Agenda item

Member Question Time (Standing Order 7)

A period of up to 40 minutes is allocated for questions to the Leader, Cabinet    Portfolio Holders and Chairs of Overview and Scrutiny Committees.



1)       Councillor Sarah Millar to Councillor Heather Timms


“When will the Portfolio holder confirm with the commercial partner “Solar Together” the launch of the new round of registrations for Warwickshire residents to express their interest in the potential cost savings of group buying solar panels and battery storage?”


Councillor Timms advised that supporting residents in their journey to reduce carbon emissions had been the goal of the Solar Together scheme since its creation in 2021.  Phase 2 of the scheme was expected to be launched before the end of this calendar year.  However, there was awareness that there were national and local supply chain challenges and increasing costs so there was an element of availability for the scheme.  There was also a desire to review Phase 1 of the scheme which had not yet completed with the council’s partner before the next round was launched.


2)       Councillor Jan Matecki to Councillor Isobel Seccombe


“It has now been nearly three months since Russia invaded Ukraine.  Ukrainians continue to put up an amazing brave resistance against the brutality of the Russian army.  Many women, children and the elderly continue to flee their homes in search of safety.  Warwickshire residents are amongst the most welcoming in this country with many of them generously offering up their homes to give sanctuary to displaced Ukrainians.  I would like to ask the Leader what is this council doing during this crisis to help and support Ukrainian families that come to this county?”


Councillor Isobel Seccombe thanked all the residents of Warwickshire for their commendable generosity to Ukrainian people who had been displaced and the Council’s team who were also working hard to provide help. 


She stated that the Council was doing a lot of work, some of which Members would already be aware of and, in her response, Councillor Seccombe provided the headlines of this work.  A Warwickshire Welcome pack had been devised and translated and made available to sponsors and guests to provide signposting to health and wellbeing, education and child care services.  A set of safeguarding and welfare visits were taking place to understand the nature of buildings being offered and also to listen to the needs of the families, ensure that people were not being put into more danger and vice versa and ensure that appropriate signposting to support was provided.


The scope of the accommodation that should be appropriate had been agreed and there was a great working relationship with the districts and boroughs taking place who were stepping up to help and support in this particular area.  The Fire and Rescue Service was also linked into the process.


Dedicated email addresses had been set up to ensure prompt responses for general enquiries, payments, DBS checks together with a dedicated freephone telephone number. A webpage had also been created which could be translated instantly.  Councillor Seccombe would circulate the email addresses and freephone numbers to councillors. 


In terms of payments, sponsors had access to £350 per month and a one-off payment of £200 on the arrival of the Ukrainian family and the county council was making those payments.


A number of webinars for sponsors and community groups had taken place which were providing useful two-way information channels. 


Councillor Seccombe acknowledged there were glitches in the system, noting there were issues around visas, particularly for children without passports, but it was recognised that it was essential to ensure children were travelling with an appropriate adult.  One of the immediate challenges being faced was that although MPs could access visa information for individuals through the Home Office, the Council could not, and this was something the Council was pushing for to enable people to be helped more quickly.


The Council was also working the CCGs to provide information on where sponsors and families were located so that they could plan service provision to try to ensure that there was access to health services. 


A lot of advice through the Department for Education was being received around how children should be supported in schools and through mental health services.


This work was being undertaken on the back of Afghan and Syrian family resettlements and the teams were at full stretch.


Councillor Seccombe expressed her pride in the work the Council was doing to support and welcome the people of Ukraine who had been displaced.  She concluded by thanking those families who had stepped up to offer a home and refuge.


3)       Councillor Sarah Millar to Councillor Peter Butlin


“In light of the Prime Minister’s comments about wanting people to be looked after by their councils in his interview with Susanna Reid on GMB (Good Morning Britain) on 3 May 2022, can the portfolio holder confirm how much support the Council has already received from central Government to support Warwickshire residents with energy and other cost of living increases and how much additional extra support it expects to receive in the future?”


Councillor Butlin advised that the government funded £4,093,080 in 2021/22 which was spent on the Household Support Fund. A further £3,474,259 had been allocated by government for the first six months of 2022/23 for spend against the Household Support Fund.


The Council also continued to run its own Local Welfare Scheme and since 2019, £644,657 of central government Covid 19 funding had been used to support this scheme.


The government would be lobbied for more funding to help people in Warwickshire reach full employment, which linked to the Warwickshire Recovery and Investment Fund that helped to keep people in employment.


The voluntary sector had also been brought together in terms of supporting people who were experiencing difficulties.


4)       Councillor Jonathan Chilvers to Councillor Peter Butlin


Councillor Chilvers noted that his question had been answered as part of the debate on the Education Schools Capital Programme 2022-23 report and instead noted that all schools in that programme were going to be built to the new 2021 regulations, including the Queen Elizabeth Academy and Oakley Grove, but that the Myton School Sixth Form was currently only planned to be built to the 2013 regulations.  He asked if Councillor Butlin shared his concerns in that regard and would commit to ensuring it was built to the higher 2021 regulations?


Councillor Butlin responded that bearing in mind the tight building schedule and funding schedule, and that it was imperative that the sixth form facility was available to accommodate children from Myton Grove, it would be disingenuous to make promises about raising standards and increasing costs on the build at this stage as that could jeopardise the delivery of the project and the future education standards for the children who would end up in Oakley Grove.   


5)       Councillor Jonathan Chilvers to Councillor Wallace Redford


"What is the average length of time that Warwickshire's pedestrian crossings are programmed to wait after the button is pressed before turning red if there is a steady stream of traffic?”


Councillor Redford advised that the average length of time that a pedestrian would need to wait for the green crossing signal to be lit in Warwickshire was 24 seconds after the button had been pressed. However, this period varied during the day dependent on how busy the road was with vehicular traffic. The maximum time a pedestrian would need to wait for the green crossing signal at a pedestrian crossing to be activated was 32 seconds once the button had been pressed.  All crossings were intelligently monitored, and the light came on in three seconds if there was no traffic.


Councillor Chilvers asked whether Councillor Redford would investigate and consider whether the timings should be lowered to increase the speed of pedestrian journey times.  Councillor Redford agreed to consider the request.


5)       Councillor Rob Tromans to Councillor Isobel Seccombe


“As a Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Councillor, I am grateful that the Leader has reconfirmed the county's commitment to transforming Nuneaton and as Mayor of Nuneaton and Bedworth, I am also delighted that the Leader has confirmed the commitment for a Transforming Bedworth initiative as well.  I have been struck by just how enthusiastic and interested residents are right across Nuneaton and Bedworth and the surrounding area about the transformation work due to go on there and which is picking up pace.  The public are looking for more information so can we have some more regular and detailed communications to keep residents informed, particularly to elected members in surrounding areas who receive a lot of questions.”


Councillor Seccombe acknowledged the request and reflected that there had been concern about how to move forward and get all the pieces in place for the initiative but that it would now be helpful to provide feedback.  She agreed to make sure that feedback was available but highlighted that it was a joint project and the information needed to feed through to all members on both councils.


5)       Councillor Will Roberts to Councillor Peter Butlin


“Can you clarify your answer regarding Myton School? I know you cannot commit to building to 2021 regulations, but will you investigate building to 2021 regulations or not?”


Councillor Peter Butlin reminded members that funding into the capital programme had been approved earlier in this meeting for the school as per the building standards and regulations on the quotation.  To go back, imposing further standards would be disingenuous and jeopardise the delivery of the school and the places needed for Oakley Grove and into the future for Myton School.  Councillor Butlin considered that there would be opportunities in future when further technologies were available to retrofit and take savings because of that investment going forward.  However, he could not at this stage jeopardise delivery of the school by imposing higher standards as those higher standards were already imposing higher costs on future projects.  In effect, Members had voted the funding through on the earlier standards.


5)       Councillor Jenny Fradgley to Councillor Clare Golby


“Can Councillor Golby provide councillors with an update on ambulances services in Warwickshire?”


Councillor Golby advised that she would respond in writing.