Agenda item

Questions By Members

This is an opportunity for Members of Council to ask the Mayor, Members of the Executive or the Chairs of any Committee or Sub-Committee a question on notice under Procedure Rule 10.2.


The Mayor reported that 9 questions had been received under Procedure Rule 10.2.


(a)    Councillor Myers asked the following question for which he had given notice:


“Workers dealing with emergency repairs to the gas, electricity and water supply to Trafford residents often have to park their vehicles a long way from residents’ homes because of local parking restrictions. This can lead to delays in repairing the faults, increased disruption to residents and wasted time as workers have to go back and forth to their vehicles.


Will the Executive Member consider formally giving the same parking rights to emergency liveried vehicles as to Blue Badge holders? The Blue Badge entitlements are set out on the Trafford Council website.”


Councillor Adshead, Executive Member for Environmental and Regulatory Services advised that where tradespeople were visiting homes for urgent repairs to broken boilers or leaking pipes it was expected that they park lawfully wherever they could and to use the visitor card system in resident permit areas. Where this was not possible, parking dispensations could be applied for and details were on the Council website and whilst usually these needed to be done a few days ahead of time, requests could be received at shorter notice. Special exemptions also existed for statutory undertakers carrying out repairs to the gas, water or electricity network.


As a supplementary question Councillor Myers asked whether the Executive Member would consider formally adding parking for an emergency situation to the 6 legal grounds for appealing the penalty charge notice, a request Councillor Adshead was happy to take back for investigation.


(b)    Councillor Boyes asked the following question for which he had given notice:


“Can the Executive Member for Environmental and Regulatory Services please advise Council how many blocked gullies have been reported by members of the public and how many have been cleared in each year from 2017/18 onwards? In addition, can the Member please tell Council how many staff have been employed in the gully teams and the dig down crews in each of those years?"


Councillor Adshead, the Executive Member for Environment and Regulatory Services reported that in 2017 there was 1682 service requests, 1786 in 2018, 2728 in 2019, 2138 in 2020, 2155 in 2021 and 159 so far in 2022. Also, each year 16,000 gullies were scheduled for a routine clean in addition to the reactive calls that were attended to and the service had 2 gully crews to undertake routine and reactive work which had been in place with the contract since 2015. A dig down crew was also contracted to deal with underground problems and undertook jetting and dig downs during the course of the year to tackle such issues.


Councillor Boyes asked as a supplementary question whether the Executive Member could also advise the Council on what plans had been put in place to work with United Utilities, the Environment Agency and land owners after heavy flooding to ensure a more joined up approach was implemented to allow surplus waste water to drain away more efficiently in the future that had been the dreadful experience in previous years.


In response Councillor Adshead confirmed that there was regular liaison with the Environment Agency, United Utilities etc. and that a special group had been established to tackle the issue following the terrible events of the past few years as unfortunately with climate change and an aging infrastructure there was the likelihood of an increase of flood events. The Executive Member confirmed that he was happy to have a conversations with Councillor Boyes if was aware of any issues in his area.


(c)    Councillor Acton asked the following question for which he had given notice:


Please can the Leader give the Council an update on the Afghanistan Relocation and Assistance resettlement scheme in Trafford?”


The Leader of the Council, Councillor A. Western was pleased to report that to date 3 families had been settled in Trafford so far under the scheme. Working with partners the Council had identified 5 properties in the Borough to which those fleeing Afghanistan could find a home, 3 from Trafford Housing Trust, 1 from Onward Housing and 1 from a private landlord, with one of those properties still awaiting a match to be identified from the Home office.


All the families that had been accommodated had been supported by a dedicated support worker that had been employed using the funding made available from the scheme. They had been assisted to claim benefits, register for doctors and dentists, register for English language classes and attain school places for those with children of school age.


The support worker had worked intensively with all of the families and had assisted with the practicalities of settling into life in the UK and Councillor Andrew Western was proud to say that the Council had promoted a multi-agency approach to ensure smooth transitions for the families.


(d)    Councillor Jerrome asked the following question for which he had given notice:


“Trafford Council officers have agreed that communities can opt out of the weed spraying regime where appropriate. Why can’t we advertise this on our website, as Manchester City Council do,


and promote this as another element in working towards achieving our aim of a Pesticide-Free Trafford? A motion passed unanimously in March 2019.”


Councillor Adshead, Executive Member for Environment and Regulatory Services advised that as part of the One Trafford Partnership Contract review there was a piece of work to look at updating the Council’s website to improve communication and information on service provision with the public and members. It would be undertaken over the next few months and it was an opportunity to update the website to include information on how residents can apply to opt out of weed spraying similar to that offered by Manchester in their vicinity, street or area.


Whilst there was full support for the move to a pesticide free Trafford there had to be a recognition of some of the potential consequences of that change, which could include the potential for increased complaints due to some weeds growing out of control in some areas causing trip hazards to pedestrians and damage to the footway and highway. The transition to a pesticide free Trafford on the highway would require work with members, residents and businesses to enable a joined up approach to weed clearance that kept the borough’s streets safe, damage free and weed free longer term.


As a supplementary question, Councillor Jerrome asked what the Council had done since June 2020 when the Executive signed of the use of glysophate use in Trafford report further to the aims of the March 2019 which was to be 100% free from pesticide use. Councillor Adshead stated in response that work continued, although having been impeded by the pandemic, and the Council was looking at trialling products as they came onto the market and referring to the point made in the original question, re-affirmed that should residents wish to opt out the Council was happy to support.


(e)    Councillor Hartley asked the following question for which he had given notice:


“It was great news to see Bowker Court opening recently in Timperley delivering 30 socially rented apartments, the first new social housing to be delivered in Trafford in nearly 10 years.  Could the Executive Member for Housing and Regeneration tell me how many units of affordable housing have been delivered, and what proportion of those are for social rent, in the years since Labour started to lead the council in 2018?  And how does this compare to the last few years of Conservative control of the Council?”


Councillor Wright, Executive Member for Housing and Regeneration confirmed that since 2018, 59 units of social rent housing had been delivered which was 28% of the affordable housing total delivered for the period. In the four preceding years under the previous administration, 8 units for social rent were delivered which was 2% of the total affordable housing delivered in that period.


Councillor Hartley asked as a supplementary question whether the Executive Member could provide the same figures for units due for completion in the current year and what were the Council’s future plans to deliver more affordable housing in the borough. Councillor Wright confirmed that in the next financial year he was anticipating the completion of 333 affordable housing units of which 103 would be for social rent. In relation to improvement and expansion of the affordable housing project, the affordable housing fund had been introduced, the viability process had been significantly reformed with viability proposals now being publicised and affordable housing had been made a major priority in both the Council’s Local and Corporate Plans. Also, as the Executive Member he would continue to champion the cause for social and affordable housing.


(f)     Councillor Morgan asked the following question for which he had given notice:


“Could the Executive Member for Environmental and Regulatory Services confirm, as part of the OneTrafford contract 7 year review, when is the earliest that Trafford Council could theoretically pull out of the contract?”


In response, the Executive Member, Councillor Adshead advised that all of the options for termination of the contract have been investigated in depth in the last two years and the options were considered as part of the confidential part of the report to the Executive in November 2020. There was not an official break clause in the contract. In the absence of any contractual basis for terminating the contract the Council would automatically be in breach of its conditions and would be at risk of being made subject to substantial financial penalties as had been previously reported. Theoretically the Council could terminate the contract at the end of the 7 year review process, which was March 2022. Whilst the Council could terminate the Contract at that point it would need to pay Amey’s breakage costs and would need to make provision for arranging new Services which would also leave the Council with significant financial risks. The contract would continue for a period of 12 months after termination making the final date March 2023.


(g)    Councillor Newgrosh asked the following question for which he had given notice:


“Can the Executive Member for housing please inform us what percentage of our boroughs Social Housing meets (or exceeds) the current minimum legal requirement for its insulation?”


Councillor Wright, Executive Member for Housing and Regeneration advised that since the Council did not own any of Trafford’s Social Housing he did not have that information to hand, however, he was willing to write to the provider for the details.


Councillor Newgrosh thanked him for the offer and as a supplementary question asked for a meeting to consider, much like the winter care packs and support for energy bills the Council had given, what other innovative and practical ways the Council could help to insulate and shield residents from the coming energy crisis. Councillor Wright responded by confirming that he would be happy to facilitate a meeting.


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