Since my last report, both the Council, Haltemprice and Howden’s Central Branch, the local Labour Team in Tranby, and myself have seen and addressed a variety of issues. Without doubt, the biggest challenge we have faced and still face is the situation at BAE.
To give credit to the Council and our local MPs, the efforts in seeking reassurances over jobs and defence manufacturing at the Brough site have been hard fought, and unfortunately overlooked in my opinion by the circumstances of the former Defence Secretary Liam Fox. Nonetheless, the rally which took place a few weeks ago was very well attended, and it was great to see all three Labour MPs from Hull alongside the unions and out in support of workers and their families. I am comfortable that efforts will continue and hold hope that some degree of success is reached for this community; communities like so many past and present falling victim to of out-of-touch and careless economic management of a Tory-led Government.
Council & Cabinet
This month’s Full Council meeting was kicked off with a question from Alex Duke, surrounding the long-term controversy around flooding in Cottingham and what the Council had done in response. Whilst the answer to this was as expected; simply a list of schemes and initiatives the Planning and Economic Regeneration Department had undertaken in the last four years, Mr Duke’s supplementary question brought to light a prominent point in the chamber. This was, of course, the charge of misadministration brought against the East Riding of Yorkshire Council by the Local Government Ombudsman for failing to carry out the PPS25 (a planning regulation that assesses flood risk). As a body which handles complaints, the Ombudsman can only seek to remedy an injustice and provide advice – not to discipline those responsible.
This is why in my view the efforts of Alex and the Flood Action Group in the past few years has been invaluable, and the raising of this issue this month is now helping to not only hold the Council to account, but is also helping a community devastated by floods find answers and pushing for better practice from the Local Authority.
Unfortunately, the proposed new planning laws from the government will mean the scrapping of the PPS25 assessment, and the leader made this very clear in his answer. Despite this being a distraction to provide solid answers on the topic, it is the reality and I believe it is now important we get to the bottom of the Cottingham case, and then look to the future and push for the right framework to be in place to ensure the East Riding of Yorkshire carries out substantial assessments in the future.
In addition, during the report given by Councillor Burton, the Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and Regeneration, Labour’s Councillor Hogan asked whether the Council believed the lowering, or even abolition of the Humber Bridge toll would be the best way to help stimulate the local economy on the north bank of the Humber. Surprisingly, and to a few bewildered expressions from his Conservative colleagues, he stated that he would like to see the end to tolls on the bridge. This of course being the first time we have heard anyone from the Council state where its position on the highly topical debate of Humber Bridge tolls is.
Finally, the Labour Group’s motion presented by Councillor O’Neil was by far the most important of the day.
We proposed that the council receives the news of redundancies at BAE with great concern due to the massive impact on the local economy, and most prominently the highly skilled, dedicated and long standing workforce, and that local MPs use the consultation period to express concerns. We also demanded that the Council endeavored to provide all evidence available at this consultation period which would highlight these effects on the economy and on families in the area. Most importantly though, was the realistic call to ensure our MPs support all efforts to bring forward investment in the area to allow us to retain the skilled workforce we have, and to secure a future in manufacturing. Whilst many Councillors made passionate speeches on the issue, it is to my disappointment that only at Council did we hear from two of the Dale Ward Councillors, who have been seen to be doing nothing on the issue. Whilst everything that was said was spot on and correct, their pragmatic efforts on the situation have been minimal, if not none existent. On the other hand, it has been great to see community groups, workers, and so many from the Brough area working hard in their fight; and I am equally proud to say Labour have been a part of that with this motion, which received 100% support, and too with the support of our Hull MPs, Alan Johnson, Karl Turner and Diana Johnson.
With regard to the practical efforts now being made, I am pleased to see the Council rolling out their plans to give professional support to workers facing redundancy.
Children & Young People Committee
This month’s meeting was incorporated into a lively and very interesting visit to the SureStart centre on the Swinemoor estate in Beverley. In my view, this committee is the most productive, cooperative and rewarding part of my role, and once again it has been proved to me by seeing our efforts in action. The staff at this centre like all those across the East Riding do an excellent job, and so it was nice to have them join us forthe committee and tell us their progress, as well as notifying us of their concerns and ideas for the future.
Alongside discussing the development of Children’s Centre Developments, we were joined by John Wilson, the Director of Children, Family and Adult services to address the successes and ongoing challenges in Child Poverty. I was also joined by Daniel Palmer on this occasion as part of H&H Central Branch’s policy work on the issue, which is really working well and engaging members in a topic which is a passion to many.
It was clear from the hard work of Mr. Wilson’s department that the biggest challenges facing us are those in the more deprived areas of Bridlington and Goole, and continued hard work from staff is bridging the gap with initiatives such as help and support from Children’s Centre’s and Free School Meals, in these areas and
across the authority. I see the hardest task in delivering our promise to bring children out of poverty is communicating to families the support that is available to them. I’m confident of further progress though, and look forward to being part of ongoing work with both the committee and the local Labour Party on the issue.
Work in Tranby has been concentrating on an issue we have spent some considerable time campaigning on both before and after the election. The old Methodist Hall on Hull Road was acquired by developers, which unfortunately meant there was little we could do to persuade the Council the land was perfect for a large community centre that is desperately needed in the local community.
What’s more, despite not gaining planning permission for their proposed apartments for the site, they then knocked down the Victorian listed building regardless. As I mentioned in my last report, it is becoming a personal interest of mine to pursue
tighter regulations on developers to ensure not only good quality, but to ensure too the commitment of providing the other essential needs of the community, such as infrastructure.
Given the proposed changes to planning laws which in my opinion could ruin many parts of the East Riding’s rurality with developers looking for a quick buck, the issue is becoming increasingly controversial and one in which we can take the public with us.
The local branch has also decided to look at this area of policy, which will be valuable in our fight.