Agenda and minutes

Venue: Bromley Civic Centre

Contact: Philippa Gibbs  020 8461 7638

Items
No. Item

44.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND NOTIFICATION OF SUBSTITUTE MEMBERS

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Russell Mellor and Councillor Robert Evans.  Councillor Chris Pierce attended as alternate for Councillor Evans.

45.

DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

Minutes:

Councillor Simon Fawthrop declared an interest as an employee of British Telecom (BT) and left the room during consideration of Item 12 (Minute 55) – BT/ICT Contract Monitoring Report.  Councillor Marlow took the Chair for the duration of this item.

 

Councillor Stephen Wells declared an interest in item 7 (Minute 50) – Call-in: Empty Homes Premium - as the owner of an empty property in the Borough.

 

 

 

 

46.

QUESTIONS FROM COUNCILLORS AND MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC ATTENDING THE MEETING

In accordance with the Council’s Constitution, questions that are not specific to reports on the agenda must have been received in writing 10 working days before the date of the meeting. 

 

Questions specifically on reports on the agenda should be received within two working days of the normal publication date of the agenda.  Please ensure that questions specifically on reports on the agenda are received by the Democratic Services Team by 5pm on Thursday 5th September 2019.

Minutes:

No questions had been received.

47.

MINUTES OF THE EXECUTIVE AND RESOURCES PDS COMMITTEE MEETINGS HELD ON 3 JULY 2019 AND 30 JULY 2019 (EXCLUDING EXEMPT ITEMS) pdf icon PDF 130 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The minutes of the meetings held on 3rd July 2019, and 30th July 2019, were agreed and signed as a correct record.

48.

MATTERS OUTSTANDING AND WORK PROGRAMME pdf icon PDF 88 KB

Minutes:

Report CSD19133

 

The Committee considered a report setting out matters outstanding from previous meetings and the proposed work plan for 2019/20.

 

The following proposed Terms of Reference for the Section 106/CIL Working Group were tabled and agreed:

 

  1. To consider outstanding s106 contributions.
  2. To consider and recommend whether outstanding contributions can be spent.
  3. To consider and recommend within the scope of each agreement what each contribution should be spent on.
  4. To consider and recommend whether to return unspent monies where it is considered they cannot be spent within the terms of the specific agreement.

 

It was agreed that Councillor Marlow would Chair the Task and Finish Group and the following Members would sit on the Group:

 

Councillor Simon Fawthrop

Councillor Stephen Wells

Councillor Angela Wilkins

 

The opportunity to sit on the working group would be opened up to other Non-Executive Members of the Council who did not sit on ERC PDS.

 

It was suggested and agreed that when Members and Officers attended meetings to be scrutinised by the Committee they should provide a short written update to be included in the agenda papers.  At the meeting the Committee would go straight to questions although these questions would not be limited to the written briefing that had been provided.

 

A Member also requested that the scrutiny of contractors be better spread across meetings in order to ensure thoughtful and detailed scrutiny of each contractor.

 

RESOLVED: that

 

  1. Progress on matters outstanding from previous meetings be noted; and

 

  1. The Work Programme for 2019/20 be noted.

 

49.

FORWARD PLAN OF KEY DECISIONS pdf icon PDF 72 KB

Minutes:

The Committee noted the Forward Plan of Key Decisions covering the period September 2019-December 2019

50.

EMPTY HOMES PREMIUM: CALL-IN pdf icon PDF 62 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Report CSD19135

 

At its special meeting on 2nd August 2019 the Executive considered a report on the Empty Homes Premium. The report had previously been scrutinised by this Committee at its special meeting on 30th July 2019. The Executive decided to approve the proposals as recommended in the report, rather than as amended by this Committee, and the decision had been called in by Councillors Angela Wilkins, Ian Dunn, Kathy Bance, Kevin Brooks, Simon Jeal, Vanessa Allen and Josh King. The PDS Committee was requested to consider what action should be taken in response to the call-in of this decision.

 

Councillor Ian Dunn moved the following motion:

 

That the decision and recommendations made by this Committee on 30 July 2019, be referred back to the Executive on 18th September 2019 giving reasons why the decision should be reconsidered.

