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:-
Reference was made to a recent briefing for Councillors on Combined Authorities at which it was explained that the leaders of the five Tees Valley Councils would form the Combined Authority and make decisions on Government spending in the region. The Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Finance and Governance was asked whether a larger, more representative Combined Authority of Councillors was needed. The Deputy Mayor explained that the model Combined Authority for the Tees Valley was identical to others already operating elsewhere in the country. Although five people would make the decisions they would be informed through Council processes in a number of areas and a scrutiny process would be in place. The Executive Member commented that anything that brought new powers and funding sources back to the Tees Valley was the right thing.
(b) Living Wage
In response to a Members comments about the Councils commitment to implement the Living Wage, the Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Finance and Governance confirmed that a report would shortly be submitted to the Executive with a proposal to implement the Living Wage from April 2015. Whilst it was acknowledged that the paying the Living Wage was not the solution to poverty, it could contribute to a solution.
(c) Due North
In response to a request for further information regarding how health inequalities in the town and the wider area were being addressed, the Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Finance and Governance responded that the independent inquiry commissioned by Public Health England had not revealed anything not already known to the Council. The Due North report provided evidence that health inequality almost mirrored every other element of poverty and that it was worse in the north than in other parts of the country. The Executive Member suggested that the Health Scrutiny Panel, Health and Wellbeing Board or the Executive should examine the report in detail and consider ways in which the Council could reduce health inequality in partnership with the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), who also had a responsibility to combat this issue.
(d) Prince Bishop School
A request was made to the Executive Member for Education and Skills to include an update on Prince Bishop School in her next report to Council. The Executive Member explained that due to an ongoing investigation at the school it had not been possible to include an update in time for this Council meeting. The Executive Member had attended a recent School Council Meeting and read out some of the positive comments made by pupils about the school at that meeting. Improvements had been made at the school and would continue to be made.
(e) Hemlington Initiative Centre
Members attention was drawn to the Councils efforts to create additional nursery places for two year olds. Middlesbrough Council had agreed a lease with Rosedene Nurseries for the former Hemlington Initiative Centre. This development would create 108 new places with a provider rated outstanding by OFSTED. The Executive Member for Supporting Communities explained that the Council had a statutory duty to provide nursery provision for two year olds and excellent provision would be made available at Hemlington Initiative Centre. It was hoped that other organisations might also be encouraged to make use of the Centre.
(f) Tackling Gang Nuisance in Easterside
A Member highlighted that anti-social behaviour, including criminal damage to vehicles, had increased throughout the town recently. The Executive Member for Supporting Communities thanked the Member for drawing this issue to her attention and agreed produce a report in respect of all incidents across the town. It was acknowledged that through residents, Police and the Council working in partnership in Easterside, there had been a reduction in anti-social behaviour. The area would continue to be closely monitored. The Mayor agreed to consider a request for further alley gates to be installed in the town.
(g) Dementia Cafe in Central Library
A Member commented on the second 'Memory Lane dementia cafe' that had been hosted at Middlesbrough Central Library. The feedback from the event had been very positive.
(h) Housing Market Update
A detailed planning application for the first phase of housing on the Hemlington Grange Site had been anticipated in autumn 2014 but had not been forthcoming. A Member asked for an update on the apparent delay. The Executive Member for Regeneration and Economic Development confirmed that there was a delay on the development due to issues with regard to utilities. Discussions were ongoing with Northern Powergrid and it was anticipated that the issues would be resolved early next year.
A Member asked how the "Stepping Stones" scheme for first time home buyers was progressing. The Executive Member confirmed that there had been eight applications to date. Two had been withdrawn due to financial reasons, three had completed and three were currently progressing.
(i) Economy Update
The report fall in unemployment in Middlesbrough was welcomed. A Member asked whether information was available regarding the number of people in Middlesbrough who were either on zero hours contracts or self-employed. The Executive Member for Regeneration and Economic Development agreed that these issues needed to be looked at in greater detail to ensure that particularly those people who were self-employed were earning a living wage. The Executive Member agreed to provide the data requested.
(j) Action on Hearing Loss
Reference was made to the four weekly sessions being held at the Middlesbrough Deaf Centre, North Ormesby Resource Centre for people with hearing loss. The Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health agreed that hearing and/or sight loss could be very isolating disabilities. Communication was an enormous challenge and assistive IT was being used to help deaf-blind people to communicate. Often mainstream services were not appropriate or accessible to people with hearing or sight loss and the Council had employed three officers to look at peoples needs and how best to support them.