Up to 30 minutes is allowed for this item.
To answer any written members’ questions.
The closing date for receipt of questions is 10am on Wednesday, 28 August 2013. Please send questions to the Chief Executive marked for the attention of Stephen Bace (email email@example.com).
Questions received and proposed responses do not accompany this agenda but will be circulated prior to the meeting.
Twenty five member questions were received. A copy of the questions and answers was circulated and is attached to the signed copy of the minutes.
The following supplementary questions were asked:
Question 1 – Cllr Paul Hodgkinson stated that he was glad to hear of the importance being placed on faster broadband for all of Gloucestershire. He expressed concern that in some areas the speed was not sufficient and asked that a roll out plan be published with timescales and key deliverables. He suggested that this could be done through a quarterly report.
Cllr Mark Hawthorne stated that £7.5m had been invested in the project and the aim was to deliver 2 mega bits per second broadband across the county. This was a complicated project but there was a clear and robust working relationship with BT to ensure the best value for taxpayers. BT was currently undertaking an evaluation of the roll out and the project was well ahead of schedule. He stated that he would endeavour to ensure there was a mechanism in place to keep all members informed and up to date with information within the parameters of the contract.
Question 2 – Cllr Paul Hodgkinson expressed concern around the level of funding for cycling and asked whether the Council would consider projects that would help facilitate cycling, referencing a project by Churn Valley Cycle Group. This used an existing bridle path for a safer mountain bike and walking route, between Cirencester and North Cerney at virtually zero cost for the council. He asked when the Council would look at a mechanism for promoting and facilitating better cycling across the county that did not impact significantly on the budget.
Cllr Vernon Smith responded that cycling was an important issue, that he welcomed any ideas, and that he believed in working in partnership with districts. He referred to the work within his own division around the ‘healthy towns’ initiative.
Question 3 – Cllr Iain Dobie asked whether there were plans in place in response to the Government’s announcement of additional funding for cycling, including reinstating a dedicated officer position, or creating ways of fulfilling the roles of the post.
Cllr Vernon Smith reiterated that he would be happy to talk to members about any ideas around partnership working and would be keen to work with partners on suggestions they had in relation to bidding for funding in this area.
Question 4 – Cllr Jeremy Hilton asked whether the Council would be informed of any applications made to DECC for a Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence.
Cllr Will Windsor-Clive responded that he would inquire about this and get back to the member.
Question 5 – Cllr Jeremy Hilton noted the answer to the question and expressed surprise that no map was available. He reiterated his desire to be provided with a map of shale deposits in Gloucestershire.
Cllr Will Windsor Clive stated that no specific map was available to rely on.
Question 6 – Cllr Jeremy Hilton noted that the Gloucestershire Minerals Local Plan was adopted in 2003 and asked if it was time to review the plan and understand where the shale deposits were.
Cllr Will Windsor-Clive stated that it was up to the regulating authority to know where the deposits were.
Question 9 – Cllr Jeremy Hilton asked that members be provided with information on the Supporting People contracts currently being awarded to providers.
Cllr Kathy Williams responded that they were concluding the process and members would be provided with information once the contracts had been awarded.
Question 11 – Cllr Steve Lydon requested that the Council look at the net effect of the move to academies on support services for schools. His question was in regards to the financial side stating that the Local Education Authority provided excellent services.
Cllr Ray Theodoulou stated that if there were a diminishing number of schools then there would be some reduction in the use of the support services. It was important to keep the services at sufficient quality as there was now an element of competition. At this time some academies had chosen to take up the support services such as health and safety, legal and payroll.
Question 13 – Cllr Lesley Williams asked whether in the roles identified that zero hour contracts had always been in place, whether information could be given as to how many hours had been worked in total on those contracts in 2012/13, and whether the County Council could take steps to ensure that contractors did not use zero hours contracts.
In response, Cllr Ray Theodoulou outlined that zero hour contracts had been used for a number of years but in an ethical way. The member would be provided with the information regarding the number of hours worked in 2012/13 and he stated that with regards to contractors, the best way was to set an example.
Question 14 – Cllr Ricahrd Leppington stated that for every pound spent with a local company, 69 pence remained within the local economy. He asked whether, to boost Gloucestershire based businesses, that the Council work towards increasing its purchasing from Gloucestershire based businesses to 75% over the next four years.
Cllr Ray Theodoulou stated that discussions had been held with local businesses to move towards an increase in using local suppliers but that the outcomes from this would take time to work through. Generally the Council was in favour of keeping money in Gloucestershire with local businesses. The Council had responsibilities around achieving the best value for taxpayers and this had to be considered as well.
Question 15 – Cllr Brian Oosthuysen felt that with the contract there should have been a plan for every possible outcome, he asked why the contract with UBB had not been amended in this case.
Cllr Mark Hawthorne reiterated that this was the standard DEFRA contract, DEFRA and the treasury had spent a huge amount of time looking at the contract and assessing the risks. Gloucestershire County Council received advice and support from DEFRA to achieve the best possible outcome for residents with regards to the contract arrangements.
Question 17 – Cllr Brian Oosthuysen questioned what legal advice that had been given regarding the action the County Council could take following the Planning Committee decision.
Cllr Ray Theodoulou stated that external and internal legal advice had been taken and had been clear that the County Council could not amend the contract.
Question 18 - Cllr Joe Harris asked whether the Cabinet Member would wish to meet with residents in Cirencester to discuss residents’ parking schemes.
Cllr Vernon Smith indicated that he would be happy to meet residents on this issue.
Question 19 - Cllr Joe Harris requested that the parts of the Garbutt report that had been omitted due to the police investigation be released to the public.
Cllr Mark Hawthorne stated that with regards to the Garbutt report, it had involved all parties and its implementation had been overseen by the Audit Committee. The report was comprehensive and passed on the City of London Police. He stated that he was not aware that there were parts of the report that had not been released. If there were any parts not previously released then, with the permission of the City of London Police, these would be made available.
Question 21 – Cllr Sarah Lunnon asked whether legal advice had now been obtained relating to the disposal of waste and could she be provided with what that advice was.
Cllr Ray Theodoulou stated that the Council was still waiting for that advice.
Question 22 – Cllr Sarah Lunnon stated that from the answer, she felt that no action had been taken to consult with contributors or beneficiaries on the investment strategy. She asked for assurances that the Council would undertake to ask them if they were in agreement with the strategy and if it was one they could endorse in relation to ethical concerns.
Cllr Ray Theodoulou stated that he would not undertake this. The administration was responsible for administering the pension fund and always acted in a practical way taking account all the interests of the various parties into consideration.
Question 24 – Cllr Barry Kirby asked if the member was aware of the national increase in the statistic of over 60% of children killed or seriously injured walking to school. He emphasised the reduction in lollypop men and women and asked if the member could guarantee the safety of children.
Cllr Paul McLain replied that he would continue to work to improve the safety of children in Gloucestershire particularly through the Health and Wellbeing Board.
Question 25 – Cllr Barry Kirby asked whether Gloucestershire County Council should be paying a more pivotal and leadership role in co-ordinating the strategy around traveller sites securing an adequate county wide provision.
Cllr Dorcas Binns responded that the County Council worked closely with district and borough councils co-ordinating the gypsy and traveller needs assessment.
Cllr Joe Harris submitted the following urgent question after the deadline for questions:
‘On Tuesday there was a serious collision on the Spine Road Station Road junction in South Cerney. This is the second serious collision in as many weeks. Will the Cabinet Member urgently look into what can be done to prevent further accidents on this junction such as installing traffic lights like many residents have requested?’
The Chairman indicated that this should be considered outside of the meeting by the Cabinet Member and the answer would be copied to all members of Council.