To answer questions asked under Standing Order 8 by Councillors (30 Minutes)
Cllr Rymer to Cllr K Grinsell Cabinet Member for Partnership’s and Wellbeing
Is it acceptable to have Solihull Community Housing properties with doors that either don’t lock, or won’t open?
The Cabinet Member advised that Solihull Community Housing make every effort to ensure that doors in communal areas operate effectively at all times with opening and locking, always in good working order. It is not acceptable to have communal doors not working particularly as they are integral for building safety. Unfortunately, there are times when the doors break down. In such situations, there are occasions where the resolution to the break down requires a part to be supplied and this can sometimes cause a delay in the repair. We are aware of a particular low-rise block where this has happened recently, and action is being taken to sort the problem out.
Cllr Rymer questioned whether it was acceptable to wait up to six months for a resolution. The Cabinet Member repeated that work was on going with the supplier to fix the problem. Cllr Rymer questioned what the plan was to deal with other blocks which faced the same problem. The Cabinet Member asked that Cllr Rymer provide the details he had so she could follow this up.
Cllr Thomas to Cllr Gough Cabinet Member for Children and Education
Over the last year Solihull has welcomed a large number of families arriving from Hong Kong, with Solihull being the second most popular destination in the UK. The arrival of so many new families is putting pressure on our already full schools and students are being offered places at schools’ miles away from their catchment areas. Although this has been acknowledged as a problem and a bus is being offered, it comes with a 1 hour plus journey time (including walking a substantial distance to the nearest stop), which is detrimental to the children's education and well-being, as well as depriving them of the opportunity to participate in after school activities. What steps are being taken to provide additional places within or close to their catchment areas for these pupils?
The Cabinet Member advised that he had a detailed answer which he would share with Cllr Thomas, but in brief. Demand for places was significant and unprecedented. However, it doesn't just fall at the feet of one particular group, it's a combination of many factors. We had over 3000 in year applications in 2021 therefore the majority of schools at the start of the academic year were already full before the year even started so it leaves very little room for expansion throughout the year. Families are offered a school place as close to their home as humanly possible but with the high demand it's becoming more challenging. To meet demand secondary schools were accommodating pupils over and above their existing numbers through the Fair Access Panel. For September 2022 bulge classes have been added to years 7, 8 and 9 and that's circa 125 places, there's an additional 600 planned secondary school places available through the permanent expansion of Tudor Grange, Arden and Alderbrook, to meet the demand and two additional year 7 classes which have been identified for September 2023. Officer are looking to increase years 8 and 9. With regard to primary school places there are some vacancies in certain areas. 100 additional primary places have been made available through bulge classes.
Cllr Caudwell to Cllr Mackiewicz Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Planning and Housing
Has solar mapping been conducted at a local or regional level, and if it has, where can we see it?
The Cabinet Member advised that Solar maps are widely available from a range of websites. My reading of the map means that we will get 2.4kWh/kWpeak in Solihull. That is to say that one KW solar panel will produce 2.4kWh of energy in day. Establishing the potential for renewable energy, including solar energy, is a key priority of the Low Carbon Energy Framework Project and is aligned with our Net Zero Action Plan.
Work to date has looked at renewable potential across the Borough. We have carried out two of three phases of a renewable energy feasibility study:
The first phase was a technology review – looking at the different technologies and determining those with the most potential for the Borough.
The second phase was to identify potential locations/sites where the Council has some influence, and which demonstrate some potential for renewable energy.
The third phase will look at financial and delivery considerations. Once this has been completed, I will consider a report on the findings at a decision session next year.
During this work we will determine the granular detail required for the solar mapping. At that the point we will make a cost benefit decision whether we add it to our GIS system.
Cllr Caudwell referenced that Town Centre master plans were being brought forward now, and there was a lot of roof space and open space that could be used for solar supply and questioned whether this would be taken on board. The Cabinet Member confirmed that, that would be the case.
Cllr Long to Cllr Hawkins Cabinet Member for Environment and Infrastructure
We are concerned about the safety and cleanliness of the water in our local rivers and watercourses. What is being done to protect local residents in Solihull from our local water company, Severn Trent Water, discharging raw sewage into our local rivers and watercourses?
The Cabinet Member advised that the discharge of sewage into rivers and watercourses by water companies is a matter that is enforced by the Environment Agency. Should issues of this sort be reported to the Council they are immediately reported through to the E.A., and members of the public can also do that and details of how to do that are publicised.
Cllr Long referenced a number of discharges into Solihull water courses and although recognising it was not a Council mater, questioned whether the Cabinet Member could write to Severn Trent Water asking them to address the problem. The Cabinet Member questioned the data Cllr Long was referring to, as he was not aware of any discharges into water courses in the Borough.
Cllr Ashraf MBE to Cllr Hawkins Cabinet Member for Environment and Infrastructure
In Shirley South there are roads on the former TRW site with inadequate lighting, parking problems and grounds maintenance that isn’t done. The developer has not passed these roads over to the Council and left them unadopted, so what powers does the Council have to address these issues, as this isn’t an isolated case?”
The Cabinet Member acknowledged that it could take some time for roads in new developments to be adopted. The Council won't adopt roads until they are safe and up to standard, and it's important that developers, and it is their responsibility, understand that roads need to be safe which would include lighting.
Cllr Ashraf sought assurance that as more development takes places households will not face the same problems going forward. The Cabinet Member advised that the Council would not take responsibility for roads which were not up to standard, and incur the costs of this work, which was the responsibility of the developers.
Cllr Adeyemo to Cllr Courts Leader of the Council
Prior to every local election, Council Groups are asked to sign an 'Election Compact' in which they commit to positive and respectful campaigning. I understand that this was the case prior to the 2022 local elections. Are these Elections Compacts active or enforceable outside of statutory election periods?
The Leader confirmed that the Election Compact that was signed each year before the elections was a statement of our commitment to fairness and equality and promoting good relations throughout our election campaigns. It is a voluntary statement setting out the best practice standards and principles we expect of all those involved in campaigning. As Political Group Leaders, by signing the Compact we undertake to ensure that any alleged breach is properly investigated by our political parties. However, there are no formal powers of enforcement available.
Cllr Adeyemo questioned whether the Leader thought it was right for representatives of the Conservative party to report private and inaccurate details of his private life, when conducting surveys? The Leader advised that Cllr Adeyemo should take the matter up with the relevant political organisation, as bringing this matter up at Council was inappropriate.
Cllr Adeyemo questioned whether the Leader felt the behaviour was in accordance with the Member Code of Conduct. The Leader advised that the protocol says this should be taken through the political channels.
Cllr Allen to Cllr Hawkins Cabinet Member for Environment and Infrastructure
Do we have a strategy for tackling graffiti, which differentiates it from the street-art put on cabinets in Shirley, and are there any sanctions that can be used where private properties or commercial premises fail to remove graffiti?
The Cabinet Member acknowledged the sterling work done by Councillors and the community to have graffiti removed. Graffiti is covered by the Council’s Environmental Crime Strategy and the Council is working with our private contractors as much as we can. However, it is important to recognise that the graffiti on private land has not always had the same response. In the new year partners will be invited to a summit were a resolution can be drawn up re graffiti on private land.
Cllr Allen advised that telecommunications boxes were a particular target and at a recent Planning Committee meeting, it was suggested that there should be a condition where boxes should be painted with anti-graffiti paint. Could this be taken forward? The Cabinet Member agreed this could be raised at the summit.
Cllr Allen questioned who was responsible for cleaning private fences, in alley ways? The Cabinet Member advised this was another example of something which could be examined further so a uniformed response could be designed for private property.