To answer questions asked under Standing Order 8 by Councillors (30 Minutes)
Councillor O’Nyons to Councillor Holt Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Children, Education and Skills
As the future of both the Scout and Guides groups who currently occupy the Summerfield Site in my ward is so linked to the future use of the site, could the Cabinet Member who I understand currently hold the site, advise me when he believes the future of the site from the position of his directorate will be determined.
Councillor Rolf responded to Councillor O’Nyons in their answer to Councillor K Thomas’ question below*.
Councillor K Thomas to Councillor Rolf Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Stronger and Safer Communities
Why are the Scouts and Guides huts on Brackleys Way, next to Olton Jubilee Park, still threatened with demolition, four years after promises were made that leases for both Groups would be renewed and they would be able to continue operating out of their current premises?
Will Solihull Council now stop obfuscating and renew the leases for both the 1st Olton Scouts and the Olton Parks Guides without any further delay?”
*Councillor Rolf explained that the lease agreement had not progressed to date as the site was being considered for educational use and the building would fail to meet the Government’s Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards. It had subsequently been confirmed that the site was unsuitable for planned education initiatives and therefore would not be required. It was understood that the Scout and Guide Group planned to make the necessary changes to meet the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards. The Council would work with the Group and a decision on the matter would be bought to Cabinet within the next six months, when the lease position was confirmed.
Councillor K Thomas asked what could be done to improve communication with the Scout and Guide Group as the matter progressed. Councillor Rolf accepted that communication had not been satisfactory to this point, however the key contacts would be informed as this issue advanced.
Councillor K Thomas queried what lessons could be learned from this matter to ensure other voluntary and community groups did not have similar experiences. Councillor Courts highlighted that the intent was to continue to support local community groups but recognised that there had been problems in this instance.
Cllr Allen to Cllr Rolf Cabinet
Portfolio Holder for Stronger and Safer
Many people in Shirley have been complaining about the lack of public toilets in the high street. Shirley Park is the most popular park in the borough and hosts many community events. People often combine going to the shops with a visit to the park and can stay for several hours. However, the lack of public facilities affects the elderly, the very young, and disabled people and prevents them from taking full advantage of the opportunities on offer in Shirley.
Will the Cabinet Member consider reinstating public toilets in the area of Shirley Park?
Councillor Rolf outlined that there would not be the infrastructure or space to provide public toilet facilities in Shirley Park, and the historic changing room facility presented significant issues for nearby residential properties which contributed to the removal of this facility. There were public toilets within the Asda shopping centre near to the park.
Councillor Allen highlighted that there was limited signage for the public toilets in Asda and asked if it would be possible for signage to be improved. Councillor Rolf confirmed that this would be followed up with Officers.
Councillor O’Nyons to Councillor Hawkins Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Environment and Infrastructure
Often forgotten about is the Hobs Moat Ancient Monument situated within my ward, it is believed to be the remains of a ruined 12th century castle and home of the local lords of the manor and founders of the area that we now call Solihull. Arguably had there been no Hobs Moat, there would be no Solihull.
I would like to see the Monument given a new lease of life, therefore will the Cabinet Member and his officers commit to exploring with me possible internal and external funding opportunities, to finance much needed maintenance work and possibly new visitor signs/bins/benches etc., or maybe even a nature trial to help bring the woods back into the heart of the Lyndon community.
The Cabinet Member explained that the site was a key heritage asset within the Borough and they looked to engage with Historic England and other interested parties to identify funding opportunities to rejuvenate the site and understand restrictions at the location.
Councillor O’Nyons asked when these conversations would start to take place. Councillor Hawkins outlined that Officers were aware of this request and would engage with partners.
Councillor Long to Councillor Courts Leader of the Councillor
Many residents in Elmdon have expressed concern at the launch of the Hub Prospectus Brochure (Brochure) on 26th January 2022; which includes the promotion of the green belt land off Damson Parkway (referred to as UK2) for logistics development. This has also resulted in articles in the local press and social media; including the potential relocation of the Moors football ground.
