Councillor Kevin Clarke asked the following question of the Leader of the Council:
Would the Leader of the Council be willing to sign, as well as encourage his Labour colleagues to sign, a Charter put forward by the Nottingham Independents that redresses the balance between serving ourselves and the people of Nottingham through ‘the scrapping of all Special Allowances for Non-Portfolio Holders and a restriction on the salaries of Portfolio Holders that their wage be no more than the median City of Nottingham salary (£23,920 per year [House of Commons Library 2018])?
Councillor David Mellen replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor, and can I thank Councillor Clarke for his question. I believe that Nottingham is well served when it has a Council that reflects the people it serves. It is right that members of this Council, who work hard to deliver the ambitious targets for our City, and give considerable time and effort in doing so, receive an allowance. Many of my colleagues in the Chamber will be familiar with Nottingham’s reputation at the centre of the Chartist movement in the 19th Century, but it was the people’s charter of 1838 that called for payment for members, enabling tradesmen, working men, and other persons of modest means to leave or interrupt their livelihood to attend to the interests of the nation.
Of course, we don’t set the Special Responsibility Allowances here in this Chamber, the level of those is set by an Independent Remuneration Panel, who rightly consider the additional time and responsibility the roles bring with them, to decide what level of remuneration that the Councillors should receive to reflect their different roles. Being a Councillor is not just a pastime or a hobby for our members, we are passionate about delivering on promises we have made, and we think that committing our lives to these ambitious targets is worth doing.
Lord Mayor, it is not the remuneration of Councillors which has led to the financial challenges currently facing the Council. We’ve had years of a Conservative-led government, committed to austerity and reducing local spending, whilst hitting poor communities and big Northern and Midland cities the hardest. So no, I will not be signing the charter introduced by the Nottingham Independents, I do not believe that people are choosing to become Councillors to serve themselves, as the question implies, but to serve the people they represent and the work for the success of our city.
Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse
Councillor Kevin Clarke asked the following question of the Leader of the Council:
Does the Leader of the Council agree with me that the Independent Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry Report damns our organisation, putting it to shame, and that given the Report’s findings the Council needs to act immediately to ensure it rectifies the damage – how does he propose doing this?
Councillor David Mellen replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor and can I thank Councillor Clarke for this question. It’s absolutely right that this is brought to Council today, following the publishing of the report at the end of July. The publishing of the interim report to the Independent Inquiry into Historical Child Abuse was not a good day for Nottingham, as it confirmed the things that came out in the Inquiry hearing last year that young people in the past and a few more recently had been let down by those responsible for caring for them.
I am grateful for the opportunity to repeat our apology to all those who were let down by this Council, when we should have been protecting them. I’d like to say, once again, that we are very sorry for what happened to you, and although we sadly cannot change what has happened in the past, we will redouble our efforts to ensure that children in the care of this local authority now are kept safe, and supported to thrive in care, learning the lessons from the past.
As a Council we will continue to listen to survivors of abuse, and support those who have to live with what happened to them in the past. Lord Mayor, we fully cooperated with the IICSA Inquiry, submitting lots of written evidence, and a number of officers, both past and present, as well as myself as the then Portfolio Holder, gave all evidence to the Inquiry when it sat in October last year.
The Inquiry continues, focusing on other areas of the country, and the report published recently focused just on what has happened in care homes and foster homes in Nottinghamshire and Nottingham. Much of the criticism in this report concerns the former Beechwood Children’s Home on Woodborough Road, which was the responsibility of Nottinghamshire County Council for much of its life, and passed over to us at the City Council in 1998 when we became a Unitary Authority. We closed it in 2006, which in hindsight was too late.
Further criticism referred to weaknesses in foster care, and the way that the allegations of harmful sexual abuse between young people is reported. We are carefully considering the report’s findings, and an action plan is being compiled. This plan builds on improvements in arrangements for the care of children which have been made since most of the incidents described in the report took place. For example – none of our homes are run like Beechwood, not in size and not in the manner in which they are run, whereas in the past children’s homes were often large and institutional, we have closed all such homes, and our current children’s homes are now smaller family units with a maximum of four young people living in each. They are inspected locally on a monthly basis, and at least twice a year by Ofsted, with all but one of the homes currently being rated as either Good or Outstanding by Ofsted.
