Reports from the Leader and Cabinet
To receive reports from the Leader and Cabinet in accordance with Standing Order 31.
NOTED the updates provided by the Leader of the Council and Cabinet Members for Children’s, Safeguarding, Early Help and Social Care in relation to Ofsted and Housing & Welfare Reform in relation to extension of the private sector landlord licensing scheme;
Under the new arrangements introduced as part of the changes to the Constitution responses were also provided by the relevant Lead Members on the following additional questions raised during this session of the meeting:
· Councillor Donnelly-Jackson regarding enforcement of the private sector landlord licensing scheme;
· Councillor Denselow regarding controls and impact of highways work by utilities companies;
· Councillor Nerva regarding the Council’s Tree Management Policy;
· Councillor Shafique Choudhary regarding the Olympic Way Pedway;
· Councillor Kelcher regarding the issue of traffic penalty charge notices for infringement of a new traffic management system;
· Councillor Chan regarding concerns about the delay in repair of a burst water pipe and impact on local residents;
Before moving on to consider this item, the Mayor advised that as part of the revisions to the Constitution agreed earlier in the meeting a number of changes had been made to the way in which these updates would be considered with effect from tonight’s meeting. The time set aside for this item remained as 15 minutes with up to six minutes being provided for the Leader and other Cabinet to speak in order to highlight any significant issues within their portfolios and on which written reports would be circulated at future meetings. Once these updates had been provided, the remaining time available would then be opened up for any non-Cabinet members to question (without the need for advance notice) Cabinet Members on matters relating to their portfolios.
The following updates were provided by the Leader and Cabinet Members:
(i) Councillor Muhammed Butt, Leader of the Council
In accordance with Standing Order 14 (f) Councillor Butt reported use of the Key Decision and Forward Plan urgency procedure in relation to the following decisions:
(a) Re-examination of the funding decision for Olympic Way Improvements following the announcement of the possible sale of Wembley Stadium to a private individual/company; and
(b) Award of contract for Merchant Acquiring Services.
Members were also advised of the intention to focus the Non Cabinet Member debate at the September Council meeting on the Windrush Controversy. Having completed his update the Leader then invited Councillors Mili Patel (Cabinet Member for Children’s, Safeguarding, Early Help and Social Care) and Eleanor Southwood (Cabinet Member for Housing & Welfare Reform) to present additional updates in relation to their portfolios.
(ii) Councillor Mili Patel (Cabinet Member for Children’s, Safeguarding, Early Help and Social Care)
Councillor Patel was pleased to announce that despite the significant cuts in Government funding for Children’s Services, Brent’s Children’s Service had been officially rated as ”Good” following its recent Ofsted inspection. She was proud to announce this had been the best rating ever achieved in Brent for Children’s Services and was keen to recognise the hard work and efforts of all involved. Despite further recent warnings from the LGA and children’s charities in relation to the ongoing impact that the widening budget gap would have on the provision of services, she was also pleased to report that Inspectors had praised the effective and sensitive delivery of services in Brent identifying a range of good practice around forced marriage, female genital mutilation and gangs. Having highlighted these excellent results, Councillor Patel felt it was important to end her update by recognising the significant challenge that remained in terms of the continued delivery of these services, given the reduction in funding being provided by Government.
(iii) Councillor Southwood (Cabinet Member for Housing & Welfare Reform)
Councillor Southwood took the opportunity to update Members on the recent extension of the Private Landlord Selective Licensing Scheme, which she advised now covered (with an addition of five wards) the following areas – Willesden, Harlesden, Wembley Central, Queens Park, Dudden Hil, Kilburn, Mapesbury & Kensal Green. Prior to its extension, 8000 properties had been licenced with an additional 2,700 applications received from landlords in the new wards, which would assist to provide better and more consistent standards in terms of the accommodation on offer. As well as a range of inspection and enforcement activity the scheme also required more positive engagement and support for landlords, with Councillor Southwood highlighting as an example the success of recent landlord forums.
Following the updates provided, the Mayor advised that the remainder of time available would be open for questions from non-cabinet members to the Leader and Cabinet. As a result, the following questions were raised and responses provided:
(i) Councillor Donnelly-Jackson sought further details regarding enforcement of the private sector landlord licensing scheme.
In response Councillor Southwood (as Cabinet Member for Housing & Welfare Reform) advised that enforcement of the scheme involved a range of activity, including unannounced visits and inspections but encouraged any specific concerns to be raised direct with either herself or officers so they could be investigated further.
(ii) Councillor Denselow took the opportunity to highlight the significant levels of disruption being caused for residents of Chamberlain Road and the surrounding area within his ward as a result of highways work being undertaken by Utilities Companies. He asked the Cabinet Members with responsibility for Highways and Parking Enforcement if it would be possible to develop a joined up approach towards managing and controlling the impact of these works, with the Leader also asked if he could raise the need for better co-ordination at a strategic level through the London Councils Executive.
In response Councillor Tatler (as Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Highways & Planning) advised that she was aware of the specific issues in Chamberlain Road, which involved gas safety works requiring a TfL bus diversion. The impact of these works on local residents had been recognised and officers were planning further communication. Councillor Tatler also confirmed she would work with the Leader in raising the wider issues highlighted at a strategic level with London Councils.
(iii) Councillor Nerva referred to a previous debate at Council regarding the Council’s tree management policy and requested an update on establishment of crowd funding arrangements to enable local communities to fund replacement or additional trees and also on steps being taken with insurance companies to fund the replacement of trees removed as a result of insurance claims.
In response Councillor Krupa Sheth (as Cabinet Member for Environment) advised she would seek an update on the issues raised for feedback after the meeting.
(iv) Councillor Choudhary sought details on the extent of any traffic management assessment undertaken on the proposals for the Olympic Way Pedway, particularly in relation to their potential impact on Engineers Way and Fulton Way.
In response Councillor Tatler (as Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Highways & Planning) confirmed that all decisions in relation to the proposals for Olympic Way would need to be considered by the Planning Committee when dealing with the relevant planning application, which would also include consideration of the traffic management issues.
(v) Following on from the reference made to the issues affecting residents in Chamberlain Road, Councillor Kelcher highlighted the difficulties being caused by the associated traffic management scheme for local residents in Kensal Green ward, which adjoined the area, and had led in some instances to penalty charge notices being issued for infringements. Given the difficulties and confusion being caused by the temporary traffic system he asked if the Cabinet Member would consider taking a more lenient attitude to the issuing and collection of these charges in cases where the infringement had not been deliberate.
Councillors Tatler (as Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Highways & Planning) and Krupa Sheth (as Cabinet Member for Environment) advised that whilst not able to comment on individual cases at the meeting they would be prepared to review the issue outside of the meeting to see what, if any, action could be taken.
(vi) Councillor Chan expressed concerns, given the recent hot weather, at the fact that emergency repairs by Thames Water to a burst water main in Kensal Green ward had left local residents without access to water for several hours and asked if these concerns could be followed up by the relevant Cabinet Member.
In response, Councillor Tatler (as Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Highways & Planning) highlighted that whilst the Council would normally look to co-ordinate work with utilities companies in order to minimise impact on local residents, this was not always possible in the case of emergency repairs. Councillor Tatler, however, shared the concerns expressed about this incident and advised that if the ward councillors could provide further details she would consider what, if any, further action could be taken to address with Thames Water.
At this stage, the Mayor advised that time available had expired and he moved on to the next item, thanking all Members for their contributions.