Agenda and minutes

Housing, Finance and Corporate Services Policy and Scrutiny Committee - Monday 12th September, 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     There were no changes to the membership.



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       There were no declarations made.



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 13 June 2016 be signed by the Chairman as a correct record of proceedings.


Update on Work Programme and Actions pdf icon PDF 75 KB

Report of the Director of Policy, Performance and Communications.

Additional documents:


4.1           The committee was informed that the item on Housing Options Service Transformation (re-procurement) would be brought forward from the January to November meeting.


4.2     RESOLVED: That the responses to actions and recommendations as set out in the tracker be noted.






Update from Cabinet Members pdf icon PDF 266 KB

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

The Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration, Business and Economic Development 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 & Economic Development on the key aspects of their portfolios. 


5.2     In the absence of the Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration, Business & Economic Development, Barbara Brownlee, Director of Housing & Regeneration, responded to questions on the following issues:


          Delivering Church Street Renewal

5.2.1   The Director of Housing & Regeneration was asked a number of questions relating to Church Street Renewal including the number of years that it would take to deliver the programme, the dependency of renewal on the delivery of affordable housing at West End Green, and the timing of this, and the progress of work at Lisson Arches.


The Committee was informed that the renewal of Church Street was one of the largest regeneration projects in London involving a dozen mixed use sites incorporating commercial and residential buildings, a rail station, tube station and new park.  While a fixed end date for its completion has not been set it would be at least 10 years before the main elements are finished.  Ms Brownlee stated that the main emphasis at present was progressing the master-planning and procurement exercise.  The outcome of these would be reported early in the New Year where there would be clear briefs for each of the specific sites.


With regards to the affordable housing accommodation at West End Green, the Director of Housing & Regeneration advised that the Council was pleased by the 127 affordable housing units obtained as part of the planning consent. The units are of a good size and tenure and equate to 22% of the entire scheme.  Demolition of the Church Street estate cannot begin until the decant has concluded.  She explained that the Council was still in discussions with the housing provider as to when this would occur.  While this would be partly  dependent on the delivery of the units at West End Green other aspects of the renewal such as the redevelopments at Cosway Street and Ashbridge Street are able to proceed as these sites are already empty.  In response to questions about the timing of delivery of the affordable housing at West End Green the director clarified that the planning consent makes clear that occupation of the market units cannot be occupied until the affording housing element has been delivered.


With respect to Lisson Arches, Ms Brownlee advised that the work on site to divert services and create a development platform is proving extremely complex. The record drawings for service locations and for the foundation of adjacent structures are not wholly accurate or complete. The project team are in constant dialogue with FM Conway and the utility companies seeking to expedite progress.  Weekly meetings are held between the project lead, herself and the contractor.  The expectation at present is that the programme deadline will be met.


          Ebury Bridge

5.2.2   The Director of Housing & Regeneration was asked why the housing block at Ebury Bridge had not been demolished when it  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Update from CityWest Homes on their Transformation Plan pdf icon PDF 153 KB

Report of Jonathan Cowie, Chief Executive, CityWest Homes.


Tracey Lees, CEO of Wandle and former CEO of Barnet Homes has been invited to the meeting as an expert witness.

Additional documents:


6.1     The Committee received a Powerpoint presentation from Jonathan Cowie, Chief Executive, CityWest Homes (CWH) and Martin Edgerton, Executive Director, Customer Services, CityWest Homes on CityWest Homes Transformation Plan.


          The presentation set out:


·         the wider context for CWH transformation agenda

·         some of the key challenges faced

·         the outcomes the transformation will deliver

·         the vision, how the new approach will work

·         a high level timeline for delivery


6.2     The committee heard from witness Tracey Lees, CEO of Wandle and former CEO of Barnet Homes, who had been invited to the meeting to provide a peer perspective on the proposals.  Ms Lees provided a brief summary of her career background.  She advised that she had worked for more than 30 years in social housing for a number of local authorities, registered providers and ALMOS including the City Council where she had been an operations manager for 10 years prior to the authority establishing CWH.  She was currently the CEO of Wandle, a Housing Association operating in South London.


6.3     At the chairman’s invitation Ms Lees provided her initial thoughts on the proposed transformation plan.  She considered that some aspects of the plan that was being proposed, is addressing issues that felt quite dated.  She expressed surprise that Westminster still had such a high provision of local estate offices which were expensive to maintain.  She explained that in Barnet, outside the core estates where residential blocks were scattered it did not make sense to have local offices.  She considered that CWH should review the on-going provision of local estate offices.  No other local authority that she was aware of had as extensive an offer.  She stated that while it was important to have some core standards of service, beyond this CWH could and should differentiate service levels according to different occupier requirements.  She stated that a high level of leaseholders who have not been Council tenants do not have the same requirements as social housing tenants.  She suggested that providing the same services differently could enable the Council to redirect the money saved elsewhere such as to providing health or employment projects.  She was also surprised that there had not previously been a higher demand for self-service from residents.


6.4     The Committee then considered the proposals and in the ensuing discussion raised a range of questions with the officers present.


6.5     Members reported that some residents express surprise at the satisfaction levels reported as these do not correlate with their experience of services. 

The committee asked how CWH would tackle such perceptions.  Mr Cowie stated that while 20% of residents were highly satisfied with CWH it would be complacent to consider this to be good.  He stated that to change perceptions it would be important to understand the 80% of resident’s who didn’t respond and address any systemic root cause of dissatisfaction.  He advised that CWH was about to receive the results of satisfaction metrics from 5000 residents using a new approach via the Institute of Customer Services.  This would provide CWH  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Treasury Opportunities pdf icon PDF 181 KB

Report of the City Treasurer.


7.1     The Committee received a report that provided a background to the Council’s current treasury portfolio and set out details of initiatives being considered with the potential to optimise the return on cash investments including a number of projects being evaluated.


7.2     The City Treasurer was asked what mechanisms are used to identify opportunities.  He advised that the Council benchmarks its activities and performance against other local authorities.  Additionally, the finance team liaises with its peers and professional contacts to discuss different income opportunities.


7.3     The Committee asked whether consideration has been given to investing in buy to let such as providing student accommodation which would complement Westminster’s objective of being a leader in education.  The City Treasurer was also asked for an update on the Council’s thinking of using the pension fund to support regeneration with profits being re-paid to the fund.  The City Treasurer advised in relation to the former that the Council had agreed when setting the Council tax budget in March to invest £25 million with the potential to rise to £50 million in property to generate income.  The Council had signed its first contract relating to this a few weeks ago.  He advised in relation to The Pension Fund and the City Council fund that officers are continuing to explore options.


7.4     Members provided mixed views on the risk appetite for the Treasury portfolio.


7.5     RESOLVED:


1.     The committee noted the initiatives set out in the report which were being evaluated alongside other options.  It supported the objective of optimising the return on investments subject to maintaining a cautious approach to risk based on a principle of being risk aware rather than risk averse.


2.     The committee requested that the City Treasurer provide i) more detailed information on the Treasury opportunities being progressed by other local authorities, ii) the mechanisms employed by the Council for sourcing ideas and iii) how options being developed link to other Council strategies when the Draft Treasury Management Plan for 2017-18 is submitted to the committee for consideration in January.




Westminster Residents Panel


8.1     Councillor Hug, who had requested that the item was added to the committee’s agenda, addressed members on his concerns relating to the proposed withdrawal of funding to the Westminster Residents Panel.  He explained that the panel is an independent city wide forum of Council and registered provider residents that discuss best practice and issues of common concern and support residents associations.  A significant proportion of the money provided by the Council to the Panel paid for a part-time administrator as well as general office requirements.  The withdrawal of funding would result in loss of the administrative post which would affect the panel’s ability to continue to operate.


8.2     Councillor Hug advised that he had been in correspondence with officers on the matter for a number of weeks.  His intention for adding the item to the committee’s agenda was to have an opportunity to debate the matter and put questions to the Cabinet Member.  In the Cabinet Member’s absence he agreed to follow up his concerns outside of the meeting.


8.3     In response to questions the Director of Housing & Regeneration, advised that while the Council has an obligation to provide housing for those in housing need and to provide this across the Borough there is no statutory or regulatory requirement to have a panel of this kind.  She undertook to continue liaising with Councillor Hug on the matter and keep him informed of any further developments.