Agenda item

Questions by Members of the Council

Three valid questions on notice have been received for a response at this meeting.



1.            Question to the Elected Mayor by Councillor Karen Clark


The Social Metrics Commission reported that 4.5 million people are experiencing the deepest levels of poverty in the UK. Can the Mayor confirm North Tyneside Council fully supports the North of Tyne poverty truth commission?


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


First of all it’s absolutely shocking that 4.5 million people are experiencing the deepest level of poverty in this country. One of the proudest things the last labour government did was take millions of children out of poverty.


I’m sure working with our North of Tyne Cabinet colleagues and officer team though we are proud to be developing the North of Tyne Poverty Commission and of course myself and Mayor Redfearn will be doing everything we can to support it.


Here in North Tyneside we work hard to support our residents who are living in poverty or are struggling with daily living costs. One of our recent policy decisions was the Poverty Intervention Fund to provide practical help to alleviate the financial, health and social impacts of poverty on our residents.


As Members know we started this project by listening to a range of people to ensure we were developing what would make the biggest impact on those living in poverty.


The projects funded have ranged from supporting children and families with school clothing to working with our older residents to ensure that they have access to the benefits they are entitled to.  The fund is also supporting all our schools to go through the Poverty Proofing the School Day to make sure no child is disadvantaged when going to school.


In total the project has, so far, helped over 5,000 families.


But you know I am also worried about the impact of the pandemic in inequalities in the Borough. That is why the Mayor’s manifesto and our new Council Plan commits us to tackling those inequalities.


Our new Health and Wellbeing Strategy will look at what we know about inequality in the borough and add to what we have learned about the impact of the pandemic on those most vulnerable in our Borough.  We know it has widened the gap and that we have to act.


We are using the Marmot policy objectives to shape our work so that we know our approach is rooted in evidence of what works. And we also know we will need help from all of our partners.


That is why The State of the Area event this year is an opportunity to talk to our residents and our partners from the Voluntary Community Sector, businesses, and other public bodies about inequalities in the borough and what they think we should be doing about them.


All the work going on in North Tyneside shows that we support the inclusion of stakeholders in these key conversations and is at the heart of what we are doing, so we support the North of Tyne Poverty Truth Commission’s work.


Councillor K Clark asked the following supplementary question:


We know North Tyneside Council is fully committed to reducing poverty and inequalities. Will the Mayor ensure North Tyneside Council assists the poverty truth commission in hearing from as many as our residents as possible?


Councillor C Johnson responded as follows:


As mentioned, we have already undertaken a lot of work to involve our residents in the development of our policies and particularly in reducing poverty and inequalities.  I am confident that officers will work closely with Children North East who were awarded the contract to run the Poverty Truth Commission to ensure that as many of our residents as possible are given the opportunity to be heard.


2.            Question to the Elected Mayor by Councillor Andy Newman


Will the Mayor join me as the Armed forces champion for North Tyneside Council in raising the concerns of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan with HM Government and will she also write to the Home Secretary outlining our support for the evacuation of British citizens and those who assisted Allied forces in Afghanistan?


The Elected Mayor responded as follows:


I welcome your concerns regarding the current tragic situation in Afghanistan.


As a council with a proud tradition of supporting people who have been displaced and dispossessed, we have pledged to do whatever we can to support the Government’s Afghan resettlement scheme. The scheme is being managed by the Home Office and the North East Migration Partnership (NEMP), and I will ensure that officers, myself and the Cabinet will work with NEMP who will co-ordinate our response to support families that are allocated homes in North Tyneside. We are working to identify suitable homes for three families. I, therefore, feel I do not need to write to the Home Secretary as we are engaging direct to the Government through NEMP.


For the families who arrive from Afghanistan, we will work with our partners and council colleagues to ensure a wider package of support is in place, so they can settle here as quickly as possible and have access to local services.  


It is difficult to imagine how traumatic it must be to leave everything behind and seek refuge in a country almost 4,000 miles away. It is vitally important that these people are treated with kindness and compassion wherever they are resettled in the world - and I am confident they will find that here in North Tyneside.


