Agenda item

Public Questions

Nine valid questions have been received from members of the public for this meeting.



The Chair had agreed that a single response be provided to questions 1-8 below:


1.         Question to the Elected Mayor from Mr Maier


I understand that, following consultation with some local businesses, voluntary sector and residents through Stakeholder Workshops earlier this year, the Carbon Trust has prepared an Action Plan for North Tyneside in response to the Climate Emergency.

From the last Council meeting it has voted to implement only limited policies arising from the Action Plan, with a mandate for Officers to develop business cases for further actions as deemed appropriate. There is a real danger that momentum is lost. Given the significant and wide-ranging work set out in the report action clearly needs to be immediate and comprehensive.

Will you commit to implementing the Action Plan, as recommended by the Carbon Trust, in full - and if not, why not? Given that failure to implement the plan will mean missing the binding 2050 target.


2.         Question to the Elected Mayor from Mr Christie


Under the Tranche 2 funding of the Emergency Active Travel Fund, councils are expected to adhere to the Cycling Infrastructure Design Guidance.


All funding that North Tyneside Council will be requesting will have to ensure that all schemes meet the LTN 1/20 guidance, otherwise no funding will be granted, and this will have further impacts later down the line.


As North Tyneside Council has made a commitment to the Climate Emergency and Active Transport, in spite of the early removing of the Tranche 1 schemes, please can you advise how North Tyneside council will comply with LTN 1/20 and what that will look like?


3.         Question to the Elected Mayor from Ms Hawkins


What active steps has the Council taken to reduce car use in the borough - to lower greenhouse gas emissions as well as reduce air pollution and encourage walking and cycling - since their Declaration of a Climate Emergency, such that they feel the Sunrise Cycleway is now surplus to requirements?


4.         Question to the Elected Mayor from Ms Remfry


I understand that the Carbon Trust was commissioned by North Tyneside to develop its Climate Emergency Action Plan to move towards a carbon neutral borough by 2050 and it has now produced its report.


Does the Council fully support this Action Plan and intend to implement all its recommendations?


5.         Question to the Elected Mayor from Ms Erskine


I understand that, following consultation with some local businesses, voluntary sector and residents through Stakeholder Workshops earlier this year, the Carbon Trust has prepared an Action Plan for North Tyneside in response to the Climate Emergency.


I also understand that the Cabinet has voted to implement limited policies arising from the Action Plan, with a mandate for Officers to develop business cases for further actions as deemed appropriate.


Will you commit to implementing the Action Plan, as recommended by the Carbon Trust, in full - and if not, why not (given the taxpayer money given to the Carbon Trust to prepare the recommendations)?


6.         Question to the Elected Mayor from North Tyneside Green Party


We understand that, following consultation with local businesses, voluntary sector and residents through Stakeholder Workshops earlier this year, the Carbon Trust has prepared an Action Plan for North Tyneside in response to the Climate Emergency.


We also understand that the Cabinet has voted to implement limited policies arising from the Action Plan, with a mandate for Officers to develop business cases for further actions as deemed appropriate.


Will you commit to implementing the Action Plan, as recommended by the Carbon Trust, in full - and if not, why not (given the taxpayer money given to the Carbon Trust to prepare the recommendations)?


7.         Question to the Elected Mayor from Mr Percival


I understand that an Action Plan has been prepared for North Tyneside in response to the Climate Emergency. Will you commit to implementing the Action Plan, as recommended by the Carbon Trust, in full – and can you also clarify the process and next steps for setting detailed pathways, actions, budgets and timescales?


8.         Question to the Elected Mayor from Mr Appleby


I understand that, following consultation with some local businesses, voluntary sector and residents through Stakeholder Workshops earlier this year, the Carbon Trust has prepared an Action Plan for North Tyneside in response to the Climate Emergency.


I also understand that the Cabinet has voted to implement limited policies arising from the Action Plan, with a mandate for Officers to develop business cases for further actions as deemed appropriate.


Will you commit to implementing the Action Plan, as recommended by the Carbon Trust, in full - and if not, why not (given the taxpayer money given to the Carbon Trust to prepare the recommendations).


