Agenda for Council on Wednesday 5th August 2020, 6.00 p.m.

Agenda and minutes

Council - Wednesday 5th August 2020 6.00 p.m.

Venue: Virtual Meeting - Skype - Virtual. View directions

Contact: Amanda Scarce  Jess Bayley

Media

Items
No. Item

Welcome

The Chairman welcomed Members to the first virtual full Council meeting and reminded them of the protocol to be followed during the meeting.  This covered both the muting of microphones, the use of the instant messaging facility and the use of roll calls for the approval of items.  Members were reminded that the detail of these would not be included within the minutes and if Members wished for a named vote, then this should be requested in the usual manner.

 

Members were also reminded that the meeting was being live streamed to the Council’s You Tube channel to allow the public to view it.

 

 

1/2020

Apologies

Minutes:

An apology for absence was received from Councillor A. English.

 

2/2020

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.

Minutes:

Councillors C. Hotham, M. Sherrey and P. Whittaker queried whether, as Trustees of the Artrix Holding Trust they should declare an interest under the 6 – the petition. 

 

The Monitoring Officer confirmed under normal circumstances these would be disclosable pecuniary interests, but as the petition was simply being acknowledged and received by the Council and not for discussion this would not be necessary but would be noted for transparency in the minutes of the meeting.

 

 

3/2020

Minutes pdf icon PDF 647 KB

Minutes:

Members considered the Minutes of the full Council meeting held on 26th February 2020.

 

RESOLVED that the minutes of the full Council meeting held on 26th February 2020 be approved.

 

4/2020

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

Minutes:

There were no announcements from the Chairman or Head of Paid Service.

 

Councillor S. Colella asked whether it would be explained to the public the reason for there being no Motions on Notice and the Chairman confirmed that this would be covered under the relevant section of the agenda.

 

5/2020

To receive any announcements from the Leader

Minutes:

The Leader welcomed all Councillors, Officers and all members of the Public who were watching via YouTube, to the first virtual meeting of Bromsgrove District Council.

 

The Leader explained that the Council had been conducting meetings remotely throughout the lockdown period, and she was pleased to say that this new way of working has been well received.

 

The Leder went on to say that she was conscious, that this had been an extremely difficult, and distressing time for local communities and on behalf of the Council, she extended heartfelt thanks to the amazing NHS Workers, Social and Care Home employees, Police, Ambulance and Fire Services and the plethora of volunteer workers who had been striving to ensure that residents and communities stayed safe and cared for at this time. The Leader also thanked Council staff who had worked so hard to ensure that the Council Services had been maintained for the residents of the District and also thanked the third sector and voluntary organisations in their tireless work distributing food, operating food banks and collecting and delivering vital prescriptions.  Thanks, were also given to the local businesses who had worked to support the production of ventilators and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) across the District.

 

The Leader hoped that she had included everyone in the District who had contributed during these most challenging of times, and that she believed she spoke for all those in the Council, when she said how immensely proud she was and what a  privilege it was, to serve such an amazing District.

 

The Leader was also acutely aware, that many of people had experienced great sadness and loss. She extended condolences to all in the community and Council that had suffered the loss of loved ones during this time. She also extended the Council’s support to those who continued to suffer and those whose livelihoods were being threatened at this very difficult time.

 

The Council had been working hard to mitigate the extreme loss that this virus has brought to its residents and this work continued. Technological support was channelled into ensuring that first and foremost, Council services were maintained.  This was achieved by enabling staff to work from home and for shift patterns to be altered, to ensure continuity of service where a physical presence was required for a person to do their job.  This had also enabled the Council to ensure that it had cover where necessary in the event of anyone falling ill or needing to shield or self- isolate. This had resulted in minimal disruption to services and an ability for staff to undertake the additional services, so vital to the communities throughout this pandemic.

 

Bromsgrove District Council received £21.2m for the grant schemes to support businesses in the District. This had been a huge challenge as since 2008/2009 many of the businesses had received 100% small business rate relief and because of this the Council did not have the bank details for these businesses.  The Leader reported that £19.4m had been  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5/2020

6/2020

To receive comments, questions or petitions from members of the public pdf icon PDF 174 KB

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.

 

Minutes:

 

The Chairman welcomed Mr Rory Shannon to the meeting, and advised that, in line with the Council’s process for managing petitions the petitioner had 3 minutes to present his petition.  The Leader of the Council would then accept the petition on behalf of the Council.  As the petition is about something over which the Council has no direct control the Leader would receive the petition on behalf of the Council whilst explaining the practicalities surrounding the status of the Artrix at this time.  This item is not for debate and once presented and received, Council would move on to the next agenda item.

 

Mr Rory Shannon thanked everyone for allowing him time to speak at the meeting and present the petition.  He provided background information as to the history of the Artrix and where it was situated.  It was highlighted that over the years it had hosted theatre, dance performances, cinema screenings, live music as well as comedy from the touring circuit as well as local acts.  It had worked with local groups as part of Bromsgrove Arts Alive and provided space for theatre performances, pantomime, classical music, spoken word and local productions with dance schools.  The Artrix had an active learning and engagement role in the community over the years including youth theatre and projects for communities of all ages and from all backgrounds.   It has a rehearsal room and a dance studio which since 2013 had regularly been used for additional small scale theatre and spoken word performances, together with an art gallery and a café/bar area.

 

At the beginning of this year the Centre had closed temporarily and then announced that it would cease trading permanently.  Mr Shannon hoped that Council would re-consider any decision which it had or may make and consider the option of running the Artrix in house.  The online petition, which he had created, had received nearly 5k signatures.  What people wanted was for the Artrix to be up and running as soon as possible, with a Council involvement.  He had not realised how popular the petition would be, and it highlighted that it was an important part of the town’s cultural infrastructure and he believed that it should be managed and financed properly.  It needed the backing of the local Council in order to survive in the current difficult circumstances.  He appreciated that now was not the time to start a new business in the arts and hospitality sector, but it was the time for the local authority to pick up the pieces of what was left and put a plan together for the future.  It was clear that residents wanted the arts centre to be run by the Council in order to ensure that the same thing did not happen again.  Statistics were provided in respect of interest in the petition, all of which was done online, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  The vast majority of signatures were from the local town but also covered a wide part of Worcestershire, which  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6/2020

7/2020

Urgent Decisions Made (for information) pdf icon PDF 107 KB

Any supporting documentation relating to these Urgent Decisions is avialable on the Council’s website under Urgent Decisions via modern.gov.  This has not been included for the purpose of this meeting as this item is for information only.

 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman reminded Members that these were urgent decisions which had been made since the last meeting and were provided for openness and transparency and information purposes only, they were not for discussion.  Full details were available on the Council’s website.

 

Several points of clarification were raised:

 

·       When the urgent decision page had been placed on the website and why was it with the committees.

·       If urgent decisions were to be taken, then Members should be advised when this happened.  It was confirmed that all urgent decisions to date, had been communicated to all group leaders prior to being uploaded to the website.

·       In respect of the Licensing delegations and why were Licensing Sub Committee meetings not being held remotely and what was the Chairman of Licensing’s position on this and was the Special Responsibility Allowance also being suspended in light of this.  The Chairman of Licensing responded that currently the Licensing of taxis had been delegated to Worcestershire Regulatory Services, however the Licensing for premises, that still rested with the sub committees, there would be a number of virtual sub committees coming up in the near future.

·       Whether car parking charges were suspended, and the traffic wardens furloughed during the main period.

·       Whether the company providing the app for payment of car parking charges would receive payment for this, either through the car parking charges or from a surcharge on top of the car parking charge.

 

The Chairman reminded Members that this item was not for discussion and suggested that any questions be put to officers or the relevant Portfolio Holder outside of the meeting.

 

 

8/2020

Audit, Standards and Governance Committee - Annual Report pdf icon PDF 694 KB

Minutes:

Councillor L. Mallett as Chairman of the Audit, Standards and Governance Committee was invited to present the Annual Report for 2019/20.  In so doing Councillor Mallett highlighted the continued progress in strengthening and developing the role of the Committee in order to provide an independent assessment across a wide range of controls and corporate governance.   It was noted that Members had taken a more pro-active approach to concerns that were raised with the Committee through the Internal Audit function, particularly with areas where limited assurance remained or overdue audit actions.  An example of this was when the Committee sought added assurance from key personnel within the Council relating to a limited assurance Health and Safety audit and the Health and Safety Manager attended a meeting.  A report had also been received in respect of the lack of robust risk management across the Council, as a result of which the Corporate Risk Management Group was put back into place, with external training provided to staff.  This continued to be monitored and Councillor Mallett took the opportunity to thank Councillor K. Van der Plank who had taken on the role of Member Risk Champion.  Councillor Mallett encouraged Members who were not on the Audit, Standards and Governance Committee to attend meetings, as the work Councillor Van der Plank was doing by each service area and really getting underneath risk issues within those areas has been really important to the Committee.  For the first time the Committee were, during this year, tasked with approving the Audit Findings and the Statement of Accounts, which were approved. 

