Committee round-up: Communities Committee 15.6.17

Updates from the police and fire services and new energy efficiency standards for private landlords were among items discussed at the latest meeting of Aberdeenshire Council’s Communities Committee.

The meeting, the first since the local government elections in May, took place on Wed, Jun 15, led by new chair Cllr Anne Stirling and vice-chair Cllr Iris Walker.

Police Scotland provides update on performance

Police Scotland’s Divisional Commander for Aberdeenshire and Moray Division, Campbell Thomson, presented performance monitoring information relating to the Aberdeenshire area for April 2016-March 2017.

Ch Supt Thomson told the committee that the local crime rate has remained static over the past 12 month and that detection rates have increased. He commended the work of staff, including special constables, in the face of significant challenges.

While economic challenges had made it difficult to recruit staff, he said 42 new local officers had been appointed as of the start of June. Mr Thomson went on to highlight statistics relating to various types of crime before taking questions from councillors.

Cllr Anne Allan stressed the value of police engagement with community safety groups, and Cllr Stirling mentioned a workshop on community safety that the committee will be undertaking.

Questions went on to cover the themes of road safety education, the centralisation of control rooms, and protecting those at the risk of harm.

Cllr Andrew Hassan said the police’s positive customer satisfaction figures were deserving of ‘strong support’.

It was agreed that the committee should receive quarterly performance reports on performance measures on an ongoing basis.

Committee agrees representatives for sub-committees and outside bodies

The committee agreed appointments to sub-committees of the Communities Committee, to take account of changes at the local government election in May. The following appointments were made:

Housing Adaptations Grants Appeals Sub-Committee: Cllr Iris Walker, Cllr Norman Smith; Cllr Norman Smith, Cllr Alastair Forsyth.

Regulation of Private Sector Rented Housing Sub-Committee: Cllr Iris Walker, Cllr Andrew Hassan, Cllr Andy Kille, Cllr Eileen Durno, Cllr Anne Allan.

Gypsy/Traveller Sub-Committee: Cllr Anne Stirling, Cllr Norman Smith, Cllr Marion Ewenson, Cllr Sandy Wallace, Cllr Iain Taylor, Cllr Neil Baillie, Cllr Dennis Robertson, Cllr Anne Allan. 

The committee also agreed nominations to a number of outside bodies as follows:

Aberdeen Foyer: Cllr Anne Simpson, Cllr Alastair Forsyth.

Aberdeenshire Sports Council: name to be advised, (sub) Cllr Glen Reid.

Aberdeenshire Voluntary Action: Cllr Hazel Smith, (sub) name to be advised.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service presents performance report

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Services performance report for April 2016-March 2017 for the Aberdeenshire area was presented to the committee.

Aberdeenshire and Moray Area Manager David Rout told the committee that eight out of the force’s 11 performance indicators for fires had shown a downward trend.

He added that the force has undertaken a review of its plan for 2014-17 and will now draft its new plan which will be presented to the council.

Mr Rout answered a number of questions from councillors on themes including fires in agricultural settings, before the committee agreed the report.

In a following report, the committee noted the outcomes of the mandatory review of the Aberdeenshire Local Fire and Rescue Plan and agreed to receive future reports including a revised plan for approval by the committee.

Cllr Stirling thanked Mr Route for the comprehensive information and gave ‘heartfelt thanks’ for the work carried out by the fire and rescue service.

Council finances brought before committee

A report on the budget performance for matters relating to Communities for 2016-17 was brought before the committee for discussion.

Councillors were told that the revenue figure for Communities was over-budget by £206,000; representing a 0.2% overspend of the overall budget of £114,631,000. Members heard that part of this was due to a higher spend in relation to homelessness. 

The capital budget for Communities, meanwhile, stood at £10,027,000 which was £208,000 below budget. Funding will therefore be carried forward to support the continued development of various projects.

Cllr Stirling asked that future reports include details of risks relating to budget matters so that the committee can consider these as part of update reports.

Cllr Sandy Wallace said while he appreciated the overspend in the revenue budget was relatively small, it was important that the committee keeps a close eye on it. Cllr Stirling mentioned that a workshop on budget management was to take place.

The committee agreed to note the monitoring report, approve a budget virement, and noted adjustments to the revenue budget.

Housing performance and budgets discussed

The committee heard the latest performance update from the housing service, which included information on fuel poverty, the re-letting of council properties, and of the improvement of housing stock to meet national targets.

Moving on to a report about the budget outturn for the service’s housing revenue account, councillors heard that a total of £42,549,000 had been spent, coming in at £1,954,000 above budget. The overspend included matters relating to flood damage and increased costs relating to energy efficiency.

A separate report on the housing revenue account’s capital programme showed a total expenditure of £27,990,000, which was £1,021,000 over budget. The overspend included matters relating to housing improvements and the council’s new build programme, among other matters.

Private rented housing regulations discussed

A detailed discussion was held regarding standards which aim to improve the energy efficiency of private rented accommodation across Scotland, and what this will mean for private landlords.

The committee agreed a response to a consultation being held by the Scottish Government on its new targets and requirements.

Under the plans, the Scottish Government is seeking to reduce the number of properties rated as levels F and G for energy efficiency, with an initial deadline of April 2019 where there is a change of tenancy. All properties would need to reach the energy efficiency standard by March 2022, and by 2025 all properties would need to meet level D as a minimum.

Aberdeenshire Council’s response is broadly supportive of the proposals, but notes concern about the ability of landlords to achieve the necessary energy efficiency ratings within the timescales. The council is also proposing that any penalties for failure to achieve standards take the form of rent penalty notices rather than civil fines.

The committee heard details of the consultation had been shared by the housing service with the 8,000 landlords registered with Aberdeenshire Council, given the deadline of the end of June for responses. There are around 12,000 private rented properties in Aberdeenshire.

The discussion went on to cover matters relating to considerations for owners of listed buildings and opportunities for local contractors for improvement works.

Councillors heard the housing service actively promotes initiatives and funds that can help landlords meet the costs of property improvements.
 
Infrastructure Services Service Plan presented

A new Infrastructure Services Service Plan covering the period 2017-2020 was brought before the committee.

Service Director Stephen Archer explained the plan has previously been considered by the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, and that the plan is one that would develop as the council moves forward.

Mr Archer highlighted matters relating specifically to the housing service, which falls under the scope of the work of the Communities Committee.

It was agreed that reports should be brought back to the committee on a six-monthly basis, and that the foreword in the plan should be updated to take account of the committee’s comments.

Other matters:

The full public reports considered by the committee can be found via http://committees.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/