To consider reports from Cabinet Members.
The Council received reports from the relevant Cabinet Members on specific issues upon which they had been asked to comment, as set out below:
(a) Policy, Corporate and Asset Management
Councillor Hart circulated a Report, as requested by Councillor Dewhirst, on payment of Part 1 compensation claims to residents living along the line of the South Devon Highway. The Leader said that unfortunately, progress on resolving the compensation claims for the South Devon Link Road had been slower than hoped, although some payments had been made. COVID had impacted on the progress as a number of site meetings were required and some agents were situated outside of the area. There were still a number of queries that needed to be resolved and additional noise measurements to be taken. The survey work was currently scheduled for September.
He also commented, as requested by Councillor Connett, on reorganisation of Local Government in Devon in terms of Unitary Council(s) in the County and was asked to give his view on the retention of the current system of district and county councils. The Leader highlighted that a White Paper was expected from Government on this matter and therefore the contents of this needed to be examined carefully before drawing any conclusions. However, the Leader said it was important that future actions of any Council in Devon needed to take into account the needs and interests of the people of Devon.
(b) Community, Public Health, Transportation and Environment
Councillor Croad circulated a Report, as requested by Councillor Hook on the Councils Public Health Annual Report “Planetary and Human Health”, the sections relating to ‘Disease’ and the impacts of human contact with animals, contaminated food and water and climate change. The Cabinet Member reported on the current position with Lyme Disease in the County and also the projected risk of malaria transmission, with Devon’s coastal communities at particular risk, what was being done currently and planned works to combat the threat from the infections.
In terms of action to combat Lyme Disease, the Report focussed on the Tick Surveillance Scheme (set up by Public Health England (PHE) in 2005) which helped PHE detect the presence of species not normally resident in the UK and the Council’s use of PHE’s ‘Be Tick Aware Toolkit’ to increase knowledge of tick exposure, the potential health risks and to promote the adoption of preventative behaviours.
In relation to Malaria, PHE ran a nationwide Mosquito Surveillance Project to develop and update our understanding of the status, distribution and abundance of potential endemic vector species. The National Contingency Plan for Invasive Mosquitos outlined the actions to be taken at a local level in the event of detecting non-native invasive mosquito species in England. There were currently no local authority mosquito surveillance sites in Devon other than surveillance of a used tyre importer which was visited twice a year by the PHE medical entomology service to provide specialist support and assurance.
He then reported on the Independent Medicines and Medical Device Safety Review, as requested by Councillor Hannaford, which had focussed on a number women’s health issues which had contributed to personal suffering and life changing events and how many women and children had been affected in Devon. The Cabinet Member commented that the Review was commissioned to assess the use of three medical interventions across the NHS (Primodos, sodium valproate and pelvic mesh) where patients’ concerns had been dismissed. Primodos was withdrawn 40 years ago and in January 2020 the Department of Health and Social Care launched the valproate pregnancy prevention programme (https://www.gov.uk/drug-safety-update/valproate-epilim-depakote-pregnancy-prevention-programme-updated-educational-materials). NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) had been involved in the work around pelvic mesh safety over the last two years. The CCG did not hold patient-specific information so could not give numbers, but were aware of one group of affected women and had been involved in supporting both the hospital provider and the patient group, directly and via Healthwatch.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) would be working with the CCG to start planning the responses to the recommendations made in the Cumberledge Report. More information was awaited which detailed the national improvement programme and how local areas would take forward the recommendations and report on progress. The Council would work with the CCG to ensure that recommendations were implemented, both specific to these issues and in general terms, recognising the Council’s commitment to - and championing of - equality and diversity.
He responded to Councillor Hook on the engagement of the Council with travelling communities, commenting that there was not a single ‘Traveller Community’, rather a diverse range of groups with diverse needs (e.g. lack of suitable accommodation). There was strong engagement with the District Councils as housing and planning authorities and District Councils had established an increasing network of Traveller Community Forums which focussed on local permanent needs. The County Council was strongly engaged with all of these.
In the absence of such provision, there had been nowhere for people to stop in an authorised way which in turn gave rise to headlines about people stopping in high profile, unsuitable locations.
The County Council’s role in the peninsula group had led to a consistent, coordinated approach to movements during pandemic restrictions and the group would continue to meet, discuss and explore different ways of working to lead to better outcomes for Travelling communities.
(c) Economy and Skills
Councillor Gilbert circulated a Report, as requested by Councillor Atkinson on the UK’s receipt of structural funding (£2.1 billion per year) as a Member of the European Union and the impact on and how Devon was expected to fare under the new Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF). The Cabinet Member’s Report highlighted that the current EU funds had been underwritten by Government and all Devon’s EU supported programmes were unaffected. Currently, there were no details on the application, use, allocation and requirements for the UKSPF. The Council had contributed to consultations on the use of the fund and had engaged with a range of partners to ensure that Devon was no worse off and that resources were allocated based on evidence of need and were applied to address inequalities.
The Cabinet Member also provided a written Report in response to Councillor Atkinson in relation to the recommendations of the Fawcett Society and the gendered impact of Covid-19 in Devon. The Report said that the Council did not have a full picture of the gender impact from Covid-19, although the impact had been greater on the male workforce. There had been a commissioned study (with SW Councils), the draft of which indicated this matter by virtue of the types of sectors most impacted from the pandemic. In terms of economic recovery, this would not be even across the County and some sectors (e.g. tourism) would take longer to recover, as well as some rural districts identified as particularly vulnerable.
The data HMRC on take up and use of the national Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employed Income Support Scheme showed nationally there was a stronger reliance from men than women. The data was only available currently at the national level. The Report outlined the number of male and female employees affected through these two schemes.
(d) Highways Management
Councillor Hughes circulated a Report, as requested by Councillor Connett on the publication of a list of all the requests made by County Councillors, Parish and Town councils and residents for cycle and walking scheme projects, post Covid-19, and why they were refused. Councillor Hughes confirmed he was happy to prepare and publish such a list and circulate. He outlined that 101 applications had been received and sifted according to a number of criteria including the DfT criteria. He added that 11 schemes had met the criteria and were approved.
He also reported, as requested by Councillor Greenslade, on consultation in Barnstaple relating to traffic regulations in the town, highlighting that both local Members were consulted before proceeding with the temporary emergency active travel measures in the town. In response to the proposal of temporary measures on the A3125 Longbridge, the measure was subsequently dropped.
Members had been consulted to confirm that the temporary pedestrianisation measures proposed for the town centre had been supported but highlighted the need to replace the disabled parking spaces. The measures in place were temporary traffic orders, however, any consideration of permanent measures would be subject to a further consultation and approval by the Highways and Traffic Orders Committee.
He also responded to questions on the Active Travel Funding and tranche two of this funding stream.
(e) Children’s Services and Schools
Councillor McInnes circulated a Report, as requested by Councillor Greenslade, on the
readiness of Devon Schools to reopen to all pupils in September and the position with financial penalties for parents who were concerned about sending children back to school. The Report highlighted that early years settings, schools and colleges had been putting in place proportionate protective measures for children and staff, as laid out in the revised DfE guidance to minimise the risks of coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission as well as the processes in the event of anyone developing symptoms while at school. All schools were undertaking a health and safety risk assessment.
Parents and carers of children of compulsory school age, had a legal duty to provide their child with an education and the Local Authority would work with parents to support children back into schools. Where children were not able to attend school (due to medical and/or public health advice), the absence would not be penalised.
The Cabinet Member also responded to questions on a response to his letter to Government, the current position with Education, Care and Health Plans (ECHP’s) and the impact on transitions and additional funding for schools to assist with space and additional buildings.
(f) Infrastructure Development and Waste
Councillor Davis circulated a Report, as requested by Councillor Connett, on the quality of information provided to residents by Jacobs with regard to works on the A379 near Matford Mews. She outlined the normal practices for alerting residents and businesses as well local Members and the Parish Council. In this case, there had been technical issues with a phone number provided, but Jacobs had resolved the issue and had also set up a mobile phone number which Local Members and the Parish Council had been made aware of should any future issues arise.