Agenda and draft minutes

Council
Thursday, 15th July, 2021 7.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Civic Centre, High Street, Uxbridge UB8 1UW. View directions

Contact: Lloyd White, Head of Democratic Services 

Items
No. Item

12.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence had been received from Councillors Allen, Deville, Dhillon, Hurhangee, Makwana, Money and Stead.

13.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 309 KB

To receive the minutes of the meetings held on 25 February and 20 May 2021 (both attached)

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RESOLVED:  That the minutes of the meetings held on 25 February 2021 and 20 May 2021 be agreed as correct records. 

14.

Declarations of Interest

To note any declarations of interest in any matter before the Council

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest. 

15.

Mayor's Announcements

1.      To receive the Mayoral Announcements.

 

2.      The Mayor will call upon the Leader of the Council to make a statement in order to update all Members of the Council regarding the Council’s ongoing response to the Covid19 pandemic.

Minutes:

The Mayor advised that his first six weeks as the first citizen of the Borough had been humbling: he had presided over citizenship ceremonies as the Queen’s representative, had met residents and attended a number of events.  He also thanked Councillor Singh who had already completed two of the twelve marathons that he would be running in twelve months to raise money for the Mayor’s charities.

 

The Mayor encouraged those who had not yet had them to make sure they got their Covid vaccinations, particularly the younger generations who were now eligible to get their jabs. 

 

Statement from the Leader of the Council

The Leader stated that the social and economic benefits of the Covid restrictions had been outweighed and would therefore end on Monday 19 July 2021.  The rate of infection locally continued to rise with a steady and consistent increase since mid-June.  On 14 July 2021, Hillingdon had had an infection rate of 246 per 100,000 residents which had been an increase of 25% on the previous week.  Nonetheless, Hillingdon had improved from having one of the top five highest infection rates to being the 15th highest in London. 

 

Approximately one third of infections in the Borough had been school-related cases which indicated that the testing regime in schools had been working well to identify asymptomatic students and reduce further transmission.  Nonetheless, Hillingdon Hospital currently had 12 inpatients from North West London, none of which were in the ITU.  Less than five of these patients had had their second jab administered more than 14 days before admission.  Less than five of these patients had needed assisted ventilation and none of these five had had a double vaccination.

 

The vaccination of residents had been progressing well and, in London, Hillingdon was amongst the best performing for first and second dose vaccinations.  Although Hillingdon had been lagging behind the national average, this gap was starting to close.

 

The Council had been working with health partners to get more jabs into more arms.  However, the level of vaccination hesitancy locally remained relatively high, particularly amongst the younger generation as well as for the second dose.  It was anticipated that this might change now that travel would be more accessible to those that had been fully vaccinated. 

 

The vaccine was the primary line of defence against Covid.  Although the link between infection and serious ill health / death had been significantly weakened, the consequences of high levels of infection locally remained damaging in terms of the number of people who had been having to isolate and staff shortages had been arising in key services. 

 

From Monday 19 July 2021, Council staff would be expected to undertake a phased return to former working practices which would include flexible work.  The Council had a duty of care to its staff and steps would be taken to limit the risk of transmission within the workplace.  However, the need to wear masks would only be mandatory in enclosed or crowded places.  New risk assessments were being undertaken to determine safe office layouts and capacities within the new guidance and new safe limits were being established for the Council’s committee rooms with the Council Chamber returning to its former layout. 

 

The Leader joined the Mayor in encouraging all residents to have both doses of the vaccine and asked that all Members pass this message on within their communities. 

16.

Public Question Time pdf icon PDF 38 KB

To take questions submitted by members of the public in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 10.

Minutes:

5.1     QUESTION FROM MR TONY JAMES OF STATION APPROACH, HAYES, ON BEHALF OF THE SIGNAL BUILDING RESIDENTS’ ASSOCIATION, TO THE CABINET MEMBER FOR PROPERTY AND INFRASTRUCTURE - COUNCILLOR BIANCO:

 

“First time buyers, young families, airport and hospitality workers already hit hard by the COVID pandemic now potentially facing bankruptcy, forfeiture and eviction due to the building safety crisis happening in this borough, need support. Will the Council do the right thing and support the ‘End Our Cladding Scandal’ campaign?”