 

The motion was seconded by Councillor Angela Wilkins.

 

Councillor Dunn spoke to the motion explaining that the Committee had voted to change the recommendation to the Executive requiring that the maximum premium be applied.  The minutes from the Executive meeting had provided no detail as to why the PDS Committee’s recommendation had been rejected.  It was suggested that there were two key factors to consider:

 

1. The Local Authority was facing a serious budget gap over the coming years and for this reason the full entitlement should be taken up.

 

2. There was significant housing stress over London and the South East of England and anything that reduces the number of empty properties should be encouraged.

 

It was also noted that no additional material information had been provided which would alter the previous recommendation to Executive.

 

The Chairman suggested that the decision of the Executive should be implement for a 12 month period with the outcome of the trial period reported back to the ERC PDS Committee. 

 

Whilst acknowledging there was a need to bring empty properties into use, a Member expressed concern that some people could accidently get caught up in higher costs and that there needed to be a balance.

 

Following a vote it was agreed by majority that no further action on the call in be taken and that a progress report concerning the Empty Homes Premium be presented to the Committee in 12 months.

 

(Councillors Wells, Dykes, and Bennington requested that their abstention be recorded)

 

RESOLVED: That

 

1. No further action be taken be taken in respect of the Call-in; and

 

2. The Committee be provided with a progress report concerning the Empty Homes Premium in 12 months.

 

51.

QUESTIONS TO THE PORTFOLIO HOLDER FROM MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC AND COUNCILLORS ATTENDING THE MEETING

In accordance with the Council’s Constitution, questions that are not specific to reports on the agenda must have been received in writing 10 working days before the date of the meeting. 

 

Questions specifically on reports on the agenda should be received within two working days of the normal publication date of the agenda.  Please ensure that questions specifically on reports on the agenda are received by the Democratic Services Team by 5pm on Thursday 5th September 2019.

Minutes:

No questions had been received.

52.

RESOURCES, COMMISSIONING AND CONTRACTS PORTFOLIO - PRE-DECISION SCRUTINY

Portfolio Holder decisions for pre-decision scrutiny.

Minutes:

The Committee considered the following report where the Resources, Contracts and Commissioning Portfolio Holder was recommended to take a decision.

52a

CAPITAL PROGRAMME MONITORING - 1ST QUARTER 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 73 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Report FSD19085

 

On 10th July 2019, the Executive received a report summarising the current position on capital expenditure and receipts following the 1st quarter of 2019/20, and presenting for approval the new capital schemes in the annual capital review process. The Executive agreed a revised Capital Programme for the four year period 2019/20 to 2022/23. The Committee considered a  report highlighting changes agreed by the Executive in respect of the Capital Programme for the Resources, Commissioning & Contracts Management (RC&CM) Portfolio.

 

RESOLVED: That the Portfolio Holder be recommended to note and confirm the changes agreed by the Executive on 10th July 2019.

 

53.

PRE-DECISION SCRUTINY OF EXECUTIVE REPORTS

Members of the Committee are requested to bring their copy of the agenda for the Executive meeting on

Minutes:

The Committee considered the following reports on the Part 1 agenda for the meeting of the Executive on 18th September 2019:

 

(6)  TACKLING LONLINESS SUMMIT

 

The Committee considered a summary of the Summit commissioned by the Leader of the Council on the issue of tackling loneliness held during National Loneliness Week 2019 and the outcomes from the Summit.  Over 120 delegates attended the summit and contributed wholeheartedly to its intended objectives.  The summit enabled local organisations and services to connect those at risk of loneliness, focusing particularly on intergenerational activity for new mums, care leavers and older people.  A well facilitated ‘market place’ hosted community groups in the Grand Hall, supporting summit delegates to network and share ideas; the intention to facilitate, enable and encourage an active community sector.  Ultimately the summit intended on facilitating a conversation around loneliness to raise awareness and reduce stigma. The summit celebrated considerable attendance and positive evaluations and feedback. 

 

RESOLVED: That the Executive be recommended to note the activities that took place at the Loneliness Summit and its outcomes.

