Questions are invited from Elected Members about the work of the Cabinet. 15 minutes will be set aside for Member Question Time, if required.
Notice of any Member question must be given to the Monitoring Officer by 9.30am 12 November 2021.
The following question was submitted in advance of the meeting by Councillor Russell Bernstein:
Can an update on community asset transfers in relation to the Accelerated Land disposal process be provided?
Responding, Councillor O’Brien reported that there was a number of sites across the three phases so far and, rather than give a specific update on each at each meeting, it was proposed that a regular update be provided as part of the existing quarterly performance reports to Cabinet as sites came forward for Community Asset Transfer, auction, or even withdrawal.
Councillor O’Brien advised that comments from Scrutiny had been taken on board for Community Asset Transfers in particular, and the policy had been adapted and a toolkit developed. This was much better than previous guidance which had been too vague.
He advised that it was important Ward Members were consulted frequently as well as those members of the public or community groups who were engaged or who has expressed an interest. This should be done as early as possible to ensure there were no surprises and everyone was aware of plans and could access any available pots of funding. New hub managers should also be utilised to ensure they knew what was happening and could offer support.
Councillor O’Brien offered to email Councillor Bernstein on specific sites, and Councillor Bernstein asked for an update on Pilkington Park.
The following question was submitted in advance of the meeting by Councillor Jackie Harris:
I welcome the news that the number of highways related insurance claims have reduced from 540 in 2016 down to 254 this year. As such claims are costly in resources also damaging to affected families.
Can we have assurance that the road maintenance programme will continue to improve our borough's road network and therefore reduce even further the number of highways related insurance claims in future years?
Responding, Councillor Alan Quinn reported that the borough has some 660km of highway network. The Council has invested £20m of highways capital funding over 6 years. This investment will see around 48km resurfaced. This programme continues until 2023, but it did slip a bit because of Covid. In addition, there is a comprehensive programme of surface dressing with 92 streets (120,000m2) surface dressed in 21/22 and a similar programme planned for 22/23.
The 6-year (HIS1 and HIS2) programme, which was money borrowed by the Council, will have seen 39% of classified roads (A,B and C) resurfaced. Councillor Quinn advised that between 2011 and 2019 the number of cars has increased by over 20,000 increasing to 109,000 cars. Most of these will end up driven and parked on the highway somewhere. The steady state cost of maintaining the condition of the carriageways in Bury is around £5-6 million per annum. Since 2010, Department for Transport allocations have been, typically, around £2 million over the last decade, leaving a £3-4 million pound shortfall of funding per annum.
Subject to securing funding including from Central Government the Council will continue with its successful highway refurbishment programme. Councillor Quinn reported that 90% of highway budget for England is spent on motorways, but that 90% of traffic was on local roads.
The following question was submitted in advance of the meeting by Councillor Jo Lancaster:
As the secondary school catchment areas have not been reviewed for over 30 years, parents feel their children are at a disadvantage when applying for high school places. At present pupils are being placed in schools miles away from where they live, which is having a negative impact on family lives.
What plan does Cllr. Tariq have regarding the public consultation for secondary school catchment areas?
Responding, Councillor Tamoor Tariq reported that when he took over this portfolio in 2019 one of the key issues he wanted to address was the catchment areas, with which he had longstanding issues. Whilst Admission Arrangements for schools are reviewed regularly a key feature of those arrangements for secondary schools, utilising catchment areas, has remained unchanged for a number of years.
Any changes to admission arrangements, including any proposal to amend or remove the use of catchments areas, would need to be informed by consultation with all stakeholders.
The Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Committee considered a paper at its recent meeting on the future demand for school places. That paper recognised the need to review admission arrangements to reflect demographic changes on the demand for school places, and, as its Chair, Councillor Tariq committed to that Committee to undertake a consultation on proposed changes to admission arrangements.
The timetable for that consultation will be established in the coming weeks. Consultation is likely to take place in early 2022, with the intention of implementing any changes for the academic year commencing September 2023. Councillor Tariq added that the last review was in 1980, and the borough had significantly changed since then. Every year parents rightly challenge why they are in the catchment area they are, and it was hoped that through this process issues could be discussed, debated and a solution identified to fit the borough for the 21st century.