Agenda and minutes

Housing, Finance and Corporate Services Policy and Scrutiny Committee - Monday 7th November, 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 there were no changes to the membership.


1.2       RESOLVED: That until the arrival of the chairman Councillor Richard Holloway be appointed to chair the meeting (Items 1-4).


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       Councillor Holloway declared that he is a board member of CityWest Homes.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 172 KB

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


3.1     A typographical error was noted in paragraph 6.6 of the minutes which related to the proposed satisfaction targets for CityWest Homes complaint handling.  This should have read as “above 85%” and not above 50%.


3.2     RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting held on 12th September 2016 be signed by the Chairman as a correct record of proceedings subject to the correction as identified in paragraph 3.1 above.


Work Programme and Action Tracker pdf icon PDF 75 KB

Additional documents:


4.1       RESOLVED:


1.    That the agenda items for the next meeting on the 9th January 2017 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 269 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 & Economic Development on the key aspects of their portfolios. 


5.2     The Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services responded to questions on the following issues:


          Business Rates

5.2.1   The Cabinet Member was asked about the government’s feedback to the Council’s consultation response to the proposed Business Rate Transitional Scheme.  Martin Hinckley, Head of Centre, Corporate Finance, advised that the Council had yet to receive a reply although this was not unexpected as the consultation has only just closed.  He believed that the government would put forward regulations to implement a transitional scheme in December.


5.2.2   The Cabinet Member was asked whether the Council had considered putting forward a proposal to government to take over responsibility for the valuation of local businesses as part of the government’s ambition to deliver fiscal devolution.  The Cabinet Member advised that whilst there had been some discussion regarding this, and the proposition sounded attractive, it would need to be supported by a fully worked up business case.


          No PO No Pay and Sundry Debtor Recovery

5.2.3   Members asked about the level of compliance of the requirement for purchase orders to be provided as the principal means of requisitioning supplies and paying invoices.  The Cabinet Member explained that No PO No Pay is being phased in incrementally. The aim is for full implementation by 1 December.  Martin Hinckley advised that whilst some statistics are available a full picture will not be available until the New Year.  The Cabinet Member was also asked about the risks of moving to such an approach when a service improvement plan for Agresso is still being delivered.  The Cabinet Member stated that the Council would not be moving to No PO No Pay unless it was confident that the system was in working order.


5.2.4   Further details were requested about the programme of debt management recovery.  The Cabinet Member explained that the aim was to prioritise the recovery of the largest debts.  He indicated that a key issue was the large number of transactions that needed to be followed up rather than the overall value of unpaid invoices.  Mr Hinckley advised that letters requesting payment had now been issued to all debtors.


          Discretionary Housing Payment Fund

5.2.5   The Committee was informed  that 900 Westminster households had been identified as being likely to be affected when the benefit cap is reduced.  The City Council was in the process of writing to the households in question to forewarn them about the changes and signpost advice on dealing with their impact.  The Cabinet Member was asked about the responses that had been received from households. The Committee also asked whether the Council’s DHP funding for 2017/18 is likely to be of an equivalent amount to that received last year.  In reply to the latter the Cabinet Member replied that it was hoped that an equivalent level of funding would be provided,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Draft Rough Sleeping Strategy 2017-2020 pdf icon PDF 249 KB

Report of the Executive Director of Growth, Planning and Housing and the Director of Policy, Performance & Communications


Petra Salva, Director of Services, (Rough Sleeper, Migrants & Ex-Offender Services) St Mungos, has been invited to the meeting as an expert witness to assist the committee in its deliberations.

Additional documents:


6.1     Richard Cressey, Principal Policy Officer, introduced a report that outlined the proposed priorities for the Draft Rough Sleeping Strategy 2017-20 and the headline findings from the public consultation, which closed on 4 November 2016.

6.2     mr Cressey informed the Committee that the headline findings since the agenda was published remain the same although a greater number of responses to the consultation had been received.  During the consultation period the City Council engaged and received responses from over 400 people. This included a mix of residents, businesses and public and voluntary sector organisations who provided a breadth of views.  Officers were now examining the responses in detail with the aim of working up final proposals in consultation with stakeholders. 

6.3     He stated that from the responses received it was clear that rough sleeping is a polarising issue.  Some consider that more help should be provided to those who sleep rough while others believe that there should be a more robust approach to tackling the problem.  One clear message that came out of the consultation is that people wish to see more of the detail; how the strategy and its priorities will work in practice.  Many respondees wish to see more action on tackling begging and anti-social behaviour.  Many comments were received highlighting that rough sleeping is particularly acute in Westminster but is caused by national and international drivers.  There were disparate views on how to tackle rough sleeping by non-UK nationals.

6.4     The Housing, Finance and Corporate Services Policy and Scrutiny committee was asked to:


·             Reflect on the consultation and the views provided by residents, businesses, voluntary sector organisations and others engaged with.


·             Comment on the draft strategy in light of consultation feedback gathered, and identify areas for further development ahead of final publication of the revised strategy early in 2017.


6.5     The committee heard from witness, Petra Salva, Director of Services (Rough Sleeper, Migrants and Ex-offender Services) at St Mungos, who had been invited to the meeting to provide an expert’s view on the priorities.  Ms Salva provided a brief summary of her career background.  She stated that she had worked in a number of different roles.  This included working as an Outreach Worker in Westminster.  She was the instigator of the Government initiative No Second Night Out and has been instrumental in developing approaches to the challenges around rough sleeping by non-UK nationals.  Over the course of her career she had been both an advocate and critic over the use of penalties and enforcement to address rough sleeping as well as the provision of day centres.




6.6     At the Committee’s request Ms Salva provided her reflections on the draft strategy.  She commended the Council for challenging the perceptions around rough sleeping.  She considered that the Council was serious about tackling rough sleeping and that the consultation had been well run.  She informed the Committee that Westminster has historically been a magnet for attracting rough sleepers.  One of the reasons for this is that homeless people  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Re-Commissioning the Housing Options Service pdf icon PDF 452 KB

Report of the Executive Director of Growth, Planning and Housing


7.1     Barbara Brownlee, Director of Housing & Regeneration, introduced a report that provided a background to the Council’s Housing Options Service and its contract which is due to expire at the end of September 2017. 


7.2     With the expiry of the existing contract, and the introduction of a new Rough Sleeper Strategy in 2017, the Council has an opportunity to review frontline service delivery and reshape the service to be more responsive to the needs of residents.

7.3     The purpose of the report was to inform and gain support from the Scrutiny Committee on the overall strategy for and reshaping of the service and its intended procurement.

7.4     Vikki Everett, Senior Consultant, Garnet Consulting Ltd, addressed the committee.  She explained that she had been appointed by the Council to manage the procurement of the re-commissioned service and to deliver a realistic and successful mobilisation of the contract.  She provided a brief summary of her background which included experience in outsourcing and the transformation of services.

7.5     Ms Everett highlighted that there are elements of the service where there are well developed and very mature markets i.e. frontline advice services, property management, rent collection, lettings etc.  The element of service that is not typically outsourced by Councils and where there is a less developed market are the statutory housing/homelessness functions e.g. duty to make enquiries into cases of homelessness or threatened homelessness, duty to make arrangements to ensure social services are aware of cases where applicants with children are homeless or threaten with homelessness, duties to assist and accommodate those eligible cases.  Typically, Council’s have retained these services in house Hence, for these statutory elements of the service, there is not a developed market. This also informed the Council’s approach of splitting the service into Lots to attract competition for those areas of service where there are providers already delivering these services elsewhere.

7.6     The Committee considered the proposals put forward which were as follows:

1.       The creation of a more agile frontline advice service that enables greater mobile working, outreach advice, collaboration and integration with other related services such as Children and Adult services, promotion of and access to employment services, in addition to promoting self-serve and digital advice solutions.

2.       The procurement of the service in four ‘lots’ that will encourage competition by appealing to experienced providers that are currently delivering specialist services within this and related sectors and encourage providers to consider the formation of partnerships and consortium arrangements to deliver the requirements of the Council.

3.       The movement towards a partnering approach with providers that will enable the transformation of these services over time and ensure a more flexible service that can respond adequately to the changing demands and legislative framework in addition to the impacts that other broader Council initiatives such as the Integrated Customer Service, One Front Door and Digital Transformation initiatives will have on these services.   

4.       The re-shaping of the service that forms a clearer distinction between the ‘people’ and ‘property’ aspects of the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.