Up to 30 minutes is allowed for this item.
To answer any written member questions about matters which are within the powers and duties of the County Council.
The closing date for receipt of questions is 10am on Wednesday, 16 March 2016. Please send questions to the Chief Executive marked for the attention of Stephen Bace (email firstname.lastname@example.org).
Questions received and proposed responses do not accompany this agenda but will be circulated prior to the meeting.
Question 1 – Cllr Iain Dobie noted the response which outlined that there were currently no or very few viable alternatives to diesel. He asked whether advantage could be taken of new technology which provided electric vans at competitive prices. He commended the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office for committing to buy electric alternatives for the Police vehicle fleet..
Cllr Vernon Smith responded by stating that as alternative technologies developed he would be keen to listen to proposals, but that he did not feel that there were suitable alternatives currently available for heavy duty vehicles.
Question 8 – Cllr Barry Kirby noted that the responses to his previous questions around how Gloucestershire County Council services could be delivered to the Cotswold had explained that the Council had not seen detailed proposals. He questioned how the Cabinet Member had been able to provide the information for his answer on highways in the Cotswold.
Cllr Vernon Smith explained that his answer had come from past highways information. Cllr Mark Hawthorne outlined that the answers to the previous questions were due to the Council having not received the detail from Cotswold District Council.
Question 15 – Cllr Iain Dobie asked for the Cabinet Member’s views on the direction from Government to form academies and expressed his concerns around the availability of local secondary school places and the local authority not having oversight of school improvement and catchment areas.
In response, Cllr Paul McLain explained that the local authority did not currently have many of the controls outlined by Cllr Dobie and that there would still be oversight of school based planning. In relation to concerns around secondary school places, he stated that the extra demand for places from the Leckhampton development could be met from the expansion of existing schools in the area.
Question 16 – Cllr Iain Dobie asked whether, if parents in the area of the Leckhampton development wished to set up a free school, would the Council make some of its land available if approached?
Cllr Paul McLain replied that if parents wished to set up a free school, this was a conversation with central government. For any secondary school to be successful a five form entry was needed and he suggested that realistically there was not the demand in the area to meet that.
Question 19 - Cllr Paul Hodgkinson asked whether the Council had provided oversight of the school’s Supply Mutual Scheme. He questioned when officers had been informed of the deficit in the scheme and what action had been taken.
Cllr Paul McLain explained that the scheme was run by schools for schools and that the Council provided an administration role. The Schools Forum had been informed of the likely deficit in the previous year and individual schools had been notified in February 2016. He acknowledged that individual schools could have been notified earlier.
Question 21 – Cllr Paul Hodgkinson suggested that some schools had lost confidence in the Council due to the issue of the schools Supply Mutual Scheme and he asked how the member would address that.
In response Cllr McLain stated that he was surprised by the member’s suggestion and that the deficit was being subsidised by an amount from Dedicated Schools Grant. This equated to a small amount per school. He suggested that the deficit had arisen due to larger schools withdrawing from the scheme. He was happy to speak to schools on an individual basis.
Question 26 – Cllr Paul McMahon asked for the Cabinet Member’s view on the potential for care providers using zero hour contracts to avoid paying the living wage.
Cllr Dorcas Binns stated that care providers carried out a good service and that many provided information on their staff structure.
Question 28 – Cllr Lesley Williams asked if the Leader could confirm that there were no planned consultations or pre-consultations on changing how libraries operated.
Cllr Mark Hawthorne replied that the County Llibrary Service was always changing. He referred to the recent roll-out of wi-fi and he said that the Council would continue to look at new and innovative ways for the service to operate.
Question 29 – Cllr Lesley Williams thanked the member for the response and stated that it was good news that women breastfeeding would be supported for up to six months.
Question 30 – Cllr Paul Hodgkinson asked whether broadband money for the Cotswold had been suspended and when and why this decision had been made.
Cllr Mark Hawthorne stated that following the announcement from Cotswold regarding unitary discussions with West Oxfordshire, the Council had to reflect what impact this would have on initiatives that had been agreed with Cotswold. There was a commitment to broadband across Gloucestershire and there was a desire to continue to work with Cotswold on this. If at some point Cotswold was not part of Gloucestershire any Gloucestershire funding to Cotswold would cease.
Question 31 – Cllr Richard Leppington explained that some of his constituents had concerns about undue influence of freemasons and asked for the sake of transparency whether it was possible to change the register of interests for members to make it compulsory to declare such membership.
Cllr Nigel Robbins replied that group leaders in the past had been asked to encourage members to make declarations and that any change to the register of interests requirements would need to be requested through Constitution Committee.
Question 32 – Cllr Sarah Lunnon suggested that if Cotswold was to be a part of a new unitary then waste disposal would reside with that unitary. She asked what impact that would have on the Gloucestershire residual waste contract.
In response, Cllr Ray Theodoulou explained that the contract included exclusive rights to Cotswold waste until 2044.
Question 33 – Cllr Jeremy Hilton asked for the Cabinet Member’s views on schools becoming academies and noted a number of good schools under the responsibility of the Council.
Cllr Paul McLain stated that the move to academies put greater responsibility and control into the hands of head teachers. He suggested that schools understood best about local issues. With regards to the services provided by local authorities he commented on the good service provided by the School Improvement Team and that he would not like to see that expertise lost. He felt there were opportunities for services to develop in different ways.