Agenda and minutes

Scrutiny Streets, Environment & Homes Sub-Committee - Tuesday, 1st February, 2022 6.30 pm

Venue: PLEASE NOTE: There is an issue will the live stream of this meeting and it will be uploaded asap after the meeting

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

Items
No. Item

1/22

Minutes of the Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 523 KB

To approve the minutes of the meetings held on 13 July and 28 September 2021 as an accurate record.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The minutes of the meetings held on 13 July and 28 September 2022 were agreed as an accurate record.

2/22

Disclosure of Interests

Members and co-opted Members of the Council are reminded that, in accordance with the Council’s Code of Conduct and the statutory provisions of the Localism Act, they are required to consider in advance of each meeting whether they have a disclosable pecuniary interest (DPI), an other registrable interest (ORI) or a non-registrable interest (NRI) in relation to any matter on the agenda.  If advice is needed, Members should contact the Monitoring Officer in good time before the meeting.  

If any Member or co-opted Member of the Council identifies a DPI or ORI which they have not already registered on the Council’s register of interests or which requires updating, they should complete the disclosure form which can be obtained from Democratic Services at any time, copies of which will be available at the meeting for return to the Monitoring Officer.

Members and co-opted Members are required to disclose any DPIs and ORIs at the meeting.  

·             Where the matter relates to a DPI they may not participate in any discussion or vote on the matter and must not stay in the meeting unless granted a dispensation.  

·             Where the matter relates to an ORI they may not vote on the matter unless granted a dispensation.   

·             Where a Member or co-opted Member has an NRI which directly relates to their financial interest or wellbeing, or that of a relative or close associate, they must disclose the interest at the meeting, may not take part in any discussion or vote on the matter and must not stay in the meeting unless granted a dispensation.  Where a matter affects the NRI of a Member or co-opted Member, section 9 of Appendix B of the Code of Conduct sets out the test which must be applied by the Member to decide whether disclosure is required.

The Chair will invite Members to make their disclosure orally at the commencement of Agenda item 3, to be recorded in the minutes.

Minutes:

There were no disclosures of interest made at the meeting.

3/22

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 for the consideration of the Streets, Environment & Homes Sub-Committee at this meeting.

4/22

Budget Scrutiny Challenge pdf icon PDF 194 KB

The purpose of the Budget Challenge reports is to provide the Streets, Environment & Homes Sub-Committee with sufficient information to reach a view on the following 2022/23 budget proposals:-

1.     Independent Travel Service

2.     Grounds Maintenance

3.     Emergency & Temporary Accommodation (To follow)

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Sub-Committee considered reports set out on pages 19 to 30 of the agenda and in the agenda supplement, which provided information on three specific budget areas identified for scrutiny as part of the budget setting process. The findings of the Sub-Committee would be reported to the next meeting of the Scrutiny & Overview Committee. The three areas identified for further scrutiny by the Sub-Committee were:-

1.     Independent Travel Service

2.     Grounds Maintenance

3.     Emergency & Temporary Accommodation

The Independent Travel Service section of this item was introduced by the Council’s Head of Independent Travel, Daniel Shepherd, who outlined the current pressures to the service, in particular the increased demand for the service of special education needs travel. There was a statutory requirement for the Council to provide appropriate travel for students with special needs, the cost of which was increasing with due to inflationary pressures. The Individual pressure around high-cost routes due to the needs of students also needed to be managed.

Following the introduction to this section of the report, the Sub-Committee was given the opportunity to question the information provided. The first question asked whether there had been any work carried out to explore the possibility of forming sub-regional partnerships for SEND transport and whether this would improve the budget pressure. It was confirmed that these type of arrangements were in place and other options for optimise efficiencies were being explored.

As it was noted that the travel application process had been reduced from 46% to 43%, it was questioned whether this would reduce further for 2022-23? It was clarified that the percentage of people being transported was relative to those who may be eligible but not using the service. The percentage was higher this year due to the challenge of rolling out travel training because of the pandemic.

It was questioned whether adherence to policy would lead to some families being excluded? It was highlighted that there were exceptional circumstances that would considered through the challenge process. Decisions were based on the need of the students, with support available to enable families to meet the policy requirements and to help facilitate specific difficulties.

In response to a question about whether taxis were used for multiple drops, it was advised that consideration was given to a variety of different ways of providing transport, to ensure the service was optimised to deliver the best efficiency. It was advised that the cost of using the Council’s in-house provision equated to approximately £3,000 per pupil per year. The cost for external providers was higher, equating to approximately £10,000 per pupil per year.

It was questioned whether the growth programme included the cost for additional travel trainers? It was advised that there was no plan to increase the current number of travel trainers and those in post were working towards clearing the backlog.

The Sub-Committee discussed the potential risks to the independent travel budget and noted that there was not currently an earmarked reserve in place. Consideration needed to be given to possible  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4/22

5/22

Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Rent Setting and Draft Budget 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 82 KB

The Streets, Environment & Homes Sub-Committee is asked to consider the information, to be provided, with a view to, as part of the wider budget scrutiny process, forming conclusions on the deliverability and sustainability of the Housing Revenue Account budget, as well as ensuring there is an understanding of the key risks.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Sub-Committee considered a Cabinet report set out in a supplement to the main agenda which provided information on the Housing Revenue Account Rent Setting and draft Budget for 2022-23. The decisions set out in the report would be considered by the Cabinet on 7 February 2022 and feedback from the Sub-Committee would be reported to this meeting.

The report was introduced by the Cabinet Member for Homes, Councillor Patricia Hay-Justice, who reminded the Sub-Committee of the background to the rent setting process and how any funds would be used. It was confirmed that the proposed 4.1% rent increase was within Government guidelines and at a similar to the vast majority of other London Boroughs.

The Sub-Committee highlighted that it was a risk for the Cabinet to agree the HRA budget without having agreed the HRA Business Plan, as without this it would not be possible to make a judgement on whether the budget was sufficient to deliver the plan. It was acknowledged that it would have been preferable to have the Business Plan in place before the budget, but as it was in the process of being developed, this work had informed the budget. It was confirmed that the Business Plan would be presented to the Cabinet on 21 March 2022 for its approval. Other risks that need to be monitored included the introduction of the new IT system in the service and available staffing capacity to deliver the level of change required.

There was widespread concern across the Sub-Committee about the potential impact the rent increase may have upon residents, particularly when combined with the overall increase in the cost of living nationally. In response it was highlighted that rents in Croydon were comparatively low to other local authorities and had not increased in the past four years.  There was a backlogs of repairs, following the pandemic, which needed to be addressed and funding from the increase was needed to provide these services and deliver a balanced budget.

There was agreement amongst the Sub-Committee that it would be difficult for tenants to understand why a 4.1% rent increase was being proposed when they would not have seen any improvement in the level of service provided. Two potential mechanisms for acknowledging the views of tenants were identified by the Sub-Committee. Firstly, it was agreed that the possibility of deferring the rent increase, if only for a short period, needed further exploration to establish whether it would be viable. If it proved to be unviable, there needed to be a greater level of engagement with residents to explain why the increase was needed.

The Sub-Committee understood that there was a range of factors that might make deferring the rent increase unviable, such as the need to fund improvement work, rising inflationary costs and whether the housing regulator would permit rent to be increased later in the year. As such, the Sub-Committee agreed that work needed to be undertaken prior to the Cabinet’s consideration of the rent increase to establish whether  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5/22

6/22

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:

This motion was not required.