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Meeting Details

Overview and Scrutiny Committee
4 Feb 2021 - 19:00 to 21:00
Occurred
  • Documents
  • Attendance
  • Declarations of Interests
  • Visitors

Documents

Agenda

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Standard Items
VIRTUAL MEETING - LINK TO VIEW

This meeting will be a virtual meeting and therefore will not take place in a physical location following regulations made under Section 78 of the Coronavirus Act 2020. This meeting can be viewed by following this link:

LINK HERE

 

1 Apologies for Absence and Substitutions

To note any apologies for absence and substitutions.

 

1

There were none.

 

2 Declarations of Interest
To note any declarations of interest made by members.

3

There were none.

 

3 Matters to be Considered in Private

To determine whether items contain information that is exempt from disclosure by virtue of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972.


4

There were none.

 

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

2

There were none.

 

5 Minutes

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting held on 7 January 2021.

 

5

RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting held on 7 January 2021 be agreed as a true and accurate record of proceedings.

 

6

Councillor Bassam Mahfouz, Cabinet Member for Finance and Leisure, introduced the Budget Strategy to the Committee. Councillor Mahfouz explained that it was clear from the budget feedback sessions, that local residents, business owners and community and voluntary sector organisations wanted the Council to prioritise and protect the most vulnerable residents in the Borough, and he confirmed that the Council would be able to deliver that priority with the budget that was being proposed.

 

Councillor Mahfouz highlighted that the Council’s progressive Council Tax Reduction Scheme had been extended for 2021/22. There had also been an introduction of Council Tax relief for care leavers which would entitle care leavers up to the age of 25 to receive a full discount on their Council Tax.

 

The Committee’s attention was drawn to the Future Ealing Programme which had continued to deliver with an investment led approach to transforming Council services and had achieved significant savings. Some of the Future Ealing Programme outcomes and transformations included the successful launch of Greener Ealing Limited, the development of community managed libraries and the delivery of 54% of the Council’s genuinely affordable homes target.

 

Ross Brown, Chief Finance Officer, provided a detailed presentation on the 2021/22 budget proposals and the Medium-Term Financial Strategy. The presentation included information on the following key areas:

 

  • Investment
  • New Savings
  • 2021/22 Budget Process
  • Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS)
  • Statutory Declaration
  • Treasury Management
  • Capital Strategy
  • Capital Additions
  • Financial Management Code
  • Fees and Charges
  • Provisional Settlement
  • Council Tax
  • Key Updates

The Committee noted that:

 

  • The Council was required by law to set a balanced budget.

  • The proposed 1.99% Council Tax increase and 3% Social Care Precept increase were part of a package of measures that would provide a balanced and sustainable 2021/22 budget.

  • Current circumstances of Covid-19 would continue to present in-year pressures which would require very careful management of tight budgets. In the longer term the Council would still be faced with a continued challenge of delivering a balanced budget against a backdrop of Government funding uncertainty and a prolonged period of decline.

  • Through careful management and good planning, the proposed investment plans were over £22m for 2021/22 with new capital growth of £7m to be invested in roads, pavements, recycling and leisure services.

  • Over £11m in savings were being proposed for 2021/22 which included cost avoidance savings of £7m. £5.5m of those savings were primarily in relation to Children’s Services and £1.5m related to a reduction of cost pressures across waste by the increase of recycling disposal and £0.108m through Contract Management.

  • Savings would continue to be identified and delivered by the Future Ealing Programme.

  • The proposed budget would enable the Council to continue to deliver vital services for the Borough and its residents.

Following the presentation, the Committee asked the following questions:

 

  • Had the printer contracts for Perceval House and the Town Hall been reviewed for potential savings?

  • What support would be provided by the Council for care leavers?

  • Was it considered that the removal of some of the local neighbourhood recycling centres could result in an increase in fly tipping in the area and did the Council propose to remove more centres?

  • Given the uncertainty faced post Covid-19, should reserves be set higher by the Council than they have been historically?

  • With an unprecedented year ahead and residents experiencing hardship, was the Council prepared for Council Tax payments to potentially not materialise?

  • With regard to the Capital Programme, how much of the billion-pound investment in genuinely affordable housing was directed locally within the Borough to support jobs and growth?

  • Due to Council Tax being quite regressive, had the Council carried out an Equality Analysis Assessment on the potential impact increases had on its residents?

  • With regard to savings, at what stage did the Council carry out an Equality Analysis Assessment?

 

In response to questions from the Committee, Ross Brown and Councillor Mahfouz confirmed that:

 

  • The Council were in a number of fixed year agreements for printers. Proposed savings related to a reduction of a proportion of the provision to the Council’s estate as an entirety.

  • As a result of the proposed new Council Tax Relief Scheme specifically for care leavers, as of April 2021 care leavers aged 18 – 25 would not be liable to pay Council Tax.

  • The Council had considered the removal of more neighbourhood recycling centres due to the expansion of the comprehensive doorstep recycling offer and the further investment in food waste recycling. It was not considered that the removal of neighbourhood recycling centres would increase fly tipping.

  • If the Council were to increase their reserves further, it would mean finding further financial savings or making cuts elsewhere. The General Fund reserves which could be deployed in circumstances where needed would provide a reasonable level of resilience in the current climate. The Council also had a separate £15.9 million-pound General Fund balance and had planned to retain a proportion of the one-off grant that had come through from Government for 2021/22 in relation to Covid-19 to deploy in year where required.

  • With the aim to help residents during difficult times, various provisions were in place for those who were experiencing financial hardship from a Council Tax perspective, including the Council Tax Reduction Scheme. For example, the option for a delay in making payments and the option of agreeing more flexible payment terms.

  • With regard to the Capital Programme and how much of the investment in genuinely affordable housing was directed locally within the Borough to support jobs and growth, this all depended on the Capital Scheme used. The Council contracted in the most economically advantageous way but also with a slant towards inclusion of suppliers that had a locality base within the Borough.

  • The Council were looking at undertaking an Equalities Analysis Assessment with regard to Council Tax. It had not been done previously and it would be quite hard to estimate credibly. The Council had the progressive and extensive Council Tax Reduction Scheme in place which was there to protect those on low incomes or experiencing financial hardship.

  • In terms of individual savings, there was a requirement for an Equality Analysis Assessment to be undertaken pre-implementation.

RESOLVED: That the Budget Strategy 2021/22 be noted. 

 

7

Sam Bailey, Head of Democratic Services, provided the Committee with an update on the Work Programme, the progress made on the implementation of the 2018-19 panel recommendations and he requested ideas for potential panel topics for 2021/22.

 

During discussion by the Committee, it was suggested that Transport should be considered as a topic for scrutiny, as part of the OSC work programme, or as a panel topic for 2021/22 incorporating the impact of HS2, Crossrail and the bus provision in the Borough. It was also suggested that the Council’s response to homelessness prevention and domestic violence, which had increased during the pandemic, should be topics for review, potentially by a Covid Response Panel.

 

Having reviewed the progress on recommendations from the 2018/19 panels, the Committee considered the actions now closed, however, it was suggested that a review of enforcement for idling vehicles should be referred back to Officers as regulations had recently changed nationally and it was important to ensure appropriate enforcement was in place within the Borough.

 

Councillor Woodroofe updated the Committee on the work of Panel 2 on knife crime which included the following information:

 

  • As a result of Inspector Jack Robinson leaving, the ‘Your Life You Choose’ programme was being delivered online due to Covid-19 challenges by Sergeant Ian Benjamin and Imogen Hirst.

  • Councillor Raza had attended the first west area Youth Independent Advisory Group to better understand young people's concerns particularly with added challenges of lockdowns during the pandemic and to build up trust and understanding with the Police and community.

  • A meeting had been organised next month to look at recruitment opportunities for young people in order to encourage more local and representative officers and to look at stop and search.

  • Young people were increasingly disadvantaged in their future and opportunities with a triple hit from austerity, Brexit and the Covid pandemic. It was more important now than ever to have youth provision and engagement at the heart of everything the council does.

  • In recent meetings with young people online, most had expressed that they did not feel supported with their mental health, particularly with remote online teaching. There needs to be better access to online mental health support from schools.

  • Antisocial behaviour around gathering in our green spaces and cars driving around with a plentiful supply of drugs and alcohol had been issues during lockdown but generally not as extensive as they could be. There were few incidents of stabbings locally.

RESOLVED: That

1. The Committee Work Programme is agreed.

 

2. The progress on recommendations from the 2018-19 Panels is noted. 

 

8 Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held on 4 March, but only if there is a call-in made of decisions taken by Cabinet in February.

 


8

The date of the next meeting was scheduled to take place on Thursday 4 March 2021, but only if a call in was received. 

 

Additional Meeting Documents

Declarations of Interests

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

Visitors

Visitor Information is not yet available for this meeting