Agenda item - Written questions from Councillors.
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Written questions from Councillors.
Councillors written questions as listed will be taken as read along with the written answer at the meeting. The Councillor asking the question may ask one relevant supplementary question which shall be put and answered without discussion. One other supplementary question may be asked by any other Member of the Council which shall also be put and answered without discussion (a separate addendum with the written answers will be circulated at the meeting).
62.1 The Mayor reminded the council that councillors’ questions and the replies from the appropriate councillor were now taken as read by reference to the list included in the addendum, which had been circulated as detailed below. She also noted that she had accepted a further question from Councillor Hawkes which had been inadvertently left out of the original list of questions that had been submitted.
62.2 (a) Councillor Carden asked:
“Can the Cabinet Member of Environment confirm that assisted collections of waste for older and disabled people are continuing to be updated and adhered to when relief crews are sent to collect refuse and recycling?”
62.3 Councillor Theobald replied,
“I can confirm that we do update our records when we receive a request for an assisted collection service from a resident.”
62.4 Councillor Carden asked a supplementary question, “Firstly, Councillor Theobald, could I ask that the question that I put is properly answered.
I quite understand that crews get a list that they work to but my question appertains to relief crews. When we’ve got a problem in my local area it appears that every week after vehicles break down and they send just about anyone they can out with a refuse wagon to pick up the residue of the waste that’s left behind and half the time they do not know where the disabled people are living that have their assisted collection. They just come on to me and want to know what the hell’s going on, so that’s what I ask: do the relief crews have a list of where all these are because I’m sure they don’t?”
62.5 Councillor Theobald replied, “Yes, I will. My colleague, Councillor Pidgeon, actually raised virtually the same point to me and you’re quite right to raise the issue that when relief crews are used our older and disabled people should receive exactly the same level of service as they would do when the normal crew are there. Officers are looking at this to ensure that there is always a consistency of service.
I do take your point, you know, very seriously and if there is anything specific then Gillian Marston, our Assistant Director, will be very pleased to come back to you but we are certainly aiming to get a consistency when there are relief crews out and you are quite right to raise the point.”
62.6 Councillor Kitcat asked a further supplementary question, “I think instead of handing out awards, perhaps Councillor Theobald should be receiving one for the least informative answers to questions.
Given that foot pedal communal bins were easier to use for the elderly and less able Councillor and that they would result in a lower number of people needing assisted collections, why are the foot pedal bins being phased out? Residents are bemoaning their loss.”
62.7 Councillor Theobald replied, “I don’t really think that’s got anything to do with the original question, Madam Mayor.”
62.8 (b) Councillor Meadows asked,
“Before 1996 when highways were under the control of East Sussex County Council, there was a by-law that allowed for police and council traffic officers to remove cars parked on grass verges. Would Brighton and Hove City Council look into reinstating this by-law so that it could also include cycle lanes, as well as grass verges?”
62.9 Councillor Theobald replied,
“Thank you for your question. Whilst I do not believe there has ever been a by?law in place dealing with these offences, there is the Local Act known as The East Sussex Act 1981 which does allow the Council to prosecute in the Magistrates Court for the offence of driving over a verge. To enforce under this legislation would be slow and costly. There are a number of reasons for this, including the need for witness evidence of the offence actually taking place. Similarly, to introduce, monitor and enforce a new by-law would be resource intensive.
There are other avenues that we can now consider with the introduction in 2008 of the Traffic Management Act. We can already enforce where there are double or single yellow lines in place. Where these restrictions are not in place, it would be possible to look at introducing a new Traffic Regulation Order prohibiting parking on the verge and over cycle lanes. This could be enforced by Civil Enforcement Officers using the existing infrastructure already in place. There would, however, be a cost to doing this as officers would need to complete the TRO process, including advertisements and consultation and would need to purchase and erect the approved signage.”
62.10 Councillor Meadows asked a supplementary question, “Thank you Councillor Theobald for your detailed response. However, residents in my Ward are continually asking that something is done to prevent cars and vans parking on grass banks, where vans have slid down the bank to end up resting against the gate of some person’s home with the result that they are trapped in their own home. Residents raised concerns at the Moulsecoomb Local Action Team and were told by officers of this council that the old Local Act or by-law gave them the authority to deal with these offending vehicles.
With regard to vehicles parking on cycles lanes, I am sure you will appreciate it is a real health and safety hazard for cyclists and pedestrians alike, so I would ask that the council undertake further investigations as I could see from the Argus report that it is not just my Ward of Moulsecoomb and Bevendean who would appreciate your support on this matter but that Conservative Wards may also be affected.”
62.11 Councillor Theobald replied, “Well Councillor Meadows, of course, lives in a Conservative Ward and she is well aware as I am that this is actually a problem which goes right the way across the city and I accept that. When you are either using public transport or driving or walking around this city you see more and more people parking on grass verges and it’s very frustrating and very annoying.
What I have tried to do in this answer and it is a detailed answer and I have spent some time actually on this answer, because if I could find an easy way to try and resolve this issue then I would certainly come back to you. I am just looking at my predecessor and I am sure she will say the same, this is not an easy answer to come back upon.
Obviously if you have a residents’ parking scheme then it’s properly controlled and you don’t get this problem. I’m not saying that to advocate a residents’ parking, I am just making that as a point, but it does annoy me when I see cars destroying our grass verges and at the last council meeting I answered a similar question because Councillor Bennett raised exactly the same point along the Dyke Road. Of course, if you do embark upon the sort of course that it’s suggested that we could do, you will need witnesses, you need to put signs up and, you know, it’s not an easy task, you will finish up with displacement and then you’ll have another set of people saying, well the cars now have nowhere to go, therefore they’re parking in another stretch.
It’s a very valid point that you raise and I wish there was an easy solution to it. I am very happy to confirm that I will continue to talk to officers on this issue because I do think it is an important one for the city as a whole but I don’t pretend that there is an easy answer to it. I’ve tried to set it out here, lawyers will be happy to speak to you and give you further information on how we could go about these things and I am quite pleased to discuss this with you or any Member, you know, outside this Chamber.”
62.12 Councillor West asked a further supplementary question, “As I understand it the cycle lanes up Dyke Road, for example, are merely advisory and that’s why members of the public are able to park there and not be prosecuted and moved on, despite the fact that most of those houses there have driveways and there is also ample parking space in side roads.
Would Councillor Theobald pledge to make all those advisory cycle lanes mandatory so that it is possible to enforce moving cars on, so that cyclists can actually use those cycle lanes rather than being endangered by having to ride out in the road, skipping round cars that are parked in the cycle lane?”
62.13 Councillor Theobald replied, “I do have sympathy with what Councillor West has just said but again I would refer you to the answer that I gave to Councillor Bennett at the last meeting which did refer to those cycle lanes in Dyke Road. If this council was minded to make them mandatory; if we were minded to do that and then we would have to go through consultations, traffic orders and such like, there would be displacement of vehicles into the side roads. I only make that point. I don’t represent either of those Wards on either side of the Dyke Road and obviously if the Councillors came to me and said look this is something that our residents would like then that is something that I would take very seriously.”
62.14 (c) Councillor Hawkes asked,
“Would the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services welcome the Government scheme to provide free laptops and internet to children from low income families - I’m aware that some schools have sent information to families that have children that benefit from free school meals regarding free laptops, but please may the Cabinet Member confirm that this is the case for all schools?”
62.15 Councillor Brown replied.
“Home Access is a government programme that helps eligible low-income families to buy a computer and internet access to support learning at home. The programme is for families in England. To apply for a Home Access Grant, you must be a parent or guardian responsible for and living with a child who:
- is in school years 3 to 9 (normally aged 7-14)
- has never had a computer from Computers For Pupils or the Home Access programme
- is eligible for Free School Meals, and
- is named on the Child Benefit award letter.
Head teachers were briefed by Officers about this scheme. They were sent a follow up letter and a letter to send to parents. The take up is being monitored by a government organisation, BECTA, and we know that to date 23% of eligible families have applied. Officers will remind Head teachers about the scheme during the next round of briefings.”
62.16 Councillor Hawkes asked a supplementary question, “Thank you Councillor Brown for your answer. I see that 23% is a good start but it isn’t sufficient yet. I realise it’s a Government scheme, a very good Government scheme, that’s why I keep knocking on about it but I do believe that we must support the schools to try and urge higher figures. What I would like is that results are collated into figures for primary schools and for secondary schools, because I think there is a significant difference in this and there is absolutely no reason why it couldn’t perhaps come to the Child Review Board or the Children’s Trust Board, because I do know that if we can up these figures we will be giving advantage to so many children from the very young ones right the way through, so I hope we can be fairly proactive in this and I would be interested in your response please?”
62.17 Councillor Brown replied, “As I explained in my written answer we have done everything we can to encourage schools to make families aware of this entitlement, even to the point of sending them a letter that they can send to the schools, so we have given them every assistance and we will continue to do so, but, of course, some eligible families may already have a computer of their own and you obviously cannot make families apply. It’s a bit like free school meals, not everybody takes up the entitlement but we are very positive about the scheme and we will do everything we can to encourage the schools to then encourage the families to apply for these computers and I’m sure we can collate the figures and report back.”
62.18 (d) Councillor Mitchell asked,
“In response to concerns from East Brighton Ward Councillors over the lack of action to regenerate Madeira Drive, Councillor Geoffrey Theobald brought a report to his Environment Cabinet Member Meeting in September 2008 that stated that longer term aims for the regeneration of the area would be drawn up.
A similar report to his Cabinet Member Meeting of 26th March 2009 included as recommendation 2.3;
That the Cabinet Member for Environment requests officers to bring to a future Cabinet Member Meeting a report detailing the strategic vision action plan to address the future and ongoing regeneration of Madeira Drive.
Specifically in relation to the land to the East of the Yellowave Beach Sports Centre, Councillor Theobald took the decision at this meeting to set out a marketing brief for the site, to proceed with the marketing, seeking expressions of interest in May 2009.
As no further reports on the Administration’s proposals for the regeneration of Madeira Drive have been forthcoming, will Councillor Theobald inform the council as to where the Administration’s “strategic vision action plan” is, whether the site East of Yellowave was ever marketed and what the outcome was?”
