Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 9 March 2022 7:00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Town Hall, Barking

Contact: Claudia Wakefield, Senior Governance 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 8 December 2021 pdf icon PDF 72 KB



Minutes - To confirm as correct the minutes of the meeting held on 5 January 2022 pdf icon PDF 87 KB


The minutes of the meeting held on 5 January 2022 were confirmed as correct.


Minutes - To confirm as correct the minutes of the meeting held on 25 January 2022 pdf icon PDF 80 KB


The minutes of the meeting held on 25 January 2022 were confirmed as correct.


Minutes - To confirm as correct the minutes of the meeting held on 2 February 2022 pdf icon PDF 83 KB


The minutes of the meeting held on 2 February 2022 were confirmed as correct.


Engaging Private Sector Landlords pdf icon PDF 89 KB

Additional documents:


The Operational Director Enforcement (ODE) and the Head of Regulatory Services (HRS) delivered a presentation on engaging private sector landlords. This provided an update on the Borough’s Selective Licensing Scheme, which was introduced in September 2019 to address migration and deprivation within the private rented sector (PRS) in Barking and Dagenham, and to improve the standards of living within private rented accommodation. The presentation detailed both licensing and enforcement figures, as well as means to engage with landlords through the Landlord’s Forum, and the new Metastreet digital platform. It also detailed current engagement with tenants, areas of work with other Council departments, and next steps to respond to the growth of the PRS and to address local issues.


In response to questions from Members, the HRS and the ODE stated that:


  • There was a general lack of resourcing within private rented sector teams, with a national shortage of qualified Environmental Health staff. For all London local authorities (LAs), it was increasingly difficult to recruit and retain competent and fully trained staff. This meant that there was often less time for teams to carry out some of their less urgent work, which was echoed at the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham (LBBD), as an LA that had a very busy borough-wide licensing scheme.

·  The team had reviewed the service in two phases. Phase one was looking into job roles, responsibilities and the current grading offered in terms of recruitment, and the team had successfully increased the salaries to match what other LAs were paying their staff. Phase 2 was looking into growing the service, with a need to look into available data to better understand the size of the PRS and any issues. Whilst the team knew that there were approximately 2,000 unlicensed properties across the Borough, it did not currently have the resources to send staff to inspect these, and take the legal action needed to force those landlords to licence.

·  In terms of workforce development, there were currently four approved apprenticeship posts in the service, with one individual undertaking a Middlesex University degree and one choosing not to pursue this for personal reasons. The remaining two posts would shortly go out to advert, with postholders joining Middlesex University in September 2022 to undertake their five-year Environmental Health degree. As there were no longer many students coming through universities who wanted local authority careers, the team needed to engage with college leavers in the Borough and with local residents who wanted an apprenticeship to qualify in this field of work.

·  The team was funding the degrees via the Apprenticeship Levy, which was government funded, enabling individuals to undertake their degree whilst earning a salary. Some of the Enforcement Business Support team had benefited from this, developing careers as LBBD Enforcement Officers.

  • The team wanted to retain its staff, and was building this into its Workforce Development plan, ensuring that when the Council invested in training and development, that its employees would be invested in LBBD. It also needed to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 55.


Fees and Charges 2022 pdf icon PDF 107 KB

Additional documents:


The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) presented a report on the Council’s fees and charges for 2022, which had been approved by Cabinet on 16 November 2021 (minute 57 refers) and took effect from 1 January 2022. Feedback provided by the Committee could be considered and built into the fees and charges set for 2023.


In response to questions from Members, the CFO stated that:


  • He would liaise with officers as to why charges for Barking Library had not been increased, but had been for Dagenham Library, and whether these could be removed or levelled in future.
  • He would ensure that the fees and charges for 2023 would reflect the lower surcharge for Euro 6D compliant vehicles, to differentiate this from the higher surcharges for diesel cars that did not meet the Euro 6D standard.
  • He would liaise with officers as to whether pavement licences for cafes and street food vendors would be allowed to continue going forward, and whether the same regulations could be kept in place. He would also liaise with officers around the difference between street trading licences, and pavement licences.
  • Fees were associated with the storing of explosives, in case an individual needed to store these, and it was relevant to their business, in the same way as there were license fees pertaining to wild animals, with fees in place in case licenses were requested.
  • There were over 1,300 fees and charges and Members were advised that any comments relating to these be directed to the relevant Head of Service.


Investment and Acquisition Strategy pdf icon PDF 67 KB

Additional documents:


The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) delivered a presentation on the Council’s Investment and Acquisition Strategy (IAS). Whilst the full report was due to be presented to Cabinet at its 19 April 2022 meeting, the CFO had wanted to provide the Committee with an interim update beforehand, before bringing the report back to the Committee for a full update following this. The presentation detailed:


  • The history and governance of the IAS;
  • The control system in place to evaluate investment proposals;
  • The investment objectives for the IAS;
  • Commercial investments;
  • The Council’s Borrowing Strategy; and
  • IAS borrowing, performance and forecasts.


In response to questions from Members, the CFO stated that:


  • The Council set the authorised limit every year, and it had already set the limit for 2022/23. It would revisit this every year, meaning that in 2023/24, as part of the budget setting process that the Assembly would approve, the Council would look at what the operational boundary and the organisational limit needed to be, and would then revisit this again in 2024/25.
  • Part of the district heating network would shortly be connected to the Town Hall, as well as to many residential buildings. Where there were already tenants connected to this scheme, there would be increased costs relating to the fact that the cost of gas had increased exponentially. Residents would be communicated with over the next few weeks, with letters sent out by B&D Energy to explain these extra costs.
  • The district heat network was gas powered, with the Council still having to pay for the gas, which had increased in price. The unit cost for a household would be lower because of the economies of scale that the network generated; it was more efficient to have a network that provided heat to numerous houses and businesses, rather than having individual boilers installed in each.
  • In terms of managing B&D Energy costs for residents, the Council governed this via the Shareholder Panel. There were two Members and two officers on this Panel, who had delegated powers from Cabinet to hold individual companies to account. The individual companies would have their business cases approved through Cabinet each year, and there would then be quarterly updates that came through to the Panel. The Panel also scrutinised the businesses on aspects of their operations; for B&D Energy, the Panel had asked for reassurance that the Council was passing on costs to the consumer that were in line with what it had incurred, and not to make excessive profits from energy increases. The Panel held other companies to account in the same way, to ensure that the Council was delivering the best for residents and that costs were communicated transparently, with a mechanism for residents to be supported via its Homes and Money Hub, as necessary.
  • The Council was the 100 percent owner of Be First. If Be First incurred a cost as the Shareholder Panel would not fund a proposal beyond a certain limit, this would lower the return that Be  ...  view the full minutes text for item 57.


Any other public items which the Chair decides are urgent


The Chair thanked the Committee for its commitment and attendance over the past year, as this was its final meeting of the 2021/22 municipal year. The Chair was also shortly to receive an email from the Interim Chief Executive (ICE), regarding answers to questions relating to building works and the compliance of properties within the Borough. The Chair would circulate this to the Committee as soon as it was received and would welcome any comments from Committee Members. These comments would also be passed on to the ICE.