We have worked to ensure that children in foster care are, wherever possible, placed within 20 miles of Nottingham. That is not possible for all of our children in care, because some of them need to be further away from their birth family because of the danger they are in, but at least 85% of our children are placed within that distance. We have increased the number of foster carers that work for the City Council rather than for agencies. Many other improvements have been made, but that does not make us in any sense complacent, and we will respond to the recommendations made by the IICSA Inquiry, and do everything we can to improve the care we give to children looked after by the City Council.
The two recommendations for action from the interim report are that we should assess the risk to children of current and former foster carers in relation to the sexual abuse of children, and that we commission an independent review into approaches of dealing with harmful sexual behaviour between young people. We will respond fully to these recommendations, and our action plan will be completed and presented to appropriate Council committees in due course, and shared with our safeguarding partners to ensure their commitment to the action plan. We will also continue to cooperate with Nottinghamshire Police, with their ongoing Police investigations, and will continue to help survivors who want to make civil claims, and work with the Nottingham Clinical Commissioning Partnership to give appropriate support to survivors. The safety of children and young people in the care of the City is, and always will be, our highest priority.
Labour stall at Clifton Fun Day
Councillor Maria Watson asked the following question of the Leader of the Council:
Does the Leader of the Council agree with me that it was highly inappropriate and unwarranted for Nottingham Labour to set up a politically charged campaign stall at the Council-funded Clifton Fun Day, an event which was designed to give toddlers, infants and young children a safe space to play, and that the intrusive presence of a political organisation was an affront to the purpose of this event?
Councillor David Mellen replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor, and can I thank Councillor Watson for her question. The Clifton Picnic in the Park event was held on Tuesday 13 August, on a sunny day, at the Clifton playing fields on Farnborough Road. I was pleased to attend the event briefly, along with a Councillor from Birmingham who was visiting Nottingham that day, other Councillors including Councillor Longford, and the Member of Parliament for Clifton who also attended, along with Councillor Watson and Councillor Clarke in their roles as local Councillors.
The Labour Party stall was booked through a member of the Labour Party living in Clifton, and paid for out of Labour Party funds. The event this year was entitled "Explore the World", and it was recognised by the planning group that bringing together a multitude of partners who promote the wide range of information and services to local residents was of huge benefit to all concerned. Yes, there were events there for children, but for adults and older people too.
Fitting in with the event’s theme, the Nottingham Labour stall was an information stall, where the Member of Parliament, ourselves as Councillors and others who are responsible for providing services to meet the needs of the community were engaging with local residents, hearing their issues and concerns and providing updates on what the Council was doing. All the stall had was some branding, a survey about what local people want information about, such as welfare rights, energy services, Robin Hood Energy, plus some other useful context to help people in Clifton. They were also handing out ice lollies to local children and their families, hardly an intrusive presence as Councillor Watson alleges, but something which was actually appreciated on a warm day.
Residents were pleased to see us, and engaged in good conversations. I do not see the issue of a political party booking a stall at a community event through a Neighbourhood Development Officer. I do not see how the presence of a political party impedes people enjoying their day. If people wanted to approach the stall they could, and they did. If they didn’t want to see us, they could walk on by, that was absolutely fine. The implication that Labour Councillors, who shape the services delivered to Clifton residents, and the local MP who has represented the area for more than 9 years are not welcome at such events is ridiculous.
Councillor Kirsty Jones asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Culture and IT:
I am sure I speak on behalf of every councillor, and for the Council as a whole, when I offer my condolences to the family of the young man who sadly died whilst swimming in the River Trent on 26 August. In light of these tragic events, does the Portfolio Holder agree with me that the Council needs to step up its preventative approach to water safety, championing a multi-government agency approach across the City to discourage people from swimming in our open waters?
Councillor David Trimble replied as follows:
Thank you for your question. It is indeed a tragic incident and I share your condolences for the young man who sadly died on the River Trent on 26 August, as I’m sure everyone in this Chamber does, and the Council as a whole. I also thank those members of the public who tried to help, as well as the emergency services that were there in high numbers too.
A preventive approach is informed by the Nottingham Water Safety Partnership, which includes the Council’s Public Realm Team, Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, and Colwick Park lifeguards. We also work with RoSPA: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, to inform our work too. That said, guidelines must never be set in stone, we must always continue to learn and improve.
There are around 28 life buoys on both banks of the river, and they were inspected on a weekly basis, but we are now inspecting them three times per week. New “no swimming” signage has also been ordered, however, it is an ongoing challenge as sometimes life buoys are stolen, vandalised, or even thrown into the river. It’s an absolute mindless act by very stupid people. It is a criminal offence under the 1971 Criminal Damages Act, and can result in a £5,000 fine and/or imprisonment.
