Greenwich Council

Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee Room 6 - Town Hall, Wellington Street, Woolwich SE18 6PW. View directions

Contact: Jasmine Kassim  Email: jasmine.kassim@royalgreenwich.gov.uk or tel: 020 8921 5146

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for Absence

To receive apologies for absence from Members of the Committee.

Minutes:

The meeting noted apologies for absence received on behalf of Councillors Christine Grice and Matt Hartley.

2.

Urgent Business

The Chair to announce any items of urgent business circulated separately from the main agenda.

Minutes:

There was no urgent business for consideration at the meeting.

3.

Declarations of Interest pdf icon PDF 34 KB

Members to declare any personal and financial interests in items on the agenda.  Attention is drawn to the Council’s Constitution; the Council’s Code of Conduct and associated advice.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Mark Elliott declared a personal interest as a Member of Planning Board in relation to Item 5 “Meridian Home Start – update”, highlighting the relationship with the Council and Meridian Home Start Ltd in submitting applications for housing development.

 

Resolved –

 

That the list of Councillors’ memberships as Council appointed representatives on outside bodies, joint committees and school governing bodies be noted.

4.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 76 KB

Members are requested to confirm as an accurate record the Minutes of the meeting held on 7 September 2017.

 

No motion or discussion may take place upon the Minutes except as to their accuracy, and any question on this point will be determined by a majority of the Members of the body attending who were present when the matter in question was decided.  Once confirmed, with or without amendment, the person presiding will sign the Minutes.

Minutes:

Resolved -

 

That the Minutes of the Meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 7 September 2017, be agreed and signed as a true and accurate record.

5.

Meridian Home Start - update pdf icon PDF 170 KB

Members to note the progress of the development of Meridian Home Start as a community benefit society, and performance in providing homes at affordable rents since the last report on 24 November 2016.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Mark Elliott declared a personal interest as a Member of Planning Board in relation to this Item 5, highlighting the relationship with the Council and Meridian Home Start Ltd (Meridian) in submitting applications for housing development.

 

The Committee noted the report introduced by the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Sustainability (Cabinet Member) in relation to the performance of Meridian, and it welcomed the rationale for forming the company as a means of increasing the supply of affordable homes in the Royal Borough of Greenwich (Royal Borough).

 

In response to questions raised, the Cabinet Member clarified to the Committee that the reason why progress appeared slow was that Meridian, as a relatively a small company, had limited ability to pro-actively identify suitable development sites.  It was stated that it was within the remit of the Council’s Housing department to identify sites suitable for housing development within the Royal Borough, and the Garage Strategy formed part of the plan.  Thus, the partnership work between Meridian and the Council to increase housing provision from future right-to-buy receipts had resulted in the identification of six sites to deliver 100 per cent affordable homes for the benefit of residents.

 

The Cabinet Member clarified to the Committee that planning applications ought to be considered on their individual merits.  Thus, the consultation in regard to a recent application about a housing development site in the Charlton area was adequate, however, the planning committee in question decided that the proposal should be deferred in order to allow time for the period to be extended.

 

The Director of Regeneration, Enterprise and Skills (DRES) added that a suggestion by the Committee to include tenants’ representatives on the Meridian Board during the development phases would be relayed to the relevant officers.  However, it was unlikely for Meridian not to consult with residents and partners when developing affordable homes within the Royal Borough.

 

 

Action: Director of DRES

 

The Cabinet Member continued with his response, advising the Committee that the Council was confident that its plan to deliver 500 new homes at affordable rents for residents by 2021 would be achieved because the budget and priorities had been identified.  It was stated that a loan from the Council’s financial reserves of £27.6m approved by the Cabinet in April 2017 formed the basis of the agreement with Meridian.  The additional money relating to the right-to-buy funding agreement of £8.2m between the Council and Meridian would be spent through local registered housing providers.  Furthermore, conditions had been prescribed within the financial agreements to restrict Meridian from developing homes which would not be in accordance with the Royal Borough’s housing priorities, and the London Plan.  It was confirmed that the concerns about the ageing population in regard to affordable housing for older and disabled people would be fed-back for views from the Healthier Communities and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Panel, and the Housing and Anti-Poverty Scrutiny Panel.

