Question from Councillor Hannaford
In accordance with Standing Order No. 8, the following questions were put by Councillor Hannaford to the Leader.
1. Bearing in mind that the new Domestic Abuse Bill 2020 aims to raise awareness and understanding about the devastating impact of domestic abuse on victims, survivors, and their families, with a clear focus on the voice of the child, and seeks to further improve the effectiveness of the justice system in providing protection for victims of domestic abuse and bringing perpetrators to justice, and strengthen the support for victims of abuse by statutory agencies, can I please ask the Leader of the Council, how will Exeter City Council implement the areas in the Bill that specifically relate to District Councils, including the new “duty to comply”?
The Domestic Abuse Bill 2020 places a duty on tier one local authorities to provide support to victims of domestic abuse and their children within refuges and other safe accommodation. The Bill also requires tier two councils (districts) to co-operate with the lead local authority, so far as is reasonably practicable.
Whilst the Council’s principal engagement with the planning and implementation of the new Bill is through the Safer Devon Partnership and the review of the Devon wide Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse (DVSA) Strategy, the Council’s statutory duties in respect of housing are currently being met within our adherence to the Devon Homechoice Allocations policy (which has significant preferential measures in respect of DVSA need) and our application to statutory homelessness applications under part 7 of the Housing Act 1996.
In addition, the Housing Needs and Homelessness Service has been working with the Devon County Council Domestic Abuse Service Commissioner on two development agendas as part of the homelessness strategy. The first being a working group with the Devon Districts developing additional places of safety for emergency housing need for DVSA victims (and also perpetrators). The current focus is on a registered social landlord providing accommodation options in districts to add capacity to what districts currently use which is primarily temporary accommodation and/or limited refuge spaces. The second piece of work is an Exeter-focused group of statutory and voluntary agencies assessing need and delivery options for housing and support for women in acute need, for example female rough sleepers with complex needs.
2. How will Exeter City Council apply and monitor the areas in the Bill that specifically relate to social housing tenants?
The Housing Tenancy Service has a Housing Anti-social Behaviour Policy; a Domestic Abuse Policy and a Safeguarding Policy and will ensure that they are all compliant with the requirements of the Domestic Abuse Bill. The current review of the Housing Tenancy Strategy and Tenancy Policy will also ensure that these documents are compliant. In particular, where the Council grants a new tenancy to someone for reasons connected with domestic abuse, if they previously had a secure lifetime tenancy, we will grant a new secure lifetime tenancy on the same terms.
All housing policies and procedures are updated on a regular basis and all housing staff have received training in domestic abuse awareness.
3. How will Exeter City Council work with all key stakeholders, service partners, agencies and charities to raise awareness, campaign and give help, advice and support?
The Exeter, East and Mid Devon Sexual Violence and Domestic Violence and Abuse Forum which is a sub-group of both the Exeter Community Safety Partnership and the East and Mid Devon Community Safety Partnership, comprises representation from children’s services, police and specialist service providers among others. It holds regular events for professionals and shares information on current issues. The Policy Officer - Community Safety, Safeguarding and Equality and Diversity co-chairs the forum and also meets regularly with housing colleagues, the Safer Devon Partnership and other forum chairs from across Devon. These groups work together to raise awareness of domestic abuse and the support available and to co-commission additional projects and specialist services where needed
The Housing Tenancy Service has pledged to be part of the Chartered Institute of Housing’s “Make a Stand” campaign and this will be widely advertised and promoted both online and via the residents’ newsletter “Insight”.
4. How will Exeter City Council interact with the Domestic Abuse Partnership (Board)?
The Policy Officer – Community Safety, Safeguarding and Equality and Diversity will represent the Council on the Partnership Board.
5. Can we please have further reports and updates on these specific matters through the scrutiny process?
This request should be referred to the Scrutiny Programme Board.
6. Can we please consider an annual report on domestic and sexual violence and abuse on an Exeter specific basis?
Sexual Violence and Domestic Violence and Abuse is a priority for the Exeter Community Safety Partnership (CSP) currently and for 2021/22. As such regular updates are provided to the CSP Executive. These updates can form the basis of a formal report to Council on an annual basis.
Councillor Hannaford commented on the responses, stating that he hoped that pressures in other areas such as special needs would not impact on the ability to address Domestic Abuse issues.
The Leader confirmed that the issues raised would be considered by the Scrutiny Programme Board.
In accordance with Standing Order No. 8, the following questions were put by Councillor D. Moore to the respective Portfolio Holders.
Air Quality to the Portfolio Holder for Transformation and Environment
How much (total amount) of Exeter City Council’s
budget is being
directed to delivering the Air Quality Action Plan both this year (2020-2021) and last year (2019- 2020);
· 2019/20 - £25,365.79; and
· 2020/21 - £26,329.85
grants has the Council applied for to help deliver the Air
Quality Action Plan either this year or last?
Exeter City Council supported Devon County Council’s bids for the All Electric Bus Town grant (unsuccessful) and the E-cargo Bikes grant (successful)
Councillor D. Moore put a supplementary question asking what applications would be submitted for the next financial year.
The Leader undertook for a written answer to be provided.
Homelessness to the Portfolio Holder for Supporting People
The Council submitted a bid to Government for
£3 million to the Next Steps
1. What was the outcome of that bid?
Exeter City Council
was successful with both short-term revenue funding and with the
long-term capital programme.
2. What was the amount of the award?
· £440,799 – Short-term revenue – this is to pay for continuation of the accommodation provided by the Great Western Hotel, food support, support for laundry costs, repairs, resident support;
· £1,377,448 – Capital funding to purchase 20 units of accommodation;
· £432,249 – Capital revenue funding to pay for tenancy related support until 2024;
· £1,202,003 – Exeter City Council contribution through uncommitted Section 106 funds. We have recently been successful for a further bid under the Move-on Fund to purchase an additional nine units;
· £502,000 – Capital Funding to purchase an additional nine 9 units;
· £410,000 – Exeter City Council Contribution through uncommitted Section 106 funds. We have also been successful with a bid towards the Cold Weather Fund; and
£50,000 – Extended winter provision offer for rough
sleepers. Accommodating 15 rough
sleepers from December until the end of March.
3. How many schemes and units does this funding represent?
In total there will be 29 units of accommodation made up of the following:
· 5 Self Contained Flats;
· 11 Bed Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) with a self-contained property (10 rooms with ensuite facilities and shared kitchens);
· 1x Self Contained property and 3 Bed HMO with shared facilities; and
6 Bed HMO with Shared
Facilities and a 3 Bed HMO.
4. Will these be delivered by the end of March 2021?
All efforts will be made to bring the properties online by the end of March 2021.
Consultations to the Portfolio Holder for Council Housing Development and Services
1. What public consultations or engagement processes will Exeter City Council be undertaking itself or promoting in partnership with other bodies or authorities between January and April 2021?
On the subject of public consultation and engagement between January and April 2021, the Housing Service will commence our STAR (Survey of Tenants and Residents) project.
We also intend to undertake a resident survey related to our new-build programme before the end of the financial year as well as engagement work around our plans for the Retrofit of council housing; these will be carried out in-house.
2. For each of the Housing Needs Survey and the
Tenant Involvement Survey:
Part 1 Housing Needs Survey consultation:-
a. How many responses were received?
2,315 responses were received from the 16,000 paper surveys that were sent out.
Will the Council publish feedback to participants and/or
communities of the key findings?
There were no plans to provide feedback.
Will the Council set out how respondents’ views and
or have been taken into account in decision making?
Whilst some residents received the survey and completed it, we did not commit to or plan to share the results as it is intended for internal use only.
d. What was the cost of undertaking each survey?
The total cost of producing the Housing Needs Report was £29,950 + VAT, this was paid for by commuted sum (Section 106 developers’ contributions) and not by the HRA. It is not possible to say exactly what the cost of the actual survey was but it would have been a substantial part of the overall cost of the exercise.
Part 2: Resident Involvement Survey:-
a. 555 Residents and leaseholders responded to the Resident Involvement Survey;
b. The results of the Resident Involvement Survey will be included in a report being prepared for Executive which outlines the process for developing a new Resident Involvement Strategy; and
c. The cost of sending the Resident Involvement Survey to all our tenants and leaseholders was £3,405.13 +VAT.
Part 2: Resident Involvement Strategy Consultation: -
a. There were 25 responses to this online consultation;
b. The feedback has been used to refine the Resident Involvement Strategy which will be brought to Executive Committee in the New Year; and
c. No costs incurred as the project was carried out in-house.