Agenda item

Brent Borough Plan 2013/14 and the Administration's Priorities

The One Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee has invited the Leader of the Council to attend its meeting on 10th July to outline the administration’s priorities for the coming year. In recent years it has become custom and practice to do this at one of the committee’s first meetings of the municipal year. 


Christine Gilbert, Interim Chief Executive introduced the refresh of the Borough Plan.  The document had been updated to reflect the changing environment and emerging challenges that the council and the borough was facing.  The plan incorporated current policies and plans across the Council and consultation with partners across the borough on the shared objectives to achieve improved outcomes locally.  The Plan had six strategic priorities underpinned by specific targets and outcomes to be delivered up to December 2014. The Borough Plan will define the more detailed Council corporate plan which will set out key service targets and directorate responsibility for delivery. Performance against the Corporate Plan would be monitored by Department Management Teams, the Corporate Management Team and reported on a regular basis to Members.


Members were informed that information on lead officers and responsibility for the action would be included in the detailed partner plans rather than the high level Borough Plan.   Monitoring of the plan would be carried out though the delivery plans that support the Borough Plan such as the corporate plan, service plans and team work programmes.  All employees should be able to see how their role contributes to achievement of the council’s priorities and would be monitored through regular supervision and the council’s performance appraisal arrangements.  Members asked whether the impact of the welfare reform had been reflected in the Borough Plan priorities, as well as the proposed action of creating jobs at the retail park and whether this was a satisfactory aspiration of employment for the residents of Brent. The Interim Chief Executive stressed the need for ambition in terms of employment. It was clarified that there was a detailed welfare reform plan in place which had monthly steering meetings chaired by the Interim Chief Executive.  This level of detail was not appropriate for the Borough Plan but one of the six priorities focused on creating jobs and growth in the borough and incorporated the council’s response to the impact of welfare reform.  Members requested clarification on which definition of affordable housing was used in the Borough plan and it was agreed that clarification would be sought.


Members asked the basis on which the targets within the Borough Plan had been defined and there was particular concern about those from Environment and Neighbourhoods.  The Interim Chief Executive informed the Committee that targets had been set on the basis of being challenging but also recognising the realities of the financial position of the council.  This took into account comparative data where it was available and a number of targets that were considered to be unambitious had been revised upwards.   Targets had been set taking into account the need not to create additional spending requirements.  Christine Gilbert confirmed that there were funds available for staff training where additional needs were identified although these were more limited than previously, given the financial constraints.  . 


Members highlighted a number of local issues which they felt were particular priorities including affordable housing, local employment opportunities, fuel poverty and enforcement for fly-tipping and illegal food outlets.   The Borough Plan included targets to improve performance across all these issues


The Leader of the Council acknowledged that these were key local issues but also highlighted that the capacity of the Council had to be taken into consideration when setting ambitious and realistic targets formulated in line with Council and partner resources.   The Interim Chief Executive commented that targets would be closely monitored and were appropriately reviewed to ensure ambitious performance was sustained.


With regard to welfare reform, a seminar will be held after the summer to discuss the impact and the actions being taken by the Council and partners to support residents affected by the changes.


Cathy Tyson, Assistant Director Corporate Policy informed the Committee that there was no longer a standard set of national indicators or set methodology to benchmark against.  There are voluntary arrangements in place between London boroughs to share performance data and Brent participates in this arrangement for bench marking performance.


Members requested clarification on the council’s current responsibilities for school improvement.  Christine Gilbert explained that though the council retained a number of statutory duties, and a legitimate focus on the needs and interests of children in the area, schools themselves held the prime responsibility for improvement and funding had been devolved for that purpose. Nevertheless, Ofsted had begun inspecting local authorities. The Interim Chief Executive stressed the importance of the work of the Education Commission which would really get underway in September. It would focus on the ways of accelerating improvement in Brent schools in the future. This would entail looking at the role of the local authority in this regard.


Following queries regarding the external funding to be provided to community groups it was clarified that £250,000 related only to community sports group and work would be carried out to enable them to access funding from companies such as Sport England.  The Borough Plan also includes a target of a 4% increase in external funding accessed by voluntary and community groups in general.


The Committee were informed that a new initiative ‘Weeks of Action’ would be commencing later in July initially as a pilot with a view to rolling it out across the borough.  The aim of the project is to make a demonstrable impact in one week by addressing local ward issues such as environmental conditions, to improve communication and focus enforcement and street cleaning actions.  Consultation with the Police was underway to identify wards with the greatest need for action as well as wards which were greatest impacted by the welfare reforms.  A programme for the remaining wards would be developed in consultation with the Police. 



(i)            That the Borough Plan be noted

(ii)          That clarification on the definition of affordable housing be provided

(iii)         A seminar be held in relation to Welfare Reform impact and actions.

(iv) Clarification regarding targets and spending figures be sent to members - if over and above or in line with the previous borough plan

(v)          That the targets be regularly monitored and reviewed  if necessary


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