Report of the Leader of the Council detailing the Executive business conducted since the last Executive Business Report on 18th July 2018.
The report of the Leader of the Council was submitted setting out the details of the business undertaken by the Executive.
The Leader and the Cabinet made statements and responded to questions.
The following questions were submitted in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 11.1.
1. Contract Confidence
According to the Council's own internal reports, the Capita Contract was performing well. Now it has been cancelled by the Labour Administration. How can the public have confidence in any other contracts the Council has with providers like Capita, when the Council claims they are performing well and hides poor performance behind claimed "confidentiality"?
The Council is bringing the services delivered under the contract back in-house to ensure that we have full control and flexibility over these critical services going forward. This will enable these services to be managed in full alignment with the Council’s strategy and eliminate the administrative, commercial and legal constraints presented by the contract.
2. Recording Meetings
The minutes of Full Council, according to Democratic Services, do not record proceedings, only resolutions. This excludes important actions taken by opposition councillors in holding the Executive to account. The minutes even exclude questions of concern asked to officers of the Council or that even questions were asked of members of the Executive. They even exclude reports and concerns expressed about courses of action being taken by the Executive, including on controversial and/or costly expenditure. This could be resolved by recording Full Council meetings, whether by audio or video means, as is done in other councils in Hampshire (e.g. Basingstoke and Deane and Hampshire County councils). Will you commit to begin these recordings by the end of 2018?
The Council’s minutes are brief notes of the proceedings at any formal decision making meeting that, in particular, record the decision made by members not the debate. Minutes can take whatever form is preferred by an individual authority and styles vary but the Council’s approach has served the Council well over many years. There is no merit in a verbatim written report being produced and the Council’s approach follows the practice followed by the majority of Councils. The most important and overarching element is that the decision is accurately recorded.
Minutes are not designed to be used as records of political debate. Officers have explored the possibility of web-camming or streaming meetings, the technology is available on the market, but is costly and from the experience of the few others who do the hits are very few.
3. Arts Complex – Expenditure
How much total Council money has been spent on the Arts Complex since its inception, how much additional money has been spent on the Arts Complex since you became responsible for it, and when will the taxpayer get this money back?
The total project spend to the end of August 2018 is £19,958,722.
Since April 2016, the spend has been £14,223,304.
Since opening, Studio 144 has attracted 18,000 visits to the John Hansard gallery and over 55,000 visits to NST City, these are visitors who are welcomed into the City enhancing its reputation, spending money on parking, refreshments and in local shops. The productions and exhibitions have been acclaimed on a national scale and are contributing significantly to our visitor economy. This combined with the business rates and council tax receipts mean that the City is already reaping the benefits of Studio 144.
4. Fire Safety Works
Southampton City Council issued a press release on the Anniversary of the Grenfell Tragedy stating a £15 million figure on fire safety works. You have replied to me stating that this figure is not contained in a single document. Please justify the use of the figure, with reference to Council documents.
The original figure of £15m captures a variety of fire safety improvements for Southampton tenants. Subsequently this project has expanded to enhance the level of protection for those living in high rise blocks. The documents which provide the details of budget approvals and updates has been provided separately to Cllr Pope as part of an earlier query on this subject.
5. Fire Safety Expenditure
When I asked you at July 2018 Full Council under Executive Business how much money was being spent on Fire Safety, you said £25 million - not £15 million. Please justify the use of the figure, with reference to Council documents, and the differences in expenditure with the £15 million figure referenced above.
The £25m figure represents the most recent estimated total cost of works that will improve fire safety for Southampton tenants. During the course of the project the scope changed as opportunities to undertake further fire safety works were identified and subsequently included. Part of the reason for the increase is that we have identified additional works that could be brought forward, which is a more cost-efficient way to deliver the project and delivers greater benefits upfront.
6. Clean Air Zone
The proposals for a Clean Air Zone by this Labour Administration and Conservative Government claim that HGVS, taxis and buses will be charged but private cars and vans will not.
How will this proposal improve air quality significantly when the Council's own figures show that HGVs, taxis and buses are a relatively small proportion of polluters?
As the Council's own figures show that private cars and vans are the largest polluters, there is great concern from residents and small businesses that private cars will be included in future. Therefore to protect Southampton residents and small businesses, will you commit now that private cars and vans will never be included by this Council in any Clean Air Zone?
The objective of the CAZ is to deliver compliance with EU NO2 limit value. Government expect our proposal for a CAZ to comply with the national framework and to be proportionate. That means we are expected to consider each of the classes of CAZ in the national framework from A to D until we find the one which is likely to deliver compliance in the shortest possible time whilst not introducing costs that might be considered excessive or unnecessary. The evidence to date suggests a class B is likely to achieve compliance without including cars and hence was the preferred option put out for public consultation.
If we were to follow the framework and move to class C (include LGV’s) or D (include private vehicles) we would be imposing economic costs on a very broad spectrum of businesses and individuals when the specific objective we must achieve has been delivered by a Class B (Busses, Coaches, Taxis and HGV’s). For that reason there is no basis to charge cars or vans.
