Agenda item

Questions under Standing Order 8 (30 Minutes)

To answer questions asked under Standing Order 8 by Councillors (30 Minutes)


Cllr Rebeiro to Councillor Holt Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Children, Education and Skills


I acknowledge the proactive work of the Council in preparations for supporting Ukrainian refugees to this Borough. How advanced is the Council’s engagement with the Borough’s Education sector in preparation for the provision of appropriate education and special needs support for young Ukrainian refugees?

The Cabinet Member responded that Education services were working with the settlement team to ensure effective planning for all children coming into the borough. We have already seen significant numbers of children moving into Solihull through the Hong Kong repatriation scheme and have worked with many schools to increase their capacity so all children have access to a school place; and will continue that approach. Where children with special needs move into Solihull we will be carrying out the necessary assessments to determine the most appropriate provision for them.


Cllr Rebeiro questioned whether there had been a dialogue with the Schools Strategic Accountability Board regarding this matter. The Cabinet Member assured Members that Officers had been in communication with many agencies, including the DfE. The Leader also advised that he had, had a meeting with the refugee minister regarding schools and education and this issue was very much on his radar.


Cllr Clements to Cllr Mackiewicz Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Climate Change, Planning and Housing


I noticed in the Cabinet Member's report that a part of Elmdon has been included in the net zero neighbourhood’s pilot. Can the Cabinet Member provide more details?


The Cabinet Member advised that SMBC had been successful in applying to the WMCA to include Elmdon in its Sustainable Warmth Programme for 2022/23. Several Local Authorities submitted applications but SMBC and Coventry City Council were the two preferred partners. Elmdon was put forward because it is an area with particularly high levels of fuel poverty, based on the energy efficiency of properties and household income. WMCA will be working with SMBC to put in place a range of retrofit measures that can improve the energy efficiency of properties in the area, as well as connect residents to energy advice and help with fuel bills. Further details can be found in the WMCA press release concerning the delivery of their Sustainable Warmth Programme An additional three hundred homes in the West Midlands to receive deep retrofit from WMCA.


SMBC has also been successful in its own application for Sustainable Warmth funding and will be working with the Midlands Energy Hub to deliver a £1.265 million programme in the borough. This will see up to 150 low income, fuel poor households receiving energy efficiency improvements. The scheme will be open to households across the borough but with some directed work in fuel poverty hotspots such as Chelmsley Wood and Shirley.


The Council is also in the process of completing its proposal to include Chelmsley Wood in WMCA’s Net Zero Neighbourhood programme. The outcome of this process won’t be known until July but if the application is successful then it would bring additional investment and support into the neighbourhood covering housing, community spaces, skills and mobility, for instance.


Cllr Clements questioned how those who would benefit from the investment would be informed and what the time scale was for works. The Cabinet Member advised that a communication and engagement plan had been developed and this would go live after the local election.


Cllr L McCarthy to Cllr Rolf Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Stronger and Safer Communities


Can the Cabinet Member please tell me how many fixed penalty notices for littering and how many prosecutions for fly tipping have been issued or taken place over the 21/22 financial year please?


In the absence of Cllr McCarthy the Cabinet Member undertook to provide a written response. The written response is detailed below:


Enforcement activity particularly for fly tipping and waste crime is complex and involves prosecutions for serious offences involving organised crime for instance and £400 fixed penalty notices for the less serious offences such as individual bags of household rubbish:


·  6 - £400 fixed penalty notices issued for fly tipping.

·  1 caution letter administered for household duty of care breach.

·  2 x fly tipping prosecutions – The first trial is this Friday 8th April two defendants. The second trial has been adjourned and the defendant has agreed to a formal caution that is being administered on Wednesday 6th April.

·  Pending Prosecutions – 1 case being submitted to Legal for authority to summons.

·  1 vehicle seized for fly tipping later found to be stolen at time of offence.

·  2 Illegal Waste sites used for the depositing of waste – Stop Letters served and Environment Agency now involved with joint enforcement working taking place. One of the fly tipping prosecutions is in relation to this site.

·  2 Multi Agency Checks carried out re Waste Carriers – 1 authorised waste carrier found to be overweight – excess weight removed and Warning letter administered.

·  5 ongoing investigations with viable lines of enquiry – Interviews under caution to be arranged.


The new contract for the environmental enforcement patrolling officers is now fully up and running. The enforcement staff have mainly been targeted around the borough in areas such as Crooks Lane and Hobbs Moat. Where it has been identified that there are issues. The officers are highly visible and present a distinct deterrent to litterers and have become well known in those areas. Because they are so visible and the number of people out at any one time is smaller than in say the town centre, witnessing littering taking place is hard. This combined with the reduction of smoking on the streets due to the adoption of vapes means that obtaining fixed penalty notices is extremely difficult. The presence of the officers, engagement with the communities they visit, as well as their deterrent effect is all highly beneficial however. Consequently, so far one fixed penalty notice for littering has been served.


With the potential adoption of the Environmental Crime Strategy post-election the number of littering fixed penalty notices and fly tipping enforcement will be reported regularly.



Cllr Pinwell to Cllr Mackiewicz Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Climate Change, Planning and Housing


I was dismayed to see the appeal decision upheld at the Wyndley Garden Centre in Knowle.  This could send a dangerous precedent. Can the Cabinet Member comment on what the Council response will be?


The Cabinet Member advised that following the decision of Planning Committee to refuse the proposal, which in itself followed the recommended refusal of our officers, I share Cllr Pinwell’s dismay with the decision made by the Planning Inspectorate. In terms of how we address this decision, I can confirm that we are currently seeking legal advice regarding our options around challenging the decision.


Cllr Pinwell asked whether there was any prospect of constraining the growth of retirement facilities. The Cabinet Member referenced the new draft local plan and P4 (e) which dealt with older person’s accommodation.


Cllr Pinwell queried whether the measures in the draft local plan would address the issue that many of the retirement properties were left empty for some time. The Cabinet Member commented that this was a national issue.


Cllr K Thomas to Cllr Courts Leader of the Council


It’s been reported in the media about one of our MPs’ membership of the anti-climate change group. Will their views and lack of support have any impact on the Council's delivery of its net zero plan?


The Leader of the Council advised that it has recently been confirmed by two independent organisations, we are one of the leading local authorities when it comes to the climate change and net-zero agenda. At his last decision session, Cllr Mackiewicz received an update on the progress we are making with the NZAP and approved the timetables for reporting, so that all members can see the positive improvements that we are delivering, and that we will continue to deliver.


The Leader confirmed that local MP’s were supporting the Council’s plans on climate change and he went on to detail what work the Council was doing. The Leader also referenced the fact that Cllr Thomas had recently voted against the Council’s carbon budget.


Cllr Thomas questioned whether in future years the carbon change budget could be voted on separately. The Leader advised this was unlikely, and rather than vote against Cllr Thomas could have abstained.


Cllr O’Nyons to the Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Environment and Infrastructure


Would the Cabinet Member please help me find a solution and fix to the flooding which often occurs at Olton Jubilee Park. As the footpath beside Hatchford Brook regularly becomes impassable in places after heavy rainfall rendering it unfit for use especially over the winter months.


The Cabinet Member advised that he was pleased to advise that our Highway Infrastructure officers are currently finalising a design to alleviate the flooding at this location and that this is in our programme for delivery this financial year (2022/23), working in partnership with our parks team to deliver wider environmental benefits alongside the flooding improvements.



Cllr L McCarthy to Cllr Sleigh OBE Cabinet Portfolio for Resources


What is the Council doing to support the hospitality industry as it tries to recover and rebuild after the impact of Covid?


In the absence of Cllr McCarthy the Cabinet Member undertook to provide a written response. The written response is detailed below:

That since the onset of COVID, the hospitality sector has been supported through business grant schemes and through a series of interventions to build the sustainability of businesses. These have been both place-based and specific to individual businesses.  Support has included:


·  £27m has been distributed to 1,976 businesses through the Small Business Grants Fund and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grants Fund.

·  £1.285m has been paid out in grants to 317 businesses as part of the Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Business Grant.  A further £387,000 of discretionary funding has been awarded to 131 businesses that were not eligible for the main Omicron grant.

·  For the current financial year 2022/23, the Council has recently implemented the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Rates Relief Scheme.  This gives 50% relief to business rates bills for those businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors.

·  £384,000 received through the Reopening the High Street and the Welcome Back Fund has been allocated.

It is important to note that the Council has implemented a number of discretionary grant schemes that have provided significant financial support to local businesses.


Over the course of the pandemic, the Council has engaged in street dressing, commissioned footfall counters to support future funding bids, made public realm improvements, supported local campaigns and events, and developed heritage trails.  These activities have been promoted through the Visit Solihull webpage and associated social media channels.


We are also promoting the hospitality sector through the recent Solihull Going for the Win in 2022 event to help businesses get the best from the Commonwealth Games.  Future activity includes promoting the opportunities for hospitality from the Queen’s Baton Relay in the Borough.


More broadly, the Council has committed funds to recruit staff to support the development of Visit Solihull within the economic development team.  This will allow the continuation of some of the activities previously funded through the High Streets Reopening Fund, which will directly benefit the hospitality sector. The newly commissioned economic strategy, due to be completed by September, will set out actions to further support the sector.