In accordance with Standing Orders, written answers to the following questions will be circulated on a supplementary agenda.
(A) Question from Councillor Nicholas Leech
‘Why are Stevenage Borough Council recycling rates so far below our neighbouring councils according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS)*?’
(B) Question from Councillor Julie Ashley-Wren
‘Even before recent storms damage, we were receiving numerous reports about SBC owned fences not being repaired for months, sometimes years, after having been reported.
a. What was the reason for this?
b. What actions has the Council taken to put the matter right?’
(C) Question from Councillor Stephen Booth
‘Which of the following has been the cause of the additional funding necessary to complete the new Bus Interchange:
Was it a failure by the contractor to include the additional works in their tender?; or
Was it a failure by the Council to properly scope the works before inviting tenders?’
(D) Question from Councillor Andy McGuinness
‘What steps are the Council taking to alleviate the impact on local residents of the unwelcome and unnecessary development at Gresley Park?’
(E) Question from Councillor Robin Parker
Reference the recent traffic difficulties along Lytton Way, and acknowledging that HCC are the highway authority:
a. What part did SBC play in the arrangements implemented?
b. In retrospect, what should have been done better?
c. What further disruption to traffic on Lytton Way is expected as a result of future town centre regeneration works?’
(F) Question from Councillor Graham Snell
‘On the recently installed hoarding around the now closed Swingate car park in Stevenage Town Centre, there has been a number of information boards telling the story of Stevenage, which are very interesting.
a. Are these the same boards that were previously around the new bus station?
b. What was the cost of (i) supplying them (ii) installing them and (iii) who paid?’
(G) Question from Councillor Tom Wren
‘Supplementary question to the question submitted by Cllr. Wren to Council for the 15th December 2021 meeting. Were any Government grants or funding schemes available for the Council to use for insulation or other works as part of the Major Refurbishment Contract?’
The Council received seven questions from Members to Committee Chairs/Portfolio Holders. The responses to the seven questions had been published in the supplementary agenda for the meeting.
(A) Question from Councillor Nick Leech re: Council recycling rates
Supplementary question – “The ONS statistics showed that the percentage of SBC waste sent to landfill over the past six years had remained at 60%. Why had this not improved?”
In reply, the Executive Portfolio Holder for Environment & Regeneration acknowledged that there was room for improvement with regard to the recycling rates. He had set out in his response to the original question some of the proposed measures for securing improvement. The Government’s review of its Waste Strategy had been postponed a number of times. One of the issues included in the Government’s consultation had related to kitchen waste – should SBC adopt a collection scheme it would increase the recycling rate by about 4.5%. There was also an onus on residents to change behaviour and increase their own recycling rates, including that secured from the Borough’s flat blocks. He would welcome a discussion with Councillor Leech and Waste Collection staff to consider the various issues going forward.
(B) Question from Councillor Julie Ashley-Wren re: repairs to SBC-owned fences
Supplementary question – “What plans were in place to deal with the 1,000+ fence repairs that were required prior to the additional 300 or so that were needed following the recent storms?”
The Executive Portfolio Holder for Housing, Health & Older People replied that fencing had been at a low level of supply nationally over the past two years, both for councils and private properties. The Council had been undertaking emergency only fencing repairs during that time. Such emergency repairs would include, for example, where the fence bordered a footpath, and would need to be repaired for security purposes. A sum of £250,000 had been allocated in the 2022/23 budget to help deal with the fencing repairs backlog.
(C) Question from Councillor Stephen Booth re: funding for the new Bus Interchange
Supplementary question – “Did the Council fail to properly scope the works, thereby allowing the contractor once on site to maximise the costs for the additional works required to complete the contract?”
The Executive Portfolio Holder for Environment & Regeneration replied that the Bus Interchange was a circa £10M project. He felt that the timelines on the hoarding which surrounded the site during the works represented good value for money, and would be re-used (and updated) on the hoardings used for other Town Centre Regeneration Schemes. It helped to enhance the interface between the Council and the public.
(D) Question from Councillor Andy McGuinness re: impact on residents of Gresley Park development
Supplementary question (from Councillor Robin Parker in the absence of Councillor McGuinness) – “Can he receive a list of the benefits for the Borough to be derived from the Section 106 Agreement for the Gresley Park development, and has SBC complained to East Hertfordshire Council (EHC) and/or Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) and/or the site developer about alleged planning breaches concerning the development?”
The Executive Portfolio Holder for Environment & Regeneration replied that Councillor Parker had previously been provided with information concerning some of the benefits to be derived from the development, including improvements to health services, education etc. He felt it had been a very well negotiated Section 106 Agreement. If Councillor Parker felt that there were planning breaches, there was no reason why he could not report these to East Hertfordshire Council himself, copying in SBC Planning Officers, in order that they could take up the matter(s) with EHC and/or HCC Planning colleagues if they deemed it appropriate to do so.
(E) Question from Councillor Robin Parker re: traffic difficulties along Lytton Way
Supplementary question – “How will SBC communicate issues and expected problems better in future?”
The Executive Portfolio Holder for Environment & Regeneration replied by stating that a number of the Town Centre Regeneration schemes, such as the Queensway and Town Square Improvements, had been carried out with a minimum of inconvenience to the public. The Lytton Way works had caused some inconvenience, but he commented that the responsibility for the works rested with Hertfordshire County Council. Lessons had been learnt from the project, and HCC (Ringway) had advised that any future highway works on that area would be carried out during weekends.
(F) Question from Councillor Graham Snell re: hoarding around the now closed Swingate Car Park
Supplementary question (from Councillor Robin Parker in the absence of Councillor Snell) – “Can the resource on the hoardings be shared digitally so that they can be used in local schools and by other interested organisations?”
The Executive Portfolio Holder for Environment & Regeneration replied that if any schools or other organisations were interested in the content on the hoardings then every effort would be made to share this with them digitally.
(G) Question from Councillor Tom Wren re: Government Grants or funding schemes available for Major refurbishment Contract
[Note: Prior to asking his supplementary question, Councillor Tom Wren declared a non-prejudicial interest, in that he was a leaseholder of an SBC property. He considered his interest was non-prejudicial, as his question was of a general nature and was applicable to leasehold properties across the Borough.]
Supplementary question – “Although many millions of Government funding had been used to improve individual council properties nationally, no funding had been provided for flat blocks. Did SBC avoid using Government funds for the Major Refurbishment Contract to by-pass the restriction of Florrie’s Law, and therefore increase charges to leaseholders, and will the Council co-operate with a Freedom of Information request and disclose all e-mails related to the Major Refurbishment Contract which mention Florrie’s Law or access to Government funds?”
The Executive Portfolio Holder for Housing, Health & Older People replied that there had not been any Government funds available for insulation of flat blocks. The Council had only just received funding of £1.8M from the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund to undertake improved energy efficiency works to the SBC housing stock. In terms of cladding/insulation improvements post-Grenfell, she added that the Council would not be acting until the Fire Safety Bill had completed its passage through Parliament.