Agenda item - Oral questions from Councillors
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Oral questions from Councillors
A list of Councillors who have indicated their desire to ask an oral question at the meeting along with the subject matters has been listed in the agenda papers.
23.1 The Deputy Mayor noted that 16 oral questions had been submitted and that 30 minutes was set aside for the duration of the item. She noted that due to the restriction on the numbers of councillors able to be present for the meeting, some questions would be asked and responded to by Members on behalf of their colleagues.
23.2 The Deputy Mayor also reminded Members of the need to keep questions and responses to the point and invited Councillor Allcock to put his question to Councillor Clare.
(1) Councillor Allcock
Subject matter: Reinstatement of Parking Charges for NHS staff
23.3 Councillor Allcock asked, For the benefit of elected members and the wider public can you please explain why free parking subsides in the City’s car parks and off-road parking in the City’s hospital sites have been removed for NHS staff and what the council is doing to liaise with both the NHS Trust and the Government to ensure they are reinstated at this very difficult time?
23.4 Councillor Clare replied on behalf of the Chair of the Environment, Transport & Sustainability Committee, Councillor Heley, The parking passes were introduced by central government as an emergency temporary measure, and they ended these on 21st June. As the passes are being phased out, officers work with Royal Sussex to provide additional parking spaces. The Royal Sussex County Hospital has secured 750 parking spaces for NHS staff.
These spaces are at various locations in the city, including Brighton Racecourse, and will free up parking spaces around the hospital site for residents, businesses and for those visiting patients.
Brighton & Hove City Council will continue to offer other types of permits for healthcare workers, such as Professional Carer Badges. Details of how to apply and the criteria are on the council website.
23.5 The Deputy Mayor noted there was no supplementary question and called on Councillor Nemeth to put a question on behalf of Councillor Bell to Mac Cafferty.
(2) Councillor Nemeth, on behalf of Councillor Bell
Subject matter: Democracy in Brighton & Hove
23.6 Councillor Nemeth asked, Will the Leader of the Council confirm if the coalition agreement between the Green and Labour Groups, the ‘so called’ Memorandum of Understanding is still in place following recent differences in policy positions on matters relating to climate change?
23.7 Councillor Mac Cafferty replied, If this question were submitted by a member of the public it would now be ruled out because it is the same topic from the same person.
What we have here again is a misrepresentation of what is going on, there is no coalition between the Labour and Green parties, there is a Memorandum of Understanding which recognises that a majority of people at the 2019 elections and with any luck at all it will see the end of the Conservative party altogether in 2023. When people voted at the last election, they gave a clear mandate to the Labour and Green parties to carry out their policy manifestos and on this occasion their manifestos aligned on a whole series of topics and that included the very good work of Cllr Gibson and Allcock on housing, for example and, I believe, that that relationship is still continuing and long may it last.
23.8 Councillor Nemeth asked a supplementary question, If, or when the coalition is dissolved will the Leader of the Council commit to making a public statement on the matter?
23.9 Councillor Mac Cafferty replied, There is no coalition so therefore there is no coalition agreement. What happens between political parties is a matter for the political parties as I am sure Cllr Nemeth would agree.
(3) Councillor Appich
Subject matter: EV Car Share Pilot
23.10 Councillor Appich asked a question, At the recent Policy & Resources Committee, the Leader of the Council indicated that progress has been made to develop a pilot scheme for the co-operative owned electric vehicle car share scheme, ahead of the report back to the ETS Committee in September. Could you please set out what progress has been made and what barriers such as a pilot scheme to be made?
23.11 Councillor Lloyd replied, the report is being presented to the ETS Committee in September to outline the way forward. Things are progressing very well; I can’t update you on any barriers because things are doing very well so I am looking forward to seeing that report and sharing it with you all then.
23.12 Councillor Appich asked a supplementary question, I wanted to know why we needed to wait until September to make some progress, for example on TROs which have been introduced without consultation or committee approval and as for other projects.
