- From Members of the Public
- From Councillors
There were no questions from Members of the public.
The following questions were asked by Councillors:
1. Councillor Broadwell
“As a proponent of public transport and active travel, the proposed introduction of the Workplace Parking Levy is a measure that has my strong support in principle, however, fellow councillors and members of the public have raised concerns of putting the financial cart before the horse: what is the possibility of using funding streams secured on future WPL income to finance public transport and active travel schemes in advance of the WPL itself coming into force?”
Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clarke in response confirmed that it was possible to borrow against future income derived from the Workplace Parking Levy for things such as improved facilities for employers and new infrastructure. He also however noted that there was already £150m of investment being made into transport improvements and long term investments through the Local Transport Plan.
2. Councillor Broadwell
“A point has been raised regarding the cost of the WPL on the ability of schools such as New College in my ward to recruit sufficient teaching and other staff. Can the Council provide an explanation as to the need to levy the WPL on all employers, no exceptions, and clarify what help is available for schools thus affected?”
Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clarke in response stated that he and Councillor Cutkelvin had met with schools to discuss their concerns and their views would be considered. He noted that car commuters to schools were contributors to congestion, poor air quality and carbon emissions. He noted that school staff would benefit from any transport improvements funded from the Workplace Parking Levy and support would be given to choose better modes of transport. Employers could make their own decisions about whether to pass on levy charges to their employees, or develop a scheme for example, where the charge wasn’t passed on to low paid staff.
3. Councillor Broadwell
“I applaud the continuing efforts of the City Council to expand cycling infrastructure in Leicester, however, many parts of the city remain poorly served, and infrastructure built to legacy standards, if any at all, is common. Constituents in Western Ward have asked what the possibility is of solving dangerous road conditions on Hinckley Road and Glenfield Road, thus, I would like to ask what is being done in this area and how cycling infrastructure could play a possible role in thereof?”
Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clarke in response stated that long term income such as that arising from the Workplace Parking Levy would mean that investment could take place in all wards of the city. The Deputy City Mayor paid tribute to the positive engagement from Western Ward councillors regarding solutions for traffic and road safety issues. He noted some proposals for improvements in the wards, some of which had already been completed. This included 20 mph zones outside schools, park and stride, and cycling and walking infrastructure on Glenfield and Hinckley Roads. The Deputy City Mayor undertook to share more detailed plans with Councillor Broadwell outside of the meeting.
4. Councillor Broadwell
“Prior to my election as Councillor, the eastern approach cutting of Glenfield Tunnel was infilled and houses were built on the former alignment. I am not proposing that anything should be done with what is now a stranded asset, however, I must note that the tunnel is owned by Leicester City Council and believe it stands as an example of poor historical decisions impeding future progress on active travel and public transport, the housing atop the cutting now precluding any reuse of the tunnel for productive purposes. Similar disused infrastructure is being reused elsewhere for active travel - The Two Tunnels Greenway and Rhondda Tunnel are commendable examples - and thus I wished to ask the Council if it is willing to commit to a programme of protection and preservation of disused transport infrastructure to safeguard it for possible reuse?”
The City Mayor in response commented that the tunnel was of great interest to him and was a nationally / internationally important asset, being the longest tunnel in the world at one point. He expressed disappointment that so much development had taken place on top of the tunnel but noted that the City Council had spent over £1m on maintaining the structure. He noted the efforts of the Industrial History Society to provide access to the tunnel and committed to working with them to find further ways of improving access.
5. Councillor Broadwell
“I applaud many of the proposals set forth in the Council's draft strategy on transport, especially potential use of WPL funds. I would however like to refer a question raised previously by the Campaign to Reopen the Ivanhoe Line - many communities along the line would benefit from the reintroduction of rail services, as would Leicester itself from the increased connectivity it brings. Since the lack of funds for ongoing subsidy of services has been cited as a barrier, what is the possibility of using WPL funding to meet some or all of this need for subsidy?”
Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clarke in response informed Council that he had met with campaigners who were looking to re-open the Ivanhoe line and expressed support for their proposals. It was noted that the Government was considering a bid to re-open the line, but there were huge barriers to making the line a feasible prospect. He further noted that, in principle, future Workplace Parking Levy funding could help support this scheme, but it would need to be assessed on achieving wider aims such as the climate emergency and reducing congestion.
“As a proponent of public ownership in general, I am overall in favour of the Council's decision to purchase the Haymarket Centre and particularly applaud the financial benefits of saving over half a million pounds a year in rent to a private consortium. Given the number of vacant units within the Haymarket Centre, what plans are in progress to bring these units into use, and would it be possible to establish a series of "incubator" units for start-up’s and sole traders, at low rents, to encourage a vibrant small business scene in Leicester and aid in graduate retention from our universities?”
Assistant City Mayor, Councillor Myers in response commented that there were benefits arising from the purchase of the Haymarket Shopping Centre, particularly as would generate revenue. He noted that an asset management plan was being drawn up for the Centre which would look at all aspects including self-traders, small businesses and the possibility of the provision of frontline services. The Assistant City Mayor also referred to other possible options within the city centre for start up companies, suggesting that these options could be mapped out and communicated more broadly. He felt that overall, the purchase of the Haymarket meant many opportunities to help new businesses.
7. Councillor Broadwell
“Over the two years of the pandemic I have been a regular volunteer at the New Parks Food Bank, as have my co-councillors in assisting in collections from St. Anne's Church for delivery to the foodbank at Braunstone Frith - efforts I wish to commend to the highest. I have undertaken personal fundraising efforts and raised over £9,000 for the two mentioned foodbanks, however, need continues to increase and the cost of living crisis continues to bite, thus, I wish to ask what ongoing and upcoming programmes the Council is engaging with in order to address food insecurity in Western Ward and across the city?”
Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Russell in response noted that food insecurity was a major issue and commended the work that Cllr Broadwell had been involved in, in Western Ward, as well as other communities across the city. The Deputy City Mayor confirmed that this issue was taken seriously and described the range of crisis food support available, and how surplus food was moved between foodbanks to ensure that it was used in the right places within the city. As well as foodbanks there were cheaper food options such as the E2 Pantry and the Company Shop, which were examples how the right food was made available where it was needed. Wider issues with food inflation were noted, such as manufacturing costs. Plot to Pot was also noted as another way in which communities come together to grow and eat food together. The Deputy City Mayor confirmed she was happy to work further with Western Ward councillors to improve food availability in the ward.
“Who currently owns the land known as Lord Mayors Walk which runs through the Leicester University Campus?”
9. Councillor Kitterick
“Who will make the final decision about the future ownership of Lord Mayor's Walk?”
10. Councillor Kitterick
“Is the City Mayor aware of any development plans that Leicester University has in the vicinity of Lord Mayor's Walk”
11. Councillor Kitterick
“What is the proposed receipt for the sale of Lord Mayor’s Walk?”
The City Mayor said that he would group together a response for questions 8 -11. He confirmed that the Council owned the land known as Lord Mayor’s walk and that heads of terms had been agreed with Leicester University for a transfer to them. The final decision on any transfer would be an Executive decision, taken by the City Mayor. The City Mayor was unaware of any development plans in the vicinity of the walk. In terms of any receipt for the sale of the Walk, it wasn’t expected to be notable, and the land was a maintenance liability for the Council. The City Mayor confirmed he would check that it was part of the agreement of the conditions of the transfer to ensure a guaranteed public right of way.
Councillor Kitterick asked a supplementary question. He noted that he wished to secure a public right of access, noting that there had previously been problems with public access to the former Cannons Gym. He sought assurance that the legal agreement would prevent any future hindrance to access through the site, such as from gates / fences / bars etc. He noted that he had sought assurance from relevant officers but hadn’t been contacted. He asked that all ward councillors be kept fully informed.
The City Mayor in response stated that he understood the concerns and noted the previous problems regarding access to Cannons Gym. He confirmed that he had no interest in closing access and he would ensure that public access was maintained into the future. The City Mayor also said he would ensure Castle ward councillors would be kept updated.
12. Councillor Kitterick
“What progress has been made with the council establishing a Right of Way across the Wyggeston Queen Elizabeth I College between Victoria Park Road and University Road?”
The City Mayor in response said that he couldn’t unfortunately give a clear response. He noted that he had previously written to the Principal of the College, but received an unconvincing response, which focussed on security issues as being the reason for the gate being blocked. However, the City Mayor noted that he was now in receipt of information and testimony about the route being a public right of way, which if confirmed would ensure that the gate couldn’t be locked. A conclusion on this matter would be determined in approximately 2 /3 weeks and officers would share the determination with Castle ward councillors. If the route was not declared a public right of way, the City Mayor undertook to work with local ward councillors to persuade the college that there was no purpose to keeping the gate closed.
Councillor Kitterick asked a supplementary question. He noted the lengthy process undertaken already on this issue and the potential for an appeal by the college against any determination of a public right of way. He further noted the high number of concerns raised with him when the route was closed off, particularly from women who were concerned about their personal safety. He asked that officers make every effort possible to get the route opened as a right of way and encourage the college not to appeal if it was declared a public right of way.
The City Mayor in response confirmed that he felt the gate served no purposed as anyone accessing the site for nefarious reasons could simply climb over, and it was unacceptable for people to have to take alternative routes. The City Mayor thanked Councillor Kitterick for his efforts on this issue and undertook to keep ward councillors involved and informed as the issue moved forward.
13. Councillor Kitterick
“What does the City Mayor think of the refusal of the Vice-Chancellor of Leicester University to attend the City Council's Overview Select Committee to answer questions from councillors?”
The City Mayor in response commented that he was unaware of any refusal to attend. He felt that both Leicester and De Montfort University had been open and engaged with the Council on various matters.
Councillor Kitterick asked a supplementary question. He felt that an invitation to attend the Overview Select Committee but had not been taken up. He noted that the universities were part of the life of the city but felt there were issues to discuss and any refusal or appearance of refusal to attend a meeting would give out the wrong message.
The City Mayor in response commented that if an invitation to attend was made then there should be no reason to object.
Point of order
Councillor Porter raised a point of order relating to the previous question being about an individual, whereas he felt that he had been prevented from raising questions about an individual when questioning their interests. The Monitoring Officer, in response commented that the above question referred to post holders rather than individuals and it was not comparable to asking questions about interests.
14. Councillor Porter
“If there is insufficient land for housing can the council identify at this meeting the sites for all the new proposed Park and Ride sites?”
Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clarke in response said that there were proposed small park and ride sites planned for Beaumont Leys shopping centre and Glenfield Hospital. A location in the east of the city and an option in Oadby and Wigston were also being explored. He further commented that as approximately 60,000 houses were needed over the next 10 -15 year, then sustainable transport was needed for the city to be sustainable.
Councillor Porter asked a supplementary question. He felt that with 70,000 car journeys being made, polar bears couldn’t be saved with so few park and ride sites.
Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clarke in response stated that the Local Transport Plan looked at all modes of transport and supported the sustainability of the city.
15. Councillor Porter
“As of 8 Feb. 2022 how many council members had been given a free parking permit/pass?”
The City Mayor in response stated that parking had been available for council members for many years, even under the Liberal Democrat / Conservative coalition, and it was intended to support members performing their duties. He reported that at the last check, 25 out of the 54 members did not have a parking pass. He noted the parking was restricted to weekdays. He further commented that the introduction of the Workplace Parking Levy would be a chance to reflect upon the example set by the Council and there may need to be an appropriate level of contribution.
Councillor Porter asked a supplementary question by stating that his question was about Council members, not just Councillors.
The City Mayor in response commented that members who came in regularly should be suitably remunerated. He also noted that he paid for his own parking which was higher than the level of the proposed Workplace Parking Levy. The City Mayor further commented that his situation, where he attended the office most days was different to councillors who attended irregularly.
16. Councillor Porter
“What is the current average number of vehicles on the roads in Leicester & what will be the reduction in vehicles on the roads as a direct result of the proposed workplace parking tax in year one, year two, year three, year four, year five and year six?”
Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clarke in response stated that advice from officers indicated that reduction of vehicles was not a good measure to check progress as it didn’t provide any details of how much travelling each vehicle was undertaking. He further noted that traffic levels had now mostly returned to pre-Covid levels, and that the Workplace Parking Levy was focussed on providing sustainable travel alternatives at peak periods. The expectation was that the Levy would reduce traffic levels by 2% which would create rush hour traffic at summer holiday levels. He also noted that key aims of the Workplace Parking Levy were for people to change their modes of travel, reduce congestion, improve poor health, improve the climate and make other modes of travel an attractive proposition.
Councillor Porter asked a supplementary question. He expressed disappointment in the parking tax and that there were no concrete figures on traffic reduction. He said that the Council knew there were approximated 70,000 commuter cars and that a 2% reduction just 1400 cars. He asked for some concrete figures.
Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clarke in response stated that there was no clarity on what the current traffic average was. He reiterated the point that the view of experts was that levels of traffic was not a good measure of improvement because of the lack of information of the length of each journey, as short journeys would have less impact than longer journeys. The Deputy City Mayor was happy to receive an email requesting further detail.
17. Councillor Porter
“Can the council put the Francis Bacon back up on display & when the new gallery is finished hang it there?”
Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clair in response noted that this artwork had been displayed a number of times before and would be displayed again in future. There was an aim to show more modern art in future and the Francis Bacon artwork would be part of that. The Deputy City Mayor also commented that the Museum service had substantial art collections and it was important that they were available for the benefit of the people of Leicester including for schools and colleges.
Councillor Porter asked a supplementary question. He felt there was an urgency to getting this artwork back on display and queried why it couldn’t just go back on display. He also queried whether the delay was over insurance.
Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clair in response stated that he gave his assurance that it would be put back on display. He also mentioned that the wider exhibition programme had been inspiring and taken out in to city communities. The Francis Bacon artwork was valued and would be displayed in time along with other artworks as there was large amounts to display.
18. Councillor Porter
19. Councillor Porter
“Why has the council refused to disclose to members of the OSC details of the vendor of the multi million pound bedsit property deal?”
The City Mayor in response said that he was unaware of any multi million-pound bedsit scheme.
Councillor Porter asked a supplementary question. He felt that the City Mayor was being disingenuous. He referred to the £27m proposed property purchase.
The City Mayor in response stated that he felt Councillor Porter was playing with words, as the properties were not bedsits, but properties of varying housing stock. The City Mayor said that officers had not named the vendor, as they didn’t want tenants to inadvertently find out about their landlord potentially changing. The City Mayor named the vendor. He noted that as the deal was moving forward, the vendor claimed to be unhappy with the price, and requested a parcel of land to be included, therefore the deal couldn’t be concluded.
20. Councillor Porter
“As a direct result of the proposed workplace parking tax, what will be the reduction in CO2 emissions in tons in year one, year two, year three, year four, year five and year six?”
Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clarke in response said that it was known that 25% of emissions in the city related to transport and that diesel and petrol cars are responsible for just over 50% of CO2 emissions. He further noted the need to tackle the climate emergency and detailed plans were in place to do that, which would be considered at Scrutiny. He felt that it was difficult to achieve the desired net zero aims because the pace of change was determined by the government. The Deputy City Mayor also noted that Liberal Democrat Councillors in areas such as Peterborough, Bristol and London had been supportive of Workplace Parking Levies, which had been made possible by legislation enacted under a Labour government.
Councillor Porter asked a supplementary question. He referred to the suggestion that there would be 1400 fewer vehicles on the roads in the city and therefore what would be the reduction in CO2, 2%, 20% or a different amount?
Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clarke in response reiterated the need to address the climate emergency, reducing demand for energy, increasing walking and cycling, or introduce widespread electrification. He further noted that the COP26 event had heard from countries such as Bangladesh and Tuvalu where climate impacts were already severe. The Workplace Parking Levy would be a charge on large employers to address climate issues now.
21. Councillor Porter
“Can the council give the start date for the final round of consultations on the draft local plan?”
Deputy City Mayor, Councillor Clair in response stated that the Council was previously due to commence its final round of consultation on the Local Plan, but further guidance was received from the government to provide a further 35% uplift in housing requirements. This change meant the policy had to be reviewed further to accommodate the new requirement. There also had to be agreement sought with nearby councils to agree to work towards meeting unmet demand. The Deputy City Mayor confirmed that it was planned to commence the final consultation in June.