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Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Committee Room 4, Town Hall, Upper Street, N1 2UD. View directions

Contact: Jonathan Moore  020 7527 3308

Items
No. Item

301.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Mick O’Sullivan, Gary Doolan, and Mouna Hamitouche.

302.

Declaration of Substitute Members

Minutes:

Councillor Heather substituted for Councillor O’Sullivan. Councillor O’Halloran substituted for Councillor Doolan.

303.

Declarations of Interests

If you have a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest* in an item of business:

§  if it is not yet on the council’s register, you must declare both the existence and details of it at the start of the meeting or when it becomes apparent;

§  you may choose to declare a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest that is already in the register in the interests of openness and transparency. 

In both the above cases, you must leave the room without participating in discussion of the item.

 

If you have a personal interest in an item of business and you intend to speak or vote on the item you must declare both the existence and details of it at the start of the meeting or when it becomes apparent but you may participate in the discussion and vote on the item.

 

*(a)     Employment, etc - Any employment, office, trade, profession or vocation carried on for profit or gain.

(b) Sponsorship - Any payment or other financial benefit in respect of your expenses in carrying out duties as a member, or of your election; including from a trade union.

(c) Contracts - Any current contract for goods, services or works, between you or your partner (or a body in which one of you has a beneficial interest) and the council.

(d)      Land - Any beneficial interest in land which is within the council’s area.

(e) Licences- Any licence to occupy land in the council’s area for a month or longer.

(f) Corporate tenancies - Any tenancy between the council and a body in which you or your partner have a beneficial interest.

 (g) Securities - Any beneficial interest in securities of a body which has a place of business or land in the council’s area, if the total nominal value of the securities exceeds £25,000 or one hundredth of the total issued share capital of that body or of any one class of its issued share capital. 

 

This applies to all members present at the meeting.

 

Minutes:

None.

304.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 170 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED:

 

That the minutes of the previous meeting held on 4 September 2017 be confirmed as a correct record and the Chair be authorised to sign them.

305.

Chair's Report

Minutes:

None.

306.

Order of Business

Minutes:

No changes were proposed to the order of business.

307.

Public Questions

For members of the public to ask questions relating to any subject on the meeting agenda under Procedure Rule 70.5. Alternatively, the Chair may opt to accept questions from the public during the discussion on each agenda item.

 

Minutes:

A member of the public advised of a missed appointment with the Housing Repairs service. Officers advised that they would take this up outside of the meeting.

 

A member of the public enquired about changes to the funding of estate environmental improvements, and how decisions on such improvements would be made. It was advised that a written response would be provided outside of the meeting.

308.

Fire Safety Scrutiny Review: Witness Evidence pdf icon PDF 146 KB

a)    Paul Hobbs, Borough Commander, London Fire Brigade

b)    Jan Hart, Service Director, Public Protection

c)    John Venning, Head of Asset Management, Partners for Improvement in Islington

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

a)    Paul Hobbs, Borough Commander of the London Fire Brigade, provided evidence to the Committee.

 

The following main points were noted in the discussion:

 

·         The Borough Commander was responsible for the operational response to fires in Islington. Around 80 individuals were employed by the Fire Brigade in Islington, based across two sites.

·         Two fire engines were assigned to the borough, however engines based in neighbouring boroughs were also available in the event of an emergency. The nearest available fire engine was always despatched to attend a fire. It was commented that around 40 fire engines attended the Grenfell Tower fire.

·         Fire fighters spent less than 10% of their working day responding to fires. The remainder of their time was spent carrying out familiarisation visits and training.

·         The Fire Brigade was not responsible for carrying out fire safety risk assessments. This was the responsibility of the building owner; however, the Fire Brigade carried out safety audits for properties over 18 metres in height to ensure that the Responsible Person had carried out the risk assessment correctly.

·         If the Fire Brigade identified a safety risk, then a range of powers were available to enforce corrective action. The most severe of these was a Prohibition Notice, which restricted use of the building.

·         The Fire Brigade carried out youth engagement work, including the LIFE (Local Intervention Fire Education) project. This was a one-week intensive course which taught practical firefighting skills, and was aimed at young people involved in ASB or known to the criminal justice system. It was commented that there was not a suitable facility in the borough to provide this project locally, however the local Fire Brigade was hoping to acquire a suitable facility in the near future. Islington residents had to travel to neighbouring boroughs to take part.

