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 commented on two recent major applications for development namely the Health and Wellbeing Hub and the Snow Centre. Reference was also made to the recent opening of 'Dovecot', a new bar and eaterie on Linthorpe Road. The Member congratulated the Executive Member on the continued regeneration of the town.
The Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Regeneration thanked the Member for his comments and stated that investors were gaining confidence in the town. The Deputy Mayor also commented on the recent successful regeneration of Bedford and Baker Streets due to the Council's initiative and investment.
(b) Blue Plaques
It was highlighted that a series of blue plaques had been installed across the town to mark important locations in Middlesbrough's history. A Member asked for further information with regard to the App which was being set up as part of the same project.
The Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport explained that the App was an exciting development and was linked to the town's heritage trail to give it an interactive element. The trail extended from the Dorman Museum to the Transporter Bridge and people would be able to scan plaques on significant buildings or statues to obtain further information about them.
Referring to the review of Cultural Services and Museums, a Member asked whether any outside body or agency had been engaged to assess the options and if so, what was the name of the Company and how much funding had been allocated to pay for this service? The Member also asked for details of the remit and whether the closure of the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum was one of the options?
The Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport agreed to provide a detailed written answer to the Member in response to all the questions raised. An Outside Body called FEI had been engaged in late 2014, prior to the Executive Member being elected, at a cost of approximately £30K and the remit for the review covered the whole of cultural services and not solely museums. It had been suggested by FEI that consideration might be given to the creation of a single museum and the Executive Member would include further details in his written response.
A Member referred to Stan Hollis, Tom Dresser and James Smith, all of whom had been awarded the Victoria Cross for their bravery. The family of Tom Dresser were currently fund raising with the aim of erecting a memorial statute in Middlesbrough. The Member asked whether Council could make a donation to the fund raising campaign?
The Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport stated that he had not been aware of the campaign but would be happy to meet with the family and the Councillor to discuss ways in which the Council might be able to assist.
(e) Middlesbrough Theatre and MIMA
A Member stated that she was pleased to see a significant increase in the number of performances presented and attended during the first quarter of 2016/2017. The Member also stated that it was good to see the range of activities on offer at MIMA.
The Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport agreed that Middlesbrough Theatre was an excellent venue and had an exciting programme of events. The Discover Middlesbrough event was going from strength to strength and a new event "Night Fall" would see Centre Square illuminated at night. Tours of the Town Hall and the Empire building had sold out. There was a varied programme in place which was fantastic for the town.
(f) Junior Park Run
Middlesbrough's first Junior Park Run had taken place at Hemlington Lake in August and had been a huge success. The event was run entirely by volunteers and was free to enter. The Member commented that it was encouraging to see so many young people taking part and it was an excellent example of community working.
The Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport paid tribute to the volunteers and Ward Councillors for organising this event. The Executive Member commented that it was something he would like to see spread across the town and he hoped to use the Tees 10K event to promote such events further.
A Member commented on Middlesbrough's renewed status as a Fairtrade Town which would run until 2018. 125 countries and 1.65 million farmers across the world were involved in this international campaign.
The Executive Member for Adult Health and Social Care agreed that she was very proud of the way Middlesbrough had embraced Fairtrade and more and more organisations were becoming involved, including the local MP's office recently. The Executive Member added that the Town Meal would be taking place in Centre Square on Saturday 10 September 2016 and welcomed all to attend.
(h) GCSE Results
A Member noted that some Middlesbrough schools had attained their best ever GCSE results with significant improvements in those attaining 5 A*-C grades. However, Middlesbrough schools overall were still achieving below the national average for GCSEs. The Member stated that it was encouraging to see improvements and thanked everyone involved for their hard work.
A Member referred to the problem of people cycling in pedestrianised areas of the town and asked whether there had been any successful prosecutions for this crime?
The Executive Member for Communities and Public Health stated that he did not know how many prosecutions had been made but agreed to provide this information to the Councillor. The Executive Member stated that whilst it was good to see more people taking up cycling, it needed to be done safely and responsibly. The Executive Member hoped that Street Wardens and PCSOs would challenge cyclists riding illegally. The Executive Member also agreed alert the Community Safety Teams to this issue.
(j) PREVENT Update
Referring to a recent protest by North East Infidels which took place in the Ayresome Ward, a Member wished to record thanks to the Police and Community Safety Team, whose combined efforts had ensured the event was monitored and there were no incidents on the day.
The Executive Member for Communities and Public Health agreed with the comments made and added that whilst people had the right to demonstrate and march, the Council would always ensure that public safety was at the forefront.
(k) Environment Services
Since the Executive Member for Environment was not present at the Council meeting, the Chair asked those Members who had submitted questions to forward them in writing for a response.