Agenda item

Questions on Notice (Procedure Rule 9)


Four questions on notice had been submitted for this meeting.


Matchborough Centre


Councillor Councillor Jane Spilsbury asked the Leader:

“Can the leader confirm the timeline and the details of the communication strategy for public consultation on the regeneration of Matchborough centre?”


The Leader responded that consultation for the possible redevelopment of Winyates and Matchborough centres was still on going.  At the end of this or any future consultation period, comments were welcomed from interested members of the public or stakeholders until a scheme was finally agreed.  It was not known when the scheme would be finally agreed as there were still many issues to be considered and funding to be secured.


Councillor Spilsbury asked a supplementary question about whether the Leader agreed that the residents of Matchborough and Winyates deserved to be consulted and engaged on potential changes which would significantly affect the quality of their lives. 


The Leader responded that he agreed and reiterated that the consultation was still ongoing and officers had visited Matchborough as part of this.  He had spoken to business owners in the area as part of this and wanted better outcomes for residents.  Until funding was secured it was not possible to commit to a timescale.


Redditch as a Place to Live

Councillor Joe Baker asked the Leader:

“What is the Leader’s opinion on the recent national reports that Redditch is one of the worst places to live, as was reported in the press?”


The Leader responded that something similar was in the media last year and it appeared that the claims were now being used by a company attempting to sell its products.  The Leader quoted from an article in the Birmingham Mail, December 22, 2022, which carried a story based on information by the Office of National Statistics, that Redditch was the unhappiest place to live.  The article had then referred to the unveiling of major plans to renovate the town centre and securing more than £16million of government funding for this, which was viewed as positive.


The Leader refuted the claim that Redditch was stressed or unhappy.  When talking to people, he found that Redditch had some of the most passionate people who were committed to making the town and the whole Borough even better.


The Leader then gave examples of notes in the Local Portrait of Redditch in the adopted Local Plan, including a significant black and ethnic minority population who contributed to the diversity and culture of Redditch, high levels of open space, the town’s history, a free-flowing road network, with relatively little congestion and a huge network of pedestrian footways, unemployment which was lower than that of the West Midlands and across Great Britain, one of the country’s top 20 shopping centres and lower than average house prices.  The investment secured through the Town’s Deal for a digital innovation centre, new plaza, and improved public realm would help residents, businesses and visitors to upskill, socialise and move around the town to other areas of improvement including the new hub in the Town hall and the new train station site. 


Councillor Baker asked a supplementary question, whether the Leader felt the money earmarked for the town centre, train station and innovation hub could be better spent on improving the lives of residents.  The Leader responded that there was much to be proud of in Redditch and that the money should be spent on the projects it was aiming to deliver.


Relocation of Redditch Library

Ms. M. Bish asked the Leader:

“Bearing in mind that:

1.the space to be used by the library could generate an annual rent of £180,000pa if rented to businesses and charities that support the hub idea, giving Redditch people a helping hand to get out of debt like Home Start, Age UK, business and finance advisers and letting agents, with that income used every year in promotion of events or business starter grants;

2. the council is acting against the advice of the Commons Environmental Audit Committee which states that buildings should be refurbished, not demolished. Our town centre regeneration plan, demolishes the police and fire stations, Community House, and the library, equating to over 10,000 sq metres of floor space so The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulationsrequire an environmental impact assessment open to public scrutiny and consultation including demolition and reconstruction impacts, and decommissioning the library’s solar panels . Every layer of bricks and cement in the new 600 sq metre rebuild generates 250 Kg of carbon emissions in their manufacture, add on transport of materials, manpower and running of machinery The fountains will require power to run them and chemicals to clean them causing ongoing environmental impact every year.

3. The council has just discussed an increase to their budget of 20% (£1 million) for the rest of the town hall refurb due to increased building costs. This equates to £1300 for every square metre of town hall space. This increase applies too to the library, where only 2.2% annual inflation and 10% for all contingencies has been applied. There will be a deficit of more than £420,000 which, as the council will already have a million pound debt, the people of Redditch cannot afford. The million requires a 40 year repayment period – a whole working life. By renting out the library space you can reduce the interest the people of Redditch will have to pay .

4.You can improve flow between the Kingfisher and Alcester Street, by adding a glazed roof to the land surrounding the sides and rear of the library and signs saying Kingfisher Centre at the new entrances by the Post Office and library at a quarter of the cost. You retain the trade from the 12,000 library footfalls a year and can add more with covered events – markets, competitions, and displays in this roofed area which will create year round trade, unlike the fountains, which will be seasonal. These events will generate council income, and create pedestrian flow.

5.Our government's debt is more than 100% of the GDP, we need councils to retain their assets and generate income from them rather than passing cash from one public body to another, leaking money with each move, or selling assets off for little gain making our taxes rise and rise.

6.The project management plan said detailed designs of the whole redevelopment would be complete by Jan 23 but no plans so far have dealt with the 1:13 slope. Chairs are unstable on this gradient and pubs difficult to access. A fountain can be built on a slope, but allowing for the 7ft drop along the length of the Kingfisher Centre, eating areas can't without creating access problems to the centre.

If detailed plans don't yet exist, the scheme won't be completed on time. You told us we would then have to pay the full cost of more than £4.6 million . Money Redditch council has not got and cannot generate.

Why is the council still considering moving the library when, if there is any uncertainty in successful completion on time, the sensible course of action is to apply to government with a better, cheaper plan, a new time scale, and an accurate costing before beginning work?

The Leader replied that he considered it would be helpful to meet with Ms Bish with appropriate Council officers to deal with the detail in her questions and he invited her to let him know when would be convenient to do that. 

The Leader added that moving the library and improving the public realm in the Town Centre was set out in the Towns Fund vision which itself was consulted with the Public and approved for funding by the Government in 2021.  Movement of the library was part of those plans, pending a full consultation, which was undertaken by the County Council during 2022-23.  The movement into the Town Hall Hub was agreed by County Council Cabinet in July 2023.

Reference to Public Services by Councillors


Councillor Juliet Barker-Smith asked the Leader:


“Would the Leader agree that when councillors are speaking to residents, it would be more appropriate and respectful to refer to the police, council officers and contractors as "our team" rather than their own, personal team, (e.g. when speaking about the police, "I'll get "my team" to sort this problem out.)”


The Leader replied that in his view different councillors would have different ways of expressing themselves when trying their best to help residents and businesses.  He gave an example that he was comfortable with saying “our” team rather than “my” team.   The key matter was that the council and our partners all did what they could to enable constituents to access the help they needed.


Councillor Barker Smith asked the Leader a supplementary question as to whether he agreed Councillors should respect the impartiality of local authority and other public sector officers.  The Leader agreed and asked that if there were specific instances where a member had acted inappropriately, then they were raised with him.






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