Agenda item

Questions from County Councillors

Any county councillor may, by giving notice to the Proper Officer by 9 am on the working day before the meeting, ask a question on any matter in respect of the Cabinet’s delegated powers.


The number of questions which may be asked by any councillor at any one meeting is limited to two (or one question with notice and a supplementary question at the meeting) and the time for questions will be limited to 30 minutes in total. As with questions at Council, any questions which remain unanswered at the end of this item will receive a written response.


Questions submitted prior to the agenda being despatched are shown below and will be the subject of a response from the appropriate Cabinet Member or such other councillor or officer as is determined by the Cabinet Member, and shall not be the subject of further debate at this meeting. Questions received after the despatch of the agenda, but before the deadline, will be shown on the Schedule of Addenda circulated at the meeting, together with any written response which is available at that time.


Councillor Liz Brighouse, OBE had given notice of the following question to the Cabinet member for Adult Services:


 “Can the Cabinet Member for Adult Services please confirm the following:


The number of people that are currently in receipt of the Alert Service in the County;

The proportion of those people who pay for this service currently;

The proportion of people for who the charges listed in the revenue monitoring report will be ‘new’ charges;

Whether the Council has consulted users on these charges;

Whether these charges have been through the Adult Services Scrutiny Committee?”


Councillor Fatemian replied:


The number of people that are currently in receipt of the Alert Service in the County


From 4 October 2010, approximately 3,300 people.


The proportion of those people who pay for this service currently


None. All of these people are eligible to receive the service free of charge based on their support need and financial eligibility.


The proportion of people for who the charges listed in the revenue monitoring report will be ‘new’ charges


None, as per the eligibility criteria mentioned above.   The charges will apply to other people who wish to buy into the service because they believe that it offers a valuable service that they would like to use.


Whether the Council has consulted users on these charges


There was no need to consult existing users because they are unaffected by the charges.


Whether these charges have been through the Adult Services Scrutiny Committee?


Adult Services Scrutiny Committee has discussed the Alert Service on several occasions although they have not discussed the specific charges.  The eligibility and charging policy was signed off by Cllr Jim Couchman and Paul Purnell, Head of Service; and also formed part of the contract award decision taken by Cllr Jim Couchman under the delegated authority in February 2010.


Supplementary: Councillor Brighouse sought clarification that no one currently receiving the warden service would have to pay. Councillor Fatemian undertook to provide a more detailed written response on people who have the warden service.


Councillor John Sanders had given notice of the following question to the Cabinet member for Transport:


“I share with residents of Oxford the disappointment that, contrary to clear written promises by the County Council in 2006 that residents parking charges in Oxford would only be increased by the RPI, you have seen fit to approve an increase in these charges by 25% to cover “costs”.   As these charges and their RPI indexing were part of a Traffic Order which was the result of extensive consultation, how is it that this Traffic Order can be replaced without further similar consultation?”


Councillor Rose replied:


“I too am disappointed that we are in a situation where we have to consider this increase; however the County Council has to cover the administration cost involved, I must remind Cllr Saunders no decision has yet been taken to approve a rise in permit charges. The variation of the Traffic Order has been out to statutory consultation and will be reported back to Cabinet Member Decisions at the end of November for a decision on whether or not to implement, taking into account responses to that consultation. The Council has complied with statutory requirements with regards to the level of consultation required to amend the Traffic Order."

Supplementary: Councillor Sanders questioned whether the Cabinet Member thought it would be more appropriate to undertake full consultations not least because residents may have ideas to suggest. Councillor Rose replied that in future schemes would need to cover costs and that the decision would come before a delegated decision session.


Councillor Roy Darke had given notice of the following question to the Leader:


“Can the Leader please provide some detail on the number of customer complaints received by the Council since the beginning of the year, how that number of complaints compares to previous years, whether he expects the number of complaints to rise in light of the cuts being implemented by his government and this Council, and whether he will put in place extra resources for dealing with that eventuality?”


Councillor Mitchell replied:


The number of formal customer complaints received by the authority is below.



12 months to 31 Mar 2010

6 months to 30 Sep 2010









Statutory social care complaints








Corporate complaints

















Customer complaints, as recognised by the Local Government Ombudsman and as included in the statistics above, do not include objections to the government's or to the council's policy decisions.   Complaints, as recognised by the Ombudsman, are concerned with issues of maladministration i.e. the manner in which the council's services are delivered (e.g. error, delay etc) and not to the decisions about them (unless those decisions are themselves procedurally flawed). 


Consequently, objections to policy issues are regarded as part of the general democratic/political engagement with the council, such as the recent Big Debate consultation/listening events.  There is therefore no direct consequential link between 'complaints about cuts' and the issue of resources. 


I should remind Councillor Darke that what I might describe as "his government" had already pencilled in cuts in revenue spending of 20% and in capital spending of 50%. They just never bothered to tell the public as they approached a General Election.  The coalition government, having inspected the national finances and the mountain of debt they have inherited has decided to aim for a reduction in revenue spending in the public finances of 25% and to maintain the previous government's target of cutting capital spending by 50%.  I certainly hope it will not be necessary to divert very scarce funds to dealing with complaints or inquiries from the public when we need to concentrate our resources on the front line if we are to help in bringing the national spend back into balance after an unbalanced national budget in every year since 2001.   


Supplementary:Councillor Darke sought reassurance that with the likely scale of cuts the Council was prepared for a rise in customer queries. Councillor Mitchell replied that customer complaints was a small service dealing with specific complaints as opposed to customer facing services dealing with customer enquiries. The level of calls would be monitored and although it was expected they would rise during the budget process this process took sufficient time that queries should be spread out.

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