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 Planning Committee, Licensing and Alcohol, Entertainment and Late Night Refreshment Licensing Committees and Governance and Audit Committee.
Councillor Dilks asked about Riverside Flats and thanked the Leader and Deputy Leader for their commitment to an independent inquiry and compensation where appropriate. He referred to provisions within that stated that during winter a heating or hot water supply breakdown should be dealt with within one working day. He referred to the length of time residents at Riverside had been experiencing problems and asked that an absolute assurance be given by the Leader that a permanent fix would be in place by the end of the week. He also asked for details about how the independent inquiry would be set up and when.
The Leader replied that he wanted Members to be involved in the independent inquiry as well as tenants and for the inquiry to be reviewed by the relevant Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The Cabinet Member for Housing stated that the system had come to a point where it needed to be renewed. When the breakdown occurred, residents were immediately given facilities for heating and hot water. The last five properties where access had been an issue were being dealt with, but it was expected that they should be finished by Saturday.
The Leader clarified that an independent body would be carrying out the inquiry and he wanted the relevant Overview and Scrutiny Committee to look at the inquiry report.
Councillor Lee stated that his question was in relation to agenda item 8, the Independent Person. When he contacted Mr Welsh when he had resigned to say he was sorry that he had left, Mr. Welsh said he had not resigned. When corresponding Mr. Welsh was asked by Councillor Lee what he wanted him to do about it, he requested that it was raised at the meeting. He asked the Chairman to consult with the Chief Executive on how matters stood in light of the decision made at agenda item 8.
The Chief Executive stated that a full response would be provided for Members outside the meeting.
Councillor Bisnauthsing asked about the protection of jobs specifically in relation to page 8 of the minutes from the last meeting, which referred to the Cummins site in Stamford, given the decline in industry in the Stamford area.
The Leader stated that currently the economy was very challenging and the uncertainty around Brexit added to that. The site at Stamford, St Martin’s Park was moving forward with businesses enquiring about the site. It was going to the market in January 2020 and working in partnership with Burghley, the project would be moved forward.
Councillor Wood stated that the Independent Group had put together a ten-point plan with regard to the budget and he asked the Cabinet Member for Finance if they could have a constructive meeting to discuss it. The Cabinet Member for Finance replied that he was happy to listen to the proposals.
Councillor Selby asked the Leader of the Council whether he agreed that the visit by Andrew Morgan, the Chief Executive of United Lincolnshire Hospital’s Trust was worthwhile setting out why services in Grantham were needed, given the context of the removal of services at Grantham hospital, and in particular the overnight A & E department especially putting vulnerable people in the community at risk.
The Leader replied, that it had been useful to show Mr. Morgan around Grantham and the surrounding areas including the growth around town. He stated that South Kesteven must have a sustainable hospital for all the residents in the area and that the Council was in full support of reinstating services at Grantham hospital.
Councillor Milnes stated that lots of Members had received emails from constituents that were members of Friends of the Earth as it was “Tree Week”. It had been suggested to try and double the tree cover. She asked whether the Cabinet Member for Commercial and Operations would commit to doubling the tree cover in the district, setting out a timescale and ensuring adequate budget was available as well as using levers in the private sector.
The Chief Executive stated that he was conscious that this topic was playing out in manifestos and it was close to becoming political.
Councillor Milnes stated that the Council had declared a Climate Emergency and had signed up to the Woodland Trust Tree Charter and she felt that it was right to ask in that local context.
The Cabinet Member for Commercial and Operations replied that it was an issue that should go through the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee and that they would make recommendation that reflected the needs of the Council moving forward.
Councillor Steptoe asked following the recent meeting between the Cabinet Member for Growth and the Labour Group whether a formal consultation would be launched on leisure facilities in Grantham. He asked if she could confirm the full purpose and scope of the consultation whether the option of closing the Meres Leisure Centre in the Earlesfield Ward was still under consideration.
The Cabinet Member for Growth replied that the Council remained committed to a programme of improvements to the leisure provision in Grantham. The Council was not looking to reduce or withdraw facilities but to provide residents and visitors with a leisure offer that was fit for purpose. No decisions had been made on the improved leisure provision in Grantham and a public consultation was going to take place in January. The outcome of which would help with the final decision. A feasibility study was also being carried out and any decisions about improvements would be supported by a robust business case. The Council was fully aware of the importance of the Meres Leisure Centre both locally and regionally and anything that the Council did in providing leisure provision both at the Meres and the wider Grantham area would be about making an improvement on what was available currently.
Councillor Morgan asked that in view of the recent news that the local church would be opening its doors to street sleepers over the winter due to a number of calls for help, what provision was being made, by the Council, to prevent homelessness. She also asked what provision was in place to provide emergency accommodation over the winter and who was excluded from the rules for help.
The Cabinet Member for Housing replied that he had been in discussion with Councillor Morgan, he had no information as yet. Not all homeless people were without a roof over their heads, they had to be investigated and helped in their situation. If Councillor Morgan was aware of any people, then she should let the housing team know.
The Leader then stated that since the introduction of the Homelessness Act 2017 there had been a significant increase in the homelessness approaches that the Council received. The number of preventions and early interventions had also increased considerably more in proportion. Some housing stock was used as temporary accommodation and officers remained in contact with applicants to provide ongoing support. Limited use was made of bed and breakfasts during this period. To help with the supply of suitable housing for the homeless applicants the Council’s new build programme was specifically designed for housing in the right areas and of the right type. During the winter, a severe emergency protocol was in place so that people who were sleeping rough were not at risk of harm during extreme cold or severe weather. The Council had secured funding from the rough sleeper pathway fund to enable to work with vulnerable people who had a history of rough sleeping or had a high risk of rough sleeping. This service was currently working with ten people and its success would lead to another bid for funding in 2020.
Councillor Morgan spoke of the people falling through the “cracks” in relation to the funding which the church was having to deal with. She stated that it was what the Council legally and morally required to do and it should address the short fall.
The Leader stated if there were any cases falling through the “cracks” then the Council needed to know about them and Members would work with the Assistant Director Housing to ensure that nobody was homeless over the Christmas period in the district.
Councillor Baxter asked the Leader why so many communications circulated from the Communication Team related to events in Grantham with virtually nothing about events in other parts of the district over the festive season.
The Leader of the Council responded by stating that the Communication Team was not just focused on Grantham; his Ward bordered the Deepings and he would be working with the Communications Team to ensure that the Council captured events from across the district. The Leader stated that he was happy to work with any Member with events in their Ward to see how the Council could promote them.
Councillor Baxter felt that it was too late and referenced the Deepings Christmas market which was being held on Saturday 30 November 2019.
One Member attempted to ask a further question but was reminded of the rule that Members were only permitted to ask one. The limit had been in place since open questions were introduced however a Constitution Review was being undertaken and if Members wanted any changes they could be considered as part of the review.
The Chairman concluded open questions by stating that if Members had any further questions, they should contact the relevant Councillor direct.