The Public Realm Team has arranged a meeting to further review procedures with the Nottingham Water Safety Partnership to discuss what additional steps can be taken to proactively educate and inform the public about the dangers of open water swimming in and around the County.
Lord Mayor, if I can just make a heartfelt plea to people in this city, to not swim in dangerous open water, unless they are taking part in safe, organised and lifeguarded sessions. For anyone that wants to do this, they can do it in organised sessions run by the Council, at Westlake at Colwick Country Park, and it’s lifeguarded by the Colwick Lifesavers. So they can do it safely if they must do it, they must do it that way. Lord Mayor, can I just close by once again offering my sincere condolences to the family of the young man who sadly lost his life on that very tragic day.
Nottingham’s Kashmiri community
Councillor Salma Mumtaz asked the following question of the Leader of the Council:
Can the Leader of the Council inform the Council what correspondence they have had with the Government regarding Kashmir and what assurances can he give to Nottingham’s Kashmir community that action is being taken to ensure their friends and family are safe?
Councillor David Mellen replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor, and can I thank Councillor Mumtaz for her question; an issue I know which is important to you and many people in this city. Thank you also for your work in raising this issue in the city, working with Councillor Mohammed to organise the vigil at the Brian Clough statue which, alongside other Councillors, I attended.
Nottingham is a multicultural and diverse city, one of our strengths. We have people living in this city whose families have originated from the Caribbean, from India, from Pakistan, from Eastern Europe, from parts of the African continent, and many other places. When friends and family in home countries are in danger, it is natural that there are high levels of concern.
Nottingham has a large community with Kashmiri heritage, with many having friends or family currently living in or visiting Kashmir. The Kashmiri community has contributed greatly to Nottingham, and it’s completely natural that they, and others, are rightly anxious about the threat to peace and security in the region of Kashmir, and the safety of people there. We at Nottingham City Council stand with the Nottingham Kashmiri community at this time of anger and anxiety about the abuse, violence and exploitation which is happening in your home land.
In August, the Indian Home Minister, Amit Shah, revoked Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, stripping Jammu and Kashmir states of their special status which gave them autonomy. This unilateral action is completely unjustified. Shortly after this, I wrote to the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, expressing my concern about the situation, and asking what the British Government is doing about it. Unfortunately, I have yet to receive a reply to my letter to the Foreign Secretary. Nottingham South MP Lillian Greenwood has also written to the Foreign Secretary, and just last week she presented a petition along with her constituents to 10 Downing Street, calling on the Government to do what it can, including using its leverage as a United Nations member, to help ensure peace is restored.
Reports of violations of human rights and reports of violations of the conventions on cluster munitions continue though, as has been raised by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Kashmir. The High Commissioner of Pakistan, Mohammad Nafees Zakaria, at a recent closed meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Kashmir reported to MPs about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Jammu and Kashmir. There have been numerous international resolutions calling for a peaceful way of settling this dispute over Kashmir, and this is surely the right way to go about resolving the situation.
The community cohesion which we enjoy in Nottingham has been hard-won, and it is vital to our prosperity. That is why we should do all we can to maintain and promote community engagement, a sense of belonging, and pride in Nottingham, whilst at the same time arguing for an end to the violence in Kashmir. As the Leader of the Council, I will continue to urge those in our Government to use the channels available to them to put pressure on the Indian government to stop their violence, and to re-instate autonomy for Kashmir.
Children’s Services funding
Councillor Chantal Lee asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People:
Does the Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People share my distress about the recent Local Government Act (LGA) report of a £800 million shortfall in children’s services and does she agree that the Chancellor’s Spending Round offered no solutions?
Councillor Cheryl Barnard replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor, and thank you Councillor Lee for raising this issue today. The Local Government Association (LGA), and the Association of Director of Children’s Services (ADCS), have lobbied Government, in particular the Department for Education and the Treasury for a number of years, in an attempt to address the woeful underfunding of children’s services. The LGA and the ADCS calculated that the money needed to address the gap in funding for children and families to be in excess of £2 billion if we as a society want to begin to redress the problems faced by one third of children nationally who are living in poverty. The £800,000,000 shortfall in children’s social care is merely part of the picture.
I’m saddened to report that our city has the 4th highest levels of child and family poverty in England. In addition to families affected by unemployment, increasingly in-work poverty is an issue for households in the City, with many struggling to cope and seeking help and support. It’s in this environment that the demand for the Council’s children’s services is increasing, and the disparity between the needs in our communities and the funding we receive from Government grows larger.
We’ve worked hard to protect services for children and families in the City. As an Early Intervention City, we firmly believe that prevention is vital to stop needs escalating. Despite this, we’ve had to make some tough choices. Since 2016, the budget for Children’s Services has reduced by over £4,310,000, and faces more cuts in the next budget. Nationally, a key driver for the pressures faced by Children’s Services is the increased number and costs of children in care. In Nottingham, we’ve worked hard to introduce services that avoid the need for children to come into care and also to significantly increase the numbers of City Council foster carers. Wherever possible, our focus is to support families to make positive changes so that they can care for their children at home. Ofsted have commented positively on the quality of these services and, against a national upward trend, we’ve managed to stabilise the rate of children in care in Nottingham when you compare us to other similar authorities.
Earlier this week, the Chancellor announced an additional £1billion of funding for children’s and adults’ social care - to ‘support local authorities to meet rising demand and continue to stabilise the social care system’. Whilst we welcome the recognition that investment is needed, when the LGA predicts a shortfall in the children’s system alone next year of £1.4bn, the commitments in the Spending Review are way short of what is really required to balance the books. There is no indication of how the £1billion will be divided between children and adults services. With growing pressures to support children, families and older people it is inevitable that this will fall short of what’s really needed to deliver good services and to protect the most vulnerable in our communities. The Chancellor announced an additional £1billion for social care, and whilst this is welcome, it is to be thinly spread across both children and adult social care, and as yet we do not know what proportion will be for children, nor what it means for Nottingham children. What I’m confident in knowing is that it won’t begin to be enough, so I agree with you Councillor Lee, it doesn’t offer any solutions at the current time.
Council house building
Councillor Shuguftah Quddoos asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Housing, Heritage and Planning:
Can the Portfolio Holder for Housing, Planning and Heritage agree that the best way to celebrate 100 years of council housing is for Nottingham to continue its ambitious council house building programme?
Councillor Linda Woodings replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor, and thank you to Councillor Quddoos for this question. I agree wholeheartedly with you that the best way for us to celebrate and honour 100 years of council housing is for us to continue to build new affordable homes, particularly as so many people are in need. Rising rent costs and the effect of Government benefit reforms have led to a large increase in people on the housing waiting list. This has doubled in the last 4 years to 8,500, with over 1,000 people joining the waiting list last year alone.
And so, we are seeing significant housing challenges in Nottingham, reflecting the wider crisis across the whole country. Like most cities, we are also seeing increased homelessness, and so now, as much as ever, we need more council housing. Unfortunately, the damaging continued effects of Right to Buy is reducing the number of affordable homes available to people, while the effects of the government’s austerity polices and the national housing shortage have put more and more people in need.
Our ambitious programme for new build demonstrated by Nottingham City Council’s commitment to provide quality new homes to meet the needs of local people and to ensure that Nottingham remains a great place to live and work. Over the last four years of office, the Labour Council built 2,293 affordable homes, all of which were affordable for Nottingham people to rent or buy. Over the next four years we will build or buy 1,000 more Council and social homes for rent and we will enable a further 3,000 homes to be built by developers. We have called upon Government to support us in our ambitious work in this area by properly funding our ability to build by challenging the restrictive rules around the use of receipts from right to buy sales and by providing funding programmes that work for the whole country rather than just the extreme case in the South East of England.
The 100th Anniversary of Council housing represents a really important part of Nottingham’s history and the Council has been proud to mark and celebrate it in a number of ways. Council housing began to be developed 100 years ago following the Great War, which we now call the First World War, when there was a high demand for better quality housing amongst the returning soldiers. Prime Minister Lloyd George promised ‘Homes Fit for Heroes’ and passed a bill that was commonly known as the Addison Act. In Nottingham, the local Council seized on the opportunity, and immediately started a programme of building, which eventually led to 17,000 homes being built up to 1939. The first Council estate completed in Nottingham was in my own ward of Basford: the Stockhill estate. I’m delighted that as part of the centenary celebrations, I, along with my fellow Councillors and the local tenants and residents and the MP for Nottingham North, Alex Norris, unveiled a blue plaque on 25 August, alongside a whole day of fun free activities for residents on Stockhill Park.
