The Chair invited Members to raise items for general discussion arising from the Information Booklet of Executive Member reports 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) Snow Centre
A member referred to point 1 of the report of the Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Regeneration and he acknowledged that the application was due to be submitted to the Planning and Development Committee. He queried whether the Executive Member had further information in relation to the proposal. The Executive Member advised that approximately 300 jobs would be created and the proposal represented a £30m investment. It would bring retail outlets, possibly including a ski shop and a hotel. The roads surrounding the area would be redefined and the whole area would be opened up to investment.
A member referred to point 7 of the report of the Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Regeneration and advised that he had previously been involved in provision facility for people to cycle. He commented that people were sometimes hesitant to use cycles because there were few facilities to park bikes. He acknowledged that some public buildings did have bike parking facilities, but many did not. He requested the Executive Member to look at the issue of bike parking facilities.
The Executive Member advised that the Council was keen to encourage cycling. A Cycling Centre had been opened along which people could use free of charge and there was also a Cycling Academy. He advised that the Town Hall and Middlesbrough College both had bike parking facilities and there were cycling parking facilities throughout the town and he commented that all employers should be encouraged to provide bike parking facilities.
c) Public Transport
A member referred to point 7 of the report of the Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Regeneration with regard to the Tees Valley Access Fund. He referred to the £3m secured by the Tees Valley Combined Authority to encourage more people to cycle, walk and use public transport. The member stated that the number of bus services had been reduced because Councils could no longer afford to subsidise bus services. Only one bus service was operating in South Middlesbrough of an evening and some areas did not have any. The lack of bus facilities affected people trying to get work and people accessing the town. Along with other Councillors, the member was involved in a Sub Committee to set up a community transport bus between Stainton and Nunthorpe. He stated that he would be pleased if some of the £3m could be used to support the bus service.
The Executive Member advised that he would like to encourage people to use other forms of travel and community transport could be the way forward. The problem the Council had was sustainability in the long term and subsidising buses in the short term could lead to disappointment. Discussions had been held with Stagecoach with regard to people accessing foodbanks having access to free travel.
d) Maternal Infant and child health strategic partnership
A member congratulated the Council and the CCG on the maternal and child health strategic work particularly in relation to Post Natal Depression. The member advised that mental health was something that needed to be taken seriously especially in respect of people who had given birth. Referrals for new mothers had gone up from one in 2014 to 280 in 2016. The member suggested that the Clinical Commissioning Group and the Council could work together perhaps with the National Birthplace Trust to fund Breastfeeding Peer Support Workers and it was suggested that some joint working could be established. The Executive Member suggested that it could be incorporated into the work of the Public Health Team and discussions could be held on how to progress this.
e) Books on Prescription for Young People
A member referred to point 15 of the report of the Executive Member for Communities and Public Health with regard to funding received from South Tees CCG to pilot a self-help reading scheme, aimed at young people, in partnership with GP surgeries. The scheme involved a collection of books being available in GP surgeries and in selected community hub libraries. The member urged everyone to support the use of the resource, in the hope that it would become a fixed resource.
The Executive Member advised that according to the figures for the issue of books, the scheme had been very successful. He stated that some of the books were about self-help around mental health and sexual health and he hoped the scheme would be extended beyond the pilot phase.
f) Captain Cook Birthplace Museum
A member congratulated the Council on the work carried out at the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum and the fact that the museum would be re-opening soon. The member commented that there had been a number of rumours about the closure of the museum and the fact that the museum was due to re-open in May should reassure members of the public.
Another member added his congratulations on the news that the newly refurbished museum would be re-opening in May 2017, he congratulated a member on his campaign to keep the museum open and he queried about the future of the cafe.
The Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport advised that there could be a delay in the re-opening of the museum because of the structural works to the museum but it was still expected to open in May 2017. There had been informal interest in the cafe, however the tendering process had not yet commenced.
g) Public Poetry Project
A member commented that he had viewed the first piece of public poetry on the gable end of Subway on Baker Street and it had been very eye-catching.
The Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport advised that the initiative was high impact but low cost. The next phase would be at 11 King Edwards Square. It was anticipated that the next stages would be to take Public Poetry into residential areas.
h) Arts Council Funding
A member referred to the three bids that had been submitted to the Arts Council under its National Portfolio scheme on 1 February for annual funding support for 2018 - 2022. The member advised that the Culture White Paper 2016 called for leaders to embrace culture and this was exactly what was happening in Middlesbrough. The member congratulated the Executive Member on the achievements in Middlesbrough and stated that Councils should not be restricted to delivering statutory duties and the way Middlesbrough was looking to expand its culture offer was great for the future generation.
The Executive Member advised that the Council had submitted a bid under the National Portfolio scheme, which if successful, had the potential to bring in funding of up to £4m to enable the Council to work with artists in the area to enhance the town.
i) Holmwood School
A member stated that she would like to compliment the staff and pupils of Holmwood School for being the top performing school out of nearly 1000 special primary schools in the DfE's performance tables for special schools in 2016. The school was 4th in the table for progress in writing and 1st in Maths and Reading. The school were 4th in attainment for reading but 1st in grammar, punctuation and spelling and maths. The member stated that she was very proud of the pupils and staff and was proud to be a governor of the school.
A member stated that Holmwood School was in Ladgate Ward and added her congratulations to the school on their achievement.
The Executive Member for Education and Skills congratulated the school on their achievement and advised that the staff at Holmwood inspired their pupils and it was great to celebrate the success of the school.
j) Bereavement Services
A member commented on the ongoing improvements and investment in respect of Teesside Crematorium. The member commented that Bereavement Services had been a scrutiny topic the previous year and the developments in respect of the Crematorium demonstrated how Scrutiny and Executive Members could work together with staff to bring about improvements.
k) Adult Social Care
A member advised that she had written to the Prime Minister to advise of her concerns regarding the proposed Social Care Council Tax precept to fund Social Care. The member pointed out that residents struggled to pay the Council Tax. The member highlighted that under the previous Mayor the Council tax had been increased by 12% and the Middlesbrough Council level of Council Tax was now higher than the national average.
The Executive Member for Finance and Governance advised that the precept was a regressive tax. Middlesbrough residents already paid tax, The money that the Government used to give Council's was partly paid by resident's tax. The precept would not cover the additional cost for social care and it would not even cover the cost of the national minimum wage. The Government was phasing the removal of the Revenue Support Grant and the Council was expected to raise the shortfall locally from increased revenue from Council Tax and Business Rates. The Executive Member urged the member to request that the Government to re-think the proposal of removing the Revenue Support Grant and give the local authorities the funding they required for social care.