Agenda and minutes

Westminster Scrutiny Commission - Wednesday 27th September, 2017 6.30 pm

Venue: 5 Strand, London, WC2 5HR

Contact: Andrew Palmer, Senior Committee and Governance Officer  Email: Tel: 020 7641 2802

No. Item



To note any changes to the membership.


1.1       There were no changes to Membership. All Members of the Commission were present.


Declarations of Interest

To receive declarations by Members and Officers of the existence and nature of any personal or prejudicial interests in matters on this agenda.


2.1       No declarations were received.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 281 KB

To approve the Minutes of the meeting held on 24 May 2017.


3.1       The Minutes of the meeting held on 24 May 2017 were approved as a correct record.


3.2       Matters Arising


3.2.1    Minute 4.6 - Sustainability & Transformation Plan (STP): Members repeated the request made at the Adults, Health & Public Protection Policy & Scrutiny Committee to receive the minutes from meetings of the Joint Health & Care Transformation Group, which sought to deliver the STP for North West London. The Chief Executive agreed to clarify whether the minutes were available.


The Leader of the Council pdf icon PDF 177 KB

To receive an update on current and forthcoming issues from Councillor Nickie Aiken (Leader of the City Council).


4.1       Councillor Nickie Aiken (Leader of the City Council) provided an update on current and forthcoming issues within her portfolio, which included progress in the City Plan and the interim statement of Westminster’s new approach to housing delivery; Community Cohesion; and the move from tri-borough to biborough.


4.2.1    The Commission discussed the possible effect of Brexit, and noted the impact that it could have on the provision of social care; the labour supply for areas such as the construction industry; and on specialist areas of research. An article in the Evening Standard and supporting press release had reported that the Leader had joined with the Leaders of RB Kensington & Chelsea and LB Wandsworth to write to Michel Barnier (EU Chief Negotiator), urging him to work more closely with the government to provide clarity and secure the residencies of European nationals following Brexit. The Leader acknowledged that Westminster’s EU residents were Council Tax payers, who played a significant role in their neighbourhoods and in providing essential services in many public sector areas. The Commission agreed that both sides needed to recognise the human element of the negotiations, and prioritise securing the rights of residents.


4.2.2    The Commission also discussed the potential impact of Brexit on the business and reputation of the City, and noted that there were indications of a softening in the development market and in the letting of commercial space. A large proportion of essential skills in the health sector and building industry were currently provided by EU nationals, which had caused concerns over the labour supply post-Brexit. Concerns over the future of specialist research were also being raised, as grants at a number of institutions and universities were at risk, and foreign nationals were unsure of their future status and were seeking jobs elsewhere.


4.3.1    The Leader commented on progress in the delivery of the City Plan, and on the commitment to provide 1,800 affordable homes by 2022. The Commission noted that the property industry and landowners were aware of the reasons for the greater focus on the provision of affordable homes, and had shown a better understanding and willingness to work with the City Council.


4.3.2    Members highlighted the need to consider innovative building techniques in new developments, which could make better use of available space by delivering a greater number of smaller units while also meeting the criteria for size set by the Mayor of London. It was acknowledged that there would still be some exceptional circumstances where the payment of a commuted sum could be more appropriate than the provision of affordable homes.


4.3.3    The Commission commented on the number of young people and families who were seeking accommodation in Westminster, and discussed the benefits of revisiting existing planning consents which had not been implemented, and which could provide rented accommodation for people who were active and present in the community. Members suggested that living space could also be increased by a change to planning conditions that would ensure residential elements within properties  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12.


The Chief Executive pdf icon PDF 271 KB

To receive an update from the Chief Executive on key issues of corporate interest.


5.1       Stuart Love (Acting Interim Chief Executive) provided an update on matters of corporate interest, which included the corporate response to Grenfell; the Health & Social Care Sustainability & Transformation Plan (STP); Devolution and Public Service Transformation.


5.2.1    The Commission discussed the City Council’s role in responding to the Grenfell fire, and sought clarification of the organisational impact of Westminster’s involvement. The Acting Interim Chief Executive confirmed that the City Council had been invited to set up a structure at Portland House to accommodate the response team, and to oversee the relocation of displaced residents. The Commission commended Officers and Members for taking a leading role when required, and highlighted the cross-departmental working that had involved 150 members of staff working long hours over four weeks. Westminster’s Emergency Plan had been considered a model of best practice, and the City Council had been complimented on how it had responded to Grenfell and on the effectiveness of its staff. The Acting Interim Page 3 Chief Executive confirmed that diverting resources had affected the City Council’s ability to perform, particularly in the housing function and in the stock for housing allocation.


5.2.2    The Commission discussed the impact that working closely with the aftermath of Grenfell may have had on staff. Although the Acting Interim Chief Executive did not consider that morale had been negatively affected, he acknowledged the need for provision to be made for any delayed support or counselling that may be needed. The Commission noted that staff had received honorariums for outstanding additional work, and were also receiving recognition through a Council-wide response which included the Staff Awards, the Staff Conference, and a reception in the Mayor’s Parlour.


5.2.3    The Commission noted that Westminster’s Finance team were still overseeing financial element of the response, and sought clarification of the financial implications for the City Council. Stuart Love confirmed that a Memorandum of Understanding agreed with the government, the Greater London Authority and London Councils provided for mutual aid in the case of emergency, but had not been designed for a situation like Grenfell. It had however been agreed that local authorities could reclaim staffing expenses over £100,000 which were incurred in assisting neighbouring boroughs. The Commission noted that while Westminster had performed some functions for which it would not be reimbursed, it would be eligible to claim staffing costs associated with the Grenfell response from LB Kensington & Chelsea. The Acting Interim Chief Executive confirmed that the City Council would similarly be seeking reimbursement of the rent for the floor at Portland House, together with other costs. Both Westminster and RB Kensington & Chelsea would also be seeking to access funds from the government’s Bellwin scheme, which offered emergency assistance.


5.2.4    The Acting Interim Chief Executive acknowledged that there were still lessons to be learned that would enable the City Council to further improve, and confirmed that a review of Westminster’s response to Grenfell and to the recent terror attacks was currently being undertaken, which would be referred to scrutiny. In view  ...  view the full minutes text for item 13.


2017/18 Work Programme and Action Tracker pdf icon PDF 73 KB

To consider the draft work programme to the Commission.

Additional documents:


6.1       Aaron Hardy (Policy & Scrutiny Officer) presented the current Work Programme for the Commission, and invited Members to consider the scope of items to be presented to the next meeting on 30 November.


6.2       It was agreed that the meeting would focus on the emergency response to the recent fire at Grenfell Tower and the lessons that had been learnt. An update on the Corporate Transformation Programme would also be included in the agenda, or held over to the following meeting in March. The Commission requested that the standing reports from the Leader and Chief Executive include updates on Community Cohesion and Tax Increment Financing (TIF).


6.3       In response to the lateness of reports to Scrutiny Committees, the Commission agreed that agenda papers should be submitted to Committee Members no later than five days before the meeting unless there were special circumstances. It was further agreed that to enable effective scrutiny, responses to requests for further information should be sought within two weeks of the date of the meeting.