23.13 Councillor Lloyd replied, If you can email me the question and I will get you an answer.
(4) Councillor Nemeth
Subject matter: Ice Rinks
23.14 Councillor Nemeth asked a question, the Council has recently released the Sports Facility Investment Plan which was pushed through committee without debate. It makes reference to the city currently having the necessary percentage of residents being below the age of 20 years old. Currently 32% to make an ice rink viable, and this was briefly broached upon a few minutes ago by a member of the public. It is unclear why the number of likely users is being expressed as a percentage rather than an absolute figure as clearly the requisite number of potential users would continually be met going forward as the population rises, even if the percentage of the overall number of residents were to drop.
Why is percentage rather than number of potential users being quoted by the council, given that numbers of potential likely users look set to rise?
23.15 Councillor Ebel replied on behalf of the Joint Chairs of the Tourism, Equalities, Communities & Culture Committee, Councillors Osborne and Powell. In terms of numbers, we know that ice rinks are incredibly difficult financially to make them viable so there are only a few across the country and one for example in Newport is part of a big complex where lots of different types of sport attract lots of people. Wherever here as we said we were just above the 30% range of young people who would use it and if the number decreases further, we have even less viability. It is a big risk as a city, we are trying to keep our existing facilities open at the moment.
23.16 Councillor Nemeth asked a supplementary question, my question was over the wider percentage quoted because the absolute number of residents who are considered likely users is going to go up. The percentage will go down because the overall population is going up but the number of likely users will go up. Its not about percentages, it is about overall numbers. In responding could you touch on that, Btu my actual supplementary is, I am delighted that the Leader of the Council has offered to meet with campaigners, that is welcome news. Would you consider doing this on a cross party basis because, if it is ever going to happen it will be an incredibly tricky project as both members of the Administration have pointed out, and it would only work on a cross party basis like the King Alfred.
23.17 Councillor Ebel replied, In terms of percentages, we have previous attempts of ice rinks in the city and I have 4 examples here in the last 120 years and it has been really difficult to make them financially viable. So, it may be 30% of young people but it has been looked at and recently in 2016 where the marketing exercise came back with not really any interested parties, we had three people interested and only one meeting was arranged in the end and that didn’t go any further.
If there was a viable, financial demand private businesses would come forward. I realise as a city our existing sports facilities are a priority, we need to keep them open, we know how much people love their local swimming pools and if we start a new project where we don’t know, but is most likely will not be viable we risk losing our swimming pools or other facilities and we need to avoid that because people need their existing facilities.
(5) Councillor Knight
Subject matter: Seafront Lighting
23.18 Councillor Knight asked a question, this is a question from a resident, who asked me to put this question on her behalf. Please can the Council say when the seafront lanterns will be fixed and be put back up, it has been quite some time since they were removed for safety reasons?
23.19 Councillor Lloyd replied, the seafront lighting on the seafront is an important historical asset that we are aware of and everyone loves them, but we you also are aware they have been exposed to a harsh marine environment and that has damaged them. The deterioration means that major repairs and replacement is required. Over the coming months the Council will be beginning a new project of restoration and replacement in partnership with key stakeholders such as English Heritage to ensure that these wonderful architectural features of the seafront are maintained.
The first phase of this project is underway, which involves planning, investigation and making existing columns safe. Further communications are planned with the public and people like English Heritage on the next phase of how to restore these lanterns and put them back.
23.20 Councillor Knight asked a supplementary question, could I have that in writing, and I will forward it to the resident. The resident’s supplementary question is heritage related, please could the Marine Drive heritage benches be looked at for repair, many of them have missing planks, that doesn’t seem to be a particularly onerous task.
23.21 Councillor Lloyd replied,
I think yes is the answer to that question, I didn’t know about the Marine Drive benches, I will look into that and send you my answer.