 

Councillor Mallett went on to thank the Section 151 Officer, the Monitoring Officer, the Internal and External Auditors and the Democratic Services Officers together with the Members of the Committee and Vice Chairman for all their hard work over the past year.

 

Members confirmed that the Audit, Standards and Governance Committee was providing a valuable contribution to the development of standards and protocols across the Council’s governance arrangements.

 

The Leader took the opportunity to thank Councillor Mallett and the Committee for all its hard work and the high standard which it was setting.

 

 

9/2020

Overview and Scrutiny Board - Annual Report pdf icon PDF 2 MB

Minutes:

The Chairman invited Councillor M. Thompson as Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Board to present the Annual Report for 2019/20.  The Chairman also commented that should Members have any detailed questions following its presentation, these should be taken outside of the meeting.

 

In presenting the report Councillor Thompson highlighted a bit about the Committee and its work over the year.  He explained that Overview and Scrutiny was a key part of the Council’s decision making process, which reviewed the Council’s policies, services and key decision.  The Board had a politically diverse make up and its Members recognised the importance of considering alternative ideas and perspective in order to facilitate the democratic process.  He believed the strength of the Board was in its diversity with a fair and objective view being taken in making recommendations.  The role of the Chairman of the Board was very different to any other and what was within the report was very much the collective work of its Members.  Councillor Thompson believed that every Member of the Board made an exceptional and committed contribution, with past and present task groups showing the quality of the work and the success of recommendations being accepted by Cabinet, was a testament to the Board.

 

Councillor Thompson went on to highlight a number of reports the Board had received and which were presented by both Officers, Portfolio Holders and outside agencies.  He noted that many of the Council’s recent successes, such as the market coming back into the Council’s control and the replacement of CCTV, had originated with the Overview and Scrutiny Board in one form or another.

 

The current task groups were highlighted, including Library Closures,  Flooding and most recently a review of racial equality in the Council.  He further highlighted that this final task group had come from a proposal made by a Councillor who was not a Member of the Board and Councillor Thompson encouraged all Members to do this.  Whilst the Council was under enormous pressure due to Covid-19 Councillor Thompson encouraged the Leader and Cabinet to use the Overview and Scrutiny Board to ensure the Council got the best standards from its services.

 

Councillor Thompson closed his presentation by thanking Members of the Board, both past and present, making particular reference to those Group Leaders who took an active role in holding the Council to account and Councillor J. Till for her role as Vice Chairman.  He also took the opportunity to thank Councillor L. Mallett, the previous Chairman, who had introduced the Finance and Budget Working Group and Corporate Performance Working Group under his chairmanship.    Finally, Councillor Thompson took the opportunity to thank the Democratic Services Officers for their help and support.

 

Following presentation of the report Members made a number of comments:

 

·       The term critical friend was questioned as, from the report, it did not appear that any Members of the Cabinet had been robustly brought to account.  Examples of areas which had not been discussed were given, for example the in-balance  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9/2020

10/2020

Recommendations from the Cabinet pdf icon PDF 94 KB

To consider the recommendations from the meeting(s) of the Cabinet held on 8th July 2020.

 

Minutes:

Councillor A. Kent, Portfolio Holder for Planning and Regulatory Services presented the Wyre Forest Statement of Common Ground, which charted the ongoing discussions between this Council and Wyre Forest District Council in respect of the review of Wyre Forest Local Plan.  This Council had been engaged throughout the process under the duty to co-operate as detailed in the report in the main agenda pack.  There had been a consistent theme throughout the discussions, which was this Council understanding the impact of this plan on the infrastructure of Bromsgrove District.  Unfortunately, after much discussion it was the view of this Council that it was still not possible to establish what that impact was, due to the deficiencies in the evidence which Wyre Forest had been reliant on within its plan.  Councillor Kent explained that the statement was therefore more a statement of what this Council disagreed on, rather than what it agreed on.  On signing this document, it would be forwarding on to the Planning Inspectorate examining the Wyre Forest District Council Local Plan which was expected sometime in late Autumn.  Planning Officers from this Council would represent the Council at the Examination and Councillor Kent took the opportunity to thank the Officers for a lot of work which had not been easy, and as could be seen from the report, a difficult process.  Members were advised that the matter had been discussed in detail at Cabinet and Councillor S. Colella was thanked for his attendance, support and comments at that meeting.

