Agenda item

To receive statements from each of the Cabinet Members and deal with any questions arising from those statements.

Minutes:

Councillor Chatt presented his statement as Portfolio Holder for Public Health and Housing.  Members then put questions about the herring gull disruption and dispersal programme, the new 30 unit block for elderly people on the site of Braeburn House, the £200k cost of the new Scarborough Market Hall website, and the capital improvements at Woodland Crematorium.  In response, Councillor Chatt commended the herring gull disruption and dispersal programme in the interests of public health and safety which this year had extended to parts of Filey and included outreach work in schools.  He would seek reassurances from Yorkshire Coast Homes that the new facility for elderly people in Eastfield would be solely for that age group.  Councillor Chatt undertook to raise the provision of two bicycle stands at Woodland Crematorium with officers, explained that the surface of the area directly outside the cemetery entrance had been improved so cars could park there, and denied that buses had ceased to stop at the Crematorium because of problems turning around.  Councillor Mallory joined Councillor Chatt in applauding the improvements at the crematorium and encouraging councillors to attend the Open Day on 16 May.  Lastly, Councillor Chatt explained that the Market Hall website had been funded through the Coastal Communities Fund, and would achieve its full functionality as the Market Hall developed.

 

Councillor Cockerill presented his statement as Portfolio Holder for Major Projects providing updates on the Spa Cliff Stabilisation, Whitby Piers and Filey Flood Alleviation Scheme projects.  In respect of the Spa Cliff Stabilisation project, detailed discussions and negotiations had been successfully concluded and the contract with Balfour Beatty to undertake the work had been signed.  The contractors would be carrying out the preliminary mobilisation work and were expected on site in the near future.  Some small scale activity was scheduled to take place the following week, although this was only detailed survey work associated with such items as closure of footpaths, creation of access points and establishment of vehicle parking.  This major project was scheduled to be complete in Quarter 4 of 2019 allowing some flexibility for the vagaries of coastal weather conditions. 

 

Councillor Cockerill expressed his sincere thanks to all those involved, in particular the officers Carol Rehill, Martin Pedley and Chris Bourne who had borne the brunt of this intense phase of work.  He added that the Council would continue to work closely with Balfour Beatty to ensure regular communication and engagement was maintained with the South Cliff community throughout the course of the project.  He then reminded Members about the Council’s Coast and Flood Protection Fund and that two months ago the Borough’s allocation from the Coast Protection Fund to the Whitby Piers project had been significantly increased.  This additional contribution had been warmly welcomed by the Local Enterprise Partnership which led to the award of a grant of £500k to the project. 

 

Councillor Cockerill was delighted to inform the Council that the discussions and negotiations in relation to the Whitby Piers project had been successfully completed, the award of the EU grant had been approved, and earlier that day he had learned that all pre-contract conditions had been met and the managing authority would now be moving forward to finalising and issuing the contract.  This securing of finance had filled the final funding gap for the project enabling the project to proceed.  He was unable to provide a firm date as to when works would commence, but the contractors were now looking to mobilise their staff and equipment.  There was likely to be an element of disruption during the work, as it could start during the season, but this would be kept to a minimum.  The site would be demobilised during the winter months with works recommencing in the spring.  He extended thanks to the same officer team for bringing the negotiations to a satisfactory conclusion, with the addition of Martin Lloyd and Stewart Rowe.  Councillor Cockerill highlighted again the prudent yet flexible management of the Coast and Flood Protection Fund as instrumental in bringing this project to fruition.  Finally, Councillor Cockerill reported good, albeit slower than he would have wished, progress in relation to the Filey Flood Alleviation Scheme.  He referred to the Council’s enviable track record of securing funding from a number of external partners in relation to various projects, noting that this contribution amounted to over 90% of the overall project costs.  This demonstrated the confidence funding partners had in the Council to undertake and successfully deliver these projects but meant that progress could be frustrating at times through having to adhere to funders’ timetables.

