Three valid questions have been received from a member of the public for this meeting.
1. Question to the Elected Mayor from Mr G Spedding of North Shields
What will the Mayor do to develop wards that currently suffer extreme poverty and feel left behind by North Tyneside Council - such as Chirton Ward and Preston Ward - and if there will be any further funding allocation to help alleviate poverty in the borough?
Councillor C Johnson responded on behalf of the Elected Mayor as follows:
We have put in place funding and a range of measures to give direct support the poorest people and families in North Tyneside wherever they live. We are also determined to tackle the long standing inequalities that exist in our borough and that we know have been made worse by the pandemic.
I am extremely proud of our Poverty Intervention Fund that has made a difference to people’s lives. This has included vouchers to help our poorest families to be able to afford to feed their children over the school holidays and to get school uniform, coats or shoes. We have also supported our poorest pensioners by helping them to get the benefits they are entitled to as well as support with hot meals over the winter.
Our innovative approach to introduce poverty proofing in all of our schools will mean that our children and young people do not feel the stigma that can be common if their families are on a low income.
This year we have allocated £600,000 in the Council’s budget to provide this much needed lifeline for our poorest families who very sadly do live in poverty.
Much of this direct financial support for families will go to people living in Chirton ward as this is one of our most deprived wards in the borough and where almost 3,000 people live in an area that is in the 10% most deprived in England. Preston ward however is one of our least deprived wards and no residents there live in the 10% most deprived areas in England.
However, regardless we will support any resident of the borough who needs support from us as we always have done.
2. Question to the Elected Mayor from Mr J Christie of Wallsend
Within the roles and portfolios assigned to Cabinet members, one of those roles is that of a Cycling Champion.
As a Council organisation, there is a lot of publicity generated about the role of Bikeability for school children, and the occasional advertisement of Bikeability courses for adults too.
Whilst this publicity is welcome, there still appears to be a disconnect between what the Council perceive what cyclists experience, and the actual reality.
A full, practical, understanding of Bikeability would be of great benefit to any Cycling Champion of the Cabinet. This would supplement any regular cycling that individual undertakes in, and around, the Borough.
It would also highlight how seriously the Mayor, and the Cabinet, view Cycling in the Borough, strengthening the integrity of how the role is viewed by its citizens, and the cycling community.
Putting to one side the ongoing cycling consultation, please can the Mayor and Cabinet commit to any current, and future, Cycling Champion to undertake the full, practical, Bikeability course to Level 3 standard?
Councillor S Graham responded on behalf of the Elected Mayor as follows:
Thank you for the question.
We are indeed very proud of our Bikeabilty scheme and quite rightly promote the scheme as we think it is really important for children and sometimes adults to take part. In the past 4 years over 7000 children have successfully passed through the scheme.
The purpose of the scheme is to give those attending skills and confidence to cycle regularly and consider the bike as an everyday mode of transport.
This is just one of a number of initiatives supporting our aim to help more people in the borough cycle more easily and more often.
As the new cycling champion, I am committed to promoting the scheme and it will of course take me some time to gain a detailed knowledge of all aspects of the scheme. As for taking part myself I am gradually building up my own confidence. I have bought an e-bike and hope to be attending (or peddling towards) an adult version of the course in the near future.
3. Question to the Elected Mayor from Ms P Remfry of Wallsend
Given the Council's commitment, contained in its Local Plan, to building a further 5,000+ homes in the borough over the next 10 years, what plans are in place to ensure that the carbon emissions from these new homes support the Council's net zero carbon target for the borough for 2030? Does the Council have plans to ensure that houses currently being built have higher energy standards than originally planned by the developers?
Thank you for your question.
For housing developments that already have planning permission and are in accordance with current building regulations there is no legal basis whereby the Council can place additional, more stringent standards on their construction.
However, it is important to note for such development the improvements in construction techniques and energy efficiency will mean that each home, while providing much-needed accommodation for our residents, will be substantially more energy efficient
Ms Remfry asked the following supplementary question:
Lots of houses are being built at the moment under existing regulations, which means in five years’ time people living in those houses will have to spend money themselves to retrofit them. Does the Council have any powers to get the developers to increase the energy standards to the properties they are building at the moment?
Councillor S Graham responded as follows:
I believe I already answered that part of the question. At the present time, we do not have the legal powers over the current building regulations where we can place additional stricter conditions on their construction, we are retrofitting quite a lot of the Council stock, installing air source heat pumps wherever we can when funding becomes available, and I hope in the future that consumer demand will be such that developers will change the way they put heating systems in in particular so that people don’t have to rip out boilers and put something else in, but we all know they are quite expensive at the moment and until the price drops the market will play for the most profit in private development. It’s different where Councils are building, we will look more carefully at that and get real value for money, but at present there is nothing we can do to enforce this with private developers.