Members' Open Questions
A 45-minute period in which members may ask questions of the Leader, Cabinet Members, the Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen of the Overview and Scrutiny Committees and opposition group leaders excluding the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Development Management Committee, Licensing and Alcohol, Entertainment and Late Night Refreshment Licensing Committees and Governance and Audit Committee.
Councillor Dilks referred to a recent meeting of the Governance and Audit Committee at which Members heard about gas boilers that had been fitted. The boilers had a design fault which caused failure because of condensation issues. The Committee had asked that a letter be written to the company that manufactured the boilers asking what they were going to do to remedy the problem. Councillor Dilks asked the Cabinet Member for Housing whether the letter had been written, whether he could have a copy and whether the boilers had been fitted in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
The Cabinet Member for Housing stated that he would expect the boilers to have been fitted in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. He was not aware whether the letter had been written but committed to finding out and e-mailing an answer to Councillor Dilks.
A subsequent speaker referred to the same issue and stated that it should be a top priority for the Council to ensure that the most vulnerable people in the community were protected. The Leader responded, saying that he would ask the Cabinet Member for Housing and the relevant Director to urgently address the issue to form a plan of what was wrong, what action was being taken and the associated timescales.
Councillor Ian Stokes addressed a question to the Cabinet Member for Environment which concerned the different rules that applied to the separation of refuse and recycling across the county, querying how members of the public were supposed to know what they were and were not able to recycle.
The Cabinet Member for Environment made reference to a new strategy that had been agreed by members of the Lincolnshire Waste Partnership; one of its aims was to overcome these challenges. He stated that plastics presented the biggest challenge, with several different categories, some of which were recyclable while others were not. The partnership was working towards a common set of recyclable streams in the future. He added that the ‘reduce’ strand of the waste hierarchy was key and referred to shopping practices that could support reductions in packaging materials, in turn reducing the materials for disposal.
While the Cabinet Member said that there was no simple answer, he reassured Members that the Council had a strong voice in the partnership and was pushing its agenda with regard to making recycling easier and in turn making it more efficient and valuable.
Councillor Ray Wootten posed a question to the Leader. In doing so he referred to the instruction made by the Minister for Health to United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust and the Clinical Commissioning Group to produce a plan for future services at Grantham Hospital which should be submitted by December 2018. Councillor Wootten asked the Leader whether he agreed with residents, campaign groups and Councillors that they needed to be consulted on the plans and that the hospital’s accident and emergency department should return to a 24-hour service as soon as possible.
The Leader of the Council referred to a recent letter he had written with the Leader of Lincolnshire County Council providing full political support for a return to 24-hour accident and emergency provision and urging for plans for the hospital to be published. He added that he was disappointed that the Minister for Health had had to intervene but said that he looked forward to receiving proposals as soon as possible. He highlighted support across for the Chamber for the return of 24-hour provision as well as his frustration about the lack of engagement so far on the future of health services.
Councillor Forman asked the Cabinet Member for Housing why the results of the Tenants’ Survey that was completed in July would not be presented to Cabinet until November 2018.
The Cabinet Member for Housing explained that the results of the survey had been analysed and evaluated and he felt that the appropriate amount of time had been taken to produce a good quality document.
Councillor Baxter referred to the appointment of a communications consultant and asked whether, given the costs associated with the post, it constituted good procurement practice and value for money.
The Cabinet Member for Growth and Communications stated that this question had been answered previously and was clear that the Council procured employees in a variety of different ways, with consultants forming a part of that. She added that she did believe that the use of this consultant constituted value for money, it was unfair to target one individual in this way and that it was a convention that would continue to be used where applicable.