Agenda item


-           From Members of the Public

-           From Councillors


The following question was asked by a member of the public.


1.            Sabiha Laher


Regarding your project on Devonport Road in making safer and healthier environment, i would like to question the legality of your notices displayed on the site and the surrounding area of the location i.e. location changed on three occasions without amendment and the site made even more dangerous by huge concrete blocks without centre accessibility for the cyclist and mobility vehicles who have to share a narrow uneven raised pedestrian pathway?”


Deputy City Mayor Councillor Clarke in response stated that there were street notices  places in the locality, the original order for the works was advertised in the Leicester Mercury in April and changes were advertised in June. The Deputy City Mayor stated that concrete blocks were installed, rather than planters due to protestors getting in the way during installation and it was unsafe. It was hoped that the concrete blocks could be replaced with something more aesthetically pleasing. A bollard in the middle had been installed to enable emergency vehicle access, but this was illegally removed.


Ms Laher asked a supplementary question. She asked whether the Deputy City Mayor realised the impacts to residents of the changes, particularly longer journey times. An incident of a burst pipe on Spencefield Lane was referenced where there were problems with emergency vehicle access. There were no viable alternatives. There were also issues for elderly people who had been effectively denied access to their local Mosque.


The Deputy City Mayor in response stated that there had been a working group meeting that afternoon where differing views on the scheme had been expressed, with some indications that views were changing and there was a keenness to overcome any issues. The experimental phase of the scheme was helping to tease these issues out and deal with them. It was intended to continue to engage with the community to consider further issues.


The following questions were asked by Councillors:


1.         Councillor Master


“Can the City Mayor explain his understanding of why the recent troubles have arrived in the city and what is driving this, considering both the Muslim and Hindu communities have lived side by side for decades and what is his plan to address the challenge?”


The City Mayor in response stated that it was important to recognise that the communities referred to in the question have for the most part lived in the city happily and harmoniously and there was no reason to feel that would change. It was however recognised that a small number of people don’t wish to live in the sort of city we have in Leicester. He also noted that it was important to find out what motivated those people involved in the disturbances.


Councillor Master asked a supplementary question. He said that the City Mayor did not refer to the rise of extremism in the city, and that something had changed in the past 5 – 10 years. He asked that the City Mayor acknowledge that things had changed in the city and provide assurances that it not be allowed to take root.


The City Mayor in response stated that it had often been remarked that the city had a proud reputation for harmony, but it wasn’t able to entirely isolate itself from the outside world. He noted that there had been times when events in other parts of the world had been expressed in the city with differing perceptions. It was hoped that the review announced issues raised by Councillor Master would be dealt with and it would identify what issues there were and how they could be combatted.


2.         Councillor Master


“Can the City Mayor explain why he has made no public statement as the leader of the City council about the troubles?”


The City Mayor in response stated that he had made numerous public statements and made a comprehensive statement in the meeting tonight and would continue to do so about matters of concern.


Councillor Master asked a supplementary question. He appreciated that the City Mayor had undertaken interviews, but had provided nothing written, to offer assurance and leadership, unlike the temporary Chief Constable and the Police and Crime Commissioner and people from communities. He asked that the City Mayor make a statement to reassure people that it was the intention to bring peace to the city and that he was against extreme ideologies.


The City Mayor in response reiterated the point that he had made numerous statements and would continue to do so as necessary. He felt that it wasn’t as simple as making a statement to deal with these complex issues. He undertook to continue to do what was needed to prevent any repeat of the disturbances.


3.         Councillor Master


“Can the City Mayor confirm that the Public Inquiry or Independent review that we have previously asked for will be shaped by communities/community bodies, elected members and others in regards to the terms of reference  and chose the body that facilitates the inquiry?”


The City Mayor in response stated that getting universal agreement on the make up of the review board could be a very protracted process. He did however undertake to widely share the review’s terms of reference and take on board how they could be modified to ensure that an understanding of what went wrong. He felt that it may not be possible to ensure that everybody who had an interest can be involved due to the practicalities of managing the review. He undertook to ensure that the right questions were asked and an appropriate way forward was developed in order to avoid a repeat of the disturbances.


Councillor Master commented in response He stated that it was crucial that those in communities were allowed a role in this review. He welcomed the City Mayor’s offer for those with a vested interest to take part and to shape the terms of reference.


4.         Councillor Master


“Can the City Mayor confirm when the review will begin and what timeframe he expects before an outcome is presented?”


The City Mayor in response that it was hoped that it could get underway within the month of October, depending on the views expressed with regard to the terms of reference. There needed to be a realistic view about when it could report and it would likely take a few weeks, and it was hoped this would be early in the new year, The reviewers needed to have sufficient time to do a piece of work which was worthwhile.


Councillor Master asked a supplementary question. He felt that the affected communities would not want a long, drawn-out process. He sought assurance that there would be oversight by community representation, and elected Members.


The City Mayor in response stated that he certainly didn’t want a review that was cumbersome, but it needed to be something that people bought into and it answered the right questions.


5.         Councillor Master


“Can the City Mayor confirm he has every intention of investing some real resource (time, effort, will, finance and strategy) into the findings of the recommendation?”


The City Mayor in response confirmed that this was the intention. He was however aware that after a decade of austerity there was a lack of available funding, and the extent to which resource could be diverted was limited. He stated that the review would look at the issues and enable work with communities to combat any further issues arising.


Councillor Master asked a supplementary question. He noted the issues arising from austerity but felt these were not the main driver of the disturbances. He felt there was a need to prioritise local communities over other projects within the city, which often had not support. He asked the City Mayor to explore all avenues of funding such as Section 106 monies being invested fairly across the city as well as capital investment and regeneration funding. He felt that local communities needed help and asked for a commitment for a plan to look at the challenges they faced.


The City Mayor in response thanked Councillor Master for drawing attention to the council’s approach over the period the City Mayor has been in post and stated that this would be the approach going forward.


6.         Councillor Bajaj


“What action plan for future investment have been put forward for the trouble in the East of Leicester?”


The City Mayor in response commented that he was intrigued by Councillor Bajaj’ question about investment as it was the government that he now supports which was responsible for reducing Council budgets which limited the amount of investment which could be made.


Councillor Bajaj asked a supplementary question. He commented that he felt that funding had been taken away from Leicester East and depriving that area of funding. He noted that particularly funding of youth services had been taken away over the past 10 years and those affected by this reduction, if they were looked after properly would not be involved in the disturbances now.


The City Mayor in response commented that Councillor Bajaj may well be right, but following a reduction in the Council’s spending power of £150m, this had impacted the ability of the Council to spend money for those ‘on the ground’ services. He further commented that there needed to be an end to austerity and the election of a Labour government to increase investment.


7.         Councillor Bajaj


How much youth engagement work had been done in North Evington?


Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Russell in response stated that in North Evington, as across the City, there was a targeted model of youth services. As the government had reduced budgets it had limited the Council’s ability to engage with young people. Hard to reach groups had continued to be the priority, particularly through the use of street youth workers in Evington and also targeting those who were at risk of involvement in criminal behaviour. The Deputy City Mayor also referred to the Rights and Participation service where the views of young people were sought to be included in the Council’s decision making. It was also noted that there would be elections to the Young People’s Council in the new year which will include young people from all wards. It was further noted that despite the much reduced budgets, it wasn’t possible to provide as many services as would be liked, but those who were most vulnerable were prioritised.


8.         Councillor Bajaj


“Why does the customer services centre not open every day for members of the public?”


The City Mayor in response commented that the Customer Service Centre is funded by the general revenue budget, which has been affected by the loss of £150m of spending power arising from austerity measures. It was also noted that there was lower demand for face to face contact coming out of the pandemic and officers have assured that opening times were sufficient. The Centre was open on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week offering scanners, computers and phones. Customers could book appointments by phone or call in. Libraries also offered computers and access to Council services online. The Customer Service Centre was not the only way to access Council services as many were available online or by phone, or by using Libraries or community centres. Opening times were being kept under review taking into account customer demand. Overall, there was a need to make decisions about how best to deploy resources such as answering phones to provide a better service.


Councillor Bajaj asked a supplementary question. He suggested that it should not be expected that the older age population should have to make phonecalls where they could be waiting for 20 – 30 minutes. What was the total amount of time they were needed to wait? It was queried how many staff there were to serve the 350 thousand people who lived in the city?


The City Mayor in response stated that he felt that he had explained the Council was prioritising the best use of staff resources and provision of access across the city. He wasn’t suggesting that residents were required to contact the Council online. He further noted that the Council had lost significant funding, but was seeking to maintain a full range of services.


9.         Councillor Bajaj


“What is the time scale to determine a planning application once all the information has been received by the council?”


Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Singh Clair in response confirmed that government targets for Councils were to deal with 60% of major applications in 13 weeks and 70% of non-major applications in 8 weeks. An extension of time agreement can be reached with the applicant if an application was likely to go beyond this time.


The Lord Mayor agreed to consider following question at this point, from a member of the public, as they arrived to the meeting late:


Tracy Ovens


“How many complaints have Leicester Bereavement Services received in the last 5yrs?”


Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Singh Clair in response thanked Mrs Ovens for her question and noted that over the past five years, 23 complaints have been received. To the best of his knowledge, officers had dealt with these complaints with their best endeavour. The Deputy City Mayor was happy to meet with Mrs Ovens with officers outside of the meeting to discuss any issues she may have.


Mrs Ovens asked a supplementary question. She asked that concerns be investigated that her family have not had responses to.


The Deputy City Mayor in response stated that he could not discuss individual cases at full Council. He was however happy to look into any issues, take advice from Councillors Dempster and Aldred and subsequently meet Mrs Ovens with officers to discuss her concerns.


A number of other questions were submitted to the meeting but were not asked following apologies having been received from Councillor Porter.