62.19 Councillor Theobald replied,
“There have been improvements along Madeira Drive following years of neglect. For example new lighting has been installed under the terraces between Concord 2 and the Volks Railway which has improved safety for both staff and customers using Yellowave at night. £230,000 was allocated last year for spending on structural repairs and restoration works to the terraces and the Madeira Lift and this work will continue in the next financial year. A further £150,000 has been allocated specifically to the terraces and an additional £100,000 per annum for the ongoing maintenance of railings, shelters and benches along the entire length of the Seafront.
An architect has been appointed and has submitted a concept proposal
for replacement siding sheds at the Volks Railway. Vacant properties along Madeira Drive and the lower promenade are currently being
marketed, these include new artist units just to the East of Palace Pier.
The sites to the East of Yellowave are occupied by the Adventure Golf and Grace’s Place Café. Both tenants have submitted planning applications for substantial investment into their facilities. The newly appointed Seafront Development Manager is looking at schemes for the Peter Pan site.
This Administration is committed to improving the entire seafront hence the additional resources that we proposed at the recent Budget Council Meeting.”
62.20 Councillor Mitchell asked a supplementary question, “I would like to thank Councillor Theobald for his initial response to my question. However, I think it was fairly clear during the budget and on the papers and in the speeches that the additional funding was to be allocated to Hove Lagoon and to the Hove Seafront.
I would like to ask Councillor Theobald that at the time of his Cabinet Member Meeting about a year ago, on 29 March last year, he did take the decision to market test or to seek expressions of interest for the site to the west of Yellowave, a site that is currently surrounded by very expensive concrete bollards and I would like to ask Councillor Theobald how that market testing exercise is going and whether any results in relation to that site on Madeira Drive have also been received?”
62.21 Councillor Theobald replied that he would provide a written answer to the question.
62.22 Councillor Duncan asked a further supplementary question “Well it’s clear from the answer to the original question, Councillor Theobald, that you think there is plenty of work being done in terms of the regeneration of the Madeira Drive area. It’s equally clear as a Ward Councillor for Queen’s Park that residents think exactly the opposite, at least the ones who speak to me.
My question is would Councillor Theobald agree with the establishment of a Madeira Drive Restoration Fund, as previously proposed by Green Party Councillors, as a way of collecting contributions from the organisers of profit seeking events held on Madeira Drive to fund future regeneration work in the area?”
62.23 Councillor Theobald replied, “I don’t think so. You have raised this before and I think my colleague, Councillor Smith, gave you the answer and the reasons why this was not regarded as something that we could support.
I think the reason for that was that if we asked people to raise bits for particular areas we might have other people going to other parts of the city and funds would go to those particular areas and it could be seen as another sort of tax on the people coming to that area to use it, so I think Councillor Smith gave you an answer a year or maybe two years ago.”
62.24 (e) Councillor Davis asked,
“Please could the Cabinet Member for Environment outline the details and the time scale he proposes for the budget of £.03m set aside to examine and implement improved school signing along the Old Shoreham Road?”
62.25 Councillor Theobald replied,
“The locations of the new signs are now being drawn up, and it is proposed that the scheme will be completed by the end of this calendar year.”
62.26 Councillor Davis asked a supplementary question, “Thank you for your answer, I’m a little disappointed. I think local parents would have hoped that this could have been at the beginning of the next school year, not the calendar year but it is cars speeding up after the cameras on Old Shoreham Road and then subsequently shooting the lights that is the problem at the notorious junction with The Upper Drive and I wondered what the Cabinet Member was doing to ensure that the money they are planning to spend is co?ordinated with the local police to encourage and enforce the traffic to slow down and make it safe for 3,000 local school children to cross round there every day?”
62.27 Councillor Theobald replied, “Could I just emphasise, we want to see this done as quickly as possible. I’ve said completed by the end of this calendar year, that’s December, so actually in terms of putting up Traffic Orders and all that, that is relatively quick. We want to do this as quickly as we can so I can assure you of that, so there’s no delay here. Money we’ve put in our budget, we’ve put that to the council, not everybody supported that but this side certainly did and we want to see this done as quickly as possible. Whenever we do these schemes we consult with the police and any other partners that are necessary.”
62.28 Councillor Fallon-Khan asked a further supplementary question, “Just a question for the Cabinet Member, would he congratulate the officers for the work that they have done on this particular site and also the urgency with which they have embraced this? I do understand that we have a time limit for the end of the year and we are hopeful that it will be before that.”
62.29 Councillor Theobald replied, “I certainly will and I would like to thank you too for pushing this very hard indeed and I am very pleased about that and also Councillor Davis as well.”
62.30 (f) Councillor Elgood asked,
“Would the Environment Cabinet Member consider authorising the removal of the unused gardeners hut in Adelaide Crescent? Residents have requested its removal as it is no longer required, and the hut itself could potentially be used elsewhere to benefit another area.”
62.31 Councillor Theobald replied,
“I am pleased to state that the gardeners hut will be removed by the end of May.”
62.32 Councillor Elgood asked a supplementary question, “Well, I was going to put in a bid for it but I’m told it’s not a particularly attractive shed but could Councillor Theobald tell us what’s happening to it?”
62.33 Councillor Theobald replied, “Well, we hope it will either be recycled or if anybody would like to take it and certainly if they’d like to take it and take it away at their cost then we would be very pleased.”
62.34 (g) Councillor Hamilton asked,
“In a letter in The Argus, Feb. 25th, signed by the five Conservative Councillors for Portslade and Hangleton, it is claimed that my view on the future of Hangleton Bottom is the same as theirs. I am pleased that they share my view that Hangleton Bottom should not be used as a waste transfer station but should be retained as a greenfield site. Since all Portslade and Hangleton Councillors now share this viewpoint will Councillor Fallon-Khan now call a halt to his ill-advised marketing exercise and agree to retain Hangleton Bottom in council ownership?”
62.35 Councillor Fallon-Khan replied,
“Hangleton Bottom is not being sold. This preliminary evaluation of interest in the site is being undertaken as a direct result of the decision by the previous Administration in 2005 to designate Hangleton Bottom in the Joint East Sussex and Brighton & Hove Waste Local Plan and the Brighton & Hove Local Plan. Once this exercise has been concluded the results will be communicated to residents for their consideration and opinions. However, I repeat, Hangleton Bottom is not being sold.”
62.36 Councillor Hamilton asked a supplementary question, “I should like to thank Councillor Fallon-Khan for his answer, which will not satisfy local residents.
The public will find it hard to understand why money is being spent on a marketing exercise for land that is not being sold. Councillor Fallon-Khan refers to the two Local Plans that were passed by the previous minority Labour Administration with Conservative support. He claims that the marketing exercise is a direct result of the passing of these Plans.
Does he accept that planning and land ownership are two entirely separate issues and that the existence of a planning designation for Hangleton Bottom places absolutely no obligation on the council to market or sell this greenfield site, especially as the council has met its obligations on domestic refuse facilities?”
62.37 Councillor Fallon-Khan replied, “Well first of all, I would like to thank Councillor Hamilton for his question and also for highlighting his spectacular and humiliating u-turn on this particular site. I have here a copy of the Waste Local Plan, which is 2005, which the Labour Administration signed off. We have explained to Councillor Hamilton, Madam Mayor, on numerous occasions at my CMM and at the Overview & Scrutiny Commission the entire process of what would happen to this site, where we’re at and where he writes on, or where the Labour Party write on their website, which is a shame really because they’re not only deceiving their own supporters but they’re deceiving all the residents of Portslade as well, about us potentially selling off a piece of land.
We’re not at that stage at all, Madam Mayor, we are merely opening the window so that an interest from business can tell us what they feel they might or might not do with that site, that is all we’re doing. It is perfectly harmless and some of the stuff that I have read, some of the things that are on their website, it’s just completely not true. I will repeat, Madam Mayor, that we are not selling the site and I would have to say that Councillor Hamilton’s opposition to his own action five years ago is more than baffling and what, this is the question we should be asking, in 2005, Madam Mayor, when he as Chairman of the Planning Committee signed this off, and designated that site…”
62.38 Councillor Hamilton requested a point of order so that he could clarify the information being presented by Councillor Fallon-Khan and stated that he has on a number of occasions been referred to as the Chair of the Planning Committee. At the time Planning was a function of Environmental Services. He was Chair of the Planning Applications Sub-Committee which dealt entirely with applications and had no input into planning policy whatsoever and therefore asked that this be corrected because he had seen the reference several times in print and it was not true.
62.39 Councillor Fallon-Khan noted the information and stated that he would refer his comments to the previous Environment Committee Chair, which was Councillor Mitchell. He stated that all the council was doing was finding out what the interest was from anybody else and reconfirmed that the council was not seeking to sell the site.
62.40 Councillor Alford asked a further supplementary question, “Bearing in mind that in our letter we said that we would like to make it clear that we are totally opposed to any inappropriate development in this location and look forward to receiving resident feedback on the issue, would Councillor Fallon-Khan agree with me that it is not, as Councillor Hamilton claims, the testing of the market that’s ill advised but the allocation of the site in the Waste Local Plan in the first place?”
62.41 Councillor Fallon-Khan replied, “I do agree with Councillor Alford and I would advise perhaps when Councillor Hamilton is quoting in the newspapers something that other Councillors have said he gets it right. Unfortunately, he hasn’t got it right, so thank you very much.”
62.42 (h) Councillor Kitcat asked,
“How long does Councillor Dee Simson feel it is appropriate disabled residents should have to wait to catch a taxi in this city?”
62.43 Councillor Simson replied,
“It is inappropriate for disabled residents to have to wait any longer than an able?bodied person would have to in the same circumstances. That is why the Administration is currently undertaking a thorough equality impact assessment on the taxi and private hire service.”
62.44 Councillor Kitcat asked a supplementary question, “The equality impact assessment that Councillor Simson refers to only seems to have happened once the Local Federation of Disabled People actually threatened legal action, so I am not sure we can be thanking the Administration that much for it.
Given the refusal of the Tory and Labour Councillors to support immediate action on this issue at Licensing Committee, how long will disabled residents of this city have to wait before that waiting time to get a taxi is as low as that is for able-bodied residents at the moment?”
62.45 Councillor Simson replied “It would be utterly impossible for me to give you a timescale. What I can tell you is that we are committed to trying to make things better for the disabled residents in this city by improving the taxi service for them.
We are aware that there has been a problem, we have admitted that problem, both Councillor Denise Cobb, who Chairs the Licensing Committee, and myself have made moves to improve that situation; we have both attended the Taxi Forum. We have taken Geraldine Des Moulins of the Federation with us, so that all the problems that she feels there are in the city at the moment can be expressed to the taxi drivers and to the operators and out of that has come the equality impact assessment. It’s going to be a very comprehensive equality impact assessment.
The ideas that were being put forward at the Licensing Committee about putting more cars on the road, or more Hackney Carriages on the road, was felt not to be the right way to do it because no matter how many cars you put on the road, extra cars, unless the drivers are trained to manage disabled people and unless they are willing to do the work, we could have many, many more taxis out there. As we know, we’ve got problems with over-ranking at the moment and until the drivers themselves are trained and are willing to do the work, it is impossible to tell how long it’s going to take but we will as an authority we will do everything we can to move this forward as quickly as we can because we know there is a problem and we want to put that problem to bed as quickly as possible.”
62.46 Councillor West asked a further supplementary question “Having heard Councillor Simson’s concern about the need to increase the availability of taxis for disabled people and to reduce the waiting times and her commitment to doing that, can she explain why she voted against the amendment that I put to Licensing Committee that was giving Committee an opportunity to look at other ways, other than the current increases in the number of licences, as a way of managing the problem? Can she say why she voted against that amendment which would have given us an opportunity to look at the whole matter and all possible alternative ways of addressing it? Can she explain why she voted against that when she says she’s so committed to resolving the problem?”
62.47 Councillor Simson replied, “The main crux of the amendment was to put more taxis on the road, more vehicles on the road. We have come away from that Licensing Committee, we are fully aware now of the problems that are being faced by disabled people in the city and as I said before we are doing everything we can to move that forward.
We are looking at every single opportunity there is to make things better. Some of those may well have been within that amendment that you put forward. I honestly cannot clarify whether that is right or not but all I can say is that we are looking at everything we can.
There is going to be a thorough, a very thorough, equality impact assessment done and this is the first time that’s been done and we are very clear that we are going to make things better and improve the facilities for disabled people in the city and that’s all disabled people, that isn’t just wheelchair users. A lot of the discussion has been around wheelchair users but this is about blind people, deaf people, we’ve got to make sure that they’ve all got an equal service and as I said before most of that can only be done through training and through drivers being willing to do the work.”
62.48 (i) Councillor Kitcat asked,
“I ask that Councillor Geoffrey Theobald update the meeting with the recycling rates for the city centre areas where communal bins are used and how those rates have changed in recent years?”
62.49 Councillor Theobald replied,
“I think I have answered this question before. We have the recycling rate for the whole city - which for 2008/09 was 29.2%, this is an increase from 28.7% in 2007/08 and from 26.7% in 2006/07 – it is not broken down area by area.”
62.50 Councillor Kitcat asked a supplementary question, “I’m afraid that Councillor Theobald’s answer is actually numerically challenged. He has not answered the question before ever and he has not answered it here today. Area by area information is available and I’ve asked to receive it before and I’m asking again.
My supplementary question then is if he believes it is not available, how on earth is he measuring and addressing the impact of communal bins on the city centre’s recycling rates?”
62.51 Councillor Theobald replied, “I take advice from officers when I prepare my answers and this is the point that officers tell me they cannot give that information in the central areas, so that is the answer when I contact officers and say give me your advice that is what they tell me. Now whether you know something more than I know, that’s what they say.”
62.52 (j) Councillor Kitcat asked,
“I ask that Councillor Geoffrey Theobald explain how many evening noise patrol shifts does the council provide in this financial year and how many shifts are planned to be provided in the next financial year?”
62.53 Councillor Theobald replied,
“Deployment of staff to meet statutory duties is delegated to officers at budget holder level. Officers aim to provide a responsive noise patrol service on Friday and Saturday nights throughout the year.”
62.54 Councillor Kitcat asked a supplementary question, “Well, my original question simply asked how many in number, how many shifts there were and there were going to be and I don’t understand why Councillor Theobald was not able to provide that detail; just how many shifts?
I was led to believe by Councillor Theobald that the studentification recommendations would be heeded and that they were going to extend noise patrols beyond the existing Friday and Saturday nights but according to this answer there is no change. Would Councillor Theobald, I humbly submit to you Councillor, would you consider increasing the number of shifts because there is a desperate need amongst residents who are really suffering from noise; Local Action Teams are all bringing noise up as an issue; please consider increasing the number of shifts for noise patrols?”
62.55 Councillor Theobald replied, “I hate to suggest that Councillor Kitcat ask the question again, but I didn’t quite follow, could he just sum it up a little bit more.”
62.56 Councillor Kitcat asked, “Very simply why can’t you provide a number of how many shifts you have been providing and are proposing to provide and secondly would you please increase that number because you have, I understand, committed to the studentification proposal recommendation and I would like to see an increase as would all the residents in, of course, much of the city?”
62.57 Councillor Theobald replied, “I mean, this point has been made and I appreciate that the Greens seem very keen and I think they put a resolution before the last council meeting on this. We have got to ensure that we are doing the very best for our residents within given resources and what is sensible and I am advised by officers that we are running an efficient and popular service and that we are producing best value by what we are doing as far as noise. Noise is a very important issue. I accept that. We all accept it is a very important issue.
I am advised that the way that we deal with this through our offices is the most appropriate way and we put the resources so as to produce the best results and as you will have seen, and I know that through the media people are, obviously it’s the last resort but we follow it up and it finishes up in court and I get letters from people either saying ‘well done’ or such like, so I don’t think I’ve got any more to add. I’m quite convinced that this is the most effective service giving value for money within the resources that we have.”
62.58 Councillor Carol Theobald asked a further supplementary question, “Would Councillor Theobald agree with me that it is rather hypocritical of Councillor Kitcat to be questioning this Administration’s commitment to noise control when he and his Group voted against the revenue budget in February which allocated significant amounts of funding to these patrols?”
62.59 Councillor Theobald replied, “The short answer is Yes. It’s our revenue budget so consequently, of course, if that had been carried then there wouldn’t have been a service.”
62.60 (k) Councillor Fryer asked,
"How can you justify submitting plans to the DCSF to turn Portslade Community College into an Academy before there was consultation with teachers, residents and other councillors?"
62.61 Councillor Brown replied,
“Informal discussions took place with the Head teacher and Chair of Governors of Portslade Community College prior to the submission of a Statement of Intent to the Office for the Schools Commissioner. There are no formal proposals as yet but Ministerial agreement to the Statement of Intent is necessary before the Council develops a formal Expression of Interest. Should Ministerial approval be secured, there will then be a 30 day period of consultation with staff, governors, and parents at the college and other stakeholders from the community. The results of this consultation will be reported to Cabinet who will determine whether an Expression of Interest is submitted to the DCSF.
The consultation will be about a proposal for Portslade Community College to become an academy. The need for structural change was agreed with the National Challenge agency, the Office of the Schools Commissioner (OSC), Partnership for Schools (PfS) and the DCSF. Options put to the council by DCSF were closure, federation with a high performing institution, becoming a National Challenge Trust School, or becoming an academy.
In discussion with the National Challenge agency, the Office of the schools commissioner (OSC), Partnership for Schools (PfS) and the DCSF the council believes that the academy route would best satisfy the external demands on the council and provide the best outcome from the options available,in order to secure a transformation in standards and investment in refurbishing the existing accommodation.”
62.62 Councillor Fryer asked a supplementary question, “Thank you for your response Councillor Brown. The answer does highlight the fact that nobody other than the Head teacher and the Chair of Governors knew about this before the Statement of Intent was submitted or before the plans appeared in the ‘Argus’. Other options were available before reaching the decision to pursue the Academy route, yet very few people were able to input into this decision.
I am pleased to hear that there is going to be some consultation but my question is very clear: I’m going to ask you to make a public commitment that the proposal to turn Portslade Community College into an Academy will only proceed to the next stage if it has the full support of the Governors, the teachers and the parents at Portslade Community College.”
62.63 Councillor Brown replied, “As I said in my written answer discussions had taken place with the Head and Chair of Governors, the possibility of developing PCC has also been discussed at length with the Secondary Heads and Chairs of Governors at meetings that have been going on since July.
What I think you don’t realise is that you are arguing over just a Letter of Intent, not detailed proposals. This letter simply asks for Ministerial agreement to proceed to working up an expression of interest. If we get that agreement we can then go out to full consultation and that’s the prescribed Government procedure that we’re adhering to. You can’t have a full consultation process about something that may not even be a possibility. We did do everything correctly and I can assure you that you will have every opportunity to put forward your views if we’re given the green light to proceed with this expression of interest but, of course, we already know what the Green’s views are. You tried your hardest to scupper the proposals at Falmer Academy.
What we find difficult to understand is that you can’t understand that we want to fight to improve the life chances for those young people at Portslade and we have the Labour Group’s agreement with this too. We all want to raise standards but the Greens seem to have a problem with this. The Academy route is also the only route that we can bring in the capital to completely renovate and refurbish the school making it fit for teaching in the 21st Century. That is why we want to do it and, of course, we will listen to the consultation; we always listen to consultation and when we have the results of the consultation it will then come back to my CMM and that will be very detailed and then when we know what the consultation is we will know how to proceed.”
62.64 Councillor Kitcat asked a further supplementary question, “It would have been good if Councillor Brown had answered the original question but I just wanted to ask Councillor Brown if the consultation comes back with the majority opposed to it would she still proceed with the Academy or would she actually listen to the will of the people and refuse to proceed with the Academy?”
62.65 Councillor Brown replied, “It’s a very hypothetical question Councillor Kitcat because until we get Ministerial agreement we can’t even go out to consultation. When we do we will listen as we always do.”
62.66 (l) Councillor Davey asked,
“Could the Leader of the Council please tell us how much has been spent in total by the council on the development of plans and the public consultation for the Old Shoreham Road cycle lane including both internal staff costs and external consultants as well as any other costs?"
62.67 Councillor Mears replied,
“It is hard to identify precise figures for the cycle lane scheme alone because the work undertaken, and therefore money spent, was also integral to the proposed road safety measures along Old Shoreham Road. However if Councillor Davey has a question about a specific financial aspect of the work I will endeavour to provide him with an answer.”
62.68 Councillor Davey asked a supplementary question, “Thank you to the Leader of the Council for her reply but I find it disappointing and somewhat surprising that she feels unable to put a figure on the cost so far of the abandoned Old Shoreham Road cycle scheme.
I wonder if you could confirm that the actual cost is £93,000 as revealed in response to a Freedom of Information request made by Councillor Mitchell and, given that you are not proceeding with this scheme, do you consider that this £93,000 of cycling funds has provided value for money for the people of this city?”
62.69 Councillor Mears replied, “I intend to speak quite slowly to allow Councillor Kitcat to tweet as he has done through the council meeting, so I don’t want him to miss a point as I am speaking so Councillor, you know, stop me if I’m going too fast for you.
I would like to thank Councillor Davey for his question and Councillor Mitchell’s request through the Freedom of Information route. There are a number of costs on the Old Shoreham Road: approximately £23,000 was spent on a feasibility study, including a safety review, a further £27,00 was invested in traffic and mode assessments for junction design and accident reviews and an additional £43,000 was spent on additional design, organisation, printing and such like. A significant proportion of the work carried out in developing this scheme can be used to inform a new safety scheme along the Old Shoreham Road, particularly this work will form the basis of proposed improvements to the junctions of Old Shoreham Road and The Upper Drive and of Old Shoreham Road and Sackville Road. As I said to Councillor Davey at Cabinet we really have to listen to everybody’s views and as I told Councillor Davey at Cabinet his comment on this Old Shoreham Road scheme that it was next to useless, well obviously it’s really important that we take that on board.
I do understand Councillor Davey’s concerns about the cost and I intend to call for a full inquiry into the costing and expenditure that was undertaken on this scheme and, finally Madam Mayor, just for clarification I would like to say to Councillor Kitcat that the Greens also take their special allowances as do other Members of the Council.”
62.70 Councillor Mitchell asked a further supplementary question,
“Would the Leader of the Council agree that in the recently published results of the public consultation on the proposed Old Shoreham Road cycle route that 66% of the public, 3,000 respondents to the consultation are in favour of the scheme and that 62% of drivers are also in favour of the scheme?”
62.71 Councillor Mears replied “Thank you Councillor Mitchell for such detail.
Madam Mayor, as I said earlier and especially to Councillor Davey there are other concerns around the safety of the Old Shoreham Road cycle lane. There have been other surveys which show up real concerns, hence my comment to council that there will be and I will be instructing a full inquiry into the costings associated with this scheme.”
62.72 (m) Councillor Simson asked,
“As Brighton & Hove City Council’s sole representative on the Sussex Police Authority (SPA), Councillor Duncan frequently claims to have been instrumental in overseeing an increase in the number of Neighbourhood Police Officers employed by the Force. Could he, therefore, explain to Council and the residents of this City, why, at the SPA meeting on February 11th, he voted against the Chief Constable’s budget proposals which will expand neighbourhood policing in Sussex to the tune of 31 extra officers?”
62.73 Councillor Duncan replied,
“Thank you for the question. As Councillor Simson will know, I am a tireless champion of neighbourhood policing – and particularly the employment of more Neighbourhood Police Officers here in Brighton and Hove. It’s a shame she hasn’t had time to attend a meeting of Sussex Police Authority herself – they are all open to the public – to hear my views in full during any of the many debates we have had on the subject.
But in a nutshell the proposed Sussex Police Budget contained one cut too many – both as a result of the wishes of some Conservative Members of the Authority and the Labour Government’s derisory grant for policing in Sussex, and I just don’t believe you can cut your way out of a recession, or maintain a first-class police service in the face of a £35m cash shortfall. Members who wish a fuller explanation for the way I cast my vote can see the budget debate in full at: http://www.sussexpolice.ukcouncil.net/site/player/pl_compact.php?a=36554&t=0&m=wm&l=en_GB “
62.74 Councillor Simson asked a supplementary question, “Thank you Madam Mayor and thank you Councillor Duncan for your response to my question and your suggestion that I either attend the Sussex Police Authority meetings or watch the webcast.
I actually have done this on occasion and did note at the recent budget setting meeting not only were you the only Member who voted against the budget but that your comments were described by a fellow Member (and I quote) as ‘utter tosh’. Does Councillor Duncan really feel that he was acting in the best interests of the residents of Brighton & Hove when he voted against the Sussex Police Authority budget, the only one who did it and advocated a large hike in council tax which would have adversely affected every man, woman and child in this city?”
62.75 Councillor Duncan replied, “I’m really glad that you mentioned that particular comment actually because for those who haven’t had the pleasure of watching that meeting there was a Councillor called Bob Tidy, who’s a Conservative Councillor from East Sussex, who described some of my comments as ‘tosh’. Actually what he was describing as ‘tosh’ was my commitments to neighbourhood policing.
Bob Tidy has been one of the biggest impediments actually to the uplift in neighbourhood policing that has served this city so well and in one recent meeting of the Neighbourhood Policing Scrutiny Committee, of which I am the Vice-Chair, he actually said that in consultation with residents he believed that there were far too many neighbourhood policing officers, we don’t need any more and it would be ridiculous for us to keep spending money on neighbourhood policing. I think exactly the opposite actually and I am pleased that my belief that we need exactly the opposite approach to policing has allowed me to contribute to a situation where there are sixty more neighbourhood police officers on the streets of Sussex in the last three years.”
62.76 Councillor Young asked a further supplementary question, “At the Sussex Police Authority meeting Councillor Duncan stated that he thought it was a shame that the other Members of the Authority didn’t have the political courage to increase council tax further than the 2.7% proposed. Why did he not advocate a similar increase in council tax at the City Council’s budget setting meeting in February and can we therefore take it that he thinks his Green Party colleagues have no political backbone?”
62.77 Councillor Duncan replied, “Very simply, I mean, unlike your approach I like to look at budget papers, listen to what residents are saying, there is always a consultation with residents, there is always a consultation before budgets are set and to set exactly the same council tax rate or even think the same thing about what it should be for one authority with different Members serving a different area and doing a different job to another authority would just be irresponsible.
I don’t believe that my comments about the Police Authority budget are in any way transitive and should be taken as exactly the same as my approach on this Authority. For that reason I think there is no inconsistency and, of course, I don’t think that my political colleagues or anyone in this Chamber particularly showed a lack of political courage. Those comments were about the decisions and the debates of the Police Authority.”
62.78 (n) Councillor Hawkes asked,
“Will Councillor Dee Simson confirm that the three new Youth Outreach pilots for 8?13 year olds will be located in the most deprived wards in the city according to the Index of Multiple Deprivation 2007 from the DCLG?”
62.79 Councillor Simson replied,
“As Councillor Hawkes will be aware, it was agreed by the Leader of the Council to set up a cross-party working group to oversee the pilot projects. That working group has not yet met, therefore it is premature to say how and where those pilot projects might be based.”
62.80 Councillor Hawkes asked a supplementary question, “Thank you Councillor Simson for your answer. I am, of course, aware of the plan for a cross-party working group to oversee the three pilot projects. I do need to ask though Councillor Simson that you guarantee that only wards with the highest level of deprivation be considered; that would mean East Brighton, Portslade, Queen’s Park and pockets of my own ward, Hollingdean and Stanmer, being considered and probably Moulsecoomb & Bevendean but as we know these wards are amongst the highest levels of deprivation nationally, so could I have a guarantee on that please?”
62.81 Councillor Simson replied, “As I said in my answer until the cross-party working group is set up and I don’t know which Member of your Group will be sitting on that, it may well be yourself, I am not in a position to say which areas the pilots will be set up in.
You mention several areas there: I know we’ve also got the Knoll Estate which has got high levels of deprivation, so I think all this has got to be taken into account. There’s also the Index of Multiple Deprivation that was actually done three years ago now and obviously since Neighbourhood Renewal and New Deal one would hope that things would actually have improved in those areas by now. I’m not sure if they have or not, so I think we need to take all this into account.
These are pilots, we need to be looking at the areas that we feel we will get the best results from, whether that will be in areas of multiple deprivation or not I can’t say until the cross-party working group is set up and we scope this out and then we will know where we need to do this work but I can assure you it will be done where it is most needed.”
62.82 Councillor Duncan asked a further supplementary question, “I just wanted to ask you to clarify something you just said. You said that it would be those areas where the need was greatest and yet you weren’t sure until the cross?party group had met that it would be in the areas with the highest deprivation and I just need to be sure, are you suggesting that some of the areas identified as having the highest deprivation are not the areas where the need will be greatest but there will still be projects?”
62.83 Councillor Simson replied, “What I am trying to say is that until the cross-party working group has met and scoped out how we want to run this pilot, what the outcomes are that we want to get from it, we cannot decide which areas we’re going to be working in. When we scope that and we know what outcomes we are looking for then we can see which areas of the city will give us the greatest response to that, where that kind of need is and where will benefit most. That’s the point, it may be that we identify areas of the city where the need that will show the greatest outcomes may not be in an area of multiple deprivation. I can’t say until that cross-party working group has met and scoped out what we want to get from this piece of pilot work we cannot say where the areas will be.”
62.84 Councillor Mears noted that the Mayor had accepted the final question but asked for confirmation that it had been received in time and queried why its omission had come to light so late in the day.
62.85 The Head of Democratic Services confirmed that the question had been received in accordance with the procedural rules and its omission had been an error for which he apologised.
62.86 The Mayor noted the apology and stated that a full explanation would be provided in writing.