 

(12)  DISPOSAL OF Y BLOCKS – DECISION TO DISPOSE OF OPEN SPACE AND TO APPROPRIATE THE LAND AND BUILDINGS FROM OFFICE TO HOME USE UNDER SECTION 232 OF THE TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING ACT 1990

  Report DRR 19/045

 

On 11th July 2018, the Executive resolved that the Y Blocks should be disposed of and further resolved on 30th April 2019 to accept an unconditional offer from a purchaser (identified in the Executive Part 2 Report of 30th April 2019) for the freehold title of the Y Blocks and associated land.  As part of the Y Blocks and associated land comprised of open space the Council had advertised its intention to the disposal of the open space land in a local newspaper for two consecutive weeks.  The Council had also advertised its intention to appropriate the Y Blocks and associated land for residential use in accordance with the Town and Country Planning Legislation.  The Executive resolved on 30th April 2019 that the Y Blocks and associated land were to be appropriated from office to housing use.  As that resolution was made in reference to an internal Report, this report-re-affirmed that Resolution in a public format.  A number of objections were received in respect of both advertisements’ and the report before the Committee considered these with appropriate responses to mitigate concerns raised.

 

The Committee noted that on Tuesday 10th September Bromley Town Ward Councillors had held a drop in session to enable residents to come along and express their views. 

 

In response to a question concerning issues around access the Head of Asset and Investment confirmed that the development site had been marketed as having access to the Park from Rafford Way.  From Stockwell Close the current access arrangements would remain.

 

A Member sought clarification surrounding the de-designation of the land as Urban Open Space and sought assurances that due process had been followed.  In response the Director of Corporate Services  ...  view the full minutes text for item 53.

54.

SCRUTINY OF THE LEADER

Minutes:

The Leader of the Council, Councillor Colin Smith, attended the meeting to respond to questions from the Committee.  Councillor Smith gave a brief introduction highlighting the following issues:

 

  • The Transformation Programme was progressing apace and further reports would be coming through for consideration by Members in the Autumn.
  • Over the summer the report from the Planning Advisory Service had been received and considered by the Development Control Committee and an action plan agreed.
  • The challenge to the Local Plan had now been dealt with.
  • The Local Authority continued to work with the CCG around the integration of health and social care and important developments in this respect would be coming to the Adult Care & Health PDS and Health and Wellbeing Board this coming cycle.
  • The recent spending Review had indicated that a small amount of additional money would be made available however, there was still no room for complacency and there remain a clear need to identify and deliver further savings.
  • The issues around the Aeronautical College at Biggin Hill had now been resolved and this represented a step forward for the Borough.

 

Councillor Smith then responded to questions, making the following comments:

 

  • The new Chief Executive was serious about containing growth through the Transformation Agenda.  The direction of travel was positive and there had already been a positive financial impact in areas such as Children Looked After and Homelessness.  However, it had to be remembered that some services were demand-led with clear statutory duties for the Council.  Subject to the caveat that there were a number of variables that were outside the Council’s control, the Leader confirmed that he was confident that growth was being contained as far as possible.
  • The Leader confirmed that he was disappointed with the proposals from the Boundary Commission regarding 58 councillors for the London Borough of Bromley representing a reduction of two.  The Leader felt that proposals failed to recognised the level of work involved for a commissioning authority. The Committee noted that all submissions to the Boundary Commission would be published on the Commission’s website later in the month.
  • The Loneliness Summit had been an important event and it was pleasing that feedback had indicated that the Summit had been well received.

·  It had to be recognised that the Council had a comparatively small Communications Team which limited what could be achieved. The Leader advised the Committee that he would be working with Cllr Jefferys to look at ways in which the profile and positive work of the Council could be better promoted.

 

On behalf of the Committee, the Chairman thanked the Leader for his update.

55.

BT/ICT CONTRACT MONITORING REPORT pdf icon PDF 79 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Report CSD16105

 

The Chairman, having declared an interest, left the room prior to the start of this item.  Cllr Christopher Marlow, as Vice-Chairman, chaired the meeting during the Chairman’s absence.

