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 28th January 2022.


10.1         The mayor stated that 8 written questions had been received from members of the public and invited Mr Hill to join the meeting and put his question to Councillor Heley.


10.2         Mr Hill thanked the mayor and asked; in 2019 13% of all deaths in Brighton & Hove were from respiratory disease. 14% of our population suffer asthma, 2% COPD, lung cancer is the most deadly cancer locally.  Recent studies have strengthened the evidence that air pollution causes and worsens these and other diseases with sensitive groups most at risk.  Solid fuel burning is one of the largest sources of particulate pollution in the UK.  Brighton is the largest city in England without a city-wide smoke control area.  I asked the question about smoke control areas two years ago; why are we still unprotected?


10.3         Councillor Heley replied, as Joint Chair of the ETS Committee, I am sure that I can also speak on behalf of other colleagues who will have an interest in this matter, such as the Health & Wellbeing Board and TECC committee. Having clean air in our city is a priority for us and requires everybody to play their part.  We therefore need people to consider if, or when, they need to burn wood, and to do so responsibly.


Our Air Quality Officer and our Environmental Protection Team have continued to work very hard over the last two years to maintain service levels during the challenging period of the pandemic.  We have maintained monitoring, produced two Air Quality Annual Status Reports, reviewed and renewed the city’s Air Quality Management Areas, and tackled statutory nuisances which can include smoke, so residents do have some protection, but we recognise that we need to do a lot more.


I recognise that you are asking for more and this is something that I am keen to explore within our next Air Quality Action Plan, which will be published for consultation later in the year.   Local authorities are meeting with Government officials to discuss its policy on smoke control and help steer guidance towards the Environment Act amendments published last year. This will provide a better understanding of the powers and resources that will be available to local authorities under national legislation. 


The Environment Act has further raised the profile of the need to deliver clean air and for councils to meet their statutory requirements in this area. I am also really pleased that our committee has agreed to develop a real-time air quality monitoring system to provide a greater level of reliable information about air quality, and we are continuing to secure funding to invest in cleaner transport in the city. 


While that work progresses, we have and will continue to ensure that the right messages and advice are available to inform people of the effects that woodburning and smoke can have on their own and people’s health. I have asked officers to review and update the council’s webpages on smoke and woodburning to ensure the correct messages and advice are included. These changes will be made very soon and will be publicised to further raise awareness.


10.4         Mr Hill then asked a supplementary question, I'd like to thank councillors and the officers for the work they did in the investments for air monitoring and especially Councillor Fishleigh and Councillor Osborne and yourself and all the parties who voted for it, monitoring will help to understand and inform and help people reduce their exposures to air pollution and a better information and understanding of individuals or help them avoid those areas and those times that air pollution is worse.


I feel updating a website will help and it's welcome but is there anything more you can do in terms of media maybe a leafleting campaign or something like that? to get that message out there around wood burning. Especially that it is harmful, and it should be advised against pretty much all the time. I think above all that the smoke control area could do the most.


Just one more thing about the air quality at that that the smoke control areas for government has given extra powers to councils to enforce the smoke control areas, and I think that was one of the biggest problems in the past.


10.5         Councillor Heley replied, I will just briefly respond and, Adrian, you can email me afterwards. I'm as frustrated as you are with this issue. I am aware of other Councils, for example Camden. I believe that have stronger messaging on wood burning, which I've been asking us to follow suit with.


From my understanding, the main issues with smoke-controlled areas. It is our lack of capacity, lack of funding as a local council to manage the enforcement of those. So that's obviously a wider conversation around austerity and cuts that we need solving by national government. I fully support everything all are campaigning for and will do as much as we can.


10.6         The mayor thanked Mr Hill for joining the meeting and putting his questions to Councillor Heley and invited Mr Trangmar to join the meeting and put his question to Councillor Davis.


10.7         Mr Trangmar thanked the mayor and asked, in November 2019 I presented a petition requesting the installation of traffic calming measures/other options for Bristol Gardens to prevent motorists using the road as a rat run and make the road safer for non-road users. Since then, I have been back to ETS, but nothing has happened so far.  


Please would you give me an update including likely timescales for a local consultation and resulting works, whatever they are to commence?


10.8         Councillor Davis replied, as a former resident of Princes Crescent I understand your issues here. Unfortunately, there has been no change to the Council’s position since our last response which was provided in September 2021. The early proposals for Bristol Gardens were put on-hold, along with a number of other schemes from the LTP programme, at the start of the pandemic so that staff resources could focus on the delivery of the Transport Covid Action Plan. The delivery of this plan is still on-going as the team deliver the second tranche of the Emergency Active Travel Fund programme which is due for completion in 2022. Further funding for Tranche 3 has also been bid for and is awaiting a response.


There are currently no immediate plans to recommence the design process for Bristol Gardens however once resources are available then any proposals that are taken forward will be subject to consultation with the local community.


Bristol Gardens has a very good safety record and also relatively low speeds, all of which are well below the speed limit of 20 mph when measured recently within the last three years. Whilst we understand the concerns of residents in this location, we are unable to justify prioritising this scheme above and beyond the current agreed programme of works based on the information that is available, however we will be bringing a report to ETS Committee looking at our broader Road Safety Strategy that will be looking at speeding at locations such as Bristol Gardens.


10.9         Mr Trangmar asked a supplementary question, anecdotally the speeds are not good, and the road is used as a cut through, but the more important point is with the Black Rock development probably coming towards planning. Can something be done when the assessment for the increased traffic for the Black Rock development is assessed that our street and the surrounding streets are assessed as part of that so that there's a coherent traffic management plan for the whole area and all those new people that are going to move into that development and so that it could be bolted on to that assessment?


10.10      Councillor Davis replied, I think it's a really good point David considering what's going to be happening around there and I'm and I'm happy to bring that to officers when that piece of infrastructure is started to be built and I'm happy for you to follow up with emails for me as well.


10.11      The mayor thanked Mr Trangmar for joining the meeting and putting his questions to Councillor Davis and invited Mr Walker to join the meeting and put his question to Councillor .


10.12      Mr Walker thanked the mayor and asked, for the last 28 years Philip Winnan has been cleaning flats in Lewes Crescent and Sussex Square.  He operates with his son through a small, limited company called Chartsworth.  An Environmental Enforcement officer has told Philip he will be fined £400 for placing household waste in the communal refuse bins.  This is tragic for Philip's livelihood and all paid-for carers in the city who look after older residents who will be criminalised for taking out household rubbish.  Is this official council policy?


10.13      Councillor Heley replied, this is slightly different to the question that I received, but I will respond to the question that you submitted, and we can discuss anything else by email. It would not be appropriate for the council to discuss an individual persons’ circumstances in a public forum like full council meeting. Mr Winnan has not been in contact with the council himself to discuss his circumstances and we would be keen for him to do so.


I can confirm that a household cleaner or carer would not be fined for disposing of a residents’ normal household waste in a domestic communal or kerbside bin. However, commercial cleaners contracted to remove waste from common areas of flats are not lawfully permitted to dispose of waste in domestic bins and would be subject to a fine if they did so.


10.14      Mr Walker asked a supplementary question, I think from everything I've read and the acts that I have been told about, I believe that the Council’s position is wrong on this, both from a legal sense and also from the fact is rubbish produced in the communal part of the building is part of the residential building and, if you look at the Environmental Protection Act, it states that the two acid tests are - where did the rubbish come from? Which it comes from part of a residential building and who created the rubbish or when it's behind a locked door and you can't access your flat without going up a staircase then that rubbish is by definition produced by the residents of that building and that is where, I believe, that the Council’s position is wrong.


