Agenda item

Motions

For debate and decision.

 

The following motions had been received by the closing date at 10am on Tuesday, 21 June 2016.

 

Motion 772 – Highways satisfaction levels

Proposed by Cllr Paul Hodgkinson

Seconded by Cllr Chris Coleman

 

This Council expresses concern that the key performance indicators for Highways as published in recent Council papers show disappointing satisfaction levels with the service amongst both members and parish councils.

This Council believes that more needs to be done to improve satisfaction levels and that it is in the public interest to understand the reasons for such unsatisfactory levels of satisfaction.  

This Council therefore requests that the Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee conducts a detailed analysis of these satisfaction levels with the county’s highways and reports back for member discussion at the full Council meeting on 7 December 2016.  

 

Motion 773 – Children’s Centres

Proposed by Cllr Lesley Williams

Seconded by Cllr Brian Oosthuysen

 

This Council believes that the County’s Children’s Centres are an essential service which provides security, training and support to all families in Gloucestershire.

This Council believes that recent changes to the service leave it vulnerable to future closures.

This Council also raises concern that leaving some Children’s Centres ‘outside’ of local authority control will create a ‘two-tier’ system of service, which could serve to increase inequality in the County.

This Council asks that the Cabinet Member for Children and Families provides a report updating Council regarding the transition of these services to the new model before the end of March 2017. Following this, Council requests that the Cabinet member updates Councillors, on a twice yearly basis, on how this new service is performing, in order to ensure that the quality and consistency of the service is being maintained.

This Council also looks to the Cabinet Member and Leader of the Council for reassurance that the authority will take appropriate actions to ensure the anticipated outcomes of the new arrangements are delivered, and the confidence of the community in the Local Authority is maintained.

 

Motion 774 - Students and mental health

Proposed by Cllr Joe Harris

Seconded by Cllr Nigel Robbins

 

This Council notes the findings from the survey carried out by the Association of Colleges (AoC) in response to concerns about the increasing number of students with mental health difficulties in further education colleges.

This Council is concerned that there has been an increase in mental health problems amongst students in the county’s 26 school sixth forms, four further education colleges and two universities. 

This Council commends the range of support that is already being provided by the Council to sixth forms, colleges and universities, but wants to explicitly identify what joined-up approaches are being taken in the county to tackle and monitor the perceived increase in mental health problems amongst specifically students in Gloucestershire. 

This Council therefore resolves to create a cross-party student mental health task group that will invite evidence from school sixth forms, further education colleges, local universities, the Gloucestershire Suicide Prevention Partnership Forum (GSPPF) and providers of mental health services in order for a comprehensive report with recommendations to be presented back at full Council in February 2017.

Minutes:

Motion 772 – Highways satisfaction levels

In moving the motion detailed on the agenda, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson expressed serious concern that the performance indicators continued to show low levels of satisfaction with the Highways Service.  He said that time and again concerns had been raised but there were little signs of improvement.  He stated that communication from the Council’s highways contractor remained poor and they were failing to meet promises to address particular issues. 

 

In seconding the motion, Cllr Chris Coleman echoed the concerns raised by Cllr Hodgkinson.  He said that the Highways Service was remote and difficult to engage with.  He suggested that it might be time to return control to those that understood the needs of their local communities.  He questioned how data was collected, what difference it was making and how the collection and the analysis of the data could be strengthened to improve the service provided?

 

A member paid tribute to the work undertaken by the Area Highways Manager in his division but he expressed concern that not enough funds were available to allow schemes to be pursued.  He also referred to particular difficulties in his division with tree maintenance and traffic regulation orders.  He noted that a review of the highways contract was planned and there was an opportunity for the Cabinet Member to work with scrutiny in undertaking this work. 

 

Another member believed that road condition was deteriorating dramatically and councillors and the public had lost confidence in the service provided.

 

Cllr Vernon Smith, the Cabinet Member for Highways and Flood, advised that a document had just been published providing an analysis of complaints and the steps that were being to address problem areas.  He noted that the highways contractor had engaged the services of a retired Council officer to work with members to understand their particular concerns.  He said that the performance indicators for the condition of roads had improved significantly.  Unclassified roads were a particular challenge but their condition was now improving.  He accepted that more needed to be done but he believed that the Council was moving in the right direction.

 

Cllr Stan Waddington, the Chairman of the Highways Advisory Group, recognised that there had been difficulties but he said that steps were being taken by the highways contractor to address concerns.  Communication channels were much improved with a dedicated email for county councillors.  An online system was due to be launched in the Autumn that would provide real time information on highway activities in each area.  This information would not only be available to county councillors but also to others including parish and town councils.  Relationships  with parish and town councils were good in some areas but poor in others.

 

A member said that independently verified information showed that the condition of roads in the county was improving.  The backlog in maintenance had been reduced significantly.  He stated that national lobbying had resulted in new funding from the Government for highway maintenance.  Additional funding had been provided locally for the Highways Local and Lengthsman Schemes to allow members to address priorities in their own areas.

 

In summing up, Cllr Hodgkinson said that poor satisfaction levels were a strong indication that the service was not being provided to the level expected.  He believed that the public believed that road condition was deteriorating, not improving.  He questioned whether the highways contractor was being penalised for poor performance.

 

On being put to the vote, the motion received unanimous support.

 

RESOLVED that

 

This Council expresses concern that the key performance indicators for Highways as published in recent Council papers show disappointing satisfaction levels with the service amongst both members and parish councils.

 

This Council believes that more needs to be done to improve satisfaction levels and that it is in the public interest to understand the reasons for such unsatisfactory levels of satisfaction. 

 

This Council therefore requests that the Environment and Communities Scrutiny Committee conducts a detailed analysis of these satisfaction levels with the county’s highways and reports back for member discussion at the full Council meeting on 7 December 2016.

 

 

Motion 773 – Children’s Centres

In moving the motion detailed on the agenda, Cllr Lesley Williams expressed concern about the uncertainty around children’s centres following the recent Cabinet decision.  She recognised that improvements were needed in some areas but she did not believe that the answer was to rely on voluntary and community groups to run a number of the centres.  She said that it was important that there was strong central co-ordination to ensure that a consistent level of service was provided to families.  She noted that difficulties already appeared to be emerging with the way services would be provided in particular localities. If there was a breakdown in confidence, she questioned how an effective service could be provided to the most vulnerable families.  She was anxious that links between local government and communities were not severed.  She stressed the importance of proper scrutiny of the policy change agreed by the Cabinet.

 

In seconding the motion, Cllr Brian Oosthuysen noted the importance of early years support to children’s development.  He expressed concern at variations in service between those run by experienced professional staff and those run by volunteers.  He called for Cllr Paul McLain, the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People and Strategic Commissioning, to report back on progress.

 

Cllr Dr John Cordwell, the member for the Wotton Division, noted that the children’s centre in the town was being forced to move from NHS premises to the local library.  He said that he intended to monitor developments.

 

A member commended Cllr McLain on the new approach which targeted resources on the most vulnerable.  He did not believe that it was necessary for a further report to Council as ongoing monitoring would take place through the normal business of the Council.

Cllr Paul McLain recognised the concerns that had been expressed but he did not believe that the new approach would result in a two tier service.  He said that he welcomed the opportunity to report back to the Council on progress.  He noted that less than 50 per cent of the families needing support currently accessed children’s centres.  Under the new arrangements, 16 children’s centres located in the areas of most need would be funded by the Council.  The new approach would target the 10 per cent of children that were failing to meet their potential and would help to close the gap in educational attainment.  Referring to the Cotswolds, he stated that the service would be brought in-house to target particular families. He assured members that nursery education provided at children’s centres across the county would not be affected.

Another member indicated their support for the new approach and he commended Cllr McLain for his leadership on the issue.  He recognised other members’ concerns regarding the uncertainty caused by the policy change and noted the importance of ongoing monitoring.

A member stated that the Council was required by the Government to target the most vulnerable people.  He was concerned that some members were clinging to old fashioned ideas on how services should be provided.  The new approach would allow funds to be reinvested in a more focused service.

 

On being put to the vote, it was

 

RESOLVED that

 

This Council believes that the County’s Children’s Centres are an essential service which provides security, training and support to all families in Gloucestershire.

 

This Council believes that recent changes to the service leave it vulnerable to future closures.

 

This Council also raises concern that leaving some Children’s Centres ‘outside’ of local authority control will create a ‘two-tier’ system of service, which could serve to increase inequality in the County.

 

This Council asks that the Cabinet Member for Children and Families provides a report updating Council regarding the transition of these services to the new model before the end of March 2017. Following this, Council requests that the Cabinet member updates Councillors, on a twice yearly basis, on how this new service is performing, in order to ensure that the quality and consistency of the service is being maintained.

 

This Council also looks to the Cabinet Member and Leader of the Council for reassurance that the authority will take appropriate actions to ensure the anticipated outcomes of the new arrangements are delivered, and the confidence of the community in the Local Authority is maintained.

 

 

Motion 774 - Students and mental health

In moving the motion detailed on the agenda, Cllr Joe Harris noted the need to raise awareness of mental health issues and to get away from the stigma associated with mental illness. He stated that Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures showed a concerning upward trend in the number of students who were taking their own lives.  It was clear that the number of students suffering with mental health issues was rising but the resources available to help them in colleges had reduced significantly.  He said that Cirencester College had approached him about their particular concerns.  He believed that the Council needed to take a lead in working with partners in schools, colleges and the NHS.

 

In seconding the motion, Cllr Nigel Robbins referred to the importance of counselling and support to help people to recover from mental health illnesses.  He said that it was likely that between 3,000 and 4,000 students were studying in colleges in the county where limited support was available.  He stated that the purpose of the scrutiny task group was to assess the extent of the problem and propose steps that could be taken to help address concerns.

 

A number of members referred to their personal experiences of mental health issues within their own families and noted the importance of professional counselling and support.  Students were often living away from home for the first time and support mechanisms needed to be in place.  A critical aspect was spotting the signs of mental health illness and taking early steps to intervene. Mental health needed to be treated as a mainstream issue like other forms of illness with appropriate funding, treatment and support to individuals and families.  Nationally the number of people suffering from mental health illnesses was similar to those diagnosed with cancer but the treatment framework was no where near as well developed.

 

A member was concerned that waiting times were long and many young people were not getting the specialist support that they needed. Funding had increased for treating young people with mental health problems but there were suspicions that the money was not always being spent in the right areas.  In schools and colleges, it was important that teachers and tutors had access to specialist support.  

 

Cllr Steve Lydon, the County Councillor for Dursley, raised concerns around the availability of support across the county.  He said that he had been approached by the Citizen’s Advice Bureau regarding services available in the Dursley area.  He hoped that the scrutiny review could be widened to cover self-harm and the allocation of Public Health funding.

 

Cllr Kathy Williams, the Cabinet Member for Long-term Care, advised that Gloucestershire was the first county council to adopt a concordat on mental health.  She stated that the county had a Mental Health Partnership Board which brought agencies together but there was not a representative from education.  She said that she would ask for this to be addressed.

 

Cllr Andrew Gravells, the Cabinet Member for Public Health and Communities, indicated his support for the motion.  He said that there had been a briefing at a recent ‘Shadows’ meeting on a pilot to improve access to services in schools and colleges.  He noted that the Public Health Service commissioned a number of mental health services including the self-harm helpline.

 

A member paid tribute to the current and former chairs of the Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Cllrs Iain Dobie and Steve Lydon, for all their work relating to young people’s mental health services.

 

In summing up, Cllr Harris welcomed the support for the motion across the chamber.  Responding to a suggestion by some members that the review should sit under the Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee, he stated that he would prefer for the work to be undertaken by a standalone task group.  He said that this would encourage a wider range of members to get involved.

 

On being put to the vote, the motion received unanimous support.

 

RESOLVED that

 

This Council notes the findings from the survey carried out by the Association of Colleges (AoC) in response to concerns about the increasing number of students with mental health difficulties in further education colleges.

 

This Council is concerned that there has been an increase in mental health problems amongst students in the county’s 26 school sixth forms, four further education colleges and two universities. 

 

This Council commends the range of support that is already being provided by the Council to sixth forms, colleges and universities, but wants to explicitly identify what joined-up approaches are being taken in the county to tackle and monitor the perceived increase in mental health problems amongst specifically students in Gloucestershire. 

 

This Council therefore resolves to create a cross-party student mental health task group that will invite evidence from school sixth forms, further education colleges, local universities, the Gloucestershire Suicide Prevention Partnership Forum (GSPPF) and providers of mental health services in order for a comprehensive report with recommendations to be presented back at full Council in February 2017.

 

 

Urgent motion 775 – EU Referendum

The Chairman explained that, in light of the potential impact of the referendum vote to leave the EU, he was allowing an urgent motion to be presented.  He believed that it was important that members had the opportunity to debate the issue ahead of the next Council meeting on 14 September 2016.  He said that the motion would be jointly proposed by Cllrs Paul Hodgkinson, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, and Lesley Williams, Leader of the Labour Group.

 

Cllr Williams and Cllr Hodgkinson jointly proposed:

This Council recognises that as a result of the EU referendum it is highly likely that the UK will leave the EU in the next two years.

This Council also recognises that this Authority has a duty of leadership within the County, and as such resolves to best prepare itself and other county based organisations for the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

This Council believes that this is a matter of urgency as the Local Government Association (LGA) and the County Council Network (CCN) will soon begin discussions with Government about how this will affect councils across the country, and this Council believes that the potential changes to Gloucestershire must be heard. This Council also believes that local businesses, which are concerned about the UK leaving the EU, need to have confidence that their Local Authority is aware of all the challenges facing the county.

