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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee rooms C, D & E - Merton Civic Centre, London Road, Morden SM4 5DX

No. Item


Apologies for absence


Apologies were received from Colin Powell and Cllr Neil (with Cllr Fraser substituting for the latter).


Declarations of pecuniary interest


There were no declarations of pecuniary interest.


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 92 KB


The minutes of the previous meeting were accepted as a true and accurate record.


Matters arising


The following items were raised by members, on which clarification was provided by officers subsequent to the meeting:


1.    Lettings of Merton Hall under the management of Elim Church

Officers have had written correspondence with Elim Church representatives regarding their lettings and this was provided in Appendix 6 of the Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel call-in report dated 10 January 2018.  In summary, Elim confirmed in writing that it will be offering the church site to the local community for groups and individuals to hire when it is available. Current activities that will move with Elim’s current premises to Merton Hall include use by other church groups, Slimming World (Thursday), Sun Group (Counselling Group), Pilates (Monday), Mums and Tots (Monday), Foodbank (Monday, Tuesday and Thursday) and Youth group (Friday).  With regard to the specific question of use by the LBGT+ community which has been the main concern raised, Elim confirmed there would be no restriction on these groups accessing services, meetings, clubs etc. However, as with any organisation they would consider bookings of their premises on a case by case basis and would take bookings that did not conflict with the Constitution of their charity. This is provided in the conditions of hire form which was also provided to the council.

2.    Wimbledon Harris nodal points

 As stated in the 8 November 2017 CYP Overview and Scrutiny Panel report the admissions priority for 2018 entry is based on ‘nodal points’ - distance from Merton Abbey Primary School (33%), Colliers Wood Station (33%) and Haydons Road Station (33%).  This will also apply for 2019 entry. The next time for any change will be next year for September 2020 entry.  This is because all admissions authorities of open schools are required to consult annually on any change to their admissions policy by the end of January in the preceding year (so end of January 2019 for September 2020 entry).  This is to allow sufficient time for any appeals to the School’s Adjudicator and policies to then be finalised for the autumn when the applications process opens for the following year.



Cabinet Member priorities


Cllr Caroline Cooper-Marbiah, Cabinet Member for Education, provided members with an update, highlighting the following:

·         Ofsted inspections: a number of schools have now received the outcome of their Ofsted inspections.  Sherwood, St Marks, St John’s Fisher and Abbotsbury have all retained their good judgements.  Cricket Green has retained its outstanding judgement.  Ricards has moved from good to outstanding and Gorringe Park from requires improvement to good.  As a result, all of the secondary schools supported by the Council are good or outstanding and 91% of all the Council supported schools are good or outstanding.  This means 93% of pupils are at good or outstanding schools in Merton.  The school improvement team is working with those schools where education requires improvement;

·         Secondary school applications: an additional 268 applications have been received this year compared to last for secondary school places.  Of these 209 are from Merton residents and 255 list one of Merton’s schools as their first choice.  This matches the predictions made by officers.  The increased demand will be met by the development of Harris Wimbledon; and

·         Harris Wimbledon: work is currently ongoing with the Education Funding Agency (EFA) and the Harris Federation to ensure the temporary school at Whately Avenue is ready to be opened in September 2018.  However, the focus is also on building the new school on the permanent site in High Path.  One obstacle has been overcome with the completion of the call-in process on the Cabinet’s decision to award the contract for the development of Merton Hall.  The additional obstacles of the application to Historic England to list Merton Hall, the application to have it recognised as an Asset of Community Value and the Judicial Review are all being dealt with as the new school is very much needed as demonstrated by this year’s secondary school application numbers.


In response to member questions, the following clarification was provided:

·         The application for a Judicial Review with regard to Merton Hall has been brought by a resident and relates to the planning consent received to redevelop Merton Hall for use by the Elim Church.  Yvette Stanley, Director for Children, Schools and Families stated that she would brief members as soon as it is possible to make more information available.  (As provided: the Claimant withdrew their Judicial Review.  This followed the Decision of the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport not to add Merton Hall to the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest.);

·         The school improvement team works with all the Merton family of schools but increases engagement with those that require improvement.  This involves both support and challenge focused around the issues highlighted by Ofsted and the action detailed in the Ofsted action plan.  This has been shown to work through the example of Gorringe Park which has recently moved from requires improvement to good; and

·         Merton is on par with the rest of England and just behind the rest of London with regard to Ofsted judgements for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Health and wellbeing strategies for children and families pdf icon PDF 131 KB

This following will be attending the meeting to support this item:

·         Dr Yasin, Community Paediatric Team;

·         Alison Roberts, Deputy Director of Commissioning, MCCG; and

·         Christa Blanckenberg, CAMHS Commissioning Manager, MCCG.

