Agenda item - Public Involvement

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Agenda item

Public Involvement

To consider the following matters raised by members of the public:

 

(a)          Petitions: To receive any petitions notified by members of the public by the due date of the 3 June 2021;

 

(b)         Written Questions: To receive any questions submitted by the due date of 12 noon on the 11 June 2021;

 

(c)          Deputations: To receive any deputations submitted by the due date of 12 noon on the 11 June 2021.

 

Minutes:

(a)   Public Questions

 

5.1            The Chair welcomed Mr Crowhurst to the meeting and invited him to put his question.

 

5.2            Mr Crowhurst asked the following question, On 12 June 2020, this committee claimed on the Council website that Georgian Brighton and Hove was ‘built on the sugar trade and enslavement’. At the last meeting of this committee a report was submitted saying that the city’s wealth has connections to the slave trade. Neither I, nor Dr Sue Berry, who has researched Brighton’s early history, and is the author of the seminal book on ‘Georgian Brighton’, have discovered any evidence to substantiate the notion that this city was built on slave money. What credible historical evidence does the Council have to support these claims?

 

5.3            The Chair thanked Mr Crowhurst and stated that history takes place in a contested space; with academics offering differing views in their findings and conclusions.  Where council work touches on issues of racism and exploitation which will resonate with members of our community and who may trace their heritage to those who suffered  through enslavement and colonialism, we are bound to a greater sense of measure and sensitivity.

 

While there are conflicting accounts of our colonial heritage and its impact on our city, we will not ignore or erase our link with this horrific past.  It is important that any actions taken now stem from the fullest understanding of that past. To this end, the council has started discussions with the Royal Pavilion and Museums Trust around commissioning new research exploring these issues.  And as we develop the scope of our approach with the Royal Pavilion and Museums Trust, we will seek to identify stakeholders able to contribute to that process. This will of course seek to include numerous and diverse sources of knowledge, lived experience and expertise, so that we can all learn more.

 

5.4            Mr Crowhurst asked a supplementary question, it would appear that the review body and decisions are being made behind closed doors in relation to the issue of heritage, even though there is no credible evidence. My last letter to the Executive Director remains unanswered and I ask that you give a commitment to answering questions and to not changing our heritage without consultation?

 

5.5            The Chair stated that she would ensure that all the points raised were considered and that she would be happy to continue to speaking to Mr Crowhurst outside of the meeting.

 

5.6            Ms Andrews asked the following question, as I am sure every councillor and officer is now aware. Sussex Ice Rink has submitted a detailed pre-proposal requesting consent of use of the unused land next to the King Alfred. The King Alfred site belongs to the public and all we have is a clandestine King Alfred project board making executive decisions with little or no public involvement. The time for playing email pinball between departments is over and we demand positive transparent action and for the project to be judged on its own merit and in the spirit, it was intended.

 

What objections are there to this temporary facility testing the demand for an ice-skating industry in the city, on unused public land, and putting the feasibility argument to bed with a real time tangible pilot scheme once and for all. Has the council got anything to lose?

 

5.7            The Chair thanked Ms Andrews for her question and stated that the council’s Sports Facilities Investment Plan is to be considered at the Policy & Resources Committee meeting on 1st July. The Plan, if approved, will provide the overarching strategy for the development of the council’s sports facilities across the city. Also recommended is the establishment of a new cross-party Member Working Group to lead its implementation. The provision within each of the sports facilities is yet to be finalised and would be subject to further analysis.

 

The site in question is not unused land, but the roof of a vacant, ageing building and as such is not a suitable location for a temporary ice rink. It would not be appropriate for further consideration to be given to the proposal, until the council has decided the way forward on providing new sports facilities in the city.

 

The King Alfred cross-party Project Board, like other such Boards and Member Working Groups, performs an important advisory role. The Board has provided strategic management and oversight, but it is non-decision making and it is through the Board that reports are referred to appropriate committee meetings, at which the decisions are made.

 

5.8            Ms Andrews noted that in 2016 the Council had promised that an ice-rink would be provided in the city and noted that to date this had not been carried out and questioned whether there was any desire for such a facility and asked if the Chair would prove otherwise?

 

5.9            The Chair stated that she would need to review the decision taken in 2016 and would then respond to Ms Andrews in writing.

 

5.10         Mr Pennington asked the following question, the Beach Chalet report, appendix 4 (page 195 survey results) omits and redacted the information-box on Question 4 (which gives respondents opportunity to make comments).

 

Why did officers not summarise those comments or many letters sent?

 

5.11         The Chair thanked Mr Pennington for his question and noted that the comments provided to the survey have been included in an additional appendix to the report. The comments have been redactedto remove information which might be considered able to identify a living individual.

 

5.12         Mr Pennington stated that he had still not has a reply to his FOI query and asked why the Committee was so keen on having long-term tenancies?

 

5.13         The Chair noted the question and stated that matters would appear to have gone round in circles and that it would be helpful to wait for the consideration of the item later on the agenda.

 

5.14         Ms Slater-Bennison asked the following question, regarding the new duties of local authorities under Domestic Abuse Bill, the government has said “local authorities should use the expertise and knowledge of local and national specialist domestic abuse services to support in identifying and understanding the level and types of needs” and “Services commissioned under the new duty should meet Government and the domestic abuse sector quality standards – which include a commitment that support in safe accommodation should be provided in single-gender settings. This means providing specific services for women.” 

 

Can Brighton & Hove Council guarantee and show they are making full use of specialist expertise available in the city?

 

5.15         The Chair thanked Ms Slater-Bennison, the City Council along with the Pan Sussex Partnership is undertaking a needs assessment to identify gaps in service provision and where we need to target the additional funding provided by the MHCLG. As part of that needs assessment, we will be working closely with the providers of domestic abuse services in the City, including those in the third sector, to ensure that we gather the views of those with the specialist expertise in this field. We will continue to provide specific services for women and women’s only refuge as part of our commissioned services.

 

5.16         Ms Slater-Bennison asked a supplementary question, there are incredibly short time frames for spending this money.  Councillors will be keenly aware of the time it takes to bring new staff up to speed.  Bearing in mind the requirements in the Domestic Abuse Bill of using local expertise which I outlined in my first question, would the Council consider spending the £25,000 they have allocated from MHCLG funds, on seconding an existing RISE worker, able to ‘hit the ground running’ and with comprehensive knowledge of the local sector?

 

5.17         The Chair suggested that it would help to wait for the consideration of the item on the agenda and stated that she was happy to continue a dialogue on the matter outside of the meeting if that would help.

 

5.18         Ms Ceesay asked the following question, in point 3.4 the OSPCC was allocated £50,000 by MHCLG (November 2020) for a variety of tasks including a needs assessment. In recommendation 2.2 a further £25,000 requested for extra resource in BHCC for oversight.

 

The multimillion £ recommissioning of was October (2020).

In MHCLG terms the requirement for needs assessments and strategies review is every 3 years. This contract must have been awarded with a needs assessment and strategy.  Will the Council use this recent information and offer no further delay to the survivors in the city?

 

5.19         The Chair thanked Ms Ceesay and stated the contract that was awarded in April 2021 was for commissioned services to provide refuge and a casework service and is separate from the additional funding that has since been awarded by the MHCLG for safe accommodation.

 

The MHCLG has been clear that a needs assessment is a requirement of this new funding which will also be used to define the strategy and to identify what we should use this new funding for, and we are also expected to show evidence of this needs assessment to satisfy the conditions of the grant.

 

5.20         Ms Ceesay asked a supplementary question; can I just draw attention to the timelines and time frame. October 2020 - Pan Sussex recommissioning  I assume there was a thorough and comprehensive needs assessment for this?

November 2020 MHCLG give £50k to OSPCC for work including a needs assessment.

March 2021 £606,000 from MHCLG to BHCC for DV Housing support with strategy and needs assessment by August 21st 2021.

June 2021 BHCC asked to allocate a further £25,000 for oversight and promise a needs assessment by July 2021.

The £606,000 needs to be spent by 31st March 2022. 

I assume from this  that the needs assessment for the Pan Sussex contract is not adequate to use and that the OSPCC haven’t produced the work they’ve been paid to do.  

 

Is there any reason why RISE and other expert local providers can’t be asked to submit ‘oven-ready’ proposals with a short start date and can the Committee confirm that the MHCLG have categorically insisted on a needs assessment and strategy first?

 

5.21         The Chair stated that she would need to consult with officers and would then provide a full written response.

 

5.22         Ms Benge asked the following question, in March 2021, 17 RISE DV workers supported survivors in our city, supplemented by RISE funded in-house services in an accessible building in Central Brighton. The service was significantly oversubscribed.  

 

From April 1st, 2021, I understand 9 remote Victim Support workers with no building or facilities were employed doing the exact same tasks.

Can the Council confirm they are confident the new provider has sufficient experienced staff to provide the level of expert service we need in the city?

 

5.23         The Chair thanked Ms Benge and stated that Councillors have been informed that the Council is confident that the new provider has sufficient staff to provide the level of expert service in the City required.

 

Some staff have transferred from RISE to Victim Support under TUPE arrangements and further staff are being recruited. As part of on-going contract monitoring meetings, officers are ensuring that adequate provision continues to be offered including staffing.

 

5.24         Ms Benge asked a supplementary question, I understand that this means BHCC feel that only nine workers with VS can do more work and with fewer resources than the previous figure of 17 staff members. If this is true, could you clarify how this is possible to deliver VAWG services across the city without undercutting service users?

 

5.25         The Chair stated that she would provide Ms Benge with a written reply.

 

5.26         Ms Boss asked the following question, in this report reference 4.3 a possibility is raised of exploring future alternatives to the current Pan Sussex arrangement.  

 

Given  recent issues including  a public petition and the Council’s implicit acknowledgement of the urgent need for local oversight indicated by the £25,000 resource requested,/ Will the Council commit to actively exploring this alternative option?

 

5.27         The Chair thanked Ms Boss and stated that as you will be aware the parameters of this commission was drawn-up in a process separate to councillors and was agreed many years ago and prior to the existing administration. This arrangement has been in place for several years now.

 

So I confirm that as stated in the report today, subject to member agreement, we have asked that a further report to come to this committee setting out options for the allocation of MHCLG funds to meet the new domestic abuse act duties placed on the local authority. As part of that report, options will be put before councillors regarding the commissioning process, including whether the city council works alone or with partners across Sussex.  So absolutely we are actively exploring this as an option, with members being able to review this properly in due course.

 

5.28         Ms Bos asked a supplementary question; continuing on the theme of oversight and responsibility.  Can I just make a declaration of interest?  Until 2018 I worked for RISE as the Communications Officer.  I was closely involved in setting up the Sussex Portal and hold a lot of institutional memory of those times.  The first pan-Sussex agreement in 2015 transformed the East Sussex domestic abuse provision, more than doubling the size of the team.  RISE also  supported them in building in house expertise and specialism and helped them attain Safe Lives accreditation. This was when BHCC was in charge of  commissioning and RISE was contract lead.  In the latest commissioning the decision making has sat with East Sussex and our city’s domestic violence service has been chopped to pieces. On top of this the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner is mentioned many times in the report before council today. Fingers and pies.  Cooks/broth. My question is:  The MHCLG money is specifically for housing support in Brighton & Hove. The Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner doesn’t have housing in her remit - can the Council find out why her office is so involved in Brighton & Hove City Council business?

 

5.29         The Chair stated that the Working Group would be looking at these issues and meetings would be open to the public.

 

5.30         Mr Tancred asked the following question, following a spate of break-ins, vandalism, graffiti, violence, anti-social behaviour and flouting of the Covid-19 regulations, is it possible that solar-powered security lighting and CCTV cameras on lamp-posts could be installed adjacent to, or in the vicinity of, the beach chalet blocks at Saltdean, Rottingdean, Ovingdean, Madeira Drive & Hove Esplanade to make these dark areas safer at night for the chalet tenants and the public in general?

 

When instances are reported to the police, they say there is very little they can do because of the lack of lighting in the area and it makes it difficult to monitor. With modern low-cost technology, it is now possible to install these essential security items in prime positions to prevent and discourage these illegal acts and make the whole area feel safer.

 

A feasibility study and implementation would be greatly appreciated by all concerned.

 

5.31         The Chair thanked Mr Tancred and stated that the beach on Madeira Drive and the Undercliff are not classified as public highways and therefore do not have existing street lighting or power supplies. As this is where most of the beach chalets are located, it is therefore not possible to locate CCTV cameras or lighting in these areas. Where power supplies and Wi-Fi capabilities exist, the initial cost of camera installation is not necessarily prohibitive in itself. However, there is no budget identified to provide a resource to monitor further the cameras.

 

In addition, the areas identified are not considered to be areas of the city which have particularly high levels of crime associated with them in comparison to the impact of crime in other areas of the city, and as you know there are resource implications here, and we are also mindful of any considerations for police colleagues

 

Though I appreciate your concerns, there are also no resources identified for a feasibility study, therefore given all of the above, it is not considered beneficial to try to resource a feasibility study.

 

5.32         Mr Tancred asked whether solar powered  lighting could be used and whether the recent vandalism of beach chalets in Saltdean would be resolved?

 

5.33         The Chair stated that she would need to investigate and would then provide a written reply.

 

5.34         Mr Tancred asked the following question on behalf of Ms Francis, the whole idea of making the change of policy was so the chalets would be better used if offered and rented to local Brighton & Hove City residents only. But there is an anomaly, where several residents are now being kicked out when no mention of a residency boundary was on their contract. 

 

Is it possible that the boundary for inclusion could be extended by 1 mile to include the whole of the BN2 postcodes and thereby avoid any embarrassment for BHCC and the unfairness of the change of policy amended to take account of residents’ circumstances? 

 

5.35         The Chair thanked Mr Tancred and stated that I am very sorry to hear of the distress that has been caused by having to vacate one of the council’s beach chalets.  At TECC Committee in January this year the decision was made to bring to an end all beach chalet tenancies where the tenant lives outside of Brighton and Hove.  The response from the public consultation on this particular matter was overwhelming in favour of this proposal.  It was felt that as a council amenity, beach chalets should be available to residents of the city who pay council tax to Brighton & Hove. 

 

Unfortunately, there will always be some cases which are on the margins and some individuals may feel the policy is unfair.  However, with all decisions it is necessary to be consistent and draw a line somewhere.  In this instance, that line is the boundary of Brighton & Hove which will not be extended for the purposes of the beach chalet letting policy.

 

5.36         Mr Tancred asked a supplementary question, has the Committee taken into account the impact of the decision on those chalet owners affected and was it willing to bear the responsibility of its actions?

 

 

5.37         The Chair stated that the report had been considered and the further report was due to be debated later on in the meeting. A decision would be taken having taken on board all considerations.

 

5.38         Ms Aherns asked the following question on behalf of Ms Farnell, The section on Sex in the Equalities Impact Assessment for Lot 5 (refuge provision) of the ‘Invitation to tender’ also says “Commissioned providers to be required to proactively target recruitment to communities that are under-represented in the staff profile, and to have an inclusive employment statement on all jobs being advertised, unless they can clearly demonstrate that there is there is a Genuine Occupational Requirement for the jobseeker to hold certain Protected Characteristics; this must be agreed in advance with commissioners.”

 

Does this mean that the council is intending to encourage the new refuge provider to employ male as well as female workers in the refuge?

 

Can the Council give a guarantee that male workers will not be targeted for recruitment and also that the deliberate use of  male counsellors, such as the new Refuge provider, Stonewater, write about using in their Asian women’s refuge (in Hampshire),  will not be considered appropriate support for women surviving domestic abuse?

 

5.39         The Chair thanked Ms Aherns for asking the question and stated that the council recognises the importance of women-only space and has no intention of encouraging the new refuge provider to employ male workers in the women-only refuge.

 

5.40         Ms Aherns asked a supplementary question, Karen Ingala Smith, the CEO of NIA and founder of Counting Dead Women and the Femicide Census, wrote a short blog post last summer, entitled ‘Trauma-Informed Services for Women Subjected to Men’s Violence Must be Single-Sex Services’ It is a clear, scientifically referenced explanation of how a trauma response can develop in response to incidents of sexual abuse and violence in the lives of too many women and girls. The piece concludes: “women-only spaces in Rape Crisis Centres, refuges, women’s centres or women-only buildings or events, etc are spaces where women are not required to make all the mental self-adjustments to function in the presence of men. Women survivors and feminists (many of us both) created these spaces because we know how important this is. Somewhere we can function and feel OK, safe, maybe even relaxed and with our defences down and our vigilance switch turned low. Women who have been subjected to men’s violence deserve this down time, this head space.  Women-only space for women who have been subjected to men’s violence and abuse is something that must be protected by those of us who don’t need it, for those of us who do.”

 

Please will officers and councillors read this piece before making any decisions on employing male as well as female workers at the refuge?

 

5.41         The Chair asked for a copy of the article and that she would provide a written reply.

 

5.42         Ms Waldon asked the following question, At the last meeting of this committee, the Chair said “The Council undertakes Equality Impact Assessments when designing or redesigning services which explores impacts on every protected characteristic, including sex.” 

 

Despite acknowledging the disproportionate impact of domestic abuse on women and girls, why did the Equality Impact Assessment for Lot 5 of the new Domestic Abuse contract suggest that the new refuge provider would be required to redirect resources away from single-sex services for women and girls and, I quote,  “from year three to provide equal access to refuge provision for all victims experiencing domestic abuse regardless of their protected characteristics?”

 

5.43         The Chair thanked Ms Waldon and stated that the commission of refuge in the City will continue to provide single sex services for women.

From year three additional resource has been made available to explore whether or not additional refuge provision is made available for all victims/survivors regardless of their protected characteristics. I have sought reassurance that this will not remove the single-sex provision for women currently provided.

 

5.44         Ms Waldon asked a supplementary question, there is just one Refuge in Brighton & Hove and it serves a very wide area, for a large number of women and children. There are only a very limited number of units available. On average there are 6 applications for every refuge vacancy.  As a result of this shortage of dedicated provision, can you commit to continuing city-wide single sex provision in a refuge in this city from 2021 onwards?

 

5.45         The Chair stated that the matter was due to be considered later in the meeting and she believed that a Needs Assessment would help but suggested Ms Waldon wait for the outcome of the consideration of the report.

 

(b) Deputation

 

5.46         Mr Hart presented a deputation concerning the development of the Council’s anti-racism strategy and the evidence and information referred to in its development and consideration at previous committee meetings.

 

5.47         The Chair thanked Mr Hart for the deputation and stated that as a council we believe that racism is not just the product of individual bias or prejudice, but something embedded in our systems. Institutional racism in the UK, for example in police forces, has been acknowledged, in some cases by the institutions themselves. David Lammy’s review in 2017 identified racial bias throughout the criminal justice system.

 

We accept that as a council we have a lot to learn and that the approval of the council’s anti-racist strategy is just a starting point, but believe that open communication about race and ethnicity, and listening to residents’ and lived experiences, is key.

 

Although incidents of racial violence and abuse have thankfully decreased significantly in the last 20-30 years,  we know too well they do still happen in this city. I would also argue that any changes in attitudes and progress toward equality is directly linked to the tireless, incredible efforts of activists, organisations, campaigners and community groups who raise their voices to challenge prejudice, and who refuse to stay silent when told ‘but things are getting better.’ Progress towards equality is something we have to do, constantly, because we are not there yet. What’s more British Social Attitudes survey and others tell us quite clearly that we are hardly without racism in society. The council’s anti-racist strategy seeks to address these forms of racism, and the more subtle forms of prejudice that would not necessarily be reported as racist ‘crimes’, for example decreased employment opportunities, which have been widely discussed and acknowledged, even as part of reports and consultant reviews of our own council and listening to the views of staff. For too long issues around racism have not been discussed and therefore not addressed, and progress has been too slow – and each of us can do something about that.

 

The BLM movement, in response to the death of George Floyd, challenged the ‘sweeping under the carpet’ of the overt and subtle forms of racism already suffered by people, and triggered these being acknowledged and discussed once again. This is not the only case of a single event receiving widespread media coverage and then triggering a much broader recognition of a problem and ways to address it. For example, the link between the death of Sarah Everard, and a national discussion about women feeling unsafe on the streets on a daily basis. We are indebted to those across the world who refuse to stay silent in the push for a more equal society and call on us to go further.

 

The term BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic), although increasingly challenged on the basis that no umbrella term should be used, was however still a term widely used in July 2020. One of the problems with the term BAME is that it can be interpreted in different ways. As discussions about race and ethnicity have increased during the last year an alternative for the term BAME has begun to be explored, and this process is ongoing.

 

In answer to your more detailed questions about the sources of evidence for the original report from July 2020, we can send you a written response. However, I am committed that we do what we can to promote equality, fairness and to challenge racism.

 

5.48         The Chair then proposed that the deputation should be noted.

 

5.49         RESOLVED: That the deputation be noted.

 

(c) Petitions

 

5.50         The Chair noted that there were not petitions to be presented to the committee at the meeting.

Supporting documents:

 


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