In the light of this decision this Council asks that the Leader begin an immediate review into the consequences of this referendum in all areas in which the EU has an effect on Local Authority business. This should also include a review of financial implications, particularly on Council investments. We ask that this review seek evidence from all relevant organisations across the county including, but not limited to, District Councils, the Local Enterprise Partnership and the Clinical Commissioning Group.  

This Council asks that the recommendations and results of this review are made available to the public and is actively shared with organisations such as the LGA and CCN so that it can inform their efforts to secure the best deal for Local Government. 

As a matter of urgency we also ask that a full list of projects that would be affected by the withdrawal of EU funding is made available for the September 2016 Council meeting, along with an interim report of potential challenges, followed by a full report in December 2016 if required.

Cllr Hodgkinson stated that it had been a momentous few days with the country facing its biggest crisis in his lifetime.  He said that it was clear that many of those who supported Brexit did not have any plan on how Britain would leave the EU.  He believed that the Council, alongside its partners on Leadership Gloucestershire, had an important role in leading the local community and assessing the impact on services.  EU funding supported a range of projects and services and the implications of losing funding needed to be properly assessed.  Members also needed to understand the impact on the Council’s budget and the pension fund.  He noted the importance of planning properly and doing everything possible to safeguard services to residents. 

Cllr Lesley Williams stated that the motion was not about how people voted in the EU Referendum but about the Council taking leadership during the challenging times ahead.  She said that the Council had a duty of care to protect the livelihoods of people in Gloucestershire.  People were already concerned about their jobs, their services and even their own personal safety.  She recognised that it was too early to say what the impact would be but it was important for the Council to assess the risks and put appropriate plans in place.

A number of other members spoke in support of the motion.  They were anxious that the Council’s exposure to the risks associated with Brexit was assessed and that appropriate plans were put in place.  There was serious concern that investment in the county would be delayed or even withdrawn. The position was unclear regarding the county’s devolution bid and with the upheaval in Government there was likely to be little progress until the Autumn.  Some members called for the appointment of a dedicated officer to assess the potential impact of leaving the EU on the Council.

A member noted that the Council employed a number of staff from Europe and he asked that they be reassured about their future employment.

Another member condemned xenophobic attacks.  He did not, however, support the motion which he believed was promoting ‘project fear’ after the people of Britain had clearly signalled their will to leave the EU.

Cllr Ray Theodoulou, the Cabinet Member for Finance and Change, reassured members that the Council’s financial position was strong with minimal exchange rate exposure and cash deposits held in safe and strong banks.  He said that the Pension Fund’s assets of £1.6 billion were well diversified amongst a range of investments across the world.  The date of the tri-annual valuation of the Pension Fund was 31 March 2016 so there would be no impact from the EU Referendum on contribution rates.  He stated that there was no risk to pension payments to staff. 

A member noted that young people had voted overwhelmingly to stay in Europe.  He stated that they did not understand what leaving the EU would mean for them.  He believed that the Council had a duty to provide leadership in uncertain times. 

Cllr Mark Hawthorne, the Leader of the Council, stated that it was time for cool and calm reflection.  Leaving the EU was two years or more away and life in Britain would continue.  He said that it was not about party politics but about a country having an opportunity to express a view on a particular issue. He recognised that the Council, in common with other public sector organisations, received EU funding for a number of projects.  The job of councillors as local politicians was to pause, reflect and listen to the views of local people.  The Local Government Association would represent the interests of local authorities and assess the potential impact. 

On being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED that

This Council recognises that as a result of the EU referendum it is highly likely that the UK will leave the EU in the next two years.

This Council also recognises that this Authority has a duty of leadership within the County, and as such resolves to best prepare itself and other county based organisations for the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

This Council believes that this is a matter of urgency as the Local Government Association (LGA) and the County Council Network (CCN) will soon begin discussions with Government about how this will affect councils across the country, and this Council believes that the potential changes to Gloucestershire must be heard. This Council also believes that local businesses, which are concerned about the UK leaving the EU, need to have confidence that their Local Authority is aware of all the challenges facing the county.

In the light of this decision this Council asks that the Leader begin an immediate review into the consequences of this referendum in all areas in which the EU has an effect on Local Authority business. This should also include a review of financial implications, particularly on Council investments. We ask that this review seek evidence from all relevant organisations across the county including, but not limited to, District Councils, the Local Enterprise Partnership and the Clinical Commissioning Group.  

This Council asks that the recommendations and results of this review are made available to the public and is actively shared with organisations such as the LGA and CCN so that it can inform their efforts to secure the best deal for Local Government. 

As a matter of urgency we also ask that a full list of projects that would be affected by the withdrawal of EU funding is made available for the September 2016 Council meeting, along with an interim report of potential challenges, followed by a full report in December 2016 if required.