Agenda and minutes

Venue: Boardrooms 7&8 - Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley HA9 0FJ. View directions

Contact: Tom Welsh, Governance Officer  020 8937 6607; Email: tom.welsh@brent.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Declarations of interests

Members are invited to declare at this stage of the meeting, any relevant disclosable pecuniary, personal or prejudicial interests in the items on this agenda.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest received from Members.

2.

Deputations (if any)

Minutes:

There were no deputations.

3.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 133 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meetingheld on 6 September 2016, were approved as an accurate record and signed by the Chair.

4.

Matters arising (if any)

Minutes:

There were no matters arising.

5.

Income Generation pdf icon PDF 170 KB

The report provides an update on the progress made towards delivering the Civic Enterprise Strategy. This includes details on activity undertaken to address the savings targets and how business plans can add value to improving outcomes for the borough as well as meeting financial targets.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Althea Loderick (the Council’s Strategic Director for Resources) introduced the report which provided the Committee with an update on the delivery of the Council’s Civic Enterprise Strategy. The strategy was initially approved by Cabinet in June 2016 and formed part of the Council’s 2016/2017 budget strategy. The Committee heard about the role of Civic Enterprise in delivering better outcomes for residents in Brent and maximising income generation for the Council in the face of diminished funding from central government. It was noted that the Council had a specific budget target of £5.7million in additional income to achieve by the 2018/2019. Althea Loderick outlined that the Council needed to work more innovatively to achieve this aim and that cultural change across the Council was required across five civic enterprise work streams. She stated that a high degree of staff engagement and market research had taken place to inform the following six key income generating projects being taken forward:

 

           

(i)         Energy;

(ii)        Trading with Schools;

(iii)       Consultancy Services;

(iv)       Weddings;

(v)        Make the best use of assets; and

(vi)       Investment in Businesses.

 

As an example, Althea Loderick spoke in greater detail about the energy development project and how it was aimed to generate income but also aligned with wider objectives such as reducing carbon emissions across the Borough and thereby providing the local community with better value energy services. She also drew attention to weddings being of increased significance because of the substantial opportunity for generating income, and possible opportunities for the Council to hold weddings externally at different venues across the Borough. The Committee also heard an overview of the achievements of income generating activity such as: a 10 year contract with Argiva to place wireless cells on lampposts; a tendering exercise now taking place to buy space on Council assets; the implementation of an in-house bailiff service; and income generating initiatives increasingly taking place on Wembley Park event days.

 

The Chair noted the need for culture change across the Council to make these aims achievable and asked how this would be measured. Althea Loderick stated that it was significant that the six key projects had been drawn from over 400 staff ideas for income generation. She stated it was very important that the Civic Enterprise Strategy was established using staff expertise from the bottom up, rather than from senior management having driven change from the top down. The Committee heard that this year’s ‘Your Voice’ staff survey asked specific questions on how involved staff were in innovative and entrepreneurial projects and whether they felt their ideas were being listened to. Althea Loderick stated that one way of measuring cultural change would be to see the responses to this survey reflecting progress made year on year. However, she did emphasise to the Committee that achieving this change would take time and was an ongoing process. She said that she believed staff would respond positively to seeing the projects achieve their aims and the favourable outcomes to residents arising from  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Update on the Community Access Strategy pdf icon PDF 128 KB

The Community Access Strategy sets out Brent’s vision for transforming the way in which residents are able to access information, advice and services. This report provides Scrutiny Members with a summary of the Community Access Strategy agreed by Cabinet on 15 October 2014 and the progress that has been made in implementing this.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Margaret Read (the Council’s Director of Customer Services) introduced the report which provided the Committee with an update on the progress of the Community Access Strategy since it was agreed by Cabinet in October 2014. She stated that the strategy had been driven by the following four key aims:

 

            (i)         Improving residents’ experience;

(ii)        Redesigning access arrangements to meet differing needs of   residents;

(iii)       Extending and improving services available on line to increase self-service; and

(iv)       Making access arrangements more efficient, eliminating duplication and better managing customer demand.

 

The Committee heard some of the key achievements in relation to these aims. One of the most successful aspects of the Community Access Strategy had been the digital ‘My Account’ service, which allowed residents to access a host of different Council services online. It was noted that 54,000 residents had created an account and that there were future plans to incorporate ten additional Council services onto the online platform by the end of 2017. Margaret Read also outlined that this had contributed to a significant reduction in calls received from 3 million to 1.8 million. It was also noted that published telephone numbers on the Council’s website had been successfully reduced in order to allow residents to have a more direct route to the services that they were looking for. Progress had also been made in redesigning the Customer Services Centre with a more effective integrated triage system to again lead residents more efficiently to the correct service area. Overall, this had allowed the Council to make an annual saving of £1.5 million.

 

Margaret Read also discussed next steps in the strategy in addition to the ten services being incorporated into the ‘My Account’ system. This included reviewing and re-launching Brent’s customer promise plus a new customer promise score card which would measure performance against published standards. The Committee heard that the Community Access Team had worked closely with the Human Resources Team to ensure that a resident focus was ingrained within the organisation going forward. This had involved talking to commercial brands such as John Lewis on their techniques for instilling a resident focus in new staff through recruitment, training and performance management.  She also mentioned that customer satisfaction would be benchmarked across a number of indicators across all service channels and that a tool kit was being developed for managers on the best methods of incorporating resident feedback into future service planning.

 

Members noted the strategy’s aim to ensure more residents were self-sufficient in using online services, however a point was raised that there remained a lot of residents who weren’t confident using online services for all elements of customer experience and would still rely on telephone services being available. Margaret Read acknowledged that Brent residents had different needs and that this was factored into service planning under the second aim of the strategy. She stated that, at present, there were no plans to cut off any existing communications channels but emphasised that the Council would need to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Devolution of Business Rates Task Group pdf icon PDF 97 KB

This task group has been requested by the Scrutiny Members to ensure Brent council has the knowledge and understanding to respond to the devolution of business rates policy change; achieving the best financial outcomes for the borough.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

As Chair of the Task Group, Councillor Davidson introduced the report which had been put forward to review the background to the Government’s planned devolution of business rates policy and consider how Brent was currently placed to respond to both the risks and opportunities arising from this. Councillor Davidson stated that the Task Group was very pleased with the outcome of the report, and thanked his fellow task group members for the cross-party effort to address this very important issue facing the Borough.

 

Councillor Davidson stated the review was effective in looking comprehensively at quite a vague policy concept, and that the Task Group had taken the view that this was a tremendous opportunity for the Council to be proactive in connecting to local businesses and joining up the array of skills which residents in the Borough possess to ensure economic prosperity in Brent for future years.   He explained that the review had considered questions on various broad themes, including: central government policy; financial risk; possible impact to Brent and growth in business rate income. From the research into these specific areas, five discovery themes were established and from this the Task Group was able to make eleven key recommendations on the steps Brent should be taking to prepare for this policy coming into effect. He noted that one of the most significant of these was recommendation one within the report which specified the Council developing a robust business rates growth strategy for the whole Borough. The Committee heard that a clear strategy would help act as an incentive to attract businesses to invest in the Borough.

 

A Member of the Committee asked whether the policy would have a significant impact on the planning developments in the Borough. Councillor Davidson commented that the policy would likely have an impact on the planning strategy but again that it was important to consider potential opportunities. He noted that in particular the Old Oak Common Development may provide opportunities of securing development funding for surrounding areas such as Harlesden. This investment in turn may boost business activity and thereby also boost the Council’s business rates tax base. Councillor Miller added that the Council would need to think about the future level footing of business rates and council tax rates relating to planning space within the Borough. He emphasised that the income generated from business rates being devolved was expected to be higher than the income generated from council tax collection when this policy took full effect. He noted that the recommendation of a business strategy being drawn up would include the full implications for planning in Brent.

 

There were wider discussions from Members at this point about working closely with the Mayor of London on the direction of the spending generated from the 2% Community Infrastructure Levy, and the role this could have in rejuvenating London’s high streets, such as ones in Brent. How the proceeds of the levy were spent was noted as potentially having a significant impact on business activity and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Annual Complaints Report 2015/2016 pdf icon PDF 359 KB

This report provides an overview of complaints received by the Council during the period April 2015 to March 2016. High level data for the past 3 years has been included where available for the purpose of comparison.  Departmental/service area analysis has been provided for the 2015 – 2016 operational year (based on the current structure). 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Peter Gadsdon (the Council’s Director of Performance, Policy and Partnerships) introduced the report which provided the Committee with an overview of complaints received by the Council between April 2015 and March 2016. He explained the different stages to the complaints process according to the complaint type and a summary of the corporate complaints process (first stage followed by second stage, before being escalated to the Local Government Ombudsman). It was noted that the Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee would hear greater detail about Adult Social Care, Children and Young People and Brent Housing Partnership Complaints (attached as appendices to the report).  

 

Peter Gadsdon emphasised the headline statistics from within the report which were that the number of overall complaints and referrals to the Local Government Ombudsman had decreased, however the number of stage two cases had increased alongside a higher level of compensation being paid by the Council to complainants. He stated that it was a key aim for the Council to improve on resolving issues at the first stage of the complaints process. The Committee noted page 46 of the agenda pack which outlined that the highest number of first stage complaints had arisen from the Regeneration and Environment directorate, however these were usually the most straightforward to resolve. Peter Gadsdon stated that complaints relating to BHP were also at a high level but were often considerably more complex. The Committee was directed to the table under point 3.22 of the report to give an overview of the most common reasons for complaints to arise within the different service areas. Peter Gadsdon concluded that, on the whole, the Council had been doing a lot of things right as the number of complaints had decreased overall however it was still a priority to address the number of stage two complaints and learn from the mistakes in not satisfactorily dealing with issues at the first stage. 

 

A Member of the Committee questioned the extent to which the Council fed back complaints data to respective departments on any patterns that had emerged and how plans were drawn up to address them quickly. Peter Gadsdon stated that the Council had developed various ways in which to do this. This included working closely with Strategic Directors and Heads of Service in regularly reviewing complaints data, with the data also being discussed at Corporate Management Team meetings on a quarterly basis. He also noted that the Council had recently introduced ‘portfolio meetings’ with Lead Cabinet Members to look at complaints data from within their portfolio. Peter Gadsdon noted that a clear recent example of the Council being receptive to complaints was the recent review of Housing Management Options which had been in part initiated by the noticeable levels of complaints originating from Brent Housing Partnership tenants and leaseholders.

 

Questions arose from a Member on what the Council’s plans were for reducing the level of compensation being paid out to complainants. Peter Gadsdon outlined that the Local Government Ombudsman set the framework for levels of compensation  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Programme of Work/Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 154 KB

This document lays out the programme of work/forward plan for the remainder of the municipal year.

Minutes:

The Chair made Members aware that there had been one change to the Committee’s programme of work in that the Brent High Streets item which had been due to be heard at this meeting, would now be heard at the meeting on 10 January 2017. The change had occurred because of additional fact-finding work that the Committee was undertaking in visits to local high streets around the Borough.

10.

Any other urgent business

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

Minutes:

There was no other urgent business.

11.

Date of next meeting

The next scheduled meeting of the committee is on

Minutes:

The date of the next meeting was noted as 10 January 2017.