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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee Rooms 1&2

Contact: Charlotte Dale (02083149534 or Email: charlotte.dale@lewisham.gov.uk) 

Items
No. Item

1.

Minutes of the meeting held on 10 December 2014 pdf icon PDF 49 KB

Minutes:

1.1      RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting held on 10 December 2014 be signed as an accurate record of the meeting.

 

2.

Declarations of interest pdf icon PDF 26 KB

Minutes:

2.1      The following non-pecuniary declarations of interest were declared:

 

            Councillor Muldoon - lead governor of SLaM NHS Foundation Trust & member of Labour's Finance and Industry Group.

 

            Councillor Alan Hall - Phoenix Community Housing Board Member.

 

            Councillor Onuegbu - SLaM NHS Foundation Trust Board Member.

 

            Councillor Ingleby – Chair of the Friends of Grove Park Nature Reserve.

 

3.

2015/16 Budget Report pdf icon PDF 15 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

 

 

3.1      Sir Steve Bullock (Mayor of Lewisham) addressed the Committee, highlighting the following key points:

 

§  The overall gap between available resources and required expenditure is £39m.

§  There are £28m of savings earmarked for next year, with £1.5m of those a carry-over from last year.

§  Some of the required expenditure will be covered by using the Council’s reserves.

§  Some of the overspend over the past year is due to unforeseen demand-driven expenditure during the year, such as the increase in those who have declared themselves homeless and in temporary accommodation.

 

3.2       Councillor Kevin Bonavia (Cabinet Member Resources) addressed the Committee, highlighting the following key points:

 

§  The Council would still need to look at further budget savings in later years due to the cuts in Government grant.

§  The Coalition Government’s policy in areas such as No Recourse to Public Funds and Welfare Reform is causing some of the budgetary pressures.

§  There is a danger that some of the budgetary pressures could become structural.

 

3.3       Cllr Alan Hall (Chair of Overview & Scrutiny) spoke to the Committee, highlighting the following key points:

 

§  The budgetary process that Lewisham has embarked on has never occurred in Lewisham’s history, with the Government grant being cut by a third, causing significant savings to be made.

§  The downward trajectory of spending is a result of the politics of ‘austerity’ by the Coalition Government.

§  The budgetary process is unique to Lewisham, with extensive pre-decision scrutiny of the proposed budget.

§  Staff should be thanked for their work in co-ordinating such a difficult process.

§  Budget savings updates need to be considered by the relevant Select Committees.

§  Staff needed to be supported through the changes and concerns raised about the changes needed to be addressed.

§  The Budget process needed to be evaluated to see what went well; and learn lessons from what could have been done better.

 

3.4       David Austin (Head of Corporate Resources) introduced the budget element of the report, highlighting the following key points:

 

§  The proposed Capital Programme (General Fund and Housing Revenue Account) budget for 2015/16 to 2018/19 of £424.3m, of which £132.7m is for 2015/16.

§  The provisional Dedicated Schools Grant allocation of £275.8m and a separate Pupil Premium allocation of £18.2m for 2015/16.

§  In respect of the General Fund, the assumed net revenue expenditure budget of £245.5m. This is made up of provisional Settlement Funding from government of £159.3m (grant and business rates), forecast Council Tax receipts, and a surplus on collection of Council Tax in previous years from the Collection Fund.

 

Reports of the Youth Service and Public Health Working Groups

 

3.5       Councillor Johnston-Franklin addressed the Committee in relation to the Youth Service Working Group. The key points to note were:

 

§  Base savings of £1.4m were proposed for the Youth Service with further savings programmed for future years (for which there were a number of options, including setting up an Employee Led Mutual).

§  The Working Group was set up  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.

4.

Housing pressures and the use of nightly paid accommodation pdf icon PDF 58 KB

Minutes:

4.1      Genevieve Macklin (Head of Strategic Housing), made a presentation to the Committee. The key points to note were:

 

§  The level of usage of “bed and breakfast” accommodation –short term emergency accommodation paid for on a nightly basis - has been increasing since 2012/13.

§  As a result of the massive increase in demand for nightly paid accommodation the total annual expenditure level has increased more than sevenfold in three years. The main financial impact for the Council is the limit set by Government on the proportion of that expenditure which can be reclaimed by the Council.

§  There are a number of factors driving this increase, and despite these broadly being beyond the control of the Council, nevertheless the Council retains a statutory duty to respond to the problem and also bears the financial pressure associated with it. They include:

o   property price inflation which continues to hugely out-strip other measures of inflation, and which in turn provides incentives for landlords to seek higher rents than can be afforded by the Council or otherwise to sell their properties and cash out of the housing market while prices are high

o   on-going shortfalls in the new supply of all forms of housing and in particular affordable housing and by a general fall in the movement of current tenants within and out of existing stock.

 

§  In response to this crisis the Council has initiated a wide ranging and assertive programme of interventions in the local housing economy, including:

o   the construction of new homes

o   the acquisition of properties for temporary accommodation purposes which provide a more sustainable and better quality alternative to bed and breakfast

o   piloting innovative methods of construction to provide more homes more quickly

o   reducing costs by negotiating with providers of emergency accommodation and landlords and procuring properties at lower cost

o   working across London on a sub-regional basis and with all London Councils on the Inter Borough Temporary Accommodation Agreement to agree rates with providers to keep costs down

o   managing demand by working more intensively to prevent homelessness

o   working on a range of policy changes order to manage demand to address this crisis

 

4.2      In response to questions from the Committee, the following was noted:

 

§  The two large properties acquired by the Council to be converted into hostels in the short term in order to provide the Council with access to additional short term accommodation are Hamilton Lodge and a building on Canonbie Road.

§  The purchases would be self-financing, officers would make sure that the capital cost could be covered by the rent achieved.

§  The Committee commended the work of officers in attempting to tackle the issues in relation to homelessness and temporary accommodation.

 

4.3      RESOLVED: That the report be noted.

 

5.

No Recourse to Public Funds Review - Final report pdf icon PDF 27 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

5.1      The Chair circulated some suggested recommendations to the Committee.

 

5.2     In response to questions from the Committee, and comments from

          Justine  Roberts (Change and Innovation Manager), the following was        noted:

 

§  The Committee was given reassurances by officers that the new approach would lead to the savings predicted.

§  Some ‘back up’ funding was being held in the corporate centre in case some individuals do not move onto benefits as quickly as anticipated.

§  A Home Office officer has been embedded into the team, to help localise decision-making and aid speedy resolutions.

§  The Committee commended officers for the work they have undertaken in this area.

 

5.3      RESOLVED: That the report be noted and the following recommendations agreed:

 

            The Committee recommends:

 

  • Exerting pressure on central government around NRPF in order to highlight the considerable additional pressure that local authority finances have been put under. To lobby for funding to match the costs passed to local authorities and to pursue the possibility of legal action in cases where Home Office mismanagement leave local authorities with longstanding and costly unresolved cases.
  • That the Mayor makes an urgent request of the Home Secretary to explain why Local Authorities should shoulder the cost for cases lost in the Home Office’s backlog.

 

  • Supporting the robust front-door approach that has been taken by the NRPF pilot project and recommending that the pilot approach is mainstreamed and made a permanent approach.

 

  • Building on the good work of the pilot by investigating current high-cost NRPF cases and endeavouring to bring the cost of cases down as far as practicable.

 

  • Placing existing cases under irregular, unannounced rolling review to identify if claimants still meet criteria for support.

 

  • Taking action to drive down the housing costs associated with those with NRPF through further improved procurement of private sector housing and seeking more sustainable long term housing solutions for those with NRPF by exploring all available housing options.

 

  • Actively pursuing a shared service around NRPF in as wide an area in London as possible in order to better deal with the problem of NRPF.

 

  • Immediate referral to Mayor & Cabinet at the turn of a new financial year in all cases where an area of spending doubles in the space of one financial year. In 2012 spending on people with NRPF stood at £2.2m 2012 and by 2013 had more than doubled to £5.3m. For similar cases in the future there must be a greater sense of urgency as well as more democratic control and oversight.

 

6.

Select Committee work programme pdf icon PDF 154 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

6.1      The work programme was noted and Members were asked for ideas for future scrutiny to include in the Committee’s 2015-16 work programme. Shared Services was suggested as one potential future scrutiny item. In relation to the income generation scoping paper, it was suggested that external witnesses from other councils be asked to contribute to the review.

 

6.2       RESOLVED: That the work programme be noted.

 

7.

Referrals to Mayor and Cabinet

Minutes:

7.1      A referral to Mayor and Cabinet was made in relation to item 3 (the budget) and item 5 (NRPF Final Report).

 

 

The meeting ended at 10.05pm

 

Chair:

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Date:

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