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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Council held on 11/12/2007
Executive Minutes 6.11.07



Executive 79
06.11.07
WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL
MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE EXECUTIVE – 6TH NOVEMBER 2007

SUBMITTED TO THE COUNCIL MEETING – 11TH DECEMBER 2007

(To be read in conjunction with the Agenda for the Meeting)
*Cllr R J Gates (Chairman)*Cllr D J Munro
*Cllr Mrs P M Frost (Vice-Chairman)*Cllr S N Reynolds
*Cllr M H W Band*Cllr J R Sandy
*Cllr B A Ellis*Cllr R J Steel
*Cllr D C Inman *Cllr A E B Taylor-Smith
* Present

109. MINUTES (Agenda Item 2)

The Minutes of the Meeting held on 2nd October 2007 and of the Special Meeting held on 8th October were confirmed and signed.

110. DISCLOSURES OF INTEREST (Agenda Item 2)
PART I - RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE COUNCIL

111. PROPOSED CUSTOMER CHARTER FOR WAVERLEY (Agenda item 12; Appendix G)

111.1 This report puts forward a proposal that Waverley should adopt and publish a Customer Charter that sets out the minimum standards of service that customers can expect to receive in all their dealings with the Council. The proposed Customer Charter, a copy of which is attached at Annexe 1, has been prepared in the light of lengthy discussions within the officer Improving Performance Group over the last year.

111.2 The main aim of the Charter is to give all Waverley’s customers a clear indication of the minimum levels of service that they can expect to receive from the Council in all areas of the Council’s work. The proposal is very much in line with the wish of Members and the Chief Executive to improve customer satisfaction with services provided by Waverley, and includes a more challenging target of 10 working days for responding to complaints, to be introduced with effect from 1 November 2007.

111.3 The document is deliberately short and presented in the form of ‘bullet points’ in the hope that customers will find it easy to read and will understand our key aims in providing high quality services.

111.4 The adoption of such a Charter will not prevent individual service areas from producing their own more detailed documents on the services that they provide, and indeed some services have already produced their own customer care literature. It will be necessary to ensure however that these more detailed documents do not conflict with the commitments given in the corporate Customer Charter.


111.5 Subject to the approval of Members, it is suggested that the Charter should be placed on the Council’s website and publicised in Waverley’s quarterly magazine, ‘Making Waves’. A shortened version could also be displayed in the Council’s Offices.

111.6 The Executive accordingly

RECOMMENDS that

38. the Customer Charter be adopted by Waverley;

Background Papers (CEx)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.

112. HOUSING AND COUNCIL TAX BENEFIT FRAUD PROSECUTION - UPDATED POLICY (Agenda Item 13; Appendix H)

112.1 The Council regularly brings criminal proceedings for both Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit fraud. A total of three successful prosecutions were brought in the Magistrates’ Court during the twelve months up to the date of this report, and more are expected for prosecution during the next twelve months.

112.2 The existing Prosecution Policy was approved by the Council at its meeting on 17 December 2001. While the existing policy is not out-of-date in terms of its content, it is somewhat brief and officers have taken the view that a more detailed policy is needed. The revised Prosecution Policy (“the Policy”), attached at Annexe 2, is intended to be comprehensive in its scope.

112.3 A comprehensive policy will ensure that only those cases that carry a realistic prospect of conviction, and that are in the public interest to prosecute, will be prosecuted in the criminal courts. This will ensure that resources are not wasted on prosecuting cases that have no realistic prospect of success.

112.4 The publication of the Policy on the Council’s website will inform the general public of the principles that the Council will apply when deciding whether to prosecute a case of benefit fraud. This will ensure transparency, in the same way that The Crown Prosecution Service ensures transparency through the open publication of its Code for Crown Prosecutors. The Policy would be produced, should a Court request sight of it, in Court in order to demonstrate that the Council has an agreed set of principles that are applied to each individual case. This is important in terms of demonstrating that the Council deals with each case in a fair and impartial manner.

112.5 The structure of the Policy closely follows that of the Code for Crown Prosecutors (“the Code”), which is a document that sets out the principles that the Crown Prosecution Service applies when carrying out its work. The Code contains a two-stage test (“the Code Test”) that must be applied when deciding whether to prosecute a case.


112.6 The ‘Policy Tests’ set out at pages 3 to 5 of the Policy mirror the two-stage Code Test, albeit with appropriate amendments to reflect the internal working procedures of the Council. Given that Council officers are effectively ‘Crown Prosecutors’ when prosecuting benefit fraud offences, it is felt that the Policy should appropriately reflect the Code.

112.7 As well as reflecting the Code Test, the Policy also reproduces the Code’s guidance on the selection of charges (page 5). It is important that Council officers select charges that adequately reflect the seriousness and extent of the offending, as well as providing the Court with adequate sentencing powers. Once again, the aim is to demonstrate that the Council is acting fairly when selecting which offence(s) to charge a defendant with.

112.8 Page 6 of the Policy addresses the monetary threshold that will guide officers generally when recommending cases for prosecution. The Policy stresses that these threshold act as a guide, and Members should note that the level of criminality would usually determine which area of legislation is used when taking a case to Court. The Policy must be flexible in this respect. It would be unfair to take a rigid approach to each case rather than examining each case on its individual facts.

112.9 In the same way, the alternative sanctions set out on pages 6 and 7 give officers a degree of flexibility when considering how to deal with a case that passes the Policy Tests. Cases must still have passed the Policy Tests for a Simple Caution or Administrative Penalty to be offered, but these two sanctions allow officers to ‘punish’ the offender where it is considered necessary, but where the case is considered unsuitable for prosecution having had regard to the factors set out in the Prosecution Thresholds section of the Policy.

112.10 The final section of the Policy is entirely new and has been developed due to the legal position concerning how much information the Council may include in a press release - specifically the names and addresses of convicted offenders. The press are lawfully entitled to report the details of a conviction, including names and addresses, where they have attended Court for the hearing of a prosecution. Unfortunately the press are not always able to attend and in those circumstances the Council will consider issuing a press release. Experience has shown that the press are less likely to include a press release in a newspaper if the identity of the offender is not disclosed. Essentially the human interest element of the story would be lost.

112.11 There is therefore a benefit to the Council in publishing the names and addresses because the publicity acts to both deter potential offenders and reassure the public that the Council is taking action to protect the public purse. However, it is at the same time vital that the Council acts lawfully when publishing such details. With this in mind the legal position concerning this issue has been researched.

112.12 Legislation does not provide the Council an express statutory power to publish a press release following a successful conviction for benefit fraud. However, Section 111(1) of the Local Government Act 1972 gives the Council power to do anything which is calculated to facilitate, or is conducive or incidental to, the discharge of any of its functions. Meanwhile, Section 2(1) of the Local Government Act 2000 gives the Council power to do anything which it considers likely to achieve the promotion or improvement of the social and economic well-being of its area.

112.13 Taken together it is the officers’ view that these provisions allow the Council to respond reasonably to the misuse, theft and fraud of public property, and it is considered that this extends to the Council issuing press releases concerning successful benefit fraud convictions, subject to the circumstances of each individual case. However, the Council must also take into account the following when deciding whether to disclose personal details via a press release:-
(a) What information is to be disclosed in the press release?
(b) How long that information will be available.
(c) Where the information will be made available.
(d) The specific details of the offence committed.
(e) Whether other people with rights under Article 8, such as family members of the offender, may be affected.

Data Protection Act 1998

4. The Council is under a duty to process all ‘personal information’ (which includes details of criminal convictions) in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998, unless a particular exemption applies. Section 29(1) of the Act provides an exemption for the purposes of the prevention or detection of crime or the apprehension or prosecution of offenders, though this is subject to the requirement to comply with the relevant provisions of Schedules 2 and 3 of the Act.

112.14 With the above legal position in mind, the Policy has been amended to include a clear statement of the Council’s intention to use personal data in press releases concerning successful prosecutions for benefit fraud. The Policy also sets out the factors that the Council will take into consideration when deciding whether to publish such information.

112.15 Further, should Members approve the amended Policy, the claim forms for Housing and Council Tax Benefit will be amended to inform claimants of the Council’s intention to publish names and addresses of offenders in press releases following successful convictions for benefit fraud. The Executive accordingly

RECOMMENDS that

Background Papers (CEx)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.

113. COVERT SURVEILLANCE - UPDATED POLICY (Agenda Item 14; Appendix I)

113.1 The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) introduced controls over investigative procedures where “directed surveillance” is used in a particular investigation. An example of directed surveillance would be the installation of a sound recording device in a complainant’s property in order to monitor noise from an alleged perpetrator’s property.

113.2 RIPA also authorises the use of “covert human intelligence sources”. A member of the public acting as a test passenger in a taxi licensing investigation would be one such example. The use of such covert human intelligence sources by Waverley officers is, and would be, rare, and in any event would likely be undertaken in partnership with other agencies such as Surrey Police.

113.3 The amended Policy is attached at Annexe 3. The amendments are minor, but are necessary following the outcome of the inspection of the Council carried out by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners in April 2007.

113.4 In particular it has been necessary, as a result of changes in legislation, to make clear that the Council can only interfere with the Article 8 right to privacy for the purposes of preventing or detecting crime or preventing disorder. The Chief Executive’s title has also been added to the list of Authorised Officers, replacing the position of Managing Director, as well as the position of Housing Services Manager. The title of the Policy has also been changed from “Policy for the Conduct of investigation involving covert surveillance techniques” to “Covert Surveillance Policy”. It is felt that this is far more accessible should members of the public read the Policy. Some further minor grammatical alterations have also been made.

113.5 The cost of processing authorisations in each investigation will be absorbed as procedural costs in initiating the investigation of the individual case. As such, the cost of implementing the provisions of the Act will, to some extent, depend on the number of relevant investigations involving directed surveillance.

113.6 The procedures for RIPA authorisations have been developed separately and in consultation with all of the Authorised Officers listed at the Appendix to the Policy. The amended Policy is now presented for the approval of the Council. The Policy will continue to guide the practice of Council officers in conducting investigations where regulated covert surveillance techniques are used.

113.7 The Executive

RECOMMENDS that

42. the revised Covert Surveillance Policy be approved for adoption; and

Background Papers (CEx)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.
PARTS II AND III - MATTERS OF REPORT

Background Papers

Part II – Matters Reported in Detail for the Information of the Council

Part III – Brief Summaries of Other Matters Dealt With

114. FOUR-MONTH ROLLING PROGRAMME (Agenda Item 6; Appendix A)

RESOLVED that the four-month rolling programme be adopted, subject to

115. FOUR-YEAR FINANCIAL STRATEGY 2008-2009 – 2011-2012 (Agenda Item 7; Appendix B)

116. BUDGET MONITORING – SEPTEMBER 2007 (Agenda Item 8; Appendix C)

117. TREASURY MANAGEMENT – BORROWING AND INVESTMENT TRANSACTIONS AND PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT (Agenda Item 9; Appendix D)

RESOLVED that the report be noted.

118. TELEPHONE CALL RECORDING SYSTEM (Agenda Item 10; Appendix E)

[Note pursuant to Section 100B(5) of the Local Government Act 1972: this item contains exempt information by virtue of which the public is likely to be excluded. The information is as specified in paragraph 3 of the revised Part I of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, namely:-

Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).


RESOLVED that

1. the Executive approve the purchase of a telephone call recording system from Company 4 at a cost of 12,387 to be met from within the specific provision of 20,000 included in the 2007/08 Capital Programme and annual maintenance costs of 1,470 which can be met from within the revenue maintenance budget for telephones; and

2. a Council-wide programme of telephone call handling training be introduced for all staff the cost to be met from within the balance of 7,000 remaining on the Capital Programme provision for Telephone Call Recording.

119. REVISED LOCAL DEVELOPMENT SCHEME (Agenda Item 11; Appendix F)

RESOLVED that

120. REPORT FROM THE MEMBER/TENANTS’ SIG (Agenda Item 15; Appendix J)

RESOLVED that the report be noted.

121. EASEMENT OF ACCESS TO LAND ADJACENT TO 1 MILLVIEW, THE COMMON, CRANLEIGH (Agenda Item 16; Appendix K)

[Note pursuant to Section 100B(5) of the Local Government Act 1972: this item contains exempt information by virtue of which the public is likely to be excluded. The information is as specified in paragraph 3 of the revised Part I of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, namely:-

Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).

122. EASEMENT OF ACCESS TO HOLLYHOCKS HOUSE, GUILDFORD ROAD, CRANLEIGH (Agenda Item 17; Appendix L)

[Note pursuant to Section 100B(5) of the Local Government Act 1972: this item contains exempt information by virtue of which the public is likely to be excluded. The information is as specified in paragraph 3 of the revised Part I of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, namely:-

Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).

123. LEASE OF GODALMING TOWN FOOTBALL GROUND, WEY COURT, GODALMING (Agenda Item 18; Appendix M)

[Note pursuant to Section 100B(5) of the Local Government Act 1972: this item contains exempt information by virtue of which the public is likely to be excluded. The information is as specified in paragraph 3 of the revised Part I of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, namely:-

Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).

124. LEASE OF THE PROJECT OFFICE, THE CHANTRYS, FARNHAM (Agenda Item 19; Appendix N)

[Note pursuant to Section 100B(5) of the Local Government Act 1972: this item contains exempt information by virtue of which the public is likely to be excluded. The information is as specified in paragraph 3 of the revised Part I of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, namely:-

Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).

125. SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS (Agenda Item 20)

125.1 Establishing a Human Resources Special Interest Group (Agenda Item 20.1)

125.2 Leisure and Member Development SIGs (Agenda Item 20.2)
“To advise the Portfolio Holder on the existing provision, partnership, location and funding for

Sports and recreation
Arts
Countryside
Grounds maintenance
Engaging with Community Groups, especially the difficult to reach

126. AREA BASED PLANNING DECISION-MAKING (Agenda Item 21)

127. ACTION TAKEN SINCE LAST MEETING (Agenda Item 22)

128. STAFFING ISSUE - CALL-IN REPORT BACK (Agenda Item 24)

The Executive noted that having called this item in for scrutiny, the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee had endorsed the Executive’s original decision relating to this matter.
The meeting commenced at 6.53 p.m. and concluded at 8.03 p.m.



Chairman
Comms/exec/2007-08/182