Resident satisfaction with Council services

Questions asked by Yvette Williams and Amanda Beckles

Resident satisfaction with Council services in general remains positive, with the main area of dissatisfaction relating to housing services: we will be publishing the results our most recent residents survey in the Autumn.

Bruno de FlorenceIt is the single biggest issue for this Council as just under a quarter of our residents come from the EU. We are determined to ensure that all EU citizens remain welcome here.

I share your concerns about the EU settlement scheme, not least the fact that you can only access it with a certain type of android phone. We will be setting up a support service to EU citizens at Kensington Town Hall where residents can get support filling out their application form. Unlike many Councils who are charging for this service, we are offering a free service to ensure our residents have access to the support they need to remain in the UK. This service will be available from the 30th March, and we will be publicising it widely.

Annette Carrabino Ms Carrabino spoke of a dispute with the Council’s Environmental Health Department, where her children’s piano playing had been declared by officers to be a ‘statutory nuisance’ following a complaint by her neighbours.

With relation to this, she asked the following questions:

Which Councillors, other than Ward Councillors, had been involved in the dispute (when the notice was served and after), in what capacity and when?

The Council’s Noise and Nuisance Team were not involved in discussions with any Councillors when the notice was served on 15 April 2015.

In the First Tier Tribunal hearing, the statement of Mr Keith Mehaffy stated that Councillor Borwick had made enquiries about the matter but Mr Mehaffy did add that he was not personally involved in any discussions with her. I am aware that after the notice was served on you, you made contact with your Ward Councillors; Cllrs Cyron, Husband and Addenbrooke and they in turn made enquiries on your behalf and I understand they wrote back to you.

After having lost in the Magistrates’ Court, what was the Leadership Team told about risking money on an appeal and by whom?

The then Cabinet Member would have received a briefing regarding the case but a matter such as this would not have gone to any (then) Cabinet Meeting (now called Leadership Team) for any discussion.

Did the Council seek the QC’s advice on the possibility of winning the appeal? Yes or no. If so, was it the QC’s opinion that the prospect of winning the appeal was stronger than losing or no change?

The Council’s Noise and Nuisance Team requested the advice and took it into account when deciding to proceed with the appeal. By letter 13th July 2017 the appeal(s) were withdrawn and a Consent Order agreed between the council and the Carrabino’s.

To see detailed notes of all officer visits to her neighbour’s property?

During the First Tier Tribunal proceedings, the Council provided the information it held on officers’ visits in the Open Bundle which you received.

The senior Noise and Nuisance Officer, Mr Mehaffy, visited her neighbours on 23/5/16. Within 48 hours the QC was appointed and appeal documents submitted. What was the purpose of Mr Mehaffy’s visit, what discussions took place and what were the conclusions?

It is usual practice for council officers to be in contact with parties in enforcement proceedings. This was a routine follow-up visit to the complainants.

The judge said that officers’ approach was flawed and that they behaved unreasonably. What was the Leadership team doing to address those failings in the Environmental Health Department and the executives who oversee it?

DJ Roscoe, in the Magistrates Court decision of April 2016, confirmed that the Council had been correct to serve the Abatement Notice as the Council had witnessed a statutory nuisance.

The council disagreed with elements of the judgment of DJ Roscoe (as could be seen in the documents lodged in the appeal by the council) and also disagreed with the £60k+ costs order made in your favour that was paid by the council and, as a consequence, the council had decided to appeal on these points. The Abatement Notice and the appeal were subsequently withdrawn by consent In July 2017.

Jamie Renton​

The number of disabled people coming through its doors facing the stark choice of paying for food or for basic care charges. The argument had been that it would cost more to abolish care charges than to keep them going but he highlighted the hidden costs of bailiffs, costs of people falling through net, and people not able to live independently any longer.  Post-Grenfell the Council had not had a good reputation. He knew the Council to be caring and generous but that was not the impression of some residents. Many people in the north of Borough were in receipt of care and the Council should be sending a clear message of support to them by abolishing care charges.

RBKC provides a Personal Budget to 1,119 residents to help them arrange their care and support to be able to live independently. Unlike the NHS, care and support is not a free service. However, the local authority will only ask the individuals receiving care with adequate financial resources to pay some or all of their care costs. Residents are financially assessed to determine what they can afford to contribute towards the cost of their care. Currently, 272 residents contribute, and the majority of service users do not pay any costs towards their care. 

The Council follows DoH guidelines when financially assessing residents and undertakes a Disability Related Expenditure Assessment (DREA) for each resident ensuring these expenses are considered individually instead of a blanket minimum approach like many local authorities.

Regarding the meeting you requested, I will come back to you shortly with some proposed dates and times.

Matt Snell​

The changes to taxicard fares. Most drivers were no longer prepared to pick-up taxicard users as they lost money.  He queried why some very wealthy residents had access to the scheme. This limited the journeys others could make. He said that ten trips per month was not enough. The scheme needed to be means-tested so that the venerable could be helped to cope better with life and be more mobile.     

As you know, the Taxicard scheme is a city-wide programme designed to provide door-to-door transport for people who have severe mobility or sight impairments. The scheme is funded by 32 London boroughs and TFL, is administered by London Councils and operated by a private contractor. Taxicard enables over 70,000 members to take around 1.2 million trips per year and RBKC currently has 2500 taxicard users.

The core purpose of the scheme is to provide support to residents depending on their disability. Residents have automatic entitlement if they receive the Higher Rate Mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance, receive 8 points or more under the moving around activity of the Mobility Component of PIP, are registered as Severely Sight Impaired/Blind or receive a War Pension Mobility Supplement. If residents are not in one of the above categories, they may still apply and will have an eligibility assessment carried out by an occupational therapist.

As you explained in your statement, access to the scheme has recently changed, which has created issues related to the provision of the service including supply shortages. In order to overcome these issues, a number of improvement measures will be implemented by the contractor in April 2019. The cap of trips per month will be replaced with a number of trips per year, enabling service users to manage their trips according to their needs. In RBKC, the cap of 10 trips a month will become 120 trips per year, the second highest number of trips in London. Fares will be fixed and the contractor is currently trialling a programme for drivers to plan their work one week ahead. The contractor is also looking to line up with another taxi company to increase the fleet.

We were delighted to meet with you following the Council meeting to further discuss the issues around the Taxicard scheme. We believe the service users’ feedback is essential to improve this London-wide service and would therefore encourage you to raise these issues with the contractor at the quarterly borough mobility forum.