Agenda and minutes

Housing, Finance and Corporate Services Policy and Scrutiny Committee - Wednesday 18th November, 2015 7.00 pm

Venue: Rooms 5, 6 & 7 - 17th Floor, Westminster City Hall, 64 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 6 QP. View directions

Contact: Reuben Segal; Senior Committee and Governance Officer  Tel: 020 7641 3160; email:

No. Item



The Head of Committee & Governance Services to report any changes to the membership.


1.1       It was noted that Councillor Adnan Mohammed’s name appeared on the front of the agenda in error and should have referred to Councillor Jacqui Wilkinson.


1.2       It was further noted that Councillor Robert Rigby had replaced Councillor Richard Holloway.


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       The known standing declarations as tabled at the meeting were as follows:




Nature of Interest

Brian Connell



Employee.  Whilst KPMG are no longer the Council’s auditors they are completing some residual work which will conclude before the end of December.


Vincenzo Rampulla

CityWest Homes

Board Member



2.2       Councillor Wilkinson declared in respect of Item 5 that she is a member of the Steering Group that is working to promote Pimlico and Tachbrook Market and that part of her ward covers Tachbrook Street.


2.3       Councillor Mohindra declared that he is a member of the Steering Group looking at the refurbishment of City Hall.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 174 KB

To sign the minutes of the previous meeting as a correct record of proceedings.


3.1       RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting held on 16th September 2015 be signed by the Chairman as a correct record of proceedings.


3.2       ACTION:  Re-circulate information requested at the last meeting on the proactive resettlement approaches of other London local authorities (Anne Pollock, Scrutiny Officer)




Work Programme pdf icon PDF 195 KB

Additional documents:


4.1     The Chairman advised that Councillor Mohindra was representing the Committee at meetings being held between Cabinet Members and Executive Directors to develop budget proposals for the coming year.  He further advised that the Budget Monitoring Task Group which scrutinises the budget proposals was expected to meet in the early New Year.


4.2     RESOLVED:


1.     That the agenda items for the next meeting on the 6th January 2016 be agreed


2.     That the responses to actions and recommendations as set out in the tracker be noted.


4.3     ACTIONS:  Add an item on economic development to the Committee’s Work Programme (Anne Pollock, Scrutiny Officer).




Update from Cabinet Members pdf icon PDF 252 KB

An update from the Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration, Business & Economic Development on key areas within his portfolio is attached.

The Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration, Business & Economic Development will be in attendance to answer questions from the Committee.



5.1     The Committee received written updates from the Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services and the Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration, Business & Economic Development on the key aspects of their portfolios.  A written update from the Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services was circulated following the publication of the agenda.


          Questions to the Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services


5.2     The Cabinet Member was asked about the implementation of the new IT contract.  He advised that the service was provided by BT which operates a similar contract in Cornwall.  Unlike that contract, which it was reported was experiencing difficulties, the Tri-Borough Service was operating well.  He reported that staff satisfaction with the Council’s IT had increased significantly in the last year.


5.3     The Cabinet Member was asked about economies of scale opportunities across Tri-Borough services.  With regards to procurement, he explained that a number of contracts had been developed on a framework model which enables other local authorities to “buy-in” and use the systems or technology.  Where this occurs the Council will be reimbursed a proportion of its costs.  Procurement was not delivered on a Tri-Borough level.  Whether there was merit in moving to such an arrangement was still a matter for consideration.  He highlighted a range of examples where authorities were working together at a sub regional cluster level.  This included the London Borough of Wandsworth entering into an arrangement with London Borough of Richmond.  The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham was part of the West London Alliance while the City Council was a member of the Cross River Partnership which focused on economic development opportunities.  Some of the partnerships were driven by financial considerations while others involved sharing expertise or were based on geographical practicalities.


          Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration, Business & Economic Development


5.4     The Cabinet Member supplemented his written paper with a verbal update on key activities within his portfolio.  This included details of a Federation of Small Business award for the Council’s work on Maida Hill market, activities associated with Westminster Enterprise Week, a recent meeting with the city’s BIDs and an update on the progression of the Housing Bill and the Council’s lobbying activities in relation to it.


5.5     With regards to the renewal of Tollgate Gardens, the Cabinet Member was asked whether the temporary accommodation residents being decanted from the estate would be provided with alternative accommodation within the borough.  He informed the committee that the affected families would be offered accommodation which is both suitable and affordable in line with the council’s policies.



5.6     The Cabinet Member was asked which elements within the draft housing strategy would be taken forward in the Direction of Travel document.  He advised that the document would incorporate the theme on people such as improving health by investing £12 million in tackling cold/damp in over 5800 council homes and the economic opportunities and work programmes included in the theme on prosperity.  The aspects of the draft housing strategy that focused on intermediate housing would  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


The Council's Corporate Property Strategy and current situation pdf icon PDF 427 KB

Report of the Director of Property, Investment and Estates


The following witnesses have been invited to the meeting to assist members in their consideration of the issues:


Nicholas Gill – Director of Investment, Corporation of London


Simon Latham – Principal, Brook Investment Partners


Additional documents:


6.1     The Committee received a report that outlined the Council’s Corporate Property Strategy and the current situation and aspirations for growth over the next five years.


6.2     The paper outlined the breadth of the Council’s property assets – the corporate portfolio, that is the real estate the Council occupies to provide its services, and the investment portfolio from which the Council generates revenue and to highlight the strategic approach to its management.


6.3     Guy Slocombe, Director of Property, Investment & Estates, provided a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the key issues.


6.4     The Committee heard from Nicholas Gill, Director of Investment, Corporation of London and Simon Latham, Principal, Brook Investment Partners, who had been invited to the meeting to assist the Committee in its deliberations.

6.5     At the Committee’s request Mr Gill summarised his professional experience.  He stated that he had worked in the property investment market for 35 years, 30 years of which had been in private practice.  Since October 2010 he had been employed by the Corporation of London as its Director of Investment managing £3 billion of property assets with an objective of maximising revenue and delivering performance. 

6.6     Mr Gill provided the following information about the Corporation of London’s investment portfolio:

·                  It was benchmarked by Investment Property Databank and was a top quartile performer over 20, 15, 10, 5 and 3 year terms. 

·                  Investment was only made in property located in central London; 60% of the portfolio was located in the city of London with 20% based in Westminster and the remainder in Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Camden and Islington. 

·                  The investment portfolio’s objective is to assist the Corporation in being the foremost global financial centre in the world.  The directorate also aims to utilise the portfolio to provide accommodation for the areas small and medium enterprises. 

·                  The portfolio was diversified consisting of 60% offices, 35% retail and 5% industrial. 

·                  The property management function consists of directly managed short term lets and other properties where the Corporation is a landlord and collects ground rent. 

·                  It has pools of available capital to reinvest in the portfolio.  In the last few years it has actively invested capital by undertaking major refurbishments to future proof properties.  This has included installing air conditioning, showers and bike facilities that office tenants are looking for. This has resulted in an increase in rental growth. 

·                  The investment portfolio has a five-year strategy which is reviewed annually.  Business plans are developed for each property and are examined forensically on a regular basis to ensure that the best outcomes are being achieved. 

·                  The investment and corporate property portfolios at the Corporation are managed by different people.  Similarly to the City Council, the Corporation was looking to reduce its corporate property footprint.

6.7     Simon Latham then summarised his property investment experience.  He had spent 30 years working in real estate, predominantly in the commercial sector.  17 years of this was spent working as a fund manager overseeing a portfolio with a value of £3.5 billion.  This consisted of collective investment  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Registered Provider Performance and CityWest Homes Resident Satisfaction pdf icon PDF 823 KB

Report of the Director of Housing and Regeneration


7.1     The Committee received a report that detailed i) the performance and tenant satisfaction of registered providers (RP) and other social landlords who have housing stock in Westminster and ii) CityWest Homes Customer Satisfaction. 


7.2     Members were informed that RP landlords are independent of the City Council and are regulated by the Homes and Communities Agency.  Being independent, the City Council does not have direct control over RP’s but works in partnership with them to meet the needs of Westminster residents. 


7.3     The Committee had previously raised a concern that the CWH customer satisfaction surveys do not get responses from all of the target audience and may exclude the hard-to-reach and discontented. The paper provided further detail on the methodologies employed by CWH and commentary on the reliability of the results and their plans for supplementing the present approach.


7.4     The Committee discussed the issues of RP performance.  Members considered there to be a mismatch between the social landlord performance and tenant satisfaction data set out in the report and the volume of complaints councillors receive from RP residents about their housing provider.  A further comment raised was that the performance data did not seem to vary over time which seemed unlikely and further brought into question the accuracy of the data.


7.5     Officers considered that residents experiencing problems were more likely to get in touch with their local councillor which could potentially skewer members’ perception of satisfaction levels.  Officers stated that the Council would never truly have an accurate picture of RP resident satisfaction levels until there was a proper data set of information provided by RPs relating to their operations in the city.


7.6     Fergus Coleman, Head of Affordable and Private Sector Housing, commented in respect of RP’s that one of the biggest challenges was communicating with residents and understanding their needs.  Members commented that in some instances there was a lack of connection between provider call centres and the local housing stock.  Concerns were also raised about the refurbishment cycles of some RPs which were much longer than those of CityWest Homes.


7.7     Barbara Brownlee, Director of Housing and Regeneration, suggested that members forward copies of complaint letters to her so that she can take up  issues directly with the relevant RPs.  She commented that while the Council did not have direct control over RPs it had the ability to influence them. For example, they may wish to obtain approval to develop housing within the borough.  Proposals are included in the Housing Direction of Travel document regarding developing preferred partner lists where RPs with high tenant satisfaction levels would have opportunities to bid for development funding provided through the affordable housing fund.  She further commented that RPs care about their reputation and would be concerned about councillors perceiving them negatively as a consequence of receiving complaints from residents.

7.8     Officers were asked about the design of an annual questionnaire that could be sent out to all major RPs requesting information concerning their performance and tenant satisfaction data  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.