Agenda and minutes

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

Contact: Anne Reid, Democratic Services Officer  020 8937 1359, Email: anne.reid@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:

None made.

2.

Deputations

Minutes:

None.

3.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 99 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED:-

 

that the minutes of the previous meeting held on 5 February 2013 be approved as an accurate record of the meeting.

4.

Matters arising

Minutes:

None.

5.

West London Waste Authority update pdf icon PDF 67 KB

The attached briefing provides the committee with an update on the West London Waste Authority.  Jim Brennan, Director, West London Waste Authority, Sue Harper, Director of Environment and Neighbourhoods and Cllr Mashari, lead member for Environment and Neighbourhoods will be attending the meeting.  

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a briefing paper which provided an update on the West London Waste Authority (WLWA). The briefing paper also contained copies of an exchange of letters between the Chair and the Director of the WLWA, which set out and responded to concerns expressed at the committee’s January meeting. Jim Brennan (Director WLWA) started by apologising unreservedly for the position in which the WLWA had found itself and for the financial burden placed on member authorities and outlined the steps taken to ensure there was no recurrence. Governance had been strengthened with changes in staffing structures that would offer improved support and challenge and the establishment of an Audit Committee with an action plan to ensure continued improvement. Financial systems had also improved with a new head, good direction of travel and consideration being given to changing the current financial system to one more appropriate for the size of the operation and which would improve visibility. The accounts were expected to receive an unqualified sign off. The WLWA hoped to be more transparent and to engage more fully with staff from member authorities. Reports on issues would receive wider discussion prior to publishing. New contracts were being procured separately, with assistance from a pool of officers. A review of recycling centres was also be conducted with the aim of increasing efficiency.

 

In questioning Jim Brennan, members of the Committee queried the extent to which he was confident that there would be no further requests for additional funding and the reasons for using the current financial system. Questions were also raised on proposals to divert 96% of waste that could not be recycled by boroughs from landfill through an energy recovery process and members cautioned against the use of gassification to which Jim Brennan responded that residents would be incentivised to reduce the amount of residual waste. He could give no absolute guarantee of the future but controls were in place where appropriate, particularly audit control and risk monitoring. The WLWA had historically used the finance system of a member authority whose Director of Finance had been WLWA treasurer however options were being explored for an alternative independent finance system that could be more streamlined, accountable and bring savings. Consideration was being given to which services could be brought in-house and which bought in and Jim Brennan reminded the committee that there were the advantages to the latter in terms of getting a broader perspective and having access to high level of expertise for a relatively low price.  A report on the proposals would be submitted in due course.

 

Questions were raised on budget monitoring, the raising of purchase orders, the realisation of expenses and arrangements for dealing with outstanding invoices particularly in bulk to allow timely review by member authorities. Jim Brennan responded that the budget position was reported monthly to WLWA meetings and shared with boroughs. He acknowledged that currently a high number of purchase orders were being raised and it was the intention for this to be  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Budget Strategy and update

The Deputy Director of Finance will present information on the financial prospects of the council over the next few years and provide an update on the council’s financial position.

Minutes:

The Deputy Director of Finance, Mick Bowden, gave a presentation covering the medium term financial strategy, national developments and areas for consideration as part of the Autumn budget process. The 2013/14 budget was characterised by changes in local government funding, reduced ring-fencing of grants and the total budget savings of £7.3m most of which was pre-planned through the One Council Programme. He outlined the impact of the 2014/15 settlement and the outlook for 2016/17 which included a 27% decrease in government funding, increases in local business rates and the New Homes Bonus the latter of which would be considered in greater detail at the next meeting.  A net reduction in funding of £37m was anticipated.  The outlook to 2016/17 assumed continued cost pressures and inflation totally approximately £18m, which with existing savings at 9% gave rise to a predicted gap of £55m. The key messages were that uncertain times remained, savings would be required across all years and the ability to increase savings was becoming increasingly difficult as the base budget decreased in size. Mick Bowden referred to the central government spending review announced on 26 June 2013, the detail of which and implications for Brent were largely unknown, however Local Government spending would be cut by 10% in 2015/15 and overall spending cuts across all government departments were likely to be greater in 2016/2017 and 2017/2018. The new central government would decide on how these would be distributed. He reminded members that any proposal to increase Council Tax by more than 2% would require a Referendum. National announcements had been made regarding the transfer of funding to adult social care from the NHS and £400m of New Homes Bonus to the Single Local Growth Fund however, again, the implications for Brent were unknown.

 

In response to a question, Mick Bowden clarified that the budget was concerned with better ways of delivery statutory services for example in social care, the extent to which the services should be reactive or preventative (which had significant cost implications) efficiencies and priorities. The Chair, referred to the decision taken at the previous meeting to receive regular updates on radical ideas being considered under the One Council Programme. Liz Jones (Assistant Director Finance, Adult Social Care) contributed that service hours could not be reduced because of budget constraints but were to do with the meeting client needs at an appropriate level. Councillor Jones suggested that consideration could be given to increasing council income through the re-assessment or re-valuation of those houses converted into flats without planning permission and consequently not accurately reflected on the property database. The committee agreed that this would be a suitable One Council project for investigation and Mick Bowden commented that this would be more easily facilitated that now that Revenues and Benefits and The Planning Service were in the same service department. The committee noted with regret the absence of a team or funding to carry out enforcement activity noting that there were other areas in which income could be  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Work Programme 2013/14 pdf icon PDF 60 KB

The Work Programme for 2013/14 is attached for discussion at the meeting.

Minutes:

The committee discussed the work programme and noted that the next meeting was due to receive a presentation from the Director of Regeneration and Growth. Members asked that for this to include economic growth and supporting local businesses, the capital programme, maximising income from the new homes bonus and maximising revenue from planning and building control.

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:

Councillor Jones drew attention concerns expressed by back bench councillors arising from an internal audit report over the continued appointment of consultants. Assurances had been given that the numbers were reducing and the position monitored. It was noted that the Interim Chief Executive had asked the Interim Director of HR to report on implementation.

 

RESOLVED:

 

that a report on the appointment of consultants be added to the committee’s work programme.

9.

Date of next meeting

The next scheduled meeting of the Welsh Harp is on

Minutes:

It was noted that the next meeting would take place on 11 September 2013.