Agenda and minutes

Council - Wednesday 24th January 2024 6.00 p.m.

Venue: Parkside Suite - Parkside. View directions

Contact: Jess Bayley-Hill 

No. Item


To receive apologies for absence


Apologies for absence were received from Councillors J. Elledge, B. Kumar, K. May, P. McDonald and J Stanley.


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.


Councillor S.R. Colella declared an Other Disclosable Interest which had not been registered, in Minute item no. 87/23, Motions on Notice in relation to the first Motion about funding for canals, as his son lived on a canal boat in London.


To confirm the accuracy of the minutes of the meeting of the Council held on 6th December 2023 pdf icon PDF 728 KB


The minutes of the meeting held on 6th December 2023 were submitted for Members’ consideration.


RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 6th December 2023 be approved as a true and accurate record.


To receive any announcements from the Chairman and/or Head of Paid Service




On behalf of the Council, the Chairman paid tribute and thanked Miss Jo Slade, Chair of the Friends of St John’s Church, for securing funding from the National Heritage Lottery Fund of just under £250,000 to repair the spire tower of the church and run a series of heritage engagement activities.  The Chairman also extended thanks to Hilda Roxburgh and Sheila Vincent, fellow Friends trustees, who assisted and supported the bid.  The church had a history of 1,000 years and had been listed on Historic England’s Buildings At Risk register due to issues with the spire, which was the tallest in Worcestershire.  Miss Slade had spent considerable time and dedication making the application and involving many members of the community. The Council gave a round of applause to Miss Slade.


Head of Paid Service


The Head of Paid Service, Mrs S. Hanley, apologised to the Council and to members of the public who had received incorrect invoices for the garden waste service. She assured the Council that all who had been impacted had been notified individually and no direct debit customers were impacted.


To receive any announcements from the Leader


In the absence of the Leader, the Deputy Leader, Councillor S. Baxter, reported that both Councillors K. May and P. McDonald were unwell and on behalf of the Council wished them both a speedy recovery.


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.



Urgent Decisions


Members were advised that no urgent decisions had been taken since the previous meeting of the Council.



To receive and consider a report from the Portfolio Holder for Strategic Housing, Health and Wellbeing pdf icon PDF 944 KB

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 S. Webb, Portfolio Holder for Strategic Housing, Health and Wellbeing, presented her report to the Council and thanked Council officers for their hard work and contributions.


Members of the Council asked questions about the report and the following were the main items raised:


·       Whether councillors could be involved in events which supported social prescribing; the Portfolio Holder undertook to ask the relevant team to notify all members when such events were taking place so that they could support them if they wished

·       In response to a question, Councillor Webb confirmed that the Primary Care Network (PCN) funded the social prescribing activities

·       In response to a request from Councillor B. M. McEldowney the Portfolio Holder would supply him with a list of the agencies which could refer to social prescribing activity

·       A member pointed out that the Bromsgrove PCN did not cover the whole District and asked which organisations were responsible for the remainder of the area.  Councillor Webb responded that the Bromsgrove PCN covered 77,000 of the total population of 99,600.  Currently, whilst it was understood that social prescribing activity took place throughout the District, data was not yet available beyond the Bromsgrove PCN.  The Portfolio Holder and Leader of the Council, who also held the Wellbeing portfolio for Worcestershire County Council, were pursuing obtaining all relevant data

·       When homes at the Burcot Lane development would be occupied.  The Portfolio Holder reported that the final stages of the legal process were being carried out and the homes should be occupied in a couple of months’ time.  In response to a further question, Councillor Webb reported that the properties were being marketed by Oulsnam Estate Agents and that two had been sold so far.  Where rent was payable, this would be set by Spadesbourne Homes

·       Another member asked whether there had been any issues with the houses being built at Burcot Lane; the Portfolio Holder responded that any issues should be picked up during the build, but there was also a 12 month window for snagging issues

·       Councillor R.J. Hunter asked whether details could be provided by type of the accommodation brought onstream as a result of Section 106 agreements.  Councillor Webb undertook to provide this detail separately to him

·       Councillor Hunter also asked whether the Council could learn from details about the current housing waiting list to refine its housing offer.  The Portfolio Holder responded that the current housing waiting list was 3,707 and she would provide a breakdown by category to Councillor Hunter outside the meeting

·       A member referred to the property prices in Bromsgrove and sought the Portfolio Holder’s views about the current 40% affordable housing target for greenfield and 30% target for brownfield sites.  Councillor Webb responded that the targets were national policy

·       In response to a question, the Portfolio Holder undertook to arrange a visit for Councillors to the Lifeline Service

·       Councillor Webb also undertook to ask the Starting Well Service to circulate details of the various events and initiatives undertaken by it to all  ...  view the full minutes text for item 80\23


Outside Bodies Appointment pdf icon PDF 180 KB


The Council had been advised by Worcestershire County Council, which co-ordinated meetings of the West Mercia Police and Crime Panel, that the Council’s substitute member on the panel must be from the same political group as the lead member.  This was due to rules of political balance.  As the Council’s lead representative was Councillor H. Jones, the substitute member needed to be a Conservative Member.


RESOLVED that Councillor B. Kumar be appointed as the Substitute Member to the West Mercia Police and Crime Panel for the remainder of the 2023-24 Municipal Year.


Local Government Boundary Commission for England preliminary stage Boundary Review for Bromsgrove - Council Size Submission pdf icon PDF 175 KB

Additional documents:


Councillor Rone-Clark, Vice Chairman of the Electoral Matters Committee, introduced the item and explained the process for the review of Council size, which was being carried out by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE).  At this first stage the Council was recommending the size of the Council.  The Electoral Matters Committee had discussed this in depth at its meeting and he proposed that the completed submission on Council size, as circulated with the Council agenda, should be submitted to the LGBCE.


Councillor J. Robinson seconded the recommendation.


During consideration of this item, Councillor S. Baxter thanked the officers and the Electoral Matters Committee members for their work on the review so far.




1)    The Council puts forward a Council size of 31 in its submission to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE); and


2)    The Council size submission report be submitted to the LGBCE as part of the Electoral Review for Bromsgrove.





Outcomes of the Corporate Peer Challenge pdf icon PDF 238 KB

Additional documents:


Council considered a report on the findings and suggestions from a Corporate Peer Challenge (CPC) Review visit by the Local Government Association.  This followed from the original CPC undertaken at the Council in March 2023.  There were no new recommendations in the review report.


Councillor S. Baxter, Deputy Leader, presented the report and proposed the recommendations, which were seconded by Councillor P. Whittaker.  Councillor Baxter referred to the progress made since the first CPC report and the proposed ongoing actions.  During consideration of the item the following points were raised:


·       In response to a question about whether the Council had mitigated risks from recommendation 4 in the original report relating to hybrid and flexible working, Councillor Baxter referred to the feedback from the CPC review which set out the progress made in addressing this recommendation.

·       A member referred to excellent officer support for members but commented that this was not consistent across the Council.

·       In response about being transparent with the public about the contents of the report, Councillor Baxter reported that it would be published in full on the Council’s website

·       Councillor Rone-Clarke recorded his thanks to the Environmental Services team who had recently addressed concerns he had raised very quickly.  He asked that Councillors be kept informed of any indicators which would affect staffing.

·       It was noted that whilst the report was generally positive, the 2021 Accounts had yet to be signed off

·       In response to a query, Councillor Baxter assured the Council that the Cabinet Advisory Panels were being included in the action plan process

·       Councillor D. Hopkins asked how the apprenticeship and leadership development programmes would be embedded beyond the period of the 2022-2026 Workforce Strategy.  Councillor Baxter undertook to circulate information about this outside the meeting.


RESOLVED that the report in respect of the outcomes of the Corporate Peer Challenge progress review from The Local Government Association peers be noted, and thereafter published on the Council’s website. 







Recommendations from the Cabinet pdf icon PDF 116 KB

To consider the recommendations from the meeting of the Cabinet held on 17th January 2024.


Any recommendations from meeting will be published in a Supplementary Papers pack to this agenda.


Recommendations from the meeting of the Cabinet held on 17th January 2024 were presented for the Council’s consideration.


Planning Enforcement Policy


Councillor K. Taylor presented the updated Planning Enforcement Policy for consideration by the Council and recommended its endorsement.  Councillor H. Jones seconded the recommendation.


Councillor A. Bailes suggested that advice to enforcement officers about what would be appropriate and proportionate in enforcement should be included in the policy.  He commented that the Council should be open and transparent when it was taking enforcement action in order to ensure the trust of the public.  He also suggested that any review of the enforcement policy should be presented to the Planning Committee.  Councillor Taylor responded that as some enforcement action was sensitive it would not be appropriate to discuss cases in public, but Councillor Bailes’ concerns would be raised with the Head of Planning.


In response to a query about whether biodiversity should be included in the Policy, Councillor Taylor reported that 89% of the district was green belt and policies to safeguard this were maintained robustly.


A member suggested that some wording in the policy should be reviewed, for example reference to ‘trivial’, because of the impact that enforcement action could have on the public.  Councillor Taylor undertook to discuss this with officers.


RESOLVED that the Council’s Planning Enforcement Policy be endorsed.


Council Tax Discretionary Council Tax Reduction Policy – Council Section 13a(C) Policy


Councillor C. Hotham presented the draft Council Tax Discretionary Council Tax Reduction Policy for the award of section 13A(1)(C) reductions in Council tax.  The Council’s policy had not been reviewed for several years; amendments to the policy would ensure that the delegation to provide discounts in line with any future national schemes were in place and enable support to be provided speedily to any qualifying households.


Further to reference in the Policy to the flood recovery framework, a member asked about support for victims of flooding and actions undertaken by the Council to prevent future flooding.  Councillor Hotham gave details of the financial help available and proactive work undertaken by the Council in flood prevention.


The recommendations were proposed by Councillor C. Hotham and seconded by Councillor S. Baxter.




1)    The Section 13A(1)(C) policy be approved and adopted from 1st April 2024.

2)    The Council’s scheme of delegation be amended to grant delegated authority to the Head of Finance and Customer Services, and the Financial Support Manager to reduce the Council Tax payable on a case by case basis, as provided by Section 13A 1 (c) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992.



Council Tax – Empty Homes Discount and Premiums


Councillor C. Hotham reported that since the introduction of Council Tax in 1993 some properties had been eligible for council tax discounts, the levels of which had been varied by legislation.  Until 2004, dwellings which were unoccupied were eligible for a council tax discount of 50%.  Since then, amendments to legislation had given billing authorities the power to reduce or remove  ...  view the full minutes text for item 84\23


To note the minutes of the meetings of the Cabinet held on 17th January 2024 pdf icon PDF 464 KB

The minutes of the Cabinet meeting due to take place on 17th January 2024  will follow in a Supplementary Papers pack.


The minutes of the meeting of the Cabinet held on 17th January 2024 were noted.



Questions on Notice pdf icon PDF 191 KB

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.


The Questions on Notice will follow in a supplementary pack.



The Chairman advised that 6 Questions on Notice had been received for this meeting.


Question submitted by Councillor R. Hunter


Councillor R. Hunter asked the Portfolio Holder for Planning and Regulatory Services, “The new NPPF published in December 2023 clarifies that: ‘there is no requirement for Green Belt boundaries to be reviewed or changed when plans are being prepared or updated’ (Paragraph 145, p42). What will you do to enact this new Government directive here in Bromsgrove so that our Green Belt is better protected in the next local plan?”


Councillor K. Taylor responded that “The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) needs to be read as a whole and considered very carefully before decisions are made on the future planning policies for Bromsgrove. The sentence in the NPPF which follows the one quoted in the question reads as follows Authorities may choose toreview and alter Green Belt boundaries where exceptional circumstances are fully evidenced and justified.’ Therefore Paragraph 145 when looked at in full does not contain a directive on the green belt, it provides a choice for local authorities. That choice is for the local plan to consider alongside the rest of the NPPF which amongst many things still stresses the need to meet housing and employment needs. Officers are working on the options available to the Council in light of the new NPPF and will be discussed at the Strategic Planning Steering Group (SPSG) in due course.”


Councillor Hunter asked a supplementary question, whether Councillor Taylor accepted that this meant it was now effectively in the Council’s gift, where previously under the NPPF the Council did not have an option about whether or not to release green belt to meet the District’s housing targets.


Councillor Taylor responded that currently the Council had approximately three and a half years’ housing supply and some developers might look at what ‘special circumstances’ might be used to seek to develop in the green belt.  He urged all members to participate in the SPSG to consider this issue.


Question Submitted by Councillor M. Marshall


Councillor M. Marshall asked the Deputy Leader:


“Empty shops on Bromsgrove High Street give an unsightly and depressing impression of our town, deterring visitors and potential investors. The former Edinburgh Woollen Mill is by far the worst example. What is the council doing to ensure the site is made safe and when will the barriers be removed?” 


Councillor S. Baxter replied that “We are aware of Edinburgh Woollen Mill and agree that in its current state it sets a poor standard for the high street. The site is currently under investigation with the planning enforcement department. The

Council is limited in the action it can take beyond ensuring safety for the public.


Bromsgrove joins multiple other high streets that are suffering from changes in shopping habits and economic challenges. Bromsgrove District Council have recently introduced a Centres Enhancement Grant. The aim is to tackle vacant units, make improvements to frontages, improve accessibility, boost footfall and enhance the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 86\23


Motions on Notice pdf icon PDF 281 KB

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.


The Motions on Notice will follow in a supplementary pack.


The Chairman reported that four Motions on Notice had been submitted for the meeting, but the Motion relating to the Household Support Fund had been withdrawn and dealt with as a Question, so would no longer be debated.


Funding for Canals


Councillor P. Whittaker declared an interest in this item a canal ran through land he owned.


The Council considered the following Motion on Notice proposed by Councillor D. Nicholl.


“Bromsgrove District Council notes with concern planned cuts in government support from 2027 to our local canals.


1.     The Canal and River Trust is warning that a reduction in grant funding of over £300 million in real terms from 2027 will threaten the future of the nation’s historic canals, leading to their decline and to the eventual closure of some parts of the network. 


2.     This will almost halve the value of public funding for canals in real terms compared with recent years. This comes despite a Government Review, shared with the Canal & River Trust, confirming that its funding is ‘clear value for money’, with canals shown to deliver substantial benefits to the economy, to people and communities, and to nature and biodiversity.  


BDC calls on the Leader to write to the Secretary of State for the Environment urging them to put in place a fairer funding settlement to help protect Bromsgrove’s beautiful and historic canals.”


Councillor Nicholl referred to the purpose of the motion and that it had attracted cross party support elsewhere.  It related to the care and maintenance of infrastructure which was not only important to the District but of national significance.


Councillor D. Hunter seconded the motion.  In doing so he referred to the Trust itself saying that if the proposed cuts were implemented from 2027 it would not be able to maintain the canal network as it did currently. The canals brought benefits to all residents and this had been recognised through finance being provided at a national level.


Having sought clarification about the responsibilities of the Canals and Rivers Trust, a potential amendment by a member to include reference to rivers in the motion was withdrawn.


The following were the main points made during consideration of the Motion:

·       The Trust had been set up as a charity but had not been able to raise funds successfully and relied on grants to support its work

·       Canals played a role in nature conservation and leisure and helped support the local economy

·       The Trust was also responsible for maintenance of various structures, including reservoirs, of which there were a number in the District, and it was important that it received appropriate funding

·       The Motion did not provide sufficient evidence to support the Leader in writing a letter to the Secretary of State

·       The Canal and River Trust had assets of £1bn.  Of its income in 2022-23 of £225m, 23% was funded by Government grant, and this was due to reduce over time

·       The Trust should ‘sweat its assets’ and become more commercially focused

·       Members appreciated the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 87\23