Questions to CM Environment, Sustainability and Transport

Member Question: Councillor Chris Evans, received 12 December 2016

Subject: Stow Hill grate cover

A resident has sent me a photo of a hole on Stow hill with the grate cover. This was previously used as a safe place for a homeless man who could seek shelter there and sleep safely in the dry. I am told that he has been moved out and the reason was that gas pipes were present and that his belongings were 'thrown around'.   

Can I ask the CM what he knows of this case and what help and assistance has been offered the man who was sleeping there after bars were put on his safe place, also, does the cabinet member think the way this man was treated with his belongings being chucked around is an acceptable way to treat the homeless particularly during the season of goodwill.

Response: Streetscene installed a gate to the opening of this small tunnel off Stow Hill on health and safety grounds because of concerns that anyone using the space could fall into the path of oncoming traffic. This was an operational decision. The council could not allow this homeless person to continue sheltering there as this was a potential danger to himself and also other people using the road. However, the council’s Housing Options team will provide him with appropriate advice and assistance in finding suitable accommodation, in accordance with their statutory homelessness duties. Issued 21/12/16 


Member question: Councillor Kellaway, received 15 November 2016

Subject: Bus services

You state in your response (see previous question and response below):

“The Welsh Government Minister has however expressed an interest in discussing with the Council and Newport Transport how support for low usage bus routes could be improved.”

When will the interest WG have expressed In a discussion be taking place?

Why Newport transport and not other operators?

Question to the Cabinet Member for Environment, Sustainability & Transport: 

1. The administration’s policy on supporting bus services when there is market failure and routes are not provided by operators on a commercial basis?

2. What discussions did he and the administration have with Newport Transport prior to their notification to the Traffic Commissioner, that they intended to withdraw services?

3. What actions the administration intend to undertake to ensure a certain level of services are still provided through the support of the council?

Response from the Cabinet Member for Environment, Sustainability & Transport to Councillor Townsend:

1. The city council does not have a policy or budget to subsidise or replace commercial bus routes which are withdrawn.

2. Service providers are not required to consult or notify the city council prior to the application to the Traffic Commissioner to withdraw commercial services. Therefore Newport Transport did not do so.

 3. As stated above, the council has no policy or budget to do this. The Welsh Government Minister has however expressed an interest in discussing with the council and Newport Transport how support for low usage bus routes could be improved. I look forward to this discussion. 

Response:

The Minister wanted to meet with Cardiff and Newport bus as they are both municipal owned  bus companies. We believe that a date has been set in mid -January for this meeting.

The other operators will be invited to the bus summit on 23 January 2017 which has now been arranged in Wrexham. Issued 21/12/2016  


Member question: Councillor Kellaway, received 7 November 2016

Subject: Fly-tipping in rural areas

  1. When was the cabinet member made aware that the authority was spending 1.6 million on fly tipping and the impacts of it.
  2. Does the cabinet member having spent 1.6 million of the public’s money that in just this year believe 35 warning letters is evidence that he is spending the public’s money wisely?
  3. 10 local businesses have signed up to keeping their shop fronts clean…How many have not ? and why is the CM not enforcing this as a matter of pride in our city?
  4. Why is the cabinet member reluctant to introduce a zero tolerance on all fly tipping.
  5. Why will the cabinet member not consider carrot and stick approach to the issue.
  6. At what point did the cabinet member feel it appropriate to enforce cuts to our street scene whilst spending 1.6million annually on fly tipping and cleaning the mess up, or as the cabinet member puts it of those “selfish and irresponsible people” who carry out this abhorrent activity.
  7. How will the CM measure the success of the Pride in Newport project.
  8. Has the Cabinet member approached outside agencies or landowners for partnership arrangements that could support and assist the council in eradicating flytipping in areas that this council ought to be proud of.    

Response: 

  1. I requested this information from officers in June 2016, as a result of which I asked officers to reinstate the Pride in Newport team
  2. I refer you to my previous answer to this question
  3. There is no legislation with which to enforce this. It is a voluntary initiative the council is encouraging businesses to join and demonstrate they are backing Newport.
  4. The city council does not tolerate fly tipping
  5. Please explain what this means
  6. I have enforced no cuts to StreetScene services
  7. By the number of businesses who sign up to the scheme, the speed of our response in clearing flytipping and the number of prosecutions for fly tippers
  8. We are working closely with Newport City Homes, Natural Resources Wales, police and fire services among others to address this problem. Issued 18 November 2016

Member question: Councillor Townsend, received 3/11/2016

 

Subject: Bus services

  1. The administration’s policy on supporting bus services when there is market failure and routes are not provided by operators on a commercial basis?
  2. What discussions did he and the administration have with Newport Transport prior to their notification to the Traffic Commissioner, that they intended to withdraw services?
  3. What actions the administration intend to undertake to ensure a certain level of services are still provided through the support of the council?

Response: 

  1. The city council does not have a policy or budget to subsidise or replace commercial bus routes which are withdrawn.
  2. Service providers are not required to consult or notify the city council prior to the application to the Traffic Commissioner to withdraw commercial services. Therefore Newport Transport did not do so.
  3. As stated above, the council has no policy or budget to do this. The Welsh Government minister has however expressed an interest in discussing with the council and Newport Transport how support for low usage bus routes could be improved. I look forward to this discussion. Issued 15/11/2016

Member question: Councillor Kellaway, received 21/10/2016

Subject: Fly-tipping in rural areas

Does the cabinet member believe it to be good use of the public’s money to be picking up rubbish that has been deliberately left for others, your administration would have disgracefully wasted some 8 million pounds by the end of this financial year, money that could have kept care homes open, community centres open social services better funded bus routes cut and lower council tax, why has this administration not addressed the issue of fly-tipping.

Response: Clearly any resources spent on fly-tipping could be directed to other services if selfish and irresponsible people did not carry out this abhorrent activity. However, the council has a legal duty to deal with fly-tipping on highway and public land which it takes seriously, as evidenced by our re-establishing the Pride in Newport team which in October 2016 dealt with: 

  • 57 loads of waste collected from around Newport equating to 19 tonne 300 kilogrammes
  • 35 stage 1 warning letters
  • 10 section 46 Enforcement notices
  • 1 prosecution under investigation
  • 1 at legal status
  • supported 5 community events
  • encouraged 10 local businesses to sign up to a voluntary code for keeping their shop frontages clear of litter and managing their waste correctly
  • supporting multi agency project work in the Levels, Duffryn Woods and Alway/Somerton. Issued 4/11/2016  

 

Member question: Councillor Kellaway, received 10/10/2016

Subject: Fly-tipping in rural areas

Could you explain when you will be addressing the issue of flytipping in rural wards which as well as danger to wildlife and damages our reputation for a tourist destination is becoming more and more a road safety issue with rubbish of all sorts strewn in the middle of the highway on a daily basis. 

Response: The council has re-introduced the Pride in Newport team which is focused on removal of flytipping and gathering evidence to enable enforcement. This team operates in the rural and urban areas  across the city and in the first 3 months of operation the team have removed 119 loads of flytipped waste equating to 50 tonnes and issued 15 warning letters, 7 section 46 notices for waste offences, 1 fixed penalty notice with 2 prosecutions pending. The team has also assisted with the Pride in Pill campaign organised by local residents and Ward Members and would be pleased to assist with similar initiatives in other wards. Issued 21/10/2016


Member question: Councillor Fouweather, received 23/9/2016

Subject: Car parking charges – impact on Newport Centre users

At the Learning, Caring and Leisure Scrutiny Committee we received a presentation from Newport Live. We were told that the recent increase in parking charges that were agreed by your predecessor had actually caused a fall in the number of people using the gym facilities at the Newport centre.  

Can you tell me what discussions took place between your department and Newport Live prior to this decision?  

Have any discussions taken place with Newport Live with regards offering a parking discount for users of the Newport Centre? 

Was a risk assessment carried out prior to the decision to increase parking charges and were your department aware that a cost increase would have a harmful effect on the Newport Live business?

Response: The fall in attendance was not attributed to increased council car park charges. It was as a result of increased competition in the health and fitness marketplace, with multiple low cost operators opening in the city centre. This was exacerbated by removal of the second hour of free car parking in the privately run Kingsway car park adjacent to Newport Centre. Issued 5/10/2016


Member question: Councillor M Evans, received 15/9/2016

Subject: Buses in High Street

Please can you tell me when you took the decision to limit the numbers of buses allowed to operate in High Street. I have been informed Newport City Council has instructed NAT Group to re-route its St Julian’s bus services (N5/N6) away from High Street, if true how long is this action expected to take?

