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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.
There were no disclosures of interest made at the meeting.
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.
The Chair advised that Committee that in light of recent media coverage of the poor living conditions experienced by council housing tenants at 1-87 Regina Road, an urgent update had been requested for this meeting.
To receive an update on the Council’s response to the housing conditions at Regina Road and the terms of reference for the subsequent investigation.
The Scrutiny & Overview Committee was provided with an overview of the support provided to the tenants at 1-87 Regina Road, following national media coverage on the living conditions at two of the flats within the block. A copy of the presentation delivered at the meeting can be found on the Council’s website at the following link: -
The overview was delivered to the Committee by the Interim Executive Director for Place, Sarah Hayward. In addition to the information provided in the slides that can be found on the above link, the following information was also noted:-
· The poor living conditions found in the two flats at 1-87 Regina Road was first reported in the media eight days ago. The Council only became aware of the severity of the situation in flats 7 and 15 shortly before the weekend, just prior to the news reports. Once the Council became aware, the Tenancy team acted quickly to move the tenants out of the affected properties. The tenant in flat 7 had been rehomed and the tenants in flats 15 and 31 were being supported to find alternative accommodation, while repairs were made
· Assurance was given that the water leak, which caused the damage, had been located and stopped, with remedial action underway. Further leaks had subsequently been identified within the block, with other tenants in the process of being decanted to enable repair work to be undertaken. The Council had sixteen other blocks of a similar design, which were also being investigated as a result of the issues at 1 – 87 Regina Road.
· The Council had made a self-referral to the housing regulator and the Health & Safety Executive, as a result of the situation at Regina Road. The Ark Collective had been commissioned to carry out an independent investigation, which had already started. The investigator was on site today (30 March 2021) and a verbal report was expected by Wednesday, 7 April, before the full written report was provided on Friday, 9 April. The findings of this investigation would inform a wider improvement plan that would address the issues identified within the Council’s housing services.
The Leader of the Council, Councillor Hamida Ali, attended the meeting, advising the Committee that their feedback on the information provided was sought and confirmed that a further report presenting the findings from the investigation would also be brought to scrutiny for its input. It was highlighted that the position of the Administration, which had previously been outlined at the Council meeting on 29 March, was focussed on addressing the damage and looking after the tenants. There was a need to understand where there had been failures in the system, which had led to residents’ concerns not being addressed. The independent investigation was the start of the work needed to identify these failings. The issues experienced by the tenants at 1 – 87 Regina Road fed into wider cultural concerns of the Administration about how the Council interacted with its tenants, with it ... view the full minutes text for item 28/21
The Scrutiny & Overview Committee is asked to:
1. Receive and accept the findings of the CfGS Scrutiny Improvement Review,
2. Agree that the recommendation will be incorporated into the Croydon Renewal Plan,
3. Recommend to Council that the CfGS Scrutiny Improvement Review for noting,
4. Agree that Recommendations 1, 5 & 6 are prioritised for delivery.
5. Agree to commission the CfGS to develop a training programme for Scrutiny which will be incorporated into Council’s overall programme for Member Learning & Development to be overseen by the Ethics Committee.
6. Work with the CfGS to develop a work programme that is focussed on the priorities of the Council and allows Scrutiny to add value to the ongoing improvement journey.
7. Agree to set up a Scrutiny Co-ordination Group to monitor and steer the scrutiny work programme.
8. Note that an overarching Information Protocol is being developed for Members taking into account the recommendations in the CFGS Scrutiny Improvement Plan and the Croydon Renewal Plan.
The Scrutiny & Overview Committee considered a report from the Centre for Governance and Scrutiny (CfGS) which presented the findings from their review of the scrutiny function in Croydon. Ed Hammond, the Deputy Chief Executive from CfGS, was in attendance at the meeting to introduce the report. During the introduction, the following points were noted:-
Members of the Committee commended the quality of the report and agreed that the recommendations targeted the right areas for improvement. It was also agreed that the need for Scrutiny to have access the information it required to inform its work was essential. It was advised that as part of the improvement plan, CfGS would be working with Members and officers to establish what this meant in practice, with work to resolve long standing cultural issues also important to ensuring Scrutiny had the right tools to perform as expected.
It was suggested that prioritisation of the work programme sometimes suffered from a lack of understanding of the value of scrutiny by officers, with a need for a more strategic view to be taken on work planning. It was also difficult to define what Scrutiny should be focusing upon without having sight of any performance framework. Consideration also need to be given to how Scrutiny coordinated its work with that of the General Purposes and Audit Committee.
Although there would not be a cost to the Council for the ongoing support provided by the CfGS to implement the recommendations from the Scrutiny Improvement Review, ... view the full minutes text for item 29/21
The Scrutiny & Overview Committee is asked to review the information provided from the first stage of the Libraries Public Consultation and is asked for its feedback on the following:-
1. The consultation activities undertaken so far.
2. Options for achieving the savings target within the Libraries service.
The Scrutiny & Overview Committee considered a report from the Cabinet Member for Culture and Regeneration, Councillor Oliver Lewis, setting out the findings from the first phase of the libraries consultation and asked for the Committee’s views on the options due to be put forward for the second phase.
During the introduction to the report, the Cabinet Member advised the Committee that the budget agreed by Council on 8 March had set a savings target of £500,000 from a £3.5m budget for the Libraries service. Potential options for achieving these savings, including the possible closure of five libraries, a consultation on the way forward had started earlier this year. The results of that consultation, along with proposals for the next phase of consultation, were presented to the Committee for its input and any recommendations arising from the discussion of this item would be submitted to the Cabinet.
Elizabeth Ash, a representative from the Save Croydon Libraries Campaign (SCLC), had been invited to address the Committee by the Chair, to present the views of SCLC on the proposals. It was advised that in the view of SCLC insufficient information had been provided with the consultation to allow an informed response, which had resulted in a flawed process that should not move forward. Furthermore, by carrying out the consultation during the pandemic and without contacting library users, it further invalidated the outcome. The consultation seemed to be unfairly focused toward a delivery model that used volunteer run services, rather than being open to all options. There were a number of other concerns raised about the consultation process, such as the quality and consistency of the information provided, the lack of communication about the extension to the consultation deadline and the perceived lack of regard to equalities. In conclusion, any reduction of the library service was viewed as a false economy, which would have far reaching consequence for the borough.
The Cabinet Member thanked the representative from SCLC for their contribution and acknowledged it was important to provide an opportunity for all contributors to input into the consultation process. In response to the comments from SCLC it was highlighted that the Council had worked with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to ensure the consultation process complied with best practice. There had been a good level of response to the consultation with over 2000 responses received and the various options suggested in the report demonstrated that it had been a genuine consultation. By running the consultation in two phases, it provided the Council with the opportunity to take on board ideas from the public on how best to achieve the savings the Council was required to deliver.
Prior to questioning the Cabinet Member, the Chair re-emphasised that the £500,000 budget saving had been approved as part of the budget setting process. As such it was outside of the scope set for the Committee, which was to provide comment on the consultation process and the options being put forward for the second phase ... view the full minutes text for item 30/21
The Scrutiny & Overview Committee is asked to:-
1. Agree to set up a task and finish group to undertake a review on the future of the Town Centre in Croydon.
2. To review and agree the scope for the Task and Finish Group, set out in the report.
The Scrutiny & Overview Committee considered a report setting out the proposed terms of reference for a task and finish group that would look at the future of the town centre in its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Committee RESOLVED to:-
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.”
This motion was not required.