Agenda item

Questions from Members of the Council Under Standing Order 20

To receive questions from Members of the Council to the relevant Portfolio Holders for this Scrutiny Committee. The Portfolio Holders reporting to this Scrutiny Committee are:-


Councillor Bialyk -       Leader

Councillor Sutton -      Portfolio Holder for Net Zero Exeter 2030

Councillor Foale -       Portfolio Holder for Transformation and Environment

Councillor Morse -      Portfolio Holder for City Development

Councillor Wood -       Portfolio Holder for Leisure & Physical Activity


Advance questions from Members relating to the Portfolio Holders above should be notified to the Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support.




In accordance with Standing Order 20, the following questions were submitted by Councillor Sparling:-


Councillor Foale, the Portfolio Holder for Transformation and Environment responded to the following questions as set out below:-


1.      According to Public Health England in the latest Air Quality Annual Status Report, almost 1 in 20 deaths in Exeter in 2017 were attributable to particulate air pollution. Can the Portfolio Holder confirm that the Air Quality Action Plan is sufficient to safeguard the health of Exeter's residents? Additionally, what plans are there to set new air quality targets following the release of the updated World Health Organisation guidelines, which strongly suggest the target for Nitrogen Dioxide should be 75% lower than the current legal limit?


The statistics quoted in the question would benefit from some context.  Public Health England’s Public Health Outcomes Framework tool shows that in Exeter in 2017, the fraction of mortality attributable to particulate air pollution was 4.4%. This is equal to the regional figure for the whole of the South West (4.4%) and below the national level of 5.1%. Exeter therefore has levels of particulate matter which are causing harm, but this problem is less severe than in nearly 75% of the country.


With regard to the second point, the Council has a legal duty to monitor air quality and work to achieve the current national standards for air quality. It would be for Central Government to alter these standards in light of the recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report. The Council is working with Devon County Council to reduce air pollution and recognises that even where compliance with the current standards is reached, there may still be harm caused. However, it will continue to prioritise those areas with the highest concentrations (i.e. above the current standards). It was also worth noting that the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Appraisal of our last Annual Status Report was extremely complimentary, commenting on both the structure, the detailed and accurate work and robust quality assurance procedures.  Defra finished off by saying that ‘the Council should continue their good and thorough work’.   


Councillor Sparling asked the following supplementary question as to whether the Transport Working Group could be convened to look into this issue further, especially as the Working Group had been discussed, but had not yet met.


Councillor Foale said he would raise that matter with colleagues.


2.    Can the Portfolio Holder describe the transformation and impact on services that One Exeter will have and how it will create savings?


A report outlining the detail of the work streams of the One Exeter Transformation Programme and its implications for Council services and identified savings requirements from the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan is being prepared for Council in February, to run parallel with the budget-setting process for 2022/23.


Councillor Sparling asked the following supplementary question of the impact the One Exeter Programme was expected to have on improving services?


Councillor Foale responded and stated that this work had to be looked at in context of this Council, which had lost a significant sum year on year and there was now over £7.5 million savings to be made over the next three years. There was a duty of care to look at all areas of expenditure that could be considered and make the Council as efficient as we can after these savings are made. A recommendation will be made to the Executive in February in line with our normal budget setting procedure.