In accordance with Standing Orders, written answers to the following questions will be circulated on a supplementary agenda.
(A) Question from Councillor Bret Facey
“Does the Council consider the warmth residents suffering from fuel poverty in the south of Stevenage as equally important as those residents living in the north and centre of the town?"
(B) Question from Councillor Chris Howells
“There are ongoing issues with a lack of response to residents on housing repairs. They are then contacting Councillors, and this is no doubt creating more work for Officers. How can the Council improve communications with residents, so they stop feeling ignored?”
(C) Question from Councillor Alex Farquharson
“Does the Leader of the Council believe that all politicians aspiring for public office in Stevenage should uphold the highest standards of honesty, trust and transparency?”
(D) Question from Councillor Julie Ashley-Wren
“Are other options for the inappropriate location for the proposed primary school in the Town Centre being considered?”
(E) Question from Councillor Stephen Booth
“IT failures at SBC have continued since this Group last raised the issue. In the last year:
(a) how many major failures have occurred?
(b) how many (estimated) work hours have been lost or disrupted?
(c) what has been the (estimated) cost to council tax payers?”
(F) Question from Councillor Andy McGuinness
“Given the significant financial pressures the Council will find itself in the future, what assessment has been or will be undertaken to establish any possible efficiency savings from either outsourcing or pooling current council services with other neighbouring authorities?”
(G) Question from Councillor Robin Parker
“Response and answering times for telephone contacts at the SBC Customer Service Centre have been appalling for several years and local social media continues to be full of complaints about this. Recognising that we have also repeatedly raised this issue and that not all customers either can go online for their particular query, or may not want to do so:
(a) what plans have SBC management got to address this issue by deploying additional resources?
(b) will you undertake to rectify this gross failing by June 2023?”
(H) Question from Councillor Graham Snell
“SBC is sometimes slow and unresponsive over dealing with perceived breaches of planning conditions. Will a dedicated Planning Enforcement Officer now be appointed?”
(I) Question from Councillor Tom Wren
“SBC consults only with immediate neighbours on planning applications. Will SBC widen the scope of such consultations, so that, for example, those with a clear view of the proposed development are also consulted?”
The Council received nine questions from Members to Committee Chairs/Portfolio Holders. The responses to the nine questions had been published in the supplementary agenda for the meeting.
(A) Question from Councillor Bret Facey re: fuel poverty in the South of Stevenage
Supplementary question – Only 1 session out of the 28 provided for warm spaces would be taking place in the South of Stevenage. Please can the provision of warm spaces in the south of the Town be considered?
The Executive Portfolio Holder for Communities, Neighbourhoods and Co-operative Council advised that an interim community space was in the process of being developed in the central hub of the new Kenilworth building. In the meantime, officers were currently in negotiation with St Peter’s Church, SPRUSE at Marymead and the Four Seasons Café at the Roebuck for the provision of warm spaces in the area.
(B) Question from Councillor Chris Howells re: housing repairs
Supplementary question – “although in the minority, there was a percentage of residents dissatisfied with repairs. What mechanisms were there to ensure the minority of these cases do not slip through the net?”
The Executive Portfolio Holder for Housing and Housing Development agreed that sometimes responses to residents were not as they should be exacerbated by a high turnover of staff. The Portfolio Holder advised that this was continually under review.
(C) Question from Councillor Alex Farquharson re: standards in public office
Supplementary question – the recently selected labour Parliamentary candidate for Stevenage was until recently a London Councillor with no links to Stevenage. Can the Leader of the Council guarantee that the Parliamentary Candidate would hold up the highest standards of honesty, trust and transparency?
The Leader of the Council advised that the parliamentary candidate was now permanently based in Stevenage, was passionate about the Town and had attended many more community events this year than the current MP for Stevenage and was the best person to represent Stevenage at the next General Election.
(D) Question from Councillor Julie Ashley-Wren re: Town Centre proposed primary school.
There was no supplementary question.
(E) Question from Councillor Stephen Booth re: IT failures
Supplementary question – when would Councillors be consulted regarding their IT needs?
The Executive Portfolio Holder for Resources, Transformation and Information Technology advised that there had been many IT meetings recently that Councillor Booth could have attended and any questions could have been sent via her in this regard. The system was complex and recent failures had been dealt with as soon as they could be.
(F) Question from Councillor Andy McGuinness re: potential outsourcing opportunities
Supplementary question – Could Councillor Mrs Lloyd provide more detail on the improvements mentioned in regard to the waste and recycling services. Also could confirmation be given that no services would be off the table in terms of outsourcing other services?
The Executive Portfolio Holder for Resources, Transformation and Information Technology replied that all services had been looked at in trying to get the budget ready and for the Council to receive best value for money. The consultation on waste and recycling will be circulated to members as and when it was ready.
(G) Question from Councillor Robin Parker re: potential outsourcing opportunities CSC response times
Supplementary question – Could the refuse/recycling calendar for the whole year be made available online?
The Executive Portfolio Holder for Resources, Transformation and Information Technology advised she would look at this and respond to Councillor Parker.
(H) Question from Councillor Graham Snell re: Planning Enforcement
Supplementary question – asked by Councillor Parker in Cllr Snell’s absence. Why were there repeated complaints about the delayed planning development in Magellan Close?
The Executive Member for Environment and Climate Change advised that he would ask officers to respond to Cllr Parker as this was a site specific issue. He agreed more resources would be useful in the Planning Enforcement area.
(I) Question from Councillor Tom Wren re: planning applications
Supplementary question – asked by Councillor Parker in Cllr Wren’s absence. Members still received complaints regarding a lack of consultation on small planning developments. Will the Portfolio Holder look to update the Statement of Community Involvement?
The Executive Member for Environment and Climate Change advised that the update was already included in the upcoming review of the Local Plan.