To deal with any motions on notice from Members of the Council, in the order in which they have been received.
The Chairman explained that 4 Motions on Notice had been received for consideration at the meeting. However, Councillor M. Thompson had withdrawn his Motion and Councillor J. Till had requested that her Motion should be considered at the following Council meeting. Group leaders had agreed prior to the meeting that up to 2 hours would be allocated to the consideration of Motions on Notice.
Appealing discretionary grant scheme decisions
Members considered the following Motion on Notice submitted by Councillor R. Hunter:
“Council welcomes the introduction of an appeals process for local business owners who have unsuccessfully applied to discretionary grant schemes such as Additional Restrictions Grant and Wet Led Pubs grant.
Council notes that this is not well known within communities and resolves to publish more detailed information including on the website and in outcome letters.
Council further resolves to report on the volumes and outcomes of appeals to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, for at least the next 6 months, or longer if the committee believes this is required.”
The Motion was proposed by Councillor Hunter and seconded by Councillor S. Robinson.
In proposing the Motion, Councillor Hunter noted that the Council had received over £32 million funding from the Government which had been distributed amongst eligible local businesses that had been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, whilst some companies had successfully applied for grant funding other businesses had been unsuccessful. Councillor Hunter expressed concerns that some businesses did not appear to be aware of their right to appeal. In addition, he raised concerns about the eligibility criteria for the various forms of grant funding available to businesses and the extent to which these were meeting the needs of local companies.
In seconding the Motion, Councillor Robinson commented that this was an important Motion. Councillor Robinson praised the work of the Financial Services team to date in distributing grant funding to businesses but noted that she was keen to ensure that the Council did everything possible to support all businesses impacted by the pandemic, including those companies which had not been successful in bidding for funding. The involvement of the Overview and Scrutiny Board in reviewing this matter would help to ensure that there was transparency in respect of the decisions on funding that had been made.
In responding to the Motion, the Portfolio Holder for Finance and Enabling noted that the Council had distributed over £32 million of Covid business grant funding to over 2,000 businesses. Where an application for a mandatory grant was unsuccessful, for example where a business which had been able to remain open had applied for a closure grant, the applicant was automatically considered for the discretionary grant schemes. An appeals process was also in place. The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Enabling commented that he had ensured that action was taken to make people aware of the appeals process, for example through updating decision letters so that the appeal process was clearly set out within the decision and updating the website to make the process and requirements to appeal clearer. Information on the number of grant awards and monetary value of grants would be published on the website, following the conclusion of the restart grant scheme.
Members subsequently discussed the Motion and in so doing considered the following points:
· The appeals process that was already in place in respect of grant funding for businesses.
· The hard work that had been undertaken by Officers during the pandemic to distribute grant funding to eligible businesses.
· The information that was available about the grants, including the appeals process, on the Council’s website.
· The need for the Council to abide by Government guidance when distributing the grant funding amongst eligible businesses.
· The prudent approach that had been adopted by the Council in distributing the grant funding. Members commented that in other parts of the country local authorities had made mistakes when distributing the funds and to address this had needed to provide additional financial support from Council reserves.
In accordance with Procedure Rule 18.3 a recorded vote was taken and the voting was as follows:
Members voting FOR the Motion:
Councillors S. Baxter, S. Douglas, A. English, C. Hotham, R. Hunter, P. McDonald, S. Robinson and H. Rone-Clarke (8).
Members voting AGAINST the Motion:
Councillors A. Beaumont, R. Deeming, G. Denaro, S. Hession, H. Jones, A. Kent, A. Kriss, K. May, M. Sherrey, C. Spencer, P. Thomas, M. Thompson, S. Webb and P. Whittaker (14).
Members voting to ABSTAIN on the Motion:
No Councillors (0).
On being put to the vote the Motion was therefore lost.
Council considered the following Motion on Notice submitted by Councillor S. Robinson.
“When renewing street furniture, such as car park street lighting, this council will aim, wherever possible, to replace heritage style components with modern heritage style equivalents, seeking to ensure modern standards are met without downgrading the quality of the street scene.”
The Motion was proposed by Councillor Robinson and seconded by Councillor R. Hunter.
In introducing the Motion Councillor Robinson praised the Car Parking Strategy for Bromsgrove town centre and the wider District. However, Councillor Robinson commented that Bromsgrove was a historic market town and it would be helpful to ensure that when it was upgraded, street furniture, including in the car parks in the District, was replaced with modern street furniture that was of a style in keeping with the historic nature of the town. This was important to ensure that the town remained attractive and continued to display historic features, which would help to attract visitors to the town.
In seconding the Motion Councillor Hunter commented that there had been some excellent work undertaken in respect of the Council’s Car Parking Strategy. There had been a consultation process in respect of work on the upgrade to car parks and feedback had been provided regarding suitable lighting for the car parks. Members were asked to note that street furniture could be upgraded in a manner that had a positive impact on climate change whilst also supporting the heritage of the District.
The Portfolio Holder for Planning and Regulatory Services responded to the proposed Motion by commenting that it was important for Members to understand that whilst the Council was responsible for street furniture on the authority’s land, responsibility for street furniture on the highway was split between the Council and Worcestershire County Council. From a Bromsgrove District Council perspective, over the following 4 years, the authority was planning to replace the lights in the authority’s car parks with LED lights which would reduce the Council’s energy costs and contribute to meeting climate change reduction plans. As part of this work, the Council would need to replace the existing columns due to their age and condition. Heritage lamp columns were more expensive than standard columns and, in a challenging financial context for local government, the authority would be using a black column with a heritage lamp fitting in the Parkside Car Park, as it was located within the Conservation Area as well as in Crown Close, which was also in the conservation area. In all other car parks, the authority would use black painted steel columns, with black lamps similar to those used by Worcestershire County Council, thereby providing enhanced lighting capabilities. With regard to other street furniture that the Council was responsible for, it would depend on the location, including whether the street furniture was in a conservation area, where the Council would aim to install heritage style street furniture. However, in other locations the authority would install street furniture that was suitable for that location.
Members subsequently discussed the Motion in detail and it was noted that some street furniture was owned by Parish Councils, rather than the District or County Council. In particular, Parish Councils often invested in new street lighting and could help to ensure that high standards continued to be applied in the District.
On being put to the vote the Motion was lost.