Council services by letter

Agenda item

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Proposal for Providing a POCA/Planning Enforcement Service to Harrow

Minutes:

The Board received a report which set out a proposal for the London Borough of Brent to provide a service investigating planning infringements committed by those who had benefited financially from their breaches, offering a planning enforcement officer, a financial investigator to carry out financial investigation under the proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) and provide advocacy services in subsequent legal proceedings on behalf of the London Borough of Harrow.

 

The meeting was advised that discussions had taken place with Brent and Harrow management as to the most appropriate way to develop this proposal.  The officers suggested that, if the Board was minded to support the proposals, there would be further consultation with Harrow officers and appropriate Members to ascertain whether Harrow wished to proceed.

 

The Service Manager advised the meeting that the scheme had delivered significant income to Brent and Trading Standards for a number of years and it had been successfully offering their financial investigation service to other boroughs.  Although the existing Harrow planning policy stated that it would seek to use POCA where evidence suggested that the breach of planning control had given rise to significant financial gain, it was believed that only one case had been put forward and this investigation was ongoing.  It was further stated that Harrow already contributed to the Financial Investigation Team resource by way of the consortium fees and would potentially receive income due to the Home Officer incentivisation scheme whereby local authorities retained a percentage of all successful confiscation orders that they obtain, when they were paid.  In order to assist Harrow to fund the proposal over a 12 month period, it was further proposed that approximately £40k underspend held by Brent from the last two financial years 2015-17 be used for this purpose.

 

The Service Manager described the proposed process and outlined successful orders made under POCA legislation and the money raised.  He suggested that a sample of cases be taken forward in the first year, to enable the results to be monitored, a model to be set up and trialled and income would be raised in the longer term.

 

The Divisional Director – Commissioning Services stated that whilst discussions had been ongoing, the proposals had not yet been formally discussed with Harrow planning officers which would be the next step if the proposal was of interest to Harrow.  The underspend referred to by the Service Manager would cover Brent’s costs in providing the staffing resource to deliver this work on Harrow’s behalf.

 

A Member of the Board suggested that discussions also be held with the housing team. In response to a question as to whether the proposal would impact the service Brent received from the enforcement team, the Service Manager stated that whilst there would be pressure on the Brent team, the  fee charged to Harrow could be reinvested to Brent to backfill staff time.  The proposal had been discussed for a number of years and it now needed to move forward to a formal footing.  As the income from POCA would be reinvested back into the Services, it would be cost neutral in the long term.

 

The Operational Director informed the Board that in Brent the money raised through POCA was also shared with planning colleagues who had been able to pay the salary costs of two Enforcement Officers from this income.

 

RESOLVED:  That the Harrow Divisional Director for Commissioning progress discussion with the Harrow Portfolio Holder for Business, Planning and Regeneration as well as with officers in planning and housing to determine whether Harrow wished to implement this proposal.