Response: The decision to limit the number of buses in High Street was a traffic management decision taken by the previous Director of Place due to the number of problems with parking and delivery vehicles while the building works at the Kings Hotel and the Premier Inn were ongoing. We allocated 12 buses per hour, 6 from NAT and 6 from Newport Transport, to serve High Street. The services that each operator allocated to serve High Street was not dictated by the council as they were commercial services and it was their decision over which services they allocated to this route.

NAT registered a further service the N5 and N6 to serve High Street from 1 August and we advised them that we were still reviewing the provision to High Street so asked them to remove this until we were in a position to allocate further services to the area once the parking problems and delivery vehicle issues had been resolved. They have not re-registered this service and have been using High Street for this and some other services that they run since that date on an intermittent basis. We are currently looking to increase provision through High Street but will need to share the provision between the two operators and will approach them to see which services that they wish to serve this area. Issued 6/10/2016


Member question: Councillor Fouweather, received 27/9/2016

Subject: Recycling

1. Cardboard is now left in an open box which now gets wet. Can wet cardboard be recycled? - Yes we can recycle wet cardboard 

2. Is the issue of the red sacks more cost effective than supplying residents with plastic bags, how much has been saved? - Yes, it is cheaper using the red bags and it saves the council around £34,000 every year.  

3. The council no longer pick up cardboard and from November the green waste collections will cease. How much has this saved the council? - Changes should save the council about £190,000/ p.a.and £140,000 p.a. respectively  

4. How much is wastesavers being paid to collect cardboard? - the current arrangement in place with Wastesavers involves a cost-recovery service, where the council pays a fixed price per tonne of material collected that will cover the costs of collecting netted by the income Wastesavers gets by selling the materials. Costs and incomes are reviewed on a yearly basis to ensure the Council doesn’t pay in excess of what is needed to cover the collections costs; current price per tonne of recyclable material collected is £86.38 

5. In the past Wastesavers only had to throw a plastic sack full of plastics onto their vehicle. This stopped plastic be strewn across the street. Now with the red sacks we are back to the old situation as plastic and other waste are just thrown into the vehicle and are at risk of once again of having rubbish on the streets. Why was it decided to replace the plastic sacks with the red sacks? - we are collecting twice as much plastic as we were five years ago but the box size has remained the same for a decade, which prompted the need to issue the clear bags to allow for additional capacity. The capacity issue has now been addressed by introducing the red bag, thus stopping the use of clear bags as they caused operational issues. The red bags have been ordered with a heavier weight inside it to make it more difficult to move when the wind catches it and the staff handling the collections have been trained to ensure spillages when transferring the materials to the collection vehicles are minimised and no littering is produced as a result. So far complaints about littering haven’t been higher than before the changes in the recycling service were introduced, which, considering a very high percentage of the residents is already in the new scheme, indicates excessive littering will not be a problem. The council will keep monitoring this issue very closely and some performance indicators have been set to enable a closer management in this regard. 

Wastesavers arrangements are the most cost-effective way of meeting our recycling targets; this is recognised by Welsh Government and NCC came again as the cheapest LA in Wales when it comes to waste services, according to the latest WLGA report available  

6. Who made the decision to implement this change? - changes in the recycling service by providing a weekly cardboard collection service by Wastesavers was introduced as a 16/17 MTFP proposal (business case STS09), approval and subsequent decisions have been a Cabinet Member decision. Issued 3/10/2016 


Member question: Councillor Fouweather, received 7/9/2016

Subject: Recycling of municipal waste

The percentage of municipal waste collected by local authorities for reuse and/or recycled, composited or treated biologically in another way puts Newport one from the bottom of all local authorities. Why is this so poor? 

Response: I refer you to my answer for item 3 above but would add that other local authorities use collection systems that are simpler for residents but far more expensive to operate and not approved by Welsh Government. This is reflected in the fact that Newport City Council has the lowest cost recycling service of any Welsh authority. Issued 15/9/2016


Member question: Councillor Fouweather, received 7/9/2016

Subject: Missed recycling target

Yet again we are in danger of being fined by Welsh Gov for missing our recycling target. In fact, sixteen of the twenty two local authorities send less waste to landfill than we do. Why are we not hitting targets? 

Response: there are a number of factors influencing this indicator, however our recycling rate had risen to 59.9% by July this year. We are preparing a long term strategy to ensure we achieve these targets in future, which will be reported to Cabinet for consideration this year. Issued 15/9/2016


Member question: Councillor Fouweather, received 7/9/2016

Subject: Fly-tipping indicator

Fly tipping remains a problem throughout the city and I note that we are 7th from bottom of all local authorities in responding within 5 working days. Why is this indicator so poor? Who is responsible for this failure?

Response: We reinstated the Pride in Newport team in June this year, since which time both the number of flytipping incidents addressed and the percentage dealt with in 5 days has improved. I am therefore confident this indicator will improve significantly by year end. Issued 15/9/2016


 

Member question: Councillor Evans, received 2/9/2016

Subject: Survey Operations around St Woolos Cemetery

I have just received this from a concerned constituent: “During the last few days a land surveying company, Azimuth, has been conducting surveying operations round St.Woolos cemetery including the playing field and allotment areas. In light of what happened 12 years ago with the council proposing to extend the cemetery into the playing field we are concerned that the plan might be being resurrected. Knowing your interest and concern 12 years ago would you make enquiries into the present operations and intentions.”  

Please could you reassure us that you have no plans to encroach on either the playing fields or any of the grounds in Coed Melyn Park ?

Response: the survey company, Azimuth, has been commissioned to survey St Woolos cemetery and adjacent areas, to provide information required for green infrastructure asset management purposes. The information gathered will be used to improve searches through the Epilogue data base and to assist with the identification of grave locations (for a number of purposes ranging from interment to genealogy research).  

There are no plans to extend St Woolos cemetery at the current time, but its consideration for future use cannot be ruled out completely.  As you will be aware, the council is required to review and consider options for future burial provision, as identified in the approved LDP. Consequently the Streetscene service is reviewing and assessing a number of sites, to enable options to be fully consulted upon and presented for members’ consideration.  

I hope this clarifies the situation, but please let me know if you require further information. Issued 21/9/2016


 

Member question: Councillor Fouweather, received 7/9/2016

Subject: Highways level of cleanliness

We are 9th from bottom in the percentage of highways land of an acceptable level of cleanliness. Why are we not achieving a higher standard?

Response: We are in the process of negotiating new shift patterns to extend the working week and make better use of mechanical equipment. It is anticipated that once implemented, these changes will improve our performance in 2017. Notwithstanding this, our performance for 2015/16 at still means the vast majority of our highway network is acceptably litter free. Issued 15/9/2016


Member question: Councillor Kellaway, received 14/6/2016

Subject: CCTV coverage for fly-tipping

Could I ask the CM in response please, how does the cabinet member expect to deliver on this administration's promise of zero tolerance with just two CCTVs sited in a narrow area of the city when other Newport areas including rural areas expect and deserve to be treated in a fair and transparent way.

[Please note this question was a joint reply from CM for Environment, Sustainability and Transport and CM for Regulatory Functions]

Response: CCTV cameras - mobile or fixed - are only part of the means to combat what is very challenging criminal behaviour. Overt cameras are a useful deterrent but they are expensive and need to be placed sufficiently high up to protect against vandalism. They can't be used in rural areas as they need power. Hence they are usually placed on lamp columns to utilise the existing electricity source.

Even when perpetrators are captured on camera, prosecution can prove difficult. We do however take zero tolerance to any perpetrators and will not hesitate to prosecute if the evidence is there and we can identify them. We urge the public to help us with their vigilance; letting us have any names/descriptions of those involved or registration numbers of vehicles. We will shortly be launching a fly-tipping mobile phone hotline allowing the public to leave messages and texts as to the identity of these criminals. We are also investigating the possibility of reintroducing the Pride in Newport team to help tackle this problem. Issued 1/7/2016


Member question: Councillor Fouweather, received 14/6/2016

Subject: Residents' parking, various roads

I would be grateful if you would forward this response from the police to the cabinet member and ask him the following:

When will he be having a meeting with the police to resolve these parking issues in the Allt-yr-yn ward?

The police and council continually blame each other for the lack of parking enforcement. Can the cabinet member tell me how he plans to resolve this?

Response: Private and local authority parking facilities within the city provide a total of 1880 spaces plus a further 93 spaces through the business parking permit scheme. Although I am unable to comment on the occupancy rates of the privately operated facilities, I can confirm that there is more than sufficient capacity to accommodate the current and future parking demand.

