Agenda item - Written questions from members of the public.

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Agenda item

Written questions from members of the public.

A list of public questions received by the due date of 12noon on the 7th December, 2018 will be circulated separately as part of an addendum at the meeting.


40.1      The Mayor reported that 8 written questions had been received from members of the public and invited Ms. Paynter to come forward and address the council.


40.2      Ms. Paynter thanked the Mayor and asked the following question; “I am informed by Streamline Taxis that this Council refuses to allow hydraulic lifts on Wheelchair Access Vehicles used by the taxi trade.  Can you explain why not please?”


40.3      Councillor O’Quinn replied; “The Council does licence vehicles with tail lifts.  Where a proprietor has requested a rear loading tail lift, usually to meet the needs of a particular passenger or safety of the driver, the Council has licensed that vehicle.  Any tail lift is required to have a strict service regime which is enforced by the Health and Safety Executive.”


40.4      The Mayor noted there was no supplementary question and thanked Ms. Paynter for attending the council meeting and putting her question and invited Mr. Hawtree to come forward and address the council.


40.5      Mr. Hawtree thanked the Mayor and asked the following question, “Would Councillor Daniel please tell us whether the proposed nursery at Hove’s Carnegie Library has opened?”


40.6      Councillor Daniel replied, “The nursery based at Hove Library is on course to open in January 2019.”


40.7      Mr. Hawtree asked the following supplementary question; “Do you agree with Councillor Yates who recently told a meeting of the Hove Civic Society that to have gone along in 2015 with the proposal to close down the Carnegie was “A poor decision”.


40.8      Councillor Daniel replied; “As you well know there has never been a proposal to close the library, the only proposal that you are referring to was to move the library to be within the museum complex.  We listened to residents who said they would prefer it to stay in the building and we have renovated the building and people are incredibly happy with it and I would like to thank the staff for all they have done to make Hove Library a really special jewel and I particularly love the new café and the art work by Chris Ridell which is very much enjoyed by the children who use the Children’s Library.”


40.9      The Mayor thanked Mr. Hawtree for attending the council meeting and his questions and invited Mr. Furness to come forward and address the council.


40.10   Mr. Furness asked the following question, “Now that the replacement of the Aquarium Roundabout with yet more traffic lights at a T junction has been approved by your Committee, Cllr. Mitchell, would you care to enlighten us as to the ramifications this poses for events such as the Old Crocks Rally and the Speed Trials, amongst others, in Madeira Drive?”


40.11   Councillor Mitchell replied, “In conjunction with event organisers, the council assists with the production of event specific management plans that are developed on an event by event basis.  These include any temporary traffic arrangements and restrictions that are required to enable that event to take place.  It is not envisaged that any of the proposed changes will prevent events on Madeira Drive from taking place.


The evolving design will recognise the longstanding events that have taken place and will continue to take place and make the city such a unique visitor destination.  The operational needs of the individual events are being factored into the design so that the events calendar will remain unaffected.”


40.12   Mr. Furness asked the following supplementary question, “This is not the only unique thing about this city the air pollution rates are soaring, about the only good thing I can ever think in these 45 years of what remains of the European Union is to threaten this city council with prosecution over the disgusting state of our air. Can you please tell me what the miles more pollution and miles more congestion as a result of traffic lights replacing a perfectly well functioning roundabout is going to do for the city’s lungs?”


40.13   Councillor Mitchell replied, “The preferred option preliminary design that has just been consulted on was the option that scored the highest across all of the options considered including environmental options. The aim is to balance the needs of all modes of transport and to ensure that transport moves easily through the area. Currently the air quality in the Old Steine is not getting worse and we certainly don’t want to make it worse and that is why an additional air quality monitoring station will be situated in the Steine area to monitor air quality during and after the implementation of the scheme.”


40.14   The Mayor thanked Mr. Furness for attending the council meeting and his questions and invited Mr. Taylor to come forward and address the council.


40.15   Mr. Taylor thanked the Mayor and asked the following question, “In reference to your statement at the previous full council meeting on free speech and hate speech, could you clarify for the public what your definitions of free speech and hate speech are?”


40.16   Councillor Yates replied, “As I made clear at the last Full Council it is incredibly difficult to define things sometimes and it can be like trying to ‘pin jelly to a wall’ so I tend to prefer to look around for definitions that have been more widely accepted and more broadly developed than just something that I happen to come up with.  I look around for definitions of ‘free speech’ and that brought me to Amnesty International who I hope most people in this Chamber would recognise as an organisation that is advocated on behalf of free speech across the whole world across many decades.  Their definition of free speech is that ‘Freedom of Speech is a right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds by any means’ they say ‘It is not your right however to say what you like about whatever you like, whenever you like’, they are quite clear about that.  They are also very clear that they do believe that freedom of speech can be rightly and appropriately restricted and they have said that with freedom of expression comes all sorts of things including ideas that can be deeply offensive and the Government have an obligation to prohibit hate speech and incitement.  I have looked at how you can define or consider hate speech because you asked about that as well and in terms of statutes, obviously hate speech is considerably covered under the Public Order Act of 1986, which talks about people who use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or displays, any written material which is threatening, abusive or insulting and those being guilty of an offence. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994 further amended the Public Order Act of 1986 and also the Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2006 additionally amended the Act by adding Part 3A, that part says ‘A person who used threatening words or behaviour or displays any written material which is threatening is guilty of an offence if he intends thereby to stir up religious hatred.  However that part is quite specific as well because it talks again, it goes back to the concept of Freedom of Expression and in Section 27J says nothing in this part shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions, or the beliefs or practises of their adherence, or of any other belief system or the beliefs or practises of its adherence or urging adherence of a different religion or belief system.


Additionally the Criminal Justice Act and Immigration Act of 2008 amended Part 3A and then the Football Offences Act of 1991 had issues specifically about inciting indecent and racial chanting at designated football matches.  Section 5 did go back and was affected by House of Lords judgement subsequently which the Government has recently accepted. It is fair to say it is still complicated because we find something just doesn’t sound so simple as Freedom of Speech, Expression or Hate Speech.  The important thing though is to all live by the characteristics that we seek to see delivered to ourselves by others and that is not to say anything you like at any time for any reason without consideration of the affect that they have on other people.


40.17   Mr. Taylor asked the following supplementary question, “I notice in your response that you said “Offensive speech comes under Free speech” yet in your previous statement at last Full Council you suggested that if it offends you, you should contact the police”. I would like to ask is Offensive Speech, Free Speech or should I report you for your offensive views on my Freedom of Speech?”


40.18   Councillor Yates replied, “There’s the rub; that is the complexity of the balance between Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Expression and creating concern within groups or individuals that is why we need to have such complex language to deal with something that should just be a matter of consideration.”


40.19   The Mayor thanked Mr. Taylor for attending the council meeting and putting his questions and invited Ms. Clare to come forward and address the council.


40.20   Ms. Clare asked the following question, “Will the Administration assure the residents of the city of their commitment to equality and continuing the recommendations of the fairness commission?”


40.21   Councillor Daniel replied, “A full response to the Fairness Commission was taken forward by the Administration but also the city as a whole including other public agencies, private sector and the community and voluntary sector. The findings have been embedded in and influenced a wide range of strategies and actions in the city from the city’s Framework for Collaboration to its Economic Strategy which has ‘a Fair City’ as one of its five aims, to a new strategy for Autism Spectrum Condition. We have also taken forward specific actions such as work to poverty proof the school day, a young people led youth grants programme, commissioned a new ageing well service for older people, improved the support provided to parents with a learning disability, adopted to British Deaf Association BSL charter. We are also fully supportive of a recent review of the experiences of BME council staff and are championing the changes need. The Administration has an unwavering commitment to equality and fairness.  


A report was taken to Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities and Equality committee in late 2017 detailing how the Fairness Commission continued to have impact.”


40.22   Ms. Clare asked the following supplementary question, “As this is the case can the Administration then justify their planned cuts to the Violence Against Women/Girls budget which has the highest equality impact assessment of all of the proposals and by their own admission will negatively impact women who are survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse?”


40.23   Councillor Daniel replied, “It is very hard to justify any of the cuts that we have to make across any of our budgets, what I would say is that we put extra money in to the Violence Against Women Strategy and the contracts last year. The situation is that we put extra work on our external providers because there was a situation where everybody was being referred into that project without making sure that the people that were referred to it wanted to be referred and consented to be referred. One of the main pieces of work that we have done is working with our partners in the police, the police and crime commissioner, to address the fact that so much time was being spent phoning people who didn’t want to be contacted and that now that has been addressed so that takes the pressure down on the helpline. We are protecting the spend of, hopefully I have got this right, £2m on that service, there is a tabled reduction in the draft budget for £50k. I would like to change that by the time we get to full budget. It depends on a lot of things including the impact of the Local Government Finance Settlement which was announced today and I think we will get further details. I share your concern. I do feel that it is reflected in the changes that we have worked on with that organisation to make sure that they are under less pressure and able to do their work better and I remain fully committed to that service.”


40.24   The Mayor thanked Ms. Clare for attending the council meeting and putting her questions and invited Mr. Parry to come forward and address the council.


40.25   Mr. Parry asked the following question, “At the last meeting of the Full Council Councillor Marsh responded fluently, comprehensively, and positively to the deputation on Transparency, Accountability & Community Involvement. Unfortunately the draft minutes of the meeting do not reflect what was said by either the deputation or Councillor Marsh as can be confirmed by viewing the webcast of 18 October.  Could this be explained or clarified together with the reasons for item 53 on the agenda which both pre-empts and contradicts the commitments made by Councillor Marsh on 18 October?”


40.26   Councillor Marsh replied, “Thank you Mr. Parry for your question and I note the points made.  The minutes of the last meeting provide a record of the deputation that was submitted and whilst your presentation extended on the substance of the deputation, I did make it clear that I would take all that was raised into account and gave an assurance that it would be considered by the Constitution Working Group.  I am happy to reaffirm that assurance.


In regard to Item 53 on the agenda, the Constitutional Working Group discussed how public questions, deputations and petitions are dealt with at Committees and made proposals that are reflected in the report.  Those proposals are intended to help in streamlining procedures and provide a more efficient despatch of Council business, including ensuring that the right issues are dealt with by the right committee.


The Constitutional Working Group will meet again in the New Year.            As you will see from the report under agenda item 53, we will, among other things, be looking at the terms of reference of the different committees in so far as they relate to rough sleeping or street homelessness, which was a factor in some questions being referred by Housing to another committee. There will be opportunities to look at any outstanding issues and I would be happy to revisit the issues raised in your original deputation.


I would conclude by pointing out that Brighton & Hove City Council has a very robust and lively public engagement process around full Council and committees. We receive more questions, petitions, deputations, notices of motion and members’ letters than comparable local authorities as I am sure you will be aware from your dealing with the Housing Committee.  We intend to keep that, but also ensure that our arrangements are efficient and make the best use of available time and resources.


40.27   Mr. Parry asked the following supplementary question, “I find it difficult to understand why the records as reported in the minutes differs so much from what was actually said, I don’t think that point was covered in your response and linked with that in the other part you referred to the Agenda item before you today. That report that you have got today was written after your response at the last Full Council meeting.  How can a report be submitted that contradicts what was given as a commitment by a Member of this Council prior to that date?”


40.28   Councillor Marsh replied, “The first point about how reports end up, I don’t write up the reports I can do some investigating and clarify with whoever wrote those first minutes why they don’t seem to meet what was actually said and likewise with the reports that go to our major service committees are not necessarily going to reflect verbatim something else from a previous working group. The Constitution Working Group is a cross-party working group it is not an Executive Service Committee; but I would ask if the Monitoring Officer could clarify matters.


40.29   The Monitoring Officer stated that the minutes of the Council were not verbatim and therefore were meant to be the highlights and not everything that was said in the proceedings.  However, he noted the points raised and suggested that they could be considered further at the next meeting of the Constitutional Working Group.”


40.30   The Mayor thanked Mr. Parry for attending the council meeting and putting his questions and invited Ms. Borrill to come forward and address the council.


40.31   Ms. Borrill thanked the Mayor and asked the following question, “This week the Food Research Collaboration at the Centre of Food Policy the UK’s experts on food policy wrote to all Local Authorities recommending that they should prepare Food Brexit Plans and provided guidance on why and what this should cover and who should be involved.  Is Brighton & Hove City Council preparing such a plan?”


40.32   Councillor Barford replied, “The guidance from the Food Research Collaboration was only made available last Monday. Brighton and Hove City Council is not currently preparing a Food Brexit Plan but will consider the need for this addition to the work already being undertaken. We continue to work closely with the Food Standards Authority, the Chartered Institute of Trading Standards and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health to ensure we have the most up-to-date information so that we can support local businesses to ensure compliance post Brexit.”


40.33   The Mayor noted that there was no supplementary and thanked Ms. Borrill for attending the meeting and putting her question and invited Ms. Biggs to come forward and address the council.


40.34   Ms. Biggs thanked the Mayor and asked the following question, “Over one hundred responses were submitted in the consultation exercise on modernising the beach hut licence. These responses rejected as unreasonable the substantive changes proposed. In light of this what plans are now under consideration, apart from making no changes at all, in relation to the licence terms and conditions?”


40.35   Councillor Platts replied, “A report will be presented to the Tourism, Development & Culture Committee in January which will recommend that the existing beach hut licence remains in place. This follows discussions with beach hut owners and a commitment made by Councillor Alan Robins at the last Tourism, Development & Culture Committee that officers would bring a report back which reflects their views. Officers will bring the report to January committee for members to consider and approve.”


40.36   Ms. Biggs asked the following supplementary question, “Considering the upset this process has caused the Hove Beaches Association and its members we would like to work with the Council and the Seafront Office to repair the relationship between us. Have you any thoughts as to how this should be approached?”


40.37   Councillor Platts replied, “The Chair of the Committee, Councillor Robins, and I would be very happy to work with you in the future, and to meet with you.”


40.38   The Mayor thanked Ms. Biggs for attending the council meeting and putting her questions and noted that had concluded the item.

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