Report of the Leader of the Council, attached.
The report of the Leader of the Council was submitted setting out the details of the business undertaken by the Executive.
The Leader announced a change in delegated authority for functions in that Councillor Kaur would now lead on the City’s response to the refugee crisis and that Councillor Payne would therefore assume the responsibility for community safety.
The Leader and the Cabinet made statements and responded to Questions.
The following questions were then submitted in accordance with Council procedure Rule 11.1
1. Southampton Football Club – subsidised bus travel
Question from Councillor Keogh to Councillor Rayment
Can the Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport please update members on whether any recent discussions have taken place with Southampton Football Club to re-introduce subsidised bus travel on match days and is there any possibility of extending the match day parking restrictions to those roads being unfairly affected by match day parking, particularly in my ward Peartree?
The Football Club have been advised of the Council’s formal position which is that all requirements under the Section 106 agreement should be met. If the Football Club is seeking to amend the Section 106, they will need to submit a Deed of Variation application. The Council understands that the Football Club is intending to pursue this option. If any changes are proposed via a Deed of Variation, planning will be looking for something of equal value or equal impact in its place. Legal Services have advised that the application would need to be considered by the Planning and Rights of Way Panel.
The existing match day parking restrictions were set up as part of the Section 106 agreement when the stadium was originally built. The Council could not retrospectively require that the Football Club contribute to the cost of additional match day parking restrictions.
Question from Councillor Pope to Councillor Jeffery
At August Cabinet, in response to questions from a member of the public on the lack of stability of social workers, and yet more overspends on safeguarding, Cllr Chaloner admitted that Southampton City Council has failed over a number of years to protect children. How many (i) children (ii) families, have continued to have been failed by the Labour-run Council and its safeguarding partners in each ward of the City since May 2012? How can the public have any faith in the latest plans to address these concerns now, when all previous plans have failed?
The Council is working effectively to safeguard 4492 children in need including those on child protection plans and another 625 children in care. We are not knowingly failing any children and we have developed a comprehensive MASH as a single point of entry to ensure the safeguarding of all children.
3. Priorities in Portfolio
Question from Councillor Pope to Councillor Kaur
Please place the following choices in your Portfolio in order of priority, most important first:
1. Meeting targets for revenue generated by properly marketing visits to the Sea City Museum and Tudor House (around £190,000 lost revenue in just ONE Quarter reported at August Cabinet).
2. Managing the Active Nation contract properly (a £110,000 overspend).
3. The closure of five libraries as decided by Cabinet to save around £286,000 per year, a tiny proportion of this Council's annual expenditure.
Couldn’t you have avoided cutting libraries, if you hadn’t missed the other two targets?
Budget management, both in the current financial year, and in planning for future financial years is of vital importance for the Executive.
The forecast adverse variance showing on the Active Nation contract, relates to price fluctuations on utility costs, which are covered within the risk fund. This is a standard approach within the contract sector allowing the Local Authority to manage the impact of price fluctuation through efficient procurement of energy supplies.
4. Solar Farms
Question from Councillor Pope to Councillor Payne
The Association of Public Service Excellence (APSE), which this Council is a member of, stated in its "direct news" magazine in July 2015 that "it is still not too late to build a solar farm by next April". Other councils have done it, but Southampton has not. Although you have had over three years as Cabinet Member for Housing & Sustainability, why has there not been any business plan implemented to generate revenue from solar farms, and thereby help (i) improve investment in the City, and (ii) reduce cuts? Can you reassure the public that you will implement a scheme by April 2016, as suggested by APSE?
The Council has installed a significant number of solar panels on its large buildings and some housing blocks and is receiving an income from the electricity generated and the Feed In Tariff (FiT) subsidy.
The Government in August announced a significant reduction in FiT subsidy payments for solar installations and other renewable generation, which is proposed to come into effect from December 2015. The biggest impact of such proposals are ground mounted solar farms. I am advised that the majority of solar farms being planned by local authorities have now been shelved due to the FiT reduction as they are no longer considered to be financially viable.
