Greenwich Council

Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee Room 6 - Town Hall, Wellington Street, Woolwich SE18 6PW. View directions

Contact: Daniel Wilkinson  Email: daniel.wilkinson@royalgreenwich.gov.uk or tel: 020 8921 5102

Note: This meeting has been moved from 16 November 2017 

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for Absence

To receive apologies for absence from Members of the Panel.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Paul Morrissey and Harpinder Singh.

 

Apologies for leaving early were given by Councillor John Fahy.

2.

Urgent Business

The Chair to announce any items of urgent business circulated separately from the main agenda.

Minutes:

There was no urgent business.

3.

Declarations of Interest pdf icon PDF 40 KB

Members to declare any personal and financial interests in items on the agenda.  Attention is drawn to the Council’s Constitution; the Council’s Code of Conduct and associated advice.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Resolved –

 

That the list of Councillors’ memberships as Council appointed representatives on outside bodies, joint committees and school governing bodies be noted.

4.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 92 KB

Members are requested to confirm as an accurate record the Minutes of the meeting held on 27 September 2017.

 

No motion or discussion may take place upon the Minutes except as to their accuracy, and any question on this point will be determined by a majority of the Members of the body attending who were present when the matter in question was decided.  Once confirmed, with or without amendment, the person presiding will sign the Minutes.

Minutes:

Resolved -

 

That the minutes of the meeting of the Corporate Finance and Performance Scrutiny Panel held on 27 September 2017 be agreed and signed as a true and accurate record.

5.

Electoral Services Annual Report 2017 pdf icon PDF 497 KB

To note electoral registration activities since the start of the canvass process for the revised register published February 2017, and on the preparation for the June 2017 General Election, and research into the residents who did not correctly register to vote in time

Minutes:

The report was presented by the Head of Electoral Services. He stated that Electoral Services was proud of all the staff at the General Election as they contributed to a speedy and accurate count.

 

In response to questions from the Panel about the canvas the Head of Electoral Services replied that a lower percentage response to the canvas was not an indication that there had not been attempts to contact residents to register.  He explained that challenges the electoral canvas faced included tower blocks with concierge/security doors, redevelopments where some but not all units were occupied, and areas with high churn. Steps taken to address this included greater use of electronic means to get to potential electors and also additional canvassing beyond the statutory requirement in the areas where there was a low response.

 

The canvas response figures for the Woolwich Arsenal to be provided.

Action: DCE

 

In response to questions from the Panel about registration the Head of Electoral Services advised that whilst legally an £80 fine could be imposed for non-registration this power had not be used anywhere in the country. He confirmed that social media was used to proactively promote registration.  He clarified that Avery Hill campus was targeted because it had a high number of students, and it was also easy to get data about the students. A lot of students were already registered elsewhere, usually home, and that was where they would vote. Apart from a specific email from Electoral Services the amount of effort to get students registered was not greater than that applied to residents. He explained that if an application to register failed the applicant was advised on what information they needed to provide to get the application approved, Officers would also do a cross data check against the benefits system, and also Officers would visit the applicant to give them the chance to provide the relevant information. If after that an application failed it would not be known if the resident failed because they did not possess the required documents.

 

The steps to be taken to improve the situation in terms of registration in the Wards of Abbey Wood, Glyndon, Peninsula, Plumstead, Thamesmead Moorings, Woolwich Common and Woolwich Riverside to circulated.

Action: DCE

 

In response to questions from the Panel about other matters the Head of Electoral Services advised that Officers were to meet with the Electoral Commission to discuss the effect of the General Data Protection Regulations.

 

Resolved –

 

That the report be noted.

6.

Performance Monitoring of Key Indicators for Revenues and Corporate Debt Management pdf icon PDF 154 KB

To consider information on in-year and prior year performance for the Revenues and Debt Service and the plans for the future development of these Services

Minutes:

The report was presented by the Head of Debt & Financial Support Services.

 

In response to questions from the Panel the Head of Debt & Financial Support Services replied that there was a 1% increase in the number of residents paying by Direct Debit since last year, which was now up to 51% in total, and the percentage using Direct Debit was expected to increase further. When taxpayers received their bill they were encouraged to pay by Direct Debit. There was no longer a scheme across London to incentivise taxpayers to switch to using Direct Debit. The Head of Debt & Financial Support Services explained that with regard to Council Tax Collection to address the dip in the amount collected additional Saturday working and extra reminder runs had been introduced. She advised the Panel that Council Tax payments might be written off if it was not possible to trace the debtor, or where it was accepted that a debtor was unable to pay and it was not possible to recover the money.

 

In response to questions from the Panel about the Council Tax fine the Head of Debt & Financial Support Services explained that if taxpayers did not pay by instalment, then they had to pay full amount. If they did not do so they would be sent a reminder. A follow-up letter would then advise them that if they did not pay they would be liable to pay £95 which was the cost of the summons to court. This amount was the lowest across London and the letter was issued after two months whereas some other authorities chose to issue it after one month. If they then chose to pay in full that cost would be waived; if Officers were aware of certain personal circumstances, then consideration could be also given to waiving that cost. The letter would signpost the recipient as to where they could get independent money advice.

 

Information regarding how many people had paid a £95 Council Tax fine, broken down by ward over a year to be circulated. The Panel requested that the wording and tone of the letter that advised of the Council Tax fine be reviewed, particularly in relation to vulnerable residents in the Borough.

Action: DoF

 

Resolved –

 

That the information on in-year and prior year performance for the Revenues and Debt Service and the plans for the future development of these Services be noted.

7.

Advice & Benefits Service Annual Performance Report pdf icon PDF 111 KB

To consider the 2016-17 outturn and 2017-18 performance to date and to decide what further action needs to be taken in respect of any performance concerns

Minutes:

The report was introduced by the Assistant Director Advice and Benefits (Finance).

 

In response to questions from the Panel the Assistant Director Advice and Benefits (Finance) explained that there would be difficulties in pooling with other authorities to do Universal Credit because each might process matters differently and there would be a question as to who got priority when there was a backlog. He added that the Council fared well with other boroughs in terms of processing time. The Assistant Director said that the authority had an Anti-Poverty Group and had created a Universal Credit Implementation Group, and was working with the voluntary sector and job centre, to address, where possible, some of the predicted effects of Universal Credit.

 

The Panel commented that the Welfare Rights Service provided a good service.

 

The Panel suggested that it appeared that complaints via Councillors/MPs were dealt with more promptly than those direct from the public, and queried if it might be indicative of a failing in the process if the public were escalating complaints to Councillors/MPs. The Assistant Director Advice and Benefits (Finance) informed the Panel that the 15 working days to process complaints from the public was the corporate time scale. The completion time for a complaint might be protracted if Officers had to contact the complainant for further information. Complaints via Councillors/MPs had often already been through the complaints process. He advised the Panel that the use of E-claims sped up the process.

 

Resolved –

 

That the information on 2016-17 outturn and 2017-18 performance to date against key Performance Indicators and service priorities as selected for the Advice & Benefits Service be noted.

8.

Use of Public Buildings pdf icon PDF 102 KB

To consider the information provided and the further work proposed to review the use of Public Buildings by the community and for public hire, and the potential for enhancing revenue / income generation.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report was introduced by the Assistant Director Regeneration (Regeneration Enterprise and Skills).  It was noted that there were some errors with regard to Wards on Appendix 1.

 

The Chair agreed to two residents addressing the Panel.

 

The Panel was addressed by two residents from Plumstead. Whilst welcoming investment in Plumstead concerns were expressed that the new leisure facility in Plumstead was not a like-for-like replacement for previous facilities but rather that a leisure unit was to be added to the library. It was considered that the consultation process, and the decision making process, for this new facility had been unsatisfactory. It was felt that Plumstead was the poor relation of the other main town centres in the Borough.

 

The Assistant Director Regeneration (Regeneration Enterprise and Skills) advised the Panel that the new facility in Plumstead was not intended to be comparable to the three Service Centres, but Plumstead was a focus for the Council. The new facility was for the whole community, and would have more flexible opening times and would be more accessible. Concerns about parking had been recognised, and a transportation survey had been conducted as part of the planning process.

 

The Chair thanked the residents for their contribution.

 

In response to questions from the Panel about community group use of properties the Assistant Director Regeneration (Regeneration Enterprise and Skills) explained that Officers did not keep a specific list of properties with social value but did hold a list of community assets, and historically held a disposal list. They were now looking at how community groups might be able to co-locate to achieve economies of scale. He noted that at the moment there was a patchwork of leases and the intention was to make it more uniform. He confirmed that the resilience of community groups was a consideration. In general, the upkeep of a building was the responsibility of those taking the lease; it was recognised that some managed buildings better than others and that building maintenance could be problematic for some, which might then require Council intervention. Under the Council’s Voluntary and Community Sector Strategy a rental contribution was sought for building maintenance. Officers monitored the state of a building when undertaking, for example, fire safety checks.

 

In response to other questions from the Panel the Assistant Director Regeneration (Regeneration Enterprise and Skills) replied that the intention was for the new facility at Plumstead to open longer hours, and to have provision for making payments to the Council. He clarified that the old East Greenwich library building was to be re-marketed for disposal. He indicated that the future of Nelson House would be discussed as the current lease expired.

 

Further information on the works to the Public Hall and their timescales to be reported to the Panel.

Action: DRES

 

The Panel suggested that it would be good practice if there was feedback given to residents following stakeholder/consultation meetings.

 

Resolved –

 

That the report be noted.

9.

Commissioning Future Reports pdf icon PDF 52 KB

To note the work programme items that are scheduled to be presented to the next meeting of the Panel and to identify any specific themes or lines of enquiry to be covered in the reports

Minutes:

The Panel requested

·        an update on how the Royal Borough of Greenwich are performing against the Procurement Strategy;

·        that the ‘ICT Performance Annual Report’ include a section on the General Data Protection Regulations and what the Council is doing to prepare for it.

 

Resolved –

 

That the work programme items that are scheduled to be presented to the meeting of the Corporate Finance and Performance Scrutiny Panel on 21 February 2018 be noted.