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 Council meeting (Sections 3 and 4).
Members commented and posed questions in relation to the following matters and Executive Members responded where appropriate:-
The following questions/comments were put in respect of the report of the Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for City Centre Strategy:-
a) Centre Square - a member queried whether any tenants had been secured for either of the new Centre square office blocks excluding Middlesbrough Council. The Executive Member advised that Middlesbrough Council would be leasing one of the blocks and there had been more interest in the other block then there was space available. The Executive Member advised that he hoped provide further information on tenancies in the office blocks, in the new year.
b) Railway Station- a member commented on the recent developments to the railway station and how pleasing it was to see how quickly the Council's Masterplan was being developed. He stated that this was a Middlesbrough Council lead project and a Middlesbrough Council Masterplan. He acknowledged the financial support from the TVCA, the work carried out by the Council's Executive, Council Officers, the support received from the Middlesbrough MP, who was also the Shadow Transport Secretary, and Middlesbrough Council. The Executive Member stated that the Council continued to invest in the public realm and he advised that a meeting, facilitated by the MP for Middlesbrough had been set up with concerned parties, to discuss further improvement to the station.
The following question/comment was put in respect of the report of the Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health:-
c) Grandparents Plus - a member commented that it was pleasing to see that funding had been allocated from Sport England's Families Fund towards encouraging grandparents and their grandchildren to become active and she complimented the Grandparents Plus Project and urged people to join in. The Executive Member advised that Project Workers would work from the Live Well Centre. The project would run from April 2019 until September 2021. The Executive Member advised that many of the kinship carers were grandparents and the Council was always pleased to be able to assist kinship carers.
The following question/comment was put in respect of the report of the Executive Member for Children's Care:-
d) Ofsted Focused Visit - August 2018 - a member commented on the recent Ofsted report in respect of the Council's Front Door service, and made reference to the fact that only a selection of the report was included in the Executive Member report. The member made reference to a number of the negative comments in the report and stated that one child let down was one too many. The Executive Member stated that he agreed with the fact that one child let down was one too many however he stated that some of the comments in the report, referred to by the member, had been taken out of context. He stated that one of the outcomes of the report was that all children in Middlesbrough's care were safe and all decisions taken by the Front Door Service were correct. The report had highlighted that although there had been considerable weaknesses in the quality of front line practice, following the appointment of a new Director and Chief Executive, there had been improvements in the service. Many good points had been highlighted in the report and as part of the improvement plan, a new approach had been adopted called Believe in Families. In April 2019, a new South Tees Multi Agency Children's Hub was due to go live which involved Redcar and Cleveland Council, Middlesbrough Council and other partner agencies.
The following questions/comments were put in respect of the report of the Executive Member for Culture and Communities:-
e) Selective Landlord Licensing- a member commented on the formal consultation of Selective Landlord Licensing in the Newport Ward and highlighted the many advantages of the Council's Selective Landlord Licensing Scheme. She outlined research that she had carried out in respect of the initiative and provided details of some of the comments received from landlords in respect of the scheme. The Executive Member thanked the member for her comments and expressed disappointment at the negative comments in the press about the scheme. He stated that the scheme provided support for landlords with difficult tenants and discussions would be held with those landlords who had concerns about the charges for the scheme. The Executive Member highlighted that the work involved in establishing and running the scheme as resource intensive and at significant cost.
f) The Glass Ceiling - a member commented on the excellent Glass Ceiling theatre work marking 100 years since the first British women were given the right to vote funded by the TVCA and the combined authorities. The Executive Member stated that it was a fantastic event which he had attended with his daughter and granddaughter and he hoped it would encourage all women to vote whenever the opportunity became available.
g) Neighbourhood Safety - a member commented on Hate Crime Week which took place 13 - 20 October 2018. The Executive Member advised that he had recently attend a meeting with the Local Government Association which discussed the rise of the far right and fascism. The Executive Member stated that Middlesbrough would not tolerate fascism or have any dealings with people who spread hate.
The following question/comment was put in respect of the report of the Executive Member for Economic Development and Infrastructure:-
h) Housing Sites Update - a member commented that he had been attending the consultation meetings in respect of the Stainsby Masterplan and he was disappointed to note that there was no 20mph speed limits proposed. In respect of the Mandale site, he suggested that another option would be to leave the area as it was and plant trees to enhance the area when the houses were eventually built. The Executive Member advised that he would take the suggestion regarding the proposed 20mph speed limits back for consideration. In terms of the Mandale site, the Executive Member advised that the area had always been allocated for housing and following consultation with residents the amount of housing to be built on the site had been significantly reduced. The Executive Member stated that he would like to thank residents for engaging in the consultation exercise as by participating in the process, they had helped to shape the Masterplan. The Executive Member also highlighted that the Stainsby Country Park had been allocated as a strategic priority in the Local Plan.
The following question/comment was put in respect of the report of the Executive Member for Environment and Commercial Services:-
i) Parks and Recreation - a member referred to the impressive increase of visitors to the Newham Grange Leisure Farm in October 2018 compared to October 2017. The member requested whether the Executive Member could provide details of the breakdown of footfall and the takings for that period. The Executive Member advised that she would forward details of footfall and the increase in takings to the member concerned, together with information regarding feedback on the Newham Grange Leisure Farm.
The following question/comment was put in respect of the report of the Executive Member for Finance and Governance:-
j) People Strategy - a member queried whether the Executive Member could confirm that all staff who had worked consistently for Middlesbrough Council had been issued with written contracts of employment and when outsourcing/insourcing services if she could confirm that TUPE regulations were applied correctly and in a redundancy scenario, appropriate consultation was carried out with all staff and basic rights such as maternity leave and pay were provided. The member stated that he understood that this had not been the case with former Southlands Centre staff. The Executive Member stated that her stance as a Councillor, in relation to individual staff contracts etc, was that there were appropriate procedures and processes in place and as such, she would not get involved in such matters and would advise staff to consult with their trade union representative or somebody suitably qualified and professional in Human Resources. The Executive Member stated that her broad understanding was that some people were employed on a casual basis, following the time when the Southlands was earmarked for closure or it was known that it was likely to close so they were purposely employed on a casual basis and were not issued with permanent contracts. The Executive Member stated that she understood that some people had engaged with those people and provided them with advice although as an Executive Member she did not have knowledge of individual contracts or rates of pay etc. The Executive Member stated that she would advise the Councillor to advise staff with any issues to contact their union representative or if they were not part of a union, to seek reliable informed and professional HR advice.
The following questions/comments were raised in respect of the report of the Executive Member for Education and Skills:-
k) Park End Primary in the Spotlight - a member commented on the excellent work being carried out at Park End Primary school and in particular the recognition received in November for the school's participation in a regional chess event as part of the national Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC) Initiative.
l) The Junction - Young Carers Service - a member commented on the valuable work provided by the Junction Carers Project.