Agenda item

Members Questions under Council Procedure Rule 12

Members question time will last up to 30 minutes, with questions being taken in the

order of receipt and in rotation from each political group on the Council. The

deadline for submission of questions is Friday 11 December at 12 noon.

Questions to be submitted to


Questions can be asked of the following:

a) The Mayor

b) A Member of the Executive

c) The Chairman of any Committee

d) The Council’s representative on any outside body


Questions cannot be asked in relation to the following:

a) A specific planning or licensing application

b) A specific staffing appointment, appeal or Standards determination


The Mayor announced that the Proper Officer had received 10 questions from Members in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 12. He advised that one supplementary question could be asked which must arise out of the original question, or, the reply. 


Questions would be asked in rotation of the Groups represented in the Chamber and there were 30 minutes allowed for questions with 4 rotations of speakers possible. At the end of 30 minutes the Mayor explained that he would extend the time to conclude the current rotation of questions.


The Mayor announced that the following Councillors had submitted questions:


Councillors Sally Smith, Hazel Thorpe, Charles James, Karen Harman, Louise Murphy, Jim Deen, Henna Chowdury and Tim Wills


First rotation:


Question from Councillor Sally Smith to the Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing


Under the Equality Act (2010), there are nine protected characteristics, yet the Council website only signposts one local service, dementia awareness. While this is of course very valuable, Worthing is becoming more culturally, economically and socially diverse. To support and encourage diversity and promote inclusion in Worthing, is it not time that the website should be urgently updated?


The Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing replied that providing information and services to ensure that the Council was supporting and reaching its communities remained vitally important. The website included a range of information and links to support and services such as disabled access to buildings, disabled facilities grants, disabled parking, accessible toilets, council tax exemptions, Adur & Worthing Councils as a disabled confident employer, accessible community transport, advice for disabled voters, disabled access to beaches, accessible play, hate incidents and how to report them and local census information on specific groups.


As part of the Council’s  Covid Community response it was updating its web pages to ensure they reflected the diversity of need across the communities in relation to Covid need.


The Council knew it needed to do more work on its web pages overall to ensure this reflected the diverse needs of its communities and would be doing more work on this in the new year.


Cllr Smith asked a supplementary question regarding the accessing of services by phone.


The Executive Member replied that there was a good signposting system in place.


Question from Councillor Hazel Thorpe to the Leader


On the Ist December of this year “Hear My Story” / Adur Worthing Poverty Truth Commission were invited to participate in the first online All Political Parliament Group on Poverty meeting.


They heard a Social Metrics Commission presentation from Mathew Oakley -  a respected economist and expert on welfare reform and the future of the welfare state, on the Commission’s new methodology for measuring poverty as well as findings from their latest report.


The discussion was around the solutions needed to end child poverty for good.


The Department of Work and Pensions, however, have unfrozen repayment loans to be paid while under the pandemic to those on Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) . This has hit the poorest of the poor.


“Hear My Story” raised a few concerns regarding the new measurements on poverty.

Namely, - Those on Universal credit, have received a £20 increase which has not been extended to those on legacy benefits, which suggests an inequality amongst those on the lowest disposable income.


My question is to the Council, What will this council do to address this inequality, and will they support the reinstatement of the £20 uplift to Universal credit to legacy benefits such as JSA”.


The Leader replied that “Legacy benefits” such as Job Seekers Allowance were administered by the Department for Work & Pensions based on rules determined by the government, and as such the Council had no ability to challenge the decision not to retain the £20 increase for the forthcoming financial year.


Cllr Thorpe asked a supplementary requesting that the relevant minister be lobbied to expose these issues and the inequalities exposed.


The Leader replied that he represented the Council on the District Councils Network and the LGA Resources Board where cross party representation had been made on issues like the impact of where you set local housing allowance rates and where they may be better set and he would continue to do so.    


Question from Councillor Charles James to the Executive Member for Resources


Is the Executive Member for Resources aware of the high levels of satisfaction amongst traders and businesses throughout the Borough, for the expedient way in which the Business Support Grant has been rolled out, and will the Executive Member pass on the thanks and gratitude of the Business Community to the Officers for the speedy and efficient way this has been achieved.


The Executive Member for Resources replied that the Council continued to be aware of the challenging environment for its businesses and its Officers had acted quickly and efficiently in the distribution of the Covid-19 business support grants. The first lockdown provided unprecedented levels of work, whilst the most recent lockdown presented another urgent need for its Officers to be ready once more. This work was continuing at pace as its Officers were now working on the distribution of further grants associated with Tier 2 restrictions.


The Executive Member replied that she would pass on Councillor James’s thanks to the Officers who she knew continue to work very hard on issuing these grants to businesses as quickly as possible. The Executive Member knew that the Council’s business community was in need of them. 


Councillor James asked a supplementary question seeking an update on the roll out of the discretionary business support grant and the progress to date.


The Executive Member replied that under the first round, £972k had been paid out to 125 local businesses in Worthing. The Council had received £3m of additional funding which had been received from the government since Worthing had been moved into Tier 2.  There were 3 further grants available for businesses to apply for and 1 of these discretionary funds closed on Sunday. The applications were being assessed and it was anticipated that payments would be made in the next few days.   


Second rotation:


Question from Councillor Sally Smith to the Executive Member for Health & Wellbeing


Understandably, there is currently much public interest in the availability, effectiveness and safety of the Covid vaccine and some Councillors have received queries from constituents on the matter. Would the Executive member for Health and Wellbeing consider a broad cross party statement on behalf of all Councillors, emphasising that it is not within the role of a Borough Councillor to provide any type of health advice other than appropriate signposting?


The Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing replied that a cross party statement outlining the Councillors role as a signposter to health advice was entirely appropriate.


Cllr Smith asked a supplementary question regarding a local public health communication with regards to minimising risk in light of predictions of a third wave. 


The Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing replied that there was a lot of information coming out and that West Sussex County Council, as the lead, were putting out advice to people. The Council could only follow from what WSCC instigated and remind residents of the rules. 


Question from Councillor Councillor Hazel Thorpe to the Executive Member for Customer Services


Sussex Homegroup, part of the Council’s Choice based lettings for people who need support, as I am sure you are aware, have a scale of mobility impacting upon their choice of home ranging from none to level 3. The clients do not get a floor plan either to aid their decision making.

1)  Will you explain as fully as you can these levels of criteria please for clarity  and can you explain why no floor plan is available for these clients - is this not important for those on the housing register too to choose appropriately in the first instance ?


The Executive Member for Customer Services replied that Sussex Homemove was a group made up of four local authorities for the purpose of jointly procuring a Housing Needs IT system. The IT system was used to manage the Councils’ homelessness functions and social housing allocation responsibilities.


A new IT System, delivered by Home Connections, was currently being implemented. Both the new and old IT system implements each local authority’s housing allocation policy. Worthing Borough Council’s (and also Adur District Council) housing allocation policy specifies mobility levels.


The system did not place households or properties into mobility levels. Households were placed in one of three mobility levels by the Council’s officers based on the information provided by the applicant. If any member of an applicant’s household had a problem with their mobility, officers would advise that they provide additional information on their mobility. This was to ensure that the household’s needs were correctly assessed and the right mobility level awarded.


An applicant was awarded Mobility Level 1, if the applicant or someone in their household needed to use a wheelchair indoors and outdoors. This meant that the width of the doors and hallways of the property must be sufficient to allow a wheelchair through safely when in use and the property must be step free.


An applicant was awarded Mobility Level 2, if the applicant or someone in their household needs to use a wheelchair outdoors but not indoors. In such instances, the internal width of doors or hallways were not crucial but the gradient to the property was important and the property should generally have no stairs. Whilst one or two low level steps may be manageable internally and perhaps at the entrance, the location of the steps was important to ensure the household had a safe and quick means of escape in the event they needed to evacuate in an emergency.


An applicant was awarded Mobility Level 3, if the applicant or someone in their household had restricted mobility but did not need to use a wheelchair outdoors or indoors. This was important where an applicant or a member of their household used a walking aid (e.g. walking stick).  They were unlikely to be able to manage several steps or steep gradients.


Each property advertised was assessed and given Mobility Level 1, 2 or 3 if they would be suitable for any of the groups above. A property would not have any mobility level rating if it was not suitable for any of the above mobility levels, in which case anyone without a mobility need could bid on them.  Mobility rated properties were prioritised for those with the corresponding mobility level; in other words the applicant would be considered for the property before anyone who did not have the corresponding mobility level even if that person had a higher banding. This was important to ensure that available properties went to those for whom they were most suitable. It also ensured that those with mobility needs were not disadvantaged because properties were prioritised based on banding.


Properties advertised on the Choice Based Letting System using the information provided by the social housing landlord. Landlords did not provide floor plans and most social housing landlords did not have this readily available.  Officers explained to all successful housing register applicants how to bid on the housing register.


Councillor Thorpe asked whether the Executive Member could ensure that the website was reviewed in regards to accessibility as a supplementary question.


The Executive Member advised that she would.



Question from Councillor Karen Harman to the Executive Member for Health & Wellbeing


Bearing in mind the hard work done in Worthing by Officers, councillors and the residents to ensure that Worthing has the lowest, or at least one of the lowest Covid rates in the Country, what plans are being considered or are already in place to enable Worthing to lead the way in the delivery of the vaccines as they become available?


The Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing replied that there was a programme of work underway with the NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme in Sussex, to deliver the Pfizer vaccine and AWC Officers would support where appropriate. 


Given the temperatures needed to store the vaccine, large hospitals (‘hospital hubs’) had been the first sites across the country to receive the vaccine.


The vaccination programme would continue to expand in Sussex over the coming weeks and months as more of the vaccine became available. This would include more hospital hubs, more GP-led local vaccination services, larger vaccination centres, and a roving service to take the vaccine into care homes and people’s own homes if they could not attend a vaccination site. AWCs Officers had been assisting with securing sites in Adur and Worthing.


In line with Government guidance, some patients aged 80 and above who were already attending a hospital hub were being invited to have the vaccine whilst they were there. The largest care homes closest to each hospital hub were also being invited to book staff into vaccination clinics at the hospital.  Any appointments not used for these groups were being used for hospital staff who were at highest risk of serious illness from COVID19.


GP-led local vaccination services would be inviting eligible patients to receive the vaccine and further detail was being worked through to consider the roll out to wider health and care staff.  The Council was identifying people without a GP that might be eligible to ensure all eligible people got vaccinated


Health and care staff from across Sussex were supporting this historic vaccination effort. Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust were leading the work to recruit and train more staff - both clinical and non-clinical - so that the NHS in Sussex could deliver the immunisation programme without impacting on other vital services.


Third rotation:


Question from Councillor Councillor Jim Deen to the Leader


How much has or will the Council pay to the Worthing Theatres and Museum Trust over the current financial year?


The Leader replied that the Council had made a contract payment of £1.46m to the Trust this year. The payment was made in accordance with Cabinet Office guidance which encouraged Councils to provide financial support to suppliers in the current difficult circumstances. In making this payment, the council was aware of the significant costs associated with the running and maintaining the venues including business rate liabilities of around £600k per year.



Question from Councillor Councillor Louise Murphy to the Executive Member for Health & Wellbeing


The pandemic has put a great strain on our local NHS, not least the doctors' surgeries in Worthing. The council's nationally recognised Going Local programme works with all the doctors' surgeries in Worthing and helps many people who are frequent attendees at those surgeries. Could the Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing let us know if the programme has been able to continue during the pandemic and if so, what the successes have been?


The Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing replied that Going Local adapted to the emerging needs in the community throughout the pandemic. In March the Social Prescribers played an instrumental role in the formation of the Councils Covid Community Response Service. Their expertise in working with people holistically ensured that people were able to get the essential support they required during the uncertainty of the first lockdown.


At this time people were not always able to access their GP surgery - Going Local expanded its remit to include self-referrals, further increasing its preventative reach by supporting a wider demographic of the community. Going Local had remained in communication with GP’s and surgery staff by attending virtual practice meetings - this had helped continue the promotion of the service. During the pandemic Going Local had expanded its team from 4 Social Prescribers to 6. The team were also developing a volunteer programme to build further resilience in the community - while continuing to relieve pressure on the local NHS.


Councillor Louise Murphy asked a supplementary question requesting that a paper be brought to the Joint Strategic Committee so that Councillors could consider the future of this successful initiative.


The Executive Member for Health & Wellbeing replied that Officers would be able to produce a report at some point in the next few months.


**The time permitted for questions expired during the consideration of question 8 and therefore the questions from Cllrs Chowdhury and T Wills were deferred to the next meeting of Full Council.