Venue: Committee Room 1, City Hall
Contact: Ben Culling - 01522 873387
RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 3 April 2018 be confirmed.
Declarations of Interest
Please note that, in accordance with the Members' Code of Conduct, when declaring interests members must disclose the existence and nature of the interest, and whether it is a disclosable pecuniary interest (DPI) or personal and/or pecuniary.
No declarations of interest were received.
The Terms of Reference for the Community Leadership Scrutiny Committee were noted.
Councillor Bob Bushell, Chair of the Community Leadership Scrutiny Committee, took this opportunity to welcome Councillors Alan Briggs and Hilton Spratt to their first meeting of the Committee since their election to the Council in May 2018.
Feedback from Executive
Councillor Bob Bushell, as Chair of the Community Leadership Scrutiny Committee, had presented the Committee’s findings and recommendations to the Executive at its meeting on 29 May 2018 following the scrutiny review into Inclusive Growth.
The Executive supported the outcomes and recommendations of the review and commended the work undertaken by the Community Leadership Scrutiny Committee on the issue of Inclusive Growth.
An Introduction from the Chair
Councillor Bob Bushell, Chair of the Community Leadership Scrutiny Committee, set out the local community impact of welfare reform as a proposed topic for consideration as a scrutiny review. This was something that had been highlighted as part of the previous review into Inclusive Growth in terms of how welfare reform impacted the community and whether there was anything the Council could do to mitigate that impact.
This meeting would consider whether the topic of welfare reform and the impact on the local community should be investigated further as part of a formal scrutiny review by the Community Leadership Scrutiny Committee.
James Wilkinson, Strategic Development Project Manager, provided the Community Leadership Scrutiny Committee with some background information regarding key changes to welfare provision, including the benefit cap, the spare room subsidy and the roll out of Universal Credit, together with possible areas for the Committee to consider reviewing further as part of its scrutiny review.
With the introduction of Universal Credit to Lincoln in March 2018, the wider impact of welfare reform and the high demand for affordable housing in the city, it was accepted that the topic of welfare reform was broad ranging. Two particular strands, however, had emerged which provided opportunities for review:
Areas for review could include:
· background to Universal Credit;
· the role of key support teams and agencies in responding to Universal Credit;
· how Universal Credit had impacted these key teams and agencies, as well as any broader welfare reform;
· the impact of Universal Credit and welfare reform on communities;
· how teams and agencies worked together to meet demand, fill gaps and avoid duplication.
· background on housing and its affordability, including its link to Universal Credit and welfare reform;
· demand for affordable housing in the city;
· the Council’s role as landlord and as an enabler of affordable housing;
· how affordable housing was encouraged in the city and what impact this was having;
· the role of planning policies in delivering affordable housing.
Background information relating to Universal Credit and general indicators of financial affordability were also included in the report.
Daren Turner, Assistant Director, Strategic Development, outlined that other organisations helping to deliver key aspects of welfare reform were critical partners to the Council, such as the Department for Work and Pensions and the Citizen’s Advice. It was agreed that representatives of these organisations should be invited to future meetings of the Committee in order that their contributions could be taken into account as part of the scrutiny review.
The Council’s Welfare Advice Team was also an important part of delivering welfare reform, particularly Universal Credit. The impact of welfare reform and Universal Credit on that team’s work on a day to day basis would also be of interest to the Committee. In addition it was agreed that representatives of that team should be brought before the Committee in due course in order that members could better understand their experiences.
The Committee was supportive of the proposed approach to a scrutiny review on welfare reform and the impact on the community, particularly in relation to the two strands and key witnesses that had already been identified.
Intelligence from Key Witnesses
Questions and Answers from Members
Laurence Waylett – CAB
Questions and Answers from Members
It was noted that Graham Metcalfe, Partnership Manager for the Department for Work and Pensions at the Lincoln Jobcentre, and Laurence Waylett, Quality and Service Manager of Citizens’ Advice, had been unable to attend this meeting but would be invited to attend a future meeting of the Community Leadership Scrutiny Committee.
Martin Walmsley, Head of Shared Revenues and Benefits, provided the Committee with a presentation which included information on the following aspects of welfare reform:
· summary of key welfare reforms, including:
- the introduction of the Welfare Reform Act 2012;
- Government targets implemented to reduce the benefits bill;
- the introduction of a benefit cap for working age people;
- removal of the Spare Room Subsidy;
- the introduction of Localised Council Tax Support Schemes;
- the introduction of a benefits ‘freeze’.
· key statistics for Lincoln in relation to:
- the benefit cap;
- the Spare Room Subsidy;
- Council Tax Support caseload;
- Discretionary Housing Payments expenditure.
· a timeframe for Lincoln in respect of the introduction and implementation of Universal Credit;
· local statistical information between April 2018 and June 2018 for Universal Credit, including:
- average time spent with customers;
- average age of customers;
- number of cases requiring Assisted Digital Support;
- number of cases requiring Personal Budgeting Support;
- number of cases requiring both Assisted Digital Support and Personal Budgeting Support;
- total number of cases;
- number of cases whereby the person was a Council tenant;
- a breakdown of arrears in respect of the number of cases and respective amounts;
· Universal Credit sanctions in Lincoln;
· Initial comments from the Local Department for Work and Pensions office in respect of arrears and Universal Credit;
· a link to the National Audit Office report on Universal Credit dated 15 June 2018 acknowledging that local authorities were not being supported enough in respect of funding for necessary support, with little evidence demonstrated of value for money or boosting employment as a consequence.
Members were taken through a case study from the Council’s Universal Support Team, reflecting a real anonymised case, which highlighted the amount of time the team had spent with the customer through the entirety of their case. This also identified the complexity of the advice that officers were required to provide to customers, together with the amount of time spent with a single customer, the number of times they made contact with the team to resolve their case and the number of different issues that the team resolved for the customer in a holistic manner.
The following questions were asked by members and responses provided throughout the presentation:
Were Discretionary Housing Payments likely to continue given that they were intended to be transitional and would the payments continue to be administered by local authorities?
The future of Discretionary Housing Payments and who would administer them was unclear at this stage, with further clarity around this issue awaited from Government.
When would the current allocation run out for Discretionary Housing Payments?
Response ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
It was agreed that the Chair and Vice-Chair would work with officers to arrange a programme of meetings to accommodate internal and external key witnesses as part of the scrutiny review into the local community impact of welfare reform.
RESOLVED that the work programme be approved, subject to the inclusion of the following items for consideration at future meetings of the Community Leadership Scrutiny Committee:
· city centre environment;
· social mobility;
· education standards.