Agenda and minutes

Finance, Commercial Revenue and Contracts Policy & Accountability Committee - Wednesday, 31st March, 2021 6.30 pm

Venue: Online - Virtual Meeting. View directions

Contact: Bathsheba Mall  Email: bathsheba.mall@lbhf.gov.uk

Link: Watch live on YouTube

Items
No. Item

1.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 259 KB

To approve as an accurate record, and the Chairman to sign the minutes of the meetings held on 28 January 2021 and 18 November 2020.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

That the minutes of the previous meetings held on 28 January 2021

18 November 2020 were agreed as an accurate record.

2.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillor David Morton.

3.

Roll Call and Declarations of interest

To confirm attendance, the Chair will perform a roll call. Members will also have the opportunity to declare any interests.

 

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:

None.

4.

H&F Council's Draft Equalities Plan for 2021-2025 pdf icon PDF 452 KB

This report alerts members to the recently launched draft Equalities Plan 2021-2025, currently open to public consultation for a 12-week period until the end of April.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Helen Rowbottom welcomed Emily Hill, Kim Smith, and Councillor Sue Fennimore to jointly present the report and consultation document which set out details of the council’s draft Equalities Plan. Recently launched, the consultation was open for a 12 week period until the end of April 2021. The consultation document set the boroughs direction of travel for progressing equality of opportunity over the next four years, shaping policy across the council. Councillor Rowbottom welcomed the report given the impact of inequalities and the disproportionate outcomes for many groups. 

 

Emily Hill explained that the council was required to publish the Equalities Plan objectives in line with its public sector equality duty to eliminate discrimination and foster good relations (paragraph 1.4). The council’s vision was to become the most inclusive borough in the UK with equal opportunity of access for all residents. The removal of barriers to inclusion challenging the disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups was a key priority.  Details of the consultation and how to contribute had been shared across multiple media channels. Members of the council’s policy and accountability committees (PACs) were encouraged to participate and to share details of the consultation.

 

Councillor Donald Johnson welcomed the report and asked if the consultation was restricted to addressing inequalities experienced by those who have protected characteristics or was there an opportunity to be more proactive and tackle broader issues such as deprivation.  Emily Hill clarified that that the legal framework encompassed protected characteristics but acknowledged that there was a multiplicity of factors and experiences to address. This intersectionality meant that it was possible to include factors such as deprivation. 

 

Councillor Johnson commented that the council had previously included as a cohort young white boys who had performed poorly at school and lower life outcomes.  Kim Smith responded that the two key objectives of the draft Equalities Plan was to improve opportunities and to tackle inequalities and that this was applicable to all borough residents. Some of the root causes of inequality stemmed from deprivation, poverty and discrimination and were cross cutting as they affected all residents. As a compassionate borough the intention was to ensure economic prosperity and inclusion for all groups, visible and hidden, so that no one was left behind.

 

Councillor Rowbottom noted that the consultation document had been informed by detailed evidence provided by the borough business intelligence team and acknowledged that there were a range of groups impacted by inequality of opportunity and poor outcomes.  Outcomes for children and young people could be improved, for example, post 16 apprenticeships, and support measures for women returning to work after having children.

 

The report was welcomed by co-optee Erik Hohenstein who enquired about how many people were likely to be aware of it or had provided feedback to the consultation document. Given the likelihood that Covid might affect the level of public participation he queried whether the consultation period was long enough. Observing the intention within the vision statement to be inclusive he felt it was important that the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

2022 Budget Context pdf icon PDF 615 KB

This report sets out the background to the medium term financial planning process, contextualised with an update on the national finances and the financial impact of ongoing austerity in Hammersmith & Fulham.

Minutes:

Councillor Rowbottom prefaced discussion of the item and presentation and explained that it set the national, budget context. It acknowledged the inherent financial difficulties of the extraordinary events of the past year and the period ahead with the continued challenges presented by Covid, preceded by years of austerity. Tailored focus was required to maintain financial health and central to this was how the council was able to innovate to create greater efficiencies and generate income.  The guiding principle for the Committee was to support the council in delivering more for less with two key priorities: to be ruthlessly and financially efficient whilst at the same time, to be a compassionate council. Councillor Rowbottom reported that since 2014, a little under £58 million of spend had been removed from the council’s annual budget, reducing the budget to approximately £182 million. The lean structure of the council had presented significant challenges in dealing with the pandemic. Councillor Rowbottom invited members to consider the following three questions:

 

·     To identify what the biggest financial issues currently were, or, that the council would be facing in future;

·     What were the most impactful opportunities to exploit or consider and identify areas where strong interventions were possible; and

·     What areas needed to be understood in greater depth, supported by data and analysis.

 

Emily Hill led the presentation and outlined the purpose of the report which examined the medium term financial strategy (MTFS) within a national, financial context and what this meant for H&F. Identifying savings through efficiencies was becoming increasingly difficult and the challenges presented by the pandemic potentially signalled a renewed austerity programme. Changes to the settlement process, now an annual assessment, also indicated significant uncertainty and risk in local government funding.  An economic downturn and central government policy objectives such as levelling up or fair funding would divert funds from inner city boroughs like H&F. A corresponding increase in demand for services and potential unmet demand following Covid presented a difficult landscape to navigate.  The considerable strain that this caused had led to the London Borough of Croydon issuing a section 114 notice (where a local authority only has enough funds to deliver essential or regulatory services). H&F had responded well to the demands of austerity, achieved significant savings, and met additional demand but with an increased cost.  A balanced budget had been set for 2021-22 had factored in Covid, and pressures from demand led from complex adult social care and children’s services cases.

 

Councillor Rowbottom welcomed the report and commented that anticipating and modelling outcomes for contingency planning could include both best, medium and worst case scenarios which could be revisited depending on national policy or inflationary trends.  This would help to identify actions and plans to mitigate.

 

Councillor Quigley sought clarification about the level of funding provided by government.  Emily Hill clarified that she expected local government long term funding to reduce which would require councils to reassess services and planned core spending power. This could mean a rise in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Committee Work Programme

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:

Councillor summarised actions arising from the reports which would help shape the Committee’s ongoing work programme:

 

Agenda Item 4 - Draft Equalities Plan 2021-25:

1.    To include and address the needs of groups and communities that experience low life outcomes and that an explicitly evidenced based approach ensured that data was used to help identify how services can be delivered more inclusively;

2.    That data was the driver for measuring need to help identify groups and to understand the impact of any changes implemented;

3.    To utilise council touch points for deeper engagement with communities;

4.    For the council to demonstrate how the plan will be embedded across the organisation;

5.    For the committee to utilise a financial lens to understand the metrics and the KPIs and to benchmark provision against comparative councils;

6.    To evaluate the return on investment and to demonstrate what is deliverable to residents through council tax payment;

7.    To help influence and shape policy delivery with a financial context; and

8.    To recognise that this was a critical period for local government, post Covid given the disproportionate impact of health inequalities in some communities.

 

Agenda Item 5 – 2022 Budget Context:

1.    To review financial modelling and, for example, to understand business rate scenario analysis and outcomes or the impact on the rising cost of complex social care;

2.    To understand the impact of and distinction between statutory and non-statutory services and to identify;

3.    To consider capital estate and whether this can be used to generate capital receipts for reinvestment; and

4.    To look at the financial pressures of meeting the increased demand for social care and complex need, within the context of a population growth trajectory of 6.3% between 2018 and 2028.   The outcome of the current debate about an insurance care or state care model to meet escalating care costs was difficult to predict.

7.

Dates of future meetings

·       Wednesday, 28 July 2021

·       Wednesday, 17 November 2021

·       Wednesday, 22 February 2022

Minutes:

The date of the next meeting was noted as 28 July 2021.