Reports from the Chairs of Overview and Scrutiny Committees
To receive reports from the Chairs of the Overview and Scrutiny Committees in accordance with Standing Order 41.
Councillor Van Kalwala reported on the work of overview and scrutiny since the last meeting of Council. He stated that all the overview and scrutiny committees had met at least once since the last such report.
The Budget and Finance Overview and Scrutiny Committee had met twice and taken evidence on:
· The council’s capital budget
· The projected impact on the council of changes to Housing Benefit
· The emerging draft budget
· Departmental overspends
One of the committee’s main roles was to produce a report and recommendations based on the evidence it had received. The first stage of this report – the First Interim Report had been finalised and sent to Executive members with the aim of influencing the development of the draft budget. The report had also been sent to all members as a source of information. At its next meeting on 9 February 2011, the committee would receive the Executive’s draft budget and all members of the Council were encouraged to attend. The committee would then send its views to the Executive’s budget meeting.
Councillor Van Kalwala referred to the the last meeting the Health Partnership Overview and Scrutiny Committee which heard from the North West Hospital Trust on ‘We Care’ Patients experience programme – an initiative designed to ensure a positive patient experience. Following concerns raised at the committee’s October meeting members received an update on Brent Community Services. As part of the update the Chief Executive of NHS Brent proposed a number of ideas aimed at dealing with these concerns. A report on the application for GP commissioning pathfinder status was also submitted. Although not successful in the first wave of applications the submission would be improved and resubmitted. The Fuel Poverty Task Group had completed its work and would be reporting to the next meeting of the Committee. The task group recommendations would focus on fuel poverty services in Brent, income maximisation, grant funding, energy efficiency and working with landlords.
The main focus of the One Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s December meeting was to scrutinise the Direct Services Transformation project proposals prior to them being discussed by the Executive. Councillor Van Kalwala reported that a number of carers attended and were provided with an opportunity to address members. The committee’s two recommendations were forwarded to the Executive, one of which was agreed. The committee had also received the Council’s annual complaints report and an update on the Carbon Management Programme. This committee now regularly receives an update on the One Council Programme which provides outline information on each of the projects including their status and timescales. This enables the committee to select projects to review in more depth. The car repair and spray painting task group had received evidence from Street Care and Environmental Health. It would be taking evidence from the Legal and Planning services and undertaking site visits in early February.
Councillor Van Kalwala informed members that the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee spent some time focusing on the primary school expansion strategy. The discussion included information on pressure points, the cost on temporary school places and the use of the Basic Needs Safety Valve funding. The Council’s responsibility for the 16-19 agenda, the national policy changes that have taken place since July 2010 and the new guidance on the role of local authorities were also reviewed. The committee has continued its interest in the Special Educational Needs One Council Project, which aimed to increase in borough provision, by reviewing the project concept paper. The task group on prevention of youth offending was focusing on the importance of early intervention and a whole-family approach in preventing offending. Having visited a Youth Inclusion Project hosted by Youth Offending Team staff in November, evidence-gathering from witnesses commenced in January, and had so far included contributions from relevant service managers within the Council and voluntary and community sector partners such as Brent Centre for Young People.
Finally, as chair of the Partnership and Place Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Van Kalwala was able to report that progress on the development of a Voluntary Sector Strategy was discussed at the last meeting. The committee also received a response to a number of issues raised relating to the voluntary sector at the One Community Many Voices scrutiny engagement event. The committee had received a presentation on the Local Economic Assessment and Members had identified issues around employment, skills and transport which the committee would be investigating further. An update on policing priorities, the work of the Crime Prevention Strategy Group and changes to Safer Neighbourhood Teams had been received. He stated that the committee’s interest in the implication of how changes to national policy and funding are worked out locally would continue and the committee had received an update on the implementation of the Services for Women in and Exiting Prostitution task group.