The development plan in the Brochure would require a material relaxation of the justifications stated in the Local Plan for removal of the land from the green belt; leading to yet more significant adverse impact on residents. I spoke against such a change at the Examination in Public (EIP) hearings. Given that the EIP is not yet concluded, I believe it premature for a Brochure to be actively marketing the site based on such change. Moreover, it is concerning that as a partner in the Urban Growth Company, Solihull Council appears to be directly supporting such an approach.
I note your recent statement regarding the potential relocation of the Moors. Please can you also confirm that:
a) A Conservative administration will not support such relaxation of the “exceptional circumstances” without additional local consultation;
b) The Brochure will be withdrawn until the EIP is complete, so that the Council is not endorsing proposals that were not part of the consulted Plan;
Councillor Courts expressed concerns whether these issues had been passed to Officers. Councillor Long shared information about residents who had raised concerns with him, and asked whether the Council would agree to the relaxation of rules to enable the Solihull Moors site to be used for a logistics organisation.
Councillor Courts noted that it would be up to Solihull Moors how they chose to use their site. There had been no change in the position on this proposed employment site, unless the Planning Inspectors proposed changes and then appropriate decision making processes would be followed. The brochure referenced was a marketing tool developed by the Urban Growth Company and had no formal status, therefore it was confirmed that they would not request for the UGC to withdraw the brochure.
Councillor Long queried whether the brochure should make local residents concerned given the images suggested significant changes. Councillor Courts explained that residents should contact the Council if they were concerned.
Councillor Groom to Councillor
Hawkins Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Environment and
As Andy Street and members of this Cabinet have previously acknowledged, transport links in North Solihull are really problematic. Almost 4 years ago they announced that a new tram line will be built from Birmingham City centre to Heartlands Hospital, then on to Chelmsley Wood shopping centre and then to the Business Park and the NEC and will open in what is now less than 5 years’ time. As trams are going to run every 6 minutes at peak times, this will be a revolution in North Solihull, transforming residents’ ability to get to job opportunities, leisure and important health services, particularly for an area with much lower car ownership than the rest of Solihull.
Can the Cabinet Member update us as to the progress of building the new metro?
Councillor Hawkins explained that Transport for West Midlands was committed to the delivery of rapid mass transit schemes such as the metro, however this would be a long term project due in part to the affordability of new metro services. More immediate solutions to improve public transport and active travel provision had been undertaken.
Councillor Groom expressed concern that this scheme had been delayed and queried when it would be delivered to residents. Councillor Hawkins highlighted that there were significant problems to public transport caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The regional transport settlement had just been agreed and there remained an emphasis on active travel and public transport. The transport network continued to be kept open and prices had been frozen.
Councillor Groom asked if the Cabinet Member would support him to work with TfWM to identify any opportunities to improve the transport network in North Solihull. Councillor Hawkins agreed to this, as he recognised that improvements to the transport network would take time and there would need to be a business case for any changes. It was stressed that it was important to improve the whole transport network across the whole of the Borough.
Councillor L McCarthy to Councillor Dicicco Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care and Health
Local residents across the borough are still experiencing long delays trying to get in touch with a GP - with many Elmdon and Lyndon residents contacting my colleagues complaining that they cannot get through to Hobs Moat Medical Centre at all. How is the cabinet member working with GP surgeries to ensure that all Solihull residents are able to access a GP when they need medical treatment?
Councillor Dicicco noted that there had been unprecedented demand on GP services within the Borough over the previous two years. There had been problems at Hobs Moat Medical Centre due to staff shortages as a result of the Omicron COVID-19 variant in December 2021 and January 2022. The GP partner had identified a problem with their telephone line on 21st January 2022 and would look into this further; a self-declaration to Birmingham and Solihull CCG was made due to the staff shortages. At present, there were no staffing problems, and they continued to resolve the backlog of work caused by the shortages. Hobs Moat Practice had approached the CCG for Peer Support assistance as the Practice Manager had left in January and the assistant was on long term sickness absence.
