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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






Under Procedure Rule No 10 Charlie-Rose Taylor Castanheira, , of Tamworth will ask the Portfolio Holder for Engagement, Civic Pride and Pride in Place, Councillor T Clements, the following question:-


As we are about 2 weeks from International Women’s Day, what are Tamworth Borough Council doing to support this event more widely for women in Tamworth?


Councillor Clements gave the following answer


Thank you to Miss Taylor  Casteneira for her question

As part of my Cabinet role, I have made sure that there is plenty going on to celebrate women in Tamworth in varying ways.


Tonight before the full Council four female members of the Council have  recorded a message to go out on March 8th, International Women's Day celebrating women in politics what are the positives and negatives and trying to entice more women into the field of Politics. We are all meeting up for an informal coffee on March 11th too to have a good old natter. On International Women's Day itself, I am hosting a coffee and cake afternoon with around 25 businesswomen from across Tamworth to promote women in business and how they can help each other. We also have a female guest speaker. In the lead-up to the day itself, I will be visiting local schools to engage with young girls around the 'let her play' programme which gets young girls into football and the challenges around that. I am also going to visit the ladies' team at Tamworth FC.


So plenty going on and I'm looking forward to meeting so many inspirational females.


Charlie Rose Taylor Casteneira asked the following Supplementary Question


Can you also confirm in your opinion that the Conservative Controlling group supports a woman’s rights to the maternity leave that she as earned and is entitled to under law.  A female Councillor historically was deselected, and the key reason was her taking maternity leave.  Today I’ve heard that the Conservative MP for Stafford has been deselected just two days after their maternity leave ended.  I have also been informed but have not yet seen the proof that a female Conservative Councillor was deselected from the Tamworth Conservative party as the local Chairman stated that as she as just had a baby her place is at home.  In light of this can the controlling group really still state its support for women. 


Councillor T Clements gave the following answer.


I fully support women having children, I’ve got a daughter myself.  The other comments that have been made are better  going  to regulatory, I am the Cabinet member for engagement I don’t make the rules. 




Under Procedure Rule No 11, Councillor J Harper will ask the Leader of the Council, Councillor J Oates, the following question:-


I have several issues in my Bolehall ward that include deteriorating road surfaces and overgrown trees.  Will the leader meet with me and representatives of Staffordshire County Council with a view of building a plan to address these long-standing issues on behalf of Bolehall residents?


Councillor Oates gave the following answer:


As per our conversation last week I would be more than happy to arrange and attend a visit and a walk around your ward to look at the issues not only those stated here but all of those that relate to the Borough Council and County council and I would invite representatives and officers of both the Borough and County Council to accompany us on that visit.  Historically I have done visits like that in the Bolehall Ward and we can hopefully get a plan of action on the points you have raised.  




Under Procedure Rule No 11, Councillor C Cooke will ask the Portfolio Holder for Environment, Entertainment and Leisure, Councillor R Pritchard, the following question:-


Question: The castle has seen a number of litter bins vandalised and burnt by mindless vandals. What is the authority doing to address this matter.


Councillor Pritchard gave the following answer:


Vandalism is taken very seriously and is a criminal action. These petty acts by moronic individuals ruin everyone’s enjoyment of the town centre and Castle grounds.


It is hugely disappointing that certain individuals have been causing repeated vandalism in the castle grounds, with bins attached, damaged, burned and recently the County Council’s information board being broken.


All of these incidents have been reported to the Police for further investigation with a crime number. This will allow for a review of any relevant CCTV footage to understand if any perpetrators can be identified. 


There is a weekly Community Safety Partnership ASB meeting which the Police attend. Where there are recorded incident numbers, the matters will be discussed to ensure that all can be done to prevent re-occurrence.  


I understand the Police have a dedicated ASB patrol car and the Castle Grounds is included in the patrol. In addition, town officers regularly patrol this area.


The council is working hard to repair or replace any of bins as they are damaged by these mindless and sad individuals.




Will the portfolio holder write to the Police asking them to take further action to address this important matter?


Councillor Pritchard gave the following answer:


I am more than happy to write to the police and welcome other Councillors to co-sign that letter.




Under Procedure Rule No 11, Councillor C Cooke will ask the Portfolio Holder for Environment, Entertainment and Leisure, Councillor R Pritchard, the following question:-


On behalf of a resident who has contacted me, could the Leader tell us why the works are going on at the assembly rooms for the access?


Councillor Oates gave the following answer:


During the refurbishment of the Assembly Rooms, the building industry, amongst many, suffered resource shortages due to Brexit, in terms of supply and demand. The stone that was signed off for the front steps and accessibility ramp, was not available due to this issue, and would not have been until after the scheduled opening date of the venue. It was decided a temporary stone would be laid until the original, (and more fitting) stone became available once more. Once the stonework became available a time slot of early 2023 was agreed for the steps and ramp to be refurbished as per original designs, at a time that was deemed to be less inconvenient for the venue users.


Councillor Cooke asked the following supplementary question:


Can I ask who paid for all this?


Councillor Oates gave the following answer:


All the works completed on the Assembly Rooms refurbishment were funded by Tamworth Borough Council and its partners including Local enterprise partnerships and heritage Lottery funding. 





Under Procedure Rule No 11, Councillor D Maycock will ask the Leader of the Council, Councillor J Oates, the following question:-


Would the leader agree with me that it is imperative that Tamworth residents take part in the consultation on the future of inpatient mental health services in Southeast Staffordshire, which effects the future of the George Bryan Centre?


Councillor Oates gave the following answer:


The short answer is yes, it is vitally important that members of the public take part in the consultation and I would encourage members of the public to take part in all public sector consultation but this one is a critical issue.  We have been lobbying to get the Geroge Bryan Centre re-opened.  Since the arson attack in 2019 the George Bryan Centre has been unable to serve the patients as it once did, not only that the NHS Trust took this as an opportunity to close down the remainder of the building and moved mental health services to Stafford.  Time as moved on since then and the NHS Trust as put forward no business case to rebuild the George Bryan Centre and re-establish the local mental health support services.  They are however looking at other investments elsewhere in the Town but they have not committed to or drawn up a plan to replace the George Bryan Centre.  To me this is not good enough. We have been lobbying the trust and the last time I wrote to them we secured a meeting with senior planners and had a discussion about the future of the centre and about the other investment in Tamworth and I am happy to write again a second time to re-iterate the position that we have that we need that George Bryan Centre rebuilding and re-opening.  So, we have lobbied the ICB and the department of health to get the Geroge Brayn Centre back on track and back in action  and I would in encourage any resident in Tamworth to take part in that consultation. 


Councillor Maycock asked the following Supplementary Question


Would you allow the opportunity for Councillors to sign the letter. 


Councillor Oates gave the following answer:  


Absolutely, I will get that letter drafted and circulated and anyone that wishes to put their name to the letter is welcome to do so. 





Under Procedure Rule No 11, Councillor S Smith will ask the Leader of the Council, Councillor J Oates, the following question:


Tamworth Library on Corporation Street is currently undergoing a major refurbishment.  During these works, the library services, as well as opening hours, have been maintained at the temporary Albert Street location.  The last month, I have twice used both printing and computer facilities at Albert Road and found the equipment, services and friendliness of staff to be outstanding.  Tamworth Library, Corporation St, is scheduled to reopen at the end of spring. Would the Leader agree with me that the County Council’s refurbishment of Tamworth Library is fantastic news for Tamworth?


Councillor Oates gave the following answer:


We are pleased and we praise the investment in Tamworth Library.  We are committee to public services which include libraries and this commitment has been backed up by the County council’s investment in Tamworth.  Many parts of the country including county have seen their libraries closed or moved to community management.  In Tamworth’s case we have seen investment in the library in the town Centre.  During the refurbishment works which started in October the library service has been moved to Albert Road and the temporary building is good space and is fully staffed and provides a good service to users.  However, when the service returns to Corporation the refurbished library will offer a full range of books, computer access and activity. The re-opening date is expected to be early June now which is just in time to celebrate the opening of the library which was performed by Britain’s first female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher 50 years ago. As part of the re-opening Tamworth’s Councillors are encouraging everybody to join the library get a library card and see what facilities are on offer there.      




This question has been withdrawn




Under Procedure Rule No 11, Councillor D Cook will ask the Portfolio Holder for Voluntary Sector, Town Centre, Evening Economy and Community Safety , Councillor M Summers, the following question:-



"The Leader of the Council created the cabinet position, Voluntary Sector, Town Centre, Evening Economy and Community Safety in December 2021. I recall it well as i was handed this new Cabinet position at the time. I held it for around 33 days, removing Christmas and New Year I probably held it less than 2 weeks before i resigned on Principle.


You replaced me in January 2022 Cllr Summers, my question is simple - Given that key elements of the Portfolio position taken from the Constitution are

  • Evening Economy
  • Town centre relationships (working in partnership with Cllr Clements)

Can you confirm what has been actioned, investigated, reviewed or planned in regards the health of the town centre economy over that past 13 months? Other than FHSF or Gungate which are both my legacy?


Councillor Summers gave the following answer:


Thank you, Madam Mayor, and Thank you Cllr Cook for the question.

Firstly, since you reference them. Future High Street Fund and Gungate projects are not so insignificant that they can be dismissed in terms of the health of the town centre economy, since the point of them is to boost it. They will form a significant portion of the regeneration of the town centre as you know.


Neither are directly my responsibility under my portfolio, although of course, I do contribute to them as a part of cabinet. I am surprised that you choose to refer to these ongoing projects as your legacy, since I know that a significant amount of teamwork involving both those on your cabinet at the time and the officers that do the heavy lifting on our plans were significant. I feel it is an injustice to them for their contributions to be dismissed as one person’s legacy. And let’s face it, no-one is likely to remember either of us in the history books for our work on Tamworth Borough Council Cllr Cook, and my own personal feeling is that rather than chasing legacies, I prefer to work to the best of my ability with my group in a team effort to effect change for the greater good of Tamworth


In direct answer to your question:


In the past 12 months the authority has developed and consulted on a new Gambling Policy, Statement of Licensing Policy and Cumulative Impact Assessment and most recently the Taxi Licensing Policy that is due before full council in March.  The taxi policy I am proud to say if passed at the next full council will remove barriers to entering the trade such as just for one example, increasing the age limit for suitable vehicles to 10 years. Both myself and Cllr Tina Clements collaborated on the policy with the responsible officer to ensure we have a common-sense approach to taxi licensing. We also are currently investigating incentives to increase the number of taxi drivers and thus taxis within our town centre, which was something I heard the cry for loud and clear upon taking on the portfolio.


Officers have been carrying out enforcement operations in the form of Safer Nights in partnership with the Police, consisting of visits to licensed and food premises to ensure compliance as just some examples.


The responsible bodies group has been reinstated and has promoted successful engagement with a full range of partners.  Officers take a proactive role in both Pub Watch meetings with local licensees and the Community Safety Forum. I am also looking to instigate with the help of Cllr Tina Clements and Cllr Paul Turner who has just been appointed our town centre business champion of course, a business and licensee forum.


The Economic Development Team have commissioned 3 separate projects Funded through UK Shared Prosperity Fund  which all incorporate the Town Centre business support package for Town Centre businesses as well as a recently launched Town Centre ‘Be Seen’ Business grant scheme.


There are 3 feasibility studies which have been commissioned the first study will focus on overall business data research, the second will focus on a Tourism Strategy for Tamworth and the third will focus on a Place Marketing Strategy. The information and data gathered from these feasibility studies will inform and drive future council plans and support further potential work commissioned through UKSPF which will include a Town Centre focus.


Digital Islands are currently delivering a business support package for Town centre businesses, an online Business Hub which is free to join has been created and currently has 104 members registered. The online Hub is the entry point to access a wide range of support, advice, training courses, one-to-one advice and help from a range of business specialists. Workshops and webinars (both online and in-person) will be organised up until 2025, and hub members can shape what is included as part of the events.


The Tamworth Town Centre ‘Be Seen’ Business Grant offers grants between £2,500 to £10,000 to existing businesses with a premises based in the Town Centre who have been trading for more than 6 months. The grant is designed to assist businesses in establishing or improving their physical or digital presence to allow them to attract and reach new customers and establish or improve an effective brand and image. The objective of the grant is to support Town Centre businesses to adapt their businesses to gain new customers, increase turnover and/or increase opportunities for survival in the current economic climate.


The first round of applications are due to go to Nominations and Grants Committee on the 15th March 2023, a further round will be delivered July / August 2023 and again in 2024.



I have also directed our assistant director of partnerships to work closely with the Organisation Tamworth Street Angels, who I had the pleasure of patrolling with last year, to ensure that they can continue their amazing voluntary service on the streets of Tamworth during the evenings. I will take the opportunity now to thank Vic and Wendy Vandenberg for bringing the street angels to Tamworth and I will do what I can to assist them.


And lets not forget Purple Flag, the status I hope as an authority we will one day in the near future achieve. All of the hard work being carried out currently is being assessed against the purple flag criteria to identify what more we need to do to attain it. It is not a short process and I envisaged it would take at least 3 years. With Purple flag, we will be able to highlight proudly that Tamworth is a safe and fun place to have a night out.


Councillor Cook asked the following supplementary Question:


First of all just to clarify I did not dismiss Future Hight Street Fund and Gungate I simply said there were projects that were already there dating back to when I was Leader of this Council, I do not take away anybody’s involvement in that it was a team effort. I note from the answer a Gambling Policy a Licensing policy   Taxi’s of no more than 10 years, Cumulative Impact Zone, food compliance community safety, business grants of 2k and then we talk about the current economic climate we bearly scratch the problem. These are all things that were all happening long before Councillor Summers took the Portfolio.  I think the meat of my question is what have you done Councillor summers. 


Councillor Summers gave the following answer: 


We are merely caretakers of our roles and what you have started I will continue.  There is little point answering that question it doesn’t actually make any sense.  We continue the work we all started as a team that you were apart of for the past however long it has been or legacy as you call it.  Apparently according to literature I have seen bearing your name the last 19 years was a waste of time Well you were part of it and we will continue to build on that legacy of yours to make it better than it already was. 





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



"Councillor Oates will of course be aware that Tamworth Borough Councils Monitoring Officer has for the last 10 months been pushing for the Council review and potentially adopt the new LGA Code of Conduct for Councillors. Something the Audit and Governance committee has found on its agenda a few times over the last year.

Within the consultation from the LGA is the following statement

General principles of councillor conduct

Everyone in public office at all levels; all who serve the public or deliver public services, including ministers, civil servants, councillors and local authority officers; should uphold the Seven Principles of Public Life, also known as the Nolan Principles

I assume the Council Leader supports this upgrade of the Code of Conduct, otherwise I fail to see why officers would be continuing with this agenda. I could be wrong!

In that case can the Leader of the Council remind this Chamber of the Seven Principles, AKA the Nolan Principles. And can the Council Leader state his belief in holding all councillors to these Principle's?

Councillor Oates gave the following answer.

The Seven Principles of Public Life








Do I believe that holding Councillors to the principles, I believe these are good principles and are good guidance for not only Councillors and people in public office but everyone in general to lead a positive life.

Councillor Cook asked the following supplementary question:

Can I thank the Leader of the Council for that very honest answer. Agree with everything he has said.  Some in this chamber will be aware that recently the Tamworth Futures Group face book page was hacked, and fake posts were put out from that page. I have no proof but it as come to my attention that there is a possibility a Conservative Councillor did so, but I make no acquisition this evening.  Can I ask the Leader to agree with me that if it is proved that a Conservative Councillor is hacking other people and other political groups face book pages, he will ask them to stand down. 

Councillor J Oates gave the following answer:

I am not aware of the issue; however I would welcome a conversation with Councillor D Cook after the meeting.  It is a bit of an odd supplementary based on the original question, but I appreciate where Councillor Cook is coming from on this.  Linking it back to the principles and the code of conduct if you believe a member of the council as breached the code of conduct whether it be the old or updated code of conduct, it is reported to the relevant authority whether it’s a Facebook hack or any other activity which doesn’t fit the Nolan principles.    I will follow that up with Cllr Cook after the meeting. 




Under Procedure Rule No 11, Councillor M Cook will ask the Leader of the Council Councillor J Oates, the following question:-



At the Joint Budget Scrutiny meeting a few weeks ago, I asked Cllr Robert Pritchard to confirm which play areas were due to be refurbished as part of the budget proposals, which we are due to discuss this evening. Cllr Pritchard responded that he was unable to confirm this due to an officer being off sick.


Following that meeting I emailed him on the 4th February and the 13th February asking the same question. After receiving no reply, I emailed yourself on the 16th, which you replied to on the morning of the 17th saying you'd find out. I chased again on 23rd February and you again replied quickly to confirm you were still waiting for Cllr Pritchard to confirm. Can you please therefore confirm to me which play areas are due to be upgraded as part of the budget proposals.


Councillor Oates gave the following answer:

I have since chased Councillor Pritchard again and the member of staff is still off sick, and I still have not received the report in question and as soon as I receive it I will forward to Councillor M Cook

Councillor M Cook asked the following supplementary:

I’m sure that all members are keen to understand which play areas will be upgraded and when so that residents can start to enjoy them as soon as possible.  On what you have just said there |I do just have one small supplementary question.  As Councillors are elected to do a job no matter if you like the person you are trying to help or whether you respect them ultimately you act professionally especially when helping others even more so.  Can you confirm in this instance if you think Cllr Pritchard did not act respectfully by not replying in any way shape or form to me not even with an out of office or I can’t say or even with information.  I’ve waited 25 days for, and I’ve ended up asking you the question so do you think he acted professionally or could he have done better?

Councillor Oates gave the following answer:

I believe the information that Cllr Pritchard gave at the Scrutiny Committee has not changed and therefore as soon as he gets the information from his officer that will be circulated.  So, do I believe Councillor Pritchard as acted inappropriately or not, Cllr Pritchard still doesn’t have the information and therefore still cannot pass it on, as he been courteous or not, I’ve only got what’s been said in this chamber.  I do think that there is a particular example we have just seen there, and the example is about how can we attack Cllr Pritchard for being incompetent or discourteous.  The real issue here is the refurbishment of play areas and representation and I’ve read recently about putting people before politics, well what we see here is an example of putting politics before people, so what I will do is on behalf of Cllr Cook and the people she represents I will not only chase Cllr Pritchard for that list I will also chase to make sure that any play areas in Amington are considered on that list because their current Councillor is more concerned as to whether Cllr Pritchard is discourteous or incompetent rather than chasing the issues as to whether the pay areas in Amington the ward she represents are being refurbished.    





Under Procedure Rule No 11, Councillor J Harper will ask the Leader, Councillor J Oates, the following question:-


Unauthorised parking in Market Street, George Street, Colehill and St Editha’s Square has become a major issue in the town centre with some motorists brazenly using the pedestrianised areas as a ‘free car park’ without hinderance or any fear of repercussions. Would the Leader consider discussing this with the relevant county councillor with a view to finding a solution to this unacceptable practice?


Councillor J Oates gave the following answer:

Believe me I am as frustrated as anybody is with the situation in the Town Centre.  The enforcement of stationary vehicle offences sits with clear streets and the enforcement of moving vehicles offences sits clearly with the police.  A I state around the code of conduct I would recommend that member of the public and Councillors if you believe someone is committing an offence or breaching parking regulations please report them to the relevant enforcement authority.  The difficulty we have is the traffic restrictions in the town centre are old, incomplete, and often misunderstood.   There are a number of reasons why vehicles can and can’t travel through the town centre and there are a number of areas and reasons where vehicles can and can’t park, its not a clear piece of legislation in terms of the restrictions its not a clear order.  I can confirm that Staffordshire County Council through a Divisional Highways Programme is reviewing the traffic restrictions orders which affect the town centre this is going on because a) they need reviewing and are causing confusion and being misunderstood and b) while we regenerate the town centre is opportune to ensure we have the right in restrictions in going forward.  So yes, work in progress it is unacceptable we need to get it right we need the police to step up, we need the County Council to step up and we need clear streets to step up so we need to ensure that traffic restrictions are correct and they are applied correctly and enforcement action is taken correctly.  

Councillor J Harper asked the following supplementary question:

Will the Leader invite Staffordshire County Council and the police to join you and myself for a site visit to see for themselves these respective areas. 

Councillor J Oates gave the following answer:

Yes, absolutely, I think we have discussed this in this chamber we have exchanged emails with a number of partners, it is actually time to get down and see it face to face together with the Police Service with the County Council Highways Team with yourself and myself and we will get that date sorted, what I will do actually I’ll extend that invitation to the Castle Ward Councillors as it sits within their Ward.  I’ll get on to that as soon as possible.  














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