“Universal Credit uplift should be permanent” says city councillor

In response to a question at July Full Council, the Portfolio Holder for Finance and Resources has called on the Government to retain the £20 a week uplift in Universal Credithighlighting how it supports many low paid working people in Nottingham.

There are roughly 35,000 people on Universal Credit in Nottingham and in response to the pandemic in April last year the Government introduced an increase in payments of £20 a week. There is growing speculation that the Government will reverse the uplift later this year resulting in increasing difficulty for many people who are already struggling.

Responding to a question at Full Council on the issue, Cllr Sam Webster said “Universal Credit supports low paid working people in our city, tens of thousands of children in our city and people who are entitled to support with housing costs or have lost their job during the Covid pandemic.”

Cllr Webster commenting on the consequences of the £20 a week uplift being reversed warned that “It will often be felt most acutely by Nottingham children who are growing up in families where there already isn’t much money around, families who are living in poverty.”

In January this year Nottingham City Council passed a motion urging the Government to retain the £20 a week increase to Universal Credit and urging an extension of the payment to claimants of legacy benefits who are currently excluded from the additional support. This was followed up by a letter from the Leader of Nottingham City Council to the Chancellor emphasising the importance of the £20 a week uplift.

Cllr Webster continued his response by saying “Lower paid and lower skilled working people are much more likely to have lost their job, not be able to work from home, have additional childcare needs, have gone through periods of Covid isolation without receiving pay, have lost hours at work….and the list goes on. Reducing Universal Credit now would be big blow to many families who are already struggling to make ends meet.” He also argued that the uplift in Universal Credit should be seen as a litmus test for how seriously the Government is about levelling, saying to not make the uplift permanent would be a case of “levelling down”.

Cllr Webster ended by saying “In the aftermath of the global financial crisis a decade ago it was (and still is) shameful that the poorest people in this country were made to pay the price of mistakes made by the wealthiest. In terms of the policies that our national politicians pursue – this is one of those markers – who will The Conservative Government expect to pay for this latest economic and public debt crisis?  The message from Labour in Nottingham is crystal clear – let it not be the poorest families again.”

Nottingham Labour Urges Support for Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill

Nottingham Labour has put a motion at the July Full Council meeting urging the Government to support the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, highlighting their own ambition to be carbon neutral by 2028.

The Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill is a Private Members Bill originally tabled by Caroline Lucas MP and supported by figures like Nottingham East MP Nadia Whittome. The Bill has been drafted by  scientists, legal experts, ecological economists and environmentalists and seeks to reverse the climate crisis the world is facing. It currently has support from 110 MPs from across 8 different political parties that represent representing England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, though a date has not yet been set for it to have its Second Reading in Parliament.

Highlighting the need for the Government to get serious on climate change, Deputy Leader Cllr Sally Longford said “Only recently we have seen record breaking heat waves and terrifying fires in parts of Canada and the USA, and in the last few days in Germany and Belgium devastating flooding, causing loss of life and huge disruption to communities and the economy. Such events are becoming more frequent and we, in Nottingham could find ourselves similarly affected if internationally we do not join together to reduce emissions and stop the destruction of natural habitats.”

In the 2019 local elections Nottingham Labour committed to making Nottingham carbon neutral by 2028, the first country in the UK to do so.  In June last year the City Council published its plan to achieve this with the Carbon Neutral Action Plan.

Speaking on what has already been done locally to help tackle climate change Cllr Longford highlighted public transport as one key area, saying “We have done great work in the past, developing sustainable public transport systems, which are the envy of many cities, thanks in part to the workplace parking levy. We have benefitted from better air quality than other similar cities across the country and we must continue to make progress, by working with local businesses and organisations to help them and their employees to travel and move their goods sustainably.”

Looking forward though Cllr Longford was keen to stress the importance of planning reform, commenting that “As a member of the Planning Committee I know how important it is that we improve the sustainability of new developments, and so will be glad to see us equipped with better tools to help developers make the right decisions in the city. We must also press ahead with improving older properties, to retro-fit draughty homes to make them more comfortable, with better insulation and renewable energy. This will require external funding and we must make use of every avenue available to continue to reduce fuel poverty. We recently announced more homes will benefit from retro-fitting in Sneinton and across the city and there will be more to come.”

All Nottingham Labour councillors will vote in support of the motion.

Local Labour Leader Says Eastern Leg of HS2 Essential for Jobs and Better Transport

The Leader of Nottingham City Council, Cllr David Mellen, has written to the Secretary of State for Transport urging the Government to press ahead with the Eastern Leg of HS2, including the HS2/conventional Rail Hub Station at Toton, HS2 connectivity to Chesterfield and the Infrastructure Maintenance Depot at Staveley.

The City Council has been a strong advocate for HS2 over many years and played a leading role in the development of the East Midlands HS2 proposition. This has also included the publication of the East Midlands HS2 Growth Strategy in 2017 which estimated the development could create 10,000 highly skilled jobs for the region.

Writing in his letter to the Government Cllr Mellen says, “Only Toton and the full Eastern Leg can provide the extra rail capacity necessary to deliver the efficient and resilient rail network the East Midlands needs, transforming connectivity to Leeds, Sheffield and the North East, with the possibility of further extending the network to Newcastle and Edinburgh in the future.”

Highlighting the potential benefits for local people Cllr Mellen continues by saying, “Only Toton can support the new and better jobs our people need and the kind of local public transport networks other regions take for granted.”

Historically, the East Midlands has been under-funded for infrastructure with the Institute for Public Policy Research reporting that  London receives £5426 per person on infrastructure spending while the East Midlands only receives £438. There has been some concern that the Government might scrap aspects of the Eastern leg as part of a cost saving measure – something Cllr Mellen is determined to fight against. .

Concluding in his letter to the Minister, Cllr Mellen says “I would urge you to use the publication of the Integrated Rail Plan to confirm the Government’s intention to build the Eastern Leg of HS2 in full, and to allow us to realise our transformation plans for the Hub Station at Toton, on which we have worked together with neighbouring authorities and with your support over the last decade.”

What is the Eastside SPD?

Last month Nottingham City Council outlined its vision for the area East of the Victoria Centre as far as St Mary’s Rest Garden and Victoria Park and down to Sneinton Market, which includes parts of the Creative Quarter.  This has been set out with the publication of what is known as the Nottingham Eastside Supplementary Planning Document (SPD).

The Eastside SPD has multiple aims including promoting balanced communities but also providing planners with material policy considerations to demand safer and more sustainable development, fully integrating in it the council’s 2028 zero carbon target. It’s pieces of legislation like this that make Nottingham City stand out. The SPD builds on the concept of the ‘20 minute neighbourhood’, which aims to boost the local economy by keeping jobs and money local, to improve the health and wellbeing of Nottingham Residents by promoting healthy and sustainable life habits such as walking and cycling, and to celebrate and promote our green spaces and to create spaces for people of all ages to enjoy. 

If there was a lesson learned during the pandemic that is that our built environment and public spaces need to reflect our need for healthier living and cleaner air. That means making a radical leap forward to a less carbon-dependent future. It’s policies such as this SPD that contribute towards achieving better outcomes for Nottingham residents in the long-term. Whilst direct electric heating is introduced for most new development and there is usually a focus on building fabric to achieve sustainable outcomes, this policy will allow, when possible, for the use of advanced technology to achieve energy efficiency in new buildings, such as ground source heat pumps and PVs.

The East-side SPD also introduces a lot more protection for built heritage assets in the area it covers, including heritage at risk. More means are provided to planners to protect locally listed buildings that may not be listed by historic England, but are celebrated by members of the public for their history, their distinctive character and design.

The Eastside area that the SPD covers stretches from the prysm club, all the way to the Sneinton market and the creative quarter. The area covered by the SPD has seen a lot of change over the centuries, and the SPD is a document that once adopted will add further safeguards for its history ancient and modern. Why is that significant?

It is if we take into account that the area under the eastside includes what’s left from the Viking occupation, including Viking burial grounds with Viking graves still surviving, it also includes the remnants of a medieval settlement including medieval town defences, as well as a medieval hospital. There is also a high likelihood that there are caves under the Eastside area, which is one of our distinctive treasures as a city. The SPD is important as it adds checks and balances to ensure that underground archeology does not become subject to harm from future development.

The area covered by the SPD’s history was affected by two key developments which very much explain the way it looks today. One was the enclosure act 1845 after which land north-east of the region including St Anns became open to development. That land was previously part of the Clayfield and could not be developed. The Enclosure act however gave way to the building of industrial housing and slums there, most of which were cleared during nation-wide slum clearances taking place from the early 20th century up until the 1970s. That’s when arterial roads became wider, and Lower Parliament Street and Huntington Street were formed.

The East side includes significant 19th century buildings and sites that survive today, including St Mary’s rest garden and the Victoria Park (originally part of the clayfield), Park View Court flats, the clock tower from the Victoria baths (which currently forms the Victoria Leisure Centre), the ragged school on Bath street as well as the New Foresters Arms that survived the clearance policies. In terms of early 20th century buildings of significance, they include the Palais de Danse (Prysm club), the salvation army’s memorial hall, the art deco styled Huntington street garage, and of course the Sneinton market which, although older, in its current form resembles its 1930’s modernised planning and design.

The SPD is aimed to create balanced communities, promote sustainable and healthy living, protect our heritage, and ultimately create places Nottingham people love to live in. The consultation will be starting very soon and it’s a great opportunity for everyone to have their say on what the future should look like for the Eastside!

Pavlos Kotsonis
Councillor for Lenton and Wollaton East
Executive Assistant for Planning and Heritage

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.