Agenda and draft minutes

Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee - Thursday 5th October 2023 5.30 pm

Venue: Civic Centre

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

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 639 KB

To approve and sign the minutes of the Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee held on 29 June 2023.




The minutes of the meeting of the Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee held on 29 June 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 2 October 2023.


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




No questions from members of the public were received.



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 Council Housing Development and Support Services

Councillor Foale     -   Portfolio Holder for Corporate and Democratic Services and Environmental Health

Councillor Pearce   -   Portfolio Holder for Communities and Homelessness Prevention

Councillor Williams -   Portfolio Holder for Place and City Management


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





In accordance with Standing Order No. 20, the questions below to the Portfolio Holder for Council Housing Development and Support Services - Councillor Denning, the Portfolio Holder for Communities and Homelessness Prevention - Councillor Pearce and the Portfolio Holder for Place and City Management - Councillor Williams, had been submitted by Councillors Atkinson, Moore, Miller and Rees and had been circulated in advance to Members of the Committee. In the absence of Councillor Atkinson, her questions were read out by the Chair. The responses of the Portfolio Holders are set out in italics.


Question to the Portfolio Holder for Council Housing Development and Support Services - Councillor Denning


Councillor Atkinson

In July 2023, the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 became law. This Act updates the Regulator of Social Housing’s responsibilities and powers. Presently the Regulator can only investigate landlords such as the City Council when someone refers a complaint that passes a threshold that the conduct complained of “seriously harms (or could seriously harm) tenants.”

The Act means that, starting in April 2024, the Regulator can more routinely and proactively, take action in a wider range of circumstances under the consumer standards.

Proposals for amending the standards registered providers must meet so tenants live in safe, quality homes, have choice and protection, and can hold landlords to account are currently being consulted. This consultation closes at 6:00pm on 17 October 2023.

Has the City Council responded to the consultation and what is our view about whether the proposed new standard will improve healthy living in Exeter’s Council Homes?

Has the Regulator investigated a complaint that a landlord has breached the consumer regulation requirement that the conduct harms of could seriously harm tenants?


The Council housing team are aware of the consultation from the Regulator for Social Housing and have been preparing a response to the consultation which has yet to be completed and agreed. As stated this consultation has to be submitted by the 17 October and will be agreed by the Portfolio Holder before being dispatched.

The regulation is welcome by the Council as it will ensure all social landlords in the city have a clear set of standards which they must comply with in a number of areas including complaints and the quality of homes. With regards to the council housing the Council has a fully costed Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Business Plan which includes works and maintenance in relation to health and safety and compliance priorities. These standards are already part of our programme and service delivery and will be continually monitored to ensure we comply in all areas.

The Regulator has not investigated any complaints in relation to the consumer standard for the housing service and their main powers in relation to Local Authorities with retained stock come into power in April 2024.

In the period leading up to the new regulation the housing team are working on a review to ensure full compliance with the new consumer standards which will be considered by  ...  view the full minutes text for item 27.


Update from the Portfolio Holder for Place and City Management - Councillor Williams pdf icon PDF 422 KB

Key Performance Indicator (KPI) information can be found using the PowerBi reports, available on the Council intranet home page.





 Councillor Williams reported on the Place and City Management areas of her 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. She referred to her shadowing of various services in recent months including bin collection including food waste, the Materials Re-cycling Facility, Car Park Enforcement, litter bin emptying and road sweeping.


She highlighted the following:-


·         following the introduction of food waste collection, 700,000 kg of waste had been diverted from black bins since April;

·         the acceptance of the Harbour Revision Order application prior to the deadline after which the cost would have increased;

·         a successful Heritage Harbour Festival on 23-24 September 2023;

·         the first phase of the food waste collection which had been well received.


In respect of the litter bin review and the removal of a number of bins, the Service Manager Public and Green Space had carried out one to one briefings with Members as part of street cleaning optimisations. The changes had been introduced as part of a vital savings exercise, including the decision not to fill existing vacancies. Delivery schedules for both deep clean and litter vans would be optimised and an update on the overall cleansing regime would be provided in the New Year after the evaluation had been completed. Section 106 contributions were utilised as far as possible from new developments to enhance litter bin provision and liaison was taking place with businesses with view to possible sponsorship/involvement for the provision/retention of litter bins. Further feedback from Members on locating litter bins was welcome.


Members were advised that Ash Die Back was spreading more slowly than expected although it was still anticipated that over 90% of trees would be lost and, consequently, the budget for remedial works would be rolled over



Homelessness Strategy - six month progress report pdf icon PDF 537 KB

Report of the Director City Devlopment





The Service Lead, Housing Needs and Homelessness presented the report providing an update on the recommendations of the Homelessness Task and Finish Working Group. The update covered the key Issues in the last six months and progress under the new Homelessness Strategy which included actions to progress the recommendations of the Working Group which had met in the Autumn of 2022 with a number of key stakeholders and statutory providers. Members were also advised that key data reporting demand, outcomes and trends would be circulated via the new Housing Needs quarterly newsletter and that further reports would be submitted on progress with the actions within the Strategy. He emphasised that it was not simply a City Council policy document, but a strategy to be owned by the whole of Exeter.


He enlarged on progress made on the action points 1 to 19 below.


Action points 1 to 8 involved lobbying of Government and external bodies, in particular seeking an overhaul of the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) Scheme to more accurately reflect Exeter’s circumstances in order to help individuals afford new homes or sustain tenancies. He advised that this was one of the areas to be raised for consideration by the Devon Housing Commission chaired by Lord Best and that the City Council would be submitting evidence to the Commission. Other areas being examined by the Commission included second home ownership and house building. A key ask was for central funding to extend beyond a one to three year support period to provide for long term planning and commitment.


Action points 9 to 12 involved system changes through working with local statutory partners and stakeholders to maximise current resources and identify new resources and strengthen partnership working.


Action points 13 to 19 related to the City Council’s own processes including developing a more formalised partnership with statutory bodies and local accommodation and support providers through the Homelessness Housing Forum. Prioritising budgets to maximise capacity was also important and the Council had committed capital match funding through the Local Authority Housing Fund

to purchase housing for those households who had come to the UK from Ukraine and Afghanistan through the Ukraine Family Scheme, the Homes for Ukraine Scheme and the Afghan Resettlement Scheme. Exeter was the only area where no one had become homeless after leaving Afghanistan Bridging hotels. A further initiative was the recent leasing of 16 units to provide additional temporary accommodation housing.


Responding to a Member who raised issues around Children’s services highlighting a case where a young person felt safer sleeping in a tent rather than facing anti-social behaviour/drug taking etc. in shared accommodation, the Service Lead, Housing Needs and Homelessness referred to the Council and partners targeting funds for new supported housing units for homeless young persons including care leavers. Gap analyses had been co-designed with partners and completed for both Rough Sleeping needs and high needs Young Persons services. It was a key partnership milestone in preparation for a November bid for capital and revenue to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 29.


Update on street cleansing, bins and litter following the changed approach.

Following one to one briefings with Membesr the update report will now come to this Committee in the New Year.




The Chair reported that, following one to one briefings with Members, the update report would be submitted to the Committee in the New Year.


Healthy Homes


The Chair reported that a request for the scrutiny of Healthy Homes standards would be addressed as part of the report of the Director City Development on the new ‘Exeter Plan’ to be submitted to the meeting of the Strategic Scrutiny Committee on 16 November 2023. The report would outline the purpose, scope and content of the Plan and Members would be able to consider what further work they would wish to see, including any work on Healthy Homes, to strengthen the plan for the pre-submission version. Any resource implications would also need to be considered by SMB and the relevant Portfolio Holders.


Members noted the position.





Scrutiny Programme Board Annual Report pdf icon PDF 152 KB

To receive the report of the Scrutiny Programme Board.



Additional documents:


The Chair, as a member of the Scrutiny Programme Board, presented the Board’s report which offered an annual update in respect of the Scrutiny work achieved during the Municipal Year 2022/23. He stated that it was the intention for future Annual Reports to set out in greater detail the areas scrutinised and to include the outcomes achieved.


A Member requested that the list of ongoing requests for scrutiny, including those submitted using the agreed proformas, be circulated to all Members. The list, which included the status of each item, was now included on the agenda for meetings of the Scrutiny Programme Board and a Member also asked if the list could cover previous years and not just the last 12 months.


Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee noted the Annual Scrutiny Report 2022/23 which would be presented to Executive to note and to recommend to Council to approve.



Forward Plan of Business and Scrutiny Work Plan pdf icon PDF 303 KB

Please see for noting a link to the schedule of future business proposed for the Council which can be viewed on the Council's web site. This on-line document is a source for Members to raise issues at Scrutiny on forthcoming Executive agenda items:-


Also attached is a draft work plan of future scrutiny items.


Should Members wish to raise issues in respect of future business please notify Howard Bassett in advance of the meeting.




The Chair reported the receipt of a number of additional proforma requests for scrutiny, some of which were effectively refreshing similar requests previously submitted.


Members noted the Forward Plan and the Scrutiny Work Plan. 



Howard Bassett


The Chair reported that this would be Howard Bassett’s last Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee prior to his retirement.


The Chair and Members thanked Howard for his service to the Council and wished him well on his retirement.