Agenda and draft minutes

Moved from 23 February 2021, Scrutiny & Overview Committee - Tuesday, 9th February, 2021 6.30 pm

Venue: This meeting was held remotely via Microsoft Teams

Contact: Simon Trevaskis
0208 7266000  Email: simon.trevaskis@croydon.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

9/21

Disclosure of Interests

In accordance with the Council’s Code of Conduct and the statutory provisions of the Localism Act, Members and co-opted Members of the Council are reminded that it is a requirement to register disclosable pecuniary interests (DPIs) and gifts and hospitality to the value of which exceeds £50 or multiple gifts and/or instances of hospitality with a cumulative value of £50 or more when received from a single donor within a rolling twelve month period. In addition, Members and co-opted Members are reminded that unless their disclosable pecuniary interest is registered on the register of interests or is the subject of a pending notification to the Monitoring Officer, they are required to disclose those disclosable pecuniary interests at the meeting. This should be done by completing the Disclosure of Interest form and handing it to the Democratic Services representative at the start of the meeting. The Chair will then invite Members to make their disclosure orally at the commencement of Agenda item 3. Completed disclosure forms will be provided to the Monitoring Officer for inclusion on the Register of Members’ Interests.

 

Minutes:

There were no disclosures of interest made at the meeting.

 

10/21

Urgent Business (if any)

To receive notice of any business not on the agenda which in the opinion of the Chair, by reason of special circumstances, be considered as a matter of urgency.

 

Minutes:

There were no items of urgent business.

 

11/21

Review of Brick by Brick Croydon Ltd pdf icon PDF 95 KB

The Committee is asked to review the Review of Brick by Brick Croydon Ltd report with a view to submitting and conclusions or recommendation to Cabinet on 18 February 2021.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Scrutiny & Overview Committee considered a Cabinet report setting out the findings of a review conducted by PwC on possible options for the future of Brick by Brick.  The Leader introduced the report, during which the following was highlighted:

·      The options that were due to be put before Cabinet were set out as two sets of detailed analysis by PwC.

·      Progress had been made since the first phase of the review was provided in November 2020, with the appointment of non-executive directors with significant financial experience. The directors had made significant progress since being appointed, with significant work underway to review the loan agreement.

·      The second phase of the review, due to be brought to Cabinet, was designed to support the organisation on how best to move forward with Brick by Brick. This included a detailed options analysis, which was based upon the fundamental principle of minimising the potential loss to the public.

·      The first phase of the review had set out seven options and following the second phase, an additional option had emerged which would allow the Council to conclude its relationship with Brick by Brick by October 2021. This involved completing work on most of the sites that were due to be completed by October 2021 and marketing the remaining sites for sale

·      It was emphasised that Brick by Brick was a matter for public concern and while much of the discussion could be held in public, any discussion of commercially sensitive information had to be taken in private, hence why there are Part A and Part B elements of this meeting.

Following the introduction by the Leader, the Committee had the opportunity to ask questions on the report. The first question was a request for further clarification as to why there were part B elements to the meeting. Officers advised that this was due to the sale option, outlined in the report, which was commercially sensitive information. Had the information set out in the restricted papers been made public, it may allow a potential purchaser to make a lower bid, if they were aware of the figures reported in the paper.  The decision to only make this information available in Part B had been reviewed and supported by legal, as it was important to protect the Council’s interest and minimise any potential loss.

There was a concern about access to information rights and whether these were being interpreted in a liberal manner. It was questioned whether the Council could commit to releasing the information into the public domain, once the sale option was concluded. Officers confirmed that once considerations that led to the information to be considered as Part B ceased, further consideration would be given to whether it could be made publically available.

It was question whether the same recommendations set out in the report would be made at another local authority that did not have the same financial challenges as Croydon. Officers advised that in line with the Wednesday Principle, all local authorities had to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11/21

12/21

Interim Asset Disposal Strategy pdf icon PDF 94 KB

The Committee is asked to review the Interim Asset Disposal Strategy, with a view to forming conclusions and recommendations for the Cabinet on the content.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Scrutiny and Overview Committee considered a Cabinet report which set out an Interim Asset Investment Strategy. The Committee was asked for its feedback on the report, which would be report to the Cabinet during its consideration of the item. The Deputy Leader & Cabinet Member for Croydon Renewal and the Interim Director of Homes and Social Investment introduced the item during which the following was noted:

·      The paper reflects that the Council accepted the need to review all of its assets and undertake an assets disposal programme, in order to reduce its borrowing requirements and allow for a greater focus on its core business. Any asset disposal would be done with robust governance arrangements in place and in a controlled manner.

·      The strategy would sit together with a new Asset Corporate Plan, which was being created, and to complement the Medium Term Financial Strategy.

·      The Strategy would ensure that best consideration was given by balancing the economic climate against the timing of any disposals.

·      This was an Interim Asset Disposal Strategy, which sought to set the scene and provide a framework for managing the initial proposals. It would lead to the creation of a stronger framework for future years.

·      It was emphasised that retention of any assets past their reasonable life was not good asset management practice and the strategy sought to address this in order to reduce costs, which particularly needed given the Council’s current financial circumstances.

·      Delivery of a successful strategy would be contingent on the use of professional resources, that would need to be brought in to handle specific matters of around the sale and some sites would require public consultation.

Following introductions, the committee was provided the opportunity to ask questions on the content of the report. The first question concerned the Council assets that had been reviewed in the creation of the strategy as it did not appear to have taken account of all Council assets. It was confirmed that the strategy had only looked at property assets as this was the brief given.

As a follow-up, it was questioned why other assets had not been explored, as the ones listed in the report seemed to be those that were easier to review. It was advised that any assets not included would be part of the wider asset management plan, which would be worked on in the coming months. The interim Strategy placed an emphasis on assets that were either costly or difficult to maintain, were easily marketable, had a low value to the Council and had many reputational risks and holding costs. The Committee agreed that further clarification was needed in the report as this criteria could not be clearly identified.

A commitment was given that the wider Asset Management Plan, exploring future and broader assets not included in this interim plan, would be presented to Scrutiny and Overview Committee for feedback prior to any consideration by Cabinet.

It was highlighted that the list of assets under consideration for disposal was set in the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12/21

13/21

Feedback on the Equalities Strategy pdf icon PDF 94 KB

The Scrutiny & Overview Committee met informally on 28 January 2021, to review the draft Equalities Strategy. The notes from this meeting are attached.

 

The Committee is asked to formally note the conclusions or recommendations arising from this meeting.

Minutes:

This item presented the feedback from an informal meeting of the Committee, which looked at a draft of the new Equalities Strategy. The Chair asked if any of the Members wanted to make comments prior to approval of the feedback notes.

Reference was made to a paragraph in the paper which stated that ‘it was noted that the Children and Young People’s Sub-Committee had discussed the potential of increasing the number of children in the borough with access to computers or the internet and would like to have this incorporated into the strategy. It was asked that that this be expanded to include the context that consideration be given to the disproportionate impact of covid-19 on some children in the Borough and in order to achieve equality of opportunity it would take a number of years of major educational catch-up.

Resolved: The Scrutiny and Overview Committee agreed that the notes, as amended, be agreed.

14/21

Exclusion of the Press and Public

The following motion is to be moved and seconded where it is proposed to exclude the press and public from the remainder of a meeting:

 

“That, under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act, 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information falling within those paragraphs indicated in Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, as amended.”

 

 

Minutes:

The following motion was moved by Councillor Fitzsimons and seconded by Councillor Ben Hassel to exclude the press and public:

 

“That, under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act, 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information falling within those paragraphs indicated in Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, as amended.”

 

The motion was put and it was agreed by the Committee to exclude the press and public for the discussion of the restricted information on the ‘Review of Brick by Brick Croydon Ltd’ and ‘Interim Asset Disposal Strategy’ reports.

 

15/21

Review of Brick by Brick Croydon Ltd

The Committee is asked to review the Review of Brick by Brick Croydon Ltd report with a view to submitting and conclusions or recommendation to Cabinet on 18 February 2021 (Part B).

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The minute for this item is restricted and set out separately in a Part B version of the minutes.

16/21

Interim Asset Disposal Strategy

The Committee is asked to review the Interim Asset Disposal Strategy, with a view to forming conclusions and recommendations for the Cabinet on the content (Part B).

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The minute for this item is restricted and set out separately in a Part B version of the minutes.