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Apologies for absence were received from Councillors S. R. Colella, S. P. Shannon and C. B. Taylor and Members were advised that Councillors R. Jenkins and L. C. R. Mallett would be a little late.
Declarations of Interest
To invite Councillors to declare any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Other Disclosable Interests they may have in items on the agenda, and to confirm the nature of those interests.
There were no declarations of interest on this occasion.
The Minutes of the meeting of Council held on 25th April 2018 were submitted. A number of areas of clarification were sought in respect of the following:
· Councillor M. Thompson requested an update from the Leader in respect of Burcot Lane and the Leader responded that he hoped to be able to provide more detail after 2nd July.
· Councillor M. Thompson requested an update from the Leader in respect of the Sports Hall correspondence referred to at the previous meeting and whether the Leader had investigated the matter further. The Leader confirmed that the matter had been dealt with.
· Councillor M. Thompson referred to the item in respect of the Electoral Matters Committee and advised that he did not believe that the minutes reflected the discussions which had taken place. He wished it to be noted that he had made a number of critical observations in respect of the Parish Council in his ward which had been brought to his attention by a number of residents.
RESOLVED that subject to the preamble above, the minutes of the meeting of the Council held on 25th April 2018 be approved as a correct record.
The Minutes of the meeting of the Council held on 16th May 2018 were submitted.
RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of the Council held on 16th May 2018 be approved as a correct record.
To receive any announcements from the Chairman and/or Head of Paid Service
The Chairman announced that there were two events coming up to which all Members had been invited. These were:
· The Court Leet Fayre on 23rd June.
· The Court Leet Patronical Service which would take place at St John’s Church on 24th June.
The Chairman advised that she would also be attending a Muslim Community event that St John’s Church was hosting to commemorate the genocide at Srebrenica at 1pm on 8th July 2018.
Councillor M. Thompson questioned the relationship between the Council and the Court Leet and those that were members of it. The Chairman advised that the relationship was historic and that all Members of the Council were invited to attend such events as those she had referred to.
To receive any announcements from the Leader
The Leader advised that he had no announcements to make at this time.
Councillor S. Baxter noted that whilst there was a question later on the agenda in respect of the recent flooding which had taken place in Wythall, she asked for her thanks to be placed on record to the Leader and those officers who had been involved in the incident and the ongoing clear up. Councillor Baxter had been on holiday at the time and said it was testament to the hard work which had been carried out that she had not received any phone calls asking for help over the period.
Councillor C. Bloore, also thanked officers but advised that as he still had family and friends in the area had received a number of phone calls from residents who had been unable to get information or access help, as it had appeared that the emergency phone lines had not been working or where overloaded. He requested that a lessons learnt exercise be carried out to ensure that this did not happen again in the future.
The Leader confirmed that the relevant partners were continuing to meet and that he would highlight the concerns raised by Councillor Bloore to ensure these issues were addressed in the future.
To receive comments, questions or petitions from members of the public
A period of up to 15 minutes is allowed for members of the public to make a comment, ask questions or present petitions. Each member of the public has up to 3 minutes to do this. A councillor may also present a petition on behalf of a member of the public.
The Chairman announced that there had been a question raised by a member of the public.
When the new leisure centre project started we were told that the existing sports hall couldn't be retained and refurbished, My understanding was that there could be structural issues as a result of having to demolish the old leisure centre.
When negotiations with BAM for the use of NBHS was unsuccessful refurbishment of the old sports hall became one of the five options available to the Council.
Can you explain why this became an option recently when it wasn't before please?
Was the initial information presented to Councillors, to aid their decision making, inaccurate or possibly the full facts unknown?
Councillor P. J. Whittaker, Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Cultural and Community Services responded that when the new leisure project was agreed by elected Members the redevelopment proposals were predicated on the new centre being able to generate sufficient revenue from the facilities to meet the prudential borrowing requirements in place from the Public Loans Board. The context of this had been to ensure that the new facilities did not place a greater burden on the general tax payer than was already the case by providing the Dolphin Centre.
Councillor Whittaker reminded everyone that when the feasibility study was completed and the associated costs and available funding reviewed, a decision had been made on the facility mix for the new site that did not include a replacement Sports Hall. This was because, as part of the wider project, the extra capital cost that would have been required to build the extra facilities and the limited return that would be offered would have meant that the prudential borrowing requirements would not be satisfied. Therefore the whole scheme could not have been progressed without alternative funding being brought forward from within the Council’s Medium Term Finical Plan.
At the time reference had been made to the possibility of refurbishing the current Sports Hall and for a wide variety of reasons which included:
· Additional Costs that would be incurred.
· Risk of demolition given the structural concerns that existed and whether professional indemnity could be achieved.
· Increased operational costs and the impact on the prudential borrowing position.
· Lose of enabling land and reduction in capital receipt that was underpinning the prudential borrowing position of the agree scheme.
This option was not felt to be economically viable as the costs incurred would still mean that the prudential borrowing requirements would not be satisfied and the positon would remain the same regardless of which option was considered to be the preferred route to maintain a Sports Hall within the facility mix.
As such the discussions that were held and the decisions that were made were based on affordability and viability as detailed in the feasibility studies that were commissioned.
Refurbishment of the Sports Hall was not an option that was within the feasibility studies and the possibility of its refurbishment was only raised after the formal decision was made. ... view the full minutes text for item 16\18
Councillor M. J. A. Webb, the most recent Chairman of the Audit, Standards and Governance Committee presented its Annual Report for 2017/18.
Councillor M. Thompson questioned whether it was appropriate to discuss this report as he did not believe that it gave a true reflection of the work of the Audit, Standards and Governance Committee and contained no foreword from the Chairman. He therefore proposed that the report be deferred for further detail to be included within it. This proposal was seconded by Councillor P. M. McDonald.
It was highlighted that the report had been approved by the Committee Members and therefore there would have been ample opportunity for them to have input into it and by discussing it at this meeting any additional comments could also be considered.
Reference was made to the content of the Overview and Scrutiny Board Annual Report which appeared to be much more comprehensive that the Audit, Standards and Governance Committee report. It was also commented that the report should have contained more detail in respect of the charges made by the external Auditors. It was however highlighted that the charges for this service were set by Central Government and outside of the Council’s control.
On being put to the vote the amendment was lost.
Councillor M. Webb, as Chairman of the Audit, Standards and Governance Committee went on to introduce the Committee’s annual report and in so doing took the opportunity to thank all the Members involved with it and advised Members that he felt it had been a good example of cross party working. He also thanked the Portfolio Holder for Finance and Resources for his help and support, together with thanks to Council Officers and Officers from the external and internal auditors. He highlighted the areas which were covered regularly at the Committee’s meetings including the monitoring officer’s report, which included the opportunity for parish council representatives to feed into the Committee should they so wish. Whilst the report was not as detailed as some Members had obviously hoped it was highlighted that the minutes and agendas for all the Committee’s meetings were readily available on the Council’s website.
Significant other items which had been considered by the Committee included the Audit Findings and Statement of Accounts and it should be noted that the accounts had been submitted a month earlier than the previous year, in preparation for the revised deadline for local authority accounts which had been brought forward in 2017/18.
Councillor Webb confirmed that Members were welcome to suggest areas for inclusion on the Committee’s Work Programme and to contribute to future annual reports. He then responded to a number of points raised by Members, including:
· The new deadline for production of the accounts and whether this had been achieved. It was confirmed that this was the end of July and that the Accounts needed to be submitted by the end of May 2018 and this had been achieved.
· The Council’s current financial situation. Councillor Webb commented that ... view the full minutes text for item 17\18
Councillor L. Mallett, as Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Board introduced the Annual Report and in so doing highlighted that the role of the Board was one of effective challenge to Cabinet and Council, to ensure that value for money was achieved and efficient services were provided with the right decisions being made. He reminded Members that it was not a party political committee and that in the last year he believed it had carried out more work than ever before and had covered a wide range of topics, including the Sports Hall and Transport. It had made a number of recommendations to Cabinet, who had always listened, if not always agreed with the views of the Board. A number of task groups had also been undertaken covering a wide variety of topics from social media to CCTV. He took the opportunity to thank all those Board Members who had chaired these groups. He thanked all Board Members and advised that the Board had not shied away from controversy and had tackled some important issues, asking difficult questions of a number of witnesses including officers and Members from Worcestershire County Council. The Working Groups, which had been introduced more recently, had also played an integral part in the work of the Board. Councillor Mallett concluded by thanking all those who had been involved in the work of the Board and Councillor S. Webb as Vice Chairman.
Councillor B. Cooper, Portfolio Holder for Finance and Resources commented that he had seen both sides of the Board, that of a Member and more recently in his role as Portfolio Holder and reaffirmed the good work that had been carried out by the Finance and Budget Working Group in particular. Its work had been very helpful and played an important role in the budget setting process. He also thanked the Executive Director, Finance and Resources for her support in his role and with the Working Group.
The Leader took the opportunity to also thank the Overview and Scrutiny Board and its working groups for the work carried out.
RESOLVED that the Overview and Scrutiny Board Annual Report be noted.
To consider the recommendations from the meeting(s) of the Cabinet.
Bromsgrove Sport & Leisure Centre – Sports Hall Options Appraisal
The recommendation from Cabinet in respect of the Sports Hall was proposed by Councillor P. J. Whittaker, Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Cultural and Environmental Services and seconded by Councillor B. Cooper.
Councillor P. Whittaker advised Members that the Council had, today 13th June, received a nomination for the Sports Hall to be considered for listing as an Asset of Community Value. This application had been acknowledged and would be processed in the usual way. The listing of an asset as an “Asset of Community Value” operates to delay any proposed sale of the listed asset by the owner, by giving a community group the time to declare an interest in acquiring the asset and to make a bid to buy it. Councillor Whittaker advised that for this reason, receipt of this nomination did not affect the recommendation from Cabinet, which was before Council. As landowners of the site, the Council could make this decision.
In presenting the report Councillor Whittaker reminded Members that the decision to replace the old Dolphin Centre was taken in 2014, based on Sport England’s appraisal that there was no need to build a replacement Sports Hall as there was adequate provision within the district (Councillor Whittaker believed that there were some 7 halls around the District). Officers were tasked to enter negotiations with BAM, North Bromsgrove High School (NBHS) and Worcestershire County Council (WCC) in order to gain access to NBHS’s sports hall which was adjacent to the new leisure centre. This was to allow a continuation of sports provision after school and at weekends.
The agreed facility mix of the new leisure centre allowed the Council to meet the prudential borrowing criteria which would allow the Council to borrow sufficient funds for the project to proceed. The Capital Programme was subsequently increased after the Council received news that Sports England would grant some £1.5m to facilitate the climbing wall and estimates suggested an increase in the total cost of the project. Construction started some two years ago, around August 2016 and Phase 1 was completed at the end of November 2017.
Councillor Whittaker went on to explain that after long and protracted negotiations Heads of Terms were agreed with regard to the BAM agreement and the documents were in the process of being written when there was a change of Head Teacher at NBHS. The Head insisted that the hall was needed for exams for a longer period than had been suggested and BAM were informed that the availability of the sports hall would now be for some 38 weeks instead of the 48 weeks as originally envisaged. BAM then communicated to the Council that the offer of 48 weeks could no longer proceed.
Councillor Whittaker therefore asked officers to prepare a report for consideration into the possibility of refurbishment of the existing Sports Hall or the building of a new facility. Knowing that it would be difficult to separate the Sports Hall ... view the full minutes text for item 19\18
The minutes of the Cabinet meeting held on 30th May 2018 were received for information.
Questions on Notice
To deal with any questions on notice from Members of the Council, in the order in which they have been received.
A period of up to 15 minutes is allocated for the asking and answering of questions. This may be extended at the discretion of the Chairman with the agreement of the majority of those present.
Question submitted by Councillor P. Thomas
“To the Leader of the District Council, what action has been taken to help residents in Wythall affected by the flash floods?”
The Leader responded that he would like to put on record his thanks to Bromsgrove’s Emergency Team who responded so ably on Bank Holiday Monday. The Leader advised that they were around on the morning to assist where they could along with the County Council Highways Team and Fire assistance on the Sunday evening. The Leader highlighted that there had only been two Councillors out of a possible six County/District Councillors around at the time. The latest figures from the Multi Agency Recovery Team was that approximately 300 properties had been affected with 220 having full internal flooding which would take some time to dry out and make homes habitable again. As it had been a mixture of surface and drain water, a large area had been contaminated and would require decontamination by Severn Trent.
The Council had provided sandbags and further support over subsequent days with a presence in the Community Hub. The National Flood Team van was around for four days last week and North Worcestershire Water had three teams knocking on doors to check residents. Severn Trent had advised that it was a “one in 2,000 year event” with over 130mm of rain (5 inches) in 2 hours and more rain had fallen on Wythall than in Tewkesbury in 2007.
The Leader concluded that the Council’s task would be ongoing for some time as many people would have to leave their homes and would want advice on Council tax and other areas and the Council would continue to be proactive in helping its residents.
Question submitted by Councillor S. Webb
“What activities are available for families and children in the town centre parks over the summer?”
Councillor P. J. Whittaker, Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Cultural and Community Services highlighted to Members the Better Bromsgrove magazine which contained details of all activities which were planned for the summer months throughout the District. Copies of the magazine were available for all Members and details of the events were also available on the Council’s website.
A period of up to one hour is allocated to consider the motions on notice. This may only be extended with the agreement of the Council.
Members considered the following notice of motion, submitted by Councillor P. McDonald.
“That we call upon the Cabinet Member responsible to consider implementing a programme for the installation of water fountains throughout our recreation grounds.”
The motion was proposed by Councillor P. McDonald and seconded by Councillor C. McDonald.
In proposing the motion Councillor McDonald referred to the previous decision by the Council to no longer use single use plastics at its sites and advised that the damage to the environment from single use plastics had been well documented in recent months. He believed that this was the next step in assisting its residents to reduce the number of single use water bottles for example and also to contribute to the reduction in obesity in children as he believed that by providing water fountains in its parks and open spaces then it would encourage people of all ages to choose the healthy option of water rather than sugary drinks. Similar schemes had been successful in a number of other local authorities and there were now clean modern water fountains which could be installed successfully.
In seconding the motion Councillor C. McDonald informed Members that she believed this was an important step in helping residents live a healthier life, by providing fresh water whilst they were being active within the parks and would reduce the need to buy single use plastics as Councillor P. McDonald had highlighted.
Councillor B. Cooper, Portfolio Holder for Finance and Resources spoke in support of the motion and reiterated the various benefits. He highlighted that there were cost implications and first estimates appeared to be between £3.5k and £6k per fountain, the Council would therefore need to consider the cost implications against the various benefits before making a final decision.
Councillor P. Whittaker concurred with Councillor Cooper and was happy to support the motion subject to detailed costings being provided. However, Councillor Whittaker commented that not all parks may be suitable for water fountains. It was therefore suggested that a report be brought to Cabinet for consideration in due course.
On being put to the vote the Chairman declared the motion to be agreed.
BDC Planning Review
Members considered the following notice of motion, submitted by Councillor C. Hotham:
“The recent exposure by the members of the Independent group of the potential conflict of interest surrounding the BDC plan review is deeply concerning. This has been brought about by the Council employing the co-author of the Hearn-Wood study as consultant to advise on our own plan review. It appears these commissions ran concurrently. This has created the impossible circumstance whereby the average Bromsgrove resident is highly likely to loose faith in the impartiality of the plan review process. It is therefore only right and proper that: “This council suspends the entire plan review until such time as residents, developers and elected members can have faith that, via an independent audit, the review is being and has been conducted in an open and transparent ... view the full minutes text for item 22\18