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 L Bones

“At the Council meeting in January the Mayor stated that she uses her red fiesta to get her around the borough and only uses the civic car for civic business.

Can the Mayor therefore confirm if she or her cabinet use the civic car for authority appointments to outside body meetings.”


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


As has been the case for all previous Elected Mayors, the civic car can be used for attendance at civic business.  This includes attendance at outside body meetings where they are attending and representing the Borough.  The civic car is not available for private use.


We have to reflect that the civic car has been used constantly whether it’s the Conservative or Labour party in the Mayoralty and has been used by different Mayors and Chairs of Council. It is mainly used by the Chair of the Council as opposed to the Mayor or Cabinet. The Chair have their Chains which are valuable and if the civic car was not available the Chain would require increased insurance premium. 


Councillor L Bones asked the following supplementary question:


Given the answer we’ve just had about the use of the civic car to outside bodies there is clearly a log of when, where and why the car is used will the Mayor commit to provide the pubic with a clear overview of where their council tax is being spent by publishing the log for the past four years of the car use and every year going forward.


Councillor C Johnson responded as follows:


I note that Councillor Bones quite deliberately did not include any time when the conservatives were using the car. The civic car is used by both the conservatives and labour for civic business.


We will look at the log and will publish the records as far back as we have available.


2.               Question to the Elected Mayor by Councillor E Darke


The Members enquiries system was set up to be used as a tool to ensure members had an appropriate casework system to ensure residents got responses to queries from members, with that in mind, what percentage of members enquiries from Conservative councillors were genuine enquiries from residents and what percentage were from the councillor?


The Elected Mayor responded as follows:


The Members Enquiry system can be used by members to raise queries either on behalf of residents or in their own name. 


For members of Conservative Group, the proportion of enquiries raised on their own behalf for the period from May 2021 to date ranges from 8% to 87%. 


There is a table available if members wish to see it with a breakdown, the Labour group is also available and ranges from 0% to 90%. The Constitution sets out the purpose of the members enquiry system which records the queries on behalf of residents and for members in their own name. This was further confirmed to all members in an email sent on the 6 August 2021.


3.               Question to the Elected Mayor by Councillor G Westwater 


At the November 2021 meeting of Full Council Cllr Johnson proposed an amendment to the motion on Covid Memorials to read “on the conclusion of the consultation report back to a cross party working group to decide how to proceed with the memorial” - this was unanimously agreed.


Can the Mayor confirm when this meeting will take place, as we are looking forward to working collaboratively on this project, and would she agree with me that the current proposals of five concrete circles costing £250,000 do not represent good value for money for taxpayers when compared with our proposal of 20 Covid Memorial Trees, in line with the Council’s tree planting policy, which would be more accessible to residents and more appropriate during a cost of living crisis.


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


Council will recall following the meeting in November 2021, the Commemoration Project proposals were to be the subject of public engagement rather than full consultation. All residents were offered the opportunity to choose their preferred choice of artwork for the centre of the compasses in each locality of the borough.


All feedback received from our residents and the wider community has been extremely positive. There was a clear preference on the choice of the artwork in all four localities.


These areas for reflection and the compasses that are central to them are all about the spirit of North Tyneside which is something that always shines through within our communities and is something which I’m incredibly proud to be a part of. The current preparation, the installation of stonework and associated materials and the provision of seating and interpretation boards is all part of the cost and is also wider works in terms of our wagonways that also forms part of this cost, not £250k for stones


Council will be aware that as part of the Ambition for North Tyneside proposals, agreed by Cabinet in November 2018, investing in our mining heritage (including the Wagonways) was key to our proposals. This was also agreed by Cabinet in February 2022, where an update report was considered in which specific reference was made to link the Covid Memorial with the Wagonways scheme.


As it is only fitting that the Authority has the first central commemoration area ready for our residents in time for the National Day of Reflection on 23rd March, I asked officers to progress the work required to secure the early delivery of the commemoration areas rather than delaying matters for further cross-party consideration. I was however confident that I had full Council support for the proposals which I explained and were also on display outside the Chamber in November.


If Councillor Westwater said that this was the case I would like to apologise but it was quite clearly a cross party motion that was passed in November 2021.


I am also pleased to confirm that officers are working to plant almost nine thousand trees across the Borough this planting season, in line with the Authority’s Tree Planting Policy and which all our residents can enjoy.


Councillor G Westwater asked the following supplementary question:


Does the Cabinet Member or the Mayor agree that unanimous cross party decisions agreed in the chamber should be carried through?


Councillor C Johnson responded as follows:


I believed that in this decision we agreed to have a Covid Memorial. This Covid Memorial is very important that it is in place for the 23 March, a National Reflection Day. It was for this reason why we went ahead, we thought we had cross party support.


We wanted a memorial that was fitting for the lives that have been impacted in this last year. The £250k is not just for stones, it is about improvements to the Wagonways. It is about the memorial itself and the areas around the wagonways and linking them. We anticipate that £75k of the cost will be met by Section 106 contribution. All the resources used were locally prepared, made and the public consultation concluded in 2022 was entirely positive about the proposals.

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