Demand was still great after the Second World War for housing, so other new estates were built to meet the growing need for homes, including Bilborough and Clifton. This continued with slum clearance initiatives in the 1960s leading to a range of high-rise council housing and later low-rise homes in the 1970s. That period also included the expansion of St Anns and the Meadows estates. By 1980 half of the city’s population lived in Council housing. During that period funding for new council housing was dramatically cut back. Although the Council was involved in some rebuilding work in that period, such as rebuilding some of the very popular 1940s prefab homes in brick, the lack of funding meant that the provision of new Council housing was very limited. On top of that, the introduction of large Right to Buy discounts led to a great decline in Council housing and by 2005, 40% of all the council houses in Nottingham had been sold.
The legacy of Right to Buy, as I’ve told you many times in this Chamber, is still affecting us to this day, and the rates of right to buy have increased dramatically in recent years. In 2017-18 we lost 438 homes to the Right to Buy scheme, which is more than one a day. 40% of Right to Buy homes are now, we estimate, in the hands of private landlords, not now occupied by the people who bought them as their lifetime home.
Clearly, Nottingham’s council housing story is an important part of our city’s past, but it is also an important part of its present and its future. Affordable, good quality council housing is as important now as it was a hundred years ago, with growing demand as the cost of renting or buying privately soars. That remains a priority for the City Council and our Arms Length Management Organisation: Nottingham City Homes, so together we continue to build new homes and improve existing ones as well to ensure tenants are happy.
As part of the celebrations for 100 years of council housing there are a range of events of which the new Stockhill Lane plaque was just one. We have also updated and re-issued the book “Homes and Place: A History of Nottingham’s Council Houses”, which I would recommend to anyone interested in this topic. It is actually available to download for free from the Nottingham City Homes website or it can bought from local bookshops. And there is also a little commemorative leaflet that has been produced which will be available at all the local community events, and we’ve got an exhibition as well touring libraries and community centres in the City – today that is available on the first floor of the Central Library. Also as part of the celebrations we are having a commemorative mural painted in the Meadows, over 100 new trees are being planted on Nottingham estates across the city on sites that have been chosen by residents and we have also buried a time capsule at the Winwood Extra Care facility after working with local school children to decide on the contents.
And that brings me back to the question, because it was just last week that we buried this capsule as part of the opening of a brand new 44 room extra care facility in Sherwood at Winwood House. This fantastic facility as well as providing high quality, warm and affordable homes for older people in Nottingham will also help people to live independently for longer, as long as they choose to do so. Over the last few years the Council has built over 500 new homes since some of the barriers to our building were lifted, and it’s been great to see the high quality homes and neighbourhoods that the Council and Nottingham City Homes have created together, providing places were people really do want to live and work. It’s the most desirable form of housing in the city, council housing. In my role as Portfolio Holder, I’ve been able to meet tenants of our new build houses and see the massive difference it’s made to their quality of life.
So our council housing programme is continuing with hundreds more homes either on site now or in the pipeline and we are also buying good value second hand homes to increase our Council housing stock. Right now we are on site delivering new homes at the Marlstones site in Bulwell, the Clifton Miners Welfare site in the Meadows, and the Knights Close site in Top Valley. We are also designing large new council housing developments at sites such as Eastglade in Top Valley and Beckhampton Road on the Bestwood Estate. Thank you.
EU exit preparations
Councillor Audrey Dinnall asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Energy, Environment and Democratic Services:
The Government’s own no deal Brexit assessment set out in the Operation Yellowhammer report warns of potential food, fuel and medicine shortages. Can the Portfolio Holder tell Council what risks a no deal Brexit poses for Nottingham?
Councillor Sally Longford replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor, and thank you Councillor Dinnall for your question. I’m hoping that a No Deal exit from the EU can be avoided, and that any departure will be delayed in order for us to provide a more stable path to our future relationship with our most important trading partners. I’m very frustrated with the current Government’s flippant attitude, which suggests that a No Deal Brexit would cause “bumps in the road”. It strikes me that if you’re driving a Bentley, you’d hardly notice a bump in the road, it’s a bit different if you’re driving a car that’s only just scraped through its MOT.
The Council has a governance structure in place that includes Brexit leads in all departments who have reviewed the risks to services and council projects. We also play our part in the Local Resilience Forum, and it’s important to note that Nottingham is not expected to be differently affected from any other local authority. The Government’s reasonable worst case scenarios, which are not predictions, but potential outcomes that are being planned for, have been examined in detail. The Government assessment highlights potential disruption to supply chains due to delays at the point of entry.
For food, the assessment states that there will be no overall shortage of food, but there could be a reduction in choice, particularly for fresh fruit and vegetables, many of which are imported through the port of Dover. There is a possibility of an increase in prices, that will disproportionately affect our low income households. In Nottingham, plans are in place to ensure the impact on school catering is mitigated through the stockpiling of non-perishable goods, and alternative menus based on what is available are being prepared. Similar mitigations are in place for our Meals at Home service, which provides for vulnerable people in their homes.
We are maintaining our maximum fuel storage capacity, which will allow continuation of Council services for up to three weeks. Plans are in place across the Council that identify priority users, and the services that may need access to these reserves should they arise. In extreme circumstances, there is a national fuel plan. As far as medicines are concerned, the NHS in England is responsible, and they tell us that needs will be met. Our social care and health teams will work closely together to identify issues and solutions where necessary.
The Audit Committee discussed a report in January 2019 which outlined the risks and mitigations, and these have been under continual review ever since. There are risks associated with finance, based on the increased cost of borrowing, the weakening pound, and inflation. This will be monitored, and potential impacts would be the increased cost of service delivery and budgetary issues. As if we’re not under enough pressure as it is. There may be difficulties in maintaining the workforce, especially in health and social care. Although there is very little reliance on EU workers across the Council, historical issues of recruitment and retention within the sector could be exacerbated. Internally, a recruitment campaign is ongoing, and we are in regular contact with commissioned providers to assess issues. Providers may also have some pressure from inflationary cost increases, which will be monitored and reviewed.
Civil disobedience and unrest, which have been highlighted nationally as a potential issue, have been reviewed locally. The Council and partners will respond in the usual way to events if they occur. It is our high priority to maintain community cohesion. Many of these risks will manifest themselves over time, allowing for assessment and a stepped response. Any issues that require a multi—agency and immediate response will be picked up through the normal emergency planning arrangements and the Local Resilience Forum, which includes representatives from all major public bodies, including health services, emergency services, and neighbouring authorities. Thank you.
Governance arrangements of council-owned companies
Councillor Andrew Rule asked the following question of the Leader of the Council:
The Leader of the Council will recall that prior to the election discussions were ongoing regarding the formation of a new committee to oversee the governance arrangements of council wholly owned and majority owned companies. Can he update the Chamber on what progress has been made with this to date?
Councillor David Mellen replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor, and can I thank Councillor Rule for his question. I can confirm that the Director of Legal and Governance is currently undertaking a review of existing company governance arrangements for wholly owned and majority owned companies. As part and parcel of this review, I have asked that clear options be put forward regarding future governance arrangements. Once the review is complete, it will be considered by the relevant Portfolio Holder, Councillor Webster, and myself, with recommendations going forward for decision in the usual way. Thank you.
Clifton market cleansing
Councillor Andrew Rule asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Communities:
What impact does the Portfolio Holder believe that there will be as a result of the Council’s decision to reduce cleansing services in the area occupied by Clifton Market on the Council’s chances of attracting further Central Government investment into the Clifton shopping precinct?
Councillor Rebecca Langton replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor, and can I thank Councillor Rule for his question. There has been no decision to reduce cleansing standards in the area occupied by Clifton Market, or indeed any other part of the city. On the contrary: in the election manifesto for this year, which has now been adopted as the Council’s work plan, one of our top five pledges was to make Nottingham the cleanest city in the country, and to ensure that our neighbourhoods are as clean as the city centre. Clean streets and town centres that local people can be proud of are at the heart of safe and resilient communities. So we continue to work hard to deliver grade A standard cleansing across our city centre, town centres, and neighbourhood streets.
Last year we integrated the cleansing and ground maintenance services. This means that these services are now more agile and flexible, but they’re also under considerable pressure, given the demands they face and the standards we all expect in our neighbourhoods. In the face of unrelenting pressure on Council budgets, the Public Realm Services keep looking for ways to be more efficient and to deliver more, as well as making effective use of their fleet. Much of the old fleet has now been replaced with new environmentally friendly vehicles which are also much more reliable, but we do have fewer vehicles to work with. As with any changes, it can take a little time and effort to get things right, so whilst I am confident that our standards remain high, I do accept that there is room for improvement, and I have been discussing this with our Public Realm colleagues.
