Lewisham Council
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Agenda, decisions and minutes

Venue: Committee room 3

Contact: Timothy Andrew Email: (timothy.andrew@lewisham.gov.uk) 

Items
No. Item

1.

Minutes of the meeting held on 9 May 2019 pdf icon PDF 223 KB

Decision:

Resolved: that the minutes of the meeting held on 9 May be agreed as an accurate record.

Minutes:

1.1    It was noted that officers had received directions from the Mayor on the appointment of an additional Director for the Catford Regeneration Partnership Limited. The Committee urged that this should happen forthwith. It was also noted that an update on the memorandum of understanding requested by the Committee on the relationship between CRPL and the Council would be presented to the Committee at its next meeting. It was also reported that the Committee’s referral to Sustainable Development Select Committee had been received – and that further scrutiny on the issues raised would take place in July.

 

1.2    Resolved: that the minutes of the meeting held on 9 May be agreed as an accurate record.

 

2.

Declarations of interest pdf icon PDF 200 KB

Minutes:

2.1    Councillor Ingleby declared a non-prejudicial interest in relation to item five as a Director of Lewisham Homes.

2.2    Councillor Mallory declared a non-prejudicial interest in relation to item five as a member of the board of governors of Abbey Manor pupil referral unit.

 

3.

Responses from Mayor and Cabinet

There are none.

Minutes:

3.1       There were none.

4.

Income generation and commercialisation pdf icon PDF 319 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

Resolved: that the recommendations of the strategic income generation and commercialisation review be agreed and referred to Mayor and Cabinet. It was also agreed that the report and Councillor Krupski’s proposals would form the basis of a scoping report for an in-depth review of commercialisation and cultural change.

Minutes:

4.1    Katherine Nidd (Strategic Procurement and Commercial Services Manager) introduced the report, the following key points were noted:

·         Work was taking place to implement the income generation strategy.

·         The model presented in the report identified the importance of key enablers for change.

·         Information had also been provided in the appendix from the Centre for Public Scrutiny – about the role that scrutiny could play in income generation.

·         The report highlighted the importance of leadership in bringing about change.

·         The income board had a key role to play in delivery of the ambitions in the income generation strategy.

·         All areas of the Council that were seeking to generate income needed to be customer focused. The focus on customers could also support the pursuit of social value.

·         Officers would seek further leadership from the Committee about the potential for culture change at the Council.

·         New appointments had been made to support this work. The new starters were highly skilled and had a strong track record of innovation and excellence.

 

4.2    Katherine Nidd responded to questions from the Committee, the following key points were noted:

·         Work had previously been carried out to review the service level agreements for schools and for housing services. In carrying out that work, the model for analysing costs had been improved.

·         Discussions had been held with Kent County Council about their commercial agency for social workers. This was a relatively high-level discussion because of the commercially sensitive nature of the information.

·         Kent had established partnerships with a number of authorities. These partnerships ranged from taking an advisory role to setting up full joint ventures.

·         There were differences between the way the London authorities operated and the operations of large country councils.

·         One of the key differences was that county councils covered a large geographic area – whereas agency workers in London were likely to be more geographically mobile.

·         Kent had not given any information about the authorities they were working with in London.

·         No information had been shared about the structure of the agency service. Full consideration would need to be given to the form a company in Lewisham might take.

·         Lewisham had a memorandum of understanding with other London boroughs to manage the cost of agency social workers – which had mitigated some previous problems in recruitment and contained costs.

·          The Council currently had a contract with Reed to provide agency services. When the contract expired, full consideration would be given to the other options for delivering the service (which could include the option to set up an in-house agency) – as with all major contracts.

·         The income board met every eight weeks. There was an item on the agenda for the Executive Management Team every three months to discuss proposals for income generation and procurement.

·         Key decisions – including those related to fees and charges – were decided by Mayor and Cabinet. Any proposals for projects would be subject to the usual decision making processes.

·         Consideration was being given to creating income generation champions for each  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Financial results 2018-19 pdf icon PDF 493 KB

Decision:

Resolved: that the report be noted. That additional information should be provided about the funding being made available for dilapidation works on leisure centre buildings. The Chair also agreed to give further consideration to scrutiny of the issue of leisure centres management – in consultation with the Chair of Overview of Scrutiny.

Minutes:

5.1    Selwyn Thompson (Director of Financial Services) introduced the report and highlighted budget pressures in key areas.

 

5.2    Selwyn Thompson and David Austin responded to questions from the Committee, the following key points were noted:

·         Concerns had been raised by some service managers about their capacity to use the Oracle financial system. This was particularly the case in areas of the Council that employed significant numbers of agency staff because the system required more data input for payments than had previously been the case.

·         There was a mismatch between the operational costs of the youth service and its contract value.

·         As part of the mutualisation of the youth service (in 2015) there was an expectation that the new organisation would be able to access funding and grants that were not available for Council services. This had not been the case.

