The Chair invited Members to raise items for general discussion arising from the Information Booklet of Executive Member reports, previously circulated, which detailed activities carried out within the respective Executive Member portfolios (Section 1), Executive decisions taken (Section 2), or to be taken where known, prior to and following the meeting (Sections 3 and 4).
Members commented and posed questions in relation to the following matters and Executive Members responded where appropriate:-
Members referred to information provided by an Independent Body which demonstrated continuing inequality in terms of pay rises across the UK and of other comparative data elsewhere in the world which showed the seriousness and extent of inequality. Concerns were reiterated of increasing pressures on persons with low income. An indication was also given of latest Council figures in relation to housing benefit with particular regard to private landlords although it was clarified that one organisation had a contract with the Home Office (UK Border Agency) to provide accommodation for asylum seekers.
The Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Resources concurred with the sentiments expressed and highlighted the principles as outlined in The Spirit Level publication. Specific mention was also made to health inequalities as highlighted by the Director of Public Health in his recent annual report.
Following a Members comments regarding inequalities in respect of certain pay awards in 2003 and a recent pay award for senior fire officers the Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Resources confirmed that it was a matter of the Cleveland Fire Authority.
(b) Ofsted Inspection
Members sought clarification as to how Councillors could assist with the proposed action plan given a lack of direct influence as many were no longer on the Governing Body of Academies. In response and following a brief overview of the Ofsted Inspection judgement and the Councils post inspection action plan the Executive Member for Childrens Services specifically referred to the importance of Member briefings to ensure that Councillors were kept up to date with the overall situation across the Town on available data. Reference was also made to the role of scrutiny and an indication given of the benefits of becoming a volunteer in community schools with particular regard to shared reading. It was also confirmed that the points raised regarding a lack of clarity around a councillors responsibility with no direct influence in respect of Academies was to be pursued with the Department for Education.
(c) Universal Free School Meals
In response to assurances sought from Members the Executive Member for Childrens Services confirmed that sufficient DfE funding was being allocated with regard to entitlements of free school meals for Key Stage 1 pupils with revenue funding being made at a flat rate of £2.30 per meal. In terms of the links with the pupil premium the Executive Member for Childrens Services acknowledged the complexities and confirmed that a reminder had been forwarded to all schools in respect of the importance of collecting appropriate data in this regard.
(d) Restaurant Week
The Executive Member for Regeneration and Economic Development welcomed the positive comments from Members regarding arrangements for the first Middlesbrough Restaurant Week with the aim of enhancing the Towns evening economy.
(e) Landlord Licensing
Following Members questions the Executive Member for Regeneration and Economic Development indicated that a number of enquiries from the public had been made regarding the proposals but confirmed that whilst the principle of a Private Landlord Licensing Scheme had been approved further detailed analysis including associated costs had to be undertaken and examined further.
(f) Stewart Park
The Executive Member for Environment acknowledged the positive comments of Members regarding Stewart Park, one out of only 10 England parks being encouraged to apply to Royal Botanic Gardens Kew for a Grow Wild initiative. Congratulations were extended to all concerned with the submission.