Agenda and draft minutes

Finance, Commercial Revenue and Contracts Policy & Accountability Committee
Tuesday, 12th February, 2019 7.00 pm

Venue: Courtyard Room - Hammersmith Town Hall. View directions

Contact: Kayode Adewumi  020 8753 2499

Items
No. Item

24.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 124 KB

To approve as an accurate record, and the Chairman to sign the minutes of the meeting held on 30th January 2019

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 30 January 2019 were approved and signed by the Chair.

25.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were submitted by Tony Boys and Councillor Fiona Smith.

26.

Declarations of interest

If a Committee member has any prejudicial or personal interest in a particular item they should declare the existence and nature of the interest at the commencement of the consideration of that item or as soon as it becomes apparent.

 

At meetings where members of the public are allowed to be in attendance and speak, any Councillor with a prejudicial interest may also make representations, give evidence or answer questions about the matter. The Councillor must then withdraw immediately from the meeting before the matter is discussed and any vote taken unless a dispensation has been obtained from the Standards Committee.

 

Where Members of the public are not allowed to be in attendance, then

the Councillor with a prejudicial interest should withdraw from the meeting whilst the matter is under consideration unless the disability has been removed by the Standards Committee.

 

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest made.

27.

West King Street Renewal Programme pdf icon PDF 329 KB

Full Council considered and approved the report on 23rd January 2019.  The purpose of the report was to obtain authority from Full Council to acquire an interest in the joint venture with A2 Dominion Developments Ltd., approve development funding, and to amend the approved capital and revenue budget as required by the Council’s Financial Regulations to enable the project to move forward.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

David Burns, Assistant Director, Growth, gave a detailed background to the approved scheme. The Committee welcomed the report and asked some questions.

 

Chris Littmoden asked why was the scheme not fully devoted to providing affordable housing considering the pressures on the temporary accommodation budget rather than provide a mixed use of housing, commercial offices and cinema space.   David noted that the scheme was designed in line with the Local Plan which requires the replacement of the cinema, provision of some office space, commercial units, and mixed residential homes.  The space occupied by the cinema in the basement cannot be used for housing.  Judith Worthy was of the view that the increased commercial units would compete with existing businesses.  Officers noted that the development would encourage more people to come further down King street thereby increasing support for local businesses.

 

The Leader noted that the residents were outraged that the cinema was not replaced in the previous scheme. The cinema was one of the most popular aspects of the scheme which will attract more economic activity down West King street.  The scheme would be self-funding as the aim is to attract new employment opportunities from new industries.  The Administration aims to build over 3000 genuine affordable houses by the end of this term.  The scheme includes other opportunities such as the Council is working on an alliance with Imperial College in relation to the private rented homes and buyers of the office accommodation. The affordable housing would relieve pressure on the temporary accommodation budget.

 

Eric Hohenstein asked what was the percentage of people who access our services in person.  And has the Council looked at White City or alternative cheaper sites other than Hammersmith?  He believed the Council was putting officers in the most expensive part of the Borough.

 

The Leader reported that the Council was looking at a 5:10 desk ratio with increased digital interaction with residents, a modernised workforce, modernised organisation operating with zero based budgeting principles enabling the organisation to run more effectively and efficiently.  It is difficult to turn the town hall into any use other than offices.

 

Officers noted that the Council will be changing the way it works to reduce its footprint.  Councillor Jones noted that there would be flexibility in the use of the town hall space. The Council would be able to expand or contract its footprint in future.

 

The Leader informed the Committee that there would also be a change of culture.  The town hall would contain more than just Council offices. We will create a Civic Hub containing start up space, café hub, homework hub, shared office space with local businesses and other government agencies.

 

Chris Littmoden asked what are the efficiencies, success factors and KPIs? Councillor Murphy enquired about the control measures put in place to ensure that the project is delivered on time and within budget.

 

The Leader noted that there were a lot of factors which had to be taken into consideration when making the decision to proceed  ...  view the full minutes text for item 27.

28.

Using Our Estate More Economically pdf icon PDF 1 MB

This presentation sets out the current work in train to enable the Committee to shape initial thinking and strategy development. The Committee is invited to contribute new ideas and insight which will help develop the proposals further.

Minutes:

David Burns, Assistant Director Growth, gave a presentation on using our estate more economically.  The Committee noted that the 3 strategic approaches which were in development – Asset and Growth strategy, Schools Renewal programme and Corporate Landlord approach.

 

The Committee asked some questions during the presentation.

 

Councillor Vincent asked if the Council can borrow more to fund assets acquisition as part of our assets strategy?  Officers noted that Council can borrow more but could not give an exact figure because there were other factors that had to be taken into consideration.  Councillor Murphy asked for an explanation why Earl’s court development would restrict the Council’s borrowing ability.

 

Action - An explanation why Earl’s court development would restrict the Council’s borrowing ability.

 

Action by – Emily Hill, Assistant Director – Corporate Finance

 

 

Chris Littmoden asked whether the better utilisation of the school estate was undertaken within the framework of reducing council tax for residents. David noted that the programme was developed within the Council’s Business plan.

 

Councillor Murphy asked how can we sweat our assets to increase income for the Council’s use.   He saw reducing council tax is an option, increasing housing stock, and improving the schools’ assets as objectives of the assets strategy.

