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.
Councillor R. Hunter asked for it to be noted that he had, prior to the meeting, agreed with Councillor S. Baxter to allow her Notice of Motion to be considered as the first Notice of Motion, as it was such an important subject and he would allow his to be considered last. The Chairman asked those Members who had also submitted Motions if they were in agreement with this arrangement and it was confirmed that they were.
Members considered the following Notice of Motion submitted by Councillor S. Baxter:
Council recognises that a no-deal Brexit is still a possibility and this could have serious implications for our district.
Council notes that All District Councils have been awarded Government funding with £17,400 already allocated to Bromsgrove.
There are 3m European nationals working in the UK many of whom are employed in the agriculture, care and hospitality industries who are currently dependant on their contribution to the workforce. According to government information, these residents will have until December 31st 2020 to apply for UK residency under the European residency scheme, however there is confusion over the government’s announcement that free movement would end immediately on 31 October 2019 and that a planned transition period would not be implemented.
To date, there have only been 1m applications for UK residency which presents a known risk to our local businesses and community in the event of a no deal Brexit.
We call upon this council to take the following actions to mitigate against all risks associated with a no deal brexit:
The Motion was proposed by Councillor Baxter and seconded by Councillor R. Hunter.
In proposing the Motion Councillor Baxter firstly thanked Councillor Hunter for allowing her to put the motion first. She then explained that she wanted to make it clear to Members, what the motion should not be about; Brexit. The aim of the motion was to ensure that local businesses and communities were protected. It was clear to her that this was currently the only grant funding available to support local communities, by supporting this Motion Members would ensure that residents’ best interests were being addressed. She had attended an LGA event where this matter had been high on the agenda as there was little time left and it was something that this Council could do to help its residents, communities and businesses. Councillor Baxter provided statistical information in respect of the number of European nationals and the areas of work which were reliant on those people, which illustrated the risks to, for example the agricultural industry and its dependency on European nationals. Many of these people would be unaware of the need to act now and complete the relevant forms so it was important that this Council provided as much help and support to actively promote this.
In seconding the Motion, Councillor Hunter commented that this was an urgent matter and that the information needed to be communicated to residents and businesses as quickly as possible to ensure they were protected in the future. Many businesses relied on imports and exports and it was important that contingency plans were in place to support them.
Councillor M. Thompson commented that it was important to protect the diversity of nationalities in this country and Councillor L. Mallett also commented that this matter had been discussed some months ago, at a meeting of the Audit Committee at Worcestershire County Council, who were working in partnership with other authorities to support these issues and concerns that had been raised in respect of food and fuel shortages which may also arise as a result of this matter.
The Leader responded that the Council did recognise that a ‘no deal’ Brexit was a possibility and could have implications for its communities, residents and businesses within the District. She further confirmed that the award of Government funding to Bromsgrove, had actually been £51,000 of which the Council had received £34,000 to date.
The Council was been fully engaged and represented on the West Mercia Local Resilience Forum, who were the recognised body considering Brexit preparedness. Local planning assumptions were being regularly reviewed and submitted to the Government, supported by constant risk assessment based on any presenting issues.
Locally for Bromsgrove the designated lead officer, as required by the Secretary of State (Deputy Chief Executive), had convened meetings with officer and partner colleagues with actions to date including:-
· Engagement with Worcestershire Regulatory Services/Trading Standards.
· Representation on the West Mercia Communications Group.
· Contact links with business leads (Chamber of Commerce/LEP and North Worcestershire Business Leaders Chair). Offer to support further Brexit Business events.
· Shared local planning assumptions with the Corporate Management Team.
· Review of Business Continuity Plans.
· Leader/Portfolio Holder Briefings.
Specific response(s) to the actions requested in the motion were detailed as follows:-
1. Maximise the take up of the European Residency Scheme and the need to apply for it
The Council’s website directed all enquiries to HM Government’s ‘Get Ready for Brexit website’ as directed to Local Authorities by the Home Office and advised by the Local Government Association (LGA) Communications Director.
2. Assessment of all financial risks to Bromsgrove District
Whilst the ambition was understood, this was not achievable. The uncertainty of local government finances was further exacerbated with only a one year financial settlement expected for 2020/2021 rather than a four year funding agreement/settlement. The Council continued to be involved with all Brexit planning assumptions and arrangements to ensure a coherent and consolidated multi-agency approach based on national guidance and local intelligence which was being dynamically reviewed in the lead up to Brexit. Allocated funds would be held in reserves and directed to areas of need (as and when identified) and done so with the Leader’s agreement and supported by Cabinet as required. For the reasons outlined she was therefore not be supporting the Motion.
Members debated the motion further and the following areas were discussed in more detail:
· The inclusion of the information referred to being placed on the front page of the Council’s website, as currently it was not readily available or easy to find. It was confirmed that all Members would also be provided with the link in order to respond to any queries raised by residents directly.
· Information available on the Home Office website, which provided details of the number of applications already completed and the availability of posters providing the relevant information and whether these could also be put up in more prominent places, for example libraries.
· The lack of communication within the district.
· Clarification as to whether the funds that had been made available were ring fence for a specific purpose – it was confirmed that they were.
In summing up Councillor Baxter thanked the Leader for the information she had provided and commented that this showed that whilst work on such things was going on in the background, not all Members were aware of it and that it would be helpful for all Groups to be aware of such things in the future and that there was a real need for the Council to be proactive. It was important that the applications were completed and that the local communities were engaged with and the relevant groups reached. She was disappointed and unable to understand why, if the Council was already carrying out the work she was suggesting, that the Leader chose not to support the motion.
On being put to the vote the Motion was lost.
Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Members considered the following Notice of Motion submitted by Councillor M. Thompson:
“Council notes the Concluding Observations of the United Nations Committee on the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities1.
This Council puts at the front of its agenda the rights of disabled people and the belief that disabled people and their carers should be supported by Central Government to meet the recommendations contained within the Concluding Observations and what it is doing to encourage / support local councils to do the same.
Council, working with partners such as Worcestershire County Council, will undertake to prepare a review on how the council meets local obligations within the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Council will write to Boris Johnson for an update on what steps are being taken by Central Government to meet the recommendations contained within the Concluding Observations and what it is doing to encourage / support local councils to do the same.”
The Motion was proposed by Councillor Thompson and seconded by Councillor S. Douglas.
In proposing the Motion Councillor Thompson explained that he did not think it was too much to ask for the Council to ensure that those with a disability had for example, access to buildings or a water supply. He commented that there was a lack of consistency and there was a need to revisit existing laws and priorities to ensure the Council was doing all it could to ensure those with a disability were able to participate in society and feel valued. The Council had a duty to make reasonable adjustments to properties and he suggested that it looked at its policy framework for families with children with disabilities.
Councillor Thompson also commented that, access to public transport, shops and buildings, drop kerbs at all junctions and free parking with those with a disability were all areas that should be taken into account, together with easier and cheap access to equipment.
In seconding the Motion Councillor Douglas commented that she knew what it was like to be disabled.
In responding to the Motion, Councillor G. Denaro advised that the Council recognised the importance of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Disability Convention) and was committed to supporting people with disabilities to access support, services and wider opportunities within society and to work towards the elimination of unlawful discrimination against them. The Council would actively work with Central Government and other local partners to implement any further actions in relation to the Disability Convention. The Council had an Equality Strategy which explicitly stated the approach to meeting the Public Sector Equality Duty and the protected characteristics detailed in the Equality Act, of which disability was one. Internally, the Council had an Equal Opportunity Policy, which applied to all aspects of employment and vocational training, including work experience. As part of that policy, the Council had a discrete Disability Policy which provided more detailed information and set out the responsibilities of the Council.
The Strategy and Policies would be reviewed this year as part of a two year rolling programme to ensure that they reflected the most up to date legislation, case law and local context.
