Agenda and minutes

Improvement and Review Commission
Wednesday, 6th November, 2019 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber

Contact: Jemma Durkan 

No. Item


Chairman's Introduction


The Chairman thanked the Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Mrs Langley and Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration & Development, Councillor Broadbent for attending the meeting.  The Chairman also welcomed the Chairman of Wycombe District Council, Councillor Paul Turner to the meeting.


Declarations of Interest

To receive any disclosure of disclosable pecuniary interests by Members relating to items on the agenda. If any Member is uncertain as to whether an interest should be disclosed, he or she is asked if possible to contact the District Solicitor prior to the meeting.


Members are reminded that if they are declaring an interest, they should state the nature of that interest whether or not they are required to withdraw from the meeting.


There were no declarations of interest.


Minutes of the Previous Meeting

To confirm the Minutes of the meeting held on 11 September 2019.

Supporting documents:


Regarding Minute 14, it was noted that Cabinet responses to the Parking Task and Finish Group recommendations were being considered at the Cabinet meeting on 11 November.  Concern was raised that some of the recommendations were being pushed aside.  Councillor Mrs Clarke explained that should would be unable to attend the Cabinet meeting and the Chairman confirmed that he or the Vice-Chairman, Councillor Collingwood would attend the meeting to raise concerns.


In response to a query it was reported that the sports centre car park was being resurfaced so current members of the sports centre would no longer need to use the park and ride car park.  The barriers to the park and ride would then be installed once the work had been completed.


RESOLVED:  That the minutes of the meeting held on 11 September be approved as a true record and signed by the Chairman.


Cabinet Member for Housing - Update on the Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation


The Chairman welcomed the Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Mrs Julia Langley, Brian Daly, Housing Services Manager and Amy Starsmore, Private Sector Housing Team Leader.  He noted that this would be the last report to the Commission on the licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), the team had undertaken a vast amount of work, and thanked the Cabinet Member and officers for their attendance. 


Councillor Mrs Langley noted that HMOs were a valuable source of housing and failing to manage these properties was an offence with possible fines or convictions.  She advised that if anyone was concerned about any suspected HMOs in their areas they were to contact the housing team. 


Amy informed the Commission that the Government legislation regarding HMOs changed on 1 October 2018 and she provided a number of statistics since this date as follows:


·         163 applications had been received for HMOs of 5 or more persons.

·         94 licenses had been issued.

·         13 withdrawn.

·         1 refused.

·         9 licenses pending.

·         117 had been processed.

·         47 applications were outstanding these were due to legal action, incomplete applications, Fit and Proper Person issues and recent applications.

·         1145 persons in licensed, compliant and checked properties.

·         200 persons in smaller inspected HMOs.

·         1345 persons in total persons protected in HMOs.


It was reported that HMO enforcement had been proactive in targeted areas.  Operation Reveal was undertaken in two stages: stage one in Oakridge and Abbey wards, stage two in Disraeli and Terriers/Amersham Hill wards.  Properties visited during the operation totalled 255 with 190 being assessed.  Follow up visits had been undertaken with all properties assessed in full.  Stage three of the operation was currently being planned.  In total 471 inspections had been undertaken since 1 October 2018.


There had been 153 Statutory Notices and four Civil Penalties issued with £7500 being collected.  Two prosecutions had been lodged at court, three with legal services, four potential legal cases, and nine cases had been investigated but no action taken.


Regarding stage three of Operation Reveal it was reported that this would require a different approach as the properties would be more difficult to investigate.  Work would be undertaken with other agencies such as Children’s Social Care and Adult Social Care, BCC and the Police.  Members were asked to inform the team if they were aware of any suspected HMOs in their areas.


Members raised a number of issues and received clarification on queries as follows:


·         The Improvement and Review Commission task and finish group in 2014 had investigated HMOs and provided a number of recommendations to Cabinet. 

·         It was noted that the objective of HMO licensing was to ensure the safeguarding of tenants and to make sure they were protected.