There is a possibility that roof mounted solar PV schemes where electricity is used directly by the building occupier may still be economically viable in some instances for local authorities. A feasibility study is currently being commissioned by the Council to determine the viability and suitability of a number of our remaining council buildings, including some schools.
5. Late Night Levy
Question from Councillor Pope to Councillor Kaur
How can the citizens of Southampton have any faith that you are spending Late Night Levy monies in the right parts of the City, in co-ordination with the elected Police and Crime Commissioner, and ensuring the PCC is scrutinised on behalf of Southampton's residents, when you only attended two of the four Police and Crime Panels last year?
The Late Night Levy arrangements are wholly separate to the Police and Crime Panels. Notwithstanding that the monies cannot be spent until 2016/17 a board has been set up with the trade, Police and Council to ensure that priorities for the spend are considered. Complete assurance can therefore be given that the levy proceeds will be directly to the Night Time Economy areas in the City as the law requires.
As the Cabinet lead on community safety I work closely with the PCC and the Safer City Partnership through a range of forums to make Southampton a safer place and the Police and Crime Panel is only one of such forums.
6. Event “Lets Rock Southampton”
Question from Councillor Parnell to Councillor Kaur
Would the Cabinet Member assure members that the event “Let’s Rock Southampton” to be held on the Common next year is properly managed and that the inconvenience to residents is minimal especially regarding noise and road closures?
Let’s Rock is an event which was enjoyed by more than 11,000 people this year.
It’s an important event for the City in terms of its cultural contribution and the economic benefits it brings to hotels, restaurants, transport etc.
With any large event it is inevitable that there will be some disruption but through the City’s Events Safety Advisory Group which consists of representatives from the Council, Police Fire and Ambulance service, the Council will work with the event organisers to ensure that any disruptions are minimised.
In particular, we were disappointed with the number of complaints that the Council received in relation to noise (20 complaints) after this year’s event and we will be working closely with the organisers in the coming months to ensure that additional steps are taken next year to reduce disturbances to residents who live near Southampton Common.
The road closures which are designed to increase safety for people attending and leaving the Common and to provide parking for blue badge holders in Cemetery Road will only be in place when necessary. These road closures will have advance warning signs in place and diversion routes will be clearly marked on the day.
7. Increase in Diabetes
Question from Councillor Parnell to Councillor Shields
Following the report in the Daily Echo regarding the increase in diabetes in Southampton, would the Cabinet Member inform Council of the plans that the Executive has to deal with this problem?
The number of people with diabetes is increasing year-on-year across the whole country, and this is in large part due to our sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits. The City’s Clinical Commissioning Group has prioritised diabetes and is working with all GP practices to promote health checks and healthier lifestyles, improve earlier detection, and provide more education, better treatment and disease control. The outcomes of people with diabetes can be improved through better management, and complications such as loss of vision, kidney problems and amputations can be prevented.
The Council, as the lead authority for public health, must do all that it can to enable Southampton people to become more physically active, eat better diets and achieve a healthy weight. Following a summit meeting in June, the Health and Wellbeing Board is leading on the development of a comprehensive plan to promote physical activity in the City. Any plans for further preventative work in this area are subject to the outcomes of the consultation currently underway on proposals for in-year reductions in DH funding to local authorities for public health.
All councillors can contribute ideas and promote the message that becoming more active does not have to be costly and can be fun.
8. Overgrown areas on Southampton Common
Question from Councillor Claisse to Councillor Rayment
Over the course of the last 25or so years large parts of the Common that had previously been open areas have been allowed to become overgrown and have become inaccessible to the Public thereby denying them amenity space. Have these changes been as a result of a formal decision made by the Council or have the changes been made by the Council staff who manage the Common?
A large part of the Common was designated an SSSI in 1987. The Council then adopted the agreed 20 year management plan between Natural England and SCC in 1992 and the Council has, wherever resources have allowed, been working to that plan ever since. Over this period, some new areas of scrubland have developed naturally where resources have reduced and local pragmatic decisions have been taken on maintenance, but no overall Council or local policy has been in place to allow areas to become ‘overgrown’. In fact mowing regimes in place this year are specifically designed to prevent longer meadow grass reverting to scrub or bramble.
The parks team are currently drafting a new 20 year Common Management Plan, and this provides the opportunity to reassess what key strategic benefits the Common can bring the City in the future, and what we can actually afford to maintain. The Plan will need to balance wider climate change and flood mitigation measures beneficial to the City as a whole, with more local wildlife and recreation requirements, providing facilities for improved health and well-being to its users and making the City a better place to live and work. The Plan will be consulted on before adoption with a wide and diverse range of users and stake-holders, and provide the strategic framework for managing the Common for the benefit of both people and wildlife into the foreseeable future.
9. Woolston Library
Question from Councillor Houghton to Councillor Kaur
Can you provide an update on when the new Woolston Library will be opening? As well as this will the delay in opening the Library have any impact on the funding position for Southampton’s Library Service?
The Council signed the lease for the library space in late August 2015, and must now carry out substantial fit out works to make the space fit for a library. Construction works are scheduled to take 5 months, followed by preparation by the library staff. Subject to the contractor starting on site in October 2015, opening will be in Late March 2016.
The delay in handing over the unit to the Council is unfortunate; Crest Nicholson have taken additional time in completing the unit to a satisfactory standard. The operation of the library is budgeted for and the delay will not have any impact on the savings figure that will be delivered of £286,000.
10.Weston Lane Development
Question from Councillor Houghton to Councillor Kaur
Can you confirm if the new development on Weston Lane is to include a Library?
There is a unit identified in the new Weston Lane shopping parade redevelopment for a community space including a library, similar to that at Hinkler Parade in Thornhill.
The proposal that was considered by Cabinet on the 18th August 2015 was to give community, voluntary, not for profit and faith organisations the opportunity to run the community space including the provision of a library service. This item is to be considered again by Cabinet on the 15th September 2015.
Space for a library remains in the scheme and the plan has not changed since it was approved by the Council.
11.Council House Waiting List
Question from Councillor Houghton to Councillor Payne
With the recent changes to the Council House Waiting List which saw many people on the list reassessed, are you now confident that the list more accurately represents those with a housing need in the City?
12.Regeneration of Lordshill
Question from Councillor Moulton to Councillor Letts
What is the Leader’s vision for the regeneration of Lordshill following the cancelling of the planned developments under the Lordshill Masterplan?
The last masterplan collapsed when Sainsbury’s withdrew their proposed store re-build. There are currently no plans to develop a new masterplan for Lordshill.
The Oaklands site will provide about 100 additional homes in the area as well as the consolidation on the site of community facilities.
The Council is beginning the process of updating its Local Development Plan for the City. This will replace the local development plans we currently use and cover the whole of the City. When it is complete, the new Local Plan will set the amount and type of development needed in the City to 2036. It will also be used to assess planning applications. This will include district centres such as Lordshill.
13.Green corridor into the City
Question from Councillor Moulton to Councillor Letts
Following the recent Council motion on the subject of planting more trees in the City and having a green corridor into the City from the west, what progress has the Council made to take this forward?
Council Officers have been working at a strategic level to ensure green infrastructure is an integral part of future plans for the City. Green Infrastructure is a major part of evidence gathering towards the Local Plan Review and commitments have been proposed to enhance the green infrastructure. Officers are currently working on how green infrastructure can be integrated into the Local Transport Plan. Commitments have also been made through the Air Quality Scrutiny Inquiry recommendations to plant trees which help to reduce air pollution.
At a more practical level, major highways infrastructure projects have included new planting, such as 53 trees being planted within the improvements at Station Quarter and 21 trees being planted as part of the Platform Road improvements. In addition to this around 80 to 90 other trees have been planted in various locations across the City.
14.Civil Service Sports Centre
Question from Councillor Moulton to Councillor Letts
Given the City Council acquired the former Civil Service Sports Ground nearly 4 years ago, when will it be finally opened up for use by the local community?
The capital works to ensure that this site is available for use are almost complete.