Although your question is unclear on whether the problem is weekday or weekend, there can be a number of generators of street parking who may be unwilling to use available facilities regardless of proximity or cost. Examples are car sharing commuter parking, rail users etc.Street scene officers have been working with police in promoting safe and considerate parking and welcome the impact that a more robust police enforcement regime will create.

You will be aware that the local authority has no powers to control parking outside of its off street facilities and business parking bays so the comment from the police appears to have been made without clear knowledge of the available parking facilities and available capacities. While every effort is being made to support the police in addressing the parking issue, the council's role cannot extend further than supporting police actions and initiatives as parking offences are a criminal offence within the city solely enforceable by the police.

The feasibility of introducing civil enforcement within the city may be considered in the future provided a sound business case can be made. Gwent Police have indicated their support for such a scheme although if Members are minded to pursue this it would require 18 months from point of decision to implement as well as significant initial funding. Issued 28/6/2016


 

Member question: Councillor Fouweather, received 27/5/2016

Subject: Residents' parking

I am receiving daily complaints from residents in Devon Place, Godfrey Road, Serpentine Road, Lucas Street, Locke Street, Goldtops, Oakfield Road and Fields Road about the lack of parking enforcement by the police.

Residents are being fobbed off with the same excuse every time, that the police cannot enforce parking restrictions because the council have not maintained the double yellow lines.

Can the cabinet member tell me if he has had any discussions with the police to try and resolve this issue and what plans he has to solve this problem. Will any funds be made available to rectify this situation?

This simply cannot be allowed to continue. Motorists are parking wherever they like which is causing traffic obstructions including parking on corners obstructing the junction. Residents are also infuriated by motorists who park on double yellow lines and cause obstructions to their driveways.

Response: The current situation for these locations is as follows:

Oakfield Rd - the junction with Westfield Rd and Hilla Rd was re-marked last month. The rest of the markings are in enforceable condition.

Lucas St, Locke St and Rose St - markings are in an enforceable condition.

Fields Rd - in general markings are in an enforceable condition. The exception is at its junction with Pentonville where the markings will be renewed by the end of August 2016.

Godfrey Rd, Devon Plce, Serpentine Rd, Goldtops - there are sections of these routes where markings are in an enforceable condition. The remainder will be renewed by the end of August 2016.

We are in discussion with Gwent Police about taking enforcement action against drivers who park illegally in the city centre but will extend that discussion to see what can be done in other areas. Issued 3/6/2016


Member question: Councillor Kellaway, received 17/5/2016

Subject: Bus services to remote areas

The previous cabinet member suggested that consideration would be given to supporting further bus services to remote areas such as Underwood which has suffered more than most with the closure of the leisure centre and general lack of facilities.

Response: Thank you for your question. You will be aware that neither the council, nor indeed I as the cabinet member, have any control over the bus services provided by local bus companies.

My understanding from the previous cabinet member is that you were meeting with the local operators. I am not aware of the outcome of any such meeting.

The head of streetscene and city services advises me that the authority is currently evaluating all bus services that are supported through its own funding allocation and from bus services support grant allocation from Welsh Government.

He has told me that consideration will be given to all services that require a subsidy to operate including the services to remote areas and that all aspects of the operation of these services and requirements of the communities served will be taken into consideration when deciding which services are funded from the limited amount of funding available. This review should be complete by September 2016. Issued 27/5/2016


Member question: Councillor Kellaway, received 17/5/2016

Subject: CCTV and fly-tipping

Can you explain why we as a council do not appear to have access to CCTV to reduce the level and monitor areas of the city that are suffering from the scourge of fly-tipping which is not only unsightly but is putting road users at risk of accident.

Response: We take the issue of fly-tipping very seriously and won't hesitate to prosecute if we receive evidence that links to the perpetrator. the council has mobile CCTV cameras which we deploy overtly in areas blighted by fly-tipping, but we are dependent on a ready source of electricity and a high place (out of reach of vandals) in which to fix the camera. The use of covert cameras has now been considerably curtailed following the tightening of the law controlling councils' use of surveillance techniques. We have had limited success with prosecution from CCTV evidence due to the difficulty in clearly identifying perpetrators. We would therefore encourage the public to report anyone or any vehicle they see fly-tipping. Issued 27/5/2016