Any Councillor who is concerned about public realm standards in their ward should first raise these concerns with their Neighbourhood Operations Manager (NOM). NOMs are responsible for deploying resources locally to ensure the best possible cleansing and public realm standards are maintained. I can also assure Councillor Rule that I will personally visit Clifton Market next week as part of one of my regular spot checks across our neighbourhoods. Councillor Rule would be welcome to join me on this visit, and I would encourage him to raise any specific concerns with me directly. The same applies to all Council colleagues.
Although as Portfolio Holder, I’m committed to ensuring our communities are safe and clean and maintained to the highest standards, Councillor Rule knows full well the reality of the situation we are in as a Council. In the last five years, Conservative Government funding cuts have meant that we have had to reduce what we spend on street cleaning by more than a quarter. That means fewer staff, fewer street sweepers, and fewer opportunities to innovate. So there’s something of an irony in this question. Whilst we will continue to do all we can to attract government funding, as well as maintaining high standards of cleansing, the best way we can ensure that we do this is with adequate and fair funding from the Conservative Government. We want the Government to work with us, not against us, to deliver for our communities. And if Councillor Rule is as concerned about maintaining these standards as we are, perhaps this year he will join us in calling on the Government to properly fund our Council.
Under Nottingham Labour, Nottingham City Council has delivered consistent and sustained investment in Clifton. This has included, but is not limited to:
· long-awaited A453 improvements to give easy access to the M1 and reduce congestion in Clifton;
· £15million worth of investment in the Clifton Triangle development; creating 130 new jobs and delivering popular low cost local shopping options;
· £500,000 invested in Clifton town centre to improve pedestrian and shopping areas;
· the Clifton Cornerstone joint service centre;
· investment in and expansion of popular local primary and secondary schools;
· more than £30 million invested in Clifton houses through the decent homes programme, as well as more than 2,000 homes insulated, new Council housing on Eddleston Drive, Meadowvale Crescent, Middlefell Way and many more, amounting to millions of pounds of investment,;
· £85,000 invested in Clifton Flower Park;
· and not to mention the many millions of pounds as well as other associated benefits of bringing the tram to Clifton.
Lord Mayor, while I am new to this Chamber, I cannot take credit for this work. I am proud of the legacy of investment in Clifton that Nottingham Labour has to this point. My Portfolio includes responsibility for neighbourhood regeneration, and I look forward to continuing this commitment to investing in all our communities, including Clifton.
I assume that Councillor Rule is referring in his question to the Future High Street bid that we have submitted for Clifton, in which the City Council was unsuccessful. This bid intended to do further work to link up Clifton Triangle, bringing together the main shopping precinct, the market, and the newer shops on Green Lane. We always knew this bid was something of a long shot, as one of the eligibility criteria was of low occupancy rates. In Clifton, it is a credit to our local investment that there are no vacant shops on the main shopping precinct. So whilst I’m disappointed that we didn’t get that money, it wasn’t necessarily a big surprise. Nevertheless, we continue to look for opportunities for investment and improvement in Clifton. For example, we’ve recently submitted a bid for £150,000 to the Local Growth Fund. If successful, this money would go towards transforming the library frontage, including a new café and landscape improvements. We will find out if we’ve been successful at the end of this month. In addition, the Neighbourhood Investment Team continues to apply for Central Government Funding as soon as any pots are announced.
Lord Mayor, Nottingham Labour is committed to investing in all of our communities, and we want to work with the Government to do this. Finally, Lord Mayor, it wouldn’t be possible to maintain high standards on our streets without the hard work of Council colleagues, so I want to take a moment to reflect on their contributions to Clifton, and to our city. In my first few months as Portfolio Holder, I have been out on the front line with our refuse collectors and our Streetscene Team. The people I have spent time with take great pride in the work that they do. They work hard, and they share our commitment to delivering clean communities under ever increasing pressures. They face many challenges in the work they do, day in, day out, and I would like to personally thank and pay credit to those Council staff who are on the front line, whatever the weather, whatever the challenge. The people I know, both from spending time on the front line, and as a ward councillor, are committed, resilient, and proud to work for Nottingham City. They don’t get everything right, but I am confident that they understand the value of the work they do. I’m sure every member in this Chamber will join me in thanking our front line staff for their hard work.
Robin Hood Energy funding
Councillor Andrew Rule asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Finance, Growth, and the City Centre:
In light of Robin Hood Energy’s recent generosity in donating 300 oak trees to the City Council and funding the Rainbow Road in the City Centre, is the Portfolio Holder satisfied that the Company is now generating a profit and will require no further capital injections from the Council?
