To approve the minutes of the previous meeting.
A progress update on the ‘Housing Health and Safety Checks’ item from the last meeting is attached as an appendix to the minutes.
Kim Dero (Chief Executive) noted that an update on Housing Health and Safety Checks actions from the previous meeting was attached as Appendix 1 to the minutes. She added that the Senior Leadership Team was also in attendance to answer any questions the Committee had on the risk register or any other items.
Councillor Guy Vincent asked for updates on the six actions from the minutes of the previous meeting.
· Action 1 (page 1) – Councillor PJ Murphy had repeatedly requested information on the proportion of absenteeism caused by stress within the organisation. Nick Austin (Director for Environmental Health) said a response would be circulated.
· Action 2 (page 6) – Councillor Michael Adam had asked how much money had been recovered from business rates relief for vacant properties fraud. David Hughes (Director for Audit, Risk, Fraud and Insurance) said a response would be circulated.
· Action 3 (page 8) – St. Thomas of Canterbury final audit report to be deferred to the September meeting and the Headteacher and Chair of Governors to be invited. This action had been completed.
· Action(s) 4 (page 9) – Councillor Loveday had asked a number of technical questions about the Service Charges 2016-17 final audit report. David Hughes said a response would be circulated.
· Action 5 (page 11) – Councillor Mark Loveday had asked for the risk registers to be reviewed and updated. Mike Sloniowski (Risk Manager) said officers had completed a thorough review of the corporate and departmental risk registers and there was an agenda item dedicated to this later in the meeting.
· Action 6 (page 12) – This action was for the Chief Executive to look again at risk management and take a more strategic view of the issues. Kim Dero said the risk registers had been reviewed and updated and she had asked the Senior Leadership Team to attend the meeting to answer the Committee’s questions.
ACTION(S) 1: Nick Austin, David Hughes
Councillor Mark Loveday asked why the update on Health and Safety Checks at Appendix 1 of the minutes hadn’t included an update on legionella and asbestos checks despite previous reports of backlogs. Jane Martin (Director for Property Services) said the water / legionella checks were now up to date. Gradient, the Council’s consultant, had reviewed asbestos management compliance, and with the recently employed asbestos manager, were working to deliver the improvement action plan by March 2018. The Committee requested a more substantive report on progress with the health and safety checks for the December meeting.
ACTION 2: Jane Martin
Councillor Guy Vincent asked if there was a timetable for the implementation of the borough’s new £20m fire safety strategy – ‘Fire Safety Plus’. Kim Dero said officers were currently costing the proposed capital works, from sprinklers in tower blocks to remedial works in low-rises. Appointments for electrical PAT testing and inspections of whitegoods and fire doors had been booked to visit properties where residents had requested them. The Council’s aim with the programme was to go beyond the minimum standards for fire safety to ensure resident’s safety. A report on the final costings would go to Full Council for approval shortly.
Councillor Guy Vincent welcomed the strategy and investment in fire safety – he asked if there was a timeline for the implementation of such an ambitious programme. Jane Martin said fire safety check visits were by request - so far there had been 107 calls and 82 visits. The bulk of the investment would be spent on the installation of sprinklers in tower blocks.
Councillor Mark Loveday noted it was strange that the costs hadn’t yet been finalised but the Council had already announced they would be spending £20m on the programme. Councillor Donald Johnson then asked what was included in the programme. Kim Dero said officers had done initial costings but detailed work was ongoing. Jo Rowlands (Lead Director for Regeneration, Planning, and Housing) added that the £20m figure was based on estimated unit costs for sprinklers and other improvements in the borough’s highest tower blocks. The tower blocks would be upgraded in the first year of the programme and remedial works in low rises would be done in the second. A fully costed programme would be available within the next two months.
Councillor PJ Murphy noted that there had been 107 Fire Safety Plus enquiries from residents – he then asked how many units there were in the borough in total. Jo Rowlands said there were around 14,000 units in total. She added that information on Fire Safety Plus had only been sent to residents in tower blocks so far. Councillor Murphy asked for an updated engagement strategy to come to the next meeting.
ACTION 3: Jane Martin
Jo Rowlands informed the
Committee that there was a new section of the website devoted to
fire safety. Councillor Murphy thought people responded better to
knocks on doors and advised that officers shouldn’t just rely
on websites to get the message out. Jo Rowlands noted that there
had been a two-week walk through of blocks in August where fire
safety was raised with residents. There was also a training
programme for caretakers.
Councillor Michael Adam asked how the £20m investment in fire Safety Plus would be funded – was it new money or reallocations? Jo Rowlands said £10m would be taken from reserves and 10m would be taken from an existing programme that wasn’t yet allocated.
Councillor Michael Adam noted that strategic communications had been discussed in relation to risk at the previous meeting and asked for an update. Mike Sloniowski said the Council had spoked to crisis management trainers and had put together lessons learned from Grenfell Tower and the recent Parsons Green terror incident. This work was being carried forward by the emergency planning team. Councillor Adam said it would be useful for the Committee to have more detail on that work because strategic communications was a priority issue – if an authority lost control of the public narrative no one would listen to anything else they said.
Kim Dero said a comprehensive report on lessons learned would be going to the Council’s Policy and Accountability Committees. She added that there was also work ongoing to build up community resilience in the borough. An event had been held the previous evening with members of the community and local organisations to share learning and listen to their feedback. She also commended our communications team for their comprehensive approach to the Parsons Green terror incident – releasing clear statements and updates regularly throughout the day.
Councillor PJ Murphy asked that any lessons learned report had to consider the response of RBKC as well as H&F’s response. There was valuable learning to be taken from what they did well, and where they failed. Kim Dero advised the Committee that officers couldn’t bring that information to members due to the ongoing public enquiry and criminal investigation. Councillor Murphy noted that inquiries and investigations could take years and the plain facts of the response were already in the public domain. Councillor Mark Loveday added that he would be concerned if the Committee was not able to scrutinise the response to the Parsons Green incident. Kim Dero said there would be a full report on the Parsons Green incident that would not hold back on any detail.
The minutes of the meeting held on 21 June 2017 were approved and signed by the Chair.