Agenda item

Members' Question Time

a)         Leader and Cabinet Members’ Question Time (30 minutes)


        Any member of the Council may ask the Leader of the Council or any Cabinet Member any question without prior notice, upon:


·       Any matter relating to the Council’s administration

·       Any matter relating to any report of the Cabinet appearing on the Council’s summons

·       A matter coming within their portfolio of responsibilities


        Only one supplementary question is allowed per question.


c)     Questions to Chairs of Meetings (15 Minutes)




7.1       Councillor Pullen (Leader of the Labour Group) stated that he had previously written to Councillor Organ about the Discretionary Housing Payment underspend. He stated that an underspend of over £170k was surprising and asked if the Cabinet Member agreed that this was not acceptable.


7.2       Councillor Organ advised that compared to the year 2016/17, the Councillor had awarded more of its allocation and that applications would continue to be received until 30th April 2018. He further advised that there was now a greater focus on making the awards.


7.3       Councillor Pullen stated that Councillor Organ did previously say that the scheme would be promoted. With regard to this, he asked if an assurance could be given that the post of a benefits advice worker would be filled soon. Councillor Organ advised that the post was to be filled imminently.


7.4       Councillor Pullen brought to the Council’s attention that the Culture and Leisure portfolio had seen overspend increase of £55k in the most recent quarter. He asked whether this was due to the portfolio not being managed effectively, unrealistic income targets or some other matter.


7.5       Councillor Noakes (Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure) stated that there were numerous reasons for this. She advised that the portfolio had reduced its savings target and that one reason for the overspend was staffing costs which had increased by £100k. She further advised that a proportion of these staff costs were associated with matters outside her portfolio such as museums and markets.


7.6       Councillor Pullen quote from the report that, ‘income from food and drink had been challenging’ and noted that short-staffing would mean not serving food at the City’s venues. He queried whether the portfolio as a whole would be on budget.


7.7       Councillor Noakes responded by stating that she could not absolutely guarantee it would be on budget but advised the position would improve going forward.


7.8       Councillor Hilton asked of Councillor Cook (Cabinet Member for Environment) when Members would be consulted about which areas would be seeing the removal of the deep clean service. He stated it would be right to consult.


7.9       Councillor Cook advised that the way AMEY operated would be changing. He further advised that all streets would get a deep clean but in tandem with improved grounds maintenance service generally.


7.10    Councillor Hilton stated that four wards (Moreland, Westgate, Kingsholm and Barton and Tredworth) would see the removal of a deep clean and stated that some areas within these wards were impossible to clean without removing vehicles. He asked whether the Cabinet Member would meet to discuss how cleaning would be improved. Councillor Cook advised that officers had recently met with Members to discuss how street cleaning could be improved in the City.


7.11    Councillor Hilton asked Councillor James (Leader of the Council) whether he would prefer public and private money to be invested in Gloucester, Cheltenham or Bristol. Councillor James stated that investment would continue in the City of Gloucester.


7.12    Councillor Hilton asked whether Councillor James agreed that all monies from the Property Investment Fund should be invested in Gloucester. In response, Councillor James stated that he did agree but that the Council could invest outside its administrative area where it would benefit Gloucester’s economy.


7.13    Councillor Wilson noted the cancelled waste collections due to the poor weather – a decision he believed to be correct. He further noted that there had been no ‘catch up’ with regard to collections and asked Councillor Cook if this was the best the Council could do.


7.14    Councillor Cook stated that AMEY did not have reserve vehicles or staff and sourcing these took considerable time. He further stated that it would be wrong to prepare for a ‘what if’ scenario. Councillor Cook advised that he had met with AMEY and that they would produce figures with regard to whether it would be worth spending money on contingency vehicles and staff.


7.15    Councillor J. Brown noted that some other local authorities had the option for residents to put their postcode into the Council website to check when waste and recycling would be collected. She enquired as to whether this could be done for Gloucester and if it could be attended to as a matter of urgency. Councillor James advised that the relevant information was with the Council IT department and was ready to be uploaded.


7.16    Councillor Coole asked Councillor Organ (Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning) how much support would be offered to Gloucester City Homes for the proposed Matson and Podsmead regeneration project. Councillor Organ stated that it was a very big project and that it was at the consultancy stage. He advised that through the Joint Core Strategy, the Council would be supporting Gloucester City Homes in whatever way it could.


7.17    Councillor Watkins stated that a vision statement outlined a commitment to Gloucester City Homes. She further stated that social regeneration was very much part of the project and would include transport, housing and community engagement. She advised that Gloucester City Homes would be present at the next relevant meeting.

7.18    Councillor Coole brought to Council’s attention that four in ten of all homes in Matson were available for social rent and asked whether, after regeneration of the area, residents would be guaranteed a tenancy on the same terms. Councillor Organ advised that whilst this was desirable, it was too early to make this commitment.


7.19    Councillor Haigh asked whether it was Councillor Watkins’ view that the vision statement should be shared with Members. Councillor Watkins advised that it was a public document that it would be circulated and that she would be happy to discuss the matter with ward Members.


7.20    Councillor D. Brown stated that he had attended a Streetcare briefing and that he did not recall a consensus on changes to the service. He stated that there was a level of confusion in relation to length men and the City. Councillor Cook stated that such a matter would be resolved when partner organisations had their respective proposals in place.


7.21    By way of questions to Chairs, Councillor Melvin enquired as to whether there was an update on the work the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had undertaken in relation to the implementation of the Universal Credit rollout. Councillor Coole (Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee) advised that a report had been produced which had been circulated to Cabinet. He further advised that he had presented the report to a meeting of the South West Overview and Scrutiny Network and that it had been considered a good piece of scrutiny work.