Committee round-up: Communities Committee 21.2.19

Updates on the council’s housing budgets and arrangements for the Live Life Aberdeenshire business unit were among matters discussed at the latest meeting of Aberdeenshire Council’s Communities Committee.

Audit of Scottish Police Authority outlined to councillors

Chief Superintendent Campbell Thomson of Police Scotland introduced a report on Audit Scotland’s 2017/18 audit of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA).

The report highlighted that although the authority’s budget was overspent in 2017/18, Audit Scotland noted improvements in the quality of SPA’s accounting had been maintained since the previous year.

It added that the Auditor General noted some concerns about challenges to achieving the future financial sustainability described in the SPA’s 10-year strategy Policing 2026.

Cllr Glen Reynolds queried if assessments had been carried out regarding the implications of Brexit and was told that discussions are ongoing with the Home Office and other organisations.

Budget monitoring latest

Forecasts for the revenue and capital budgets overseen by Communities Committee were brought before the committee.

A report before councillors outlined that the monitoring report now included activities within the new Culture and Sport Business Unit.

As of the end of September 2018, the revenue account was forecast to be £42,000 within the total budget of £123,610,000, albeit there are some areas of risk to be managed to ensure the budget remains on target.

The capital budget currently stands at £9174,000 and is likely to change throughout the financial year as project timescales often run over more than one financial year.

The committee later went on to discuss a report on the housing revenue account, which is expected to break even this year at £34,335,000.

Plan agreed to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping

A plan that aims to reduce the time taken to find accommodation for those experiencing homelessness or rough sleeping has been agreed.

The council’s Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan (RRTP) has been developed by a joint member officer working group and is to be submitted to the Scottish Government by the end of March this year.

It aims to ensure that anybody who has experienced homelessness reaches a settled housing option quickly, and that any stay in temporary accommodation is for as short a period as possible.

The working group was chaired by Communities Committee vice-chair Cllr Iris Walker, who praised the input of group members, adding that it would ‘refocus the work the service does.’

The committee went on to discuss a range of topics connected with the plan, including a review of the council’s current processes for properties that are unable to be re-let, the differences between homelessness and rough sleeping, and of support provided to former members of the armed forces and those who cited violence as a contributory factor to their homelessness.

The plan was then approved, with the added recommendation that area committees be provided with information on homelessness and the use of bed and breakfast accommodation.

Housing Action Plan approved

A plan to deliver improvements within the housing service was approved by the committee.

The document reflects recommendations from an annual report by the Scottish Housing Regulator on the service’s performance.

Councillors discussed the council’s housing improvement programme and efforts to increase the councils housing stock before approving the plan

It was also agreed that updates on the progress be provided to committee on a six-monthly basis.

Live Life Aberdeenshire – performance, fees and charges discussed

The committee held detailed discussions on two reports concerning the operation of Live Life Aberdeenshire (LLA), part of the council’s new business unit for sport and culture.

The first report asked the committee to agree performance targets for LLA for 2019/20.

Head of Lifelong Learning and Leisure John Harding introduced the report, commenting that the targets were designed as long-term measures of service performance in delivery of strategies for culture and sport & physical activity.

The targets are:

• To see 5,200 people attend targeted programmes
• To achieve a customer satisfaction rate of 70% for those reporting ‘excellence’
• To achieve 4,9000 volunteer hours
• To achieve 90% of participants reporting a positive impact on physical and mental health

The committee asked a range of questions, ranging from the need to split data for physical and mental health, the support provided by volunteers, the need to ensure online forms are accessible for those who use assistive software, and how to track use of facilities by casual users.

Responding to questions by Cllr Paul Gibb for details of existing performance information, Mr Harding said some of the new measures had no baseline data and that the aim was to bring information back to the committee at the end of the first quarter.

The targets were agreed, along with a call for informal briefing sessions for area committees.

The second report sought the committee’s views on fees and charges for the 2019/20 season, which will be referred to the Culture and Sport Sub-Committee for determination.

The charges, which previously fell to Communities Committee, are now the responsibility of the Culture and Sport Sub-Committee.

The pricing structure has been developed to focus the most generous concessions on low income groups, to ensure regular use by residents, and to maximise income through charges while working to keep prices affordable and near the Scottish average.

With membership of the Active Aberdeenshire scheme falling, the report before councillors highlighted that continuing with a four-stage phased increase plan would not help reverse that trend, and that working within the existing price structure may be more effective.

The committee was asked to share views on two options for price increases.

The first would see continuation of a series of phased price increases, with all other prices rising by 2.5%.

The committee agreed to recommend option two, which would see all prices increased by 3.5%, with no implementation of proposed phase three increases.

This will be fed back to the Culture and Sport Sub-Committee for consideration in March.

Further information

For the full public reports can be found on the Aberdeenshire Council website via http://committees.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/

The meeting was webcast and the recording can be viewed by visiting https://aberdeenshire.public-i.tv/core/portal/home