 

The recommendation was proposed by Councillor Kent and seconded by Councillor G. Denaro.

 

The report was then debated with Councillor L. Mallett commented on the appendices attached to the report, and the interesting documents within those.  There were two areas in particular which he wished to direct Members too and asked Councillor Kent, as Portfolio Holder to comment on:

 

·       There was a historic note of a meeting with Worcestershire County Council (WCC) Highways and other bodies, which highlighted some of the highways issues and which seemed to have explained that Wyre Forest’s transport plans intrinsically linked into this Council’s development plans.  An update in respect of the current position in respect of such issues as the western distributary road, which may be a key part of this Council’s own transport assessment and where the Council was in understanding the impact of the proposed growth and development of Wyre Forest on this Council Plan and development aspirations.

·       Councillor Mallett made reference to the Mott Macdonald technical note within the agenda pack (pages 213 onwards).  He highlighted that within that note Mott Macdonald stated that “the information to date did not give any comfort on the models (those of Wyre Forest District Council fitness for purpose in being used  for their local plan review ….”.

 

Councillor Mallett asked the Portfolio Holder the current position in respect of the modelling work for this Council’s strategic transport assessment, and whether this had as yet been procured and if so who would do  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10/2020

11/2020

To note the minutes of the meetings of the Cabinet held on 26th February, 3rd June and 8th July 2020 pdf icon PDF 209 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The minutes of the Cabinet meetings held on 26th February, 3rd June and 8th July 2020 were noted.

 

 

12/2020

Questions on Notice pdf icon PDF 185 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.

 

Minutes:

The Chairman advised Members that as these were exceptional circumstances the Leader had agreed to allow one supplementary question in respect of each question asked and he would allow the time spent on questions to be extended as there were no Motions on Notice for this meeting.

 

Question Submitted by Councillor R. Hunter

 

Councillor Hunter commented that he recognised the huge amount of work and effort put in by the Cabinet and its Officers to steer the Council through some very difficult months.  His question was about the financial security of this Council and its community going forward.

 

“It appears likely there will be a shortfall between the income this Council has lost due to Covid-19 and the grant it has received in support from Government. Are you concerned that Bromsgrove may receive a less generous settlement from government because it holds a good level of reserves compared to other councils and what will you do to ensure Bromsgrove council tax and rate payers get a fair deal?”

 

Councillor G. Denaro, the Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Finance and Resources, confirmed that the Council had currently received approx. £1.2m from Government and the current estimate of the financial impact was £2m.

 

It was also mentioned that no specific funding had been received from Central Government in relation to Leisure provision which was estimated to be a significant cost to the Council and  it was hoped that funding would be received in the next month.  However, it was unlikely that the Government would provide full funding to mitigate the financial losses arising as a result of the pandemic. The Council’s focus had to remain at present on sustaining essential services and playing its part in responding to the pandemic through the Local Resilience Forum, but attention needed to be now given to Council recovery. This would include ensuring support to its communities, potentially with an increase in unemployment and providing support and advice to businesses to help them increase trade in the new environment.  In addition, if additional funding from the Government did not cover all the lost income and extra costs faced by the District Council, and the gap between the two was significant, the Council’s own recovery would focus on where savings had to be made and  over what timespan in order to bring the position into line with the Medium Term Financial Plan.  It was stressed that it was impossible at this stage to know the scale of the issue to be addressed, as there was no certain knowledge about the totality of Government funding or about the Council’s loss of income and extra costs.  It was therefore impossible to predict what steps might be required but it was right that the Council should be candid with local residents and others about what might have to happen. Council would continue to lobby MHCLG that reserves should not be included in the determination of any grant settlements.

 

Councillor Hunter thanked Councillor Denaro for a detailed and frank  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12/2020

13/2020

Motions on Notice

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.

 

(There are no Motions on Notice for consideration at this meeting.)

 

 

Minutes:

The Chairman explained, that, as had been highlighted by Councillor S. Colella, earlier in the meeting, following discussions with all the Group Leaders it had been felt that the inclusion of Motions on Notice for the first virtual full Council meeting would have been difficult and the debate restricted, hence the agreement to allow supplementary questions and the time slot being extended.