Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Monday 6 July 2015
10:30 a.m.
Mandela Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough

Attendance Details

Councillor J Goodchild, Councillor A Hellaoui, Councillor J Hobson, Councillor B A Hubbard, Councillor L Lewis, Councillor F McIntyre, Councillor P Purvis, Councillor Z Uddin,
Councillor T Lawton, Councillor M Walters.
Councillor J Sharrocks - Chair of Overview and Scrutiny Board.
P Ayre, J Bowden, C Breheny, J Dixon and R Horniman.
Declarations of interest:

There were no Declarations of Interest made by Members at this point in the meeting.

Item Number Item/Resolution

Nominations were sought for the appointment of Vice Chair of the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel. Councillor Lewis was nominated and seconded and, therefore, appointed as Vice Chair of the Panel until amended by the Panel.


ORDERED that Councillor Lewis be appointed Vice Chair of the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel until amended by the Panel.


The Minutes of the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel meeting held on 12 March 2015 were submitted and approved as a correct record.


The Scrutiny Support Officer submitted a report to provide Panel Members with information to assist with consideration of suitable topics for inclusion in the Panel’s Work Programme for 2015/16.


Background information relating to how each of the Council’s Scrutiny Panels agreed its annual work programme was included in the report. It was highlighted that once agreed by the Panel, the Work Programme would be submitted to the Overview and Scrutiny Board for approval. Detailed terms of reference would then be agreed by the individual Panels at the start of each scrutiny investigation.


Suggested topics for consideration for inclusion in the Panel’s Work Programme were set out at paragraph 4 of the report. The issues had been suggested as possible topics following consultation with all Council Members and members of the public. This was not an exhaustive list and Members were reminded that additional topics could be considered.


It was highlighted that Scrutiny Panels had previously responded to emerging issues on an ad-hoc basis and, on occasion, ad-hoc Panels might also be established throughout the year to undertake additional investigations or to examine areas of work that overlapped more than one Scrutiny Panel. In addition, the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Board had requested that the scrutiny panels consider how they could be involved with, and influence, the Council’s Change Programme.


The Panel also had a responsibility to address certain issues each year, as follows:-

  • Middlesbrough Multi Agency Crime Working Group.
  • Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).
  • Domestic Violence.

Updates on scrutiny topics previously considered would also be requested throughout the year including the reviews undertaken in 2014/15:-

  • Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).
  • Alternative Delivery Model (ADM) for Sports and Leisure Services.

R Horniman, Assistant Director: Supporting Communities, J Bowden, Public Health Practitioner and P Ayre, Leisure Services Manager, were in attendance at the meeting to provide a brief overview of each of their service areas.


R Horniman, Assistant Director: Supporting Communities, advised that he was responsible for the Supporting Communities and Stronger Families Service. One element of the service focussed on working with individual families and the other element worked to keep communities safe on a community level. The service worked jointly with Cleveland Police on many issues.


The Panel was advised of new legislation that would inform the shaping of the service, including the 'Prevent Agenda' which related to serious and organised crime and the prevention of terrorism. Other areas of work included: reducing the risks for vulnerable people, selective landlord licensing (problems with tenants), domestic abuse, troubled families programme (providing intensive support).

The Assistant Director provided information in relation to the initial Stronger Families Programme. Stronger Families was a Government initiative merging family support packages and services from various Government departments and external agencies including: Children's Social Care, 0-19 Service, Jobcentre Plus, Probation, schools, Thirteen Housing, private landlords, healthcare providers, Princes Trust and Careers Service.

275 families were identified in Middlesbrough as hitting the prescribed Government indicators, for example, children not attending school, domestic violence within a family. The Team would work with the family to implement appropriate support packages. The Team had successfully achieved all Phase 1 targets, meaning that all 275 families’ indicators had been reversed. The Service was now on course to progress to Phase 2 of the Programme which would involve working with 573 identified families over the course of the next year. There was a five-year timetable for the programme and it was anticipated that the Team would work with thousands of families during this period. The trigger criteria would be relaxed as the programme progressed. The Service had identified the benefits of continuing to work with families for a longer period once the criteria targets had been reversed in order to ensure the changes were sustained.