(6) Councillor Evans
Subject matter: Equalities & Disability Officer
23.22 Councillor Evans asked a question, for some years now the council’s Equalities Team has lacked the expertise of a disability officer, which has resulted in mistakes, and mis steps by council departments and inequity in the Council’s approach to issues which affect the life of disabled residents. There was an acknowledgement of this lack of expertise at February’s Budget Council meeting and it was agreed, and funding was allocated to enable the Equalities Team to recruit to this essential post. Five months on, in spite of numerous representations, the post remains vacant with no credible explanation. If the CET lacks capacity, then recruitment to the post would address that issue.
When will the recruitment process commence please?
23.23 Councillor Ebel replied, on behalf of the Joint Chairs of the Tourism, Equalities, Communities & Culture Committee, Councillors Osborne and Powell. The appointment of the disability officer is a role that I believe is critically needed within the council. As you are aware at the February 2021 Budget meeting, an amendment to allocate £45k to the base budget fund for the creation of a disability officer to sit within the Equalities & Communities Team was agreed. I must note however, that since the budget in February two equality manager roles have become vacant in the last two months. It is therefore planned to take the opportunity to strengthen this area with a more senior manager leading a team of three equality officers. The structure will ensure that we will have specialist identified equalities officers to link up with equalities related work with one manager. This will mean that the disability work will be undertaken by one main equality officer. I have been informed that the restructure proposal is subject to staff consultation and implementation will not start until September 2021. Unfortunately, this will delay the appointment of a disability officer and, I for one, am very disappointed in this delay. However, it is important that we get this restructure right and have a stronger equalities team in place so we have the resources for this key area of work of the council. In the meantime, however, the progress of disability related work, I have been assured that an internal interim officer has been recruited to cover the remaining equality manager post. They are due to start on Monday 2 August. Again, I have been informed that discussions are underway with a local disability consultant to mobilise work on the Accessible City Strategy and to progress the stakeholder analysis engagement plan with some early stakeholder engagement. It is essential that the main Equality Manager is in place as part of this engagement.
23.24 Councillor Evans asked a supplementary question, it does seem like the post has not really been seen as a priority and I am wondering, there have been a number of incidents particularly during the time when we had the funding available when disabled people have been disproportionately disadvantaged and if the disability officer post had been filled sooner the council would have been able to mitigate that disadvantage. I feel mystified, I am pleased to hear that there is a restructure and that there is an interim person being put in place, it just seems that when funding has been identified and agreed that the post doesn’t seem to have been seen as a priority and I am wondering why?
23.25 Councillor Ebel replied, it is very important, but we did lose two equality managers recently and we do want to make sure that we have the right team in place. It might take a bit longer as we have to make sure that we have a brilliant team in place that tackles all the issues going forward.
(7) Councillor McNair
Subject matter: Grass
23.26 Councillor McNair asked a question, Cityparks has the unenviable andnever-ending task of cutting grass across Brighton & Hove. In Patcham & Hollingbury and I suspect across the city grass cutting, including twittens, verges and grassy areas seems to be sporadic. It is also difficult for residents to know if their grassy area is counted as a wild meadow or isn’t. Some residents want the grass kept long others hate it. Sometimes only the sight lines for cars are cut, other times the whole grassy area is cut back. The cut grass is also not collected leaving and unsightly mess, which no doubt blocks drains. What support is going to Cityparks to improve their ability to cut grass in a systematic way?
23.27 Councillor Lloyd replied, thank you for pointing out the reality that some people love long grass some people hate it. It is something we all experience as councillors. We have been experimenting with long grass in our ward in Withdean and we are getting some negative reaction as well as positive. The results are, for example we now have orchids growing in London Road, but I do understand that a lot of long grass can be a problem and you specifically asked how we are going to deal with that backlog, we have had real problems with growing conditions have been good this year we had a dry cool spring and a warm, wet summer and everything suddenly exploded into growth and we are experiencing that coupled with the lack of staff from Covid Cityparks are overblown with it. We are all experiencing it, especially in our suburban wards. I have been cutting back a lot of growth in my ward myself just to try and keep on top of it. We are engaging with agencies and contractors have been engaged to catch up with much better machinery more able to deal with the length of the grass we have.
I have had an update from Brighton Wildlife Forum who are saying that it is working very well and in our little patch in Withdean Woods we have Meadow Brown, Skippers, Cinnabar wasps, Burnet moths, Bush crickets and birds, frogs and slow worms that will eat them. That is just a small patch of meadow wood we are experimenting with. It does work and I think we need to communicate with the public these benefits as it quite often hard to see them and it helps those local wildlife experts to tell us and help us inform the public.
23.28 Councillor McNair asked a supplementary question, is there a grass cutting plan outlining a schedule and type of grass cutting which councillors could view to advise residents of the likely timetable and type of cutting to expect and to dispute if necessary?
23.29 Councillor Lloyd replied, certainly what we would propose if you want to encourage meadows, if you have had a two winter cuts, one in early autumn and one around Christmas, then you would let them grow for the rest of the year. I have been advised by experts that is not necessarily the opinion of the Council. Communicating that to the public is very important. I think we could use signage, certainly in my ward, a lot of canvassing was done by the stakeholder group that wanted it done and they literally knocked on all of the doors of the roads where they wanted the grass verges to be left, and that was very successful. In some sections there are patches of grass that have been cut in front of peoples’ houses because they wanted it like that and in other sections, meadows grown.
We could put in place a plan I think we could make it very clear to the public how we do it and I look forward to working with all councillors in doing that as I think it something that we would all agree on.
(8) Councillor Fishleigh
Subject matter: Hyde Group
23.30 Councillor Fishleigh asked a question, I anyone is interested in this question, please visit the website of Trustpilot and type in the Hyde Group to read peoples stories of despair.
Given the appalling reviews of despair on Trustpilot, the company’s cavalier and uncaring attitude to residents living next to its Saltdean development and the company’s refusal to help those with shared ownership properties with their cladding nightmares. Will the Council review its relationship with this company?
23.31 Councillor Shanks replied on behalf of the Joint Chairs of the Housing Committee. I do have sympathy with your question as I have had a lot of issues about the cladding in my ward involving Hyde. This is a national issue, and I don’t know if Hyde is worse than any other company, but it is a big problem in terms of people not being able to sell their properties or having to pay extra for waking watches etc.
In terms of partnership with the Council that is with Hyde Housing Association to delivery homes across the city which is overseen by a Board, it has cross party councillors and three Hyde representatives. This gives the council control over the direction of the joint venture including the specification, construction and management of the homes. For these first projects the rented homes will become council homes, let at low rents and managed directly by the council. The shared ownership homes will be managed by Hyde. They brought in a lot of additional funding, tens of millions of additional funding because of Hyde’s direct investment and their Strategic Partnership with Homes England.
Officers do need to regularly meet with Hyde and pick up with individual concerns about management of their properties but obviously it is not properties that we manage ourselves as the Council.
23.32 The Mayor noted there was no supplementary question and called on Councillor Wilkinson to put his question to Councillor Lloyd.
(9) Councillor Wilkinson
Subject matter: Park & Ride
23.33 Councillor Wilkinson asked, the issue of park and ride schemes has been discussed in our city for decades, successful park and ride schemes have been introduced across the South of England, Oxford, Guildford, Canterbury, Cambridge, Winchester, Portsmouth and Southampton to name a few. At a recent Policy & Resource Committee, Labour gained support for an amendment to recommendations for the targeted budget management provisional out turn. This is before Council today to ask for consideration of a park and ride feasibility study with enhancement of the budget to ensure that multiple locations can be explored with a view of linking this to planned transport hubs. Does Councillor Lloyd support park and ride schemes? Yes or No?
23.34 Councillor Lloyd replied, no. My party is against park and ride, we don’t think building a 5000-place car park in the South Downs would be a particularly successful idea, and that is probably why it hasn’t been done yet. I believe it has been in the Labour manifesto since 1995.
The very lack of park and ride in the City is proof of the fact that we have got the sea on one side and South Downs National Park on the other. Having said that, I do respect the fact that the Climate Assembly asked for it and we must respect the democratic desire of that assembly. For that reason, I have been looking at Park and Ride and I am interested in the concept of actually using our existing parking infrastructure to delivery some level of park and ride. For example, the Marina could work as a park and ride site as could Mill Road and the bus company has now come up with a plan of using more roads as an experimental park and ride and there will be an announcement on that at ETS committee next week.
In terms of the sum indicated in the budget I think it was £5K, the decision at the July P&R Committee was based on Labour amendment to consider using some of the saving from the Financial Smoothing sum to support further consideration of Park & Ride options we could also boost that potential to assist in enabling a greater level of work to be done. But I am excited about that bus company proposal and I look forward to seeing that.
23.35 Councillor Wilkinson asked a supplementary question, improving public transport in Brighton & Hove should be high in our agenda in order to achieve our aims of reducing congestion, improving local air quality and support in sustainable growth and I believe we must work hard to bus travel more efficient than ever before. I personally believe park and ride will play a vital role in this and there are strong calls across the city. As you have already indicated Brighton & Hove’s first every Climate Assembly had in its top ten recommendations the introduction of park and ride to minimise car use in the city.
Will Councillor Lloyd believe, as does the Climate Assembly, that park and ride will aid realising carbon neutrality by 2030?
23.36 Councillor Lloyd replied, as I said, I do respect the Climate Assembly very much, which is why we are looking at this and why we are looking forward to the bus company’s proposal at Mill Road and because to an extent that has already been done, because I think it was used for park and ride for football matches. It is also in my ward and I have no objection to it, nor do other ward councillors.
Whether I think park and ride will reduce congestion? Personally, I don’t think park and ride will reduce congestion unless we can remove the same amount of parking spaces from the city centre that will be dedicated to park and ride on the edge of the city. Otherwise, I think we will get people using park and ride and all of the parking spaces in the city and we will have exactly the same congestion with a brand new car park to add to it. I don’t think it will contribute anything to our climate target, but I do believe we need to look at and encourage people to use it.
23.37 The Deputy Mayor noted that the 30 minutes had been reached but in view of the time and number of questions left to be asked, stated that she would continue with the questions until 6.20pm.
(10) Barnett Councillor Simson asked on behalf of Councillor
Subject matter: Dangerous Pavements
23.38 Councillor Simson asked a question on behalf of Councillor Barnett, one of my constituents aged 77 had a very nasty accident in Greenleas last Friday. It happened just inside the gate of the unkempt and dangerous entrance to Greenleas Park. She tripped on the dangerously uneven pavement, an ambulance was called for her at the scene as she was bleeding profusely with broken, or badly bruised ribs. She sent me a photo of her injuries which was terrible and made me forward it to the Chief Executive.
Her injuries are no fault of her own, because the area is not maintained as it should be by the Council and she tripped on large stones jutting out. The park is popular and widely used and will all the rain fall the concrete has worn away over months and years the state of the pavement in Hangleton & Knoll has deteriorated to a state where they are dangerous in many places. The pavements on the north side are more hazardous and trees are overgrown in many places. Excuses are made about Covid but the work that needs doing is outdoors.
Her question is: Will the Council commit to fixing the dangerous pavement at the entrance to Greenleas Park as a priority to make it safer for my constituents and, given the wet weather over the summer will the Council also audit the safety of the pavements in Hangleton & Knoll?
23.39 Councillor Lloyd replied, I am very sorry to hear about that accident no one would wish that on anyone, it sounds appalling and wish the resident a speedy recovery.
We have recently adopted a risk-based approach that seeks to target funding at the areas of pavement where there is the greatest risk so I would like to ask officers to look at that particular section and I would appreciate it if Councillor Barnett could email me about that.
Footways are regularly inspected in line with the road category and these inspections pick up defects for repair. Reports of footway issues are also received from many sources mainly the public and these are inspected and repaired if the intervention criteria is met. I know that sounds like a bit of a formulaic answer to what is quite a serious problem for the resident so I would appreciate it if I could be contacted personally so that we can go and look at that particular section.
