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 46.  The reports have been attached as follows:

 

13.1    Housing Scrutiny Committee

 

13.2    Resources & Public Realm Scrutiny Committee

 

13.3    Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee

 

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 Scrutiny Chair’s in relation to the remits of their Committees.

Decision:

NOTED the update reports provided by the Chairs of the Housing, Resources & Public Realm and Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committees along with the responses provided by:

·                Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Highways and Planning in relation to an issue raised under the Resources & Public Realm update on the phasing out of self-monitoring contracts;

·                Deputy Leader in relation to an issue raised under the Resources & Public Realm update on improving access to Council services for those unable to interact on-line.

·                Cabinet Member for Environment in relation to an issue raised under the Resources & Public Realm update on training and engagement of Neighbourhood Managers.

·                Lead Member for Public Health, Culture and Leisure in relation to an issue raised under the Community & Wellbeing update regarding the maintenance of support for diabetes prevention work

·                Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care in relation to an issue raised under the Community & Wellbeing update on the action planned by Cabinet to address the issues highlighted under the Care Quality Commission Inspection report for hospitals in North West London; and

·                Cabinet Member for Schools, Employment & Skills in relation to an issue raised under the Community & Wellbeing update on action being taken to address concerns around the underachievement of certain groups of pupils in schools, including black and Afro-Caribbean boys.

 

Responses were also provided by the relevant Scrutiny Chairs on the following additional questions raised during the open session for this part of the meeting:

 

·                Councillor Choudhary seeking an update on progress with the Resources and Public Realm asset and property review.

·                Councillor Daly regarding the potential follow up action being planned by the Community & Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee in relation to the outcome of the Care Quality Commission report relating to hospitals across North West London given the ratings and concerns identified.

·                Councillor Choudry on the involvement of Housing Scrutiny in seeking to promote and encourage the private sector to work more closely with the Council and other Registered Providers in terms of improving access to the housing sector.

Minutes:

Before being presented with the updates from each Scrutiny Chair, the Mayor reminded Members that the time set aside for this item was now 20 minutes, with each Chair having up to three minutes in which to highlight any significant issues arising from the work of their Committees 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:

 

14.1    Housing Scrutiny Committee

 

Councillor Long (Chair of the Committee) introduced the report and advised that issues considered at the most recent meeting (not included within the report) had been as follows:

 

·                Consultation on the Council’s Allocation Policy, including retention of the choice based lettings system and proposals to place residents in private sector rather than temporary accommodation;

·                Performance on the Estate Grounds Maintenance Contract, with members highlighting concerns regarding the contrast in service between certain estates and also in relation to detail available on the website.  Members had also requested further detail on the possible use of Neighbourhood CIL on estate improvements;

·                Impact of the extension of the Private Sector Landlord Licensing Scheme and action being taken to address the backlog of licensing applications, improve the availability of information for tenants and also in relation to enforcement activity on issues such as dumping of rubbish linked to licensed properties.

 

14.2    Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee

 

Councillor Kelcher (Chair of the Committee) introduced the report with the following issues identified for response by the relevant Cabinet Members:

 

·                As part of the Committee’s review on the Highways Contract Performance concerns had been highlighted in relation to the self-monitoring nature of performance against the contract.  The Committee had therefore been keen to seek an assurance from the Cabinet Member regarding plans to phase out the use of these type of contracts in future.

 

Responding to the issue raised, Councillor Tatler (Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Highways and Planning) took the opportunity to thank the Committee for their work in this area and advised she was pleased to be able to report the signing of a Deed of Variation on the Highways Contract effective from 1 October designed to address the concerns identified in terms of managing and monitoring performance.

 

·                As part of the Committee’s review of progress on the Digital Strategy and outcomes for vulnerable people, Members were keen to seek further details on the work being undertaken to target more vulnerable residents excluded or unable to access online services; encourage and incentivise residents to set up a My Brent Account and monitor how and where residents were accessing on-line services.

 

In response, Councillor McLennan (Deputy Leader) advised that the need to ensure access to services was maintained for more vulnerable residents had already been recognised within the strategy including action to target specific groups in order to identify and address the barriers in the being able to access services and ensure they were not disadvantaged.