·         The Fire Brigade also operated a fire cadet programme which allowed young people to gain a BTEC qualification and develop their skills, and a Youth Commissioner scheme. These activities were open to all young people.

·         The Fire Brigade administered a Fire Safety Investment Fund which provided preventative equipment to vulnerable residents. Around £31,000 had been spent in Islington; typical purchases included fire retardant bedding, and sprinkler systems for bed bound residents.

·         The Fire Brigade carried out joint work with the council; it was reported that a senior officer would be co-located at 222 Upper Street every Tuesday morning from the following week onwards. This would strengthen collaborative working between the council and Fire Brigade.

·         The Fire Brigade was invited to comment on planning applications, however this work was not carried out at the local operational level.

·         The Committee enquired about the challenges of tackling fires in high-rise blocks. Although tower blocks had wet or dry risers, these were only effective for fighting fires inside buildings, not external fires such as the Grenfell Tower fire. Fires to external material, such as cladding, needed to be tackled externally; however the Fire Brigade did not have ladders tall enough to tackle external fires at great height.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 308.

309.

Housing Communications Scrutiny Review: Witness Evidence pdf icon PDF 150 KB

a)    Tom Irvine, Deputy Managing Director, Partners for Improvement in Islington

b)    Evidence on online housing services

Additional documents:

Minutes:

a)    Tom Irvine, Deputy Managing Director of Partners for Improvement in Islington, presented to the Committee on how Partners communicates with its residents.

 

The following main points were noted in the discussion:

 

·         All new Partners tenants were provided with a ‘new tenant handbook’ of key information and received a home visit within four weeks of their moving date.

·         Partners circulated a newsletter to residents five times a year, as well as additional direct mailings on topical issues such as fire safety.

·         The majority of residents contacted Partners by telephone; the organisation received around 7,000 calls a month. Partners’ call handling system was simplified in 2016 to provide callers with three options; gas and heating, repairs, or anything else. This helped residents to get to the right person quicker.

·         All front line staff received the council’s Make Every Contact Count training, which trained staff to identify problems and refer residents to early help and support services.

·         Partners worked with residents to improve their communications, and had recently consulted with leaseholders to improve their leaseholder FAQs.

·         Whilst response time targets for complaints and members’ enquiries were met, Partners had recently introduced new processes to ensure greater quality control over responses to members’ enquiries.

·         Partners’ heads of service met monthly to discuss complaints and review complaint responses. The number of complaints received had fallen in recent years.

·         Ensuring good communication was one of Partners’ priorities for 2017/18.

·         The Committee queried Partners’ internal performance statistics which suggested the quality of responses to correspondence had improved to a score of 97/100 in July 2017. It was explained that Partners assessed their responses against 10 criteria which included accuracy, tone, and joined-up working. The Committee suggested that the assessment criteria was not sufficiently robust, as member casework regularly highlighted instances of poor service from Partners. The Committee considered that the performance information provided was not credible, and suggested that Partners’ quality assessment criteria should be more challenging. 

·         A member of the Committee suggested that Partners’ processes were not easy to navigate, and this could be distressing for vulnerable people. It was emphasised that Partners was passionate about providing a good service to residents, and trained staff in recognising the needs of vulnerable residents.

·         Partners reported a range of key performance indicators to Islington Council on a regular basis and these were evaluated for accuracy. Partners was seeking to engage with councillors in regards to why their perceptions of Partners’ service varied considerably from the organisation’s performance indicators.

·         It was suggested that Partners should consult with residents on its quality assessment criteria to better align its performance reporting to the needs of residents.

·         The Committee requested that an additional meeting be arranged to consider Partners performance in greater detail.

·         A member of the public reported dissatisfaction with Partners and commented that work was needed to build trust between Partners and residents.

·         Dr Brian Potter, Chair of the Islington Leaseholders Association, queried the methodology of Partners satisfaction surveys, and suggested that Islington Leaseholders Association could assist with reviewing  ...  view the full minutes text for item 309.

310.

Review of Work Plan pdf icon PDF 71 KB

Minutes:

Noted.