Agenda and minutes

Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Tuesday, 19th July, 2016 10.00 am, NEW

Venue: The Ballroom, Sandbach Town Hall, High Street, Sandbach, CW11 1AX. View directions

Contact: Mark Nedderman  Senior Scrutiny Officer

Items
No. Item

12.

Also Present

Minutes:

Also Present

 

Councillor Liz Durham – Children and Families Portfolio Holder

Councillor George Hayes – Deputy Cabinet Member

Kath O’Dwyer - Executive Director of People & Deputy Chief Executive

Jacky Forster - Director of Education and 14-19 Skills

Bill Norman - Director of Legal Services and Monitoring Officer

Janet Mills – Transport Policy Officer

Sarah Tunstall - Business & Projects Manager

 

Visiting Members

 

Councillor Michael Jones

Councillor Jon Weston

Councillor Amanda Stott

Councillor Mick Warren

 

13.

Public Speaking Time

A total period of 15 minutes is allocated for members of the public to make a statement(s) on any matter that falls within the remit of the Committee.

 

Individual members of the public may speak for up to 5 minutes, but the Chairman will decide how the period of time allocated for public speaking will be apportioned, where there are a number of speakers.

 

Note: In order for officers to undertake any background research, it would be helpful if members of the public contacted the Scrutiny officer listed at the foot of the agenda, at least one working day before the meeting to provide brief details of the matter to be covered. 

 

 

Minutes:

Heidi Reed spoke about the Middlewood Way on route to the Tytherington High school. She had sought advice from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust on personal safety which suggested that people who felt isolated and unsafe should seek busy areas near to shops or garages etc. She contended that the Middlewood Way was poorly lit, isolated in many areas with no shops or garages nearby and was therefore unsafe. She raised concerns about how an alarm would be raised in the event of an incident. To highlight potential dangers, she referred to recent reports of a sexual assault against a teenage on a  former railway line in Sandbach which was similar in nature to the Middlewood Way. The only alternative available for pupils who did not wish to use the Middlewood Way would be to cross a dual carriageway on the A523 Silk Road. She urged Cabinet to reverse its decision.

 

Dr Chris Murdoch referred to the personal circumstances of his son who had diabetes and was asthmatic. His concerns related to the difficulties that emergency services would encounter if they needed to gain access to Middlewood Way. He contended that the safety assessment carried out by the Council had ignored Department of Education guidance on safety.

 

Emanuel Botwe Head teacher at Tytherington High School informed the committee of his fundamental duty as head teacher to ensure the safety of children in his care. He had recently spoken to one 6th former from his school who had refused to use the Middlewood Way to travel to school, and had instead walked along the very busy Silk Road.  He contended that the designation of Middlewood Way as an available walking route was not realistic. He stated that on 11 July, many parents had decided to take their children to school by car. This had illustrated potential future congestion difficulties on Badger Road which was adjacent to Tytherington High School, if the decision went ahead.

 

He questioned the practicality of parents accompanying a child on a daily walking journey covering six miles a day to ensure their safe arrival at school. In support of his assertion, he asked the Council to research a legal case: Regina V Devon County Council ex parte George (1989).

 

If Middlewood way was to be considered an available route, he asked 3 questions:

 

Will it make children safe?

Will it increase attendance?

Will it improve life chances of Children in Bollington?

 

Bollington Town Councillor Ken Edwards referred to a decision taken by Cabinet 3 years ago to reject the designation of Middlewood Way as an available walking route. He contended that the grounds upon which that decision had been taken had not changed in the three years since and should therefore be rejected again as an available walking route. He suggested that Bollington was an attractive place to live with four good primary schools and safe access to secondary schools. He commended the committee for having visited the walking routes but asked Members to imagine the Middlewood  ...  view the full minutes text for item 13.

14.

Visiting Members

Minutes:

 

Councillor Michael Jones suggested that the recent Cabinet decision was about saving money and suggested that savings could be made elsewhere within the Council’s budget. He informed the Committee that he personally had walked one of the routes in January accompanied by parents. He concluded that the route was not safe at that time of year. He suggested that parents would drive to school instead of making use of the available walking route.

