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).
The Chair announced that the Executive Member for Children's Services wished to make a statement as an addendum to his Executive report.
The Executive Member advised that there had been recent social media coverage and email questions about Middlesbroughs involvement in Stanhope Castle School in County Durham and the attendance by the Strategic Director of Finance, Governance and Support at the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse Accountability and Reparations session on 10 December. Given the context and the seriousness of the comments and allegations, he stated that he wanted to make a statement as an addendum to his Executive report.
The Executive Member outlined the actual position in relation to Middlesbrough Council's responsibilities as designated authority for claims concerning Stanhope Castle school when it was operated by the Home Office, Teesside Council and Cleveland County Council up to 1981. The Executive Member advised that it was not usual practice to discuss civil cases at the full Council meeting. The cases would be dealt with professionally by solicitors and legal advisors. Following on from the statement, the Executive Member urged members not to indulge in false and inflammatory claims that were clearly at variance with the facts in relation to this issue.
A number of members of the public shouted comments at this stage of the meeting. The Chair asked members of the public not to interrupt members of the Council when they were speaking.
A number of Members commented on the Executive Member's statement and suggested that it might have been helpful to have a Member's Briefing on the issue at the point that the Executive Members were advised of the situation and it would have remained confidential. The Executive Member advised that he had only became aware of the issue on the Monday before the Council meeting otherwise he would have consulted Councillors earlier.
Councillor Lawton stated that he would like to put a question to the Executive Member in relation to the addendum to the Executive report. He queried with regard to who made the decision and when the decision was made in relation to the current Middlesbrough Council position of limiting liability in claims.
The Executive Member advised that the Council had been subject to many claims and the Council's solicitors and the insurers would look at liability in relation to any of those claims. The claims were civil cases subject to court proceeding and evidence had to be presented. The view of the solicitors was that the Council would consider and respond to claims and some of these claims had been settled. The claims were subject to issues of liability of time scale and the availability of evidence being presented. The school had been closed for 38 years and much of the evidence and some of the documentation and files were no longer available. The Council as a public authority responsible for public funds had a duty to respond to claims if evidence was available.
Councillor Lawton stated that he would like to ask a follow up question. The Chair advised that he would be allowed a supplementary question as long as it related to his first question.
The meeting was subject to further interruptions from members of the public. The Chair invited Councillor Lawton to put his supplementary question.
Councillor Lawton queried with regard to whether there was a time limitation with regard to any claims and if so what the time limitation was in respect of those claims.
The Executive Member advised that this was a legal question and he was not qualified to answer but he advised however that his understanding was that the legal requirement for submitting claims was that the claim should be submitted within 3 years of the person reaching adulthood and the submission of any evidence in support of the claim was also relevant in relation to the consideration of any claims. If there was substantial evidence in support of the claim then the issue of timescale would have been more important. The Executive Member advised that if the evidence was not available then it was not possible to expend public money without evidence to justify it in a case of this nature however concerned the Council may be about the individuals concerned.
Councillor Lawton stated that he wished to ask further questions. The Chair explained that the Councillor had already had the opportunity to ask a question and a supplementary and he had already been advised that he would receive a written response to his questions.
Councillor Lawton proceeded to read further questions out. The Chair requested that Councillor Lawton refrain from asking the questions however Councillor Lawton continued with his additional questions.
The Chair Moved and it was seconded that the Councillor be not heard further.
On a vote being taken the motion was declared CARRIED.
Councillor Lawton continued to read his questions out.
The Chair Moved and it was seconded that Councillor Lawton be required to leave the meeting.
On a vote being taken the motion was declared CARRIED.
As Councillor Lawton refused to leave the meeting, the Council meeting was adjourned to allow Members to leave the Council Chamber. The Chair indicated that the meeting would continue in the Mandela Room.
The meeting later resumed in the Mandela Room, with the agreement of Council.
Members commented and posed questions in relation to the following matters and Executive Members responded where appropriate:-
a) TeesAMP - A member expressed disappointment at the rate of progress. He stated that apart from the Welding Institute none of the anticipated jobs had materialised and he queried with regard to why this had happened. The Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for City Centre Strategy advised that the Welding Institute was a multi-million pound business. He advised that there had been a delay in the remediation of the land but construction work was due to commence by the end of the month.
b) Middlesbrough Brand - A member queried with regard to who had been consulted in relation to the Middlesbrough Brand, as members and residents or community councils had not been consulted. She suggested the name "Positive Place, Positive People" and suggested that Cleveland College of Art and Design could have been involved or a competition could have been held. The Executive Member for Culture and Communities advised that over 1000 people had been consulted including the business community and events had been held at MIMA. The designer of the brand was keen to come to the Council and provide a briefing on the brand. The Executive Member emphasised that the brand was not about the Council it was about the town as a whole. He stated that how we were perceived outside of the town was important and having a place brand for the town could attract investors to the town.
c) Hemlington Christmas - A member thanked the Executive Member for Culture and Communities for attending the event and advised that the residents were pleased to meet him. The member advised that this was the first time the event had been held in Hemlington Library and she wished to thank all the staff especially Gill Harrison who moved all of the books for the event and created the Santa's Grotto. The Executive Member stated that he had enjoyed the event.
d) Draft Stainsby Masterplan - A member congratulated the Executive Member for Economic Development and Infrastructure for the recent consultation process in respect of the Draft Stainsby Masterplan. The views of those who had been consulted had been listened to and as a consequence changes had been made to the Draft Masterplan. The Executive Member thanked the member for his comments and advised that those people that had participated in the consultation process had helped to positively shape the Masterplan.
e) Transport Strategy - A member commented on the lack of prosecutions in respect of the misuse of disabled badges. He stated that he would like to work with the Executive Member for Economic Development and Infrastructure to find a better way of dealing with the misuse of disabled badges. The Executive Member stated that he was aware of the issue and he advised that he would be happy to meet with the member concerned.
f) Work Readiness Team - A member commented on the excellent progress made in reducing the number of young people Not in Education or Training (NEET) from 12.3% to 4.2%. The Executive Member for Education and Skills advised that the huge success was down to Work Readiness staff and other partners working together to monitor the NEETs. By continuing to do this, it would give children the best start in the workplace.
g) Safer Bus Award - A member congratulated the staff at Middlesbrough Bus Station on once again achieving the Safer Bus Award. He queried with regard to when the Executive Member would advise staff what was going to be placed on the Bus Station site. The Executive Member for Environment and Commercial Services congratulated the staff at the bus station on the well-deserved award. In terms of changes to the bus station, the Executive Member advised that at the present time the Council did not have any plans to do anything with the bus station. When the Council did have any plans, the commitment was that the bus station would still have all the services that were currently in the bus station at the present time.
h) Middlesbrough College - A member requested clarification in respect of the hosting contract. The Executive Member stated that this was an update to her report in December. The Council's IT Services provided a reliable infrastructure to users across the Council. One of the strategic aims was to extend this service to external customers and generate income in the process. ICT had entered into a formal three year contract to provide hosting services to Middlesbrough College. Middlesbrough College instead of investing in their current systems had approached Middlesbrough Council to provide the system which not only saved the college money, but generated income to the Council of £75k over three years.
I) Housing Delivery Vehicle - A member stated that he welcomed the news that the Council aimed to establish a Housing Delivery Company.