Author: Toby Neal

Loxley House Solar Panels

Last week, work began to fit solar panels to the roof of Loxley House, the main offices of Nottingham City Council. In total, the project will see over 200 Solar PV panels fitted on the Loxley House rooftop and will be installed and managed by our own workforce.

The panels will produce a large amount of green energy that can be used by Nottingham City Council and will ensure a return on the investment to install them. This is another example of Nottingham Labour being committed to an increase in green energy usage and cut carbon emissions.

In 2016, Nottingham City Council smashed climate change targets and achieved a 33% reduction in carbon emissions, beating a target of 26% by 2020. This increased effort to reduce emissions is aided by projects such as the installation of solar panels at Loxley House and will allow the council to continue to reduce its carbon footprint.

Nottingham Labour has also led the council to increase green energy usage in a number of other ways, such as investing in a new fleet of electric buses and also Leader of the Council, Councillor Jon Collins has signed up to UK100 – a commitment alongside several other UK towns and cities to ensure that Nottingham has 100% clean energy usage by 2050.

Nottingham Labour is delivering on its green energy commitments and will make sure that Nottingham continues to take big steps to reduce its carbon footprint and promote green energy.

Selective Licensing

Selective Licensing

High quality housing is a priority for Nottingham Labour, that’s why we have pledged to build 2500 new homes that Nottingham residents can afford to rent or buy. We also want to improve the standard of existing homes, that’s why we are planning to introduce selective licencing.

Consultation is currently taking place on a selective licencing scheme that Nottingham Labour Councillors hope will improve the quality of private rented housing in the City.  The scheme was proposed in reaction to 1000’s of complaints regarding poor quality and dangerous private rented housing.

Issues reported to Councillors have included pests such as cockroaches and rats, dangerous wiring, unhelpful or unresponsive landlords and a lack of safe escapes or smoke alarms.

We want to hear from people who live in private rented accommodation so we can get a clear idea of what conditions are like and then we can try and make improvements. The scheme will provide more help and protection to people who rent privately and experiencing problems that their landlord is not dealing with. Council staff will be on hand to ensure that privately rented houses are of a high standard and that all residents are living in safe conditions.

The cost to landlords is £460 over 5 years – which works out to just £1.80 per week if they sign up to a free accreditation service. This cost should not be shifted onto residents and we believe it is more than reasonable for landlords to cover this cost over 5 years to provide extra support.

The aim of this scheme is to ensure that all residents are living in safe, high quality housing and that all landlords reach the high standards set by many who already operate in Nottingham. It will also provide extra support and peace of mind to all residents who rent privately.

Landlords, tenants, letting agents, businesses and residents in the City and the surrounding area are invited to have their say on the proposed scheme by completing the online questionnaire at www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/selectivelicensing.

Alternatively, you can contact the Council for a printed version of the questionnaire by emailing selective.licensing@nottinghamcity.co.uk or calling 0115 876 2312. For more information, visit www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/qualityhousingforall. The consultation runs until 31 March 2017.

Cllr Jane Urquhart

Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing & Heritage

 

Supporting the Homeless

In November, Nottingham Labour announced that we had provided £100,000 of additional funding for the Winter Shelter in Nottingham that helps provide support and additional beds for rough sleepers through the coldest months.

In addition to that funding, Nottingham City Council and surrounding district Councils will benefit from £370,000 over the next two years to combat rough sleeping, thanks to work from Nottingham Labour Councillors.

Nottingham City Council will continue its partnership with Framework, who will also be providing £300,000 over the next 2 years, to help extend the street outreach services that currently operate in Nottingham city, in to surrounding areas such as Gedling and Broxtowe.

The Nottinghamshire Rough Sleeper Prevention Service will be established and it is hoped that by extending outreach services into areas that surround Nottingham City, more people who are homeless will be helped without needing to come into the City.

Due to reduced funding from the Tory Government, rough sleeping has doubled nationally and in Nottinghamshire it has tripled. We know that the government’s policies of austerity have caused many people to face unmanageable financial pressures and forced many people into homelessness.

That is why Nottingham Labour will continue to try and secure funding for projects such as the Winter Shelter and the Rough Sleeper Prevention Service and provide support to anyone who is facing homelessness.

We will continue to work with Framework and social housing staff to try and prevent people who are in danger of becoming homeless ending up on the streets. Nottingham Labour will also keep to our No Second Night Out pledge, which means that accommodation and support is guaranteed to anyone who has had to spend a night sleeping rough.

 

The £9m Gap

Let us start by defining the problem and with three very significant facts.

First, there have been weekly declarations of black alerts at Nottingham University Hospitals. A black alert is when there are no spare beds at the hospital for incoming emergency cases.

Second, nationally there has been a 40% increase in bed blocking, when people can’t leave hospital for want of care at home, which for the most part is provided by councils.

Third, it costs £2500 to keep a patient in a hospital bed on average, and £450 to care for the same patient at home.

So the logical and practical thing to do would be to increase the amount of cash available to councils. This would allow councils to relieve the pressure on hospitals and effectively to save money.

But this has not happened. Indeed the opposite has been the case. Councils, including Nottingham, have not only had to cater for an ever increasing number of elderly and disabled. They have not only had to find additional money for the minimum wage. But the very budgets we use to pay for services like adult care have been substantially reduced by the very government which is expecting us to do more. So, this year in Nottingham, there is a £10m gap, and this is simply to keep the service going.

This is not just a Nottingham phenomenon, it is happening across England. The Government’s response has been belated this year, as it was last year, and it has been to try and bridge some of the gap by requesting an increase of 3% in the council tax.

I have two things to say about this.

First, this 3% levy will still leave a £7m gap so is inadequate. Second, resorting to council tax rises is unsustainable, especially in poorer areas. Poorer areas have a lower council tax base but a higher demand for adult care. So the council tax rises are far more punitive and far less able to cover the costs than in better off areas.

This means that councils all over the country are left with a problem:  do is they increase the council tax knowing it is unfair, regressive and not fit for purpose and should be funded centrally: or are they  prepared to see a service for the most vulnerable elderly and disabled deteriorate, and bed blocking in hospitals increase further still.

The whole situation reveals a real failure of planning and coordination by central Government.

It took until the last minute for government to realise the problem in 2016 and announce the 2% council tax – a levy which given the magnitude of the problem, is nothing more than a sticking plaster. Far from tackling the problem with a longer term solution, it has simply repeated the exercise with yet another 3% plaster in 2017. This tells me they have no plan. To have no plan when the NHS is in crisis and the crisis was so predictable and when it actually costs more not to provide for council adult service, is a dereliction of duty.

All I can say at this stage is that we in this council will do our utmost to keep the service going. It will be a priority; but will be at the expense of other services and, if we can come to arrangements with the Local Clinical Commissioning group which we will have to, it will be at the expense of other parts the NHS.

But in the end, there has to be a long term solution and that solution has to include more money; and more money means more tax to pay for it. I would start with corporation tax but that is my view.

What is clear is that we can’t go on as a nation with the immature approach we have; that decent key public services can be provided on the back of ever increasing number of efficiencies and we do not have to pay.

In my view we are past the point of relying on efficiencies some time ago. It’s just that government hasn’t realised it and virtually every council, every hospital and thousands of patients are now seeing the consequences.

 

Cllr Graham Chapman

Deputy Leader, Nottingham City Council

Youth Takeover Day

Last Friday, 25th of November, young people from the Youth Cabinet and Children in Care Council joined Councillors, Council officers and MP’s in Nottingham as part of a youth takeover day within the City.

The programme was part of the Children’s Commissioner’s Takeover Challenge, a national initiative to encourage organisations to engage with children and young people.

The day offered young people an insight into making decisions and gave them the chance to put their opinions forward. The scheme was also designed to give Councillors, and others who were buddied up with the young people, new ideas and a fresh approach to the way they work.

Labour Councillors involved included myself, Councillor David Mellen, Portfolio Holder for Early Intervention and Early Years and the Lord Mayor of Nottingham, Councillor Jackie Morris. Young people joined also joined Nottingham South MP, Lilian Greenwood and Gedling MP, Vernon Coaker.

Teams of young people took over the restaurant at Loxley House, designing the menu and cooking for the day, as well as taking over the Communications and Marketing team at Nottingham City Council.

Nottingham Labour is committed to engaging with young people and we believe offering these sorts of experiences can be a great way for people to find out what they might want to do in the future.

Last year the Children’s Partnership Board adopted a new Participation Strategy to ensure the voice of young citizens is embedded in the decision-making processes of the Council and its partners.

Additionally the Youth Cabinet and Children in Care Council are excellent initiatives that aim to engage young people with politics.

Cllr Sam Webster

Portfolio Holder for Education, Employment & Skills