Agenda and minutes

Venue: Boardroom - Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley, HA9 0FJ. View directions

Contact: Bryony Gibbs, Democratic Services Officer  020 8937 1355, Email: bryony.gibbs@brent.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Declarations of personal and prejudicial interests

Members are invited to declare at this stage of the meeting, any relevant financial or other interest in the items on this agenda.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

2.

Deputations (if any)

Minutes:

None

3.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 75 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED:-

 

that the minutes of the previous meeting held on 23 July 2013 be approved as an accurate record of the meeting.

4.

Matters arising

Minutes:

None.

5.

Regeneration and growth budget presentation

The Director of Regeneration and Major Projects will attend the meeting to present to Members the current budget issues facing this service.

Minutes:

The Director for Regeneration and Growth, Andy Donald, gave a presentation updating members on the current budgetary issues affecting his department. Following a brief overview of the composition and work of the department, Andy Donald advised that the impact of the Welfare Reforms represented a significant budget pressure. Over 2,000 households in Brent had been affected by the overall benefits cap and there had been an increase in homelessness applications and acceptances, resulting in greater pressure on the temporary accommodation budget. The council was offering a range of support services to those affected by the cap including financial support via discretionary housing payments to those who had lost income in excess of £200 a week. Where appropriate, the council was assisting people to move to more affordable accommodation. The most effective action, however, was to support individuals into employment which ensured exemption from the benefits cap.

 

Members were advised that a new employment service had been established with funding allocated from reserves at £1m per annum for three years. By working to co-ordinate and influence employment activity, the service would ensure that the council assumed an active role in maximising employment in the borough. Andy Donald explained that he would soon be assuming responsibility for Brent Adult and Community Education Service (BACES) and that the curriculum for forthcoming years would be shaped to have a heightened focus on employability and greater relevance to the local economy. A stronger approach would also be taken in respect to attracting funding from a broader range of sources. Answering a query regarding how the council worked and co-ordinated with partners such as the College of North West London (CNWL), the Director advised that there was a partnership regarding employment in Brent of which CNWL and the council were key members.

 

Elucidating other budgetary issues, Andy Donald advised that £2.87m of agreed savings had been delivered for the current financial year and further savings would be required for 2014/15 and beyond. The department was working hard to meet the in-year council tax collection target of 93.8 per cent following the introduction of the local Council Tax Support scheme. Under this scheme, 12,000 accounts which had previously received 100 per cent assistance were now required to pay a minimum contribution of 20 per cent. The in-year council tax collection target profiled for up to 31 July 2013 had been exceeded; however there had been some unusual patterns within this which were being examined. Addressing the issue of council tax liability for illegal conversions, Andy Donald informed the meeting that council tax could not be charged until the Valuation Office decreed that the space had been subdivided. Furthermore, the council could be required to make rebate payments to previous occupiers. Responding to a query, Andy Donald confirmed that there were internal mechanisms in operation to share information on illegal conversions but work would be undertaken to improve these. Members suggested that residents should be encouraged to report illegal conversions and proposed that the possibility of a hotline  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Budget update

The Deputy Director of Finance will provide an update on the council’s current budget position.

Minutes:

Mick Bowden (Deputy Director of Finance) reminded members of the position previously reported to the committee on the outcome of the 2014/15 settlement, noting that members had been advised that the council faced a £55m funding gap, with £37m due to a reduction in local government funding. The government had since issued a number of consultation papers which indicated that further cuts in funding would take affect principally in 2015/16. Members were advised that the expected 10 per cent reduction in local government funding for 2015/16 was now anticipated to equate to a 15 or 16 per cent reduction. Outlining the consultation papers, Mick Bowden explained that it was proposed from 2015/16 that the New Homes Bonus be top sliced by 35 per cent, equating to a loss of £3m from the council’s budget. Local authorities would also be required to assume the additional financial burden resulting from the introduction of a cap on a person’s lifetime contributions to their social care costs at £75,000. The government had announced funding to cover this; however, as these funds had already been included in the overall figure previously announced this equated to a further cut. Significant lobbying of the government had been undertaken in response to the financial settlement and in London, this was being led by London Councils. Mick Bowden detailed a third consultation currently underway which proposed that local authorities be allowed to use capital receipts for one-off revenue costs. It was noted that this might allow councils to fund one-off costs resulting from organisational transformations potentially required to meet future financial challenges.  Responding to members’ queries, Mick Bowden explained that work was on-going with Lead Members across the council to look at opportunities for savings.  However, the council would have to examine the longer term position and consider what size of organisation was sustainable. 

 

RESOLVED:

 

that the update be noted.

7.

Work programme 2013/14 pdf icon PDF 60 KB

The work programme 2013/14 is attached for discussion at the meeting.

Minutes:

RESOLVED:

 

    (i)        that the work programme be noted;

 

  (ii)        that a report on the consultations undertaken with residents on the budget and the emerging thinking on the innovative options being explored in relation to the budget be included on the work programme.

8.

Any other urgent business

Notice of items to be raised under this heading must be given in writing to the Democratic Services Manager or his representative before the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 64.

Minutes:

None.

9.

Date of Next Meeting

The next scheduled meeting of the Committee is on 8 October 2013.

Minutes:

The committee noted that the next meeting was scheduled to take place on 8 October 2013.