Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday 18 July 2012 7.30 pm
Venue: Committee Rooms 1&2 Harrow Civic Centre
Contact: Alison Atherton, Senior Professional - Democratic Services Tel: 020 8424 1266 E-mail: email@example.com
Attendance by Reserve Members
To note the attendance at this meeting of any duly appointed Reserve Members.
Reserve Members may attend meetings:-
(i) to take the place of an ordinary Member for whom they are a reserve;
(ii) where the ordinary Member will be absent for the whole of the meeting; and
(iii) the meeting notes at the start of the meeting at the item ‘Reserves’ that the Reserve Member is or will be attending as a reserve;
(iv) if a Reserve Member whose intention to attend has been noted arrives after the commencement of the meeting, then that Reserve Member can only act as a Member from the start of the next item of business on the agenda after his/her arrival.
RESOLVED: To note the attendance at this meeting of the following duly appointed Reserve Member:-
Declarations of Interest
To receive declarations of disclosable pecuniary or non pecuniary interests, arising from business to be transacted at this meeting, from:
(a) all Members of the Committee,;
(b) all other Members present in any part of the room or chamber.
Members requested that Legal Services be requested to circulate advice on interests as there was some confusion in terms of types and nature of interests.
RESOLVED: To note that the following interest was declared:
Agenda Item 10 – Children Looked After Attainment
Councillor Ann Gate declared a non pecuniary interest in that she was married to the Portfolio Holder for Children, Schools and Families. She would remain in the room whilst the matter was considered and voted upon.
That the minutes of the meeting held on 12 June 2012 and of the Special Meeting held on 3 July 2012 (to follow) be taken as read and signed as correct records.
RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting held on 12 June 2012 and of the Special meeting held on 3 July 2012 be taken as read and signed as correct records.
To receive questions (if any) from local residents/organisations under the provisions of Committee Procedure Rule 17 (Part 4B of the Constitution).
In the absence of the questioner, the Chair indicated that a written response would be provided. This answer is set out below.
RESOLVED: To note that the following public questions had been received:
To receive petitions (if any) submitted by members of the public/Councillors under the provisions of Committee Procedure Rule 15 (Part 4B of the Constitution).
RESOLVED: To note that no petitions were received at the meeting under the provisions of Committee Procedure Rule 15.
To receive deputations (if any) under the provisions of Committee Procedure Rule 16 (Part 4B) of the Constitution.
RESOLVED: To note that no deputations were received at the meeting under the provisions of Committee Procedure Rule 16.
References from Council/Cabinet
RESOLVED: To note that no references had been received.
Petition - Whitchurch Playing Fields
A petition containing over 1,000 signatures was referred to in the Cabinet report on Whitchurch Playing Fields on 20 June 2012. In accordance with the Council’s Petition Scheme, if a petition contains at least 1,000 signatures the relevant senior officer will be called to give evidence at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The petition organiser, the Whitchurch Consortium, has been invited to submit questions to the Chair of the Committee.
The Petition supports the Whitchurch Consortium’s proposals for the regeneration of Whitchurch Playing Fields.
In accordance with the Council’s Petition Scheme, the Committee received a petition containing over 1,000 signatures that had been referred to in the Cabinet report on Whitchurch Playing Fields on 20 June 2012. The petition supported the Whitchurch Consortium’s proposals for the regeneration of Whitchurch Playing Fields.
The Chair advised Members that the Whitchurch Consortium had been invited to attend the meeting and also to submit questions but that they had indicated that they would not attend or ask questions as the petition was unusual in that it was supporting a Council initiative. The Consortium had indicated that they felt there was little they could add and did not think it appropriate therefore to ask any questions but would have been happy to if their presence had been requested. He indicated that he would, however, permit 15 minutes of questions to officers. He reminded Members that the petition was supportive of the Consortium’s proposals. The Chair welcomed the Portfolio Holder for Property and Major Contracts and the Corporate Director of Place Shaping to the meeting.
Members asked a number of questions including the following:
· Clarification was sought as to whether the Council had had any involvement in the preparation of the petition and the Corporate Director of Place Shaping advised that the petition had been initiated by the Consortium. He understood that the petition had been prepared as a result of the positive comments the Consortium had received. The unredacted petition had been provided to Members of Cabinet, in confidence, and a validation check of the signatures had been carried out by Electoral Services.
· A Member expressed the view that the unredacted version of the petition should have been provided to Members of the Committee in order to enable scrutiny of the reasons stated by signatories for their support of the proposals. The Corporate Director indicated that he did not disagree with that view.
· In terms of duplication of pages contained in the petition, an officer advised that he had been aware of these and the net number of signatures was 1,265. The Portfolio Holder for Property and Major Contracts indicated that he was satisfied with the validity of the petition and the checks that had been carried out.
· A Member stated that at a meeting in March 2012, a lot of people had spoken against the proposal and it therefore appeared that the views of local residents had been ignored. The Portfolio Holder responded that a number of residents had spoken to him following that meeting and had indicated that they had not felt able to voice their support for the proposal due the nature of the meeting. The Corporate Director stated that he did not accept that local residents had been ignored as the Consortium had engaged with those residents adjoining the site.
· A Member stated that less that 30 people on the roads adjoining the site had signed the petition whilst the highest support came from Streatfield Road, a road nowhere near the site. The Portfolio ... view the full minutes text for item 295.
Report of the Divisional Director of Partnership Development and Performance
The Committee received a report of the Divisional Director of Partnership Development and Performance which set out the findings of the review of private rented sector housing in Harrow.
The Chair welcomed the Chair of the Review Group, Councillor Marilyn Ashton, to the meeting. The Chair of the Review Group outlined the content of the report. In terms of the recommendations, she advised that members of the review group had expressed differing views but that she hoped that the report would be useful to both this and any future Cabinet. She indicated that she was happy to provide the Committee with a briefing note on dealing with the proceeds of crime / planning enforcement. She also made reference the suggestion that had come out of the review that there be a landlord kite mark.
The Chair of the Review Group stated that if the residents of Harrow were provided with excellent, reasonably priced private rented sector housing it would prevent people from being housed in unsatisfactory accommodation.
Members then asked questions and made comments as follows:
· The Chair of the Scrutiny Review Group was invited to attend the Standing Scrutiny Review of the Budget meeting which considered the effective use of capital for regeneration of the borough.
· A Member questioned whether there had been any consultation with Estate Agents with a large rental market and was advised that there seemed to be an issue with the review group having access to this information, although it would have been useful.
· In relation to a query on Help2Let, the Chair of the Review Group advised that this was a partnership involving the Council but that it would be necessary for any details to be provided by Housing.
· A Member stated that the number of empty homes in Harrow, 60, and the number that would become family dwellings, was not significant.
· In terms of economic development and the benefit cap, the Chair of the Review Group confirmed that the correct information had been included in the report and made the case for the recommendation. The review made the observation that there could potentially be a problem for people to remain in Harrow.
· A Member stated that it was necessary for Cabinet to see the review report prior to the housing policy documents being finalised.
· The Chair of the Review Group undertook to circulate details of a recent court case to Members of the Committee.
Members congratulated the Chair of the Review Group on the report. The Chair thanked her for attendance and responses.
(1) the report of the review group be agreed and be referred to Cabinet on 13 September 2012;
(2) the findings of the private tenant survey be appended to the review report prior to its submission to Cabinet;
(3) Recommendation K of the review be accepted, and the Standing Review of the Budget consider the policy objectives of the Private Sector Strategy as part of its work in reviewing the council’s use of capital. ... view the full minutes text for item 296.
Children Looked After Attainment
Report of the Corporate Director of Children and Families
The Committee received a report from the Corporate Director of Children, Schools and Families which summarised and evaluated achievement data for Harrow Children Looked After (CLA) using the Department for Education definition of CLA.
An officer reported that this year’s results were not yet available but that the report presented previous years’ for Members’ review. Ofsted had made positive comments in relation to CLA at their recent inspection andthe good educational provision and placements of CLA.
Members made comments and asked questions as follows:
· A Member stated that he had a number of concerns in relation to the report and questioned why the 3 Headteachers previously responsible for CLA attainment had appeared to fail on each aspect of their job description. In addition, the report did not acknowledge that the system had not worked. The officer advised that the serving headteachers had moved into the specialist area CLA and that there had been a steep learning curve which might be why the Member’s perception was that improvement had not been as quick as he would have liked. There had been a change in emphasis in that there was now a figure head, the Virtual Headteacher, to refer to.
In terms of the 3 areas of responsibility of a virtual school head, an officer advised that this section of the report had been edited and that there was a need to be open about the lessons to be learnt. The 3 part time virtual headteachers had concentrated on CLA in Harrow schools and those CLA placed outside Harrow had only received a response when there had been a crisis.
· A Member expressed the view that, due to the presentation of the graphs, the information provided was limited. He requested that ‘real time’ information be presented. An officer advised that he could provide the data behind the figures in an A3 format and that work was being done in relation to absence tracking. In year progress tracking had improved.
· In response to a Member’s question about statistical comparison with other boroughs, an officer advised that Harrow had largely been compared with other outer London Boroughs and Slough. Variations were often due to small numbers. He added that Harrow was struggling against the national picture mainly due to a challenging teenage cohort of CLA. There had been a higher number of teenagers in the previous few years.
· In terms of sharing information and learning, the officer advised that there were regional networks of VHT and this was used for sharing good practice. There was also a conference being held in November 2012.
· A Member stated that it was recognised that Children in Care tended to have low attainment but there did not appear to be any mention of the emotional needs of a child. An officer advised that work had been done by Children’s Services in this area and that the remodelling of the service had enabled better analysis. Officers were also working with partners on a triage of services. ... view the full minutes text for item 297.