Council Minutes

Council Minutes

Date:
Wednesday 3 September 2014
Time:
7:00 p.m.
Place:
Council Chamber, Town Hall, Middlesbrough
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Kerr (Chair), The Mayor (R Mallon), Councillors Arundale, Biswas, Bloundele, Brunton, Budd, Carr, Clark, Cox, Davison, Dryden, Harvey, Hawthorne, C Hobson, J Hobson, Hussain, Junier, P Khan, S Khan, Loughborough, Lowes, Mawston, McPartland, McTigue, Michna, Morby, G Purvis, P Purvis, Rehman, Rooney, Rostron, Sanderson, J Sharrocks, P Sharrocks, Taylor, B Thompson, M Thompson, J A Walker, N J Walker, Williams
Officers:
R Broad, J Cordiner, J Dixon, S Harker, L Henman, A Hoy, E Kunonga, A Pain, T Parkinson, M Robinson, N Sayer and P Slocombe
Apologies for absence:
Brady, Cole, Hanif, Hubbard, Hudson, McIntyre, Mrs H Pearson, OBE, and Saunders
Declarations of interest:

There were no declarations of interest made at this point of the meeting.
 

Item Number Item/Resolution
PUBLIC
14/30 ANNOUNCEMENTS/COMMUNICATIONS

The Chair reported that The Mayor had received notification from Lord Crathorne regarding the Queen's appointment of the new Lord Lieutenant for North Yorkshire.  Mr Barry Dodd, CBE, would take up the appointment on 12 September 2014, when Lord Crathorne would step down on his 75th birthday after 15 years in office.

 

Moved, seconded and ORDERED that a letter of thanks be sent to Lord Crathorne on behalf of the Council.

14/31 MAYOR'S STATEMENT AND REPORT

The Mayor indicated his intention to focus on the financial position of the Council, the impact of the financial cuts so far on the Council and the Town, the national economy and people resident in Middlesbrough, youth employment and the skills shortage and potential new governance arrangements which would affect Middlesbrough Council and others in the Tees area.

 

With regard to the Council’s position it was highlighted that £60 million had been made in savings over the last four years. Up to 2010, a total of £121.5 million savings with mitigation, and £145.6 million without mitigation, had to be made. Middlesbrough Council had coped with a reduction in spending power of more than twice the national average. The 24% reduction in spending power per dwelling equated to £676. This figure was £467 in the north east region and in all of England was £300 per dwelling. The main reason for the 24% reduction was that Middlesbrough had a greater reliance on Revenue Support Grant (Formula Grant) allocated by Central Government than other Councils.

 

The Mayor highlighted the impact of the cuts so far on staffing which included 728 redundancies, with a further 600 plus redundancies anticipated by 2020. In addition, examples of the impact on operational areas were detailed including the reductions in street cleansing, horticulture, environmental health, the closure of several Children’s Centres, the Consumer Advice Centre, Outdoor Education Centres and the winter closure of the Captain Cook Museum and introduction of admission charges.

 

The demands on Children’s Safeguarding and Adult Social Health Care were increasing at a rate of £5.3 million per year, year on year. Children’s services referrals remained high at 2300 per year and the number of children in need of social care services had increased by 5%. The number of looked after children had increased by 0.3% and was likely to continue at the same rate or higher for a number of years. Every sixteen looked after children cost the Authority £1.2 million per annum. There were additional demands for support for children with SEN and disabilities, with approximately 700 young children with Statements of Educational Need. The number of adults requiring support in care homes had increased by 9% over 3 years and demand for care at home had increased by 2500 hours per week. This was an increase of 45% and an extra £1.5 million per annum. It was estimated that these two areas of care were equivalent to 14% of the net Council spend. In addition, the Care Act 2014, although welcome legislation, would have serious financial implications on the adult social care health agenda.

 

The Mayor estimated that the cost to the Council of managing the cuts was approximately £1 million per annum. Between 10% and 20% of management resources had been taken away from core service delivery to deal with the cuts.   Council income was derived from four main sources which were: the Revenue Support Grant which at £70.3 million for 2014-2015 was 35% of the budget, Council Tax of £41.1 million, which was 21% of the budget, Business Rates amounted to £19.1 million, which was 10% of the budget, and Fees and Charges of £67.9 million which amounted to 34% of the budget.

 

Since the Revenue Support Grant was paid on per head of population it was vital to increase the Town’s housing stock, thus increasing the number of residents in the town.  It was proposed to build 7495 houses in Middlesbrough between 2012 and 2029 at an average of 440 properties per year. This would increase the number of residents and income from both the Revenue Support Grant and Council Tax.

 

With regard to the national financial position, the Mayor provided several examples of recent comments on state of the economy from members of the International Money Fund, the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the Bank of England and other think tanks including the Resolution Foundation.

 

The national debt was currently £1.299 trillion, with the public deficit for the first three months of this year £36.1 billion. The deficit had increased 7.3% from the same period last year. Based on these figures it was unlikely that fiscal targets for 2014-2015 would be met. According to the ONS the UK economy grew 0.8% in the second quarter of 2014 and was forecast to be one of the fastest growing economies in the G7. The BoE indicated that the UK economy would grow by 3.5% this year. However the BoE had also forecast the average wage rise for this year would be only 1.25%.

 

Construction accounted for 6% of economic activity in the UK and was performing better than previously predicted. The Service Sector grew by 1% in the second quarter and accounted for 78% of economic activity. It was now 3% above its previous peak in the first three months of 2008 according to ONS. In contrast, manufacturing was still 7.5% below its pre-recession peak. It was an accepted fact that for the economic recovery to be sustainable, exports must rise.

 

Any rise in interest rates had the potential to double the number of households with debt problems and it was estimated that 8.8 million adults had too much debt. It was also noted that oil prices were volatile, due mainly to the conflict in Iraq and any rise in inflation would impact directly on the Council’s finances.

 

The Mayor summarised that public borrowing was not reducing, the national deficit was not under control, and deficit targets would not be met. Whilst the economy was growing, it was consumer led and therefore not sustainable. In addition, the possibility of increases in interest rates and inflation were a further risk to the recovery.

 

With regard to youth unemployment there were currently approximately 868,000 sixteen to twenty-four year olds out of work. Research indicated by The Prince’s Trust and HSBC Bank indicated that more than 40% of businesses were experiencing skills gaps and difficulty filling vacancies. It had been identified that the lack of skilled workers could act as a brake on the recovery. The construction industry had cited difficulty filling roles such as graduate civil engineers, quantity surveyors and electrical apprentices. There was a striking mismatch between the types of work young people were training for and the types of jobs available. For example, 94,000 young people were trained in beauty and hair for 18,000 available jobs and only 123,000 were trained in the construction and engineering sectors for 275,000 available jobs.

 

The Tees area was facing a significant challenge to replace 120,000 posts over the next ten years which would become vacant due to retirements or people moving away. In addition, research by the Tees Valley Forum indicated that the area also needed to grow 25,000 more jobs over the same period. The Mayor stated that he had every confidence in the town’s seven secondary schools and would be discussing the skills agenda with Headteachers in the near future. Middlesbrough College, Teesside University, Tees Valley Unlimited, the Local Authority, as well as local businesses were also advancing the skills agenda.

 

Reference was made to the possibility of a move to a Combined Authority by October 2015. Local Authorities would relinquish a certain amount of power to one Combined Authority which would take the lead on strategic issues such as transport, regeneration and employment.

 

In conclusion, the Mayor stated that he would make a comprehensive statement about the skills agenda and would circulate a briefing note in advance for Members’ consideration.

 

Following the Mayor’s Statement, Members asked questions in relation to affordability of new housing, lack of progress in the Whinney Banks area, a proposal to sell land currently occupied by the Middlesbrough Golf Club, youth unemployment, and the Local Enterprise Partnership, to which the Mayor responded.

 

NOTED
 

14/32 DEPUTY MAYOR AND EXECUTIVE MEMBER REPORTS

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:-

 

(a) Credit Unions

 

The Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Resources concurred with Members' comments in relation to the issue of pay day loan companies and other high cost lenders. Legislation was needed to help move credit unions towards becoming community banks and prevent exploitation of families who were struggling. It was highlighted that other countries had introduced maximum interest rates, restrictions on pay day lenders and stricter control of other lenders. The Executive had recently agreed a report adopting a statement of intent to support credit unions.

 

(b) Transport Infrastructure

 

In response to a Member's question, the Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Resources explained that he had recently met with representatives from the Department of Transport. Topics discussed included a direct Middlesbrough to London rail link, electrification of Northallerton to Middlesbrough/Teesport lines, improvements to Darlington station and improved rolling stock and frequency of services. It was noted that the decision-making process within the rail system at the current time was quite fractured, making rational decisions difficult. The Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Resources felt encouraged by the responses from the Department of Transport but noted that more economic justification was required for the improvements requested.

 

(c) Pupil Premium Champion

 

The Executive Member for Education and Skills confirmed that the Pupil Premium Champion had been invited to visit Middlesbrough and work with schools on successful interventions. The date and length of the visit had not yet been agreed. In response to OFSTED’s requirement that the Local Authority should report any under-performing schools, it was noted that arrangements were being put in place with academies to share data. It was highlighted that 63% of Middlesbrough children attended academies in the town. Reporting under-performance to OFSTED would be a last resort as the Local Authority was committed to working in partnership with all schools and academies in Middlesbrough.

 

(d) Pallister Park Primary School

 

In relation to Pallister Park Primary School's achievement of an Award at the Times Education Supplement (TES) Teaching Awards for sport and healthy eating, the Executive Member for Education and Skills welcomed Members' congratulations. Pallister Park was one of the most disadvantaged Wards in the country, making this achievement even more remarkable. The Executive Member for Education and Skills also highlighted that Pallister Park Primary school was a leading school in the Middlesbrough Schools’ Teaching Alliance (MSTA) which aimed to spread good practice across the Authority. It was agreed that the Chair of the Council would write to the School congratulating the pupils, staff and Headteacher on the Award.


(e) Oberhausen MULTI 2014

 

A Member commented that it was the fortieth year of the town twinning with Oberhausen. Twelve young people had visited Middlesbrough recently and attended a function in the Town Hall. Oberhausen was also celebrating the fortieth anniversary and representatives from Middlesbrough would be making a return visit in a few weeks' time. The Executive Member for Supporting Communities added that over the past forty years friendships had developed between families from both towns and it was hoped that this cultural exchange would continue for many years to come.

 

(f) Funding for Community Groups

 

In respect of a question in relation to funding for community groups, the Executive Member for Supporting Communities had agreed, prior to the meeting, to seek further information and provide a response.

 

POINT OF ORDER

 

In response to a Point of Order, the Chair clarified that, in accordance with the Constitution, paragraph 15.5, questions to be put in relation to Executive reports had to be notified to the Chair of the Council by 5.00 pm on the day prior to the Council meeting.

14/33 OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY BOARD.

Council received and considered a report presented by the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Board outlining the work of the Board and Scrutiny Panels.

 

NOTED

14/34 URGENT ITEMS

 Appointment to Committees and Outside Bodies


The Chair reported that two of three current Council representatives on the Erimus Housing Board had reached their maximum term of office as Erimus Housing Board Directors.  The Board required two new representatives from Middlesbrough Council who would be announced at the Erimus Annual General Meeting on 8 September 2014.

 

Three nominations had been received as follows: Councillors Harvey, M Thompson and Hawthorne. 

 

Following a vote it was moved, seconded and ORDERED as follows:-

 

1. That Councillors Harvey and M Thompson be appointed as Members of the Erimus Housing Board.

14/35 MEMBERS' QUESTION TIME

There were no questions for this meeting.


NOTED

14/36 NOTICE OF MOTION NO 113 - VIOLENCE IN ISRAEL AND THE GAZA STRIP

Consideration was given to the following motion, moved by Councillor Carr and seconded by Councillor Taylor of which notice had been given in accordance with Council Procedure Rule No. 11,

 

'This Council deplores the recent violence in Israel and Gaza Strip.  The targeting of civilians of either side can never be justified and the Council condemns both the firing of rockets into Israel but also the actions of the Israeli military in their bombing campaign which has seen schools and hospitals hit and over 2,000 people killed.  The Council calls for an immediate end to the bloodshed and calls upon all sides to enter meaningful dialogue.

 

The Council resolves to write to the British Government, Palestinian Mission and the Israeli Embassy, informing them of this motion'.

 

An amendment was moved by Councillor Brunton and seconded by Councillor Rooney for the following to be added to the motion:

 

'Council therefore calls for:

 

  • An end to the arms trade, and all military-industrial collaboration,  with Israel.
  • The Israeli State to pay for humanitarian assistance and rebuilding Gaza.
  • An immediate lifting of the blockade of Gaza, allowing free movement of people, goods and aid.
  • Suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement due to Israel's breaches of the human rights' conditions.
  • Support for violations of international law being referred to the International Criminal Court.'

The above became the substantive motion and the motion was put to the vote.

 

On a vote being taken the substantive motion was APPROVED UNANIMOUSLY.

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