Agenda item

To consider reports from Cabinet Members.

Minutes:

The Council received reports from the relevant Cabinet Members on matters of interest or service developments relating to their remits which had occurred since the previous meeting or were likely to have an impact in the future or on specific issues upon which they had been asked to comment, as set out below:

 

(a)        Children’s Services and Schools

 

Councillor McInnes reported, as requested by Councillor Hannaford on the Care Leavers Contract and any ministerial direction, highlighting the policy document ‘Keep on Caring’ to support young people from care to independence and the key policy pledge to introduce a Care Leaver Covenant. This was a pledge from organisations to make concrete commitments to help improve outcomes for care leavers and the Cabinet Member asked Councillors to do all they could to encourage local businesses to be ambitious in what they could offer to support future generations.

 

In responding to the request to report, from Councillor Hannaford, on the Free Child Care Initiative (30 hours) including figures, provider capacity, parental subsidies etc, the Cabinet Member highlighted that since September 2017, many 3 & 4 year olds of working families had been entitled to the 30 hour per week free childcare extended entitlement (1140 per year) and the Early Years and Childcare Service had provided training, advice and support to settings to encourage them to offer this extended entitlement. The Report gave figures on the uptake and actions taken to support this initiative and that full details of Childcare Sufficiency would be presented in the Report to the Cabinet on 10th October 2018.

 

He was further asked to report, by Councillor Hannaford, on period poverty in Devon schools, any school days missed and pilots for free universal access, but the Council did not hold data on which schools provided free sanitary products. However, many schools had products available; often via promotional supplies from companies or bought in by the school. Members highlighted various initiatives that supported this issue including food banks, locality grant applications and the red box project.

 

Councillor Aves had requested a Report (circulated by the Cabinet Member) on child poverty in Devon (in light of a newspaper article published on 17th September) including the levels of child poverty in Devon, numbers over the last ten years and what the Council was doing to reduce child poverty in Devon. The Cabinet Member highlighted that the latest data on child poverty in Devon was available in the Devon Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) and the  Devon Health and Wellbeing Outcomes report.  This included the relevant numbers and percentages as well as a District breakdown and comparison. The report also included relevant graphs with data on children in low income families (all dependent children under 16) and the percentage of children aged under 16 living in households dependent on benefits or tax credits (1999 to 2015), as well as an assessment of the relationship between child poverty and wellbeing. The Cabinet Member informed the Council of the actions being taken to reduce child poverty in Devon, such as the use of new intelligence resources and new metrics around poverty and also the various strands of work that addressed the issue, for example working with schools, public health interventions, targeted economic development programmes, advice services and benefit awareness campaigns to name but a few. He also agreed to ensure the Health and Wellbeing Board had oversight of this issue.

 

Councillor Aves requested a Report on what the Council was doing to push further for more Government funding for the High Needs Block of the Designated School Grant (in light of the new Free School (Special School) not being open by September 2018). The Cabinet Member said that Devon continued to seek a change in the Government’s way of allocating funding, as funding for the High Needs Block (HNB) had not kept pace with the growth in pupils requiring Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) and lobbied on a national level as part of the f40 group (lowest funded 41 Local Authorities) with the Cabinet Member as the Chair-elect (Chair from October 2018). The Report also highlighted the investment in special schools and the opening of new provision with the number of special school places provided in Devon increasing by 12.4% and also the plan to open additional special school places at Charlton Lodge in Tiverton. As Local Authorities could no longer open new schools and final decisions were with the Regional Schools Commissioner Office, there had been a delay with the opening of Charlton Lodge. In addition, a new special school in Newton Abbot was due to open in September 2020. The Cabinet Member undertook to issue a briefing to Members after his imminent meeting with MP’s on school funding.

 

Councillor McInnes also responded to Councillor Brennan’s request to report on the recent ‘Everyday Sexism Project’ in August 2018 in relation to rape and sexual assault in schools and the lack of guidelines to schools on how to deal with this issue and what action the Council was taking in light of the report, new guidelines or model policies. The Department for Education (DfE) had published new guidance ‘Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment between Children in Schools and Colleges’ in May 2018 which gave clear advice to schools about how to deal with this issue as well as the new Keeping Children Safe in Education (September 2018) statutory guidance which provided additional advice to help school and college staff deal with allegations of child-on-child sexual violence and harassment. Babcock LDP had covered this issue in its termly Forums for Designated Safeguarding Leads and in its half termly safeguarding newsletter for schools. The Police also worked with partners including the Council to provide resources to support practice across a wide range of professionals. Moving forward, the Safer Devon Partnership had been successful in a bid for Trusted Relationships funding. The Cabinet Member offered to discuss the matter further outside of the meeting.

 

Councillor Dewhirst had also asked the Cabinet Member to report on the level of incidence of loneliness in young people, children in care in particular in Devon and what the County Council was doing to mitigate the effects of loneliness.  Whilst there was no specific data in relation to children and young people and no present way to measure the incidence of loneliness in children and young people locally, the Cabinet Member referred to a piece of work recently presented to the Health and Wellbeing Board and advised that a campaign around loneliness was being led and supported by the Board with additional work being undertaken on the relationship between indicators of loneliness and health risk profiles and referred to a piece of work by Action for Children who published a report specifically looking into the impact of loneliness in children, young people and families.

 

He also responded to questions on investment in the Youth Service.

 

(b)        Economy and Skills

 

Councillor Gilbert reported, as requested by Councillor Hannaford, on the Devon context and the options in relation to various Brexit scenarios, including the fishing industry, an analysis over possible trade deals, asking that consideration of these issues be embedded into strategies and policies including representations to ministers and local MPs. The Report gave a background on the current position with fishing ports, landing tonnages, average wages in the industry and the broader issue of coastal communities and the work of the Council in this regard. Whilst the Council had not undertaken a scenario analysis about the impact of specific Brexit scenarios on the fishing industry, in September 2018, the Council submitted a response to DEFRA’s consultation on the future of fisheries policy and highlighted the key points made in this response as well as the importance of Devon’s marine environment and the need to ensure that this environment was adequately protected after Brexit.

 

He also reported on the current position with any unspent EU grant money in respect of the Devon and Somerset allocation as asked for by Councillor Hannaford, highlighting the EU funded programmes, how monies were allocated and the current ERDF position in the Heart of the South West which was out of a total allocation of £53.6m, £21.6 million ERDF had been formally contracted across 17 projects; and 15 proposals with a total value of £28 million were in the business process demonstrating the ERDF programme was 92% committed, or in the pipeline. With the ESF programme, out of a current total allocation of £39.8m, £21.6m had been formally contracted across 12 projects.  The ESF programme was 90% committed, or in the pipeline. With the EAFRD position, the programme was fully committed, inclusive of pipeline projects.

 

In summary, the Cabinet Member highlighted that approximately 93% of EU grant monies were committed and consequently only 7% remained unspent.

 

He also circulated a Report on the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 and electric chargepoints and any implications for the Council, as requested by Councillor Atkinson. The Report highlighted that the Council was keeping abreast of developments in both autonomous vehicle technology and were engaged in InnovateUK programmes aimed at trialling ultra-low emission vehicle charging initiatives.  The Council was also willing to work with private sector partners to fund, test and develop innovations, ensuring that what was introduced was appropriate in terms of the type of infrastructure installed, accessibility and safety in relation to the highway.

 

(c)        Highways Management

 

Councillor Hughes commented, as requested by Councillor Hook on the progress with the Wray Valley Trail and the Teign Estuary section of cycleway between Newton Abbot and Teignmouth and also reported on the progress with part 1 claims on the South Devon Highway, as requested by Councillor Dewhirst.

 

In relation to the Wray Valley Trail, 7km of the 10.5km Wray Valley trail was now complete, given the investment in recent years. The remaining 3.5km was controlled by the Council and only two portions of land remained outstanding.  Work was underway to acquire the remaining land and deliver the remaining length of the trail by Summer 2019. Work to develop the Teign Estuary multi-use trail was being progressed in partnership with local stakeholders. From the Passage House Inn to Bishopsteignton, design work was continuing to secure the route, land and planning, however, the section between Bishopsteignton and Teignmouth remained challenging and would require significant levels of funding to be identified, but the Teign Estuary Trail remained a long-term aspiration for the Council.  Between Dawlish and Teignmouth an expression of interest for external funding through the Coastal Communities Fund was submitted in May 2018.

 

In relation to the South Devon Highway, he commented that the Council was expecting to be in a position at the end of the year to have a completed assessment. 

 

(d)        Community, Public Health, Transportation and Environment

 

Councillor Croad circulated a Report, as requested by Councillor Hannaford on the ongoing work to Exeter’s flood defences with particular reference to the concerns of local residents and businesses that at some locations work seemed to have slowed or even stopped. The Cabinet Members Report gave the background to the scheme, with phase 1 being substantially completed in October 2016 and Phase 2 which started in June 2016, following planning consent and covered a range of more complicated works and flood structures in six zones extending from Cowley Bridge in the north to Countess Wear in the south.  The Report outlined that work in most zones was well advanced or nearing completion, particularly along the right bank of the river from Exwick through to Exe Bridges, but much of the effort was in areas of lower public visibility.

 

Photographs of works taking place during September 2018 was provided at Appendix 1 to the Report and also reported was the future planned activity for October and beyond.

 

The Cabinet Member, following a recent Cabinet debate and queries from Members, updated the Council on the current arrangements regarding the provision of bus shelters across the County including the arrangements in Exeter with Clear Channel for the supply and maintenance of bus shelters. For outside of Exeter, the pattern of ownership of bus shelters had evolved over many years and the Council had a specified budget to assist parishes or districts with the installation of new bus shelters on the condition that the parish or district took on maintenance.

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