Reports from the Leader and Cabinet
To receive the report from the Leader and Cabinet in accordance with Standing Order 31 setting out any key or significant issues arising from matters within their portfolios.
Members are asked to note that this session will include an opportunity (within the time available) for non-Cabinet members to ask questions of relevant Cabinet Members.
NOTED the report and accompanying updates provided by the Leader of the Council in relation to Council priorities and Cabinet Member for Public Health, Culture and Leisure in relation to progress on the London Borough of Culture and Cabinet Member for Schools, Employment & Skills in relation to development of the Skills for Life, Sure Start, Brent Works, Living Room and West London Health programmes along with current performance across the boroughs schools.
Responses were also provided by the relevant Cabinet Members on the following questions raised during the open session of this part of the meeting:
· Councillor Donnelly-Jackson seeking details on plans to make the Borough of Culture programme as inclusive and accessible as possible.
· Councillor Kansagra seeking an update on the removal of culturally sensitive advertisements from public toilets and thanking the Leader of the Council for his apology to community representatives on the matter.
· Councillor Nerva on the steps being taken by the Council in order to identify the potential risks and mitigate the potential impact from the outcome of any “hard” Brexit.
As part of the response on this question, Members noted that a further report on the impact of Brexit would be provided for the next Council meeting.
· Councillor Choudhary regarding measures being taken to provide adequate funding for schools in order to maintain performance.
· Councillor Chan congratulating the Council on the successful prosecution of the former headteacher along with other former staff and governors at Copeland School and asking the Council to acknowledge the contribution made by Hank Roberts in raising the initial “whistleblowing” concerns, which was AGREED by the Mayor.
· Councillor Colwill regarding the impact of the financial operating loss at Bridge Park Community Centre.
The Mayor referred Members to the written report which had been circulated with the agenda providing updates from the Leader and Cabinet Members in relation to their portfolios. He then invited the Leader and other Cabinet Members to provide updates on any significant issues to be highlighted. Once these updates had been provided, he reminded Members that the remaining time available would 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:
(a) Councillor Muhammed Butt, Leader of the Council
Councillor Muhammed Butt took the opportunity to update Members on work being undertaken to review the priorities within London Councils in order to ensure they were aligned with those of the constituent boroughs. Key priorities for focus had been identified as housing, employment and skills alongside managing the impact arising from implementation of the Government’s programme of welfare reforms.
In accordance with Standing Order 14 (f) Councillor Butt also reported use of the Key Decision and Forward Plan urgency procedure in relation to the following decisions:
(a) Cabinet (16 July 2018): Harlesden Neighbourhood Plan; and
(b) Strategic Director Community Wellbeing (18 July 2018): Extra Care Schemes – Beechwood Court, Harrod Court and Tulsi House.
Having completed his update the Leader then invited Councillors Krupesh Hirani (Cabinet Member for Public Health, Culture and Leisure) and Amer Agha (Cabinet Member for Schools, Employment and Skills) to present additional updates in relation to their portfolios.
(b) Councillor Hirani (Cabinet Member for Public Health, Leisure & Culture)
Councillor Hirani took the opportunity to update Members on progress with preparations for the Borough of Culture highlighting the success of two recent summits held in order to seek views and further develop proposals. He reminded Members of the aim to place young people at the heart of the programme which was already being used as an opportunity to secure and focus investment in the arts, culture and young people across the borough. This had resulted in a number of positive changes across the borough supported by establishment of the “Love Where you Live” grant programme, which he was keen to encourage all Members to support working with their local communities. In addition he advised Members of the successful launch, following the recent summits, of the “Youth Stories of Brent” documentary produced by young film makers within the borough and of the opportunities being developed to link with the UEFA European Football Championship also taking place in 2020.