A discussion ensued and the following issues were raised:-

  • In response to a query, it was stated that the 0-19 Service was evolving into the Stronger Families Service and that those families identified as needing support usually triggered the targets through a child but there were usually more complex issues that required various support packages for the whole family.
  • It was queried how the Service would continue to work with a family that might be in privately rented accommodation and move on without advising the Service. The Assistant Director responded that the programme provided the service with a legal mandate to work with families but it could be difficult in such cases and it was important to ensure data from all sources in relation to the family was kept up to date.
  • It was acknowledged that the triggers for accessing the Stronger Families programme were generally via the 0-19 age group, and it was queried whether this included travellers and asylum seekers. The Assistant Director confirmed that this would be the case providing that a child attended school and hit one of the triggers. The family would need to be registered somewhere in the system.
  • A Panel Member referred to one of the suggested topics for the Panel’s work programme - 'gang nuisance - is it on the increase?' and asked what the current position was in relation to this. It was highlighted that the Service was embarking on a joint exercise with Cleveland Police to strengthen community resilience and was currently exploring which areas to target first. The Police had experienced similar problems to the local authority in their approaches to such issues, in that they no longer had the resources to deploy more Police officers on the streets, the same way the Council had reduced its numbers of Street Wardens. It was, therefore, important to look at ways of tackling the issues at a community level by re-engaging people in their own communities, with the Council looking at how it could support this approach. The Police had trialled similar schemes in Seaham and Darlington with some short term success, however, the initiatives needed to be more sustainable.
  • A Member highlighted that some members of the community were afraid to speak out against problem families for fear of reprisals. It was acknowledged that this was an issue, however, research showed that a real difference could be made when whole communities stood together. One way of raising awareness within communities was to bring the issues to the attention of the local Community Council.
  • In response to a query regarding the Stronger Families programme, the Panel was advised that the Council employed an analyst, based at Cleveland Police, who worked on behalf of Middlesbrough and Stockton Councils and analysed the data shared between all the partner agencies and the service user data at James Cook Hospital.
  • It was queried how long the Service would continue to work with young people, identified through the programme, beyond 19 years of age. The Panel was informed that Service would continue to work with families that continued to have problems within communities and would also work with families of vulnerable adults.
  • It was noted that many troubled families might not be willing to engage with the Stronger Families programme and it was queried how this issue was addressed. It was explained that the Troubled Families programme provided a longer term option for engagement but there was generally not a problem. There was more of a problem with disguised compliance with some of the more problem families, however, the practitioners were very experienced in dealing with such issues.
  • In response to a query, it was confirmed that the number of families that relapsed following support from the programme was not high and that the Service’s principle was to change the way it worked by building in a maintenance period to keep a check on families to ensure they did not relapse. Many of the families that had engaged in the programme had expressed relief that they had been identified for support as they wanted better outcomes for their children.

J Bowden, Public Health Practitioner, was in attendance at the meeting and provided information in relation to the Public Health service area which was created following the transfer of public health responsibilities from Primary Care Trusts to local authorities in April 2013. The Public Health services’ remit focussed on the health element which included drugs and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation.


The Panel was informed that Middlesbrough had one of the highest levels of drug and alcohol misuse per head of population in the country, with particularly high levels of opiate use. Addressing this was one of the priorities for the Public Health team. Most of the services provided were under the brand 'Middlesbrough Recovering Together' (MRT). MRT offered support to people experiencing difficulties through drug and/or alcohol misuse.

MRT provided a single point assessment and referral service based in three main venues: Fulcrum Medical Practice - providing substitute prescribing, drug and alcohol treatment, Lifeline - based in Town Hall and Park Road North - co-ordinating clients, physio-social intervention, Thirteen Housing supporting those wishing to become abstinent. MRT saw up to 2,500 people each year and had a number of short terms pilots to meet changing needs - for example, the recent increase in the use of 'legal highs'.


The Service also had links with prisons for drug and alcohol clients, however, there was some fragmentation in this area as services within prisons were commissioned by NHS England. A 'through the gate' scheme was a strategy introduced with Holme House prison where around 90% of in-mates had issues with the use of substitute drugs, such as Subutex. Many prisoners going into prison would not be drug users but become addicted to substitutes whilst in prison. Upon release from prison many individuals would be housed in Middlesbrough due to easily identifiable privately rented housing. Of those that did engage with the service, many would transfer back to the place that they had gone to the prison from (ie out of area) and around 40% of people leaving the treatment system were either prison transfers or out of area. It was clarified that the service offer was available to anyone providing a Middlesbrough address, or no fixed address.


The Panel was informed that most drug clients had to register with the Fulcrum Practice in order to obtain their prescriptions.


In terms of licensing, the Panel was advised that the Local Alcohol Action Area project in Middlesbrough, which was one of 20 designated areas in the country, was a 12 month pilot for people with high-level alcohol dependency issues. The project engaged lots of relevant partners such as the University, Police, Public Health and other Council departments and was proving very effective.


Public Health had joined up data from health, crime, anti-social behaviour, ambulance service and overlaid the data onto a map of Middlesbrough and compared them with alcohol admissions in A&E. The data showed links to areas with high levels of deprivation. The Council had obtained voluntary agreements from some retailers to introduce minimum pricing on alcohol and some retailers had agreed to stop selling high volume, super-strength beers and ciders.


A discussion ensued and the following issues were raised:-

  • Reference was made to mobile alcohol delivery services and it was queried whether there was any evidence to show whether they contributed to anti-social behaviour. It was explained that Public Health had worked with such businesses and confirmed that they kept very good records, including records of any incidents. Where drivers witnessed any incidents or identified individuals as chaotic alcohol users, they would be refused use of the service in the future. There was no evidence to suggest that the delivery services contributed to anti-social behaviour.
  • It was queried whether Public Health expected an increase in its work relating to drug and alcohol treatment as a result of welfare reforms. The Officer responded that some areas of the country had seen a gradual decrease in heroin users, however, Middlesbrough was bucking the national trend and had seen an increase. This was linked to deprivation and other issues and it was anticipated that further welfare reforms would result in increased drug and alcohol misuse.

P Ayre, Leisure Services Manager, was also in attendance at the meeting and provided the Panel with information in relation to Sport and Leisure Services which sat within the Commercial Services department. The service included a huge community element which generated around £4 million income per year, made up of people paying to use the services, from funding etc. The service had strategic responsibility for sports in Middlesbrough.


Leisure Services offered a range of services from the Neptune Centre, Rainbow Centre, Southlands Centre, Hemlington Lake, Municipal Golf Club and the new Middlesbrough Sports Village. The Sports Development arm of the service was provided by Leisure Services which included working with schools, clubs, sports governing bodies and Sports England plus the Riverside Run and Tees Pride 10k race. The Health Development team now sat within Public Health, and used the services provided by Leisure Services (for example stroke rehabilitation, etc).


Headlines for the service this year included the new Middlesbrough Sports Village and establishing Middlesbrough as a centre of excellence for sport. Part of the development plan for the Village was to develop future Olympic champions.


It was highlighted that Middlesbrough Council was now part-way through a tendering process for a Leisure Trust to take over the running of the Service. A political decision would be made in relation to this later in the year, based on the submitted business plan.


The Service currently employed around 150 staff and had around 1.55 million visitors in total to its leisure facilities last year, compared with 900,000 visitors three years ago. There were currently around 3,200 members which paid a monthly fee to use the Council’s services. This was not purely restricted to gym memberships. The Panel was informed that family memberships had also become popular - ranging from £40 to £60 per month for up to five people, including unlimited participation in all sports, swimming, athletics and children’s play facilities.


It was highlighted that there were 3,000 youth memberships last year - 13-19 year olds - at a cost of £20 per month. This equated to around 60,000 visits to the Council’s leisure facilities last year and this figure had increased by 5% up to April this year. Memberships were also available in various age ranges - 0-5 years, 6-12 years, 3-19 years and adults.


The Panel was informed that last year, the Service had reduced subsidy of its services significantly and further savings were being sought this year. Subsidy per head was currently £1.33, compared with £2.00 per head the previous year. This was below the national average.


A discussion ensued and the following issues were raised:-

  • Members considered the new Sports Village to be a superb facilities and felt it would be beneficial for the Panel to undertake a site visit to the venue at some point during the year. It was noted that local sporting heroes, including Richard Kilty and Chris Tomlinson trained at the venue.
  • Reference was made to childhood obesity and whether there was swimming provision for children once they had left primary school. The Officer explained that the schools swimming programme finished at age 11. The national curriculum standards set by the Department of Education was for Key Stage 2 children to be able to swim 25m, and this was more about life-skills than physical fitness. Swimming beyond 11 years of age was the responsibility of the child’s family but it was highlighted that schools did provide strong physical education programmes. For children who were overweight, Public Health offered the 'MEND Programme', and other similar initiatives, that engaged children in becoming more active and leading a healthier lifestyle.
  • In response to a query regarding the potential transfer of sports and leisure services to a Trust, it was clarified that the Council would move from an inclusive service to working within set contract parameters. The Council would retain strategic responsibility for sport and physical activity, however, an external provider would manage the delivery. The Trust would be measured against the contract specification and it would be important for the Council to ensure key priorities were included within the contract.
  • A Panel Member highlighted the importance of engaging young people in activities - physical and community based - and it was suggested that this may be possible through Community Council involvement and working with schools.

The Chair thanked the officers for their attendance and for the information provided.


Discussion took place in relation to the list of suggested topics included in the report and Panel Members proposed that the following topics be included in the Panel’s Work Programme for 2015/16:-

  • Neighbourhood Policing (in the current financial climate were Cleveland Police able to provide a safe level of resources for Neighbourhood Policing).
  • Recovery from dependence - Middlesbrough’s drug treatment services.
  • Improving standards and behaviours of direct debit street fundraisers ('chuggers').
  • Reoffending and rehabilitation - how does Middlesbrough fare?, including Reducing first time entrants to the Youth Justice System and Youth crime/anti-social behaviour.                                          )
    • Middlesbrough Retail Crime Partnership (short one-off topic).

The order in which the topics were investigated would be determined by the availability of relevant witnesses.


AGREED as follows:-


  1. That the information contained in the submitted report, and information provided by the Officers at the meeting, be noted.
  2. That the Panel’s Work Programme for 2015/16 be approved as listed above, with the priority order to be determined in due course.

Members were provided with a schedule of proposed dates for the 2015/16 Municipal Year.


AGREED that the schedule of proposed meeting dates for the 2015/16 Municipal Year be approved. The next meeting was scheduled for Monday, 27 July 2015 at 10.30am.

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