Agenda item

Public Questions

Six valid question has been received from a member of the public for this meeting.



1.            Question to the Elected Mayor from Laurie Zebik of Forest Hall


Why is the SEND school provision in North Tyneside so incredibly low, especially nursery placements? There are 3 special schools in the Borough and the need is much higher. Why is more investment not being put into this? Our children deserve more than this. Their needs and education are currently not met. We as parents should not have the added stress and worry of finding a suitable school place in an already challenging and stressful situation. Our children and families are pushed aside constantly. 


Also why is the 'local offer' predominantly charities? Why don't the council use more funding to offer support and activities for SEND children, adults and their families. It's extremely difficult to attend events to start with and the lack of accessibility and inclusion isolates us further. SEND families bottom of the pile again like we are worthless citizens. The Borough is appalling for support and opportunities. The council need to stop relying on good will and the work of charities and support all of their residents, not brush issues under the carpet.


Councillor Steven Phillips responded on behalf of the Elected Mayor as follows:


Thank you for the question


First of all, I want to be clear that as Cabinet Member and with the Officer Team we work hard to support families in the Borough to ensure all of our young people reach their full potential.


And that we realise every young person is different and every family and carer has a different experience.


However, I would like to make three points in response.


First, our aim across the Borough is that families, schools and the Council work together to make sure that, where needs can be met, children and young people in the Borough are educated in local, inclusive, mainstream provision.  All the evidence suggests that this produces the best outcomes.


Second, where needs cannot be met, we aim to have the right provision.  And, while I understand individual circumstances might be difficult, school provision is not low and investment has gone into this area.


Across our Additionally Resourced Provision and 5 Special Schools - since October 2017 for example, places have risen from 543 to 720 in October 2021 - a 25% increase.


That investment and approach was recognised in our recent Joint CQC/Ofsted Inspection.


Finally, this is a national issue.  Demand for support for children and young people with additional needs is rising across the country and the Government has had to initiate a national programme to cope with the associated costs.  In North Tyneside, last year, we spent nearly £32m on these services.

I understand this is an issue about which people feel strongly.  Who would not want the very best for their children?  As a Council we do use all the resource at our disposal and do provide a full range of services.


I am sure you understand but in line with the SEND Code of Practice 2015 Local Authorities must publish a Local Offer, setting out in one place information about provision they expect to be available across education, health and care for children and young people with SEND.


The Local Offer has two purposes


(a)          to provide clear, comprehensive, and accessible information about provision and how to access it, and;


(b) to make provision more responsive by directly involving children and young people with SEND in the development and review of those services.


By its very nature that includes a range of services offered by others.


In the last year the Local Authority has worked with our SEND Youth Forum, Parent Carer Forum and partners to review and update our Local Offer.


We are always aiming to improve our Local Offer and we always welcome feedback. 


There is the facility to leave this feedback on the North Tyneside’s Local Offer website.


To conclude with two practical examples.


As a result of this feedback the Local Authority has started a review of short breaks and activities in the borough.


A working group has been set up which includes our brilliant Parent Carer Forum.


They are currently going through an exercise of engagement and consultation with parents and carers, our SEND Youth Forum, and stakeholders across education, health, and care. 


This will tell us what children, young people and their families need in the borough, and we expect to have a new framework of providers and additional services as we head into the spring of 2023.  


Alongside this is our Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) programme, which has commissioned holiday activities for this summer, including those for children and young people with SEND.  You can find out more about this on the Local Offer website.


Laurie Lebik asked the following supplementary question:


A lot of schools have wraparound care, where there is no provision for children going to specialist schools. What will you do to provide wraparound care for children who are attending specialist schools and during holiday times?


Councillor S Phillips responded as follows:


With regards to my response information was provided with regards to services available for holiday provision. In terms of wraparound care a written response will be provided.


2. Question to the Elected Mayor from Mark Lee of Wallsend


Why is it that money seems to be there for 'areas of contemplation' paving, but apparently not for clearing paths from fallen and overhanging/leaning trees in Woodland paths in Rising Sun Country Park?


There is one woodland path in particular that has a tree decorated in memory of a loved one. It has been blocked off since storm Arwen. Locals are walking around the fallen trees, but it's not exactly safe as there are trees leaning against other trees, which in my opinion could fall at any time.


Councillor S Graham responded on behalf of the Elected Mayor as follows:


Thank you for this question. We recognise the importance of trees and the many benefits they bring to the borough. We currently manage and maintain approximately 140,000 trees which are spread across the borough in places such as streets, open spaces, parks, housing estates, school grounds and cemeteries.


During Storm Arwen and the 6 subsequent storms, we suffered unprecedented levels of damage to our tree stock and over recent months, our tree teams have been working hard to put this right.


With regards to the Rising Sun Country Park, I can report that a tree survey has been carried out as part of a woodland management plan for the park which has identified 50 trees on this path that require maintenance works. And as soon as the bird nesting season is over, we will be carrying out this work.


Public safety also remains a total priority for us and we have safety restrictions in place to manage access to certain areas of the park and we will ensure these remain in place until works are complete.


I hope this reassures you of the work plans we have in place for managing the trees at the Rising Sun Country Park and they will be addressed as soon as we are able whilst protecting the bird population.


Thank you again for raising this question with me.


The Chair had agreed that a single response be provided to questions 3-5 below:


3. Question to the Elected Mayor from Penny Remfry of Whitley Bay


In order to meet the Council’s 2030 zero net carbon target residents will have to reduce their domestic energy use considerably.  What measures have the Council taken to provide the workforce and other support needed to enable residents to retrofit their homes in order to do this? 



4. Question to the Elected Mayor from Alan Steele of Tynemouth


In 2019 the Council declared a ‘Climate Emergency’ and last year brought their Carbon Net Zero target for the borough and authority forward to 2030. In pursuance of these targets the council committed to produce an updated ‘Climate Emergency Action Plan’ in 2022.  What progress has been made on this, when will it be published and how will local residents and groups have an input into it?


What governance arrangements are the Council putting in place to oversee the implementation of the revised Action Plan?



5. Question to the Elected Mayor from Ian Appleby of Cullercoats


In response to bringing forward the net Carbon Zero Target for the borough to 2030 last year, the Council committed itself as part of its “Our North Tyneside Plan” to produce a renewed Climate Emergency Action Plan in 2022 detailing how it intended to achieve the target. 


It is now half way through the year. What progress, if any, has been made on this, when will the Action Plan be published and how will local residents and groups have an input into it? 


What governance arrangements, including the Climate Emergency Board's membership and meetings held to date, are the Council putting in place to oversee the implementation of the revised Action Plan and communicate this important work to the public in an open and transparent way?


Councillor S Graham responded on behalf of the Elected Mayor as follows:


I am pleased to receive three questions from members of the public on the Council’s Carbon Net-Zero 2030 policy commitment, something which is of great importance to the Mayor and Cabinet.


The timing of the questions is excellent; I am delighted to be able to tell you that Cabinet will receive the Carbon Net-Zero 2030 Action Plan at its meeting on Monday August 1st in a couple of weeks’ time.


I would like to respond to the questions by explaining how engaging with residents and stakeholders has shaped the development of our action plan, then provide some details of the work we have already done to improve the energy efficiency of housing in the Borough, and the work we will do going forwards which is included in our action plan.


As a listening Council, the Mayor and Cabinet take great pride in engaging with residents and stakeholders in the shaping of our policies and plans.


The Carbon Net-Zero 2030 Action Plan has been shaped through a range of engagement activities;


·           Our Residents Survey asked a number of climate related questions for the first time ever. 


·           We also worked with the North of Tyne Combined Authority to run our first ever Citizens Assembly on climate change.


·           These two new climate activities were particularly helpful in shaping our Action on Climate Change behavioural change campaign, which I am sure you will have seen across the Borough in recent weeks. Additionally, they have supported key strategic project development, such as establishing the business case for a large-scale housing retrofit programme.


·           The Mayor and Cabinet are committed to listening to our young people in shaping our policies and plans and we have worked closely with the Young Mayor and young people’s representatives in shaping the action plan.


·           We have also worked with a number of large employers in the Borough to test our plan and share best practice, particularly through our ‘Call for Evidence’ day that we hosted during COP26. I’m pleased to tell you that this event has led to the creation of a Borough-wide outward facing Climate Emergency Board which will focus on reducing emissions from the business sector.


·           Further engagement through our Residents Magazine, social media channels and future Residents Surveys will continue to shape our campaign and action plan.


Based on the views expressed during these engagement activities we have developed our action plan.


It is important that appropriate governance arrangements are in place and the development of the action plan has been overseen by the internal Council’s Carbon Net-Zero 2030 Board, which I chair and is made up of senior officers from across the organisation. The board meets monthly and has coordinated the development of 150 actions that seek to reduce emissions across a number of key themes such as travel, waste, the Council’s portfolio of buildings, vehicles and street lights, and of course housing.


This approach cuts across every aspect of Council delivery of services.


Over the past 15 years a range of low carbon and energy efficiency measures have been installed across our council owned homes:


·                All cavity walls and lofts have been insulated.

·                The majority of our Council homes have high efficiency condensing boilers and double glazing.

·                1500 homes have Solar PV.

·                Non-traditional homes have benefitting from external wall insulation works; and,

·                North Tyneside Living homes have all been upgraded to meet BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.


Because of this work we are a top performer when compared to the national averages for the energy efficiency rating of our homes.  But the work does not stop there; we will see a further 17,000 measures installed through to 2030 spending over £32m.


All new affordable homes built by the Council from 2023 will no longer use gas to heat our new build homes and we will introduce low-carbon alternatives, this is two years ahead of the Governments Future Homes Standard that comes into force from 2025.


Our private households have benefitted through our innovative North Tyneside Warm Zone partnership installing energy efficiency measures in over 20,000 homes.  The Council has also secured £8m in grant funding to install further energy efficiency and generation measures in around 900 private homes.  


Through our Green Skills work we are looking at how we can invest in the local workforce to ensure we have the right skills to continue to install and maintain new green technologies in homes across the borough.


