Basildon Borough Council's Annual Report 2018/19

Introduction

Welcome to Basildon Borough Council's Annual Report 2018/19.

"Our corporate plan seeks to build on opportunity and challenge what holds us back."

"The council's ambitions for the borough and the promises we make will guide our conversations and our actions."

The purpose of the Annual Report is to show you how we are doing as we work to meet the ambitions and promises set out in our corporate plan. To find out more about our Corporate Plan see Corporate Plan 2019-2022 .

People

Our ambition:

  • PEOPLE - a place where people are happy, healthy and active

Our promises

  • We will adopt a zero-tolerance approach by using all powers available to us to ensure that we have the right to live in a safe and pleasant environment is maintained.
  • We will support those who are vulnerable or less able to help themselves.
  • We will maintain a range of leisure and community facilities to improve residents' health and well-being.
  • We will listen to and work with our communities when making decisions, developing policy and designing services.
  • We will use our influence to reduce health inequality in the borough.

Our actions

  • The Anti-social Behaviour Team increased the customer satisfaction rate from 98.8% last year to 100% for the service and outcome of cases. 37 enforcement actions were undertaken. 1092 early interventions undertaken.
  • New 3g football pitches and state of the art gymnastics hall opened at Eversley Leisure Centre to help encourage healthy and active lifestyles.
  • The Safer Basildon Partnership outreach engagement work delivered 12 Child Sexual Exploitation workshops, reaching 158 young people.
  • Crime in the Community Working Group consisting of Council Members and Officers has been set up to work closely with local partner agencies and the Police to address concerns raised relating to crime and anti-social behaviour (ASB).
  • Implementation of changes to taxi licensing as a result of the introduction of new statutory guidance aimed at further improving passenger safety.
  • Successful prosecution of a private sector landlord for failing to comply with an Improvement Notice under the Housing Act 2004 and breaches of the HMO Management Regulations.
  • Asset Management Framework endorsed to ensure all council assets are compliant, sustainable and fit for purpose as well as supporting the council's services and strategic ambitions.
  • Actions and progress underway to ensure a Dementia-friendly borough.
  • Basildon Council awarded East of England LGBT Ally of the Year and Senior Champion of the year by Stonewall (UK's largest LGBT organisation).
  • Mayor's Charity Appeal established as a formal charitable trust.
  • 'Rent First' Campaign made significant progress towards bringing down rent arrears. The campaign was nominated for Campaign of the Year at the 2019 Local Government Chronicle (LGC) awards.
  • SEDAH (South Essex Domestic Abuse Hubs) with Basildon Council as the lead authority, has gained further funding from the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) safeguarding its continuation for a further two years until March 2021. The hubs have assisted over 600 people who have experienced domestic abuse to date.
  • Basildon awarded a share of a £10million Sport England National Lottery grant for the Essex Local Delivery Pilot (ELDP) to tackle physical inactivity in the borough.  
  • Annual grant (£20,000) awarded by the council to Basildon, Billericay and Wickford Council for Voluntary (BBWCVS) at George Hurd Centre. Annual grant (£205,000) awarded to Citizens Advice.  
  • With continued emphasis on early intervention, the Housing Solutions Service has successfully prevented or relieved homelessness in around 80% of cases since April 2018. The service was recognised by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) for Best Practice preventing homelessness amongst family licensed terminations.  
  • The council secured £500,000 Rough Sleepers Initiative (2-year) grant to implement a number of interventions to reduce rough sleeping. These interventions enabled the service to reduce rough sleeping by half in November 2018 compared with the previous year.
  • The Basildon Emergency Night Shelter (BENS) was able to open three weeks earlier than usual due to additional government funding to help drive the national Rough Sleeper strategy. By January it had accommodated 70 rough sleepers.
  • Recovered 6 properties as a result of investigating tenancy fraud and prevent 1 fraudulent right to buy.
  • Increased the tax base by £61000 as a result of investigations into Local Council Tax Scheme and Housing Benefit.

Our engagement and consultation

We have engaged and consulted with local people, stakeholders and other community partners on a range of key issues:

  • Essex Libraries consultation - acting in its role as a community leader, Basildon Council sought to engage residents in areas most affected by Essex County Council's proposals for the future of library services. Using feedback from these engagements, alongside evidence and insight prepared by the council, a formal response was submitted on behalf of the council as part of the consultation process. The council continues to be in dialogue with the county council on the future of these services in the borough.
  • A borough-wide consultation with residents and partners resulted in a new Safer Basildon Partnership Strategy developed for 2018-2021. Local delivery groups will be established for each of the specific priorities with a lead officer and will be responsible for developing annual evidence based delivery plans. Priority areas for the strategy are Violence and Vulnerability, Crime Prevention and Home Safety, and Gang and Drug-related crimes.
  • We held nine Together for Safer Communities community meetings throughout the year across 12 wards, supported by local ward councillors. These engagement meetings gave residents the opportunity to discuss their community safety concerns and raise awareness about the importance of crime prevention with local residents.
  • The Chairman of the Communities Committee met with over 50 community organisations in the summer 2018 to listen to their views. As a result of this, a Local Community Group Working Group has been established to improve communication between the council and community as well as other stakeholder groups in the borough to ascertain how the council could further support and work with the community.
  • The council consulted with the community on the Borough Local Plan, which sets out the vision and framework that will guide future development of all parts of the borough up to 2034. Council has now submitted the plan to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
  • We strengthened our relationships with private landlords to deliver our most successful Landlord Forum yet with nearly 100 attendees. We provided a range of information and legal updates to assist them with their responsibilities as landlords. As a result, more landlords are working closely with us and accept client referrals.
  • We designated the parished area of Ramsden Bellhouse as the Ramsden Bellhouse Neighbourhood Area following a four-week consultation. This gives greater control to the local community to better guide the planning and development of growth in their area.
  • Delivered two Local Conversation events, consulting with the Voluntary and Community Sector on ways in which the council can support them.
  • Child Sexual Exploitation workshops were delivered to 50 professionals to raise awareness of the subject including what it is, signs to look out for, local picture, information on the National Referral Mechanism, local processes and case studies.
  • The Council also undertook consultation on the key principles that underline our Customer policy.

Each year the council must set a budget that balances spending on services with the resources available to it. A public consultation was undertaken seeking views on how the council spends the money that is available to it, how it might raise more money and the level at which it should set the council tax for the next tax year. The information secured from the consultation was used to help inform decision around spending priorities and the level of council tax set by the council.

 

Place

Our ambition

  • PLACE - an attractive and welcoming place that people are proud to call home

Our promises

  • We will be creative to maximise investment in our programmes to deliver quality, council-owned market rent and sale homes for the borough.
  • We will maintain parks and open spaces to improve quality of life for all.
  • We will work with residents and businesses to keep streets and neighbourhoods clean and well-presented.
  • We will use our influence to shape the development of thriving communities that works for everyone.
  • The council is committed to investing in the delivery of housing and improving the environment to enhance the quality of life experienced by people who live and work in the borough.

Our actions

The council is committed to investing in the delivery of housing and improving the environment to enhance the quality of life experienced by people who live and work in the borough. In 2018/19 we have:

  • 10 new shared ownership homes were sold to borough residents and key workers
  • Basildon at 70 anniversary celebrations was launched
  • The council secured £875,000 of Veolia funding as a contribution towards the development and relocation of the new Wickford Community and Play Centre.
  • There was agreement to secure a trial of CCTV at locations where the largest and more frequent fly tips have historically occurred
  • Planning permission has been secured for two industrial sites in Basildon, providing jointly. 30,000sqm of employment space and units
  • The new Basildon market on St. Martin's Square is now opened for business
  • Development of 20 two-bedroom shared ownership apartments at the Space site along with car and cycle parking and associated landscaping targeting key workers has now commenced
  • 32 new homes provided through Sempra with a mix of tenure. Sempra also purchased 48 homes, on the open market, which were all let at social rent rates to applicants on the Council's Housing Register.

Growth

Our ambition

  • GROWTH - a place that encourages businesses to grow and residents to succeed

Our promises

  • We will promote the borough as a place to do business, to invest and to compete in the global economy.
  • We will regenerate and rejuvenate the borough through physical and economic regeneration, creating attractive town centres and high quality spaces.
  • We will use our influence to ensure residents get the best education and skills to benefit from growth opportunities and to create their own success.

Our actions

The council recognises that economic growth is vital to realising the full potential of the borough as a whole, and has worked in the following ways to make our commitments a reality:

  • Economic Development: Local businesses are engaged with schools and providing careers and employability support. Your Future 17 event in October 2018 attracted approximately 300 young people with 20-25 businesses amongst the exhibitors.
  • £4.1 million was accessed from the government's Cultural Development fund for Thames Estuary cultural activities to facilitate the creation of a digi-hub (a co-working space with artisan food and cultural offer) and the Thames Estuary Festival.
  • Basildon Breakthrough Commission published its findings and recommendation for actions to ensure inclusive growth that benefits everyone. Considerations for actions on recommendation will now be referred to the relevant service committees to include in their respective work programmes. All stakeholders involved will be consulted by the council to seek further views on the next steps.
  • The council provided valuable support to local businesses, enabling them to access nearly £250,000 of EU grants to help them expand and grow.
  • BasWorx websites has now been launched to help increase access to training and skills for local people. 92 residents have been supported online to the Job Club and 8 work placements have been supported.
  • We have relaunched the Pathways to Success Panel aimed at developing an action plan for enabling young people to access to local career opportunities.  
  • The council has approved planning permission for proposals to transform East Square, Basildon with a ten-screen cinema operated by Empire Cinemas and six new restaurants.
  • Financial investment (£350,000) has been approved for public realm including increasing accessibility in some areas of Billericay High Street to improve pedestrian routes and the flow of public transport. (Leisure, Culture & Environment).
  • Launch of the Basildon for Business website.
  • The Basildon Business Expo took place in November, attracting in excess of 200 local business delegates. The event helped to promote local businesses in the borough.
  • New phase of 100% superfast broadband launched in the Borough with thousands more homes and businesses in line to join the Superfast Network (Superfast Broadband).

A council fit for purpose

Our ambition

  • A council fit for purpose and able to deliver

Our promises

  • To continue to secure value for money in the delivery of our services.
  • Seeking innovative financial solutions to the challenges we face.
  • Embrace digital technology and support digital inclusion.
  • Recognising the differing needs of all parts of the borough and treat them fairly.

Our actions

  • The council's Customer Services department was awarded the prestigious Customer Service Excellence (CSE) standard. To achieve the award, the council has ensured that CSE principles and practices become fully embedded in Customer Services and the standard of service we provide.
  • Established the EU Exit working group to support the organisation during the EU Exit negotiation phase and to establish likely impacts on the organisation and wider borough. Whilst there has been a great deal of uncertainty surrounding EU Exit, the organisation has kept abreast of the latest thinking and contributed to wider multi-agency planning on the matter. This means the organisation is as prepared as it can be for the potential changing times ahead.
  • Approved implementation of a revised council tax scheme 2019 - 2022.
  • Opened Advice Store in Basildon Town Centre. There were over 800 visitors in the first two months of opening. Support available include weekly CV courses and interviews with local employers.
  • Funding for two additional Street Scene Enforcement Officers was approved to educate and enforce against fly tipping and other environmental offences within targeted areas over a 24 month period.
  • The Council undertook a complete review of its governance arrangements and refreshed its Local Code of Corporate Governance and Assurance Framework, setting out the minimum expectations on how the Council will be governed and what the public should expect.
  • New phase of 100% superfast broadband launched in the borough with thousands more homes and businesses in line to join the Superfast Network (Superfast Broadband).