Councillor C Johnson responded to the above questions on behalf of the Elected Mayor as follows:


Thank you for all 8 questions raised in relation to the Climate Emergency Action Plan and those associated to more environmentally sustainable travel and transport. Thanks to the Chair who has asked that I consider all 8 questions in my response.


In July 2019 the Council declared a Climate Emergency, setting a target to reduce the carbon footprint of the Authority and the Borough by 50% by 2023 and to become carbon neutral by 2050, in line with the timetable set by the government. Because of the work that has been done, we are very confident in being able to hit our 2023 target and put us in a strong position ahead of the curve.


We have worked hard this year, despite the restrictions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, to produce a Climate Emergency Action Plan. To do this we have engaged with a range of organisations, including The Carbon Trust, interested individuals, and representatives of the community which was noted by Cabinet in October.


This Plan provides a framework for reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.  I am personally overseeing this as the responsible Cabinet Member via the Climate Emergency Board that we commissioned.


To address the specific points raised in the questions I will go through them point by point:


We are absolutely committed to delivering the action plan.  The Council has declared an emergency. I have reported twice to Cabinet outlining progress over the last 12 months alongside a national and international health crisis.


Council set clear targets when it declared a Climate Emergency.  The Action Plan does not contain any specific recommendations (as has been suggested) rather it provides a strategic framework with suggested pathways to deliver the target. 


The Climate Emergency Board will oversee delivery on the priority themes identified in the Plan which include the decarbonisation of heat, transport, energy supply including the increase of renewables and decarbonisation into our waste strategy. 


In terms of timescales, we will be working as rapidly as possible but as you would expect, in a considered way and with pragmatism.  We realise that a number of barriers will need to be overcome such as the availability of the relevant technology, capital investment and the will and support of Central Government.


Turning specifically to the points raised on transport, since the declaration of a Climate Emergency, we have secured substantial investment that has been used to retrofit the engines of all bus services along the Coast Road, reducing localised pollution and contributing to improved air quality.


Additional investment has also been secured to further develop our Strategic Cycling Network, with several new permanent links created with more planned over the next two years.


The successful trial of the Coastal Strip Cycle Lane has demonstrated the high level of demand for good quality segregated cycling infrastructure. The “Seafront Cycleway” was delivered out of tranche 1 of the Emergency Active Travel Fund which was specific funding for temporary schemes of this type. We are now actively pursuing further funding to deliver a more permanent solution along the Coast. The scheme at the coast was absolutely successful. However there was an issue that we are sure we can address when we bring along a permanent scheme.


The success of the “Seafront Cycleway” is in part why we have successfully secured further funding from tranche 2 of the Emergency Active Travel Fund to improve our cycling infrastructure.


I can assure you that all schemes funded from this tranche have been independently reviewed by the Department for Transport, ensuring they provide segregated provision for cyclists in accordance with the most stringent design guidance.


An example of how this will look is the provision of 2-kilometre length of bi-directional segregated cycle lanes along the A191 Rake Lane, providing direct access from Whitley Bay and Monkseaton to Cobalt Business Park and links into the wider cycle network.


We are fully committed to delivering our ambitious Strategic Cycle Network Plan as set out in our Cycling Strategy and the usage and monitoring data collected during the temporary tranche 1 schemes provides the strong evidence base from which to secure future investment in similar schemes.


Finally, I want to emphasise that to truly make the Climate Emergency Action Plan successful, we will continue to work with everyone in the borough to help us with this global challenge of protecting our planet for generations to come. The Council alone cannot solve the climate emergency. We need to work together as a borough with everybody in the borough playing their part to ensure we meet our targets and we as a Council are absolutely committed to doing this.


Mr Maier asked the following supplementary question:


To address the climate emergency the previous government set out a road map to zero carbo housing to 2016. This government when lobbied by housebuilders scrapped that target and replaced it with nothing. When Boris Johnson announced his ten point plan a few days ago the new future homes standard was drafted to be moved forward to 2023. Again, housebuilders lobbied and just a few hours before the announcement it was removed. When regional spatial strategies were scrapped again by this government that took with it requirements for higher energy efficiency targets and renewal commitment.


