Agenda and minutes

Harrow Business Consultative Panel - Thursday 2 February 2006 7.30 pm

Venue: Committee Rooms 1&2 Harrow Civic Centre

Contact: Kevin Unwin, Committee Administrator  Tel: 020 8424 1265 E-mail:

Note No. Item




Attendance by Reserve Members

To note the attendance at this meeting of any duly appointed Reserve Members.


Reserve Members may attend meetings:-


(i)                 to take the place of an ordinary Member for whom they are a reserve;

(ii)               where the ordinary Member will be absent for the whole of the meeting; and

(iii)             the meeting notes at the start of the meeting at the item ‘Reserves’ that the Reserve Member is or will be attending as a reserve;

(iv)              if a Reserve Member whose intention to attend has been noted arrives after the commencement of the meeting, then that Reserve Member can only act as a Member from the start of the next item of business on the agenda after his/her arrival.


RESOLVED:  To note that there were no Reserve Members in attendance at this meeting.


Declarations of Interest

To receive declarations of personal or prejudicial interests, arising from business to be transacted at this meeting, from:


(a)               all Members of the Committee, Sub Committee, Panel or Forum;

(b)               all other Members present in any part of the room or chamber.


RESOLVED:  To note that there were no declarations of interests made by Members in relation to the business transacted at this meeting.


Arrangement of Agenda

To consider whether any of the items listed on the agenda should be considered with the press and public excluded on the grounds that it is thought likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted, that there would be disclosure of confidential information in breach of an obligation of confidence or of exempt information as defined in the Local Government (Access to Information) Act 1985.


RESOLVED:  That all items be considered with the press and public present.


Public Representations

The Council’s Constitution provides for Panel meetings to receive Petitions, Deputations and Public Questions (Committee Procedure Rules 15, 16 and 18.)


RESOLVED:  To note that no public questions were put, or petitions or deputations received at this meeting under the provisions of Consultative Forum and Advisory Panel Procedure Rules 15, 13 and 14 (Part 4E of the Constitution) respectively.




That the minutes of the meeting held on 26 September 2005, having been circulated, be taken as read and signed as a correct record.


RESOLVED:  That the minutes of the meeting held on 26 September 2005, having been circulated, be taken as read and signed as a correct record.


Matters Arising from the Minutes

To note the matters arising from the last meeting of the Panel.


RESOLVED:  To note that there were no matters arising from the minutes of the previous meeting.


Budget Presentation 2006/7

Presentation of the Director of Financial and Business Strategy on the Budget and Business Rate for 2006/7.


The Panel received a presentation from the Director of Financial and Business Strategy, which outlined the Authority’s draft budget proposals and the Business Rates for 2006/7.


Draft Budget 2006/7

The following points were included in the presentation:


·         A breakdown of the Council’s spending commitments and sources of funding, including the contribution of non-domestic ratepayers.


·         Details of the final financial settlement with central government, announced on 31 January 2006.  Changes in the way the grant was calculated had resulted in a two percent increase for Harrow, a figure which did not compare favourably with national average and London increases of three percent.


·         As a result of the above, the Panel was informed that Council Tax would have to be increased by three percent before any new growth or savings could be made.  Further to this, the Greater London Authority precept would require a seventeen percent or £42 a year increase on bills for Band D households.


·         Matters relating to Council business areas were discussed, including Urban Living, People First and Corporate sections.


·         Details of the new Local Area Agreement, a three year agreement which committed the Council to working with government and relevant stakeholders such as the local business community and voluntary and community organisations to improve services in key areas.  Extra funding of £950,000 was available if targets were met.


·         Information on the schools budget.  The Panel noted that funding per-pupil for Harrow was to increase by 6.6% in 2007/8 and 6.4% in 2008/9.  In addition this money was to be ring?fenced in the coming financial year, comprising a separate direct grant to schools.


·         The Panel was also briefed on the Council’s housing stock, capital investment program and capital financing program.


The Director of Financial and Business Strategy outlined the steps taken to facilitate open budget consultation, and reminded the Panel that the 16 February 2006 meeting of Cabinet would be provided with details from consultations, before the meeting of Council on 23 February 2006 which would determine the budget for the forthcoming financial year.


Business Rate 2006/7

The Panel was informed that the Business Rate would increase in line with September 2005’s Retail Price Index (RPI), at a rate of 2.7%.


Details of rate relief available to small businesses were outlined.  The Panel was told that in 2005/6 814 small businesses in Harrow had received rate relief, exceeding £410,000 in total.  Relief of 50% was available to businesses occupying properties worth less in rateable value than £5,000, the figure declining on a sliding scale thereafter to properties worth £10,000.  It was explained that this relief was only available to businesses with one property, or with additional properties with a rateable value below £2,500.  This relief was funded through a supplement on the rates of non-eligible businesses.


Contributions/Comments from Business Community Representatives:


Central Government Grant

A community representative queried the low figure of Harrow’s direct government grant, pointing out its potentially detrimental effects when combined with high business rates, redistributing money out of Harrow and affecting local businesses as  ...  view the full minutes text for item 18.


Presentation on Crime Reduction

Presentation of the Crime Reduction Manager, discussing the Crime Reduction Strategy 2005 – 2008 and its impact for businesses; the approach to dealing with anti-social behaviour; and the development of specific business crime reduction partnerships such as Radio Harrow and Harrow Business Against Crime.


The Panel received a presentation on the Crime Reduction Strategy 2005 – 2008, in which the officer outlined the role and purpose of the Crime Reduction Unit (CRU), and its creation as a result of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, and the Police Reform Act 2002.  It was explained that the CRU used the ‘Scanning & Analysis, Response and Assessment’ (SARA) approach to crime reduction, which comprised the following elements:


Scanning and Analysis:  The use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to collate information on and map crime at postcode level, as well as the production of Safer Neighbourhood Reports, the CCTV report, the Domestic Violence Common Monitoring Form Report, and the Anti-Social behaviour report.


Response:  As detailed in yearly action plans, and included the Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) unit, a Hate-Crime Coordinator, and a Domestic Violence Coordinator.  The Panel was informed that all these elements undertook to coordinate multi-agency responses to their areas of concern, as well as to perform functions relating to victim support and crime prevention.


Assessment:  Conducted through the Crime Reduction and Strategy Audit, as well as annual and quarterly performance reports to the Home Office.  The Panel was informed that monitoring and evaluation of action plans was also carried out through the Safer Harrow Management Group.


In addition, the Panel was briefed on measures directed at tackling Business Crime. Neighbourhood Watch was identified as an integral element of this, as well as the Harrow Businesses Against Crime initiative, with the latter composed of three parts:


·         the construction of a retail radio link, giving business access to a CCTV control room and police intelligence;


·         a National Business Information System, recording offenders of business crime;


·         installation of the ‘Ringmaster’ early warning system, allowing businesses to report and alert other businesses of occurring crimes.


It was explained that radios for the above scheme cost £300.  Harrow had purchased a quantity to lease to small businesses at a low rate to facilitate the scheme’s extension.


The Panel was also informed of the launch of Harrow Community Television, which was being piloted across eight sites, with plans to eventually expand to ten sites.


Contributions/Comments from Business Community Representatives


Police Response Times

A representative of the business community asked what the police response times were for the Borough.  An officer explained that whilst Harrow was statistically the safest London Borough, police forces were comparatively under-resourced, and so response times may not be as fast as desired.


CCTV Cameras

The effectiveness of CCTV cameras was queried, with a representative asking how many arrests and convictions could specifically be attributed to these devices.  An officer responded that CCTV cameras were effective as part of a range of measures on crime reduction, and helped provide information on the dispersal and movement of crime across the Borough.


A representative raised the issue of alleged inappropriate usage of CCTV cameras, stating that film was absent in cameras which could have been used to prevent a burglary, but that cameras in parking zones contained film  ...  view the full minutes text for item 19.


Presentation on Transport Policy

Presentation of the Transportation Manager discussing an overview of transport policy and controlled parking zones.


The Panel received a presentation of the Interim Head of Public Realm Infrastructure which addressed Harrow’s transport policy and the use of controlled parking zones.


It was brought to the Panel’s attention that whilst Harrow was a unitary authority, it was bound to implement both the national transport strategy as well as the Mayor for London’s own strategy.  It was also pointed out that Harrow Council was not the public transport authority for the Borough.


