Agenda item - Questions on Notice (to follow)

Agenda item

Questions on Notice (to follow)

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.

 

Minutes:

The Chairman explained that 8 Questions on Notice had been accepted for inclusion on the agenda.  Following publication of the agenda, Councillor A. English had withdrawn her Question on Notice.  In addition, Councillor S. Douglas had agreed to postpone consideration of her Question on Notice until the following meeting of Council to ensure that the Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Board could be present to provide an answer to the question.

 

Question submitted by Councillor H. Rone-Clarke

 

As the leader is aware, in 2019 this council declared a climate emergency…as we look forward in our quest to tackle climate breakdown, it is important we have our own house in order. In this vein, can the leader report on the number of organisations this council does business with, which invest or profit from fossil fuels and will she pledge to fully divest from them by this time next year?”

 

The Leader responded by explaining that the Council did business with a large number of organisations. The authority did not require those businesses to declare their investment policies. The administrative burden that would be created by collecting and checking such data would be significant and the outcomes unclear, therefore such data collection was deemed impracticable. However, the Council itself did not directly invest in, or profit from, fossil fuels.

 

Question submitted by Councillor R. Hunter

 

Councillor S. Robinson read out the following question on behalf of Councillor Hunter:

 

“Cashless car parking

 

What was the outcome of the consultation on ending cash payments at BDC car parks? How many responses where received in support and how many against? Can the Leader now make a commitment to Council that we will continue to allow those who need to pay by cash to do so in Bromsgrove?”

 

The Leader responded by confirming that a report comprising all responses would be available for Members’ consideration shortly.  In total 554 people had responded and it was the Council’s intention to ensure one machine on each car park continued to accept cash.

 

Question submitted by Councillor J. King

 

“Empty homes

 

This time last year the Lib Dem Group brought forward a motion calling on Council to stop providing a council tax discount on long term empty homes and to instead charge an additional council tax premium on property owners who keep homes empty (without exemption status). In recent days we have seen reports in the press that the number of empty homes in our district has increased again. Will the council take action on this issue and use the council tax system to encourage property owners to act responsibly?”

 

The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Enabling commented that a full report on this issue had been drafted and would reach Cabinet early in the New Year. If adopted, it would take effect from April 2022. The Council’s vacancy rate by the date of the Council meeting was 1.10% against a national average of 1.16%.

 

Question submitted by Councillor K. Van Der Plank

 

“The night time economy is important for our town centre providing leisure activities as well as business opportunities. However, all too often we hear reports of incidents, often at pub and club closing time which raises concerns for the personal safety of those enjoying a night out. We are also hearing concerns around the health and hygiene impacts for residents living near by who’s properties are often littered with bottles, cans and other unpleasant things. 

 

What is the state (ie numbers, types etc) of crime and anti social behaviour in Bromsgrove town centre? Is this acceptable or does more need to be done?”

 

The Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Cultural Services and Community Safety responded by explaining that whilst crime and Anti Social Behaviour (ASB) was never acceptable, what Bromsgrove town centre was experiencing was the predicted increase in incidents following the removal of Covid restrictions and a return to pre-pandemic activity and interactions in public places.

 

Bromsgrove District Council, as a key partner in the North Worcestershire Community Safety Partnership, specifically monitored violence against the person in the night-time economy as one of the Partnership’s priorities. For example, between 1st August and 31st October 2021, there were 32 offences across North Worcestershire linked to violence against the person (with injury) offences in the night-time economy, 12 of which were in Bromsgrove. These offences, recorded between 6pm and 6am, involved assaults, predominately fist fights that occurred on-street when bars and nightclubs were operating. The suspects were unknown to the victims and the offences were alcohol related.

  

During the same period in 2020, the North Worcestershire night-time economy recorded 38 violence against the person (with injury) offences as lockdown restrictions had been lifted during the summer months, before being reinstated in November 2020.  Then, most offences took place in Redditch (15 cases). This was followed by Bromsgrove (13 cases) and Wyre Forest (10 cases).

 

Pre-pandemic in 2019 during the same period, North Worcestershire recorded 53 Violence Against the Person with Injury offences that were linked to the night-time economy.  Wyre Forest and Redditch both recorded the highest number of offences (21 cases) followed by Bromsgrove (11 cases).

 

ASB was recorded and monitored at a district level for the Partnership and during the same period Bromsgrove experienced the lowest levels of ASB across the 3 district areas. This represented 24% of incidents, compared to 44% in Wyre Forest and 32% in Redditch.  Between 1st August and 31st October 2020, of the total 2,341 ASB incidents, Bromsgrove accounted for 28% (660 cases), 40% occurred in Wyre Forest (942 cases) and Redditch accounted for 32% (739 cases) showing an increase in ASB reports in all areas as Covid-19 legislation was established and enforced.  Pre pandemic in 2019, during the same period, Bromsgrove District recorded 443 ASB Incidents. Wyre Forest District recorded 919 and Redditch recorded 733 ASB incidents with a total of 2,095 ASB incidents in North Worcestershire.

 

Local partners were not complacent, and officers were working together (involving Community Safety, Worcestershire Regulatory Services and Environmental Services); and with local businesses and voluntary organisations to address crime and disorder issues via multi-agency forums such as Safer Bromsgrove, the Town Centre Management Group and Bromsgrove Pub Watch.  The Street Pastors were an invaluable resource for supporting visitors to the night-time economy and providing on the ground, real time information about locations.  Alongside this, the Community Safety Team had just allocated public health funding to provide youth workers to accompany the Street Pastors on their patrols to engage with younger visitors to the town who might be experiencing the night-time economy for the first time and were not used to the environment. 

 

Projects to support the safety of young women in the night-time economy were also being supported by the partnership, with resources for the national Ask for Angela campaign being provided to Bromsgrove town centre businesses and establishments in the night-time economy.   

 

The Town Centre and the night-time economy featured heavily in the North Worcestershire Community Safety Partnership’s Action Plan for 2021/24 and would continue to be a priority for all members of the Community Safety Partnership as the effects of the Covid restrictions continued to emerge.

 

Question submitted by Councillor C. Hotham

 

Councillor S. Baxter asked the following Question on Notice on behalf of Councillor Hotham:

 

“This council has for many years had the opportunity to access a £20,000,000 loan facility. However, the money remains untouched. The regeneration grant of £14,500,000 is welcome but comes with strict spending time limits. Given the council’s history of failure to spend the £20,000,000 for the benefits of residents, please can the Leader give an undertaking that this new money will be fully utilised?”

 

The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Enabling commented that previously the Council had approved a capital budget in relation to regeneration investments in the District.  Any spending against this budget required a business case to demonstrate value for money to the tax payer, as well as regeneration outcomes.  While no acquisitions had to date been identified which passed appropriate due diligence, it was anticipated that a proportion of this budget would be used to leverage the £14.5 million levelling up grant.  There were clear plans in place to deliver the levelling up projects which would be subject to ongoing monitoring.

 

Question submitted by Councillor S. Robinson

 

“Following the removal of the heritage lights on Windsor Street car park, can the portfolio holder please confirm how much money it would have cost to replace the heritage lights with LED heritage lights instead of removing them? Could we also have an update about when will the lights be re-painted?”

 

The Leader advised that the cost of replacement per LED lamp fitted was £395. The Heritage LED lamps would have cost £1,226 each. For the 8 lamps replaced on Windsor Street car park, if the Heritage lamp was used it would have cost an additional £6,648.

 

The lamp columns would be painted when the contractor returned to fit new lights in Recreation Road South car park. On the date of the Council meeting, the contractor was waiting for delivery of the mounting brackets.

 

 

Supporting documents: