Agenda and minutes

extraordinary meeting, Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee
Monday 16 July 2018 6.00 pm

Venue: Boardrooms 3-5 - 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 were submitted by 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:

There were no declarations of interest.

3.

Deputations (if any)

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

Minutes:

No deputations were submitted.

4.

Brent Priorities 2019 onwards pdf icon PDF 91 KB

This report reviews the context for, and plans for the development of, the successor to the Brent Borough Plan 2015-2019.

Minutes:

Councillor M Butt (Leader of the Council) introduced the report, explaining that the borough priorities would be based on the commitments made within the Brent Labour Manifesto. The Borough Plan was currently being developed and consultation on the Plan would commence in October 2018. Work was underway to detail how the priorities would be met, taking into consideration the financial challenges facing the council over the next four years and ensuring the council was poised to exploit any opportunities that arose. Councillor M Butt welcomed questions from the committee, noting that Carolyn Downs (Chief Executive) was also in attendance to help address members’ queries.

 

The Chair thanked the Leader for his introduction. Members subsequently queried how the council planned for wider political and economic changes and questioned how often the risk register was updated. Discussing the financial pressures that would be faced by the council, members questioned whether any council services would be protected from future savings proposals. Queries were raised regarding the council’s planning for Britain’s exit from the European Union (Brexit) and whether the council would be producing any further documentation on the impact of Brexit on the borough. It was highlighted that a number of organisations had undertaken significant modelling around Brexit, including the LGA, and members questioned whether Brent would be undertaking similar detailed analysis.

 

The committee queried how the council would use the Borough of Culture status, both during the year and as a legacy for the borough, particularly with respect to improving community cohesion and outreach. The committee then raised queries regarding allocation of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) monies, including the council’s funding of the development of the pedway (pedestrian walk way) leading to Wembley Stadium. It was noted that other boroughs were known to use CIL funding to improve streets and roads and it was queried whether Brent would consider pursuing a similar approach.

 

A member questioned how radical and assertive the council could be in seeking to achieve environmental improvements for Brent. The committee was particularly keen to hear how the council would tackle poor air quality and it was noted that at least one Brent school was included in the Mayor of London’s list of the 50 worst schools for air quality.  The committee questioned whether the council would be willing to consider all potential measures, including for instance, road closures. Clarity was sought on whether the council would deliver against manifesto commitments if they proved unpopular during consultation and members sought details of how the council measured progress against these commitments. The committee questioned the contribution of partner organisations in meeting the borough priorities and discussed the role of scrutiny in pushing for a more joined-up approach.

 

Responding to the queries raised, Councillor M Butt confirmed that budget planning included risk analysis and noted that the council also maintained the corporate risk register which was frequently reviewed by the Audit Committee. The risk register detailed risks associated with the work of the entire council. It also included risks associated with  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Assets and Property Overview & Strategy Brief (2019-2023) 'Making property assets work for Brent' pdf icon PDF 119 KB

With the current asset strategy running from 2016 to 2019, this paper is intended to give Overview and Scrutiny Committee an outline of the scale of property assets (excluding Housing Revenue Account properties) and a brief outline of the main focus areas for the new property strategy being developed for 2020 onwards. The contents are provided for information, feedback and discussion to help guide and support the development of the new strategy. The final strategy is due to be developed and delivered during 2019.

Minutes:

At the invitation of the Chair, Councillor McLennan (Deputy Leader) introduced the report outlining the council’s property assets and focus areas for the new Property Strategy being developed for 2020. In doing so, Councillor McLennan advised that she had taken over responsibility for this portfolio area at the start of the new administration in May 2018. Councillor Butt, the previous portfolio holder was also present to address any questions as necessary, alongside Althea Loderick (Strategic Director, Resources) and Oliver Judges (Interim Director of Assets and Property). Councillor McLennan emphasised that the Strategy would address how the council’s assets would be employed to the benefit of the council through cost reduction, income generation and value generation.

 

In the subsequent discussion, Members welcomed the strategic approach described and sought further detail regarding the process of property valuation and frequency of review. The committee advised that transparency was needed with regard to the provision rental subsidy for council assets and the associated decision-making process and sought confirmation of how often these arrangements were reviewed. Members sought assurance that assets would not be sold off en masse and questioned how the council’s property portfolio compared with those of other authorities. It was further queried how the council’s asset management strategy aligned with the One Public Estate initiative. A member proposed that organisations in receipt of a rental subsidy be advised of the level of discount provided in their monthly bill in order to highlight the council’s contribution to social value. It was further commented that the council should promote more widely the support it continues to offer the community and voluntary sector, even during times of austerity, via the provision of rental subsidies and suggested that this contribution should be quantified.

 

With reference to the table of council assets previously provided to the committee at its meeting in February 2018, the committee stated that for each asset the council should detail the commercial value, strategic value, rental value, lease expiry date and other relevant information and issues that would complicate usage or disposal. The committee sought confirmation of the timescales for completing this work. Members questioned the options appraisal process for vacant or underutilised assets and queried whether councillors’ feedback would be taken into consideration within the broader assets review. The committee sought comment on the usage of space within the Civic Centre and the provision of space for start-ups and small and medium sized enterprises (SME).

 

In response to the queries raised, Oliver Judges advised that in line with standard practice in local authorities, Brent Council conducted a mixture of desktop valuations and externally procured valuations. Where the options of disposal or development were considered, an external valuation would always be sought to ensure the council maximised value. Councillor Butt emphasised that many of the decisions to offer properties on a subsidised rental basis had been taken a number of years ago and the assessments of social value had been undertaken on a case by case basis.

 

Oliver Judges advised that the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.