Hounslow Council


Agenda and minutes

Venue: Open Area, Lampton Park Conference Centre, (Civic Centre), Lampton Road, Hounslow

Items
No. Item

22.

Apologies for Absence and Communications from members

Minutes:

As Cllr Kamaljit Kaur was delayed Cllr Mel Collins began the meeting. John Seear advised that John Beattie of Flourish had stepped down from the Forum. Cllr Collins offered sincere thanks on behalf of the DCF for all Mr Beattie’s hard work and said that a letter of thanks signed by the Chair would be sent.

23.

Recycle 360

Minutes:

Presentation by Dan Smyth from the Waste and Recycling Team.

 

Mr Smyth introduced himself as Contract Manager of Recycle 360, a subsidiary of Lampton 360, itself a wholly owned subsidiary of the Council. This meant that the body could make a profit of up to 20% on its operations and also work outside the Borough, neither of which were possible for the Council itself. All profits would be returned to the Council which would help bridge the current funding gap. The company would be extremely flexible in its approach and was leasing vehicles purchased by the Council. Recycle 360 had started work on 31 October 2016 and there had been considerable initial problems caused by its predecessor, for example documents had been shredded and keys thrown away. That meant that data problems added to practical issues with some vehicles so the service had issues but the team was working hard to resolve these in the near future. It was hoped that the service would become the best in London, possibly the UK.

 

Cllr Mel Collins advised that many elderly and disabled residents tripped over boxes and spillage was still occurring during collections. There was also no paper calendar for 2017 services. He asked what steps were to be taken to address these matters.  Mr Smyth advised that the 2017 calendar had been drafted and copies would be distributed soon. Complaints would be monitored and crews trained and supervised. Managers were driving on rounds to observe and supervision would be increased. Residents told of problems with recycling items being dropped during collection or not being collected at all and bins put back in the wrong place, all particular concerns to disabled people. Mr Smyth apologised, acknowledging ongoing problems from the previous contractor but promised the new management would address these residual cultural issues. He advised residents to speak to the Council’s customer contact centre with any complaints and to photograph spillages, misplaced bins etc wherever possible.

24.

'Come on Board' Campaign, Accessibility and Transport Update

Presentation by Amy Edgar, Communication and Engagement officer, TfL and Cllr Mukesh Malhotra. 7:15 – 7:30pm

Questions from the public 7:30 - 7:45

Minutes:

Transport for London Communication and Engagement Officer Amy Edgar made the presentation with the aid of slides. She explained that the ‘Come on Board’ campaign was designed to give information and build confidence; it was to run until February 2017. A resident asked what types of wheelchairs were allowed on buses and also if there were regulations about baby buggies. Ms Edgar advised that wheelchairs could be assessed by TfL staff and, if compatible with buses, the user would be issued a green card which could be shown if a driver refused to allow the chair on board. She was unaware of any regulations regarding buggies and access was down to driver discretion.

 

Cllr Mel Collins stated that it seemed that drivers were routinely switching off the audio announcements or turning them right down, leaving people with sight problems in great difficulties. He asked for this to be addressed along with the closure of ticket offices, particularly in outer London when it was becoming extremely difficult to get staff to help after 7:00 pm. Ms Edgar advised that drivers should not switch off the audio and passengers should report the matter online or through the call centre. The Mayor of London was aware of problems regarding ticket office closures and there was to be a review that week. Cllr Collins questioned whether bus drivers were adequately trained as many failed to pull up to the kerb and/or stopped with access doors level with obstacles like bins or tree roots etc. Ms Edgar was aware of this issue and stated that a very good two day training course had been started a couple of months previously but it would take years to train all 24,700 drivers in Greater London.

 

Cllr Mukesh Malhotra advised that although a smooth crossing had been installed on Bath Road at Hounslow West along with parking for 190 bicycles there was no step free access, with a six inch kerb causing an obstruction to wheelchairs in particular. Step free access was commonplace in and around the DLR in east London but less so elsewhere and he asked for the matter to be considered much more carefully in future. Cllr Malhotra stated that many residents had requested that the 203 bus route be extended to West Middlesex hospital as there was currently no single bus route travelling along Bath Road to the hospital. He advised that there had also been numerous complaints about the state of the pavements during the six months of work taking place between St Paul’s Church and Rosemary Avenue.

 

Mr John Beattie apologised for his late arrival which he attributed to a lack of communications on public transport at Richmond. Messages from drivers had been garbled and the eye boards had suffered from bulbs going out rendering them useless. A resident commented that Brighton buses had far greater flexibility in their layout, being able to make space for buggies by moving seats although she had travelled on a London bus equipped with a drop  ...  view the full minutes text for item 24.

25.

Council's Budget and Financial Position

Presentation by Cllr Theo Dennison, Cabinet Member for Finance and Citizen Engagement. 6:40 – 6:55pm

Questions from the public 6:55 – 7:15pm

Minutes:

Cllr Theo Dennison introduced himself as Cabinet Member for Finance and Citizen Engagement. The Council’s budget was just over £600 million a year, almost all from taxpayers. Roughly one third was spent on education, one third on social services and the remaining third on everything else – housing, waste collection and recycling, street cleaning, staff etc. similarly, around a third of funding derived from the central government’s fund for education, a third was government funding for specific items and the last third from fees & charges, Council Tax and Business Rates.  In addition to the yearly spend there was also a capital budget amounting to some £70 million a year and borrowing; there was £200 million of long term debt.

 

The population of the Borough was both growing and ageing and so expenses were rising as the grant allocation fell.  Members had decided to carry out two savings rounds this year, enabling more time to be given to examining how the council was run. There was a shortfall of £24 million (4% of the total spend) which had to be found or saved to balance the books and the decision had been made to raise Council Tax for the first time in ten years. This was because it had become very difficult to find further savings after the cuts of the last six years.

 

Cllr Kamaljit Kaur asked how many homeless families needed help as that was a very significant expenditure. Cllr Dennison advised that around 200 families a week presented as homeless and education was the other biggest expense along with housing; school rolls were expanding too.

 

A resident stated that he had been told the discretionary Local Welfare Payments had ceased when he applied for one. Cllr Dennison advised that the government grant had stopped but the council maintained a fund and payments were still available; the gentleman had been wrongly advised. Cllr Kaur said she would obtain details and make enquiries about the specific case, Cllr Dennison acknowledged that very severe cuts had been made to the social services budget and all managers were working to the very limits of a budget set in 2010. Asked about charges for garden waste collection Cllr Dennison stated that just £80,000 was to be a raised, a very small amount. Councils were not obliged to take garden waste and he advised residents to use garden waste as compost.

 

A resident advised that an officer had told him it had been recommended that smaller groups should be allowed to fail as they were not cost effective. He was deeply concerned by the threat to the smaller groups such as flourish which were often extremely cost effective and he noted that larger groups did not attend the DCF. He felt that larger groups used commercial style “loss leader” tactics to starve smaller groups of funding. Cllr Kaur acknowledged the financial climate in which everyone now had to operate and expressed the opinion that it was necessary to support a lot of groups to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 25.

26.

Any Other Business

8:50 – 9:00pm.

Minutes:

Senior Transport Project Officer Gareth James advised that he had recently attended a talk by a charity called Wheels for Wellbeing, which promotes cycling for the disabled. He intended to invite a representative to a future meeting of the DCF.

 

A resident asked for help to find organisations offering assistance to the blind and visually impaired. Celia Golden advised that she would arrange a meeting to liaise with a number of organisations offering voluntary support, mentoring, befriending etc. She suggested that representatives from the Hounslow Association for the Blind be invited to the next DCF meeting.

27.

Minutes of the meeting of 19 October 2016 pdf icon PDF 123 KB

6:30 – 6:35pm

Minutes:

As the agenda was full and items had been rearranged it was agreed that the minutes would be considered at the end of the meeting. Unfortunately there was insufficient time and so this item will be held over until the next meeting of the DCF on 2 March 2017.

28.

Matters Arising

6:35 – 6:40pm

Minutes:

As the agenda was full and items had been rearranged it was agreed that the minutes and matters arising would be considered at the end of the meeting. Unfortunately there was insufficient time and so this item will be held over until the next meeting of the DCF on 2 March 2017.

 

29.

Date of Next Meeting is 2 March 2017.

Future items for consideration

30.

Urgent Business

Any other business which the Chair agrees to consider on the grounds of urgency.

Minutes:

None.