Questions from the Opposition and other Non-Cabinet Members
For questions to be put to members of the Cabinet by non-Cabinet Members in accordance with Standing Order 35.
Details of the four questions submitted in advance have been attached along with the written responses provided.
Members are asked to note that this session will also include an opportunity at the meeting (within the time available) for other non-Cabinet members to ask questions of Cabinet.
1. The written and supplementary verbal response provided by the Lead Member for Regeneration, Highways and Planning to a question submitted by Councillor Stephens regarding lobbying action to secure a more regular rail service from Sudbury & Harrow Road Station.
2. The written and supplementary verbal response provided by the Lead Member for Regeneration, Highways and Planning to a question submitted by Councillor Hector regarding the information available and way in which local residents are able to submit requests or influence decisions regarding the installation or removal of street furniture.
3. The written response provided by the Lead Member for Regeneration, Highways and Planning in relation to a question submitted by Councillor Colacicco on the promotion of sustainable construction methods ang green technology in new homes. No supplementary question was asked.
4. The written and supplementary verbal response provided by the Lead Member for Regeneration, Highways and Planning to a question submitted by Councillor Colwill on the timetable for works being undertaken to repair damaged pavements and potholes across the borough.
Responses were also provided by the relevant Lead Members on the following additional questions raised during the open session of this part of the meeting:
· Councillor Chan seeking confirmation of the Cabinet’s position in relation to the policy on Academisation and support for teachers in opposing the process at Village School.
· Councillor Kabir requesting an update on the contingency measures in place to ensure the continuation of social care for those adults whose packages are currently being delivered by Allied Healthcare, given the ongoing concerns regarding their financial position.
· Councillor Nerva on the potential to introduce a community toilet facility scheme and free access to water fountains as part of plans to promote and support local high streets and businesses.
· Councillor Kelcher on whether it would be possible to apply an amnesty in relation to penalty charge notices issued for vehicles making a right turn from Harvest Road into Chamberlain Road in Kensal Green, given problems experienced with illumination of the “No Right Turn” warning sign. Whilst not able to provide any commitment in terms of an amnesty the Lead Member for Environment advised she would look at the issue in order to come back with a response.
· Councillor Hassan seeking support for the Council’s participation in the “It’s our Turn” campaign being run by Safe Passage.
· Councillor Ethapemi highlighting concerns regarding the potential closure of GP practices within the borough.
· Councillor Kennelly raising concerns regarding the limited publicity and consultation undertaken by TfL on planned alterations to the 223 bus service given the impact on residents within his ward who relied on the service.
· Councillor Ketan Sheth regarding the potential financial impact on Brent arising from the recent Court of Appeal decision in relation to the location of ATMs given its relevance to business rates. The Deputy Leader advised she would need to come back with further details on the response currently being developed.
· Councillor Long on the need to update the Brent Connect webpage to ensure access as available to all minutes and agenda.
· Councillor Long on the problems being caused for residents in Willesden Green as a result of burst water mains in the area and requesting that these issues be raised with Thames Water, which the Lead Member for Regeneration, Highways and Planning advised she would willing to raise and provide a written response on.
· Councillor Kennelly seeking an update on progress with proposals for development of the Preston Road Community Centre following the recent consultation event with the local community.
· Councillor Donnelly-Jackson on action being taken to review and address concerns regarding the safety and structure of shop frontages in the Willesden Green area.
· Councillor Choudhary on the need to review the state of repair of local roads and the traffic management plan for event days at Wembley Stadium given the impact of increased traffic and congestion for local residents in the Wembley and Neasden area.
· Councillor Daly on the disruption, pollution and noise being caused for local residents living adjacent to the current bus terminus locations on the No.18 route created by TfLs current fleet of diesel buses and measures which could be taken to prioritise the switch of these to electric as soon as possible, which the Lead Member for Regeneration, Highways and Planning advised she would take back in order to review with TfL and provide a response on.