 

Action: Director of DRES

 

On behalf of the Committee, the Chair, Councillor David Stanley thanked  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Review - Greenwich MIND pdf icon PDF 62 KB

Members to agree the recommendations of the Healthier Communities and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Panel on the way forward after conducting in-depth scrutiny of recent problems at Greenwich MIND.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Cherry Parker, Co-Chair of the Healthier Communities and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Panel, introduced the report to the Committee about work undertaken in relation to a time-limited review conducted following recent financial problems at Greenwich MIND.

 

The Committee noted the report, and that findings showed evidence that Greenwich MIND financial reserves position was in jeopardy.

 

In response to questions raised, Councillor Parker summarised the concerns identified.  It was stated that services were not restructured appropriately within commissioned levels of funding priorities.  Projects were commissioned without identified income.  Accumulated significant reserves was creating a negative cash flow, therefore, cumulative operating costs had been above funding levels for several years.  Councillor Parker stated that the inadequate financial management of Greenwich MIND was also evident by the fact that reporting and projection of staff wages, pensions, and tax contributions were significantly higher than national norms for the sector.

 

Commenting on the findings, the Committee enquired about aspects of the commissioning process in relation to the third-sector.  In response, the Director of Communities and Environment stated that trustees were legally obliged to manage the affairs of their respective organisations.  Thus, monitoring of processes and procedures were relevant to their role.  The Director confirmed that the department had launched workshops and held series of meetings and events with partners to identify areas for improvements, and the Council would be assessing evidence of training and induction when commissioning services to organisations or groups.  Thus, Continuous Professional Development would serve as a means of ensuring currency of knowledge and skills of trustees.

 

Commenting on the recommendations outlined in the report, the Committee pointed out that the underlining issue to service provision by Greenwich MIND remained that same, in that people needed help and support to deal with their mental illness expressed a view that there should be models of performance at national level to inform delivery on a local scale.  Thus, consideration should be given to undertake annual audits, as opposed to the current cycle of every three years, in order to identify areas of slippages for improvement on a timely fashion.  In particular.  It was agreed that the Chair of Overview and Scrutiny (O&S) could proposed to the Council’s Chief Executive that an item should be included in the Committee’s work programme for a review of the management of the community and voluntary sector, with a view to producing a project plan for consultation, and subsequent agreement by Members.  In particular, steps should be taken to include representatives from national MIND in the review to re-enforce the aims and purpose of the MIND brand.

 

Action: Chair of O&S Committee

 

Resolved –

 

That the recommendations pf the Healthier Communities and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Panel on the way forward after conducting in-depth scrutiny of recent problems at Greenwich MIND, be agreed.

7.

Review of Community Centres funding pdf icon PDF 94 KB

Members to note and review the current funding arrangements for Community Centres.

Minutes:

The Director of Communities and Environment introduced the report to the Committee regarding the current funding arrangements for community centres across the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

 

The Committee noted the report, and that funding would be maintained at the current level until March 2019.  It was recognised that the Voluntary and Community Sector Strategy and Action Plan was agreed by Cabinet in September 2017.

 

In light of a concern, the Director stated that premises to operate from was fundamental to the operation of community centres.  Thus, in addition to maintenance issues, there had been continued discussion with colleagues in the Property Division to identify and agree long-term leases, and to provide concessionary rents to those centres that could demonstrate services of social value for local people.  Thus, the expectation for community centres to become flexible, and adapt to local needs was vital, and for that reason, the approved Action Plan included provision to attract and assist small and emerging groups to apply for funding.  Furthermore, affiliated bodies that had received continuous funding would be encouraged to work with smaller groups to identify how premises could be shared.  The Committee suggested that the use of community centres by outreach Council services should also be explored.  The Committee also requested a report back on the provision of longer-term leases in relation to community centres.

 

Action: Director of C&E

 

Resolved –

 

That the outline report relating to the current funding arrangements for Community Centres, be noted.

8.

Community Arts Fund - Review of funding and procedures pdf icon PDF 90 KB

Members to review the Community Arts Fund funding, in line with its principle key objectives.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Director of Communities and Environment introduced the report to the Committee regarding a review of community arts funding across the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

 

The Committee noted the report, together with priorities and aims to support the funding activities.

 

In light of a concern, the Director informed the Committee that information about available funds was publicised at events, via local press releases, and the Council’s website.  It was stated that as part of the publicity, potential applicants were encouraged to ask questions about their on how they could apply within the scope of the funding criteria.  However, some local groups were reluctant to fill-in and submit an application form.

 

The Committee welcomed the efforts, but that the scope of Action Plan could be reviewed with simpler and cost-effective options to encourage small and emerging community agencies and groups to apply for funding.  The Committee requested information about unsuccessful bids, including reasons for rejection, together with an outline of officers’ time spent on the work relating to Charities Aid Foundation (CAF).

 

Action: Director of C&E

 

Resolved –

 

The report on the review of Community Arts funding and procedures, be noted.

9.

2017-18 Engagement programme pdf icon PDF 1 MB

Members to note report back on the corporate engagement programme for 2016-17 and the way forward for 2017-18 programme.

Minutes:

The Head of Engagement and Major Events (Head of E&ME) introduced the report to the Committee in relation to the Council’s 2017-18 Engagement Programme.

 

The Committee noted the report, and welcomed progress made in the past year.  It was recognised that the objectives of the Programme stemmed from a range of recommendations following an Overview and Scrutiny review to develop an area-based meeting structure of the Council’s community engagement arrangements.

 

In response to questions about the 2016/17 community engagement area meeting agenda, the Head of E&ME clarified to Members that the plans were informed by suggestions and feedback from departments.  Thus, the recommendations submitted to the Cabinet Member included assessments on local priorities to assist in the formulation of thematic items relevant to the Council’s strategic aims.

 

The Committee was of the view that area events agenda-planning exercise should be utilised an as an opportunity to translate ward issues into the decision-making process.  Therefore, in addition to inputs from departments, each agenda should include consultation with partners, and be driven by councillors on issues specific to their respective wards.  .

 

Continuing with its feedback, the Committee impressed that area events should serve as a means of informing and updating local people about what the Council could or could not provide, together with services offered by partnering agencies, organisations and groups.  Thus, there should be slots for debates with ward councillors and relevant partners on each agenda, with a view to instigate question and answer sessions with members of the public as a means of identifying options for local people.  Furthermore, steps should be taken to consider the application of digital interactions and other social media promotions.  A review of location and timings with a view to attract a range of residents from various works of life and age groups should be considered.  The Committee further suggested that a post-briefing exercise with ward councillors and relevant partners after each event could serve an opportunity for service improvement.

 

Action: Head of E&ME

 

On behalf of the Committee, the Chair welcomed suggestions made, and that they would be progressed as feedback for consideration via the relevant channel.

 

Action: Head of Corp Services

 

Resolved

 

That a report-back on the corporate engagement programme for 2016/17, and the way forward for 2017/18, be noted.

10.

Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 60 KB

Members to note the upcoming executive decisions set out in the Forward Plan for the period November 2017 – February 2018 (inclusive), as set out at Appendix 1, and to determine any items for scrutiny.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report was received by the Committee, and the Chair advised Members to monitor decisions on the Forward Plan and request feedback as appropriate.  It was stated that the Forward Plan usually attached to the report as an appendix would be circulated at the meeting to ensure current information of forthcoming decisions.

 

Resolved –

 

That upcoming executive decisions for the period November 2017 to February 2018, be noted.

11.

Commissioning Future Reports pdf icon PDF 53 KB

Members to note the work items that are scheduled to be presented to the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 24th January 2018.   Members to consider the scope of forthcoming reports and specify any detailed requirements.

Minutes:

Resolved –

 

That work items scheduled to be presented to the next meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, be noted.