To receive any questions from and provide answers to the public in relation to matters relevant to the Council’s activities.
Members of the public were invited to put questions to the Mayor and councillors on matters within the powers and duties of the Council.
Eight public questions were submitted as follows:-
· Relating to the progress of plans to close the indoor market and replace it with an ‘Altrincham-style’ food market and the closure and refurbishment of the outdoor market which was scheduled to reopen in March 2019.
The Cabinet Member for Economy & Regeneration (Councillor Kate Butler) responded that one of the first decisions of the Labour administration in May 2016 was to put a stop to the plans to move the market traders out of the indoor market and instead invest in the marketplace, Underbanks and the wider town centre. It was reported that the indoor market now had 100% occupancy and had expert professional market management in place. It was stated that footfall was now rising and traders had been given longer contracts which allowed them to invest in the success of the market. The annual losses that the indoor market were accruing were now reducing and it is planned that by 2020, it should be self-sufficient allowing any future profits to be reinvested. It was further stated that the outdoor market was due to return this year building on the success of Foodie Friday, the maker's market and other specialist markets.
· Relating to recent reports in the national press about the crisis in care home provision and the increased pressure on hospitals and whether older residents of Stockport could be assured that they can expect an appropriate level of care in terms of dignity and treatment as and if it became necessary and what steps are the Council taking to ensure this.
The Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care (Councillor Wendy Wild) responded that in February the Council launched the ‘All Age Living’ prospectus for healthy happy homes that demonstrated a great opportunity to truly bring together housing, health and social care into a single vision and programme for change that will co-design the future for all age living in Stockport with a goal for all residents to look forward to a positive older age. It was stated that this meant there would be a wider choice of places and ways to live, providing the right homes and underpinned by the right support.
The Council’s Quality Team had also launched the ‘Dignity in Care Forum’ with representation from external and internal providers and health and social care colleagues. The Forum was held on a quarterly basis and had been extremely well attended.
· Relating to the decision of Vale View Primary School to close early on Fridays and whether the Cabinet Member for Education would work with parents to help ensure that Vale View Primary School remained open five full days a week.
The Cabinet Member for Education (Councillor Dean Fitzpatrick) replied that he would meet with parents along with appropriate officers to ensure that they had all the information they needed to assist them with their case.
Councillor Fitzpatrick stated that he had brought a motion to the Council Meeting in September 2017 calling on the government to increase funding for schools in line with inflation from 2015, to pay for the apprenticeship levy, the costs of the Living Wage, pensions and other associated costs. The response from the Department for Education was that they were already doing more than they were, and enough.
The Council had also worked with the f40 Group to lobby the government which had resulted in an additional £1.2 million being allocated to Stockport, however this amount did not cover the costs of inflation over a single year period.
Councillor Fitzpatrick further stated that with regard to the decision of Vale View Primary School, it was his view that there were other options available to the school and that it needed to stop and listen to the community.
· Relating to what the Council's new relationship is with Stockport Together in the light of the fact that the Council was no longer a member of the Board overseeing Stockport Together and will no longer be making a financial contribution.
The Cabinet Member for Health (Councillor Tom McGee) responded that there wasn't a board that oversees Stockport Together. It was stated that there was a Stockport Health Forum, of which the Council isn't a Member, which had been created in the last few weeks. It was confirmed that the loose alliance board that was previously in place had been stood down and it was agreed that each party to Stockport Together would arrange their own governance arrangements for the work that they were doing across the Foundation Trust, the CCG and the Council.
Councillor McGee stated that the partners remained committed to Stockport Together and each had put £2.4 million into Stockport Together in the 2018/19 financial year, of which only approximately £2.1 million was required. However, the Council would not enter a new risk agreement for 2019/20, however that did not mean that the Council was not committed to Stockport Together. The Foundation Trust and the CCG would be putting £2.5 million each into Stockport Together this year, whereas the Council would focus on making sure that the provision that the Council made through adult social care and related activities for Stockport Together was the best that it could make it.
With regard to the relationship in terms of finance and oversight responsibilities it was reported that the Council had hoped to enter and into an agreement with the CCG that we would have a single accountable officer and that that this would result in joint commissioning. However, the CCG had decided to appoint their own accountable officer. It remained the Council’s long-term ambition to have joint commissioning arrangements, however in the interim period work was taking place to ensure that both the Council and the CCG obtained the maximum benefit from the monies both parties were putting in.
· Relating to the current development stage of the proposed A6 to M60 bypass and whether the Council intended to fully assess its environmental impact before or after the Council had committed irrevocably to building the bypass.
The Cabinet Member for Economy & Regeneration (Councillor Kate Butler) responded that following an extensive debate by the Council Meeting, the Council agreed that it would write to the Department for Transport requesting that like to progress with the next stage of the feasibility for the bypass, but that it would require funding from the government to facilitate broader environmental impact assessment and also engage in a wide-scale public consultation. This request was original rejected and the Council was advised to wait for the commencement of the next funding round.
In December 2018, the government announced two new pots of funding, one of which was the ‘large local majors’ into which the A6 to M60 Relief Road would need to bid. However, it was confirmed that the Council would not progress to the construction stage of the proposal until it had first consulted widely, and undertaken a full environmental impact assessment.
The Mayor then reported that the 30 minutes allocated to public question time had since elapsed, and that any remaining questions would receive a written response.