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.
Five public questions were submitted as follows:-
· Relating to the consultation on the Support Funds business case and whether the Council would drop this proposal as it targeted the poorest and most vulnerable people in the borough.
The Cabinet Member for Inclusive Neighbourhoods (Councillor Amanda Peers) responded that the proposal to integrate support funds would enable a more holistic approach to be taken and would allow a better view of individual needs to be obtained. The ‘one door approach’ would mean that there was a need for only one application and that would also enable the most appropriate form of funding to be applied for that individual. It was stated that the team would be able to directly administer the funds the Council was responsible for but would also make applications on the applicant's behalf to a wide range of other funding sources such as charities, trust funds, credit unions and furnished tenancies provided by Stockport Homes. This would potentially open a much greater source of support and funding which people would be able to access than was currently the case.
· Relating to why the Stepping Hill Public Realm Inspector had not served a public nuisance action on Stepping Hill Hospital resulting from residents’ loss of reasonable enjoyment of their properties due to the hospital’s inability to accommodate staff, patient and visitor parking within the site which has created congestion, pollution, littering and additional traffic movements.
The Cabinet Member for Sustainable Stockport (Councillor Sheila Bailey) responded that she had provided a comprehensive response to a number of similar questions at the last Council Meeting, and one of the commitments that she had made was to write to the Chair of Stockport NHS Foundation Trust in relation to the concerns of local residents. The Chair had agreed to meet with local residents and officers were already in the process of making arrangements to discuss the matter directly with those affected.
· Relating to the use of the Open+ self service library access system at Marple Library and the proposal to extend this.
The Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Resources, Commissioning & Governance (Councillor Tom McGee) responded that unlike many authorities throughout the country, as part of ongoing budget reductions the Council had not taken the decision to close any of its libraries. The use of Open+ as a means of increasing access to local libraries was first trialled in Bramhall and had been extended to other facilities across the borough which had resulted in a significant extension in the hours that libraries were open to members of the public.
Councillor Malcolm Allan further responded that Marple Library and its staff were a vital part of the Marple community and that there was a significant difference between a staffed and unstaffed facility. It was stated that Marple Library had struggled with anti-social behaviour and that the Cabinet Member, police and local councillors had been involved in trying to bring about a resolution to this. Councillor Allan expressed concern that the Open+ initiative had sustained reputational damage in the Marple area and that residents were reluctant to use it.
· Relating to an apparent difference in the consultations on libraries which only permitted respondents to select from a palette of pre-determined options and that on museums which allowed the user to provide an open response.
Councillor Malcolm Allan responded that he was unsure why the Council had undertaken these two consultations in different ways, however he did know the value that local residents places on such facilities. He stated that he was of the view that there could have been a much better consultation insofar as this affected Marple Library, and that the approach that seemed to have been taken was flawed.
· Relating to why it was agreed to include a clause within the contract for The Produce Hall that prohibited freedom of information requests from disclosing how much public money was being invested in the building.
The Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Resources, Commissioning & Governance (Councillor Tom McGee) responded that the contract did not expressly prohibit the disclosure of how much public money had been spent on the Produce Hall and nor did it preclude any freedom of information requests. However, it did contain a standard commercial confidentiality clause that aimed to protect both the current and future rights of the tenant and the Council.
Two further questions were submitted where the questioner was not present at the meeting, and in accordance with the Code of Practice, the Chief Executive was requested to respond to the questioners in writing.