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Agenda and minutes

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

No. Item


Apologies for absence


There were no apologies for absence.


Declarations of pecuniary interest


Councillor Makin declared that he is the Chair of Merton Community Transport.


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 79 KB

Additional documents:


The minutes of the previous Panel meeting (1 November 2016) and the Belvedere Road and Belvedere Grove call-in (27 October 2016) were agreed as a true and accurate record.


Matters arising

1.    Circle Housing: Members were asked to report on their individual dealings with Circle Housing following its attendance at the previous two Panel meetings.  The scrutiny officer was asked to follow-up with members after the meeting.  Councillor Sargeant reported that the Morden House meeting discussed at the November 2016 Panel meeting has not yet happened and he hasn’t received any communication from Simon Gagen, Head of Reactive Repairs at Circle Housing.  The Scrutiny Officer was asked to contact Circle Housing and pursue this item directly; and

2.    Commercialisation Task Group report: Councillor Makin reported that this has been accepted by Cabinet with an action plan anticipated for presentation to the Panel’s February 2017 meeting.


Budget and business plan pdf icon PDF 690 KB


Caroline Holland, Director of Corporate Services, introduced the budget and business plan item:

·         At the time of the October 2016 report to Cabinet, there was no budget gap in years 2017/18 and 2018/19, and only a small gap in 2019/20;

·         However, subsequent to this substantial growth has been built into the budget from 2017/18 to benefit Adult Social Care, waste and regeneration, futureMerton and Children, Schools and Families;

·         This will be funded using the balancing the budget fund leaving a gap (£1.6m in 2017/18, rising to £14.3m in 2018/19, £15,107m in 2019/20 and £21,450m in 2020/2021); and

·         Other budget complications were noted including whether the level of funding from the Better Care Fund (from the Merton Clinical Commissioning Group) will remain unchanged, the announcement in the Financial Settlement of a potential Adult Social Care precept of 3% for 2017/18 and 2018/19, and the redistribution of the new homes bonus (now being given over 5 and not 6 years) for which the effect is roughly even for Merton in 2017/18 only.


In response to member questions, the Director of Corporate Services clarified:

·         The 3% Adult Social Care increase for 2017/18 includes 1% for service improvement.  This equates to a £800k budget and as yet there is no guidance on what is meant by service improvement;

·         Changes to revenuisation result from new definitions with items moving from capital to revenue expense if no improvement is provided.  For example, replacing a flat roof like-for-like would be classified as a revenue expense as there is no improvement provided on what existed previously.  Whereas, replacing the flat roof with a pitched roof would provide an improvement and be classified as a capital expense;

·         The cost implications of the Freedom Pass are being carefully monitored.  It was noted that increases to this budget result from travel price increases (notably train fares) and some from increased usage; and

·         Any underspend in the capital programme, will be clawed back to reduce the overall capital spend, decrease costs overall and the overall revenue cost of borrowing.


New departmental savings proposals

Members considered each individual new departmental savings proposal:


ENR1: this saving will be realised from the expansion of the regulatory shared service about which advance discussions are in progress with Wandsworth (the saving has already been built into the Medium Term Financial Strategy [MTFS]) with a new borough partner to be identified. 

ENR2: free parking for Blue Badge holders in Pay & Display parking bays in off-street car parks is in excess of statutory requirements.  Research has also found that designated Disabled Parking bays off-street are not being fully utilised.  The introduction of fees for Blue Badge holders using Pay & Display parking off-street is therefore intended to ensure full utilisation of designated Disabled Parking bays and to free other bays for use by other drivers.  The estimated revenue is based on research conducted on usage of Disabled Parking bays on 1 December 2016 with the resulting potential revenue estimate consider conservative by the department.  Whilst three new Disabled  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Savings proposals consultation pack pdf icon PDF 34 KB

The consultation pack is published as a supplementary agenda.  Members should refer to their packs as already distributed.

Additional documents:


This was covered by the Panel under Agenda Item 4 (Budget and Business Plan).


Performance monitoring pdf icon PDF 52 KB

Additional documents:


Officers responded to member questions on the provided Environment and Regeneration performance report:

·         CRP 044 – “Parking services estimated revenue”: whilst the Year to Date target is behind, the monthly position is improving.  There have been technical difficulties with the start of the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system.  A full report will be provided to the next Panel meeting; and

·         SP 040 – “Percentage of market share retained by LA (Building Control)”: this is an estimated value based on the insight of a very experienced team and its knowledge of on-going development at any given time.  The Building Control market is very competitive but the department is doing better than covering its costs.


Housing supply task group: progress monitoring against the recommendations pdf icon PDF 67 KB


A progress report on action against the recommendations of the housing supply task group was provided to the meeting prepared jointly by futureMerton and Housing.  This showed progress against all recommendations except that on overcrowding (recommendation 12) which the Panel accepted should be reviewed.  It was noted that the Panel will receive a further report on progress against the task group’s recommendations in six months.


Update report: car club proposal pdf icon PDF 82 KB

Additional documents:


Paul McGarry, the head of futureMerton, introduced the proposal for a new form of car club in Merton.  Rather than this being based on designated parking, with cars having to be returned to specified bays, this initiative will allow the car fleet to move around the borough using on-street parking.  This will make the scheme more attractive to users and free-up designated bays for use by other drivers rather than remaining empty. 


In order for the scheme to operate effectively, it will need to be supported by a new form of parking permit and for Merton to work with other local boroughs to enable travel over an effective distance.  The Council is at the stage of having a draft three year agreement with DriveNow. 


The scheme has a good technical solution that allows usage to be monitored, to inform pricing structures and other aspects such as where parking should be prohibited.


In response to member questions, officers provided further clarification about the scheme:

·         The new parking permit allowing use of on-street parking addresses any concerns over there being sufficient designated parking bays for the scheme;

·         Fuelling is tracked through an app.  Where this needs to happen the user or next user is prompted giving instructions on the location of the nearest charging point for electric cars and fuel cards allow petrol cars to be filled-up (there are no diesel cars in the fleet);

·         Control over where cars can be parked and restrictions on parking in already congested areas can be controlled through the app supporting the scheme.  This will tell users where they can and can’t park and can be varied over time depending on usage and changing traffic and parking patterns;

·         Parking revenues will not be affected by the scheme as the operator will reimburse the Council for usage as well as paying penalty notices; and

·         The scheme has been successfully implement in Europe and is currently being trialled in North London.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 116 KB

·         Public Transport Liaison Committee update


Public Transport Liaison Committee: Councillor Jones, who also chairs this committee, reported that it has been agreed to defer the next meeting until May 2017.  This is in order that the meeting can be timed with the next round of the Crossrail2 consultation.  However, it was also noted that if this consultation should be delayed the committee meeting will go ahead regardless.


Pre-decision scrutiny: shareholder decision regarding Resurgence and the collapse of the Circle group structure pdf icon PDF 58 KB

Additional documents:


A proposal has been received to consolidate all nine of Circle Housing’s organisations into one to become Circle 33.  This would mean Merton Priory Homes board would be disbanded, with the loss of a local governance board to be replaced by a local community panel onto which the Council could place its nominated representatives.


Councillor Whelton, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Environment and Housing, highlighted that this has been a long running process.  The Council has robustly negotiated with Circle on behalf of residents given dissatisfaction with Circle’s handling of complaints, reflected in the recent issuing of a second regulator notice by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).  However, Councillor Whelton also noted that the provisions of the incoming Housing and Planning Act have limited the Council’s ability to negotiate.  Additionally, whilst the stock transfer agreement requires the Council to agree any change to the company’s status as a separate legal agreement, this requirement expires on 22 March 2017.  He noted that the Council has therefore done well to extend from two to ten years the requirement that the Council’s agreement would need to be gained to either change or scrap the new local community panel once established.  Councillor Whelton recommended the need to be realistic and to reach an agreement before the deadline in the transfer agreement otherwise there is a risk negotiations will collapse leaving the Council with a reduced ability to hold Circle to account.


In response to member questions, Councillor Whelton and officers clarified:

·         The Council cannot answer for Circle’s performance which was agreed as poor.  Following the HCA regulatory notice, the Council has requested comparative data in order to be more informed about Circle’s performance but this hasn’t been forthcoming;

·         Big changes in the percentage of homes deemed non-decent were thought likely to be the result of resurveying in addition to an increased programme of planned works to the stock;

·         Addressing regulatory notices can be used to streamline structure and finances;

·         The Council will have the right to determine who will be its representatives on the local community panel.  There is no requirement for these to be or not be current or former councillors.  Party groups will be asked to put forward their nominations from which selection will be made at Full Council.  It was noted that a local community panel would provided less power to influence than currently achieved through scrutiny;

·         It was agreed that Circle’s performance did improve but this has dropped off again in recent months;

·         The Council has argued that the requirement for it to agree to change or end the local community panel should cover the period of the regeneration (10 years).  This is likely to be the maximum period that can be secured;

·         Other aspects of the stock transfer agreement mean that the Council and Circle are bound together in perpetuity; ie: the Council has 100% access to all vacancies and Circle has to make special arrangements for all aids and adaptations requested by the Council.  This gives a basis  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.