Given this dire backdrop at national level without concerted local action houses given planning now and in the next five years will still be built to standards no better than seven to ten years previous. They will need to be retro-fitted to be on a useful level for our zero carbon stock in future. This is at a cost either to those residents, the Council or national government if we’re lucky.


Will the Council commit to a definitive plan to work with other North of Tyne authorities to explore ways of using local policy and regulation to improve the energy efficiency of new housing in the borough?


Councillor C Johnson responded as follows:


With regard to the government consultation North Tyneside Council, as I’m sure you can find on our website, did respond very stringently. We absolutely pushed for the highest standards in building control and in proper planning necessary for heating homes and decarbonisation. The government did back down on that which was very sad.


In terms of our own Council house stock we are absolutely committed to retro-fitting and any new stock that we build would be of the highest standard. We will continue to retro-fit to make our homes as energy efficient as possible. We have already started that work with heat source pumps and we are committed through our climate emergency action plan to get rid of all of our gas boilers from our Council stock by the end of the plan and replacing them with heat source pumps.


With regard to the North of Tyne we are already working at a North of Tyne level. The  Mayor, Norma Redfearn chairs the Housing and Land Board which is working on plans to make more homes more energy efficient. The barrier they are running into at the moment is that developers are not willing to come forward with these plots and developers have land banked many plots around North Tyneside and around the country.We’ll continue to work at a North of Tyne level to try to look at local policies to try to bring that forward. When we have done that it’s through funding that the North of Tyne has unlocked to councils to allow them to get parts of the land built on with energy efficient homes that previously wouldn’t have been built on. So, yes we will commit to looking at that.


Mr Christie asked the following supplementary question:


In relation to the cycleway specifically, one of the things that was noticed from the trial was the speed reductions of people driving within that particular area. One of the things that has come out a lot from that is whether or not tranche 2 will include the reallocation of road space from drivers so potentially the roads which are duelled to allow for the bi-directional cycle way to take place. It’s interesting to note that Cobalt Business Park is been used as a hub for tranche 2 but no mention of whether the town centres or Silverlink are going to be included with that as they are potentially hubs for the wider borough to access as well.


In relation to the wagonways they are in dire need of updating because they are not particularly safe for people to cycle along at night and the cycle way has proved that people of all ages want to use good cycle ways which make them feel safe and I don’t believe the wagonways make them feel safe. So, in relation to the question I want to ask Councillor Johnson is will tranche 2 specifically follow the cycle infrastructure guidance as specified in LTN 1/20?


Councillor C Johnson responded as follows:


Mr Christie, as I’m sure you know LTN 1/20 is the guidance and it is what the government asked for. If that is the situation and I’m sure you have read the document it refers to if at all possible on a lot of occasions. But I can actually confirm that we will absolutely be reallocating road space when we look at tranche 2.


I just want to address a couple of your points that weren’t included in your question but were included in your statement.


The Cobalt Business Park will be a hub because it is the largest employment site in the borough and eventually we are hoping to go back to those situations where people are coming into Cobalt Business Park. It’s not just a hub because it’s the Cobalt Business Park and it’s where people are commuting to, it’s also one of the central points in our borough that links to all of the main cycle ways in our borough which includes linking to the Silverlink and beyond. The wagonways are part of our regeneration strategy and the Deputy Mayor took a paper a couple of months back to Cabinet with regard to the wagonways. Improvements are coming to the wagonways soon. We will always strive for the highest possible standards and we will be including in our tranche 2 a segregated cycle way on the highway network.


Ms Remfry asked the following supplementary question:


I want to pick up on Councillor Johnson’s comment when he introduced the climate emergency action plan and said the Council is going to have to work with everybody in the borough.


Most of the housing in the borough is privately owned and all these house owners are going to have to change their boilers and retro-fit in terms of increasing the energy efficiency of their housing. How can you persuade the many private landlords in the borough to do that?


There are some really interesting ideas in the plan for community initiatives, but how are you going to promote these; how are you going to get communities together to do things like this? So, my question is how do you aim to involve everybody in the borough? 


Councillor C Johnson responded as follows:


One of the things we have to look at in the context of this Plan is that this is not something that will happen overnight. This is a 30-year action plan to get the borough to net zero.


At the moment the Council internally has created our Climate Emergency Board. We are creating business cases for all the internal stuff we can do. One of the ways we try to bring people through is by our recent State of the Area event which focused on the climate emergency action plan and we had some great discussion with stakeholders around the borough, residents and councillors, so it’s getting people in the room. Eventually we are looking outwards; we are looking for an external board. We have managed to get agreement from some of the biggest polluters in the borough whether it be businesses, industry, charitable trusts or others to come on board and we will work with them to try and reduce their carbon emissions.


It's a case of trying to pull it all together and get it out there. It will not happen overnight. Some of the actions that will come are not there at the moment. We are developing those as we speak. We developed the Plan very quickly in the toughest of circumstances. We’ve had a year where naturally our main focus has been on the Coronavirus pandemic and protecting our most vulnerable residents and getting through this for our businesses and communities. However, we have kept the climate emergency work going all the way through. I know some other councils who certainly have not, but we’ve got a plan now, we’re in the middle of implementing it and we’re going to bring communities along with us.


Mr Steel on behalf of North Tyneside Green Party asked the following supplementary question:


The 2018-21 Plan stated that they were going to decarbonise and provide good cycle infrastructure by 2021. In the latest plan they talked about (section4, page 55) decarbonising transport, providing goods, roads, pavements and cycle structures. How does that seem to fit in with the closure of the sunrise cycleway and the reintroduction of south bound traffic on the A193?


Councillor C Johnson responded as follows:


You will not be aware of the circumstances as you are not inside the Council, but the coastal cycle path was very successful and we’re not denying that. However, there were some specific problems with the coastal cycle path with regard to the coastguard and coastal operations. There were delays to coastal operations and I’m not prepared and no other councillor in this borough would be prepared for coastal operations being delayed getting to an emergency in this borough. We have got to work with those organisations to get through this. We’ve got a great working relationship with them. They didn’t object to the trial in the first place when they might have because they knew there was going to be a cycle lane. We are working on a permanent feature on the seafront to come forward with regards to that. 


Mr Percival asked the following supplementary question:


Just picking up on the action plan which has four potential pathways leading to net zero carbon and you’ve said that it’s not a case of choosing one pathway or another, but these are a framework to work within which for me at this stage is a little bit confusing. So, the action plan sets out really well what has to be done, but there’s obviously still a lot of detail on how it will be achieved. So, I wonder if you could just clarify what the next steps are and the time scales and the processes from hereon forwards. So when might we expect to see more detailed plans and specific budgets being allocated and how will this be shared with the public so that we can follow what’s going on?


Councillor C Johnson responded as follows:


Internally within the Council we have already allocated a budget for certain projects. We’ve allocated about £10 million so far to projects including the action plan. That will include the retro-fitting at Killingworth depot which will see a massive reduction in carbon there. We’ve allocated another £4.3 million to a led lighting scheme which will see a mass reduction which will complete every light across the borough, except from the heritage posts, into LED which will see a massive saving. Internally the Climate Emergency Board are in the process of developing business cases on ten different workstreams (housing, organisational development, waste, communications, catering, internal fleet, built assets, borough wide, transport and energy generation) which will come forward for funding in the next year or so. Some of those are not projects that will be delivered in the next two or three years. Those projects are 10 to 15-year projects, particularly with regard to our housing stock and replacement of certain objects.


Externally within the borough, we as a Council have faced massive cuts over the last ten years. We do not have the funding available in the Council to provide funding to external organisations at the moment. The government are going to need to come forward with real funding and real drive and determination if we are going to achieve this because whilst we can look internally within the Council, and we’ve got some big plans to reduce the Council’s footprint, the Council simply couldn’t afford to help people replace petrol diesel motor cars. The government announced a 2030 ban on petrol diesel motor cars. Some of our poorest communities will not be able to upgrade their cars sadly by that time. The government need to come forward with a grant or scrappage scheme. Also, a lot of people have old inefficient boilers. The government are going to come up with a scheme to get those replaced.


Internally we’ve got plans and we’ve got funding in place. Externally for the borough we’ve got plans but the government need to step up and fund those in order for that to take place.


