Agenda item

Questions at Cabinet Meetings

Up to 30 minutes is allowed for this item.

 

Written questions

 

To answer any written questions from a County Councillor, (or any person living or working in the county, or is affected by the work of the County Council), about any matter which relates to any item on the agenda for this meeting.

 

The closing date for the receipt of written questions is 4.00 pm on Thursday 7 December 2017.

 

Oral questions

 

To answer any oral questions from members of the public. An oral question may be asked by a member of the public about any item on the agenda for this meeting, provided notice of the question is given by the questioner to the Chief Executive’s representative at least 30 minutes prior to the start of the meeting.

 

Depending on the nature of the questions, it may not be possible to provide a comprehensive answer at the meeting, in which case a written answer will be provided as soon as reasonably possible after the meeting. Questions received and proposed responses do not accompany this agenda but will be circulated prior to the meeting.

 

Minutes:

Public Questions

 

No public questions were considered at the meeting.

 

Member Questions

 

A total of 14 member questions were submitted in advance of the meeting.

 

Please refer to the link below to view the responses to the questions: -

 

http://glostext.gloucestershire.gov.uk/documents/b13851/Member%20Questions%20and%20Answers%20-%2013%20December%202017%20Wednesday%2013-Dec-2017%2010.00%20Cabinet.pdf?T=9

 

If you are unable to access the document at the above link, please go to the link below and select the ‘Cabinet Questions and Answers’ PDF document at the top of the web page: - 

 

http://glostext.gloucestershire.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?MId=8412&x=1

 

The following supplementary questions were asked at the meeting.

 

Question 1: Cllr Iain Dobie

 

Agenda Item 9: To establish a new Secondary School for Cheltenham 

 (Pages 145 to 154 of the agenda pack)

 

Cllr Dobie referred to the response to the question “I know Cllr Dobie has previously suggested county council use land it owns in Leckhampton as a site for a new academy" and stated that this was untrue and had never been suggested.

 

Cllr Dobie explained that, to build on Leckhampton Fields was a highly controversial matter within his division, and by using such words, Cllr Stowe was mischievously seeking to hand his political opponents a stick with which to beat him with during the upcoming Cheltenham Borough Council elections. Cllr Dobie asked Cllr Stowe to agree to delete the words from the formal record?"

 

Response by: Cllr Lynden Stowe: Cabinet Member for Economy, Skills and Growth

 

Cllr Stowe advised that the comments referred to in his response had been taken from the minutes of a meeting of full council last year. Cllr Stowe suggested this should have been the time to challenge the comments and agreed to forward a copy of the words to Cllr Dobie. Cllr Stowe suggested Cllr Dobie engage with Democratic Services, if not satisfied with this response. 

 

Question 2: Cllr Paul Hodgkinson

 

Agenda Item 5: Medium Term Financial Strategy 2018/19 to 2020/21 (Pages 9 to 114)

 

Cllr Hodgkinson stated that Council Tax had been increased by 4 per cent and asked if the Cabinet Member felt the 9.4 % reduction in the Central Government Funding was acceptable? He also asked if Cllr Theodoulou agreed with the reduction?

 

Response by: Cllr Ray Theodoulou: Cabinet Member for Finance and Change

 

Cllr Theodoulou stated “We are, where we are. If there is no money, we cannot spend it”. Making references to how he felt the position reflected the real world, Cllr Theodoulou referred to the sorrow and misery brought about the previous Labour Government overspend.

 

Question 3: Cllr Paul Hodgkinson

 

Agenda Item 5: Medium Term Financial Strategy 2018/19 to 2020/21 (Pages 9 to 114)

 

Cllr Hodgkinson enquired what specifically the additional money from the transfer of funds to the transformation reserve would be used for in respect of the A417. Cllr Hodgkinson related his question to the fatal accident on the A417 that day.

 

Response by: Cllr Ray Theodoulou: Cabinet Member for Finance and Change

 

Cllr Theodoulou informed Cllr Hodgkinson that the reserve would be used to pump and prime start up points for work on the A417. He advised members that the Prime Minister had recently expressed her support for the project and that he believed the project would go ahead.

 

Question 4: Cllr Paul Hodgkinson

 

Agenda Item 5: Medium Term Financial Strategy 2018/19 to 2020/21 (Pages 9 to 114)

 

Cllr Hodgkinson stated that the Highways Local Budget was to be reduced from £30k to £10k per member. Cllr Hodgkinson asked the Cabinet Member to justify the reduction.

 

Response by: Cllr Ray Theodoulou: Cabinet Member for Finance and Change

 

Cllr Theodoulou explained that the £30k funding allocated via the Highways Local Scheme was still there, and would continue to be available to improve roads and other local issues. As stated during previous discussions with Cllr Hodgkinson, Cllr Theodoulou felt there was a real need to promote community engagement. He also felt there was a need to comply with government legislation. Cllr Theodoulou considered this a good compromise.

 

Question 5: Cllr Paul Hodgkinson

 

Agenda Item 5: Medium Term Financial Strategy 2018/19 to 2020/21 (Pages 9 to 114)

 

Cllr Hodgkinson noted that the general reserves fund was anticipated to reduce to £18m and enquired, how, with the need to use more reserves, this could be sustainable if the reserves continued to reduce? 

 

Response by: Cllr Ray Theodoulou: Cabinet Member for Finance and Change

 

Cllr Theodoulou advised of the numerous calls on reserves, including those from the Liberal Democrats. He clarified how important it was to be careful with the council’s spending and that general reserves should be between 4 and 6 per cent. However, if costs overran this year, reducing general fund balances even further, it may be necessary to use reserves. .

 

Question 6: Cllr Jeremy Hilton

 

Agenda Item 5: Medium Term Financial Strategy 2018/19 to 2020/21 (Pages 9 to 114)

 

Cllr Hilton clarified that his question referred to the Highways Local Scheme and not the Lengthsman or the Growing our Communities Schemes. Cllr Hilton stated that the Lengthsman Scheme did not work in his area and that he was very disappointed about the proposed cuts in the Highways Local Scheme.

Cllr Hilton asked why the cabinet member considered it necessary to reduce funding from £30K per county division per year to £10K per annum? 

 

Response by: Cllr Vernon Smith: Cabinet Member for Highways and Flood

 

Cllr Smith informed Cllr Hilton that the Lengthsman Scheme would continue as part of the new Highways Contract, a decision welcomed by many Councillors.

 

He said that the Highways Local Scheme was a fantastic scheme. Overall, each member would receive £60k for their division, more than the amount allocated by the Highways Local Scheme. Cllr Smith advised that this provided an opportunity for members to decide where they wanted to spend more money in their areas and to prioritise local needs.

 

Question 7: Cllr Jeremy Hilton

 

Agenda Item 5: Medium Term Financial Strategy 2018/19 to 2020/21 (Pages 9 to 114)

 

Cllr Hilton noted the breakdown in Public Health spending given in the answer to Question 13. Questioning the response to this question, Cllr Hilton said re-commissioning was meaningless without the details on how it was achieved and asked if he could be provided with specific details on how the services listed had been re-commissioned to save £640,000?

Response by: Cllr Tim Harman: Cabinet Member for Public Health and Communities

 

Cllr Harman stated that re-commissioning included re-shaping services, using the money more effectively and in different ways. On visits to local services, Cllr Harman had been impressed by the high standards being delivered. 

 

Question 9: Cllr Jeremy Hilton

 

Agenda Item 5: Medium Term Financial Strategy 2018/19 to 2020/21 (Pages 9 to 114)

 

Cllr Hilton suggested that the projected savings were more modest than those that had been suggested by the Leader three years ago on BBC Radio Gloucestershire.

Noting that the Strategic Waste Reserve had been £12m in March 2012 and was set to rise to nearly £38m by March 2018, an increase of just under £26m in six years, Cllr Hilton repeated his question and asked if Cllr Moor planned to increase the reserve further during the life of the council?

Response by: Cllr Nigel Moor: Cabinet Member for Fire, Planning and Infrastructure

 

Cllr Moor stated Cllr Hilton had received the answer to this question many times before.

 

Question 10: Cllr Jeremy Hilton

 

Agenda Item 5: Medium Term Financial Strategy 2018/19 to 2020/21 (Pages 9 to 114)

 

Cllr Hilton enquired if budgeted savings of £167,000 in respect of household recycling centres included reduced opening hours during winter months?


Response by: Cllr Nigel Moor: Cabinet Member for Fire, Planning and Infrastructure

 

Cllr Moor referred to his original answer and confirmed no decision had been made. A review of household recycling centre opening hours would be made next year.

 

Question 11: Cllr Jeremy Hilton

 

Agenda Item 5: Medium Term Financial Strategy 2018/19 to 2020/21 (Pages 9 to 114)

 

Cllr Hilton noted the opening hours of the Hempsted Household Recycling Centre, (open daily from 9:00 am to 6:15 pm except for Christmas Day and New Year's Day), and questioned why cabinet would want to reduce the opening hours at the centre. Cllr Hilton enquired what impact this might have on staff contracts?

Response by: Cllr Nigel Moor: Cabinet Member for Fire, Planning and Infrastructure

 

Cllr Moor expressed his disappointment at Cllr Hilton’s question and said the comments were unnecessary and would raise anxieties amongst operatives. 

 

Question 13: Cllr Paul Hodgkinson

 

Agenda Item 5: Medium Term Financial Strategy 2018/19 to 2020/21 (Pages 9 to 114)

 

Cllr Hodgkinson noted proposed budget reductions of 13 per cent in Sexual Health, 33 per cent in NHS Health Checks and 11 per cent in Public Mental Health. Cllr Hodgkinson asked, taking into account repeated announcements from the Prime Minister and the Government about the importance of tackling mental health, how the cabinet member could justify the cuts in the mental health spending? 

 

Response by: Cllr Tim Harman: Cabinet Member for Public Health and Communities

 

Cllr Harman advised Cllr Hodgkinson that the services he referred to were in the process of being re-commissioned.

 

Acknowledging the importance of mental health, the Leader of the Council informed members that the council did a great deal more than was suggested by the Public Health contribution.

 

Members noted that at the last cabinet meeting, it had been announced that the council was working on an exercise, (including a special meeting of the Health and Wellbeing Board in January 2018), to review the effectiveness of the council in providing public health services.

 

Question 14: Cllr Paul Hodgkinson

 

Agenda Item 5: Medium Term Financial Strategy 2018/19 to 2020/21 (Pages 9 to 114)

 

Cllr Hodgkinson expressed concern that, within the Highways Budget there was nothing to rectify the major issues on the old A40 near Northleach and on the A435 from Cheltenham to Charlton Kings. Cllr Hodgkinson asked why there no specific budget had been set to address these issues.

 

Response by: Cllr Vernon Smith: Cabinet Member for Highways and Flood

 

Cllr Smith hoped Cllr Hodgkinson agreed with him that the draft budget presented very positive highways proposals. In respect of the old A40, he said that the issue related to a landslip, classified as ‘catastrophic’, for which further geological surveys were required. On the A435, there had been 4 different landslips, all of which were being looked at. Cllr Smith explained, it was very difficult to put a specific amount in the budget for either of these issues until the surveys had been completed and a decision on what solutions there might be.

 

Oral Questions

 

One oral question was asked at the meeting.

 

Cllr Tom Coole, (Gloucester City Councillor for Matson and Robinswood and

Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at the City Council), asked the following question:

 

Item 9: To establish a new Secondary School for Cheltenham 

 

Would the Cabinet Member: Economy, Skills and Growth consider publishing the feasibility study carried out on expanding existing schools, including Bournside, Balcarras and Millbrook, as an alternative to the proposals laid out within the report?

 

Cllr Lynden Stowe, Cabinet Member for Economy, Skills and Growth, confirmed there would be a review of these schools, (plus other schools), in Spring 2018. The data used during the feasibility study was robust, drawing information from a wide source. This was backed up by strong evidence.

 

Cllr Stowe said he would take on board Cllr Coole’s question and would advise of the outcome of the study after the meeting.

Supporting documents: