Agenda and minutes

Budget Scrutiny Task Group - Public Realm - Wednesday 16 September 2015 7.00 pm

Venue: Room 102, Hackney Town Hall, Mare Street, London E8 1EA. View directions

Contact: Tom Thorn 

No. Item


Election of Chair


1.1  Cllr Gordon was nominated to be Chair of the Public Realm Budget Scrutiny Task Group by a Member.


1.2  The nomination was seconded and Cllr Gordon was elected Chair.



Apologies for Absence


2.1  There were no apologies for absence.


Urgent Items / Order of Business


3.1  There were no urgent items and the order of business was as laid out.


Declarations of Interest


4.1  Cllr Adams declared that he was a leaseholder.


Terms of Reference pdf icon PDF 124 KB

Additional documents:


5.1  The Terms of Reference was noted.


5.2  The Chair noted that the discussions for this evening would be focused on Phase 1 of the programme, involving Members being provided information on and giving consideration to, approaches to budget savings for 2016/17.


Submission from the Public Realm Division pdf icon PDF 132 KB

Additional documents:


6.1.  The Chair introduced this item by explaining that the paper focused on the Public Realm Division of the Council and not other services outside of this which performed waste collection and cleaning functions for Hackney Homes. She advised that the Any Other Business Item of the agenda would focus on questions that Members may have had around cross cutting review work which encompassed all areas of Public Realm functions.


6.2  Tom McCourt, Assistant Director of the Public Realm Division, presented a paper, which was available in the agenda packs.


6.2.  The substantive points made at this stage were that:

·  The Division currently had a budget of around £47 million.


·  It brought an income to the Council of just over £27 million, predominantly from parking operations but also from other growth areas including commercial waste.


·  There were pressures on waste costs; every tonne of waste generated whether residual or for recycling brought a cost within the North London Waste Authority arrangements. Costs were expected to reach £7 million next year and would continue to rise.


·  There was also a challenge of recycling levels plateauing after some years of growth. This was an issue being repeated in other London boroughs, and the Council continued to explore how recycling by block properties could be increased to nearer the levels by street level properties.


·  Markets had been a major cost area for the Council; 4 or 5 years ago costs stood at £1.2 million. Changes since this point meant that at the end of 2015/16 would see the service break even.


·  Work in this area and others had meant that on an overall level since 2010, savings of 39% had been achieved within the Division.


·  With an assumed need for the Division to contribute to the estimated £60 million savings needed in forthcoming years, further options for savings were being explored for consideration by Members. Examples included the possibility of advertising on operations vehicles and revising fees and charges.


·  On a more fundamental level, the street cleansing model would be looked at. On this point however, it was evidenced that the operation worked well in Hackney and at relatively low cost. Considerations around scaling it back would need to include any detrimental impact that this could have in wider areas including inward investment, resident satisfaction and regeneration.


6.3.  Moving onto questions, the Chair noted that the paper showed that 40% of the staff in Streetscene were revenue based and 60% non-revenue based. She asked what the split was in terms of duties.


6.4  Andrew Cunningham, Head of Streetscene advised that revenue based work included routine inspections and maintenance of roads, streets, bridges and road safety work. Fee earning work included capital works, TFL funded work, and work outside new developments funded by Section 106 money.


6.5  In response to a question around the extent to which the Council was making full use of technological advances in its environmental operations, the Assistant Director of Public Realm advised that his services did keep these under  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Any Other Business


7.1  The Chair brought Members attention to two additional papers which had been provided in advance of the meeting. Both have been appended to these Minutes. These were:


  • An update from Joanna Sumner (Assistant Chief Executive), giving some information on the cross cutting review of services falling in the wider area of Public Realm – not just relevant services of the Council but Hackney Homes as well. This cross cutting review would look at models for post the bringing in house of Hackney Homes, and potential savings for 2017 onwards.


  • An update from Hackney Homes’ Estates Cleaning Improvement Board


7.2  Cllr Glanville opened the item by advising that the Public Realm Cross Cutting Review was looking at a range of services within the Council and Hackney Homes, including those managing parks, waste, cleansing and streetscene, The outcomes of this work would be expected to deliver savings from 2017 onwards.


7.3  This said, the Cabinet Member for Housing said that significant work had been done and more was planned to help secure improvements to Hackney Homes services prior to its transition into the Council. One example of work currently underway was the Estate Cleaning Improvement Project which Jim Patterson (Head of Building Maintenance and Estate Environment) would talk through shortly. There were others, and the Cabinet Member for Housing would welcome the opportunity to present to the Group at a later date on further details of these.


