To deal with any questions on notice from Members of the Council, in the order in which they have been received.
A period of up to 15 minutes is allocated for the asking and answering of questions. This may be extended at the discretion of the Chairman with the agreement of the majority of those present.
The Chairman advised that 6 questions had been submitted for consideration at the meeting. There would be no subsidiary questions.
Question Submitted by Councillor S. Robinson
“Can the portfolio holder please update the council on how many tonnes of garden waste we have collected from households this winter and whether or not there are plans for this to continue next year?”
The Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services responded by explaining that since April 2020 the Council had collected 6,855 tons of garden waste up until the end of January 2021. There had been a reasonable usage of the Council’s garden waste service through the extension in December and January, but with low tonnages of material collected (30% of average monthly tonnage in December, and 18% in January). The service would normally start again at the end of February.
Officers were still awaiting the February data, which was also part of the current extension to the service. This data would be reviewed, involving consideration of the carbon impact of the extension of the scheme against the benefit, the operational impact of continuing the service through this part of the year, and the financial considerations for residents as well as the Council. A report would be produced summarising the outcomes and any proposals for changes to the service later in the year. A decision would then be required on whether the service could be extended in future years. However, it was too early to say by the date of the meeting whether this would be possible, based on tonnage data.
Question Submitted by Councillor H. Rone-Clarke
“After announcing plans for the city to be carbon neutral by 2030, myself and Cllr McDonald met with the relevant Birmingham City portfolio holders and identified half a dozen areas of cooperation between our two authorities, including: buses, active transport and country parks. Soon, transport into Birmingham by car will be heavily regulated, meaning residents of Bromsgrove may struggle to get to work. Similarly, citizens of other districts will be incentivised to shop local, due to active transport schemes; this would squeeze our already struggling high street to breaking point.
We don’t wish to hear that the council ‘already engages’ with our neighbours, as our Birmingham counterparts agree that Bromsgrove is failing to keep up.
So, in terms of a promise of concrete action, here and now, how does the administration plan to engage more robustly with our neighbours (including but not limited to Birmingham) in order to ensure Bromsgrove is not left behind?”
The Leader responded by commenting that officers and members sat on many groups across the county and the region where engagement happened, including the Greater Birmingham and Solihull and Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnerships (GBSLEP and WLEP).
It had recently been announced that there would be £250,000 investment into further bus provision in Bromsgrove to ensure, that the bus and rail networks would work together to allow faster and easier access to the town centre and surrounding areas. The service would make it easier for many residents to access more sustainable modes of transport. This investment in a demand response transport system, followed 2 years of work by the Leader and Deputy Leader, in conjunction with Worcestershire County Council.
Further investment of £17.4 million had been made in the new Bromsgrove Train Station as well as £3.4 million investment in cycling and walking. In addition, there was over £50 million being invested into the A38 improvements for road, cycling and walking in Bromsgrove. In conclusion, the Leader commented that other areas needed to keep up with Bromsgrove.
Question Submitted by Councillor S. Colella
“Can the Leader confirm that BDC is part of both the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) and the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (WLEP) and whether this is not in contravention of the terms of reference for each LEP?”
The Leader confirmed that the Council was a member of both of these Local Enterprise Partnerships and that this was not in contravention of either organisation’s terms of reference.
Question Submitted by Councillor P. McDonald
“With Birmingham City becoming a low emission city what action is being taken by this Council to ensure residents who travel into the city for work and have to use their own transport, will not lose their jobs because of falling foul of the regulations?”
The Portfolio Holder for Planning and Regulatory Services explained that the Council engaged with other authorities on a wide range of matters. The authority, working with Worcestershire County Council, was investing in a Strategic Transport Assessment which would look at issues such as what was occurring in Birmingham. It was key for the district to make sure that there were opportunities for housing and employment locally to prevent the need for people to travel longer distances to Birmingham and beyond every day. More people living and working locally, using the town and village centres in the District, spending locally and keeping local centres viable and vibrant, was something the Council was committed to. Reducing the number of people who needed to work elsewhere was part of the solution.
Following the Council’s recent announcement regarding demand response transport, new cycle ways and walkways, action would be taken to ensure that Bromsgrove residents could access the new train station for a commute into Birmingham.
Birmingham City Council had introduced a levy on vehicles which was designed to address emissions. As a consequence of this, some businesses that were based in Birmingham might consider relocating and there was the possibility that some of these businesses would choose to establish a base in Bromsgrove District.
Question Submitted by Councillor R. Hunter
“How many applications has Bromsgrove District Council received for the £500 Test and Trace Support grant to help people who need to self-isolate? How many of these applications were successful and what were the reasons for any applications being turned down?”
The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Enabling explained that there had been a total of 457 applications. For the main scheme in Bromsgrove, 68 applicants had been successful and under the discretionary scheme 68 applicants had been successful. Unfortunately, the majority of applicants had not been successful because they had not met the criteria.
Question Submitted by Councillor J. King
“I wish to congratulate the council on the award of a grant for £50,000 from the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) for use in our town centre. May I ask the leader to outline how it will be spent or, if not decided, to invite creative and positive suggestions from members and other interested parties?”
The Leader responded by advising Council that the bid included several work streams and outputs that had to be delivered in accordance with the grant guidance. Details would be considered once the Funding Agreement was issued by the GBSLEP.
One of the key outputs was for local creative businesses to be commissioned to deliver art and cultural activities in Bromsgrove town centre and the local centres. This aspect of grant guidance was more flexible. Suggestions from officers in accordance with the grant guidance would be included in the Bromsgrove Centres Action Plan 2021-2022 that was in the process of being drafted by Officers in the North Worcestershire Economic Development Unit (NWEDR), for inclusion in the Cabinet Work Programme. There would be an opportunity for Members to input into this.
The Leader concluded by commenting that the Council welcomed a creative industries and culture led economic recovery that would support the recovery of Bromsgrove town centre and other local centres.