Our challenges and learning

The council has been proactive in responding to a number of information breaches by using its resources to improve its approach to information management. The council sought to ensure that it was compliant with the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) by 25 May 2019. After a comprehensive review of information management the council is now confident that it has the necessary policies, training and supporting processes in place to meet the requirements of the legislation. These policies and processes will continue to be monitored to ensure information governance is fully embedded across the organisation.  Information management remains in the spotlight with further work planned in 2019/20 to embed our learning.

The council faces significant financial challenges as a result of phasing reductions in government support and pressures on costs. The External Auditors have reviewed the council's 2018/19 budget setting process, and have judged it to be robust, with sensibly prudent assumptions applied to uncertain income streams and future expenditure. The arrangements put in place by the council are deemed to be sufficient in addressing the current budget gap. 

In response to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommendations, the council has taken a number of steps to improve checks on boundary walls and tighten its own reporting processes. It has also reminded all residents, including those who own their own homes or rent from the council and other landlords, how to check the safety of their walls and to report any concerns.

Changes to information management, training of staff, production of policy and procedure documents and ensuring that GDPR remains in the spotlight have brought about a significant improvement to the authority, along with a commitment to establishing and maintaining a whole new 'GDPR culture' and high standards amongst its staff and Members. 

Our Annual Governance statement reports publicly on the extent to which the council complies with its own local code of governance. The council has good foundations in place and the 2018/19 governance review has not identified any significant issues of concern. The council recognises that there are areas where we wish to enhance our arrangements to ensure that we continue to do the right things, in the right way, in line with our values and to take into account significant challenges we face. Key challenges for the Council have been highlighted as:

  • Partnership Arrangements
  • Information Governance
  • Developing and Maintaining the Corporate Programme and Service Plans (Performance Management)
  • Programme and Project Management.

Our partnerships

Basildon Council works closely with a range of public, private and voluntary sector organisations to help achieve our ambitions for the borough.

What partnership working has achieved this year

  • Basildon Council is a founding member of the Association of South Essex Local Authorities (ASELA). Its primary aim is to provide place leadership for the South Essex sub-region. Member authorities work in collaboration to help deliver the South Essex 2050 vision.  The focus is in securing inclusive and healthy growth for local communities in South Essex. ASELA was successful in securing a £1million Construction Skills Fund from the Construction Industrial Training Board to establish three bespoke construction training hubs across Basildon, Southend and Thurrock.
  • Development of a Safer Basildon Partnerships hub consisting of officers from various organisations including the Police and Community organisations, working together to improve community safety in the borough. The hub acts as a focal point for other partners' engagement and is an environment that allows for real time information sharing amongst officers.
  • The Safer Basildon Partnership Strategy was approved by Full Council in July 2018, with revised working arrangements across all partners. Safer Basildon aims to reduce crime and disorder, tackle anti-social behaviour and reduce re-offending.
  • We have secured funding of £74,000 to work in partnership with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) on a year-long project to help residents overcome the barriers that hold them back from getting a job.
  • Basildon has been selected along with five cities across the UK to work with the National Infrastructure Commission to improve local transport connections, unlock job opportunities and deliver new-homes.
  • Approval has been granted for the use of £750,000 of the investment capital budget as match funding for the South Essex Local Enterprise Partnerships (SELEP) bid to deliver the Innovation Warehouse, which will provide managed work space to early stage, high growth, technology start-ups, with access to specialist equipment via Fablab Essex, enabling ideas to be developed, prototyped and commercialised en route to the market.
  • Basildon Council has worked with partners from the NHS and Peabody Housing Association to implement a hospital discharge policy for homeless clients, resulting in planned discharges and no emergency situations since implementation.
  • The council is working in partnership with Registered Providers in safeguarding supported housing schemes for single people and young parents. The council has worked with SWAN housing who provide a single persons Foyer and Parent and Child hostel where intensive support is given with a view to moving on into a sustainable tenancy.

Further information and enquiries

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