Councillor Andrew Rule asked the following question of the Leader of the Council:
The Police and Crime Commissioner for Nottinghamshire reportedly supports the Knife Angel coming to the City of Nottingham, given there are indications that external funding would be made available to facilitate this, will the Leader of the Council continue to maintain his opposition to the Knife Angel being installed on Council land, even in the event that there was no cost to the Council?
Councillor David Mellen replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor and can I thank Councillor Rule for his question.
Lord Mayor, my commitment to reducing the risk of knife crime in Nottingham remains unchanged.
My opinion as to whether we should host the Knife Angel statue in Nottingham is not one borne out of how much it might cost to bring the statue here. My view, and I know it’s a view shared by many in this Chamber, is based on how appropriate it would be to bring the statue to this City. While some claim that the Knife Angel’s presence stimulates conversations about knife crime, we need to balance differing views. For every person who might find it inspiring, there are people in our City that who will find it distasteful or even offensive. There is a risk it may be misunderstood as glorifying violence.
Let me be clear, we are making progress in reducing knife crime, and figures from the Crime and Drugs Partnership show knife crime offences fell in the City by 17% over the past 12 months. While this is welcome news, and news we are pleased about, there are still far too many cases of knives being carried and, sadly, used and we can never be complacent about this issue. We are committed to maintaining our public health approach in partnership with all key agencies, including public protection, police, social care, schools, voluntary and community organisations and other groups working in the City. Reducing the risk of knife crime and youth violence includes works that we have been doing with our Youth Justice Service, a specially formed dedicated knife crime hub, to support and reach young people at risk locally; it also involves work with the County Council, the nationally funded Violence Reduction Unit and the Police and Crime Commissioner. The initial priority of the Unit has been to work with core provision and police colleagues to reduce weapon-enabled violence in public spaces. In the longer term, the Unit is seeking to understand what causes violence, and the causes of those causes, so that we can prevent, intervene and treat those causes.
In addition, because knife crime is not just a problem amongst teenagers, we have recently been able to grant-fund voluntary organisations working with 18 – 24 year olds where there is a concern that knife crime is significant. We know that it is very important that young people have access to good youth opportunities and have hope that they can achieve a good education and positive opportunities for work. Since 2018, through our programmes in schools, we have reached 2,637 primary school children, and 1,352 secondary children. Last year we delivered the ‘Street Aware’ programme, providing awareness-raising lessons to 55 primary schools, outlining the risk of criminal gangs, which included grooming, making good decisions and where and how to get help. We also covered issues related to the law about knives and the risk of harm. In Play and Youth, we are currently delivering 34 sessions per week across the City, supplemented by targeted sessions for those young people identified as being at risk of knife crime and child criminal exploitation. Through the Area Based Grants and money from the Police Commissioners Office, we have also funded several local community-based organisations to provide universal services across the City that complement the targeted work being delivered by our Play and Youth staff. In fact, we have invested £200,000 in small grants into organisations working in our communities to support young people involved with crime and violence, or who are at risk of becoming involved, and they do brilliant work.
Lord Mayor, we have proved that in partnership we can bring crime figures down in Nottingham and as Leader of the Council I will continue to do everything I can to bring those numbers down further.
Robin Hood cards
Councillor Andrew Rule asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Adult Care and Local Transport:
The Portfolio Holder will be aware that it was originally envisaged that the original migration date for those holders of a Mango card who use the tram to move across to a Robin Hood card was set at 29 December 2019. Notwithstanding this date has been extended to the end of March this year, the Portfolio Holder is presumably aware of the huge inconvenience this now causes to former Mango card holders who have had to move across to the Robin Hood card but who now find that very few tram stops either have a Robin Hood card top-up machine on site or in their immediate vicinity to enable Robin Hood card holders to top up their cards. Can the Portfolio Holder therefore confirm whether there are plans to rectify this and if so, the likely timeframe involved?
Councillor Adele Williams replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor and I thank Councillor Rule for the question.
Nottingham is well known nationally as a centre of excellence for public transport, with City Council initiatives combining with the efforts of local public transport operators to provide a high quality offer both for local people and visitors.
