A report of the Mayor had been circulated with the agenda.
The Chairman invited Members to indicate whether they wished to ask a question of the Mayor. Councillors Turmaine, Mauthoor, Ezeifedi, Bashir, Mills and Bell indicated that they wished to ask questions.
1) Councillor Turmaine referred to the extensive Mayor’s report. He asked if it would be possible to look at the process by which councillors had to pose their questions to the Mayor. He felt it was difficult to interrogate a document of this length and put their question within one minute.
The Mayor thanked Councillor Turmaine for his question. He noted that over the last year Councillor Bolton had been reviewing how the council operated. Councillors had been able to give their views. One of the results of the review had been to allow the leader of the Opposition the chance to ask a second question. He said if Councillor Turmaine wanted to make any suggestions for change they could be considered by a future Constitution Working Party.
The Mayor said that he was happy to answer questions at any time including by email. There was also an opportunity at Council for councillors to submit written questions.
2) Councillor Mauthoor made reference to the Town Centre Task Force item in the report. She had noted the three areas covered and asked whether the task force would also be targeting young people and making contact with the young offender’s team.
The Mayor said that the Town Centre Task Force had been working with West Herts College, therefore it was definitely working with young people. If there were any further suggestions in that area that could be covered the group would be happy to look at it.
The Mayor added that it was important there was a vibrant town centre. However, where people were sleeping rough or begging aggressively action had to be taken. Lots had been happening and the group had brought everyone together.
3) Councillor Ezeifedi noted in the report regarding polling districts that an extra polling district had not been recommended for Holywell Ward. She asked whether this could be reviewed in line with the need of the area. The voters in King Georges Avenue and parts of Whippendell Road were cut off from the current polling districts. She suggested that a pop-up station near the doctors’ surgery in Printers Avenue could be set up. She added that she would be happy to work with officers on this suggestion.
The Mayor clarified that this question referred to a report later in the agenda and not directly to his report. He understood that with regard to Holywell, Councillor Bell had been asked to put forward suggested alternatives but had not provided any. This was the reason officers had made their recommendation. It was often difficult to find appropriate locations for polling stations.
4) Councillor Bashir said that he felt everyone would agree that Watford was an open and tolerant town. There was no room to tolerate racism or any kind of discrimination. He asked if the Mayor agreed with him that Watford should be a Trump free zone. If he did then he questioned what the Mayor would be doing.
The Mayor responded that the Grove was mainly within Three Rivers although the entrance was in Watford. The councillor’s question would therefore be more relevant to Three Rivers District Council.
The Mayor said that he had made clear in the press about his disagreement with most of President Donald Trump’s comments. However, he felt it was important that international organisations such as the United Nations, the European Union and NATO existed and world leaders were able to meet and discuss matters. The Mayor said his other concern about the NATO summit was the impact on local policing in the area. He had been reassured that there would not be an extra cost to the council and area. The policing would be from across the country. Although he didn’t agree with many of President Trump’s comments it was important for world leaders to meet.
5) Councillor Mills referred to several accidents that happened just outside Watford involving chickens and horses. As an activist for animal rights, she asked the Mayor if it was possible to ban large vehicles transporting animals from travelling on Watford roads. She would be happy to work with the Mayor to address this issue.
The Mayor responded that everyone was upset by the story and the impact it had. He noted her suggestion, but the council was not the highways authority. He understood that it would be quite difficult to implement her suggestion. However he welcomed her to send him more details.
The Mayor added that the council had a very active Environmental Health team who ensured that animal welfare was a priority for the council. They carried out a lot of activity across the town to make sure that animals were treated well.
6) Councillor Bell mentioned that the Development Management Committee had passed the multi-storey car park for the hospital. He asked the Mayor if he could provide Council with the latest position.
The Mayor said that it was important the car park was built. It would double the parking capacity at the hospital and access would be improved. Due to its location at the top of the hill there would be direct access to the hospital. There were ongoing discussions about the options with Kier, the LABV and the football club. It was correct that planning permission had been granted and the development needed to be progressed.
Councillor Bell asked if the Mayor could expand on any timeline for getting the car park built.
The Mayor confirmed there were active discussions about the location of the car park at the top of the hill. He was happy to report back to the councillor with further information once more was known following the various ongoing discussions.