(c) Councillor Agha (Cabinet Member for Schools, Employment and Skills)
Councillor Agha took the opportunity to update Members on the progress and achievements being led by the Council’s Employment and Skills service. The service was involved in supporting the delivery of a number of key initiatives and he highlighted, as examples, the achievements in relation to the following schemes:
· Brent Start in supporting residents develop skills for life and employment;
· Brent Works in supporting residents seeking access to the labour market;
· The Living Room supporting the provision of careers advice and guidance to assist people into work;
· Work and Health Programme which had been commissioned by Brent and a number of partner boroughs across West London providing support for those with more complex needs and barriers to work.
Members were also advised that Brent had been selected as one of two pilot areas for the Moving on Up initiative aimed at improving employment outcomes for groups traditionally unrepresented in certain employment sectors across London and had applied to the Department for Work and Pensions for Community Budget Funding designed to offer training and employment opportunities for young people identified at greatest risk of offending or reoffending.
He ended by commending the strong performance in Brent’s schools in relation to GCSE, A-Level and vocational results.
Following the updates provided, the Mayor advised that the remainder of time available during this session of the meeting would be open for questions from non-cabinet members to the Leader and Cabinet. The following questions were raised and responses provided:
(i) Councillor Donnelly-Jackson sought details on plans to make the Borough of Culture programme as inclusive and accessible as possible.
In response Councillor Hirani (as Cabinet Member for Public Health, Culture and Leisure) confirmed that he was committed to ensuring an accessible and inclusive programme, highlighting the work already underway involving schools from all sectors across the borough including those supporting special needs. Measures had been taken to ensure the recent Borough of Culture summits were also as inclusive as possible including, as an example, signers at both events and these efforts would continue as the programme was developed.
(ii) Councillor Kansagra highlighted community concerns about the placing of culturally insensitive advertisements on public toilets across the borough and sought an update on their removal. At the same time as raising the issue he also took the opportunity to thank the Leader of the Council for his apology to community representatives on the matter.
In response Councillor Hirani (as Cabinet Member for Public Health, Leisure and Culture) advised he recognised the cultural sensitivities involved and confirmed that as a result of the concerns raised the matter had been rectified with the advertisement removed and an apology issued. Moving forward he felt that the recent award of the six sheet advertising contract would ensure these type of issue were avoided in future.
(iii) Councillor Nerva sought details on any plans being made by the Council to identify and, where possible, mitigate the potential risks and impact likely to arise from any “hard” Brexit. In raising the issue he highlighted, as an example, recent comments made by both the Mayor for London and local MP Tulip Siddiq in advocating a People’s Vote.
In response to the question, the Mayor advised that arrangements would be made for a report to be provided for the next Council meeting on the impact of Brexit.
(iv) Councillor Choudhary regarding measures being taken to provide adequate funding for schools in order to maintain performance given concerns around the impact of Brexit and ongoing austerity.
In response Councillor Agha (as Cabinet Member for Schools, Employment and Skills) highlighted the Council’s ongoing commitment to working with schools in order to address the financial pressures being experienced as a result of Government funding reductions and also in terms of supporting them in their own fund raising efforts. He would also ensure that the report due to be presented to the next Council meeting on Brexit would address the associated impact on schools budgets.
(v) Councillor Chan took the opportunity to congratulate the Council on its successful prosecution of the former headteacher and other former staff and governors at Copland School. Whilst pleased with the outcome in terms of funds the Council was now seeking to reclaim from those involved he also felt the Council needed to acknowledge the contribution made by Hank Roberts (as a member of staff at the school) in raising the initial “whistleblowing” concerns, which had led to the matter being exposed.
In response the Mayor confirmed that the acknowledgement requested had been AGREED.
(vi) Councillor Colwill took the opportunity, as the final contribution during the open session, to highlight concerns regarding the financial losses from the operation of Bridge Park Community Centre in terms of the impact on funding available for the Council to focus on other priority areas such as Waste Collection, Community Policing, Adult Social Care, Schooling, Health, Mental Health, Potholes, Pavement Resurfacing and grass cutting.
Following on from the final point raised above, the Mayor advised that the time available for this item had expired and he moved on to the next item, thanking all Members for their contributions.