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Agenda and minutes

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

No. Item


Apologies for absence


Apologies were received from Cllr Bull and Cllr Makin (with Cllr Abdul Latif and Cllr Attawar respectively substituting).  Cllr Brunt substituted for the Labour vacancy.

Chris Lee, Director of Environment and Regeneration, also sent his apologies.


Declarations of pecuniary interest


There were no declarations of pecuniary interest.


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 90 KB


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


Matters arising

John Hill, Assistant Director for Public Protection, provided the following updates:

·         Idling: the Council has been talking to a number of other boroughs that have already taken action to reduce car idling.  This research has established that rather than initially proceeding to enforcement, which is seen as a hard line approach, advisory notices are given out for the first three months.  It has been agreed to follow the same approach which will be progressed through the forthcoming Air Quality Action Plan; and

·         Lobbying of central government for national measures to support the removal of diesel vehicles from roads: this is being pursued through the pan-London advisory body and there is no further update to provide currently.


Merton's response to the Grenfell Tower fire - update report

Simon Williams, Director of Housing and Community, will provide a verbal update at the meeting.


Simon Williams, Director of Community and Housing, provided members with an overview of the objectives the Council is seeking to achieve through its response to the Grenfell Tower fire, further to the written communications sent out to all Councillors:

1.    Provide mutual aid to affected areas: currently, affected areas are the Grenfell Tower and the London Borough of Camden.  Staff who have volunteered to help at rest centres in both locations were highlighted and thanked.  Steve Langley, Head of Housing Need and Strategy, was specifically mentioned as he is currently assisting with the Grenfell rehousing response;

2.    Reassure residents: whilst the Council doesn’t hold any housing stock, it has written to all social housing providers to seek clarification that all accommodation is free from cladding containing aluminium composite material (ACM), that providers are doing a detailed review of other fire risks in these buildings, and that they have responded to DCLG as instructed.  All landlords of private residential housing blocks that are six storeys and over have also been written to seeking the same reassurances.   Most social housing providers have responded whilst the Council is still waiting to hear from some private landlords.  All information gained has been collated into a database and shared with the local borough commander of London Fire Brigade  and

3.    Communication: to ensure that all Councillors and the boroughs MPs are briefed on the Council’s response to the Grenfell Tower fire.  It is planned that briefings will continue to be provided weekly.  From this week, these communications along with the overall council response will be co-ordinated by Caroline Holland, Director for Corporate Services.


In response to member questions, Simon Williams clarified:

·         Owners of the Brown and Root tower have confirmed that its cladding is made from glass and not aluminium.  It also has sprinklers fitted and has passed the fire safety requirements;

·         As a chain, Premier Inn is looking at the fire safety of all its accommodation across the country.  No concerns have arisen at this stage in Merton;

·         There is one medium rise property in Merton that has cladding on the first two floors (Plough Lane).  The managing agents are having the cladding tested this week;

·         The authority is with the Fire Brigade to issue or refuse a fire safety certificate; 

·         Clarion, the largest social housing provider in the borough, has conducted a further fire safety inspection of all its housing in the borough in partnership with the Fire Brigade;

·         Insulation used between floors and units in the conversion of any buildings in the borough (for example, the Brown and Root Tower and the telephone exchange building in Walpole Road), would have been subject to building control and a fire safety inspection at the time of development.  It will be for the Grenfell public enquiry to consider whether standards in these areas need to change and if so what retrofitted modifications would be appropriate will need to be considered;

·         Merton has been able to respond as needed with mutual aid.  Rest  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Cabinet Member priorities

·         Councillor Draper, Cabinet Member for Community and Culture

·         Councillor Whelton, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Environment and Housing


Cllr Draper, Cabinet Member for Community and Culture, presented his priorities for the year:

·         Greenspaces: introduction of public space protection orders (to regulate dogs and BBQs in public spaces), a focus on rubbish and getting residents to take this with them, getting the best from the new greenspaces contractor (Idverde) including their relationship with friends groups, and building on the Eastern Electric event to use Merton’s greenspaces to generate additional income;

·         Leisure: the completion of the leisure centre and working with contractors GLL to make the centre as profitable as possible;

·         Libraries: opening the new library at Colliers Wood, continuing to improve the use of the Wimbledon Library arts space and establishing another in Mitcham Library to maximise business and arts opportunities.  Noted Merton has the most cost efficient library service in London;

·         Merton Adult Education: aspiring to achieve an outstanding Ofsted rating.  The service will work with other colleges and aims to maximise the value of the apprenticeship levy to improve enrolments and increase income;

·         Regulated Services: finalise the expansion of the service to include Wandsworth and underpin this with a shared IT system.  The enlarged service can then be used to gain additional income; and

·         Heritage: use the Cannons and Chapter House projects to create a tourism industry in Merton as a way of providing additional income.


In response to member questions, the Cabinet Member clarified (with support from relevant officers):

·         Resource is limited to support bidding for the Mayor of London’s Borough of Culture.  However, this might be possible if done with local partners.  This will be explored;

·         The dog control strategy is well established but this is less the case for the use of BBQs in public spaces.  There is need for a public consultation; and

·         Ensuring that the Eastern Electric event is safe and secure for attendees and residents is the key objective.  Work is on-going with SaferMerton and the police to ensure a safe event that is well monitored. The Council has worked with the organisers who are much experienced and professional in their approach, supporting modifications to ensure safety such as tweaking the opening hours.  Enforcement teams will be heavily involved to ensure noise, health and safety and food hygiene standards are all maintained.  It was noted that the police have also designated this as a London-wide event meaning there is a bigger pool of officers on which it can draw for support.  The police will lead on addressing any drug use the event.


Cllr Whelton, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Environment and Housing, presented his priorities for the year:

·         Street management: noted that his remit also includes street management and that there will be a number of consultations forthcoming regarding the extension of CPZ restrictions to Sundays and evenings and the introduction of waiting restrictions (with residents’ consent);

·         Housing: the key focus in on fire safety.  Highlighted residents’ concerns resulting from the Grenfell Tower fire;

·         Regeneration: this will realise an investment of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Performance monitoring pdf icon PDF 159 KB

Additional documents:


Simon Williams, Director of Community and Housing, highlighted that the department had recently conducted its in year performance monitoring.  This showed success in keeping down the use of temporary accommodation.  Library income collection appears to be down but this is thought to have resulted from the implementation of the new finance system and some misallocation of funds.  Currently, it is too early to be conclusive about the new approach to Adult Education (commissioning).  A full report will be brought to the Panel early in the New Year. 


The Assistant Directors from Environment and Regeneration took it in turns to highlight a performance monitoring measure from their area of responsibility:

·         John Hill, Assistant Director for Public Protection: highlighted that the number of parking permits issued against the target of five working days fell from the usual 90% to 40% in April and May.  This is as a result of a one-off event: the introduction of the diesel levy which has required the automated permit issuing process to be reconfigured.  Until this was achieved, the process wasn’t automated causing the drop in performance.  Now that the automated system has been reconfigured, performance is improving with 70% of parking permits being issued in the five day target;

·         James McGinlay, Assistant Director for Sustainable Communities: highlighted the number of planning enforcement cases closed.  Whilst the backlog was cleared last year, staff leaving means that there are now only 1.5 FTE remaining to deal with enforcement cases pending recruitment of the vacant posts.  This is being addressed by vigilantly monitoring of cases enabling the team to still perform well against the backlog; and

·         Graeme Kane, Assistant Director for Public Spaces: highlighted the increase in fly tipping.  Reported that this isn’t because there has been an increase but that this has resulted from the improvement in data capture and reporting of tips.  Under the Veolia contract, all teams have access to an in cab reporting system that allows data to be captured in real time increasing accuracy.  Proposed that there is a need for this target measure to be reconsidered to ensure that it is meaningful.


In response to questions, the Assistant Directors clarified:

·         John Hill:

o   It hadn’t been possible to better anticipate the change required to the automatic system for purchasing parking permits because it wasn’t clear until very recently whether or not the diesel levy was going to go ahead;

o   How air pollution is monitored is in the process of being reviewed.  This will ensure that how particulate measures are reported is accurate;

o   The PATAS figures aren’t quite accurate in the report.  These should read 59% won, 25% lost and 16% not contested.  To provide a better understanding of PATAS cases, it was highlighted that on average every year 150,000 Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) are issued.  Of these 788 were contested last year, 462 were won, 196 lost and 130 not contested.  This illustrates the very small number of PCNs that are lost or not contested; and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Facilities for physical activity in children's playgrounds - update report pdf icon PDF 385 KB


Officers, Doug Napier (Greenspaces Manager) and Hilina Asrress (Senior Public Health Principal) presented their paper to members highlighting that only 11.8% of 15 year olds in Merton are meeting the daily guidelines for physical activity and are sedentary on average for 7 hours a day.  Only a quarter of adults are physically active in Merton.  Childhood obesity is both a national and local priority.  The National Childhood Measurement Programme has been used to establish that there are 4,500 overweight children in the borough with children in the east more likely to be affected than those in the west.


According to the Public Health Outcomes Framework, with 42 separate playgrounds, Merton ranks 17th lowest in London for the utilisation of outdoor space for health and exercise purposes.  Investment in Merton’s playgrounds has been affected by saving pressures.  The annual revenue budget is currently around £40K or about £1K per site per annum.  Just replacing one play unit (a double timber multi-play unit) recently cost £40K.  Provision also includes outdoor gyms, table tennis and paddling pools/water jets.