Councillor Sam Webster replied as follows:
Sure Lord Mayor. Mighty oaks, Councillor Rule, mighty oaks from little acorns grow. That’s our view on the Labour benches anyway. This question is a good precursor to the motion that I’ll be proposing to Council later this afternoon, where I will be focusing on our proud history in Nottingham of public ownership, of delivering public services in-house, of creating and maintaining local jobs for local people, and of resisting the continual pressures of Conservative Councillors and Conservative Governments to outsource, to sell off Nottingham’s assets to profit-making big businesses, and to outsource services and staff to the cheapest bidder.
There are very clear differences to our approaches, and as Councillor Rule knows, the people of Nottingham once again made their democratic choice just a few short months ago in the local elections. At those elections, a third of Conservative Councillors lost their seats, and were replaced by Labour Councillors. I politely suggest than an urgent review is required of your party’s standpoint on adequately funding local services which Councillor Langton was just referring to, supporting non-profit and public ownership models as we do, and frankly, backing Nottingham rather than knocking Nottingham.
To answer the specific points in your question. What else would you expect in Nottingham, the home of Robin Hood? I think the team at Robin Hood Energy made a good call investing in the sapling oaks to further green our city, to donate to the schools our children go to, the open spaces we all enjoy, and to the community groups we all work with and support. It helps to highlight what we’re doing here in Nottingham. As the Deputy Leader regularly points out, under Labour, as a City we’ve pledged to the people that we will go green, and Robin Hood Energy is helping in our mission to rapidly reduce emissions and improve air quality. So yes, I am fully supportive of three hundred young oak trees, and of the 100% green electricity that Robin Hood Energy supplies, and I know that on the Labour benches we’re fully supportive also of Robin Hood Energy sponsorship of the extremely popular Rainbow Road in Hockley: a very worthwhile sponsorship in my view.
You asked me about Robin Hood Energy’s performance at the last Council meeting too Councillor Rule, but I’m more than happy to reiterate that the Council invests based on a business case, as you would expect. As I previously said, if we decide to invest further in Robin Hood Energy, a company that the City Council on behalf of the people of Nottingham owns outright, to support more growth or acquisitions, he will be one of the first to know. Young businesses, just like young oak trees, often need a bit of support, a bit of nurture, and a bit of time to grow big and strong. Thame you.
Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse
Councillor Andrew Rule asked the following question of the Leader of the Council:
Prior to the publication of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) report the Leader of the Council was reluctant to establish a committee to examine the findings of the report, together with the implementation of any recommendations from it. Given the report was critical of the City Council’s engagement with survivors will he now commit to establishing such a committee?
Councillor David Mellen replied as follows:
Thanks Lord Mayor, and thank you to Councillor Rule for this question. Following recommendations from the Ofsted report of Children’s Services in 2014, a separate Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Committee was established, so that matters involving children and young people could have sufficient examination and discussion. This new committee has worked well, and given due priority for these matters. And it is appropriate that the IICSA report and action plan will be reported to the Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Committee this month, following the report to Executive Board in a couple of weeks’ time. There is also a plan for the report to go to Audit Committee at the end of the month. With this level of scrutiny, I do not believe it is appropriate or necessary for an extra body to be established as requested.
Officers, including our Chief Executive are involved in regular meetings with the Survivors Support Group. The City Council has been meeting with this Group since May 2016 when we were invited to join the meetings. Our Director of Children’s Services and other senior colleagues have met with individual survivors when they or their representatives have requested this. This is not a new development and both individual and group meetings have taken place over a number of years. With our partners in Nottinghamshire Police, the County Council and the Clinical Commissioning Partnership, we have worked with survivors to co-produce an information leaflet to help advise and signpost people to the right support. This is available on-line and copies distributed to places where survivors might go to receive help including GP surgeries, libraries and our Joint Service Centres. Whilst some survivors engage in the Survivors Support Group, others prefer not to, so retaining the opportunity to have individual conversations with Council officers as the need arises is also important.
I am pleased to report that the City Council is fully engaged with a piece of research commissioned by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and NHS England to deliver a comprehensive child sexual abuse and sexual violence economic, health and social needs assessment for Nottinghamshire.
Lime Culture CIC, a national sexual violence training and consultancy organisation with a strong track record of victim and survivor engagement is undertaking this work which includes a series of focus groups with victims and survivors and separately with professionals who are working with survivors. The resultant needs assessment will provide all commissioners in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, including the City Council, with a solid evidence base for future services and we shall use this to ensure that we and our partners continue to commission and provide the right support for survivors.