Hounslow Council


Agenda and minutes

Venue: Open Area, Lampton Park Conference Centre, (Civic Centre), Lampton Road, Hounslow

Items
No. Item

10.

Apologies for Absence and Communications from members

Minutes:

Residents were welcomed to the meeting by the Chair and there were no apologies for absence.

11.

Minutes of the meeting of 6 July 2016 pdf icon PDF 142 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 6 July 2016 were held to be an accurate record and signed.

12.

Matters Arising

Minutes:

There were no matters arising.

13.

New Council Website 6:45 - 7:15 pm

Presented by Susan Austin, Customer Services Manager, London Borough of Hounslow

 

Minutes:

With the Chair’s permission this item was brought forward and heard as item 4. The presentation was made by Victoria Lawson, Director of Customer Services and Communications, as Customer Services Manager Susan Austin was unable to attend.

 

She advised that the new website still required a considerable of amount of work before it would be ready to launch in January 2017 but she was able to give a demonstration via a slideshow. The designers intended that the new site would be as easy as possible to navigate and they would develop customer accounts so that users could track their progress whenever they engaged with council services. The Council’s own intranet for staff use would also be updated and improved. The public website would avoid using jargon, using plain English instead and would be set up to encourage reporting of problems such as flytipping and graffiti as well as allowing residents to make payments.

 

Following questions from attendees Ms Lawson agreed to look at the possibility of using an app that enabled BSL signing and a voice box for people with visual impairments along with webchat. Good use of colours and simple graphics would also help the visually impaired. The site would be made as easy as possible to use for people with learning difficulties. It would still be necessary to maintain a contact centre due to the volume of phone calls received however the need to improve the telephone service was fully recognised; in future new products would enable callers to get through without having to go through anywhere near as many options. IT would carry out all tests necessary to ensure the maximum possible level of security and data protection, especially where residents were using the site to make payments. It was intended that the new website would allow residents to make Council Tax payments and other services such as rent. Pages would be printer friendly to avoid unnecessary use of coloured ink.

 

Ms Lawson agreed with comments that there would always be people who did not use the internet but said that those who preferred to phone or access face to face service would receive better service as more resources would be freed up by greater internet use. The Chair asked if a dedicated individual could be employed to fast track calls from people with difficulties in using communications.  Ms Lawson advised that a comments, complaints and compliments service would be provided and accessed via an icon.

 

A resident stated that she had difficulty reporting damage to communal areas and had to access the emergency repair service in order to arrange non-emergency work; the same applied to other communal issues such as missed bin collections and the system seemed to be focussed exclusively towards individual households. Ms Lawson agreed to investigate the issue.

14.

Questions from the Public 8:05 - 8:15 pm

15.

Hounslow New Civic Centre 6:45 - 7:15pm

Presented by Richard Rollison, Senior Project Manager, London Borough of Hounslow and

Anna Camp, Leisure Projects Manager - New Civic Centre Library

 

Minutes:

The presentation, accompanied by slides, was made by Richard Rollison, Senior Project Manager. He advised that 919 housing units would be built on the site of the present Civic Centre, which was to be demolished and replaced by a new building in Hounslow town centre, close to Yates’ Wine Bar. The new Civic Centre was to be seven storeys including the basement and was designed to cater for people with a wide range of impairments, ensuring ease of use for all. The layout and facilities were in full accordance with building regulations and the Equalities Act. There would be 43 parking spaces of which 12 would be disabled access, a number determined by the Council’s Planning Policy. Mr Rollison showed slide layouts of each floor, highlighting accessibility for wheelchair users.

 

Residents were concerned about the lack of parking spaces, fearing that 12 would be nowhere near an adequate number of disabled spaces as many people were unable to use public transport and there was also concern that the basement, where the spaces would be, would not allow taller vehicles access. They asked for some of the standard spaces to be converted to disabled bays. Mr Rollison advised that there would be enough headroom as it was designed for large vans to use and that the number of spaces was set by planning policy; parking was always an issue that people commented on.  As disabled bays took up considerably more room than standard converting more would heavily reduce the overall number available. It was suggested that a survey be conducted into how many Motability users would require the use of disabled parking bays in the basement; it was pointed out that bringing library facilities into the Civic centre would increase the number of people needing a space.  Residents added that three coaches had been used to bring people to the DCF meeting and expressed concern that the new building would not have space for such large vehicles to pick up and drop off passengers. An area that allowed taxis to pick up and drop off passengers was requested. Mr Rollison advised that a drop off zone would be provided but there was concern that vehicles would use it to park considerably longer than 15 minutes.

 

Concerns were expressed that public seating would not be suitable for people with back and hip problems as was often the case. Mr Rollison stated that seating was not a building matter but he would pass on the concerns to the relevant people. The pedestrian crossing was believed to be a raised pelican type but Mr Rollison was unaware of the exact specification.

 

Automatic doors were requested as conventional doors were often too heavy for many people to use, particular concern was given about access to toilets, both regarding doors and also the amount of room inside. Officers advised that unfortunately electric doors were very expensive and not always practical. Concerns were noted and would be acted on where possible unfortunately no promises could be made.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.

16.

Questions from the Public 7:15 - 7:35 pm

17.

Council Tax Reduction Scheme 2017/18 and Closure of Satellite Offices 8:15 - 8:30 pm

Presented by Kevin Strong, Committals Manager

Housing Benefit team, London Borough of Hounslow

 

Minutes:

Kevin Strong, Committals Manager Housing Benefit Team, gave the presentation.

 

Mr Strong advised that Council Tax Support would be reduced by 8.5% of overall Council Tax charges for people of working age, with no change in the level of benefit payable to pensioners. It was already possible for residents to claim Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support online (a calculator was available online to find out what, if any, support people were entitled to), set up direct debits, report changes in circumstance and apply for discounts and exemptions. A unique customer reference number is given out so that staff can help people to complete forms. Mr Strong was unable to give an exact date for the closure of the satellite offices for housing in Brentford, Chiswick and Feltham which was to be carried out as a cost saving measure; it was intended that as much work as possible would be done online.

 

Cllr Mel Collins stated that Hounslow’s Vision Strategy: The Right to Sight group had discussed the matter at length and were asking officers to put the closure of satellite offices on hold at least until the new Civic Centre was complete and open. They were aware of the budgetary constraints (the Council was having to save a further £26 million in addition to large cuts already made) but felt there was a need to protect elderly and vulnerable members of the community. He asked for plans to be considered very carefully and sensitively.

 

Following questions from residents it was confirmed that the persons receiving Guaranteed Pension Credit would get 100% Council Tax Support and other support levels were calculated according to circumstance; people living alone would get a 25% Single Occupancy Discount. The Chair clarified that only the benefit aspect of the satellite offices was to close, the housing service would remain and so tenants collecting key fobs, for example, could still use those offices

 

The Chair requested that the Housing Benefit Team produce an article for Hounslow Matters magazine, perhaps in ‘pull-out’ form, outlining the issues presented.

18.

Questions from the Public 8:30 - 8:45 pm

19.

Open Forum 8:45 - 8:55 pm

Minutes:

Residents advised that many households did not receive copies of Hounslow Matters magazine and it wasn’t always available in libraries either. It was agreed that residents who had not received the magazine would provide the clerk with their address, who would forward their queries to the Communications Team.   That team subsequently informed the clerk that distribution was carried out by a contractor, (London Letterbox) and that the Communications Team had passed the addresses to them to ensure they were made aware. The next edition of Hounslow Matters was due for publication in late January 2017.

 

Residents asked if a fortnightly bin collection was to be introduced in 2017. The Chair confirmed that it was, as a necessary cost saving measure and an information campaign to inform the public of the details would be undertaken. Changes would be phased in and, responding to a query from a resident, it was confirmed that facts regarding communal bins would be made available. There would be no increase in Council Tax but it was stressed that the Council’s grants from central government had been cut by £140 million between 2010 and 2018 and savings had to be made. Co-optee John Beattie felt that the measure would discourage recycling and increase flytipping. Additionally there were frequent problems when ‘contaminated’ recycling bins went uncollected and foxes were a particular menace. The Chair advised that significant resources were being put into education to reduce the amount of contamination happening and that she would request a presentation to the next DCF meeting from the Recycling Team.

 

Cllr Mel Collins advised that Celia Golden and Sarfraz Kherdin from the Equalities Team had assisted Hounslow Housing to reinstate the Disability Housing Group. This body met four times a year on Thursday afternoons between 2 and 4 pm and he asked anyone wishing to take part to give their names to Celia or Sarfraz within the next three weeks. The group would not duplicate the work of the DCF and would be a different forum, looking at everyday issues on estates. Participation from the public was essential.

20.

Urgent Business 8:55 - 9:00 pm

Any other business which the Chair agrees to consider on the grounds of urgency.

Minutes:

There was no urgent business.

21.

Date of Next Meeting is 6 December 2016.

Future items for consideration