Agenda and minutes

Venue: Online Virtual Meeting

Contact: Craig Player, Governance Officer  Tel: 020 8937 2082; Email:  craig.player@brent.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for absence and clarification of alternate members

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Councillors Mahmood and Perrin. Apologies were also received from Sandra Ademola and Shaheen Pathan (representatives of the Department for Work and Pensions).

2.

Declarations of interests

Members are invited to declare at this stage of the meeting, the nature and existence of any relevant disclosable pecuniary, personal or prejudicial interests in the items on this agenda and to specify the item(s) to which they relate.

Minutes:

None.

3.

Deputations (if any)

To hear any deputations received from members of the public in accordance with Standing Order 67.

Minutes:

None.

4.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 98 KB

To approve the minutes of the previous meetings held on 23 September 2020 and 01 October 2020 as a correct record.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Resolved

 

That the minutes of the last meeting held on 08 October 2020 and the call-in meeting held on 23 September 2020 be approved as a correct record.

5.

Matters arising (if any)

To consider any matters arising from the minutes of the previous meeting.

Minutes:

None.

6.

Budget Scrutiny pdf icon PDF 79 KB

To appoint a Budget Scrutiny Task Group to review the Council’s draft budget proposals.

Minutes:

Resolved

 

That a Budget Scrutiny Task Group be established with the following members:

 

  • Councillor Mashari – Chair
  • Councillor Ketan Sheth – Vice-Chair
  • Councillor Johnson
  • Councillor Miller
  • Councillor Hector

·         Councillor Thakkar

·         Councillor Kansagra

 

And with the following terms of reference:

 

             i.        To consider the Cabinet’s budget proposals.

 

            ii.        To receive evidence from Cabinet Members, senior departmental officers and any other relevant stakeholders, and

 

          iii.        To agree a draft report to comment on the budget proposals for submission to the Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee for ratification and submission to Cabinet.

 

7.

Employment and the COVID-19 epidemic in Brent pdf icon PDF 244 KB

To consider the impact of COVID-19 on unemployment in the borough including the furlough scheme, unemployment benefits and the support for the self-employed and small businesses and recovery programme.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Prior to the introduction of the report, it was noted that there were no Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) representatives present at the meeting. It was suggested that the DWP be invited to an extraordinary meeting of the Committee which would be held as soon as possible. In addition, the Committee would write to the DWP to outline its line of questioning for the proposed meeting.

 

Councillor Stephens, Lead Member for Employment, Schools & Skills and Councillor Tatler, Lead Member for Regeneration, Property and Planning introduced a report on the council and partner response to assist Brent residents into employment in a the current labour market and to support businesses and town centres to adapt to the impacts of COVID-19.

 

The Committee was then invited to raise questions on the report, which focused on a number of key areas as highlighted below:

 

·         In response to a question from the Chair, it was noted that the Council had not put any additional funding into its support programmes for those seeking employment in Brent. Brent Works was funded largely through s106 contributions and Brent Starts was funded largely through the DWP, while other support projects had their own funding streams. The Committee was assured that both programmes were in a secure financial position and was able to maintain its service at its current level through its existing funding sources. The Council was committed to a partnership approach to employment within the borough, which was underpinned by its procurement strategy.

·         It was noted that the Council had provided around 470 jobs to residents during the pandemic which had been achieved through close working relations with partner organisations. It had allocated £2 million in Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy (NCIL) funding for areas disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and £1 million in employment support.  The economic fallout of the pandemic had not yet been realised but the Committee was assured that the Council would continue to support residents into employment post-pandemic, with employment being a key priority of Brent Borough Plan.

·         In response to a question from the Committee, it was noted that the Council did not have access to information regarding the amount of European Union (EU) funding the DWP had put towards employment in the borough. The Committee was assured that the Council was doing its own work to survey the effects of Brexit and the pandemic on employers.

·         It was also noted that there had been no assessments on the impact of Brexit on employment within the borough, although there had been national assessments. It was difficult to estimate the impact of Brexit on employment, and much would depend on whether or not a deal could be agreed with the EU. The furlough scheme had been extended until March and it was expected that it would therefore partially cover jobs lost due to Brexit in the short term. 

·         The Committee was assured that those with disabilities within the borough would have access to employment support from the Council. There were areas within  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

The Climate Emergency pdf icon PDF 163 KB

To review the Council’s proposals for the climate emergency, including the draft Climate Emergency Plan.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Krupa Sheth, Lead Member for Resources, introduced a report on the draft Brent Climate Emergency Strategy 2021-2030. The Committee was then invited to raise questions on the report, which focused on a number of key areas as highlighted below:

 

·         In response to a question from the Chair, it was noted that the Council worked with developers to ensure new buildings were climate friendly. While new buildings were typically built to be climate friendly, it was recognised that more needed to be done to encourage cleaner construction. Ensuring existing buildings were climate friendly was seen as a harder issue to solve, although work was underway to facilitate this.

·         In response to a question from the Committee regarding ground source heat pumps, it was noted that there were constraints in using them in tower blocks. The Council was looking at test pilots to assess their usage in tower blocks in the near future.

·         The Committee was assured the Brent Climate Emergency Strategy would be output and outcome focused. Once the strategy was finalised, the Council would look at how these would be assessed. It was looking to engage with its partners and the private sector to ensure its outcomes were deliverable and measurable.

·         It was noted that the strategy would be funded largely by capital expenditure and grant funding. Most of its funding would be met with existing resources, although extra funding would be made available should it be needed.

·         In response to a question from the Committee, it was noted that the financing of the strategy would go through several stages of scrutiny. It would be scrutinised as part of the overall budget in the coming weeks, and the Committee was assured it would be brought back to a future meeting once the strategy was agreed.

·         It was noted that the Council was utilising a number of alternative energy sources including solar panels with private home owners, air source heat pumps through the Green Homes grant fund and energy generated from fish oil.

·         The Council was keen to continue supporting those residents in the borough that were in fuel poverty. For example, it was in the process of conducting home energy visits for those households identified as vulnerable. This work was being supported through central government grant funding. 

·         In response to a question regarding pension divestment, it was noted that the market was very different to what it had been previously and that there were now more opportunities for low carbon investment. The Pension Fund Sub–Committee agreed to invest £50 million in the London CIV Infrastructure Fund in 2019, which would ensure 25% of the fund would be invested in renewable energy projects. It also agreed to invest £28 million in a low carbon equity fund in the same year, and was committed to exploring further investment options in this area. However, it was difficult to give a precise timescale for divestment.

·         It was also noted that the Pension Fund Sub–Committee recognised that investing in companies  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

The Brent Poverty Commission Delivery Plan pdf icon PDF 98 KB

To review the Brent Poverty Commission Delivery Plan.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Southwood, Lead Member for Housing & Welfare Reform and Councillor McLennan, Deputy Leader and Lead Member for Resources introduced a report on the delivery plans to take forward the implementation of the Poverty Commission recommendations. The Committee was then invited to raise questions on the report, which focused on a number of key areas as highlighted below:

 

·         In response to a question from the Committee, it was noted that there was flexibility within the delivery plan to engage with a range of stakeholders, even if that stakeholder had not been explicitly listed. It was suggested that the Council engages with trade union leaders to explore the ways in which they could help it deliver its aims.

·         It was noted that i4B was working to capture opportunities to strengthen the borough’s high streets through selective housing interventions, and that housing suppliers were increasingly looking to high streets for development opportunities. The Committee was assured that this would not contradict the Council’s work to ensure suitable workspaces for businesses wishing to trade in the borough, and it would ensure the standards of such accommodation was high.

·         In response to a question regarding credit unions, it was noted that the Council was working directly with a credit union operating within the borough and was in discussions to begin working with another. It was also exploring a payroll commitment on credit unions.

·         It was noted that the Council had committed to alleviating period poverty within the borough and it was assured that consultative work was underway to establish the best means to do so. 

 

Resolved

 

To note the Brent Poverty Commission delivery plans.

10.

Authority to Award Contract for Stonebridge Annexe Refurbishment pdf icon PDF 121 KB

To receive an update on the executive decision for the authority to award a contract for the Stonebridge Annexe refurbishment.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report to update the Committee on the status of the Stonebridge Annexe refurbishment works was noted.  

11.

Forward Plan of Key Decisions pdf icon PDF 84 KB

To review the Forward Plan of Key Decisions and to consider any issues that may be considered by the Committee.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Forward Plan of Key Decisions for the December 2020 period was noted.

12.

Recommendations Tracker pdf icon PDF 92 KB

To receive a report on the progress of implementing key council strategies, including the Policy Framework and the status of recommendations made by the Committee.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Scrutiny Recommendation Tracker table, which tracks the progress of recommendations made by the Committee, was noted.

13.

Any other urgent business

Notice of items to be raised under this heading must be given in writing to the Head of Executive and Member Services or his representative before the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 60.

Minutes:

None.