Questions without Notice under Standing Order No 7 (Agenda item 7)
Councillor Brindle directed his question to Councillor Bambridge, the Executive Member for Growth. Councillor Brindle had seen a great deal of press publicity about residents who were living in private sub-standard living conditions in his Ward. This had been a long standing issue. His questions were:
· Could the Cabinet Member assure him that Breckland Council’s Housing Team was sufficiently staffed to deal with these issues and that the focus on poor private sector housing provision was fit for purpose? and
· What action was being taken by Breckland Council to deal with this specific issue, particularly in Glebe Close, Thetford?
Councillor Bambridge stated that he could not deal with individual addresses or tenants; however, regarding Glebe Close, a Team from the Council had been on site very recently and were looking into this very issue. If the dwellings were found to be extremely sub-standard, the Council did have an opportunity to provide housing for the residents in question or could ask the landlord for various works to be carried out and, provide a timetable for those works. Whilst the report from the visit had not yet been received, it was expected and he would be happy to contact Councillor Brindle once received. As a side issue to that, Councillor Bambridge advised that he had received many emails from Councillor Newton on this very matter, and as a result, a Landlords’ Forum had been arranged to take place this evening, 24 January 2019 at Breckland Council which he would be attending. Officers from many disciplines would also be in attendance to meet with landlords and discuss the new rules that they had to comply with. These forums would be on-going allowing the Council to remain in touch with landlords. There would be similar gatherings for tenants to follow. If any Member had any issues he urged them to contact the Housing Team. Councillor Bambridge hastened to add that there were many excellent private landlords in the Breckland area but the few who were causing issues to their tenants would be investigated.
Councillor Martin mentioned the new owners of Banham Poultry and asked if they could be contacted to resurrect the Liaison Committee that he used to be a member of. The Deputy Leader said that he would be more than happy for Councillor Martin to be re-engaged on this Committee and would raise this with Cassie Ruffell, the Council’s Regeneration Manager.<1>
Councillor Clarke drew Members’ attention to an article in a national magazine and asked if the content was correct. The Deputy Leader, due to not being a subscriber to this particular magazine, asked the Councillor to let him read the article outside of the meeting, he would then respond accordingly.
Councillor Jermy raised a concern about Norfolk County Council’s decision to close its Children’s’ Centres, many of them being in the Breckland area. He felt that Breckland Council had put a great deal of effort into social mobility and the evidence had shown that the demand was greater in this area. Councillor Claussen, the Executive Member for Place advised that it was far too soon to provide any sensible answer about this matter; however, he would be more than happy to discuss the way forward with Councillor Jermy. The Deputy Leader advised that he was aware of this issue and comments had been submitted to Norfolk County Council. Breckland Council did invest in early intervention hubs that would monitor the situation and although the assets would be lost the outreach service would be maintained. Councillor Borrett added that the service was just being re-shaped; some buildings that had been used to facilitate these services were only being booked for a few hours a day. It was just the buildings that were being closed not the service and doing so would allow more money to be spent on children’s services particularly in rural areas. The Deputy Leader felt that communication was key and Breckland Council would continue to monitor the situation.
Councillor Robert Richmond asked Councillor Bambridge whether the Council had any land that could accommodate ground based solar panels as he was not aware of any in the Breckland area. Councillor Bambridge was not aware of any sites owned by the Council. As for other sites, Councillor Wilkin, the Chairman of the Planning Committee reported a number of sites that he knew of in the area and Councillor Martin reminded Members of the large renewable energy plant in Snetterton and Councillor Carter drew attention to the one in Litcham.