Agenda item

Questions

The Leader of the Council, the Deputy Leader of the Council or the Chair of any Committee or Sub-Committee to take any questions that may be submitted in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 9.

Minutes:

The Council considered the following questions submitted in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 9.

 

Question No. 1

Question From:

Councillor Richard Udall

Question To:

Councillor Joy Squires, Chair of Environment Committee

Question:

Does the Chair of the Environment Committee agree with me there has been an increasing level of litter during the pandemic, would she consider a high profile “Keep Worcester Tidy” campaign during the summer months, engaging with local communities, schools and organisations, to support mass litter picks and to help to restore the pride in our city, a campaign to make littering socially unacceptable and to bring communities together?

 

Answer:

Your finger is in the popular pulse as ever with this topic, I think.

Only on Saturday just gone, Councillor Jenny Barnes and myself joined about 30 other people for the Worcester Canal Group monthly litter pick, the first one we’ve been able to hold for about 4 months, and we were completely overwhelmed by the number of people who turned up and the difference that that made along the canal, within the Arboretum area, within the canal itself - we even had two people in a canoe picking litter from the canal - so this is something that I think people in Worcester are really, really keen to do.

 

Whether levels of litter have increased overall is probably a bit of a moot point. There’s been a reduction very much in terms of litter in the city centre itself, but of course we have all seen evidence that it has moved to some of the popular Riverside walks and such like, so I think that overall the impression certainly is that there is more littering and that's not a surprise really given how people have been taking advantage of the opportunity to use our parks and lovely Riverside areas.

 

That said, it does pose a problem and we will continue as a Council to promote good practise and continue to work with volunteer groups which we do across the city, to raise awareness and undertake clean-ups, and of course one of our key partners in this is the Duckworth Worcestershire Trust and the numerous volunteer litter warden projects supported by them right across the city, and all the friends groups of course, who participate in regular litter pickings as well. So, I think we have the basis of a good structure of volunteers if you like across the city in order to increase our efforts.

 

The Great British Spring Clean provides the perfect platform for a campaign. That starts on 28th of May and runs through to 13th June this year and the Council will start promotion of this campaign via the volunteering newsletter from April onwards and will regularly communicate on the event via social media in the run-up and throughout the campaign.

 

Supplementary Question:

Can I ask Councillor Squires if she remembers the Wombles? I have my 1974 annual here, one of my prized possessions which I had when I was five years old. The Wombles of Wimbledon worked underground, overground, making good use of the things they found, things that the everyday folk left behind. They will be joining the Tidy Britain Group for the Great British spring clean week between 28th May and 13th June, so will she invite as many Members of this Council as possible to become the Wombles of Worcester, to help and encourage all Worcester residents to follow their example and to keep Worcester clean and tidy? I would happily volunteer to be Orinoco to her Madam Cholet.

 

 

Answer:

I’m not quite sure how to take that, Councillor Udall, but I understand the point you're making, which is that obviously showing community leadership in this, which many of us do on a regular basis right across the city, is something that we need to promote, and certainly if reinventing the Wombles for 2021 is about repair, re-use, recycling and all the rest of it then I'm right behind that because there's no doubt at all that's what we all need to be doing more of, and I'm sure the people of Worcester will be right behind us in doing that.

 

 

Question No. 2

Question From:

Councillor Marjory Bisset

Question To:

Councillor Marc Bayliss, Leader of the Council

Question:

While I welcome the news that the city council has chosen a housing provider to develop the site of the old swimming pool, and that the properties will be affordable, I am concerned that these properties will add to Worcester’s carbon emissions. The City Council has committed to achieving a carbon-neutral city by 2030. But while properties are being built that do not conform to zero-carbon standards, every new property makes that task harder. Can the council insist that the developer designs and builds homes that will not add to the city’s carbon emissions?

 

Answer:

The Council has chosen Sanctuary Housing Association as the developer of the Sansome Walk swimming pool site following an open procurement process under which developers’ proposals were evaluated against a set of criteria which had been debated and agreed by the Policy and Resources Committee, which of course is chaired by her colleague and the leader of her group. Sustainability and environmental issues were recognised as being important and environmental issues accounted for a maximum 20% of the score. Sanctuary’s proposals are judged to be strong, the scheme has scored well on sustainability measures and thermal efficiency will be at the higher levels than current building regulations through the use of higher rated doors and windows, full cavity and loft insulation, better air tightness and shower save waste water heat recovery. 20% of predicted energy requirements will be met by renewable or low carbon sources and the scheme incorporates photovoltiac panels, air source heat pumps for the houses and, subject to further design work, ground source heat pumps for the apartments. Water saving measures will ensure that non-recycled water consumption per person is less than 110 litres a day and there will be a community composting scheme.

 

Although the Council was open to considering proposals for passivhaus schemes, Sanctuary commented that its bid would not be competitive with other house builders because of the higher costs of building such a development.

 

Sanctuary will be committed building out its proposal through the terms of a development agreement but following the procurement process the Council is not in a position to insist on a carbon zero development unless the Council is able to identify significant further funding and the committee approves those additional measures.

 

 

Supplementary Question:

None.

 

Question No. 3

Question From:

Councillor Marjory Bisset

Question To:

Councillor Marc Bayliss, Leader of the Council

Question:

The situation for residents who live on Bilford Road and adjoining streets is intolerable when the Bilford Road waste disposal site is busy, with queues stretching for 500 yards, people driving dangerously and potential hold-ups for emergency vehicles. In fact there was a road traffic accident outside the tip on Friday afternoon, involving two cars. Thankfully no-one was seriously hurt. This illustrates what a dangerous junction it has become. I do welcome the temporary arrangement that has been put in place at the weekends, utilising the Perdiswell Leisure Site car park; however, this can only be a stopgap. The truth is that this site is unsuitable, sited as it is just off a busy road. Can the Council please work urgently with Members and officers at the County Council to come up with a solution?

 


Answer:

I’m a bit surprised she’s asking me this because I’ve got here a leaflet from her colleague who's the County Councillor for the area from eight years ago, when he promised to deliver a solution to this problem back in 2013. Clearly, I'm afraid, her colleague has failed to deliver on this one and she's now coming back to the City Council asking for help. I am however happy to say that officers from the City Council - I’m happy to commit that they will work with County Council colleagues try and find a longer term solution for the management of traffic visiting the site after Covid restrictions have been lifted.

 

Supplementary Question:

There is also a problem of insufficient capacity. The only other waste disposal site in the city is on the West side of the river, there is nothing in South Worcester. With additional housing planned for the southern edges of the city, soon the Bilford Road site will be overwhelmed. Can the Council please work with members and officers at the County Council to find a suitable site in South Worcester for a new waste disposal facility, a site which is well away from through routes?

Answer:

I'm sure this is a matter actually that will be dealt with as part of the Development Plan review, which looks for the infrastructure that we need to meet the city's needs as it grows. I'm sure that they would be very interested if the Member or any of her party colleagues had any suggestions of where on the south of Worcester they'd like to put a household waste site. I'm sure the people of St. Peters would be particularly interested to know, perhaps before May the 6th.

 

Question No. 4

Question From:

Councillor Richard Udall

Question To:

Councillor James Stanley, Chair of Communities Committee 

Question:

Will the Chairman of the Communities Committee give his support to the Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill, currently being introduced by Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell?

 

The proposed legislation would ban “no pet” clauses in private tenancies.  It would require tenants to certify that a dog is trained and microchipped.

 

Worcester people with pets often struggle to find private rented accommodation which will allow them to keep their pets; which causes total heartbreak when tenants are forced to give up their pet in order to become adequately housed. 

 

Will he join me in calling for Robin Walker MP to support this legislation and to encourage the government to provide parliamentary time to help pass the legislation?

 

Answer:

I agree with the sentiment that having a pet enhances quality of life and reduces feelings of loneliness. It’s been discovered, particularly over the course of the last 12 months, it can have a profound effect on an individual’s mental health. Councillor Udall and Members will be aware that the model tenancy agreement of 28th January 2021 removed the blanket ban on pets, the default position now being set with certain caveats. Equally, he may or may not be aware that Robin Walker as a Minister is fully supportive of government policy in this as in other areas but is however prevented from speaking publicly on Members’ Bills. My view is that I am happy to support the Bill in principle and look forward to observing its passage through Parliament. I await Councillor Udall’s supplementary with a certain degree of trepidation however.

 

Supplementary Question:

The model tenancy agreement to which he refers is purely advisory and has got no mandatory responsibility at all. Rights for tenants must come with responsibility, so any tenant with a pet has to be held accountable for the behaviour and any damage which is caused, but will he agree to place this issue on the Communities Committee agenda so we can discuss the issue in more detail and see what we can do as a local authority to help people with pets to find a home and encourage both social and private landlords to relax their policies? One person recently has even been refused permission to have a hamster - totally unacceptable! This has to be changed and we as a council be the facilitator for that change if we agreed to discuss it in committee.

 

Answer:

I would agree with Councillor Udall that the incident he refers to is totally unacceptable. I will say that should I be returned to the Council in May then I would be perfectly happy should I still be in my current position to have this as a subject for conversation and debate at Communities Committee at an appropriate time. I think the position of our tenants generally can only be enhanced with a feeling of a supportive person or indeed an animal or pet by their side. In principle I totally agree with what he’s saying and I’m happy should I be returned to facilitate that at the next Communities Committee.

 

 

 

Question No. 5

Question From:

Councillor Jenny Barnes

Question To:

Councillor Marc Bayliss, Leader of the Council 

Question:

There is great concern in the Worcester Arts Community that Worcester Live via the Swan Theatre is abusing its Monopoly position by unreasonably raising charges and introducing new charges that are not justifiable. On behalf of the hiring organisations Worcester Arts Council asks for an independent review as to whether the WCC Grant Objectives and Conditions are being met?

 

Answer:

Worcester Live, as the Councillor has commented, are in receipt of a grant of £108,300 from us. The grant covers the period from 2020 to 2025 and the grant goes with a service level agreement that is kept under review by officers from the community services team with support from financial services colleagues. I was going to say that it’s not our job to regulate the fees and charges of organisations that we have service level agreements with. I am however - personally I'd like to be assured that everything is right here - and so I will give the Member the assurance that I will ask officers to look again at this organisation and to make sure that they are performing as they should and that there are fair fees and charges, and to use our strength as both the landlord and as their main financial backer to make sure other organisations in the city are able to use their facilities fairly.

 

Supplementary Question:

I'm partly reassured by the answer just received, that it will be reviewed, however the second question is can a City Council justify the situation whereby a facility owned by the City Council becomes inaccessible to local arts organisations due to availability and hiring conditions?

Answer:

In order to answer that I think I refer to my previous answer which is come with us, ask officers to conduct such a review to make sure that the situation is fair for both to Worcester Live, who have been a successful organisation over many years for us, but also the panoply of organisations that work with it and alongside it, so yes I will ask officers to review this situation.

 

Question No. 6

Question From:

Councillor Neil Laurenson

Question To:

Councillor Marc Bayliss, Leader of the Council 

Question:

A democracy that bans peaceful protest is no longer a democracy. On 16th March, the MP for Worcester and 358 other MPs voted for the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021. This would give police the power to arrest someone if they were involved in a protest that has an ‘impact’. What are your views on the potential impacts of this legislation on free speech and democracy in this country?

 

Answer:

My first the encounter with the member asking this question was when he used to campaign outside the Guildhall in a mass against the Iraq war, when he was very much against the former Member of Parliament for Worcester, so he has a long history of being a campaigner and - with the exception of his poetry - probably every other word he’s said I disagree with. However, I absolutely would want to protect his right to say, so I don't believe the new Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill will prohibit him or others from demonstrating and protesting on the issues that they care about. But what it will do is prevent the utter carnage and disruption that was caused particularly last year by the Extinction Rebellion revolt in London, where the Metropolitan Police said that the Extinction Rebellion protest  brought the city to a halt and impacted significantly on the lives of ordinary working people, and Cressida Dick - I have the quote here - called for action and to update the criminal justice system in order to deal with static protests. I believe that the Bill does do that but I believe the rights under the conventions of Human Rights - one of which is the right to protest - will be retained and so I do not have shared his concerns about the current Bill.

 

Supplementary Question:

To preface this supplementary by countering what has just been said by the Leader of the Council, lots and lots of people in this country do have many concerns about the proposed legislation, so I'm not so confident in his kind interpretation of that legislation. There are so many people worried that they are still demonstrating. Anyway, to the supplementary, as you know Councillor Bayliss, the High Court judged that the Health Secretary broke the law by failing to publish multi-billion pound Covid-19 government contracts within the required 30 day period. What is your view on the fact the government minister can stay in post despite breaking the law, yet someone protesting about that fact could in fact be jailed for 10 years?

 

Answer:

Madam Mayor, I hate to be a pedant around the Constitution but the supplementary must be related to the original question. I don’t believe in this case it does and therefore I won't be answering that question.