Agenda item

Questions from citizens


Water usage


CL asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Energy, Environment and Democratic Services:


Whilst the Council is making great steps to become carbon neutral with schemes such as solar panels on operational buildings, what is the Council doing to reduce its water usage? Would it consider installing waterless urinals at all operational buildings saving millions of gallons of water annually, not to mention the revenue savings? A worthy capital expense.


Councillor Sally Longford replied as follows:


Thank you Lord Mayor, and thank you to the citizen for this interesting question about water usage in the Council, and whether we would consider installing waterless urinals. Water is a vital resource, which needs to be managed carefully. Drinking water has a carbon footprint of approximately 0.6 grams of C02 per litre, so water reduction across our estate goes hand in hand with our ambition to become carbon neutral by 2028.


The Council has recently had a water and sewerage self-supply licence approved by the regulator Ofwat and market operator MOSL. We have embarked on this in order to have greater control over our water usage, and to save money for the Council. We will benefit from accurate data on how much water is used at our different sites, and be able to reduce consumption.


We are introducing a Water Efficiency Loan Scheme within the Council, which will fund projects in different departments to introduce water efficiency, and the savings will be used to pay back the loans. The first projects include installing water saving devices in taps, showers and toilets. We are looking at the feasibility of using greywater systems, where wastewater is re-used, as well as looking at rainwater harvesting across Council buildings.


As a member of the Innovation Gateway, the Council has access to trials of innovative technology, and we hope that this will help us to maximise savings in consumption. We will also be launching a behavioural change campaign to encourage staff members to make changes in both their work and personal lives. This includes ensuring bowls are used whilst washing up, taking shorter showers and switching taps off whilst brushing their teeth.


I am afraid I am not an expert in the use of urinals, of any sort, let alone waterless ones. I understand that HSG UK have already installed a system called ureco, a flow-controlling device, at 40 of our highest consuming sites. Although the system is not waterless it does ensure the urinals now only flush 4 times per day, and it is estimated this saves approximately 300,000 litres of fresh water per year per urinal system. A feasibility study into waterless urinals may well be carried out in due course.


My son lives in Cape Town, where they have suffered from serious drought in the last years, brought about by changing climate and poor management of the water supply. We need to guard against taking the availability of water for granted. As the climate changes, it is likely that we will find ourselves suffering from increasing shortages of water, particularly in the summer, and we should all take responsibility for managing this vital resource effectively, and the City Council will play its part.



Knife crime


MN asked the following question of the Leader:


Given the recent rise in knife crime, is the Leader of the Council able to report on strategies being considered or initiated by the City Council and partner agencies to challenge this very worrying trend?


Councillor David Mellen replied as follows:


Thank you Lord Mayor and can I thank the member of the public for this question about knife crime. Crime, or the fear of crime, is one of the most important factors for people having good wellbeing and feeling safe to live, work, and enjoy life in the City. For ten years from 2005 through to 2015, we have seen huge reductions in crime in Nottingham, with partnerships between the Council and the Police. Since then, crime has begun to rise again, as Government cut Police numbers. This is a great concern, and we desperately need to arrest this rise, and not to lose the reductions we have had over the past couple of decades.


Part of the rise is, we have sadly seen a rise in knife crime, as referred to by the questioner. Not just a Nottingham problem, as other cities have also seen a rise in this kind of crime. Nevertheless, a worrying problem. There is concern for our city, and particularly for some of our young people, who feel they need to carry a knife with them in order to feel safe. As part of our manifesto at the recent elections, we committed to work with at least 5000 people each year at risk of becoming involved in gangs or knife crime, or at risk of exploitation. This will become part of the Council Plan for the next four years and has already begun.


Together with our partners, we have introduced a number of initiatives to combat knife crime. These include:

-  a partnership strategic board to oversee all projects;

-  developing preventative partnerships with the Nottinghamshire University Hospitals;

-  involving groups like Red Thread, the Ben Kinsella Trust - who have an exhibition at the Galleries of Justice currently, Street Doctors, and developing bystander care kits with help for immediate response to knife crime in partnership with the BID;

-  engagement with both primary and secondary schools, in partnership with the Police, supporting programmes such as Street Aware which is delivered in school assemblies, whole class lessons, and then targeted group work with young people who are of concern;

-  setting up a violence and exploitation reduction hub involving members of the Youth Justice Team, Youth Workers, and a Family Support worker. This hub is offering support to secondary schools aimed at preventing exclusions and giving students the information they need to keep themselves safe, as well as again running targeted groups for both young men and young women seen as being on the edge of violence.


We have also changed the focus of the youth and play service, to allow more focused groups in areas of the city where knife crime has sadly happened more regularly. We have also worked with the Police Commissioner, who has recently received short-term money from Government to invest in a partnership violence reduction unit, in order to follow other evidence-based initiatives to prevent knife crime. This includes some funding for the voluntary sector to support other initiatives to prevent violent crime. We have also worked with Probation, to look at initiatives to work with the 18-24 year old age group who are the most likely age group to be both perpetrators and victims of knife crime.


As a result of these and other initiatives, day-to-day work from the Police and Community Protection staff, the rise in knife crime and other violent crime seems to have been halted, and there is some evidence that knife crime has begun to fall slightly. This is very early days for a trend that we hope will continue, but we are not complacent, and we will continue to use every resource and every initiative that we can to address knife crime and violent crime, and the causes of that crime. It is a very important priority for the City Council, and for our partners.



Mobility bus passes


DC asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Adult Care and Local Transport:


In her answer to LS at the 8 July 2019 Council meeting the Portfolio Holder listed communication channels to be used in relation to the review of mobility bus passes. Nearly two months have now passed since that last Full Council meeting and there has not, as far as I can see, been one public communication about the review, either in the local media or on the Council’s website, press releases or other communication channels. Due to the obvious delay, can the proposed turnaround schedule announced by the Portfolio Holder in July be extended to mid-November, with the decision announcement to be made in mid-December?


Councillor Adele Williams replied as follows:


Thank you Lord Mayor, and thank you to the citizen for this question, which relates to the progress of the mobility bus pass review.


You will be aware that the City Council in September 2018 reluctantly withdrew free travel between 11am and 9.30pm for Mobility Pass holders. The decision to stop this was very difficult; the free travel outside the national statutory hours was withdrawn due to severe budget cuts at that time.


Cardholders have continued to receive the benefits of the national concessionary scheme and in the 11 months since the additional concession was withdrawn the measure has actually saved the Council approximately £250,000. However, in recognition of the concerns raised by citizens, the Council is reviewing the withdrawal of the Mobility Pass concession between 11pm and 9.30am, and I am pleased to announce that a full public consultation on options to reintroduce the concession is starting.


A survey is now available on the Council’s website and we would like to hear if this change to services has affected citizens, and to what extent. The survey will be widely advertised as promised, including through emails to 25,000 subscribers in the next few days and social media promotion throughout September and October. We will also be writing to all Mobility Pass holders directly during September and will be contacting a large number of disability representative groups this week, asking for their views.


This will be a difficult decision to make and I really encourage all of the public to participate and make their views known to us during the coming weeks. I have spoken with the campaign; we acknowledge the delay and agree that it is important that we can all be sure that we have run a fair consultation, so we are happy to extend into November as requested. Again, I would like to thank the campaign for their determined and constructive engagement on this issue, and I hope that they will continue to help us to engage with the public around the issues around this pass. We are hoping to get together again soon to discuss the progress of the consultation, and I look forward to working with the group. Thank you.



Station Street crossing


AD asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Adult Care and Local Transport:


Is the Portfolio Holder willing to address the ongoing concern about the lack of a crossing between the station and Loxley House? This is a particular concern of visually impaired people, some of whom refuse to attend meetings at Loxley House because they do not feel safe when crossing the road (Station St/Trent St). A re-consideration would seem to fit with the newly elected Council's manifesto pledge to ensure that public spaces and buildings are easy for disabled people to access and I’d be grateful if the Portfolio Holder would consider reinstalling a recognised crossing point, particularly given the aim of ‘Unlocking Loxley’ and the re-design of Loxley House as a multi-agency access point (‘one-stop shop’) for advice and services.


Councillor Adele Williams replied as follows:


Thank you Lord Mayor and thank you to the citizen for the question. Back in 2016, following the redesign of the area between Carrington Street and Trent Street, Station Street was transformed from one that was previously traffic-dominated with high speeds, into an area where pedestrians could walk more freely and with greater priority within an easily accessible paved area. That redevelopment is part of the ongoing Southern Gateway transformation.


To complement those pedestrianisation measures, Station Street was closed to through traffic along its length and wider pavements with carriageways were installed at the junction of Trent Street next to Loxley House to enhance the look and feel of the area and create a low speed environment, aiming for 20mph and below. The idea there was that pedestrians could walk freely taking priority over motorists. This included hazard-warning paving, known as corduroy paving, around the junction and two uncontrolled crossing points with tactile paving in accordance with national guidance to assist mobility-impaired pedestrians to cross.


In 2017, following the closure and demolition of Broadmarsh bus station, National Express coaches were diverted onto Station Street on a temporary basis until the new bus station is completed, and that is expected in 2021. Unfortunately, this resulted in damage being caused to the paving in the carriageway area, which then had to be replaced in the short term with a temporary tarmac surface that we see now, to avoid further damage and costs that might potentially be incurred.


Now unfortunately, what this has meant is that the area looks and feels more like a road again rather than an area where pedestrians should have priority. However, once the National Express coaches are removed, we’ll be looking at the design of the area again, the tarmac will be replaced and there will be a redesign with a more suitable material and layout better in keeping with the long-term vision for pedestrianisation within the Southern Gateway.


I am really happy to meet with disability groups to discuss our work going forward, and work with them to help make our city as accessible as possible. I acknowledge the expertise that those groups will bring to the process, and I am really happy to have those discussions in relation to this particular area. So I thank the citizen for raising the question, I think it is an important issue, and I am really happy to have an ongoing dialogue about their thoughts on this area.



Disability access


AD asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Housing, Planning and Heritage:


Can the Portfolio Holder report whether the new staffing structure in Building Control has delivered the hoped-for potential to create posts leading to a viable route to develop Access expertise that will meet the newly elected Council's manifesto pledge to ensure that public spaces and buildings are easy for disabled people to access?


Councillor Linda Woodings replied as follows:


Thank you Lord Mayor and thank you to the citizen who submitted this question. The restructure of the Building Control Department has only recently been put into place, and in fact is still bedding in. The effectiveness of the new structure will be kept under review, and unfortunately, it still contains a number of vacant posts.


Access advice for people with disabilities and mobility issues is actually now embedded across the whole of the existing team of Building Control Inspectors, each of whom is able to provide advice on access as required under the Building Regulations. That means that there is a pool of expertise available, and that is especially important because the recruitment of experienced building inspectors is currently very challenging. So in order to address that, the new structure includes trainee posts, which may, we hope, provide the potential to develop Access expertise further in the future. Thank you.

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