a) Transition Support for Young People Leaving Care in Redditch
A Notice of Motion had been submitted by Councillor Tom Baker-Price in respect of transition support for young people leaving care in Redditch. This was seconded by Councillor Jane Potter.
In proposing the motion Councillor Baker-Price highlighted the difficulties experienced by many young people who left the care system, including the risks they faced in respect of falling into poverty due to their limited access to support networks. By reducing the net liability for Council Tax of care leavers until their 21st birthday, and by introducing a transitional discretionary discount scheme to enable reduction of liability for Council Tax up to and including zero from their 21st to their 25th birthdays, it was suggested that the Council could help to nurture independence amongst young care leavers.
The Children’s Commissioner for England had suggested that these types of schemes could be helpful for young people leaving care. Worcestershire County Council had recently considered a Notice of Motion on a similar subject and this had received support. Motions proposing similar reviews had also been presented for Members’ consideration at Wyre Forest District Council and Worcester City Council and these had been welcomed. It was estimated that if this type of scheme was introduced across the whole of Worcestershire the cost would be £17,000 per annum.
In seconding the motion Councillor Jane Potter noted that all local authorities, not just the County Council, had legal responsibilities in respect of care leavers. Young people leaving care could experience a difficult start in life and it was important to ensure that they continued to have access to sufficient support into their early adulthood.
During consideration of the Motion an amendment was proposed by Councillor Mark Shurmer which was circulated in writing at the meeting. In proposing this amendment Councillor Shurmer commented that he recognised the vulnerability of young people leaving care and their need to have access to appropriate support. However, Members were advised that there were additional implications in respect of the proposed changes to Council Tax liabilities for care leavers which he felt merited further investigation. In this context Councillor Shurmer was proposing that the subject should be reviewed in detail by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, with the findings to be reported back to Council in six months’ time.
Councillor Shurmer also noted that not every local authority that had received a proposal to introduce a similar scheme had agreed to do so. Members were advised that this could create a postcode lottery in terms of the support available to care leavers across the country. To address this Councillor Shurmer was also proposing that the Council should write to the Government requesting that consideration be given to introducing national legislation that would assist care leavers.
In seconding the amendment Councillor John Fisher concurred that it was important to provide appropriate support to young care leavers. The proposed scrutiny review would provide the Council with an opportunity to learn more about the options available to the Council in terms of potential discretionary Council Tax discount schemes. A cross-party scrutiny review could also investigate the financial implications for the Council of any such scheme and the options available to the Council in terms of funding the scheme. This would need to take into account the number of care leavers in Redditch Borough.
Following presentation of the amendment Members discussed the proposals and concerns were raised about the potential delay that could be caused by undertaking a scrutiny review of the matter. However, it was suggested that by asking for this review to be completed to report back to Council in six months’ time no delays would occur as these were the same timescales as those that had been included in the original Motion. Furthermore, it was noted that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee could launch a Short, Sharp Review to investigate this matter within the timescales available.
Reference was also made to the Notice of Motion that had been agreed by Worcestershire County Council in respect of care leavers earlier in the month. Discussions had subsequently been held between the Leader of the County Council and all of the Leaders of the District Councils and the matter was due to be considered further when Leaders of the District Councils in Worcestershire met in February.
During consideration of this matter a five minute adjournment took place to provide all Members with an opportunity to consider the amendment to the Motion. Following this adjournment Councillor Tom Baker-Price, as the mover of the original Motion, confirmed that he was willing to accept the amendment as the substantive Motion.
In accordance with Council Procedure Rule 17.5, the amended Motion in respect of transition support for young people Leaving Care in Redditch was the subject the following named vote:
Members voting FOR the resolution:
Councillors Joe Baker, Tom Baker-Price, Roger Bennett, Natalie Brookes, Michael Chalk, Debbie Chance, Greg Chance, Anita Clayton, Brandon Clayton, Matthew Dormer, John Fisher, Andrew Fry, Bill Hartnett, Gay Hopkins, Wanda King, Jane Potter, Gareth Prosser, Antonia Pulsford, Mark Shurmer, Rachael Smith, Yvonne Smith, Paul Swansborough, David Thain, Jenny Wheeler, Pat Witherspoon and Nina Wood-Ford.
Members voting AGAINST the resolution:
No Members voted against the resolution.
Members ABSTAINING on the resolution:
No Members abstained in the vote on this resolution.
Accordingly the Motion was approved and Members
The motion be agreed in the following terms:
This Council notes with deep concern the Children’s Society’s ‘Wolf at the Door’ report (2015) and the representations made by Kelly Pickard the Children’s Commissioner on the subject of council tax for care leavers.
We would like to reaffirm the commitment this Council has to partnership working with Worcestershire County Council, to ensure young people who have left care are appropriately housed and supported in their transition.
The Children and Social Work Act 2017 clearly places corporate parenting responsibilities on District Councils for the first time, requiring them to have regard to children in care and care leavers when carrying out their functions.
