Bed and Breakfast Accommodation
MH asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Housing and Planning:
In January the Council passed a motion to ensure ‘that no family is placed in Bed and Breakfast accommodation by the end of 2018’. What action has been taken to ensure this is achieved, and what still remains to be done? In particular can the Council explain what provisions are in place for the families displaced from Bed and Breakfast accommodation? Does the Council believe it is still on target to eliminate Bed and Breakfast accommodation for families by the end of the year?
Councillor Woodings replied as follows:
Thank you, Lord Mayor. I would like to thank this citizen for their question. It is correct that in January 2018, this Council passed a motion promising, along with other commitments, to ensure sufficient provision of temporary accommodation so that no family is placed in bed and breakfast accommodation by the end of 2018. We did this because our city, along with the rest of the country, is facing an unprecedented crisis in housing caused by a broken housing market, 8 years of austerity, and changes to welfare. I can report that we are making steady progress against our targets to achieve this. In relation to action taken over the last twelve months, the City Council has introduced the following measures:
· A new supply of alternative temporary accommodation (90 units) is being brought in by the end of December and that includes 50 properties which are being bought by Nottingham City Homes specifically as temporary accommodation.
· Additional staffing and resources in place to support people to avoid being made homeless or to facilitate access to new tenancies in the private rented sector.
I am pleased to report that over 250 new tenancies have been created in the last 12 months. In order to prevent unnecessary eviction from social housing, Nottingham City Homes has put in place an effective mechanism to identity and prevent eviction of families at risk. We have made changes to the way we allocate housing to allow people a fair chance of accessing the limited supply of social housing before reaching homelessness. We have made widespread contact with empty homeowners and offer to purchase properties to bring them back into use and we estimate there are approximately 750 empty properties in the city. The introduction of a private sector leasing scheme whereby Nottingham City Homes will lease properties from landlords for a fixed period of time and take on the property management for use as temporary accommodation is another scheme in train and the introduction programme of home visiting and promotion of the right messages to ensure people know they can remain with extended family whilst the City Council helps them to find more settled accommodation. This is all being driven in a systematic way by a cross Council task group with a targeted action plan which meets every week to drive progress under clear corporate leadership and political scrutiny.
So what remains to be done? The City Council is continuing to implement our targeted plan to increase the supply of temporary accommodation and to prevent demand and there will be a significant expansion of the private sector leasing scheme to meet demand. More generally, we remain committed to our ambitious programme of affordable housing development which will help to provide accommodation at a cost and standard that provides our residents with a decent home. We gave a manifesto commitment into 2015 to build 2,500 houses that Nottingham people could afford to rent or buy and we have made significant progress with that promise. We are currently competing for a number of different government funds to support our activity, including rapid rehousing pathway money, private rent sector access funds and the Move On Fund. The Council is working hard to maximise all available opportunities to plug the huge gap that remains from previous Government funding cuts, although it is frustrating that funding is so piecemeal.
In relation to what provisions are in place for the families displaced from bed and breakfast accommodation, I can report that families are moved from B&B into alternative temporary accommodation as soon as possible into either specialist, family only supported accommodation, and dispersed Nottingham City Homes owned housing or private sector housing. City Council officers continue to work with each household to find them more permanent housing throughout.
And are we on target to eliminate B&B use for families by the end of the year? So far yes but this is not without risks. The actions put in place over the last 10 months have attempted to mitigate, in as many ways as possible, the less controllable elements that can lead to homelessness. Our targeted action plan is monitored daily and reviewed weekly. So far, all targets to introduce new supply to replace the use of B&B accommodation have been met and we have contingency plans in place. However, there still remains a high level of demand from households seeking support who are at risk of homelessness and we continue to work to reduce this demand but this is always challenging given the broken housing market and ongoing welfare reform.
Thank you Lord Mayor.
FL asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Energy and Environment:
What is the Council doing to actively combat climate change, given the recent report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change? I am aware of some initiatives around the City but what does the Council intend to do to get citizens more involved and indeed more responsible for our carbon footprints?
