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.     Question from Councillor John Holland to Councillor Jan Matecki


Councillor Holland reminded the Chamber of the question he posed on 21 March regarding the repairs to the road and adjacent footpath for Priory Mews, Cape Road, Warwick, and asked: “Can residents now be given a date when repairs will be completed?”


Councillor Matecki responded that Councillor Holland was aware from conversations with officers, that County Highways was working closely with Severn Trent Water to get Priory Mews reopened.  There was a significant void under the carriageway that would need to be filled and this could only be done once Severn Trent had demolished the four houses on either side of the road.  Three of the four houses had been purchased by Severn Trent’s insurers and they were moving to complete the purchase of the remaining property.  The road could not be opened until the grouting work to fill the void had been done and this could not be progressed with the heavy machinery required until the houses had been demolished.  The landslip issue involved a Severn Trent water main which was why responsibility for the repair remained with Severn Trent.  Senior Council Officers had recently met with directors from Severn Trent to ensure that the issue was being escalated and pushed forward as quickly as possible to a resolution and repair.  Councillor Matecki emphasised that it was not possible to make the repair without the demolition of the homes so it was not possible to make the repair as the Highway Authority and then claim the costs back from Severn Trent.


Councillor Holland requested that Councillor Matecki become personally involved as the situation was unsatisfactory.  Councillor Matecki assured Councillor Holland that he was involved and speaking to officers on a regular basis to do all that could be done to expedite the repair.


2.     Question from Councillor Sarah Boad to Councillor Jan Matecki


Councillor Boad asked “Chiltern Rail are currently consulting on closing the ticket office at Leamington Station. Other train companies are consulting re other ticket offices in Warwickshire This will affect many users, particularly those without a smart phone / access to the internet. Will the portfolio holder object to these plans on behalf of the County Council?”


Councillor Matecki explained that on 5 July 2023 individual train operators had announced a series of individual company consultations on proposals to close the majority of rail station ticket offices in England. This was in response to a Department for Transport request that operators reduced their operating costs and the government funded subsidy required. The consultation period was due to run for three weeks, closing on 26 July 2023.  The Council considered a 3-week consultation period for an issue such as this to be insufficient and would making this clear in the response to the three train operators covering Warwickshire that a 12 week consultation should be standard for major policy changes.


Councillor Matecki stated that whilst in principle the concept of reforming station retailing in light of changing consumer behaviours and different ways that customers now buy tickets was supported, it was vital that any changes met the needs of rail users and enabled improved customer services.  Council responses to the consultation therefore focussed on the need for further information on the proposals and how they would operate in practice, the importance of maintaining staffing levels who could be deployed in different ways to provide customer information and assistance, and ensuring that accessibility and station services were at least maintained if not improved going forward. 


At the time of the meeting, given the lack of detail provided, it was hard to provide a conclusive response and the Council was therefore raising concerns and highlighting the key elements it would want to see.  The County Council, along with the West Midlands Rail Executive, would seek to work with the train operators going forward to help review and shape their thinking after this short consultation period.


Councillor Boad agreed that the three week timescale was too short and offered to share the Leamington Town Council response to the consultation.  She urged Members to respond to the consultation by the closing date.


3.     Question from Councillor Sarah Boad to Councillor Jan Matecki


Councillor Boad asked “There is cabling work going on in the Lillington Area. I knew nothing about this until the work started. There doesn't seem to be any controls on the work taking place - there are adhoc road closures happening without notice and work happening in the carriageway with no traffic control. Can the portfolio holder arrange for members to be alerted to work taking place in their divisions before it starts and also ensure that regular checks are made to ensure that the work is being carried out to a good standard and is being done safely?”


Councillor Matecki advised that CityFibre was working in the Lillington area, they had applied for and received work permits, and were doing their work under stop-go signs or signals.  A condition of their permit was that they carried out letter drops to affected residents, which the Council had been told had been done.  The roadworks also appeared on the Council’s roadwork website. Any closure notices were also sent to members weekly as part of the road closure updates.   One of the Council’s Network Management Inspectors had been asked to make some additional visits to ensure that CityFibre was complying with all permit conditions and if they were not, they would be fined. 


Councillor Matecki explained that there was a significant amount of fibre cabling work taking place across Warwickshire and neighbouring authorities, mostly in rural areas, in order to install fibre access to those areas ahead of the government’s planned switchover to fibre in 2025.


Councillor Boad stated that no official road closure had been included in the weekly email and the roads were being closed by parking lorries in the middle of the carriageway.  Barriers were being used in a dangerous manner and stop-go was not in use.  Councillor Boad requested an urgent report following the Inspector’s visit.


4.     Question from Councillor Sarah Feeney to Councillor Jan Matecki


Councillor Feeney asked “I would like to raise a concern that there are a number of Divisions across the council where residents are digitally disenfranchised.  With the move to most on street parking being paid for via phone or internet and the permit scheme again mostly being online what information is being sent to residents who may not be aware of these issues. 


I am aware that one resident left her car on double yellow lines the other day in Rugby because she only had money for the machine which was no longer accepting it.”


Councillor Matecki responded that the County Council was aware of the concerns of individuals being digitally disenfranchised as more and more services across the board adapted to new technologies and ways of working.  For many people, the ability to utilise technology provided a quicker, more efficient and more user-friendly experience.  However, this could not be to the exclusion of those not able to fully utilise digital technology. 


New Pay & Display Machines, that were being installed over the coming months to replace existing stock of old and unreliable machines, included a mixture of physical cash payment in 50% of stock alongside accepting cashless payment methods (card and contactless), as well as the RingGo service (which could also be accessed via telephone as well as online via the website or app).  All locations in the county that had Pay & Display machines would have a physical cash payment option going forward.


For parking permits, the Council had moved to a virtual permit system, but this was supported by a telephone support service for anyone unable to use the digital platform.  The different options for renewing permits would be sent to permit holders, and would be provided to those enquiring about new permits.


5.     Question from Councillor Rob Tromans to Councillor Sue Markham


Councillor Tromans outlined a current Planning Application before Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council Planning Committee.  He then asked the following question:  Please will the Portfolio holder ensure that when responding to Planning Application Consultations from Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council and others, Warwickshire County Council Children’s Services provide a specific, rather than general, blanket response and, unless the application is one commissioned by or specifically encouraged by Warwickshire County Council in partnership with the Applicant, the response to the consultation should be that Warwickshire County Council does not support the application.


Councillor Markham stated that she was happy to answer the question but could not do so at this meeting.  This was because she was a member of Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council Planning Committee which was sitting that evening and, if she gave a reply, it could be deemed that the applications had been predetermined.  She stated that her position on the Committee would be compromised if she answered the question before the applications were heard and she would therefore respond by email after the Planning Committee meeting that evening.