 

The Committee received the fourth performance report of the British Telecom (BT) ICT contract utilising the Pan London Framework covering the period 1st July 2018 to 30th June 2019. Nick Adams and Andrew Gee from BT attended the meeting to respond to questions.

 

Noting that the report had highlighted that a general election would be a risk to the computer upgrade and noting that it was becoming increasingly likely that a general election would be called, the Vice-Chairman asked what the likely delay to the rollout of the upgrade would be and the cost implications of this delay.  The Head of ICT confirmed that if and when a general election was called implementation of the update would freeze and it was likely that there would be a two to three week delay.  There would be no cost attached to the delay and staff working on the upgrade would be diverted to support election processes.

 

In response to a question from the Vice-Chairman, the Head of ICT confirmed that the IT self-service portal had been introduced to support staff in resolving less complex tasks such as password issues.  This would help reduce the number of avoidable tasks dealt with by the Team.

 

Noting that the KPI for Asset Management consistently remained at 95%, the Vice-Chairman questioned the reasons for the static performance.  In response the Head of ICT explained that there were numerous devices within the Council’s current IT estate and these devices were not always allocated to specific individuals.  One of the key outcomes of the forthcoming IT upgrade would be that all equipment and devices would be allocated to specific users.  This would enable more tracking of equipment and should lead to the KPI moving to 99%-100%.

 

The Vice-Chairman recalled that there had been some issues following the June upgrade of the Microsoft patch and asked what lessons had been learnt.  Members were notified that the issue had been that the age of some of the Bromley kit had conflicted with the patch.  The patch had been previously tested on equipment from within the IT division which had been more up to date.  As such one of the key points of learning was to ensure that any upgrades were tested on all ages of equipment operating across the estate.

 

In response to questions raised concerning remote access for Members and Officers, the Head of ICT provided assurances that the IT upgrade would address many of the issues that had been cited such as remote access through Citrix.  The new devices would have facial recognition capability which would better facilitate remote access.  In addition it was anticipated that the introduction of Microsoft 365 would facilitate access to emails on 3rd Party devices.

 

The Committee acknowledged that BT’s performance report had been written on 2nd September 2019,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 55.

56.

BENEFITS SERVICE MONITORING REPORT pdf icon PDF 85 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Report FSD19079

 

The Chairman welcomed Mr Charlie Bruin, Chief Executive Officer UK and other staff from Liberata UK who had attended the meeting to provide performance updates to the Committee.

 

The Committee considered a report which provided information regarding the performance of the benefits service provided by Liberata during the period 1 October 2018 to 31 March 2019 noting the positive performance of the Service.  A letter from Amanda Inwood-Field, Liberata’s London Regional Contract Director, providing Liberata’s perspective on performance, together with an update on initiatives to be introduced in the coming months was attached to the report.

 

RESOLVED: That the report be noted.

 

57.

REVENUES SERVICE MONITORING REPORT pdf icon PDF 71 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Report FSD19080

 

The Committee considered a report providing information regarding the performance of the Revenues Service provided by Liberata for the 6 months up to 31st March 2019.  A letter from Amanda Inwood-Field, Liberata’s London Regional Contract Director, providing an update on each individual service along with statistical data relating to the Revenues Service was included within the report.

 

In response to a question why business rate collection was comparably low why compared to other Local Authorities, the Head of Revenues and Benefits reported that it had been hoped that performance would improve.  Officers had interrogated the reasons for low rates of collection and it was notable that collections was notably lower in the retail sector and this could be a reflection of the challenges facing the retail sector.

 

The Committee noted that 67% of Council Tax was paid by Direct Debit and 35% of Business Rates were paid by Direct Debit.

 

Members noted that debts were recycled through difference debt recovery agencies in order to maximise recovery.  Debtors were not charged multiple bailiff fees and fees were only charged when debts were recovered.  The Committee were reminded that debt was not readily written off and that every effort was made to follow up historic debt.

 

The Director of Finance explained the more technical aspects of reflecting older debt in the Statutory Accounts.

 

RESOLVED: That the report be noted.

 

58.

EXCHEQUER SERVICE - CONTRACT PERFORMANCE REPORT pdf icon PDF 187 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Report FSD19086

 

The Committee considered a report providing information regarding Liberata’s performance in the provision of Exchequer Services for the period 1st October 2018 to 31st March 2019.  A letter from Amanda Inwood-Field, Liberata’s London Regional Contract Director, provided an update on each individual service along with statistical data relating to the services was included within the report.

 

The Chairman suggested that it may be helpful for the report to have a table setting out the amount received by the Council and outstanding debt  for the year.  Noting that the performance reports considered by the Committee by necessity reflected data that was a few months out of date, the Chairman noted that it was helpful to have up-to-date information presented at the meeting as often performance had improved in the intervening period.

 

Members discussed the need to minimise the use of cheques due to the higher costs associated with this form of payment.  The Assistant Director (Exchequer Services) reported that often cheques were used to issues domiciliary care refunds to members of the public however, Officers were looking to make it an exception that payments were made by cheque.  Where the Service had bank details payment would be made by BACS and it was anticipated that there would be a trend toward BACS refunds as more users moved toward direct debit.  The Committee recommended that the Service should ask all service users to provide their bank details.

 

In respect of nightly paid accommodation charges, and the effects of Universal Credit on the level of Housing Benefit payments, the Committee noted that it was difficult to qualify the cost of delays due to DWP processes due to system restrictions that were in place.  Exchequer Services were working with Housing to implement a new system and it was anticipated that the system would go live in October.  The Director of Finance confirmed that due to issues that had been identified with universal credit in this respect, anyone in temporary accommodation would transfer from Universal Credit to Housing Benefit.

 

Members noted that in order to ensure a standard methodology for undertaking quality checking Liberata’s Quality and Appeals (QA) team were made independently responsible for carrying out quality checking of the  assessments undertaken by the Financial Assessment team following concerns raises by the Exchequer Client Unit.

 

RESOLVED: That:

 

1. The report be noted; and

 

2. The Service be recommended to ask all service users to provide bank details.

 

 

59.

CUSTOMER SERVICES - CONTRACT PERFORMANCE REPORT pdf icon PDF 144 KB

Minutes:

Report CSD19128

 

The Committee considered a report which provided information on the performance of the Customer Service contract provided by Liberata for the period 1st October 2018 to 31st July 2019.  A letter from Amanda Inwood-field, Liberata’s London Regional Contract Director, providing an update on each individual element was included within the report.

 

Considered the responses that had been received to the Customer Satisfaction Survey, Members queried how customers would be made aware of the survey to enable a diverse cross section of customers to respond to the survey.  The Committee was informed that a link to the survey was available on the website.  In addition to this on a monthly basis the survey was sent to a random sample of people who had contact with the customer services team and who had provided consent for further contact.  It was possible for the system to track the number of surveys that were sent out.

 

Turning to the issue of some customers waiting 73 seconds for their calls to be answered, it was agreed that customer satisfaction data for the past 6 months would be provided to Members following the meeting.

 

The Committee noted that self-service was actively encouraged and staff in the customer services centre provided support to customers to enable them to use the self-service systems that were in place.

 

In response to a question concerning the KPIs that had been rated ‘Red’, Members noted that there had been a high level of staff sickness coupled with a number of resignation within the Revenues and Benefits call centre in June and this had impacted the performance of the team.

 

The Committee discussed the issues relating to the renewal of garden waste bins that appeared to occur on an annual basis.  The Leader of the Council reported that despite the long delays the ability for residents to pay for their garden waste collection by direct debit would be coming online in the Spring.

 

RESOLVED: That the report be noted.

 

60.

UPDATE ON DEBT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM AND LATE PAYMENT CHARGES pdf icon PDF 65 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Report FSD19087

 

The Committee considered an update on the implementation of a Late Payment Interest Policy in respect of commercial debts owed to the Council that were not paid within the Council’s payment terms.

 

The Assistant Director (Exchequer Services) tabled the following amended recommendation which was agreed by the Committee:

 

1.  The Committee is requested to note the information contained within the report and endorse the pilot for the collection of Late Payment Interest for a period of up to 6 months.