 

Hitesh clarified that there were many objectives of the asset and growth strategy including building affordable housing and increasing the Council’s revenue streams.  Any increase in revenue streams would reduce the budget pressures which could have an impact on Council tax levels

 

Councillor Murphy observed that the proposed asset strategy was to increase the supply of affordable housing rather than better sweat our assets.  Officers should look at the opportunities to increase affordable housing as well as increasing commercial income for the Council.  David said that the creation of mixed tenure housing, commercial assets and the use of community assets would all be explored as part of the strategy. 

 

In response to Eric Hohenstein’s question about the definition of affordable housing, David Burns noted that it is defined as 60% low cost rent and shared ownership.  The Council will build additional units in line with planning policy.

 

 

Under the School renewal programme, Judith Worthy sought clarification whether the Council proposed to sell school’s playing fields.  She was concerned about the possible loss of green space.  Steve Miley responded that the intension is to maximise air above schools and utilise space within the estate without compromising the play space available.   We are proposals to rearrange school space in a more efficient way with affordable housing provision without impacting on the greenspace.  This would also create an opportunity to balance the education debt.

 

Eric Hohenstein asked if the Council would increase school sizes?  It was reported that increasing school sizes was not an objective. If the opportunity arose, we might decide to bring multiple provisions together like using space for alternative education provision and community use.   The Council does consider the geographical location of schools especially near boundaries.

 

Dave stated that the Council will undertake an appraisal of every  ...  view the full minutes text for item 28.

29.

Bringing Back Life To The High Street, Strategy To Attract Business pdf icon PDF 579 KB

This paper briefs Members on current initiatives on bringing back life to the high street and strategies to attract business. 

Minutes:

Nicki Burgess, Business Engagement Manager, gave a briefing on how the Council was bringing back life to the high street and the strategies in place to attract businesses.  The Council delivers a range of support to high streets through business support and placemaking interventions.  A key focus is on the public realm ensuring that it is clean safe, accessible, and attractive.

 

Regarding the vibrancy and occupancy of Town centres, Councillor Murphy cited King Street as an example of a High street which had a high occupancy rate but was not vibrant as it was filled with many betting, charity and chicken shops. He asked what can we do to make it more vibrant?  Nicki noted that the Council does not have a huge influence over who occupies the shops but we are working with those landlords that engage to improve the quality of shops.

 

Councillor Vincent noted that the Council has limited resources to invest in high street initiatives. He asked if we had unlimited resources what could we have done?  Nicki noted that the future of the high street was changing from retail to leisure focus.  The focus could be provision of multi-use space including start up business, community café, business incubator space and leisure space.  Mixed development uses would attract more people to the area.

 

Councillor Johnson noted that the impact of the super cycle highway was missing from the report.  Shop keeper usually advocate for parking in front of or near their shops.  Officers noted that Waltham Forest introduced a scheme in Walthamstow tagged “Mini-Holland” which encourages walking or cycling within 15 minutes to shops.  Evidence has shown that shops have benefited from this initiative through increased footfall.

 

Eric Hohenstein asked what can the Council do as part of the industrial strategy to attract business to our area.  Officers noted that the Council could restrict the number of A2 units through the Local plan.  It cannot revoke existing planning permission.   Councillor Quigley asked if betting shops required licenses to operate.  Officers agreed to check

 

Action – Check if betting shops required special licenses to operate.

 

Action by Nicki Burgess

 

Councillor Johnson asked what does the shop keepers think about the 2-stage financial transaction authentication process soon to be introduced. It was noted that there are some shops which have not embraced technology operating on cash only.  Their reaction will depend on their business model.

 

The Chair thanked the officers for an informative presentation.

30.

National Non Domestic Rate (NNDR) pdf icon PDF 114 KB

The Council collects National Non Domestic Rates (NNDR) on behalf of Government under the Local Government Finance Act 1988.  This paper provides a briefing on business rates.

Minutes:

Jamie Mullins, Head of Revenues, and Jenny Dixon, Taxation Manager, presented a report on National Non- Domestic Rates (NNDR) known as Business Rates. The Committee noted the NNDR retention scheme which was in operation since April 2018 and the proposed changes from April 2019.   

 

The Committee noted that the local discretional and small business rate relief schemes benefitted 900 and 1400 businesses respectively. The mandatory relief benefited properties which are wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes.  25 establishments have benefited from the Pub relief.

 

The retail discount scheme announced in the October 2018 budget could benefit around 1400 businesses. Councillor Murphy asked if the Council was adversely affected by the relief granted. It was noted that this was funded within the scheme by the Government. However, if the Council introduced a local discount scheme it would funded locally.

 

In response to a question from Eric Hohenstein regarding avoidance, it was noted that those organisations who engage in such practices are within the law. They engaged with the Council by paying their reduced rates bill on time.   Until the Government drafts new legislation our hands are tied.

 

Councillor Johnson about relief on National rail estates let to local businesses.   It was noted that once a property was vacant for 3 months TFL claimed the empty property relief. The new occupier would pay the full business rates as relief can only be claimed once.

 

The Chair asked for a note to be circulated on the checks and balance to safeguard against fraud. 

 

Action – Note to the committee on the checks and balance to safeguard against fraud.

 

Action by Jamie Mullins, Head of Revenues

31.

Committee Work Programme pdf icon PDF 67 KB

The Committee is requested to consider the items within the Work Programme attached as Appendix A to this report and suggest any amendments or additional topics to be included in the future.

 

Minutes:

The work programme was updated.

 

32.

Dates of future meetings

 

The following dates are proposed:

·         Wednesday 27th March 2019

Minutes:

The following date was noted: -

·         Wednesday 27th March 2019