Agenda item

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:

 

  • Covid had dominated the in-tray of every London Leader since March.  Infection rates were being closely monitored, and in some parts of London there was evidence of the emergence of a sharp (for London) increase in rates of infection.  Two schools of thought were developing: one that London should consider an early lockdown all in one go; others felt that it was still too early to make that call and even if London were to lockdown depending on the numbers in certain places an London-wide lockdown may not be appropriate.  Before any firm conclusions were drawn there would need to be further analysis of data as it posed a fine balancing act between health and wellbeing and economic considerations,
  • Since the start of the pandemic there had been a number of meetings with local MPs to discuss local needs and local policies.  There had also been discussions around where the Local Authority agreed or disagreed with Government specific policies and nuisances.  Regular meetings had also taken place with London Councils to discuss how to approach the emerging situation.  In addition to this Ministers’ Seminars had taken place and these afforded the opportunity for Council Leaders to comment on evolving policies around a range of issues.
  • The Council’s relentless focus on finance had been maintained.  As a result of this focus over many years Bromley now found itself relatively well placed to move forward and focus on the post-Covid recovery.  Across the Local Government Sector Leaders had expressed hope that there would be a favourable Local Government Financial Settlement to support the sector.
  • Turning to the Council’s major asset, its staff, there had been no redundancies to date, no staff had been furloughed, and in return the performance and loyalty from staff had been incredible.
  • The Council had 60 staff volunteers in place to drive the track and trace programme forward in additional to their substantive role.  Bromley had amongst one of the biggest local track and trace teams in London.
  • The Council was clear about where it was in terms of its Transformation Programme and a number of projects had recently been considered by PDS Committees with further reports expected over the next few meetings.  A number of the decisions would be influenced by the Chancellor’s Budget, the Autumn Statement and the Local Government Settlement and it was hoped that there would be further clarity over the next few months.

 

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

 

  • Were there a need to live with Covid long-term the Council would need to react to situations as they arose.  There was a hope and expectation that there would be a return to some semblance of “normality”, although there was a recognition that it may take longer than initially anticipated by many.  There was some evidence that the return to schools and colleges was going some way to developing more “herd immunity” and there would be a growing general immunity to infection but there were questions around how long this immunity may last.  In terms of how the Council would deal with a longer-term situation, at the current time there were too many unknowns in terms of financial implications to enable firm plans to be developed.  Regular meetings took place between senior Members of the Council’s Executive and the Director of Finance in order to ensure that the Council was well placed to react to issues as they arose.
  • Any decisions around local lockdowns would rest solely with local Council Leaders and the Government.  To date there had been no contact from the Office of the Mayor for London.  Whilst the Mayor of London had met with a handful of London Leaders, he was by no means meeting with all London Leaders and the meetings that had taken place would not reflect the views and experiences of all 32 London Boroughs.
  • In relation to funding for enforcing compliance with health regulations, the Council had received £145,000 for Street Marshalls.  Several of the Road Safety and Traffic Team had been deployed to do some work around marshalling and had broadly received a good reception in the High Street, although some visitors to the High Street had been less receptive to the messages.  This work would become increasingly critical over the next few weeks.

 

The Committee thanked the Leader for his update and through the Leader and Chief Officers attending the meeting thanked all staff for their continued efforts on behalf of the residents of the Borough.

 

 

Original Text: