Agenda and minutes

Housing, Finance and Corporate Services Policy and Scrutiny Committee - Monday 12th June, 2017 7.00 pm

Venue: Room 3.1, 3rd Floor, 5 Strand, London, WC2 5HR. 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 McKie had replaced Councillor Roca.


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 of interest made.



Minutes pdf icon PDF 180 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 10 April 2017 be signed by the Chairman as a correct record of proceedings.


Work Programme 2017-2018 and Action Tracker pdf icon PDF 234 KB


4.1       RESOLVED:


1.    That the agenda items for the next meeting on the 11 September 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 299 KB

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

The Cabinet Member for Housing will be in attendance to answer questions from the Committee.


Additional documents:


5.1       The Committee received written updates from the Cabinet Member for Housing and the Cabinet Member for Finance, Property & Corporate Services on the key issues within their portfolios. 


5.2       Councillor Rachael Robathan, Cabinet Member for Housing, provided a brief verbal update to her paper in the agenda.  As per her initial presentation to the committee following her appointment to the portfolio she reiterated her recognition that there was a need to accelerate the delivery of housing in the borough.  She advised with regards to the regeneration of the council’s estates that a consultation on the masterplan for Church Street would run between the 21 July and the 4 August.  A public meeting with residents at Ebury Bridge to explain the current status of the project and outline options would be held on 28 June.  Feedback received would be taken away and used to develop the consultation options which would be consulted on in September.


5.3       Councillor Robathan explained that the regeneration programme is ambitious and complex.  There were people living on many of the sites.  As a consequence it will be a long and detailed process.


5.4       With regards to the infill programme, Councillor Robathan reported that the Council had identified more sites upon which additional housing could be built.  To assist with the programme’s objectives she would be asking all councillors to help identify any potential sites in their wards.  Officers were also working at opportunities to speed up the delivery process including obtaining planning permission.


5.5       The Cabinet Member for Housing then responded to questions from the Committee.


5.5.1    Regeneration - The Cabinet Member was referred to the fact that the decision to regenerate Ebury Bridge and Tollgate Gardens had been taken in 2013 and 2014 respectively.  She was asked when the acceleration of the housing delivery on the sites was likely to be seen.  The Cabinet Member was also asked given the delays, whether a different model of regeneration was likely to be considered, which other boroughs were adopting, whereby the Council enters into a partnership with developers.  Councillor Robathan sought to assure the committee about the amount of work being undertaken to move forward the programme.  She acknowledged that evidence of progress needed to be seen by residents.  With respect to the regeneration model, she stated that the Council was looking at how other local authorities were undertaking regeneration and the lessons that could be learned from that.  However, she highlighted that Westminster has acute housing issues which are different to other local authorities.


5.5.2    Tollgate Gardens - the Cabinet Member was asked whether the decision taken in 2016 to deliver 76 social housing units as part of the wider regeneration of the site had changed.  Councillor Robathan advised that 195 new homes would be delivered on the site.  She believed that this would include 86 new affordable housing units.  [Barbara Brownlee, Director of Housing & Regeneration, has confirmed that the number of social rented properties being delivered remains as originally promised at 76. There is, in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Update on Digital Service and Future Plans pdf icon PDF 504 KB

Report of the Bi-Borough Director of Corporate Services (to follow)


6.1       The Committee received a report that provided an update on the current level of digital service delivery available to residents and others and how they currently perform. It focused primarily on the website and apps through which residents can engage with the Council and access its services or report issues to them. The report also informed the committee of the direction of travel of the Council’s emerging Digital Strategy. This is put in context with the provision of some benchmarking information and best practice.


6.2       The committee was asked to comment on current service delivery and note the direction of travel for the Council’s emerging Digital Strategy and consider any recommendations for the Cabinet member to consider before the strategy is finalised.

6.3       Matthew Cain, Head of Digital, London Borough of Hackney, addressed the Committee as an expert witness.  He informed Members that he had taken up his current position in January. He had previously worked in a slightly different role at Buckinghamshire County Council for 18 months and prior to this had worked in the private sector.  Whilst working at Buckinghamshire County Council he had delivered a project which saw Members go paperless which had saved £30,000 per annum and in the last year had implemented 27 projects which had saved the Council £985,000.

6.4       Mr Cain provided the following observations of lessons learned in delivering digital transformation. 

·               There is a need for a broad definition of digital:  He considered that it was important to harness the methods and culture of the digital era which was greater than websites or the use of apps particularly as the latter can quickly become obsolete.

·               Taking risks should become a cultural norm: The solutions for Westminster City Council will be different than for other public sector organisations.  He considered that digitally maturing organisations are more comfortable taking risks than their less digitally mature peers.  To make their organisations less risk averse, business leaders have to embrace failure as a pre-requisite for success.  The Council should not worry about developing perfect solutions.

·               Communication must be built around the citizen:  What customers need will start before they contact the Council and end long after.  It can be a challenge for the Council to understand what its customers need and due to the size and range of the local authority and its services these priorities can take time to align within the organisation.

6.5       Mr Cain then highlighted some of the lessons learned whilst working at Buckinghamshire County Council.  Based on his experience working at the BBC and Sky, he set out to digitise the highest volume of transactions across the organisation.  However, whilst this was desirable at the BBC and Sky this was not the case in Buckinghamshire.  The majority of staff did not notice the change and he reflected that to be beneficial changes should be relevant and visible to those working on the front line.

6.6       The Committee discussed the current service delivery and made the following observations:

·               Residents had reported  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Update on CityWest Homes Transformation Programme pdf icon PDF 214 KB

Report of the Chief Executive, CityWest Homes


7.1       The committee received an update from Jonathan Cowie, Chief Executive Officer of CityWest Homes, and Martin Edgerton, Executive Director of Customer Services, on CityWest Homes (CWH) Transformation Programme.


7.2      The committee was asked for feedback on what they saw as the highest priority from residents; where they saw the most opportunity for greater joint working across CWH services and which aspects of the service was most in need of modernisation.


7.3       The committee asked questions and received responses on a range of issues including:


7.3.1    How performance and resident satisfaction with the new operating model and repairs and major works contracts will be assessed?  Mr Cowie explained that this would be achieved through monitoring key performance indicators that are set by the Council.  These are reviewed by various boards both within CWH and the Council.  Resident satisfaction will also be captured through the independently run annual resident satisfaction survey.


7.3.2    Members were keen to ensure that there are more holistic approaches to addressing the needs of vulnerable residents with links between CWH and other Council services and partner organisations such as the NHS.  Barbara Brownlee, Director of Housing and Regeneration, advised that one of the Council’s top priorities is to ensure that CWH is closely integrated with the hubs programme which aims to make better use of the Council and partners assets to improve access to preventative services.  In response to further questions Barbara Brownlee stated that the estate offices that were due to close could possibly be used as hub offices or alternatively CWH may be provided with space alongside other services in alternative hub spaces.  Mr Cowie stated that he would welcome the development of coordinated plans to address residents’ needs.


7.3.3    The Committee asked how CWH was engaging with the Council’s emerging digital strategy.  Mr Cowie reported that the chief executive had asked him to sit on the Council’s Digital Board.  He explained that in the future residents would be able to see the collective data held about them by the two organisations through their ‘My Account’ facility.  He explained that in advance of this a significant amount of work would need to take place to clean up the current resident data held by CWH.  Additionally the data held by each organisation would need to be accessible from a single point.  He believed that it would take approximately 2 years to implement this. 


7.3.4    Members asked for an update on the CWH out of hours call centre which was currently being operated by the Council.  Mr Edgerton acknowledged the challenges for CWH to provide this service.  He stated that when CWH takes back the service from the Council it will look at the hours over which the service is provided.  Mr Cowie advised that CWH’s ambition is to be proactive and update residents on issues that they have reported so that they do not have to contact the out of hours call centre.


7.3.5    Officers were asked what mitigation CWH was taking to protect residents from  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


City Hall Refurbishment Task Group Report

Report of the Director of Property, Investment and Estates (to follow)


8.1      The committee received a report that set out the role, responsibilities, scope and impact of the work of the City Hall Refurbishment Task Group since inception on 27th June 2016. The report highlighted the role of the Task Group as a critical friend and described the process and outcomes as a consequence of the insight of the group.

8.2      The committee noted the areas in which the task group had challenged proposals and provided useful insight.

8.3      RESOLVED:

The committee agreed that as the decant of the Council’s operation and staff from City Hall to temporary locations has been successfully completed and the award for the construction contract for the refurbishment of City Hall is in its final stages the role of the task group has been completed and that it should now be closed down.