Agenda and minutes

Performance and Finance Scrutiny Sub-Committee - Thursday 16 July 2015 7.30 pm, MOVED

Venue: Committee Room 6, Harrow Civic Centre, Station Road, Harrow, HA1 2XY. View directions

Contact: Miriam Wearing, Senior Democratic Services Officer  Tel: 020 8424 1542 E-mail:

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.


Appointment of Vice-Chair

To consider the appointment of a Vice-Chair to the Sub Committee for the Municipal Year 2015-16.


RESOLVED:  To appoint Councillor Barry Macleod-Cullinane as Vice-Chair of the Sub-Committee for the 2015/2016 Municipal Year.


Declarations of Interest

To receive declarations of disclosable pecuniary or non pecuniary interests, arising from business to be transacted at this meeting, from:


(a)               all Members of the Sub-Committee;

(b)               all other Members present.


RESOLVED:  To note that the following interest was declared:


Agenda Item 8 – Update on Council Tax Support Scheme Following Scrutiny Challenge Panel in November 2014

Councillor Barry Macleod-Cullinane declared a non-pecuniary interest in that he was Chairman of the Council Tax Support Scheme Scrutiny Review.  He would remain in the room whilst the matter was considered and voted upon.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 96 KB

That the minutes of the meeting held on 26 March 2015 be taken as read and signed as a correct record.


RESOLVED:  That the minutes of the meeting held on 26 March 2015, be taken as read and signed as a correct record.


Public Questions, Petitions and References from Council and Other Committees/Panels.

To receive any public questions received in accordance with Committee Procedure Rule 17 (Part 4B of the Constitution).


Questions will be asked in the order notice of them was received and there will be a time limit of 15 minutes.


[The deadline for receipt of public questions is 3.00 pm, Monday 13 July 2015.  Questions should be sent to  

No person may submit more than one question].


RESOLVED:  To note that no public questions were put or petitions or references received at this meeting.



Update on Council Tax Support Scheme Following Scrutiny Challenge Panel in November 2014 pdf icon PDF 547 KB

Report of the Corporate Director of Resources.


The Sub-Committee received a report which provided Members with an  update following last years review of the Council’s Council Tax Support Scheme by Scrutiny.


Following an overview of the report by the Head of Service – Collections and Housing Benefits, Members asked the following questions and received responses.


Q –      Did the number of cases in graph 2 page 17 relate to the number of people in the current year and had the overall numbers risen since 2012?


A –      The figures related to the position in May 2015 and had dropped slightly subsequently.  There were approximately 5800 pensioners with the remainder being of working age.  This was in a context where there had been an increase of 300-400 domestic properties per year in Harrow, about 1000 in total over the last 3 years.


Q –      Harrow, with a 97.3% collection rate was slightly over the national average of 97%.  How was Harrow performing in comparison with neighbouring authorities?


A –      The figures nationally and for London were available and the officer undertook to circulate the information to the Sub-Committee.  Harrow was however performing very well and had achieved collection rates above the average for London and nationally.


Q –      Had the appointment of 6 additional officers in Access Harrow for Council Tax improved the situation?


A –      The 6 additional staff had been appointed in January 2015 so as to be in place when the council tax demands were distributed in mid March.  There had been a significant improvement in waiting times as a result and the officer would circulate the figures.  There were peaks and troughs due to increased activity when reminders were circulated or recovery demands issued,


Q –      What had the demand been for the £250k in the contingency fund and how many times had the contingency be used for waiving charges?


A –      The Portfolio Holder had allocated £1m to deal with vulnerable groups in 2014/15.  The first £750k was growth for the revenues budgets and £250k was kept for the Portfolio Holder to determine and use for emergencies for vulnerable people as these came to life.


Regarding summons costs, £480k costs had been written off in the previous year.  If the monies owed were not significant and a repayment plan had been adhered to the costs were written off.  There was no write off if wilful refusal to pay was found.


The Section 13A hardship policy review had not yet been carried out as welfare reform details were awaited but discretion was being used in cases where vulnerability was found.  A view to write off council tax or costs was taken on a case by case basis especially regarding cases brought to the Council’s attention by the CAB where financial hardship may have been found.  Some discretion was given to Access Harrow in accordance with the business rules but control and  awareness  of budgetary provision was required before staff could be given the authority to write costs off.


Q –      There could be a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 45.


Revenue and Capital Monitoring pdf icon PDF 105 KB

Report of the Interim Director of Finance.

Additional documents:


The Sub-Committee received a report of the Interim Director of Finance, which had previously been considered by Cabinet on 17 June 2015.  The report showed the Outturn position for the year ending 31 March 2015.


Following an overview of the report by the Interim Director of Finance, Members asked the following questions and received responses:


Q –      When slippage fell into another financial year, was there an understanding of the effect on the delivery of service?


A –      In the report on the first quarter to Cabinet in September 2015, the report would include capital slippage and the revenue implications thereon.


Q –      Was the slippage capable of being used during the current year and was it possible to differentiate between genuine slippage and what is not spent?


A –      The majority of the slippage related to the schools programme which should be completed in the current year.  It was normal practice to refresh the capital programme to include what was agreed plus any changes.  Whilst a lot of work had been undertaken on revenue and capital, there was still work to be done on capital.  There was a need to be as accurate as possible in Quarter 1 with a narrative and to be consistent during the year.


Q –      What were the reasons for the position with regard to Capita being appreciably different compared to the previous year?.


A –      Provision had been made for the new contractors and the figures reflected the natural slowdown of spend as the contract ended.  Payments to the contractor were not being released until approved by a senior officer.


Q –      Reference was made to an overspend of £1.271m mainly due to increased demand for bed and breakfast accommodation.  Why was 75% of the planned funding for the purchase of accommodation not being spent until the next financial year.  Was there sufficient funding for the scheme and would it drive up rents?


A –      Phasing over two years had been forecast taking into account an estimate of how quickly suitable properties could be procured.  The up to date position on the homelessness pressure would be presented to Cabinet in September as part of the Quarter 1 Budget Monitoring report.  The new scheme would be subject to review and could be exited if not as successful as envisaged.  The  Chair suggested  monitoring the scheme at a scrutiny leaders meeting in about 6 months.


Q –      What were the works to Harrow on the Hill station referred to in Appendix 3?


A –      This referred to feasibility studies for access works, with substantial funding from TfL.


Q –      Page 34 stated that HB Public Law had delivered a contribution of £105k of which £102k had been moved to the Legal Expansion Reserve.  The narrative stated that the contribution figure was £70k of which £67k was transferred to the expansion reserve.


A –      The officer undertook to circulate the response to the Sub-Committee.


RESOLVED:  That the report be noted.