Agenda item

Report from Chairs of Scrutiny Committees

To receive reports from the Chairs of the Council’s Scrutiny Committees in accordance with Standing Order 36.  The reports have been attached as follows:


13.1    Resources & Public Realm Scrutiny Committee


13.2    Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee


13.3    Housing Scrutiny Committee


NOTED the update reports provided by the Chairs of the Resources & Public Realm, Community and Wellbeing and Housing Scrutiny Committees.


Under the new arrangements introduced as part of the changes to the Constitution responses were also provided by the relevant Scrutiny Chairs on the following additional questions raised during this session of the meeting:


·                Councillor Choudhary regarding fire safety in tower blocks across the borough;

·                Councillor Nerva in relation to the introduction of the rapporteur concept by Resources and Public Realm Committee;

·                Councillor Daly on the work planned across the scrutiny function to review all enforcement activity by the Council;

·                Councillor Choudry regarding the approach towards budget scrutiny; and

·                Councillor Donnelly-Jackson on any review activity planned by scrutiny in relation to life chances for adults with learning difficulties.


Before being presented with the updates from each Scrutiny Chair, the Mayor advised that as part of the amendments to the Constitution agreed earlier in the meeting a number of changes had been made to the way in which the updates from each Scrutiny Chair would be considered with effect from tonight’s meeting.  These changes involved the time set aside for this item being extended to a total of 20 minutes, with each Chair having up to three minutes n which to highlight any significant issues arising from the work of their Committees and on which they would like the relevant Cabinet Member to respond. Once these updates had been provided, the remaining time available would then be opened up for any other non-Cabinet members to question (without the need for advance notice) the Scrutiny Chairs on matters relating to the work of their Committees.


The following updates were provided by each of the Scrutiny Chairs:


16.1    Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee


Councillor Kelcher (as Chair of the Scrutiny Committee) introduced the report from his Committee.  In terms of work planned for the coming year he advised that whilst the initial meeting of the Committee had needed to be rescheduled for later in July, the following Task Groups had already identified, in which he was keen to encourage maximum engagement and participation from both Members and key stakeholders:


·                Affordable Elements in New Developments (building on the previous review of Permitted Development and involving a representative from Housing Scrutiny Committee);

·                Budget Task Group (which would involve cross working with the other Scrutiny Committees);and

·                Knife Crime.


16.2  Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee


Councillor Ketan Sheth (as Chair of the Scrutiny Committee) introduced the report from his Committee, which had again been circulated with the agenda and outlined the work undertaken since the last update provided to Council in January 2018.


Whilst his Committee was also still to hold their initial meeting, he advised that key areas of focus within their work programme for the coming year would be as follows:


·                Having celebrated the 70th anniversary of the NHS the Committee would be monitoring concerns around the continued fragmentation of service provision and impact of funding restrictions on health service delivery within Brent as well as the significant challenges created by the increasing demand on health services;

·                The management of specific health issues within Brent – including TB; Child obesity and diabetes.  The activity in relation to diabetes would involve the establishment of a specific Task Group including representatives from the NHS and a local Diabetes Charity;

·                A review of measure in place to address the Mental Health and wellbeing of young people, under the “Every Opportunity to Succeed” Programme


Councillor Ketan Sheth ended his update by also taking the opportunity to congratulate Children’s Services for the outcome of the recent Ofsted inspection.  He was particularly pleased to note that Inspectors had rated services for children in care and young care leavers as outstanding.


16.3  Housing Scrutiny Committee


Councillor Long (as Chair of the Scrutiny Committee) introduced the report from her Committee, which she also advised had been circulated with the agenda and outlined the work undertaken since the last update provided to Council in January 2018.


Whilst her Committee was also still to hold its initial meeting, she advised that current areas of focus within their work programme for the coming year included:


·                Ongoing monitoring of performance against targets by Brent Housing Management Service, including Grounds Maintenance on estates;

·                Progress monitoring on implementation of recommendations from the  Committee’s review on Fire Safety;

·                Impact of the extension of Private Sector Landlord Licensing on key corporate performance targets such as fly-tipping within the areas now covered;

·                Monitoring the establishment of communication channels between councillors and Registered Providers, following their engagement with the Committee over the last year;

·                The establishment of a Task Group to review the newly introduced requirements around Estate Ballots and representation in the Budget Task Group


Councillor Long ended by highlighting she was looking forward to the Committee developing a close working relationship with the newly appointed Lead Member for Housing & Welfare Reform over the coming year.


The Mayor thanked each of the Scrutiny Chairs for their updates and it was RESOLVED that the content of each of their reports be noted.


Following the updates provided, the Mayor advised that the remainder of time available would be open for questions from non-cabinet members to the Scrutiny Chairs, with following questions raised and responses provided:


(i)      Following the update provided in relation to the work of the Housing Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Choudhary asked whether it was now felt that the borough was safe as a result of the review of fire safety in tower blocks


In response Councillor Long advised that it was difficult to comment for certain.  The Council had developed a forward fund of £10m to finance fire safety works in blocks and whilst Government Building Regulations did not help, she also felt it was important to stress the need for residents to take responsibility for their own safety.


(ii)     In response to the update provided in relation to the work of the Resources & Public Realm Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Nerva requested further details on the introduction of the rapporteur concept by the Committee.


Councillor Kelcher advised that this had been based on a concept operated within other scrutiny authorities whereby individual scrutiny councillors would take responsibility for examining a specific issue and have responsibility for reporting back on the outcome to the main Committee, once their review had been completed.  This had been used as a means of more effectively managing support whilst enabling the Committee to extend its focus (outside of the main reviews) on a number of smaller scale issues and he hoped would be a successful approach in Brent.


(iii)    In terms of the scrutiny function as a whole, Councillor Daly sought details on any work planned to review the overall enforcement landscape and different types of enforcement activity being undertaken by the Council on a joined up basis.


Councillor Kelcher responded by advising that scrutiny had not traditionally looked at enforcement activity as a single issue.  He felt, however, that there may be opportunities to look at this area more generally as part of monitoring around complaints and rubbish dumping due to be undertaken by his Committee later in the year and also as part of the process for reviewing the retendering of various enforcement contracts due to be awarded in 2023.


(iv)    Given the links with the Audit and Standards Advisory Committee and reference made during the Chairs updates to the Scrutiny Budget Task Group, Councillor Choudry asked for further details in relation to the planned approach towards budget scrutiny for the coming year.


In response Councillor Kelcher felt there was a clear distinction between the role of the Audit & Standards Advisory Committee and Scrutiny in relation to the budget.  Whilst Audit would be responsible for ensuring the accounts complied with the necessary accounting requirements scrutiny’s input was more focussed around reviewing the principles, priorities and savings proposals on which delivery of the budget had been based.


(v)     As a final question within the time available, Councillor Donnelly-Jackson sought details on any review activity planned by scrutiny in relation to life chances for adults with learning difficulties.


In response, Councillor Ketan Sheth (as Chair of the Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee) advised that whilst the Committee’s work programme was still to be published, this subject had been identified as an item for review and he would therefore welcome Councillor Donnelly-Jackson’s and other members input into development of the review as part of the planning process..


As the time available had expired the Mayor advised he would now move on to the next item and thanked all Members for their contributions.

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