Agenda and minutes

The Economy, Housing and the Arts Policy and Accountability Committee - Tuesday, 19th January, 2016 7.00 pm

Venue: Small Hall - Hammersmith Town Hall. View directions

Contact: Ainsley Gilbert  Tel: 020 8753 2088

Items
No. Item

29.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Councillor Max Schimd, Cabinet Member for Finance, had sent his apologies for not being at the meeting to present the budget.

30.

Declarations of Interest

* See note below.

 

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

31.

Minutes of the Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 239 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed to be accurate.

32.

2016 Medium Term Financial Strategy pdf icon PDF 268 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Hitesh Jolapara introduced the Corporate Budget. He said that public sector finances continued to be tight owing to the Government’s attempt to reduce the deficit. Funding to Local Government had been cut by 20% since 2010. This was because some areas of spending were protected from funding cuts, meaning that Local Government bore more of the overall cuts than would otherwise be the case. He explained that the Government had chosen to allow Local Authorities to introduce a Social Care Precept of 2% on top of their Council tax. This would only raise a small amount of additional income in Hammersmith and Fulham as the current levels of Council Tax were very low. It was expected that Non Domestic Rates would be devolved completely by 2020, however with this new money new responsibilities were expected. The Government had yet to launch its consultation on the proposals which would include details of what might be expected of Local Authorities. There were only two large items of corporate growth which related to the removal of Local Authorities’ National Insurance rebate, and increased costs in Children’s Services. The budget proposed that Council Tax be frozen, with the Social Care Precept not being introduced either. Fees and charges for Adult Social Care, Children’s Services, Adult Learning and Skills, Libraries and Housing would be frozen. Parking charges would also be frozen. Some charges in Environmental Services would rise by 1.1%, the Retail Price Index inflation rate from August 2015. Commercial fees and charges would be reviewed to ensure that services were competitive and bringing in good levels of income. The general fund reserves would remain at £19 million, whilst £18 million of the £90 million earmarked reserve was committed to projects taking place in 2016/17. The budget gap for future years was rising and would reach £55.8 million in 2019/20 if the Council did not find further income and savings.

 

Kath Corbett explained that much of Housing Services budget was part of the Housing Revenue Account which had been considered by the committee on 1st December 2015. The remaining part of the budget related to the Council’s homelessness duties, consisting of assessment and advice, allocations and reviews, and providing temporary accommodation. The cost of bed and breakfast accommodation had been kept below budget in 15/16 by officers hard work, and no families had been placed in this type of accommodation for almost a year. There was limited scope for a reduction in temporary accommodation costs, as any reduction in expenditure would lead to a reduction in income from Housing Benefit. Savings for the 2016/17 budget had been achieved through the negotiation of a phased withdrawal from Hamlet Gardens, properties used for temporary accommodation through the Housing Associations Leasing Scheme. This phased withdrawal meant that tenants could  be rehoused gradually, allowing the Council to avoid paying premium prices for acquiring a large number of properties at once from the private rented sector.

 

Mike Clarke explained that the Libraries budget for 2016/17 was focussed on income  ...  view the full minutes text for item 32.

33.

Work Programme and Date of Next Meeting pdf icon PDF 152 KB

The next meeting will be held on 8th March 2016.

Minutes:

Councillor Harcourt explained that a paper about changes to the library service would be brought to a future meeting of the committee. He explained that there was no intention to close libraries or cut hours, or indeed outsource the whole service as other boroughs had done. The intention of the item would be to look at ways that the library service could increase its income and at alternative ways of doing things which were cheaper, but of the same quality.

 

The Chair asked that the item on the Private Rented Sector be brought to the 8th  March meeting of the committee.

 

Councillor Phibbs asked that an item on Adult Education and Skills be brought to a future meeting as significant funding was available for improving skills and helping residents into work. He also suggested that fees could be raised and more courses could be run. Councillor Jones explained that the Council was exploring options to run more classes, but that accommodation was currently a problem as the Macbeth Centre was used to its capacity; online courses had now begun to help relieve this pressure and other venues were being sought. He didn’t feel that there was much scope for increasing charges as the service had to be competitive. The amount of funding available from the Learning and Skills Council was being reviewed which might impact on the service. A resident said that she thought the borough’s courses did not represent good value for money, and would not support a rise in the cost. The Chair explained that an item on Adult Education and Skills was already included on the work programme.

 

Councillor Connell asked that the item on Key Performance Indicators for MITIE be brought to a committee soon. Councillor Homan explained that Councillor Coleman was looking at this issue with a view to improving residents satisfaction, so a report would likely follow that work. Councillor Ivimy asked that the item include issues around Major Works.

 

Councillor Phibbs asked that the proposed item on doing business in Hammersmith and Fulham also include details of the Council’s Empty Shops Strategy as this issue had recently been raised with him. Councillor Jones noted that this item would depend on discussions proceeding well around the Growth Strategy.

 

The Chair noted that the April meeting would be held at St John’s Church, Vanaston Place, Fulham and would be focussed on high street regeneration. The June meeting would hopefully be held at Michael Stewart House, and would discuss Sheltered Housing.  The Chair also invited members to a visit to the Phoenix Housing Association in Lewisham. An email with full details would be sent to Councillors shortly.