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) Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED) Report
The Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Finance and Governance responded to a Members comments regarding the contribution of the introduction of the Pupil Premium and raising the threshold of Income Tax in order to reduce the gap between the rich and poor.
(b) The Autumn Statement
A Member referred to two recently published reports; one by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) regarding child poverty being linked to attainment and another by the Local Government Association (LGA) regarding unemployment amongst young people; and the effect of the current Governments austerity measures on both issues. The Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Finance and Governance agreed with the comments made in relation to the increased use of food and clothing banks as well as the number of people in low paid, part-time employment and zero hours contracts.
(c) Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED) Report
A Member commented on the evidence from the OECD report in relation to the effect of inequality on economic growth. It was highlighted that benefit cuts did not solely affect people who were unemployed and the majority of new claims for housing benefit were from people who were working. The Executive Member agreed with the comments made in relation to inequality making the UK less economically efficient.
(d) Conduct in Public Life
A request was made for all Executive Members to re-affirm their support for the Councils Equal Opportunity Policy in the light of recent comments made by a Councillor. The Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Finance and Governance reminded Councillors that when elected they had a responsibility to themselves, their families and to Middlesbrough to conduct themselves in a way that was genuine and meaningful.
A Member referred to a recent statement by the Education Shadow Secretary that he wished to ensure that OFSTED inspectors did not involve themselves in politics. The Executive Member for Education and Skills agreed that OFSTED should remain an independent body.
(f) Hemlington Hall Library
A Member commented on the range of activities and community events taking place at Hemlington Hall Library and asked whether it could be re-named as a Community Hub. The Executive Member for Supporting Communities stated that Hemlington, Acklam and Marton Libraries were already operating like Community Hubs and discussions would be taking place with a view to re-branding them.
(g) Questions for the Executive Member for Commercial Assets and Income
The Executive Member for Commercial Assets and Income was not present at the meeting due to illness. The Chair therefore suggested that the two Members who had submitted questions should submit them to the Executive Member directly in writing.