Venue: Room 102, Hackney Town Hall, Mare Street, London E8 1EA. View directions
Contact: Tracey Anderson
Apologies for Absence
1.1 Apologies for absence was received from Scrutiny Panel members Cllr Mete Coban and Cllr Anna Lynch. Apologies were also received from Cllr Nick Sharman and Cllr Caroline Woodley.
Urgent Items / Order of Business
2.1 It was agreed that item 5, the Councils review of Advice Services would be taken at item 4 (update from Group Director for Finance).
2.2 As Cllr Gordon would be absent for Item 5 the Review of Advice Services (see 3.2), Cllr Hayhurst would Chair this item.
Declaration of Interest
3.1 Cllr Patrick, was a member of the Management Committee of Hackney Marsh Partnership which received grants for advice services and was part of the recent review, so would withdraw from the room for item 5; the Councils Review of Advice Services.
3.2 Cllr Gordon (Chair) spoke on behalf of the Law Centre (which was part of the Advice Centres Review) at Cabinet on 25th March and would therefore withdraw from the room for item 5, the Councils Review of Advice Services. This item would therefore be Chaired by Cllr Hayhurst.
4.1 The Chair welcomed Ian Williams. Group Director for Finance and Resources to the meeting. The Director presented two reports that had been submitted to the Panel: an Update on the Council’s Property Portfolio and the Monthly Financial Position from January 2019.
4.2 The paper summarised a number of developments that had taken place in the Council’s property portfolio since 2012/13. The Council had made a concerted effort to invest in its assets and to ensure that these provided a return. This approach has helped to increase the income generated from the Councils HRA and General Fund portfolio. The Panel noted that rental income from HRA properties had increased from £1.6m in 2012/13 to £2.4m in 2018/19 and that rental income from General Fund Properties had increased from £1.5m to £7m over the same period. These income streams had been used to protect front-line services.
4.3 The Council had also been able to reinvest in properties that were previously used for corporate accommodation. For example, the Council had bought the lease for Keltan House and had re-let the property for much needed workspace in Hackney. Keltan house now generated an annual income of £1.25m to the council.
4.4 The council had also made a number of strategic acquisitions within the borough to enable the council to fulfil its place shaping role. For example, the council had acquired the building next to Hackney Central which would enable the council to shape and influence the future development of Hackney Central town centre.
4.5 A number of new acquisitions were highlighted to the Panel which included the purchase of the freehold of Sherry’s Wharf. The freehold was purchased for £12.75m, which had protected the council from substantive rent increases which were planned for this (previously leased) property.
4.6 The Council constantly assessed the local property market to identify any properties or land which could be of strategic importance to the council. It was noted however, that there were no plans at present for further acquisitions.
4.7 The Panel requested further details on the site in Hackney Central currently occupied by Tesco supermarkets.
· In response, it was clarified that the Council had purchased the site two years ago, but this did not include the arches which were currently used by Fashion Village. In respect of progress for this development, it was noted that the council acquired the site and then granted a long-term lease to a developer to bring forward plans for the site. The developer was in ongoing discussions with council planners about development plans. It was confirmed that any income due from this arrangement had been paid to the council and represented an ongoing income stream. There were stipulations within the lease which required the developer to agree development options by certain times, which if not completed would allow the Council to exercise a different course of action.
4.8 The Panel sought to clarify if there were any risks posed with the Tesco site should the developer not come ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
Cllr Hayhurst in the Chair
5.1 The Chair welcomed all those in attendance for this item, and reminded those present that this was a meeting held in public, and not a public meeting, and that questions from the public would only be allowed at the discretion of the Chair and time permitting. It was also reiterated that Scrutiny Panel was not a decision-making body, and this item was to scrutinise the process for the Review of Advice Centre Services.
5.2 Sonia Khan, Head of Policy and Partnerships outlined the purpose, process and outcomes of the Review of Advice Centre Services. The key points from this presentation are outlined below:
· The model for the review of advice centres was agreed at Cabinet in October 2018, and that the decisions taken within that review were endorsed by Cabinet in March 2019. The panel noted that the total budget for advice centres had been protected, therefore decisions taken about budget allocations to individual advice centre providers was based on the outcomes of the open competitive process and not as a requirement to achieve savings from this budget.
· A ‘Systems Thinking’ approach had been used to review Advice Centre provision as this focused on the perspective of clients and front-line services rather than a top-down approach.
· Until 5 years ago there was no framework for funding advice centres. Funding until then was provided in two ways: grants and an open competitive process. In 2014/15, funding levels for advice services had been maintained and were ring-fenced. A policy objective framework had been developed to support advice centre provision.
· A review of advice centres had also been undertaken at this time which involved advice providers, but did not assess advice given in-situ. When grants were awarded in 2015/2016, it was apparent that there was not a collective view of the client experience of local advice services and that this should be incorporated in to future funding decisions. Therefore, a Systems Thinking approach, which placed the service user at the heart of the review, was endorsed by Cabinet in January 2016.
· The process for the Systems Thinking review had been agreed with advice centre providers and Advice UK were commissioned to lead the review. The review covered six key lines of enquiry: the customer experience, client flow, timeliness, activity demand, reach and workforce. The first phase of work commenced in August 2016 and involved talking to providers and clients as well as observing advice sessions and reviewing case files.
· In February 2018, a wider set of providers (not just ones that were already funded) were invited to participate into Phase 2 of the review. A very similar process was adopted to Phase 1, except that the Council stepped back and invited providers to work together and to observe practice. This led to the development of the new advice model which was shared with providers in September 2018. Cabinet endorsed the new model in October 2018, at this stage providers were asked to submit proposals based ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
6.1 Cllr Gordon resumed as Chair of the meeting. The Chair welcomed representatives from Joint Unions to the meeting. The Unions had written to the Panel to highlight concerns with the Councils process for dealing with workforce and work place issues, with particular reference to discrimination and bullying. The Joint Unions submitted a report and made a number of recommendations.
6.2 The Chair informed the meeting the Union would be recording the meeting.
Joint Union Presentation
6.3 The Joint Unions (Unison, Unite and GMB) withdrew their support for the independent investigation in to bullying and harassment. The attached report highlighted the Joint Union concerns and recommendations for action arising from this investigation. The following provides a summary of the key points from the presentation.
· It was suggested experiences of bullying and harassment were not isolated within the call centre but other similar experiences had been recorded elsewhere across the Council. Bullying, harassment and discrimination in the workplace has continued to affect an unacceptable number of staff.
· Whilst the Joint Unions believed that the Council was not racist, it was suggested that further work was necessary to improve equalities in the workplace. It was acknowledged that the Council would be rolling-out diversity training for managerial staff and had recently launched its Inclusive Leadership Programme.
· The Joint Unions believed that proposals put forward by the Council did not go far enough in responding to their concerns and had therefore made a number of recommendations for improvement (see section 2, page 64 of the submitted report).
· It was noted that Unions were in the process of surveying their membership and consulting shop stewards to further identify instances of bullying, harassment and discrimination across the council. Initial findings had revealed problems in reporting incidents, staff not being taken seriously and fear of retaliatory action by managers.
· Although a staff survey was undertaken in October and November 2018, the results of the Staff Survey had not been released and the Joint Unions looked forward to this data being released promptly.
· It was pointed out there was over representation of black and other minority ethnic groups in lower pay scales of employees. Conversely, there was an over-representation of black and minority ethnic staff in cases of disciplinary action. It was suggested that similar issues were being noted in the incidence of suspensions among black and other minority ethnic groups.
· The importance of staffing and workforce statistics was highlighted to the panel and it had been recommended that disciplinary data should be carefully monitored to establish any trends or patterns among those staff affected.
· The Council had made a number of service improvements and initiatives in response to the Commission for Racial Equality report (p123-34 of agenda pack). In this pamphlet the council recognised the importance of analysing workforce data and scrutinising the impact of corporate decisions on staff.
· The workforce profile from 2017/18 indicated that 4,300 staff were employed by the council, though this data did not include agency workers. This report also suggested that the ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
7.1 The Chair introduced Tim Shields (Chief Executive), Sonia Khan (Head of Policy & Partnerships) and Dan Paul (Director of Human Resources) in attendance for this item.
7.2 The Chief Executive highlighted a number of issues relating to the wider context for this work in Hackney.
· The council delivered a wide range of services 24-7 which included the provision of social care services to its most vulnerable residents and the management of over 20,000 local homes. The council also operated an effective street cleansing service, supported a number of award-winning parks and hosted a wide range of cultural events for the community.
· The most recent resident’s survey reported that 73% of local people were happy living in Hackney and trusted the council which was above the national average.
· Despite the pressures on local government at this time, the council was still moving forward and continued to build new homes and new schools as well as improving the boroughs parks and other infrastructure.
· The council is also at the forefront of new developments, such as integrated commissioning between health and social care services. Similarly, the council is setting up a housing company and an energy company.
· Despite bringing both children’s and housing services back in house, the council has reduced the number of management staff across the organisation which has helped to protect front line services.
· The requirement to innovate and reform in response to the central government cuts to local government funding has meant that the council is very busy. In this context, staff were required to work more efficiently and smarter.
· The expectations of the council from local residents had also increased.
· The Council employed the largest number of apprentices among other London boroughs and also offered placements and work opportunities for people with special educational needs or a disability. 85% of participants in the apprenticeship programme were from BAME backgrounds.
· In the context of the above, staff were provided with training and development opportunities as well as a wider package of support and benefits.
· In addition, it was important that all staff were engaged and contributed to the council’s vision of being the best local authority employer in London. 90 staff participated in developing this vision for the council and all staff were consulted.
7.3 Sonia Kahn, Head of Policy and Partnerships is also the equalities lead for the council. This work ensured that the council had appropriate strategies and plans in place to respond to its equalities duties. The council also approved the Single Equalities Scheme in 2018 which focused on inclusive leadership and workforce diversity.
7.4 The attached report provided an overview of the key equality issues for the council which included:
· Under representation of BAME and disabled staff at senior levels;
· Under representation of disabled staff at all levels;
· Under representation of Charedi community at all staff levels;
· Variations in workforce diversity between directorates;
· Lower rates of staff satisfaction among disabled and BAME staff members in the last three surveys.
7.5 Five work strands had been ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
Waste and Recycling Review Group
8.1 Cllr Billington the Chair of the Waste and Recycling Budget Task and Finish Group updated the Panel on the progress of the group. The key points are summarised below:
· The BTFG had spent time exploring the financial implications of the new Energy Recovery Facility in Edmonton, which would replace the existing plant processing the Council's waste as it was reaching the end of its life.
· The plant would be financed via 'menu pricing' by the 7 boroughs (including Hackney) which made up the North London Waste Authority. This meant that the amount boroughs were required to pay was determined by the volume and profile of waste each produced borough (e.g. recyclables, residual waste, green waste).
· Increased waste costs could be mitigated by reducing residual waste, and increasing levels of recycling. Increasing recycling rates was therefore a significant driver.
· The Mayor of London's Environment Strategy required boroughs to submit Reduction and Recycling Plans (RRPs) which sets out how the individual boroughs intend to contribute to the London wide recycling targets. Modelling for Hackney predicted a recycling level of 33% by 2020 (currently at 27.5% in 2018/19).
· Although it would be challenging for the council to reach this target, there were a number of developments which could assist they included; improved estate recycling, development of re-use hubs, and the development of a municipal energy company.
· The Council continues to be a high net producer of residual, unrecyclable waste which is more expensive to process and would need to identify ways to reduce this and minimise future costs.
· Hackney's Reduction and Recycling Plan will be submitted to Cabinet in June which will set out a broad direction of travel for driving up recycling rate in Hackney. The Task Group is and will be monitoring and reviewing the RRP as it is developed.
· A third and final meeting of the BTFG is planned that will involve a visit to an estate where recycling improvements have been delivered.
· The output of the group will be a short paper. This will set out the Group's support (or not) of the RRP, and any recommendations related to the plans / options / areas for exploration set out in it.
8.2 Cllr Maxwell, the Chair of the Integrated Commissioning BTFG the panel on the progress of the group. The title of this work ‘putting the City and Hackney pound for best use to support mental health’. The key points are summarised below:
· This was a complex picture for whilst demand for mental health services had grown, there were numerous agencies involved in supporting such services, some funding of which was ring-fenced.
· The BTFG wanted to look at the whole client journey through the mental health system, in particular focusing on those early interventions and support which may reduce more costly later interventions.
· The BTFG has met with service representatives East London Foundation Trust and Commissioners (CCG). Questioning has focused on whether the borough is targeting spend where it will have ... view the full minutes text for item 8.
9.1 The work programme item, including a discussion of the new work programme for 2019/20 was deferred until the next meeting.
10.1 The minutes of the last meeting were approved.
Any Other Business