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) Planning and Development
A Member asked the Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Regeneration for clarification on the stalled housing development at Acklam Green. The Deputy Mayor explained that the land was currently owned by Bellway Homes but Gleeson Homes wanted to purchase the land, subject to a successful planning application to change the proposed house types. The planning application was due to be heard in mid-August and Gleeson had stated that works would commence as soon as permission was granted. Once Gleeson had purchased the land the Council would be in discussion with them about their proposals and hopefully there would also be some community involvement.
(b) Orange Pip Market
Responding to positive comments from a Member in relation to the Orange Pip Market, the Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport stated that the Market had been a runaway success. The Market would be monitored during the summer months to ascertain whether it was mainly University students who had visited it to date. The Executive Member confirmed that the Council would be looking to develop and progress the Market.
(c) The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum
Reference was made to a recent newspaper article regarding the future of the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum. The Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport stated that there had been some misinformation and scaremongering in the media in relation to the Museum. The Arts Council had awarded a grant of £0.5 million to the Museum and detailed plans were being drawn up to refurbish and enhance it. The outline project was titled 'The Great Cabin of Curiosities' and the refurbishment would include new temporary exhibitions as well as enhancing existing exhibitions and education spaces.
The Executive Member commented that as part of the Councils Strategic Plan 2016-2020, the Town would develop as a cultural hub. A Cultural Services Review was underway but no decisions had been made with regard to provision as yet. The Executive Member added that misinformation could cause a lot of unnecessary stress to employees, and gave an assurance that employees would always be fully consulted and kept up to date with any developments.
(d) Educational Excellence Everywhere
A Member referred to the Governments White paper on education published in April 2016. Whilst there was an expectation that all schools would convert to academies, it appeared that there was now less pressure to do so for schools that had been identified as good or outstanding by OFSTED. The Member asked whether in future parents could be included in consultations when schools were considering converting to academies.
The Executive Member for Education and Skills agreed with the Members comments but stated there was still pressure on schools that required improvement. Middlesbrough had been in discussion with other local Authorities with a view to forming a Multi-Academy Trust. The Executive Member agreed to take on board the point made regarding consultation with parents.
(e) Welcoming the Stranger
A Member praised this successful event held at Newport Community Hub and aimed at developing faith group support for Refugees and Asylum Seekers Support across Teesside. Fifty-six representations from various groups had attended the event. The Refugee and Asylum Seeker week at the University, MELA and the Nagar Kirtan were highlighted as Middlesbrough events where other peoples beliefs and values were shared and respected.
The Executive Member for Communities and Public Health paid tribute to the support and work of voluntary organisations in Middlesbrough which he said was unsurpassed. The Executive Member also expressed concern at the amount of support which was provided by voluntary groups since it was the last line of defence for many.
(f) North Ormesby Volunteer
A Member paid tribute to North Ormesby volunteer Cheryl Dixon who had recently been awarded the British Empire Medal as part of the Queen's 90th birthday celebrations. Cheryl was a hardworking Community Champion who had engaged an army of volunteers and was involved in many projects in North Ormesby. The Executive Member for Communities and Public Health agreed with the comments made and whole-heartedly commended Cheryl for the work she undertook.
(g) Youth Employment Initiative (YEI)
The Youth Employment Initiative was a European Social Fund (ESF) funded project worth just under £18 million across the Tees Valley. A Member queried whether the funding was guaranteed in light of the recent EU Referendum?
The Executive Member for Communities and Public Health stated that he had been assured that the funding would be provided. The project would provide additional impetus in reducing the numbers of young people who were Not in Education Employment or Training (NEET) and helping them into employment.
A Member requested information as to the services Middlesbrough Council provided for people who found themselves homeless and living on the streets. The Executive Member for Communities and Public Health stated that he could say with confidence that housing and other support was available from the Council for those people sleeping on the streets. Each of these people had individual circumstances which could include addiction to drugs or alcohol or mental health issues. The Executive Member applauded the work of Middlesbrough Councils Community Safety Team in supporting approximately ten people who were currently sleeping rough. They were offered assistance, accommodation and support with addiction or other issues. The Executive Member also noted that there were others who came to Middlesbrough to beg by way of it being a business and for whom the required response was enforcement to remove them.
(i) Capital Expenditure
A Member referred to the summary of major capital projects in the Executive Member for Finance and Governances Report which highlighted the completion of the Teesside Welders Institute project at a total cost of £7.9 million with a contribution by the Council of £6.9 million. The Member commented that the organisation concerned was a national organisation called The Welding Institute. The Member asked whether the project had been completed within the required timescale and satisfied the conditions to receive the external funding allocated.
The Executive Member stated that she would obtain clarification regarding the funding as there appeared to be some discrepancy in the figures quoted in the report. The project had been expanded due to further external funding becoming available and therefore the completion date had been extended.
(j) Proposed Changes to the Apprenticeship Policy for Young People and the Management of Recruitment Targets for Apprentices within the Council
A Member referred to the Councils target of employing 258 apprentices and asked how long it would take to fulfil that aim. The Member also sought assurance that all Middlesbrough looked after children would be encouraged to apply for apprenticeships with the Council. The Executive Member for Education and Skills confirmed that every care leaver who met the essential criteria for a Council apprenticeships would be offered an interview. Where the criteria was not met, the Council would seek other opportunities to support that young person. At the current time the Council had 170 apprentices. The new Enterprise Bill had changed current funding arrangements so that businesses with total salaries over £3 million had to pay a levy and the funding raised would be used to create more apprenticeships.