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Agenda item

Community Action Team


The Committee considered the Joint Report of the Director of Transformation and Partnership and the Corporate Director of Regeneration and Local Services that provided Members with an update on the work of the Council’s Community Action Team (CAT) and the use of targeted interventions (for copy of report, see file of minutes).


Ms Jones, the Senior Environmental Health Officer was in attendance to present the report and deliver a presentation (for copy of slides, see file of minutes).


Members were advised that the CAT worked with key partners such as police, fire, planning officers, neighbourhood wardens and private sector housing officers and focussed on housing and environment issues within specific locations.


An action plan specific to each area was followed over an 11 week period as each location had different characteristics. Prior to action taking place a wide range of engagement events with residents were held when officers were in attendance to answer questions. In addition, prior to action taking place in an area letters were distributed to residents and QR codes were introduced to enable residents to complete surveys.


During 2018 there were four targeted interventions by the CAT at Spennymoor, Dean Bank, Willington and Easington Colliery as well as reviews at Chester le Street, Dawdon, Spennymoor and Dean Bank. CAT locations usually have a high proportion of privately let property compared to social housing.


Members were advised that four areas had been identified for 2019 and the team were currently at Cockton Hill area of Bishop Auckland, Grange Villa, Crook central and Eldon.


The Chairman referred to the work that was going on in particular areas and indicated that the team were doing a fantastic job. He then referred to the resident surgeries and the new ways of engagement the team had pursued and asked how they were planning to engage with the small percentage who were not aware of the work of the team.


Mr Laws, Public Health and Housing Manager responded that they used local venues and linked into local clubs such as luncheon clubs and worked with the AAP before they went into an area to ascertain which venues local residents would attend.


The Chairman referred to the presentation and asked if they involved school children in every area that the team attended.


The Senior Environmental Health Officer responded that they worked closely with Groundwork North East and Cumbria who worked with primary and secondary schools.


Councillor Crute referred to Blackhall in his division where the team had done a fantastic job. He referred to the selective licensing scheme and asked if they had noticed any differences when working in areas where the selective licensing scheme was in operation  and advised that the work of the CAT would provide a strong evidence base to move to a total scheme and is this consistently fed into the licensing consultation.


The Senior Environmental Health Officer advised that of the areas that were visited in 2018, the quantity of casework undertaken by the Community Action Team was higher in the two areas that were, or had recently been, selectively licensed.  However the level of compliance had been better in the past year, as in the selective licensing areas they were able to contact the landlords prior to going into an area, which meant that the landlords were quicker to action any issues that were found. 


The Senior Environment Health Officer advised that there was a countywide accreditation scheme for landlords and accredited landlords were also contacted before the CAT go into an area.


The Public Health and Housing Manager advised that they were involved in the selective licensing project which is looking at selective licensing across the County and all of the areas mentioned were included as evidence.


The Public Health and Housing Manager advised Members that they used the data gathered from these Community Action Team areas. The scheme improved areas and there were two elements to action that was enforcement or lose accreditation status that makes it difficult to obtain tenants.


Councillor Crute asked if the database gave details of who let the properties as these details would benefit the areas. He also commented that the majority of fly tipping took place in yards where there was no gate.


Councillor Avery referred to the Dean Bank area where the CAT team had done an excellent job but the area was slowly drifting back into its previous state. He asked if they were planning to carry out any further walkabouts. He then commented that private landlords were putting in any tenants which was causing issues at Dean Bank.


The Senior Environmental Health Officer advised that the selective licensing scheme uses a traffic light system for referencing tenants but some landlords still house problem tenants in the properties.


The Public Health and Housing Manager indicated that a working group were looking at how to sustain the current selective licensing schemes and keep up the good work.


The Chairman commented that Members had a responsibility to avoid drift and maintain the good work and he did regular walkabouts in his area.


Councillor Avery responded that he carried out walkabouts in his areas but it would be nice to see an official team in the area.


Councillor Howell commented that he carried out regular multi agency walkabouts. He referred to the landlord accreditation scheme which as a landlord he was part but no one had spoken to him, so they did not know if he was a good landlord.


The Public Health and Housing Manager indicated that he would pass the comments onto housing who run the landlord accreditation scheme and ask them to contact Councillor Howell direct.


Councillor Jopling commented that the landlord accreditation scheme did not go out and inspect the properties to give them some kind of score and went on to suggest a similar scoring scheme could be adopted similar to that for food hygiene in premises.


Councillor Hicks asked how they decided which areas the team visited.


The Senior Environmental Health Officer responded that they had a criteria that looked at areas of deprivation, number of private rented on housing benefits etc., but if Members had any suggestions and if they met the criteria then the team would look at the area.


Resolved: That the report and presentation be noted and a further update come back to a future meeting of the committee.

Supporting documents:


Democratic Services
Durham County Council
County Hall
County Durham
03000 269 714