Agenda item

Questions from Councillors - to a member of Executive Board, the Chair of a Committee and the Chair of any other City Council body


Selective Licensing Scheme


Councillor Wendy Smith asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing and Heritage:


Could the Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing and Heritage tell us how the Governments’ acceptance of our Selective Licensing scheme will improve conditions for many of our residents who live in privately rented accommodation?


Councillor Jane Urquhart replied as follows:


Thank you Lord Mayor, and thank you Councillor Smith for your question. I am delighted that the Secretary of State has approved the Council’s scheme of selective licensing. He clearly agreed with us that the evidence shows that Nottingham needs a licensing scheme in order to improve our private rented sector.


Before I say anymore, I would like to place on record my thanks to all of the officers involved.


Councillor Smith is right to say that many of our residents live in privately rented accommodation. This has become more and more the case in the last 10 years or so. The private rented sector (PRS) is now bigger than the social sector in the city. It is providing a home for people from many backgrounds and income levels, from young professionals to people on low incomes who need support in the form of local housing allowance. With home ownership still unachievable for many and social housing difficult to access because of its short supply, the PRS meets the needs of growing numbers of people.


This is why we made the PRS a focus of our overall housing objective of a quality home for all our citizens, irrespective of its tenure. Nottingham City Homes has made all of the Council’s homes safe, warm and modern through the Decent Homes programme, and we are working with our housing association partners to ensure that they deliver high standards of management and maintenance in their homes. We already have a licensing scheme for most of the houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) in the city, which we are looking to renew. That leaves a very big part of the housing market that has little regulation other than powers for us to intervene if a tenant complains, which they are sometimes reluctant to do. Licensing forces landlords to be proactive in the management of maintenance of their properties, and through its implementation we will see an improvement in standards in the PRS.


Many landlords in Nottingham deliver good quality homes and a lot of them are able to demonstrate this by being accredited by either Unipol or DASH under the “Nottingham Standard”. However, the experience of our Environmental Health teams and the evidence we collected to support the scheme shows how badly the selective licensing scheme is needed. A report by the Building Research Establishment estimated that 21% of Nottingham’s private rented properties are likely to have ‘Category 1 hazards’, examples of this type of hazard could include exposed wiring, a dangerous boiler, cold bedrooms, a leaking roof, mould on walls or ceilings and vermin infestation. Our Safer Housing team has dealt with 1,479 complaints about privately rented homes this financial year. This is a rise from 1,189 last financial year.


The selective licensing scheme will tackle these problems. Through compliance with, and where necessary, enforcement of the licence conditions, landlords will have to implement basic safety standards, deal with poor property conditions and manage their tenancies effectively so that they do not cause problems for other residents. Those who persistently fail to licence their properties will be prosecuted or issued with a civil penalty, and those not complying with their licence conditions also face prosecution or civil penalty and run the risk of having their licences removed. Rogue landlords who want to avoid licensing will hopefully leave the market. If they do not, and they continue to let out properties without a licence we will prosecute them as criminals.


We have not gone down this road lightly and many landlords have objected to the cost of the licence fee. However, it is important to remember that the cost of the licence over the five year period that we intend to begin selective licensing for, as that’s how long the government says we can run it for, amounts to just less than £2 per week if the landlord is accredited and just under £3 if they are not. This seems to me a very small price to pay in order to give assurance to tenants that the home you are renting to them is safe and well managed.


In Nottingham we believe that security of tenure, decency of property, and a decent home to come home to, is something that all our citizens deserve, and we believe that the implementation of this scheme will result in a much improved private rented sector, providing those quality homes for everyone who lives in them.


Helping Young People into Work


Councillor Georgia Power asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Business, Education and Skills:


Can the Portfolio Holder for Business, Education and Skills comment on the impact events like the Nottingham North Jobs Fair have in helping get young people in our outer estates into work?


Councillor Sam Webster replied as follows:


Yes of course, thank you Lord Mayor, and thank you to Councillor Power for the question. The Nottingham North Jobs Fair, jointly delivered by Nottingham City Council and The Rebalancing the Outer Estates Charity, has been contributing to helping Nottingham people from the outer estates find employment for several years.


The 2017 event delivered at the Bulwell Riverside building attracted 36 employers such including Siemens, Dunelm, Yu Energy, Trent Barton buses, and Nottingham City Homes, and saw an increased attendance with over 1,000 people attending on the day. Whilst focusing on residents of neighbourhoods like Bulwell, Bestwood and the surrounding areas in the Nottingham North constituency, 61% of those attending were from Nottingham North, the event attracts people from across Nottingham. I’m pleased to report that 128 people secured employment at the Nottingham North Jobs Fair in 2017, and a further 69 Nottingham residents signed up to be supported by local employment organisations and training partners. 12% of attendees therefore went into employment, and that’s a very positive outcome which mirrors other similar events that we, Nottingham Jobs, and Nottingham City Council, organise each year.


