Agenda item

Questions from citizens


Councillor Conduct

A citizen asked the following question of the Chair of the Standards and Governance Committee:  In circumstances where one councillor is employed by another councillor, what guidance has the Standards and Governance Committee put in place to ensure that undue influence is not exerted on the employed councillors by their employer?


Councillor Kirsty L Jones replied as follows:

In line with legislative requirements, Nottingham City Council has agreed a Councillor Code of Conduct which all councillors are required to comply with whenever they are acting in the capacity of a councillor. The Code outlines arrangements for the management of the registration and declaration of any interests held by councillors. All councillors are required to register their interests, including any employment, office, trade, profession, or vocation they hold, with the Council’s Monitoring Officer. These registers are published on the Council’s website. Any registered interests and any other interests held by a councillor that impact upon Council business in which they are involved must be declared and where such interests would impact their decision-making they must not take part in that business.  The Code of Conduct also requires councillors to impartially exercise their responsibilities in the interests of their local community. Article 4 of the Constitution also refers to the expectation that councillors, when acting in their capacity as a councillor, are expected to act in accordance with the 7 Nolan Principles of Public Life – namely, acting with selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. Training was provided for all councillors as part of their induction process on the Code of Conduct and the requirement to register and declare interests. All councillors have submitted registers of interest and these are available on the Council’s website. Any breach of the Code of Conduct, including a failure to declare interests or to impartially exercise their responsibilities in the interests of the local community, will be dealt with in accordance with the Councillor Complaints Procedure, which is also available on the Council’s website.


Victoria Market

A citizen asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture:  Does the Council wish to take the National Market Traders Federation up on their offer to act as negotiators, free of charge, compared to the £25,000 wasted on Bruton Knowles, to negotiate a fair compensation package for the Victoria Market traders, to help exit their lease from the Victoria Centre?


Councillor Pavlos Kotsonis replied as follows:

Thank you, Lord-Mayor. Can I thank the member of the public for the question.  I would like to reassure the member of the public that Bruton Knowles has extensive background and experience in leading negotiations of this nature. They have been involved in this project for some time and have made a positive contribution to establishing the requirements of traders as part of the Council’s work to seek an agreed exit. The National Market Traders Federation offer is noted, and their support of traders as part of the process is recognised and welcomed. However, the Council appreciates that some traders are members of the National Market Traders Federation, therefore the Council wishes to guard against potential claims of conflicts of interest. Thank you.


Mobility Passes

A citizen asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Highways, Transport and Planning:  I believe that more can be done to ensure that all citizens with a mobility pass are aware of its full 24/7 scope. In March 2023 the then Portfolio Holder answered a similar question but eight months on there has been very little action. Could I ask the new Portfolio Holder to order a marketing and publicity action plan on the mobility pass scheme as a matter of urgency, to include the following low or no-cost actions: arrange for the rolling bus (and tram) electronic messaging systems to promote the 24/7 benefit of the Mobility Concessionary Card, as hundreds of people with the cards are still unaware, as many wait until 9:30 to board buses and trams due to this lack of transparency; request that the local Travel Concession Authority (TCA) organise a standard system email to all existing Mobility Card holders (with perhaps a braille letter where applicable) informing entitled residents of the fact that their card is valid 24/7; arrange for an article in the in-house magazine ‘The Arrow’, explaining the additional discretionary benefits in operation, and which transport operators are covered including the Medilink service; and organise a topic headline with a detailed explanatory article in a forthcoming My Nottingham News email reiterating the 24/7 nature of the Mobility Card.


Councillor Angela Kandola replied as follows:

Thank you, Lord Mayor. The English National Concessionary Travel Scheme allows Nottingham City Mobility Card holders to receive free travel from 9.30am until 11pm on Mondays to Fridays, and on all times on weekends and bank holidays on local bus services. Local agreements also enable Mobility Pass holders a similar level of concession on tram services and to receive free travel before 9.30 in the morning and after 11pm Mondays to Fridays. The Council has put these additional concessions in place, recognising the difficulties affecting people of getting medical appointments and to work, hardship issues due to increased travel cost, social exclusion with restrictions of activity and barriers to groups with certain disabilities. It is my view that sufficient information has been provided to Mobility Pass holders on the availability of the pre-9.30am concession. The information is clearly stated on the Council’s website and on the website of the main public transport operators in the city. When a card is issued or renewed, the covering letter also details the availability of the concession, and the majority of passes have been renewed since the concession was reintroduced.  Unfortunately, we are currently not in a position to reprint the Mobility Concessionary Card leaflet due to the current severe financial restrictions at the Council. But we are happy to promote the pre-9.30am Mobility Concession through a number of other channels mentioned in the question as part of the wider campaign to promote the use of public transport in the city. This will be rolled out in the next coming weeks. Thank you.


Mobility Passes

A citizen asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Highways, Transport and Planning: Once a citizen with a Concessionary Mobility Pass becomes an Old Age Pensioner (OAP) they are automatically transferred to a Senior Concessionary Pass. This would be ok if both schemes delivered the same benefits under the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (ENCTS), but that’s not the case in Nottingham City, where the Mobility Pass allows for 24/7 travel under ‘discretionary arrangements’ agreed by Nottingham City Council. Neither mobility problems nor other disabilities magically disappear on reaching senior citizenship, so why should the passes? This is discriminatory and I would ask the Portfolio Holder to investigate this matter, and request that she overturns this policy with relevant Mobility passes re-issued for all those affected.


Councillor Angela Kandola replied as follows:

Thank you, Lord-Mayor. The current arrangement of Mobility Pass holders transferring to an Elderly Concessionary Pass at state pension age has been in place for approximately ten years, and this reflects the fact that one of the main objectives of providing the pre-9.30am Mobility Pass Concession is to help people with the cost of their journey to work and educational establishments. This will generally be achieved by providing a pass for people under the age of 66. I acknowledge that this arrangement isn’t perfect and it is something that could be reviewed in the future, but unfortunately the Council isn’t in the position to make a change to this scheme that will increase its cost at this moment in time. Thank you, Lord-Mayor.


Sherwood Library

A citizen asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture: Could I ask the Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture to provide an update on the re-opening of the new Sherwood Branch Library as the Sainsbury’s Local on the ground floor is due to open on Thursday 9 November?


Councillor Pavlos Kotsonis replied as follows:

Thank you Lord-Mayor, and thank you to the citizen for their question. Through our Major Projects Team we have a Project Manager working to help drive the development forward who is undertaking regular visits looking to progress final works on the site. So there’s the contractor there, there’s a person on the Libraries Service that makes sure that contract is moving along so that we are able to take the space back from them – the contractors that are there – as quickly as possible. Whilst we can see progress taking place, this has been slower than we would have anticipated originally. We are aiming to see the new library opened as early as in 2024. Hopefully with the completion of Sainsbury’s this will now enable the developer to quickly complete outstanding jobs on the library space area and we can move on to start the fit-out process. Thank you.


Publication of information

A citizen asked the following question of the Leader of the Council: A recent appeal against the decision of Nottingham City Council to withhold publication of a publicly funded report conducted by Ernst Young was refused. Is it the view of the elected members of the Council that there is no ‘public interest’ in releasing this report? If so, why? Specifically, could the Leader of the Council explain why it might be the case that a report paid for by residents of Nottingham on the handling of finances in the city might not be of interest to the public?


Councillor David Mellen replied as follows:

Thank you Lord Mayor and can I thank the citizen for their question. As part of the Financial Improvement Plan, the Council’s Corporate Director of Finance and Resources commissioned an external assessment to look at compliance with the controls for ring-fenced funding after it had previously identified an unlawful breach in relation to the Housing Revenue Account over a number of years. The outcomes of the assessment were reported to a meeting of the Council’s Audit Committee on the 30June. The Committee is a key part of the Council’s corporate governance, providing an independent focus on the audit assurance and reporting arrangements that underpin good governance and financial standards. The assessment carried out by Ernst Young was instigated to provide Grant Thornton, the Council’s external auditor, with assurances in relation to the risk of management overriding controls. The assessment identified significant weaknesses in the internal control environment that required to be addressed to provide the necessary level of assurance.  It is important to be clear that there is nothing specifically identified within the samples tested in the assessments that suggest that any allocated fund had been misspent or that funding was not used for its overall intended purpose. The assessment identified a number of serious concerns, including a weak control environment, some ineffective systems and associated management information.  Wider improvements to the Council’s financial governance is ongoing as part of the Financial Improvement Plan. The findings and recommendations of the assessment form a key part of the existing plan, with work being carried out to ensure changes are made as quickly as possible. The report remains with the Corporate Director of Finance and Resources and has not been shown to myself and other councillors. I’m confident that this is a technical report commissioned by officers for officers, and I’m satisfied with the summary overview and subsequent highlighting report that has been presented to senior councillors as well as the Audit Committee. Indeed, the Audit Committee report goes into significant detail about the assessment the Council commissioned from EY and is explicit and transparent about the serious concerns identified and the actions being taken to address them.


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