The Mayor paid tribute to June Goodchild and sent his condolences to her family.
The Mayor advised that infection rates were growing and the North East had one of the highest rates of infections. The Mayor stated that the link between infection rates, hospitalisation and death was breaking down. He stated that there was still a link and everyone should still follow the rules, but people should not be as fearful as they were, they should move forward with cautious confidence, however everyone should be encouraged to have the vaccination.
The Mayor stated that Middlesbrough had a very young population compared to the everywhere in the Tees Valley and the North East except Newcastle. Vaccinations were generally being targeted at older people, and as a consequence, Middlesbrough had carried out less vaccinations on young people compared to other towns. The Mayor advised that the people rolling out the vaccinations and the Public Health Team were working hard to ensure that everyone that was entitled to, had access to vaccinations. Middlesbrough had some hard to reach people, and that there was a link between deprivation and people not having the vaccine. He advised that Middlesbrough had more deprivation than anywhere in the North East and although it was a challenge, everything was being done to ensure people were vaccinated.
The Mayor advised that a meeting had been held with the new Police and Crime Commissioner. The Mayor had been talking to residents and their view was that dangerous crime was polluting the streets and intimidating the public and trying to intimidate their rivals. This was not just an issue in Middlesbrough, it was a national and international problem. Cleveland Police did not have as high an armed response compared to other forces compared to the level of violent crime. The Mayor advised that he was against arming the police. The Police needed to take control.
The Mayor advised that he was embarrassed and ashamed at the state of some back alleys. The state of the alleys was damaging mental health and investment in the town. More cameras were due to be installed. The Mayor stated that in the past, Middlesbrough had not been tough enough in relation to the enforcement against people carrying out fly-tipping. He referred to a recent fly-tipping case where a vehicle suspected of being used to carry out fly-tipping had been seized. There was now a dedicated fly-tipping squad to enable more enforcement action to take place.
The Mayor advised that there had been historical issues with Middlesbough’s Children’s Services which had resulted in it being the worst and most expensive in the country.
The Mayor advised that due to the hard work of staff the service had improved and all the right steps were being taken to ensure continuous improvement.
The Mayor advised that it was the Queen’s Jubilee in 2022, and as part of the celebrations, the Queen usually awarded “city status” to a number of towns. Middlesbrough had applied for city status a number of times in the past, but had been unsuccessful.
The Mayor advised that he was interested in applying, but it should be down to the people of Middlesbrough, the stakeholders and the businesses to decide whether Middlesbrough should apply for city status. The initial response to a survey had indicated that most people would support an application for city status. He advised that he and the Deputy Mayor would be meeting the university, the college and the Northern school of arts and other large employers to gain support for the bid. Councillors would also have the opportunity to vote on the bid.
Councillor McTigue advised that at the moment there was a reliance on councillors to report fly-tipping. Councillor McTigue stated that fly-tipping should be removed immediately, but at the moment, there did not appear to be enough staff that were aware of where the hot spots were located. The hot spots needed to be identified to staff so that they go out every other day to inspect the areas. Councillor McTigue advised that she had sent the Mayor two photos of instances of fly-tipping and she stated that it must have taken weeks for the those areas to get into such a state. Councillor McTigue stated that although councillors would continue to report instances of fly-tipping, there should not be a reliance on them to do so.
The Mayor advised that fly-tipping was an issue and he urged people to keep reporting any instances to the Council.
In relation to the proposed bid by the town for city status, Councillor McTigue queried with regard to what the parameters were in order for the town to bid for city status, what the cost would be and what benefits it would bring to the town.
In terms of bidding for city status, the Mayor advised that there was no requirement to have a cathedral or a university, but the town needed to put a good case forward to demonstrate how they would benefit from city status. The Mayor advised that he would find out the costs, and would be willing to discuss the bid with any councillor that was interested.
Councillor Cooke referred to crime and he indicated that although he was in favour of enforcement, one of the things that was concerning was the lack of support for victims. The PCC had removed the funding for Newport’s Victim Care Advice and Support Officer. If the Council were unable to find funding, the post would no longer exist from September 2021. Councillor Cooke stated that he would like to see the role retained as people who were the victims of crime needed to be supported. The current post holder was doing an excellent job and over the last two years had saved many peoples’ lives. The importance of this role needed to be recognised by the police.
In terms of reporting of fly-tipping, Councillor Cooke expressed concern regarding the fact that reports of fly-tipping by Street Wardens were not being treated as seriously as reports from councillors. He requested that an audit be carried out in respect of fly-tipping identified by wardens to see if fly-tipping identified with a Street Warden sticker was being removed.
Councillor M Storey stated that fly-tipping was becoming a real issue within the ward because people were not willing to wait twelve weeks for the free bulky waste collection service which resulted in fly-tipping. There was currently over 500 outstanding fly-tipping cases, and Councillor Storey stated that whilst he praised the efforts of the fly-tipping squad and enforcement, there needed to be an audit to look into how the fly-tipping and the bulky waste collection was functioning and to look at how the Council could do it differently and whether it could be done in a better way.
Councillor Storey stated that he recognised that there was a major problem with Children’s Services and officers had worked really hard to resolve the issues. There were underlying social issues that had caused these problems. Councillor Storey stated that the Mayor had mentioned deprivation being a pressure. There had been cuts to Sure Start and cuts to Public Sector Funding over many years. The support for early help to prevent children being taken into care in the first place was no longer there, so the council was having to deal with issues once the children had already been taken into care. It would be much better to deal with issues with children in the early stages to prevent them having to be taken into care.
In terms of the bid for “city status”, Councillor Storey advised that he would be very supportive of any bid, it was ambitious and Middlesbrough was just as important as any other city.
The Mayor agreed that Children’s Services was a big challenge, the town had massive deprivation. Other deprived areas did better than Middlesbrough.
The Mayor advised that fly-tipping was a crime that affected people’s mental health and it should not be linked with the bulky waste service. Middlesbrough provided the bulky waste service for free.
Councillor Higgins stated that fly-tipping was an issue faced by all councilors. More staff were needed to deal with the issue. The staff currently employed for this purpose were doing a great job, but more staff were needed.
The Mayor stated that the problem in the past was that the Council hardly ever prosecuted fly-tippers but there had been an increase in enforcement due to the new fly-tipping flying squad. The Mayor stated that the team were doing an incredible job and there was a new attitude from the Council in relation to enforcement action against fly-tippers.
Councillor McTigue queried whether cameras could be installed in known hot spots.
The Mayor advised that 100 new cameras had already been installed around the town at a cost of £4000 each and it was agreed at Executive that additional cameras would be purchased. Members should indicate if cameras were required within their ward and this would be taken into consideration when placing the cameras. The Mayor advised that cameras deterred crime, made residents feel safer and helped catch criminals.