 

Councillor Jon Weston informed the Committee that he had received hundreds of emails about the available route from Bollington which was considered to be unsafe. He suggested that the Council had a moral responsibility to ensure the safety of children and a legal responsibility that could not be ignored. He questioned why a traffic assessment had been carried out at this location when most of the route consisted of a footpath separated from the nearby highway. He also contended that it was impossible to ignore personal safety in relation to availability and that if a route was not safe it should be deemed to be unavailable. Responsible adults considered the route to be unsafe and it had taken him over one hour to walk the route recently. He accepted that this would probably require a policy change.

 

Councillor Amanda Stott thanked members of the Committee for walking the routes yesterday. However, she felt that some relevant data had not been made available to the Committee, particularly paragraph 20 of the Department of Education guidance from 2014. She also questioned the wisdom of ignoring guidance from the Suzi Lamplugh trust regarding personal safety.

 

Councillor Mick Warren, a former police officer in Macclesfield had researched the accessibility of Middlewood Way from the point of view of emergency services. He suggested that if an accident occurred it would be hard to pinpoint the location of the incident exactly because the path extended for about 1½ miles with very few features to aide identification. He had also researched crime statistics since 2012 and reported that there had been over 40 incidents. He speculated that if a major incident were to occur on the route, it would probably lead to the route having to be closed, which would force children to use the Silk Road.

 

15.

Declaration of Party Whip

To provide an opportunity for Members to declare the existence of a party whip in relation to any item on the agenda.

 

 

Minutes:

There were no declarations of the existence of a party whip.

16.

Declarations of Interest

To provide an opportunity for Members and Officers to declare any disclosable pecuniary and non-pecuniary interests in any item on the agenda.

Minutes:

Councillor Arthur Moran declared that he was a governor of Brine Leas school.

 

At this point in the proceedings, The Chairman adjourned the meeting. The meeting resumed at 11.05 am.

17.

Call - in of the 14 June 2016 Cabinet decision relating to a Review of Available Walking Routes to School pdf icon PDF 53 KB

To consider the call-in of the above decision.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman informed the committee that she had been handed a petition containing 412 signatures supporting the retention of the free bus service to Malbank and Brine Lees schools.

 

The Committee considered a report of the Director of Legal Services relating to the following Cabinet decision taken on 14 June 2016:

 

“That Cabinet

 

1. notes the reclassification of routes that have been re-assessed as

available walking routes to school and agrees that free school transport for

those routes be withdrawn from April 2017; and

 

2. authorises the Executive Director – People to spend £150,000 from the

Local Transport Plan budget allocation for 2016/17 to improve further

walking routes to school to bring them up to required standard so that free

school transport for those improved routes may be subsequently

withdrawn.’

 

In accordance with Scrutiny procedure rule 12, the decision had been called in.

 

Appended to the report were:

 

·         A copy of the call in notice containing signatures of six members in accordance with scrutiny procedure rule 12.3 and setting out the grounds for call-in;

·         A copy of the report of the Executive Director of People & Deputy Chief Executive considered by Cabinet on 14 June 2016;

·         A report of the Executive Director of People & Deputy Chief Executive in response to the issues raised in the Call-in Notice;

·         A copy of the Council’s Policy on Walking Routes to school;

·         A copy of the Route assessments for each of the five locations;

·         Two documents containing frequently asked questions.

Councillor Liz Durham, the Children and Families Portfolio Holder outlined the background of the decision taken by Cabinet on 14 June 2016. She reported that the decision related to five routes at:

 

 

·         Bollington to Tytherington High via Middlewood Way

·         Middlewood, Higher Poynton to Poynton High School

·         Elton Road Roundabout to Wheelock Primary School

·         Willaston to Malbank High

·         Willaston to Brine Leas School

She explained that the decision concerned the application of the Council’s existing policy which had been approved in 2012, in an equitable and consistent manner across the borough.

 

Kath O’Dwyer Executive Director of People & Deputy Chief Executive explained that the Council’s policy was in line with national policy and guidance. The safety assessments carried out in respect of each route, which were appended to the report, related to road safety only. Although other issues had been raised concerning, for instance, personal safety, the Council was required under the relevant legislation to take account of road safety issues only. However, she did acknowledge that safeguarding was taken seriously by the Council and that other actions that had been identified to improve general safety could also be taken on board by the Council.

 

Jacky Forster explained that as the decisions related to the application of an existing policy dating back to 2012, it had been decided not to undertake a formal consultation exercise in respect of the five routes. Instead, Cabinet had agreed to extend the minimum twelve weeks’ statutory notice of the changes to pupil arrangements, to nine months in order to give parents  ...  view the full minutes text for item 17.