·         Compliance was expected and warnings were given to landlords to rectify problems.  Prosecution was an enforcement tool and was only undertaken if landlords ignored warnings and the council had no other option.

·         The benefit for not applying for a HMO was expected to be financial as compliance usually incurred costs such as the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.


Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration & Development - Regeneration Update


The Chairman welcomed the Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration and Development, Councillor Steve Broadbent.  The Chairman informed the Committee that he had attended the Special Cabinet meeting on 21 October where the Regeneration Strategy had been approved and passed onto the Shadow Executive for consideration.  He had been very impressed with Strategy as presented by Councillor Broadbent and had invited him to the Commission meeting for a discussion on the report.  The Chairman also noted that Councillor McCarthy, Chairman of the River Wye Task and Finish Group had also provided an excellent presentation on the findings of the task and finish group and thanked him for his enthusiasm and support.


Councillor Broadbent advised that the Regeneration Strategy provided a set of proposals to help grow the economy for the future. The Strategy covered the High Wycombe, Princes Risborough and Marlow areas and aimed to increase the size of the local economy.  This would also contribute to the emerging Transport Strategy for High Wycombe.  An Innovation Growth Corridor identified in the Strategy included Cressex Business Park, Handy Cross and Wycombe Air Park.  The Strategy also supported the strategic business case for Future High Streets Fund work for High Wycombe.  One of the primary growth areas was Princes Risborough and it was recognised that with the expected housing expansion there would be different pressures in this area.  The Regeneration Strategy looked forward to 2050 and included bringing green and blue natural assets into future planning.  Councillor Broadbent noted that the Strategy supported the wellbeing and economic agenda, and celebrated unique natural assets such as the River Wye. 


Councillor McCarthy, Chairman of the River Wye Task and Finish Group (TFG) explained that the TFG had undertaken a vast amount of intensive work.  He understood that it was difficult to value the non-tangible assets of remaking the river through High Wycombe town centre, however he believed that the opportunity was to do it now or the project would never happen.  He hoped that this would be considered by the new Unitary Council when looking at the long term plans for the town centre.  The Chairman of the Commission commented that he was optimistic that this would be considered by the new Unitary Council.


The Commission raised a number of queries and made various comments as follows:


·       Concern was raised regarding the use of Abbey Way roundabout as a future green open space; the likely pollution and that it was sometimes used as a ‘run off’ for cars. 

·       It was requested that funding for restoration of roads be considered in some areas of the town centre and that the remaking of the river be considered by the new Unitary.  It was noted that replacing the existing culverts could cost £18 million.

·       Councillor Broadbent noted that Abbey Way was a good example of a project that could be part of a bigger future project.  It was hoped the new Unitary would see key aspects in the Strategy that could be portable to other areas of the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23.


Discussion on change of date of next meeting

The date of the next meeting is scheduled for the 8 January 2020.


The Chairman noted that he had excused Catherine Whitehead, Head of Democratic, Legal and Policy from attending the Commission meeting on 6 November as she was undertaking work in relation to the new Unitary Council.


With regards to the meeting on 8 January the Chairman suggested that this could be moved to a later date.  There was also a meeting scheduled to take place in March and instead only one meeting could be sufficient. Details would be confirmed at a later date.


Commission's Work Programme and Forward Plan

Supporting documents:


The Chairman suggested that a report be brought to the next meeting outlining the successes of the Improvement and Review Commission since its inception in 2005.


It was also suggested that at the next meeting a discussion take place regarding the role of scrutiny in the new authority and scrutiny topics for the new Unitary Council could be proposed.  Recommendations following these discussions could then be made to the new Buckinghamshire Council for consideration.


It was noted that on the Work Programme that the Licensing of HMOs was listed to be under the department area for Planning and Sustainability; however this was incorrect and should be under Housing, Environment and Community.


Councillor Call for Action

To consider any Councillor Call for Action submitted in accordance with the agreed procedure.


There were no Councillor Calls for Action.