Venue: Council Chamber, Town Hall, Barking
Contact: Claudia Wakefield, Senior Governance Officer
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 (7 September 2022) PDF 75 KB
The minutes of the meeting held on 7 September 2022 were confirmed as correct.
Fees and Charges 2022 PDF 107 KB
The Strategic Director, Finance and Investment (SDFI) presented a report so as to provide the Committee the opportunity to review and provide feedback on the Council fees and charges for 2022, in advance of the consideration of the 2023 fees and charges by the Cabinet in November. Comments and questions would be taken away by the SDFI and relayed to the relevant services for their responses and would be incorporated into the fees and charges report to Cabinet.
In response to Members’ questions, the SDFI stated that all the points raised by Members would be considered as part of the fees and charges set for 2023, which would also include an explanation and rationale for why fees and charges had or had not changed. Specifically, he addressed the following:
· The staff parking charges had previously been changed due to Covid-19, with many staff having been asked to stay at home. As most officers were using the standard staff permits, rather than the senior Staff Permit Reds, it was these permits that had been changed.
· In terms of ‘special treatment licences’, these encompassed treatments such as reflexology, saunas, aromatherapy, body piercing and acupuncture.
· Where fee increases were negligible, the Council would look to freeze these.
· Whilst the Council did not have a choice as to statutory fee increases, and cost recovery fees that needed to be increased due to inflation, it would look to find a balance between freezes and increases.
· The suggestions around encouraging the usage of libraries and football pitches were particularly welcomed, as the Council was keen to promote the wider use of these spaces.
Members raised general concerns regarding increasing fees and charges during the current cost-of-living crisis, particularly given the high rate of inflation that increases would typically be based on in line with the Council’s policy. The Parent Governor (Primary) co-optee suggested that the fees and charges for Community Solutions services be frozen, especially those associated with services provided for children such as day nursery and early years services, due to the considerable impact they could have on parents. Other specific issues raised included:
· The disparity between some charges at the Barking Library compared to the Dagenham Library and the need to encourage greater use of the Borough’s libraries;
· The charging policy for School visits to museums within the Borough;
· Leaseholder charges in respect of, for example, written responses to questions in relation to notices of assignment and subletting;
· A proposal to suspend the diesel surcharge on all car parking permits;
· The decision not to increase many of the charges relating to the Right-To-Buy scheme, Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO), Selective Licences and gambling and casino licence fees;
· The income received and safety checks made relating to the storage of explosives;
· The feasibility of parking charges being based on vehicle emission categories in view of issues that had arisen when checking against DVLA records;
· The arrangements for Street Works Permits, the Flooding and Drainage Service, Low Risk Pest Control services, Bulky Waste and ... view the full minutes text for item 8.
Barking & Dagenham Traded Partnership: Repairs & Maintenance PDF 302 KB
The Acting Strategic Director, My Place (SDMP) delivered a report on repairs and maintenance undertaken by the Barking and Dagenham Traded Partnership. This included performance information generally, as well as across repairs, disrepairs and voids, the current concerns that the Council had and how it was working to improve the position of the service. A further update report would be presented to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee in January 2023.
In response to questions from Members, the SDMP stated that:
· Everything raised by the Committee was already being considered by the Council and it was positive to hear that both officers and Members were on the same page as to this.
· It was important to outline the context behind the repairs backlog, which had been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and staff members contracting Covid-19. The cost of labour, both through internal operatives and through the contractors themselves, had also increased, as well as the cost of materials. Many residents had chosen not to report repairs issues during the pandemic, as they were weary of operatives entering their homes; this had led to a large increase in repairs as the pandemic became less severe.
· The Council was very keen to listen to and learn from any comments; it was reviewing data, looking at management information and emphasising the importance of collaboration with its contractors, towards which BDMS was open. It also knew that it had to review its repairs service as a whole and not just in terms of its contractors, looking into how it interacted with its customers and how it ensured higher customer satisfaction.
· Whilst there were issues in lots of areas, the Council would devise a plan to address these and work collaboratively to achieve this.
· In terms of the remedies that the Council had to ensure that work was undertaken if BDMS failed to carry out its work properly in accordance with its contract, there were specific occasions through which the Council could choose to put in interventions, such as currently, that allowed it to procure additional contractors as a “Plan B”. This would enable a mixed approach, so that the Council could deliver against the repairs to be undertaken. These conversations were ongoing, with BDMS in discussion with the Council as to how it could help through these interventions.
· The Acuserve system had been brought in at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, as a basic package. This system was currently being reconfigured to ensure that the Council was able to collect the robust data that was needed to best inform its plans going forward.
· The Council needed to arrive at a position where its repairs were being undertaken more proactively than reactively, and this would be a key focus in the future.
· Once the Council had collected all of the necessary data, this would be put into a 30-year asset management plan that would then provide a much clearer understanding of the Council’s stock and inform residents when their works would be undertaken.
· The ... view the full minutes text for item 9.
Work Programme 2022/23 PDF 63 KB
Following on from suggestions proposed by the Committee during the ‘Draft Work Programme 2022/23’ item at its last meeting on 7 September 2022 (minute 5 refers), items around net zero, an update on Reside and the Council’s wholly owned council companies had been added to the work programme.
A Member suggested that the Committee look into the larger advertising screens that were being installed by Clear Channel, in various locations within the Borough, owing to the number of complaints received from residents as to these.
The Chair also stated that an additional Committee meeting would be scheduled for January 2023, to look into issues associated with the cost-of-living crisis and to revisit the Repairs and Maintenance issue in Minute 9 above.