Agenda and minutes

Housing, Finance and Corporate Services Policy and Scrutiny Committee - Wednesday 9th March, 2016 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 Legal and Democratic Services to report any changes to the membership.


1.1     It was noted that Councillor Barbara Arzymanow had replaced Councillor   Jacqui Wilkinson.


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


Richard Holloway



CityWest Homes


Board Member

Vincenzo Rampulla

CityWest Homes

Board Member



2.2     Councillor Arzymanow declared that she is a governor of the Westminster           Adult Education Service.


2.3     Councillor Richard Holloway declared in relation to the renewal and implementation of a new network and telephone solution for the City Council that the company that he works for is heavily involved in this sector.  However, he did not believe that it had any projects involved with the re-let of the City Council contract.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 173 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 6th January 2016 be signed by the Chairman as a correct record of proceedings.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 214 KB

Additional documents:


4.1       RESOLVED:


1.    That the agenda items for the next meeting on the 13th April be agreed


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







Update from Cabinet Members pdf icon PDF 228 KB

An update from the Cabinet Members on key areas within their portfolios are attached.

The Cabinet Member for Finance & Corporate Services will be in attendance to answer questions from the Committee.


Additional documents:


5.1     The Committee received written updates from the Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services and the Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration, Business and Economic Development on the key aspects of their portfolios.


5.2     The Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services provided the following verbal update:


·       That it was expected that a the 2015/16 budget would be underspent once period 10 monitoring was complete.


·       In respect of the revenue budget, in order to take advantage of the four-year finance settlement offer the Council will need to prepare a forward-looking Efficiency Plan.  The papers for this will need to be submitted by 14 October.  This will be progressed once the Council’s accounts have been audited.  No guidance had been provided on what such a plan should consist of.  The earlier that the Council submits its plan the more likely it will be able to influence what it should contain.


·       In light of the Efficiency Plan, the Council may change the way in which it approves the annual budget and Council tax.  Rather than agreeing both annually in March the Council may separate taxation and spending into two separate processes similarly to the Government’s Budget and Autumn Statements.


·       With regard to business rates “localisation”, he reported that he had appeared on behalf of the City Council as a witness in front of the Communities & Local Government Select Committee at the start of the week along with, among others, the leader of the London Borough of Haringey who spoke on behalf of the Local Government Association.  He highlighted to the Select Committee the problems with the current system whereby Westminster continues to be negatively impacted by business rates appeals where its effect will be to reduce the Council’s funding by £6 million per annum below governments assumed funding allocations.  He had argued that a new system would need to include some kind of formula for business rates distribution.  At present the Council only retains 4% of the business rates that it collects while it would like to retain a sum based on growth in the areas economic value and is also seeking other changes to the system.


5.3     The Cabinet Member then responded to questions from the committee on the following matters.




5.3.1   The Cabinet Member was asked about the current level of general reserves and what it was expected to increase to.  He advised that the Council had an ambition to build up its reserves following the need to draw heavily on them following the fall in revenue arising from the recession in 2008. General reserves were currently at £36 million and the expectation was that this would rise to circa £40 million before the end of the financial year.


5.3.2   The Cabinet Member was asked whether there had been any notable response to the Council’s decision to increase Council Tax by 2% for Adult Social Care along with a 1.99% general increase.  He stated that there had not. The only press coverage he was aware of had been in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Westminster Adult Education Service - Strategic Review Findings and Proposed Way Forward pdf icon PDF 804 KB

Report of the Executive Director for Growth, Planning and Housing


6.1     Greg Ward, Director of Economy and Infrastructure, introduced a report that provided an overview of the Westminster Adult Education Service (WAES). It also set out the findings of an internal review of the service and as well as details of a National Area Review of post-16 education and skills that is currently underway.


6.2     The committee was asked for a view on:


·             The Westminster Adult Education Services’ local contribution and offer to residents and employers.

·             The recommendation, following an internal review, of strengthening responsibility for an Adult Education Service. This is to support Council priorities and the “City for All” ambition of reducing long term unemployment. 

·             Local issues to feed into the National Area Review, which commences in Central London region this month.


6.3     To assist it in its consideration of the issues the committee heard from Tamara Williams, a current service user, and Barbara Holm, Service Head and Principal of WAES.


6.4     The Committee explored WAES’s local contribution and offer to residents and employers.  Miss Williams addressed the committee on what influenced her to become a user of the adult education service and her experiences of it.  She stated that she began using the service at 17 taking a Business and Administration Level 2 programme while on an apprenticeship at the London School of Economics (LSE).  She chose to use the service to develop her skills due to the positive feedback from family members that had previously used it. Up to this period she had been home-schooled so the service presented a significant change in learning for her.  She stated that using WAES provided her with the confidence to develop her skills as the centre felt welcoming, like a family.  She felt comfortable in the learning environment and was able to speak to her tutor about any issues.  The support enabled her to improve her maths which encouraged her to apply to undertake a Level 3 programme. Mrs Holm informed the committee that Miss Williams had progressed from an apprenticeship to being employed by the LSE.


6.5     Miss Williams was asked whether she accessed the service to help build her confidence or to learn a skill.  She stated that both were an objective.  As her skills improved she was able to try other courses and develop other interests.  Miss Holm explained that some women will initially access the service to help their children with their learning at school but will later return to embark on a vocational programme.


6.6     Officers were asked about the variance of non-Westminster to Westminster learners.  The Committee noted that approximately 60% of learners using the service were non-Westminster residents.  Mrs Holm explained that the service was funded by the Skills Funding Agency on the basis of strict criteria about the use of the funds and the way in which providers such as WAES operates.  It means that the service cannot turn away non-Westminster residents.  However, WAES does wish to work more closely with the Council and embed links to better support the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Supply and Allocation of Social Housing 2016/17 pdf icon PDF 492 KB

Report of the Executive Director for Growth, Planning and Housing


7.1     The Committee received a report on the issues that will influence the allocation of social housing in 2016/17.


7.2     Greg Roberts, Head of Supporting People and Temporary Accommodation, informed the Committee that the social housing allocations for the first 9 months of 2015/16 show high levels of homeless re-housings reflecting the a a demand from this group.  Total social housing lettings are projected to increase in 2016/17 to 840 from 805, reflective of increased supply from registered providers and fewer regeneration area decant transfers. The committee asked for a breakdown of when affordable housing developments that are currently under construction or are due to commence building works will be delivered in 2016/17 and 2017/18.  Mr Roberts advised that the Council expected the supply of affordable rented accommodation in 2016/17 to meet the 66 RP first let nominations for affordable rent and 30 RP first let nominations for social rent. He undertook to provide the committee with a breakdown in which schemes these would be provided.


7.3     Mr Roberts was asked whether social housing tenants purchasing their properties under the Right to Buy provisions would impact on the supply projections.  He considered that this would not have an affect this year and he was confident that the supply projections for the year would be delivered.  However, he commented that there would be a range of factors that might affect supply in 2017/18.


7.4     Mr Roberts explained that the principal factor that is driving the high levels of homelessness continues to be the availability of private sector housing for households on benefits.  Homeless acceptances during 2016/17 are forecast to continue at the same level of approximately 550 and the total requirement for TA will remain between 2300-2500 during the year. The committee asked whether there was any influence that the Council could bring to tackle the reluctance within the private rental sector (PRS) to let properties to people on benefits or to encourage further those landlords which the Council already had an existing relationship with.  Mr Roberts explained that the difficulty of securing such accommodation was less around discrimination by landlords than the impact of the housing benefit caps.  He explained that when the housing benefit regime was more generous and landlords could be paid high rents there was less difficulty in securing accommodation.


7.5     Mr Roberts was asked whether the Council had factored in or had detected any increase in rents being asked by landlords due to changes introduced to landlord’s tax arrangements.  He stated that it was currently too early to say what impact the changes would have.  However, it was clear that there was a very wide gap between overall existing rent levels and the Local Housing Allowance. The changes to tax arrangements could provide a further dimension to affordability.


7.6     The implementation of the TA commissioning strategy had succeeded in ending the use of Bed and Breakfast accommodation for families over 6 weeks, reduced unit costs and increased supply and made best use of Council resources.  However,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.