Agenda item - Public Involvement
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- Meeting of Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities & Equalities Committee, Monday, 1st July, 2019 4.00pm (Item 5.)
To consider the following matters raised by members of the public:
(a) Petitions: To receive any petitions presented by members of the public to the full Council or at the meeting itself.
(b) Written Questions: To receive any questions submitted by the due date of 12 noon on the 26th June 2019.
(c) Deputations: To receive any deputations submitted by the due date of 12 noon on the 26th June 2019.
5.1 There were none.
5.2 Adrian Hart presented the following written question.
“It took Argus articles/direct pleas from residents before the plight of tenants at Milner Flats was taken seriously by the council. Across sixteen months of the Circus Street development officers and councillors became aware of hateful abuse directed at tenants from this PPP site. Yet no support was offered. Tenants at the forefront of abuse and least equipped to deal with it have learning difficulties (ie they’re a protected category). Does the Chair agree that the Council apology to all tenants (Argus May 10th) also needs an accompanying explanation of why a disadvantaged, unrepresented working class community was systematically ignored?”
5.3 The Chair gave the following reply:
“Thank you for bringing your question to the committee. I am aware that the residents of Kingswood and Milner were let down by the council, and I know the Executive Director for Neighbourhoods, Communities and Housing has apologised for this.
As a member of a Labour administration, I would like to add my apologies, because we have always been the Party that prided itself on defending the most vulnerable in our society and it would appear to me that we fell short of that principle.
You have asked for an explanation to accompany the apology. I have spoken to officers and hope that the following is helpful to you.
As already accepted, in this instance we - certainly did not provide the levels of service we should have. And although a council representative attended every meeting, he was there in order to answer technical questions about the build and also about air and noise pollution issues but was not an officer from the tenant involvement team. He did take back questions and comments to the housing involvement team, but at the time, they had a remit to deal with landlord queries and didn’t feel able to answer questions which were not about the landlord service. I know tenants felt frustrated at this as they just wanted the matter and their problems with Henry construction resolved but this didn’t happen.
When this was raised with the Executive Director by Simon Burgess (on behalf of the local MP), she was concerned and so attended the following meeting. The Executive Director told residents at the meeting that the council had got it wrong and promised change.
Since that meeting every resident has since been visited, their concerns taken on board and action taken to ensure they feel safe in their home and I am also very pleased to hear that housing staff have attended every meeting since and continue to support the tenants. (I am advised that tenants have said informally that there is now better communication with the council)
At the meeting attended by the Executive Director, the tenants raised concerns about how the site will be managed in the future and Larissa Reed committed to working with U+I to address this.
In fact, the Executive Director has now met with the owners of the site U+I and has secured their agreement that they will work more closely and respectfully with tenants in the future – including working together to agree a list of acceptable behaviours that will apply to the residents that are moving into in the new accommodation.
I have been assured that there have been significant changes to the way in which we now work with residents in these situations, based on our learning from what happened to those you speak for, Mr Hart, including the setting up of new team who are committed to engaging in a meaningful and purposeful way with all residents.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge Larissa Reed’s openness and honesty about the council shortcomings in this instance. It is a really important principal to stand accountable for when things go wrong – because without this, it is impossible to build trust.
I really hope that you, and those you represent, feel that your voices have been heard today, albeit belatedly. I want you to feel reassured that lessons have certainly been learned from what happened to the residents of Kingswood and Milner Flats.”
5.4 Adrian Hart then asked the following supplementary question:
“Would you agree that Local Authority prejudice against working class inhabitants is something that the Council is not immune to?”
5.5 The Chair replied that she agreed that prejudice did exist, but it was something to learn from this case.
5.6 Larissa Reed, Executive Director for Neighbourhoods, Communities and Housing stated that the council was proud of the work it did in this area and that the new service aimed to tackle this issue. She confirmed that tenants were community members and that the council had to be mindful of prejudice around the issues of inclusion and cohesion. She also stated that she did not think it was fair to say that the council was prejudiced against tenants or white working-class people.
The Chair concluded that she was more than happy to respond on this question.
5.7 Mr Hawtree presented the following second written question:
“Would Councillor Knight please describe to us the Councillor and Reader involvement proposed for the next Libraries Plan before it is brought to the Committee?”
5.8 The Chair then gave the following response:
“Library Services are proposing to hold a number of workshops for Councillors throughout the process, before the Libraries Plan is written. Members will be presented with information from library users gathered through surveys and feedback, and collated with other needs assessment data, for initial discussions.
Following this, there will be engagement with local people in three main ways:
Firstly, Libraries will work with local ward councillors to consult and engage local residents on any proposals for specific libraries.
Secondly, feedback will be collected through Libraries many partner organisations in the city – such as community groups and the voluntary sector, schools and colleges, cultural organisations, the health and social care sector, and many others. This will enable Libraries to get a better idea of how to best support people’s reading, learning, cultural, health and well-being through libraries provision.
Thirdly, if there are any city-wide proposals for change then a city-wide consultation will take place.
The results of consultation and engagement on Libraries proposals will be reported to the committee in advance of the Libraries Plan being written.
The Libraries Plan 2020-24 will be produced following this series of engagement and consultation activity and will be presented to a future committee.”
5.9 Mr Hawtree then asked the following supplementary question:
“This is a cause for concern for readers – not the customer. Can I be assured that this will be a detailed comprehensive libraries plan with the emphasis on book stock and an overarching and binding plan? – Since we have not included the Carnegie Library previously.
5.10 In response, the Head of Libraries / Chair stated that they wanted to make this as detailed and comprehensive as possible and that it was over 50 pages long, with the previous one being 100 pages long. She replied that they had a history of providing detailed plans and that it would include the provision of books. She confirmed that they would want to include more of the bibliographic service provision on how stock was used and bought so that it was clearly available to members of the public.
5.11 There were none.