10.15      Councillor Heley replied, we were happy to get the legal team to check it for you.


10.16      The mayor thanked Mr Walker for joining the meeting and putting his questions to Councillor Davis and invited Ms Anderson to join the meeting and put her question to Councillor Osborne.


10.17      Ms Anderson thanked the mayor and asked, I have a monthly Freedom Leisure membership and myself and my two boys aged 8 and 9 go swimming at the King Alfred every weekend.

Two weeks ago we were leaving the centre, when a man started shouting angrily at the top of his voice: “Just look at this place! It’s falling apart! It’s a disgrace! It’s been like that for 20 years!”

I would like to know whether there are any plans to either redevelop or upgrade the King Alfred, which is clearly now reaching the end of its lifespan and not fit for purpose anymore?


10.18      Councillor Osborne replied, I'm very sorry to hear that that's been your experience at the King Alfred. I think you have been in previous correspondence with Councillor Mac Cafferty about this over the last few weeks, so you may already have a know what I'm going to be seeing here, but I'll, I'll repeat it just for everyone else so that they know that you've got your response. Over the past 20 years there has been significant public funding that's being spent on updating the King Alfred.


To ensure that it remains open and operational for residents of the city and this funding has led to some improvements in the wet changing rooms and the toilet refurbishment and there's also been a new cafe added in the foyer area and that's all to support the demand for swimming at the site. However, it is recognized that the building is near the end of its lifespan and is in need of replacement, so previously the Council have tried to find a developer led solution to the redevelopment of the site, but since the termination of the partnership with Crest Nicholson in relation to the proposed redevelopment of the King Alfred, the Council has undertaken a thorough review of its sports facilities, this includes their current condition, the maintenance costs that they have, the current facilities provided, latest demands and investment options, This work informed the sports facilities Investment Plan, which is from 2021 to 2031 and that was developed in order that the future provision of the Council's indoor sports facilities can be considered strategically across the city. This investment plan was concluded last summer and provides a strategic city-wide approach to improving the facilities. The plan outlines a capital investment required to create more modern facilities which will increase participation in sport and the physical activity across the city. With the plan now agreed, there's major capital projects which will include the replacement of King Alfred and we are currently being advanced to a more detailed stage and there will also be some more planned maintenance work on the pool later this year. So rest assured this there is further direct work planned to address some of your concerns, and we fully knowledge that our sports facilities need the level of investment in the city that all users expect and deserve.


10.19      Ms Anderson asked a supplementary question, why does the redevelopment of the King Alfred have to be linked to housing?
The social housing argument has been kicked like a political football from one side to the other for decades to the detriment of everyone in Brighton and Hove?


I quote an article from the London Economic:

“Across Europe, almost every village or town in Germany, Denmark, Spain and France has a public use municipal sports club, swimming pool or leisure club. This is funded by local taxation or central government funding”


We should be doing the same here.


10.20      Councillor Osborne replied, I think there may be different funding mechanisms in some of the European countries, and certainly the central government. We've had a government that's being cutting budgets for the past ten years or 11 years, it's been very difficult for that funding to be found. I think that's why the Council have tried their best to go towards a developer led solution, but we're definitely happy to lobby government for more funding.


There was an interesting Sports England report that came out last year, which was suggesting that many of our sports facilities and swimming pools will probably be having to close over the next 10 years if there's no further investment. We are happy to lobby on further investment from the government and this plan going forward is expecting to put £10s of millions into our sports facilities, so we are committed to that plan going forward. I know historically there's been other alternative solutions that have been tried. With this plan now in place, I think we can commit to it.


There is much more reassurance, there about committing to the future of the sports facilities going forward. I'm sorry about what has happened over the past 10-20 years and then those facilities that have not materialized. But we've got that plan in place now, so hopefully will be able to see that through.


10.21      The mayor thanked Ms Anderson for joining the meeting and putting her questions to Councillor Osborne. He noted that Mr Tower was unable to join the meeting and had asked Councillor Fishleigh to put his question to Councillor Osborne on his behalf.


10.22      Councillor Fishleigh asked, in light of the latest delays to the restoration of Madeira Terrace. Does the council believe that Madeira Drives' primary purpose is that of a car park and should lost revenue from spaces be allowed to delay the redevelopment of the Terrace any further?


10.23      Councillor Osborne replied, the Council is committed to improving the quality of life of all those that live work and visit Brighton & Hove. It is aware that significant contribution that a restored Madeira Terrace would add to the quality of life for all our residents and as such the Council is committed to supporting the progress of this project wherever possible.


There was a major public consultation held prior to Christmas about proposals for Madeira Terrace and the wider eastern seafront and feedback from these events have been used to take forward that project. Specifically on the plans and the question you raised about the revenue from parking. The revenue derived from parking is obviously vitally important to the operation of the Council and revenue from paid on street parking, for example alone, is worth £10 million. All the surplus generated from that is redirected into the bus subsidies and local transport plan etc. as I'm sure you know.  As part of the phase one of the Madeira Terrace restoration project, its proposed to remove some of the parking along Madeira Drive and that's primarily intended to improve pedestrian access to the newly restored section of the Terrace, however, we also improve the setting of the structure, so there's a long process that will be involved on removing some of the on street parking, which involves some of the bays that have been near to the location. The project team are going to be going forward with that and they will provide a full update at the next Madeira Terrace Advisory panel, happening over the next month. Planning is a statutory function of the Council, Transport Plans for the city are brought to ETS if there was something there was to be happening of getting rid of parking spaces it would be coming back to ETS and so if there are further questions  you can take back as the Council does believe that there's a need for car parking. The revenue is important and any further plans that might be changing will be brought back to committee.


10.24      Councillor Fishleigh asked a supplementary question, I think maybe you missed the gist of this question, and I don't know how well known it is amongst other councillors, but the highways department is in dispute with the major projects team at the Council about how many parking spaces will be taken up by equipment for the restoration and so that seems to be the major delay why work isn't starting. The supplementary is, and it's very peculiar that no one actually thought about this when you spent weeks and weeks talking about re jigging Madeira Drive, is have you got a date when the restoration of Madeira terraces will actually start?


10.25      Councillor Osborne replied, I'm not on the project board and I think it would be good to take that question to the next board. I think they do have the planning application and it is going to be submitted in springtime and meant to be determined by autumn as per Phase 1 and then Phase 2 is next year. But I'm not sure on the exact timescales but I'm sure we can get those in a written response.


10.26      The mayor thanked Councillor Fishleigh for putting the questions to Councillor Osborne on behalf of Mr Tower and invited Mr Harris to join the meeting and put his question to Councillor Mac Cafferty.


10.27      Mr Harris thanked the mayor and askedI refer to agenda item 71 titled Arrangements for Council and Committee Meetings: these proposals are a stealth power grab and at best a paranoid response to an ever-weakening virus. There are no legal reasons to make these proposed changes and they should be scrapped.


This is a move away from a public facing council and committee system to what looks like a less accountable segregated cabinet system. Debates behind closed doors.


Vital public engagement is proposed to be side-lined to a separate virtual meeting, where members are not even required to attend and listen anymore. For such big changes why was no public consultation undertaken around this?


10.28      Councillor Mac Cafferty replied, I am not sure the premise reflects accurately the proposals and the reports. Far from limiting accountability or transparency the proposals are aimed at precisely the opposite and we are trying to hold on to the democratic decision-making process in a way that reduces the way that reduces the way that contact to protect the health and safety of member of the public, councillors and officers. No decisions will be made behind closed doors all meetings for council and committees continue to be open to the public. People will be able to follow different meetings by attending in person or by following the web cast which you have done this evening yourself and by allowing people to follow the proceedings we've actually been able to enhance transparency and public engagement.


If it is true to say that there are some signs of reduction in the number of people infected with the Omicron variant, but anyone who thinks that COVID is ever weakening, or that the pandemic is over is mistaken, and there are still number of variants of concern, including B1621B2, and as long as global vaccination doesn't happen, we continually run the risk of not being able to say for certain when COVID-19 will be behind us. 10s of thousands of citizens are being infected with the virus every day with, sadly, many of them dying and in Brighton & Hove we have already lost 543 people to this pandemic.


We have a legal, if not a moral, civic duty to make sure that proceedings are conducted in a way that ensures health and safety of everyone. All this complication of course could have been avoided if we had the necessary legislation to enable our Council to carry on meeting remotely. During the period it was allowed it worked well, public participation increased. Unfortunately, we didn’t win that legal case. Finally, I want to reassure you that the measures are temporary running until April, they will be reviewed in May and in all cases, we will have to take account of the prevailing conditions as well. But protecting everyone’s health is always our top priority.


10.29      Mr Harris asked a supplementary question, it just makes me wonder from that response because every Saturday I can go to the football at Amex with thousands of people, the courts are running bingo halls are open, theatres are open, pubs, restaurants, everything is open. Yet I can have a phone call at 10:00pm in the evening with a woman who's been evicted, she's got a 14-year-old son who is disabled. She's in an absolute trauma and terror, she can't get into the council offices. The worry is, you're saying that things aren't being subverted and put across, but with the budget coming up soon, my worry is, do you feel that you guys are going to get voted in with these continuous, outrageous proposals? Let's get on with the job and actually deal with and actually give a public service.


10.30      Councillor Mac Cafferty replied, on the specifics of your case, by all means forward over anything that you think I can help with, I am more than happy to help, and I can accelerate and query with the Executive Director, and indeed with the Co-Chairs of the Housing Committee. In terms of your specific question as well, if someone had a problem at 10:00 o'clock at night, pre pandemic they couldn't come into Hove Town Hall. If there was an emergency there is an out of hours number which is still operational at the moment. We are in the process of beginning to try and reopen the Council services and will be more about that coming soon. But I take your point and we do accept the challenge about accessibility and accountability we're trying to do our best on it, I think the pandemic has made that very complicated. Thank you for supplementary and please do send over any specific questions.


10.31      The mayor thanked Mr Harris for joining the meeting and putting his questions to Councillor Mac Cafferty and invited Ms Upton to join the meeting and put her question to Councillor Davis.


10.32      Ms Upton thanked the mayor and asked, as someone who designed and used questionnaires, I am concerned about the robustness of the questionnaire that accompanied the consultation “improving accessibility on the A259”.( There are more questions on the ethnicity part of the questionnaire than about the plans themselves!) I am at a loss to understand what questions “do you want improved crossing points”, or “more provision of disabled parking bays” - questions that any fair-minded person would answer positively- tell us about the respondents’ views of these plans as a whole.


The idea that such an important matter of reallocating road space can be decided in six questions is to misunderstand wider issues. Please explain why questions have been “dumbed down” to such a degree that no meaningful conclusions can be drawn about the hugely varied opinions of local residents and traders.


10.33      Councillor Davis replied, the survey has been designed in a fair, inclusive and accessible manner with the hope that it allows people to give their opinion on a range of proposed measures contained within the overall A259 scheme. People were asked for their opinion for each key element of the scheme and rate accordingly from Strongly Agree, Agree, Neither Agree or disagree, Disagree, Strongly disagree, and Don’t know. It would not be practical to ask very specific questions about every detailed aspect of the scheme and we know from past experience and feedback that people are less inclined to engage with overly long complex questionnaires. It is also worth noting that a number of staffed exhibitions were held at The King Alfred Leisure Centre where local residents, traders and visitors had an opportunity to engage directly with Council officers and provide face to face feedback. In terms of questions on ethnicity, this is important data we collect to ensure we are reaching all members and groups in our community.


10.34      Ms Upton asked a supplementary question, in the last active travel plan when comparing comments about theA259 Seafront Rd and the Old Shoreham Rd cycle lane, the majority of respondents were against them. Of the comments about the A259 cycle, lane 239 were negative and 31 were positive.


The negative feelings most stated about the Old Shoreham Rd cycle lane where there were 49 residents who wrote positive and 510 who were against yet both cycle lanes were put in place. How confident can the public be that democracy will be upheld and the Council will take any notice of this consultation?


10.35      Councillor Davis replied, I think it's an interesting question. There's a very interesting report from the bicycles group this afternoon on social media about the actual amount of people that did vote against the Old Shoreham Road and consultation, to be clear, this is this is our policy as an administration, and it's a consultation and it's and it's not a referendum we, you know we need to implement this for various reasons, but we are happy to engage all stakeholders along the way as much as we possibly can, and I'm happy to engage you further if you feel that you could contribute to all our consultation processes.


10.36      The mayor thanked Ms Upton for joining the meeting and putting her questions to Councillor Davis and invited Ms King to join the meeting and put her question to Councillor Yates.


10.37      Ms King thanked the mayor and asked, last year the Council apologised for failing to publish details of Councillors’ expenses for three years as reported in The Argus on 11th April 2021. The Local Authorities Regulations states a council must publish the information as soon as practicable after the end of a year to which the scheme relates. What was the reason why Brighton and Hove City Council failed to publish these details as was required by the Regulations?


10.38      Councillor Yates replied, that in itself would be a matter for the administration, the failure to deliver that, but the information that I've received is that it was a simple administrative error and oversight. As soon as it was identified and raised with the appropriate person it was rectified and apology given. All the information regarding allowances is published and can be seen on the Council's website, I went in this afternoon and all of the expenses claims from 2002 onwards are published as in PDF form on the Council website including for last year, which was published in May, having that year having closed as of April. So, within six weeks or so of the close of that year’s accounts.

All councillors’ expenses that are published are determined in accordance with the Scheme for Members Allowances that is prepared on the recommendations of the Independent Remuneration Panel with full Council's approval and all claims for expenses are checked and verified by officers before any payments made. Members of the public do have the ability to examine Council expenditure as part of the Councils annual audit system and we do welcome challenge and we frequently receive challenge from members of the public on some very specific parts of council expenditure, which is only right.


10.39      Ms King asked a supplementary question, in the audit and Standards Committee meeting of the 25th of January, you said that you'd been given assurances that all dependent childcare claims for the years ending 2020 and 2021 were correctly claimed and there were no grounds for an audit. The B&H Constitution says that DCA is claimable for specific circumstances, and myself and my colleagues have looked at where this would be possible for the year ending April 2021s and can only come up with less than 1/3 of what was claimed by Councillor Phillips. Do you feel it would therefore be sensible to welcome an audit of these figures to finally resolve this matter and restore public confidence, an independent audit?


What we want to do is make a formal request for those figures to be re-audited.


10.40      Councillor Yates replied, as I said at the at the meeting of Audit & Standards last week, I would welcome any information that people have questioning the validity of the claims that were submitted over those years. I'm more than welcome to receive and more than welcome to pass that on to our internal auditors. Obviously our internal auditors, although they work on behalf of the authority, they do have a certain level of independence, and it's primarily not the job of councillors to dictate to them the other work that they undertake, but more to raise with them issues that we would like them to consider to undertake and to approve their annual schedule of audits so if you want to pass that information through to me, I'd be very welcome to receive it and have a look through it.


That would have to come through the Audit & Standards Committee itself, so if you if you want to send that to me then I can raise it at the next Committee and more than happy to do that on your behalf.


10.41      The mayor thanked Ms King for joining the meeting and putting her questions to Councillor Yates and noted that brought an end to the public questions.

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