Questions from Members of the Public & the Youth Parliament
9.1 To receive questions submitted from members to Cabinet Members, in accordance with Standing Order 33.
One question has been received under this item, which has been attached along with the written response provided.
9.2 To receive questions submitted from members of the Youth Parliament to Cabinet Members, in accordance with Standing Order 33(d)
Two questions have been received under this item, which have been attached along with the written responses provided.
1. The written response and supplementary verbal response provided by the Leader of the Council in relation to a question submitted from a member of the public relating to action being taken to combat crime and anti-social behaviour linked to phone boxes on Harlesden High Street and the surrounding area.
2. The written response from the Deputy Leader and supplementary verbal response provided by the Leader of the Council in relation to a question submitted from a member of the Youth Parliament in relation to activity being undertaken by the Council to bring communities together across the Borough and reduce discrimination.
3. The written and supplementary verbal response provided by the Leader of the Council in relation to a question submitted from a member of the Youth Parliament in relation to activity being undertaken by the Council to prevent and tackle the culture of youth violence.
The Mayor advised that in accordance with Standing Order 33 one question had been received from the following member of the public:
Question 1 from Ms Kalb to Councillor Muhammed Butt, Leader of the Council regarding the action being taken to combat crime and anti-social behaviour associated with phone boxes on Harlesden High Street and the surrounding roads.
Members noted the written response to the question, circulated with the agenda. The Mayor advised that Ms Kalb had been invited to attend the meeting in order to ask any supplementary question and as a result welcomed her to the meeting. He then invited Ms Kalb to put her supplementary question to the Leader.
Supplementary Question from Ms Kalb to Councillor Muhammed Butt, Leader of the Council
Ms Kalb thanked Councillor Butt for his written response and took the opportunity to again highlight the way in which phone boxes in the Harlesden area were being used as a haven for crime. As part of wider links between economic deprivation and crime, she also referred to the continued placement of vulnerable and homeless families in the area and what she felt was a lack of planning and environmental enforcement activity in the area in relation to shops and illegal clubs which were all contributing towards residents not feeling safe to use the high street and surrounding area at night. She therefore asked if the Council had considered the possibility of pursuing BT in relation to their corporate social responsibility relating to use of the phone boxes.
In response Councillor Muhammed Butt thanked Ms Kalb for her question and attending the meeting and assured her that the issues raised were being taken seriously by the Council. In terms of planning and environmental enforcement activity he confirmed action was taken to follow up on reports received, however he recognised this may not always be as quickly as hoped by residents given the volume of issues being reported and need to obtain sufficient evidence to enable action to be taken. In terms of BT, he advised that he was in discussion with senior partners about the removal of some of the phone boxes in the area and would also continue to explore the option of holding them to account in relation to their corporate social responsibility, maintaining pressure to ensure a collective and holistic approach towards addressing the concerns raised on which he would ensure Ms Kalb was kept informed on progress.
As a local ward member, Councillor Mili Patel followed up the Leader’s response by highlighting the corporate values referred to on BT’s website which she also felt had been forgotten when it came to o their phone boxes in the Harlesden area. There was no demand by local residents for such a dense collection of phone boxes in the area with evidence having been provided on the criminal and anti-social behaviour associated with their use particularly at night. She was therefore grateful for the response which had been provided by the Leader and advised that local ward councillors would be keen to support any ongoing lobbying activity with BT.
The Mayor thanked Ms Kalb for her question and attending the meeting and then advised Members that this was also the first Council meeting at which arrangements had been introduced to allow members of the Youth Parliament to participate in the public question session. He was therefore pleased to advise that the following two questions had been received from members of the Youth Parliament:
Question 1 to Councillor McLennan, Deputy Leader, requesting details on the action being taken by the Council to bring communities together across the borough and reduce discrimination.
Question 2 to Councillor Muhammed Butt, Leader of the Council, requesting details on the measures being put in place by the Council to prevent the culture of violence that seemed to exist among some young people.
Members noted the written responses to the questions, circulated with the agenda and the Mayor advised that he was pleased to welcome Jai Patel on behalf of the Youth Parliament who was attending in order to ask a supplementary question on both issues.
Supplementary Question 1 from Jai Patel to Councillor McLennan, Deputy Leader
Jai Patel began by thanking the Mayor for the welcome extended to the Youth Parliament and asked, with regard to the Council’s involvement in the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme, whether it was felt the follow-up measures in place were sufficiently extensive to ensure the welfare of those on the programme, especially young people.
Councillor Muhammed Butt advised he would be responding on the specific issues raised, given the Syrian Resettlement Programme fell within his remit and provided an assurance of the Council’s commitment to the Programme and to ensuring that the necessary support mechanisms were provided working with a range of partners including SUFRA and Brent Action for Refugees. The type of support being provided included access to English as a Second Language (ESOL) programmes; support into schools and the provision of employment and training opportunities. In addition, as a member of London Council’s Local Migration Strategic Partnership he was also able to ensure that representatives of the Home Office and other relevant Government Departments were also held to account. Within Brent, he confirmed that the Council would continue to welcome and support these vulnerable individuals.
Supplementary Question 2 from Jai Patel to Councillor Muhammed Butt, Leader of the Council
Recognising the reasons behind youth violence as being mutli-faceted, Jai Patel asked whether the Council had undertaken a comprehensive diagnosis of the factors involved in order to help guide the measures being developed to address them.
In response, Councillor Muhammed Butt began by advising of a recent summit he had attended involving all 32 London Boroughs, the police and a range of other key stakeholders looking at how best to tackle youth violence and knife crime across London given the impact on all those affected. In addition he pointed out that the Council would be considering a report later on the agenda regarding a number of Outcome Based Reviews setting out plans to maximise the use of resources and develop a more joined up approach towards tackling issues such as gangs, domestic violence and children on the edge of care. In terms of other initiatives he also highlighted that the Council had bid for £3m to enable work with other London Boroughs in developing a joint approach towards tackling knife crime and of work being undertaken with the Borough Commander around the targeting of resources, with the Council having specifically funded 12 police officers. He felt these initiatives helped to demonstrate the Council’s commitment towards addressing the concerns raised, but also highlighted the need, as set out within the motion for the Non Cabinet Members debate later on the agenda, for the Government to ensure that the police and Councils were properly funded to provide the necessary levels of support.
Having noted the responses to the questions raised, the Mayor, joined by other Members, again thanked Ms Kalb and Jai Patel for attending the meeting.