members asked questions and made comments as noted below:
What did it mean being in an AQMA and what would it lead to?
The Environmental Protection Team Leader explained that an AQMA must have continuing monitoring, but not necessarily automatic monitoring, i.e. diffusion tubes could be used. A representative level within the area was required.
How realistic were the solutions, especially when the infrastructure did not allow for alternative routes, or initiatives like ‘20’s plenty’ were not workable?
The Environmental Protection Team Leader acknowledged that measures were limited to the existing infrastructure. The ‘20’s’ plenty suggestion had been made some time ago. The best solution was smooth traffic flow, without stopping; it was the stop/start and acceleration that caused pollution.
A Member considered it was difficult to enforce 20mph speed restrictions. He raised concern with allocated sites for development that would make the AQMAs worse, and considered ... view the full minutes text for item 607.
The Committee is asked to note the Committee’s Work Programme for the remainder of the year.
The Policy and Performance Officer reminded Members that the next meeting date had changed to 10 May 2018.
Suspension of Standing Orders
At 10pm Members agreed to the suspension of Standing Orders in order that the Committee could complete its business.
Record of Thanks
The Chairman thanked the Vice-Chairman and other members of the Committee for their input on the Committee over the past year. He outlined the policies and strategies that had been considered by the Committee.
The Chairman thanked the Policy and Performance Officer for his support throughout the year, and he also thanked the Democratic Services Team.