 

2. Members are asked to note that after three months an update on the pilot will be reported to this Committee to consider and comment on the option to implement the policy or continue the trial for a further period. 

 

Members noted that no clients had made claims against the Council for late payment.  However, the Assistant Director reported that in 2018/19 there would have been liability for £72,000 had suppliers chosen to make a claim.

 

The Committee discussed the wording in the Council’s payment terms which stated that “immediate” payment was required.  Members noted that payment terms usually stipulated payment within a certain number of days and concern was expressed that ‘immediate’ was difficult to quantify and therefore enforce.  It was suggested that there was a need to establish an enforceable timescale.

 

The Chairman asked that the Procurement Team be asked to confirm whether payment terms were reportable under the Council’s contracts database.

 

RESOLVED: That

 

  1. The information contained within the report be noted and the pilot for the collection of Late Payment Interest for a period of up to 6 months be endorsed.

 

  1. After three months an update on the pilot be reported to this Committee to consider and comment on the option to implement the policy or continue the trial for a further period. 

 

61.

PROPERTY PORTFOLIO REVIEW pdf icon PDF 111 KB

Minutes:

Report DRR19/046

 

The Committee considered a review of the Council’s property portfolio including how it was managed by the Council’s appointed real estate property advisers, Cushman and Wakefield.

 

The Chairman welcomed representatives from Cushman and Wakefield to the meeting, highlighting that recent issues that had arisen concerning the valuation of accounts had impacted on the reputation of the Council.

 

A Member highlighted the need to ensure that the Council properly managed its top-10 assets and there needed to be an awareness of the consequences of acquisitions with proper risk management.

 

Following discussions it was agreed that an ‘Investment Monitoring Report’ reviewing the Council’s Investment Portfolio should be presented to the Committee every six months at the same time as the presentation of the Treasury Management report as there was an alignment between the two.

 

The Portfolio Holder for Resources, Commissioning and Contracts Management highlighted that all properties within the Council’s property investment portfolio were secured against long-term tenancies.  It was also a diverse portfolio that whilst retail heavy was not exclusively retail properties.  In approaching its investments in this was the Council had sought to secure a long-term income stream.

 

The Chairman reminded the Committee that a policy decision had been taken in respect of agricultural land in the interest of protecting the Green Belt.  Members were assured by Cushman and Wakefield that rents for agricultural land were competitive.

 

RESOLVED: That

 

1. The report be noted; and

 

2. A bi-annual Property Investment Monitoring Report be presented to the Committee.

 

62.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 1972 AS AMENDED BY THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT (ACCESS TO INFORMATION) (VARIATION) ORDER 2006, AND THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000

The Chairman to move that the Press and public be excluded during consideration of the items of business listed below as it is likely in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings that if members of the Press and public were present there would be disclosure to them of exempt information.

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the Press and public be excluded during consideration of the items of business referred to below as it is likely in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings that if members of the Press and public were present there would be disclosure to them of exempt information.

 

The following summaries

refer to matters involving exempt information

 

 

63.

EXEMPT MINUTES OF THE MEETING HELD ON 3 JULY 2019 AND 30 JULY 2019

Minutes:

The Part 2 (exempt) minutes of the meeting held on 30th July 2019 were agreed, and signed as a correct record.  It was agreed that approval of the Part 2 (exempt) minutes from the meeting held on 3rd July 2019, would be deferred until the next meeting.

 

64.

PRE-DECISION SCRUTINY OF EXEMPT EXECUTIVE REPORTS

Minutes:

The Committee considered the following reports on the Part 2 agenda for the meeting of the Executive on 18th September 2019:

 

 

(18)  DISPOSAL OF Y BLOCKS – DECISION TO DISPOSE OF OPEN SPACE AND TO APPROPRIATE THE LAND AND BUILDINGS FROM OFFICE TO HOME USE UNDER SECTION 232 OF THE TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING ACT 1990

  Report DRR19/046

 

The Committee noted details of the objections that had been received in respect of the Part 1 report detailed above.

65.

PROPERTY PORTFOLIO REVIEW

Minutes:

The Committee noted the Part 2 information contained within the report.

 

Original Text: