In accordance with Standing Orders, written answers to the following questions will be circulated on a supplementary agenda.
(A) Question from Councillor Margaret Notley
“In the past there used to be provision for substitute Members to attend committee meetings in the event that a Member of a Committee cannot attend. Why is this not being re-instated?”
(B) Question from Councillor Nick Leech
“Can you explain who owns and is responsible for the derelict oil container in Waverley Close, Roebuck ward?”
(C) Question from Councillor Adam Mitchell CC
“The current ‘line of sight’ policy for trimming hedges results in hedgerows looking unfinished and messy. Will you consider reviewing this policy and start trimming Stevenage’s hedgerows properly?”
(D) Question from Councillor Chris Howells
“The safety of local people should be a priority, but in the town centre pedestrians are having to dodge cyclists, e-scooters and skateboarders. They are frightening the elderly, the disabled and children. What is being done to stop this anti-social behaviour?”
(E) Question from Councillor Julie Ashley-Wren
“Why is it taking so long to prepare and submit final accounts for refurbishment works to leaseholders of SBC owned flats? In many instances the work has long been completed, yet without a final and settled account, meaning that sales cannot take place.”
(F) Question from Councillor Stephen Booth
“Why is it taking so long for simple queries to be dealt with by the “Your Say” system? Should not all queries from councillors be responded to within a week?”
(G) Question from Councillor Andy McGuinness
“What is the latest update on progress to provide a permanent home for the Covid-19 Cobra snake?”
(H) Question from Councillor Robin Parker CC
“Why are opposition parties not allowed to be Chair of any Scrutiny functions?”
(I) Question from Councillor Graham Snell
“Why does it take so long for the Council to evict tenants who are in clear and continuing breach of their tenancy agreement when backed with reported and documented instances of repeated anti-social behaviour? Will the Council lobby the Government to grant stronger powers to local authorities to act in such situations?”
(J) Question from Councillor Alex Farquharson
“Can the Leader expand on her stance towards GSK’s £400 million investment in Stevenage?”
The Council received ten questions from Members to Committee Chairs/Portfolio Holders. The responses to the ten questions had been published in the supplementary agenda for the meeting.
(A) Question from Councillor Margaret Notley re: substitutes on committees
No supplementary question was asked.
(B) Question from Councillor Nick Leech re: derelict oil container at Waverley Close
Supplementary question – “Would the Executive Portfolio Holder for Resources commit to a meeting with him and Councillor Chris Howells to investigate resolving the issues for one and all?”
The Executive Portfolio Holder for Resources replied that the oil container was situated on private land, and that she was unaware of any previous complaints regarding the matter. She would await a legal view on the issue, including advice as to whether or not the container breached environmental and/or planning legislation, and she undertook to come back to Councillor Leech following receipt of this information.
(C) Question from Councillor Adam Mitchell re: hedgerow trimming
No supplementary question was asked.
(D) Question from Councillor Chris Howells re: cyclists, e-scooters and skateboarders in the town centre
Supplementary question – “How can the Council hope to attract more visitors to the Borough both before and after Town Centre Regeneration with the current high level of cyclists, e-scooters and skateboarders using the pedestrianised areas of the town centre?”
The Executive Portfolio Holder for Communities, Community Safety & Equalities replied that the Council had a very proactive Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) Team who were tackling the issues raised in the question, in association with Hertfordshire Constabulary. She asked Councillor Howells to contact her and/or ASB Team officers should he experience further examples of this type of anti-social behaviour.
(E) Question from Councillor Julie Ashley-Wren re: refurbishment works to leaseholders of SBC owned flats
In the absence of Councillor Ashley-Wren, Councillor Robin Parker asked the following Supplementary question – “Can the SBC Leaseholders be written to now to be advised of the Council’s plans and reasons for the delay, and have any of them opted for an independent check of their final accounts?”
The Executive Portfolio Holder for Housing, Health & Older People replied that a letter would be going out to the first tranche of Leaseholders with their bills and explaining the reasons for delay. The bills had yet to be sent out, and the costs had been capped, with the majority of bills below the estimated costs. As the bills had not yet been sent out, it was not possible to give an indication as to how many Leaseholders had opted for independent checks.
(F) Question from Councillor Stephen Booth re: “Your Say” system
Supplementary question – “Would the Council consider improving this service by allowing councillors to engage more directly with Assistant Director level officers (or their senior assistants) on “Your Say” issues?”
The Executive Portfolio Holder for Neighbourhoods & Co-operative Council replied that he accepted that there had been an increase in enquiries through the “Your Say” system during Covid lockdown and afterwards. He would be meeting officers in the near future to look at improvements to the system for all Members, including an enhanced digital offer.
(G) Question from Councillor Andy McGuinness re: Covid-19 Cobra snake
Supplementary question – “Can the Portfolio Holder confirm that the final location of the Covid-19 Cobra snake would be in the underpass at the junction of Grace Way and Vardon Road, the preferred location following a residents’ survey and fundraising exercise carried out in 2020?”
The Portfolio Holder for Children, Young People, Leisure & Culture replied that the final location was being discussed with Dawn Parnell and her family, and no decision had been made. SBC Officers were working with Hertfordshire County Council colleagues to determine the final resting place for the Covid-19 Cobra snake,
(H) Question from Councillor Robin Parker re: Chairs of Scrutiny functions
Supplementary question – “In view of the fact that the original question was not answered, why are opposition parties not allowed to Chair any of the Councils Scrutiny functions?”
The Leader of the Council replied that the first paragraph of the original answer was to explain the efficacy of the work carried out by the Council’s scrutiny bodies. The second paragraph confirmed that the appointment to Chairs of Committees (including scrutiny committees) takes place at the Annual Council Meeting in May of each year. The Chairs of Committees are decided upon by the Majority Group, and come before the Annual Council for approval. The Vice-Chair positions on scrutiny committees were handed to the opposition for appointment. The above provisions would continue whilst the current Majority Group was in political control of the Council.
(I) Question from Councillor Graham Snell re: tenancy evictions for anti-social behaviour
Supplementary question – “Can I have more detail about what has been done successfully in resolving the problems associated with difficult neighbours?”
The Executive Portfolio Holder for Housing, Health & Older People undertook to provide a written answer to the supplementary question.
(J) Question from Councillor Alex Farquharson re: Leader’s stance on GSK’s £400M investment in Stevenage
Councillor Farquharson was pleased with the Leader of the Council’s response and had no supplementary question.
The Leader of the Council reiterated her support for GSK’s investment in Stevenage and hoped that the next phase would be a successful Towns Fund scheme for alterations and improvements to the Gunnels Wood Road/GSK roundabout area, in order to unlock the potential for the growth of the GSK/Catalyst Bioscience Park campus.