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 8th December 2022 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



The Mayor announced that the Proper Officer had received 8 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 3 rotations of speakers possible.

The Mayor announced that the following Councillors had submitted questions:


Councillors Nowak, Thorpe, Cochran and Jenkins.


First rotation


Question 1 from Councillor Richard Nowak to the Leader


In Labour’s manifesto entitled “A Council for the Community” a commitment was made to “invest in Local Climate Bonds to raise money for local sustainable projects”.


Perversely, this was the one proposal considered by the Adur & Worthing Climate Assembly in 2020 which failed to achieve the necessary 75% support for it to become a final report recommendation.


Nevertheless it is one of this administration’s manifesto commitments and therefore my question is a simple one – 6 months downstream from taking charge of the Council why has there been no progress on this promise to Worthing residents?


The Leader asked the Cabinet Member for Resources to respond to the question.


The Cabinet Member replied that the Council had been very successful in levering in external funding to date for its decarbonisation programme and so there had been no need to go to the market for borrowing.


The Council had sourced an intermediary to administer any potential green bond, and intended to use these as a source of funding for large scale projects such as the development of a solar farm.


Once the Council had an approved series of unfunded projects, then the green bond would be used as a source of funding. However, given the Council’s constrained financial position, it would continue to seek external funding first as this represented the best value to the public purse.


Any bond was an alternative form of finance and so did not increase the amount available for investment in decarbonisation. It did however enable the community to support this important agenda.


The Council was particularly keen to explore models that encouraged local residents to donate all or part of their investment back, emphasising community wealth building outcomes, tapping into investors' increasing desire to invest “hyper locally”.


It was expected that options for a local scheme would be developed and assessed during the spring / early summer.



Question 2 from Councillor Hazel Thorpe to the Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing


Two local schools are under discussion of merging due to the predicted dwindling numbers of children coming through the system.


Whilst education is a major part of the County Council’s brief, they are still one of our partners and education impacts upon everything we do.


What is your view on the merging of two of our local schools, impacting upon other schools, with the high probability of loss of teaching and other jobs?


The Cabinet Member replied that West Sussex County Council was responsible for this matter, however, there were clearly significant implications for Worthing Borough Council,  with any merger being disruptive for all concerned.


It was noted that a consultation had commenced which was due to close at the end of January.



Question 3 from Councillor Russ Cochran to the Leader


With the Labour party Manifesto now at the core of the council's current directives, have any key priorities listed in it, that directly affect the whole borough, changed since arriving as an administration?


The Leader replied that six months into a new administration, the Council had not significantly changed direction on any of the key priorities. However, some of them had come into sharper focus, particularly issues around the cost of living emergency. Work was ongoing to see what could be done creatively with the very limited budgets available.


An audit of public conveniences had identified that £1m worth of work was required to bring these facilities up to the standards desired but there was only £100k in the budget for this work. Similarly, the crematorium, which provided an important service for residents, was much valued and provided an important income for the Council, required significant investment in order for it to be the best facility that it could be.


The administration would be meeting in January, as a group, to review its first 6 months. Changes had been made from day 1 but longer term projects would be developed to shape the future of the town. 



Question 4 from Kevin Jenkins to the Cabinet Member for Culture & Leisure


In July 2022, this administration published its new priorities for Worthing Borough Council and in there, under culture & Leisure, it stated that 'in the coming year you will work with partners to establish an improved accommodation offer in Worthing for visitors and families'.


The food and beverage industry and visitor economy relies on visitors to our town to support their businesses. 2022 as a season is closing and 2023 will soon be upon us, with the need to attract a fresh wave of visitors to the town. So can you tell me what work has been done so far and with whom, outside of the council, to improve the accommodation offer in Worthing for the 2023 season?


The Cabinet Member for Culture & Leisure replied that the Council was engaging with Experience West Sussex (EWS) and West Sussex County Council (WSCC) regarding a wider piece of work regarding an accommodation review across the county. The Council’s Officers will be included in the membership of the steering group which would ensure that Worthing had a clear, loud voice in the design of the review and that the voice of Worthing businesses would be heard.


The proposed remit of the review was as follows:-

·         to gather intelligence on national trends on accommodation expectations;

·         holding a workshop for existing providers on the grants and other support which was available to them; and

·         Identifying the gaps in provision and then working with investors both here and overseas to ensure that through our involvement there was an understanding of the potential that Worthing has within West Sussex.    


Working with EWS, the Council was able to get more than if it worked on its own and it was hoped that this piece of work would give providers the information, from experts in the sector, on which they can then make decisions to ensure that their businesses meet the expectations of visitors, including families, in the future.     



Second rotation


Question 5 from Councillor Richard Nowak to the Cabinet Member for the Climate Emergency


Copies of the 2020 Climate Assembly Recommendations Report were much in evidence on the Council’s stand at the recent Green Dreams Festival and one might therefore reasonably assume that the Labour Administration fully supports the 18 recommendations made by Assembly members.


Is this correct or are there some report recommendations that the Council no longer supports, and if that is the case which recommendations will no longer be supported and brought to fruition?


The Cabinet Member for the Climate Emergency replied that the Climate Assembly had been an excellent first step in engaging the community with the climate crisis.  The Council continued to respond to the recommendations and many would be incorporated into forthcoming strategy and community work in 2023. 


The Council had unlocked £76k of DEFRA funding for kelp recovery research, which related to the first Assembly Recommendation, and the Natural Environment Research Council had also funded the kelp work by supporting the formation of a research partnership with 4 local universities (Brighton, Sussex, Portsmouth and Surrey), representing a further £170k of funding. 


Local communities were working with the Council on plans to restore Cissbury Fields which Worthing Borough Council acquired, and the Council had worked hard to re-nature its parks and open spaces. 


In 2023 work would begin as one of two Sussex Local Nature Partnership supported pilots, creating a Local Nature Recovery Strategy, which would encompass small and large sites and propose green corridors, with a view to unlocking payments from developers through new Environment Bill biodiversity net gain legislation.


The Council was currently working with West Sussex County Council to roll out EV charging points and significantly expand the Bikeshare scheme.


As mentioned in the previous question, the Council would look at community financing models for climate initiatives in early 2023, and would work with key groups and communities to pick up and develop further responses across the 18 recommendations, all of which the Council was keen to develop and support.



* A decision to extend the meeting beyond three hours in duration was taken at 9.30pm.



Question 6 from Councillor Hazel Thorpe to the Cabinet Member for Citizen Services


What is the Cabinet Member for Citizen Services response to Michael Gove's letter on Housing standards in Rented Properties with particular regard to mould and dampness?


The Cabinet Member for Citizen Services replied that the Council’s Officers had already responded to the letter with an initial response setting out how the Council was prioritising the enforcement of housing standards, including plans to drive up standards in the private rented sector. The next step was to provide more detailed reports by the 27th January.


The Council’s private sector housing team routinely included works to address a range of hazards, including those identified in the hazard profile of damp and mould growth, using the appropriate enforcement action. Work would now be done to present those figures based purely on this hazard type and once these were available, they would be shared with Members.