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To receive apologies for absence
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors S. Baxter, S. Hession, M. Glass, A. Kent and K. Van Der Plank.
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.
Councillors C. Hotham, J. King, P. McDonald, M. Sherrey and P. Whittaker declared a pecuniary interest in respect of Minute Item 93/22 – specifically in relation to consideration of the alternative budge from the Liberal Democrat group - as Members of the Artrix Holding Trust. All five Councillors left the room during consideration of that item and took no part in the debate or vote thereon.
The minutes of the meeting of Council held on 25th January 2023 were submitted for Members’ consideration.
RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of Council held on 25th January 2023 be approved as a true and accurate record.
To receive any announcements from the Chairman and/or Head of Paid Service
There were no announcements from the Chairman or the Head of Paid Service on this occasion.
To receive any announcements from the Leader
The Leader announced that since the last meeting of the Council, Councillor M. Thompson had stepped down from his role as Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Culture Services and Climate Change.
It was reported to Council that Councillor S. Webb and Councillor P. Thomas would oversee Leisure and Culture Services and Climate Change respectively for the remainder of the municipal year.
The Leader also took the opportunity to thank all Members of the Council for their work over the previous four years. It was noted that this had been a difficult few years, which had been impacted on greatly by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Councillor R. Hunter thanked the Leader for her work over this period. It was noted that it had been a challenging job over a very difficult period.
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 informed Council that a question had been received from Ms. S. Wheeler to the Leader prior to the meeting. As Ms. Wheeler was not in attendance at the meeting, the question was read out for Members’ information.
“I would like to know what measures will be taken to prevent land that is currently undergoing development on Whitford from creating flooding issues on Whitford Road, Timberhonger Lane and Sanders Park?”
The Leader provided a response and informed Council that a team from North Worcestershire Water Management (NWWM) had,over several years, commented on many Planning Applications received by the Council as a Local Planning Authority. The team at NWWM had reviewed various Flood Risk Assessments (FRAs) and drainage strategies, and generally had sent numerous versions of plans back and forth with developers to ensure NWWM were content with the proposals, including flood risk, water quality, and sustainable drainage.
It was reported that NWWM had been involved with the Whitford Road site from pre-application stage and were currently still involved for reserved matters and the discharge of conditions.
The latest / final drainage strategy for the site had included various Sustainable urban Drainage Systems (SuDS) features, including swales, porous paving and a SuDS basin (the latter of which was installed to help with drainage during construction);with an outfall to the Battlefield Brook restricted to greenfield rates (subject to Environment Agency approval as this was a main river).
There were still a few matters outstanding and NWWM were working closely with the Planning Case Officer to achieve the best outcome.
Members were asked to note that if residents had a specific concern, NWWM could investigate this in more detail.
The Chairman confirmed that there had been no urgent decisions taken since the previous meeting of Council.
The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Governance presented the Independent Remuneration Panel’s recommendations for Members’ allowances in 2023/2024.
Council was informed that when considering the recommendations from the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP), Members were advised that the Administration were not proposing to implement the first or second IRP recommendations, which related to an increase in the Basic Allowance for Members for 2023/2024 and Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs) for 2023/2024.
It was highlighted that recommendations 3 – 6 from the IRP related to matters such as claiming travel and carer’s allowances. It was noted that as no changes were proposed to the existing arrangements in these recommendations, they would be put forward in order to ensure that existing arrangements remained in place.
No changes were proposed to the Council’s existing multipliers for the SRAs, with one exception. It had been suggested that the eligibility criteria for the SRA for political group leaders should be changed to enable any leader of a political group, except the Leader of the Council, to claim this SRA if they had 3 or more members in their group. If this suggestion was to be taken forward, it needed to be formally proposed as a change to the SRAs for the Council in an additional recommendation on Members’ allowances.
The recommendations were proposed by Councillor G. N. Denaro and seconded by Councillor K. May.
Although some Members queried the proposals as outlined in the preamble above, it was confirmed that it seemed appropriate to make the change in respect of the SRA for political group leaders.
Questions were raised with regard to the implications of not increasing the Basic Allowance and it was commented that this would potentially make it difficult to get new candidates to stand for election in the future, if the financial remuneration was not appealing. It was with this in mind that Councillor S. R. Colella proposed an amendment to approve the increase to the Basic Allowance of 7.37% as recommended in the IRP report. However, it was noted by some Members that a 7.37% pay rise did not seem appropriate in light of the current Cost of Living Crisis. This proposed amendment was therefore not seconded.
1. travel allowances for 2023/2024 continue to be paid in accordance with the HMRC mileage allowance;
2. subsistence allowances for 2023/2024 remain unchanged;
3. the Dependent Carer’s Allowance remain unchanged;
4. for Parish Councils in the District, if travel and subsistence should be paid, the Panel recommends that it be paid in accordance with the rates paid by the District Council and in accordance with the relevant Regulations; and
5. the eligibility criteria for the SRA for political Group Leaders be changed to enable any leader of a political group, except the Leader of the Council, to claim this SRA when having 3 or more members in their Group.
Members are asked to note that under the Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2014, the Council is required to take a named vote when a decision is made on the budget calculation at a budget decision meeting of the Council.
Pay Policy 2023/2024
The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Governance presented the Pay Policy report for Members’ consideration. It was explained that the Pay Policy needed to be approved by Council on a yearly basis and that the Statement needed to set out the relationship between the highest and lowest paid staff at the Council. Included within the report was the breakdown of remuneration of all Officers across the Council.
Council was informed that the Officer structure within the Council was as follows:
· Officer Grades 1-11
· 2 Manager Grades
· 3 Head of Service Grades
· Executive Director
· Deputy Chief Executive
· Chief Executive
It was highlighted in this Pay Policy Structure that the Council were part of the National Pay Bargaining Framework. Furthermore, Members were advised that Manager posts were evaluated by an external assessor (West Midlands Employers).
In respect of new appointments, it was noted that these would normally be made at the minimum of the relevant grade and that there was a system of annual progression to the next point on pay scales. The Council did not apply bonuses or performance related pay to its Chief Officers and progression through the incremental scale of a relevant grade was subject to satisfactory performance assessed on an annual basis. It was noted that the pay related allowances were subject to either national or local negotiated rates.
Members were advised that posts that were remunerated at over £50,000 per annum were also required to be published in the Statement of Accounts and it was reported that the current lowest salary at the Council, as at 1st April 2022, was £20,441 Full Time Equivalent (FTE).
The Appointments Committee was responsible for recommending to Council matters relating to the appointment of the Chief Executive, Monitoring Officer, Section 151 Officerand other Chief Officers.
The recommendations were proposed by Councillor G. N. Denaro and seconded by Councillor K. May.
RESOLVED that the Pay Policy 2023/2024 be approved.
Budget and Medium Term Financial Plan 2023/24 to 2025/26 (Including Treasury Management Strategy and Capital Programme)
The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Governance presented the Budget and Medium Term Financial Plan 2023/24 to 2025/26 (Including Treasury Management Strategy and Capital Programme) proposed by the Cabinet for Council’s consideration. In doing so, it was noted that the report set out the final 2023/24 to 2025/26 budgets for the Council as its Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP).
Members were reminded that this year the Council had followed a two Tranche approach to the Budget setting process. In the initial stages of the Budget setting process, the Council had an ongoing £1.6m gap to be closed. The Tranche 1 proposals set out progress made and £1.6m of proposed savings had been identified. However, pressures of £1.6m, mainly due to significant inflationary increases, had resulted in a £1.6m gap remaining to address. It was noted that these Tranche 1 savings and pressures had been agreed by Council at its meeting on 7th December 2022.
The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Governance ... view the full minutes text for item 93\22
Recommendations from the Cabinet meeting held on 22nd February 2023 (to follow)
Members are asked to note that under the Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2014, the Council is required to take a named vote when a decision is made on the Council Tax at a budget decision meeting of the Council.
Under Section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, any Councillor who is 2 or more months in arrears with their Council tax payments cannot participate in any item at the Council meeting concerning the budget.
Council Tax Resolutions
The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Governance presented the Cabinet’s recommendations on the Council Tax Resolutions 2023/24, which had been made at a meeting of the Cabinet held immediately prior to the Council meeting.
Council was informed that this report was seeking the formal approval of the Council Tax Resolutions for 2023/2024. The report took into account the spending requirements of Bromsgrove District Council, Worcestershire County Council (WCC), the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Mercia, Hereford and Worcester Fire Authority and the various Parish Councils. There were nine recommendations contained within the report.
The recommendations were proposed by Council G. N. Denaro and seconded by Councillor K. May.
In accordance with the Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2014, the Council Tax Resolutions 2023/24 was subject to a named vote.
Members voting FOR the Council Tax Resolutions 2023/24:
Councillors A. Beaumont, S. Colella, R. Deeming, G. N. Denaro, S. Douglas, A. English, C. Hotham, R. Jenkins, H. Jones, A. Kriss, K. May, M. Middleton, M. Sherrey, C. Spencer, P. Thomas, M. Thompson, J. Till, S. Webb, P. Whittaker and R. Laight (20)
Members voting AGAINST the Council Tax Resolutions 2023/24:
Councillors P. McDonald and H. D. N. Rone-Clarke (2)
Members who ABSTAINED in the vote on the Council Tax Resolutions 2023/24:
Councillors R. Hunter, J. King and S. Robinson (3).
The vote on the Council Tax Resolutions was therefore carried.
RESOLVED that Council approve
1) The calculation for the Council Tax requirement for the Council’s own purposes for 2023/24 (excluding Parish precepts) as £9,204,565.
2) That the following amounts be calculated for the year 2023/24 in accordance with sections 31 to 36 of the Act:
(a) £46,449,077 being the aggregate of the amounts which the Council estimates for the items set out in Section 31A (2) of the Act (taking into account all precepts issued to it by Parish Councils) (i.e., Gross expenditure)
(b) £36,113,337 being the aggregate of the amounts which the Council estimates for the items set out in Section 31A (3) of the Act. (i.e., Gross income)
(b) £10,335,740 being the amount by which the aggregate of 1.2.2(a) above exceeds the aggregate at 1.2.2(b) above, calculated by the Council, in accordance with Section 31A (4) of the Act, as its Council Tax requirement for the year. (Item R in the formula in Section 31B of the Act).
(d) £272.57 being the amount at 1.2.2 (c) above (Item R), all divided by Item T (1.1(a) above), calculated by the Council, in accordance with Section 31B of the Act, as the basic amount of its Council Tax for the year (including Parish precepts).
(e) £1,131,175 being the aggregate amount of all special items (Parish precepts) referred to in Section 34 (1) of the Act (as per the attached Schedule 3).
(f) £242.74 being the amount at 1.2.2 (d) above less the result given by dividing the amount at 1.2.2 (e) above by Item T (1.1 (a) above), calculated by the ... view the full minutes text for item 94\22
The minutes of the Cabinet meeting held on 15th February 2023 were noted.
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 Chairman explained that one Question on Notice had been received for the meeting.
Question submitted by Councillor S. Douglas
"My question concerns Bromsgrove’s unemployment. I am asking because the statistics tell a different story from the apparently amazing current rate that is frequently trumpeted at PMQs. Recent reports say that there is an additional 300.800 unemployed in our region. These people are involuntarily out of work but are now classed as economically inactive, thus ‘hidden’. Jobseeker’s rate stands at 5.1% not the 3% quoted in Parliament, with the ‘hidden’ unemployed the figure for the region actually is 14.3%.
What is Bromsgrove’s unemployment rate including those ‘hidden’? How does this breakdown across age groups?”
The Leader provided the response to the question and in doing so reported that Bromsgrove’s unemployment rate was 3.9% as reported by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) from October 2021 - September 2022. It was highlighted that the unemployment figures were model based, and that the unemployment rate was for the ‘unemployed as a percentage of the economically active population’ as defined by the ONS in 2023. The economically active population included ‘people who were either in employment or unemployed’ as defined by the ONS in 2023.
The unemployed population ‘referred to people without a job who were available to start work in the two weeks following their interview and who had either looked for work in the four weeks prior to interview or were waiting to start a job they had already obtained.’ as defined by the ONS in 2023.
The ONS classification of the ‘economically inactive population’ was defined as ‘people who were neither in employment nor unemployed including students, people looking after family/home, temporary sick, long term-sick, discouraged, retired and other’ There was no breakdown across age groups available.
The percentage of economically inactive population in Bromsgrove was reported by the ONS in October 2021 – September 2022 as 22.4%. The percentage represented a proportion of those aged 16-64. The estimated number of economically inactive people was 12,700 (the number was for those aged 16-64). This included 4,500 students and 2,900 retired people. The number of economically inactive people for the remaining categories could not be estimated, as sample sizes were too small to produce reliable estimates or were disclosive. Of the estimated 12,700 economically inactive people (aged 16-64), 12,300 or 97% did not want a job. People not wanting a job were ‘people who were neither in employment nor unemployed and who did not want a job.’
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 Chairman explained that there had been two Motions on Notice received for this meeting.
Worcestershire Unitary Authority
Council considered the following Motion on Notice that was submitted by Councillor C. Hotham
“This Council asks Officers to fully appraise and report back on the implications for Bromsgrove residents of the introduction of either a whole Worcestershire unitary authority or a smaller North Worcestershire unitary authority.”
The Motion was proposed by Councillor Hotham and seconded by Councillor S. Colella.
In proposing the Motion, Councillor Hotham highlighted the financial deficit that had been discussed earlier in the meeting at the Council. He also stated that this was the picture across many Councils across the County. It was noted that these financial difficulties would almost certainly result in cuts to services and impact residents.
Research had been carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2020 outlining the savings that could potentially be made over five years if a Single or Dual Unitary Authority were to be created. In respect of a Single County Unitary, it was reported that this could potentially generate savings of £126m for a mid-sized county area over five years. For a Dual Unitary Authority, it was reported that the potential savings could be £51m for a mid-sized County area.
Council was advised that Central Government seemed to be pushing for a Unitary approach across the country and there was a danger that if something was not done to start this process, Bromsgrove District Council could be left behind.
During consideration of this Motion, Members raised the positive impacts of having a District Council in a two-tier authority area rather than a unitary authority. It was stated that at District Council level, Members knew communities and understood its needs. It was highlighted that as there were Shared Services operating across both Bromsgrove and Redditch Councils, this would already have a positive impact on savings.
The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Governance stated that there needed to be a unanimous agreement across all local authorities for this Motion to proceed, however this was not the case currently. Research and appraisal would cost time and money and was something Bromsgrove District Council would certainly not consider solely funding.
It was outlined that as there were only three months until District Council elections took place, this would be a decision for the new administration.
On being put to the vote the Motion was lost.
Council considered the following Motion on Notice that was submitted by Councillor R. Hunter:
“We believe a detailed study into alternative options for a Bromsgrove Town relief road is now urgently required in order that chronic traffic congestion can be addressed. It is requested that officers prepare a brief for such a study together with an estimate of the cost and present the brief to the Cabinet for their consideration as soon as possible.”
The Motion was proposed by Councillor Hunter.
In proposing the Motion Councillor Hunter stated that the traffic congestion around Bromsgrove town centre ... view the full minutes text for item 97\22