Our Council has a long standing and award winning record on public transport. Through bold initiatives like retaining our municipally owned, award winning bus company and pioneering the Workplace Parking Levy we have been able to invest and plan strategically for a world-class transport system. The £64million that we have raised over the years of the innovative Workplace Parking Levy has enabled us to make the investment that has brought those people onto public transport and out of their cars. In doing this, we work strategically with all operators across the City and the Robin Hood card is an important part of this work, allowing passengers a simple way to interchange between operators without fare barriers. The card has received a number of accolades, particularly with ‘pay as you go’ being the first scheme of its kind in the UK. Over 9million Robin Hood card trips have been recorded in the past 12 months, and usage levels are likely to increase further with Tramlink’s decision to promote the use of the Robin Hood card following the withdrawal of the Mango card in early 2020. There are currently over 150 on-street ticket machines across greater Nottingham, which, together with the City Centre Travel Centre, provide many opportunities to top up Robin Hood cards, and I am pleased to say that the Council are well underway with plans to make Robin Hood card products even more accessible to citizens. It is worth noting as well that the vast majority of journeys on the tram start and end in the City Centre and are very close to many machines. After the withdrawal of the Mango card from tram operations was confirmed, we have been working with Tramlink and their operator to upgrade their tram ticket machines to also allow top up of Robin Hood cards on tram platforms. The tram operator is aware of the importance of maximising convenience you mention and is looking to co-ordinate the withdrawal of Mango with the introduction of Robin Hood Card top ups. It is now possible to purchase a Robin Hood Card top up on line, although you do need to go to a ticket machine to have the credit added to your card. This will make it quicker and avoid the need to make transactions in public places.
Work is well underway on a number of further initiatives to improve convenience. These include developing a mobile app that will allow citizens to purchase tickets and download them onto your Robin Hood card directly from their phone, and using a mobile phone in lieu of a payment card. We are also working with operators to deliver a student Robin Hood card on a ‘pay as you go’ model.
So these measures will be rolled out over the next 12 months and will make the Robin Hood product much easier to use, avoiding the need to visit the ticket machines at all, so the issue you mentioned will not be there. With contactless payments also being introduced, purchasing tickets to travel will be easier than ever before. The Robin Hood card, as you know, is an established and popular ticketing option in the Nottingham area, and we will continue to look at new improvements that can be made to maximise convenience to citizens.
Just to finish, we are really proud of our record and plans for public transport. Our bold policy brings in investment to the City and has given us a really solid platform to locally address what is a climate emergency through our ambitious carbon-neutral target, so I thank Councillor Rule for the question and the opportunity to talk about what is a very convenient and valued scheme for citizens in Nottingham.
Selective Licensing Scheme
Councillor Andrew Rule asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing and Heritage:
At the beginning of December, nearly 18 months after its introduction, the City Council’s Selective Licensing Scheme had generated a surplus of £4.7million, whilst only 23% of the City’s 33,502 private rented properties have been issued with draft/ full licences. Despite the presence of this surplus, the Council is proposing to increase the licence fee yet again after March. Could the Portfolio Holder explain why this increase is necessary given the existing surplus?
Councillor Linda Woodings replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor and thank you Councillor Rule for your question.
As you are aware, the Council introduced the Selective Licensing Scheme for private rented houses on 1 August 2018 in order to drive up the standards of private-rented properties in Nottingham, and provide better rights and protections for renters.
The initial fee was set in April 2018 and this is the first fee review since the Scheme started. However, there appears to me to be a bit of a misunderstanding within your question because the Selective Licensing Scheme does not run on a surplus, it’s not allowed to under the legislation; nor can it run on a deficit though as it has to ‘wash its face’ financially. Of course, in any 5-year scheme, where large amounts of applications come through almost immediately within the first 2-3 months, there would be a technical surplus as fees are charged in year 1 out of the 5 years and then we drawdown the funds throughout the duration of the 5 years of the scheme.
As the scheme had been running for over a year, it is only right and proper that the fees and charges should be reviewed; that is only good practice. As I have said before in this Chamber, the Scheme got the go-ahead in spring 2018, following authority from the Secretary of State, however, under the legislation, the Scheme had to be up and running within just 3 months. So, despite our planning and advance preparations, the Scheme still had new processes, new procedures and it’s also dealing with a group of landlords and agents who had never been regulated in this way before.
There has been a lot of learning in the first year of the Scheme and, as such, the Council has had to review the fee to better reflect the cost of the work undertaken. However, this revised fee will not come into force until 1 April 2020, so this increase will not affect the price already paid by the responsible landlords who have already submitted their applications for their properties before this point. So, if you currently have a property and you’ve paid your licence fee, we’re not going to send you a bill for the extra money. I think there has been a bit of a misunderstanding about that as well; this does not apply to the people that have already applied, but we know there are landlords that still haven’t applied and the new fees will only apply to people who apply from April 2020 to go forward and those that purchase properties and licence them from April 2020 onwards. So I just want to clear up that misunderstanding as well.
The processing and issuing of draft and final licences has increased in the last 6 months and continues to increase. This is because a lot of the initial administrative work on the applications has been done, such as checking the application has been made correctly, with the right paperwork and the correct fee.
