A period of up to one hour is allocated to consider the motions on notice. This may only be extended with the agreement of the Council.
Members considered the following Notice of Motion submitted by Councillor C. McDonald:
This Council condemns any measures by Worcestershire County Council that would reduce Library services throughout the District. In addition seek assurances from the County Council that no Library will be closed or services cut.
The Motion was proposed by Councillor C. McDonald and seconded by Councillor P. McDonald.
In proposing the Motion Councillor C. McDonald explained that the role of the libraries went much further than simply the loan of books, in many places they had become the hub of the community, a place where a huge range of information could be accessed in a variety of ways. It was often the only place some people were able to go and freely access the internet, particularly those from disadvantaged low income families. Councillor C. McDonald said it may be the only access they had so was a vital part of their education and learning. For those older more vulnerable residents it was a place where they could get help too, whether it be accessing things online, which was in many cases, the only way that some services were accessible.
Councillor P. McDonald told Members that the libraries were much more than a place of learning, for example, many Members held their surgeries for residents there and local groups were able to use the facilities to meet, so the library had become a focal point for the local community. He was concerned that whilst the County Council was holding a consultation, it would result in those hubs of the community being greatly depleted, yet the County Council continued to spend thousands of pounds on other, less worthwhile, projects. They gave young people an opportunity to further their education and were a vital part in the process of being able to better themselves.
The Leader thanked Councillor C. McDonald for the motion and suggested that whilst he and his Group were committed to ensuring that libraries remained open, in Bromsgrove District. The County Council were currently in a period of consultation that would lead the Council to understand what proposals there were for alternative delivery for libraries in the area. He was therefore happy to agree to support the motion if it were amended slightly to the effect that:
“this Council remains committed, where possible, to ensure that all libraries remain open in the Bromsgrove District and that the Leader seek assurances from the County Council that libraries remain open in the District.”
He also assured Councillor McDonald and Members that he was committed to working with the County on this and a myriad of other matters, to ensure that any local provision that may be required to secure the longevity of library services in the District, as has been considered by Worcester City, would be considered fully at a local level.
After consideration Councillor C. McDonald said she was minded to accept the suggested amendment.
On being put to the vote the amendment was carried.
Members considered the following Notice of Motion submitted by Councillor P. McDonald:
There is growing concern throughout the District regarding the amount of rubbish littering our streets. This has been highlighted by ‘Keep Bromsgrove Beautiful’ who are now having to clean our streets, because of the Council failing in its legal obligations and duty to maintain a clean environment. Therefore, we call upon this Council to uphold its legal responsibilities and increase the number of litter pickers and make the District of Bromsgrove a pleasant place to live.
The Motion was proposed by Councillor P. McDonald and seconded by Councillor S. Shannon.
In proposing the motion Councillor McDonald stressed his concern that litter had the potential to cause harm to human health and that people should be paid to do this job rather than have to rely on volunteers. It could impact on people in many different ways, for example people no longer had pride in their community, it could lead to anti-social behaviour, which in turn led to social isolation for some more vulnerable groups in the community and impacted on their mental health. This was in addition to the impact on the environment and the harm it could cause to it.
Councillor McDonald advised Members that in many cases the job could be dangerous and if those carrying it out did not have the correct training or equipment it could be potentially hazardous to the volunteers concerned. The Council had a legal duty to provide this service and as such the Council should carry out that duty by employing sufficient litter pickers throughout the District. By employing more litter pickers, the Council would be providing much needed jobs in the area. He did not believe that volunteers should not be expected to keep the streets clean.
In seconding the Motion Councillor Shannon echoed its sentiments and commented that he had spoken to the founder of the Keep Bromsgrove Beautiful Group and had been led to believe that it was not a political group, however from his experience he did not believe this to be the case. He reiterated Councillor McDonald’s concerns around endangering jobs and the health and safety risks of litter picking. On numerous occasions extra litter picking had been requested for particular areas and this had been carried out, but he felt it would be more appropriate for regular litter picking to be carried out with sufficient staff to provide that service. He gave an example of Aston Fields which was becoming a vibrant busy area with a number of new food outlets which, whilst this was good to see, brought with it extra litter problems, hence the need for an increased service.
In supporting the Motion Councillor L. Mallett highlighted that he believed the Council could do more, particularly in respect of fly tipping and it was important that paid staff carried out these duties. However it was important that the Council worked collaboratively with organisations such as Keep Bromsgrove Beautiful and other voluntary organisations, which played an important part in bringing people together and enabled them to learn new skills and helped to combat social isolation. It was clear that more litter pickers were needed and that this needed to be acted on.
Councillor C. B. Taylor commented that the volunteers did a good job for the community, and that if there was a particular problem in an area, then if the relevant officers were contacted this would be addressed. He believed it was more important to educate people about the problems that dropping litter caused rather than employing extra litter pickers. People needed to realise that dropping litter of any kind was not acceptable.
Councillor S. Colella advised Members that if they referred to page 23 of their agendas they would see that the Council had just approved a number of additional staff which he believed would address the matter being discussed and therefore there was no need for the Motion to be considered further.
Councillor S. Webb spoke in support of the excellent work carried out by the Place Team and the work they carried out on a regular basis in her Ward. She further commented that the Parish Council and local schools, as part of educating young people about litter, carried out litter picks in the local area. She believed that educating people as to the damage litter did was as important as its collection.
In responding to the Motion the Leader advised that he was sure all would agree that dropping litter was damaging to both the look and feel of communities and also to the environment and she did not believe that the Council would be acting responsibly if it just continued to tolerate litter and the harm that it caused.
The Council was committed to working with schools and voluntary community groups to educate communities on the damage that littler could cause and to encourage pride in the areas where they lived. Officers worked in a holistic way and the litter picking events were merely a part of the educational process that the Council was attempting to achieve throughout the District. Having spoken to officers it was confirmed that the volunteers saw themselves as an enhancement to services delivered by the Council and they took huge civic pride in the work that they carried out. In addition to this Members were advised that many volunteers got a social connectivity from working with fellow citizens and that in some cases officers had been told that it provided a valuable community cohesion event for isolated people.
A number of the organisations picked litter on private land that fell outside of the Council’s control and as a result places like the station, were regularly targeted by the volunteer teams. Members were advised that a concerned community volunteer had contacted them as they felt that the comments that had been made by some councillors criticising these groups had been greatly upsetting. The volunteer had felt upset that they had not been asked to comment on the work that they did and that their group was specifically named in the critical article presented on this topic in the press. The volunteer had taken pains to point out that they were in no way politically affiliated and they do not wish to be used as an example in this way as they were very proud to be making a positive difference to their community. It was further confirmed that the Head of Environmental Services would be happy to talk about this and in particular the social inclusion and educational benefits that it provided.
Councillor S. Baxter supported the need to develop pride in our local communities, but as Councillor Colella had already stated, the Council had agreed to additional staff in the Place Team earlier in the meeting.
Councillor M. Sherrey confirmed that whilst working with volunteers, it was always important to education people in the damage litter dropping did. Community litter picking was about much more than just collecting litter, it was about raising awareness and community pride. She also reiterated that many of the litter picks were on private land, which was not the responsibility of the Council and confirmed that by approving the recommendations earlier the Council had committed to further support in the Place Teams over the next three years.
Councillor R. Laight also highlighted a number of groups of young people who enjoyed the camaraderie and feeling of making a difference when taking part in helping keep their communities tidy. These groups were well supervised and never put in danger as had been suggested. It was important for them to learn to keep the environment tidy and the impact that litter had on it.
In summing up Councillor McDonald confirmed that he appreciated the work being carried out by volunteer groups and the benefits from it, but that it should be used to enhance the work of the Council and not as a replacement for staff. It was a statutory duty of the Council to carry out litter picking and tis should be done by paid staff.
On being put to the vote the Motion was lost.