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Meeting Details

(2019/20) Scrutiny Review Panel 3 (Local Effects of National Issues)
20 Feb 2020 - 19:00 to 21:30
  • Documents
  • Attendance
  • Declarations of Interests
  • Visitors

Documents

Agenda

Standard Items
1 Apologies for Absence
To note any apologies for absence and substitutions.

Mark Wiltshire (Director of Community Development) and Ross Brown (Chief Finance Officer) were unable to attend.

2 Urgent Matters
To note any urgent matters that the Chair has agreed should be considered at the meeting.

There were none.

3 Declarations of Interest
To note any declarations of interest made by members

There were no declarations of interest.  

4 Matters to be Considered in Private
To consider whether any items contain information that is exempt from disclosure by virtue of Paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972.

There were none.

To consider and agree the minutes of the previous meeting.

Resolved: That the minutes of the meeting held on 19 November 2019 be agreed as a correct record of the meeting.

6 pdf Panel Operations (248Kb)
To consider and agree the Panel’s initial draft final report and updated Work Programme.

To consider and agree the Panel’s initial draft final report and updated Work Programme.

 

Following a proposal by Cllr Driscoll it was agreed in the interests of effective use of time, that the recommendations at the end of each section of the latest draft of the Local Effects of National Issues Report prepared by Harjeet Bains, were reviewed.

 

General comment of the Panel was that a lot of the recommendations were already being done to some degree, for instance recommendations 1 to 6, however the Panel decided to leave them in.  Further general points were that the Council should seek to ensure jobseekers were not disadvantaged by changes in the libraries and other Council premises.

 

The Panel noted the Council Rent Arrears £1,800 – £640,000 since the introduction of Universal Credit (UC). This was because payment of the rent directly from the claimant’s UC account to the landlord was up to the claimant and needed to be changed to a direct payment being the default. As a result there had been a marked decline in Private Landlords willing to take on UC claimants.

 

The Panel recommended that if the legislation allowed it then direct payment from the UC to the landlord could be made a default.  The Chair should check this with the relevant service officers before making the recommendation.

 

The Panel’s comments on each recommendation were as follows:

 

Financial Pressures Facing Ealing Council

Recommendation 1

Ealing Council should consider using a range of metrics and case studies that can clearly and succinctly communicate to residents the financial challenges faced by it. For example, daily spends in adult social care; children’s services; increase in Education Health and Care Plans, etc.

 

Panel Comments: None

 

Panel Resolution:  Accepted

 

Recommendation 2

Ealing Council should continue to promote the European Union registration scheme directly to staff and recruitment agencies/staff suppliers with particular focus on key areas such as Adult Social Care, Street Services, etc.

 

Panel Comments:

  • that the European Union Registration Scheme would go on for 15 months and therefore that it was presumed this would be the length of time Ealing Council would need to promote the Scheme.

 

Panel Resolution:  Accepted

 

Recommendation 3

Ealing Council should promote greater awareness amongst residents of the increased responsibilities and cost shunts from central government through the use of all communication channels available to the Council.

 

Panel Comments:

  • that the DSC costs had been discussed at Overview and Scrutiny Committee and although more Government money had been provided in the form of a Core spending increase of 9.6% there was a lot of ground to make up to get back to 2010 position.
  • that residents were not aware of the Council’s Statutory obligations and pressures.
  • agreed to ensure these burdens be added to make the Council’s position clear to residents.

     

    Panel Resolution:  Change as agreed.

     

    Recommendation 4

    Ealing Council should promote awareness of the changes in government funding methodology and the impact upon the Council.

     

    Panel comments:

    Although the Council was already doing this to some extent it was felt this awareness needed to be enhanced.

     

    Panel Resolution:  Agreed.

     

    Recommendation 5

    Ealing Council should investigate the options for income generation to develop an income stream that is independent of central government.

     

    The Panel commented:

  • that it agreed that spending to generate income should be promoted.
  • warned that there had been many ‘disasters’ due to unsuccessful attempts to make money in the past.
  • that it agreed that careful risk analysis needed to be carried out on any income generating scheme.
  • that it agreed that wording should be added to ensure thorough risk analysis was carried out on any income generating scheme.
  • Panel resolution:  Change as agreed.

     

    Recommendation 6

    Ealing Council should continue to promote the work that has been undertaken through the Brighter Futures, Better Lives and Future Ealing programmes to demonstrate how the Council had adapted in meeting financial and service challenges.

     

    The Panel agreed:

  • that the Council should continue to promote the Better Lives and Brighter Futures programmes.

     

    Panel Resolution:  Accept.

     

    Recommendation 7

    Ealing Council should explore the option of using an online budget simulator as an education/communication tool to demonstrate the financial challenges that continue to be faced by the Council.

     

    The Panel commented that:

  • more middle-class areas were participating in the awareness exercise but more needed to be done to include other areas,
  • there was a need to be clear about the role of the Simulator as, in a previous meeting, users of the Simulator thought they were being asked to vote on the outcome of the Simulator.
  • it was important to carefully calibrate what users could do with the Simulator.
  • that a useful way of deciding what the Simulator should be used for could be obtained by analysing who had used the Simulator and for what purpose.
  • the Simulator could contribute to making Council charges more comprehensible to residents and would help to highlight the percentage of budget covered by Council Tax.
  • the Simulator could complement the Future Ealing Roadshow used in conjunction with other Council communications such as the Around Ealing free magazine to households.

     

    Panel resolution:  Accepted.

     

    Impact of Universal Credit

    Recommendation 8

    Ealing Council should monitor the impact of the new Council Tax Reduction scheme and the use of income banding.

     

    The Panel commented:

  • that there was a need to be more specific about what was monitored and the reason for it.
  • that Monitoring should include the monitoring of Advice Centres.
  • that advice centres could provide the Council with feedback including the issues their users were having in contacting and dealing with the Council, focussing on vulnerable groups.

     

    Panel resolution:  Change

     

    Recommendation 9

    Ealing Council should engage in collective lobbying with other authorities that do not have a local Citizens Advice Bureau service to press the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to have a contract with local advice services to ensure a seamless initial pre-application and post application advice service is provided for the Universal Credit claimant

     

    The Panel commented:

  • that there was a need to persevere with the DWP to get better more useable data as at present this data had to be gathered by the Council assuming that changes in benefit up-take were the result of claimants transferring to UC.
  • that the information flow between the DWP and Local Authorities needed to improve.
  • that take-up of Universal Credit needed to be monitored carefully.
  • that access to Jobseekers was promoted and monitored to ensure that it was supporting residents properly.

     

     

    Panel resolution:  Change to reflect comments

     

    Recommendation 10

    Ealing Council should consider piloting a dedicated Housing Officer based at the Ealing Jobcentre Plus to improve homelessness prevention work and the take up/continuity of the Council Tax Reduction claims.

     

    The Panel agreed that:

  • the fact that this recommendation was raised by the DWP should be highlighted to strengthen it.

     

    Panel resolution:  Change as agreed.

     

    Recommendation 11

    Ealing Council should consider piloting dedicated telephone lines for advice agencies to contact key services – principally: Housing Benefits/Council Tax Reduction/Council Tax Scheme; secondary: Tenancy Management, Council Tax, Housing Service/Locata

     

    The Panel:

  • agreed that this recommendation needed to be redrafted to strengthen it by taking out the words ‘principally’ and ‘secondary’, making the list of services a bulleted list or describing them collectively as Designated Advice Centres and adding Ealing Advice Service as one of the services.
  • considered that dedicated phone lines were important so that residents did not have to wait.
  • proposed that perhaps two Advice Centres should be piloted before the full roll-out.
  • proposed that monitoring the take-up of these advice lines should take place to ensure these were meeting the needs of the communities they served with a focus on the vulnerable.

     

    Panel resolution:  Change

     

    The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018

    Recommendation 12

    Ealing Council should continue to promote awareness, recognition and value of the London Landlord Accreditation scheme and other trade associations to estate agents, landlords and tenants.

     

    The Panel:

     

    Panel resolution:  Change as agreed.

     

    Recommendation 13:

    Ealing Council should promote housing standards to tenants and the options available to address disrepair.

     

    The Panel commented:

  • That this recommendation was suggested by Ealing Law Centre.
  • Panel resolution:   Accept

     

    Recommendation 14:

    Ealing Council should ensure that the promotion of The Homes (Fitness for Habitation) Act needed to be coupled with effective funding for advice on the related issues.

     

    The Panel commented that:

  • This recommendation was suggested by Ealing Law Centre.
  • The requirement for more access to advice had led the Panel to recommend that more resources were needed.
  • felt that this recommendation needed to be more specific stating what resources were required.
  • The wording of this recommendation needed further clarification so the Chair to check with the Centre about quantifying ‘effective funding’.

     

     

    Panel resolution: Change as agreed.

     

    Recommendation 15

    Ealing Council’s Housing Options Service should continue to improve their links with Regulatory Services to ensure effective joined up working.

     

    The Panel:

  • ·noted that putting further resources into the Regulatory Services to help residents to enforce their rights under the Homes Act and help save in the Housing Options unit.However, Mark Wiltshire had pointed out at the previous meeting that penalties for non-compliance were not as severe as had been thought.
  • The Chair to seek clarification on how the departments worked currently.

 

Panel resolution: Change

 

Future Monitoring

Recommendation 16:

The Overview and Scrutiny Committee should undertake the ongoing monitoring of the accepted recommendations.

 

Panel Comments:  None.

 

Panel resolution:  Accept.

 

 

Panel Operations

Work Programme

Harjeet Bains (Scrutiny Review Officer) presented this item.

 

Prior to this meeting the Panel was presented with an initial Draft Final Report of Scrutiny Review Panel 3 – 2019/2020: Local Effects of National Issues (Appendix 1) and the Panel’s updated Work Programme (Appendix 2).

 

Harjeet Bains had reminded the Panel that it was scheduled to consider The Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill 2018 at this meeting but there has been no meaningful progress for review at this stage.  Therefore, this item had been deferred to the next meeting of the Panel and an initial Draft Final Report of the Panel would be considered instead.

 

As reported above, during the course of this meeting the initial Draft Final Report included as Appendix 1 had been reviewed by commenting on the Recommendations.

 

The Work Programme to be reviewed when the Environment Bill was finalised but because the timing of this was uncertain the Panel felt it was unfair on officers to create a report on this basis.

 

The Panel had a discussion on the Panel’s Programme covering several topics.  After some discussion on various points around the uncertainty of deciding on the impact of:

  • Brexit
  • Immigration and the Government’s point-based system
  • Climate change and how to meet the climate emergency
  • Funding for electric car charging infrastructure

 

Resolved:

That:

  • this was the last meeting of Scrutiny Review Panel 3 – Local Effects of National Issues.
  • Councillors Driscoll and Busuttil be authorised to refine the recommendations and the revised final report circulated to the Panel Members.
  • the Chair to present the Panel’s Final Report to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

 

Thanks:

Cllr Driscoll thanked the members of the Panel for all their work and concluded the meeting.

 

The Panel members thanked the Chair for his skilful chairing.


7 Date of Next Meeting
The next meeting will be held on 23 April 2020.


The date of the next meeting which had been scheduled for 23 April 2020 was cancelled as a result of the resolution above.

Public Items

Attendance

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NameReason for Sending ApologySubstituted By
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NameReason for AbsenceSubstituted By
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Declarations of Interests

Member NameItem Ref.DetailsNature of DeclarationAction
No declarations of interest have been entered for this meeting.

Visitors

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