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) Tuxedo Royale
A member referred to page 3, paragraph 6 of the report of the Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for City Centre Strategy in relation to the Tuxedo Royale.
The member commented that he had recently had friends from London visit the town and they had visited the Transporter Bridge and he stated that the tour guides did a great job. Unfortunately the tour guides had to refer to the derelict Tuxedo Royale as it could be seen from that view. The member commented that he was pleased to see the Council was taking action to deal with issue of the Tuxedo Royale as the removal of the boat was important to the regeneration of the town. He stated that he wished to congratulate the Council on enabling the work on the dismantling of the boat to commence and he commented that it was good to see that the works were progressing and the town was moving forward.
The Executive Member stated that the boat was becoming an eyesore and the Environment Agency were classing it as controlled or hazardous waste. This was the reason why the boat was being dismantled and also because no organisation had submitted a viable funded business plan in respect of the future of the Tuxedo Royale.
b) Council Accommodation
A member referred to page 2, paragraph 2 of the report of the Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for City Centre Strategy in relation to Council Accommodation. The member queried whether Council staff would be relocating into the new office accommodation in Centre Square.
The Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for City Centre Strategy advised that this would be subject to a separate report to Executive and everyone would be informed of it.
c) Splash Utilities
A member referred to page 3, paragraph 4 of the report of the Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for City Centre Strategy in relation to Splash Utilities.
The member stated that it was good to see that Splash Utilities had decided to base themselves in Middlesbrough as it provided many employment and training opportunities. It would help people obtain the best deal they could in the current economy. The company had been considering both Leeds and Middlesbrough as a possible location for the company and they had opted for Middlesbrough as Middlesbrough was portrayed in a very positive way and this was largely down to the leadership of the Mayor and Middlesbrough's investment ambitions. It also showed that the Council's Investment Strategy was working, in terms of improving Royal Middlehaven House and facilitating Splash Utilities in locating to Middlesbrough and bringing jobs and training opportunities to the town. The member stated that he wanted to congratulate the Council in bringing this investment to Middlesbrough.
The Executive Member advised that Splash Utilities had chosen Middlesbrough as a location for the company because they liked what the city had to offer. The owners of the building, Python Properties had indicated that they were pleased as there had been a considerable amount of money spent on improving the property. The owner of Python Properties had also noted that there had been real investment in the area over the last few years which was positive for the town.
d) Salons for Screening Magazine
A member referred to page 3, paragraph 17 of the report of the Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health in relation to Salons for Screening Magazine.
The member stated that she would like to congratulate the organisations mentioned in the report in respect of a local scheme for cervical screening, given the national dip in ladies attending screening appointments. The issue of screening and cancer was a worrying situation but it was a preventative measure. The member urged everyone to encourage women to attend screening appointments.
The Executive Member stated that she was impressed with the work that had been carried out in relation to this issue. Volunteers had made a short film about the topic and had posted it on the Web and the film had already achieved over 3000 views.
e) Action by Responsible Authorities to Review of Alcohol Licences
The Chair of the Licensing Committee referred to page 6, paragraph 31 of the Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health report in respect of Action by Responsible Authorities to Review of Alcohol Licences.
The member referred to page 6 of the Executive Member report relating to paragraphs 31, 32 and 33 with regard to the Action by responsible authorities to review of Alcohol Licenses.
The member advised that multi team operations had been carried out in the previous year, from June with HMRC, Licensing and the police. The member commented that it was important to remember that those reviews were carried out diligently by these responsible authorities including the Council's own enforcement officers from licensing and trading standards. The member stated that she would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in the thorough investigation of wrongdoing by licensees in the town. The member emphasised that the operations had been carried out by hardworking officers and they deserved recognition for their commitment to ensure the health and safety of the residents of Middlesbrough.
The member advised that some of the town's licensed premises had "grandfather rights" and as a consequence they did not carry with them updated conditions on licences such as CCTV and prohibition of certain high volume drinks etc. When an application for a review of a licence was submitted to the licensing committee, it provided the opportunity to amend those licenses where appropriate, which ensured that the licensing objectives were met and upheld and if not then they could be enforced, reviewed and action taken to protect the people of Middlesbrough, their health and wellbeing and guard against crime and disorder.
The member commented that many areas were suffering from issues such as crime and disorder and health problems, (causing impact as it had been shown by Public Health on the NHS) all connected to alcohol and it was the duty of the Licensing authority to ensure that only responsible people held alcohol licenses in Middlesbrough. It was highlighted, that, despite the many cut backs that the Council, had endured over the years they still had teams of dedicated officers, (including the Council's own democratic services personnel who through hours of hard work ensured that everything was ready for the sub committees). The member stated that she would like to commend to the people of Middlesbrough these officers for all the hard work they carried out to ensure that licensed premises were properly run for the benefit of the town.
The Executive Member stated that she would ensure that the member's comments were passed on to the staff concerned. Members were advised that since the Executive report had been written, two off licences had subsequently had their licences suspended. The Executive Member advised that the Council had also recently signed up to an Alcohol Strategy. All organisations had been subject to cuts but they strived to maintain a good service.
f) Troubled Families
A member referred to page 3, paragraph 6 of the Executive Member for Children's Services report in relation to Troubled Families.
A member stated that he would like to congratulate the Executive Member and the team from Children's Services Troubled Families and Job Centre Plus for organising a recruitment event which saw over 200 people attend, following which 8 people commenced work, 16 attended job interviews and 31 commenced training. He also thanked the DWP and the education department from HMP Holme House for their work in relation to the provision of up to date benefit awareness for prisoners.
The Executive Member stated that the work of teams like the Troubled Families Team was very important because the intervention work that they carried out prevented further difficulties in the future, in terms of preventing children going into care. Their work was a very important element of the Children's Services Strategy.
The member advised that the funding of Troubled Families came via Central Government and it did support various activities including Children's Centres. It was highlighted that this funding was only guaranteed until 2020 following which, there were no guarantees that the Government would continue to provide funding. The Council were having to examine how this service would be supported. Children's Services were currently preparing a business case to transfer from Government funding to mainstream Council funding which would cause pressure on other aspects of the budget. The Council would seek to continue the important work carried out by the Troubled Families Team.
g) Magical Christmas - Christmas Lights Switch on
A member referred to page 1, paragraph 1 of the Executive Member for Culture and Communities report in respect of the Christmas market and he queried how many people had attended the market and why the market had closed early.
The Executive Member stated that he would make inquiries with regard to the figures for attendance and the costs associated with the Christmas market and report back to the member concerned but he stated that he was not sure that the market had closed early as it was never intended to remain open throughout all of the Christmas period.
h) Interim Policy on Conversions of Residential Properties
A member referred to page 1, paragraph 1 of the Executive Member for Economic Development and Infrastructure report in respect of the Interim Policy on Conversions of Residential Properties.
The member stated that she wanted to draw attention to the development and use of the interim Policy on Conversions of Residential Properties that had been put together in response to concerns expressed in relation to this throughout the town. The member also wanted to highlight the impact that changes of this type, conversion of residential dwellings into flats could have on the character and culture of an area and also on the wellbeing of the residents and the nature of the town and to encourage everyone to be alert to these changes where permission had not been sought for those alterations. The member stated that the policy was an important step forward.
The Executive Member stated that the policy had been established in response to requests from communities either through their Councillor or other forums had asked the Council to do. The policy had received cross party support as it could affect all parts of the town. It was not a blanket ban but it did determine quality or whether it enhanced or was detrimental to the area and it allowed planning officers to act accordingly.
i) Safer Bus Station Award
A member referred to page 3, paragraph 8 of the Executive Member for Environment and Commercial Services report in respect of the Safer Bus Station Award.
The member commented that she was delighted that the Middlesbrough Bus Station had received the Safer Bus Station Award for the second year running. The Lead Officer Auditor had commented that Middlesbrough was the best example of a bus station in the north east and had thoroughly deserved the award. The member emphasised that it was very important for the town to retain its bus station.
The Executive Member advised that she would pass the member's congratulations on to the staff concerned.
j) Funding of Local Government
A member referred to page 1, paragraph 1 of the Executive Member for Finance and Governance report in respect of Funding of Local Government.
The member congratulated the Executive Member on the presentation of the report in respect of the display of graphs and charts which made the report easier to understand. The member highlighted that, in 2019 - 2020, 60p of every pound would be spent on caring for the elderly and vulnerable adults. This was up from 41p in 2010 - 2011, which was a concern as by contrast, 1p in every £1 would be spent on street cleaning and flood defences, under 5p in every £1 would be left to fund all libraries, leisure centres, parks, museums and arts. The member requested the Executive Member to expand on the difficulties in respect of the imperatives that the Council faced in the funding that the Council had to provide and the impact on other services.
The Executive Member thanked the member for her comments on the report as it did explain things better. Work was ongoing about communicating to the people in Middlesbrough in a better way to explain where their money went and how the Council expenditure was spent.
The LGA had commented that there was a massive funding gap but the Government were removing funding from Councils. If, by 2020, we were spending more money on social care, there would be less money for other things.
The reason why people were paying more Council Tax is because the Government were removing funding that was paid by tax payers and no longer distributing it to the Council.