Additional documents:


Childhood obesity


Hilina Asrress, Senior Public Health Principal, provided an introduction:

·         34.7% (2016/17) of Merton's children are currently judged to be overweight in Year 6 which means this figure has been reduced below the Health and Wellbeing target, is on par with England and better than London;

·         However, there remains a ten percentage point difference between childhood obesity levels in the east and the west of the borough.  The target is to reduce this to a 9.2% difference through targeted activity in the east of the borough;

·         Further work continues in reducing childhood obesity overall as currently there are an estimated 4,500 children who are either overweight or obese equating to around 150 primary classes.  The Child Healthy Weight Action Plan seeks to achieve this through communication and engagement, tackling the food environment, increased physical activity and health promoting physical environments and working with children in early years and schools; and

·         Priorities for 2018 include reducing sugar intake (signing up to the Local Authority Declaration on Sugar reduction), better use of parks and playgrounds to increase physical activity, working to make Merton more baby friendly to increase breastfeeding rates and the introduction of the Merton Mile to encourage daily physical activity (including marking out a mile in parks to encourage activity as a family taking the Daily Mile in schools out into the community).  Partnership working with key stakeholders including the voluntary and community sector is supporting the delivery of these priorities.


In response to member questions, it was further clarified:

·         The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) focuses on Reception and Year 6. We know that there is a significant increase in obesity rates between Reception and Year 6 therefore many interventions are targeted at younger children.  Intervention work also tends to be focused on younger children because this is when the greatest affect on long term health and well-being habits can be achieved;

·         In addition to the initiatives identified within the paper to address the obesity gap, practical activities are being provided in the east of the borough such as a health and well-being awareness raising day where information on physical activity, opportunities to be active and nutritional information were provided.  To support this, the Child Healthy Weight Action Plan will be refreshed in due course taking into account achievements as well a resident feedback from the Merton Great Weight Debate;

·         The target for reducing the gap between the east and west of the borough (from 10% to 9.2%) does represent a significant ambition because it's predicated on the gap increasing to around 13% if no action is taken.  Also the longer term target is to reduce the gap to 8% by 2020;

·         The figure for the rate of childhood obesity in Merton is robust because it is calculated based on the NCMP that occurs in Reception and Year 6 and involves around 95% of children being measured.  There are some schools in the east of the borough where 50% of the Year 6 cohort are either overweight or  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Business Plan Update 2018-2022 pdf icon PDF 75 KB

Additional documents:


Caroline Holland, Director of Corporate Services, provided an update on the business plan for 2018 – 2022.   This includes changes made since the business plan was presented in late 2017.  For example, there is allowance made for a two year pay award which would increase pay by 2.7% in 2018/19 and 2.8% in 2019/20.  However, it is unclear how this will proceed with the outcome of an employers meeting and the Unite response to the proposal awaited.


Additionally, there has been an increase in the Council Tax base which was more than expected.  Merton has signed-up to the business rate pilot for London proposed for 2018/19.  Under the pilot, responsibilities previously funded by the Revenue Support Grant will be expected to be met by business rates. 


Funding received from the New Homes bonus is lower than expected and there has been a further slippage on the capital programme budget of around £12m which is largely accounted for by the schedule of works for the leisure centre development and the timetable for the property company.


In response to member questions, it was further clarified:

·         It is difficult for the Department for Children, Schools and Families (CSF) to make cuts to services without potentially impacting on vulnerable children and young people, given this is where the majority of the spend happens, with the resulting focus therefore on efficiency; 

·         It is clear that at least initially, the business rate pilot will not be sufficient to cover all of the funding provided by the Revenue Support Grant (estimated at £5m compared to £2.4m from the business rate pilot).  However, it is thought that funding from the business rate pilot will grow over time, until revaluation and rebasing;

·         The use of agency workers by CSF Department has reduced from around 40% two – three years ago, down to 20%.  This reflects some maternity and long term sick leave but is also generated by the ongoing need to ensure safe caseloads amongst social workers.  Currently there are 32 vacant posts within the Department with 10 of these already under offer;

·         Within the Department those on long term sick leave number around half a dozen with 8.3 sick days on average taken by employees every year.  These figures are monitored monthly at the Departmental Management Team meetings;

·         Merton running its own agency for temporary staff has recently been explored as an alternative option to renewing the Council’s employment agency contract.  It was found this was unlikely to be a cost effective option or attractive offer for agency workers.  Also no other London Borough is using this approach.  It was therefore decided not pursue this option; and

·         All but four of Merton’s schools are currently buying back services but this year, anticipated income growth from service buy back is not as aspirational as in previous years.  This is the first year schools will be operating under the new funding model and there is a need to understand how this will impact on their purchasing of services.


Savings proposals consultation pack pdf icon PDF 33 KB

This report is provided separately in a supplementary agenda and will be dealt with under agenda item 6.

Additional documents:


Yvette Stanley, Director for Children, Schools and Families (CSF), introduced the deferred and replacement savings.  The data review and potential centralisation is happening but is taking longer than planned due to the need to fully embed the new MOSAIC system and define future departmental needs. The review of the CSF staffing structure is happening and has been implemented in phases with the loss of an Assistant Director in April 2017 and further changes in administrative support happening in April this year.  The Panel heard how savings will be made from the implementation of preventative services through the Social Impact Bond and the Family Drug and Alcohol Court.  Evidence suggests that these approaches can reduce the chances of children staying in or returning to care from 60% to 40%.


In response to member questions, it was clarified:

·         Merton’s involvement in the Family Drugs and Alcohol Court is just coming into effect so it is too early to say how this is working.  It is hoped that this will also have an effect on the wider local economy beyond reducing the costs of children services.  This will be achieved through successes such as better health outcomes, less engagement with the police and progression into work;

·         It is not lawful to means test and charge for travel to school for students with special educational needs.  This is a statutory duty on the council; and

·         It would be possible for the Panel to consider having a more detailed review of the income generation of the CSF Department.  This might be something to consider for the scrutiny work programme for the next municipal year.


RESOLVED: Councillor Holmes proposed a motion (seconded by Cllr Chirico): Recognising the excellent progress already made by the Children, Schools and Families Department in revenue generation, officers should explore additional opportunities for revenue generation in the same way as they are exploring opportunities for cost savings.  Four Councillors voted for the motion, one against and five abstained meaning the motion was carried.




Department update report pdf icon PDF 99 KB


In response to member questions, it was clarified:

·         Foster carers: whilst Merton has been relatively successful in recruiting foster carers, a number are retiring and there have been some resignations.  Officers are therefore taking a very detailed approach to recruitment of foster carers.  Merton is working as part of a local consortium to increase carer numbers with a specific focus on increasing capacity for the foster care of young people/adolescents; and

·         Special Educational Need (SEN) school expansion: the expansion in SEN provision reflects a changing profile of needs which would have been impossible to have predicted 20 years ago as this has resulted from significant medical advances.  The Children, Schools and Families Department has worked to reduce the need for SEN residential care and is now working to do the same for day care in the independent sector which is cost prohibitive and to benefit children and young people with care closer to home.


Action plan: care leaver accommodation reference pdf icon PDF 103 KB


Paul Angeli, Assistant Director for Social Care and Youth Inclusion, thanked the Panel for its interest in care leaver accommodation and the workshop jointly hosted with the Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel in September 2017.  This has helped move things forward.  A HMO (house of multiple occupation) has now been established and six young people are now taking advantage of the Staying Put policy. 


In response to member questions, it was confirmed that the effect of the Staying Put policy does mean that some foster carers are not available for other placements whilst young people remain with them.  However, it is thought that these arrangements are each likely to last for around a year to 18 months after which foster carers will again be available for new placements.


Action plan: vulnerable cohorts into employment task group recommendations pdf icon PDF 102 KB

Report to follow.

Additional documents:


Sara Williams, Economy Manager, futureMerton, provided members with an overview of the progress made to date on the recommendations.  Several have been met (recommendations 1 and 3) whilst others are still work in progress. 


In response to member questions, it was agreed that the officer will explore further why it’s not possible to ensure through standard contract terms that contractors and service providers offer apprenticeships for Merton residents.  It was agreed that the recommendations would be further reviewed by the Panel in six months time.


It was explained that more information is being made available on apprenticeships and other training opportunities through a dedicated webpage that is currently being designed as part of the Young Merton offer.  It was also clarified that the Economic Wellbeing Group is a forum for local training providers to share information and offer signposting.



Work Programme pdf icon PDF 141 KB


Members were informed that performance monitoring updates will again be provided once the data becomes available following the implementation of the new Mosaic information management system by the Children, Schools and Families Department.  This is in progress and it is hoped that at least some initial data will be available at the next meeting (1 February 2018).


Panel members agreed that they should write collectively to the Borough Commander to express their concern that no senior member of the local force is able to attend the next meeting at which the Merton Safeguarding Children Board annual report will be the substantive item.