As councillors will be aware, the basis for the compulsory purchase of the land was primarily for use by schools as sports and recreation facilities, with further access available to the local community.
In advance of the facilities being available for use, SCC has been in discussions with Richard Taunton College to explore their management of the sports grounds to provide access to local schools and then to the wider community.
These discussions will be concluded within the next few weeks.
There will then be further discussions with the local community and local organisations about the wider use of sports facilities, including exploring the possibility of creating a new organisation to work alongside Richard Taunton College.
Question from Councillor Fitzhenry to Councillor Payne
When will the development company build its first house in Southampton?
Work is still on-going with PWC (with Capita acting as technical advisors). This work is not completed yet and the completion of the business case will inform when properties will be built.
16.Strategic Highways Plan
Question from Councillor Fitzhenry to Councillor Rayment
Can the Cabinet Member confirm the City has a strategic highways plan until 2026?
Local Transport Plan 3 sets out the strategic policy, vision and approach for transport and highways in Southampton to keep the City moving, delivering services and support development to 2031.
The Council also produces a 3 Year Implementation Plan setting out how we will deliver on the strategy and policies; the current Implementation Plan covers the period 2011-2015 and it is being updated for the period 2015-2018.
To meet the challenges of a changing City, we are updating the LTP (to be known as LTP4) to reflect the new national and sub-regional policy and strategy. To support this, we will be continuing to develop a strong evidence base which includes a transport forecasting model so we can ensure the transport network in 2036, with the new development, can be understood and then be planned for with appropriate policies and actions.
LTP4 is expected to be completed for adoption by the City Council in mid-2016. Meanwhile we are also updating the Highways Asset Management Plan which is going before members at OSMC in October.
Question from Councillor O’Neill to Councillor Payne
Planning applications for numerous blocks of new student accommodation state these developments will reduce the pressure on residential accommodation; however, has the Council identified what are the future plans of our universities for the numbers of students they are proposing to accept?
The Council is working with both universities as it takes forward work on the New Local Plan (which will include a policy specifically on student housing).
The University of Southampton is planning a significant expansion of student accommodation over the next five years. The details of this at present remain confidential.
We understand that Southampton Solent University is currently reviewing its student strategy following the appointment of a new vice-chancellor.
Knight Frank also undertook a student accommodation study in July 2014 which analysed supply and demand – this identified an undersupply currently of student accommodation. The number of beds provided by a combination of the halls of residence and the private sector schemes totals 9,908. This represents 31.9% of the total student population and leaves 21,167 (68.1%) of the students unable to access specific student accommodation.
Even if the consented pipeline of development comprising 1,176 bed spaces were to be completed, there would still be an undersupply, with 19,991 (64.3%) students still unable to access specialist student accommodation. As numbers of students are likely to grow this situation is likely to continue.
18.Declining quality of streets
Question from Councillor O’Neill to Councillor Rayment
Residents regularly comment about the declining quality of our streets largely caused by wheelie bins permanently left on pavements creating an eyesore and a hazard for parents with children in pushchairs and the disabled. What long term strategy does the Council have to improve this problem?
Householders are responsible for ensuring that bins / bags placed out for collection are left so as not to cause an obstruction or nuisance to pedestrians. The Council is responsible for ensuring that bins are returned to a safe position after collection (after which the householder again becomes responsible for returning them to the property after collection).
Whilst it is Council policy that bins should be stored off the pavement by the end of the day after collection, our policy also states that enforcement activity will be prioritised on a risk basis, and would be subject to legal considerations.
We do write to residents who persistently store their bins on pavements. However, in many cases due to the width of the pavement, the risk presented is not deemed suitable for enforcement action to be taken.
However, if a bin is left out on a narrow pavement and there is a likelihood of this causing an obstruction and a safety issue for pedestrians enforcement may be considered as a higher priority.
It is widely known that only a small proportion of the city’s art collection is available for public viewing. Has the Council considered renting out selected works held in storage to city residents and local businesses?
The gallery has operated the Art Lease scheme for a considerable number of years. This scheme allows for an original work of art to be leased from just £85 per annum depending on the work requested.