We accept that buses and taxis contribute little to the levels on the A33 and the government’s framework is at odds with that. But those are the tools we have been given. However, we are confident that any efforts to improve any of the sectors will have lasting effects on other parts of city.
The council also has a broader Clean Air Strategy and action plan to deliver wider ongoing improvements. There are no plans currently to include cars and vans in any potential charging CAZ.
7. Clean Air Zone – Economic Impact
What assessment have you done on the economic impact of your CAZ proposals? How many jobs will be effected?
An economic assessment has been undertaken by independent consultants to determine the citywide economic impact. This balances the cost of charges against the benefits which include the economic benefits associated with the operation of newer, cleaner fleets.
We recognise that any change brings challenges to business and that is why we are working on a range of mitigation measures to support businesses if a charging scheme were introduced. That includes assessing the economic impacts on specific stakeholder groups.
Until the assessment is complete and the consultation input considered it would not be appropriate to say what the final economic cost might be or if there is any risk to jobs. That is part of the purpose of the consultation exercise and the assessment to follow.
8. Clean Air Consultation
Who made the decision to initiate the CAZ consultation at such a late stage given you have known the implementation date for several years and the risks of missing the Government’s deadlines?
The Ministerial Direction from government to undertake this assessment was only received in December 2017. The council has acted in advance of this based on versions of the governments National Strategy to reduce Nitrogen Dioxide (which were subsequently removed). The current version of this was published in July 2017.
Despite these challenging timelines and the uncertainty preceding them we have taken actions to deliver a meaningful consultation exercise supported with an appropriate evidence base in a timely manner that is consistent with other CAZ cities. The timing of the local election soon after the Outline Business Case was prepared resulted in the consultation having to be commenced after Purdah, but we remain confident that we can deliver any necessary actions in a timely manner.
9. Class B Charging Zone
Who made the decision to consult on a Class B charging zone and why?
The technical process (as prescribed by government) identified a Class B charging scheme as the option most likely to meet the primary objective (i.e. compliance with EU nitrogen dioxide levels in the shortest possible time). As such it was identified as the preferred option in accordance with the same prescribed process. The consultation identifies other options including non-charging.
The outcome of the technical assessment was subject to internal scrutiny by council officers and senior managers before inclusion in a consultation package which was presented to both the Cabinet Member for Sustainable Living and then Cabinet for approval.
10.Clean Air Zone Revenue
How much revenue will the proposed Clean Air Zone produce in years 1-3 and how much will the operating costs be?
A financial model is in development and the costs and revenue will be very much depend on the final form that any implemented charging scheme might take, subject to approval and submission to government of a full business case. The consultation exercise and subsequent technical reassessment will guide this. If a charging scheme were to be proposed for implementation a financial model with capital costs and revenue incomes would be reported as part of the decision making process. Any such proposal will need to demonstrate value for money, will not be funded locally and any revenue it does generate will be ring fenced to delivering clean air initiatives.
11.Clean Air in the City
Does the Cabinet Member stand by her comments at the recent OSMC meeting – that Congestion Charging, Work Place Levies and extending the proposed Clean Air Zone are solutions that the administration are prepared to propose as options to dealing with Clean Air in the City?
Verbal Response at the Meeting
As indicated at the recent OSMC meeting all options for dealing with LTP4 in the City were proposed as part of the consultation process and will be evaluated as part of the response process.
12.Clean Air Zone
Does the Cabinet Member stand by her comments at the July Cabinet meeting, that “if people come back against the proposals we will consider what we will do”?
Verbal Response at the Meeting
The point that was made at the July Cabinet Meeting was that there would be genuine consultation, encouragement for all to participate in the consultation and as part of the response process comments to be listened to, reflected upon and a view reached.
13.Charging Clean Air Zone
Would the Leader be proposing to introduce a charging CAZ if the council did not have a Ministerial Directive to do it?
Verbal Response at the Meeting
There is a legal obligation to conform to the Ministerial Directive, there has been a consultation process and the decision will come forward to a future meeting for implementation.
14.Achieving the Requirements of the Ministerial Directive on Clean Air
What is the Leaders preferred option to achieving the requirements of the Ministerial Directive on clean air?
The technical assessment that has been conducted in accordance with government guidance is so far suggesting that a Class B CAZ is the option most likely to deliver compliance in the shortest possible time. That will be subject to review and further assessment as part of the due process following consultation which will identify a preferred option to take forward for approval. This will be the option that technically and legally we have most confidence in delivering compliance.
15.Importance of Aspiration
How important is aspiration to the Executive?
The Executive is highly aspirational for the people of Southampton and endeavours to ensure that from early years, through schools, to post-16 and adult learning contexts, everyone is able to take up a broad range of opportunities they might wish to, in order to develop their skills and make the most of employment opportunities.
The Executive is committed to working with all partners to ensure there is the highest quality of teaching and learning, that enables students of all ages and backgrounds to achieve their full potential in our growing city’s economy
16.Input on the School Curriculum
What input does the Executive have on the school curriculum?
The Executive has no direct control over the curriculum offered by schools provided it meets DfE guidelines. The responsibility for the content and structure of a school’s curriculum rests with the Senior Leadership Team and Governors or in the case of a Multi-academy Trust the Board of Trustees.