7.4  At this point, the Head of Building Maintenance and Estate Environment presented the project update to Members. The full update document has been appended to these Minutes. However, the substantive points made were that:


  • This project had been established in a context of poor perceptions among residents as to cleansing services delivered by Hackney Homes.


  • The Project was looking at how various initiatives – the Decent Homes programme and others – could be better joined up to ensure that the overall effects of them could be better felt. An example was with painting programmes to be delivered to blocks at the same time as other improvement works.


  • There was work going on to identify the estates where cleaners did not have easy access to water, and to take action on this.


  • In terms of areas of corss over with services delivered by Hackney Homes and the Council, these included bulky waste collection, grafitti and flytipping removal and grounds maintenance. Close work was being done with the Council on where and how these services could be aligned.


7.5  At this point the Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods said that she had a clear aspiration for one standard of service across the borough in terms of cleansing and waste management of estates, parks, and streets. She said that she was very keen to work towards these services being managed as one overall function. By achieving full integration and realising the efficiencies which would be involved, the Council could in theory offer a strong and effective service to Registered Housing Providers and others. It was vital  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


Submission from the Leisure and Green Spaces Service pdf icon PDF 131 KB

Additional documents:


8.1  Ian Holland, Head of Leisure and Green Spaces, presented a paper, which was available in the agenda packs.


8.2  The substantive points made at this stage were that:

·  The service incorporated:

o  Leisure with a budget of £1.51 million, the majority of which was allocated to the management fee for the management of Leisure Centres in the borough.

o  Parks, with a budget of £2.93 million, which was largely accounted for by staff costs.

o  Sports and Physical Activity with a budget of £290,000 to fund the delivery of a number of services enabling physical exercise.

·  The amounts above did not include the costs associated with some facilities which were currently corporately funded or paid for via reserves.


·  Significant pressures on the services included:

o  An explosion of usage of Parks as more residents wished to use the much improved green spaces of the borough. This was a huge positive but also brought pressures on already aging infrastructure in terms of paths and buildings.


o  In regards to London Fields in particular, the popularity of the site as a summer venue and an area to socialise in had brought challenges around increased summer cleansing cost and the need to greater enforcement. £310,000 had been allocated from the corporate budget to fund summer cleansing and enforcement, but the service needed to work towards funding this itself.


o  There were growing levels of anti-social behaviour in green spaces as they were increasingly used as party venues.


o  On grounds maintenance, there were demands for the service to use different methods of weed control than Glyphosate. However, this was a cheap and effective method compared to weeding by hand.


o  Increased use of Leisure facilities (Clissold Leisure Centre and London Fields Lido in particular) brought issues around capacity and the ability to continue providing a good service. This was coupled with a number of facilities being advanced in years (the Kings Hall and Brittania Leisure Centres). These issues went alongside (rightfully) expectations of increasing quality.


o  The high use of some facilities compared with a low usage of others (West Reservoir and Queensbridge Sports Centre)


o  Increasing costs of utilities


o  A significant amount of funding for sports and physical activity came from external sources, and was time limited.



·  Since 2010 savings of 38% had been achieved from the Leisure area of the service, predominantly though renegotiations on the management fee for leisure facilities.


·  Parks and Green Spaces had delivered 24% savings, through staff restructures but latterly more from income generating activities.


·  The service was confident that renegotiations on the Leisure contract would bring additional savings.


·  To answer the pressures for additional spending reductions, there were a number of potential options which Members could use the Task Groups to debate:


o  The potential for further income generation from Parks.

This could include greater advertising and the raising of money from ice cream and other catering concessions.


Thought could also be given to the extent that events in parks (and outside of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.


Date of next meeting


9.1  This item was used to discuss whether further meetings around the Phase 1 element of the programme were needed and, if they were, the focus that these should have.


9.2  Further to a discussion among Members, it was agreed that there should be two further meetings before the end of October.


9.3  The first meeting (provisionally suggested as the 5th October) should focus on the ideas for immediate savings for 2016/17 which had been mentioned in the meeting (advertising on refuse vehicles, sponsorship in parks, scope for and potential income from a range of events in parks etc.). These should be put forward with greater clarity about the amounts of savings they would be forecast to deliver and the level of impact that they would have. They should be provided in advance of the meeting for Members to consider.


9.4  Despite the cross cutting Public Realm Review being geared to achieve savings after 2015/16, Members also felt that this area warranted early focus. They asked that detailed proposals on cost savings expected from integration of services and a skeleton proposal for merging services was produced in time for a further meeting on the 21st October.