Environment Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Environment Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Monday 16 September 2013
1:45 p.m.
Spencer Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough

Attendance Details

Councillor R Kerr (Chair), Councillor G B Clark (Vice Chair) and Councillor C Hobson,
Councillor N J Walker - Executive Member for Environment.
A Crawford, J Dixon and M Fishpool.
Apologies for absence:
Councillor R Brady, Councillor J G Cole, Councillor D Davison, Councillor M Saunders, Councillor P Sharrocks.
Declarations of interest:

There were no Declarations of Interest made by Members at this point in the meeting.

Item Number Item/Resolution

The Minutes of the Environment Scrutiny Panel meeting held on 27 August 2013 were submitted and approved as a correct record.


The Scrutiny Support Officer submitted a covering report advising the Panel of its new scrutiny topic of Middlesbrough Environment City (MEC), as identified in its current work programme.


M Fishpool, Director of Middlesbrough Environment City, was in attendance to present Members with an overview and background information in relation to the organisation.


The Panel was advised that the organisation was formed in 1997 and was an independent charity and company limited by guarantee and was one of only four such organisations in England. The organisation worked closely with Middlesbrough Council and community partners to promote healthy and sustainable living, particularly in Middlesbrough using the ten principles of One Planet Living. The Director highlighted that he and 1.5 members of staff were employed by Middlesbrough Council and seconded to MEC.


MEC’s main themes were as follows:-


Tackling Climate Change and Reducing the Use of Resources

  • Tackling Fuel Poverty - around 23% of Middlesbrough’s homes were in fuel poverty which had consequences for health, well-being, educational attainment and the local economy. It was highlighted that some areas had higher fuel poverty due to various factors including older housing that was less energy efficient. Measures included home energy efficiency, maximising income and raising awareness of the issues. The agenda was led in Middlesbrough by the Affordable Warmth Group, chaired by MEC. The work of the group was guided by the Affordable Warmth Action Plan.
  • Home Energy Efficiency - In 2012/13, MEC helped install 2,959 measures including cavity wall/loft insulation and external cladding to the value of £1.5m. MEC trained 58 residents and front line workers to become Energy Champions and worked with the Council to secure £90,000 from the Department of Health to provide support for older people during the winter.
  • Eco-Easterside - The Department of Environment and Climate Change funded a £390,000 project to reduce energy use through a combination of measures and behaviour change. The priority was to reduce energy consumption on the estate through energy efficiency measures and to raise awareness and support. Installation of high profile renewable technology (eg wind turbines, feeding tariffs, photo-voltaic panels, water/air source heat pumps) to domestic properties and public buildings was carried out and a supporting programme was introduced to encourage sustainable living through active travel, food growing, waste minimisation and Eco-schools.
  • Promoting Health Lifestyles - The Urban Farming Partnership Programme had been active in Middlesbrough since 2007 and was guided by the Food Sustainability Action Plan. Work included encouraging the use of allotments, developing community growing spaces, growing skills training and developing cooking skills. The Big Lottery Fund Local Food Programme had provided £300,000 of funding for this work at MEC over a three-year period. The Growing East Middlesbrough Project had engaged 3,300 people and 38 groups, provided accredited training to 66 people and supported the development of 16 community and school growing sites. The main centre for the project was Town Farm Community Allotment and Training Site.
  • Sustainable Transport - The Middlesbrough Cycle Centre opened in 2002 and had been located in the Bus Station since 2009. It provided staffed, secure cycle parking, shower facility, lockers, cycling advice and minor repairs. It was used by 50 people each weekday during the Summer and in 2012/13 it engaged 623 people in cycling activities, 54 of whom were new to cycling. The Centre also delivered Bikeability Safe Cycling training in Middlesbrough schools in partnership with Middlesbrough Council Safe and Active Travel, funded by the Department for Transport.
  • Heritage and Physical Environment - This area of work was generally undertaken by the local authority in partnership with appropriate organisations such as the Wildlife Trust and Groundwork. MEC had been involved in general heritage projects such as the restoration of the graves of Henry Bolckow and John Vaughan and work at Blue Bell Beck.
  • Education and Awareness - Tackling climate change was cross-cutting across many themes including improving health and well-being, increasing physical activity, emotional well-being and healthy eating, helping residents to save money, developing skills and improving employability, personal independence and self-reliance, improving educational attainment and placing greater value on learning, community cohesion.
  • Finances - In 2012/13, the organisation’s 'in-kind' contribution was 2.5 Council staff. The finances were made up of large amounts of Lottery Funding and small amounts from winning its own contracts.
  • New Ventures - Communities Living Sustainably: test and learn initiative, granted £1m funding over a five-year period. MEC was the accountable body with 14 other formal partners from the voluntary, community, public and private sectors. The main focus was to engage communities and particular groups rather than new projects and to encourage more people to engage with existing services and adopt One Planet lifestyles.

The Chair thanked the Director of MEC for the informative presentation and a discussion ensued. The following issues were raised:-

  • It was recognised that MEC’s finances was made up of various grants and clarification was sought on the actual budget of the organisation. The Director responded that MEC’s total budget was £550,000 which equated to £400,000 without the ‘in-kind’ contributions. It was acknowledged that the availability of grants was lessening and it was an increasingly difficult market as more organisations tried to access grant funding. 
  • Reference was made to Bikeability and it was confirmed that MEC delivered the contract on behalf of Middlesbrough Council at a cost of around £41 per person. MEC also delivered pedestrian training for Year 3 and Reception children using specially trained staff at a lower cost than the Council would be able to.
  • Reference was made to home energy efficiency and it was queried how MEC supported older people during the winter. It was clarified that MEC did not actually install the efficiency measures but made the referrals for those who needed the measures, particularly older or vulnerable people. MEC staff would support the individuals through the installation process by being present when the surveyor attended the property and during any inspections, etc. Community Champions were being trained in this role.
  • In relation to Urban Farming, support was provided by way of helping community groups to start up, obtaining materials, helping them to access grants and providing the necessary training to grow their own food. Mentoring schemes had been established at allotments so that more experienced growers could support new growers.
  • It was confirmed that MEC had 26 members of staff, but 22 posts (as some employees were part-time), all of whom were paid from grant funding, apart from the 2.5 staff seconded from Middlesbrough Council.
  • In response to a query, the Director advised that MEC’s niche was predominantly around sustainability and transport, etc although it did work alongside Groundwork, Wildlife Trust and the Local Authority when appropriate and was aware of its boundaries. The Chair suggested that it might be worthwhile exploring the possibility of all partners meeting on an annual/bi-annual basis to share best practice and to ensure maximisation of grants.
  • In terms of applying for grant funding, it was highlighted that the organisation was a charity and needed to ensure that any applications were relevant to MEC’s work, rather than MEC trying to adapt to carry out work in other areas.
  • In response to a question, it was confirmed that MEC had a Board to which the organisation was accountable. The Board was made up of up to 16 representatives, including 3 Elected Members, Council Officers and representatives from voluntary, community and private sector groups. The Board met on a quarterly basis. Councillor Rostron, who was present at the meeting, advised that she had been Chair of the MEC Board for three years, and a Board Member for seven years, and that arrangements could be made should any of the Panel Members wish to visit any of the projects that had been discussed at the meeting.

The Chair thanked the Director for attending the meeting and for the information provided.


AGREED as follows:-

  1. That the content of the presentation and information provided in relation to Middlesbrough Environment City, be noted.
  2. That a Draft Final report on the topic be submitted to the Panel’s next meeting.

The Chair requested that the Panel note the contents of the submitted report which provided an update on business conducted at the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting held on 20 August 2013, namely:-

  • Attendance of Executive Members - The Mayor.
  • Executive Forward Work Programme.
  • Feedback from Executive - 16 July 2013.
  • Executive Decision Monitoring Schedule.
  • Strategic Plan 2013-14.
  • Boro Becks Project - Final Report of the Environment Scrutiny Panel.
  • Winter Pressures Update.
  • Scrutiny Work Programme.

AGREED that the information contained within the report be noted.


The next meeting of the Environment Scrutiny Panel was scheduled for Monday, 21 October 2013 at 1.45pm.

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