Agenda item

Member Question Time

Questions are invited from Elected Members about items on the Cabinet agenda. 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 midday Friday, 10 February 2023.


The following question was submitted in advance of the meeting by Councillor Carol Birchmore:


Referring to the table at section 14 : Expenditure and Forecast 2022/23, we were told at the Overview & Scrutiny Meeting 9th February 2023 that this spending was on decarbonisation and was funded through a government grant. Please can you advise exactly what the nature and purpose of this grant is, whether it has a deadline for spending and if so is it likely that the grant will all be spent or will some of it have to be handed back to the Government.


Responding, Councillor Richard Gold reported that, first of all apologies whilst some of this is due to a decarbonisation grant it is only £990k this year which will all be fully spent this year as part of wave 1. We have also secured a further £1.2m for wave 2 of which we have to match fund with £4m but this has got to be spent by March 2025 so is going to be 2023/4 spend.


In relation to this year STH have confirmed they are still forecasting to spend circa £14.7m this financial year and have completed 70% of the planned works but that payment is running about 3 months behind completion of the works. Officers will pick this up as a separate issue and progress payments before the end of the financial year where this is within the supplier payment terms.


The following question was submitted in advance of the meeting by Councillor Mary Walsh:


School Transport for non-SEND High school children - why is this transport for non-SEND children not included in the budget? Why is it that the issues raised with senior Council Officers about this issue not been both answered and rectified? Will I now receive a reply?


Councillor Lucy Smith reported that the Council’s policy on eligibility for free school travel passes for pupils attending a mainstream school outlines the circumstances in which Bury Council will provide travel assistance for children and young people, of compulsory school age, attending a mainstream school. This will usually be in the form of a free travel pass that is valid for the journey between home and school on school days only, up to 9pm in the evening.


The annual budget for non-SEND travel has not been changes and remains £56,400. However, there continues to be demand pressures on the budget. This year we have seen an increase in the number of applications and eligible pupils. From September 2022 to 14 February 2023, 358 travel passes have been issued to pupils that meet the eligibility criteria within the policy, at a cost of £90,150. Of the 358 passes issued in this period, 193 (53%) were to pupils residing in the Radcliffe area. Of those 193 pupils, 38 are attending the Derby High School, and a further 61 pupils are attending faith schools. The remaining Radcliffe resident pupils are mainly dispersed across Bury secondary schools.


Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) is the public body responsible for co-ordinating transport services throughout Greater Manchester. This includes the co-ordination of school bus services. Many students across Greater Manchester also use the general network of services to get to/from school. TfGM advise that approximately 80% of school journeys made by bus are on the commercial network.


We have contacted TfGM regarding the capacity concerns expressed about transport from Radcliffe to The Derby High School. They have confirmed that the transport provision for the current academic year is based upon the number of pupils travelling during the previous academic year. It should be noted that TfGM have not removed any services, but there has been an increase in demand. TfGM are aware of the increase in the number of pupils aiming to access the service this year. They have been working closely with The Derby High School to analyse the postcode data provided by the school for all pupils wishing to use the 899 service and have been able to provide alternative travel options available to pupils through the general bus network. Unfortunately, it is not possible for TfGM to increase capacity of the 899 service at this time due to funding and resourcing restrictions. However, they will continue to review the operation and use of services with regards to future provision.


The following question was submitted in advance of the meeting by Councillor Donald Berry:


There are comments about negative effect on cuts and increases in charges. What risk assessment have been carried out to see if some of the changes result in loss of revenue, or if this will increase anti-social behaviour or have over negative effect on achieving the budget targets?


Councillor Richard Gold reported that a review of all Bury Council fees and charges was undertaken. This review stated proposed increases of 5, 10 and 15%. To ensure that the proposed fees and charges are in line with neighbouring authorities a benchmarking exercise took place. Following the benchmarking exercise, new fees were proposed in line with GM counterparts. Heads of Service, as the subject matter experts, RAG rated the proposed fees on a case-by-case basis, with a narrative for their final proposed fees. This process supported the assessment of the community and equality impact and to consider the elasticity of demand and ensured that charges were not increased to a point where demand drops.


For further risk management, to ensure demand did not drop due to increases, an Equality Impact Assessment report has been completed and assessed for quality by Adiba Charlesworth (Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Manager). Happy to provide the EIA on request.


Finance will support the increase of the budgets in line with Fees and Charges. Analysis has been undertaken to identify which budgets can support the uplift based on current and expected income received, ensuring budgets are achievable.