Lewisham Council
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Agenda, decisions and minutes

Venue: Committee room 1

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

Items
No. Item

1.

Minutes of the meeting held on 10 July 2019 pdf icon PDF 241 KB

Decision:

1.1    Resolved: that the minutes of the meeitng held on 10 July be agreed as an accurate record.

Minutes:

1.1    Resolved: that the minutes of the meeitng held on 10 July be agreed as an accurate record.

2.

Declarations of interest pdf icon PDF 201 KB

Minutes:

2.1       There were none.

3.

Responses from Mayor and Cabinet

Income generation and commercialisation

Minutes:

3.1    It was agreed that all of the responses to the Committee’s referrals on income generation would be considered at the meeting on 6 November.

4.

Budget pressures in the environment division pdf icon PDF 725 KB

Decision:

Resolved: the Committee (a) endorsed the retention of the income target for trade waste and it urged that officers ensure that systems were improved to enable the target to be met; (b) requested information about the recommendations from the APSE review; and (c) agreed that that a further update on budget pressures in the environment division should be brought before the Committee within six months on the progress being made on: future financial modelling and the savings achieved from ending the hire of fleet vehicles.

Minutes:

 

The agenda was varied to consider this item before the item on budget cuts.

 

4.1    Nigel Tyrell (Director of Environment) introduced the report, the following key points were noted:

·         The report was provided to address the Committee’s concerns about the persistent reporting of overspending in the Environment Division.

·         Over the past 10 years the Council had delivered savings of over £173m.

·         The division had made cuts of £6m over the past five years. More than £800k of savings was proposed for 2020/21.

·         The Environment Division had a workforce of more than 420 people providing a broad range of services.

·         The refuse service collected three different types of waste from 134,000 households each week working out at around 54,000 separate collections every day.

·         Any increase in the number of households in the borough increased the cost of staffing, vehicles and disposals.

·         Since 2013/14 the number of household waste collections had increased by 17%.

·         The budget for the service did not increase in line with the increase in collections.

·         The refuse service was forecasting an overspend by £1.5m (this represented two thirds of the overspend in the division).

·         The causes for the overspend could be traced back to changes to waste disposal in 2015.

·         Officers put forward proposals to diversify recycling in anticipation of the end of the incineration contract with SELCHP (South East London Combined Heat and Power plant).

·         The proposals put forward by officers were rejected by Mayor and Cabinet to allow for scrutiny by councillors and public consultation.

·         Following consideration by the Environmental Sustainability Committee[1] (Thursday, 26 November 2015) the following changes were made to the original proposals:

a)    The subscription for subscription garden waste be £60 instead of the £80 initially proposed by officers.

b)    Introduction of a weekly food collection service and reduction of refuse collections to fortnightly

c)    Retention of a weekly comingled recycling service

·         These changes presented a significant increase in dry mixed recycling and food waste collections as well as significantly reducing the cost of garden waste collection.

·         These changes were presented and accepted by the Mayor and Cabinet. The original savings proposal was also accepted as part of a list of savings.

·         As a result of these two decisions, savings of £500k were taken. Recommendations to increase refuse collection frequencies and a lower level of garden waste subscription charges (from £80 to £60) were adopted.

·         There was insufficient co-ordination between the savings report and the scrutiny feedback process meaning that officers did not have the opportunity to reconfigure the savings proposal to reflect the increased service cost of a weekly recycling/food and garden waste service or adjust income expectations from garden waste subscriptions. This created an immediate £500k gap within the refuse collection budget.

·         The intention had been to review the changes in light of the substantial level of changes.

·         The changes to the service also presented a number of unbudgeted operational challenges.

·         Additional crews were required due to problems collecting recycling from some properties. Additional time was also needed for crews  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Budget cuts pdf icon PDF 761 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

Resolved: that referrals from other select committees as well as the Committee’s own comments (under sections 5.6/5.11/5.15 and 5.17 of the minutes) be referred to Mayor and Cabinet for consideration alongside the budget cuts proposals.

Minutes:

5.1    The Committee considered the street sweeping cuts (CUS07) at the beginning of this item.

 

5.2    Councillors Patrick Codd and Louise Krupski introduced the referral from the Sustainable Development Select Committee, the following key points were noted:

·         Members of the Sustainable Development Select Committee had reiterated their concerns about the impact of this cut and on the public perception of Council services.

·         The Committee also believed that additional consideration should be given to the options for mitigating the impact of this cut.

·         Members of Sustainable Development also highlighted their concerns about the findings from the street cleaning pilot. It was felt that the results of the pilot were too unspecific to allow any real consideration of the issues.

·         The Committee had also highlighted the importance of bolstering civic pride to prevent littering.

 

5.3    The Committee discussed the proposed street sweeping cut – the following key points were noted:

·         Members shared experiences of instances of lack of delivery of street sweeping services in their wards.

·         Members also questioned the implementation, the analysis and the presentation of findings from the street cleansing pilot.

·         Specific concerns were raised about the lack of a control area with which to compare the results of the trial areas.

·         An example was given of residents regularly sweeping their own street in the pilot area – during the trial period. Officers acknowledged that they had not been aware that this was the case.

·         Members highlighted concerns about the risks of ‘swapping costs’ between routine sweeping and increased enforcement activity.

·         There was concern (as noted in previous years) about the potential disproportionate impact on low-paid workers.

·         The Committee also thanked officers for their commitment to the delivery of quality services.

 

5.4    Nigel Tyrell responded to questions from the Committee about the proposed cut and the street cleansing pilot - the following key points were noted:

·         The service was stretched to carry out any monitoring of the quality of street cleansing. Officer posts that had been available to monitor the cleanliness of Lewisham’s streets had been cut during a previous round of budget reductions.

·         This meant that there was no comparable data with the rest of the borough.

 

5.5    Councillor Sophie McGeevor addressed the Committee – the following key points were noted:

·         Members’ concerns about the lack of information in the report were valid.

·         Scrutiny committees should receive more information about the proposal before any decision was taken.

·         One of the pieces of information missing from the report was an accurate breakdown of numbers of permanent and agency staff.

 

5.6    Resolved: that the Committee would share its views with Mayor and Cabinet as follows - the Public Accounts Select Committee endorses the comments of the Sustainable Development Select Committee and in particular it acknowledges concerns about the limitations of the findings from the cleansing pilot. The Committee also reiterates previous concerns about the impact of this proposal on low-paid workers. It recommends that Mayor and Cabinet does not agree the proposal until further work had been done to address  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Financial forecasts 2019-20 pdf icon PDF 1 MB

Decision:

Resolved: that the report be noted.

Minutes:

6.1    Selwyn Thompson (Director of Financial Services) provided an overview of the report. David Austin and Selwyn Thompson responded to questions from the Committee, the following key points were noted:

·         The review of transport services for children and young people had been carried out and an external provider was due to be appointed.

·         Officers were cautiously optimistic that the approach would make savings from the second year of implementation.

·         Incentives were provided for some private landlords to maintain the tenancies of households at risk of homelessness. Further information was awaited from central government about the future of grant funding.

·         Officers would continue to provide updates for the Committee on the pressures facing the budget for housing benefit subsidy.

 

6.2    Resolved: that the report be noted.

 

7.

Treasury management mid-year review 2019-20 pdf icon PDF 605 KB

Decision:

Resolved: that the report be noted.

Minutes:

7.1    David Austin provided an overview of the report.

 

7.2    Resolved: that the report be noted.

8.

Select Committee work programme pdf icon PDF 279 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

Resolved: that the work programme for the meeting on 6 November be agreed.

Minutes:

8.1    The Committee discussed the work programme for the meeting on 6 November and agreed to consider the item (due to be considered at this meeting) on the Mayor’s office and communications as well as updates on adult social care and on income generation and commercialisation.

 

8.2    Resolved: that the work programme for the meeting on 6 November be agreed.

9.

Referrals to Mayor and Cabinet

Decision:

Resolved: that the Committee would refer its views to Mayor and Cabinet as follows –

·      Further to an update from the Chair of the Audit Panel (appended to the referral), the Committee is persuaded that there are urgent issues relating to the resourcing of the financial services division that require immediate and detailed consideration by Mayor and Cabinet.

 

Minutes:

9.1    Councillor James Rathbone (Chair of the Council’s Audit Panel) introduced an urgent update from the Panel (a note is appended to the minutes) – the following key points were noted:

·         The Audit Panel had seen an increasing number of audits that flagged errors or areas of concern in the Council’s finance department and its core financial systems.

·         In July 2019, issues were also raised in the external audit. The Council was unable to meet the audit deadline and a large part of this was due to the lack of resourcing in the finance department, which was unable to respond to questions are requests within sufficient timescale.

·         Subsequent consideration of reports at Audit Panel had reinforced these concerns. Of the 17 core financial audits, four had resulted in a negative financial opinion and one could not be completed. These problems stemmed in large part from the lack of resourcing – but were combined with problems implementing Oracle Cloud.

·         The Panel believed that there was such a significant risk that its concerns needed to be referred to Mayor and Cabinet.

·         The level of resources available to the finance department should be considered as a matter of urgency because there were serious implications for the delivery of all Council services.

·         There were also concerns about the delay in the implementation of Oracle Cloud – which continued to produce errors and inaccuracies.

 

9.2    Councillor Mallory addressed the Committee – the following key points were noted:

·         The Council’s constitution did not clearly set out the mechanism for Audit Panel to raise its concerns with Mayor and Cabinet.

·         The Panel could report concerns to Council – but it was felt that this would take too long. Therefore, the Committee was being asked to refer on the views of the Audit Panel for consideration.

 

9.3    Resolved: that the Committee would refer its views to Mayor and Cabinet as follows –

·         Further to an update from the Chair of the Audit Panel (appended to the referral), the Committee is persuaded that there are urgent issues relating to the resourcing of the financial services division that require immediate and detailed consideration by Mayor and Cabinet.