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) Question to Councillor Margaret Bell from Councillor John Holland
“In December 2021 Council agreed a Motion about the West Midlands Ambulance Service. Can we have a progress report?”
Councillor Bell recognised that there was a national issue with the Ambulance Service which was also felt in Warwickshire and whilst the county was not the worst affected area, it was still feeling the impact. At the last meeting of the Health and Wellbeing Board, Nigel Minns had been asked to set up a meeting with key players to see whether there was anything that could be done in Warwickshire to mitigate ambulance delays outside hospitals and general ambulance delays getting to calls. There had been a number of operational meetings to look at specific issues and the new Integrated Care Board had agreed to put together a strategic meeting of the key players to see how the organisations could work together. This was a system issue; it was not just about ambulances and there were lots of pieces in the puzzle to fit together to make it work and this required the strategic overview meeting to be arranged. A report would be made to the next meeting of the Health and Wellbeing Board and Councillor Bell indicated that a briefing note could be circulated to members at that stage.
(2) Question to Councillor Kan Kaur from Councillor Jerry Roodhouse
“In light of the recent media coverage and the increased cost of living pressures could the Portfolio Holder state what actions WCC are taking to support school meals in Warwickshire and give assurances that the nutritional value of these meals is not being reduced.”
Councillor Kaur advised that this was a difficult question to answer as the Local Authority did not provide meals to schools. Schools chose their own suppliers. However, Educatators was one of the largest suppliers of school meals in Warwickshire and had sent a letter to schools on 5 July 2022 which stated
“Dear Client. In the last couple of days there has been a lot of coverage in the press following a report published by LACA the School Food People stating that due to rising food prices some school caterers have or will switch to cheaper imported meat and change other menu items to reduce costs. I am writing to reassure you that Educators will not be going down this route. We are as committed as ever to supporting British farmers by serving British meat and do not plan to make any changes to our menus, ingredient quality, recipes or portion sizes. Things will remain as they always have: delicious, nutritious food for all. We have had to make a small number of short term changes due to supply chain issues but in most cases, these are on a like for like basis. For example a switch from British Red Tractor chicken fillets to British Red Tractor turkey fillets not due to prices increases but a lack of British chicken due to avian flu. I’m pleased to report our young diners tucked into the delicious turkey just the same with no complaints.”
Councillor Kaur indicated that she was happy to share the letter with Members.
(3) Question to Councillor Wallace Redford from Councillor Jerry Roodhouse
“Will the portfolio holder state what road safety campaigns are being run especially at drivers who are amber gambling at traffic lights.”
Councillor Wallace Redford considered that most if not all members would have experienced drivers who had jumped red and amber traffic lights and caused extremely dangerous situations. In answer to the question, the County was a provider of the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme in partnership with Warwickshire Police. The scheme provided educational courses as an alternative to prosecution and points. The programme was recognised as being an effective driver of behavioural change. In addition, the What's Driving Us course was provided, which was designed to change drivers’ behaviour using behavioural change techniques. Clients with such offences as driving without due care and attention, jumping traffic lights, tailgaiting, crossing solid white lines etc were referred on to this course. The course increases clients’ awareness and understanding of the cause and consequences of risky, inconsiderate driving, the importance of concentration, observation and anticipation and reasons why their own driving maybe unsafe or inconsiderate. In addition to that, the Council was partners in the National Speed Awareness and National Motorway Awareness Schemes and safe considerate driving courses which showed a blended approach to the problems that such driving abuse caused. The courses were available online or in person and 1-1 and there were also several other courses available. In addition the Road Safety Team was monitored incidences of injuries and where they occurred and how road safety issues might improve the situation. The safe and active travel programme had developed and promoted the support and delivery of road safety education and active travel intervention through schools, work places, and the community across the county. ‘Driving Ambitions’, the secondary school road safety education programme, was delivered to pupils in Year 7, 9, 10, 11 and 12 by the Road Safety Team in partnership with Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service. There was quite a broad approach to road safety and in particular the issue that Councillor Roodhouse raised.
(4) Question to Councillor Seccombe from Councillor Will Roberts
“Since records began in 1893, Warwick, where we sit today hasn’t seen temperatures top 30°C very often and especially not in continuous consecutive years. A trend which we are now facing. Within the last decade, Warwick has topped 30°C in 2015/16/17/18/19/20/21 and 2022. In 2019 & 2020 the temperature topped 30°C on four days with Public Health England reporting the heatwave mortality in 2019 showed significant excess deaths in the West Midlands.
This year we have already topped 30°C on 4 days, breaking I believe a record yesterday, which is forecast to be broken again today. This pattern of warming weather and more intense heatwaves is something scientists have been telling us will happen for decades and will continue to worsen.
Will you agree with me that the climate emergency is having a direct impact on the health & wellbeing of Warwickshire residents. And this council should be doing more to level up on its poor Climate Action Plan.”
Councillor Seccombe noted that the question fell into the portfolio responsibilities of Councillor Heather Timms and invited Councillor Timms to provide a response. Councill Timms stated that climate change was a main priority in the Council Plan and that a delivery plan had been agreed by Cabinet. A cross party climate change group meeting had taken place in the same week as the Full Council meeting and had discussed the sustainable future strategy, which would be presented to Cabinet in October. She also commented that the Green Shoots funding was being brought forward and Warwickshire was a national leader in biodiversity. Councillor Timms concluded that she did not agree with the statement that “the Council should be doing more to level up on its poor Climate Action Plan” and she was happy to give further information to prove how far ahead Warwickshire was on the agenda.
Councillor Roberts sought clarification from Councillor Timms whether, when she said she did not agree, she was referring to the climate emergency not having a direct impact on health and wellbeing of residents and Councillor Timms said she had not responded to statements made in the preamble to the question, and had focussed her answer on the question regarding the quality of the action plan.
(5) Question to Councillor Wallace Redford from Councillor Jan Matecki
“I was contacted by a member of public about the Blue Badge Scheme around fast tracking for people who are terminally ill. The complaint was that the county does not have a fast tracking system. Councillor Redford explained to me that we do have a fast tracking scheme whereby applications are turned around in 24 hours, not just for the terminally ill, but also other residents with a range of other issues. My question is can we advertise this on our website to avoid unnecessary stress to residents who otherwise think they have to wait six weeks for their pass?”
Councillor Redford confirmed that the information had been put on the website.
(6) Question to Councillor Peter Butlin from Cllr Jonathan Chilvers
“This question follows on from the earlier debate. I was a little bemused Councillor Butlin said there was no way to get money from academies once we had handed over school buildings (we were talking about them benefiting from lower electricity costs) and I would have thought that a simple legal agreement whereby we say we’d built to a higher standard and we share the proceeds of that was a way to do that. Will Councillor Butlin investigate that mechanism? He then went on to say if there were any savings from improved standards, again I would ask whether he will ask for research to be undertake to ascertain the level of additional lower energy bills by improved insulation and other measures in schools.”
Councillor Butlin advised that in terms of whether or not it was possible to ‘backtrack’ and bill schools for any savings going forward, he was mindful that it was arguable that would result in money being taken from childrens’ education. In terms of whether savings could be achieved, he awaited evidence to support the use of technologies such as air source heat pumps and he would act upon the information as and when it was received.