To answer questions asked under Standing Order 8 by Councillors (30 Minutes)
Cllr Feeney to Cllr Hawkins Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Environment and Infrastructure
Over the last several months, officers and the Cabinet Member have attended Lanchester Park in Castle Bromwich to view its condition. Solihull has many excellent Green Flag parks, and Lanchester Park deserves this accolade. Can the Cabinet Member advise if officers can bring forward a plan to bring the Lanchester up to the Green Flag standard enjoyed by other parks in Solihull?
The Cabinet Member advised that he had discussed the issue with Officers from the Public Realm team, and they are happy to work with Members to progress Lanchester Park for future Green Flag Accreditation. Officers would be in contact with Ward Members shortly to discuss plans and support the community in attaining a green flag for the park
Cllr Donnelly to Cllr Hawkins Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Environment and Infrastructure
We appreciate restoring £50,000 to the displacement parking fund, but can the Cabinet Member answer how much would be needed to meet the residual issues this funding does not cover?
The Cabinet Member advised that there were sixty-one unfunded sites currently on the Parking Displacement Programme, the indicative costs to implement all of these measures would be circa £980,000. Cllr Donnelly questioned whether signage could be used to deter parking. The Cabinet Member advised that this had been tried before but would ask Officers to look at this again.
Cllr Adeyemo to Cllr DiCicco Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care and Health Portfolio
Many local dentists have stopped taking on NHS patients and some dental practices are pulling out of NHS dentistry altogether. What support is there for local people who need urgent dental treatment but are not registered with a dentist?
The Cabinet Member advised that dentistry was currently the responsibility of NHS England but there were plans in place to delegate responsibility to a more local level to Integrated Care Boards. Health and Social Care Scrutiny receive regular updates from the ICB Chief Executive and team and access to dentistry has been noted as an issue at these meeting. Members may want to consider using this route to understand the latest position and impact on local services.
Cllr Adeyemo referenced poorer families who could not afford private dental fees and questioned whether the Council could provide support. The Cabinet Member repeated that the ICB were looking at this issue at a more local level.
Cllr Caudwell to Cllr Dicicco Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care and Health
How can this Council, in its roles as both a local planning authority and a statutory provider of adult social care, ensure that what is proposed by care home developers actually meets our residents' needs, and does not harm existing care?
In response the Cabinet Member advised that in its role as local planning authority the Council can only have regard to material planning matters, while this includes need it cannot have regard to specific elements such as care workforce pressure's. As a result, all planning applications have to be assessed on their own merits and against the policies of the adopted Solihull local plan and national guidance. This primarily focuses on policies of design, suitability for housing in general, infrastructure contributions and green belt policy where relevant. National planning guidance states that the need to provide housing for older people is critical. Care home applications in the green belt have been refused where they have greater impact on openness then the existing development. Applications on brownfield land however are more likely to be recommended for approval where no planning harm can be demonstrated. Development proposals for care homes are accompanied by an assessment need which is considered by Council officers as part of determining the planning application. When there is a planning application, planners will consult with commissioners in the adult social care directorate as a formal consultee. The draft local plan introduces the new policy P4(e), housing for older and disabled people. This will help the Council in its roles as local planning authority and a statutory provider of adult social care to better ensure that what is proposed by care home developers meet residents needs and does not harm existing care.
Cllr Caudwell questioned what support the Cabinet Member could provide local services (GP’s, dentists and pharmacies) who struggle with the additional demand on services? The Cabinet Member advised the Council’s position would be strengthened once the Local Plan was adopted and policy P4(e) would strengthen the Council’s ability to ensure need is meet.
Cllr Caudwell referenced legislation coming in relating to the fair cost of care and went on to question how this would affect provision in place in Solihull today. The Cabinet Member advised that the Council take this into consideration when providing high standards of care and help the most vulnerable as we do now.
The Solihull Connected transport strategy includes the outcome "our transport system will get people and goods to where they need to be." Residents in Lyndon want to travel to Solihull, but TfWM arbitrarily changed the destination of the A16 to Acocks Green. 95% of users of the S16 service indicated they would not use the replacement service. When I raised this with TfWM, the response I got was Lyndon (other parts) already has two bus services to Solihull, elderly passengers should consider ring and ride and if people do not use the new service, we will remove it. The complete lack of customer service in this response appalled me and I do not think it in anyway exemplifies our transport strategy. What steps will you take with TfWM to address this issue and ensure the objectives of our transport strategy are delivered?
The Cabinet Member advised that the provision of local bus services and the associated customer services standards do not fall under the remit of my portfolio, but I can confirm this function sits with the West Midlands Combined Authority and their delivery team at Transport for West Midlands. Nevertheless, I will share a copy of your enquiry with our representative on the West Midlands Transport Delivery Committee, Cllr R Grinsell, who I am sure will take up your concerns with the appropriate officers.
The Cabinet Member also confirmed that he would ask Cllr R Grinsell to provide Cllr Thomas with a written report, once a response to the enquiry was received.
