Agenda item - Oral questions from Councillors

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Agenda item

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.


70.1      The Mayor noted that 16 oral questions had received and that 30 minutes were set aside for the duration of the item. The Mayor then called on Councillor Platts to put her question to Councillor Heley.


70.2      Councillor Platts asked the following question; The Labour Group worked over several months with the Executive Leadership Team to design a new senior management structure that would have covered all the bases and saved over £116k from the council’s budget. We are disappointed to see these plans dropped without consultation and new posts advertised of salaries of over £100k. We find this particularly inappropriate given the number of people losing their jobs, businesses and livelihoods in our city right now. Will the Leader of the council explain why they have dropped the Labour Group’s plans to save over £100k from the salaries budget?


70.3      Councillor Mac Cafferty replied; Obviously we don’t always agree on political matters but there has always be a broad understanding and clarity that ensuring that the senior management team is fit for purpose is important. We are looking at the restructure still and to be clear we are looking at savings as well. I do have to say that the city needs leadership on some of the big issues and these are significant leadership roles, managing large numbers of staff right through to ensuring effective management of multi-million-pound projects. For example, with the Executive Director for Children, which obviously has a significant legal responsibility as well. I think it is fair to say as well, that the situation that we were handed in the summer, if we are going to talk about saving money, there were temporary directors so they were hired through recruitment agencies and were being paid £900, a day and that is going to be compared to putting these people in place permanently and that will be on a day rate for example for an Executive Director of £803. So, by day 100 of the new contract for the new Executive Directors we will have saved the taxpayers money.


70.4      Councillor Platts asked the following supplementary question; In whatever plan the Administration comes up with will they stand by their commitment to close the gap amongst black minority and ethnic workers and ensure that all members of the Executive Leadership Team receive equal pay?


70.5      Councillor Mac Cafferty replied, I do know and I am happy to provide you with the specifics on these as well but the percentage of BME applicants has increased over the last few years and it has been increasing at a steady slow pace over the last 5 years and we are hoping that with the continued work, for example in January we are going to be doing an internal audit on recruitment and that is going to be a key part of the way we look at our recruitment. It is a really important issue I am happy to get you these specifics on that in writing as well.


70.6      Councillor Bell asked the following question; I am assuming that the Leader of the Council supports the city tourism sector as he sits on the TECC committee?


70.7      Councillor Ebel replied; Yes.


70.8      Councillor Bell asked the following supplementary question; Considering income from tourism for the city of circa £900m a year, which is more than the council’s annual budget, and accounts for 14% of the city’s employment in the city and the city being rated only 70th out of 105 seaside towns, would you then now inform the chamber tonight what projects you have and what actions you are taking as a Green Administration, what will you be proposing which will support tourism in the city? I  would also ask this council and the Administration to request that these council Members do not speak against the tourism in the city in the media.


70.9      Councillor Ebel replied; We do quite a lot on tourism. Since 1 April

·         Offered complimentary annual VisitBrighton partnership to 525+ tourism businesses, ensuring their businesses continue to be promoted throughout the pandemic,

·         Sent 117 newsletters to citywide tourism stakeholders giving timely updates on COVID, messaging, legislation, guidance, grant funding etc and latterly BREXIT related guidance, which have an average open rate of 32.97%,

·         Established a ‘Business Support Hub’, supporting tourism businesses in the City through COVID Business Support Hub - Visit Brighton ,

·         Promoted, maintained and updated with positive Brighton & Hove messaging, advising visitors of current COVID guidance and detailing ‘Good to Go’ accreditation for businesses whilst offering inspiration for trips in the future, attracting 950,000-page views,

·         Communicated with 61,012 followers on Twitter, 28,968 on Facebook and 24,796 on Instagram, promoting both the on and offline offers of local tourism businesses,

·         Promoted the #nevernormalbrighton tourism recovery campaign; Brighton doesn’t do ‘normal’, has never done ‘normal’ and never will! Designed to give residents, day visitors and regional staying visitors the confidence to return to the City, it has been promoted via citywide poster advertising, regional local papers, digital advertising at local stations, sponsored advertising on social media channels and via The Metro,

·         Secured £1.3m worth of positive destination coverage in regional and national titles including:  The Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Discover Britain, and Olive Magazine,

·         Worked with conference clients throughout the lockdown period to re-schedule events cancelled throughout 2020, ensuring that they return to Brighton & Hove in 2021 and beyond,

·         Worked collaboratively with pan-Sussex organisations, Tourism South East, Tourism Alliance, VisitEngland, VisitBritain and the Cabinet Office, ensuring that the needs of the Brighton & Hove visitor economy is represented.


Besides that we have also been working on a culture recovery fund because we believe that what is important is that people come to our city because of the culture and entertainment our events offer so while we are working on that we are supporting our local creative industry and businesses because it is really difficult at the moment and we want them to survive so that in the future visitors are still attracted to our city. If you have any follow up questions, I am happy to do that by email.


70.10   Councillor Appich asked the following question; During the lockdowns we have seen a significant increase in the public use of parks as well as cycling and walking across our city fortunately this has continued after the 2nd lockdown and we are seeing unprecedented numbers of residents and visitors visiting the seafront and our parks. What we don’t have is access to toilet facilities in seafront pubs and restaurants . This combines with significant pressures to our now existing facilities so there are now huge queues when the weather is nice at the Hove Seafront toilets. This has had a significant impact on some of our older and disabled residents who have contacted us in the Labour Group and expressed their concerns. You will all agree that it is excluding a large number of people from going outside which is the net impact of not having enough facilities due to the lack of these toilets it is grossly unfair that this is discriminatory to a whole group of our citizens. What are the plans for introduction of more publicly accessible toilets, including specialist disability facilities?


70.11   Councillor Heley replied; I am happy to speak to you about this in more detail but Healthmatic, as you probably know, are contracted to clean and maintain toilets across the city on behalf of the council and Cityclean manage them. I believe in 2018 there was a decision to start charging for toilets for the purpose of renovating our current ones to make sure they are ok and assessing needs of other parts of the city. So on this specific point I will get back to you and accessible toilets that is something that I really care about and am happy to chat more about the details.


70.12   Councillor Appich asked the following supplementary question; Many of our toilets are fundamental to the health and wellbeing of our community as we have already discussed. You will agree that we do not want to lose any of these scarce facilities. Will you agree to a nomination of these toilets as assets of community value?


70.13   Councillor Heley replied; That sounds like an interesting idea, I will definitely look into it.


70.14   Councillor Nemeth asked the following question; We appreciated the upright answers that were given by the Leader of the Council at the last meeting of Full Council and were particularly impressed by the Leader in ensuring that all questions were answered when he could easily have hidden away after the 30 minute cut off, so thank  you for that.


In response to my question I was told that a secret agreement existed between the Green and Labour Groups and that it wouldn’t be released, fair enough. It was sadly leaked anyway and of course confirms what we asserted which is that opposition councillors have agreed not to oppose. Given that opposition councillors are still taking opposition wages and it is in black and white that opposition functions are not being carried out would the Leader support the review by the relevant council body into the legality of this situation.


70.15   Councillor Mac Cafferty replied; As you well know Councillor Nemeth, the appointment to committees were agreed at Full Council and it was open to all members of a committee to scrutinise the policy which you, or any other member, could have done as a member of any of the committees. I think I am also rather dismayed, we are in the middle of a pandemic and  instead of keeping the focus on doing the best for our city your questions are repeatedly on the same matter, you asked virtually the same question 2 months ago. The city needs action it doesn’t need this sort of spat.


70.16   Councillor Nemeth asked the following supplementary question; Regardless of the technicalities, just mentioned, does the Leader of the  Council agree that such a situation, which includes secret pre-meets, pre-agreed policy positions does not fully tally with the Green Party’s manifesto aspiration to make Brighton & Hove the most democratic city in the country?


70.17   Councillor Mac Cafferty replied, When we are talking about democracy I’m afraid I won’t be taking lectures from a party that have seen fit to break national law and obligations over Brexit and indeed councillors failing to comply with the council’s own Code of Conduct for Members. So I’m sorry but I am not going to be taking lectures on this. The appropriate process came through the relevant council bodies. Even some of the joint working that is notionally secret has been agreed on places like Housing Committee. Not only was it made public, but it was actually voted on at committee as well. Also, this isn’t a secret deal, we published, and I believe the Labour Group as well published, soon after the local elections In June last year I believe. We both published statements saying that we were intending to work together because we wanted to put the best interests of our city first.


70.18   Councillor Janio asked the following question; Just to correct Councillor Mac Cafferty on the last point, the Government didn’t in fact break the law because they didn’t put forward those amendments.


As part of the post Brexit overhaul of procurement practises the recently published Green Paper transforming public procurement means that councils may soon be allowed to limit bids for some contracts to local businesses and social enterprises, thus boosting local economy. This greater local control, it is hoped, will also help the UK meet its’ net zero carbon target of 2050. Will the Leader of the Council agree with me that with the UK finally and fully leaving the European Union on 1 January and thus no longer being forced to follow the shockingly unethical procedures currently laid down by the European Union, the Green Paper will provide Brighton & Hove City Council with a historic opportunity to overhaul its procurement regime?


70.19   Councillor Mac Cafferty replied; I think what we have been seeing around the country over recent years is that actually a whole series of councils have been looking at the entire way in which they procure products. They have been breaking down contracts into smaller streams and so on and I think that is the route to go down so that you can actually begin to allow local companies a say in what has happened as to procurement.


I am not too clear what Cllr Janio is trying to say other than I assume he supports Brexit, but I think that we have a number of the powers already. I am not too clear on how praiseworthy his proposal is.


70.20   Councillor Janio asked the following supplementary question; Would the Leader of the Council commit to not only an extension of previously successful ‘Buy Local’ initiatives but now also, from 1st January, focus a campaign on ‘Buy Local, Buy British‘.


70.21   Councillor Mac Cafferty replied; We have already supported several times the ‘Buy Local’ campaign, and I know that when the Conservative administration was last around that they had ‘Buy Local’ campaigns and believed to be fair administrations since have been supportive of local businesses. I think critically recovery from the pandemic is going to have to be a realisation that we all have to support local businesses.


Brighton & Hove is in Britain and if he what he is looking for is determination by that answer that we buy British products as B&H is in Britain, then yes, we will be buying British products.


70.22   Councillor Fishleigh asked the following question; Lockdown confirmed how vital our city’s parks, playgrounds and other public green spaces are for our physical and mental well-being. How well these assets are maintained is a reflection of our city’s values and priorities. Cityparks receives a fraction of the council’s annual budget and is a genuinely low-cost service that can be enjoyed by residents regardless of their income or where they live.

Please, would the council look at every way possible to increase Cityparks' budget in 2021/22, so that additional people can be recruited for enforcement, graffiti removal, organising volunteer teams and, perhaps most importantly, ensuring that all external funding sources are continually investigated.


70.23   Councillor Heley replied; I agree that Lockdown has shown how important our parks and green spaces are. I recognise the need to make the most of volunteers and external funding opportunities in our parks and open spaces and have taken measures to improve Cityparks ability to secure funding, facilitate volunteering and spend funding which we already have.


            In the new year 1 full time and 1 part time post holder will start in the tree section to facilitate and secure funding for the tree planting we want to see in the City.   In addition, two new posts funded from the capital we have generated from external sources to spend some of the money we have already secured this will free up other team members to look for additional funding from elsewhere. Environmental Enforcement Officers do patrol parks and open spaces to deter environmental crimes. Cityclean operatives remove graffiti from the council’s property within parks.


70.24   Councillor Fishleigh asked the following supplementary question, All councillors received an email from a respected member of the City Parks team outlining the need for these posts and I don’t think you’ve answered my question so I will leave it at that.


70.25   Councillor Wilkinson asked the following question; Fly tipping is a major concern to many of the residents in my ward as well as being an issue that affects all parts of the city and is on the increase, especially since the pandemic. There are not many areas where examples cannot be seen and its negative impact on the wellbeing of residents can be seen with it being a source of pollution and a danger to public health. Dealing with this has a significant cost to the council, what plans do the Administration have to improve enforcement against fly tipping and in particular curb-side fly tipping?


70.26   Councillor Heley replied; In October, we launched a clampdown on fly-tippers by installing CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras. Over 70 fixed penalty notices have been issued to date and I am happy to discuss the strategy for curb-side fly tipping.


70.27   Councillor Wilkinson asked the following supplementary question; does the Administration have any plans to develop a robust and effective strategy to deal with the increasing amounts of fly tipping across the city and if not will it consider doing so with a comprehensive review into the situation so as to develop a suitable strategy to address the problem?


70.28   Councillor Heley replied; We are developing a waste strategy and I am happy to discuss this with Councillor Wilkinson outside of this meeting and at committee.


70.29   Councillor Mears asked the following question; The Council’s anti-racist policy states to be a non-racist is not sufficient, institutions have to commit to anti-racist action, inaction would be to condone the status-quo. Given the policy, is it acceptable that the Leader of the Opposition has refused to provide answers to the local Argus newspaper over her role in an office which has been found to unlawfully interfered in anti-Semitism complaints?


70.30   Councillor Childs raised a point of order as the question was not directed to the Leader but rather to the Leader of the Labour Group and was not relevant to the Council business.


70.31   The Monitoring Officer stated that as the question related to another Member of another party rather than the Administration, it was within the discretion of the Leader to decide whether to answer or not.


70.32   Councillor Mac Cafferty stated that he felt it was inappropriate to answer on behalf of another Member, but he believed that all councillors wanted to fight racism and that Councillor Platts was amongst that number.


70.33   Councillor Williams asked the following question; given the current situation it is unlikely that local restaurants will be opening on Christmas Day to feed the homeless as has been the tradition in the past. What plans are being put in place to make sure our rough sleepers and homeless are cared for adequately this Christmas?


70.34   Councillor Gibson replied; There will be a Christmas SWEP opening from the 24th – 26th December providing food and resources. The council with partners has pursued a policy to provide accommodation and there are a small number of people who have not taken up offers. All of those will be invited to come into SWEP and they will be encouraged to take up a long-tern solution for accommodation.


70.35   Councillor Williams asked the following supplementary question; I am specifically concerned about the Christmas period and ask if it will be clearly publicised and information given to everyone so that they are aware of what is available.


70.36   Councillor Gibson replied; yes, there is the Street Link number and the provision available will be made known. There is a need to tackle the root cause and the aim will be to provide accommodation throughout the city to enable those rough sleepers to move off the streets. He wished to congratulate the officers involved to date and hoped that continued improvement could be achieved. He noted that the long-term structural change to have available accommodation was the important goal.


70.37   The Mayor noted that the 30 minutes set aside for oral questions had been reached and stated that he was therefore minded to call an end to the item.


70.38   Councillor Nemeth proposed that a further 10-minute extension be agreed, which was seconded by Councillor Simson.


70.39   The Mayor noted that an extension had been proposed and put this to the vote and called on the Leaders of each Group to confirm their position, along with the Groups and the Independent Members as follows:


Councillor Mac Cafferty stated that Green Group were voting against an extension of time and this was confirmed by the Green Group;


Councillor Platts stated that the Labour Group were voting against an extension of time and this was confirmed by the Labour Group;


Councillor Bell stated that the Conservative Group were voting for an extension of time and this was confirmed by the Conservative Group;


Councillor Brennan stated that she was voting against an extension of time;


Councillor Fishleigh stated that she was voting for an extension of time,


Councillor Janio stated that he was voting for an extension of time,


Councillor Knight stated that she was voting against an extension of time.


70.40   The Mayor confirmed that the proposal to extend the time for oral questions had been lost. He noted that the remaining questions would be carried over to the next meeting subject to the confirmation of those Members.


70.41   The Mayor was also mindful of the current raised level of feelings amongst Members and stated that he was adjoining the meeting for a short period to allow the atmosphere to cool and would reconvene the meeting at 7.55pm. He then adjourned the meeting at 7.47pm.


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