(1) Mr. P. Thirlwall asked if the Leader could please tell him when the Council would be scrapping the Dolly Parton Imagination Library Scheme which the previous Leader introduced so he could rub shoulders with celebrities and how he intended to use the £500,000 saving.
Councillor Lakin, the Leader, confirmed that the Council was currently in the process of looking at savings and investment options as part of its annual budget setting process for the financial year 2015/2016. The new budget would need to be in place for April, 2015 and to allow this to happen it would need to be approved by the Council in March, 2015.
As part of meeting this timetable the Council would shortly be undertaking a public consultation exercise with citizens to assist in considering options and choices. This would help to identify the things that were most important to the public. As with previous years, the continuation of the investment made to the Imagination Library and any potential alternative uses for the funding would be one of the things that would be considered in setting the budget for next year.
The outcome of public consultation and final recommendations would be made to the full Council in March as a result of that consultation would not be decided until the early part of next year.
In a supplementary question Mr. Thirlwall asked if the Leader considered it right and fitting for the money saved by scrapping the scheme to be ringfenced for the victims of child sexual exploitation?
Councillor Lakin, the Leader, pointed out that the Council had to save £23 million next year and there were various savings options on the table. Consideration would be given to the fund for the victims and survivors of child sexual exploitation.
(2) Mr. R. Bartle asked what was the cost of clearing Doles Lane in Whiston of fly tipping over the last financial year?
Councillor Hussain, Cabinet Member for Environment, stated that the Council has dealt with 35 incidents of fly-tipping in Doles Lane over the last year (less than 1% of the total of 4,046). The cost of disposing of the waste was estimated at about £1,500/year, but it was likely that if this location was target-hardened then the fly-tipping would be relocated elsewhere so there would be no cost-benefit in doing so.
In a supplementary question Mr. Bartle referred to Doles Lane as being a private track just used as a dumping ground and asked why more permanent measures like gating it off could not be considered?
Councillor Hussain, Cabinet Member for Environment, pointed out that Doles Lane was a public right of way and could not be closed off. Further investigations could be made, but at this moment in time enforcement action would continue to stop being from fly tipping.
(3) Mr. D. Smith asked now it was known that Councillors Burton and Havenhand had access to the same Cabinet papers as Shaun Wright as Advisers, whilst he was Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s Services and given the motion at the last Council Meeting which indicated his position was untenable, should this also apply to his Senior Advisers, who were both absent today?
Councillor Lakin, the Leader, referred to the answer he provided at a recent Cabinet meeting on a similar subject, where he stated that Cabinet Advisers did not have access to all the information that Cabinet Members have, though they did see some of it. They would also not routinely be involved in briefings by senior officers about matters that might be regarded as confidential.
The role of an Adviser was not, therefore, the same as a role of the Cabinet Member and it could not, therefore, be assumed it would have the same level of information, responsibility or accountability. In view of the difference in roles it would be inappropriate to suggest that a motion specific to one individual could simply be transferred to relate to a wider group of people.
The response to this answer would also be provided to the member of the public in writing.
In a supplementary question Mr. Smith referred to a list of meetings which confirmed Councillors Burton and Havenhand as in attendance where child sexual exploitation was discussed and he suggested that they were also culprits to covering up child sexual exploitation and the previous motion should, therefore, have included both of them with a request that they resign as Councillors.
Councillor Lakin, the Leader, referred to his earlier response.