Agenda item

Questions by Elected Members

To consider any questions which may have been received from Elected Members and which are asked pursuant to Standing Order No. 11.

 

1             Councillor Carr

 

‘How many applications for aids and adaptions are being received weekly?  How many are for adaptations for residents to be able to leave health locations, who I well understand are a priority?  How many for low level showers and ramps for the residents in need of modifications to be able to live independently and access the outside world?  What is the timeframe for these adaptations? What are the pressures in this department?’

 

2             Councillor Fielding

 

Please detail the costs of the security provided at Penny Pie Park as part of the project to construct the gyratory road junction on the park, specifically:

 

·         What has been the cost of legal advice relating to securing the park and the construction site?

  • What has been the cost of engaging the services of Middlesbrough based security company Vistech – please detail the daily cost, the costs to date and the anticipated total cost of security services for the duration of this project?
  • What was the procurement process for this contract and how did it ensure value for money?
  • What is the total cost of the security fencing for the site?
  • What were the perceived risks that led the Council to believe that this level of security was necessary?
  • What was the estimated cost of security contained in the £4.3million estimate for this scheme?

 

3             Councillor Hunt

 

It was reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 10th January that an innovative scheme which could have seen potholes filled in with recycled plastic was being placed on the back burner. Is this report correct? Please provide an update on this project

 

4             Councillor Hunt

 

At the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on 7th January the press were excluded part of the meeting where the Children’s Services performance reports were discussed. Why was this part of the meeting held in closed session?

 

5             Councillor Hunt

 

What is the current structure for parking enforcement in Barnsley? How many personnel are employed, how are they managed and what arrangements are in place to ensure that the council’s obligations under the Traffic Management Act 2004 are complied with? How many parking enforcement personnel routinely work outside the town centre? How does the current structure and arrangements compare with the situation when the TMA 2004 was first introduced?

 

6             Councillor Fielding

 

What progress has been made by the Council in working with Barnsley Hospital NHS Trust to establish a Park and Ride scheme for staff and visitors at Barnsley Hospital?  What does the Council intend to do to facilitate such a Park and Ride scheme?

 

Minutes:

The Chief Executive reported that she had received a number of questions from Elected Members in accordance with Standing Order No. 11.

 

Note: a maximum of 30 minutes was allocated for this item in accordance with Standing Order No 11(2)(d)

 

(a)  Councillor Carr

 

‘How many applications for aids and adaptations are being received weekly?  How many are for adaptations for residents to be able to leave health locations, who I understand are a priority?  How many for low level showers and ramps for the residents in need of modifications to be able to live independently and access the outside world?  What is the timeframe for these adaptations?  What are the pressures in this department?’

 

Councillor Platts, Cabinet Spokesperson for Adults and Communities responded by thanking Councillor Carr for her question and she stated that the response was rather lengthy.

 

The Service did not collect the data on a weekly basis but rather monthly and this was available from March 2019 to January 2020.  In view of the amount of data available she would provide information on the totals but would provide Councillor Carr with a copy of the detailed data after the meeting.

 

The number of referrals from March 2019 to January 2020 was 241and the number of Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) fast track stair lifts, through floor lifts, ceiling track hoists or access ramps was 47.  The number of referrals that were deemed a priority by the Occupational Therapist was 62, the number of level access showers was 144 and the number of ramps was 37.

 

Other referrals included Wash Dry toilets, Step lifts and House Extensions and the funding of Central Heating replacements via better homes.

 

She was unable to give a figure of how many applicants were in health locations waiting to return home as this wasn’t something that the service had historically reported on given the fact that as far as the service was aware, all applicants lived at home nearby.

 

If someone did need to relocate temporarily whilst a DFG adaptation was being installed, updates to policy allowed for some or all of the costs incurred to be funded.  DFG could also fund some of the relocation costs if it was deemed that an adaptation to an existing property was not practicable or feasible and another property would accommodate the service users’ needs or subsequent adaptations better.

 

If someone was deemed a higher priority, this was assessed by the referring Occupational Therapist and DFG would progress as priority cases (as reflected in the above information) and immediate action would be taken.

 

The average waiting times for 2017-18 was 168 days, for 2018-19 it was 108.3 days and for 2019 – 20 it was 76.33 days so waiting times had improved by over 50% since 2017/18 due to new initiatives, better processes and policy.

 

The average number of days from referral received to the first visit were as follows:

 

 

Immediate

Fast Track

Standard

Quarter 1

3

36

149

Quarter 2

4

43

183

Quarter 3

11

18

175

 

The National Guidelines for DFG referrals indicated that customers should be contacted within the following timeframe for adaptations:

 

·         Immediate – 5 days

·         Fast Track – 4 weeks

·         Standard – 6 months (dealt with in date order)

 

DFG quarter 3 statistics showed a blip/delay in the average number of days for immediate referrals due to a slightly higher number of priority referrals and staff capacity which was being addressed.

 

DFG had recently recruited 2 additional Project Officers who would commence early in February and a recruitment exercise was ongoing for an additional support officer.  DFG was also funding an additional Occupational Therapist for which the recruitment was in progress via the Equipment and Adaptations Team.

 

Councillor Carr asked, as a supplementary question, why one of her constituents who had requested a low level shower 12 months ago for which funding had been granted in April was still waiting for this to be provided.

 

Councillor Platts was unable to discuss individual cases in the Council Chamber, however, if Councillor Carr provided her with details outside the meeting she would ensure that an answer was provided.

 

(b)  Councillor Fielding

 

‘Please detail the costs of the security provided at Penny Pie Park as part of the project to construct the gyratory road junction on the park, specifically:

 

·         What has been the cost of legal advice relating to securing the park and the constructions site?

·         What has been the cost of engaging the services of Middlesbrough based security company Vistech – please detail the daily cost, the costs to date and the anticipated total cost of security services for the duration of this project?

·         What was the procurement process for this contract and how did it ensure value for money?

·         What is the total cost of the security fencing for the site?

·         What were the perceived risks that led the Council to believe that this level of security was necessary?

·         What was the estimated cost of security contained in the £4.3 million estimates for this scheme?

 

Councillor Lamb, Cabinet Spokesperson for Place (Environment and Transportation) commented that he had become used to answering questions in this Council Chamber and indeed he always attempted to give as full, clear and frank response as possible.  He regretted to say, however, that there were some elements of the answers to the questions that contained commercially and contractually sensitive information and so on this occasion he would not be able to give a full answer in this Chamber.  It was important that this information was made available to Councillor Fielding and indeed to any other Member who wished to have it and he was, therefore, in the process of preparing a full written answer and he hoped to be able to provide that by the close of business today.

 

Councillor Fielding fully accepted that some aspects may be commercially confidential or contain restricted information but a lot of what he had asked for wasn’t restricted so presumably this would be released within Councillor Lamb’s document.

 

Councillor Lamb was happy to provide any information he could but clearly where this was commercially sensitive he wouldn’t do.

 

(c)  Councillor Hunt

 

it was reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 10th January that an innovative scheme which could have seen potholes filled in with recycled plastic was being placed on the back burner.  It this report correct?  Please provide an update on this project’

 

Councillor Lamb, Cabinet Spokesperson for Place (Environment and Transportation) reminded the Council that he had presented a response to a question to Elected Members in August 2019 on the use of recycled plastic in road repairs.  He could confirm that the Head of Highways and Engineering had met with representatives of the primary UK supplier of plastic bonded asphalt, MacRebur to discuss the potential applications for the material on Barnsley’s highway network.  Whilst it was true to say that the approach pioneered was innovative, the initial large scale trials carried out in Cumbria were still in their infancy with regard to how this material performed over the long term against more established, industry standard treatments.  Once additional data on the performance of plastic bonded asphalt was made available the Service may consider it as a replacement sub-base material for highway construction before trialling it as a wearing course of infill material for ‘pot-holes’.

 

Elected Members should be award that a wide range of factors had to be considered by Highways Engineers before using new material on the highway network – for example: skid resistance, deformability, elasticity, viscosity at temperature, brittleness at temperature and ability to withstand loading and life-cycle durability.  These were key engineering consideration that had to be proven before any perceived environmental benefits were factored in.  The Department for Transport required all new materials to undergo rigorous testing procedures before they could be approved and endorse their widespread use.

 

At this point in time he was not prepared to act in haste and then repent at leisure as he wanted to ensure that this type of surface would not put Barnsley residents at risk, would be durable and good value for money as well as providing an environmental benefit.  In summary, the Service was progressing with this but caution had to be the default setting.

 

Councillor Hunt thanked Councillor Lamb for his comprehensive response.  He then asked as a supplementary question, what other innovative schemes the Highways Service was currently considering in relation to Barnsley’s roads.

 

Councillor Lamb responded by stating that there were many innovative schemes being undertaken within the borough and indeed the Council had very innovative engineers and an innovative Management Team.  Those innovations came from a number of places.  Some of it was about the environmental innovation, some of it was about developing the active travel infrastructure, some of it was about ensuring that public transport could make its way across the borough’s roads more easily and hence reduce the need for people to use their personal transport and some of it was driven by funding considerations as well.  If he was required to provide a full breakdown of the innovation in pace and being considered this could take some time, therefore, he proposed providing a full written response to Councillor Hunt.

 

(d)  Councillor Hunt

 

‘At the Overview and Scrutiny meeting on the 7th January the press were excluded part of the meeting where the Children’s Services performance reports were discussed.  Why was this part of the meeting held in closed session?’

 

Councillor Bruff, Cabinet Spokesperson for Children’s Services responded by stating that following the Ofsted Inspection of Children’s Services in 2012 and the inadequate judgement, part of the Council’s system wide Improvement Plan was to develop greater accountability and scrutiny of Officers by Elected Members.

 

The Private Session of Overview and Scrutiny provided Elected Members with granular and detailed information about  the performance of Children’s Social Care and Safeguarding Service. The Private Session enabled Elected Members to question Officers and raise any enquires that they may have, bringing forward their constituency experience.  This could involve and/or be about very small numbers of children whose identify had to be protected, within the closed session. In these circumstances the Committee was entitled to consider this business in the absence of the press and public and in accordance with legislation .This session enabled Elected Members to discharge their safeguarding responsibilities effectively and thoroughly.

 

Children’s Services were now judged to be good across the Board and further progress had been made to deliver the collective ambition to be outstanding.  At the last inspection Ofsted had commended the Council’s Service on the due diligence and Overview and Scrutiny from Elected Members.  The Service and Business Intelligence Team would review the children’s performance reports with a view to publication but children’s safety would not be put at risk.

 

Councillor Hunt thanked the Cabinet Spokesperson for her answer.  He commented that the performance report had generally been very positive and he understood that similar performance reports submitted to Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster Councils were considered in the public session.  He felt that Barnsley’s approach could give the impression that there was something to hide and he, therefore, asked as a supplementary question if the Cabinet Spokesperson could explain why there was a difference in Barnsley given that there was nothing in the Barnsley report that he considered was confidential.

 

Councillor Bruff responded by reiterating that the Service and Business Intelligence Team were looking at this issue with a view to publication.  She had also undertaken and investigation to see what other Councils were publishing but the information provided by those Councils was not in the same detail as provided for Barnsley’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee.  The detailed reports allowed the opportunity for Elected Members to bring out, in those sessions, incidents and issues they were aware of and this could not happen if the sessions were in public so would not be permitted.  She gave a commitment that the Service would be examining what could be published and that appropriate information would be published.

 

(e)  Councillor Hunt

 

‘What is the current structure for parking enforcement in Barnsley?  How many personnel are employed, how are they managed and what arrangements are in place to ensure that the Council’s obligations under the Traffic Management Act 2004 are complied with?  How many parking enforcement personnel routinely work outside the town centre?  How does the current structure and arrangements compare with the situation when the Traffic Management Act 2004 was first introduced?’

 

Councillor Lamb, Cabinet Spokesperson for Place (Environment and Transportation) responded by stating that Parking Enforcement formed part of Parking Services within the Environment and Transport Unit of the Place Directorate.

 

There were 17 staff in total 2 of whom were part time and deployment was based on meeting statutory requirements to ensure that payment machines were operational during the hours of payment and traffic demand where the Traffic Management Act could be enforced.

 

Enforcement Officers were allocated areas of the Town Centre to undertake patrolling duties.  Officers were deployed to mirror the time restrictions placed for off road and on road parking.

 

In addition, Elected Members would be aware that Area Councils particularly the North East and South Area Councils had commissioned additional parking services through private contractors.

 

A total of 4.5 whole time personnel worked outside the Town Centre and covered school zig zags, residents parking zones, off street car parks and restrictions covered by the Traffic Management Act.

 

With the advent of decriminalised parking under the provisions of the Traffic Management Act 2004, in 2005 the Council had a total of 24 full time equivalents employed to carry out those functions.

 

Councillor Hunt thanked the Cabinet Spokesperson for his response and, as a supplementary question, asked what initiatives the Council was undertaking to enhance parking enforcement operations outside the Town Centre.

 

Councillor Lamb felt that he had answered this question.  There were 4.5 full time equivalents and Area Councils were at liberty to commission any additional parking enforcement if they wished to do so.

 

(f)   Councillor Fielding

 

‘What progress has been made by the Council in working with Barnsley Hospital NHS Trust to establish a Park and Ride scheme for staff and visitors at Barnsley Hospital?  What does the Council intend to do to facilitate such a Park and Ride scheme?’

 

Councillor Lamb, Cabinet Spokesperson for Place (Environment and Transportation) responded by stating that he intended to give a slightly fuller answer than just dealing with the specifics of the questions submitted, he would, however, ensure that these were covered within his response.

 

All Members of the Council knew that parking at the hospital had been an issue for many years, particularly for residents who lived in the locality.  As a result of that and also because of the stoic pressure from the likes of Councillor Lofts over many years the Council was working with management and senior managers within the hospital with a strategic aim to reduce the impact that people visiting or working at the hospital had on the local community.  Agreement had been reached to work jointly on a series of parking solutions that worked harmoniously for both residents, workers and visitors.  To achieve this it had been agreed to work together on the following key areas prior to implementation:

 

·         To undertake traffic and traveller analysis of the area around the hospital grounds.  This had commenced on the 27th January, 2020 for one week and also Traveller analysis surverys were planned for the week commencing 26th February, 2020

·         From this it was proposed to use the analysis and evidence gathered to further develop hospital employee travel/car parking strategy/policy that supported a range of improvements; and

·         Look at options such as local park and ride, park and walk/bike/ebike solutions to support the hospitals employee travel strategy

 

From a personal perspective it was his aim to see fewer personal cars on the roads but that was a long term piece of work and something that was recognised by all.  Infrastructure needed to be put in place to make public transport and active travel a viable option for residents and visitors to the town and indeed the hospital in particular.  Consequently, Barnsley along with other South Yorkshire Authorities had submitted a bit to the Department for Transport Transforming Cities Fund to deliver within Barnsley approximately £40m for such infrastructure development.  Furthermore, a bid had been made for £800,000 for pinch point funding specifically in the vicinity of the hospital and once all of these initiatives came to fruition hopefully there would be a range of options in place which would hopefully reduce the traffic issues around the hospital and the neighbouring streets.

 

Councillor Fielding thanked the Cabinet Spokesperson for his comprehensive answer.  He commented that he had already had a discussion with Councillor Lamb informally prior to this meeting, coincidentally at the hospital.  It was also pleasing to note that Councillor Lamb had set a good example and had travelled to that meeting by public transport and he had also set a similar example by walking.  Both Members were, therefore, ‘doing their bit’ to solve the parking problems.  He was keen that solutions could be found to these issues and, having met with the hospital management, they seemed keen to support the park and ride scheme.  He therefore asked, as a supplementary question, if consultation on proposals could take place when such schemes were put forward at an early stage, with local Members, residents and those who would be affected by the changes.

 

Councillor Lamb responded by stating that proposals were currently at the early stages of development with the gathering of evidence and information in order for a range of options to be developed.  Once this had been undertaken there would be widespread, detailed and meaningful consultation not just with local Councillors but with local residents as it was recognised that this was a significant issue for all concerned.