Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee Rooms 1, 2 and 3, Brent Town Hall, Forty Lane, Wembley, HA9 9HD. View directions

Contact: Toby Howes, Senior Democratic Services Officer  020 8937 1307, Email: toby.howes@brent.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Appointment of chair

The committee is invited to appoint a chair for this meeting.

Minutes:

Nominations were invited for the position of Chair for the Joint Meeting of the One Council, Children and Young People and Partnership and Place Overview and Scrutiny Committees. Councillor Van Kalwala was proposed and seconded.  There were no other nominations.

 

RESOLVED:-

 

that Councillor Van Kalwala be elected Chair of the Joint Meeting of the One Council, Children and Young People and Partnership and Place Overview and Scrutiny Committees.

2.

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 the agenda.

Minutes:

None declared.

3.

Brent's Evidence Base

The Assistant Director for Policy will provide an update on the key factors arising from the evidence base.

Minutes:

Cathy Tyson (Assistant Director – Policy, Strategy, Partnerships and Improvement) gave a presentation on the key factors arising from the borough’s evidence base.  She began by highlighting the discrepancy between the Greater London Authority’s estimate of Brent’s 2011 population of 283,040 and the Office of National Statistic’s estimate of 253,400.  It was of particular importance to ensure residents completed the Census to reflect Brent’s true population.  Cathy Tyson then described some of the key trends of the borough’s demographics, including the fact that the population was relatively young and that 58% of the population were of Black or Asian Minority ethnic, of which 32% were of Indian ethnicity.  Turning to Brent’s general health profile of 2010, Cathy Tyson informed Members that life expectancy overall was similar to the national average, however there were significant inequalities within these figures, including an eight year gap amongst men between the least and most deprived wards.  Rates of new cases for tuberculosis, diabetes and early deaths from heart disease were all above the England average, whilst overall those doing regular physical activity rates were comparatively low.  It was noted that female life expectancy was higher than males in all wards.  Child poverty was a growing concern and this would have a knock-on effect as poor children were most likely to become poor adults and much effort was being directed at addressing this through early years intervention and in developing an interagency child poverty strategy.  Poverty was defined by any household that had 60% or less of national average income and this was particularly prevalent in Kilburn, Harlesden and Stonebridge wards, whilst there were also pockets of poverty in Barnhill and Preston wards.

 

With regard to housing, Cathy Tyson stated that a key issue in Brent was affordability as it was the third lowest in terms of income of all boroughs in London, whilst having the sixth highest average property price and the second highest in West London.  The housing benefit cap would also have a significant impact in Brent and a key component of the One Council programme was in addressing housing issues and tackling homelessness as this would present a huge challenge, especially as there was to be less funding available for affordable housing.  Members noted the decreasing employment rates since the economic downturn and there were also less attempts to find work due to diminishing incentives, whilst the number of those claiming the Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) was rising and the considerable variation in JSA claimants in Brent wards was noted, as was the fact that approximately 30,000 Brent residents received some form of benefit.  In particular, there had been a significant increase in incapacity benefit claimants, however changes to the assessment criteria would have an impact.  One positive trend that had been identified was the rise of those in self-employment.  However, both unemployment and housing would continue to be key issues and pose a considerable challenge.  Members noted the pattern of incomes and the index of multiple deprivation (IMD) comparison of 2007  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.

4.

The Localism Bill

Members will receive a briefing on the main proposals contained in the Bill.

Minutes:

Cathy Tyson gave a short presentation on the implications and responses to the Localism Bill.  The key provisions of the Bill focused included:-

 

·         General power of competence

·         Removal of ring-fenced grants

·         Changes to governance arrangements

·         Public referendum

·         Removal of the Comprehensive Area Assessment and inspection regimes

·         Right to challenge to provide services and manage community assets

·         Neighbourhood development orders and changes to planning

·         Housing reform

 

Cathy Tyson referred to comments from the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government concerning what the Localism Bill was set out to achieve.  The Bill raised a number of possible implications, such as its role with regard to strengthening local democracy, the impact on the traditional institutions of local decision-making, the legal basis for the communities envisioned in the Bill, whether these provisions are necessary and the risks of litigation, additional costs and inflexible processes.  In terms of the council’s response to the Bill, consideration needed to be given with regard to using the general power of competence to deliver regeneration objectives, use of locality services and ward working, the virtual council, community based budgets, developing relationships with the voluntary sector, strategic communications and a fundamental review of activities. 

 

During discussion, Dr Levison commented that local democracy sometimes raised expectations unrealistically and he felt that there was a need for more honesty and to explain that there are limits to what local democracy can achieve.  With regard to the general power of competence, Councillor Hirani enquired in what way this was different to the powers the council currently possessed.  Councillor H B Patel felt that every effort should be made to take advantage of any opportunities the Bill and the delegation of some powers to local authorities may provide.  He added that these opportunities may allow the council to create effective solutions to a number of issues. 

 

The Chair commented that it was still unclear as to what precisely localism is and that it was not desirable for the Government to dictate what this should be.  Every effort should be made by the council to influence what localism should mean for Brent and the Chair added that there appeared to be elements within the Localism Bill which appeared to undermine local powers, such as the loss of some planning powers for local authorities.

 

In reply to the issues raised, Cathy Tyson advised that there were a number of ways in which the general power of competence changed the powers available to local authorities and this was also not without contradictions.  An example of a possible change was that the council would in theory be able to join a group with other local authorities to provide mutual insurance, a move that had been outruled by the courts previously on the grounds of creating an unfair monopoly.  Cathy Tyson suggested that the Bill had not been designed with an urban area of Brent’s nature in mind and that there was a need for mediation and reconciliation to address the conflicting needs  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Leader's update on council priorities

The Leader of the council, Councillor John (OBE) will attend the meeting to discuss the main issues facing the counciland the administrations priorities.

Minutes:

Councillor John (Leader of the Council and Lead Member for Corporate Strategy and Policy Co-ordination) set out the council’s priorities for 2011-12.  She began by referring to the Localism Bill which she felt may be detrimental to local democracy as it encouraged cross borough initiatives which would make decision-making less local.  It could also lead to employing a greater proportion of people who were not local.  Turning to the budget, Councillor John highlighted the exceptional circumstances the council faced which required it to make £100 million savings in four years.  Furthermore, these savings were front loaded with the greater proportion needing to be made in the first two years, meaning that a number of decisions needed to be made quickly.  This had led to a number of local authorities of all political composition expressing disquiet at the haste decisions had needed to be made.  Councillor John referred to the big decisions that had recently been made in respect of libraries and waste and recycling.  This included the objective of significantly increase recycling rates which was not only important for environmental reasons but was made even more necessary because of increasing landfill taxes year on year.  Improves services to residents had also been provided by offering removal of free bulky waste.  In respect of day centres, the changes made were in line with the national move to personalisation and this would continue.

 

Councillor John advised that £24 million savings were required for the 2011-12 budget and the One Council programme was leading on this with the aim of delivering both savings and increasing efficiency.  She acknowledged the impact made as a result of staff losses and that in many cases this involved local people who were faced with difficult situations.  However, the council remained committed to helping the community.  Amongst the main initiatives to achieve the savings and efficiencies included reviewing procurement and contract arrangements and joint working with six other London boroughs in respect of adult social care.  Other difficult decisions would need to be made and not all savings could be achieved through the One Council programme or through changes to procurement and contracts.  Members noted that school crossing patrols was one of the activities currently under consultation.  Turning to the role of scrutiny, Councillor John commented that it had undertaken an abundance of good work and Members found it rewarding.  She encouraged Members to engage fully with scrutiny activities and stated that the work undertaken by the various overview and scrutiny committees was appreciated.

 

Councillor John then set out the main areas the council would be focusing on.  Regeneration opportunities would continue to be pursued, such as the development of Wembley including Wembley City, the building of the Civic Centre and the role the council and its partners will play in the 2012 Olympics. A presentation on the Olympics would take place at the Council meeting on 11 July and the Olympic torch route would include Brent and torch bearers were being sought. More needed to be done  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

The Overview and Scrutiny work programme

Members attending the meeting will have the opportunity to contribute to the development of the Overview and Scrutiny work programme for the year ahead.  

Minutes:

The Chair informed Members that this item would be considered through a group session for discussion and suggestions for the work programme for the three overview and scrutiny committees that had attended the joint meeting.  Members then made a number of suggestions during the group session for future consideration.

7.

Date of next meetings

The next meeting of the One Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee is scheduled for Wednesday, 6 July at 7.30 pm.

 

The next meeting of the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee is scheduled for Tuesday, 12 July 2011 at 7.00 pm.

 

The next meeting of the Partnership and Place Overview and Scrutiny Committee is scheduled for Tuesday, 26 July at 7.30 pm.

Minutes:

It was noted that the next meeting of the One Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee was scheduled for Wednesday, 6 July at 7.30 pm, the next meeting of the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee was scheduled for Tuesday, 12 July 2011 at 7.00 pm and the next meeting of the Partnership and Place Overview and Scrutiny Committee was scheduled for Tuesday, 26 July at 7.30 pm respectively.

8.

Any other urgent business

Notice of items 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.

Minutes:

None.