 

·                As part of their review around Area Based working, the Committee had been looking at the role of Town Centre and Neighbourhood Managers.  Having met with officers in these roles at a Focus Group session, the Committee had been impressed by their level of professionalism and dedication.  As an issue highlighted during the managers Focus Group details were sought on what further training was available to support the managers in maximising use of social media and other online forums as an additional means of picking up local issues.

 

In response, Councillor Krupa Sheth (Cabinet Member for Environment) advised that she had taken back the issue highlighted in order to ensure that training was provided and the Neighbourhood Managers (of which a further two had recently been appointed) and Town Centre Managers were also establishing the necessary links with ward councillors in their areas.

 

14.3  Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee

 

Councillor Ketan Sheth (Chair of the Committee) introduced the report with the following issues identified for response by the relevant Cabinet Members:

 

·                As part of the Committee’s review on the management and prevention of Diabetes, Members had been impressed with the work being achieved through the Diabetes Community Champions and therefore keen to seek an assurance that the support currently being provided by the Council for this initiative would be maintained and, if possible increased.

 

Councillor Hirani (responding as Cabinet Member for Public Health, Leisure and Culture) advised that the Council had been working closely with Diabetes UK to establish and train 50 volunteers as Diabetes Community Champions across the borough.  As with the Scrutiny Committee, he had recognised the positive impact achieved and reaffirmed the Council’s commitment towards maintaining the current level of support and cohort of volunteers.

 

·                The Committee had been disappointed to note the outcome of the recent Care Quality Commission Inspection of the London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust which had rated them as “requiring improvement”.  Given the concerns raised, further detail was sought from the Cabinet Member (in advance of the next Joint North West London Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee due to be hosted by Brent) on how the Council would be looking to engage and work with the leadership of the Trust in order to ensure the necessary improvements were made.

 

Councillor Farah (responding as Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care) advised that he shared the disappointment expressed and was committed to working with partners as well as the leadership of the Trust in order to secure the necessary improvements and ensure updates were provided as progress was made.

 

·                An update was requested on plans being developed to address concerns regarding the attainment of black and Afro-Caribbean pupils and other underachieving groups in schools across Brent.

 

In response Councillor Agha (Cabinet Member for Schools, Employment & Skills) advised that work had already commenced in this area with a Steering Group established to lead on the process involving schools parents and other key stakeholders.  The need to address these concerns had been recognised and he advised Members that further updates would be provided as work progressed with the approach also focussed around provision of appropriate employment and skills opportunities.

 

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 on from the update provided in relation to the work of the Resources and Public Realm Committee, Councillor Choudhary asked for an update on the review of the Assets and Property Strategy.

 

In response Councillor Kelcher advised that whilst the review was ongoing progress had been made with the provision of a spreadsheet of council property assets.  In reviewing the initial information provided the Committee had identified the need for further information having noted that in some cases values were difficult to assess and were also keen to see the inclusion of an assessment of social value in terms of the contribution made by each property asset.  He advised that further updates could be provided as the review progressed.

 

(ii)     In response to the update provided under the report from the Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Daly sought further details on the potential response from the Scrutiny Committee to the concerns raised in relation to the outcome of the CQC Inspection on the London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust.

 

In response Councillor Ketan Sheth advised that he was already liaising with scrutiny colleagues in Ealing and Harrow on the options available.  Possible ways forward included a special meeting or joint commission to review actions being taken by the Trust to address the issues identified or referring the matter to the North West London Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee.  A final decision on the most appropriate option was still to be made but he assured Members we would keep them updated as the review was progressed.

 

(iii)    Following on from the update provided in relation to the work of the Housing Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Choudry sought further detail on the work being undertaken in seeking to promote and encourage the private sector to work more closely with the Council and other Registered Providers in terms of access to housing supply.

 

In response Councillor Long advised that much of this work was being led by the Cabinet, however as part of their review of the changes being proposed to the Council’s Housing Allocation Policy the Scrutiny Committee had noted the inclusion of proposals to encourage much closer working between the Council, Housing Associations and private rented sector involving lease arrangements and access to Housing Benefit.  Tenants experiencing problems in securing rent deposits could also seek advice from the Council but she felt it was also important to recognise the impact which increasing rent levels across London would have in terms of limiting access to the supply of affordable accommodation for those on low income, highlighting the importance of the Council’s overall housing strategy in this respect.

 

As no further questions were raised, the Mayor advised he would move on to the next item and thanked all Members for their contributions.

Supporting documents: