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Agenda item

Question Time:

(i)                 To answer questions from members of the public pursuant to Procedure Rule No. 10.

 

(ii)               To answer questions from members of the Council pursuant to Procedure Rule No. 11

 

Minutes:

QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL NO. 1

 

Under Procedure Rule No 11, Councillor Dr S Peaple will ask the Leader of the Council, Councillor D Cook, the following question:-

 

“As the Council states that Tamworth has been open for business since the 7th Century and traffic movements on Junction 10 are now regularly slower than that of a Saxon horse and cart, would the Leader of the Council tell us what steps he has taken to gain funding to alleviate the problems being faced by the businesses based in Tamworth and those based in North Warwickshire but which provide considerable employment to our residents?”

 

Councillor D Cook gave the following reply:-

 

“Thank you Mr Mayor.

 

It is important I cover the whole of the question asked

 

Denis Havlik of Vienna University in Austria, a Ph.D and expert in experimental Physics states the average speed of a horse and cart is barely faster than a walk. He would expect the average speed of a cart to be near to 5km/h, 10km/h at most. Speed depends on many factors, including the quality of roads, weather, and the nature of the travelling party. One estimate suggests that a small group with good horses could move as much as 30 miles in a single day. On the other hand, a larger group that included pack animals, a cart, or travellers on foot might make only half that distance. This would not, however, include rest days, bad weather or roads, natural obstacles such as rivers and mountains, and so forth.

 

So if we said for the sake of argument that the horse, the cart and all travellers and associated carry on goods aboard travels at an average speed of 7kph, so basically about 4.38 miles per hour. Then the distance from the top of the slip road at Ventura to the slip road North on the M42 at Junction 10 is give or take exactly 3 miles.

 

It would therefore take the horse and cart and travellers and associated carried goods around 41 minutes to traverse this distance. Even in rush hour, other than an accident on the A5, I am sure I can get from Ventura to over Junction 10 in less than 41 minutes in my lovely Ford Focus. Incidentally the government calculated average speed for rush hour is 18mph.

 

What do we take from this analysis Mr Mayor? We deduce that if the Leader of the opposition is playful with his questions in your chamber I am pretty sure I can reciprocate in my answers.

 

However, let me answer the actual question

 

Councillor Peaple is correct of course that the junction is critical to residents, businesses and visitors to Tamworth and it is clear it is a busy junction and often experiences congestion in peak times. This possibly a reflection of our success as a place – people going to and from work, businesses moving goods and services, visitors coming to experience our excellent leisure offer.

 

The responsibility for the A5 and M42 and junction 10 is Highways England and we are aware HE have been studying the routes recently and this Council have asked our County colleagues to ensure in their discussions with HE to ensure the junction is considered

 

They advise to both us and North Warwickshire Borough Council when applications for further development come in and request for monies to undertake mitigation works as needed and as opportunities arise.

 

We also monitor the activities of the A5 partnership (of which HE member) and has recently produced a strategy which acknowledges the congestion a

And capacity issues in the area thus it is clear this is a strategic matter – bound up with wider discussions about strategic roads across the midlands area. Midlands Connect and the WMCA key players in this – further reason why being a member of WMCA is good for Tamworth.

 

On Monday 2nd December 2018 Cabinet and senior officers met with representatives of HS2. We made our feelings very clear in HS2 crossing part of the junction and the opportunities this presents to fix it. We will be following up in partnership with the MP to argue that further works should be done to improve capacity and alleviate congestion.

 

The MP, Chris Pincher also has asked me at the start of December for all information on the junction so he can personally speak with the minister. I have provided him chapter and verse and look forward to his findings.

 

I am also aware the Hinckley and Bedworth Council are communicating with government in regards the A5 and also raised in there points Junction 10.

 

Given the developments in NWBC Local Plan for housing and extensions to Birch Coppice it is essential this stays on our radar and opportunities to mitigate or improve the junction remain a full priority.

 

Thank you Mr Mayor.”

 

 Councillor Dr.S Peaple asked the following supplementary question

 

 

Thank you Mr Mayor It’s always good at Xmas to feed Councillor Cook a question. He always enjoys answering them. Now that he’s had his enjoyment I will draw him back to one of the points  he made which is that the developments that are proposed mean that we have the opportunity to seek mitigation however in most recent presentations we had by the developer for over 1500 homes they were proposing that the traffic impact study shows no need to do anything so I think we are going to have to cut through and what I’m asking the leader of the Council is to continue now to make real endeavour to ask people to think big because most of us who were at the meeting where various Councillors said “well surely we can have another junction a bit further up to take some of the traffic,. We get the highway policy is not to allow more than one junction in so many miles and we are all thinking what about 31, 31A and 23, 23A, We can all see where these policies have gone wrong so what I’m asking the leader to do is commit and obviously hoping the current Member of Parliament (Congratulations on him been restored to Privy Council) that he will continue to have influence. But what we are hoping is that we are going to get some money because there is no record that HS2 paying out unless they are going underneath the marginal constituency In the green part of England in which case they make a Ton, But that’s the only sort of mitigation we have seen so far and out of that 62 Billion I think some of it should be coming to junction 10 or we will get trains coming past here at 200 kmph doing nothing for Tamworth except destroy our industry based around distribution.”

 

Councillor D Cook gave the following reply:-

 

“Thank you Mr Mayor I acknowledge all these points and can assure Councillor Peaple that myself and Councillor Claymore and Mr Barratt have been in very regular conversations with the County Council, The County Council are currently producing a Plan of Staffordshire Traffic Impact Report we are hoping to see it some point around election time next year not to tie in with the election but that’s when it’s going to be ready.. Basically they are also leaning on Warwickshire to produce their side of it. What we want to do as Tamworth, even if it costs us Councillors time and a little bit of money is connect the two and see what the impact says. What the report should look to achieve is as of housing developments come online over the 20 years should they all happen what starts to happen to the connectivity of our roads and this report is going to be essential for us to fight possible development and to insist on mitigation that actually works for Tamworth. It’s an important piece of work and I thank County Council for taking it on for us.”

 

QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL NO. 2

 

Under Procedure Rule No 11, Councillor Dr S Peaple will ask the Leader of the Council, Councillor D Cook, the following question:-

 

“I am sure that the Leader would wish to join me in congratulating all those volunteers who have made SPIN a success over the past 30 years in Tamworth and wish them well in their new base at the Elim Church. Will the Leader assure me that in the redevelopment of the site of Tamworth Youth Centre, jointly with the County Council, Tamworth Borough Council will ensure that the original covenant that the land would be used for the benefit of young people in Tamworth will be honoured, if not in the future use of that specific site, but through a financial settlement with Trustees that would support services on another site in Tamworth?”

 

Councillor D Cook gave the following reply:-

 

“Thank you again Mr Mayor.

 

I of course congratulate and admire the volunteers of SPIN, as I am sure we are all aware the group is for young people and adults over 14 years who have special needs. SPIN used to meet every Wednesday at TamYouth from 7.15 pm-9.30 pm during term time and I am pleased they have a new secure home.

 

In regards the covenant on the land I am afraid at this time I must confess that when I received Councillors Peaple’s question on Friday 7th December it is the first I have heard of it, never mind read it or understood it. I would hope these matters are resolved as the project moves into the planning stages of the project and meat is put to bones.

 

At present we are still analysing the best opportunities for the land and still in talks with the County Council about the use of the land around Gungate that they own.

 

Therefore at present I do not have an answer. But as this is a County matter I will ask the CEO Mr Barratt to write to the County CEO Mr Henderson to obtain more information for us to consider.

 

Councillor Dr.S Peaple asked the following supplementary question:-

 

“I thank the Leader for the response the fact that the question was received on Friday reflects the fact that the timetable for submitting them is on Thursday therefore should not be recorded as some sort of failure to raise, But more importantly Mr Mayor it is in one sense a County matter but if we are to proceed with the redevelopments as a partner and we have heads of agreement so therefore we are partners then the original donation of the land and relevant use must be taken in to account, or our legal team in drawing up the overall plan so they must not get squeezed out just because the County Council , the Borough Council is at the table and the original trustees are not and that’s what I’m looking for is an honest resolution of this and I don’t want the County Council saying it’s a covenant and it doesn’t run with the Land. At the end of the day it’s a moral issue it should be fair to the young people in Tamworth and I think the leader shares my concerns that the right thing is done. I thank him for his answer.”

 

 Councillor D Cook gave the following reply:-

 

“Thank you Mr Mayor, Thank you again Councillor Peaple I can only really rest on my first answer I haven’t read the covenant I have no understanding of it at present so again I will ask Mr Barratt to get more details from the County Council and I will be happy to talk to Councillor Peaple and colleagues and what we are expecting to do. You’re right it is a project we need to understand all the limitations or opportunities of the project so we will make sure it takes serious part off all considerations, Thank you”

 

 

 

QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL NO. 3

 

Under Procedure Rule No 11, Councillor Sheree Peaple will ask the Portfolio Holder for Housing and Neighbourhoods, Councillor M Cook, the following question:-

 

“In response to concerns raised by residents, I took part in a traffic survey on Sheepcote Lane on a Saturday morning, which revealed over that 200 vehicles per hour were using the road in each direction between 9am and 10am. Will the portfolio holder accept that the council’s assurances that the building of 1100 homes in Amington would have no significant impact on local traffic for residents of Amington and Bolehall were erroneous?”

 

Councillor D Cook gave the following reply:-

 

“Thank you Mr Mayor,

 

And thank you Councillor Peaple for her question.

 

Firstly, whilst as I am sure Councillor Peaple, as the shadow member for my portfolio, is aware I was not the portfolio holder responsible for pushing this development through as my portfolio does not cover new build private housing.  I am however, as an Amington Councillor and Cabinet Member on this council more than happy to stand up in front of you Mr Mayor and my fellow Councillors to categorically confirm I do not believe the assurances that Tamworth Borough Council gave to its residents were erroneous regarding the new 1100 homes in Amington.

 

I note with interest that Cllr Peaple took part in an unofficial traffic count on Sheepcote Lane. Especially so as I am reliably informed by Staffordshire County Council, that Cllr Peaple did not once during her time as the area’s representative on the County Council request any official traffic counts on Sheepcote Lane. This is a situation that has been rectified twice since the new Conservative County Councillor for Amington and Bolehall took over, with a third official traffic survey planned for the road in January 2019.

 

Whilst I am unwilling to comment on statistically unverified figures provided by Cllr Peaple in her question, I am happy to report this evening that since the first of these official surveys were undertaken in 2017, and following the significant investment which has happened this year on Amington and Tamworth Roads, traffic on Sheepcote Lane reduced over a 12 month period by 14%. This is a clear indication that people are no longer diverting along Sheepcote Lane from Tamworth Road due to its Martian landscape being fixed, which is something I am aware that Amington and Bolehall residents have welcomed.

 

The third survey is being undertaken following some residents’ concerns, so I and the other Amington Councillors are looking forward to an update on this in early 2019. We will of course ensure that the County Council communicate the results of this to local residents along with any actions which are needed.

 

To assure everyone here tonight, during the application of the new homes in Amington, as with any other development proposal, a full traffic assessment was carried out and mitigation measures identified where needed. As Cllr Peaple would be aware as the then County Councillor for the area, no objections were received from Staffordshire County Council, as the local highway authority or from Highways England who were also consulted. This lack of concern by highway experts was of course noted by the planning committee in their decision process and the plans were passed accordingly.

 

There was of course an acknowledgement that there would be an increase in traffic movements related to the development. After all, these new residents have every right, as does any other member of the public, to use public roads. But these increases were accepted by Staffordshire County Council, as the highway authority to be within tolerance and they were not deemed severe – especially as there is capacity on most of the roads within Amington from a technical stand point – for example, Sheepcote Lane, as a strategically important road in Amington’s infrastructure is designed to take in excess 400 vehicles an hour before it considered at capacity.

 

My final point is in relation to Cllr Peaple’s insinuation that it’s the new residents on the new estate which are causing an uplift in traffic in Amington and this is something I wish to dispel immediately.

 

Every single person who gets in their car to drive has to acknowledge that they are part of the traffic problem, as I know I am myself. I am proud that we live in a society where more and more people are benefiting from increased mobility and the freedom to go where they wish, when they want. This means that there is likely to be an increase in vehicle movements for a long time to come. Whilst that is the case, myself and my colleagues on this Council will continue to lobby to get ensure infrastructure is appropriate to meet these growing demands.

 

Thank you Mr Mayor.”

 

Councillor S Peaple asked the following supplementary question:-

 

“Thank you Mr Mayor as a point of personal information at the time I was a County Councillor building hadn’t started so the traffic increase was hardly likely to have happened as you would be aware of my question residents are extremely concerned about the situation on Sheepcote lane and surrounding areas. I think its really interesting that as a member of the planning Committee I have been to many planning minutes where there is constant reframe from members opposite saying “oh dear our roads can’t take it, our roads can’t take it” isn’t it interesting the one that brought in lots of cash for the ‘Council “oh our roads can take it” Would you like to comment on that?”

 

Councillor M Cook gave the following reply:-

 

“Thank you Mr Mayor I think my view on that would be that we have to rely on Staffordshire County Council and the planning Committee. I use to be a planning Committee Member myself

Staffordshire County Council are the highway experts what my colleague comments about on the planning Committee (not myself) I can’t sit here and talk to those Members but I’m happy to say that my previous career I was a transport expert, we have to go on rules therefore I don’t agree with the fact that people sit there and say we can’t cope its reality and we have to go by that. Thank you”

 

QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL NO. 4

 

Under Procedure Rule No 11, Councillor Sheree Peaple will ask the Portfolio Holder for Housing and Neighbourhoods, Councillor M Cook, the following question:-

 

“The recent UN Report on poverty in Britain highlighted the way in which women are suffering the most from changes to welfare payments; what steps are Tamworth Borough Council taking to ensure that women, in particular, receive the support they need with regard to housing and protection in their community.”

 

Councillor M Cook gave the following reply:-

 

“Thank you Mr Mayor

 

And thank you again to Councillor Peaple for her question.

 

Tamworth Borough Council ensures that all of our policies support those who genuinely need assistance, regardless of gender, age, disability or sexuality – or any other reason which could be discriminatory against one group or another.

 

Our housing policies are designed to ensure that when someone presents with a need, the person or family gets the support they require.

 

Our work includes an annual Health Inequalities Plan which seeks to tailor services to particular groups to ensure full and fair access to services.

 

We have ensured that any changes to welfare reforms and benefit changes are clearly highlighted on our website and we have employed 2 officers responsible for working with those who need additional support on paying bills / rent.

 

We have invested £10,000 in Tamworth Advice Centre and  where relevant, we are bringing to the attention of Universal Credit claimants that a split payment can be requested, especially where domestic violence or financial issues means one partner is more likely to dominate another. This is especially relevant as 73% of women in families now work and this option means that the split of payment can be requested to go more to one partner than the other.

 

Tamworth Borough Council is also the lead agency for the Tamworth Community Safety Partnership, which is supporting and facilitating the local Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARAC) to support and assist high risk Domestic Abuse victims and their families. This does specifically seek to support things such as retaining housing for the abused person in a domestic violence household.

My personal view is that we do not need to discriminate our policies towards women; instead, we need to ensure that as a society we decrease the likelihood of poverty entirely through, improved opportunities to get people into a more secure position, whether that be through work or education and for those who really need support, including those such as the disabled in our society we do have a welfare system in place to offer protection accordingly.

 

From a national view under this Conservative Government, household incomes have never been higher, income inequality has fallen, and there are now one million fewer people living in absolute poverty compared with 2010. 

 

I trust this answers your question.

 

Thank you Mr Mayor.”

 

Councillor S Peaple asked the following supplementary question:-

 

 

“Thank you Mr Mayor.

 

Actually some of the comments you’ve made are very anthracite Councillor Cook you will be aware that there was an article published in the guardian on Friday 16th November with regards to the UN report and it was described as a hard hitting headline that the UK Government is in state of denial about the impact on austerity policy on the poor .Philip Alston who prepared the report was critical of the mentality behind cuts and reforms introduced in the past few years by the Conservative Government and have brought misery and torn at the social fabric. British compassion for those suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited and callous approach.

 

I knew someone was going to use the B word and it’s me he also said the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of society will take the biggest hit from Brexit and he said “Changes to taxes and benefits have taken the highest toll on those least able to bear it, with the costs of austerity falling disproportionately on the poor, women, ethnic minorities, children, single parents, asylum seekers and people with disabilities so it may be true that fewer people living in absolute poverty but 1/5  of people in this country are living in poverty down to policies of the Conservative Government, I wonder if my colleague would like to comment on that?”

 

Councillor M Cook gave the following reply:-

 

“Unfortunately I don’t read the guardian if councillor Peaple would like to circulate the article to me I would more than happy to take a look”

 

QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL NO. 5

                                     

Under Procedure Rule No 11, Councillor P Standen will ask the Leader of the Council, Councillor D Cook, the following question:-

 

At July’s Council meeting Cllr Simon Peaple asked a question on my behalf as I was ill on the evening regarding potential developments on our town’s borders; in your response you mentioned that you would be holding further meetings with neighbouring authorities and others. Could the Leader of the Council provide an update to myself and other members of the Council on this topic?"

 

Councillor D Cook gave the following reply:-

 

“Thank you Mr Mayor,

 

Firstly, in the answer I gave to Councillor Peaple earlier this year in Councillor Standen’s absence I believe I also said I would write an update for all members on this matter. I confess and apologise that I have not yet completed this.

 

I have not forgotten, I have a lap top full of information from Matthew Bowers that I just need to collate into a briefing for all members. The issue has been that the picture keeps shifting to a small degree and every time I believe I am ready it changes.

 

If Cllr Standen will indulge me I will have this complete before the end of the year and will happily meet with any Councillor who has questions.

 

Thank you Mr Mayor”

 

 

Councillor P Standen asked the following supplementary question:-

 

“Thank you Mr Mayor, thank you for the reply Councillor Cook. Within the last couple of weeks congestion on the A5 near its junction with the M42 has resulted in traffic queues building up for long periods of the day , impacting road traffic travelling within Wilnecote and Stonydelph areas to town. It took me more than 45 minutes to travel to my doctor’s surgery from my home a journey that normally takes 5 minutes. Does the Leader of the Council agree this type of problem will become an everyday occurrence if the HS2 works planned for the M42 and A5 Junction is not handled sensitively? Will he use his office to put pressure on the HS2 and Government Ministers to ensure changes to Tamworth’s infrastructure support HS2 are of sufficient level to minimise the impact on lives of the people of Wilnecote and Stonydelph and other areas of town”

 

Councillor D Cook gave the following reply:-

 

“Thank you Mr Mayor. 45 minutes! Don’t use the horse and cart! Thank you Councillor Standen I think I can refer to the answer I gave in the first question from Councillor Peaple. Your absolutely correct, there are opportunities and risks with HS2 going straight through the junction and I think we need to work collectively as a council and keep leaning on HS2 where we can to ensure these opportunities remain opportunities and try and push them through to actually get some mitigation . Everyone in the chamber knows the problem of the A5 and the M42 junction will only increase as more employment lines are created in North Warwickshire, more houses built in meaningless gaps. We do need where possible to be one joint voice leaning on the Government and HS2 and doing everything we can to ensure mitigation works continue around the A5

I one believe that the A5 actually needs to be changed you shouldn’t have to stop, this idea of a big round-about doesn’t work it needs to be a flyover straight over the M42 with proper motorway junctions but how we get highways England to understand that and fund it, is another battle, but I assure Councillor Standen from my position we are speaking to government through the MP, we are speaking to Highways England, and we are having HS2 back in as soon as possible to continue our point to make them understand there is an opportunity here. Thank you”

 

QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL NO. 6

 

Under Procedure Rule No 11, Councillor P Standen will ask the Portfolio Holder for Culture and Operational Services, Councillor J Chesworth, the following question:-

 

“Could the cabinet member please advise what plans are being made to clean and maintain the Kettle Brook within Wilnecote?"

 

Councillor J Chesworth gave the following reply:-

 

“In 2012 a survey of the entire watercourse network for Tamworth’s balancing ponds, including the stretch from the Kettle Brook to the town centre was undertaken and a 20 year management plan was produced. This plan details timelines for maintenance which includes the desilting of the ponds, and their frequencies, together with other checks on grills, structures etc.to ensure water flow and alleviate flood risk.

As part of the management plan the Kettle Brook is walked approximately every 3 months.

The grills are checked at this time and assessed for debris and water flow; and works arranged to clear such areas are undertaken as identified.

In extreme weather additional checks are made on “hot spot” grills to ensure water flow is maintained.

If any issues are identified in between inspections, either by members or the public, they need to be reported in the usual way so that they can be attended to”

Councillor P Standen asked the following supplementary question:-

 

“Thank you Mr Mayor. I moved to my current house around 20 years ago which is a short walk from the pond located by the damn. Back then you could see families of swans living there however the pond has begun to salt up the swans are leaving, followed by the ducks, as you can virtually walk across it now.  The grills at the bottom are letting out materials which have gone in to the Brook. Resident have also told me there are issues with the Brook as it passes under the A5. You mentioned a 20 year management plan would it be possible to forward copy of that to me. Thank you.”

 

Councillor J Chesworth gave the following reply:-

 

“Thank you Mr Mayor. Thank you Councillor Standen I’m sure I can find a copy of the plan. Regarding the specific issues I’m happy to have a chat and pick those up with you and discuss with the appropriate officers, Thank you Mr Mayor”