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:-
The Chair suggested that as two questions had been received in respect of the Centre Square Development, that the two Councillors put their questions first to allow the Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for City Centre Strategy to respond to both questions at the same time.
a) and b) Centre Square Development
A Member referred to page 1, paragraph 1 of the report of the Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for City Centre Strategy in relation to Centre Square Development.
The Member commented that in the last week, the hoardings had been erected on the East of Centre Square where the office blocks were due to be built and queried with regard to the impact that this development would have on the town.
A Member referred to the second office building that the Council was due to let out and he queried whether there had been any consideration or if a risk analysis had taken place with regard to the Council's increase in car parking charges and what affect this would have on the Councils ability to let out the building.
The Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for City Centre Strategy advised that he would address the first question first. He stated that the development would have a very positive affect on the town. The Council were having discussions with people who were interested in occupying the second building and there had been enough interest to fill the second building. The Council was in discussions with institutions about the investment for the building and that was due to be signed off later in the month ready to commence on site early next month.
In terms of the risk assessment, the Council were getting a far better return on the investment than originally planned, it was an increase of 25% but the actual figures were confidential.
At this point of the meeting a number of members of the public interrupted the meeting and the Chair advised that the Council meeting was a business meeting of the Council and he asked the public to remain quite during the meeting.
c) House of Fraser
A Member referred to page 4, paragraph 13 of the report of the Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for City Centre Strategy in relation to the House of Fraser.
The Member referred to the fact that the House of Fraser was closing down and she queried whether the Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for City Centre Strategy would reconsider the decision to increase car parking charges, would it help or hinder our struggling high street, as it could drive people away to shop at Teesside Park where parking was free.
The Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for City Centre Strategy advised that car parking did not have any bearing on investment in the town. The study attached to the car parking review stated that the location, convenience and safety of a car park was far more important than the actual car parking charges. The House of Fraser group were closing stores all over the country so it was not just a Middlesbrough issue it was a national problem.
d) Middlesbrough Rail Station
A Member referred to page 3, paragraph 8 of the report of the Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for City Centre Strategy in relation to Middlesbrough Railway Station.
The Member referred to the improvements at Middlesbrough Railway Station and he queried with regard to how much Middlesbrough Council were contributing towards the overall cost and how much the Tees Valley Mayoral Authority were contributing.
The Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for City Centre Strategy stated that he did not have the actual costs but he would forward them to the Member. Middlesbrough Council were contributing to the costs of the Railway Station and the public realms leading to the Railway Station to revitalise the city centre. The Council had discussions with various components of Network Rail and other building and rail owners. The front of the station was now open. It was planned to have a train direct to London in 2020 and an extra platform so that capacity could be improved and any investment was worth it.
The Member commented that the improvements were necessary and he advised that the Middlesbrough Council contribution was £500,000 and the Combined Authority contribution was £2m. The Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for City Centre Strategy pointed out that this was a Middlesbrough Council funded project.
e) Rita Ora: August 2018
A Member referred to page 2, paragraph 7 of the report of the Executive Member for Culture and Communities in respect of the Rita Ora concert.
The Member commented that it was good to see that the Rita Ora concert was coming to Centre Square. He stated that he wanted to see Centre Square used for big events and concerts as it would draw people to the Town Centre. He stated that it was a really positive thing and he hoped to see other such events in the future. He stated that it was part of not seeing things in isolation but as part of a bigger project.
The Executive Member advised that the original location had been Stewart Park and a decision had been taken to relocate it to Centre Square. Centre Square should be used for more cultural events to help attract people to the town.
f) Selective Landlord Licensing
A Member referred to page 5, paragraph 13 of the report of the Executive Member for Culture and Communities in respect of Selective Landlord Licensing.
The Member referred to the successful prosecution of rogue landlords. There had been a scrutiny panel on the issue of Selective Landlord Licensing. The member queried whether the scheme could be rolled out in other wards or across the town as a whole.
The Executive Member stated that Selective Landlord Licensing had been critical to turning the housing market around in North Ormesby. The Executive Member stated that it was not possible to designate a whole town, it had to be a specific area. The Selective Landlord Licensing had been successful but it had been labour intensive and costly. The Council had learned from the North Ormesby experience and he was looking forward to rolling it out across the town in future.
A Member referred to page 9, paragraph 19 of the report of the Executive Member for Culture and Communities in respect of Erimus, the Middlesbrough Town Hall Opening Performance.
The Member stated that she wished to pass on her congratulations to all of the teams that had organised the above event with the Southpaw dancers. It was pleasing to see that local people had been invited to be part of the event and had been provided with the opportunity to participate in the singing. The Member also passed on her thanks for the Middlesbrough Banquet. Both events had been a celebration of Middlesbrough.
The Executive Member stated that he had no hesitation in passing on his gratitude for the organisation of the event. The event was an astounding portrayal of the history of Middlesbrough through dance. Some of the cast were from the local community and some that were involved had been assisted by the Homelessness team and the Drug and Rehabilitation Team. The Executive Member advised that he would pass on thanks to all those involved.
h) East to North East
A Member referred to page 7, paragraph 17 of the report of the Executive Member for Culture and Communities in respect of East to North East.
The Member commented on the video and exhibition in the Central library which included a selection of exhibits relating to the history of the migrant community in Middlesbrough. There was a video highlighting the experience of the Muslim people in settling in Middlesbrough.
The project highlighted how the migrants loved the town and how they contributed to the town. It was important to stress the positives and importance of migration and the diversity of culture and the East to North East project highlighted this. The Member stated that he would like to thank Amjid Khazir from the Media Cultured organisation who worked with young people in the Muslim community and worked to prevent radicalisation. Media Cultured was a nationally recognised organisation located in Middllesbrough set up by Amjid Khazir.
The Executive Member stated that he had been able to have a sneak preview of the exhibition and he stated that the social fabric of Middlesbrough was stitched together from people from all over the world.
i) Middlesbrough Job Fair
A Member referred to page 2, paragraph 4 of the report of the Executive Member for Economic Development and Infrastructure in respect of Middlesbrough Job Fair.
The Member referred to the Mayor's Statement and the growth in Middlesbrough. The Jobs Fair mentioned in the Executive Member's report complimented the growth in Middlesbrough. It was positive to see the key partners working together to organise the fair and that Middlesbrough was taking the lead role.
The Executive Member advised that he would take the comments back to those who had organised the event and worked hard to build the partnerships. The Jobs Fair was a huge success and over 1000 people had attended and it provided opportunities for Middlesbrough people to access those jobs. The Council would continue to work hard to bring the Job Fairs forward, and it was anticipated that another would be held in the Jury's Inn in July and this would be promoted.
j) Housing Delivery Vehicle - Middlesbrough Council building houses
A Member referred to page 1, paragraph 1 of the report of the Executive Member for Economic Development and Infrastructure in respect of Housing Delivery Vehicle - Middlesbrough Council building houses.
The Member stated that he was really excited to see the issue of Housing Delivery Vehicle - Middlesbrough Council building houses in the Executive Member report and advised that it was a topic that the Economic Development, Environment and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel were currently scrutinising.
The idea that Executive was looking at the prospect of Middlesbrough Council building social housing was exciting. The Scrutiny Panel aimed to look at the different models/best practice and what other local authorities were doing with regard to this issue. Middlesbrough Council would be taking this forward.
The Executive Member stated that the idea of Middlesbrough Council building houses for the first time in a generation was a really radical plan. He stated that he was pleased that Scrutiny was looking into the matter. A report would be submitted to the Executive later in the year.
k) Special Educational Needs
A Member referred to page 2 of the report of the Executive Member for Education and Skills in respect of Special Educational Needs.
The Member stated that she wished to recognise the acknowledgement sent to Helen Watson, Executive Director of Children's Services from the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Children and Families and the SEN and Disability Professional Adviser for the Department of Education in respect of completing the Transfer of Statements of SEN to EHC plans.
The Executive Member stated it was very important that children with SEN had up to date plans. The staff had worked very hard to ensure that this happened. The Executive Member advised that she would pass thanks on to the staff involved.
l) Acklam Grange School
A Member referred to page 3 of the report of the Executive Member for Education and Skills in respect of Acklam Grange School.
The Member stated that he would like to see a letter of congratulations and thanks sent to the staff at Acklam Grange School for the excellent work carried out at the school to assist the children in achieving a good education and start in life.
The Executive Member thanked the Member for his comments and advised that a letter had already been sent to the school from the department but she would ensure that a letter was sent from all the Councillors.
m) Newham Grange Leisure Farm
A Member referred to page 1, paragraph 1 of the report of the Executive Member for Environment and Commercial Services in respect of Newham Grange Leisure Farm.
A Member stated that he would like to congratulate the Council and all those who had worked on the project for the developments and improvements at Newham Grange Leisure Farm.
The Executive Member thanked the Member for the comments. The developments were a great improvement to the farm and it had great potential and the space and the ability to develop into an educational and leisure facility. The improvements would increase the visitor ratio to the farm. The £3m which came from the Council and the Tees Valley Combined Authority would mean that the farm would generate an income and achieve a profit.
n) Enforcement Team
A Member referred to page 3, paragraph 6 of the report of the Executive Member for Environment and Commercial Services in respect of the Enforcement Team.
A Member referred to the enforcement action taken by the Council and she queried how many successful enforcement actions had been taken in the last year.
The Executive Member stated that a decision had been taken in the last year to increase the Enforcement Team to 7.5 members of staff. It has proved to be successful. There had been 16 successful prosecutions through the courts and over 50 fixed penalty notices had also been issued. Operation Harlow which was mentioned in the report, had been a huge success and this would continue.