This Council is the Council Tax billing and housing authority for the Borough of Redditch and as such recognises this group is particularly vulnerable to falling into debt when moving into independent accommodation for the first time.
This Council therefore requests the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to carry out a full investigation and review.
The objectives are to explore the available options that can be put in place to enable more support to be given; to determine how the process could work in liaison with the County Council; and to assess the financial impact to the Borough, including how we would recover a commensurate share of the necessary funding from the County Council.
In order to provide the maximum support possible to care leavers, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, working with officers, are asked to bring forward proposals to this Council utilising powers granted to this Council under section 13A of the local government financing act 1992 to ensure the following:
1. Reduce their net liability for Council Tax under the national scheme and after Council Tax support to zero, until the care leaver’s 21st birthday.
2. Introduce a transitional discretionary discount scheme to enable a reduction of liability for Council Tax, up to and including zero, from their 21st birthday until the care leaver’s 25th birthday.
These proposals are to be presented to Council within six months of the adoption of this motion.
In order to eliminate the current postcode lottery of exemption, the Council will also write to the Government requesting that consideration is given to introducing national legislation to help care leavers.
b) War Memorial and Commemorations 2018
A Notice of Motion had been submitted by Councillor Juliet Brunner in respect of War Memorial Commemorations in 2018. In the absence of Councillor Brunner, with the Mayor’s agreement, this Motion was moved by Councillor David Thain and seconded by Councillor Gareth Prosser.
In proposing the Motion Councillor Thain explained that it was important, on the centenary of the end of the First World War, to remember the sacrifices that had been made by serving men and women in the armed forces both during that conflict and in the following 100 years. There was also a need to educate children and young people about both the First World War and subsequent conflicts to ensure that they learned lessons and future generations would not experience the same loss of life.
Councillor Prosser seconded the Motion and in so doing he explained that this was an important matter that required every Member’s support.
During consideration of the Motion an amendment was proposed by Councillor Greg Chance which was circulated in writing during the meeting. In proposing the amendment Councillor Chance advised that he recognised the need to remember the sacrifices that had been made by the armed forces over the years. However, it was also important to recognise that the Royal British Legion organised the Remembrance Parade on 11th November, rather than the Council, and the local authority needed to aim to continue supporting their work.
In seconding the amendment Councillor Joe Baker noted the importance of all Members, across political parties, supporting the armed forces and service men and women. In line with this the Council had a proud history of supporting the armed forces at various civic events, including in Councillor Baker’s Mayoral year.
The Leader advised Members that he had received a letter from the Royal British Legion Redditch Branch. This letter advised that the Royal British Legion was already in the early stages of organising the Remembrance Parade for 2018. The Redditch Branch of the Royal British Legion would liaise with Worcestershire County Council over road closure as well as public transport providers. Arrangements for displays of ceramic poppies were also already in the process of being organised by the Poppy Appeal Organiser for the Redditch Branch of the Royal British Legion. The letter recognised the Council’s work to obtain quotes in respect of cleaning the war memorials in the Borough and welcomed the participation of elected Members in the Parade. The Council was advised that the content of this letter had been taken into account when the amendment to the Motion had been drafted.
During consideration of this matter a number of Members noted their personal connections to the Armed Forces. In some cases Members had served in the Armed Forces whilst in other cases Members had close relatives who had served or continued to serve in the forces. In every case Members noted that they were proud of this service and welcomed all events that demonstrated the respect and support of the local community.
At the end of the debate Councillor Thain, as the mover of the original Motion, confirmed that he was willing to accept the amendment as the substantive Motion.
The Motion be agreed in the following terms:
In public Commemoration of those servicemen and servicewomen of Redditch who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, and to mark the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the First World War commemoration parade and ceremonial, in Redditch of WW1 centenary 11th November 2018.
Redditch Borough Council will continue to acknowledge, and play its full part in enabling its citizens to acknowledge, the ultimate sacrifice of its servicemen, servicewomen, their families and all of those who supported them at home and abroad, on the anniversary of the ending of The First World War.
Redditch Borough Council commits to the following:
1) to continue to work with the Royal British Legion, 37th Signals and Mercian Regiments and others in the organisation of a parade befitting and appropriate to the occasion;
2) to appropriately cleanse and refurbish the St Stephens and Plymouth Road war memorials in consultation with, and taking the advice of, relevant organisations and bodies including The War Memorial Trust;
3) To continue to support any necessary road closures which facilitate commemoration of this significant anniversary;
4) that the Town Hall is made available to provide refreshments and hospitality for Veterans, Service personnel, and their families as part of commemorating this special event; and
5) the Council would wish to make these commemorations and events as relevant and meaningful to the widest range of groups and individuals and would therefore welcome suggestions of appropriate ways we could lend our support or enable the marking of this very special and significant anniversary.