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 explained that 4 Questions on Notice had been received for the meeting. However, 1 had been answered during the update from the Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Cultural Services and Climate Change and the Member proposing that Question, Councillor R. Hunter, had agreed that it would no longer be considered during this item.
Council was informed that a period of up to 15 minutes was allocated for the asking and answering of questions and that the Questions would be considered in the order they had been submitted.
Question submitted by Councillor J. King
“I understand that some bus operators in Bromsgrove have not introduced the £2 cap on single bus fares this month and that this falls short of the promises made by the Secretary of State last September? As Leader of this Council will you make representations to the local transport authority to see if the policy can be extended to all bus operators in Bromsgrove?”
The Leader responded to the question and in doing so advised Members that the Government had announced funding to help bus operators to cap single adult fares at £2 per journey from January to March 2023. It was explained that the move was to help passengers with travel costs for work, education, shopping and medical treatments over the winter months while facing pressures from the rising cost of living.
Members were advised that the introduction of this scheme sat with the Department forTransport (DfT). It was explained that it was optional for operators to sign up, and WCC had no powers to compel operators to take part in the scheme. The Leader noted that it was regrettable that the predominate operator in Bromsgrove, Diamond Buses, had decided not to take part in the scheme. However, Members were advised that the Leader was aware that WCC were in constant communication with Diamond Buses and that the matter would be raised with the Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport at Worcestershire County Council.
Question submitted by Councillor S. Robinson
“I am concerned that the introduction of the requirement for voter ID for the first time in this coming May’s local elections represents a threat to our democratic right to vote. As well as the information provided on BDC’s website and social media, what are you going to do to reach out to all our community and make sure nobody in Bromsgrove is prevented from voting because they cannot provide ID?”
The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Governance provided a response and in doing so explained that the Electoral Commission were running an extensive campaign on the changes in voting and how an elector could get a free voter authority certificate if they had no accepted form of photo ID. Furthermore, the Electoral Commission had provided a suite of resources for Councils to use.
Council was informed that Officers were drawing up a communications strategy which would include providing information in the Council Tax leaflet, Voter ID booklets, (which would be available at the Council offices, libraries and for any individuals who made enquiries), an email reminder (where Electoral Services held an email address), and they would also provide information that campaigners could use in the run up to the May 2023 elections.
Members were reminded that Officers had provided a Member briefing on the detail surrounding this and that they had advised that this would be a living document so when new initiatives occurred, they could be considered and acted on. It was confirmed that the suggestion made at the Member briefing held on 10th January 2023 would be investigated and Officers in Electoral Services welcomed any further suggestions.
Question submitted by Councillor A. English
“Throughout my Ward I often get queries about missing wheelie bins and have heard that the bin lorries sometimes ‘eat’ the bins. Does the portfolio holder for Environmental Services and Community Safety know how many bins disappear in this way and how much this costs the Council?”
In the absence of the Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services and Community Safety, a response was provided by the Portfolio Holder for Planning and Regulatory Services. It was reported to Members that 1,150 replacement green recycling bins had been delivered during 2022 to residents across the District. This was either due to the bin being lost during collection or reported as missing. In addition to this, it was reported that 1,288 grey residual waste bins had also been delivered during 2022. It was clarified that during this same timeframe, the Council had emptied approximately 2,058,000 wheeled bins, which equated to a loss rate of approximately 0.12% of bins being emptied.
Council was informed that bins could be lost for a number of reasons. These were reported as follows:
· failure of the plastic bin due to plastic becoming brittle over time and/or excessive weight in the bin.
· mechanical failure on the lifting mechanism that secured the bin whilst upside down; or
· operative error when loading a bin onto the lifter.
Furthermore, it was explained that wheeled bins were introduced across the District in 2004, therefore a large number of the Council’s bins were now quite old which increased the risk of failure and/or incremental wear on the area clamped by the bin lifters. It was explained that budgets were in place to support replacement bins for this reason. Members were advised that this was a known problem faced by all Local Authorities operating wheeled bin services.
Finally, it was reported that once a wheeled bin had fallen into the rear of a vehicle, it was not possible to retrieve it safely and therefore the bin had to be replaced.