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The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting and invited representatives from the Basement Project to give a short talk on the work that they carried out. Members thanked them for their attendance and the vital work that they did in supporting young people in the district.
Apologies for absence were received form Councillors A. Beaumont and H. Jones.
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 the Council held on 26th June 2019 were submitted. The following points of clarification were discussed:
· Councillor C. Hotham asked whether the dispensations in respect of outside bodies had been addressed. The Monitoring Officer confirmed that these had been dealt with at the meeting of the Audit, Standards and Governance Committee held on 30th July 2019.
· It was confirmed that there had not been a named vote in respect of Councillor M. Thompson’s amendment to the Climate Change notice of motion discussed at the meeting on 24th July 2019.
RESOLVED that the minutes of the meetings of the Council held on 26th June 2019 and 24th July 2019 be approved.
To receive any announcements from the Chairman and/or Head of Paid Service
There were no announcements from the Chairman or Head of Paid Service.
To receive any announcements from the Leader
The Leader confirmed that Redditch Borough Council had received a Section 24 Notice in relation to its financial sustainability from 2020/21. She advised members that this was due to Redditch Borough Council not having the levels of balances and reserves at a level that enabled them to fund their £1.5m budget deficit that they had to find over the next 3 years. It was highlighted that whilst Bromsgrove had to make savings of £1.2m over the next 3 years, if necessary, it had sufficient balances to meet that shortfall.
Both Councils therefore had to reduce costs and generate additional income in order to address the budget gap that was faced. It was vital that the funding reductions were met to enable services to be delivered to all the Council’s communities.
In assessing Redditch Borough Council, there were a number of services that it provided that were chargeable only to Redditch; any savings from these services would only be attributable to Redditch. As Members were aware officers had already been asked to look at the split of charges between the 2 Councils and any resulting savings from these reviews, together with the aim to reduce enabling costs would be split between the 2 organisations.
The Leader advised that she had spoken to the leader of Redditch Borough Council, Councillor Matt Dormer, and had been assured that they would take the difficult decisions that were required to balance their budget. Members were assured that the financial difficulties Redditch Council found itself in would not impact on the delivery of this Council’s services. However, the Leader reaffirmed the position that this Council had to make significant savings to mitigate the impact of funding reductions in the medium term.
Members discussed the following areas in respect of the Leader’s announcement:
· The regrettable situation and any impact on Bromsgrove services arising from it.
· Whether, if the Council had not already been in the shared services partnership with Redditch Borough Council, this Council would have considered such an agreement. The Leader advised that she was looking at the current situation, not looking back.
· Clarification in respect of the potential impact on this Council and whether it would be appropriate for the Overview and Scrutiny Board’s Finance and Budget Working Group to look at this matter in more detail.
· The need to be proactive in looking at how the Section 24 order could impact on this Council.
· The role of the Finance and Budget Working Group in being set up to consider situations in more detail and the need of this Council to be aware of any impact on its services at the earliest possible stage.
· The amount of savings that this Council needed to make over the next two years was clarified by the Section 151 Officer.
The Leader initially did not feel it was necessary at this stage for the Finance and Budget Working Group to consider the matter; however, after some debate she conceded that she had no objection to the Working Group looking ... view the full minutes text for item 40\19
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.
There were no comments, questions or petitions from members of the public on this occasion.
Councillor G. Denaro, the Portfolio Holder for Finance and Enabling introduced the report and explained that since the report had been published, he had been approached to withdraw two recommendations, with a view to these being further considered. He therefore requested that recommendations 2.1 and 2.2 in respect of Gifts and Hospitality Guide for Councillors and the Council Procedure Rules in respect of Purdah, be withdrawn.
The remaining recommendations were proposed by Councillor Denaro and seconded by Councillor K. May.
Members questioned the need to remove the Officers’ Code of Conduct from the Constitution and Councillor Denaro responded that, as detailed in paragraph 3.14 of the report, this was a Human Resources matter, which formed part of the terms and conditions of employment of officers and sat within a suite of policies that were part of that HR role and which were monitored and updated on a regular basis. This was confirmed by the Monitoring Officer, who added that, it was appropriate for clarity, for those policies all to sit in one area.
In respect of the Licensing Code of Practice, it was requested that the inclusion of all new taxis to have wheelchair access be added. However, it was confirmed that this item related to legislative changes under the Licensing and Gambling Acts and did not relate in any way to the taxi-licensing regime. Such a requirement would be a matter for the Licensing Committee.
a) the updated Licensing Code of Practice be agreed as set out in Appendix 2; and
b) the Officer Code of Conduct be removed from the Council’s Constitution.
To consider the recommendations from the meeting(s) of the Cabinet held on 4th September 2019.
Worcestershire Regulatory Services Board – Enforcement Policy 2019
Councillor A. D. Kent, Portfolio Holder for Planning and Regulatory Services, proposed the recommendation in respect of Worcestershire Regulatory Services Board, Enforcement Policy 2019 as detailed at page 115 of the agenda pack, and this was seconded by Councillor K. May.
Members discussed a number of areas in respect of this item, including:
· The differences between the updated policy and the previous policy. It was commented that it would be more helpful for Members to, in future, receive this in tracked changes format in order to establish what, if any changes had been made.
· It was suggested that it would be more appropriate to defer the item until such information was made available.
· The policy had been discussed at the Worcestershire Regulatory Services Board meeting and any queries Members had could have been raised at that meeting. The purpose of bringing the matter forward to this meeting, was merely to “rubber stamp” the decision reached by the Board.
· Whether the Portfolio Holder should have been briefed in more detail about any changes and able to respond to questions from Members on it. The Portfolio Holder drew Members’ attention to page 116 of the agenda pack which highlighted the changes which had been made.
· The wording of the recommendation was discussed as this did not make specific reference to this Council.
Councillor R. Hunter proposed that the report be deferred until the next meeting and this was seconded by Councillor H. Rone-Clarke. On being put to the vote the amendment was lost.
RESOLVED that, the Council for each Member Authority adopt the Worcestershire Regulatory Services Enforcement Policy 2019, as detailed at Appendix 1 to the report.
Bromsgrove Plan Review Update
In proposing the recommendation Councillor Kent advised Members that there had been almost 3.5k responses during the six week public consultation, a summary of which had been published, although not included within the agenda packs.
Members debated the following in more detail:
· Whether, given the comprehensive and detailed nature of the report, six weeks was sufficient time for the consultation to take place and the need to protect the valued landscape of the District. Councillor Kent responded that the Plan was a living document and would continue to be discussed in various forums and in particular Members were able to input to the process through the Strategic Planning Steering Group meetings and therefore he did not believe it was necessary to extend the consultation period beyond the six week period recommended.
· It was suggested that the recommendation be taken individually rather than en bloc in order for Members to propose any amendments if they so wished.
· Whilst there was a breakdown of the comments received, there was no detail around what people had actually said. Councillor Kent referred Members to the larger ... view the full minutes text for item 43\19
During consideration of the Cabinet minutes from the meeting held on 4th September clarification was sought in respect of the Cabinet Away Day which had been referred to under in Minute No. 31/19. The Leader confirmed that this had in fact been held at the Parkside Office in Room 54.
The Minutes from the Cabinet meeting held on 4th September 2019 were submitted for information and noted by Members.
Councillor A. Kent, Portfolio Holder for Planning and Regulatory Services proposed the recommendations in respect of the Planning Obligation Reforms – Changing for Section 106 Monitoring. These were seconded by Councillor G. Denaro.
In proposing the recommendations Councillor Kent explained that following Planning Obligation Reforms, as detailed within the report, which allowed a sum to be paid under Section 106 monies for the monitoring of delivery of planning obligations. Approval was sought for this to take immediate effect, in accordance with the new regulations.
Members raised the following points during the ensuing debate:
· It was understood that Officers were already employed to do this and it was therefore questioned why there should be a deduction from S106 funds to cover the cost. Councillor Kent explained that this was a charge for monitoring and would not be deducted from any S106 monies agreed, which put the onerous task on to the developer.
· Concerns were still raised that any charge made against the developer would impact on the amount of funds received for S106. The Head of Planning and Regeneration confirmed that this charge would be in addition to the S106 funds.
· The funds were well needed as the Council currently carried the burden of monitoring such funds.
· It was noted that there were a number of large applications coming up and as Council were asking for this to take immediate effect it was assumed that those applications would be covered by this. It was confirmed that this was correct.
· Further work would be carried out and the charging mechanism would be included within the fees and charges to be agreed later in the year. In the meantime delegated powers to the Head of Planning and Regeneration would allow for the charges to be made immediately.
· Concerns that any charge to the developer would impact on the houses provided. It was commented that in comparison to the cost of a house, any such charge would be nominal.
· It was confirmed that the mechanism for calculating the cost was still being worked on.
(a) the inclusion of a monitoring charge within Section 106 agreements in accordance with the Regulations with immediate effect be approved; and
(b) delegated authority be given to the Head of Planning and Regeneration Services in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Planning and Regulatory Services, to develop and implement as soon as possible a charging approach in line with the Regulations as stated below at para 3.4 be approved.
Up to 30 minutes is allowed for this item; no longer than 10 minutes for presentation of the report and then up to 3 minutes for each question to be put and answered.
Councillor G. Denaro, Portfolio Holder for Finance and Enabling, took the opportunity to thank all officers who had helped collate the report and he also apologised for the omission of the section on Electoral Services, which had been included in Supplementary Agenda Documentation 3. Councillor Denaro advised that he did not intend to repeat the report in his overview but would start with some initial comments overall on the Council’s financial situation, especially following the Leaders comments in respect of the financial position at Redditch Borough Council.
He reminded Members that the Audit, Standards and Governance Committee had met at the end of July, after the full Council meeting, when the Accounts for 2018/2019 had been presented and approved accordingly. The Auditors had commented that “Many councils would give their right arm to have figures like these”. This had been very rewarding, especially in light of some comments in this chamber in recent years in respect of the Council’s financial position. He hoped that those Members were now able to recognise the progress that had been made and acknowledge the hard work by all concerned to achieve this.
Councillor Denaro went on to advice that the Council must not be complacent as there were other challenges ahead. The Medium Term Finance Plan (MTFP) showed that over the next 3 years the Council would have to find savings and additional income in excess of £3m to balance its books without resorting to reserves. The recent Spending Review had brought both good and bad news. The provisional settlement indicated there may be no changes to New Homes Bonus but Council Tax maybe capped at 2% rather than 2.99% as before, which would mean that an additional £30K plus each year would need to be found. The Council need to wait for the final settlement in December to be sure; however work had already started on addressing the deficit. Overall the Council’s finances were in a good place at present but work still needed to be done to ensure that the Council continued to protect the front line Services it delivered to its residents.
Turning to the Finance report Councillor Denaro drew Members attention to the thread running through it in increasing our residents’ ability to engage with the Council digitally. The new Enterprise system would make this available as implementation progressed, but the Council would also be mindful that many residents did not have Smart phones or internet access, it would therefore always ensure face to face and phone access with residents was available.
In respect of Customer Access there was a substantial section of the report that covered many aspects of the Council’s contact with its residents. It was highlighted that online enquiries were now partially responded to automatically in respect of Council Tax Registration and changes in payment methods.
Democratic and Legal Services both provided support to Members and the Council. All Members worked closely with this team and Councillor Denaro took the opportunity to thank the Head of Legal, ... view the full minutes text for item 46\19
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 M. Thompson
“In the last full council meeting the Labour Group moved a motion for the council to replace every tree it cut down with 6 saplings. The motion was rejected because of lack of a business case. The Labour Group do not believe that such (small) gestures, which help reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to help combat the enhanced Greenhouse Effect, require a business case. However, in view of the above, please can the relevant portfolio holder answer the following question, to help with the so-called business case:
If a = average price of a sapling, b = average number of trees felled per annum by Bromsgrove District Council and c = 6ab.
What is c?”
The Leader referred the question to the Portfolio Holder who had answered this question at the last Council meeting.
The Portfolio Holder for Planning advised that he had previously carried out some research with regard to this question and had looked at various nursery suppliers who provided Whip or Bareroot plants which were small i.e. up to 60cm tall. Due to their very low costs, far less time and effort was required to get them established therefore the potential cost of plant failure was also very low.
The Portfolio Holder added that he had randomly chosen some nursery sites online to look at prices for this type of planting stock and in general they range from around 90p - £2.22 per tree – normally based on ordering a multiple bundle of say 10 – 20 at a time. Each one of these would probably require a protective planting tube and stake at approx. £2 per tree. For the planting of say 6 – 10 trees on a single site he estimated a requirement for one member of staff for 1 hour maximum at a salary cost of £10 per hour plus a vehicle to travel to the location. As is clearly evident this type of planting is very low cost.
However, if there were any increase in the size of tree to be planted then it was expected the cost wold increase exponentially – larger Standard size trees for example could cost several hundreds of pounds each and the aftercare costs were also much higher. The appropriateness of the type, size and location of any tree planting would need to be evaluated and a general cost was very difficult to accurately quantify, as each site would most likely have different requirements and restrictions.
Apart from half a dozen young trees that came down as part of the Sanders Park cycle path scheme (which were taken down by WCC rather than ourselves) the Portfolio Holder did not think that the Council had felled any trees in the last financial year – some were pruned but not felled and he added that Leisure would have had around 400 new trees planted at one of the Bromsgrove allotment sites.
Questions Submitted by Councillor P. McDonald
“Would the Chairman please inform me ... view the full minutes text for item 47\19
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.
Councillor R. Hunter asked for it to be noted that he had, prior to the meeting, agreed with Councillor S. Baxter to allow her Notice of Motion to be considered as the first Notice of Motion, as it was such an important subject and he would allow his to be considered last. The Chairman asked those Members who had also submitted Motions if they were in agreement with this arrangement and it was confirmed that they were.
Members considered the following Notice of Motion submitted by Councillor S. Baxter:
Council recognises that a no-deal Brexit is still a possibility and this could have serious implications for our district.
Council notes that All District Councils have been awarded Government funding with £17,400 already allocated to Bromsgrove.
There are 3m European nationals working in the UK many of whom are employed in the agriculture, care and hospitality industries who are currently dependant on their contribution to the workforce. According to government information, these residents will have until December 31st 2020 to apply for UK residency under the European residency scheme, however there is confusion over the government’s announcement that free movement would end immediately on 31 October 2019 and that a planned transition period would not be implemented.
To date, there have only been 1m applications for UK residency which presents a known risk to our local businesses and community in the event of a no deal Brexit.
We call upon this council to take the following actions to mitigate against all risks associated with a no deal brexit:
The Motion was proposed by Councillor Baxter and seconded by Councillor R. Hunter.
In proposing the Motion Councillor Baxter firstly thanked Councillor Hunter for allowing her to put the motion first. She then explained that she wanted to make it clear to Members, what the motion should not be about; Brexit. The aim of the motion was to ensure that local businesses and communities were protected. It was clear to her that this was currently the only grant funding available to support local communities, by supporting this Motion Members would ensure that residents’ best interests were being addressed. She had attended an LGA event where this matter had been high on the agenda as there was little time left and it was something that this Council could do to help its residents, communities and businesses. Councillor Baxter provided statistical information in respect of the number of European nationals and the areas ... view the full minutes text for item 48\19