Councillor McLoughlin to
Councillor Hawkins Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Environment and
The bin outside the Convenience store on Tanworth Lane was provided by the business. They paid for a commercial waste contract that has since been terminated because of the dog waste that was put in there. Can dog waste bins be provided in this location, so that the business can resume their commercial contract for waste?
Councillor Hawkins confirmed that Officers had been requested to liaise with the shop owner to understand this problem and to provide a longer term solution.
Councillor McLoughlin expressed concern that there were not enough dog bins or collections in this area, and asked if this could be looked into by the Cabinet Member. Councillor Hawkins stated that it was not acceptable that dog bins were not collected. The Cabinet Member requested that Councillors report any instances of this to the Council. It was also outlined that it was not always the answer to introduce dog bins.
Councillor McLoughlin asked whether they could have a conversation with the Cabinet Member about the dog bin at Shakespeare Drive. The Cabinet Member agreed to this.
Cllr L McCarthy to Cllr Rolf Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Stronger and Safer Communities
In Elmdon we have a desperate shortage of community centre buildings where residents can meet. Given the council’s stated mission to tackle social isolation, what is being done to ensure that Elmdon residents have a meeting place?
Councillor Rolf confirmed that they sought to identify how to make best use of the Council’s land and property portfolio in Elmdon. Opportunities to undertake this through a partnership between Stronger Communities Portfolio and Strategic Land and the Property team was being considered. It was noted that the Community Development team already worked with a number of groups within the Elmdon area and welcomed any interest to develop community use of local facilities.
Councillor L McCarthy stated that a community group in Elmdon had been told they did not have the experience to run a community centre, and whether the Cabinet Member would look into this. Councillor Rolf clarified that it was important to find groups that could effectively manage a building, with sustainable usage and provide a public benefit. For the example referenced, Councillor Rolf agreed to work with Officers to confirm what additional requirements would need to be provided by this group.
Cllr McLoughlin to Cllr Hawkins Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Environment and Infrastructure
A resident from the bungalows at the top of Lillington Road reported their bins hadn’t been collected. An alternative collection was arranged, but they were informed that it wasn’t collected as it wasn’t on the pavement. The bin was where it has always been, less than 5 meters from the pavement. Has there been any change that would require residents to register for assisted collections that had not previously been registered?
Councillor Hawkins confirmed there had been no change to the service and that residents could apply for assisted collection service if those in the property would struggle to move the bin for themselves. Residents should leave their bins in a visible location at the front their property for crews to empty and return their bins to the same presentation point.
Councillor McLoughlin queried whether there would be service continuity as the contractor changed and that bins should not be moved into a location whereby it would block the pavements for pedestrians. Councillor Hawkins explained that in this instance, the resident may not have responded to the contactor by the Council to check they still required assistance. Further information was requested to share with Officers to investigate.
Cllr K Thomas to Cllr Dicicco Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care and Health
With the West Midlands Ambulance Category 2 waiting times being an average of 48 Minutes against a target of 18 minutes in December and some patients in lower priority categories waiting 8-10 hours, what actions are the council taking to help get ambulance waiting times back on target?”
Councillor Dicicco reiterated the increased pressure on the health service as a result of the pandemic. It was confirmed that category two response times had increased over recent months in the West Midlands. The reasons for this include an overall increase in demand, an increase in the number of higher acuity calls which required a faster response time and delayed handovers. There are a number of steps to resolve this, linked to local acute provider and CCG recovery plans to reduce handover delays. A seven point action plan for the system had been agreed by system chief executives and was being implemented.
Councillor K Thomas asked how much of an impact the closure of the Minor Injuries Unit at Solihull Hospital had on handover times. Councillor Dicicco stated these figures would not be possible, however the concerns about urgent response was in relation to other sites such as Heartlands Hospital.