Agenda item

Elected Member questions

To consider questions submitted by Elected Members


1.  Question from Councillor E Fordham to Councillor C Hart, Cabinet Member for Health and Communities


“The Government have indicated that it will be possible to move between the application channels by Ukrainians who are seeking residence in the UK.  Can the Council be updated on whether this is in place and if there are any concerns about homelessness for any Ukrainians not within the Home for Ukraine scheme?”


Response from Councillor Lewis (in Councillor Hart's absence):


"There are two routes through which Ukrainian nationals are able to apply for a visa for UK residence, the Homes for Ukraine Scheme and the Family Visa Scheme. The current guidance does not allow for the movement between the two schemes and we are not aware of any plans for this guidance to change. As we do not have any data or information on the numbers of Ukrainian nationals in Derbyshire under the Family Visa Route we would only become aware of them should they present to services. As such we are not able to comment on the potential homelessness issue for this cohort.


In relation to the Homes for Ukraine Scheme we are working closely with District and Borough Councils to develop a package of support to assist Ukrainian individuals and families to secure accommodation when their hosting arrangements come to an end."


Councillor Fordham asked the following supplementary question:


So it is quite possible that there are Ukrainians in Derbyshire who are not under the scheme with whom our staff are working who do have homelessness issues and unless they present we will be unaware of them at a statutory or a governmental or local government level. That is a contradiction to my understanding of what Home Office and Foreign Office Ministers have said.


Can I just ask the Leader if he would consider working with Councillor Hart to perhaps get the reassurances from Government that they will follow through what has been said in the Commons and indeed repeated in the Lords (and I can get the precise chapter and verse if necessary) which is that it would be possible to move between the two application schemes? As someone who is working with Ukrainians in the community (and Councillor Sutton will know much of this as well) being homeless is a real risk in rural Derbyshire and I think we have a responsibility to be proactive where we can. I hope the Leader will share my concerns and rise to that proactive occasion.


Councillor Lewis responded as follows:


"I will come back to you with a fuller written response on that particular topic. There are concerns and I think they are real enough within Derbyshire. I know from my own experience working with individuals in the Erewash area that this has been highlighted as a particular issue. It would cause us concern as a local authority but as I say I will come back with a fuller answer to your question."


2. Question from Councillor E Fordham to Councillor K Athwal, Cabinet Member for Highways, Assets and Transport


“Would the Council support road and cycle route signage that indicated the cycle times between destinations within and immediately around Chesterfield? Such signage would inform the cyclist not just of the distance of the approximate cycle time as well.  This is prevalent across the continent and if implemented here would assist with our declared intention to reduce car journeys and encourage sustainable and healthy travel.”


Response from Councillor Athwal:


"This Council is keen to provide information in the most appropriate format to encourage walking and cycling. We have considered the idea of providing times, as well as distances, as part of a strategy covering Chesterfield. However, we have taken the view that because our network serves a wide variety of journey purposes from commuting to family rides it is difficult to provide information on distance so users can interpret these themselves. We will always keep this issue under review and consider the evidence and guidance available, but we have no current plans to alter our approach."


Councillor Fordham asked the following supplementary question:


"Can I ask the portfolio holder to reconsider that decision and whether or not he would meet with community groups, residents, Borough and County Councillors in particular in the Loundsley Green area of Chesterfield where there is some considerable demand and indeed support for such measures?"


Councillor Athwal responded as follows:


"As you are aware this Authority is doing a considerable amount of work in promoting walking and cycling across our county. In Chesterfield itself, the area that Councillor Fordham alludes to, we have the East-West cycling/walking lane which hopefully will be open early next year. It has gone through its process etc. We are looking at Staveley and various other walking/cycling lanes across the county itself, so I think this administration, this Council is well committed towards walking and cycling to encourage more and more people to do that. I don’t think I need to meet anybody at this moment in time, I meet enough people at this stage."


3. Question from Councillor E Fordham to Councillor K Athwal, Cabinet Member for Highways, Assets and Transport


“The Council has spoken positively and optimistically about bus service enhancements and how investment could benefit residents in Derbyshire.  Given the grant the Council has received from the Government that appears to be resulting in a reduction of services across Derbyshire and in villages and towns in particular, was the Council right to be positive and optimistic?”


Response from Councillor Athwal


"This Council is absolutely committed to making improvements for Derbyshire’s bus services. The £47m grant funding which we successfully secured through our Bus Service Improvement Plan, I might add, is the second highest in the country and it is an important part of the investment that we are making in the future of these bus services. We are working closely with our newly established enhanced Partnership Board to make this happen. Although there are challenges for a number of services we are working hard in partnership with bus operators to minimise the impact of this and we, together with existing contracted network and the support provided through our Concessionary Fare Scheme, will provide both short and long-term support for our bus network in Derbyshire. Therefore, this Council is absolutely both positive and optimistic about our future bus services."


There was no supplementary question.


4. Question from Councillor E Fordham to Councillor A Dale, Cabinet Member for Education


“What measures is the Council taking in and with schools to encourage access to, exploration of and appreciation of the Peak District National Park and does the Council agree that we could do more to promote this jewel, not just to visitors, but to Derbyshire residents?”


Response from Councillor Dale


"Every State funded school must offer a curriculum which is balanced and broadly based. The national curriculum is just one element in the education of every child. It provides an outline and core knowledge around which teachers can develop exciting and stimulating lessons to promote the development of pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills as part of the wider school curriculum. Teachers can use the national curriculum programmes of study in many subjects to make excellent use of the Peak District and its resources. Subjects such as geography; art; history and PE lend themselves most readily to this purpose. The Education Improvement Service has recently worked in partnership with the Chatsworth Estate to promote professional development for teachers using the annual sculpture exhibition to inspire pupils with their studies across the curriculum. As a result, teachers had free access to the exhibitions which they then followed up with visits by students. Within Derbyshire County Council both the Derbyshire Environmental Study Service and the White Hall Outdoor Centre in Buxton are part of the Peak Educators’ Group. This Group meets regularly throughout the year to share best practice and developments with organisations across the Peak District delivering educational services to schools, as well as Youth Groups and families.

The Group includes representatives from the Peak District National Park Learning and Engagement Team; the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust; the National Trust; the Eastern Moorlands Partnership; Sheffield City Council’s Outdoor Service and link environment and farming education as well as a number of other freelance independent educators. The Group works together to promote outdoor learning for teachers, learning visits for students and to share best practice. The Group also compiles teaching resources and packs hosted online for schools to access for free. The Group has organised joint events such as the 2015 and 2016 Derbyshire Learning Outside the Classroom Conferences and they deliver externally funded projects such as Play Wild which looks at increasing nature connections and access to the Park for a wider diversity of visitors and schools. You will be aware of White Hall and Lea Green which are part of our County Council’s Sport Outdoor Recreation Service. We obviously have those two Centres and they have a combined total of 130 years of promoting Derbyshire and the Peak District and our natural resources for recreation and leisure to Derbyshire young people. White Hall itself is located within the Peak District and in its 71 years it has had over one million young people on its outdoor education courses. Both Centres pride themselves on utilising the natural crags; the rivers; the hills that Derbyshire is so fortunate to have in abundance and allowing young people to have their first opportunity to do things like caving; rock climbing; mountain biking; canoeing and hill walking. White Hall has also become a Peak District Park Ambassador Centre working with the Park to educate Derbyshire young people in the positive use and care of the countryside as well. I would also encourage you to watch the recent film that we produced under White Hall with the support of Heritage Lottery Grant Funding which is called ‘The People’s History of White Hall’. It is on YouTube and it really, really well documents from the perspective of the people who have been there over the past 70 years what it has meant to them and how it really broadened out their education and their appreciation for the countryside and the Peak District. I think in summary what I would say is essentially it is the school’s responsibility to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum and to ensure that that curriculum can incorporate some of the jewel in the crown if you like of the Peak District. Our role is more of a supportive and facilitating role but we are doing a lot of work around this. There are lots of different groups and organisations that we feed into to help support schools in the appreciation of the Peak Park."


There was no supplementary question.


5. Question withdrawn.


6. Question from Councillor J Barron to Councillor N Hoy, Cabinet Member for Adult Care


“Recently, during a full council meeting, Elected members voted in favour of amending the longstanding pay policy that prevented Derbyshire County Council from making retention payments to its frontline care workers. 


Given this significant policy change, are there now plans for retention payments to be made to our hardworking frontline care staff?” 


Response from Councillor Hoy


"I am delighted to inform colleagues that from the 1 November existing and new Derbyshire County Council community care worker colleagues will receive up to £500 and a further £500 in twelve months’ time which means up to £1,000 for our incredibly hardworking frontline community care workers."


There was no supplementary question.


7. Question withdrawn.


8. Question from Councillor R George to Councillor K Athwal, Cabinet Member for Highways, Assets and Transport


“Do the Council consider that the notice to residents and quality of work on the A6 at Furness Vale and from Bridgemont to Newtown is satisfactory and if not, then what action has the Council taken?”


Response from Councillor Athwal


"As Councillor George is aware the A6 Furness Vale is a very busy main road with lots of residential properties that do not have off-street parking. There are parking bays which are full of residents’ cars for long periods and unfortunately our contractor did not give sufficient notice to residents of the impending works, but I am grateful to Councillor George for assisting both in informing residents of the works and for assisting in finding alternative car parking provision. Council officers with responsibility for contract management considered that the quality of the actual surface dressing on the A6 Furness Vale is satisfactory. Unfortunately, what has been more challenging is the aftercare, primarily sweeping, and the timeliness of the ancillary works such as road markings. The Council did secure more appropriate plans from our contractor Kier to resolve these issues and I understand that most of these works are now complete.


Councillor George asked the following supplementary question:


"There were a number of issues identified as the works took place. Will the Council look into these issues for future works?"


Councillor Athwal responded as follows:


"I have already alluded in my answer beforehand that we have had meetings with the contractor. We have a ‘lessons learnt’ exercise that has taken place and we are moving forwards in addressing some of these issues, but the actual quality of the work itself was good and satisfactory, as our officers said. The issue arose from the fact that HGVs drove at a higher speed than the 20 mph guidance levels that were put out at that stage so there was an issue of drivers not adhering to the speed limit signs not the quality of work. The contractors did go back in; they did suppress the dust issues which you have referred to by spraying over the surfacing works that were done, but as I said lessons have been learnt for better quality work in future."

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