·         However, the service had increased the number of young people it provided services for. It had also reduced its overhead costs.

·         There was additional pressure on the budget due to the withdrawal of a Government grant for youth services.

·         Future options were currently being considered for the contract. This would involve re-working assumptions about the budget.

·         Increases in budgets for services would have to be met through either cuts from other services or by drawing on reserves.

·         Measures were being taken to manage overspending in the children and young people directorate budget.

·         A pantomime had been held in the Broadway theatre for the first time in a number of years. It had not been as successful as expected, which resulted in a significant loss.

·         Three years ago investment had been made in new refuse vehicles. It was intended that this would solve the problem of overspending. The service still requires hire vehicles and an additional refuse round had been added.

·         Work was also ongoing to use capital expenditure to buy vehicles to replace the use of hire vehicles and the associated costs.

·         Further information would be provided about the replacement of refuse vehicles in future budget monitoring reports.

·         Underspend on the One Public Estate programme was a timing issue. The Council was still committed to delivering the programme.

·         There was no indication in January that there would be an overspend in the Lewisham Homes repairs and maintenance budget.

·         Officers could not confirm that the overspend was due to the performance of Lewisham Homes’ repairs and maintenance contractor.

·         The figures in the report had been provided earlier than usual. It was possible that part of the sum for repairs and maintenance might have been intended to be capital, rather than revenue spending.

·         Lewisham Homes had a significant annual spend on repairs and maintenance with a programme which would be delivered over a number of years – it was possible that the spending this year would be offset in another.

·         There had been no previous indication that Lewisham Homes was overspending its repairs and maintenance budget.

·         One of the big shortfalls in the capital budget was as a result of the housing  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Medium term financial strategy pdf icon PDF 586 KB

Decision:

Resolved: that the report be noted. That further information should be provided when there was more certainty about spending by government.

Minutes:

6.1    David Austin (Acting Chief Finance Officer) introduced the report, the following key points were noted:

·         The assumption had been made that the Council’s grant would continue to be reduced by the government (in line with the trajectory that funding had been on for the past seven years).

·         It was also assumed that business rates growth would continue to grow – although at less than inflation due to pressures in the sector.

·         It was assumed that the Council would continue to increase Council tax. Projections for housing growth had been taken from the planning numbers.

·         It was anticipated that funding would need to be made available over a number of years to manage pressures in the children and young people’s directorate budget.

·         The assumptions enabled officers to project the cuts required in the coming years. For 2020-21 the projection was £12m. This figure was expected to increase in the following year – before reducing thereafter. Over the four years from 2021-22 the potential requirement for cuts could be £50m. The initial focus was on delivering the £12m for 2020-21.

·         There was still a high level of uncertainty about the position central government would take on future funding for local authorities.

·         There were a number of decisions due to be made by the current Government (including the comprehensive spending review) that would have a significant impact on the Council’s medium term finances.

·         The Better Care Fund had alleviated some of the problems in adult social care – it was anticipated that action would be taken to manage pressures in children’s social care.

·         If the current trajectory of spending for local government continued – a significant number of local authorities would be unable to balance their budgets.

·         The Council would be in a strong position (with a good level of reserves) to make future decisions – as long as it delivered the cuts it had already agreed and tackled the £12m required for the coming year.

·         The cuts programme was currently being developed. Service managers were being asked to demonstrate how their service compared with other local authorities in terms of cost.

·         Questions were also being asked about which services required investment to enable improvement.

 

6.2    David Austin responded to questions from the Committee, the following key points were noted:

·         Work could be done to develop projections of future volumes of activity and spending in service areas. However, it would be difficult to match this to additional allocation of reserves because this could create the sense that current spending and practice had no need to improve.

·         Good social work practice was more cost effective because it enabled early intervention and reduced escalation.

·         Schools were having a real terms cash reduction in their budgets. A number were trying to work their way through deficit plans. There remained a risk to the Council from a breakdown in a school’s budgeting processes.

·         The Council had £60m of usable reserves. Additional information would be provided for members.

 

6.3    In Committee discussions, the following key point was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Select Committee work programme pdf icon PDF 287 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

Resolved: that the items for the Committee’s meeting on 10 July would be: an introduction to the Executive Director for Community Services; an update on the financial position of children’s social care; and a scoping report for the next phase of the Committee’s income generation and commercialisation review.

Minutes:

7.1    Resolved: that the items for the Committee’s meeting on 10 July would be: an introduction to the Executive Director for Community Services; an update on the financial position of children’s social care; and a scoping report for the next phase of the Committee’s income generation and commercialisation review.

 

8.

Referrals to Mayor and Cabinet

Decision:

Resolved: that the Committee’s income generation and commercialisation report be referred to Mayor and Cabinet for consideration.

Minutes:

8.1    Resolved: that the Committee’s income generation and commercialisation report be referred to Mayor and Cabinet for consideration.