23.40 Councillor Simson asked a supplementary question, my constituent looks after her husband, who has dementia, and when she tripped in Greenleas and required an ambulance she found the number on a card which had been issued by Cross Roads which is to be used when an emergency call is needed. The number is supposed to connect to the Council for emergency care of the person at home, but the number would not connect. My constituent has subsequently learnt that the number is defunct, the scheme was set up by Brighton & Hove City Council, in her time of need the Council did not answer. As a result, she was not able to attend the hospital by ambulance and had to be triaged and helped home so that she could resume care of her husband. My constituent wonders how many other carers carry the card with the same defunct number. Can the Council please investigate this?
23.41 Councillor Shanks, Chair of Health & Wellbeing Board relied, yes, we obviously need to look at that, can you send us the information.
(11) Councillor Brennan
Subject matter: Psychologists in Brighton
23.42 Councillor Brennan asked a question, before the pandemic the waiting list was 18 months, so 18 months to see a doctor that can help you. After the pandemic, although I haven’t got the evidence, it will be longer. I see this as an inequality issue because there are so many private psychologists that people, if they need a diagnosis, can go to. However, if you don’t have the money to wait 18 months is an awful long time. The reason you have to see a psychologist is they are the only ones who can diagnose you. If you need help with housing or adult social care or other issues, unless you have a diagnosis you can’t get help. Doctors can’t help with the medication, so people are left without medication and doctors are quite reluctant to refer, probably because of the waiting list. We keep hearing that money is being put in for mental health from the Government is this area going to be addressed and whether the Council can employ more psychologists. There are so many of them graduating every year there are plenty around, so are we not offering the right money. It is really important, it has to be looked at, people can’t even get PIP and things like this and then their mental health will slowly deteriorate, and the psychologists are the ones with all the research and the scientific evidence to help with deep rooted mental health issues. Is there anything that we can do and can we look at this problem please?
23.43 Councillor Shanks replied, I can’t give you a detailed plan I am afraid because I didn’t know the actual context. You are right, there is a big waiting list, there is an underfunding and the Bill that we were talking about earlier isn’t going to help that because we don’t actually decide how many psychologists there should be. I think what we should, perhaps, do with your question is refer it to the Health & Wellbeing Board, I don’t know if we can defer the question? We can certainly raise it at the H&WB which is in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I will get a detailed reply for you from officers.
I was reading something recently about young people with ADHD and people just having to pay for private assessments because they can’t get an appointment and obviously that is a big inequality issue because we all know that the people who can afford to pay will be to do that. One of the new things in the Bill and certainly in our Health & Wellbeing Strategy is about inequalities and trying to address them.
23.44 Councillor Brennan asked a supplementary question, I think you have covered it because I was going to say that we also need to look into CAHMS, that has been an issue that has gone on, as far as I am aware of for over 12 years. We do need organic diagnosis for people to be able to learn how to deal with their behaviour and so that teachers can learn how to teach people who have these different learning difficulties.
23.45 Councillor Shanks replied, I agree, and we will work with organisations to address this.
(12) Councillor Appich on behalf of Councillor Grimshaw
Subject matter: Housing Transformation and Homelessness
23.46 Councillor Appich asked a question on behalf of Councillor Grimshaw, we have seen, recently advertised, the post for Housing Transformation and Homeless Manager. We were wondering what the job role is and where it fits into the Council structure?
23.47 Councillor Clare replied on behalf of the Joint Chairs of the Housing Committee, Councillors Gibson and Hugh-Jones. The role is to lead our Homeless Transformation Programme it is an additional support resource to support the service to enable the review of how we improve the focus on a full client journey encompassing homelessness prevention through assessment, placement, temporary accommodation and finding permanent housing. This additional resource to the sub service is to give us capacity to transform the service working with our team address service delivery pressures including improving our customer service while also addressing the needs of clients with increasingly complex needs and wider demands and budget clashes exacerbated by the pandemic to provide a better and more cost-effective service. The program will look at how we improve our already positive work on homeless prevention and understand the client pathway to provide an open approach to our service, to manage client casework tracking that end-to-end customer journey through the service.
