Agenda and minutes

Housing, Finance and Corporate Services Policy and Scrutiny Committee - Monday 15th January, 2018 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       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 of interest.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 167 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 6 November 2017 be signed by the Chairman as a correct record of proceedings.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 145 KB

Additional documents:


4.1       RESOLVED:


1.    That the agenda items for the next meeting on the 26th March to include an item on staffing within the City Council anchored around the results of the annual staff survey and a report from CityWest Homes (CWH) on their engagement with residents.


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




Update from Cabinet Members pdf icon PDF 189 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 Finance, Property and Corporate Services and the Cabinet Member for Housing on the key issues within their portfolios. 


5.2       Councillor Rachael Robathan, Cabinet Member for Housing, wished to put on record her thanks to Kevin Day, CityWest Homes Manager at Little Venice Towers, for his work in keeping residents updated on fire and gas safety issues and measures associated with the blocks following the Grenfell Tower Fire.


5.3       The Committee then submitted questions to the Cabinet Member for Housing.


            Retrofitting sprinklers within CWH flats over 10 Storeys

5.3.1    The Cabinet Member was asked whether a feasibility study had been fully developed. Councillor Robathan stated that it had. She confirmed that retrofitting sprinklers was technically feasible and the study had taken into account matters such as potential low water pressure. She explained that the feasibility study has considered a range of issues including which type of sprinklers would be best to install and how best to retrofit them. The committee heard at its meeting on 11 September there are regulatory limitations on freeholders to require leaseholders to undertake certain works within their properties. She explained that leaseholders accounted for 71% of the flats in one of the Little Venice Tower blocks.


5.3.2    Councillors asked about the insurance implications if only some flats within a block have sprinklers installed. Jonathan Cowie, CEO, CityWest Homes, advised that such a scenario could also have implications for obtaining fire safety approval from the London Fire Brigade, Building Control and building regulations. It was an issue that the Council intended to lobby central government on.


5.3.3    The Cabinet Member was also asked about the retrofitting of sprinklers in high rise private residential dwellings. She advised members that local authorities have been tasked to undertake full surveys of all privately clad buildings in their areas. The Council had almost concluded this work. The Council is required to ensure that the freeholders of these buildings comply with regulations including any subsequent changes to them. The Council will lobby the Mayor of London and central government to take on some of this responsibility.


5.3.4    The Cabinet Member asked the committee to consider establishing a task group to examine on the various options for retrofitting sprinklers in CWH properties that will be worked up and ranked, based on need and risk. The committee agreed to the suggestion.


            Intermediate rent levels in new WCH affordable housing schemes

5.3.4    Westminster Community Home’s (WCH) new affordable housing scheme at Ladbroke Grove provides intermediate homes for rent for local Westminster workers and residents. Weekly rents on 2 bed homes are £285. The Cabinet Member was asked about the household income required to be eligible for such a home, affordability and how this matched against the salaries of people living in Westminster who are in housing need. Councillor Robathan advised that a family would need to earn approximately £39,000 to qualify for the scheme. Under the Mayor of London’s intermediate housing policy households are  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Update on Rough Sleeping pdf icon PDF 424 KB

Report of the Interim Executive Director, Growth, Planning and Housing


6.1       Robert White, Lead Commissioner for Supported Housing and Rough Sleeping Strategy, introduced a report on issues relating to rough sleeping in the City of Westminster alongside an update on the recently published 2017 - 2022 Rough Sleeping Strategy.


6.2       Westminster sees the highest number of rough sleepers in the UK. Reducing rough sleeping and addressing the associated behaviours of the daytime Street population is a priority for the Council in a time where many local authorities are seeing an increase of people on the streets.


6.3       The new strategy will operate in the context of the national focus on reducing the numbers of people finding themselves on the streets following a tenancy ending and implementing the new Homelessness Reduction Act from 1 April.


6.4       The committee heard from Petra Salva, Director of Rough Sleeper and Ex Offender Services, St Mungos and David Eastwood, Services and Commissioning Manager, Housing & Land, GLA, who had been invited to the meeting as expert witnesses.


6.5       Ms Salva provided a brief summary of her career background which incorporated more than 25 years experience. She had over the last couple of years fed into the development of the Council’s Rough Sleeping Strategy, shaping how the local authority responds to rough sleepers.


6.6       Mr Eastwood explained that he oversees the Mayor of London’s rough sleeping services and rough sleeping policy for the GLA. He advised that the Mayor of London had recently published a draft rough sleeping strategy.


6.7       Whilst recognising that Westminster has a unique set of challenges when it comes to rough sleepers, members asked the witnesses how the City Council compares with other London local authorities in terms of the services it provides. Both witnesses had worked with most, if not all, London local authorities and considered that the Council was a trailblazer in this field and supported a great deal of innovation. Ms Salva commented that Westminster is often a testing ground for new approaches and that if a new offer worked in Westminster it would likely work everywhere. She also thought that the Council’s strategy was well thought out but stated that the authority could not address all the issues it faced on its own. She stated that the factors that draw rough sleepers to Westminster are the same today as they were a hundred years ago.


6.8       Members commented on the importance of the Mayor’s strategy incorporating a pan- London approach to rough sleeping with the provision of good mental health support and a range of hostel provision with facilities spread across London. Mr White commented that rough sleeping was a national issue and that it is hard to manage such an issue within the context of localism. He stated that there are national policies which should be drawn upon and developed such as housing provision and addiction. The GLA should galvanise local authorities to do more. Ms Salva stated that it was important to offer rough sleepers the right kind of services based on need and which  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Call in of: Church Street Master Plan Decision pdf icon PDF 230 KB

Report of the Interim Executive Director for Growth, Planning


7.1       On 4 December 2017 the Cabinet made executive decisions in respect of the Church Street Masterplan. The Church Street Ward Councillors subsequently exercised their right to call in the decision for scrutiny by the committee.


7.2       The committee received a report that included details provided by the Church Street Ward Councillors for calling in the decision. It also included responses to the issues they had raised.


7.3       At the Chairman’s invitation the Cabinet Member for Housing made some opening remarks in response to the call-in request. Councillor Robathan stated that the committee had reviewed the Church Street Masterplan consultation process and output at its last meeting on 6 November 2017 where it had commended the wide range of consultation approaches that had been used and concluded that the consultation process had been well thought out and implemented.


7.4       Councillor Robathan clarified that the Masterplan did not seek to provide detailed plans for each site but to set a framework for the regeneration of Church Street. Each site would be the subject of much more detailed analysis of what can be delivered and any subsequent plans would require further approvals including planning permission. These would be the subject of public consultation. The Council recognised that there is a significant amount ofovercrowding in this part of Westminster and wished to build the type of provision that residents want.


7.5       Barbara Brownlee, Interim Executive Director for Growth Planning and Housing, then responded to each of the issues of concern that had been raised by the Church Street Ward Councillors.


            Height of Buildings - there is nothing in the Masterplan that states that the Council will build any tall buildings. The Council will be sensitive to such an issue. There will be detailed individual consultations on each site and the Council will have regard to both its own and the GLA’s planning policies at the time. She undertook to re-examine proposals to demolish Kennett House.


            Retention of Westminster Adult Education Service (WAES) - this would be re-provided and the Council had discussed this with WAES.


            Demolition on such a large-scale versus renovation - the proposals at this stage are based on increasing the number of affordable housing in the Church Street area. These numbers are based on what the architects state, at this point, could exponentially be delivered if additional homes are demolished than in the futures plan. Detailed analysis had yet to be undertaken and would also need to be costed.


            Housing Tenure - the proposals will meet the City Council’s housing policies and those of the GLA at the time. The current proposed master plan will deliver 50% affordable housing. If fewer buildings are demolished less affordable housing will be achieved.


Demolition of Supported Housing - if the Council intends to demolish any supported housing it will speak at length with residents beforehand. Such housing will be re-provided in Church Street. Individual people’s housing needs will be taken into account.


Protection of Historic Buildings - little was mentioned by consultees regarding  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


Draft Treasury Management Strategy 2018-2019 to 2022-2023 pdf icon PDF 583 KB

Report of The City Treasurer.


8.1       Phil Triggs, Tri-Borough Director of Treasury and Pensions, introduced a report that set out the Council’s proposed Treasury Management Strategy Statement (TMSS) for the period 2018/19 to 2022/23, and Annual Investment Strategy (AIS) for the year ending 31 March 2019, together with supporting information.

8.2       The TMSS and AIS form part of the Council’s overall budget setting and financial framework, and will be finalised and updated as work on the Council’s 2018/19 budget is progressed in January and February 2018.

8.3       The Committee asked about the risks to the strategy of slippage in the capital programme. Members also asked whether the City Council had formed a view on its borrowing position subsequent to the Bank of England increasing interest rates and the likelihood that they will rise again over the next couple of years.

8.4       Steve Mair, City Treasurer stated that the City Council is a large and complex business with a budget of over £800 million per annum and a large and significant capital programme.  Therefore, it is not unusual given its complexities for slippage to occur in the capital programme.  Effective forecasting relied on a combination of leadership and project management skills.  He advised that the finance team does robustly challenge the assessments from those leading on capital projects. 

8.5       With regards to forward borrowing, the City Treasurer advised that the Council was not currently borrowing to finance capital expenditure. The finance team had put together a borrowing matrix based on a range of borrowing scenarios. A decision on the Council’s approach would be taken in the next few months once a new Chief Executive was in post.

8.6       The Committee asked about the rationale behind the decision to reduce the credit rating limit for investments in Supra-national banks and European agencies from AA+/Aa1/AA+ to AA/Aa/AA. Mr Mair explained that the slightly lower credit rated institutions were still in a highly recommended band. This would provide the Council with opportunities to potentially invest liquid balances at improved returns with limited risks that will contribute to the Council’s saving targets.

8.7       RESOLVED: The Committee noted the various elements of the proposed TMSS and AIS prior to the submission to Cabinet on 19 February 2018.

8.8       ACTIONS: Provide the committee with a briefing note on the forward borrowing arrangements once a decision on this has been made. (Action for: Steve Mair, City Treasurer)