The following points were included in the presentation:


·         that traffic growth in the Borough was unsustainable, currently representing a figure of 1 to 2% a year with roads at or near full capacity in the peak hours;


·         that there were many competing demands on traffic policy, including requirements of safety, vehicle and pedestrian access and standards of air quality, as well as competitiveness;


·         the Traffic Strategy included attempts to reduce the need for travel as well balancing improvements in public transport and car usage;


·         transport programmes to be delivered focused on safety, such as 20mph zones and safer routes to schools, as well as bus priority, congestion, pedestrian and cycling improvements, and education and travel awareness;


·         the use of controlled parking zones was demand led, and used only when problems occurred, and that currently there were 19 zones;


·         the purpose of controlled parking zones was to ensure, amongst other factors, adequate access and safety standards, the management of competing demands, and to encourage the use of sustainable transport;


·         that on street business permits for controlled parking zones in the Harrow area cost £300 for operational vehicles.  Annual, half yearly and quarterly permits were available.


Contributions/Comments from Business Community Representatives


Controlled Parking Zones

A representative questioned the clarity of the signs used to alert road users of controlled parking zone times, claiming that they were confusing and gave insufficient information.  Officers responded that they were aware of this problem, and that efforts were underway to rectify the situation.  However, in view of the costs required to alter the signage, the Panel was told that this process might take two to three years.


A Member questioned the success of current efforts to divert users onto public transport, including the effect of controlled parking zones.  An officer responded that he was unsure of the exact figures in this regard, but referred the Member to earlier evidence that traffic was increasing by 1 to 2% a year.  It was also added that controlled parking zones were a small element of the Council’s overall strategy and that the most effective means of achieving a shift to public transport were fiscal measures and the quality of public transport, both of which were outside the Council’s control.


CCTV Usage

The issue of the cost to the business community of enforcement using CCTV was again brought to the Panel’s attention.  In reply, it was stated that officers had received a petition and would be examining the matter.  However, it was also stressed that the purpose of CCTV in this regard was to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.


Presentation on Business Mapping

Presentation of a Strategic Planning Officer on the use of Business Mapping to establish a current and more accurate picture of businesses based in the borough and their needs and aspirations, as well as uncovering business trends in terms of developing sectors and size.


The Panel heard a presentation of the Director of ‘Harrow in Business’ on Business Mapping.  It was brought to the Panel’s attention that Harrow remained in the top twenty for national enterprise hotspots, as measured by the number of new business accounts opened in the Borough per annum.  It was added that 96% of these businesses employed less than ten people, and that these employees in turn comprised 41% of Harrow’s employees.


The Panel was informed that the purpose of business mapping was to update information on Harrow’s changing business demographic, as this was considerably out of date.  This was to be a two-stage process, comprising an initial stage of core data collection whereby the accuracy of existing records would be checked, and a secondary stage where the issues and priorities of the business community would be collated.


This information gathering exercise was deemed particularly necessary in view of the large number of businesses operating out of resident’s homes, as currently no data existed on these organisations.  It was also added that Business Mapping would aid in forward planning services, providing a reliable source of evidence on the current needs of local businesses.


Comments/Contributions from Business Community Representatives


Insolvency Rates

A representative queried the high figure of new business accounts being opened in Harrow, suggesting that this may have negative connotations if it was a reflection of high insolvency rates.  In response, it was stated that the number of VAT registered business in Harrow had been in decline, but that this was not necessarily a reflection of insolvency as many businesses operating in the Borough had their VAT registered officers outside the Borough.  However, it was added that businesses experienced difficulty growing in Harrow, and that this and the above issue were to be addressed in the Business Mapping exercise.


A member expressed concern that, whilst Harrow was still classed as innovative by virtue of its top twenty position in the enterprise table, this figure still represented a decline of some 10% from previous positions.  In response, a Member stated that Harrow was disadvantaged in comparison to other boroughs in this regard, with a relatively low proportion of commercial and industrial sites, and that this may go some way to explaining the trend.


RESOLVED:  That the above be noted.


Any Other Business

Which the Chair has decided is urgent and cannot otherwise be dealt with.


A representative of the business community congratulated the Director of ‘Harrow in Business’ on the success of the business incubation scheme in the Harrow area.


It was announced to the Panel that the incubation scheme was split into three stages, and that results from the first stage – demand measurement – having been collated, endorsed a simultaneous progression of the second and third stages, namely an overview of the services to be provided under the scheme, and finally a business plan.


RESOLVED:  That the above be noted.


Extension and Termination of the Meeting


In accordance with Advisory Panel and Consultative Forum Rule 12.1 (Part 4E of the Constitution) it was


RESOLVED:  (1) At 10.00 pm to continue until 10.30 pm;


(2) at 10.30 pm to continue until 10.45 pm.