To invite members of the public who have registered in advance of the meeting to speak to the Committee.
The Committee welcomed six public speakers to the meeting, who were invited to speak to the Committee in turn. In some cases a written record of the individual’s speech was also provided for Council records. The speeches as delivered during the meeting, which lasted for a maximum of three minutes each and might therefore, not reflect the full length of the points residents had recorded in advance of the meeting, are recreated below.
a) Mr Ray Groves – RYCE
“It has often been said that the best decisions are made when you have the clearest and best-informed information possible. Unfortunately, tonight you have got the worst. This report is devoid of any suggestion as to the inevitable costs to Redditch Borough Council that will far exceed these so called savings. There are no risk analyses; what happens if the Batchley Support Group closes? What impact will that have on the area? Will the schools provide meals during the summer break or will the Council have to step in and provide staff and facilities or will you let hungry children wander the streets looking for food? Likewise, if the Boxing Academy closes what happens to the individuals who currently use the facilities?
On the 16th October in the houses of Parliament Rachel Maclean said, as reported by Hansard: “I was delighted to see the focus on youth services because as I have said, anti-social behaviour often happens because there is nowhere for young people to go. We need to focus on those services in our local communities so that there is somewhere constructive for people to go. We have some fantastic services in Redditch. We have a wonderful Boxing Academy that takes young people off the streets and teaches them fun, useful and constructive skills. That is a great initiative but we need more like it across town.”
With over 100 individuals left to wander the streets how many more police will be needed to patrol the area? I could go on and talk about The Space, the shops run by Oasis Church. What happens if these units close? The retail sector is in trouble as has been highlighted by Bon Marche, Maplins and Mothercare; it is very doubtful if they can be let on a strictly commercial basis, meaning even more derelict units will invade our shopping areas.
Why is there nothing in this report about the money that the voluntary groups save the Council? Why isn’t the £28k set against this saving? Surely the Council could have looked at the Social Return on Investments – SROI is an internationally accepted way of showing how much worth the voluntary sector provides, that ultimately saves public money.”
b) Ms Liz Williams – Fighting for Survival Group
“For those of you that don’t know me I’m Liz Williams, and I am speaking on behalf of the Fighting for Survival Group. Firstly can I just say thank you to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee for listening.
We welcome the decision of the Executive Committee to delay consideration of the Concessionary Rents Policy until their meeting in January 2020, the offer made to talk to the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) about the affect this will have on the sector and to try and reach a resolution.
However, having read the Public Document Pack from the Executive Committee meeting held on 29th October 2019 and future papers for the meeting on the 11th November 2019, we believe that the creation of the report has not followed due process and should be withdrawn completely and be brought forward after the negotiations with the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) have been completed and alternative funding methods have been fully examined and implications and costings fully detailed.
Across the documents I have referenced above there appear:
· 1 x Cross Party Working Group
· 1 x detailed budget framework document
· 2 x reviews
· 4 x Advisory Panels
· 3 x fully costed and 1 partially costed financial implications.
· 6 x fully evidenced legal implications
· 1 x fully detailed service / operational implications
· 5 x sufficient customer / equalities implications
· 1 x full consultation with those affected
· 1 x equality impact assessment, although it is not appended to the report.
· 1 x Action Plan
· 1 x detailed appraisal of costs generated by Council decisions
· 2 x scrutiny groups
· 2 x Task Groups
· 5 x sufficient risk management implications
· 2 x consultants’ reports
In the Concessionary Rents report.
1) Ward Councillors were not consulted about this report. Surely something that has the potential to affect so many residents should have been at least talked about with ward Councillors. In particular, focussing on those representing Matchborough, Winyates and Greenlands, where we think six of the nine groups affected are based.
2) The Executive Summary contains no reference to why this report was written.
3) The recommendations contain no other options to the proposal made.
4) There is no financial information about how the shortfall figure was arrived at.
5) There is no reference to the Council’s strategic purposes when obviously the VCS in Redditch contributes heavily towards the achievement of these.
6) There appears to have been no discussion with partner agencies or the Redditch Partnership by Redditch Borough Council, considering this will also impact heavily on them as well.
7) There is no detail about how the transitional arrangement in the appendix is arrived at.
8) How many properties are actually affected and where are they?
9) How many leases have expired? How can expired leases be changed as the occupants of these properties are tenants at will.
10) No letters were ever received advising us that changes to the policy will be made in the near future. This therefore denied the VCS any opportunity to discuss with the Council what this would actually mean?
11) An Equalities Impact Assessment has been conducted. Where is it?”
c) Reverend Robin Baker – Acts of Kindness and Oasis Christian Centre
“I am Reverend Robin Baker. I believe that many of you know who I am but for those of you who don’t, I set up the charity Acts of Kindness that runs the Redditch Foodbank and I am the Church Minister of Oasis Christian Centre. The church is currently operating two charity shops – one in Winyates that we have had for nearly nine years and one in Woodrow for nearly six years.
I am obviously wanting to talk about the removal of the concessionary rents that affects the three shop units that we use – one for the foodbank and two for our charity shops.
These charity shops are vital to the community. Amongst many benefits for the community, they offer:
1) Low-cost retail to people on very low incomes.
2) Employment for five people.
3) Volunteer opportunities for over 30 people, some of whom have special needs and have not been able to get opportunities elsewhere in Redditch as other support groups have closed down. We also offer many opportunities for work experience students; again some have not been able to get placements elsewhere.
4) Meeting places for many people who suffer from social isolation and find it very difficult to engage elsewhere: We have spent years building up their trust and confidence. We offer a lifeline for them. Many of them suffer from mental health issues and have very few other places to go to or feel able to. There are a number of people who have attempted suicide who use our shops. It is impossible to second guess what will happen to them if our shops close, but it will certainly be another major blow for them.
5) A core community hub: Many people travel from all over Redditch to benefit from the services provided by the shops.
6) A place free of charge for groups to meet for social interaction. Some examples include PACT and knitting groups.
7) Low cost tea, coffee and cakes for those people who cannot afford to go to more expensive cafes and coffee shops.
8) Partnership with a number of agencies who often ask us to provide clothes, bedding and kitchen items to people who are being rehoused free of charge.
9) Reduction to landfill by recycling clothes and bric-a-brac. This helps save the environment.
10) Fully finance other projects: One such example is a weekly feeding programme where up to 50 addicts or lonely people have a warm and friendly place to socialise and eat. For a number of them this is the only hot meal they get a week. We also help fund young people’s activities, subsidising activities that would otherwise not be affordable.
11) Funding for a youth community worker who has worked with children who struggle with school, and also with mental health issues. Some of the children have attempted suicide. The youth worker has also worked with children who have special needs in schools by running one-to-one sessions on the school premises.
It is important to make you all aware that 100 per cent of all the income generated from these shops comes back into Redditch, for the people of Redditch.”
d) Mr Tom Rossiter – Redditch Boxing Academy
“I’m here for Redditch Boxing Academy. I’ve been a coach for five months and realised how important it is. Over 300 people come a week. We cover areas such as self-defence, raising awareness of how to oppose violence and aggression, and different types of boxing.
I have personally experienced the difference it can make. Last year I was over 18 stone and depressed. I found that the only way to address my mental health issues was to lose weight. I went to the boxing club where I wasn’t judged but made to feel better about myself. I lost over 7 stone and my self-esteem improved. A lot of people are in similar situations. If this place closed down who knows where they’d be. It would leave a void that for me was filled by Redditch Boxing Academy.
Young people, if they’re out and about with nothing to do, can get involved in anti-social behaviour and crime. By getting involved with Redditch Boxing Academy it’s given me an opportunity to be a youth coach.”
e) Ms Maureen Hayden – What’s Your Point
“I’m representing the people of Woodrow. We work with people in a high area of deprivation. Their voice often isn’t heard. When we have to reorganise we have to think of those in communities with the biggest difficulties. We offer people a first port of call and we save the Council a lot of money.
There’s high risk mental health issues and lots of self-harm. Mental health services are very limited. Children are falling through the cracks and families are struggling. We need to be mindful of this.”
f) Mr Jorden Cooke – Your Ideas
“I’m a Project Manager for Your Ideas. I have been running the project for 11 years. This will directly impact us at a cost of £14,000 per annum. I’d welcome anyone to see the work we do. I’m keen to showcase our story and to talk through our challenges in the building.
I’m disappointed that we did not find out about the proposals directly from Redditch Borough Council but rather from Liz in a campaign email. We have been commissioned by Redditch Borough Council on a number of occasions to provide youth services in the community. Despite these links there was no communication and we never received the letters.
We support over 300 children per week and provide lots of services. For example we provide youth services supporting young people who are not in employment, education or training (NEETs) and we work with people on the autistic spectrum. Since the news reached the public domain we have had a number of parents and autistic people with anxiety. Parents are worried about losing one of the few organisations they trust.
We’d like to work with Redditch Borough Council.”