During the following debate Members discussed a number of areas, including:
· Voluntary groups who supported those with a disability and projects within the District.
· The problems facing families who had a child with a disability and the care which those families had to provide.
· How not all disabilities were visible and the importance of people being aware of the many different aspects.
In summing up, Councillor Thompson took the opportunity to pay tribute to Councillor Douglas and her grit and determination to carry out her duties to the full despite her own disability. She worked hard on all the committees she was a Member of and was often the first to volunteer to take on extra responsibilities and he felt she should be an inspiration to everyone.
On being put to the vote the Motion was carried.
Shelter for rough sleepers/homeless
Members considered the following Notice of Motion submitted by Councillor P. McDonald:
“At this present time Bromsgrove District Council fails to provide shelter for those who are sleeping rough/homeless within the district and forces them out of Bromsgrove to find shelter.
It is time this Council faced up to its obligations and ensure that there is shelter within the district for these unfortunate people who are the recipients of the government’s austerity policy and not pushed from pillar to post.
Council resolves to refer the matter to Cabinet to review the provision of a homelessness shelter and associated provisions as part of its wider duties to address homelessness.”
The Motion was proposed by Councillor McDonald and seconded by Councillor H. Rone-Clarke.
In proposing the Motion Councillor McDonald advised Members that there was a wealth of inequality which had led to this situation; this was as a result of the actions at both national level and by this Council. He believed that the numbers were increasing and that there was a danger that the situation would escalate further and that those affected by it were seventeen times more likely to be the victim of crime and they were much more vulnerable due to their circumstances. Councillor McDonald quoted that he understood that 600 people had died in 2017 and that the average age at death was 44 years for men and 42 years old for women. Homelessness had a significant impact on a person’s mental and physical health and subsequently needed more help and support. They were also often forced out of the District and away from any family they had and treated as outcasts. He believed that the figures would continue to increase due to the issues with the benefit system and the introduction of Universal Credit. It was important the Bromsgrove realised that it was not immune to this problem and that action needed to be taken and those affected by it treated with humanity.
In seconding the Motion, Councillor Rone-Clarke also highlighted that there was also the possibility that those young people who were currently “sofa surfing” could easily find themselves homeless very quickly. Many were one pay slip away from being unable to make ends meet, which could also lead to being in a much more serious situation. It was important that the Council acted now to help support those in most need and provided shelters in order for them to be able to stay within the District.
Councillor S. Webb, Portfolio Holder for Strategic Housing and Health and Wellbeing thanked Councillor McDonald for his Motion and took the opportunity to clarify the situation for Members to ensure that there was no confusion about the matter.
Members were reminded that Bromsgrove District Housing Trust (BDHT) delivered housing options and homelessness services on behalf of the Council and currently had access to hostel facilities at Burcot Lane. It was noted that in due course this facility would close and BDHT would replace the resource with alternative housing stock, which would act as alternative temporary accommodation for homeless households in the District.
Councillor Webb confirmed that Councillor MacDonald was correct to say that there was no homelessness shelter in Bromsgrove but there was a good reason why the Council did not have a direct access hostel in the district. Across the county amongst housing providers and support agencies there was widespread agreement that Bromsgrove had fewer issues with rough sleeping than any of the other councils in Worcestershire.
Members were further advised that the Council rarely saw rough sleeping in Bromsgrove and if it was thought that someone may be in that position they get timely and targeted support from BDHT, and Caring for Communities and People (CCP), who provided a speedy response to any reports from Streetlink of a potential rough sleeper in the area.
Members were informed that the Council (in partnership with Redditch Borough Council) was the only council in the county to fully fund a dedicated CCP service locally which Councillor Webb was sure helped to explain why the Council’s number of rough sleepers was so small. Councillor Webb could not therefore agree with Councillor MacDonald that the Council needed to open a shelter in Bromsgrove because it did not have the numbers to justify this and should instead continue to provide the existing services to ensure it continued Bromsgrove’s strong track record of minimising rough sleeping across the district.
Councillor Webb also mentioned what happened at the coldest time of year; during periods of cold weather the Council adhered to a countywide Severe Weather Protocol to ensure no-one was sleeping out in sub-zero temperatures. She reassured Members that, in the absence of a local hostel, the various facilities that were available elsewhere in the county were used. However, only one Bromsgrove person was referred out of our district and into accommodation in another part of the county (Redditch on this occasion) last winter. Transport to reach these alternative facilities was available via CCP when required.
Councillor Webb hoped that Members would agree that it made sense to focus resources where most needed and that there was no merit in establishing a hostel locally because there was not sufficient rough sleepers to justify such an intervention.
Finally, Councillor Webb advised that all councils across Worcestershire had just begun to undertake bi-monthly estimates of rough sleeping in their areas, and this Council would be undertaking a check of rough sleeping by way of a physical count across Bromsgrove sometime in November 2019. Councillor Webb would report back the outcome of this activity once it had been completed. In the meantime, Councillor Webb asked that, should members see anyone who looks like they may be sleeping rough in the district, to please contact Streetlink on 0300 500 0914 to trigger immediate help. (She also agreed to provide these details to all Members outside of the meeting.)
Councillor R. Hunter suggested, in light of the information provided by Councillor Webb, an amendment to the Motion should be made, in order to satisfy everyone and not to undermine the motion. However, Councillor McDonald was not prepared to accept an amendment.
During the following debate, a number of areas were discussed in more detail including:
· Reference was made to a previous Overview and Scrutiny Task Group in respect of Homelessness, which had provided Members with an insight into the work carried out by both BDHT and the voluntary sector in the District.
· It was important that adequate provision was provided within the District.
· There was a great deal of different aspect to consider and take into account to ensure that support was in place for those concerned.
· It was understood that currently, there were no recorded homeless people in the District – the Leader confirmed that there were currently no rough sleepers in the District.
· The work that Officers and partners did to prevent people becoming homeless and sign posting them to the appropriate agencies for support.
· The option to postpone the Motion and for it to come to the next meeting with more appropriate wording, which focused on supporting those in need. It was highlighted that the Council was considering the Motion before them.
In summing up, Councillor McDonald highlighted that sign posting was not sufficient especially if there was not sufficient funds available, the Council and BDHT had a statutory duty and it did not appear that at the moment they were meeting this. He believed that there were at least five people sleeping rough in the District, including two in the Church yard and two in Rubery. He did not believe it would cost very much for the Council to be able to support these people. It was important that a physical count was done to show that the circumstances were not as the Council appeared to be reporting them and that whether the Council liked it or not, there were people sleeping rough and it was the Council’s responsibility to address the matter urgently.
In accordance with Procedure Rule 18.3 a recorded vote was taken and the voting was as follows:
For the motion: Councillors Douglas, Mallett, McDonald, Rone-Clarke, Thompson (5)
Against the motion:Councillors Deeming, Denaro, Glass, Hession, Kent, Kriss, May, Middleton, Sherrey, Spencer, Thomas, Till, Webb, Whittaker (14)
Abstentions: Councillors Baxter, Colella, English, Hotham, Hughes, Hunter, King, Van der Plank (8)
On being put to the vote the motion was lost.
The Chairman had previously announced that the allotted one hour timescale had expired, he had extended this by a further 15 minutes in order for Councillor McDonald’s motion to be completed and therefore the remaining motions would be carried over to the next meeting.
Councillor M. Thompson asked for an extension of the time allocated and the Chairman agreed to put this to the vote and in doing so the extension of time was lost.
The Notice of Motion from Councillor K. Van der Plank would be carried over to the next Council meeting.
The notice of Motion from Councillor S. Douglas would be carried over to the next Council meeting.
Restoring pride, improving bus shelters
The Notice of motion from Councillor R. Hunter would be carried over to the next Council meeting.