Councillor Longford replied as follows:
Thank you, Lord Mayor and thank you to the citizen who asked this question. I share the citizen’s concern about climate change and the recent report from the inter-governmental panel. Some of you are aware that I used to teach A-Level Geography and spent a significant amount of time in the classroom taking about the urgency of taking steps to combat climate change and the potential impact of inaction. I am an enthusiastic advocate for the work the City Council is doing to reduce emissions and to adapt to the future impacts of climate change. This work takes place at national, regional and local scales. The Council is working to reduce the overall carbon footprint of the city and facilitating a more sustainable lifestyle for its citizens. There are many ways local people can get involved. The Council has a wide range of policies and strategies in place which make reference to the need to mitigate climate change as best we can locally, and to make the city better able to cope with the effects. For example, we have a community climate change strategy, a climate change adaptation plan, the local plan includes policies on sustainable design and construction, energy and heat networks and water. In the strategic flood risk assessment of 2017, there is an addendum for the Greater Nottingham Area, and we are a UK100 signatory committing us to 100% clean energy by 2050. This year, Nottingham was recognised as the leading city in the UK by the Huawei index for energy projects and programmes.
The City Council works with a variety of organisation on innovative projects including local universities, the local enterprise partnership, core cities, APSE and Central Government. We met our energy strategy target to reduce CO2 emissions by 26% from the 2005 baseline early and are currently down by 39%. The city is on track to meet our 2020 target of 20% of energy generation from low carbon sources due to a combination of a reduction in the city’s energy demand and our renewable energy projects delivery programme. We have rolled out photovoltaic solar panels across our own estate and to over 4,300 Nottingham City Homes: a policy which was driven by the commitment of my predecessor, Councillor Alan Clarke, who as you have heard was recently recognised for his lifetime achievement by the National Solar Industry. A wide variety of energy efficiency projects have been implemented across the city under the Salix Finance scheme including changes to lighting and Wollaton Hall and leisure centres. Many homes in Clifton, Lenton Abbey and Bulwell have benefitted from solid wall insulation, allowing people to save money on heating and energy and now we are taking that further with the award winning deep retrofitting of hard to heat homes under the EU funded REMOURBAN project. We were a UK pioneer in the field of our district heating network which still delivers low carbon heat to 5,000 domestic and 130 commercial customers. We provide advice and support to local businesses through audits, inspections and certification of their energy systems as well as the EU funded Energy Efficiency Grants. As our fleet converts 20% of our vehicles to electric, we are involved in exciting new projects like the EU funded vehicle to grid solar powered battery storage system which will enable us to charge our vehicles and maximise efficiency of the grid which I believe is a real game changer. We have a sustainable public transport system which is the envy of other cities across the country with our tram network and one of the largest electric bus fleets with NCT switching to biogas buses. We are continuing to invest in our cycling network, encouraging people to use the safe routes we have created and increasing the number of people using our cycling super highways. Our Go Ultra Low programme is rolling out the electric vehicle charging points network across the D2 N2 area powered by renewable energy. We are also supporting local businesses by providing grants for charge points, cycle lockers and showers. Taxi drivers are being supported to switch to cleaner vehicles and our taxi strategy requires that they are all ultra-low emissions vehicles by 2025.
As the Portfolio Holder for flooding, I meet regularly with officers who are working on many different projects to help the impact of flooding on local people’s homes. These include encouraging the use of sustainable drainage in new developments, providing new solutions to store large quantities of water during storm events, protecting individual properties by blocking access to water as well as developing soft engineering schemes which will reduce the velocity of flood water, increase storage in the channel, and provide new attractive areas for people to enjoy. We also have our own Robin Hood Energy which now supplies electricity from 100% renewable sources and gives our citizens a sustainable alternative to the big six. We have recently been involved in the refill programmes which aims to reduce single use plastic bottles and is a simple way for people not only to save money but to reduce their daily impact on the environment.
Our school catering service provides good quality meals with schools involved in the food for life programme which sets high standards for sustainability. Green Fields Community School in the Meadows has a gold award which means that at least half the food comes from local sources and 30% organic. The children are actively involved in growing their own food, hopefully the next generation of keen kitchen gardeners growing and eating their own fresh healthy fruit and veg.
We are also involved in the One Nottingham Green Theme partnership which is currently working towards a plan to create a sustainable city for us all by 2050. I know there are a great many imaginative ideas relating to different aspects of our lives, such as food, leisure and transport emerging from the participants. We are always keen to promote greater understanding of how people can live in a more sustainable way and, for example, next year we hope to work with Sustrans to help reduce air pollution around schools by developing better understanding among children and parents of the impacts of their travel choices in the local environment. If we can get a few more children walking and cycling to school, that will benefit us all. Hopefully this gives a snapshot of some of the ways the city is helping citizens and people commuting to or visiting the city to reduce their impact on a day to day basis. We know many people are becoming more aware of the environmental impacts of their actions and we hope that this understanding will help them make wise choices. The Council will aim to facilitate these changes wherever it can. If citizens have ideas about further ways we can reduce our carbon footprint, I am always glad to hear from them.
Concessionary Travel for Mobility Card Holders
AD asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Transport and HR:
Until September 2018, Nottingham City Council (“the Council”) provided a travel concessionary scheme superior to the national concessionary scheme. Disabled people who are Mobility Card holders could travel free 24/7 on both buses and trams. The Council has funded this local benefit with no additional support from central government.
As part of its budget savings (cuts) of £27million, the Council has ended the superior aspects of its scheme to save £100,000. From 3rd September 2018, Mobility Card holders have to pay bus or tram fares if they travel before 9:30am or after 11pm. The time restriction is having a major impact on disabled people who need to travel to work, hospital appointments, volunteering commitments, day centres and to educational venues. Many disabled people in work are on low/ minimum wages.
How can the Council justify its decision?
JB asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Transport and HR:
The Council has established a mitigation scheme to offset the cut to travel for disabled people on benefits. This scheme cannot be found on the website. How is the Council publicising the availability of this scheme?
RB asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Transport and HR:
Until September 2018, Nottingham City Council (“the Council”) provided a travel concessionary scheme superior to the national concessionary scheme. Disabled people who are Mobility Card holders could travel free 24/7 on both buses and trams. I gather part of the rationale for doing this was to help & encourage & help people with disabilities to access work, educational opportunities and take a fuller part in community activities that require travel before 9.30am or after 11pm. The Council has to its credit funded this local benefit with no additional support from central government.
As part of its budget savings (cuts) of £27million, the Council ended the superior aspects of its scheme to save £100,000. From 3rd September 2018, Mobility Card holders have to pay bus or tram fares if they travel before 9.30am or after 11pm. The time restriction is having a major impact on disabled people who need to travel to work, hospital appointments, volunteering commitments, day centres and to educational venues. Disproportionally many disabled people in work are on low/minimum wages.
Will the Council reconsider its decision?
SH asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Transport and HR:
There is serious concern regarding the Council’s consultation process in respect of their changes to funding travel for disabled citizens. The first intimation of this change for most people who use disability passes was a sign on bus stops announcing the change in the middle of August. Why were they not properly consulted? Where, and when, was any means of responding to this announcement given to this affected? What does the Council understand ‘consultation’ to mean when it comes to their budget proposals? How can the Council have a two-way exchange with citizens?
GT asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Transport and HR:
Regarding the restrictions of the disabled mobility concession pass: the City Council has over £200 million in useable reserves. Why can it not choose to use some of those reserves to fund the £100,000 the Council states it will save as a result of the reductions in use of the mobility card?
LS asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Transport and HR:
The Council’s Equality Standards are:-
· Make sure our workforce will reflect the citizens we serve (many of those affected by the cuts to the Disabled Persons Mobility Pass work for the Council)
· Create economic growth for the benefit of all communities
· Provide inclusive and accessible services for our citizens (“we will achieve this by, for example, protecting from cuts services that support Nottingham’s most vulnerable citizens”)
· Lead the City in tackling discrimination and promoting equality (“Our work to achieve this will include tackling fuel poverty, building lifetime homes and by developing better opportunities for children and young people with additional needs”).
How does the Council’s decision to restrict free use by disabled people of their mobility pass (before 9.30am and after 11pm from 3rd September 2018 meet the Council’s Equality Standards?
AD asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Transport and HR:
A citizen has been unable to find on the Council web-site any reference to the mitigation scheme to help disabled people in receipt of benefits with the cost of travel before 9.30am. She would like to ask the Portfolio Holder how the Council is publicising its mitigation scheme and how it intends to help disabled people who are currently struggling with the additional costs imposed on them in travelling to work, voluntary work, day centres, hospital appointments, colleges and in taking their children to school.
Councillor Liversidge replied to the above questions about concessionary travel for Mobility Card holders as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor, and I thank the members of the public who have put these questions. That obviously shows that there is a great deal of concern over this and I am concerned about it as well. The reason I am concerned about it is because we are having to make these awful decision because of the grant funding which has been reduced from £127million in 2013 to just £25million this year. £100million of savings have had to be made and unfortunately this is one of those savings because there is a crisis in adult social care and in children’s care. This year alone, we are having to make £27million worth of savings. Whilst this is not we would want to make, we are facing very difficult decisions.
Questions 3 asks us to justify this. For a number of years, there has been a national concessionary scheme. The City Council have been offering the Robin Hood Mobility Card free 24/7 for both buses and trams. The government scheme only provides for the travel between 9:30am and 11pm, meaning we have had to fund the travel ourselves at a cost of £100,000 a year from our own budgets. Whilst this is not a cut any of us wanted to make, without adequate funding from the government, we are unable to continue to subsidise the scheme in our current financial context. Since Monday 3 September, the Council concessionary scheme has delivered in line with national statutory scheme and in line with funding received from the government to deliver this scheme.
Question 4 asked about the mitigation scheme to offset corporate travel. At a time when the changes came into effect, we advertised online via the media, a phone number and an email address individuals could contact. We made available a number of pre-loaded Robin Hood cards which could be used as a temporary measure to mitigate the impact. That phone number is 876 3990.
Question 5 asked us to reconsider our decision. As previously mentioned, we are continuously developing a scheme which will allow those who need to travel between 11pm and 9.30am to buy back the benefit at a reduced rate and we will bring forth those proposals as soon as possible. The change itself was a budget decision taken by the Council and as budget pressures continue to increase, there is no current plan to revisit the decision. However, should the government make funding available for this scheme to run 24/7, we of course will be happy to reverse it.
The next question asked how the Council consulted on changes. The Council consulted on changes for the concessionary bus fare scheme as part of their overall budget discussions from February to March. Members of the public were able to comment on new proposals online, write, call or email the Council. In addition, the Council consulted directly with the Disability Involvement Group for their input via email on 14 February. The Council has shared an equality impact assessment with the Disability Involvement Group and publicised proposed changes to the scheme with bus and tram operators in June 2018. The changes were promoted on the real time signs at bus stops to ensure users were aware. I’m sorry that the person asking the question does not feel that the Council consulted with them. We do not always get things right and I apologise for that. I will take this on board in future consultations. I would be happy, if it is helpful, to offer to meet with those who have asked the question today and discuss their concerns and ensure they are properly listened to.
Public Question 7 asks why we can’t use reserves. The Council maintains reserves in line with requirements placed on us as a local authority and although we do have money in our reserves, it is not money we are able to use to cover revenue expenditure. £100,000 will incur every year so it is not sustainable to pay for this from our reserves. In fact, if you look at authorities that have been using their reserves, they are now into deficit. Northampton are one of those who started using this process and now they are skint.
Public Question 8 asks for Council Equality Standards in relation to the charges. An EIA was carried out regarding the cuts to discretionary elements of the scheme and the decision made by the full Council. The Council works in partnership with operators and other bodies to improve access to public transport for disabled persons such as providing access at bus stops and buses, raised kerbs, lowering bus ramps, tactile paving, audio visual announcements on buses and trams etc. The infrastructure and level of public transport available is one of the best outside of London.
The final question again asks about the mitigation scheme as well as how the Council intends to help disabled people who are currently struggling with additional costs of transport. I have already explained the existing and planned mitigation schemes and we encourage anybody facing financial hardship to contact the Council on 876 3990. We will continue to work in partnership with operators and other bodies to improve access to public transport for disabled people, such as providing accessible bus stops, raised kerbs etc.
In summary, card holders and their companions will be able to travel for free in Nottingham and nationally off peak between 9.30am to 11pm Monday to Friday. We are continuing to offer the extra benefit of free tram travel and I am sorry that those raising this question and others that have lost out on this concession. This is something the Council is not happy about, however we have to make up this funding gap and we encourage anybody facing financial difficulties to contact the Council and we can discuss it with you individually.