Agenda and minutes

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

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

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for absence and clarification of alternate members

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Gill and Kansagra. Councillor Colwill was attending the meeting as a substitute member on behalf of Councillor Kansagra.

2.

Declarations of interests

Members are invited to declare at this stage of the meeting, the nature and existence of any relevant disclosable pecuniary, personal or prejudicial interests in the items on this agenda and to specify the item(s) to which they relate.

Minutes:

For purposes of transparancy, Councillor Mashari advised that she volunteered at Sufra NW London foodbank.  

3.

Deputations (if any)

To hear any deputations received from members of the public in accordance with Standing Order 67.

Minutes:

None.

4.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 138 KB

To approve the minutes of the previous meeting as a correct record.

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meeting held on 15 January 2019 were agreed as an accurate record of the meeting.

5.

Matters arising (if any)

To consider any matters arising from the minutes of the previous meeting.

6.

Chair's Report pdf icon PDF 71 KB

This report includes notes from the chair of the committee on the agenda for the February meeting, including reasons for the selection of topics, as well as work of the committee outside of public meetings.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The committee considered the Chair’s report which included comment on the agenda for the current meeting, including reasons for the selection of topics as well as work of the committee outside of public meetings.

 

The Chair noted that, with the committee’s agreement, the first item on the agenda, Parking and Electric Vehicle Charging, would be postponed to the meeting due to be held on 15 April 2019. There was also to be a further addition to the work programme for the 15 April 2019 meeting to examine the Deloitte Sports Business Group report on the Economic impact of Wembley Stadium for the 2017/18 event season, published in December 2018, representatives of the Deloitte Sports Business Group and the Football Association would be invited to attend.

 

RESOLVED: that the report of the Chair of the Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee be noted.

7.

Parking and Electric Vehicle Charging pdf icon PDF 94 KB

This report informs the committee how the Council is implementing an electric vehicle charging network within the borough and also the management of larger vehicles parked on street in Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RESOLVED: that consideration of this report be deferred to the meeting of the Resources and Public Realms Scrutiny Committee scheduled for 15 April 2019.

8.

Complaints Annual Report 2017 - 2018 pdf icon PDF 184 KB

This annual report sets out complaints performance in Brent for the period April 2017 to March 2018 and focuses on the nature of complaints and the learning and improvements from complaints and Ombudsmen cases. 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor McLennan introduced the Complaints Annual Report 2017 – 2018 to the committee which focussed on the nature of complaints and the learning and improvements from complaints and Local  Government Ombudsman (LGO) cases. Customer Services and Parking Enforcement were the top two complaint themes across the Council.  The former mostly related to the Housing Management service, with which historically there had been a number of issues; this service had recently been brought back in house. Overall there had been improvements in the volume and timeliness with which complaints were addressed which reflected the hard work of the Performance Team with service areas.  Councillor McLennan introduced Irene Bremang (Head of Performance and Improvement) to the committee, advising that she was present to help address members’ queries.

 

In the subsequent discussion the committee emphasised the importance of the neutrality of the Annual Complaints Report and highlighted that both increases and decreases in complaints for different service areas were interpreted as positive trends, with the former cited as an example of improved customer awareness of how to make a complaint. Councillor McLennan welcomed and accepted the feedback and explained that service areas were encouraged to view complaints as a means of service improvement.

 

The committee then questioned what evidence was drawn upon to determine when a service had acted correctly. Comment was sought on whether the categorisation of the cause of a complaint as ‘customer dissatisfaction with a policy decision’ could obscure incidents of poor customer care and it was queried whether the Deputy Leader would support a greater emphasis on customer care in the recruitment process. Further comment was sought on the reduction in the percentage of stage 2 corporate complaints resolved within the target timescales. Queries were raised regarding the implementation of LGO recommendations and how the learning from these was embedded across the organisation. Members questioned how the council ensured that all departments followed the same robust approach to resolving and acting upon complaints. It was queried why the benchmarking data provided was not drawn from neighbouring boroughs. Members highlighted that residents had reported difficulties in getting through to the council via telephone and sought an update on the matter. The committee questioned whether the council could broaden the ways in which people could submit feedback, for example by providing emoji reaction buttons to indicate positive or negative experiences for those using the council’s online services. In concluding their questioning, the committee asked what further analysis could be undertaken to provide assurance that members’ expectations would be met with respect to those areas with the greatest volume of complaints.

 

In response to the queries raised, Irene Bremang explained that all complainants had the right to proceed to stage 2 of the procedure and further if they felt their complaint had not beed addressed satisfactorily at the firs stage. If the complainant was objecting to a decision determined by council policy, the service area was deemed to be not at fault and this would be reflected in the council’s response to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Food banks task group update pdf icon PDF 134 KB

This report provides an update of progress against the recommendations made by Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee Task Group, as set out in their report ‘The Use of Food Banks in Brent’ in Nov 2017.

Minutes:

The committee received an update report on the progress made against the 36 recommendations set out in ‘The Use of Food Banks in Brent’ task group report, first published in November 2017. The recommendations were aimed at the council and other organisations including the NHS, foodbanks, the West London Business Alliance, the Department for Work and Pensions,  and central government. Members’ attention was drawn to the table set out at the end of the update report which provided a summary of the progress made against each of the recommendations. Overall the council had made good progress on those recommendations for which it had oversight and continued to develop good partnership working to support implementation of  some of the more complex recommendations.  The recommendations for other organisations had been forward to the relevant teams  and recommendations aimed directly at foodbanks would be reviewed through the foodbank network.

 

The report detailed that the council would continue to work closely with its partners to mitigate the impact that surrounded food insecurity and related issues. It was highlighted that the Policy and Scrutiny Team facilitated the creation of the network of food banks, with its first meeting taking place on 17 January 2019. This was a key step that would enable the sharing of best practice and greater collaborative working between food aid providers and their partners. Further support would be provided to the network including training by the council’s Regulatory Services on food safety. The Deputy Leader highlighted that a Food Banks Champion had also now been appointed and was one of the committee’s own members, Councillor Mashari, who had Chaired the task group on Food Banks.

 

Councillor Mashari noted that one of the key recommendations of the task group had been that the council should show strategic leadership with respect to foodbank usage in Brent and emphasised that it was difficult for the council to do so without appropriate monitoring of the scale of the issue. The Deputy Leader agreed and advised that this would be an appropriate function for the Food Banks Champion to take forward, with the support of the council. The Deputy Leader emphasised that this was an issue taken very seriously by the Cabinet and indeed, all members of the council.

 

During the discussion, the committee requested that the following information, which could not be provided during the meeting, be made available to the committee subsequently:

 

An update be provided on the progress of the following recommendations of the task group:

-       The creation of a council policy on Foodbanks;

-       The Cabinet Member for Housing and Welfare Reform to write to the Secretary of State at the DWP outlining the problems caused by UC and other welfare reforms and request for central Government to formally track and monitor food bank usage;

-       The Leader should advocate for change in this area via the LGA, LEP and West London Alliance and London Councils and report back in writing to the Scrutiny Committee.

 

RESOLVED:

 

i)     That Cabinet note  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Budget proposals pdf icon PDF 91 KB

The Budget Scrutiny Panel reviewed the Cabinet’s draft Budget proposals published in October 2018 and produced a report setting outs its recommendations. The Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee considered and endorsed the Panel’s recommendations at its meeting on 15 January 2019. The Committee will now consider the final Budget proposals,  which are then due to be considered by the Cabinet at its meeting on 11 February 2019.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The committee reviewed the council’s budget proposals for 2019/20 and 2020/21 which were due to be considered by Cabinet at its meeting on 11 February 2019. The committee had considered a previous iteration of the budget proposals at its meeting on 15 January 2019, when it had reviewed and endorsed the report of the Budget Scrutiny Panel. The Chair highlighted that the views of the committee, along with the recommendations of the Budget Scrutiny Panel, had informed the current version before members. In particular, the Chair welcomed the adoption of the a number of key recommendations of the Budget Scrutiny Panel including rejection of the proposals to reduce library opening hours and rejection of the closure of Abbey Road, Brent Reuse and Recycling Facility. There remained however, a number of areas where further feedback would need to be sought from Cabinet. 

 

It was noted that the Budget report set out details of the consultation, scrutiny and equalities processes undertaken with regard to the proposals and revealed the overall financial position facing the council over the following four year period, including risks, issues and uncertainties. The Chair informed the committee that Councillor McLennan (Deputy Leader) and Ravinder Jassar (Head of Finance) were present to address members’ queries.

 

In the subsequent discussion, the committee noted that there was a history of certain departments overspending and underspending, and assurance was sought that this was appropriately accounted for when setting the budgets for these departments. Members questioned whether consultation via Brent Connects was productive and queried whether the council could do anything to attract a greater level of engagement, including reviewing the accessibility of locations. Clarification was sought on how the anticipated additional licensing income from events held at Wembley Stadium would be distributed and whether consideration had been given to compensating the residents most affected by the events. A member suggested that improved public transport signage and indicators would be beneficial to the borough. Highlighting the committee’s suggestion made at its last meeting that consideration be given to developing a more strategic and co-ordinated approach to Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funds, the committee questioned how this could be considered as part of the budget formulation process. Assurance was sought that the £600k ‘pothole’ fund provided by Central Government would be used solely for the repair of the Brent’s roads. The committee questioned whether the council was consulted about the increase in the Mayor’s precept and the impact that this increase was likely to have on Brent’s residents. Members queried who would be affected by the reduction in council tax support, proposed for 2020/21, and sought details of the council’s policy with regard to using bailiffs to collect unpaid council tax.

 

In response to the questions raised, Ravinder Jassar confirmed that the budgets were correctly set at the start of the year. The departmental overspend for Children and Young People was borne of an increase in the numbers of Looked After Children and children subject to child protection plans. The underspend for Regeneration  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.

11.

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 60.

Minutes:

None.