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 Wallace Redford from Councillor John Holland
The road and adjacent footpath for Priory Mews, Cape Road, Warwick were closed on 17 February 2022 due to subsidence and remain closed. Since then, no work has been carried out to repair the road and footpath. The highway and footpath are both blocked, causing considerable difficulty for residents in the street. Would the Portfolio Holder apologise to the residents for the loss of their right-of-way and vehicle access to their homes? When will repairs be completed?
Councillor Redford responded that there was a serious situation with subsidence in the area. It was not just affecting the road and the path, several houses had suffered subsidence to the extent that Severn Trent had purchased them. This was an ongoing situation. Severn Trent had taken control of the site and remained so. There was no likelihood of the road being opened until such time that it could be done in a manner that was safe for residents and the workforce in attendance. This would be done as quickly as it was safe to do so.
In response, Councillor Holland noted that there were a number of residents whose homes were not affected by subsidence but they had still lost access, could not get their cars to their garages and the pedestrian route was difficult. It was an adopted highway which was the Council’s responsibility. He considered the response to be unsatisfactory.
Councillor Redford advised that negotiations with Severn Trent to open part of the road as soon as possible were taking place but this remained in the control of Severn Trent. He would circulate more information as soon as he had further news.
(2) Question to Councillor Heather Timms from Councillor Sarah Millar
Please could you provide an update on the solar panel roll out scheme in Warwickshire “Solar Together” and the relationship between the scheme and the service/contract providers (GET UK). Residents in my division, and elsewhere in the county have paid deposits, had scaffolding put up, had scaffolding taken down, and other difficulties including basic contact with the scheme. What support is there for residents who have been disappointed, let down, and frustrated trying to do the right thing for the environment?
Councillor Timms responded that Solar Together was a scheme operated by iChoosr who registered customers, ran the option to find a supplier and passed the customers to the supplier, with customers then signing up to contracts directly with suppliers. A series of global events had had a significant impact on the supply chain over the past 12-18 months, not just in Warwickshire but more widely across the country and this, unfortunately, had impacted on a number of Warwickshire customers. The Council recognised how frustrated and let down they felt, particularly when they were trying to do the right thing
The Council was in regular dialogue with iChoosr and were assessing ways in which affected customers could be supported both directly and through iChoosr. A dedicated team of officers had been set up to liaise with affected customers (where the details were available), and the Council was reviewing the Scheme as a whole.
iChoosr were in constant contact with the supplier, GET, and also in regular dialogue with the Home Insulation and Energy Systems Quality Assured Contractors Scheme (HIES). However, as supplier, the responsibility to resolve the issues lay with GET. iChoosr were planning to liaise with all customers early in the week of the meeting to make them aware of the situation and provide support, whichever part of the process they were at.
Councillor Millar asked what pressure the Council could bring to bear on iChoosr to make sure customers were not experiencing these difficulties, potentially losing deposits and not receiving the solar panels or services they were expecting?
Councillor Timms repeated that a dedicated team had been set up to put that pressure on but the Council wanted to ensure that the supplier, GET, fulfilled their obligations.
(3) Question to Councillor Peter Butlin from Councillor John Holland
Will the Deputy Leader make a statement about the funding of a foot/cycle bridge across Europa Way to replace traffic lights?
Councillor Butlin responded that the Council had been working closely with Warwick District Council to develop feasibility plans for the bridge for more than a year including the Council investing £50,000 in early feasibility studies. While the Community Infrastructure Fund was in place, it was not sufficient to fund the cost of a project of this size. The District Council had welcomed this Council’s release of funding to complete the feasibility work and involve architects which would move the project a step closer to a fully costed and workable design. This would allow the Council, working in partnership, to seek further external funding to deliver the project.
Councillor Holland responded that this sounded like it may be a positive scheme but his main concern was that the project was only required because of development in the area and, therefore, should be developer funded.
(4) Question to Councillor Peter Butlin from Councillor Will Roberts
On 2 March 2023, you posted on social media that you believe all net-zero targets should be scrapped. Considering meeting net-zero commitments falls within one of Warwickshire County Council’s three strategy priorities in the 2022-2027 Plan, please can you clarify your position on this – do you believe all net-zero targets should be dropped?
In response, Councillor Butlin referred to his earlier statement and further stated that he was continually looking at the data to support the premise.
(5) Question to Councillor Wallace Redford from Councillor Sarah Boad
At a previous meeting, my colleague asked about the state of on-street parking meters in the centre of Leamington and it was reported that they would all be working within a few weeks. This was not the case. It is acknowledged that the units are old and parts are not available, however, residents needed the option to pay in cash not via Ringo. Can you provide an update that considers the needs of residents without smartphones.
Councillor Wallace Redford responded that he had been in correspondence with several residents who had raised this issue with him and he therefore had the information but not to hand. He would circulate the detail to Members.
Councillor Peter Butlin added his acknowledgement that the machines were out of date and breaking down on a regular basis, and stated a report was being drafted regarding the procurement of new machines with provision for cash, card and Ringo payments. Once permission had been granted, the procurement would commence.