Author: Craig Stanley

A Vision for Social Care

In the Queens Speech there was a noticeable absence of plans for adult social care, despite the Prime Minister saying as he entered Downing Street in 2019 “we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all” and despite promises of a White Paper since 2017. People in Nottingham and the rest of the country desperately need a social care system that is adequately funded over the long term and  free at the point of use. Everyone contributes, everyone’s covered – just like our NHS. Local councils like ours will still need to lead in this area as we are best placed to support people to be independent and live the lives they want to, given the range of ways that our wider work and partnerships touch everyone’s lives.

The pandemic has shown how important social care is for people and though social care workers do an amazing job, the growing demand alongside chronic underfunding is pushing the sector further into crisis. In March I wrote to the Government along with local Labour MPs highlighting the need for a fair and adequate funding system for social care, quoting the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) who said that £1,3 billion is needed to cover demographic and inflationary pressures in 2021, Cllr Williams has  yet to receive a reply.

Social care workers in our city support people to live well, maximising independence, choice and control. But they and the people they support, alongside their unpaid carers need a national  long term plan for social care that recognises that this is skilled  and vital work to support adults  of all ages to make their own choices, and the best of their lives at every stage.

The Government’s current approach has been the adult social care precept, hitting Nottingham’s hard pressed council tax payers. This precept represents a significant sum to local households, but makes a negligible impact on the pressures to the Council’s budget in this area. An inadequate sticking plaster that costs Nottingham tax payers dearly – hitting household incomes at a time of economic crisis.

In March I wrote to the Government highlighting the need for a fair and adequate funding system for social care that covers everyone. I have yet to receive a reply. The absence of any plans in the Queen’s Speech  makes clear that  Government is going to leave those supported by adult social care, those who are paid to care, and unpaid carers left without a long term solution to the issues they experience every day.

In Wales and Scotland their Government’s are rising to the challenges with commitments to paying care workers a real living wage and considering a “National Care Service”.

This is a real failure to grasp the reality and urgency  of the problem.

We urge the government to listen to the nation. Just as we have raised our voices when needed to defend our NHS, when we clapped for carers, we meant it. They would do well to listen – and act.

Improving the City Centre to Create Jobs and Boost the Local Economy

Nottingham city centre is key for the local economy and its success relies on many different factors – people who live directly in the city, office and other workers who have normally commuted into the city, and a those who visit us for our wide range of leisure and shopping options.

Our vision has always been to make the city centre a great place to live, work and enjoy. We are the economic centre of a travel to work area that includes almost one million people and have the best public transport in the country. Although this is essential to maintaining our regional appeal, it’s also a vital way for Nottingham people to get to where they need to go in an affordable and timely way. 

We continue to support a wide range of world class cultural offers for visitors – yes, the Castle re-opening 21st June 2021 will be a massive attraction and boost to the city centre economy, as we have already discussed this afternoon and about which I will go into more detail in answer to a later question, but also the Nottingham Playhouse, The Theatre Royal, Motorpoint Arena, National Justice Museum, Nottingham Contemporary Art Gallery, the Cineworld cinema in the corner house as well as the smaller but much loved Broadway cinema.

The city centre has a wide range of places to eat and drink which if they have outdoor areas are already busy, with others due to join the unlock as indoor eating spaces will be open in a few weeks time. Most recently we have supported this important food and drink and night time economy in the city centre with business grants – with some of the best operators in the country, all now competing to put out chairs and tables in the busiest bits of the city – Hockley, Sneinton Market, Angel Row, Canalside  and other sites – all of which are very busy now, having endured the past twelve months of Covid and restrictions.

Our events team and other event providers in the city, mean there is always something on – in the Old Market Square, but also Hockley Hustle, Sneinton Market events, music events at Rock City and other venues – many people come for these events from a distance. A lot of the events reflect the diverse nature of the city – Caribbean Carnival, Pride, Chinese New Year, International Food Markets. Our square is used for markets, but also for celebrations, for solemn occasions, for protest or for just sitting in the sun, it’s a wonderful asset at the heart of the city centre and is a great attraction to those living near and further afield.

The Southern Gateway has various projects which are complete or on the way to being complete, Broadmarsh Carpark, Nottingham College, Castle, Carrington Street heritage improvement, together with a number of new office and accommodation schemes have left the southern part of the city centre unrecognisable.

The Island Quarter development has started in the last few months; together with this and other schemes at the early stages of development, we have some impressive “cranes in the air” live projects that will make the city even more positive to visit – this includes work starting now on the Island Quarter event space and hotel, bringing areas long vacant back into productive use.

We can’t predict the effect that Covid will leave on our city centre, but we do know that people are already returning, and I am confident they will bring a much needed boost to the local economy.

Councillor says partnership working key to making Nottingham safer

Cllr Neghat Khan has said that partnership working is key to making Nottingham safer in response to a question at Full Council earlier this week, particularly highlighting the role of Nottinghamshire Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner, Paddy Tipping for their work on tackling misogyny and violence against women.

In the aftermath of the tragic death of Sarah Everard there has been a spotlight on the issue of violence against women. Commenting on the response to this in Nottingham, Cllr Khan said “I would like to acknowledge and thank Nottinghamshire Police and Paddy for understanding the sensitivities around this issue. Nottingham caught positive national attention with a low Police presence at the peaceful and socially distant vigil. In contrast to the heavy handed and violent response in London, Police in Nottingham even took time to place flowers at the vigil. That is something that is consistent with Paddy’s priorities in tackling violence against women and misogyny in Nottingham.”

Recently Nottingham City Council developed a citywide Partnership Strategy to tackle Hate Crime and was successful in attracting European funding for the Citizen’s at the Heart project – this funded training projects for staff and volunteers, both female and male on understanding misogyny and responding to it. The Council also continues to work to support Juno women’s aid in responding to domestic abuse effectively and Working closely with partners in the Women’s Centre and the Police, Nottinghamshire was the first area to formally record misogynist incidents, the first place in the country to do so.

Specifically highlighting the work of Paddy Tipping in making women in Nottingham safer, Cllr Khan said “Since 2014, Paddy has increased domestic abuse funding from just under £500k to around £1m in 2019/20 – 14% of Paddy’s total commissioning budget. Often described as a hidden crime, the pandemic has heightened the problem for many. That’s why Paddy has been careful to distribute nearly £1m in emergency funding to services that can best help those at risk.”

“In the time that I’ve been on this Council, citizens have told me that they want more police officers tackling the things that matter to them. I’m pleased, that since 2012, we’ve seen more police officers on the streets and more police in our neighbourhoods. We have specialist teams dealing with things like hate crime, sexual violence and domestic abuse, all introduced by the Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping. But I know that now is not the time to sit back and rest on what we’ve already done and achieved in partnership with organisations across the city,”

Transformed Castle will bring jobs and opportunities for local people

The announcement of the reopening of Nottingham Castle on 21 June following transformation work to turn it into  a world-class heritage attraction delivers  a top priority for Nottingham Labour and is will provide lots of positive opportunities for local people.

It’s going to be great for the people of Nottingham, but the importance of the Castle transformation in attracting more visitors to Nottingham and boosting the local economy should not be underestimated.

The renewed Castle experience is expected to increase regional, national and international visitor numbers from 222,000 to 400,000 in the first full year of opening – with estimate visitor spending a total of over £200m in Nottingham over the next ten years. There will be major benefits for local people with around 420 extra jobs a year expected to be created in the city’s tourism and leisure sectors, that’s on top of the 270 construction jobs the transformation works have generated over the past few years and in addition, opportunities for 500 volunteers going forward. These figures were part of the business case pre covid, so might be lower in the short term due to number restrictions necessary in the first few months of opening.

Looking more widely, the Nottingham Castle project has always been at the heart of the City Council’s vision for the wider regeneration of the city, with £2bn of redevelopments currently underway transforming the city’s Southside and further significant plans in the pipeline such as reimagining the Broadmarsh site, and the developments in the Island Quarter to help Nottingham shine even more brightly on the map.

It’s an incredible achievement for the council to have taken what was a well-loved heritage site and turn it into something that’s truly world class, combining history, legend and modern technology in the Dukal Palace and enhancing the grounds with a new visitor Centre and brilliant adventure playground – and despite Covid, delivering the project on time and on budget.

The significance of the reopening of a rejuvenated Nottingham Castle cannot be over-estimated – especially coming as it does when the whole country is emerging from lockdown. Over the last twelve months, people across this city, and beyond, have endured some of the most challenging set circumstances in a generation. Huge sacrifices have been made and lives have been lost. But we will emerge and be able to meet together again and enjoy this brilliant attraction.

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Government hurting Nottingham leaseholders, says Councillor

Nearly four years after the tragic Grenfell fire many private leaseholders living in the city blocks are still waiting for fire safety works to be completed and are facing unfair substantial charges from building owners’ said Cllr Linda Woodings in response to a question at Full Council.

