To provide an opportunity to pose questions to Cabinet Members in line with Standing Orders.
No more than 10 minutes will be allocated at the Council meeting for questions to each Cabinet Member.
Members must submit their proposed questions in writing in advance in accordance with Standing Orders. If members are unable to ask their question orally within the allocated time, remaining questions will be answered in writing. The question and response will be appended to the minutes.
The question must be addressed through the Mayor or the person presiding at the meeting and not directly to the person being questioned.
Questions will be posed to Cabinet Members in the following order:
i. Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for City Services
ii. Cabinet Member for Education and Skills
iii. Cabinet Member for Assets
iv. Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development
v. Cabinet Member for Community and Resources
vi. Cabinet Member for Streetscene
vii. Cabinet Member for Licensing and Regulation
viii. Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure
There were four written question to the Cabinet Members:
Question 1 – Cabinet Member: Social Services
Councillor J Watkins:
Could the Cabinet Member please explain the Policy and the rationale behind it covering applications for a disabled parking bay for those suffering disability and needing the support of this facility.
Does the Cabinet Member consider it fair and meeting the needs of those needing to apply and what would be his/her views in terms of the Policy being discriminatory.
The provision of a Disabled Parking Bay followed a clear pathway with the policy and process available to all.
The policy and process to support the provision of a disabled parking bay had previously gone through a democratic process, which included a review of how the provision could be managed that would target those most in need within a set budget and allow for the services involved to schedule and manage the work required.
The applications for a parking bay have historically and under the current system consistently been oversubscribed and had not always been provided fairly. We recognised that the current system may not meet specific requirements from all individuals but there was no one system that would be able to meet all eventualities and the current process addresses fairness and ensured all requests were met using the established and agreed criteria.
The current policy and process allowed for a single yearly cohort, which included a three-month window of opportunity for those who presented as meeting an initial threshold to make an application for consideration. The reason for this system was to ensure the process was open fairly to all rather than being a ‘first come first serve’ service every year.
The streamlined approach that was now applied enabled us to review applications fairly and equitably so those most in need are considered for a heavily oversubscribed service. An ability to apply on an ad hoc basis or outside of the agreed criteria throughout the year would undermine an equitable approach. There were inevitably on occasion cases where urgency posed a challenge but in trying to ensure a fair and reasonable distribution of resources this was the most judicious use of resources and process.
The streamlined process allowed for City Services to manage the legal requirements which were costly and took time to implement. An ad hoc approach would be very difficult to manage against the background of the legal requirements and would increase overall costs plus potentially increase the time frame for a bay to be provided.
A single cohort application framework enabled an optimum use of a set budget and thus allowed for the provision of more bays. Processing a single bay at a time would significantly increase costs and therefore reduce the number of bays that could be provided overall.
Using this process we could coordinate more effectively removal requests against applications.
The provision of a bay was not a simply process of marking lines on the road, there were strict legal requirements involved with a Traffic Regulation Order which did not support a quick turnaround and was a high cost. The service cannot therefore be provided as an urgent and immediate need or on a short-term basis.
The policy and process was formally agreed through the democratic process and whilst it was recognised the current process may not be agreeable to all, we were striving to meet requirements in the most effective, efficient and fair way possible.
The provision of a parking bay was not a statutory service and the process in place therefore did not contravene any legislation. Newport City Council was committed to be providing a service within all the requirements but in order to offer an equitable this needed to be within the agreed process.
It was important therefore that when people make enquiries about the process that they were advised appropriately to reduce any level of expectation.
Could Cabinet Member state on whether he felt that the policy supported the local authority rather than supporting a person with a disability.
Councillor Cockeram had been passionate about supporting disabled parking bays for people throughout the years. We could only do what we could to manage to provide funding through the safety at home grant and need based assessment. The council was doing all they could with the money available. Disabled parking bays where not a statutory requirement and most authorities did not provide this. It was difficult to put parking bays in places such as streets with terraced housing, where neighbours may object, however those with blue badges could double park outside a house.
Question 2 – Deputy Leader/Cabinet Member: City Services
On the 16th April 2021 The South Wales Argus reported on the litter situation in Newport
Cllr Jeavons was quoted in that article saying litter and fly-tipping is created by “irresponsible individuals and the end result is a significant negative impact on our communities and a burden on council resources”. end of quote.
From a low base of prosecutions in 2019 and 2020 (seven and 61 respectively) it was claimed that in 2021 prosecutions had now risen by over 700%
Could the Cabinet Member update the council on the latest situation in the ongoing battle against littering, including:
· What are the current number of successful prosecutions for 2021?
· Has the burden on council resource increased or decreased?
· Where are the current litter 'hotspots' in the City of Newport and has that changed since April 2021
Tackling litter and fly tipping remained a priority for the Council, and even with all the issues and restrictions over the last 18 months, we saw an increase in action taken.
The latest figures we have for this year was 25 FPNs for either littering.
Regarding prosecutions, there was a huge backlog caused at courts by the pandemic, but in the past two months we had six cases heard at court, there were also another 26 cases with dates given for hearing at court in the next three months.
We also had 15 investigations ongoing
A major covert operation at the old LG access road, which was a hotspot for the last 20 years, resulted in a number of prosecutions, with some further court cases pending.
A number of other covert operations were ongoing across the city, but for obvious reasons would not be providing the locations.
In terms of litter, this administration was on track to double the number of litter bins across the city by the end of this year.
The ‘road to nowhere’ which was the old LG Access road on the west side of Newport was not in use and was used very heavily for fly tipping. How would the fly tipping be removed?
The Deputy Leader reiterated that there were covert operations in place and that the old LG Access road was part of this and therefore no information could be provided at this time.
Question 3 – Deputy Leader/Cabinet Member: City Services
The South Wales Argus reported on the 3 September 2020 an article on flooding
"Why Newport flood risk plan won't be published'
In that article it was claimed that 'more than half of Newport has been identified as being at risk of flooding in a new council plan'
However, the actual plan will not be disclosed to the public even though 'Flooding is currently considered to be the greatest risk of an emergency occurring in the NCC area.
Also, four new flood risk areas have been identified
In addition, most council wards will be affected by the plan due to the vast coverage of the flood risk.
Could the Cabinet Member give an update as to what measures have and will being taken in line with plan since it's sign off and how this tied in to the Section 19 report that has also been mentioned several times in full council. Could the Cabinet Member also give an update as to how the plan will have a positive impact on the Langstone Ward which amongst many other wards was severely affected by flooding at the end of 2020.
The council had a statutory duty to produce a plan making sure it had the appropriate arrangements in place to respond to flooding incidents in the city.
It was a UK government requirement that this plan was classified as “official sensitive”, due to commercial and security reasons as the plan contains information such as reservoir mapping
However, all the information that was essential for the public to know was well documented and in the public domain and that included the flooding risks in the city as well as the responsibilities of all the agencies concerned.
The four new flood risk areas identified within the plan were informed by Natural Resources Wales as part of their communities at risk register. The Council was waiting for the data indicating the extent of the flood risk from the NRW and receipt of this work would commence to evaluate the severity of the flood risk and this would inform our planning and flood risk strategies going forward.
As previously mentioned, a section 19 report covered the conclusions of investigations by the various relevant authorities and will be published once complete.
Could the Cabinet Member provide an update on the sandbags that were strategically located within Newport.
Suitable locations were found Deputy Leader had received approval form the residents on where to place these sandbags. Work was ongoing and as soon as more sandbags were received work could proceed.
Question 4 – Cabinet Member: Licensing and Regulation
Pollution and the environment is devolved to Wales, and the Welsh Government has been keen to encourage the use of public transport
A Welsh Labour Government member has been quoted admitting
"Every year, across Wales, air pollution contributes to almost 1,400 early deaths and costs the Welsh NHS almost £1 billion.
"We know that for some, even a short-term spike in air pollution can affect their health whilst long term exposure also increases your risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, dementia, lung cancer, diabetes and more." Going on to say "Cutting a reliance on cars was central to improving Newport's air quality, and pointed to measures in the Burns Report, which set out a series of ways of improving transport around the city after the M4 relief road was scrapped, as a way of doing this.
Seeing the effect of the queues on the M4 from a vantage point in Langstone and the associated spill over onto the local roads as a result, this is only exasperating the situation. At the same time there appears to be no solution to stop this happening week after week, month after month, year after year.
Could the Cabinet member update the council on where are the worst areas of air pollution in Newport and what actions are being taken to reduce the ongoing traffic issues and the number of deaths in Newport associated with the poor air quality
I would refer Councillor Mogford to the detailed information that I have previously provided at Council in response to questions about air quality management.
The worst areas of air pollution in Newport were clearly the 11 Air Quality Management Areas that the Council declared, five of which were located along the M4 corridor. The levels of nitrous dioxide recorded in those areas exceeded air quality objectives set by Welsh Government. However, those AQMA’s were declared a number of years ago and, as I previously advised Council, the emission levels in all of those areas adjacent to the M4 were gradually reducing and are all moving towards compliance. In fact, the St Julian’s AQMA is due to be revoked as it had not breached the air quality objectives for a number of years. Therefore, we were making good progress in reducing emissions and improving air quality.
Environmental Health would continue to monitor air quality and would update the Council’s Air Quality Action Plan with actions to improve air quality in these AQMA’s. A key part of the action plan would be to establish local action groups to engage with the local communities, because educating the public and encouraging changes in behaviour were essential if we were to reduce the effects of air pollution on public health. We were about to establish the first local action group in Caerleon and that would then be rolled-out across the other AQMA’s. As I said previously, this was not something that the Council could address on its own.
The Council also published a sustainable travel strategy and was developing active travel routes. I outlined to Council previously some of the sustainable travel initiatives being developed, including the use of electric vehicles. Air quality, Climate Change and Carbon Reduction were all part of the same public health agenda.
With regard to traffic issues, the introduction of the 50mph speed limit on stretches of the M4 by Welsh Government undoubtedly had a positive impact in terms of air quality emissions. But traffic management and congestion on the M4 were matters for Welsh Government. Also, improvements in public transport as a result of the Burns Report would be developed at a regional level as part of a strategic transport policy. If Councillor Mogford had any question about particular public transport schemes, then he would need to raise that with my Cabinet colleague Councillor Jeavons.
Who were the local action group referred to in the Cabinet Members response?
The Caerleon group was comprised of officers, councillors and members of the public, all of which had a big role to play in this and by meeting and involving residents would also help to make improvements.