The most cost-effective use of our temporary accommodation resources and how we support clients into accommodation, particularly in the private rented sector. We will work with our teams on how we can improve our systems and processes around case management, assessments and pressure support risk assessment on customer contact.
23.48 Councillor Appich asked a supplementary question, I am impressed by the list of duties, but I am very concerned, this is a very highly paid post and it was advertised through an agency and not the normal process. Do you know why that is and is it going to be a Council employed member of staff or an agency member of staff?
23.49 Councillor Clare replied, Councillor Gibson tells me that it is not a temporary role it is providing specialist consultancy work that we don’t have in the service currently. It is a program manager for a defined period because we don’t have the requisite experience in the service currently.
(13) Councillor Moonan
Subject matter: ASC Commissioning
23.50 Councillor Moonan asked a question, what arrangements are being put in place to ensure that an Adult Social Care Commissioning Strategy is being developed and implemented, that is pro-active needs space and is financially viable?
23.51 Councillor Shanks replied, we are waiting for the Strategy, as you know, as we were not entirely sure what you were going to ask about this, I will get you an answer but there is a Strategy that will be coming to the Adult Social Care Board. Obviously, it is very important that we look at all the commissions that are coming out and how we are going to deal with them.
23.52 Councillor Moonan asked a supplementary question, the Strategy has been coming for a while and I appreciate we have had a pandemic, and everyone has been extremely busy, but it is a vital piece of work because it is based on the adult social care need within the City and it needs to look at what funding we have, what services we have. It is commissioning big services, spending a lot of money for some very vulnerable people. The Strategy is coming but it would be good to have a firmer date around that please. But in the meantime, could you give me assurance that we have a robust commissioning process within the in-house directorate?
23.53 Councillor Shanks replied, I will go back to officers about the Strategy to see when it is coming. I think in terms of a process, at the moment, we are making sure that we get advance notice. I have a list of all the commissions that are coming up and we are regularly looking at those and when they are going to come and one of the things is I want to ensure how much we pay and what we ask providers to pay but I agree we need a much more joined up strategy for it. I will come back to you,
(14) Councillor O’Quinn
Subject matter: Women’s Safety
23.54 Councillor O’Quinn asked a question, it is the year 2021 and yet we still have major issues regarding the safety of women in the UK and in this city. What measures have your Administration taken in the last three months to address this issue in Brighton & Hove?
23.55 Councillor Ebel replied, the Administration and indeed all councillors recognise that women and girls do not feel safe in public areas and the tragic death of Sarah Everardis yet another sad reminder of the dangers that women and girls face every single day. Councillor Powell has requested a report comes to the TECC Committee setting out what work the Council and partners are doing to address the concerns. The report, I believe, should come to the September TECC.
Sussex Police continue to lead in response to starting a partnership with the Support Victim Advocacy Service and a newly designed curb-side program. It is designed to be delivered by trained professionals from Seek for Justice this provides 1-1 intensive therapy sessions focusing on compulsive and obsessive behaviour intervention. It is also recognised that many offenders against women and girls are linked to the night-time economy, as you probably know in your position in Licensing. Work with partners to tackle some of these issues include promoting safe travel. In several licensed premises and providing a safe place in West Street on Friday and Saturday night and provision of the beach patrol. Training has also been undertaken with door staff so that they are able to support women at risk of violence. In Brighton & Hove, in response to the ‘Everyone’s Invited’ Movement and the high-profile death of Sarah Everard some young people in the City have worked together when allegations have been raised to ensure investigations and intervention as appropriate are in play to ensure that support is in place when allegations are made.
On 24th March the Home Office launched its first trials of Safer Streets funding, so funding is available to local authorities and Police and Crime commissioners to undertake work to make defined graphical areas safer for women and girls and Brighton &n Hove City Council officers worked with the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner to submit a bid. The maximum amount that can be awarded is £550K and there was an expectation that they would use the biggest local data and evidence including anecdotal evidence. Bidders are required to consult with public organisations who support women and girls in the local area and with local or national violence against women and girls and stakeholders to ensure proposals reflect the local needs of women and girls. I am pleased to confirm that officers have, in conjunction with PCC office submitted a bid.
