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:-
Deputy Seatbelt Sheriffs
A member referred to point 5, page 3 of the Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Regeneration's report regarding the fact that the Seatbelt Sheriff had recently visited Hemlington Hall and Corpus Christi primary schools and sworn in 650 Deputy Seatbelt Sheriffs to help encourage Middlesbrough school children to understand why they needed a child car seat and the importance of always wearing a seatbelt on every journey. Deputy Sheriffs were also given the extra duty of reminding everyone in the vehicle to 'buckle up'.
The member commented that he was really pleased to hear about the Seatbelt Sheriffs as he had been driving this initiative forward for some time, as he lived near to two schools and there was an issue with children travelling in cars without seatbelts on the school run. He commented that this often occurred when older siblings transported younger children to the schools.
The Executive Member commented that he could speak to staff about extending the initiative to other schools. The issue of children not using car seats or wearing seatbelts was an enforcement issue for the police but it was good to hear that the Seatbelt Sheriff was visiting schools to promote the initiative.
A member referred to point 1, page 1 of the Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Regeneration's report regarding the Middlesbrough Investment Prospectus. He commented that he wished to praise the Mayor and the Executive on the Investment Prospectus, in particular the Council's commitment to inject £74m into a series of exciting developments in times of unprecedented cuts. The member commented that he was proud that the Investment Prospectus had been completed by a Labour led Council. He stated that it was a testament to the confidence and creativity in Middlesbrough's growing stature as the city heart of the Tees Valley and it would serve as a catalyst for the creation of 500 new jobs and investment from the private and public sector. The member commented on the various new developments in the town.
A member commented that people were supportive of the Investment Prospectus but he stated that more investment could have been found for the Southlands Centre. A decision had been made to close the centre. Businesses were struggling to find alternative premises. The package of £100k sounded like a lot of money but it only amounted to £2k per business to relocate and some businesses had already spent £20k plus.
The Executive Member thanked the member for acknowledging the work of the Mayor and Executive in bringing the Investment Prospectus to fruition but he commended the work of officers who had worked tirelessly, particularly in relation to the Snow Centre. In terms of the Southlands Centre, he stated that half of the businesses had already agreed to relocate, three of the businesses only used the centre for storage and others only used the centre as a postal address. The Centre for Cities had stated that the Council were doing the right thing in terms of inward investment to boost our retail sector by bringing in more offices and more knowledge intensive partnerships.
Deprivation of Liberty
A member requested clarification on the issue of Deprivation of Liberty standard safeguards.
A member acknowledged the fact that the Law Commission had published a draft bill but that could take some time. He queried whether the Council was going to put measures in place to protect most vulnerable, as in his view, the Council continued to act unlawfully.
The Executive Member for Adult Health and Social Care advised that a lot of members would be familiar with Deprivation of Liberty. In 2014 the Supreme Court defined what Deprivation of Liberty meant. It was known as the Cheshire West decision. It had an enormous impact because the number of assessments increased significantly and more Social Workers were required to administer the process and carry out assessments.
Local authorities became the administrators for all Deprivation of Liberty referrals including referrals from care homes and hospitals. Middlesbrough's Deprivation of Liberty assessments increased to twice the national average. Before the Cheshire West decision Middlesbrough was averaging 47 referrals per year but following the decision, Middlesbrough had received 1051 in 2015/16. In order to assist in processing referrals the Association of Directors of Social Services had provided a screening tool to assist authorities in identifying those people most at risk so they could be treated first and this was reviewed on a weekly basis. It had brought the number of referrals waiting to be assessed down to 170.
The Council felt that by using the screening tool, the risk of litigation had been reduced. The Law Commission had been reviewing the Deprivation of Liberty and it now included people aged 16 and 17, and this was an improvement.
Repossession Prevention Fund
A member referred to point 15, page 6/7 of the Executive Member for Communities and Public Health's report in relation to the Repossession Fund. The member acknowledged the fact that Community Safety were working alongside Five Lamps to bring back the Repossession Prevention Fund to prevent people being evicted from their property because they were in arrears with their rent, when small loans at 0% interest would assist in solving the problem.
He stated that homelessness was a problem, particularly in relation to young people. Young people were having to move to the private rented sector and rents were spiralling. There had also been a reduction in housing benefit for the under 35's and single people. The Repossession Fund would assist and the member wished to congratulate the Council in bringing back the Repossession Fund.
Orange Pip Market
A member referred to point 2, page 1 of the Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport's report and acknowledged that the Council was going to have its own stall at the Orange Pip Market, selling stickers, mugs, tea towels, wall calendars etc. The member queried whether it was tax payers funding that had produced the design and product and whether Council officers would be working on the stall.
The Executive Member confirmed that the Orange Pip Market was supported by the Council and that he would provide the information requested by the member.
Number of extra children in schools
A member referred to paragraph 3, page 1 of the background information in relation to Migration Funding Bid Success, contained in the Executive Member for Education and Skills report. The member stated that he was disturbed when he read the report and he referred to paragraph 3 with regard to the number of new arrivals at schools placing pressure on teachers, teaching assistants and school leaders.
The member stated that one of the Mayor's theme was fairness and the situation was not fair for the teachers or the children. The Government had put funding in to assist and he hoped that the problem would be resolved as quickly as possible.
The Executive Member stated that the Council did have responsibility for all children residing in Middlesbrough which is why the Council had made a bid for the funding. The Executive Member pointed out that next year with the new funding formula the schools in Middlesbrough stood to lose £7m.
The Executive Member pointed out that there was lots of good practice in Middlesbrough, particularly at Abingdon School and North Ormesby Primary Schools who were doing their best to assist children to settle into school.
A member referred to point 1, page 1 of the Executive Member for Finance and Governance's report regarding Programme Management. He acknowledged the positive feedback from Deloittes with regard to the Councils performance in respect of Programme Management, particularly in relation to Planning, Governance, Reporting, Accountability and PMO (Programme Management Office) structure.