My Plans For Places Committee
As you may be aware, I have recently been elected to be the Chair of Havering's Place Committee. Below, I outline my plans about what I'd like to achieve with this committee and how I intend to run it.
Havering's committee structure
Following the elections in 2022, the Havering Resident's Association and Labour combined to take control of Havering Council. One of the first things they did was to reduce the number of overview and scrutiny committees (O&S).
I've made my view on that quite clear but, this piece is not about that. It's about how this works.
Two O&S committees were formed, People and Places. The names give a rough idea as to what they cover. People looks at public health, crime, children's services, adult care and so on. Places looks highways, libraries, housing, parking and so on.
Each committee is made up of members from across the political spectrum, based on the total number of councillors that each party has. In Places we have 5 HRA members, 3 Conservatives, 2 Labour and 1 independent.
The HRA administration has handed the Chairmanship of these committees to Conservatives. Hence why I was able to be elected as Places Chairman. Labour Councillor Katharine Tumilty has been elected as Vice Chairman.
How often do we meet and what do we discuss?
It is up to the Chairman, me, how often we call a meeting.
My initial ask was that we meet monthly. Unfortunately, Council Officers aren't sure we can make this happen. One of the reasons is that each meeting has to have Council Officers present, to monitor and ensure it is legal etc. There just isn't the resource for that. So, the initial plan is that we will meet every two months.
But, I have a plan.
I've informed committee members that I intend to call informal meetings in the gaps. These will be where we discuss responses to questions we asked and also where we will bring in members of the public to have their say. More on that in a minute.
What we discuss is up to the Councillors on the committee. We have limited time each meeting (2.5hrs) but there is a lot to go over. Councillors on the committee agree a workplan and we ask the Council Officers to produce reports based on that plan.
I've already laid out my plans for the next 6 months of meetings. The schedule isn't fixed and it has gaps, so others contribute. But, I felt it must be clear that we mean business. My goal is that each meeting have a theme, so that Councillors don't have to bounce between different topics and can give proper scrutiny.
The work plan
18th July 2023 - A report on Havering's fleet and how ULEZ impacts them
- An update on the council's tree-pruning programme
- An update on the school streets scheme
August 2023 (Informal)
- Building Safety, lessons learnt
- Mercury Land Holdings Business Plans
- Report on Green Flag park programme
- Parks, the state of children's areas
October / November (Informal)
- Litter enforcement
- Cycle path infrastructure
- Housing safety compliance and performance
- Decent homes standard, damp and mould
- Arts and culture
Involving residents / Informal meetings
Committee meetings can be long and dull, they are also not that well attended by the public.
I want to change this and I want people to know what is happening in them.
At the informal meetings, I will be asking members of the public and community groups to come and present to councillors. They will also have a chance to feed into our questions as a committee.
The Officers produce reports, which they present to Councillors at formal meetings. But, residents don't get a chance to react to what they have heard. Often, the residents know better than us Councillors. My plan is that we use the informal meetings to have specialist groups inform us Councillors.
So, for example, when we are scrutinising cycling infrastructure I'd like local cycling groups to come and present to us and to tell us their view on what they have seen / heard so far.
It's going to be an experiment and I don't know how successful it'll be. But, what's the worst that can happen? Councillors sit and hear from a load of residents...? Doesn't sound too problematic to me.
If you have an idea for something you'd like the Places OSC to look into, drop me an email. The topic can be anything from the below. Similarly, if you believe you or your group are local experts on one of these topics, then we want to hear from you.
My email is email@example.com.
. Housing & Accommodation Services
· Land & Property Services
· Building control
· Business Services
· Inward Investment
· Asset Management
· Property Services
· Facilities Management
· Parks & Open Space
· Parking & Traffic
· Waste & recycling
· Climate Change
. Transport & Infrastructure