23.56 Councillor O’Quinn asked a supplementary question, during the recent campaign what efforts were made by the Administration to work with schools and other bodies to be involved.
23.57 Councillor Clare replied, information can be provided after the meeting and noted that schools were supportive and that attitudes needed to be challenged in order to make changes in the long-term.
(15) Councillor Childs
Subject matter: Asbestos in the Council’s Estate
23.58 Councillor Childs asked a question, evidence submitted to the Department of Education by the UK’s most respected epidemiologist, Professor Julian Peto, estimated that up to 7000 pupils have died between 1980 and 2007 due to exposure to asbestos at school. Most of this asbestos is still in place and that the Government’s committee on carcogenicity concludes that there is no safe level of asbestos. Will the Administration commit to the removal of asbestos containing materials from our schools’ estates by 2028?
23.59 Councillor Clare replied, I thought that the question was related to the housing estates and I have provided you with a written response to this meeting on our schools so I would refer you to that response which gives you all the detail you need on asbestos in our school estates.
23.60 Councillor Childs asked a supplementary question, it is considered best practice by the Joint Union Asbestos Committee and Norman Harry the leading asbestos hygienist in the country, that asbestos containing materials as well as being recorded on an asbestos register should also be labelled in situ to allow occupants of homes and schools and other buildings to know the presence of asbestos to raise awareness and in particular to raise complaints should materials reach a dangerous state of repair. Will the Administration commit to a systematic labelling in situ of asbestos containing materials in the housing office and school estate?
23.61 Councillor Clare replied, in terms of the school estate I think there is a list in my written answer to you that gives you where asbestos is in our schools, so I would refer you to that. In terms of our council estates, we do undertake regular surveys and also record them in our operational IT systems and following the bringing in house of repairs and maintenance we have actually reviewed them and remapped our processes, so we do hold that information. I am happy to get you a written answer on whether it is possible to commit to the things you ask but I am not the Housing Chair I can’t give you that commitment.
(16) Councillor Yates
Subject matter: Housing Transfer Delays
23.62 Councillor Yates asked a question, I am sure all Councillors are aware that housing transfers and mutual exchanges were paused due to Covid and the pandemic and have recently recommenced. What I would like to know is, what action is going to be taken to prioritise the long waiting list that developed rather than by dealing with people purely in date order telling people perhaps with urgent transfer needs to consider emergency accommodation or applying to other local authorities?
23.63 Councillor Clare replied on behalf of the Joint Chairs of the Housing Committee, Councillors Gibson and Hugh-Jones. My understanding is that we prioritise homeless households first and foremost and that we will continue to do that. I also understand that we are undertaking a range of measures to increase our capacity of homes so that we can reduce this backlog. Housing Committee have regular updates and I believe they are having a report in the Autumn.
23.64 Councillor Yates asked a supplementary question, that is of little use to people who are waiting for mutual exchanges or housing transfers who aren’t in those positions or have the misfortune to apply late. I wonder what the Deputy Leader of the Council would like to say to my resident who is in fear of further domestic violence from her ex-partner who has been bailed to an address close to her residence and needs to move urgently or to another of my residents who is at risk of losing her children through the Court system because the are unable to provide evidence of having a safe family home to live in because their mutual exchange has been paused and then not being allowed to be considered or prioritised. It is no good just putting extra resources in, we have to treat individuals like humans not just numbers on a list.
23.65 Councillor Clare replied, I would advise you to raise those issues with Housing Officers and with the Chair of Housing Committee who I am sure can assist with expediating them if appropriate.
23.66 The Deputy Mayor noted that all the questions had been dealt with and called an adjournment for 30 minutes as a refreshment break at 6.23pm.
23.67 The Deputy Mayor reconvened the meeting at 6.55pm.