3.            Question to the Elected Mayor by Councillor Linda Arkley


The Cabinet approved an ambitious plan to transform North Shields and the Fish Quay on Monday 25th January 2021.


It outlined eight separate projects for the town centre and Fish Quay. These include enhancing the appearance of key areas, creating a new transport hub, and interchange and town square to host various events, a new cultural quarter based around Howard Street and Riverside walkway linking the town centre to the Fish Quay.


There are also proposals for high-quality housing at key locations and moving the North Shields ferry to Western Quay.


Cabinet approved the next stops to: -


·         Refining a Delivery Plan for the masterplan which will set out the timing and funding or the projects contained in the masterplan.

·         Progress the delivery of those schemes contained in the masterplan for which there is funding has been secured.

·         Securing external funding for those elements of the masterplan for which funding is not currently in place.


Would the Elected Mayor provide the Council with an update on all aspects of the North Shields Masterplan?


Would she also provide a financial break down of grants, funding, sales, investment received and is there a shortfall of funding for the North Shields Master plan?


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


I am genuinely grateful for the question and to share with Members the great progress we, and partners, are making in delivering our Master Plan for North Shields. The regeneration of our town centres is a priority for the Council given the changing nature of retailing trends in the UK which have been exacerbated by the Covid 19 pandemic.


The North Shields Master Plan provides a series of projects which will have a significant impact on the appearance and economic activity in the town by providing an enhanced visitor experience. The Master Plan will also create the right environment for private sector investment in properties and businesses as well as giving confidence to funding partners.


Of the Council led elements of the Master Plan, the Authority has committed over £4m to the programme. We also expect to secure in the region of £42m of external funding to deliver projects identified either directly by the Authority, or with our partners. There are further funding bids in development including proposals for the development of the cultural quarter. Overall, the Masterplan includes 8 projects, 7 of which are underway or being designed.


So far, we have made excellent progress investing over £5.5m in delivering some key schemes that have already made a significant impact on the town centre. We have successfully brought the former Council Offices in Northumberland Square back to life as high quality family housing. This has seen the refurbishment of the listed Georgian buildings as well as new build housing. Bringing in new residents to live in the town centre will help support our local shops and services.


Building on this success, we have also acquired and demolished Unicorn House, an unattractive and vacant office building, and are now ready to build new family homes and continue to bring people to live in the town centre.


Shortly, we will also start work on a multi-million pound investment in Northumberland Square and Howard Street. This will, in partnership with Historic England, create attractive pedestrian areas and will reduce the dominance of vehicles in the town centre. It will enhance the visitor experience and will create opportunities for outdoor seating to help develop the town’s growing leisure economy. The Wooden Doll has already been restored and returned to Northumberland Square.


Improving how people move into and around the town and creating safe accessible routes for visitors also forms part of the Master Plan. We are currently finalising plans to develop a new transport hub which will provide better transport facilities. The Master Plan also includes a new town square, creating an exciting space for town centre activities such as markets and performances.


I hope colleagues will join me in recognising the progress made to date in delivering elements of the Master Plan. However, in order to do this work justice, I will provide a note for all Members.

Councillor L Arkley asked the following supplementary question:


A lot of people don’t understand what the Council are doing in North Shields and the effect it will have on them. Would the Mayor consider establishing a working group for the Councillors in Preston, Tynemouth, Riverside and Chirton to work alongside and know what’s going on to enable them to give the information to residents.


The Elected Mayor addressed the Chamber stating that the Council had never tried to be secretive about anything it did, it had always been open and carried out consultations and she felt sure the Cabinet Member for Regeneration would consider the suggestion.


Councillor C Johnson responded as follows:


We had wide ranging consultation with Ward Members and residents in North Shields when our Masterplan was being produced and we altered elements of the Masterplan on the basis of the consultation with residents. Residents have been engaged throughout this process and will continue to be engaged. Ward Members will continue to be engaged as well. The Masterplan is there for everyone to see and it’s a great plan for North Shields, it is coming together and we will consider the request.

Supporting documents: