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:

 

11.1    Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee

 

11.2    Resources and Public Realm 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 Community and Wellbeing and Resources & Public Realm Scrutiny Committees.

 

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

 

·                Councillor Nerva regarding the approach towards future scrutiny of the police following introduction of the tri borough command structure.

·                Councillor Dar on the prospect of Brent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) being encouraged to oppose the proposed closure by Barnet CCG of a GP practice on the border of Cricklewood, which would also impact on Brent residents.

·                Councillor Choudry seeking further details on the approach being developed in relation to scrutiny of the 2019/20 – 2020/21 budget.

·                Councillor Gill regarding the process for scrutinising the proposals to alter the present opening hours for the Urgent Care Centre based at Central Middlesex Hospital.

·                Councillor S.Choudhary expressing concern that targets in relation to child immunisation were not being met and what action could be taken in following up the scrutiny review on this issue.

·                Councillor Kansagra on the response provided regarding plans to replace the Council’s fleet of diesel vehicles and whether the fleet would be subject to the same surcharges as introduced for diesel vehicles within CPZs.

·                Councillor Gbajumo seeking further details on the introduction of a scrutiny recommendation and data request tracker.

Minutes:

Before being presented with the updates from each Scrutiny Chair, the Mayor reminded Members that as part of the changes agreed to the Constitution in February 2019 the time set aside for this item was now 12 minutes, with each Chair having up to three minutes in which to highlight any significant issues arising from the work of their Committees.  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 Community & Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee

 

Councillor Ketan Sheth introduced the update report from his Committee, highlighting the following issues:

 

·             The current focus on the significant changes impacting on local health services, with the Committee due to review a proposal from Brent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to alter the present opening hours for the Urgent Care Centre based at Central Middlesex Hospital.  When the A&E units at Central Middlesex and Hammersmith Hospitals had been closed, as part of the Shaping a Healthier future (SaHF) initiative, an assurance had been provided that the Urgent Care Centre at Central Middlesex would be available to treat residents with minor illnesses and injuries on a 24/7 basis.  Brent CCG were now proposing that due to its limited use in the early hours the Unit should be closed from midnight to 8am in order to better utilise available resources.  As a result, the Scrutiny Committee would be seeking assurances in relation to communication with residents regarding the proposed changes, alternative measures to be established for those requiring treatment outside of any revised opening hours; the impact on patient safety and whether it would be possible to reverse any reduction in hours to cope with additional seasonal demand and what the likely impact would be on Northwick Park A&E and Urgent Care Centre should the proposed change go ahead.

 

·             In addition, he advised that the Committee would be closely monitoring the proposed merger of the eight separate CCGs across North West London into one single body as part of implementation of the new NHS Long Term Plan and Integrated Care System.  As a member of the North West London Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Sheth advised that he had recently been able to question the Chief Officer of the North West London Collaboration of CCGs on the proposal and timescales involved.  Whilst it was recognised that the merger was still to be agreed by NHS England, Councillor Sheth had been keen to stress the need to avoid rushing into any arrangement given the huge scale of the change proposed, which would not only impact on over 2.2 million residents but also involve significant financial, governance and accountability issues needing to be resolved.  Whilst the NHS appeared keen to complete the merger process by 2020 he advised the Committee were also keen to ensure the process was not rushed and allowed sufficient time to engage with all affected partners.

 

The Mayor thanked Councillor Ketan Sheth for his update.

 

14.2 Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee

 

Councillor Kelcher was then invited to introduce the update report from his Committee highlighting the following issues raised at their most recent meeting:

 

·             Members were advised that the Committee had agreed to establish an Air Quality Task Group, chaired by Councillor Stephens and involving representatives from a range of other organisations with expertise in this area;

·             The Committee had also reviewed the Annual Report from the Safer Brent Partnership, which included a focus around the process and factors influencing the reporting of crime.  As a result, the Committee had felt it would be helpful to include a wider range of indicators designed to reflect not only levels of reported crime but also public trust in the police and partnership and how they felt crime was being tackled;

·             The focus on the Safer Brent Partnership Annual Report had also included a separate discussion concerning sex work and what action the Council could take to assist in minimising and designing out the issues being caused.  Suggestions had included improvement to street lighting and removal of public phone boxes in problem areas;

·             The Committee had also identified a need to consider the new tri-borough police borough command arrangements given concerns over reporting mechanisms and communication with ward councillors and Panels over local ward issues.  In order to clarify the position, the Committee had requested that the Lead Member for Community Safety and Engagement raise the issue with the police in order to develop a clear reporting process and rights to information;

·             As a final update, members were advised that the Committee had also received an interim update report on progress being made by the Knife Crime Scrutiny Task Group, who were due to conclude their final review in September 2019.

 

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.  In opening this item, the Mayor reminded Members of the need to ensure that questions raised were focussed on the updates provided or work being undertaken by each Committee.  The following questions were raised and responses provided:

 

(i)       Referring to the update from the Resources & Public Realm Scrutiny Committee in relation to the tri-borough police command arrangements Councillor Nerva asked Councillor Kelcher whether he thought it may be helpful to undertake more joint scrutiny with Barnet and Harrow in relation to issues involving the police, given they were now being managed on a cross borough basis and in order to facilitate easier communication and engagement.

 

Councillor Kelcher felt this would be a sensible suggestion to explore as it would not only provide a better opportunity to scrutinise issues relating to the police on a cross borough basis but was also likely to be less resource intensive for the police.  He advised he would therefore be happy to raise the suggestion with his counterparts in Barnet and Harrow in order to seek their views.

 

(ii)      Councillor Dar took the opportunity to seek Councillor Ketan Sheth’s view on the prospect of Brent CCG being encouraged to oppose the proposed closure by Barnet CCG of a GP practice on the border of Cricklewood, which would have a direct impact on Brent residents.

 

Councillor Ketan Sheth advised that he would unfortunately not be able to respond directly on the specific proposal as this related to a matter of policy for Barnet CCG.  He did, however, reassure Councillor Dar that the Committee had been monitoring a range of health related matters, which had included a meeting dedicated to examining the roll-out of GP hubs and on which he would welcome further engagement from members.

 

At this stage in proceedings the Mayor advised that the remaining time available for questions to the Scrutiny Chairs had expired.  As there were a number of Members who indicated they still wanted to speak it was RESOLVED that the time available to complete the question and answer session be extended by an additional 5 minutes.

 

(iii)      Councillor Choudry continued by seeking further details on the approach being developed in relation to scrutiny of the 2019/20 – 2020/21 budget proposals including the possibility of seeking examples of best practice from other boroughs.

 

In response, Councillor Kelcher advised that he was always willing to speak with colleagues in other boroughs in order to identify and consider best practice.  Recognising the important compliance role of the Audit & Standards Advisory Committee in the process, he highlighted how the approach being adopted by scrutiny was more focussed on the nature of the proposals being developed and their implementation from a policy perspective.  He felt this approach worked well and would be important to maintain as a framework moving forward and in considering any other examples of best practice.

 

(iv)     Returning to the issue of the reduction in hours being proposed for the Urgent Care Centre at Central Middlesex Hospital, Councillor Gill highlighted a recent visit he had made which appeared to contradict the view that the facility was being under-utilised during the early hours.  He therefore sought details as to how the Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee were proposing to scrutinise the proposals and explore in more detail the reasons for the change.

 

Cllr Ketan Sheth advised Councillor Gill that the Committee had undertaken a recent visit to the Urgent Care Centre in order to review the situation during which time usage had been low.  He reminded Councillor Gill, however, that the Committee would be fully considering the proposal at their meeting on 9 July and invited any members with an interest to attend in order to express their concerns and directly question representatives from the CCG on the basis for their decision.

 

(v)      Referring to work previously undertaken by the Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee, Councillor S.Choudhary expressed concern that World Health Organisation targets in relation to MMR child immunisation were continuing not to be met and sought detail on what further action it was felt could be taken in order to follow up the scrutiny review on this issue.

 

In response, Councillor Ketan Sheth highlighted that this issue had been subject to a robust and challenging scrutiny review, which had led to a number of recommendations being made.  He assured Councillor Choudhary that the Committee were continuing to closely monitor progress on the implementation of these recommendations but no provision was currently available within the scrutiny work programme for any further specific review at this stage.

 

(vi)     Returning to the issue of air quality, Councillor Kansagra sought details on whether any response had been provided on plans to replace the Council’s fleet of diesel vehicles and whether the fleet would be subject to the same surcharges as introduced for diesel vehicles within CPZs

 

Councillor Kelcher advised that as this issue involved a matter of policy he would need to direct the question towards the relevant Lead Member rather than respond on behalf of scrutiny.

 

(vii)     Following the updates on the work being undertaken by both Scrutiny Committees and discussion at a recent Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Gbajumo sought further details and views on the potential introduction of a scrutiny recommendation and data request tracker.

 

By way of further background, Councillor Kelcher provided a brief outline of the proposal considered by his Committee which he advised he had discussed further with scrutiny officers.  As a result, he was pleased to be able to advise that officers had been working to design and implement a simple tracker system which would be piloted from the September meeting of his committee onwards.

 

At this stage, the Mayor advised that the additional time allocated for questions had now expired and he would therefore be moving on the next item with all members thanked for their contributions.

Supporting documents: