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 four Questions on Notice had been received for consideration at the meeting and would be taken in the order in which they had been included on the agenda. A maximum of 15 minutes had been allocated to the consideration of Questions on Notice and the answers provided to those questions and no supplementary questions would be permitted.
Question Submitted by Councillor R. Hunter
“What actions are the Cabinet taking to lobby Government to provide a much needed longer term financial settlement for councils such as BDC?”
The Leader responded by explaining that the Council continued to work through the Local Government Association (LGA) and District Councils’ Network (DCN) to add the authority’s voice to the sector’s request for a multi-year financial settlement. On the Council’s behalf, the LGA were campaigning for local services to be provided with a long-term, sustainable future which gave Councils clarity and certainty over their funding. In the recent collective response to the one-year settlement, the DCN also called on the Government to deliver a multi-year financial settlement for district Councils.
In addition, Members were advised that the Leader continually raised this issue in discussions with the Bromsgrove MP, who then reported these concerns on to central government.
Question Submitted by Councillor J. King
“In 2019 this Council declared a climate emergency and set up a working group to drive efforts to decarbonise our activities. Yet despite all the work that has been done, a recent scorecard of UK local authorities’ climate change progress, compiled by Climate Emergency UK, put Bromsgrove very close to the bottom of our peer group, with a 10% achievement score. What are you doing to restore our reputation and ensure Bromsgrove is recognised as a leader in tackling climate change?”
In response to the question, the Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Culture and Climate Change advised that the scorecard rating referred to, was undertaken by Climate Emergency UK using a methodology of only scoring local authorities’ climate change strategies and action plans. This did not consider any actions the Council was already undertaking in tackling climate change. The Council fully appreciated that it had a great deal to do and would use the tools and data arising from this survey and that of Sustainability West Midlands to learn and inform the authority’s Climate Change Strategy and action plan. This would ensure that a strong and robust strategy and action plan was developed and regularly reviewed to demonstrate the authority’s progress.
The Council was in the process of developing its Climate Change Strategy and a detailed Action to Reduce Carbon (ARC) Plan to have progressive longer-term plans in place and address the areas where improvements were needed.
There were nine identified themes for the ARC.
· Theme 1: Sustainable Buildings and Workplaces
· Theme 2: Renewable Energy
· Theme 3: Transport and Travel
· Theme 4: Planning / Building Control and Retrofit
· Theme 5: Community
· Theme 6: Waste
· Theme 7: Biodiversity
· Theme 8: The Low Carbon and Circular Economy and Resources
· Theme 9: Procurement
Whilst the strategy and action plan were in the process of being developed, the Council had, and continued to undertake, some significant carbon reduction projects such as the Electric Vehicle Chargers for Taxis, the District Heat Network scheme, development of low carbon homes on the Burcot Lane development and Carbon Literacy training for Members and Officers. In addition to these significant projects, the Energy Savings Trust had produced a free report for Bromsgrove Council in respect of potential electrification of the Council’s fleet of vehicles with a recent presentation given to the Climate Change Working Group. The Council had allocated additional funds to commission expert consultants to assess the right fuel type for every vehicle to enable the authority to draw up a revised fleet replacement programme and infrastructure plan.
Question Submitted by Councillor S. Robinson
“Is there a future for district councils such as BDC given the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper sees us as merely being ‘non-constituent members’ of the new regime for local decision making?”
The Leader responded by commenting that the simple and straight forward answer to the question was “yes”. In explaining the justification for this answer, the Leader advised that there was no new regime for decision making proposed under the White Paper. This applied only if an area was looking to pursue a “County Deal” or some other form of devolution deal. There was no change to the sovereignty of District Councils or any other type of Council.
The Leader subsequently explained that District Councils would play a big role in delivering the White Paper’s four key aims:
1. Fostering economic prosperity
· The Council had secured £14.5m from the Levelling Up Fund (focusing on Windsor Street and Hanover Street). There was also work on other key strategic sites in the Town (including Burcot Lane), and the 2040 vision for the Town Centre, the work in local centres and utilisation of the Welcome Back fund. The Council would also be reviewing the Centres Strategy. All of these actions would help to achieve the overall levelling up aim to “Boost productivity, pay, jobs and living” standards.
· District Councils were fundamental to achieving at least two of the main Levelling Up White Paper missions of health and wellbeing and the Council was working closely with colleagues in the health sector, as well as other partners.
Restoring a sense of community
There were three missions here which were:
· Pride in Place
District Councils had a crucial role in terms of addressing all of these missions.
Empowering local leaders.
· The mission here was to empower local leaders and communities. District Councils were working closely with partners through such initiatives such as ABCD work to identify and empower people.
In addition to the Levelling Up Fund White Paper, the Council had received high level details of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund which would be allocated to District Councils.
The Leader expressed disappointment that the white paper made the reference to non-constituent membership of a potential county deal for District Councils. Members were advised that the Leader would continue to lobby the Government, alongside District Council colleagues, to address this.
In conclusion, the Leader commented that there was a future for District Councils and she expressed the view that the role of District Councils would be an even more important one than before moving forward.
Question Submitted by Councillor S. Baxter
“I congratulate the Council on being awarded the levelling up grant of £14m and recognise that there will be an indirect benefit of having a prosperous town centre for the whole district, however, bearing in mind that Bromsgrove’s grant equates to one of the largest per capita awards in the country, please can the leader explain how delivering the project will achieve a levelling up to those areas of greatest need across the district?”
The Leader responded by explaining that the Levelling Up Fund grant had very stringent criteria and there was a need to focus on brownfield sites.
The proposed commercial and cultural hub at the former Market Hall site would provide support for businesses across the District, not just the town centre. Also, the employment opportunities envisaged to be generated by the businesses supported by the hub would be open to all residents in the District, not just residents living close to the town centre. Indirectly, this investment would act as a catalyst for further private sector investment, which in turn would generate supply chain and further employment opportunities in the district.