 

Councillor Bianco advised that the Council recognised the difficulties residents had been facing in private, potentially unsafe high-rise buildings.  Hillingdon Council had been committed to working with the Government, building owners and residents to ensure that safety standards were met in these buildings.  The Council had been actively working with the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), and the London Fire Brigade, to do this.

 

Fire safety in residential buildings was governed by both the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO), for which the London Fire Brigade was responsible, and the Housing Act 2004, which the Council’s Private Sector Housing Team enforced.  The FSO imposed duties on individuals in control of the building, and the Housing Act imposed monitoring duties on local authorities to take enforcement action against those in control of a building. In respect of blocks of flats, the FSO only applied to the common parts and the Housing Act 2004 applied to residential flats and external cladding systems.

 

The Council had been undertaking remedial works in its own stock.  For high rise buildings in the private sector, the Council had dedicated resources to get a better understanding of the scale of the problem.  Where specific cladding systems had been identified but had not been removed (or there were other fire safety concerns), building owners would be contacted as a matter of priority.  Where there was no prospect of works being carried out by building owners, the Council would use its enforcement powers if necessary.  The authority had been actively progressing this work.

 

In the interim, where the Council had become aware of ‘high rise buildings of concern’, officers had met with the London Fire Brigade and building owners to ensure adequate risk assessments had been undertaken and that steps were being taken to make the sites safe.  Building owners had been asked to regularly communicate with residents to keep them updated on progress being made. Residents were entitled to request a copy of the risk assessment for their block for further information.

 

The Cabinet Member believed that it was likely that the Government would pay the majority of the bill – but, whether the owners or occupiers should pay some or all of the costs, would be a matter for the Government to decide.  The Council continued to lobby its local MPs to urge them to press for an early and comprehensive settlement that allowed the works to be carried out without the need to bankrupt the occupiers. 

 

It was thought that the Council’s combined approach of taking action whilst also lobbying was the best approach to ensure that residents stayed safe in their homes. Signing a petition would do little to help this. 

 

It was hoped that this information was helpful and gave some assurance that the Council was taking the matter seriously.

17.

Report of the Head of Democratic Services pdf icon PDF 131 KB

Minutes:

i)       URGENT IMPLEMENTATION OF DECISIONS

 

The recent urgent decision taken were noted.

 

ii)       WAIVER OF 6-MONTH COUNCILLOR ATTENDANCE RULE

 

Councillor Edwards moved, and Councillor Bianco seconded, the recommendation as set out on the Order of Business.  Councillor Curling asked that the Labour Group’s best wishes be passed on to Councillor Stead.  It was:

 

RESOLVED: That, pursuant to Section 85(1) of the Local Government Act 1972, Councillor Stead’s non-attendance at meetings of the authority due to ill health, be approved for a period ending on 5 May 2022.

 

iii)     CHANGES TO COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIPS 2021/22

 

Councillor Edwards moved, and Councillor Bianco seconded, the recommendation as set out on the Order of Business and it was:

 

RESOLVED: That, as proposed by the Conservative Group, Councillor Hensley replace Councillor Melvin as a member of the Pensions Committee (with Councillor Melvin to become a substitute member).

 

iv)        AMENDMENT TO TERMS OF REFERENCE - PENSIONS BOARD & HEALTH AND WELLBEING BOARD

 

Councillor Edwards moved, and Councillor Bianco seconded, the recommendation as set out on the Order of Business and it was:

 

RESOLVED: That the changes to the Terms of Reference of both the Pensions Board and the Health & Wellbeing Board, as set out in Appendices A&B of the report, be approved.

18.

Local Development Scheme pdf icon PDF 58 KB

To consider a recommendation from Cabinet for the adoption of the scheme.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Lavery moved, and Councillor Edwards seconded, the motion as set out on the Order of Business and it was:

 

RESOLVED: That the revised Local Development Scheme be adopted with effect from 22 July 2021.

19.

Members' Questions pdf icon PDF 45 KB

To take questions submitted by Members in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 11

Minutes:

8.1       Question submitted by councillor r.mills TO THE CABINET MEMBER FOR FINANCE - COUNCILLOR GODDARD:

 

“Would the Cabinet Member please advise the progress made in distributing Additional Restrictions Grants to local businesses within the Borough?”

 

Councillor Goddard advised that the Council had dealt with twelve different Covid business grant schemes, including the Additional Restrictions Grants (ARG).  Since March 2020, the aggregate grants administered and paid out to 4,300 local businesses in Hillingdon totalled £80.2m.  The process had been administered and controlled by two teams within the Council with additional support provided by the Exchequer Team and Liberata. 

 

Between October 2020 and June 2021, £8.9m had been paid out in ARG payments.  Hillingdon had achieved full utilisation of the funding allocation made available to the Council by the deadline that had been set.  This meant that Hillingdon had met the required conditions to trigger a further allocation of ARG from a Government-created top-up fund.  Although the top-up figure had not yet been confirmed, it was anticipated that this would be in excess of £2m. 

 

Councillor Goddard thanked and congratulated the Finance Team, particularly the Revenues Team, for their excellent work, dedication and professionalism in providing such and effective and efficient support to the local business community during a period of unparalleled challenge and difficulty. 

 

By way of a supplementary question, Councillor R Mills asked what additional steps the Council planned to take in order to assist the business community in Hillingdon. 

 

Councillor Goddard recognised that local businesses had suffered throughout the pandemic and deserved the Council’s support.  A vibrant, healthy, successful local business community would be crucial in maintaining the best conditions for residents by creating prosperity and employment opportunities and limiting the funding need from Council Tax. 

 

In order to help businesses, the Council had exercised the maximum amount of discretion in allocating business support grants.  The observations of local businesses had been acknowledged and the Council had responded to concerns wherever possible.  This same discretion would be applied to the new allocation of ARG when it became available. 

 

The Council would be looking to build on its reputation as an attractive home for businesses and the availability of a suitably skilled workforce would be a key consideration.  As such, the Council would continue to work with local institutions (such as Uxbridge College) to facilitate and provide suitable skills training to local residents.  Consideration was also being given to funding a skills development programme for the construction industry. 

 

Improvements would be needed in the transport links to the Borough to enhance the attractiveness of the area to new businesses considering moving into Hillingdon.  To this end, the Council would continue to make representations to the Mayor of London.  The Cabinet Member had also been working with the Procurement Team to maximise opportunities for local businesses to benefit from contracts awarded by the Council 

 

These were all important steps to help provide a supportive and positive partnership with the local business community which would result in benefits to Hillingdon’s residents. 

 

8.2       Question submitted by councillor duncan TO THE CABINET MEMBER FOR property and infrastructure - COUNCILLOR bianco:

 

“The Council bought Packet Boat House and sold the flats to first time buyers. Following the discovery of major building faults all residents were moved out at Council expense to privately rented properties while remedial work was carried out. Residents have still not been able to move back into their homes. The Council have now approached them offering to buy them out at an enhanced price but one that does not buy them a comparable home as house prices have risen more than the enhanced price offered. Will the Cabinet Member please inform Council if it is the intention to increase the offer to allow these residents to purchase a comparable home or tell us what other options it is considering to compensate them?”

 

Councillor Bianco advised that Packet Boat House had originally contained a total of 20 properties for shared ownership.  One flat had never been sold which left a total of 19 shared owners.  Due to the extent of the remedial works required at Packet Boat House which had been delayed due to the pandemic, the shared owners had been placed in suitable private rented accommodation. 

 

The Council had made two commitments to the shared owners.  Firstly, that it would meet the full cost of the essential remedial work and the cost of their suitable alternative accommodation in addition to associated costs such as removals and storage.  Secondly, that it would return shared owners to a fully compliant flat and building which met current building regulations and other required legal standards.

 

The Council had provided a ‘buy-back’ offer for these shared owners.  The initial offer had been the original purchase price plus £10k.  However, in recognition of the unavoidable delays in the programme of works and further major work being identified, the Council had increased this offer in April 2021 to the original purchase price plus £25k.  In addition, the Council had offered to pay reasonable costs of evidenced early mortgage repayment fees charged by the mortgage provider and up to 12 months rental in the owners’ current private sector property to afford residents the time to look for and purchase suitable alternative accommodation.  Based upon local market trends the Council believed this to be a fair and competitive offer.

 

Of the 19 shared owners who had been affected, 12 (63%) had taken up the offer or were in the process of selling their flats back to the Council.  For the remaining seven owners, if they chose not to accept the Council’s offer, they would return to a fully compliant and refurbished flat and building as soon as the ongoing programme of remedial works had been completed in the early Autumn.

 

By way of a supplementary question, Councillor Duncan asked if it would be possible to provide a figure as to the total cost to the Council of this whole exercise. 

 

Councillor Bianco advised that, due to legal issues, he would be happy to talk to Councillor Duncan outside of the meeting at some point in the future. 

 

8.3       Question submitted by councillor eginton TO THE CABINET MEMBER FOR FINANCE - COUNCILLOR GODDARD:

 

“Detailed information related to the financial position of the Council is essential to ensure proper accountability and scrutiny by Members and our residents. This is particularly the case with central Government funding for local government so constrained.

 

“However, the detailed Budget Monitoring report to Cabinet this month has been reduced to only a shadow of previous versions. Can the Cabinet Member ask for future Budget Monitoring reports to Cabinet to provide the detailed information as in earlier months?”

 

Councillor Goddard advised that the Budget Monitoring reports needed to make key financial information readable, accessible and understandable to all residents, not just chartered accountants.  This imperative had become more important now that all local authorities had been compelled to address numerous financial challenges, as illustrated in Slough where a Section 114 notice for bankruptcy had been filed two weeks previously. 

 

To ensure transparency, Councillor Goddard believed that less equaled more where sound financial reporting was concerned.  The reports had been daunting and inaccessible due to the sheer volume of material provided and had therefore been refined.  This had been a work in progress with a more logical and easy to follow structure had already been put in place.  Additional changes to further reduce the narrative contained in the report would be introduced. 

 

It was recognised that some individuals might miss details such as the itemised capital budget tables which had provided a lot of detail so these would appear on a quarterly basis going forward.  The Section 151 Officer had confirmed that he had no concerns about the changes that had been made thus far and he would continue to be consulted as further changes arose. 

 

Councillor Goddard encouraged Councillor Eginton to offer specific proposals outside of the Council meeting.  However, he did not anticipate any return to the previous style of reporting during his period of office.  

 

By way of a supplementary question, Councillor Eginton asked that, if the Cabinet Member considered that the previous style of reporting had been too daunting, did he consider that he was in the wrong job?

 

Councillor Goddard had no concerns about being in the right job.  He had had over 40 years of experience and restated that volume did not necessarily convey information in the most effective way.  He reiterated that he would be happy to work with Councillor Eginton on any constructive proposals that he cared to provide. 

20.

Motions pdf icon PDF 57 KB

To consider Motions submitted by Members in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 12

Minutes:

9.1       MOTION FROM COUNCILLOR MATHERS

 

Councillor Mathers moved, and Councillor Farley seconded, the following motion:

 

“That this Council is concerned at the level of bee colony collapse in the UK over the last 10 years and the threat to our food supply as bees provide over 80% of crop pollination. With this in view and taking into account the Council’s responsibilities for conserving biodiversity, this Council calls on the Cabinet to:

 

i)    Establish a ‘Bees and Pollinators’ action plan for the borough. Such a plan could include:

·           Using planning powers to protecting habitats that are important to bees and pollinators,

·           Encouraging all new developments to provide for pollinators,

·           Stopping the use of insecticides on local authority land,

·           Continue the use of wildflower meadows on public green spaces and along public highways and continue planting pollinator-friendly plants,

·           Asking public health bodies and social housing partners to support our efforts

 

“ii)   Establish and fund a ‘Bee Friendly Wildlife Group‘ of officers charged with promoting beekeeping in Hillingdon.

 

“iii)  Establish a team to visit schools to educate children about the relationship between bees and biodiversity and the problems surrounding bee mortality and encouraging schools to help children engage with this agenda.

 

“iv)  Fund regular marketing campaigns on:

·           the use of beehives on municipal land, allotments and in the gardens of volunteers.

·           encourage forms of gardening and land use that support pollinating insects.

·           Asking the public not to use insecticides in their garden and to plant bee-friendly plants

 

“v)   Add an additional category of awards to Hillingdon in Bloom to compliment the Roome Cup category for gardens that specifically provides recognition for bee-friendly habitats.”

 

Following debate (Councillors Flynn, Lavery and Sansarpuri), the motion was put to the vote.

 

The motion was lost.

 

9.2      MOTION FROM COUNCILLOR CURLING

 

Councillor Curling moved, and Councillor Gardner seconded, the following motion:

 

“That this Council notes that there is a national issue with regard to unsafe and unsalable homes due to the cladding scandal, and other defects, that has only come to light because of the tragic loss of lives in the Grenfell fire, which was four years ago.

 

“Council also notes that this scandal has left many leaseholders in severe financial crisis because of developers and management companies placing the cost of repair works on the shoulders of innocent leaseholders, even though leaseholders bear no responsibility for the situation in which they find themselves.

 

“Council recognise that this is all having a detrimental impact on the mental and physical health of many residents in Hillingdon, who have put considerable, personal and financial, investment into becoming part of the home owning democracy, only to find that the large development companies are demanding bankrupting high repair costs.

 

“Council also recognises that the cladding & unsafe buildings scandal is the joint responsibility of the developers and the government, as recognised by the Prime Minister, who referred to Ballymore at PMQs and declared that he was “on their case” with regard to this very issue.

 

“Council further notes that the building safety bill is currently going through parliament, and that whilst this is welcome, there is still an emphasis on individual leaseholders taking legal action and being financially burdened, rather than the developers being made to face up to their responsibilities.

 

“Council therefore calls on the Cabinet to act in order to put Hillingdon residents first, by:

·         Raising these issues with the government.

·         Joining forces with other local authorities and the LGA to work with government to explore ways in which local councils can be empowered to support their residents and ensure building regulations are complied with, or retrospectively repaired at no cost to the leaseholder.

·         Supporting the aims of the ‘End Our Cladding Scandal’ campaign, especially the 10 steps to end the scandal, which are:

1.     The government must lead an urgent national effort to remove all dangerous cladding from buildings by June 2022.

2.     The Building Safety Fund must cover all buildings, regardless of height, and a range of internal and external fire safety defects, not just cladding.

3.     The government should provide the money up front and then seek to recover it from any responsible parties or via a temporary levy on development.

4.     Social housing providers must have full and equal access to the fund.

5.     The government must compel building owners or managers to be honest with residents about fire safety defects.

6.     The government should cover the cost of interim safety measures.

7.     The government should act as an insurer of last resort and underwrite insurance where premiums have soared.

8.     A fairer, faster process is needed to replace the EWS form and funding is necessary to ensure all buildings requiring a form are surveyed within 12 months.

9.     Mental health support must be offered to affected residents.

10.  Protecting residents from historic and future costs must be a key legislative commitment so that developers, not leaseholders, are held accountable for the repair of all unsafe elements of the buildings they constructed.”

 

Councillor Bianco moved, and Councillor Edwards seconded, the following amendment:

 

“That this Council notes that there is a national issue with regard to unsafe and unsalable homes due to the cladding scandal, and other defects, that has only come to light because of the tragic loss of lives in the Grenfell fire, which was four years ago.

 

“Council also notes that this scandal has left many leaseholders in severe financial crisis because of developers and management companies placing the cost of repair works on the shoulders of innocent leaseholders,even though leaseholders bear no responsibility for the situation in which they find themselves.

 

“Council recognise that this is all having a detrimental impact on the mental and physical health of many residents in Hillingdon, who have put considerable, personal and financial, investment into becoming part of the home owning democracy., only to find that the large development companies are demanding bankrupting high repair costs.

 

“Council also recognises that the cladding & unsafe buildings scandal is the joint responsibility of the developers and the government, as recognised by the Prime Minister, who referred to Ballymore at PMQs and declared that he was “on their case” with regard to this very issue.

 

“Council further notes that the building safety bill is currently going through parliament, and that whilst this is welcome, there is still an emphasis on individual leaseholders taking legal action and being financially burdened, rather than the developers being made to face up to their responsibilities.

