Agenda item

Interview with Adur Cabinet Member for Communities and Wellbeing

To consider a report by the Director for Digital, Sustainability and Resources, copy attached as item 8


The Committee had a report before it attached as item 8,  a copy of which had been circulated to all Members, a copy of which is attached to a signed copy of these minutes. 


A member asked, “Paragraph 5.14 in the Priorities for Adur report Adur Priorities  indicates that further investment for the Proactive Programme and the OneStop “Money Coaches will continue”, both excellent pieces of work by the council. Will this investment further expand the scope of these services in response to the Cost of Living Crisis (COLC) to include identifying vulnerable demographics and training money coaches around energy specific savings eg. energy tariffs and efficient use?


Response - The Cabinet Member for Communities and Wellbeing said Proactive was the internal approach that continued to provide valuable insights, help and support, for people at risk or facing real difficulties.  In addition to the councils’ ongoing proactive calls using their Customer Contact team, they were also working with two housing cohorts up until Christmas. Using Tell Jo as a digital tool to reach out to more residents, enabling them to self assess, self signpost and ultimately signpost back to the Council for help and support, they were expanding their ability to contact more residents.  


Once they did make contact, or people contacted them, they could offer and signpost to a wide range of support, not just money coaching, but also ensuring the correct benefits were being received and bringing in other services delivered by their partners.  This included working closely with the Department for Work and Pensions to help get people back into work.  


As part of their organisational redesign they would be mainstreaming Proactive into their teams and the way they worked with people that were vulnerable, connected to their new ethical debt policy approach.  Using their LIFT platform they were expanding the way this was identifying vulnerable people through their teams.  Tell Jo would enable them to reach more people.


In addition, they were also continuing to develop their cost of living work with a wider set of partners - their wider community safety net - to help support people and build their resilience in communities.  


A member asked, “What safety net does the Council have in place in the event that our much needed food banks become unsustainable or insufficient in the face of the ongoing and increasing Cost of Living Crisis?


Response - the council continued to work in partnership with key public sector agencies, the voluntary and community sector, businesses and their communities through the Cost of Living roadmap and related action plans, to ameliorate the wide ranging impacts being faced nationally as a result of the COLC. They were working with food groups to help them become more sustainable and both Councils had identified the need for a donation based fundraising mechanism to be set up to support food provision in Adur and Worthing. They were in the final stages of writing a proposal for this activity with a view to this platform being in place for early December and relevant reports were being prepared for Cabinet Member approval.


A Member asked, “How will you meet the challenge of securing Council income whilst also leading a policy of empathic debt collection?


Response - it was vitally important to identify those facing financial hardship early and provide the appropriate support.  They had brought in an “ethical debt policy” in November to set out the Councils’ approach.  This included contacting people early, making appropriate repayment arrangements, and signposting people to appropriate support including money advice.  Where they were struggling to make contact with a customer to make an arrangement, they worked with their debt recovery agents to ensure those cases were assessed for propensity to pay and that they were dealt with by their welfare teams. Their ongoing work would be to ensure their system was good at understanding circumstances, and was supportive for those that “can’t pay” and more robust for those that “won’t pay”.


A member asked, “The council suspended its Out of Hours Noise Service well over a year ago, due to issues with the service provider. What is the current provision for people wanting to report unacceptable levels of noise outside office hours?

Response - following the service provider being unable to fulfil its contractual requirements, a request for other providers to register an interest through a tender portal had been made which resulted in no companies coming forward. In the absence of a provider customers were still able to report unacceptable levels of noise out of hours but those would be actioned on the next working day. Customers who had access to a mobile device could use the Noise App which allowed customers to record instances of noise when it affected them which could be reviewed by officers. In addition they also had the ability to install specialist noise recording equipment and officers would make out of hours visits at times when the noise is likely to occur.


A Member asked, “Adur District Council (ADC) has publicised that it's awarding £500 grants to organisations providing "warm spaces".  What is the take up, currently, and is there scope to increase the size of the grants if temperatures plummet to below average in the New Year?


Response - they had received 9 applications for Adur, 5 had been successful and 4 were currently being processed, the grant value was not anticipated to cover the costs of the activity but was a contribution to those generously hosting warm spaces. The grant value had been benchmarked against other warm space activity, it was not anticipated that it would be increased.


A member asked, “Within your portfolio there is responsibility for Police performance and intelligence liaison. 


Huge reductions in police funding have led to steep rises in crime in the local community- from flytipping to bike theft and burglary - and the percentage of these crimes unsolved is at a record high to the extent that some are effectively decriminalised. 


Will you now look toward working with our partners to reinstate at least one Police and Community Panel in Adur - ideally covering three main areas - Sompting & Lancing, Shoreham and Southwick & Fishersgate?


Response - there were currently no plans to develop a bespoke forum for this purpose. Having consulted with the Neighbourhood Policing Team inspector, they had confirmed that from a policing perspective, they wanted to focus on contributing to existing community led initiatives. Adur was also represented at the Joint Action Group monthly meeting where Members could raise community concerns with a variety of partners and receive feedback on crime types, rates of incidence and partnership activity to address them.


Further questions were raised regarding communicating with communities in relation to crime and antisocial behaviour. Members were told that the council were working with the police and other groups through data sharing to regularly and meaningfully engage with communities.

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