Our residents have asked for more information about how they can reduce their carbon footprint and our communications plan will continue to provide the information residents need to support on our collective journey to net zero. 


However, we recognise that this journey is not always affordable for our households so we will continue to lobby for the financial support they need to retrofit their homes.


The Climate Emergency Action Plan will be refreshed annually, and a performance update will be provided to Cabinet each year detailing key achievements and progress made. This will be available on the Council’s website.


I am very proud of the work that has been carried out to date and look forward to receiving the ambitious action plan next month at Cabinet.   


Penny Remfry asked the following supplementary question:


With respect to retrofit issue, there is a high proportion of private landlords in North Tyneside. What plans the Council has to encourage landlords to retrofit or in other ways to reduce the carbon emissions of their properties.


Councillor S Graham responded as follows:


Thank you for the additional question and there is a hope through the climate change behavioural change website and additional information that is being published that people will see there is help available. The new climate change webpage will be a useful source of information for residents and provide tips to reduce energy consumption, available grants for home energy systems and links to the government endorsed impartial energy advice service in addition to frequently asked questions section to how to get solar power and air source heat pumps into homes.


We understand that its will be expensive for some and that more grant funding will be required and the Council will lobby the Government for funding. There is additional help through our housing service to help private landlords and providing them of any grants available to them.


Ian Appleby asked the following supplementary question:


Scope of the plan as well as carbon reduction measures will it also include mitigation and adaptation measures, individual welfare as we see increasing number of people suffering with the effect of climate anxiety. Will there also be a commitment making information about the that the Climate Emergency Board and the Carbon Net Zero 2030 Board public by publishing the minutes of these meetings.


Councillor S Graham responded as follows:


There will be a commitment to provide information to who sits on the Climate Emergency Board and the Carbon Net Zero 2030 Board and publish the minutes of meeting.


In relation to climate anxiety, it is hoped that the detailed information from the ongoing campaign will relieve anxieties. Such as the planting of 9000 tree to the northeast community forest that will aid the absorption of carbon, in addition to the many measure that will be detailed in the action plan, which will be published on the Council website in early August.



6. Question to the Elected Mayor from Andrew Macardle of Forest Hall


Youth Services have been reduced significantly over recent years. 

The Conservative Government's choice - and let us be clear that it was a choice - to adopt a policy of austerity has reduced funding over the last ten years. The pandemic meant that many surviving services were closed. We are now facing a cost-of-living crisis, meaning that many families are struggling to meet basic living expenses. 


As a result, it is children and young people who are deprived of services and activities that previous generations had enjoyed. 


There is a strong argument that the lack of opportunity, lack of structured environment - coupled with a desperation for a distraction from the current hardships - have led to a rise in anti-social behaviour, as we have seen on the metro, on our high streets and with fires started in a number of our parks and woodland across the Borough. 


It is important to note that this is not to blame those anti social behaviours on young people, merely to highlight the link between lack of opportunities afforded and the space left for chaos.


In order to provide that opportunity, providing services for young people, what plans do North Tyneside Council have to invest in youth services - particularly services offered at no cost to families who are currently struggling.


Councillor S Phillips responded on behalf of the Elected Mayor as follows:


In terms of plans that the Council has for these services. There is a developing Universal offer for young people across the authority, mainly delivered through Community and Voluntary sector organisations. Some of these sessions are offered free and some at very low cost (e.g.£2). In addition to these groups, the Early Help service offers a range of more targeted groups all of which are free. This includes the Early Help Drug Alcohol Service (EHDAS) providing education sessions in schools and colleges, which are well attended. They also offer one to one work with young people.


Early Help staff work jointly with Project VITA (a Community Protection scheme with Police) with an aim to reduce anti-social behaviour in the community. The Early Help Drug and Alcohol staff go out with Community Protection to offer outreach support and engage young people and divert them back into more positive activities, such as discos at the Allen Memorial, roller discos, activities on Amberley field, boxing coaching and curb side sports etc. Staff are able to engage positively with young people who maybe using drugs and/or alcohol to offer education and harm minimisation, this is generally well received and the young people can engage with activities and ideas as to how they can support each other to keep each other safe.


We are currently working on recommencing the Young Civics Course, similar to the Duke of Edinburgh Award, it’s a 6 week programme aiming to support young people to develop new skills. It is run by Early Help staff in partnership with schools and includes modules for planning an expedition and supporting the local community with volunteering, for example, in the past we have taken groups of young people to volunteer in Elderly Residential units or go litter picking.


We also have the Forest School in Shiremoor Children’s Centre, which offers sessions teenage young carers, during school holiday periods. We also have Young Carers using the Children’s Centres several evenings per week at Shiremoor and Howden. We are in the process of rebranding our Children’s Centres to become Family Hubs promoting more of an inclusive and welcoming environment for all age groups.


We recently met with RISE North-East to explore how we could work together to offer activities to young people encouraging them to become more active, addressing inequalities within our local communities and supporting them with their mental well-being. This is work in progress but will strengthen our free to access, targeted offer to young people.


We are also working in conjunction with schools and leisure to support the Bike for Health Programme and a Play Street initiative.



Supporting documents: