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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


There were no apologies for absence.


Declarations of pecuniary interest


There were no declarations of pecuniary interest.


Minutes of the previous meetings (10 and 16 January 2018) pdf icon PDF 111 KB

Matters Arising

Verbal feedback on member visit to Merton College.

Additional documents:


The minutes of both 10 and 16 January 2018 meetings were agreed as true and accurate.  It was highlighted that information on the Prevent duty and how this relates to adult learning needs to be provided to Panel members (which has happened subsequent to the meeting).


Matters arising

Members took the opportunity to provide verbal feedback on their recent visit to Merton College to look at the adult education provision.  It was noted that the visit had been interesting and worthwhile and that it had been beneficial to see the provision first hand.  Members who had not been able to attend were encouraged to participate in future visits.


Update report: new waste collection service pdf icon PDF 77 KB

Scott Edgell, General Manager of Veolia Environmental Services UK, will attend the Panel.

Additional documents:


Graeme Kane, Assistant Director, Public Spaces, Contracting and Commissioning, introduced the item:

·         The change to the waste collection service, that will be implemented in October 2018, is probably the biggest seen in Merton and will necessarily involve considerable effort to ensure this goes as smoothly as possible;

·         The flow chart in Appendix A (page 27) provides an overview of all of the workstreams involved in the rollout.  This demonstrates the complexity of the work with IT, logistics, communications, vehicles and depots all featured.  This chart also provides an overview of the governance arrangements;

·         Section 6 (page 23) of the officer report provides key dates and timeframes.  This is only a snapshot of the project plan which is extensive and outlines all the dependencies involved in getting the rollout right;

·         The project team continues to be in learning mode.  This includes paying due regard to the experience of the rollout in Sutton.  It was noted that whilst this also required significant changes to the existing waste service, these were different to those that will apply in Merton; food waste collections were added but wheeled bins were already in use.  The scrutiny review of the rollout in Sutton has been carefully considered in partnership with Veolia and the other members of the South London Waste Partnership (SLWP).  A response to the recommendations made is contained in Appendix B (page 29); and

·         Highlighted that this is a big service change and that as a result is it unlikely implementation will be completely without issue but that it is the job of the project team to mitigate against these as much as possible.


In response to member questions, Graeme Kane and Scott Edgell, General Manager of Veolia Environmental Services UK, clarified:

·         (Graeme Kane) Communications is a distinct workstream with a dedicated project team that includes Veolia and other members of the SWLP.  This meets fortnightly.  The fact that a new waste service will be rolled out in October is already being promoted to residents.  It has already been featured several times in MyMerton, the team has attended community forums and the new service is featured on the Merton website.  Gratitude was expressed to members for their continued role in helping promote the new service to residents.  More detail on the nature of the new service will be communicated to residents closer to rollout.  This will include a bespoke information pack;

·         (Graeme Kane) Consideration is already being given to how to work with local groups and individuals able to support the rollout.  Meetings are taking place with organisations such as Sustainable Merton;

·         (Scott Edgell) Agreed that it is important to consider use of online video for rollout of information to residents.  Noted that the communications team is already reflecting WRAP’s best practice to ensure use of graphics that will communicate the requirements of the new service and overcome any language barriers; it is key to the success of the project that residents understand the need to remove any containments.  Agreed the waste fleet itself  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Performance monitoring: waste, recycling and street cleaning pdf icon PDF 137 KB


The Panel received a representation from Marie Davinson of the Battles Area Resident Association (BARA) on Veolia’s performance.  This highlighted issues with missed collections, street litter, the return of bins to properties, the collection of green sacks, leaf collections, the clearance of gutters and fly tipping.  Concern was also expressed about the new service rollout, the amount of containers involved and how those living in different property types, especially flats, will cope with these.


Graeme Kane, Assistant Director for Public Spaces, Contracts and Commissioning, went on to introduce the officer report:

·         This is a further update on Veolia’s performance under the contract as requested by the Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel through its reference to Cabinet;

·         Currently, performance is not where it should be.  Merton officers and Veolia are working to address performance issues;

·         Highlighted the ongoing campaign to reduce the number of fly tips.  Adverts focusing on the fines for fly tipping are being featured on banners on highway railings and caged vehicles etc.  Social media is also being used and LBM enforcement officers and those working through the Kingdom contract are issuing fines (in total, 2,697 fines were issued between July 2017 and January 2018).  The Council is now also naming and shaming those who haven’t paid their fixed penalty notices following court action; and

·         There is awareness of difficulties with the online reporting of issues in the same locality.  This is being addressed.


Scott Edgell, General Manager of Veolia Environmental Services UK, also responded to the BARA representation:

·         Thanks given for the feedback which was highlighted as valuable;

·         Staff are currently being trained to ensure box/bin returns;

·         Until the new service is rolled-out, additionally resources and some changes will be needed specifically to address litter issues caused by black bags and foxes.  Once the wheeled bin/containerised solution is implemented, these issues should be mitigated;

·         Merton is a leafy borough.  Staff are being trained to sweep and not litter pick.  Noted that parked cars can make it difficult to sweep some areas;

·         Offered to meet with BARA residents and look at the gutter issue that has been identified; and

·         Working to get the frequency by which litter bins are emptied correct but this isn’t yet quite right especially for those at bus stops.


Marie Davinson agreed that there had been some improvement in performance over the last couple of weeks.


In response to member questions, Graeme Kane and Scott Edgell clarified:

·         (Scott Edgell) Collections from flats do pose a challenge but the number of missed collections from communal flats is not increasing.  Currently, collections from flats that are scheduled for the evenings are encountering difficulties because of parked cars which restrict access to sites.  There are between 20 – 30 collections from flats that are affected in this way and need to be rescheduled for earlier in the day when parked cars are less of an issue.  Veolia is also making vehicles available that are able to access these more challenging sites (they are smaller).  This issue  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Performance monitoring: libraries and heritage annual report pdf icon PDF 190 KB


Anthony Hopkins, the Head of the Library, Heritage & Adult Education Service, introduced the item highlighting key projects;

·         The new libraries operating model has been established since May 2017 and is achieving the required savings whilst retaining all library sites and existing opening hours;

·         The new library at Colliers Wood is now open and based on the need for additional stock to be provided is proving a success;

·         The arts space at Mitcham Library is open and provided cultural activities for young people;

·         The high school library membership scheme is well established;

·         The Merton and the First World War memories project is an example of the heritage projects now being achieved in partnership with Merton’s libraries;

·         Merton’s libraries are also now being successfully integrated with other services such as Adult Learning, meaning that provision is now available through libraries; and

·         There is a focus on digital skills through Merton’s libraries with a particular focus on assisted digital support.  Training will be provided to staff and volunteers so that they can help library users.


In response to member questions, Anthony Hopkins clarified:

·         Library fees are reviewed annually.  The policy in Trafford where no fines are now charged for overdue library books is based on information from abroad where this approach led to increased usage with no impact on book losses.  Whilst there is interest in the impact of this policy in Trafford, library fines make a contribution to the library’s budget;

·         The new library’s website is a joint procurement project with 17 other London boroughs which will enhance functionality.  There will be a limited amount of downtime for the service whilst the change is being implemented.  However, this will be limited and any service disruption will be planned and notification provided in advance;

·         The number of library volunteers shows some seasonal variation – numbers are always higher in the summer.  The new recruitment campaign for library volunteers is focused on new volunteer roles reflecting the new operating model rather than simply increasing numbers.  There will be a volunteer celebration event on 9 March where the contribution of around 150 library volunteers will be recognised and celebrated;

·         All Merton’s libraries are assessed for access by older and disabled users.  Whilst the default approach is to encourage users to self serve this is only where this is reasonable with support being given to those that need it; and

·         All Merton’s libraries have completed work to make them more dementia friendly including completing environmental assessments in addition to training staff and volunteers as Dementia Friends.


RESOLVED: Members resolved to thank and congratulate officers for the annual report and the success of the new Colliers Wood Library.


Performance monitoring: departmental data set review pdf icon PDF 125 KB

Additional documents:


Chris Lee, Director for Environment and Regeneration, provided an introduction to the item highlighting that this wouldn’t focus of waste as this had been covered elsewhere on the agenda:

·         (SP041) Service requests replied to in five working days: this is only just below the target demonstrating that despite there now being a high volume of requests, these are being met;

·         (SP066/067/065) Waste volumes: residential waste per household was below the maximum threshold in December and is only just above the maximum for the year to date.  Municipal solid waste sent to landfill is doing better than the target and household waste recycled and composted is improving and doing better than at the same point last year.  There has also been an unexpected expenditure dividend.  The new Energy from Waste (EFW) facility at Beddington Lane is being tested with a lower gate fee providing a £150K one off benefit; and

·         (SP024) % vacancy rate of property owned by the Council: this is low and significantly better than the target.  The debt owned by Council tenants is also better than target although not reflected in the provided figures since billing dates and payment terms affect the report.  This shows how the Council is working to maximise the benefit of its assets.


Cllr Holden, in his capacity as performance monitoring lead for the Panel, highlighted the following points as a result of his meeting with officers:

·         Library visitor numbers are slightly down but are expected to increase;

·         The library partnerships target figure will be removed and updated to something more meaningful as a KPI;

·         The income from libraries has jumped up recently;

·         Adult Learning enrolments were just under the target last year but are anticipated to increase during this municipal year.  It was noted that these figures need to be annualised (rather than reported quarterly) to make them more meaningful;

·         Parking permits issued in five working days are likely to be further affected by increasing CPZs and the ongoing impact of the diesel surcharge;

·         The PATAS KPIs are being revised and will only feature the cases won in the future;

·         Leisure income has been affected by the closure of the Ridgeway Stables;

·         Visitor numbers to the Polka Theatre have been affected by an unpopular show;

·         Building control applications and income are both down.  However, it is thought unlikely that the Council will lose its responsibility for this service; and

·         The share of building control cases being retained by the Council has increased which it is thought might be the result of investigations into the Grenfell fire.


In response to member questions, officers clarified:

·         (Chris Lee) The decrease in household waste is not as a result of missed bin collections.  These are marginal and are caught up so have no impact on overall volumes;

·         (John Hill, Assistant Director Public Protection) The focus of food premises inspections is on those deemed high risk;

·         (Chris Lee) The business case for the payment of fixed penalty notices is based on a rate of around 61/62% (which means  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


Performance monitoring: progress against the recommendations of the housing supply group pdf icon PDF 72 KB


James McGinlay, Assistant Director Sustainable Communities, introduced the item:

·         The housing team is to be applauded for Merton having the lowest homelessness figures in London (184 households in temporary accommodation);

·         Currently, the Council is consulting on viability assessments.  This is in line with the policy of the Major of London with viability assessments being made publicly available.  A report will go to Cabinet once the consultation is complete;

·         As the local plan is reviewed, suggestions are being sought from landowners, residents and any interested parties regarding sites that will have their designation changed and allow for small scale developments; and

·         Progress is being made in putting in place the staff for the Local Authority Property Company.  Initial designs and planning applications will be forthcoming in the autumn.


In response to a member question, it was clarified that Merton has learnt from other local authorities on their approaches to viability assessments.  Officers will review the affordable housing threshold as necessary.


It was noted by the Panel that recommendation 12 was to be reviewed and not removed.  James McGinlay to action.


RESOLVED: It was resolved that the Panel will receive one final update on the task group report and recommendations in the new municipal year.  This should include a covering report summarising the impact of the report and elaborating on the action taken to achieve the recommendations.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 141 KB


The Panel noted the remainder of the work plan for the rest of the municipal year.


Members were reminded to complete the annual scrutiny survey by the deadline of Friday 9 March 2018.  It was highlighted that the preference is for this to be completed online.