The Committee considered the following report:
“1.0 Purpose of Report or Summary of main Issues
1.1 The purpose of this report is to update Committee on the progress of all motions for which Strategic Policy and Resources Committee is responsible.
2.1 The Committee is recommended to:
i. note the updates to all motions for which it is is responsible; and
ii. agree to the closure of motions 7, 24, 25, 55, 73, 78, 93, 98, 108, 139, 163, 168, 169, 196, 198, 210, 213, 215, 237, 239, 247, 292, 295, 301 as referenced in paragraph 3.4 below.
3.0 Main Report
3.1 At the Committee meeting on 25th October 2019, the following motion was agreed:
‘That this Council notes that other Councils produce a monthly status report in relation to motions; and agrees that Belfast City Council adopts a similar practice and produces a monthly update on motions which will be brought to each full Council meeting, detailing the following:
1. Date received;
2. Motion title
3. Submitted by which Councillor
4. Council meeting date
5. Committee motion is referred to
6. Outcome of Committee where motion will be debated
7. Month it will be reported back to Committee
8. Other action to be taken.’
3.2 Following a review exercise, a new database containing all motions and Issues Raised in Advance at Committee was created and quarterly reporting to Committee commenced in March 2021. The latest quarterly update showing all active motions and Issues Raised in Advance which this Committee is responsible for has been circulated.
Closure of motions and Issues Raised in Advance
3.3 At the Committee meeting on 20th November 2020, it was agreed that motions could be closed for one of two reasons:
· those which contained an action(s) that has been completed; and
· those which have become Council policy.
3.4 The Committee is asked to agree that the following 24 motions are now closed:
Category 1 Recommended Closures:
· Childcare Strategy (Ref no 7) – This motion called for the Council to agree to investigate options to co-create a Childcare Strategy for the city. It was agreed that a childcare strategy that is for Belfast alone would not be operational and outside the remit of the Council. Council continues to engage with key central government departments and agencies through community planning and other structures to advocate the need to accelerate the finalisation and implementation of the regional strategy. Therefore, it is recommended that this motion is now closed.
· Application to Ulster History Circle for a Blue Plaque ( Ref 108) – This motion called for an application to the Ulster History Circle for a blue plaque for Olaudah Equiano and to meet the costs for it’s implementation. A letter was issued to the Secretary of the Ulster History Circle who advised that this application has been discussed and declined on the basis that Mr. Equiano did not meet the criteria for a blue plaque. Therefore, it is recommended that this motion is now closed.
· Establishment of an External Independent Review of Educational Provision ( Ref 139) – This motion called for the Council to write to the NI Executive to show support for the very early implementation of the agreement to establish an external, independent review of educational provision and the prospect of moving towards a single education system and invite representation onto the Community Planning Partnership to ensure Belfast is equipped to ensure that education is inclusive for all. SP&R Committee agreed a Council response on 18th November 2022 (endorsed by Full Council) to the Department of Education’s consultation on it’s Corporate Plan which has been submitted.Council officers continue to work with colleagues from Dept of Education and the Education Authority in bringing forward the refreshed Belfast Agenda and focus for the next four years and it is recommended that this motion is now closed.
· Application Fees in the Private Rental Sector (Ref 163) – This motion called for the Council to write to the Minister for Communities and the Minister of Finance, outlining concerns about and pledging council’s support for the regulation of the private rented sector. Letter were sent in March 2021 and the responses reported back to Committee in April 2021. It is recommended that this motion is now closed.
· Legislation to Tackle the Third Party Sale of Pups (Ref 168) – This motion called for the Council to write to the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs with regard to measures to tackle the third party sale of pups. Letters were issued in April 2021 and a further motion on the Illegal Puppy Trade (Ref 221) was taken forward and completed in December 2021. It is recommended that this motion is now closed.
· Mullaghglass Landfill Site – Legal action ( Ref 169) – This motioncalled on the Council to prepare legal action against the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the site operator for their dereliction of duty in protecting the rights of citizens around the Mullaghglass landfill site. The outcome of the legal proceedings were notified to the People and Communities Committee at the September 2023 meeting. It is recommended that this motion is now closed.
· Bonfire Procedures (Ref 198) – This motion called for the Council to review bonfire procedures. A report was brought to Committee on 24 September 2021. A further report ‘Review of Bonfire Procedure’ was brought on 19 November 2021. The SP and R Committee agreed to endorse the proposed review process and noted that the Bonfire Panel would be reconvened to move that forward and address the issues which had been raised in relation to the decision to regulate illegal and toxic bonfires. It is recommended that this motion is now closed.
· Community Sector Terms and Conditions (Ref 213) – This motion called for the Council to write to the Minister for Communities to request that a review be undertaken and actions recommended, to support and strengthen the community sector, particularly in relation to terms and conditions and salaries. A letter was sent in November 2021. It is recommended that this motion is now closed.
· Regulation of Air BnB’s (Ref 215) – This motion called on the Council to write to the NI Executive to undertake a review and propose recommendations with regard to concerns around the growing number of unregulated Air BnB’s and similar types of short-term let arrangements. A letter was sent in November 2021. It is recommended that this motion is now closed.
· Belfast Citywide Tribunal Service (Ref 237) – This motion called on the Council to fund the Tribunal a sum of money, if necessary, to avert redundancies and maintain the level of service. The funding allocation was approved and it is therefore recommended that this motion is now closed.
· Mountainview Centre (Ref 239) – This motion called on the Council to convene an urgent meeting with relevant partners to explore the possibility of keeping this service open. The Mountainview Centre has now closed with the staff and service users being absorbed elsewhere and therefore it is recommended that this motion is now closed.
· Abortion Services (Ref 295) – This motion called on the Council to write to the Northern Trust to encourage it to provide more information about early medical abortion on their website and write to Minister Swann to urge him to convene an emergency meeting of the Executive to officially commission abortion services. The Northern Trust have now commissioned abortion services and therefore it is recommended that this motion is now closed.
· Dual Language Street Signage (Ref 301) – This motion called for an update report to be brought to the next meeting of SP&R outlining the reasons for the delay in processing the backlog of applications. An update report was brought to Committee on 17 February 2023. It is recommended that this motion is now closed.
Category 2 Recommended Closures:
· Webcasting of Committee Meetings (Refs 24 and 93) – These motions called for the webcasting of committee meetings to become common practice after the pandemic. This has now been implemented so it is recommended that both motions be closed.
· Abortion Imagery (Ref 25) – This motion called on the Council to investigate whether the public display of graphic abortion imagery in the city centre can be regulated lawfully. The Council undertook initial engagement with the Department for Communities and obtained legal advice on the draft byelaws. On 26th June 2023 the SP and R Committee agreed that the draft bye laws be issued for formal public consultation commencing in September 2023. It is recommended that this motion is now closed.
· Drug Rask Force (Ref 55) – This motion called on the Council to write to the Ministers for Health, Justice and Communities to establish a drug task force, the primary role of which would be to co-ordinate and drive action to improve the health outcomes for people who use drugs, reducing the risk of harm and death. Letters were issued as requested on 20 Feb 2020 and this work is now being taken forward as part of the 'Complex Lives' initiative. It is recommended that this motion is now closed.
· Race Equality Champion for Belfast City Council (Ref 73) – This motion called on a report to be brought forward for Members to consider, outlining options to further promote the inclusion of BAME communities, their access to Council services and participation in civic life. The Director of City and Organisational Strategy is now the CMT nominated Executive Sponsor for Race and is overseeing the development of a Race Action Plan for 2023 – 2026. The Race Action Plan will be an additional strand to the Council’s diversity action plans going forward. It is recommended that this motion is now closed.
· Suicide Awareness Training (Ref 78) – This motion called on the Council to resource further mental health and suicide awareness training for staff and appoint mental health champions in each department. A number of courses have been promoted to staff and Members and are offered on a continual basis via the Council’s health and well-being support page. In addition, the revised Health and Well-Being Strategy Action Plan includes the establishment of a network of health and wellbeing champions as a key action. It is recommended that this motion is now closed.
· Procurement Policy – Living Wage (Ref 98) – This motion called on the Council to promote a procurement policy that supports the principle of a Real Living Wage. The council’s Social Value Procurement Policy is now implemented and includes support for the Real Living Wage and the Council has also been awarded accreditation from the Living Wage Foundation. It is recommended that this motion is now closed.
· A Changing Places Toilets Policy for Belfast City Council (Ref 196) – This motion called on the Council to develop a Changing Places Toilet Facility Policy for Belfast City Council, with input from disabled people, older people and carers. An officer working group has now been established, who are working on a draft policy. This draft policy was presented to the Disability Working Group in October 2023 and therefore it is recommended that this motion is now closed.
· Staff on Temporary Contracts (Ref no 210) – This motion called on the Council to obtain legal opinion to establish whether anyone employed on a temporary contract for 12 continuous months can have that contract made permanent if the staff member wishes to do so. A report was presented to January’s SP&R Committee on the legal opinion received and reports on the number of staff on temporary contracts and the use of agency assignees is presented to Committee on a quarterly basis. It is recommended that this motion is now closed.
· City of Sanctuary (Ref 247) – This motion called on the Council to support the Council becoming a Council of Sanctuary and Belfast a City of Sanctuary and commit to the standards identified as part of this. The council has recently carried out research into the inequalities experienced by Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Traveller people residing in Belfast and work is on-going to ensure a co-ordinated approach to addressing the findings. In addition, initiatives are still on-going through the Good Relations Action Plan and Council has also been awarded £406 thousand pounds from the TEO’s Dispersal Fund to assist with programmes to support asylum seekers until March 2024. Updates on this on-going work are brought to Committee as required. Therefore, it is recommended that this motion is now closed.
· Council to become an Autism Impact Champion (Ref 292) – This motion called on the council to become an Autism Impact Champion, as defined by Autism NI. The Equality and Diversity Unit have included ‘becoming an Autism NI Impact Champion’ as an action measure in the new Disability Action Plan 2022-25. Therefore, it is recommended that this NOM is now closed.
3.5 Financial and Resource Implications
There are no additional financial implications required to implement these recommendations.
3.6 Equality or Good Relations Implications/Rural Needs Assessment
There are no equality, good relations or rural needs implications contained in this report.”
After discussion, the Committee noted the quarterly update on motions and granted approval to close those motions set out within paragraph 2.1 of the report, with the exception of the following two:
· Childcare Strategy (Reference Number 7)
The Committee agreed that a report be submitted to a future meeting on how the
Council could work with childcare providers and agencies to address the current
crisis in the childcare sector.
· Abortion Imagery (Reference Number 25)
The Committee agreed that this motion should remain open, in the context of the consultation which was due to open shortly on the new draft bye laws for the good governance of Belfast City Centre.
In closing the motion on the provision of a Blue Plaque for Olaudah Equiano (Reference number 108), the Committee agreed that the matter be progressed via the motion calling for the erection of street signage in the City centre to mark the location of important historical events related to the 'Belfast Enlightenment' period, which had been passed by the City Growth and Regeneration Committee at its meeting on 10th November, 2021 and that consideration be given to making reference to Olaudah Equiano within the City Hall visitor exhibition.
The Committee agreed also that a review be undertaken of the City Hall visitor exhibition, which had opened in 2017, with a view to refreshing its content.