A special Scrutiny Committee tonight will discuss the call-in by Brent Conservatives of the Cabinet decision to site a children's home in the Barn Hill Conservation area. In their call-in the group say:
This area is in the Barn Hill Conservation area. It should be treated with respect.
Alternative course of action recommended.. To refer the decision back to Cabinet for reconsideration in order to find a cheaper alternative property in a different area
The call-in is unfortunately timed when the Liberal Democrat group are opposing, with a petition, a potential proposal to double the number of councillors needed to request a call in from 5 to 10. At present there are 5 Tories and 3 Liberal Democrats. A requirement for 10 signatures means that neither Tories on their own nor the combined opposition could request a call-in without support from at least two Labour councillors.
Cllr Butt's argument would probably be that the increase would save money on meetings as politically motivated call-ins would no longer take place.
Certainly Brent Labour moved speedily on social media to denounce the call-in.
The call-in will be heard at 6pm tonight. Livestream HERE
Brent Tories do not exist on social media so I cannot post a response.
THE CABINET DECISON CALLED-IN
Cabinet (15 January 2024) received a report from the Corporate Director of Finance and Resources and Corporate Director of Children and Young People which, in line with the Brent Children’s Residential Home Business Case that had been approved by Cabinet in May 2023, sought approval for the acquisition of a property for renovation to deliver a four bedded children’s care home for young people by March 2025 which would provide four placements, three permanent and one emergency for the Council to deliver and operate a children’s residential home.
Having considered the report, Cabinet agreed to approve the acquisition with the minute recording the decision as follows:
Councillor Grahl (Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Schools) introduced the report, which set out the Council’s plans to acquire a property as part of the Children’s Residential Home Project.
In considering the report Cabinet noted the way in which the proposed acquisition aligned with the objectives within the Brent Children’s Residential Home Business Case approved by Cabinet in May 2023. This included not only supporting the Council in seeking to address the increasing cost of child residential placements for looked after children, with the scheme projected to save the Council approx. £290,000 on an annual basis once operational, but also in delivering the benefits associated with the additional capacity to reduce the need for out of borough placements and enabling more children and young people to receive care closer to home with access to local services and support.
Members welcomed the way in which the insourcing of this scheme would enhance service delivery and in recognising the benefits that the proposal would bring to both young people and the Council, Cabinet RESOLVED:
(1) To approve the acquisition of the property (address detailed in the exempt appendix of the report) in Wembley HA9 with vacant possession to meet the needs of young people as outlined in the Brent Residential Home Business Case approved by Cabinet in May 2023.
(2) To delegate authority to the Corporate Director of Finance and Resources, in consultation with the Corporate Director of Children and Young People, to agree the terms of the purchase and acquire the property subject to financial and legal due diligence, vacant possession and contract.
(3) To note that the completion of the property needs to take place by the end of January 2024 in order to allow sufficient time to renovate the property within the timescales permitted in the grant agreement with the Department for Education (DfE).
THE CONSERVATIVE GROUP CALL-IN
a) We are very concerned at the price being paid for this property which is over £1M. We feel that this is not the best use of the limited Council funds.
(b) This area is in the Barn Hill Conservation area. It should be treated with respect.
(c) There has been no consultation with the residents living in and around the site of the property or the Residents Association. This is preventing residents from voicing their opinions and objections. There has been absolutely no democracy or transparency in the matter, residents feel they have been railroaded into accepting any decision the Council makes.
(d) Neither of the two local ward councillors (Cllr Robert Johnson & Cllr Kathleen Fraser) received any notification of this until immediately prior to the Cabinet meeting on 15th January.
(e) It appears that no Planning Permission was applied for or granted. If this is the case, then what is the rationale taken as to why Planning Permission was not applied for? No statement appears to have been given.
(f) The Council is not acting in the interests of the residents in this matter. A similar care home was opened in Barn Hill which caused untold problems for those living in the area. It was only shut down when the local MP (Barry Gardiner) intervened. The residents do not want to have to deal with a similar occurrence.
To refer the decision back to Cabinet for reconsideration in order to find a cheaper alternative property in a different area.