The ‘surplus’ you refer to has to provide funding for the whole duration of the 5 year Scheme, which goes on until July 2023. As such, there was always going to be a ‘surplus’ in the early years, which decreases as the Scheme progresses. Without this surplus, the Council would have to draw on funds from taxpayers to fund the scheme, and that is money we simply do no have.
The income and expenditure is reviewed on a regular basis to anticipate, predict and ensure the sustainability of the scheme over the 5 years and to ensure there will be sufficient funds to fund it for the full duration of the Scheme.
The most important thing is that standards of private-rented housing in our City are improving, with more than 237 interventions that have taken place without recourse to expensive court cases and prosecutions. 237 families are now living in safer, healthier housing because of this Scheme, and that great work will continue.
Councillor Maria Watson asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing and Heritage:
We, in the Nottingham Independents, have taken great interest in the Land and Planning Policy, which is to be proposed later on in the Council meeting, and which promises a bright future for the City. As you may remember at the last full Council, we spoke about the importance of Summerwood Day Centre to our local community and to its residents. Summerwood is a vital service, which does amazing things, and we could not be more proud of it. It is, therefore, of some concern to see the proposed Farnborough Road development covers the area currently home to Summerwood, and despite our best efforts, we cannot get reassurance that it will not be put in danger with this development. Can the Portfolio Holder give us the reassurances we seek, that Summerwood is not at risk from this development, and that it continues to have an important place in the Council’s future plans?
Councillor Linda Woodings replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor and thank you Councillor Watson for asking this question.
You are hearing my moving speech later down the agenda for the revised Local Plan.
The Plan is a mandatory document that councils across the country are obliged to put forward to Government to demonstrate that they have a plan to deliver, amongst other things, suitable land for housing, economic and social growth. However, just because a plot of land is included within the Plan, it does not necessarily mean that development will inevitably follow. It does give us an opportunity to steer development across the City, but these allocated sites are not the same as planning applications.
As you are no doubt aware, if a developer does come forward in the future with a definite proposal for one of the plots of land within the Local Plan, it will be the subject of consultation with local Councillors, immediate neighbours and the public, and it will then proceed to a Planning Committee application for a decision.
This Plan has been in development for the last 3 years, through which time it has been subject to extensive and repeated stages of consultation. The Government Inspector and the Secretary of State have signed-off the report and today is the final stage of approval.
In relation to the future of day services, and specifically the Summerwood Day Centre, this was the specific subject of a question at our last Full Council in November 2019 and I would refer you to the answer given then by the Portfolio Holder for Adult Care and Local Transport, which is a matter of public record.
Councillor Kirsty Jones asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Adult Care and Local Transport:
I’m sure, like myself, many residents of Nottingham were delighted to see the Council’s commitment to resurfacing the roads and filling 50,000 pot holes across the City, as outlined in their plan for 2023. With the commitment to reach 50,000 in four years meaning that an average of 12,500 pot holes need to be filled per year, can the Portfolio Holder advise us as to when we will likely be starting to see this commitment coming to fruition? The roads in Clifton East are at an all-time dire state, so any reassurance that can be given will no-doubt be extremely welcome to both ourselves and to our residents.
Councillor Adele Williams replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor and thank you Councillor for this important question.
We all know as Councillors how important road surfacing is to residents, which is why we included this ambitious pledge in our Manifesto, and now the Council Plan.
The condition of our roads and footpaths is of the utmost importance and it can sometimes feel that demand outstrips our resources. The variable weather patterns and the volume and weight of vehicles all affect surface deterioration and the number of potholes. I know that the quality of our roads has a very real impact on cyclists, users of public transport and pedestrians, as well as motorists.
The Council has a long-standing, strong commitment to inspecting our highways and identifying repairs on a pro-active basis. These are classified as urgent or non-urgent, and all measured against safety intervention criteria. This is done to keep our citizens safe from injury and to protect the Council against claims.
In recognition of the fact that funding is evidently insufficient to fill the nation’s potholes, Government has provided additional grant ring-fenced funding for pothole repairs. However, short-term ‘fix funding’ like this, though welcome when it comes, is not really an efficient use of public funds. The Transport Select Committee, chaired by our colleague from Nottingham South, Lilian Greenwood MP, did a major piece of work in summer 2019 entitled ‘Local Roads Funding and Maintenance: Filling the Gap’, taking evidence from various local authorities and user groups. It was a strong steer from all of the voices, with many perspectives on this issue, that the Government really needs to commit to a front-loaded, long-term solution, a long-term funding settlement to deal with what is a national backlog of maintenance. What we need is a streamlined, long-term, funding settlement that moves away from this plethora of funding sources, asking for money and money being given as a short-term half-fix. The Urban Transport Group is also very supportive of this approach as it would be, obviously, both cost effective and more sustainable, as the current system inevitably drives a reactive approach.
In Nottingham, we take an asset management approach to our highways, in common with other well-managed highways functions, but the current funding arrangements are both insufficient and poorly planned. We are still awaiting the award of the ring-fenced pothole funds for 2021 and we only have an indication going forward for the next couple of years. Longer-term certainty would enable us to get a better deal for Nottingham; it would help us to work with our supply chains, to plan and budget for work on a long-term basis to keep our highways in good order. Chucking in some money when you have been politically embarrassed into it is not a way to run public finances, and it is not a way to underpin a strategic approach to public assets.
None the less, we are pressing on with our commitment to fill 50,000 potholes over the life of this Council. These works will comprise of both temporary potholes and, where possible, permanent repairs. In terms of highway defects identified in Clifton East, we would always encourage citizens and Councillors to report through Highway Services in order that we can assess for repair. We currently plan to complete an average of 12,500 potholes, as you mentioned, per annum across the City. Work has been ongoing in Clifton already to meet the Manifesto pledge. The list of road surfacing and patching programmes recently completed includes Fairisle Close, Glenlivet Gardens, Green Lane, Huntly Close, Lerwick Close, Sumburgh Road, Summerwood Lane, Clifton Lane, Nobel Road and Woodkirk Road.
I would be happy to meet with Councillors from Clifton, and any of the other wards, to discuss any issues around highways.
We will continue to lobby Government for long-term, sustainable funding, and hope that Independent colleagues will join with us in fighting for the best deal for our citizens in Nottingham, but also for the national purse, as this isn’t any way to run a country.
Councillor Kevin Clarke asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Finance, Growth and the City Centre:
A few weeks ago, we at the Independents were lucky enough to go on a frontline shadowing opportunity with Trading Standards and got to see the invaluable work they do first hand. It made national headlines when they issued an urgent warning, in the build up to Christmas, about the sale of potentially dangerous and toxic dolls being sold by a Nottingham wholesaler. The actions of Trading Standards Nottingham literally saves people’s lives and their value to the City cannot be expressed strongly enough. Will the Portfolio Holder join me in thanking them for the work that they do, and commit to us that their funding will be protected, despite the Council’s obvious financial strains?
Councillor Sam Webster replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor and can I thank Councillor Clarke for recognising the important work of Nottingham City Council’s Trading Standards Team.
The Trading Standards officers work tirelessly to keep the citizens of Nottingham safe. The work ranges from ensuring dangerous goods, such as petroleum and fireworks, are being stored safely, to responding to incidents of doorstep crime, where vulnerable citizens have been targeted by rogue traders.
This year to date, the Team has received over 2,750 complaints, conducted over 500 investigations into fraudulent trading, and saved citizens almost £25,000 through interventions. This is alongside other activities, such as weights and measures, action to prevent the underage sale of knives and many other activities.
It is heartening to hear that during Councillor Clarke’s short time on the Council, through frontline shadowing opportunities, he is seeing that the Council delivers many vital services every day to our residents and businesses. Trading Standards is one of these vital services, along with a long list of others that includes environmental health, food safety officers, community protection, taxi inspection officers, meals on wheels, social workers, and care workers and, as he knows, I could go on.
Under Labour leadership in Nottingham our policy has been to try to protect frontline services, just like Trading Standards, wherever possible, especially those services upon which the safety of our residents relies. However, after a decade of Tory austerity, and over £100million per year less money from Government, if he genuinely wants to see council services adequately funded he should join with us in lobbying government ministers, who have seen fit to take away 60p in every £1 of funding to councils. In the financial climate that councils are in, it is not possible to guarantee or give a commitment that services can be wholly protected from funding reductions. However, the protection, safety and support that Trading Standards provides to the Council and to the citizens of Nottingham is, and will continue to be, recognised, and we on this side, and Councillor Clarke on his side, are proud as a council of the work that they do.
Robin Hood Energy
Councillor Kevin Clarke asked the following question of the Leader of the Council:
If you recall our previous Full Council Meeting, you will remember that I stood here two months ago seeking assurances from the Portfolio Holder for Finance, Growth and the City Centre that the state of Robin Hood Energy was not the financial folly that it appeared to be at the time. You may also recall that the Portfolio Holder was more than happy to give me those assurances. Since that meeting, the two most senior bosses of the organisation, the Chief Executive and the Financial Director, are both facing a reported internal employment investigation, and the accounts for Robin Hood Energy have been delayed yet again for a further three months.
Considering these events, as well as the fact that no opposition Councillors are currently permitted to sit on the new Committee aimed at providing greater scrutiny of Council companies, the Leader must forgive me if we at the Nottingham Independents find it difficult to see that Robin Hood Energy’s financial situation is as healthy as he would have us believe. Would he agree with not only myself, but also the Council’s auditor from Grant Thornton, that public accountability of Robin Hood Energy is severely lacking and that is something that could at least partially be remedied if opposition councillors were able to sit on the new Committee?
Councillor David Mellen replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor and can I thank Councillor Clarke for his question.
In February 2019, the Audit Committee considered a report regarding proposed arrangements for the governance of Council companies and since then further work has been undertaken to refine an appropriate governance framework. In December 2019, I established the Companies Governance Executive Sub Committee which will oversee the strategic objectives across the Council’s group of companies, recognising that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to company governance and that our engagement with each of our companies will need to be tailored to fit the individual circumstances, whilst encouraging our companies to learn from each other and support each other as Nottingham companies.
As a sub-committee of Executive Board,the membership will quite rightly comprise exclusively of Executive Councillors, as is the case with the Commissioning and Procurement Sub-Committee. The Committee will, however, be accountable to Executive Board, where it has been well established that Leaders of the Opposition Groups can attend and have speaking rights.
Adult social care funding
Councillor Carole McCulloch asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Finance, Growth and the City Centre:
Can the Portfolio Holder for Finance, Growth and the City Centre confirm that the Government is expecting councils to add an adult social care charge of 2% on to council tax bills in the next financial year?
Councillor Sam Webster replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor.
Yes Councillor McCulloch, I can indeed confirm that the Conservative Government expects councils to put an additional 2% charge onto council tax bills from April 2020. This follows on from them cutting 60p from every £1 of government funding that councils across the country receive. In Nottingham that means our City now receives over £100million less government funding every single year than it did in 2011. That equates to a loss of government funding of £529 per Nottingham household. In fact, it was one of the first acts of the new Chancellor to add £1/2billion on to council tax bills by way of this Adult Social Care precept, which means the additional money raised is to be spent on care services for the elderly, vulnerable children and disabled people.
There are a few problems with the Government’s approach:
1. It is short-termism at its very worst; for 2 years councils have had promise after promise of new government policies to properly fund care services for older people. The need for those services is growing, yet the funding for councils has been reducing. This causes a funding gap for many councils that have adult social care responsibilities.
2. It is unfair. Areas with the highest need tend to be local authorities in poorer parts of the country. Those happen to be the areas that can raise the least additional funding from a council tax increase. It breaks down something like this – in places like Nottingham, Hull and Liverpool most older people are not wealthy enough to fund their own care in older age, so the council has to fund it. In places like Surrey, Sussex and Buckinghamshire, most older people are wealthy enough to fund their own care when they need it, but, guess what, it’s the areas with the least demand on the council who can raise the most by increasing council tax. So to put it bluntly, when Nottingham, Hull and Liverpool add 1% to their council tax they might raise around £3 per head, when councils in Surrey, Sussex and Buckinghamshire do the same they can raise over double that amount per person. Therefore, by failing to redistribute funding based on the needs of local populations, the Government is making inequality even worse.
3. It is hard-pressed families that face, yet again, higher council tax bills. Council tax is not progressive, it does not take account of income, it does not take account of ability to pay in the same way income tax does. Therefore, people on low wages, who are already struggling to make ends meet, will pay 2% more, and a multi-millionaire with a very highly paid job or business income will pay 2% more. A Tory tax if ever I heard one.
I hope City Councillors in opposition parties can see this for what it is; we in the Labour Group certainly can, it is unfair, short-termism that does not actually provide the funding that is needed where it is needed. I also hope that we can have cross-party support to join Labour Councillors in our lobbying of Government to deal with the huge funding gaps that now exist.
Council tax increases alone cannot meet the cost demand for services, close the funding gap, or begin to deal with the inequalities between different parts of the country. The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) says that councils now have a funding gap of £3.6billion in adult care services alone. The Children’s Society has concluded that by 2025 councils will have a £3billion funding gap for children’s services as well.
Contrary to some statements I have heard, this is not a new Conservative Government. It is the same group of Tory MPs that have presided over austerity and funding cuts for the last decade. They have created the inequality, they have unfairly increased council tax bills, and they have created the huge gaps in funding that affect towns and cities across the country. It is about time that they dealt with some of the problems they have created.
Ambitions for Nottingham
Councillor Pavlos Kotsonis asked the following question of the Leader of the Council:
As we enter a new year and a new decade, can the Leader of the Council explain our ambitions for Nottingham?
Councillor David Mellen replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor and can I thank Councillor Kotsonis for his question.
As we set out in the Council Plan, published at the last Full Council meeting, we have a four year programme of priorities for Nottingham. I am pleased to say that at the start of 2020 we are already working hard to achieve the ambitious targets laid out in the Council Plan.
We want to build or buy at least 1,000 council or social houses for rent. We know that waiting for an appropriate home for themselves or their family is a big problem for too many in our City. From those finding themselves sleeping rough, to those living in overcrowded conditions, as well as those that have spent months and years on the waiting list, all point to there not being enough homes in our City, and we intend to do something about it. Of course, if the Government would return to councils all of the receipts made as a result of the sale of council houses, rather than the proportion we currently receive, then that would make this task much easier, but irrespective of government support we will do everything we can to achieve this ambition.
Our second main target is to create 15,000 new jobs in Nottingham. It is pleasing to see the cranes in the sky over the southern part of the city centre, and see the construction jobs created by the exciting building work that is going on. We look forward as well to the opening of the New College Hub building, the Broadmarsh Bus Station and car park, the renovated Castle early next year, the Broadmarsh shopping and leisure space, and the new city centre library as further centres for new jobs in the city centre. Building taking place at Unity Square, plans for Crocus Place, as well as other developments in the south side of the City are matched by housing developments in other parts of the City: in Bestwood, in Bilborough and at the Waterside in Colwick. We want to encourage new businesses to come to Nottingham, to benefit from our wonderful public transport systems and forward-looking environmental policies. We look forward to the new development at the former Imperial Tobacco site on Thane Road, on the former Boots Island site, on Blenheim Industrial Estate, on Glaisdale Drive, and at the NG2 Business Park. We need to work together with our regional colleagues to argue for government investment in the East Midlands, in HS2, on the electrification of the Midlands Mainline, and on regional projects that will provide much needed employment in our area. We know that work makes a difference. Austerity continues despite what Tory politicians say. We know that work, and fairly paid work, makes a difference to the lives of our citizens and we will do everything we can to create the conditions for jobs to be created.
The plans for our new central library are ambitious and exciting. Housing the best children’s library in the UK in our brand new library space at the heart of the new Broadmarsh area, contributes to changing that area completely, and will bring with it a pedestrian friendly, public space which will lend itself to citizens gathering for a variety of purposes and enjoying the space vacated by the removal of vehicles from Collin Street. Giving children a love of reading is vital for the aspirations of the next generation. Screen-based entertainment for our children may set a challenge, but our children need both. To be IT literate is a vital skill for the future, but as are good literacy skills, and an imagination and curiosity that comes from an immersion in books from birth. That is why our Early Years Book Gifting scheme is so important, and why a linked ambition to get 10,000 children receiving monthly books is important.
Our ambitions for our City include making it safer by reducing both crime and anti-social behaviour. I talked earlier this afternoon about knife crime, but the rises in the crime over the last 2 or 3 years coincided with Government cuts to police funding, which undermined the huge reductions in crime achieved by us in Nottingham in the previous decade. Crime, and the fear of crime, has a debilitating effect on our citizens’ well-being. Anti-social behaviour has a nagging undermining of our community cohesion and quality of life. We will work through our dedicated Community Protection Teams, with the police and our communities, to address crime and anti-social behaviour, doing everything we can to keep our citizens safe in their houses, on their streets and online.
Our fifth priority is to keep our City clean and to keep our neighbourhoods as clean as our city centre. This is a tough challenge, but is one that we will prioritise. Our wonderful staff working across the City from early in the morning until late at night are vital in this task, and we applaud their commitment, but they cannot achieve this target alone. Much of the work they do would not be necessary if all of our citizens used bins properly, booked their bulky waste collection on our free system, and picked up after their dogs, so the Council would not be so stretched in this area. So I appeal to that minority of people who do not obey those rules, who live in or visit Nottingham, in this new decade to play their part in keeping our City clean, and I pay tribute to those that go out of their way as Clean Champions and as part of community litter-picks to clear up the rubbish dropped by others.
These are our priorities, and they are some of our ambitions, but there are many others. We want to lead a City where people get on with each other, live in harmony and treat each other with respect. Children should be safe and nurtured in our child-friendly City. Young people should have opportunities to learn in good schools and colleges and have a range of positive activities to get involved in, and job opportunities to look forward to. We need to work in strong partnership between the Council and other public institutions, with businesses, with our universities, with our communities, and with voluntary and faith groups, so that together we can build a better Nottingham. We all need to do everything we can to look after the planet we live on, and to adopt policies for this City that improve air quality and reduce our carbon footprint. The next generation are entitled to us doing what we can to reverse mistakes that we have made and improve the legacy that we leave them.
So, Lord Mayor, as we start the 2020s, we are ambitious for Nottingham. We are aware of the many challenges facing people who live here, and the Council, but we will work hard in partnership to achieve those ambitions. Lord Mayor, the ambitions we have for our City are exciting. For years Labour politicians have stood in this Chamber and proudly represented the people of Nottingham, guided by our clear values to help build a safer, cleaner City that is ambitious for its residents and that we can all be proud of. We have achieved many great things as a Council over the last decade, whilst enduring years of Government austerity. This means that vital services we all rely on have been squeezed to a point of crisis, and millions of pounds have been shifted for those that need it most in Nottingham and in cities in the midlands and the north to more affluent areas in the south. Of course, these difficult times have led to challenges in delivering our ambitious commitments for the City. Despite these difficult times, our ambition for our residents has never diminished. Nottingham needs politicians who want to make our City an even better place, and throughout the next decade we will continue to campaign for a Labour Government which will rise to the challenges facing us, setting an ambitious vision, not only for our City, but for the country as a whole.
Councillor Nicola Heaton asked the following question of the Deputy Leader/ Portfolio Holder for Energy, Environment and Democratic Services:
Can the Deputy Leader outline actions taken so far that have made Nottingham the city with the cleanest air in the UK and what the Council will do in the future to further improve air quality?
Councillor Sally Longford replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor and may I thank Councillor Heaton for the question and the opportunity to outline the actions Nottingham has taken over many years that have contributed to making it the City with the cleanest air in the UK.
The first major action taken by the City was in the 1960s following national legislation to prevent a recurrence of the ‘Great Smog of London’ in 1952, with the introduction of Smoke Control Areas. This reduced smoke concentrations from a maximum of 150 ?g/m2 in 1960 to just 2 ?g/m2, and sulphur dioxide concentrations from 300 ?g/m2 to just 2 ?g/m2 in 2008, eliminating and preventing the awful ‘smogs’ we used to experience in Nottingham. I remember well in my childhood being sent home from school because of smog-events and tasting the foul, smoky air as I trudged home.
Community Protection and Environmental Health teams continue to prevent and stop illegal smoke and sulphur dioxide emissions from chimneys and bonfires, minimising air pollution every single day.
Nitrogen dioxide pollution became the new focus of public health studies and concerns in the mid-1980s onwards, and Nottingham was one of the first councils to start monitoring NO2, recognising the need to join up its work to monitor pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide, particulates, hydrocarbons and ozone, and connect with the work we were doing to tackle traffic congestion. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 has been instrumental in reducing a range of air pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide, particulates and hydrocarbons from industrial and commercial activities and we have developed a range of transport strategies, including the Workplace Parking Levy, which have reduced congestion by encouraging and enabling citizens to walk, cycle and use our excellent public transport network. More recently we, along with many other councils, were tasked by Government to bring our NO2 levels within required standards by 2019. This was following court action by ClientEarth, which forced the Conservative Government to take action. In a similar way to their normal procedures though, they did not take national action, they pushed it onto councils to make things happen. We were delighted, however, that our strategy was the first to meet the required standard and it was approved by Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), whereas other cities have been forced to introduce charging clean-air zones due to their inability to meet the target without this action. We were only required to introduce a variety of measures to continue to clean up our transport options. We already had regulations in place to clean up the taxi fleet and were able to press ahead with that plan.
So, by the middle of 2020, all our hackneys will be either ULEV or Euro 6 and we have been able to provide some assistance to owners to support the transition to ULEV vehicles, as well as providing dedicated charging facilities in convenient locations for them, such as on Canal Street. Nottingham City Transport has already made the radical move towards the use of biogas-powered buses, which have zero tailpipe emissions, and their older, non-compliant diesel vehicles are being retrofitted to bring them up to the Euro 6 standard. I am glad to report that at the start of the New Year, I had an update that 145 of their vehicles have been upgraded already, leaving just a handful to be completed. Our ‘Go Ultralow’ Team have been busy continuing to support the installation of almost 400 public charge points across the D2N2 area. As well as providing support through the Workplace Travel Scheme to help employers encourage more sustainable commuting and conversion to electric vehicles. We have received national recognition for our bus and ULEV lane out towards the racecourse on Daleside Road. Meanwhile, our own fleet is gradually converting to EVs, with support from Defra and, by the end of the year, we will have 30% of our vehicles electric and have our own maintenance facility at the Eastcroft Depot, specialising in electric vehicles.
All this is very positive, but I am not complacent. We have much to do to reach our ambitious manifesto pledge of cutting NO2 and particulates by 20% by 2023. Colleagues will have seen the signage in various parts of the City encouraging drivers to turn off their engines when stationery as part of our ‘anti-idling’ campaign. We will shortly be enforcing anti-idling, particularly outside schools, at taxi ranks and railway crossings. We do not want to fine people, but we can and we will if they refuse to comply. We are also introducing an extended ‘clear zone’ which will include the turning point area, involving a permit scheme, which will introduce emissions criteria and therefore deter dirty, polluting buses, delivery vehicles and taxis from entering the core of the city centre, continuing to clean up our air.
Later today, I will be discussing our carbon reduction programme, which supports our clean air work. Everything we do which reduces energy demand and makes use of renewable energy will have benefits in terms of air quality. As we enter the 2020s, and in the face of the range of challenges we face as a Council, we must continue to ensure that the ‘win, win’ of reducing carbon emissions results in reduced air pollution and improves air quality. This is the outcome of our joined-up Air Quality, Health and Wellbeing, Planning, Transport and Energy Strategies.
Councillor Georgia Power asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing and Heritage:
In a recent report from Juno Women’s Aid, they identify that the Government’s underfunding of refuge beds is leading to around 60% of women fleeing violent and abusive partners not being given the support they need. What actions is the Council taking and how does it best believe it can work with partners to mitigate this?
Councillor Linda Woodings replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor and thank you Councillor Power for your question.
It is a sad fact that demand still outstrips supply for the provision of safe refuge spaces for women fleeing violence across the country, and even more sad that the grim statistic of two women every week in this country are being murdered by a partner or former partner. I can’t ever remember a time when that statistic was any different, it is horrific.
Nottingham City Council plays its part in responding to this need by participating in the national UK Refuge Network, which allows for the sharing of local refuge beds across boundaries for safety reasons of survivors and children.
Nottingham, I am so proud to say, unlike many other areas in the country, has not cut its refuge provision and continues to maintain 37 bed spaces: that is 31 commissioned bed spaces and 6 that were funded under the Government’s Response to Complexity Project bids. Interesting the word ’bids’ there, once again we have to compete against other local authorities for money in order to provide safe spaces for women. The need to maintain this provision and, wherever possible expand it, is fully recognised. To that end, this month (January 2020) the Council will be submitting a bid to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for a share of the £15million national fund for ‘Support for victims of domestic abuse and their children within safe accommodation’. Once again, only a share, we have to compete against other local authorities to get some of that money. That bid, if successful, will help us to fund vital services, including refuges, and will represent the fourth year in which the Council has received funding towards this. I think I said at the last Full Council that we anticipate that under the new Domestic Abuse Bill we will have to provide 41 spaces, and that will cost at least £1million more each year in order to provide that, so that was actually quantified and set out at our previous meeting.
In the interim, we work very closely with our partners, especially the Police and Crime Commissioner and NHS Clinical Commissioning Group to jointly fund and commission services for survivors of domestic violence and abuse. In 2019/20 financial year, partners allocated over £2million between them to fund domestic abuse services. Nottingham has a particularly strong partnership of agencies and groups which work well together to deliver services and secure funding.
The Domestic Abuse Bill, which we understand from the Queen’s Speech will be re-presented to Parliament, will also create new extra duties on local government to support survivors and to ensure that there is sufficient provision in place. As I said, that for us, we think, will mean we will have to provide at least an extra 4 bed spaces to meet the standards set out. This will help us to ensure that Nottingham women have the refuge provision they will needs in the future.
Our services in Nottingham are actually funded following very strong evidence-led processes of commissioning arrangements and are done to a needs-based model. The model is built up of education, prevention, direct intervention and our fantastic 24/7 helpline as well.
Nottingham Labour’s commitment to the domestic violence and abuse agenda was reflected in our manifesto that we all stood on back in 2019, and also the manifesto we stood on in 2015 as well. The 2019 manifesto is now part of the new Council Plan and that commits this Council to protecting our domestic violence services and maintaining an effective model of provision, as well as the training of all councillors and colleagues in domestic violence awareness, which is already funded and underway within Community Protection Unit.
Domestic violence and abuse also forms part of the Council’s Housing Strategy to ensure that the needs of survivors and their children are taken into account. Nottingham City Homes, our ALMO, is currently sourcing ‘move on’ accommodation to help women who have been in refuge a very long time, because they can’t find somewhere on the housing ladder, move on to a lower level of supported accommodation in order to free up refuge beds for those most in need.