 

“Council therefore calls on the Cabinet to act in order to put Hillingdon residents first, by:

·         Raising these issues with the government and pressing for action to be taken to make these homes safe without cost to the leaseholder’

·         Joining forces with other local authorities and the LGA to work with government to explore ways in which local councils can be empowered to support their residents and ensure building regulations are complied with, or retrospectively repaired at no cost to the leaseholder.

·         Supporting the aims of the ‘End Our Cladding Scandal’ campaign, especially the 10 steps to end the scandal, which are:

1.    The government must lead an urgent national effort to remove all dangerous cladding from buildings by June 2022.

2.    The Building Safety Fund must cover all buildings, regardless of height, and a range of internal and external fire safety defects, not just cladding.

3.    The government should provide the money up front and then seek to recover it from any responsible parties or via a temporary levy on development.

4.    Social housing providers must have full and equal access to the fund.

5.    The government must compel building owners or managers to be honest with residents about fire safety defects.

6.    The government should cover the cost of interim safety measures.

7.    The government should act as an insurer of last resort and underwrite insurance where premiums have soared.

8.    A fairer, faster process is needed to replace the EWS form and funding is necessary to ensure all buildings requiring a form are surveyed within12 months.

9.    Mental health support must be offered to affected residents.

10.Protecting residents from historic and future costs must be a key legislative commitment so that developers, not leaseholders, are held accountable for the repair of all unsafe elements of the buildings they constructed.

 

Following debate (Councillor Morse), the amendment was put to a recorded vote:

 

Those voting for: The Mayor (Councillor Chamdal), the Deputy Mayor (Councillor Haggar), Councillors Ahmad-Wallana, Arnold, Barnes, Bianco, Bridges, Brightman, Burrows, Chapman, Choubedar, Cooper, Corthorne, Davies, Denys, Edwards, Flynn, Goddard, Graham, Hensley, Higgins, Kauffman, Lavery, Lewis, Markham, Melvin, D Mills, R Mills, Morgan, O’Brien, Palmer, Puddifoot, Radia, Riley, Rodrigues, Seaman-Digby, Simmonds, Sullivan, Tuckwell and Yarrow.

 

Those voting against: Councillors Birah, Bliss, Curling, Dhot, Duncan, Eginton, Farley, Gardner, Lakhmana, Mathers, Milani, Morse, Nelson, Oswell, Prince, Sansarpuri, Singh and Sweeting.

 

Those abstaining: None. 

 

The amendment was carried. 

 

The substantive motion was put to the vote and it was:

 

RESOLVED:  That this Council notes that there is a national issue with regard to unsafe and unsalable homes due to the cladding scandal, and other defects, that has only come to light because of the tragic loss of lives in the Grenfell fire, which was four years ago.

 

Council also notes that this scandal has left many leaseholders in severe financial crisis even though leaseholders bear no responsibility for the situation in which they find themselves.

 

Council recognise that this is all having a detrimental impact on the mental and physical health of many residents in Hillingdon, who have put considerable, personal and financial, investment into becoming part of the home owning democracy.

 

Council also recognises that the cladding & unsafe buildings scandal is the joint responsibility of the developers and the government, as recognised by the Prime Minister, who referred to Ballymore at PMQs and declared that he was “on their case” with regard to this very issue.

 

Council further notes that the building safety bill is currently going through parliament, and that whilst this is welcome, there is still an emphasis on individual leaseholders taking legal action and being financially burdened, rather than the developers being made to face up to their responsibilities.

 

Council therefore calls on the Cabinet to act in order to put Hillingdon residents first, by raising these issues with the government and pressing for action to be taken to make these homes safe without cost to the leaseholder.

Recorded Vote
TitleTypeRecorded Vote textResult
9.2 Motion From Councillor Curling Amendment Carried
  • View Recorded Vote for this item
  • 21.

    Adjournment Debate

    In accordance with Council Rule 15, to hold an Adjournment Debate, submitted by Councillor Prince on the subject of ‘Rats and Other Pests’.

    Minutes:

    An Adjournment Debate on the subject of ‘rats and other pests’ was conducted in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 15.  Councillors Prince, Arnold, Bridges, Brightman and Nelson spoke on the matter.