Cllr Sheshabhatter to Cllr Hawkins Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Environment and Infrastructure
How many potholes are currently awaiting repair and how does this compare to the same time last year?
The Cabinet Member advised that in February 2022 there were twenty-six open orders for pothole repairs, these were all completed within the required timeframe of 7 or 28 days. There are currently seven open orders for pothole repairs, these will all be completed within the required timeframe.
Cllr Sheshabhatter reported that potholes were not repaired in a timely manner or to a good standard, as repeat calls were made to the same spot for further repair. The Cabinet Member advised that the Council had fully embedded the Department for Transports risk based approach to highway maintenance, and this approach looked at the risk associated with a defect and through a matrix a timeframe for its repair determined. The Cabinet Member acknowledged it was not cost effective to keep repairing work, but work is inspected and depending on the seriousness of the pothole, defects are repaired.
Cllr Thomas to Cllr Hawkins Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Environment and Infrastructure
The reliability of the A9 has been very poor, leaving elderly residents stood in the cold for over an hour (repeatedly) and making children late for school (repeatedly). I am aware TfWM are now having regular meeting with the bus provider focused on improving the service. To encourage/maintain bus patronage, it is important services are reliable. What actions are you taking to ensure lessons are learnt from this, so that new services are launched with an acceptable service level?
The Cabinet Member acknowledged there were issues with this service. The service was commissioned and put into operation at very short notice. The service has been monitored and it was noted that the operator has made improvements to the service. A journey that has failed to operate is deducted from the Stagecoach contract payment. The Cabinet Member recognised the need for punctual and reliable service. He advised he would be meeting representatives from Stagecoach in the near future.
The Cabinet Member confirmed he would update Members on the outcome of these discussions.
Cllr Sheshabhatter to Cllr Dicicco Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care and Health
From picking up ever more spent Nitrous Oxide cans, the use of the gas recreationally is clearly increasing. What is the Cabinet Member doing to protect the health of the young people, who may be unaware of the health risks associated with using the gas?
The Cabinet Member advised that he had raised the issue of increased use of nitrous oxide as a recreational drug and related littering with the Director of Public Health and the Health and Well-being Board. A paper has been requested to report on the actions being taken by the council to address the problem. This report will be presented at the next Health and Well-being Board meeting (14/03/23). Additionally, the Council has been working with Solihull Integrated Addiction Services (SIAS), the UK Health Security Agency, community groups and voluntary groups to develop an education programme which raises young people’s awareness of the harm that can be caused. Further information will be available in schools, the Council website and a borough wide campaign aimed at young people no longer in school. The Council is in dialogue with the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner and the health service as this is a key theme in the ‘Harm to Hope’ strategy regionally and locally, which aims to reduce the harms from alcohol and drugs.
Cllr Long to Cllr Hawkins Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Environment and Infrastructure
I receive many complaints from Damson Parkway residents about dangerous and inconsiderate parking whenever there is a match at the Moors' Stadium; this is despite an apparent Parking Plan. The problems were particularly acute at last Tuesday evening's match. Whilst many will welcome the potential move of the WASP's rugby team to the stadium, local residents are concerned about risk of further disruption. Please can the Cabinet Member provide an update on the potential WASPs move and also reassurance to residents that, whether such a move happens or not, the Council will ensure the parking plan is better enforced."
The Cabinet Member advised that the RFU would be making further announcements regarding WASPs on 14 February. The Cabinet Member confirmed that to support the current match day parking plan the Council’s Civil Parking Enforcement Officers attend every home game. However, it should be noted that the local residential streets have no parking restrictions that our officers can monitor or take action and therefore, spend most of their time keeping Damson Lane and Parkway free from parked vehicles. The issues concerning obstructing access to property or the movement of traffic along the residential streets are types of motoring offence requiring Police enforcement powers. I will also ask Officers to refer your concerns to the Safety Advisory Group who will oversee the planning of future football and rugby matches taking place at the stadium.
Cllr Long requested that better communication be undertaken to inform away fans regarding parking, more enforcement action is undertaken by the police and there is better signage. The Cabinet Member advised this would be brought to the club’s attention.
Cllr Carthew to Cllr Courts Leader of the Council
Residents consistently complain to me about local issues where Solihull and Birmingham Councils both pit responsibility for work on each other in areas where the Borough boundaries meet. Is the West Midlands Combined Authority doing anything to help this Council and its neighbours communicate more effectively to help to fix these cross boundary issues?
The Leader advised that he was not aware of any complaints regarding cross boundary issues. Historically the Council has worked closely with neighbours on a range of issues both bilaterally and via the WMCA. The Leader was aware of issues around Darington Rd and officers were in regular contact with officers in Birmingham regarding the maintenance of the public realm. Residents should be encouraged to report anti-social behaviour to the police.
Cllr Carthew raised the issue of the acquisition of social housing by SCH. The Leader advised Cllr Carthew speak to Officers and then the appropriate Cabinet Member could respond.