Public Health and Greenspaces intend to work more closely together to increase utilisation of children’s playgrounds and open spaces in Merton (based on evidence and best practice as well as resident feedback).


In response to member questions, officers clarified:

·         Schools are a key in addressing childhood obesity and increasing physical activity in young people.  Work is on-going with Merton’s schools to encourage them to participate in the Healthy Schools Programme;

·         An example of working in partnership with schools is the newly opened scooter park at Poplar Primary School;

·         Financing for playgrounds comes from the capital investment programme, Section 106 money and external sources (the scooter park at Poplar Schools was crowd-funded);

·         It was agreed that there is some error in the table listing the location of Merton’s greenspaces; and

·         Whilst there is some misconception that playgrounds in the west of the borough receive more funding, it was highlighted that there are as many playgrounds in the east of the borough and investment in play equipment and the resulting play values is equitable across the borough.


RESOLVED: The Panel thanked the officers from Public Health and Greenspaces for working together to produce an interesting and thoughtful paper.


South London Waste Partnership: Phase C pdf icon PDF 76 KB

·         Update report

·         Veolia ride-along -  verbal report back


Update report

Graeme Kane, Assistant Director, Public Space, Contracting and Commissioning, provided an introduction to his update report.  Highlighted that two significant services have now been contracted out with accompanying big expectations on staff with changes to culture, equipment and working practices.  The Council is now benefitting from Veolia’s commercial knowledge, technical solutions and equipment in addition to the financial savings which will be realised through the contract.  The commitment from both sides to make the contract work is impressive.  Whilst only in its early stages, things are going well.  Inevitably there are some issues with the current focus on missed bin collections and the speed of fly tip removal.  The Idverde greenspaces contract is also operating well especially given this is a challenging time of year.  Cutting of grass and verges has been excellent and the contractor is staying on top of litter picking.  Thanks were given to the team (especially Doug Napier) for starting the contract early (February 2017) to allow it to become embedded before the growing season.


Ride along

Cllr Sargeant gave a verbal report on his ride along with a Veolia rubbish collection team.  He explained that he had requested this in order to identify issues to be addressed in preparing for the new service being rolled-out in Merton in 2018.  He noted his dislike of wheeled bins and his concern about the need for the new service to be flexible and accommodate those who may struggle to present their rubbish for collection under the requirements of the new service.  The Cllr was nevertheless pleased to report how well run he found the service.


The ride along took place in Kingston (and not Sutton as originally requested) on 6 June 2017.  The Cllr initially attended health & safety and management briefings.  He met and questioned two teams on their rounds and then rode along with a third.  The team was very friendly, energetic and with high morale, perhaps selected as one of the best teams in the service.


The Echo system is key to a successful, flexible service.  This comprises an on-board computer that is connected wirelessly to the depot, allowing performance to be reported and monitored in real time.  Veolia and Kingston meet every three months to review this in detail.  The information it provides is sufficiently comprehensive that it is possible to drill down to look at the service provided to individual households and any specific issues such as where the household is not correctly sorting waste and recycling.  The technical solution allows photographic evidence to be captured of bins not presented for collection.  The driver has to sign-off each street in real time before the crew moves on.


The Cllr noted that the service caters for the 5% of residents requiring assistance.  Again, the driver has to acknowledge that this has been provided in each individual case before a street can be signed-off. 


Kingston offers 180, 240 and 360 litre wheeled bins although it is considered an error that the largest of the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.


Setting the scrutiny work programme for 2017/18 pdf icon PDF 232 KB

·         Consider the work programme for 2017/18: agree items for inclusion

·         Consider the methods to be used

·         Identify a lead member for performance monitoring

·         Identify a lead member for budget scrutiny

·         Consider the appointment of co-opted members (Panel/task group)

·         Consider the use of local visits

·         Identify training/support needs


Cllr Holden volunteered to act as the performance monitoring lead for the Panel.  It was agreed that the Panel would undertake visits to South Thames College and Colliers Wood Library.  How to involve more residents in the work of the Panel would be given further consideration.  It was noted that the work programme, as outlined in the report, is very full and that the Panel should be cautious about adding to it further although space will be found for items where needed.


RESOLVED: To accept the work programme as outlined in the report and as agreed at the topic suggestion workshop.


Task group - scoping

A paper will be tabled at the meeting.


Members noted that many crossovers are redundant but remain in place and are trip hazards.  Also, that there appears to be inconsistency in how crossovers are allowed causing conflict amongst neighbours.  Whether or not the Council is loosing revenue from crossovers because they are installed without permission was also questioned.


RESOLVED: To undertake a task group review of crossovers to be completed for presentation to Cabinet at its meeting in March 2018.