 

Cabinet Member and ward member for Whitby West Cliff, Councillor Plant congratulated Councillor Cockerill and the Leader of the Council on this momentous news that after many years’ hard work, the Whitby Piers repair works were about to commence.  Councillor Randerson in respect of the recent failure of the retaining wall below the Clock Café on the South Cliff noted that the issue of ground instability in that location had been raised by the proprietor two years ago, and by himself one year ago, only to be informed by the Council that there was no cause for concern.  He therefore asked what investigations had been carried out by the Council in response to these two reports, and for the results of the investigations to be shared with councillors as a matter of urgency, contending that there was a real possibility that this landslip could and should have been avoided.  He also referred to the unattractive appearance of the crude netting covering the chalets below, and the overflowing waste bins near the dilapidated sun bathing unit, and asked what measures would be taken to reinstate the area and what help was being provided to the Clock Café proprietor during this difficult time.  Weaponness ward member, Councillor Fox confirmed that the café proprietor had been in touch with himself and his fellow ward councillor, and that he understood that the Director, Mrs Dixon was in dialogue with the tenants to discuss some of the issues raised by Councillor Randerson and how the Council could support them.  However, Councillor Fox was concerned that matters such as access and waste collection had yet to be resolved and concurred with Councillor Randerson that there were questions to be answered about whether the failure of the retaining wall and landslip could have been avoided.  In reply, Councillor Cockerill acknowledged that the netting on the site was not attractive but functioned to contain any falling debris in the event of further collapse.  He would make enquiries and report back on the matter of previous investigative work carried out by the Council.  Consultants would shortly be carrying out survey work of the ground conditions on site and their report when completed would outline options available to the Council.  The Leader echoed Councillor Cockerill’s thanks to officers in helping bring the Whitby Piers and Spa Cliff Stabilisation projects to fruition, and saluted Councillor Cockerill’s unswerving commitment to these major projects and the efforts of the former Leader, Councillor Fox.  In respect of complaints about Scarborough Harbour rent increases, Councillor Cockerill commented that he had received one complaint about an alleged increase of 48% which upon investigation proved to be much less than that figure; however this matter did not fall within his portfolio.  Councillor Dennett expressed his delight that works on the Whitby Piers were about to commence, but noting that this project could have been 100% Government funded if it had commenced in 2007.  In response, Councillor Plant explained that at that time the priority for the Council was to undertake remedial works to the Whitby East Pier extension which was 100% Government funded.  In reply to question about progress with the independent review of the definition of beneficiary commissioned by the Council at its meeting on 2 March, Councillor Cockerill confirmed that senior officers were working on this.

 

Councillor Jenkinson presented his statement as Portfolio Holder for Leisure adding further detail on the transfer of public conveniences in Whitby to Whitby Town Council.  He commended this productive partnership with Whitby Town Council involving the provision of the new facilities on Pier Road and payment of £25k to enable the Town Council to maintain a good network of public toilets which they would continue to improve going forward.  He regarded this approach to freehold and leasehold transfer as a key delivery model for the service.  Members then put questions to Councillor Jenkinson about the new boat deck in Peasholm Park, whether permanent public conveniences would be reinstated on Marine Drive and the future of the now closed public conveniences on St Helen’s Square, about lack of capacity of the new public toilets on Vincent Pier, and in light of the Labour Group’s decision to make a political point about the cost of the reception following Mayor-making, further details were requested of the costs associated with Councillor Broadbent’s reception when he became Mayor in 2004, in comparison with Councillor Smith’s last year, and Councillor Plant’s this year.  Councillor Andrew Backhouse then spoke in defence of the institution of the Mayoralty and expressed his sadness at the Labour Group’s decision to boycott the ceremony on the grounds of excessive public expense when in step with other Council services, the Civic service had in recent years made significant savings.  Councillor Randerson raised again the need for safety railings on the steps in the main stand in Scarborough’s football ground and defended the Labour Group’s stance on the Mayor-making ceremony and reception.  A discussion ensued on the value of the Mayoralty to the Borough, the cost of the reception, and as an alternative, whether councillors should pay for their refreshments.  Councillor Cockerill, ward member for Filey commended the great way in which Filey rose to the occasion of the Tour de Yorkshire and looked forward to similar displays and attendances in future years. Councillor Jenkinson then responded to the questions and the debate.  He thanked the current Mayor and Mayoress, and wished the Mayor-elect and his Mayoress well for the year ahead.  However, he condemned what he felt was the Labour Group’s blatant electioneering in respect of Mayor-making and their lack of respect for the institution and questioned why Labour county councillors did not have similar qualms in partaking of lunch refreshments after County Council meetings which this Council had withdrawn as a saving.  In respect of the detail of Councillor Broadbent’s, Councillor Smith’s and Councillor Plant’s receptions, Councillor Jenkinson advised that Councillor Broadbent invited 146 guests, Councillor Smith 70 and Councillor Plant 60.  The three respective total costs of the receptions were nearly £2,000, £1080 and £1070.  In relation to the Tour de Yorkshire he congratulated the places he visited including Filey and Muston for their tremendous support for the event.  He reported very positive feedback from the hospitality sector on the North Bay and in Whitby which did not host the event this year.  The Leader confirmed that a comprehensive analysis and review of the Tour de Yorkshire 2018 was scheduled to come to the next Council meeting.  In respect of the North Bay Cinema, Councillor Jenkinson expected it to be completed in June 2019.  With regard to public conveniences, he advised that facilities on St Nicholas Cliff and North Bay were opened free of charge over the bank holiday weekend for the large influx of visitors.  He could not comment on future provision of toilets on Marine Drive.  He confirmed that work was still to be done on the boat deck in Peasholm Park, and that he and officers would look into the provision of safety railings at the football ground.

 

Councillor Mallory presented her statement as Portfolio Holder for Corporate Investment.  In reply to a question in respect of the Council’s support through Council Tax Benefit for those with dementia or other severe mental impairment, Councillor Mallory commented that there were 131 households in the Borough who claimed 100% Council Tax exemption.  The Council publicised this benefit on the website and on the Council Tax bill and did allow the discount to be backdated provided all the criteria had been satisfied.  She encouraged Members to advise their constituents about this as required.

 

Councillor Nock presented his statement as Portfolio Holder for Legal and Governance.  In respect of the recent procurement of the free summer entertainment provider at the Open Air Theatre, Councillor Nock advised that the contract was advertised on the regional –tendering system Yortender and Contracts Finder on 8 March with a closing date for bids of 11 April.  A total of 15 companies registered an interest of which two submitted bids.  Both companies submitted acceptable bids with the successful bidder significantly cheaper on price.  He expected to find out more about the details of the entertainment programme in due course.  In reply to a question about the legal powers the Chief Executive used to prevent councillors attending meetings and whether officers and Cabinet Members had discussed the private business of a councillor with a vexatious correspondent, the Chief Executive advised that confidential matters relating to the conduct of staff and Members could not be discussed in a public meeting.

 

Councillor Plant presented his statement as Portfolio Holder for Transformation thanking all those staff involved in supporting the Tour de Yorkshire.

 

Councillor Turner presented her statement as Portfolio Holder for Communities.  Councillor Colling then put a question in respect of the rollout of Universal Credit in the Borough this month and the requirement to apply on line for this benefit: were there areas of the Borough without suitable minimum data speed to allow residents to maintain their benefits under this new system? And if there were data black spots , what plans were there to address this in the long-term and what was the Council doing to support any affected residents in the short term?  In reply, Councillor Turner commented that in relation to Universal Credit, whilst applications and subsequent reporting of changes were intended to be online, the Department for Work and Pensions would accept telephone claims in exceptional circumstances. In addition Council staff would be able to assist customers at Whitby and Scarborough with any issues around UC claims. Various advice bodies would also assist and public internet access was available at libraries.  More generally in terms of data coverage, the Council had been working with eight other North Yorkshire councils in making a successful bid for £15m of Government funding to provide high-speed (‘full-fibre’) broadband to circa 400 public sector sites. This would allow customers without access to ICT equipment to use the internet in the county’s urban areas.  Further, the Council was involved in the ‘Superfast North Yorkshire’ project. This project was built around a partnership between North Yorkshire County Council and BT to deliver next generation superfast broadband to the county, and also brought together other initiatives to address rural access to better broadband. The project was financed by a mixture of funds from Central Government, Europe and the County Council.  Councillor Randerson then commended the work of the Council’s Community Regeneration Team and local volunteers in developing and running facilities at Eastfield Community Centre.  He also applauded the work of the Construction Skills Village in training people for the construction industry, although noting that currently only 20% of trainees were from the local Eastfield area.  Councillor Turner joined Councillor Randerson in recognising the significant contribution of volunteer groups in the Borough and pledged to look into attracting more Eastfield based trainees into the Construction Skills Village.

 

 

Supporting documents: