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) Supporting Asylum Seekers
A Member paid tribute to the strong partnerships that had developed in Middlesbrough between organisations and charities committed to supporting asylum seekers and refugees living in Middlesbrough and promoting integration. The Executive Member for Communities and Public Health explained that the Government had commissioned G4S, a private company, to provide housing for asylum seekers and refugees. In Middlesbrough this role had been sub-contracted to a private landlord. Market forces drove the numbers and some of the cheapest housing in the country was available in Teesside. It was noted however, that no funding was available from the Government to assist with this housing provision.
(b) Not In Education, Employment or Training (NEETs)
The Executive Member for Communities and Public Health was asked to provide current figures for NEETs in Middlesbrough. The Executive Member commented that he had recently received a letter from a Government Minister praising Middlesbrough Council for the work undertaken to significantly reduce the number of NEETs. There were currently approximately 502 young people who were NEET in Middlesbrough and there were lots of strategies in place to contact and engage those young people.
(c) Preventing Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) on Bonfire Night
A Member commented that thanks to the combined efforts of the Police, Neighbourhood Safety Officers and staff from the Thirteen Group, it had been a relatively quiet bonfire night in the Park End and Beckfield Wards. However, there had been reports of stones being thrown at staff in the Pallister Ward. The Executive Member for Communities and Public Health agreed to look into this issue and ascertain what had happened. The Executive Member added that work on preventing anti-social behaviour had started early and the use of Dispersal Orders had proved successful.
(d) Welfare Rights
Reference was made to the £848,218,59 that had been secured for Middlesbrough residents during the last quarter as a result of the cases dealt with by the Welfare Rights Service. A Member asked whether the number of Welfare Rights Officers working in Housing Benefit Offices could be doubled with an dedicated Officer based Middlesbrough House. The Executive Member stated that he was grateful to the Councillor for drawing attention to the excellent work of the Welfare Rights Team. The Financial Inclusion Group were constantly looking at sources of funding and had been quite successful. The Executive Member agreed to raise the issue regarding additional Officers as requested.
(e) Recycling Green Waste Collections
A Member asked whether the recycling green waste collections could be extended until later in the year or the start date put back until the end of April, since due to the mild weather there had been a lot of additional green waste. The Executive Member for Environment stated that the department was always striving to enhance the services offered to residents and the request would be considered.
(f) Apprentices within the Council
A Member asked how many apprentices the Council had employed this year as compared to the previous year and whether there had been an increase. The Executive Member for Education and Skills confirmed that four apprentices had progressed from intermediate to advanced apprenticeships within the Council. There were 64 apprentices this year and the Executive Member agreed to ascertain the total number for the previous year and let the Member concerned know.
The Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Regeneration was not present in the Chamber at this point in the meeting. The Vice Chair stated that if Members wished to ask their questions they would be forwarded to the Deputy Mayor for a response.
(g) Planning and Development
A Member asked whether the new TWI (The Welding Institute) building would be completed on time and in accordance with the agreement for grant funding.
Another Member asked whether the Council could encourage employers to take on apprentices and ensure all employees involved in the construction of a new Plant in Middlesbrough received an appropriate rate of pay.
The Mayor responded stating that several Tees Valley Leaders and MPs were developing an agreement and protocols for this construction site and would hopefully have some influence. The Devolution Deal would also provide some influence locally on how apprenticeships worked in the Tees Valley area and links with colleges and industry could be developed.
(h) The Curve
A Member paid tribute to the development of the Universitys new Curve building and the Campus Heart public realm scheme. The Member commented that the University helped drive growth and regeneration in the Town and asked whether the Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Regeneration concurred with his assessment.