Agenda and draft minutes

Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee - Thursday 30th March 2023 5.30 pm

Venue: Rennes Room, Civic Centre, Paris Street, Exeter. View directions

Contact: Howard Bassett, Democratic Services Officer  Telephone 01392 265107 or email

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 8 MB

To approve and sign the minutes of the Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee held on 2 February 2023.




Subject to the deletion of the last bullet point in Min. No. 5 and the insertion of the following:-


The following question had been submitted by Councillor Bennett to the Portfolio Holder for City Management and Environmental Services:-


Many residents have told me they take their lives into their own hands using the uncontrolled crossings to access St. Sidwell’s Point, the cinema, job centre and the bus station. Whilst I understand that highways decisions are the responsibility of Devon County Council, does the Portfolio Holder agree that urgent action needs to be taken to redesign this area so that people of all ages can arrive safely and easily on foot or by bike?



Thank you for your question. I haven’t personally experienced any difficulties on these crossing points nor have I had any reports from residents. I would encourage any member of the public who has experienced problems at these crossing points to make sure that the County Council’s Road Safety team are aware, so that they can complete the required assessment.  I will also ask my fellow Councillors who sit on the Exeter Highways and Traffic Orders Committee to raise this location with the Committee, as an area of concern.


the minutes of the meeting of the Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee held on 2 February 2023 were taken as read, approved and signed by the Chair as correct.



Declarations of Interest

Councillors are reminded of the need to declare any disclosable pecuniary interests that relate to business on the agenda and which have not already been included in the register of interests, before any discussion takes place on the item. Unless the interest is sensitive, you must also disclose the nature of the interest. In accordance with the Council's Code of Conduct, you must then leave the room and must not participate in any further discussion of the item.  Councillors requiring clarification should seek the advice of the Monitoring Officer prior to the day of the meeting.




No declarations of interest were made by Members.



Questions from the public under Standing Order No. 19

Details of questions should be notified to the Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support via the email by 10.00am at least three working days prior to the meeting. For this meeting any questions must be submitted by 10.00am on Monday 27 March 2023.


For details about how to speak at Committee, please click the following link -




No questions had been received from members of the public.




Questions from Members of the Council under Standing Order No. 20

To receive questions from Members of the Council to the relevant Portfolio Holders for this Scrutiny Committee. The Portfolio Holders are:-


Councillor Denning -   Portfolio Holder for Customer Services and Council Housing

Councillor Ghusain -   Portfolio Holder for City Management and Environmental Services

Councillor Pearce   -   Portfolio Holder for Communities and Homelessness Prevention

Councillor Williams -   Portfolio Holder for Recycling, Waste Management and Waterways


Advance questions from Members relating to the Portfolio Holders should be notified to the Democratic Services Team Leader via the email.




In accordance with Standing Order No. 20, the questions below to the Portfolio Holder for Customer Services and Council Housing - Councillor Denning - hadbeen submitted by Councillors Snow and Vizard and had been circulated in advance to Members of the Committee. The questions were read out by the Chair and, in the absence of Councillor Denning, responded to by Councillor Wright, the Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Arts and Culture and Corporate Services.


Questions to the Portfolio Holder for Customer Services and Council Housing - Councillor Denning


From Councillor Snow


With the continued rise in the amount of homelessness and longer waiting lists for social housing what impact does Right to Buy have on these urgent problems?


Can the Portfolio Holder please also let the Committee know?


1.    How many Exeter City Council homes are sold in a year on average under ‘Right to Buy”



Over the past six financial years the Council has on average sold 38 properties each year. So far in this financial year (2022/23) 36 properties have been sold.


2.    What current discounts are available under Right to Buy and how are these linked to length of tenancies?



The current maximum discount is a maximum of 70% of the value of the property or £87,200 whichever is the lower amount.


For a house a tenant would get 35% discount for between three and five years as a public sector tenant and 1% for every year over five years.


For a flat a tenant would get 50% discount for between three and five years as a public sector tenant and 2% for every year over five years.


3.    What can HRA (Housing Revenue Account) spend the funds on from ‘Right to Buy’?



Exeter City Council could use retained receipts for social or affordable rents. Following changes to the funding arrangements in 2021 it was also now possible to use the receipts to finance a greater tenure mix of properties including shared ownership and First Homes (new home buying scheme for first time buyers to purchase at a discount)


4.    Do the HRA get all of the funds from the selling of Exeter Council homes or does central Government take a percentage of the funds?



Exeter City Council retained 100% of the receipts from Right to Buy. However, there were restrictions on how this money could be used, these were:-


·         the receipts being capped making up no more than 40% of the total costs of any new homes with the HRA or Social Landlords providing the remaining 60% of funding;

·         the retained receipts must be spent within five years; and

·         from April 2023 only 40% of the receipts can be used for acquisitions (rather than new build) reducing to 30% from April 2024.      

From Councillor Vizard


Regarding the Warm Homes Discount (WHD) scheme, it would be helpful to understand what contact Exeter City Council has had from Council tenants and other financially vulnerable households through our customer support functions, and if/how  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12.


Update from the Portfolio Holder for Customer Services and Council Housing - Councillor Denning pdf icon PDF 381 KB


Councillor Wright, the Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Arts and Culture and Corporate Services, on behalf of Councillor Denning, reported on the Customer Services and Council Housing on areas of the Portfolio, detailing the issues relating to achieving the Council’s published priorities, major ongoing programmes of work, issues impacting delivery, financial performance and budget requirements and potential changes being considered.


The following responses were given to Members’ queries:-


·        the housing team was to be congratulated on its nomination for an award at the National Retrofit Academy;

·        in identifying properties for retrofitting, the Council selected those at the lower end of Energy Performance and also sought to achieve economies of scale by converting blocks of properties, as opposed to pepper-potting across the city;

·        there had been outstanding feedback from those living in retrofitted properties and the programme had helped empower tenants in their contribution to the Council’s Net Zero ambitions for the city;

·        without a change in national policy to enable Councils to build a much greater number of Council homes, the net figure of properties in Council ownership would continue to fall; and

·        the ability of the Council to extend the retrofitting offer to the private sector remained an aspiration.


The Service Lead Environmental Health and Community Safety referred to a report to Executive on 4 April 2023 seeking to revise the Council’s Financial Assistance Policy for the Better Care Fund to offer low cost loans for renovations/upgrades to homes for vulnerable individuals, both inside and outside of the mandatory Disabled Facilities Grant system.


The Chair thanked Councillor Denning for her report and thanked Councillor Wright for presenting the report on Councillor Denning’s behalf.


Community Safety Partnership - Presentation pdf icon PDF 3 MB

The Service Lead - Environmental Health and Community Safety will speak to the presentation on the role and work of the Community Safety Partnership. Below is the link to the relevant web page


Safer Exeter - Exeter City Council







The Service Lead Environmental Health and Community Safety spoke to the attached presentation on the Community Safety Partnership.


The following responses were given to Members’ queries:-


·         the criteria of the respective Safer Street schemes had evolved over time. Safer Streets 2 had focussed on burglary, thefts from persons, robbery and vehicle crime, with Safer Streets 4 broadening the criteria, notably including the Safety of Women at Night (SwAN) scheme as well as anti-social behaviour;

·         whilst bids had involved input from a number of partners, widening consultation had been difficult given the very demanding Home Office deadlines for bid submission. There was Councillor membership on the Partnership;

·         as 50% match funding was required if bids were made by a local authority or the Police, a Partnership approach was preferable in funding terms and the University were able to bring special skill sets to the bidding process; 

·         three cameras were located in Northernhay Gardens, with two planned for Rougemont Gardens;

·       the CCTV Control Room upgrade would greatly assist evidence gathering to help the Police in prosecutions. Control room staff were required to undergo appropriate training under the auspices of the Security Industry Authority;

·        further extension of the camera network outwards from the centre remained the aspiration as well as replacing all remaining analogue cameras with digital, the greater cost of the former being the expansion of the fibre optic network;

·         there were criteria for premises seeking to join the Best Bar None scheme and “secret shoppers” were also involved as part of the selection process; and 

·         Ann Hunter of InExeter had been awarded the Lorraine Cox Memorial Award at a recent Best Bar None Awards Ceremony.


Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee noted the report and thanked the Service Lead for his presentation.




Forward Plan of Business and Forward Work Plan pdf icon PDF 202 KB


Members noted the Forward Plan and the Scrutiny Work Plan. 




Councillor Sutton


The Chair announced that Councillor Rachel Sutton would be standing down at the forthcoming local government elections on 4 May 2023 and thanked her for her service on the Council.