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 14 October at 12 noon. Questions to be submitted to email@example.com
Questions can be asked of the following:
a) The Mayor
b) A Member of the Cabinet
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 14 questions from Members in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 12. She 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 10 rotations of speakers possible.
The Mayor announced that the following Councillors had submitted questions:
Councillors Barraclough, Cochran, Jenkins, Mercer, Nowak, Sparkes and Thorpe.
Question 1 from Councillor Richard Nowak to the Leader
Cllr Cooper to your knowledge, are Persimmon Homes pursuing its Court of Appeal challenge to the High Court decision that granted the successful appeal by Worthing Council against the Planning Inspectorate's decision to allow development of the land at Chatsmore Farm?
The Leader replied that yes, she could acknowledge that Persimmon Homes were pursuing the Court of Appeal challenge to the High Court decision that granted the successful appeal by Worthing Borough Council against the Planning Inspector's decision to allow development of the land at Chatsmore Farm. The Council had recently been informed that Persimmon Homes had been granted leave to appeal the High Court decision.
Question 2 from Councillor Hazel Thorpe to the Cabinet Member for Citizen Services
“The Household Support Fund”, a pot of money which Councils can dish out at their discretion to alleviate residents’ hardship is mentioned in the Borough’s hardship Road Map. This fund is currently £500m nationally - how much is Worthing Borough being allocated?
The Cabinet Member replied that the overall Household Support Fund (round 3) for West Sussex was £4,870,362. It was noted that a request for the value of the apportioned amount for Worthing had been made to colleagues at County. The Council was informed that this was not available and not how the funding formula is reported on.
Question 3 from Councillor Elizabeth Sparkes to the Cabinet Member for Resources
Cllr Turley, do you agree with me that the Strategic Property Investment Fund set up and developed by the previous administration forms an integral part of this Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy? A comprehensive and varied portfolio has secured the Council’s financial future for the past 5 years and I wonder therefore now that the property investment rules have been changed by CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy) whether you are intending to continue to expand the portfolio locally by building on the previous administration’s investments within the Borough?
The Cabinet Member replied that ideally, the Council should never have had to set up a Strategic Property Investment Fund (SPIF). Councils had been forced to look for other sources of income due to the Government’s squeeze on local authority funding which had already been referenced earlier in the meeting.
The income from the SPIF had certainly played an important role in helping to manage the Council’s finances. However, the Council shouldn’t have had to rely on rental income from properties in Glasgow, Swindon and elsewhere.
The Council welcomed the change in the rules which incidentally were changed by the Public Works Loan Board rather than by CIPFA.
The fundamental approach to risk management in the strategy remained prudent, and therefore it seemed sensible to continue developing the fund to its mature fund size of £125m. Given the revised rules, this would be focused within Worthing Borough and would have a housing, or regeneration angle, rather than just be investment for financial reasons alone.
The portfolio already included properties in Worthing, in both Montague Street and Dominion Way. The Worthing Integrated Care Centre and Decoy Farm were allocated as future assets that would be added in time. There would very much be a local flavour to investment moving forward.
Question 4 from Councillor Hazel Thorpe to the Cabinet Member for the Environment
When and what kind of investment return can the public expect from the £3 million plus of public money spent on Brooklands?
The Cabinet Member replied that the total investment for Brooklands amounted to £2.387m, which was a significant investment for a single park. The development of the space was a legacy issue from the previous administration, with the ambition to deliver a destination park and public open space.
When the new administration came in, the final scheme and contracts for the works had been signed off. As a responsible administration, contracts would not be broken and every endeavour would be made to make Brooklands a successful destination for local residents and visitors.
The investment return could not be measured financially, however, the benefits to families with young children and visitors who require accessible facilities, such as inclusive play equipment and the addition of a changing places public toilet for those with greater accessibility needs, would be significant.
Question 5 from Councillor Heather Mercer to the Cabinet Member for Citizen Services
Will Cllr Taylor, with her responsibility for the Council's housing strategy, development and enabling, tell us if she is content with the delay in progressing the Teville Gate development site.
This council invested £7m with a three year plan to unlock this site with a key Homes England provider, which would deliver 343 residential units of 100% affordable housing - 40% of which would be at social rent, with nomination rights for those waiting on the Council waiting list and 60% shared ownership. Can Cllr Taylor explain to 137 families on the council's waiting list why she is prevaricating and denying them access to a home and a roof over their head?
The Cabinet Member replied that life experience and community involvement had taught her a lot about what it was like to exist and be trapped in unsuitable accommodation.
Within the Council was a small but dedicated team of Officers who were producing miracles with the limited resources that were available to them. Their work had been commended over a number of years but made increasingly difficult as a result of Local Government being starved of funding by the central government.
Teville Gate had been a vacant eyesore in Worthing for decades and yet after 6 months in office you ask why the lack of progress:-
The proposed agreement with Hyde Housing group was discussed as part of the March 2022 JSC meeting. The committee report set out project milestones highlighting that the first step was to undertake due diligence on the deal.
In undertaking this due diligence a key weakness was identified in that the site had not been marketed openly and that it could potentially be challenged by another party who felt that they had been denied an opportunity. Furthermore, the Council had not undertaken any significant engagement with local residents, or stakeholders and members were unable to assess whether the proposed development as set out in the report accurately reflected our communities priorities for the site.
As such, over the summer months, Council officers have actively engaged with other potential registered providers who might be able to deliver a similar level of affordable housing on the site while continuing to work with Hyde Housing on their proposals. Through the Big Listen Campaign, we have identified, through listening closely to our residents interests and concerns, the need to work with a provider who shares our values - fair, green and local.
Since the March JSC with inflation continuing to impact significantly on development, viability is increasingly challenging as a result, and it remains to be seen whether the scheme as proposed by Hyde would be viable.
In the current financial context, the requirement to recover the Council’s full cost of acquiring the site was of greater importance than ever before. Aside from the price, the Council had an absolute obligation to consider other objectives, not putting residents into concrete boxes but building homes where people could thrive not just survive. Where their outlook is green and hopeful and they can live a sustainable existence in harmony with nature. It was important to see Worthing residents housed in stock the Council could be proud of.
Question 6 from Councillor Hazel Thorpe to the Leader (passed to the Cabinet Member for Regeneration who held portfolio responsibility)
Your administration has often promoted the benefits of cross Council working with the County, and the Portland Road street scene project is one such example.
When will you be taking action to address the trip hazard of the raised kerbs in the pedestrianised area, as many residents , both visually impaired and sighted people, have been observed to trip up , and this issue is still ongoing?
The Cabinet Member replied that issues had been raised in relation to this inherited scheme, implemented by the previous administration, which had been completed shortly after the Labour administration took control.
Portland Road was now complete but the Council, with West Sussex County Council, were currently monitoring the usage of the new pedestrianised space in accordance with the 12 month defect period.
Whilst the scheme had been signed off as a ‘safe’ scheme throughout each stage of the governance processes (such as the Traffic Regulation Order) the Council was aware of the concerns raised regarding trips and falls. In addition, we’re also aware of the continuation of traffic throughout the day where the new Traffic Regulation Order restricts vehicle movements from 10am - 10pm.
The Council did liaise with a number of access groups as part of the early design process, however, if it had been this administration, the scheme would have looked quite different.
The risks would be managed as best they can and the Council would continue to monitor this. The Council had been gathering data, which included observational information as well as residents feedback, in order to identify whether a solution was required to minimise trips and falls over the next few months.
In terms of future schemes, the Council is committed to looking at an agreed design code that ensured fundamental principles were agreed ahead of any design.
Question 7 from Councillor Russ Cochran to the Leader
In your manifesto, it stated that you would 'work with West Sussex County Council to develop a car-free town centre and seafront', can you tell me who you have been in contact with at the County Council regarding this and what their response was to your manifesto pledge?
The Leader replied that working with the County Council was a journey in itself, thanking those Members who sat on both the Borough and County Councils for facilitating that journey on behalf of the Council.
We’re currently in dialogue regarding the refreshing of the Growth Deal and we have asked that sustainable travel will be at the heart of the revised ‘Deal’.
Growth deals were not a given, they didn’t come with a set amount of funding. It was very much a partnership and a development. It would be led by Worthing Borough Council and based on the data the Council had gathered and the communities the Council had worked with.
The Council had a local cycling and walking implementation plan which would be really useful as the Councils moved forwards together.
The Council had also revived the Sustainable Travel Steering Group - to work in parallel with the ongoing Officer Active Travel Group, which is a joint Officer Group between WSCC and the Borough.
The Leader was also aware that along the seafront, in particular Montague Place, there had been issues around accessibility and disabled parking spaces. There had been ongoing conversations with local residents about what was needed, particularly in that group.