Author Archives: JonCollins

Making our city centre a better place for everyone to enjoy

The City Council recently consulted on a proposed new “Public Space Protection Order” (PSPO), designed to help ensure that the city centre provides a safe, clean, vibrant and attractive environment for all.

Public Space Protection Orders give councils the ability to better manage their public spaces, so that we can promote the kind of city centre we want to see. The PSPO is intended to promote a vibrant, welcoming city centre by facilitating things like busking in appropriate locations and streamlining the offer provided by those giving food to those in need, for example by ensuring there is an offer available across the week, rather than several on the same day.

If you think about the Victoria Centre, security guards are able to manage the centre to ensure that visitors get the best possible experience without disturbance. The PSPO will give CPOs the ability to manage the city centre in a way that makes it a better place that we can all enjoy.

The PSPO is not about banning things. In fact, there are only 3 bans included, and they are for things I’m sure we can agree on- urinating and defecating in public, blocking entrances and exits and using psychoactive substances. Other activities are restricted so as to ensure that they can be managed for the good of the public as well as in the best interests of anyone undertaking those activities. It also strengthens powers to deal with acts of public indecency helping make our city centre a better destination for businesses, local residents and visitors.

The PSPO provides particular pitches for Big Issue sellers, will limit ‘chuggers’ and people giving out flyers without agreement from the council to do so and will promote respectful street entertainment that makes our city centre more vibrant.

At a time when the police presence in our city has diminished due to eight years of Government funding cuts, ensuring our Community Protection Officers are properly equipped with the powers to deal with the growing challenges is essential to maintain our city centre as an attractive public space for people to work, relax and enjoy.

The consultation closed last month and whilst the responses were overwhelmingly positive, we are taking any issues raised seriously and looking to address them in our final proposals. Submissions included those from Nottinghamshire Police, Big Issue, Nottingham Business Improvement District, local churches, the Big Issues, Musicians Union, Equity and local residents.

Nottingham Remembers the 100th Anniversary of the end of the First World War

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War  and there are a number of events that have been organised to remember this important centenary. In my own ward, St Ann’s, I was lucky enough to meet Hilda Hutchinson, who is 101 years old and was the guest of honour at the unveiling of a refurbished memorial at St Ann’s Church. Hilda owns her very own piece of Great War history – a Christmas card sent to her by her father from the trenches in 1918.

This week has already seen a number of events organised across the city to remember the centenary with the 1918 Arnustuce Centenary Concert at the Royal Concert Hall, featuring the Nottingham Harmonic Choir, Mraimah Kannneh-Mason and Southwell Girls Choir. We have also had the Games of Remembrance at Meadow Lane and City Ground playing host to a match between troops from the British Army Football Association and the German Bundeswehr to commemorate soldiers from both sides.

To mark Remembrance Sunday itself The Victoria Embankment will once again be the city’s focal point for commemoration on Armistice Day with the two minute silence and wreath laying taking place from 11am. To conclude the day of national commemorations, beacons will be lit infront of Victoria Embankment along will also include poetry and music to pay tribute to the 14,000 men and women from Nottingham and Nottinghamshire who lost their lives as apart of the Battle’s Over A Nation’s Tribute.

We are also working with the County Council to deliver a new war memorial at Victoria Embankment. The memorial will be the first collection of all the names of those from Nottingham and Nottinghamshire who died in the First World War. The plans final design has been approved and the memorial should open before May next year.

I know there are lots of people in Nottingham will want to remember those that lost their in the First World War and I hope as many people as possible go to their local Remembrance Service to do just that.

Any Local Government Reorganisation Must Consider an Expanded City Boundary

Local Government re-organisation is a distraction from the very real issue of unfair Government funding of local authorities and the growing challenge of sustainable funding for social care services. However, if local government reorganisation has to happen, there should be one Nottingham and one council for an expanded city – not the current muddle of six councils that people in the urban parts of the conurbation are living with now.

The existing boundary between Nottingham and Nottinghamshire is an nonsensical anomaly from the 1998 local government reorganisation, leaving Nottingham at a disadvantage over other cities.  Any local government reorganisation needs to be sustainable and future-proof and that should include a single council that serves the whole of urban Nottingham. Proposals based only on the County boundary would stifle Nottingham and Nottinghamshire’s potential growth and reduce accountability for city services. A new large county unitary’s focus would be diluted if it was trying to deliver services to former coalfields and growing market towns as well as fulfilling metropolitan duties in an arbitrary ring around Nottingham.

Currently, less than half (48.7%) of those who work in the city also live in the city – significantly less than for other comparable cities such as Sheffield (75.7%) and Leeds (70.5%.) Many people from outside the city make use of city services and its infrastructure and enjoy it as a destination for leisure, entertainment and shopping. But their Council Tax doesn’t contribute to funding the city services they use regularly and they are not in a position to hold Nottingham’s decision makers to account for choices made in the city that can significantly affect their daily lives.

The City Council has submitted a response to the County Council’s consultation into their plans and City residents should respond as well. There are ramifications for city residents if the County Council goes ahead with its proposals as currently drafted. The County Council’s proposals and consultation can be seen here:

New Neighbourhood for Nottingham?

Nottingham City Council has long held the ambition to develop the Waterside area close to the city centre and this week Executive Board was proud to approve consultation of the planning document which sets out our ambition and gives future developers guidance on how to meet those aspirations. The bank of the River Trent is one of Nottingham’s greatest assets, but other than Victoria Embankment, it is an asset that is currently underutilised.

The opportunity to develop the area with high quality new homes, a new school, new transport links while also preserving and enhancing the unique riverside location and green space is one we should take. Our plans lay out the creation of a new residential community with its own identity and character. It’s hoped that people will be able to enjoy the best of contemporary living, in a healthy, sustainable and vibrant riverside setting. I want to see new developments which will provide improvements to public spaces, including a cycling and walking path and green space along the river bank connecting the Nottingham and Beeston Canal towpath with the Victoria Embankment through to Colwick Park.

Due to the scale of change envisaged for the 27-hectare site, the council will control the level, type and timings of the change required ensuring that the area’s best assets are retained and used in the best way possible. The City Council will work with developers and landowners to implement new development schemes in line with the planning guidance in phases.

Over the last few years a number of regeneration projects have been completed close to the Waterside area and include upgrades to Nottingham Station, a new retail development at Eastpoint on Daleside Road and successful eco-home schemes in the Meadows.  Housing developments are also under construction along Arkwright Walk, Queens Road and Saffron Court on Crocus Street.

Though the Waterside development is many years off from being realised, this week is a landmark in its journey. I look forward to the consultation launching in the beginning of November and hope as many people as possible will take part in it.

Universal Credit should be halted immediately in Nottingham

Reports are saying the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) plans to halt the full rollout of Universal Credit. If the Government is finally recognising this is a flawed system, then that’s welcome, but if that means they are halting Universal Credit roll-out, it needs to stop immediately in Nottingham.

In July, I called for the rollout of Universal Credit to be halted before it inflicts more pain on families in Nottingham. The limited experience of Universal Credit so far in Nottingham has seen risinig levels of rent arrears along with more debt problems. It’s high time the Department for Work and Pensions accepted that the way they have implemented Universal Credit so far is actively hurting the people it is there to help. It’s totally unacceptable for them to simply plough on regardless while it damages people’s lives, driving them into debt and needing to use foodbanks.

There has been a chorus of opposition to the Government’s flagship welfare reform and a list of examples exposing the inherent flaw and problems with its implementation:

These problems have emerged while only a fraction of the total number of benefit claimants have been placed on Universal Credit. The Government should take this as a chance to stop the process, and fix the obvious problems that exist, otherwise they will be knowingly inflicting the same pain on more families in Nottingham and millions of other claimants due to be placed on Universal Credit.

Councils are Essential to Tackling the Housing Crisis

Last November Nottingham City Council passed a motion calling on the Government to remove the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap. Just under 12 months later, the Government has finally listened and is recognising councils as essential in tackling the UK’s housing crisis.

Nottingham City Council has embarked on the biggest new Council house building programe in a generation, building 404 council homes since 2015 and aiming to build 2500 homes that Nottingham people can affordable to rent or buy by May next year. The council has created award winning quality developments in partnership with Nottingham City Homes and last year Nottingham City Homes built more new homes than any other Arm’s Length Management Organisation in the Country. We always aim to do more, however, two issues have prevented this:

  1. Councils are only allowed to use right to buy receipts to fund 30% of the cost of a scheme, the remainder must be funded through borrowing on the Housing Revenue Account which is in turn limited by central Government;
  2. Councils are only allowed to spend the money on a very narrow range of housing types and it cannot be given to Nottingham City Homes to support them with the costs of homes they are building to own for themselves.

Earlier this summer a lift on the borrowing cap was proposed but was based on criteria which would have had nothing to do with demand or affordability, instead simply relying on a crude comparison between housing association social rents and private rents where only 104 Councils could extend their borrowing cap – 91 of which are in the South of England.

The Government’s latest announcement thankfully extends this to all councils meaning areas with high demand like Nottingham will be able to get on with building the new homes that local people need. Crucial to solving the UK’s housing crisis is ensuring that we build a mix of council homes, aspiration family housing and bungalows. The lifting of the HRA borrowing cap will allow is to achieve this in the numbers we need and I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement last week.