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 16th February 2023 at 12 noon. Questions to be submitted to


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



As the meeting had been running for nearly 3.5 hours, the Mayor proposed that written responses be provided to the 8 Member Questions which had been received in advance of the meeting and that the responses be included in the minutes of the meeting.


First rotation:


Question 1 from Cllr Russ Cochran to the Cabinet Member for the Environment - Cllr Vicki Wells


As both a councillor for the ward and a football coach I truly welcome the investment made in longcroft parks' new Football Goals as several training sessions for various teams and clubs occur regularly there for teams and mini soccer as well as casual use.


Together with our highly regarded park rangers team I had previously tried in vain, since 2021, to save the council some money sourcing some Square post replacements to the matching footings bedded in the ground, yet after 34 years sadly the manufacturer had switched to round posts, it was a literal; Round hole - square peg situation!


I am sure we can all agree that with sustainability constantly at the forefront of our intentions, Local residents have had a quite astounding amount of use from this heavy duty product, which was put in by the developer many years ago.


May I ask if we are going to see other investments in similar facilities for sport in our green spaces in future across the borough and if so would these planned improvements be achieved to the same standard as demonstrated in the recent investment in Longcroft Park? Also if so how much will be invested over the coming financial year?


The Cabinet Member replied that ‘as a new administration and also as residents of Worthing, we understand well the managed decline that we have inherited as a Council. This is particularly evident in the condition of some of the parks across Worthing. None more so than at Longcroft Park.


The heavy gauge, square steel goal posts at Longcroft - which were 35 years old - had totally rotted away at the base were unsafe and unstable.

Residents - and evidently yourself - have been frustrated for a number of years at their poor and frankly dangerous state. It’s alarming that this issue wasn’t resolved years earlier by the previous administration.


The good news is that in the short time we have been in administration, we have worked with rangers and the sports team to provide FA approved size goals made from Heavy Duty (76mm) Steel. These are the strongest which were available and have finally replaced their decrepit predecessors. 


In addition an extra pair of junior posts were provided adjacent to the children’s playground. The playground itself was also in a state of poor repair, so while addressing the goal posts -  the burnt out and vandalised roundabout was replaced with a disabled and buggy accessible model. While we were at it we removed the old concrete fencing posts that were cracked and broken with rusted reinforcing rods dangerously exposed.



Given the funds we have, we are breathing new life into our valued green spaces and certainly Longcroft Park now has a much cleaner, safer and open aspect.

Dialogue is about to commence with the stakeholders and developers in Durrington with regard identifying what facilities the community would like to see in the new development which may include similar football pitches as well as play equipment, allotments and parkland.


In the wider the replacement of these kinds of facilities are managed over a variety of timescales with appropriate funding bids placed to coincide with expected end of life. Funding is achieved through the capital programme and a variety of other funding streams such as S106 and CIL.


There are identified and approved replacement schemes currently in progress at Homefield Park, Northbrook Recreation Ground, and Palatine Park and £80K has been allocated to upkeep of playground facilities in the coming year’.


Question 2 from Cllr Hazel Thorpe to the Cabinet Member for Resources - Cllr John Turley


I trust that  you would agree with me that applying rules from 1996 without  regard for current hard times is a bit Dickensian and an insult, and we should  have respect for families that live with disabilities, as they have a higher cost of living than the average family requiring them to have  financial support.


In 1996 the Mandatory maximum grant allowed per family for Disabled Facilities was £30.000 and the maximum Discretionary grant award was £30,000. This is equivalent in today’s terms to £78,000. The value of this grant has not changed but has been devalued  by 38.46%


Q1) Since we are aware that there is a need for this support, why was the Disabled facilities Grants budget underspent by £701,810 and why do you think the Home Repair Assistance budget was also underspent by £37,695?


The Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 sets out the main provisions for the Disabled Facilities Grant. Alongside the Act a number of orders, directions and consents were published that detail how many of the provisions work in practice – including the means test and the upper limit.


Although we have been expecting central government announcements on key policy issues, such as increasing the maximum mandatory grant payment, modifying the means test and reviewing the allocation of funds, the maximum grant payment for mandatory disabled facility grants remains at £30,000 per relevant person


Worthing Borough Council has a legal duty to set a budget that will meet the likely number of applicants for DFGs. This is currently £750,000 per annum.


The budget is fully met by central government funding of £1.36M for DFGs channelled through the WSCC Better Care Fund (BCF). This allocation allowed the implementation of a county-wide Discretionary DFG (DisDFG) policy which includes a discretionary top-up grant of £30,000 per property amongst other tools.


The countywide policy is designed to ensure that all lower-tier authorities provide consistent services to their residents, but this does limit the level of assistance that those Councils, such as Worthing, who have more generous BCF allocations can provide.


The officers are very aware that inflation and the cost of living crisis has resulted in some adaptations becoming unaffordable. Worthing has partially addressed this through measures such as the permitted use of Head of Service discretion to increase the funding of some adaptations as necessary, but this will not result in all schemes becoming viable.

The number of adaptations and level of spend is, of course, demand-led and dependent on the number of referrals received from WSCC Independent Living Service.


With these factors in mind, the DFG budget for Worthing is not underspent by £700,000. The actual spend on adaptations in Worthing at the end of January 2023 is in the region of £1,065,634, which is about £315,000 over the allocated DFG budget. The Council currently expects to spend £1,451,810 on Disabled Facilities grants in 2022/23 with a further £800,000 expected in 2023/24.


It has been agreed that any spend below the allocated £1.36M can be retained by Worthing Borough Council and this ensures that the Council can fund overspends (which have occurred in previous years) and provides a buffer against any potential reductions in allocations.


The combination of these retained funds, actual spend (which includes grants approved in the previous financial year) and committed spend (approved grants to be paid this or next financial year) could give the appearance of an underspend but the DFG and DisDFG schemes are important and not under-utilised.


In respect of the Home Repair Assistance budget, one of the DisDFG tools is the Safe, Suitable and Warm grant (SSW) which overlaps the cover provided by the HRA. This has freed our budget to fund schemes, such as the Landlords Repair Grant Assistance to make additional housing available to the Council, but does not represent a reduction in the support given to residents.


2nd Rotation


Question 3 from Councillor Kevin Jenkins to the Leader



Can the Leader please tell us how many posts the Council have held vacant since May 2022?


The Leader replied that vacancy numbers were dynamic as you might expect from an organisation of our size.  If I assume you are asking how many posts had been deliberately held vacant since May 22 - and if we exclude posts that are proving hard to recruit or where we have a high turnover of staff and as a result have interim staff in place - then the number of held vacancies is 15 at present but subject to change.



Third Rotation


Question 4 from Councillor Nowak to the Cabinet Member for the Environment - Councillor Vicki Wells


Recycling data supplied to me by officers for the period April – December 2022 and comparative data for the same period in 2021 reveal that the tonnage of kerbside recycling has declined by 781 tonnes and garden waste has declined by 875 tonnes with the result that our overall recycling rate has decreased from 45.85% to 44.77%. These figures cannot be fully explained away by citing issues such as the pandemic or the hot summer in 2022. The administration's policy initiatives are simply not cutting through in terms of lifting the recycling rate.

In order for the administration to hit the national target of 50% pledged by the Labour group as part of its manifesto promises it is clear that drastic measures would be required but we are half way through the final quarter and I am not aware of any initiatives that will make a significant difference.


Is it time for the cabinet member to admit she has failed to honour her group’s manifesto promise for 2022-23, or was it an unrealistic promise to the residents of Worthing? What remedial action does she now propose, and with what degree of urgency?


Thanks for your question Cllr Nowak -  I love your passion for recycling. You asked a similar question last year.


If you recall, I explained that recycling rates vary throughout the year, this can include seasonal variations  - so looking at data over such a short time-scale - in this case over 8 months from April to Dec is of limited use as there are different factors that influence waste stats.  Longer term, overall trends are more informative.


The picture painted isn’t as bleak as you have presented and we remain, as stated in our 2022 Manifesto, committed to “work to exceed national recycling targets”.


The data shows that between April and Dec 2022, overall kerbside recycling increased by 0.82% from 26.32% in the previous year to 27.14%. You will join me in celebrating the important increase.


The individual tonnage figures in your question includes green waste, which was significantly impacted by the industrial dispute during April and then by the extreme weather experienced in June, July and August.


As you know, Summer 2022 entered the climate record books as the first time that the UK hit an air temperature above 40?, it is without question amongst the UKs hottest and driest summers overall. The weather was so extreme that I know of at least one council suspended its garden waste collections completely in August (Waltham Forest).

The data also shows the relatively large reduction of tonnage in residual waste and recycling - which is a trend seen in other councils and the officer's view is that this is down to lockdown easing. This is backed up by national and international research.  During lockdown, people were stuck at home and therefore created more waste to be collected by our crews.  There is an interesting report by Everyday Plastic which suggests plastic disposal increased by 29% during lockdown, and increases will also have applied to other packaging materials.  This view is also corroborated by international research (eg National Library of Medicine and national research by the Royal Society of Chemistry regarding e-waste).  DEFRA also acknowledges that the pandemic increased total household waste arisings.


I have looked at the commercial recycling data for this period for comparison. 


You will be delighted to learn that dry mixed recycling increased from 1.69 tonnes in April 2020 - March 2021 - to 536.59 tonnes between April 2021 to March 2022.



Not only does this data reflect the return of residents to local businesses post pandemic - and as a consequence an increase in commercial recycling, it helps contextualise the reduction in tonnage of domestic refuse and overall kerbside recycling including green waste during the periods April- Dec 2021 to April-Dec 2022.


So yes, the data absolutely can be explained within the context of consumer patterns normalising post pandemic, the extreme summer and notably the industrial dispute - a legacy of the last administration.


While the impact on recycling of the industrial dispute and heatwave were completely out of our control, we pledged to introduce electrical collections. Given the short time we have been in administration we have delivered this pledge and launched the new collection service in October 2022.


To date we have collected a staggering 7.9 tonnes and based on current figures, we expect to collect approximately 1 tonne of small WEEE per week - which is a significant amount given the value of the materials and their potential environmental impact if not recovered and processed properly.


We do have high aspirations to increase recycling rates to 50% and beyond.  As you will be aware, food waste collections are key to meeting that target.  Unfortunately DEFRA has repeatedly delayed announcements on the details around food and changes to recycling collection.  Crucially we are still awaiting details of new burdens and capital funding to support the roll out of these new services without which they are unaffordable.


In addition to the feasibility study on food waste collections, officers are working up a scope for a trial of food waste collections, the roll out of which will be dependent on funding. 


Recycling Rates (April – Dec)

April 2021 – Dec 2021

April 2022 – Dec 2022

Increase / Decrease

Overall Recycling Rate




Kerbside Recycling




Green Waste









April 2021 – Dec 2021

April 2022 – Dec 2022

Increase / Decrease





Kerbside Recycling




Garden Waste






Question 5 from Cllr Kevin Jenkins to the Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing - Cllr Rosey Whorlow


Feeling safe in Worthing is important to all of us, a number of crime related events either in our high street shops or the recent event in Worthing in Liverpool Gardens area, involving a section 18 wounding, has bought home to many how vulnerable they can feel when venturing into our town.


After this violent event in Liverpool Gardens on the 13th February a multi agency briefing (including WBC as a statutory partner to the Safer communities Partnership) was held for the public in Montague Street. In your role can you please update us as to your participation in that meeting and its outcome, and what message you would have for residents, especially families with young children; in our town who are now fearful of venturing into Worthing?


The Cabinet Member replied that this was a tragic incident, and thankfully such occurrences were rare. There was a live and ongoing investigation and those alleged to have been involved would be subject to specific measures, whilst the investigation takes place.


When there were serious incidents such as the one referred to in the question, these were subject to a Gold Command structure overseen by Police Colleagues and involved all key partners. Where information could be shared on such incidents, members were briefed directly. Street briefings that take place either in direct response to an incident or where these are routine in nature, were public meetings, and as such any interested party could engage with Police, Community Safety officers and where appropriate partners from the voluntary and community sector. In addition the Police had specific powers when such incidents occurred, which included Section 34 dispersals and Section 60, Stop and Search. These powers were time limited and needed to demonstrate proportionate action as a response to any such incidents. Reassurance work would be ongoing, such as utilising appropriate powers as was deemed necessary, directly commissioning additional outreach in the impacted area and work with schools.



The Cabinet Member had been briefed on this incident and what was being done by the Police in terms of any investigation.   They had reassured the Cabinet Member that this was an isolated incident and that the town centre remained a relatively safe place for our young people, families and communities.  The Cabinet Member appreciated that this had had an understandable ricochet in the community. Anyone impacted was encouraged to seek support and if people were struggling to access support, they could email the Communities and Wellbeing team, who would signpost them to support,


Question 6 from Councillor Thorpe to the Cabinet Member for the Environment - Councillor Vicki Wells 


As a consequence of the impact of Covid on mental health and the realisation of the wealth of opportunity provided by our open spaces it was decided to create Park Management plans with the backing of local people under the “Friends Of” banner. 



These Management plans created by local residents supported by local organisations have been sorely let down by the lack of funding  Tarring Park, for one, has not even been  allocated £5,000  for a  Park Run circuit, signage which apparently requires to be vandal proof even though Tarring has a low crime rate.

Q1). Given the Community First approach, “Create community groups with the power  to change things in their area". Why have individual parks budgets been raided without any discussion with local people or councillors and when will they be reinstated?


The Cabinet Member replied that the Council currently had 14 thriving Friends Groups which were well supported by the parks team which had benefited from resources within the parks team and the associated budgets.



There were numerous projects which had been funded through the capital programme and parks operational budgets and other available funding such as S106 and CIL to fund park improvement projects which had been developed through ideas and ambitions brought forward by Friends Groups.


These included the construction of a new pergola constructed at Denton Gardens, installation of dog agility equipment at West Park and the construction of raised beds at Lyons Farm Open Space.


In addition, parks budgets were delivering the replacement of playground, sports and gym equipment across numerous parks. There had also been a variety of new planting schemes which had included planting 100,000 naturalising bulbs, sustainable planting at Montague Place and hedge and tree planting schemes across a number of Parks.


Question 7 from Cllr Jenkins to the Cabinet Member for Regeneration - Cllr McCabe


On the 5th December 2022 at your Joint Strategic sub committee for Worthing, you and your cabinet colleagues all voted and agreed to a new commercial income programme introducing increased charges to beach huts rental fees. Those papers suggested that your intent was to raise £58,000 in additional income from the beach hut users. In the report this amounts to a 20% increase in fees.


As the previous administration, we know how this council works, that this rise would not have been tabled by officers without at least first consulting with the cabinet members and especially those who are responsible for beach huts under their portfolio, namely you. Even if you weren't you did not ask any questions on the 5th December to query why such a large increase was being applied. 


We have done our research, but for openness and transparency, can you publicly explain to the residents of Worthing and the current beach hut users, by what process this 20% figure was arrived at for such a large increase in fees?


The Cabinet Member replied that currently inflationary pressures on the Council were in excess of 10%, and the fees were set in the light of these pressures.


However, inflation was not the only factor that was taken into consideration. The Council also looked at demand for the service within the area and given that the waiting list for beach huts was currently 6 years, the Council took the view that for this particular service a higher increase was appropriate.


Question from Cllr Jenkins to the Cabinet Member for the Environment - Cllr Vicki Wells


On the 5th December 2022 at your Joint Strategic sub committee for Worthing, you and your cabinet colleagues all voted and agreed to a commercial income programme introducing increased charges to the green garden waste bins from £85.00 to £89.00 per annum and an unspecified increase in the price per sack of the garden waste sacks. In all producing an additional income totalling £22,400.


As the previous administration, we know how this council works, that this rise would not have been tabled by officers without at least first consulting with the cabinet members and especially those who are responsible for these services under their portfolio, namely you. Even if you weren't, you did not ask any questions on the 5th December to query why such increases were being applied at a time when residents are facing day to day pressures on their household bills. 


For openness and transparency, can you publicly explain to the residents of Worthing and the users of these services, by what process this figure was arrived at, and what the proposed new price for a garden sack will be?


The Cabinet Member thanked Councillor Jenkins for his question about the small price increase of weekly green waste collections.


As part of the budget challenge, and closing the financial gap for 2023/24, it was right to consider all commercial / income generating activity to support the Councils’ financial position. You may think this bunkham, but incredibly this fee has remained static since 2018, so this year we are applying a modest increase of £4 per year which is significantly less than the rate of inflation. 


To put it into context it is an increase of 8p per week from  £1.70 to £1.78.


As you are fully aware, Cabinet members in both Adur and Worthing were consulted and agreed on these small increases. Price increases are never favourable however, I was personally delighted that this £4 per year rise is well under the rate of inflation.


The cost of providing frontline services is going up, with increasing fuel, staff and material costs, including the cost of sacks and bins. 


To remind you that this service provides an excellent, opt in, weekly garden waste collection for customers. The service is very popular with approximately 18,500 subscribers across Adur and Worthing.


We also offer the option for people to buy sacks to use and when they need them for those who do not need a weekly collection. 


The price of sacks has also been static for a number of years, and for the same reasons we are increasing the cost from £1.25 per bag to £1.50.  This price covers the cost of the sacks, delivery by us to the retailer, commission for the retailer and collection costs.