Agenda item

Public Question Time (15 Minutes)

The opportunity is given to members of the public to put questions to Cabinet Members or Committee Chairs, provided that questions do not contravene the provisions set out Council Procedure Rules 10(2).


To ask a question at this meeting, please submit it to by 12 noon on Friday 11 November 2022 or telephone 01452 396203 for support.


32.1       A Gloucester resident submitted the following question:


The UK has the leakiest homes in Europe with regard to heat loss.

Meaning the carbon emissions produced to heat these homes are bigger than those produced by vehicles on our roads. Statements from many eminent scientists of this country including, Sir David King claim what we do in the next three to four years will be profound to the existence of human life on this planet.


In October 2021, during the COP 26 in Glasgow. Outside Gloucester cathedral, the leader of the city council proclaimed that Gloucester would declare a climate emergency and work to a goal of net zero carbon emissions and would install insulation in all social housing in Gloucester.


What has the council installed since the twelve months of this promise to show its commitment to climate change at this time?


Councillor Cook responded that he had not promised that the council would install insulation in all social housing in Gloucester. He advised that the council had declared a climate emergency, and had set a target for the achievement of net zero carbon emissions, which was more challenging than the goal set for the UK nationally. He explained that this council, as the lead partner for Climate Change Adaptation on the cross-county Climate Leadership Gloucestershire board, fully supported the recommendations of the Climate Change Committee’s 6th Carbon Budget on residential thermal efficiency and would seek to ensure this was reflected in the forthcoming Gloucester City Council Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan.


32.2       A Gloucester resident submitted the following question:


I and many others, some even imprisoned, have demonstrated our commitment to give a voice to those 63,500 excess individuals who have died intheir own homes in the UK over the twelve-month period 2020 – 21.


How many excess deaths of people have died in their own homes in Gloucester from 2019-20


And how many have died from 2020-21 in Gloucester?


Councillor S. Chambers responded that datasets relating to the estimated number of excess deaths were published by the Office for National Statistics and were not held by Gloucester City Council.


32.3    A Gloucester resident submitted the following question:


When will the figures be released for 2021-22 and will this council publicly acknowledge this count and state the figures?


Councillor S.Chambers responded that it was a matter for the Office for National Statistics.


32.4    A Gloucester resident submitted the following question:


How many new social houses have been built in Gloucester since 2010 and what is the average EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating of these homes? EPC rate from E to A+++


Councillor S. Chambers explained that the council was currently unable to provide data dating back to 2010, but that 982 affordable homes had been delivered in the period from April 2016 to March 2022, with a further 75 delivered in the first two quarters of 2022/23; totalling 1,057 since April 2016. She added that the council did not hold data relating to the EPC rating of new affordable homes.


32.5 A Gloucester resident submitted the following question:


As part of your climate emergency rating strategy for this city, to meet the carbon zero goal of this city. What is the minimum EPC rating for social housing likely to be under the city's net zero carbon status for these new build properties and what courses of action are entailed to raise the EPC rating for the present stock of social housing?


Councillor Cook explained that the social housing sector faced a significant challenge to achieve the Government’s requirement of a minimum C rating on Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) across all homes by 2030 due to the volume, type, age, and current efficiency of the UK’s social housing stock and level of capital investment needed to bring it up to the required energy efficiency standards. He advised that given the council’s more ambitious targets, it would be keen to encourage and support registered providers to go further and faster, but he noted that , as the council did not own any housing stock, its role was to engage with registered providers and other landlords, as well as seeking to make use of any relevant powers available through the local planning process for new housing.


32.6    A resident of Gloucester submitted the following question:


When will the installation of insulation and retrofit and the renewed legislation of EPC ratings of social housing be introduced in Gloucester and when are the expected completion of retrofit and fitting of insulation of all the social housing stock to meet the promise from the council of its commitment to reach carbon net zero emissions.


Councillor S. Chambers advised that it was for registered providers to meet any specific requirements relating to the energy efficiency of their housing stock as required by government.


32.7    A resident of Gloucester submitted the following question:


When will the commitment of this council to the improved EPC ratings to reach carbon net zero emissions, be legislated to the private landlord sector in this city.


Councillor S. Chambers responded that the council did not have any powers to regulate this area and that it would require the government to introduce relevant legislation.


32.8    A Gloucester resident submitted the following question:


Why have some residents have had to wait over 16 months for planning Applications to be granted. That’s not including the time period that applications have been submitted via pre application.


Do you think it is acceptable for a Gloucester resident to have to wait 66 weeks when the planning guarantee is the government's policy that no application should spend more than a year with decision-makers, including any appeal. In practice this means that planning applications should be decided in no more than 26 weeks, allowing a similar period for any appeal. The city council has taken over 3 times longer than the governments guarantee.


Councillor S. Chambers advised that the council consistently exceeded the minimum targets set by government. She stated that every planning application was different and it was not always possible to determine every application within 8 or 13 weeks. She explained that applications are not acceptable for planning reasons, the council negotiates and work with applicants to find a solution where possible and this can increase the time it takes to determine applications. She highlighted delays caused by the cyber incident experienced by the council, but advised that officers had worked hard to put in temporary solutions as soon as possible to ensure the planning department could still operate.


32.9    A Gloucester resident submitted the following question:


I am aware that residents have made many complaints in writing to the council with some complaints being direct complaints sent by email. One complaint directly from a legal representative.


Why does the planning department think is ok to not respond in any way to emails and legal representatives?


Councillor S. Chambers responded that the Council had a formal complaints procedure and all complaints were acknowledged and responses were recorded.


32.10 A resident of Gloucester submitted the following question:


Will the council disclose information on how many more Gloucester residents and businesses have been let down by the planning department by exceeding the Governments planning guarantee time frame?


Councillor S. Chambers explained that it was not possible to provide the determination statistics for the last two quarters due to the aforementioned cyber incident, but that data would be available by the end of the next quarter and she was confident that it would show that the council had continued to exceed all of the government targets in terms of speed of decision making. She reported that the last available data from Q1, 2 and 3 of 2021/22 showed performance levels of 83% for major applications, against a target of 60%, and 88% for non-major applications, against a target of 70%.

32.11 A resident of Gloucester submitted the following question:


The planning department were aware that a Gloucester city building was in a dangerous position after a fire destroyed most of the building and that council Building control urgently requested that the work proceeded for the safety of the public as it posed a real danger to public. Why did the city council planning not be concerned of the consequences and the danger of Gloucester buildings which pose a danger to the public by taking 3 times longer to respond to planning applications of the Gloucester city residents, taking 3 times longer than the government guarantee deadline?


Councillor S. Chambers advised that Building Control and Planning Services were within the same service area at Gloucester City Council and that where issues of building safety are concerned, the two services liaise to ensure an appropriate response, always with health and safety at the forefront of decision making. She explained that building control officers always ensure the safety of dangerous buildings, usually through temporary measures, such as scaffolding, or in extreme conditions, demolition. She noted that building control officers were not involved in, nor did they have influence over, the planning process. 


32.12 A resident of Gloucester submitted the following question:


Responsible Gloucester landlords take every step to keep their buildings safe and the public.


Do the city council even care about the financial impact and business damage the City Council have caused Gloucester residents by not meeting the government planning guarantee and exceeding the final deadline by a significant amount of time?


Councillor S. Chambers reiterated that the council performed well against the targets set by government, but that planning applications vary considerably with regards to their complexity and as such some take longer than others to determine. She advised that the Council seeks to negotiate with applicants wherever possible to reach positive outcomes, as opposed to refusing applications, and that economic considerations were one of many material considerations the planning officers would take into account as part of the planning process.


32.13 A resident of Gloucester submitted the following question:


Please can the City council inform the public how much money has been paid to Orbis within it's remit of collecting Data of homeless individuals in this city since it's inception in 2016.


Councillor S. Chambers advised that Orbis was not contracted to collect data in respect of homeless individuals; it provided an emergency out of hours homelessness response for residents who become homeless and who have not engaged with Council officers.