The large citywide Nottingham Jobs Fair held last September at the Nottingham Arena, attracted over 3,000 people, 15% of whom found work through the event. This year Nottingham City council will deliver 3 jobs fair in the city, all of which are expected to deliver similar conversions into work. This year, the Nottingham North Jobs Fair, scheduled for the 9 March 2018 which is this coming Friday, again at the Bulwell Riverside will be the biggest ever, with 40 exhibitors and over 1,500 local people expected to attend. As this is National Apprenticeship Week, it is fitting that we have local events supporting people into employment and training, made even more important this year due to the governments complicated apprenticeship policies, which have led to a massive 26% fall nationally in apprenticeship starts.


The council will also deliver a smaller Jobs and Opportunities Fair in Clifton in June, and the citywide Jobs Fair again will be held again in September. Nottingham City Council’s Employment and Skills team also supports a range of community events which brings together local support agencies, local services and local employers. Over the last year Nottingham City Council, working with its partners have also supported over 800 young people aged between 16-24, 580 of whom have received an offer of employment, an apprenticeship or further training.


More widely, over the last 3 years, we’ve been able to match over 8,000 local people with new jobs. As you know Lord Mayor, Nottingham Labour Councillors have prioritised employment and skills activity. Our 2015 local election pledge to guarantee a job, apprenticeship or further education place to every 16-24 year old has led to Nottingham city having one of the lowest rates of young people not in employment, combined with effective ongoing tracking of outcomes for young people. With our community based training partners, our service, and our local publicly owned careers and employment organisation Futures, we will continue to have regular interventions and initiatives to maximise employment and training for our residents. Our aim has been, and always will be, to ensure that Nottingham people have opportunities, and are supported to take full advantage of those opportunities.


Response to Heavy Snowfall


Councillor Carole Jones asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Neighbourhood Services and Local Transport:


Can the Portfolio Holder for Neighbourhood Services and Local Transport tell Council what measures were made to ensure that traffic has kept on moving in Nottingham in spite of the heavy snow that we have seen over the past week?


Councillor Sally Longford replied as follows:


Thank you Lord Mayor, and thank you Councillor Jones for your timely question. I’m glad to be given the opportunity to pay tribute to some of the excellent work which has taken place last week, following on from what Ian Curryer has said. The snow that fell overnight on Wednesday was heavier than forecast, but I had checked with our Highways, Traffic, and Streetscene teams in advance, and knew they were well prepared. I’m very pleased to say that thanks to their efforts we were able to keep Nottingham moving last week.


Our 7 gritting lorries were out covering our primary routes round the clock on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and into the weekend. Over Wednesday and Thursday, 10 complete runs were completed. Secondary routes were also treated while teams responded to emergencies and other requests for roads to be gritted including those near schools to help keep them open.


Checking and refilling of the 215 grit bins located around the city was carried out throughout Thursday and Friday by Streetscene. Our frontline Highways and Streetscene workforce were deployed to assist with hand gritting near schools, bus stops and in neighbourhood shopping areas, while a Multihog, which is a small tractor type vehicle usually used for highway resurfacing works, was fitted with a gritter body which enabled it to be used for larger footways in the city centre, narrower streets and other areas as requested.


We fulfilled a manifesto pledge from 2015 to help protect people from slips and falls through all this activity. Our Traffic Control Centre in Loxley House monitored strategic routes and junctions, providing support information to Highway Maintenance to help facilitate their operations. The Communications and Marketing team put out information via social media on gritting and other service information including school and day centre closures, late on Wednesday night into the early hours and throughout Thursday and the following few days. The Council’s My Nottingham, Transport Nottingham and Gritting Nottingham Twitter and Facebook accounts can reach a combined total of 147,000 followers.


In addition to gritting information, key messages including encouraging people to take care while driving and allow more time for journeys, sharing weather alerts, warnings and up-to-date information from local transport operators, as well as other partners. Inevitably, it was slow going on the roads in some areas but Nottingham City Council did a fantastic job, and Nottingham City Transport kept buses going, thanks in no small part to the efforts of our gritting teams.


Public feedback on the response of the Council and public transport operators in the winter weather has been very positive. I was so pleased to see a huge number of complimentary tweets from customers to NCT in particular, praising their drivers’ attitudes and the company for getting people to work despite the weather. In fact some people were bemoaning the fact that Nottingham was kept moving so well they couldn’t have a day off work!


I would like to put on record, on behalf of everyone in the city, my gratitude to all the council staff involved last week. It’s at times like this that people can really see how vital the services the Council provides are; how much we rely on the dedication and commitment of council staff, often working long hours in difficult conditions. Without their hard work, it would be impossible for essential services to get the job done, for medical emergencies to be dealt with, and for economic activity in the city to continue. It is also a testament to the resilience of a well-run council, that despite continued budget cuts, we can still deliver good quality services in difficult circumstances.

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