Agenda item - Member Involvement

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Agenda item

Member Involvement

To consider the following matters raised by Members:


(a)          Petitions: To receive any petitions referred from Full Council or submitted directly to the Committee;


(b)          Written Questions: To consider any written questions;


(c)          Letters: To consider any letters;


(d)          Notices of Motion: to consider any Notices of Motion referred from Full Council or submitted directly to the Committee.




6a        Petitions


6.1       There were none.


6b       Written Questions


6.2       The Chair noted that four questions had been received and the questions and the responses given to each are set out below:


            Councillor West - The Bridge


6.3       Councillor West asked the following:


           Last month, when the shocking news broke that the Bridge Community Education Centre was being forced to close due to financial difficulties following loss of funding, I wrote to Cllr Yates, as incoming Leader of the Council, and yourself Councillor Daniel, as Chair of NICE Committee. I’m disappointed to say that I received only a referred reply from the Executive Director for Neighbourhoods, Communities & Housing and no acknowledgment from either yourself or Cllr Yates. In the Executive Director’s reply she states that officers were unaware of the financial crisis faced by the Bridge before the Board sought emergency funding at the eleventh hour. However, I understand that the Chair and CEO of the Bridge met with Cllr Yates and Cllr Meadows Chair of Housing on the 11th April to brief them about the situation, but there was then no follow up from either of these leading councillors. The Bridge also inform me they engaged with funders and a number of other high profile figures in the city.


            Chair, did Councillor Yates inform you of the perilous situation facing the Bridge, and if so what did you and the rest of the Administration decide to do to help save the Bridge?


6.4       The Chair, Councillor Daniel, responded that:


  Councillor Yates provided this response for you Councillor West:


They didn’t tell Councillor Meadows or I that they were going to close – simply that some of their services were going to be affected. I even have emails where I asked how precarious things were and was only told ‘very’ but never received a more detail;


I followed up that meeting with meetings with a range of other community groups as I promised the chair and CEO I would;


As soon as the news ‘hit’ the whole community sprang into action and the majority of funded services and projects have now established themselves elsewhere in our community – St Georges Hall, The Bridge, the Library, The Hillview Centre, The Bevendean Foodbank all came forward to offer to take on the work and many services are already rehomed


The council’s Communities, Equality and Third sector team (that administers the council’s Third sector Investment programme) was not approached by The Bridge – staff or trustees – regarding its financial situation or received any requests from The Bridge for support ahead of its insolvency announcement and nor was I.


I was informed as was the team I mention, for courtesy, of this organisations decision, which had already been taken, to go into insolvency about two days prior to the public announcement.


Despite offering free access to me via my voluntary sector surgeries this wasn’t taken up and nobody from the Bridge contacted me to warn me directly that they were in a perilous funding position.


Had this organisation come forward however, given the size of the gap they had it is unlikely we could have helped prevent the insolvency. This was caused by the diminished funds available for community adult education nationally and via trusts. This means that all providers of this type are in a perilous position. What we do in these situations, is look to our internal team and the voluntary sector infrastructure providers we fund to support organisations in the voluntary sector, to identify funds, partnerships and expertise where possible.


As spelt out in Cllr Yates response I read out, what we are doing, as looking to save the service provision we can in different locations and with different organisations.


6.5       Councillor West stated that he remained deeply concerned in respect of this matter considering that those at the Bridge had been placed in an untenable position and that action should have been taken at an earlier point following the discussions which had taken place.


6.6       The Chair, Councillor Daniel, stated that the position was as stated and as set out in the paperwork which had been circulated to Members separately and that she had nothing to add to her earlier statement.


            Councillor West - Community and Voluntary Sector


6.7       Councillor West asked the following:


            “We understand a number of community voluntary organisations are struggling and vulnerable as a result of funding cuts and loss of contracts. We are aware of valued community learning services at Whitehawk Inn, a threat to Brighton and Hove Food Partnership work through loss of Public Health funding, the loss of a key contract for Direct Payments held by local group Possability People, and concern expressed by RISE about likely contract changes, as well as Brighton Women’s Centre.As with The Bridge, these highly respected organisations provide vital services that support and enhance the lives of thousands of vulnerable people in the city.


            Chair, what consultation are you making with Community Works to establish the financial vulnerability of community voluntary sector organisations providing essential services in the city, and what lead is the Administration as a whole taking to ensure these organisations will be supported to not only survive but to thrive?”


6.8       The Chair, Councillor Daniel, responded that:


            “The council has a three year funding agreement with Community Works Partnership which includes Community Works, Trust for Developing Communities, Resource Centre, HKP, Serendipity, Faith in Action, LGBT Switchboard, LGBT Working to Connect, Friends Families and Travellers, Clare Project, Sussex Interpreting Services.


Together the partnership works to provide seamless and co-ordinated infrastructure support to the voluntary and community sector in the city and engage with communities with shared protected characteristics. The council’s Third Sector Policy advocates and endorses that third sector support is best delivered to the third sector by the third sector.


Together the Partnership provides a wide range of activities to support the sector these include (not an exhaustive list):


Learning and development workshops on finance, fund raising, governance, H &S, GDPR, etc.;


Networking events to share experiences and learning between organisations on specific topics;


Skillexchange – where mentors from public, third and private sector are matched with needs of specific VCS organisations


The Partnership provides an annual monitoring report to the city council and also receives a six monthly monitoring visit from the council commissioner to feed-back on progress and sector concerns per se. Community Works itself has an ongoing relationship with the council’s Communities, Equality and Third Sector team and within the boundaries of confidentiality, commercial sensitivity and GDPR shares intelligence about the sector.


Monthly reporting meetings are held with the chair of the committee to discuss progress across her portfolio including the third sector.


It would be inappropriate and not possible within the resources of Community Works to do a financial viability assessment of individual VCS organisations in the city. However, Community Works is undertaking Taking Account 4 – the fourth social and economic audit of the VCS in the city five years on from the last audit to ascertain the current contribution of the sector to the city, its strengths and its areas of vulnerability.


In addition, Community Works has a very wide membership and works hard to ensure its services are easily accessible to members and well communicated.


The budget for the third sector commission has been maintained for 2018/19 and indications are that this will continue to 2019/20“.


6.9       Councillor West whilst noting the content of the responses given stated that he still had major concerns in relation to this matter and the levels of support which would be available going forward.


          Councillor Nemeth - Street Homelessness


6.10  Councillor Nemeth asked the following:


         Will the Chair list what actions this committee has taken to date in discharging its function of co-ordinating the Council’s policies and actions with a view to reducing and eliminating street homelessness?”


6.11  The Chair, Councillor Daniel responded that:


            “On 11 July 2016 the committee approved the Rough Sleeping Strategy 2016 and authorised the Executive Director Health Wellbeing & Adults and Acting Executive Director Economy Environment & Culture to carry out any actions necessary to implement the strategy and respond appropriately to related Fairness Commission recommendations (see section 5.12).


            As part of its governance of the strategy at its meeting on 9th October 2017 committee considered a progress update on the implementation of the Rough Sleeping Strategy. This included a detailed strategic action tracker document. A progress report will be considered by the committee at its meeting on 8th October 2017 The committee noted the progress and welcomed the work which had been undertaken to date, this included:


            Successful launch and implementation of an alternative giving scheme “Make Change Count”;


            Successful launch of BThink – a system to effectively share information concerning rough sleepers to ensure that they get the best possible service;


            Successful recommissioning of homeless support services;


            Successful tender and appointment of a support service “The Passage" ”to co-ordinate and guide third sector voluntary services;


            Successful initial phase of “Trailblazer” project to prevent tenancy breakdown and rough sleeping;


            Successful funding application for Social Impact Bond to improve outcomes for entrenched rough sleepers – full roll out from October 2017.


            At that time the Committee requested a further report in 6 months. At the Chair’s discretion and with her agreement an additional six months was given in order to give council officers and partners sufficient time to progress new actions. The report now was due to come forward to NICE Committee in October 2018.”


            Councillor Knight – Gender Neutral Toilets


6.12    It was noted that Councillor Knight had been unable to attend to put the question in person due to sickness, however with her agreement her question was put on her bahalf and responded to in her absence.


6.13    Councillor Knight’s question was as follows:


            Can the Chair confirm what progress has been made in installing gender neutral toilets in buildings other than the Brighton Centre, Hove Town Hall, University of Brighton and the University of Sussex? Additionally, please clarify whether current gender neutral toilets in the listed buildings are set up as facilities in their own right, and what provisions have been made for any signage denoting gender neutral facilities?


Furthermore is there a means of sharing location information, to help alleviate concerns as mentioned in the Trans needs assessment 2015, about entering public buildings with no gender neutral toilet facilities? Additionally, please clarify whether current gender neutral toilets in the listed buildings are set up as facilities in their own right, and what provisions have been made for any signage denoting gender neutral facilities?


6.14    The Chair, Councillor Daniel, responded that:


     “A list printed separately for Councillor Knight and available for any Members of the Committee who should like a copy) details toilet facilities at 91 sites across the city has been collated in response to this question, gathering information from client officers, building managers, personal knowledge and information from council ‘corporate maps’. The list covers a wide variety of buildings including libraries, leisure facilities, museums, venues, parks and civic buildings. The majority have at least one gender neutral WC available. Often this is also a wheelchair accessible facility. The list indicates 142 gender neutral toilets. (54 of these are new (2016) are blocks of self-contained, individual, non-gender specific compartments on seven of the 8 levels within New England House. Some are also wheelchair accessible). It is understood from the Education Team that “it is believed that every BHCC school has accessible toilet facilities and that some have shared use facilities.”


            Unless located within gender specific WC provision all wheelchair accessible WCs are intended to be gender neutral, however this is not always ‘spelled out’ in the associated signage - which may just be a wheelchair symbol – and sometimes people could assume that it should only be used by wheelchair users. However the larger size, provision of grab rails, increased privacy and gender neutrality of such compartments means they are the preferred choice for many users.


Hove Town Hall, Brighton Town Hall, Bartholomew House, The Brighton Centre, some libraries*, some parks/open spaces* have specific signage to indicate that facilities are gender neutral. (35) – i.e. ‘Accessible and for Everyone


*12 sites across the city have ‘individual gender neutral units’.


The majority of the 54 gender neutral WCs at New England House are not defined as such and are simply signed as ‘Toilets’. (The wheelchair accessible compartments use the wheelchair symbol and a few compartments have a ‘female’ symbol to indicate the presence of a sanitary disposal bin)


The Sports Facilities Dept has recently purchased signs with the wording ‘Accessible and for Everyone’ to be used at all nine of their sports and leisure sites (19 accessible and gender neutral compartments)


*There is currently a (not exhaustive or fully up-to-date) list of publically available toilets on the BHCC website page


This can also be found using the key words ‘Public Toilets’ or ‘Accessible Public Toilets’ or ‘Gender Neutral Toilets’ in the Search box. This was last updated in June 2016. It lists facilities as either gender specific, gender neutral, or wheelchair accessible (which are always gender neutral unless located within gender specific provision).

The page states that All our  new toilets are fully accessible, gender neutral units’


A link to this information can be shared directly with LGBT and Trans and Non-Binary groups in the city for sharing with the participants of their groups/activities/services. In addition, the information can be shared with the Trans sub-group of the city’s Equality and Inclusion Partnership that is working to deliver the recommendations of the Trans Needs Assessment. The group can also discuss how the information can best be shared with Trans and Non-binary individual.”


6.15    RESOLVED – That the questions received and responses given to them be noted.


6c        Letters


6.16    There were none.


6d       Notices of Motion


6.17    There were none.

Supporting documents:


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