Agenda and minutes

Overview & Scrutiny - Corporate & Community Committee - Thursday, 9th November, 2023 6.30 pm

Venue: Committee Room, Municipal Buildings, West Street, Boston PE21 8QR

Contact: Karen Rist, Democratic Services Officer  Tel. no: 01205 314226 email:


No. Item



To receive apologies for absence and notification of substitutes (if any).


Apologies for absence were tabled by Councillors Jyothi Arayambath Richard Austin, Chris Mountain, Anton Dani and Helen Staples.  No substitute members in attendance.


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To sign and confirm the minutes of the last meeting.


With the agreement of the committee the Chairman signed the minutes of the previous meeting held on the 21st September 2023.



To receive declarations of interests in respect of any item on the agenda.


No declarations of interest were tabled.  



To answer any written questions received from members of the public no later than 5 p.m. two clear working days prior to the meeting – for this meeting the deadline is 5 p.m. on Monday 6th November 2023


No public questions



A report by the Assistant Director – Wellbeing and Community Leadership

Additional documents:


The Portfolio Holder presented the report confirming it was being re submitted following its original presentation at the Corporate and Community Committee in September, at which committee had suggested a number of amendments to the strategy presented and requested the amended version by returned to committee ahead of it going on to Cabinet.  Thanking the committee for its initial input and suggestions to improve the draft document, the Portfolio Holder confirmed that the changes implemented included a reduction in the size of the document which was now written in plain English for a variety of audiences; it was collaborative and no longer top down and also included reference to Councillors as being the voice of the community encouraging members of the public to feedback to their respective Councillor. Furthermore work was ongoing with the Council’s consultation team to further ensure the needs of the strategy were understood.


Prior to opening the meeting for debate the Chairman had confirmed he had received sight of the amended version and was pleased to see all the issues raised had been addressed.


Committee deliberation followed which included:

In response to a members’ concern at the lack of any reference to a complaints procedure with the document, the Assistant Directorfor Wellbeing and Community Leadership advised that the Council had a robust complaints policy which was outside of the strategy and offered to take the members comments on board and also through to the team who facilitated the complaints policy.   The Chairman noted that he had seen the amended strategy ahead of the meeting and accepted that the majority of the issues addressed from the first meeting had been taken on board, and furthermore he felt more assured as the document was no longer an outward facing document, but for internal use only with a precise of the strategy being produced for public reference.



That the Corporate and Community having considered the revised strategy recommend that Cabinet adopt the strategy.



That a report in respect of the current complaints process be tabled to a future meeting of the committee





A report by the Assistant Director – Governance and Monitoring Officer

Additional documents:


The Portfolio Holder presented the report confirming that Boston Borough Council was responsible for ensuring it met statutory requirements in relation to Freedom of Information (FOI) and Environmental Information Regulations (EIR).  Reviewing and updating the policy, found at Appendix A, ensured that this Council was meeting its statutory obligations with regard to Freedom of Information and Environmental Information Regulation requests.  There were policy links to FOIA and EIR webpages throughout the FOI/EIR policy document, which meant that Council policy did not need updating every time FOIA/EIR was amended, as the policy would automatically link people to the latest version of the FOI and EIR.  The Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations were the legislation under which information was generally requested from the Council.  Anyone could request access to general information held by the Council using the Freedom of Information Act. The Environmental Information Regulations provide the same right but for environmental information.

The Freedom of Information Act also required the Council to produce a Publication Scheme which listed information that was made available without the need to request it. The Council also included environmental information in its Publication Scheme.

The updated and aligned policy outlined how the Council would meet its obligations under the FOIA and EIR. The policy was being aligned across all 3 Councils in the South and East Lincolnshire Councils Partnership to provide consistency for staff when dealing with requests and enquiries.

The Information Governance Manager was the person who had specific responsibility for the Council’s compliance under the FOIA / EIR, and the implementation, compliance, and maintenance of the policy.

However, it was the responsibility of all employees to ensure that all requests for information were forwarded to the Information Governance Team without delay, whether they specifically said it was a request under the FOIA / EIR or not, and that any requests from the Information Governance Team for information are complied with in an expeditious manner, and by no later than the deadline dates given.


Committee deliberation followed which included:

In response to concerns noted at the potential misuse of information and queries at to what safeguards were in place to ensure information released was only provide for the right reason, a member was advised that the policy was a statutory requirement by law in that certain information was permissible for release. The act itself set out a range of exemptions including anything commercially sensitive in nature or of a personal nature, which could be withheld.  Furthermore the act only related to information that was held and not information which could be modelled on what was held.  However, anything outside of the exemptions had to be released.




That the Corporate and Community having considered the policy recommend adoption of the policy to Cabinet.




A report by the Deputy Chief Executive – Corporate Development Section. 151 Officer.


The Portfolio Holder presented the report and advised that Council Tax Support (CTS) provided financial assistance to people on low incomes, by way of reduction in Council Tax.   As part of the Government’s programme of welfare reform, the previous Council Tax Benefit (CTB) scheme was replaced by localised support arrangements.  From April 2013, Councils had been required to establish local CTS schemes. The support was provided in the form of a discount applied to the Council Tax bill.  The Welfare Reform Act also contained provisions regarding the introduction of Universal Credit (UC) which impacted on the administration of Housing Benefit. UC was introduced for the Boston area in April 2015, and the full service was rolled out in September 2018, for new claims only.  Full migration could be as late as 2028. Whilst regulations provided councils with flexibility to set up their own local arrangements, the Government expressed clear intentions in relation to certain aspects of a local scheme.  For pensioners there should be no change in the level of awards because of this reform. That included both existing and new benefit claimants.  (The scheme for pensioners continued to be prescribed by government, providing up to 100% support). Councils were required to also consider ensuring support for other vulnerable groups. Local schemes should support work incentives and avoid disincentives to move into work. Boston Borough Council’s scheme continued to deliver those intentions. 


Committee deliberation followed which included:

On questioning the criteria used for assessment of applications members were advised that the support was for people on low income whose needs were not met by their income and also for people on welfare support and also for those who were unable to work, with many being on Universal Credit.   Household circumstances were taken into consideration along with any capital levels.  Members were further advised that the Council had no remit in encouraging people on Universal Credit who were physically fit to source employment, the Department of Work and Pensions had responsibility for monitoring those in receipt of Universal Credit and their endeavours to gain employment. Clarification was also given that the state pension was a prescribed scheme on which the Council had no discretion.

On questioning the potential increase to the Council for the forthcoming year, members were advised that the cost indicated was a full cost the same as he previous years.  However, increases would arise by de-fault of the increase in Council Tax and it was felt reasonable to expect an increased take up of the scheme increasing costs further.

Additional comments noted that prior to 2012 Council Tax allowed households 100% remittance which then reduced but ring-fenced for pensioners and continued to be so.  Further comments suggested changing the rate from 75% to 100% with advice given that other Councils did make up the shortfall, however, it was agreed and realised that such discussion was not relevant to the scheme under consultation.



That the Corporate and Community Committee considered and provided feedback on the Policy to inform  ...  view the full minutes text for item 83.



A report by the Assistant Director – Wellbeing and Community Leadership

Additional documents:


Presenting the report, the Portfolio Holder advised that the Discretionary Housing Financial Assistance (DHFA) policy at appendix A of the report had been developed by all seven Lincolnshire district councils working collaboratively with Lincolnshire County Council and it aimed to create a level of consistency across the county and maximise the contribution that DFG / BCF can make;  enable vulnerable people to live independently in a home of their own; and reduce the need for more expensive health and social care service interventions.

District councils had in many cases already adopted discretionary policies under the Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance) (England and Wales) Order 2002 (the "RRO") using Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) / Better Care Funding (BCF) from the Government to support works above the mandatory DFG limit of £30,000. Those policies also allowed home repairs, improvements and other forms of assistance to be funded to assist eligible vulnerable clients where necessary and appropriate.  However, this has led to a postcode lottery for Lincolnshire residents with financial support available for different things, with different eligibility criteria in different areas.  The Policy and accompanying Explanatory Notes at appendix B of the report, had been recommended by the Lincolnshire Housing, Heath and Care Delivery Group to all district councils for adoption as part of the overall vision of the Lincolnshire Homes for Independence blueprint for people to live independently, stay connected and have greater choice in where and how they live.  To allow a more consistent approach across Lincolnshire to be taken in relation to discretionary housing financial assistance in order to assist vulnerable households in need to live in a safe home. It would significantly help organisations that worked on a countywide basis (e.g. Health and Lincolnshire County Council occupational therapy services) to have a clearer picture of the assistance districts are able to offer.


Committee deliberation followed which included:

In response to a question seeking the value of spend over the past year the Strategic Housing Manager advised an estimate of spend at £50k.   Clarification was sought on what criteria was assessed in consideration a grant, and the Strategic Housing Manager confirmed that an application was often from either occupational health, the housing department who had identified a problem or another agency. Initially consideration would be given to whether or not the application was mandatory or an outside requirement and also if it was the best option was to provide a relocation grant for the resident to move or to undertake the works needed at the property. 

The statutory means test was applied for an assessment of income and savings, and funding could also be secured should the applicant be an owner occupier. 

In response to a question on how much the budget would increase over the following year, members were advised it was difficult to know but is was anticipated it would rise and the funding would enable assistance to a greater number of applicants. Clarification was also provided that the funding was through the Government and not at  ...  view the full minutes text for item 84.



(For Members to note/discuss the Committee’s current work programme)


Referencing the recent meeting of the sister committee Environment and Performance scrutiny, the Lead Officer for the committee advised members that a Member Working Group had been convened to carry out a review of car parks and additional members were invited to join should they be interested. Councillors Pierpoint and Evans volunteered to join the group. 

Addressing the work programme moving forward, members were advised that the S.I.P.A report initially scheduled for the meeting had been re scheduled to the next meeting and a report as identified at the end of the second item of business would be requested on the Complaints procedure.