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 7th December 2023 at 12 noon. Questions should 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 5 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.  


It was noted that there were 30 minutes allowed for questions with 2 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 advised that the following Councillors had submitted questions:


Councillors Hunt, Jenkins and Thorpe.


Rotation 1 


Question 1 from Councillor Kevin Jenkins to the Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing


Councillor Whorlow you were unable to make the recent JOSC meeting that reviewed the work of the Safer Communities Team. Can you please give us an update on your team's work with the night time economy and support measures that you have put in place to support the most vulnerable.


The Cabinet Member replied that the Councils continued to work closely with both the Business Improvement District Team and Pubwatch to promote safety in the night time economy. 


This had recently included support to apply for Safer Streets funding, the use of Safer Streets funding to employ taxi marshalls for key dates, targeted work with children known to offend in the town centre and promotion of the Safe Spaces app to identify hot spots where people report feeling less safe. We have also funded Bystander Intervention training for 17 late night businesses to ensure premises are equipped to identify and intervene where situations appear unsafe. We continue to work with the community and businesses to identify opportunities to promote safety in the night time economy and our town centre in general.



Question 2 from Councillor Hazel Thorpe to the Cabinet Member for the Environment 


I have listened to a representative of the Waste collection industry and noted the high percentage of spend of taxpayers money on the environment and waste. 


A) Can you clarify why this council continues to support expensive maintenance of a fleet of vehicles that are rapidly out of date and not fit for purpose B) Have you considered leasing more modern vehicles with new technologies to save ongoing and escalating costs C) Have you reviewed this  area of the budget, if not, when will this happen and when will backbencher councillors and the public get the information?


The Cabinet Member replied that the Council’s waste, recycling and cleansing services were amongst the most visible of all the services provided.  The Council collect refuse and recycling from every single household, and garden waste from households on a subscription basis.  Like all councils, Worthing had to rely on a specialised fleet to provide these services.  Most of these vehicles were currently fueled by diesel, accounting for approximately 45% of the Council’s carbon emissions.  The Council had started to replace some of its smaller vehicles with EVs, expecting four transit type vehicles in the next few months to replace some of the older diesel vehicles.


Most of the Council’s large vehicles were due for replacement in 2026/27 and the Council had completed a study to assess alternatives, including EV and hydrogen technology, to help it meet the 2030 net zero target.  As part of this, the Council would consider different finance models that provided best value for residents.


Officers were developing a fleet strategy, based on the study mentioned, which would set out recommendations for the Council’s future vehicles, including what type of vehicles should be used to meet net zero targets, and the best way to finance them.  This would include an analysis of the whole life cycle cost. The strategy would be presented to members for adoption in the New Year.



Question 3 from Councillor Claire Hunt to the Deputy Leader


How much weight are councillors meant to give to insights from this year’s budget consultation, when the less favourable scores given to certain operations like Planning, Arts & Culture, cycling infrastructure, could be attributed to the format of the consultation itself? By that I mean, if people had been given information about the role played by those services, their current level of budget and staffing, their income generating potential, their potential to contribute to priorities like carbon emissions reduction or inclusivity, their rating might be more similar to the services that need less explanation. So how valid are the insights as guidance for councillors in budget-setting?


The Cabinet Member replied that the Council recognised that explaining what the Councils services did and how they were resourced in advance of engaging residents on the budget priorities may have enabled them to make more informed decisions when coming to prioritise the areas in order of preference. 


The Council also acknowledged that it would be important in the future to explain how the Councils were funded and how that funding was distributed across different services. These were areas of improvement that the Council would factor in when engaging residents on the budget in the future.


The Cabinet Member stated that the document was a useful starting point and that some of the findings were valid, others had question marks that needed to be unpicked over the coming year.


The Cabinet Member was also open to a conversation on this subject following the meeting and invited opposition members to meet with him. 



Rotation 2 


Question 4 from Councillor Kevin Jenkins to the Cabinet Member for Resources


In the Budget 2024/25 paper, in order to avoid bankruptcy and the issuing of a section 114 notice by the Chief Finance Officer; it is identified that Worthing Borough Council would need to identify new savings amounting to some £2,629,000.  Given your comments at a recent JOSC meeting, how do you see that impacting on services that you described as 'all being important'.


The Cabinet Member replied that Council’s couldn't go bankrupt and he urged the use of more accurate terminology in future.   


In terms of the impact on services, the focus was on delivering outcomes that residents most value. A fresh view was being taken as to how to achieve these outcomes.   


The organisational redesign, which was outlined in the budget paper, accounts for a lot of the savings. The redesign was about more than savings though. It was about looking at new ways to do things that reflect modern practice and modern technology.  


The Council was looking to improve how services were delivered, despite the financial challenges it faced. 


Proposals would be shared in the new year, once these had been finalised and the Council had received the final details of the government's settlement which was needed to complete the budget. 


The Council would be in a much better position if there had been a proper overhaul of local government finance. The failure to do this had left many Councils wrestling with their finances.



Question 5 from Councillor Hazel Thorpe to the Cabinet Member for Regeneration


It has been noted that the fire safety of pier is in question due to the current sprinkler system but due to lack of funds these will not realistically be updated at least until 2025 and the Northern Pavilion will be left on the existing system, unlike the Amusements Arcade and the South Pavilion which will be phased in if funds allow.


Q Why have essential updates to our iconic pier been given such a low priority?


The Cabinet Member replied that she could assure councillors that the existing system provided fire safety provision across the pier and that the Council took its responsibilities for safety very seriously. 


However, like every local authority, Worthing Borough Council was having to juggle reduced funding from central government with dramatically increased costs caused by factors outside its control such as inflation and the rising cost of living impacting services. These were extremely challenging times for local government, so the Council was working extremely hard to ensure that every pound spent brings good value for residents and that every action taken for the community is needed now.


All capital spend, including reactive maintenance, needed to be prioritised against risk, competing priorities and resources. Therefore, this project was now being carried out on a phased basis, with the infrastructure for the sprinkler system for the southern pavilion having been carried out in conjunction with the refurbishment in 2020/21. 


Funding had been secured in the current capital programme for the second phase of work, (installation of the sprinkler to the central pavilion, the booster pump and housing, and the supply pipework to the end of the pier) which would enable the central and southern pavilions to be activated. It was anticipated this work would be carried out in 2024/25.


The northern pavilion, unlike the other buildings, had a manual sprinkler system already installed and therefore carried a lower risk profile. In order to keep the pier as safe as reasonably practicable from fire, a number of measures were in place including: the presence of a linked and monitored fire alarm system; emergency lighting; agreed emergency procedures; and regular fire drills undertaken with key stakeholders, [the last one being carried out on the 14th November 2023]. Additionally, it had been agreed with West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service that an enhanced two pump arrangement would be in place in the event of a call out.