Before moving on to consider the questions submitted by non-Cabinet members, the Mayor reminded Members that a total of 30 minutes had been set aside to deal with this item which would begin with consideration of the written questions submitted in advance of the meeting along with any supplementary question. Once these had been dealt with, the remaining time available would then be opened up for any other non-Cabinet members to question Cabinet Members (without the need for advance notice) on matters relating to their portfolio.
The Mayor advised that four written questions had been submitted in advance for response by the relevant Cabinet Member. The written responses supplied had been circulated with the Council agenda. The following supplementary questions were then received:
12.1 Cllr Stephens thanked Councillor Tatler (Lead Member for Regeneration, Highways & Planning) for the response which he had been encouraged to note included a commitment to the issue being raised as part of the consultation response on the Local Implementation Plan (LIP3). Given the concerns raised regarding the frequency of rail services being provided by the current transport provider from Sudbury and Harrow Road Station he asked the Lead Member if she would be willing to support continued lobbying (working with ward councillors and the Sudbury Town Residents Association), as part of the upcoming franchise renewal, in order to secure a more regular service from the station.
In response, Councillor Tatler advised that she fully supported the concerns raised regarding the current level of service available, given the attempts being made to encourage greater use of public transport and less reliance on cars and confirmed she would be willing to support ward councillors and the local Residents Association in raising this issue as part of the consultation process on the franchise review. In addition, Councillor Tatler advised that the matter had been raised at the Public Transport Forum held earlier in the day who also shared the concerns raised and would be seeking to take these forward.
12.2 Having thanked Councillor Tatler for her response, Councillor Hector asked the Lead Member if it would be possible for the Council to provide clearer information and guidance for local residents about how they could request or seek to influence/support decisions regarding the installation or removal of street furniture. As background in support of the question she highlighted the experience of local residents in her ward who were seeking the installation of bike hangers at various locations and also those who were seeking the removal of benches in the Hazel Road area due to associated problems of anti-social behaviour.
In response Councillor Tatler (Lead Member for Regeneration, Highways & Planning) advised that the Highways Team when considering the redesign of any street scene provision would include considerations around decluttering. Recent examples of improvements made following consultation with local residents and businesses, included changes made to the street scene on the High Street in Kingsbury. In terms of the supplementary question, Councillor Tatler advised she would be willing to undertake further discussions with ward councillors from Kensal Green on the changes being sought in their area and if necessary provide a more detailed written response once these had taken place.
12.3 As Councillor Colacicco had submitted her apologies for absence no supplementary question was asked in relation to her question on the promotion of sustainable construction methods and green technology in new homes.
12.4 Having noted the written response provided to his question, Councillor Colwill asked Councillor Tatler (Lead Member for Regeneration, Highways and Planning) if it would be possible to be provide a clear date as to when the repairs to the damaged pavements and potholes would be undertaken.
In response, Councillor Tatler (Lead Member for Regeneration, Highways and Planning) advised that a programme of winter repair works had been developed and was now in the process of being delivered, details of which she would share with Councillor Colwill. In addition Councillor Tatler took the opportunity to report that the Council had also been successful in securing additional funding of £600k from the Government to support the programme of repairs, which there was a requirement to have implemented by March 2019.
The Mayor thanked Members for their supplementary questions and Cabinet Members for the responses provided and then advised that the remainder of time available would be used for an open question time session to the Leader and Cabinet. The following issues were raised and responses provided:
(i) Highlighting concerns regarding the impact on staff as a result of the Academisation process at Village School, Councillor Chan sought confirmation of the Cabinet’s position in relation to opposing the policy on Academisation and support for teachers in their ongoing opposition to the process at Village School also highlighting concerns raised by the ESFA regarding the funding of the Woodfield -Village Multi Academy Trust.
In response, Councillor Agha (Lead Member for Schools, Employment and Skills) advised that as the decision on whether to seek Academy status was reserved for the Governing Body at each school he did not feel it was appropriate to intervene in the process at individual schools. He had, however, recently visited the Village school and met with the headteacher, which had resulted in a number of other issues being identified that he confirmed he had offered the Council’s support in seeking to address.
(i) Councillor Kabir sought details on the contingency measures in place to ensure the continuation of social care for those adults whose care packages were currently being delivered by Allied Healthcare, given ongoing concerns regarding the company’s financial position.
In response, Councillor Farah (Lead Member for Adult Social Care) began by reassuring Members that the concerns raised had not related to the quality of care being provided by Allied Healthcare and were instead focussed on their overall financial sustainability. There were currently 94 individuals for whom Allied Healthcare were commissioned to provide care packages within Brent (84 through the Council, 4 self-funded and 6 funded through Brent Clinical Commissioning Group). Given the concerns regarding their ongoing financial viability, the Council would be implementing a robust contingency plan designed to ensure that should the company cease trading there would be a very low risk of any disruption to the ongoing provision of care.
(ii) Councillor Nerva asked whether it would be possible for the Council to consider the potential introduction of a community toilet facility scheme along with free access to water fountains as part of plans to promote and support local high streets and businesses, highlighting examples of similar schemes operating in Camden, Lewisham and the City of London.
In responding to the question, Councillor Tatler (Lead Member for Regeneration, Highways & Planning) outlined the significant work being undertaken to reinvigorate and support Town Centres across the borough being led by the Town Centre Managers. Referring to the specific examples provided she advised that she would be willing to look at alternative schemes or initiatives that may support this process.
(iii) Councillor Kelcher, highlighting a specific traffic management issues affecting residents in Kensal Green ward, asked whether it would be possible to apply an amnesty in relation to penalty charge notices issued for vehicles making a prohibited right turn from Harvest Road into Chamberlain Road, given problems experienced with illumination of the “No Right Turn” warning sign.
Whilst not able to provide any commitment in terms of an amnesty, Councillor Krupa Sheth (Lead Member for Environment) advised she would be willing to look at the specific issue highlighted in order to come back with a response.
(iv) Highlighting the UKs legacy in accepting and offering safe passage for refugees including children, Councillor Hassan asked if the Council would consider supporting participation in the “It’s our Turn” campaign being run by Safe Passage.
In response, Councillor Mili Patel (Lead Member for Children’s Safeguarding, Early Help and Social Care) advised that the Council’s approach would usually be to accept any child under 18 presenting themselves as a refugee. Having spoken at previous meetings on support available, she urged any Members to let her know about specific cases causing concern.
(vi) Councillor Ethapemi asked if the Lead Member for Adult Social Care had been made aware of any proposals for the potential closure of up to four or five GP practices across the borough and, if so, whether this could be linked in any way to the recent CQC inspection of the London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust.
In response, Councillor Farah (Lead Member for Adult Social Care) advised that the commissioning of GP practices would usually be a matter within the remit of Brent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). Whilst he had been made aware of proposals for the closure of one practice, the chair of Brent CCG had not highlighted any further planned closures. He therefore asked Councillor Ethapemi if he could provide details on which he would be willing to seek an update from the CCG.
(vii) Councillor Kennelly, highlighting concerns regarding the limited publicity and consultation undertaken by Transport for London on planned alterations to the 223 bus service asked if the Council would be willing to support the local campaign against the planned changes.
Councillor Tatler (Lead Member for Regeneration, Highways and Planning) highlighting her discussions with TfL regarding various bus routes across the borough, advised that she would be willing to include these concerns as part of her ongoing dialogue. As part of more general discussions due to shortly be undertaken with TfL, she had already planned to highlight the wider concerns expressed regarding a lack of visible public consultation on changes to bus services so would also include the comments highlighted by Councillor Kennelly as a further example.
(viii) Councillor Ketan Sheth referring to a recent Court of Appeal decision in relation to the location of ATMs and their impact on business rates asked if it would be possible for an update to be provided in relation to the potential financial effect on Brent.
In response, Councillor McLennan (Deputy Leader) advised that she would provide a detailed response on the potential impact of this ruling after the meeting as officers were currently in the process of considering the Council’s position.
(ix) Referring to the Brent Connects webpage, Councillor Long asked if it would be possible to ensure the content and minutes available from previous meetings were regularly updated as the current content was out of date.
In response, Councillor McLennan (Deputy Leader) advised that she would ensure these comments were referred back to the relevant officers for action.
(x) Having advised of a further issue, Councillor Long then moved on to highlight problems being caused for residents in Willesden Green as a result of burst water mains in the area and asked if these issues could be raised on behalf of local residents direct with Thames Water.
In response, Councillor Tatler (Lead Member for Regeneration, Highways and Planning) advised that she would willing to raise these issues as part of her planned programme of meetings with utilities companies and come back with a written response.
(xi) Councillor Kennelly, referring to a recent community consultation event on proposals for development of the Preston Community Centre highlighted concerns raised by local residents at the lack of information that had subsequently been provided clarifying funding for the proposed scheme and the way in which concerns regarding congestion and pollution were planned to be addressed. Given the sensitivity of the proposed scheme he felt that a more proactive approach was required by the Council in addressing the issues raised and asked if an update could be provided on development of the proposals.
In response, Councillor Hirani (Lead Member for Public Health, Culture & Leisure) advised that the scheme was a joint regeneration project that would also impact on Preston Community Library. As part of a proactive consultation process with local residents an open day at been held at the Centre in order to seek views on the proposed development. The event had been well attended with feedback received on many aspects including parking and congestion. The feedback received was currently being reviewed in advance of a revised plan being issued and this was the current status of the development proposals with no progression made in terms of the formal planning process.
(xii) Councillor Donnelly-Jackson sought an update on action being taken to review and address concerns regarding the safety and structure of shop frontages in the Willesden Green area.
As the matter raised cut across two different portfolios, the Mayor firstly invited Councillor Tatler (Lead Member for Regeneration, Highways and Planning) to respond who highlighted the current priority being given to shop frontages by Town Centre Managers including along Willesden High Road. This work was supported by Statutory Planning Guidance and where necessary Planning Enforcement action, as evidenced by recent activity in the Neasden area involving premises owners who were not properly maintaining the frontages of their shops.
Councillor Miller (Lead Member for Community Safety) was then invited to comment, who highlighted the recent visit he had undertaken with the Planning Enforcement Team to survey the frontages of shop premises along Willesden High Road in need of maintenance. The results were currently being reviewed by the Planning Enforcement Team to identify any follow up action required with the team willing to undertake similar reviews in other areas, if requested.
(xiii) Councillor Choudhary took the opportunity to highlight a number of concerns relating to the state of repair of local roads and the traffic management plan for event days around Wembley Stadium, given the impact of increased traffic and congestion for local residents in the Wembley and Neasden area.
In response, Councillor Tatler (Lead Member for Regeneration, Highways & Planning) outlined how the Council’s Highways Team were working with the Stadium’s Safety Advisory Group in order to anticipate, review and manage traffic plans for Stadium events. She assured Members that whilst regarding the Stadium as an asset, the Council was committed to managing its impact in relation to traffic flow, access and parking for local residents and would therefore ensure the concerns raised were fed through to the Advisory Group.
In terms of repairs to local roads, Councillor Tatler advised that she would be willing to review the locations raised if Councillor Choudhary was able to provide further details and also highlighted the additional funding secured by the Council towards a more proactive programme of winter maintenance work that was shortly due to commence.
(xiv) Councillor Daly highlighting concerns regarding the disruption, pollution and noise being caused for local residents living adjacent to the current bus terminus on the No. 245 and 18 bus routes was keen to explore what action the Council might be able to take in order to encourage the Mayor for London to prioritise the upgrade of vehicles on these routes for diesel to electric as soon as possible.
In response, Councillor Tatler (Lead Member for Regeneration, Highways and Planning) advised of the work being undertaken through the Public Transport Forum to review bus services across the borough, In terms of the specific concerns raised she advised these would be fedback to TfL in order to see what action could be taken to prioritise any change in the fleet operating on these routes and at the locations identified and would come back to advise of any response once received.
At this stage in proceedings the Mayor advised that the time available for the open session had now expired and ended by thanking all Members for their contributions.