Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 13 March 2024 7:00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Town Hall, Barking

Contact: Leanna McPherson, Principal Governance Officer & Statutory Scrutiny Officer 


No. Item


Declaration of Members' Interests

In accordance with the Council’s Constitution, Members are asked to declare any interest they may have in any matter which is to be considered at this meeting.


There were no declarations of interest.



Minutes - To confirm as correct the minutes of the meeting held on 24 January 2024 pdf icon PDF 72 KB


The minutes of the meeting held on 24 January 2024 were confirmed as correct subject to changes to be made below:


Be First Comments

The Interim Director of Strategic Growth addressed the Committee, advising that despite difficult economic times, delivering inclusive growth remained a priority for the council in order to facilitate improvements and changes needed across the borough. Be First would need to explore new markets/opportunities and conversations were ongoing to work in partnership with patient capital investors, strengthen relationships with the voluntary sector and bring forward schemes of various sizes, scales and needs.


Be First had been successful in securing grant funding, piloting central government pathways, particularly within the net zero sector, and fostering relationships with the City of London, Hackman and Thames Freeport and the Greater London Authority to unlock funding and grow areas with increasing commercial investment. 


Members noted that the dividend's importance for the next financial year's budget has been recognised and modelled in.


Reside & Asset Review Comments

In response to a question regarding the potential disposal of assets as a new way of building revenue for BeFirst, the Committee were advised that out of the total borrowing, just under ca £280-300 million was from the HRA, which would not be part of the asset disposal; however, the market price of the housing stock (16,000 units) would more than cover this amount.  There were currently no plans for a full disposal of assets.  The Committee noted that the council was currently conducting an asset review and this would be reported on in due course.


The majority of the Council's borrowing had gone into Reside properties, with just over £800 million in long-term borrowing.  These properties were generally delivering good and safe returns, as per the Reside business plan models. While fluctuations were expected, the Council is carefully monitoring the situation.


The Council was also continually reviewing its commercial holdings, as the Council and its subsidiary company (Be First) had undertaken borrowing for commercial land and redevelopment opportunities, specifically in terms of road infrastructure.


Compliance Progress & Update Report pdf icon PDF 115 KB

Additional documents:


The Strategic Director of My Place and the Cabinet Member for Community Leadership & Engagement presented the Compliance Progress & Update Report.


Good progress had been made in all six areas of Statutory Compliance since last year. The Council was still engaging with the regulators with the expectation of having a regulatory notice removed within the coming months. There were two outstanding areas outstanding which were the completion of a five-year portfolio wide electrical inspection program, and the completion of remedial actions following Fire Risk Assessment (FRA). 

The five-year portfolio electrical inspection program was ongoing. High-rise, high-risk properties and communal HRA properties across the borough had been successfully tested. The low-rise, low-risk domestic testing program were still outstanding with the expectation that it would be completed ahead of schedule by in December 2024.


The Council employed Savills to inspect property blocks throughout the Borough. Savills would provide a list of remedial actions that would need to be completed for the property blocks to be deemed safe in terms of FRA. Some actions were costly such as the replacement of fire doors and bin stores. The Council had mitigated wherever it could, with an agreement with Savills, create a planned program once all inspections across the borough were completed. It was estimated that the fitting of fire doors would be completed within the next three years.


There were two intensive action plans signed off including training and awareness guidance that were given to members. A new enhanced compliance structure within the Council would provide a focus on resident’s safety activities as well as a robust response to residence. The new service structure was aimed to provide physical and psychological reassurance to residents around safety.


In response to a question asked by the Committee regarding the certificates for Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER), the Strategic Director of MyPlace confirmed that all certificates were now in place. The Water Hygiene assessments were also completed and were compliant.


Concerns were raised by the Committee regarding the hygiene of water in some property blocks as well as potential gaps in repairs. The Strategic Director reassured the Committee that certificates would not be issued if water hygiene was not physically tested. Non-operational lifts would not be tested for safety and therefore would not receive a certificate. Any repairs of broken doors and windows would most likely be included on the list of remedial actions created by Savills and would be incorporated in the planned program. There were some re-occurring access issues across property blocks that had prevented inspections from taking place.


A question was asked around the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in verifying certificates. The Strategic Director of My Place explained that the Council was using a true compliance system. The system had been tested and found to be around 95% accurate.


In response to a question regarding the Underground Refuse System (URS), the Director of MyPlace informed the committee that the Council managed the URS bins, however the London Borough of Tower of Hamlets  ...  view the full minutes text for item 38.


BDMS Update report – Responsive Repairs Performance pdf icon PDF 1 MB

Report to follow


The Strategic Director of MyPlace, the Cabinet Member for Community Leadership & Engagement, and the Chief Executive of Barking and Dagenham Trading Partnership (BDTP) presented an update report on BDMS Responsive Repairs Performance.


The report provided an update on the Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) achieved during November 2023 to January 2024. There had been improvements in the BDMS service delivery, however there were still many areas of underperformance and low productivity. 


The Council started from a low significant investment to BDMS. However, BDMS needed additional funding from the Council to get its services to the point in which it needed to be, while ensuring the Council was getting its value for money.


There was an increase in the use of sub-contractors within the past year which were expensive and unsustainable to maintain. There was also a need to have motor skilled operatives who would have an understanding in the more complex work.


Although there had been improvement to the services provided by BDMS within the past year, the Council needed to reconsider the cost it took to reach the juncture, and any further costs to continue the improvement of the services. There was a question on whether the current model was the right model for the Council or, whether the Council should look elsewhere at other providers. The current intention was for the Council to enter into a two-year contract with BDMS.


There Committee questioned the intention of the Council entering a two-year contract with BDMS, despite the suggestion of the model not being the right fit for the Council.  The Chief Executive of BDTP informed the Committee that there was a 12-month program of activity centered around productivity scheduled to commence in the next financial year. It was suggested for strategic objectives to be set in which BDMS would aim to achieve. There was a gradual improvement over the last 12 months in which sub-contractors played an important role at the start of the year to remove legacy work, however BDMS were now moving onto muti-skilled work from within BDMS. It was expected that there would be continued improvement over the next 12-months of the program of activity. BDMS had prepared several options if underperformance were to continue over the next 12-months. The options had been presented to the Shareholder Panel in September 2023.


In a previous report, there was expectation to have an estimated average of 3000 open jobs. However, it was reported in September 2022, that there were around 5800 open jobs, which had increased to 6500 open jobs within the current report. The Committee enquired why there was an increase in open jobs despite improvements made within the BDMS service. The Chief Executive of BDTP clarified that at the start of 2024, there were 6474 open jobs and from the 7th March 2024, the current number of open jobs were reduced to 2838.


It was noted from the report that there were issues with damp and mould throughout the Borough. A question was raised on the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 39.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 67 KB


The Committee noted the work programme.