Agenda item - Oral questions from Councillors
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Oral questions from Councillors
A list of Councillors who have indicated their desire to ask an oral question at the meeting along with the subject matters has been listed in the agenda papers.
56.1 The Mayor noted that 18 oral questions had received and that 30 minutes were set aside for the duration of the item. The Mayor then called on Councillor Mac Cafferty to put his question to Councillor Pissaridou.
56.2 Councillor Mac Cafferty asked the following question, We know from modelling done by the bus company and the council that transport at the clock tower can be drastically improved. We know from the KPI reports that air pollution on North Street remains at a toxic level. On top of that we know that in the immediate area around the clock tower and coming down from the station that there is too much graffiti and littering and that shows no signs of any abatement. My question is would you agree with me that the time has come to talk to our transport providers and city partners about how we can improve this part of the city centre?
56.3 Councillor Pissaridou replied, I do agree, and we are talking to our public transport providers, as you know as you are sitting on quite a few of those meetings. We are progressing, we have 201 electric charging points ready for the uptake of electric cars. The taxis are hoping to get electrified, so they will be applying for grants. We are also progressing Valley Gardens Phase 3 which will slow down the traffic and make it a pleasant place we don’t just want it to be for people and cycles to pass through we want it to be a place for people to stop and enjoy that part of the city and enjoy what is going on and we hope a lot will be going on in the wonderful space behind the Pavilion.
56.4 Councillor Mac Cafferty asked the following supplementary question, On the topic of our city centre we know that through the decade of austerity we are seeing the signs of Tory government and they are now very visible that East Sussex earlier today reminded us that one in 75 people in the city are homeless. We also know that the majority of people who are on universal credit are in debt and that too many end up homeless as a result. Will Labour now publicly affirm their support for a council tax consultation to help some of the poorest households, despite that they previously failed to follow up a request from us in the summer to introduce the council tax reduction support.
56.5 Councillor Pissaridou stated that she did not have the information to hand and would provide a full written response.
56.6 Councillor Bell informed the Mayor that his question had been addressed outside of the meeting and he was therefore happy to withdraw it from the meeting.
56.7 Councillor Clare asked the following question and noted that she did not have a supplementary question., As my colleague has just said I recognise that thanks to savage Tory cuts to the council budget we are facing some difficulties and the administration must therefore propose some cuts to council services in the budget. I remain concerned about the proposed cuts to school improvement along with the governed support budget which carries the risk of not being able to support our city schools as well. Could I ask you to commit to looking again at this proposed cut?
56.8 Councillor Allcock replied, as you know, the council has a statutory role to monitor the improvement and standards of all schools and know its schools well. This is done by carrying out school visits to observe leadership and teaching and learning, and by bringing together a range data, alongside other information from a range of services across the council. This is analysed to work out how best to support and intervene with schools if needed. This is all done in partnership with the schools and the council has a statutory responsibility to intervene when schools are judged by Ofsted as ‘Inadequate’ or ‘Requires Improvement’, or are at risk of not being Good or of failing. We refer to these schools as Schools ‘Causing Concern’.
The Council intervenes with a number of schools that are causing concern and also provides a service to all good schools to ensure we know our schools well and we prevent schools slipping and becoming a ‘School Causing Concern’. Currently the Council is intervening with 10 schools that are in the ‘Causing Concern’ category. This is a small number of Schools which has reduced over time.
This number can change at any time due to a range of factors including changes in Ofsted judgment criteria and bench marking, or because of other challenges head teachers and governing bodies may face in a range of areas. There are increasing challenges with the introduction of the new Ofsted framework and its demands and particularly ongoing funding pressures for schools. It is these types of factors that can lead to an increase in the number of Schools Causing Concern at any time.
The council has a specific statutory role in supporting governance in schools. Governance is a key element of school improvement. The LA governor support service has an excellent reputation and is well thought of by schools. It is a small service provided by three Council staff. The service is traded through a service level agreement with governing bodies where they provide an annual fee to receive the training, advice and services they need from the team. As part of the statutory element of the governor support service the council currently financially supports the service delivery with a 29k contribution from general fund to this service.
The council also has a statutory role to promote high quality education. We have a strong relationship with the family of schools and wider education partnership which supports this work, leading with us on a range of improvement agendas including our disadvantaged strategy, school attendance, maths and writing.
A full range of other services are also provided by the council that support the schools on their improvement journey and to ensure they provide an excellent and rounded high quality education for all their children and young people with a particular focus on the most vulnerable.
The outcome of all this work is that in the last 5 years the percentage of good or better schools has increased from 84% in August 2015 to 91% December 2019. 100% of secondary schools are good. Other outcomes across all phases of education are at and above the national average and outcomes on attainment have also improved overtime.
As Chair of CYPS I am constantly impressed by the consistently high achievements of our Children and Young People, teachers and support staff in our City’s Schools. These achievements are in face of the everyday challenges and government-imposed austerity.
Madam Mayor all of us in this room should all be very proud of this. Particularly when considering Tory government cuts to School funding of 10% in real terms over the last 4 years
The current 2020/2021 budget savings proposals include two savings for school improvement activity:
· 25k (from a total budget of 342k) from standards and achievement
· 29k (from a general fund) from the governor support service.
These savings are felt to be low risk because:
· the total savings amounts identified are small;
· the current service outcomes are positive; and
· because we have a relatively small numbers of Schools ‘Causing Concern’ needing to be supported.
To make the saving in the standards and achievement service we would need to reduce the available funding to support Schools ‘Causing Concern’. As we are currently supporting only 10 schools this would be on average approximately £2,500 per school.
56.9 Councillor Wares asked the following question, In respect of ‘home to school transport’ please could the chair of CYPS advise where the council is with labour’s preferred consultant Edge Public Solutions given that documents we have received under ‘Freedom of Information’ clearly for the council to claw back fees or terminate if the savings are not achieved, with a £1m overspend materialising in the last few months suggests failure has already occurred.
56.10 Councillor Allcock replied, There is no grants conspiracy of silence, no fake news and no fake broadcasting. We want to ensure the integrity of our actions. As you know there is an independent review, stakeholders’ involvement, open meetings. Transparency, accountability and a willingness to improve our service.
Regarding the specific question about Edge I can’t answer that because as officers have briefed you it is subject to confidential and commercially sensitive discussions at the moment. I will give you more information as soon as I can.
56.11 Councillor Wares asked the following supplementary question, We have indicated to both groups that we would be open to discussions. Some of actually know what the position is. The detail is confidential but what you are doing can be made public, so please would you answer the question.
56.12 The Mayor stated that it was not a supplementary question and called on Councillor Fishleigh to put her question to Councillor Robins.
56.13 Councillor Fishleigh asked the following question, Congratulations to officers for securing £214,000 for the Pavilion Gardens; I read that the council now plans to apply for another £3.4million from the National Heritage Lottery Fund so does that mean that the council won’t be applying again to the lottery for the restoration of Madeira Terraces?
56.14 Councillor Robins replied, this is indeed great news, and I personally congratulate all the officers involved, and in answer to your question – No.
56.15 Councillor Fishleigh asked the following supplementary question, I really hope that there will be a strategy so that the infrastructure projects across the city aren’t competing against each other for funding. There are council infrastructure across the city that have stalled or are failing, Saltdean Lido, Black Rock, Madeira Terraces, i-360 and King Alfred. Do you think it would be a good idea to finish some of these before starting something new?
56.16 Councillor Robins stated that he was unsure whether these were council projects and would therefore provide a full written response.
56.17 Councillor Janio asked the following question, A few number of families have made life over many months intolerable for many residents across Hangleton & Knoll and yet a multi-agency approach to tackling many deep-seated issues has not yet been attempted. Can the Leader of the council confirm that she is aware of these issues and take the necessary actions to end the misery as soon as practicably possible?
56.18 Councillor Platts replied, earlier in the year Housing staff were involved in multi-agency meetings regarding youths in Hangleton, there were proportionately less children in council properties involved in ASB at the time but a couple of households were highlighted and we have been working with the families since.
We also recently had reports of ASB around the youth activities at St Richards Hall and youths hanging around after classes. We understand many were not local to the area. The West Area Housing Team sent letters to 20 houses surrounding St Richards Hall asking for information on ASB activity and supplied diary sheets to encourage people to report incidents. To date we have had nothing back from this.
56.19 Councillor Janio asked the following supplementary question, the problem has not subsided and is getting worse, it is now moving into the north of Hangleton and spreading across the whole ward and is getting out of hand. Can the Leader of the council commit to setting up a small multi-tasking agency be set up to have the sole objective to sort this out as it is getting worse and not being solved?
56.20 Councillor Platts replied, I think it would be better to talk outside of the Chamber as to the best way to address this, because I have very limited information and obviously some of this information is restricted and can’t be shared generally. Perhaps we could have a more specific discussion at a private meeting and try and help solve the problem. I will certainly commit to try and solve the problem with you.
56.21 Councillor Deane asked the following question, For any Members who aren’t familiar with this service ‘Tell Us Once’ After a death in the family the bereaved family then have to provide a death certificate to a number of different organisations. The ‘Tell Us Once’ service allows the local authority to let every public sector organisation know for the cost of just one death certificate. The cost of a death certificate nearly trebled earlier this year from £4 to £11. This service is invaluable because it saves a lot of time when a bereaved family has a lot to do.
Is it not shocking that Brighton & Hove is the only council in the whole country not to offer this service?
56.22 Councillor Yates replied, In October officers from the DWP attended the council offices to discuss how we can implement ‘Tell Us Once’ and to give us more information about how offering works. Within that meeting we sent staff from Customer Experience, Life Events and IT&D. To make sure we are able to integrate into our current service delivery.
Brighton & Hove Council at that point was 1 of 3 authorities who hadn’t implemented ‘Tell Us Once’ although obviously since then there is only one yet to sign up to the service. These are major authorities who have only just implemented the service despite it having been around for 3 or 4 years now. At the meeting officers had the opportunity to demonstrate the work we have been doing to improve the customer service and to improve our data management internally within the council as well as trying to join up the variety of different services and structures we have in place. All of that work is helping to give us a better picture of how to implement ‘Tell Us Once’, which turns out isn’t necessarily as easy as one might think.
We have discussed the opportunities with the DWP now and they have given us information about other councils who have implemented automated services to be able to do exactly as you describe, to be able to take away the stress, strain and some of the complexity that dealing with a bereavement in the family actually can bring to those who are having to address directly at a time when they are not really that interested in the number of death certificates that they need or how many services they have to inform of the death.
The best option would be for us to have a direct link with the DWP and to link into their system to prevent re-keying in information, unfortunately that system isn’t possible as the DWP can’t give us that link so that means it will have to be manually undertaken, additional time spent manually re-keying in the same information into different systems in order to deliver what looks like a ‘Tell Us Once’ but we will end up doing it several times. It is not a very efficient way of trying to improve the service for us as a council or for those needing to access the service.
We were advised that both Norwich City Council & Enfield Council have carried out work enabling this automated link to the DWP system. We have made contact with those councils in an attempt to find out what the complexities are for us to deliver a service. We are still waiting to meet with those councils. We are also waiting for an additional meeting next month with DWP so that we can feed back. DWP are keen to get us on board.
56.23 Councillor Deane asked the following supplementary question,
Why is Brighton & Hove ‘John come lately’ in all this? Why is it taking so long and when is it going to be implemented in a realistic way that bereaved residents can actually use the service?
56.24 Councillor Yates replied, We will reconvene the meeting with the DWP in January. At that meeting it is the intention is to develop an action plan, so we can have a clear date as to when we can introduce the ‘Tell Us Once’ system.
56.25 Councillor Nemeth asked the following question, The Conservative position on the King Alfred is that it needs a 50-metre flexible pool, that it is kept on its wonderful position on the sea front and that its focus is primarily on sport rather than housing. Given the huge support for a 50-metre pool from the public and the swimming community alike and not forgetting that such a pool costs less than building 2 or 3 separate pools would the Leader of the council please set out the administration’s current thinking on whether or not the next development should include a 50-metre pool?
56.26 Councillor Platts replied, I would be interested to discuss the evidence you have for a 50-metre pool. The Sea Lanes are also looking at having a 50-metre pool, although that will be an open-air pool.
56.27 Councillor Nemeth asked the following supplementary question, There has been agreement now for a few months that there should be a King Alfred project board. Why has a date not been set for its first meeting?
56.28 Councillor Platts replied, As you are aware, this went to the last Policy & Resources Committee and we agreed that we would start to set up a project board. My understanding is that we are asking the different political groups to put forward their nominations for who will be on the project board so that we can move forward, and we will get dates for a schedule of dates as soon as we can.
56.29 Councillor Shanks asked the following question, I hope the administration agree with me that pavement parking is both anti-social and dangerous and would you commit to consult and identify areas where we can bring in temporary TROs so that we can actually enforce against some of this very dangerous parking. I am sure most of us across the city would be able to identify areas in our wards where we could use this.
56.30 Councillor Pissaridou replied, You will be aware that the Commons’ Transport Select Committee has recommended in the short-term allowing councils outside London to enforce against ‘unnecessary obstruction’, which you talk about, to combat the worst incidents of pavement parking. Longer term it has recommended that central government should work towards introducing a complete pavement parking ban unless signed to allow pavement parking.
In advance of any pavement parking ban the council would need to carry out a survey of all streets in the city to decide in which streets pavement parking was to be allowed in the city. Consultation with residents in streets where pavement parking is widespread would also be necessary before a decision on whether the pavement parking ban would apply to that street.
56.31 Councillor Shanks asked the following supplementary question, It is my understanding that we could at the moment in areas where it is particularly bad enforce a TRO, I will leave that with you it is not really a question. It is a power the council has so people could identify those pavements.
56.32 Councillor Pissaridou replied, Just to add a little more information, so ahead of the legislation, enforcement officers currently issue warning notices to vehicles parked on the pavement where a Penalty Charge Notice cannot be issued to discourage pavement parking, they don’t have the authority at the moment.
56.33 Councillor Theobald asked the following question, It is regarding the bad state of grass and weeds growing through the pavements, especially in Patcham, the whole of the city and even outside Hove Town Hall. Is this going to happen next year? Secondly regarding graffiti, I know there has been a consultation on this and I believe there is a request for private property to remove it. But will the council be removing graffiti on their own property?
56.34 Councillor Pissaridou replied, As you know this year spraying did not take place spraying did not take place while we looked to non-pesticide methods. Therefore, residents and Members may have seen an increased number of weeds across the city. A manual approach was adopted, using hoes and by brushing and ripping weeds.
We have recently ordered three new sweepers which should perform much better than the existing sweepers and they will be ripping up the weeds as well as cleaning the streets. We will be reviewing the decision to suspend the spraying, that is in place for one year and then we will review next year to see how it is going.
On graffiti as reported to Environment, Transport & Sustainability Committee on 8 October in the Modernisation Update report, the Graffiti Reduction Strategy action plan is being delivered.
Recent action includes:
· Reviewing options for mobile CCTV to support the identification of culprits.
· Establishing a community clean up service for community groups, charities and schools to access supplies to paint out graffiti.
· Creating a paint repository to receive unused paint which residents and businesses can access to paint over graffiti in their neighbourhoods.
Commissioning Phoenix Arts to create a mural in an
area where there is excessive tagging.
We have started a programme of painting out graffiti on street bins. The crossover – Queens Road, West Street, Western Road and North Street – has been completed, but it is a constant battle with taggers. We are trying to keep on top of this area and then will work on other areas.
I took a taxi across the city last week and the taxi driver and I were talking about graffiti and I said ‘the tagging looks dreadful’ and he said ‘I personally don’t mind it, one person’s tagging is another person’s street art’.
We are also planning some clean up days in locations across the city whereby businesses, residents, volunteers, students and council staff and members of this administration work together to remove graffiti. This will follow the same approach as the Tidy Up Team which has been very successful in City Parks and is now being rolled out on to the streets.
56.35 Councillor Theobald asked the following supplementary question, This does need addressing now and residents and myself are ashamed of the city at the moment as it does look a disgrace. When you said about CCTV in the paper a while ago it mentioned that somebody who had 18 different offences of graffiti and all they got was about 2 months community service, they should be made to pay for and clean it up themselves. Do we really need a consultation?
56.36 Councillor Pissaridou replied, The consultation resulted in over 1000 responses, which is really high. We are encouraging businesses and people with graffiti on their own properties to clean it off and we are helping them.
We are shortly going to be installing a section of green wall on the upper Madeira Terraces to cover up some of the worst graffiti which cannot be removed and is repeatedly targeted by taggers. It this is successful we will be looking to extend this along this section of the terraces.
56.37 The Mayor noted that the 30 minutes set aside for oral questions from Members had been reached and therefore the remaining eight questions would be carried over to the next meeting.
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