In the aftermath of the Grenfell fire which led to the deaths of 72 people Nottingham City Council immediately launched an audit of cladding on all tall buildings, commenced the installation of sprinkler systems in all city council owned high rise buildings and established the Joint Audit and Inspection Team (JAIT) along with the Nottinghamshire Fire Authority to inspect all residential blocks, no matter what height, of over 11 apartments or more. The cost of the sprinkler installation work to the council has been £8.3 million but, despite promises at the time from the Conservative Government to cover those costs, Nottingham City Council has yet to receive a single penny for it.

“Nottingham has done the right thing, in spite of the government rather than because of it” said Cllr Linda Woodings “but private Leaseholders are now facing unpayable and unfair costs to ensure their homes are safe, and this is not just in ‘tall’ buildings, of over 18 metres, but in buildings of all heights which have a range of fire safety defects.”

In February Robert Jenrick MP announced a £3.5 billion loan scheme to  help leaseholders improve tall buildings but the scheme has been described as  “unworkable” by one Conservative MP and only covers cladding, not other remedial work. The fund also only covers ‘tall’ buildings over 18m or 6 storeys, yet there are an estimated 77,500 buildings across the UK over 11 metres high, many were built to 17.5 metres to avoid additional fire safety measures. No funding has been made available for these buildings.

Cllr Linda Woodings continued “Government ministers have said in Parliament on several occasions that they don’t want to see leaseholders forced to pay for remediation and that buildings should be made safe as quickly as possible For the hundreds of Nottingham leaseholders facing large bills, increased service charges and insurance premiums beyond their means this will feel like empty words and rhetoric.”

As Portfolio Holder for Housing, Planning and Heritage, Cllr Woodings pledged going forward to:

  • Work with our MPs to support the End our Cladding Scandal campaign’s 10-step plan
  • Help estimate the costs to leaseholders to develop a ‘Nottingham Ask’ to identify the funding required to remediate affected buildings in our city;
  • Continue to do what we can to help leaseholders by facilitating engagement between groups affected by this situation;
    Write to the Secretary of State along those lines and reiterate our request for funding towards safety work we have already undertaken locally.

Yesterday a YouGov poll commissioned by the National Housing Federation showed that three-quarters of MPs believed that leaseholders shouldn’t have to pay for remedial fire-safety works. Instead the government should make grants available and then claim the costs back from the industry. In parliament the Lords have tried to insert this clause into the Fire Safety Bill three times, but the government keeps deleting it.  Linda added ‘Those who have made billions of pounds from the construction of shoddy, sub-standard and unsafe buildings should be the ones who pay for work to make these buildings safe and we call on the government to act now to stop leaseholders having to foot the bill’.  

Fair. Adequate. Sustainable – Submission to Inquiry on Adult Social Care Funding

Cllr Adele Williams has made a submission to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee Inquiry on long term funding of adult social care and used it as an opportunity to reiterate calls for a fair, adequate and sustainable system for funding adult social care services.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government select committee has launched an inquiry focusing on   how adult social care should be funded in the long-term and to understand how Covid-19 has impacted the sector. Fair, adequate and sustainable funding for adult social care is an issue Cllr Williams has been raising for a number of years and the pandemic has accelerated an existing problem, increasing demand faster than expected.  There is an urgent need for a more sustainable long term funding settlement for adult social care.

In submitting a response to the Inquiry Cllr Adele Williams highlighted the unfair nature of the current funding model on places like Nottingham, saying “The income that can be raised locally is lower where the levels of deprivation, and therefore need, are higher, meaning that this is not an adequate response  to the issue – but one which hits local taxpayers hard.”

The current approach by Government to fund social care has been to put on an additional 3% onto council tax, called the social care precept, solely to fund costs in that area. In Nottingham the Government’s additional 3% has increased council tax for each band in the following way:

Council
Tax Band
Government’s 3% social care precept £
A £36.17
B £42.19
C £48.22
D £54.25
E £66.31

Continuing in her submission, Cllr Williams said “A plan to resource social care adequately and sustainably is long overdue. Local taxation is not the answer and the current situation is not a fair or sufficient solution to meet the gap in funding that is widely acknowledged. I would support funding adult social care through general and progressive taxation whilst retaining the role of the local authority who are best placed to promote an asset and strengths based approached given the many and various intersections we have with citizens’ lives.“

It is  hoped that this inquiry will help produce a fair, sustainable and long term funding system for adult social care. The Government has repeatedly promised to produce a plan, including Boris Johnson on the day he became Prime Minister, but no such plan has materialised.

Deputy Leader “disappointed” by Government rush for face to face meetings

Cllr Sally Longford has  written to the Government regarding their decision not to extend legislation that allows local authorities to hold meetings remotely, causing concern for council staff and councillors who have either not been vaccinated or are clinically vulnerable;

In a letter on March 25, Regional Growth and Local Government Minister Luke Hall MP told English council leaders that the remote meeting provision in the Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 expires on May 7 would expire.

The Government’s rush back means there is a very little time for local authorities to make provision to ensure there is appropriate space and infrastructure for face to face meetings to happen safely, adding costs that would be better spent in other areas. With many people in the city and the country still not vaccinated now is not the time to put the progress in fighting Covid at risk by rushing back to face to face meeting.

Writing in her letter Cllr Sally Longford said “We are all very disappointed to hear that the ability to hold remote meetings will not be extended beyond 7 May 2021. We would request that consideration be given to extending the regulations for a further six months in order to give more of a lead in to the step back to face-to-face meetings.”

Sally also reflected on the success of remote meeting over the last 12 months, highlighting that “remote meetings have enabled the public to more easily view real time debate and discussion regarding matters that are important to them and their community. A return to face-to-face meetings will inevitably reduce public “attendance”.

The Government’s rush to return to face to face council meetings is the latest in a number of ill-judged and last minute announcements throughout the pandemic, including:

Cllr Longford said that this latest Government decision was again being made in haste and is part of a pattern of poor decision making. She ended by saying “I hope we don’t repent at leisure, another Government U turn would be greatly appreciated.”

Despite this being an issue for all council colleagues in Nottingham and an issue for all local authorities in England, the Conservative Group on Nottingham City Council declined to sign the letter. You can read the letter in full here.

Nottingham City Council Budget 2021/22

Today Nottingham Labour will agree a package of budget proposals to establish a sustainable financial footing amid the Covid crisis.

This budget comes during an extremely difficult time for the people of Nottingham, the nation as a whole and the council. The impacts of Covid have been devastating. The health effects coupled with the economic situation has dealt a blow to many of our residents. During this most difficult time for our City the council has stepped up to support our most vulnerable residents and taken on new responsibilities ranging from getting every rough sleeper into safe accommodation to administering tens of millions of pounds worth of business grants to help small employers through the pandemic.

Nottingham City Council has had to make over £271m of budget savings between 2010/11 and 2019/20, and during the current pandemic has had to deal with £25.9m unreimbursed Covid response costs and loss of income. We are having to take difficult decisions in this budget which includes £15.6m of savings.

Proposals include some service changes, as well as a workforce reduction of 272 full-time equivalent posts – 109 of which have been held vacant. We will also be implementing the Government’s proposed 3% social care precept towards the rising costs of care services for elderly and vulnerable adults, which now accounts for over 35% of the council’s net budget.

Over the last couple of months we have been listening to the feedback on draft budget proposals and will be making a few changes as a result. We will be:

  • Scrapping the staffing reduction to the Missing Children’s Team.
  • Scrapping the proposed 30p charge for public toilets in the City.
  • Continuing the grants to arts and cultural venues with a much smaller 15% funding reduction rather than the 37% that had been considered.

There are many proposals in today’s budget that we are bringing reluctantly. To avoid similar decisions in the future we need the Government to change course. We will be using Full Council today to call on the Government to urgently address a number of issues which will be significant for the Council’s budget and financial stability over the coming years including:

  • The need to bring forward the promised Green Paper on Adult Social Care with a funding model that does not rely on continued increases in Council tax
  • Services for vulnerable children where provider pricing nationally is spiralling – Nottingham City Council is facing an estimated additional cost pressure of more than £12m over the coming year 
  • Further support for businesses and employment services which will be

You can watch Full Council here.

Chancellor urged to use budget to tackle the ever widening divide between the South of England and the rest of the country

The Chancellor has the opportunity in his budget to tackle some of the long standing economic and social issues that are holding back towns and cities across the Midlands and the North. He and his Party has spoken much of levelling up, but over the past decade of successive Conservative Governments, inequality across the country has risen and a number of long standing issues have been left unchecked.

As Nottingham and the rest of the country looks to emerge from the Covid crisis it’s more important than ever that policy and action from the Government matches the rhetoric.

The Covid effect on the UK has been significantly worse than all of our comparator nations, both in terms of the economic downturn and the Covid death rate. Covid has exposed significant wealth and health inequalities that are sadly more pronounced in the UK than most other developed nations.

The Chancellor has an opportunity now to deal with some of the big structural issues that have been damaging to the health and wealth of vast swathes of the population for far too long. I’d urge the Chancellor to use his budget to begin to deal with regional inequality, health inequality, skills inequality and wealth inequality as well as investing in sustainability and environmental projects.

My key asks of the Chancellor:

  • Make the £20 Universal Credit uplift permanent
  • More investment in regional transport infrastructure. The East Midlands has the lowest transport infrastructure in the country at just £268 per head in 2019 compared to £903 per head in London. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-50592261 
  • Give a pay increase to Britain’s heroic key workers. Our front line key workers such as care workers, nurses, bin lorry crews and park rangers are the true heroes of the Covid crisis and they deserve much more than a pay freeze that will see their income reduce in real terms.
  • Stop the vast majority of Council Tax increases that come from the Government’s adult social care precept by introducing a new, national funding formula for care services for the elderly. For many years Government has committed to introduce a new system of funding, but to date this hasn’t happened. The effect of the 3% adult social care precept is that council tax bills continue to rise at a time when many households are already struggling with their finances. https://www.lgcplus.com/politics/lgc-briefing/councils-must-not-be-forgotten-in-the-council-funding-debate-16-02-2021/
  • Reform business rates urgently and extend the business rates holiday so that businesses have the ability to recover as Covid restrictions ease. For too long high street traders have been punished while online businesses are effectively incentivised unnecessarily. Right now retailers and hospitality businesses with buildings on our high streets in towns and city centres across the country are fighting for survival. The unfairness of the business rates system must be tackled to protect businesses and jobs.
  • Stop the cuts to council services that are happening across the country by honouring the pledge to refund councils in full for the costs of Covid. At this very moment Councils are having to balance their budgets for the next financial year whilst still in the midst of the pandemic and the social and economic consequences of it. Key workers are losing their jobs and essential local public services are under threat of cuts or closure because of the combination of reductions in Government funding over the past decade plus the significant unreimbursed costs of Covid. In Nottingham the unfunded Covid cost currently stands at £29million for this financial year alone.  With Councils legally obliged to set balanced budgets with no deficit each and every year there is no way out of service and job cuts without Government support and right now is the worst possible time to inflict further damage to local communities. https://www.local.gov.uk/ps10-billion-spending-review-investment-needed-protect-and-improve-local-services 

The Chancellor has the ability to tackle many of these long standing issues in his budget. There are huge opportunities post Covid, but the Chancellor must act to reform the policies that hold far too many communities back. I know that many people will be watching closely to see if he does.  

Councillor Sam Webster,
Portfolio Holder for Finance at Nottingham City Council 

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Nottingham Pension Fund Must Divest from Fossil Fuels

One of the actions of Nottingham City Council’s Carbon Neutral Action Plan is to campaign for divestment and move the Nottinghamshire Local Government Pension Scheme away from fossil fuels investments. This is why ahead of their Annual General Meeting tomorrow I submitted a question on behalf of City members of the scheme, and urged the Fund to commit to consult with its members on a divestment strategy and timeline before their next AGM. This is essential to ensure the long term sustainability of the Fund and to play it’s part in the prevention of catastrophic climate change.

The Pension Fund covers over 300 members including Nottingham City Council, Nottinghamshire County Council, the District Councils and many other organisations who are generally non-profit making, or are undertaking a service which was, or could be carried out by the Local Authority. It is controlled by County Councillors and the City Council has no voting rights on the Pension Fund.  

I know that the primary responsibility of the Pension Fund is to protect the financial benefits of the scheme, and now that there is growing evidence that fossil fuel investments are performing less well than comparators it is the time to grasp the divestment nettle. Currently Nottinghamshire Pension Fund holds at least £170m in fossil fuel company shares and has no investments in sustainable, low carbon or renewable energy equity funds.

Given over 1300 institutions worldwide have already committed to divestment, including at least 10 UK local government pension funds and a large number of UK universities and faith organisations, it is time for Nottinghamshire to catch up and  do its bit for a sustainable future.

You can watch the Nottinghamshire Pension Fund AGM live on Youtube from tomorrow at 10:30am. Further information about the agenda of the meeting and those in attendance can be found on the Nottinghamshire County Council website.