Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Microsoft Teams (please copy and paste the following link into your browser): https://bit.ly/2KrH8aW

Contact: Gary O'Key, Tel: 020 7926 2183, Email:  gokey@lambeth.gov.uk 

Items
No. Item

1.

Declaration of Pecuniary Interests

    Under Standing Order 4.4, where any councillor has a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest (as defined in the Members’ Code of Conduct (para. 4)) in any matter to be considered at a meeting of the Council, a committee, sub-committee or joint committee, they must withdraw from the meeting room during the whole of the consideration of that matter and must not participate in any vote on that matter unless a dispensation has been obtained from the Monitoring Officer.

     

    Minutes:

    Councillor Liz Atkins, Chair, opened the meeting and welcomed all attendees. It was noted that this was the first Overview & Scrutiny Committee meeting held virtually in accordance with the recently-published government regulations.

    Apologies for absence were noted.

     

    There were no declarations of interest.

     

    Cllr Bartley made a statement to the committee confirming that although he was a signatory to the call in form, he was approaching the meeting with an open mind and would listen to all the arguments before making a decision.

     

2.

HFL Delivery Plan and HFL Corporate Plan: Call In pdf icon PDF 284 KB

    Contact for enquiries: Gary O’Key, Senior Democratic Services Officer; 020 7926 2183; gokey@lambeth.gov.uk

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The Senior Democratic Services Officer outlined the procedure for the call in hearing as set out in the agenda report and stressed that the call in had been accepted in relation to only one of the grounds  cited in the call-in form, namely risk management in light of the risks posed by Covid-19 and how these would be managed and monitored in the year ahead. Comments and questions should therefore be confined to this subject. The options available to the committee were outlined.

     

    Cllr Pete Elliott introduced the call in and made the following key points:

     

    • He did not believe Homes for Lambeth (HfL) was sufficiently transparent nor run in the interests of residents
    • The estate regeneration programme had cost £100m and produced nothing of note
    • Issues raised at the previous HfL scrutiny meeting held in June 2019 still remained and few of the recommendations had been actioned
    • HfL had failed to deliver against the targets in its last two business plans, yet the 2020-23 business plan committed to a huge amount of expenditure
    • Members were told in June 2019 that the HfL Ownership and Stewardship Panel would meet quarterly yet it had in fact only met twice in nearly a year since then
    • A Corporate Committee challenge session and the scheduled Cabinet meeting which was due to consider the business plan had both been cancelled due to Covid-19. This meant there was a lack of scrutiny and public input which would improve decision making
    • The Overview & Scrutiny Committee (OSC) meeting scheduled for 25 March 2020, which also had to be cancelled, was due to consider the HfL business plan. OSC members had submitted a list of questions but many remained unanswered
    • Contracts with Mott McDonald and Mace had been cancelled with nothing to show for it
    • He commended the members of the public who had sent in written submissions, contributing considerable professional expertise for free. They deserved to be listened to and he believed the representations should be put on record
    • With so much uncertainty at present, the sensible thing to do would be to pause and reconsider the business plan when it was clearer what a post-Covid Lambeth would look like

     

    It was noted that the deadline for written representations to be submitted for this meeting was 5pm on Friday 1st May. The committee had received five submissions by the deadline, from the following people:

     

    ·         Andrew Coveney

    ·         Gerlinde Gniewosz

    ·         W J Haddock

    ·         Ben Rymer

    ·         Simon Morrow

     

    The Chair noted that these representations had been circulated to all committee members in advance of the meeting and that she trusted these had been read and taken on board by all members. Though she regretted that it was not possible to hear from the public at this meeting, she committed to publishing the submissions received, which provided an important perspective, along with the minutes.

    Councillor Scott Ainslie and Councillor Nicole Griffiths spoke in favour of the call in and made the following key points:

     

3.

HFL Delivery Plan and HFL Corporate Plan: Response to Call In pdf icon PDF 334 KB

    Contact for enquiries: Tom Dolan-Bent, Interim Assistant Director Housing Delivery, tdolanbent@lambeth.gov.uk

     

    Minutes:

    The Chair invited the Cabinet Member for Planning, Investment and New Homes, Councillor Matthew Bennett, to respond to the points raised. Cllr Bennett stated that:

     

    • It was his intention to bring the HfL business plan to Overview & Scrutiny in March prior to the decision being taken but events had made this impossible. It was noted that government regulations did not allow for virtual meetings to take place until April
    • The Council had taken the political decision in 2014 that if it was going to tackle the housing crisis, it was better to set up a company owned and controlled in the public sector than doing a deal with the private sector. HfL was therefore established in 2017 and an experienced team of industry experts had been recruited
    • The business plan set out a three-year programme, by the end of which there would be almost 400 new homes in the borough including 223 at council rent. This was far in excess of the usual planning policy target
    • Social investment plans were set out, along with details on how the Council’s climate change commitments would be delivered. A full review of resident engagement had also been committed to
    • The HfL business plan represented a big financial stimulus. Taking the decision now allowed for the desk work to be done in order that HfL would be ready to proceed with a £375m investment at the time communities desperately needed it
    • He hoped members had read the Equalities Impact Assessment, which was extremely thorough
    • He was grateful for constructive scrutiny and noted that 58 written questions from scrutiny members had been received and responded to prior to the decision being made
    • The report established the framework for borrowing subject to the governance framework
    • The £875k spent on Cressingham Gardens brought the project up to RIBA Stage 1. This work had been done well and would be used to inform the next stage
    • There were risks in relation to HfL but these were being identified and managed
    • The HfL business plan did not pose a systemic risk to Council finances. It set out projects the administration wanted to see delivered and limits on financing subject to controls
    • Each project had to move through a series of gateways involving checks by members, officers, grant funders and an independent board with years of experience before funding was released
    • The schemes which were on site or about to start were 100% affordable housing with no market sales risk
    • 450 residents had taken part in online consultations and freephone conversations
    • Build times for schemes were usually 18 months or more and construction was not expected to start until towards the end of this financial year, so HfL was not expecting to be exposed to sales risk for some time
    • PWC had recently completed an audit on risk management within the Council for HfL which would be going to the next Corporate Committee meeting. This showed HfL was on the right track
    • He had agreed to work with the Chair  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.