This is an opportunity for Members of Council to ask the Mayor, Members of the Executive or the Chairman of any Committee or Sub-Committee a question on notice under Procedure Rule 10.2.
The Mayor reported that 7 questions had been received under Procedure Rule 10.2.
(a) Councillor Mrs. Evans asked the following question for which she had given notice:
“Concerns have been raised about the imminent closure of the Trafford Powerleague site in Davyhulme and the significant and adverse implication for local football teams with the loss of pitches. Whilst this is recognised as a commercial decision, please could the Executive Member advise what steps they are able to take to ensure a good level of provision of pitches for hire by the local community in the borough and where these local teams will be able to play in future?”
Councillor Procter, the Executive Member for Communities and Housing echoed the fact that it was a commercial decision that the Council had no control over but had serious implications. He reported that the Council had met with Trafford Leisure and the Manchester and Cheshire Football Associations in an attempt to identify any spare capacity both indoor and outdoor for current users of the Powerleague and that dialogue would continue together with signposting clubs leagues and other users to alternative sites. The Council was also in discussion with the owners of the facility about refurbishment of the building and potential new football operations in the long-term and if they proved satisfactory more information would be provided in due course.
In addition to the short-term solution, the Council alongside the Football Foundation and local County Football Associations was working to approve the Local Football Facilities Plan which would set out the strategy for provision over the medium to long-term and clubs and leagues would be invited to review the outcomes.
The Executive Member wished to assure Councillor Mrs. Evans that the administration shared her concerns and that every effort was being made to find an appropriate solution and that he would be happy to keep her updated.
Councillor Mrs. Evans asked as a supplementary question whether the administration would accept that the Investment Plans for Turn Moss and George H. Carnall could have been positive for the local communities and now left a gap of poor provision which would have mitigated against the loss of public sector investment and could the administration make clear what their long-term plans would be. Councillor Proctor believed this to be a separate question to the initial question he had answered concerning Powerleague. He was obviously concerned about the long-term health strategy and the impact on younger people and had already outlined the long-term actions on which the Council would be moving forward.
(b) Councillor N. Evans asked the following question for which he had given notice:
“In a recent Council news release, the Executive Member acknowledged the overwhelming success of the Town Centre Loan Scheme in supporting new businesses, creating jobs and helping our town centres to thrive. However, at the end of the release it confirmed that the Council has now suspended new applications, why?”
Councillor Wright, the Executive Member for Investment, Regeneration and Strategic Planning advised that recent demand for the scheme had been high and that the fund was recyclable in that all income from loan payments was reinvested in new loans. At present the funding, including recycled funds, had all been invested and due to the unprecedented demand the scheme had been temporarily suspended to allow the funding pot to replenish. Contact details of businesses enquiring about the scheme were being taken and they would be notified at such time sufficient funds become available to reopen applications. Approximately 14 had expressed recent interest or had discussions ongoing.
Suggesting that Town Centres were under threat and it was a question of priorities, Councillor N. Evans asked as a supplementary question whether it would be better to extend the scheme rather than suspend it and, in honour of the administration’s manifesto pledge, bring the matter back to Council in an attempt to expand the scheme. Councillor Wright confirmed that a review was being undertaken to identify the best way of handling applications going forward and with limited funds available suggested that a more selective approach would allow greater management of the offer within town centres by giving priority to business types not present or that create the most jobs. The Executive Member confirmed that there was a pledge to extend the small business scheme which at the moment was being looked at and in time it was expected to be brought to Council.
(c) Councillor Jerrome asked the following question for which he had given notice:
“Residents have expressed concerns that council tree replacements in Altrincham have clearly been purchased from Dutch nurseries. Can this council provide a percentage of trees provided from outside the UK?
Can I ask why this council is buying in trees from nurseries in the Netherlands? The Woodland Trust and the RHS are very concerned about the lack of rigour in the scrutiny of trees entering the UK from Europe with respect to diseases which can devastate native populations. These include trees stocked from China with exotic diseases. Would this council be willing to consider the Woodlands Trust example and use their ‘UK Sourced and Grown Assurance Scheme’ (UKSG)?”
Councillor Adshead, the Executive Member for Environment, Air Quality and Climate Change advised that the current framework for tree works does not stipulate that trees must be purchased from companies compliant with UKSG. In line with EU regulations any tree sourced from a non-EU country must be complicit with a plant passport that ensures trees are healthy and disease free. However, the new framework for tree works was being prepared for procurement and the Council would consider incorporating UKSG.
As a supplementary question, Councillor Jerrome asked questioned why so many trees in the adoption scheme were non-native and Councillor Adshead indicated that he would look into the matter and provide Councillor Jerrome with a response.
(d) Councillor Lally asked the following question, the first of four questions for which he had given notice:
“The subject of fixed penalty notices issued to parents when children have unauthorised absences was discussed at the last school governor meeting I attended. Please can I ask the Member for Children Services how many fixed penalty notices have been issued and subsequently collected by Trafford schools over the period of the last school calendar year and whether a breakdown for individual schools would be made available?”
Councillor Baugh, the Executive Member for Children’s Services reported that 833 penalty notices were issued in the last school year, however, she did not advise on announcing a breakdown of schools in a public forum. Acknowledging there were many reasons for unauthorised absence, the Council’s team monitored the situation throughout the year and would have discussions with schools where there were concerns.
Councillor Lally asked as a supplementary question where the monies raised from this policy were specifically spent and whether an example could be provided of where the money raised had directly benefited a teaching resource impacted by absence. Councillor Baugh understood that the money went back into the school’s budget and agreed to supply Councillor Lally with the details.
(e) Councillor Lally asked the following question, the second of four questions for which he had given notice:
“Following a Panorama investigation; advice was given that peer on peer sexual abuse reported cases represented just ‘the tip of the iceberg’ in particular reports of sexual offences on schools premises. However numbers have increased dramatically from 386 in 2013-14 to 922 in 2016-17, when reported by 31 police forces across England and Wales - including 225 rapes on school grounds over the four years. Please can I ask the Member responsible, should Trafford join the campaign in calling for a national strategy on sexual violence in schools?”
Councillor Baugh, the Executive Member for Children’s Services welcomed and would support any campaign that would help to keep children safe, however, was advised by the Safeguarding Team that the campaign Councillor Lally referred to related to sexual child abuse rather than sexual violence in schools. As a way forward there was a need to consult with all schools and Councillor Baugh agreed to keep Councillor Whetton, the Shadow Executive Member and Councillor Lally informed of the outcome.
As a supplementary question, Councillor Lally asked the Executive Member to write to the Police and Crime Commissioner to ensure accurate recording of offences, as he understood that the police were reluctant to record incidents carried out by a child younger than 10 years old, and also to request what action the Commissioner would be taking to prevent such incidents. Councillor Baugh advised that the police would have awareness as they were members of the Safeguarding Team and as, already indicated, the Council was going to consult, agreed to raise the matter and answer Councillor Lally’s queries.
(f) Councillor Lally asked the following question, the third of four questions for which he had given notice:
“Within the Labour Party literature ‘the Change Trafford needs’ (a manifesto that was published in April 2018), under the heading Getting The Basics Right: Pledge No.21, it states ‘we will hold Amey to account to raise standard of environmental services in Trafford.' Despite the continued leaf collection program numerous residents in my ward of Flixton are disappointingly having to wade through piles and piles of fallen leaves that remain on numerous streets. Furthermore with an image of the 'stomach churning sea of poo bags' as the Manchester Evening Newspaper put it; you can see why my residents have difficulty with this promise. Please can I ask whether the Leader of the Council has failed on his pledge?”
In response, Councillor Andrew Western, the Leader of the Council indicated that the answer to the question was no.
As a supplementary question, Councillor Lally asked for the Leader’s position regarding the charge applied for the use of green bins. Councillor A. Western outlined the performance with the Amey contract advising on the maintenance plans and schedules introduced since his administration had inherited the contract and indicated there had been a reduction in complaints. With regard to the specifics of green bins he made it clear that it was an objective of his administration to scrap the charge. At the current stage of the budget process it was not possible to say definitively if that ambition could be fulfilled, however, the Leader did reaffirm that if he was able to do so he would scrap the green bin charge.
(g) Councillor Lally asked the following question, the final question of four for which he had given notice:
“Please can I ask the Mayor / Member for Constitution Reform whether any thought have been given to balancing debate within this chamber? Of course members of any colour are open to speak on any subject. However when I refer to balance; I mean length of debate. I appreciate the chamber is limited to a 9.30 p.m. cut off; however as a Member I often find early submitted motions always receive more airtime no matter how repetitive the debate may get which is particularly frustrating when later motions are rushed?”
Councillor Freeman, the Executive Member for Constitutional Reform and Resident Engagement responded by referring Councillor Lally to the Constitution Working Group report on the meeting’s agenda (Minute No. 50) that addressed the matter.