Agenda item

Questions

Questions to be asked by Members of the County Council of the Leader of the Council, a Cabinet Member, or a Chairman of a Committee.  The question will be answered by the relevant Member and the Member asking the question may then ask a follow up question which will also be answered

Minutes:

Mr Robinson asked the following question of the Leader of the Council whose reply is set out below the question:-

 

Question

 

Will the Leader of the Council set out the total cost to date for the ‘Options for Reform in Staffordshire’ documentation that Grant Thornton LLP have been commissioned to produce? Will he also share the ‘Options for Reform in Staffordshire’ documentation so that County Councillors can share information with residents about discussions regarding future models for delivery of the public services they fund?

 

Reply

 

Council will be aware that in September 2018, Staffordshire County Council was the subject of Corporate Peer Review by the Local Government Association. This examined a range of issues, including the county council’s unprecedented financial challenges next year and in the medium term – a matter on which you have been notified during previous meetings of Full Council. Over the past few months both members and officers have worked tirelessly to set a balanced budget for 2019/20, and beyond. It is our responsibility as members of Staffordshire County Council to do so, and it is also incumbent upon us to manage the expected £35 million budget shortfall in the best way possible, whilst considering the longer-term sustainability and role of the authority.

 

We take this role very seriously and the LGA Peer Review team would expect us a well-managed and well-run council to explore all options; leaving no stone unturned to meet these challenges.  As part of this we commissioned Grant Thornton to undertake a desk top analysis of all the possible options for the delivery of local governance in Staffordshire – both in terms of the needs of our growing population and about the potential cost savings that may be achieved if local government reorganisation was to be implemented.  As one would expect, this required exploration of the status-quo, of unitarisation, and of the regionalisation of local government services. Grant Thornton carried out this work discretely to ensure that their work remained an exploratory exercise that could be delivered without prejudice and without becoming an unwelcome distraction at a time when there is already much deliberation about devolution and re-organisation nationally.

 

The final report which will be published in January 2019 will recommend the development of enhanced two-tier governance for Staffordshire and that this remains the most effective form of governance for the county. This is pleasing, and I personally have long been an advocate of this form of local governance. This report reaffirms and endorses this view, and I look forward, and remain firmly committed, to, the 8 district and borough councils that alongside the county council deliver essential frontline service for the people of Staffordshire.

 

The overall cost of the work undertaken on behalf of the county council was approximately £48,000. I am sure Mr Robinson will agree that this work has helped reassure the LGA Peer Review team that Staffordshire County Council is financially viable despite the experience of other county councils, and that we are clearly committed to the protection of services for those that need them most.

 

Supplementary Question

 

Can the Leader also confirm whether if the options for reform in Staffordshire documentation contains an option to abolish district and borough councils in Staffordshire and create a unitary authority model for our County and, if so, when did he share this documentation with Leaders of all district and borough councils across Staffordshire?

 

Reply

 

The report by Grant Thornton looked at all options and when the report is published and shared with the Leaders of the district and borough councils they will be able to see that it has been done in a fair and even-handed manner; and I will also share it with Members of the County Council so that they can see that the, as indicated in my reply, the best way forward is through the development of an enhanced two-tier governance for Staffordshire and Stoke-on Trent.

 

Mr Robinson asked the following question of the Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport whose reply is set out below the question:-

 

Question

 

Three and a half months ago I reported a collapsed drain on Lower Ash Road in my division (4134612). Can the Cabinet Member for Highways please inform me when this collapsed drain will be repaired?

 

The problem with this particular drain, next to a well-used bus stop, was also reported in the local newspaper in August 2018 and in a statement the County Council said:

 

“We will be returning as soon as possible for further investigation before deciding on the best course of action.”

 

The ‘best course of action’ has done nothing to resolve the problem and my own report to the County Council has been closed by the investigating officer. Flooding at this location has become much worse in recent months, creating a severe hazard for vehicle users and pedestrians.

 

Reply

 

A report of a faulty drain and standing water on Lower Ash Road, Kidsgrove was reported by Cllr. Robinson, using the on-line ‘Report it’ tool on 27th August 2018.

 

This report was linked to an existing job and was attended to by the highways team two weeks later, on 13th September.

 

The highway gully and drainage system was cleansed and found to be in good condition.  No further works are planned by the Highways team.

 

However, it was also identified that the carrier storm system, which is the responsibility of United Utilities, appears to be damaged or blocked and during heavy rain is surcharging back up the highway gully on to Lower Ash Road. 

 

The highways team have notified United Utilities of the problem and are waiting a further update on their investigations and planned actions. 

 

I’d kindly ask Cllr. Robinson to support these actions by following up directly with United Utilities.

 

Supplementary Question

 

Does the Cabinet member agree with me that I should have been informed of the County Council’s findings that the responsibility sat with United Utilities?  The automated response I received from the MyStaffs app simply read that “this is an update to your enquiry in relation to Lower Ash Road.  We can confirm that the works have been undertaken and are now complete.”   Had I been told that the responsibility sat with United Utilities I would have been able to put more pressure on them and get the situation sorted for my constituents.  I feel that, once again, communication could be improved and hopefully we can look at this in the Infrastructure Group I am a member of?

 

Reply

 

I can understand your frustrations and the system, at the moment, will only allow information about what we are responsible for as the County Council.  As you say, the customer outcome group you are a member of are looking at the messages we do send out.  I do think it could be better and I do apologise that you did not receive the information you would have wanted.

 

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