Agenda and minutes

Performance and Finance Scrutiny Sub-Committee - Wednesday 7 December 2016 7.30 pm

Venue: Committee Room 5, Harrow Civic Centre, Station Road, Harrow, HA1 2XY. View directions

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

Note: Postponed from 29 November 2016 

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.


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 there were no declarations of interests made by Members.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 66 KB

That the minutes of the meeting held on 13 July 2016 be taken as read and signed as a correct record.


RESOLVED:  That the minutes of the meeting held on 13 July 2016, be taken as read and signed as a correct record.


Public Questions,Petitions and References

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 be a time limit of 15 minutes.


[The deadline for receipt of public questions is 3.00 pm,

Friday 2 December 2016.  Questions should be sent to  

No person may submit more than one question].


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



Revenue and Capital Monitoring 2016/17 - Quarter 2 as of 30 September 2016 pdf icon PDF 127 KB

Report of the Director of Finance.

Additional documents:


The Sub-Committee received a report of the Director of Finance on the Council’s revenue and capital monitoring position as at Quarter 2 2016/17 as at 30 September 2016, which was due to be considered by Cabinet at its meeting on 8 December 2016.


Following an overview of the report by the Director of Finance, Members asked the following questions and received responses from the officer and Portfolio Holder:


Q -       What was the reason for two items previously charged to the Housing Revenue Account now being charged to the General Rate Fund? (paragraph 2.30)

A –      The expenditure was for a Social Worker focussing on families in social housing.


Q –      A report on the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub had been submitted at the beginning of the financial year so should the budget pressure have been foreseen?

A –      In addition to funding for the known pressure, provision for growth had been built into the budget arising from an increased number of children in placements.


Q –      There was already a £1.3m variation from the first two quarters for waste management.  What action was being taken as a result of the failure to take into account the cost implications of incorrect assumptions including the take up of the brown bin service, reduction in recycling figures, fly tipping, and the rising cost of residual waste?  Route optimisation had resulted in much less saving as residents had been opting in and out of the service and the technology had not been successful.  Is the Director of Finance satisfied with the assumptions made by the Corporate Director Community and is a robust plan for waste in place?  What was the involvement in the pricing of the service as Harrow had one of the highest charges for waste collection in the country?

A-        Series of actions had been put into place to positively address the underlying financial pressures.  There had been a cumulative reduction in the rate support grant for Harrow of 93% and contractor costs had risen.  A business case, including prices based on different scenarios, had been agreed for garden waste prior to implementation and subsequent challenges required flexibility in the scheme.  The current Director of Finance had not been in post when the original business case was done. 26,000 residents had signed up for the garden waste scheme which was approximately £500,000 down against income target.  There was a need to improve forecasting particularly with regard to revenue and cost implications.


All new business cases were robustly challenged, including examination by the Commercialisation Board.  All schemes were expected to generate value for contracts and customers, cover costs and make a maximum return on investment.


It was agreed that a Member receive a copy of the waste services business case and marketing strategy, to include documentation on pricing and  possible take up.


The service was confident that improvements would be made for the next year such as direct debit payments, and reductions through route optimisation. 


The Chair reported that the environment scrutiny  ...  view the full minutes text for item 75.


Motion to exclude the Press and Public


RESOLVED:  That in accordance with Part I of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following item for the reason set out below:


Agenda Item No



Description of Exempt Information


Appendix 5 to Revenue and Capital Monitoring 2016/17 – Quarter 2 as of 30 September 2016

Information under paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).



Appendix 5 to Revenue and Capital Monitoring for Quarter 2 as at 30 September 2016


The Sub-Committee considered the appendix and the officer responded to questions.


Motion to re-admit the Press and Public


RESOLVED:  To re-admit the press and public to the meeting for the remainder of business


Revenue and Capital Monitoring 2016/17 - Quarter 2 as of 30 September 2016 (continued)


Q -       Given the stated pressures on the Housing Revenue Account (paragraph 2.16), is Harrow Council the right organisation to expand the number of properties under its control?  How robust is the budget when the first quarter was so at variance with planned expenditure? Would savings from an expansion of the Housing Needs Team be more beneficial in the short term than longer term initiatives such as the purchase of new homes or buy to let?

A –      The budget situation remains robust, all budgets experience change and it is inevitable that assumptions must be made.  The budget pressures being experienced had not arisen due to difficulty in meeting the £17m savings.  Smart Lettings had been set up by Harrow Council to manage the PRS stock and this took a two to three year view.  The budget outturn line of £2m forecast for homelessness in the previous year had informed the budget.  This sum had increased before reducing to £500,000 in the first two quarters.  The inclusion of additional staff would result in savings.  A wide range of actions on homelessness were taking place which would generate future savings.


Q –      What were the pressures of the compulsory upgrade of IT systems (para 2.17), keeping pace with legislative changes, and ensuring compliance by  IT officers?

A -       There was a rolling programme for IT programmes: Directorate indexation on contracts was contained in the inflation provision.  It was agreed that a member would receive the project initiation document and business case for the Northgate IT upgrade.


Q –      What is the reason for the rise in demand for Children’s Services?

A –      New pupils and the age range has been extended to 25 for SEN.


Q –      The forecast capital spend at quarter 2 was 66% of the total capital programme. What was the target spend?

A –      There was no set benchmark, the need to undertake work on capital profiling was accepted.  Slippage was not ideal but it was more important to spend properly and in accordance with decisions.


Q –      Was there a maximum investment that the Council was prepared to make available to an in-house commercial venture prior to its feasibility being established?

A –      Business cases were regularly reviewed and commercial ventures were required to be income creative.  The Director of Finance undertook to speak to the Corporate Director Resources and Commercial regarding the maximum investment question. Loans for such investments were held against  reserves so could be seen to be accountable.  The Chair stated that the resources scrutiny leads would take forward any questions on behalf of the Sub-committee on the commercial companies, would keep them informed and feedback to the scrutiny leadership.


Q –      How often were budget updates reported to Cabinet?

A –      Formal quarterly reports were submitted to Cabinet with ongoing monitoring such as weekly meetings between the Director of Finance and the Portfolio Holder for Finance and Commercialisation who was constantly made aware of variances and the interventions to correct


Q –  ...  view the full minutes text for item 79.


Draft Revenue Budget 2017/18 and Medium Term Financial Statement 2017/18 - 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 126 KB

Report of the Director of Finance.

Additional documents:


The Sub-Committee considered the draft Revenue Budget 2017/18 and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2017/18 to 2019/20 which were due to be considered by Cabinet on 8 December 2016.


Following an overview of the report by the Director of Finance, Members asked the following questions and received responses from the officer and Portfolio Holder:


Q –      What were the proposals for the use of capital receipts?

A –      A decision on the implementation of the flexibility given by the government on the  use of capital receipts would be made by Cabinet in February.


Q -       What assumptions were being made for an increase in council tax? Was any flexibility built into the increase in the tax base to take into account additional property that did not come to fruition, for example where planning permission was not granted?

A –      The draft budget assumes Council Tax increase at 1.99%.  The tax base took account of developments in the borough which were supported by a valuation list and any intelligence that suggested amendment was required would be addressed.  The 2017/18 base had been close to that forecasted.


Q –      Could clarification be given as paragraph 1.17 referenced savings of £4.7m for 2017/18 that would not be taken forward but table 2 indicated £5.3m?

A –      This would be checked.  The value of the savings being removed from the budget as not being taken forward was £4.7m, with £1.1m from additional commercialisation savings remaining in the budget.


Q –      What was in place to reverse the slide in business rate income which had been of concern to the Peer Review?  How would the regeneration programme reverse the trend and how would it be resourced?

 A –     A report on the regeneration plan was scheduled to be submitted to Cabinet and would include the response to the questions made.


Q –      Would the identification of £6.374m net growth result in the need for additional savings?

A –      The need to fund the gap was acknowledged and compensatory action were shown in the draft budget including savings, precept or Council tax.  A refresh process resulted in the removal or reprofile of savings that had not been  achieved or had been late.


Q –     How would the revised gap of £3.039m for 2017/18 in table 2 be dealt with?  Would Members be provided with information as to the proportion of the disposal programme to be spent on capital flexibility.  Sums spent in this manner restricted their use on transformation projects or in reducing the council tax.

A –      The report to Cabinet indicated that application of the capital receipts flexibility would offset the £3.039m.  The individual sums received via the disposal programme would not be publically available.  The use of the capital flexibility was a one off opportunity.  Any ideas from Members regarding transformation projects would be welcomed.


RESOLVED:  That the report be noted.


Corporate Equalites Objectives - Annual Progress Report 2015/16 pdf icon PDF 139 KB

Report of the Divisional Director, Strategic Commissioning.

Additional documents:


The Sub-Committee received an update on the progress made on the Council’s Equality Objectives which had been adopted in April 2012.  The annual progress report 2015/16 set out the key work undertaken in Harrow to meet the Council’s Corporate Equality Objectives in 2015/16, the performance against the related targets, and what areas would be prioritised in 2016/17.

Following an overview of the report, Members asked the following questions and received responses from the officers:


Q –      Would some targets be difficult to realise due to the small pool in the banding?  Could one person changing jobs result in the overall ‘RAG’ status for the indicator becoming red instead of green?

A –      This point had been raised previously and would be discussed in January during the formatting of the 2017/18 targets. 


Q –      How was it proposed to achieve a more comprehensive social identify profile of the workforce?

A-        Whilst the provision of social identity information was not a mandatory requirement, staff had been encouraged to update their profiles by means including campaigns, induction and the Chief Executive’s newsletter.  Some staff did not have access to the SAP ESS data recording system which was a barrier to self reporting.


Q –      What steps were being taken to increase the use of the DisabledGo Access Guide?

A –      A publicity campaign would be undertaken to promote the Access Guide.  The number of hits on the DisabledGo site had quadrupled in the past year.  The Guide also referred to external venues across the borough and service users did not necessarily live in the borough.


Q –      What was the context of the number of cases where positive action was taken to prevent homelessness and what was the impact on the budget?

A –      The indicator was a corporate equality measure and not a financial indicator.  However, the budget report outlined the pressures on housing and the proposed initiatives including support outside the borough and the purchase of one hundred homes.  The bed and breakfast rates had decreased since the last quarter.  A revised performance indicator had been proposed which would provide a more measureable target.  It was agreed that information would be circulated to the Sub-Committee on the target and actual 2015/16 numbers as percentages.




(1)          the progress made against the Corporate Equalities for 2015/16 be noted;


(2)          the new Corporate Equality Objectives for 2016-2020 and the Action Plan for 2016/17 be noted.