Reports from the Leader and Cabinet
To receive reports from the Leader and Cabinet in accordance with Standing Order 38.
In accordance with Standing Order 38, the Council received reports from the Leader of the Council and Cabinet Members, as follows:
(i) Councillor Butt (Leader of the Council)
Councillor Butt, whilst welcoming Councillor Warren as the Leader of the new principal Opposition Group on the Council also highlighted as an issue the frequency of change between membership of both Opposition Groups. He also advised Members that a response was still awaited from the Secretary of State to the request from the Council for financial flexibility and assistance in terms of undertaking additional fire safety works in tower blocks identified as a result of the tragedy at Grenfell Tower. Concern was expressed that no response had yet been provided and he suggested that Opposition Members may also wish to call on their Government colleagues for a response, given the importance of the issue in terms of resident safety.
In accordance with Standing Order 16(b) Councillor Butt also reported use of the urgency procedure in relation to the following two decisions:
· Extension of Reed Contract; and
· Brent Domestic Abuse Advocacy and MARAC Coordination – Contract Variation
(ii) Councillor McLennan (Deputy Leader of the Council)
Councillor McLennan advised she was pleased to announce that despite a challenging position it was now possible to report that the Council had achieved a balanced budget for 2017/18 and was moving towards a balanced position for 2018/19. She thanked all involved for their ongoing efforts in relation to the budget position but felt it important to recognise that further difficult challenges would need to be faced when setting the budget for 2019/20 and beyond. The decision to move to a two year budget setting cycle had, however, helped to manage the reductions needing to be achieved and she felt represented a sensible planning approach.
In concluding her update, another significant area of work which Councillor McLennan drew Members attention to was the progress being made on introduction of pilot Business Rate pooling arrangements across London which she advised was something that would continue to be kept under review.
(iii) Councillor Tatler (Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Growth, Employment and Skills)
In response to concerns regarding the adverse impact that legislation relating to Permitted Development rights was having on the local economy and on the Council’s role at the heart of the planning process, Councillor Tatler advised she was pleased to announce that Cabinet had recently approved the pursuit of an Article 4 Directive. The Directive would cover the Wembley and Alperton area and assist the Council in preventing developers seeking to by-pass the planning process.
In addition Councillor Tatler took the opportunity to remind Members of the review currently being undertaken on the Local Plan and the importance of ensuring as wide engagement as possible in the consultation process. Members had been provided with a leaflet detailing the various consultation events and were asked for support in encouraging as many people as possible to participate.
(Councillor Allie left the meeting at 8.15pm)
(iv) Councillor Southwood (Cabinet Member for the Environment)
Councillor Southwood began by reminding Members of the zero tolerance approach being taken by the Council towards the illegal dumping of rubbish and dropping of litter. As part of this approach she extended a warm welcome to colleagues (formerly employed through Kingdom Security) who had recently joined the Council and advised that she looked forward to seeing the team continue to grow and add value in tackling these issues.
At this stage in proceedings, Councillor Duffy advised he wished to raise a point of order relating to performance on fly-tipping, recycling and the impact of the introduction of charges for collection of bulky waste. As Councillor Southwood was part way through her update the Mayor ruled that he was not prepared to allow the interruption and asked Councillor Duffy to return to his seat.
Councillor Southwood continued by highlighting that one of the reasons for bringing the team in-house had been to provide additional flexibility and a more localised approach. She also highlighted that staff were already employed on the London Living Wage. The success of the Cleaner Brent App was also highlighted as a further initiative in assisting to tackle the concerns raised.
In terms of other issues, Councillor Southwood then moved on to highlight the work being undertaken with local schools around improvements to Air Quality through the introduction of an anti-idling initiative, which all members were encouraged to support. She then concluded by advising of an initiative designed to address frustrations with the current speed and cost of pot-hole and pavement repairs involving the allocation of funding for the introduction of a new faster method of repair which would avoid the need for associated road closures.
(Councillor Duffy left the meeting at 8.24pm)
(v) Councillor Hirani (Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing)
Councillor Hirani began his update by reporting that the Council had recently submitted its return for the Better Care Fund, which aimed to build on the work already being delivered jointly with health partners across a number of areas including Adult Social Care, Housing and Hospital Discharge.
In addition, he advised Members of a recent visit to Birchwood Grange, as the boroughs largest care home, to view measures being taken to deliver a more co-ordinated care service for its residents.
Member were also advised of the celebrations underway to mark the anniversary and success achieved through the Social Isolation in Brent initiative, which it was hoped could be further expanded over the coming year. Before finishing, Councillor Hirani advised that whilst grateful to all staff in Adult Social Care and Public Health for their efforts in supporting the Grenfell response teams he wanted to offer his personal thanks to the following two members of staff - Helen Woodland and Melanie Smith for their specific work in support of the response effort.
(vi) Councillor Miller (Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities)
Councillor Miller advised that the main focus of his report would be on the measures being introduced to tackle sales of high strength acid and street drinking across the borough. In terms of acid sales (not all of which were licensed) he outlined the work being undertaken by Trading Standards to support and advise local businesses and advised Members that information was available, should they wish to support these efforts, to pass on to local businesses involved in these type of sales within their wards.
He was also proud to announce, as a measure designed to tackle Street Drinking the introduction of a Public Space Protection Order covering the whole borough. This would provide the ability to impose fines of up to £100 for street drinking alongside the option, where it was felt appropriate, for referrals to be made the substance misuse service.
Councillor Miller concluded his report by advising Members that as part of the Safer Brent initiative work was shortly due to begin on the roll out of an upgraded CCTV system and that he was also pleased to announce the appointment of two additional Independent Domestic Violence Advocates to assist with early intervention and identification of victims in cases involving domestic violence.
(vii) Councillor Farah (Cabinet Member for Housing and Welfare Reform)
Councillor Farah reminded Members that the Council would be welcoming its Housing Management Service back in house from the 2nd October. He reassured members and the public that plans for the transfer, were progressing well.
In addition agreement had now been secured within the Council for the adoption of an Additional and Selective Licensing Scheme, which was now subject to approval by the Secretary of State and would assist in regulating the operation of landlords in the private rented sector. In addition to Council would also be seeking to apply civil penalties on landlords renting out substandard accommodation, with a potential a maximum fine of £30k.
He finished by advising he was pleased to be able to announce the launch of a ground breaking scheme designed to assist in the prevention of single homelessness through the provision of targeted support and advice.
(viii) Councillor Patel (Cabinet Member for Children and Young People)
Councillor Patel began by expressing her congratulations and thanks to the first cohort of GCSE students who had performed so well in terms of the new and much more challenging syllabus and exams. She advised that she was also proud to announce that performance in terms of A Level students achieving grades A* - B had also increased to 57% within the borough which was 4% above the national average and represented a 3% increase on the previous year’s performance. Headteachers and teaching staff were also welcomed back after their well-earned summer break.
Councillor Patel finished by also taking the opportunity to thank Gail Tolley and Nigel Chapman for their work in heading up the Grenfell Family Unit and to Brain Grady for the cover he had provided in terms of managing the Council’s Children & Young People service during this period.
The Mayor thanked the Leader and Cabinet Members for the updates provided.