Monday 11 June 2012

Risky times ahead for Muhammed Butt

Brent Council records the level of  corporate strategic risk on a 1-6 scale for impact and likelihood. It's latest assessment  records the political and reputational risk of  the move to the Civic Centre at 6 ('very serious') for impact and 5 ('probably' a 61-80% likelihood).

The risk relates to the combined risks of multiple service changes including the move to the Civic Centre on April 1st 2013 and new ways of working for staff (these include hot-desking); self-service help for residents and the impact of  new legislation such bas the benefit caps and local council tax rebate changes. The major impact could be major IT and customer service failure.

The possibility that the Civic Centre completion timetable will over run or that the move from other buildings will result in a systems failure is rated at 6 for impact and 5 ('probably') for likelihood which would result in damage to the council's reputation, delays in expected savings and disruption where building leases have already been terminated.  One issue that is not mentioned in the report but has been by officers and councillors is the lack of car parking at the Civic Centre. With workers from the Town Hall, Chesterfield House, Mahatma Gandhi House, Brent House and the Centre for Staff Development, to name just some of the buildings to be vacated, all converging on the Civic Centre there is an expectation that nearby roads and some of the event day private parking places will be used by Brent workers, resulting in congestion and punctuality problems. Of course they may all arrive by bus and tube as we Greens would like them to - let's wait and see...

The Town Hall car park this morning
Even worse though is the assessment of the economic risk factors including budget reductions, recession, demographic change and local benefit changes which will bring increased demand for services. This risk is assessed at 6 for impact and 6 for likelihood ('almost certain') with increased demand for council accommodation, increased crime and antisocial behaviour along with the possibility that the council will not meet its statutory service demand or its objectives.

An insight into the role of regeneration in Brent Council's thinking is provided by the risk represented by lack of external investment in the borough which reduces income from business rates and increases unemployment and poverty. Scored 6/6 this is 'de-risked' by 'assisting with planning permissions etc on behalf of developers' and 'maintaining dialogue with investors/developers'. This is clearly an area in which a conflict may develop between the council-developer alliance and local residents.

The risk that the council will fail to comply with legislative obligations, including consultation and equality duties, when it makes policy changes is rated at 6 for impact and 4 ('Likely') for likelihood with the possibility of legal challenges and Judicial Review.

At an individual level 'very serious' risks are recorded for both child and adult safeguarding. Both could impact through 'abuse, injury or death of vulnerable persons. Reputational damage to council'  After taking into account extensive council actions the probability is only reduced to 4 ('likely' 41-60%% likelihood) for children. This must be a cause for great concern. Adult risk is reduced to 3 'possible'.

Recruitment and retention of staff, with  'fewer people having to work harder and do more', with resulting stress and absences is given a 6/4 rating but this is reduced to 5/3 with controls around human resources issues including flexible working.

Of course the purpose of  the risk register is to take action to reduce the risk but all in all it looks as if Muhammed Butt, his officers and of course we, the residents,  have a tough and possibly dangerous time ahead.The register provides stark evidence of the impact of the Coalition cuts in local government funding and the damage they are causing.

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