Mr Appleby asked the following supplementary question:


As was raised earlier the actions need to go beyond the Council to involve our communities and businesses and as Councillor Johnson just mentioned funding is a problem. Yes, money needs to be put forward for dedicated programmes to deal with these particular issues, but also there’s a need to make sure that all the other Council spending is having a positive impact and one of the ways this can be done is through procurement policy. There’s lots of potential there, you can have things like mandating reporting requirements so that you can have contracts that require ongoing improvement from suppliers, or you can put environmental credentials into things like tender assessments so that people are required to make the grade or compete on being greener. These measures are relatively quick to implement. They reach out to people outside of the Council and have a wider impact. They are low cost to the Council so they are not actually having to drive them and they have a cumulative impact because over time you build up more and more contracts that are requiring continuous improvement. It has a huge net benefit without dedicating specific funding for these measures so the sooner you start doing it the sooner that starts to build up.


Is the Council going to take the opportunity and take advantage of this? You could take an officer to start putting together a proposal right now and by the next meeting you could have something ready to take forward. Is this something that you are looking to get on with doing quickly?


Councillor C Johnson responded as follows:


We work hard in procuring works Mr Appleby. We will always aim to get the greenest and best procurement that we do. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible because cost is an issue. With over £100 million cut from our budget in the last eight years value for money for the residents is the main aim of this Council. Sadly, at the moment  unless the government fancy stumping up some cash, value for money will be the aim for the residents in our procurement and for procurement at a regional level as well as we have to get agreement from other councils in the area – it’s not just North Tyneside. For some issues the Council procures on its own, but a lot of procurement is done through NEPO.


So that’s something we are looking at, something we have a plan on but overnight it’s not going to change in terms of value for money will have to be at the heart of that. Contracts could run into the tens and twenty millions of pounds and the Council wouldn’t be in a good situation financially if we included that in immediately. So, it’s something we are looking at but it’s not going to happen overnight.




9.         Question to the Elected Mayor from Mr Whalley


I am a resident in North Tyneside and have worked locally in the NHS full-time for over thirty years.


You are, of course, aware that lucrative contracts are awarded to private businesses and corporations for services that previously would have been provided in-house by the NHS. It is clear to us all that, very sadly, the privatisation of the NHS has been steadily increasing throughout the past decade and it is certainly a trend that I have witnessed as a clinician in the NHS.


The ideologically-driven privatisation process often starts life rather innocuously and softly as a local one-off time-limited pilot or trial project with claims that the initiative is an "additional" service thus negating the need for public consultation. Following the pilot period, an inadequate evaluation and a glossy CCG presentation often serve to embed the private service more and more within our healthcare. The process is then wrapped up and masked by the privatised service being allowed to use and hide behind the trusted NHS logo.


You will also be aware that North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group recently commissioned a private company, Livi, to provide virtual Primary Care appointments to North Tyneside residents. Livi is an international digital healthcare company. This privatisation was sweetened by the CCG introducing it as a short-term pilot scheme but, as stated, the medium term dangers are both obvious and very significant.


In addition to this fundamental fact that North Tyneside CCG should not be running down the NHS and putting healthcare into the hands of profit-making companies with shareholders, there exist a number of operational difficulties. These include important issues such as

- poor continuity - it would be exceptional if a patient spoke to the same Livi GP more than once

- a lack of local knowledge - collaboration with local organisations and involvement in local systems of care are key features of work in Primary Care but Livi GPs, communicating with North Tyneside patients from across the whole of the UK, don't have a real life working knowledge of North Tyneside resources and systems

- practical difficulties associated with virtual assessments – for example, for those needing a physical examination, or for people with mental health problems

- increased health inequality – more vulnerable and older people are less likely to be using smartphones and ipads, and are also less likely to have access to broadband, spare minutes and data

- Looking at the bigger picture, the bottleneck in Primary Care is time – there are not enough GPs. This system takes more and more GPs out of local mainstream General Practice and locates them in virtual quick fix systems of dubious quality. One of the masked costs of privatisation is workforce shortage for the NHS, as private companies recruit NHS doctors. They are not "Add-ons" – they are "Takeaways" from our National Health Service.


I understand that the CCG failed to discuss this pilot scheme with North Tyneside councillors. This is not acceptable.


I am sure that you will agree that the fundamental issue relates to privatisation, and the fact that North Tyneside CCG chose to invest in an international healthcare company rather than our own local existing Primary Care Networks in North Tyneside.


When considering this issue, many people misguidedly quote an old counterargument by stating that "our General Practices are themselves privatised, so what is the problem?" but, believe me, there is a world of difference between hardworking GP partners in a localised Primary Care team and an international company, with a board of directors and with shareholders creaming off profits. The majority of GPs work to NHS contracts, follow NHS guidelines and see NHS patients. They do not compete for patients, or profit in the way competitive providers of healthcare do.


Likewise, some people will use the argument that the infrastructure and workforce is not present – but I say that we need to be proactive in expanding our NHS to carry out such health-related work; North Tyneside CCG should be using these finances to  invest in, and enable and support local GPs to manage the service. It is both shocking and a disgrace that North Tyneside CCG chose to go down this insidious privatisation route.


Finally, the pilot will be evaluated in a few months’ time by the CCG, and the methodology typically used by the CCG is a matter of concern – I anticipate a superficial quantitative report on usage, response times, clinical presentation and outcomes, plus an attempt at a qualitative analysis using, perhaps, a carefully worded questionnaire, client satisfaction survey or direct quotes. There is a distinct lack of focus on the bigger picture – a lack of attention to a person's principles and values about whether the service should be a privatised business initiative or whether it should be provided in-house through a publicly accountable, publicly funded, publicly provided National Health Service. This is a crucial issue to consider as it will, of course, impact on our access to health services in years to come. This fundamental issue needs to be an important component of any evaluation.


My question to North Tyneside Council:


Given that North Tyneside Council is jointly responsible with the CCG for local health and social care provision under the terms of the "Integrated Care System", what will your involvement be regarding an evaluation of this service, and how will you ensure that a full and comprehensive review takes place?


Councillor M Hall responded on behalf of the Elected Mayor as follows:


Let me start by using this opportunity to once again put on record that North Tyneside Council is 100% opposed to any privatisation of the NHS and as long as Labour remain in control of North Tyneside Council it shall remain opposed to any privatisation of our precious NHS.


It gives me great pleasure to inform Council that the question has already been actioned. Members of Adult Social Care, Health and Wellbeing Sub Committee are taking part in the Clinical Commissioners’ Steering Group which will be evaluating the pilot of Livi which this question is about.


The CCG Evaluation Group will take the results of the evaluation to the Adult Social Care, Health and Wellbeing Sub Committee for consideration by the whole committee. The evaluation of the pilot will be under the full scrutiny of all committee members.


We agree that North Tyneside CCG should not be putting healthcare into the hands of profit-making companies. They also know that new and changed services in our local NHS always get the close attention of North Tyneside Council. This has been demonstrated by the Adult Social Care, Health and Wellbeing Sub Committee calling in the CCG’s Livi pilot for scrutiny.


We’ve seen this year exploitation of the NHS by private businesses for huge profits by friends of government. A great example of how not to trust commercial arrangements.


I look forward to the evaluation of the Livi contract coming to the Adult Social Care, Health and Wellbeing Sub Committee.


Mr Whalley asked the following supplementary question:


I’ve got the minutes here from the Council meeting in January this year and Councillor Hall stated then I can ensure that there is no way that North Tyneside Council would agree to privatisation of any sort in North Tyneside. We work together with the NHS and with the CCG. That was a statement made in January, so I’m puzzled how it’s got to a state now where Livi GPs are working in North Tyneside. We need to be proactive in expanding our NHS to carry out such health-related work. We should be supporting local GPs to manage this sort of service. So, these Livi GPs are now working privately in North Tyneside. Can I ask what specifically the Council will do or the Health and Wellbeing Board to make sure that this does not happen again in North Tyneside?


Councillor Hall responded as follows:


Can I just point out that we haven’t agreed to the Livi work in North Tyneside. In fact, by virtue of calling it into scrutiny shows that we will be taking every consideration of this scrutiny at Health and Wellbeing should it come back to there.

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