The Executive Member for Environment and Finance and Governance, Cllr Barrie Cooper, was in attendance to update the Board on his aims and aspirations, progress made to date and to highlight any emerging issues relating to his portfolio. The Director of Environment and Community Services was also in attendance. It was advised that given the depth of the Portfolio the update to the Board would focus on the Environmental aspects of the Portfolio. A further update would be given in respect of the Finance and Governance aspects at a future meeting of the Board.
As part of his update to the Board, the Executive Member for Environment and Finance and Governance explained that the main areas of the portfolio were as follows:-
Highways and Infrastructure
Property and Commercial Services
In terms of Environment Services it was advised that this was the area that was most visible to the public and included:-
· Waste services and recycling – Domestic refuse, recycling and green waste collections, collection of household bulky waste, Waste Disposal Contract, Pest Control.
· The Area Care Team was another important aspect of Environment Services and the Team was focused on the Green Strategy, play areas and alley cleansing, grounds maintenance and animals and needles, street, trees and arboriculture, burials, parks maintenance.
· School Catering was a further area of responsibility within Environment Services.
In terms of Highways and Infrastructure the main areas of focus were as follows:-
· Highway Engineers – Bridges and Structures, Highway Maintenance, vehicle crossings, highway inspections and interventions, flooding issues, beck maintenance, highway emergency response, winter maintenance (includes gritting and snow clearance), Street Lighting.
· Fleet services – Vehicle and machinery repairs, MOTs, car hire, servicing of Middlesbrough Council vehicles, fuel
In terms of Property and Commercial Services the main areas of focus were as follows:-
· Transporter Bridge
· Metz Bridge Travellers Site
· Building Maintenance and Project Management
· Building Cleaning, Caretaking and Security Services
· Operational Management for Bereavement Services
· Integrated Transport Unit
· Lead on Emergency Planning
It was emphasised that in terms of the Transporter Bridge works had been undertaken to ensure the safety of the Bridge and all options for the future use of the Bridge remained.
With regard to priorities the Board was advised that the following were regarded as priorities within the Portfolio:-
· Increased cleanliness of the town and its physical environment
· Development and Implementation of the Green Strategy
· Tender for main Waste Disposal contract for post 2025/26
· Increased recycling
· Transporter Bridge
· Improved Highway Assets
· Light up the Town
· Provision of efficient and effective front line services post pandemic
Reference was made to the priorities for next year and the following issues were highlighted:-
· Explore outcomes of Environment Bill and its implications for Middlesbrough
· Improve A66 through Middlesbrough
· Secure further highways investment to improve roads and footpaths
· Plant another 10,000 trees
· Increase wildflower coverage across Middlesbrough
· Expand wild spaces across the town to introduce more growing spaces
· Transported Bridge Investment
· Light up key Buildings across the town
Following the update in respect of the Environment Portfolio, Members were afforded the opportunity to ask questions.
A Member of the Board queried the possibility of, in the future, being able to increase the number of Green Waste collections towards the end of the year. It was advised that some further thought needed to be given in respect of the this issue owing to the increased cost and additional staff demand, however, the option would be explored.
Reference was made to the availability of sandbags to assist in cases of flooding and it was queried whether the provision of these could be reintroduced. It was advised that in a flooding event the Council would support the public with sandbags wherever possible.
In respect of Green Waste collections the view was expressed that there was a real need for a minimum of two collections in October and November, owing to the amount of garden waste generated at that time of year. It was suggested that in order to provide that service at no extra cost the number of Green Waste collections in June and July could be reduced to one per month and the views of the Executive Member on this suggestion were sought. It was advised that generally seasonal workers were employed during the summer months so it was really a question as to whether the Council wished to extend Green Waste collections into the latter part of the year. It was advised that it could be looked at for the future but that there would be a financial cost to extending the provision.
Reference was made to the issue of trees and the concerns expressed by residents throughout the south of Middlesbrough that trees have been allowed to overgrow significantly and did impact on people’s quality of life. Given that it was anticipated there would be wetter and windier winters in future years and there was the potential for this to be a safety issue. It was acknowledged that there were a significant number of trees across the town and further work would be undertaken in respect of this issue.
In response to a query as to whether Councillors could be updated when the Council’s gritting machines would be out the Executive Member advised that he was happy to forward on communications to all Members on this issue.
Reference was made to the wild flowers and how they had been such a success across the town. It was queried whether the planting of the flowers would be extended in future years. The Executive Member for Environment advised that he wished to put on record his gratitude to Thirteen Housing for assisting with this initiative, the results had been fantastic and was anticipated that the scheme would be expanded.
In response to a query regarding Bridges across the town it was advised that there were over 100 Bridges and structures that the Council looked after and maintained.
In response to a query regarding progress in relation to the new incinerator it was advised that the Council was currently out to tender for the new energy from waste facility, which was due to come online in 2025/26. It was anticipated that the tender process would be completed in the next few months and a further update to the Board could be provided at that time.
Reference was made to the number of vehicles that were currently owned and maintained by the Council and it was advised that detailed information in respect of this request would be provided in writing to the Board.
The Chair thanked the Executive Member for Environment and Finance and Governance and the Director of Environment and Communities for their attendance and contributions to the meeting.
AGREED that the information provided be noted, and the agreed action be undertaken.