Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Big plans, bright future

View Council Agenda

Wednesday, 14th March, 2018
Council Chamber, Town Hall, High Street, Stockton on Tees, TS18 1AU
Peter Bell

Please note: The order of business may be subject to change on the day.

1 Welcome, Evacuation and Recording of the Meeting

2 Apologies for absence

3 Declarations of Interest

4 Minutes

The minutes of the meeting held on Wednesday, 31 January 2018 (Minutes C 103/17 - C 110/17)

5 Public Question Time

Members of the public may ask questions on matters for which the Council has responsibility or which affect the Borough subject to those questions having been submitted in accordance with Rule 10.3 of the Council Procedure Rules

6 The Council Plan 2018-21

Report and minute extract attached

7 Stockton-on-Tees Local Safeguarding Children Board Annual Report 2016/2017

Report attached

8 Teeswide Safeguarding Adults Board - Annual Report 2016-17

Report attached

9 Amendments to Committees for 2017/19

Report attached

10 Motion

To consider the following motion which has been submitted in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 12.1 by Councillor Norma Stephenson:-

"This council very much values and supports the work of Cleveland Police in our communities.

We believe the first duty of any government is to keep us safe. Current government policy of 7 years of austerity on our public services, including a loss in Cleveland of 500 police officer posts , and council tax rises needed to prevent further cuts due to insufficient grant support , is a matter of real concern for this council, and is having a serious impact on our communities.

We value and welcome the progress made in recent years by the Cleveland force, despite austerity and increasing demand, including being recognised as ‘Good' in efficiency and effectiveness by the independent inspectors HMIC and we look forward to further progress in the future.

We also warmly welcome the appointment of a new Chief Constable Mike Veal, following a rigorous recruitment process and note he already has the support of a wide range of senior stakeholders in public services; criminal justice; independent & community scutineers; and the Cleveland Police & Crime Panel.

We look forward to further co-operation and collaboration between Police, Council, other services, including all those volunteers and community groups whose work we also value, and urge all stakeholders to work positively with the Chief Constable, Cleveland Force and the PCC to make our communities safer and stronger."

11 Motion

To consider the following motion which has been submitted in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 12.1 by Councillor Paul Weston:-

"This council notes that Universal Credit, the single monthly payment which replaces the six current means-tested working-age benefits, is to affect a significantly wider group of claimants from July 2018 when the ‘Full Service' is rolled out to Stockton.

This council also notes that, within our area, the number of people who will be affected by these changes is likely to be in the tens of thousands once it is fully implemented by 2022.

Stockton Borough Council notes with concern that the move to a Full Service Universal Credit in other parts of the country has caused considerable financial hardship for many of those people moving onto this new system of benefit payments.

Although some welcome changes have been introduced following the announcements in the November 2017 budget, these do not go anywhere near to addressing all of the known problems with Universal Credit which include:

• Payments to one named member of a household. It can be a struggle to budget on an extremely low income and payments should be paid to the separate claimants within a household, in particular to the main carer of children, as there is no guarantee the money will be distributed fairly within the household. Claimants should also have the choice to be paid fortnightly rather than on a monthly basis. Whilst alternative payment arrangements are available, these are for exceptional circumstances and often only considered if / when it is identified the claimants are getting into difficulty.

• Claimants do not have the option of whether to have their housing costs element of Universal Credit paid directly to landlords when they make their initial claim. This could reduce the unacceptably high levels of arrears and homelessness that have occurred in the areas where UC already exists. Whilst the claimant or landlord can apply for an alternative payment arrangement this is often only considered after they have got into financial difficulty and are behind with their rent, which is too late. Pushing claimants unnecessarily into debt adds to the stress and insecurity for claimants.

• The repayments of ‘Advance Payments' of Universal Credit in combination with rate of deductions for debts are causing severe hardship. Whilst it is acknowledged that the government has extended the repayment period this does not go far enough. The advance payments which are necessary to help claimants in the six week wait for their first payment, should be either non-recoverable or repayable at an affordable rate without causing stress and further indebtedness.

• The continuation of benefit sanctions. As there is no evidence that sanctioning helps people into work. In fact taking away claimant's ability to feed themselves and their families prevents them from focusing on finding employment as they are too busy trying to survive. The evidence of the harm that sanctions cause is growing - they are an unnecessary cruelty in our benefits system.

• Adequate and timely one-to-one support is not ensured and needs to be available to all new claimants to apply for Universal credit and also with the ongoing management of digital Universal Credit accounts. Forcing new claimant to apply and manage their claims on-line causes real problems for many people who don't have either access or the IT skills to cope with the complex online system. Funding arrangements for local authorities to provide digital support to claimants is uncertain and there needs to be clear alternative arrangements for people with difficulties using the digital system.

• The in-work conditionality for part-time or low paid workers. The idea that there are extra hours or higher paid work for the large numbers of these affected workers is simply not the case. This aspect of UC needs to be abandoned as it places the emphasis on individuals who often want greater number of hours of work - and not on the employers who benefit from short hours and insecurity.

• The overall level that UC is funded at is inadequate and needs to be urgently increased. The rate at which some claimants will lose benefit is set at 63p in the pound which when compared with the top rate of income tax of 45% on incomes over 150,000 a year, demonstrates just how unfair UC is for the lowest income households. The ‘work allowances' need to be restored to ensure that people keep a fair portion of their earnings before their benefit is affected, this will make work pay in line with original promise of Universal Credit, and ensure that people are not worse off than on the existing tax credit system.

• The cuts to Universal Credit which affect severely disabled people should be urgently reconsidered and Transitional Protection made available so that no claimant is made worse off on moving onto Universal Credit during any phase of the roll out.

This council notes with concern, therefore, that the implementation of a Full Service Universal Credit in the Borough is likely to prove seriously detrimental to the health and wellbeing of thousands of its local residents.
Stockton-On-Tees Borough Council therefore resolves to:

Request that the Council Leader write to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions asking that the system of Universal Credit is redesigned in such a way that it removes the inherent risks that this Council has expressed its concerns over."

12 Motion

To consider the following motion which has been submitted in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 12.1 by Councillor Paul Rowling:-

"We the elected members of Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council would like to thank all staff for their incredible hard work during the recent bad weather. Members of staff across all departments showed exceptional dedication to ensure services continued to be provided in challenging weather conditions."

13 Members' Question Time

Councillors may ask questions on matters: In relation to which the Council has powers or duties, or which affect the geographical area of the Council, or which relate to the discharge of the functions of the Police Authority, subject to those questions having been submitted in accordance with Rule 11.4 of the Council Procedure Rules

14 Forward Plan and Leader's Statement

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