Agenda and minutes

Council - Tuesday 15 December 2020 6.30 pm

Venue: Virtual meeting only - facilitated by Microsoft TeamsLive meeting platform

Contact: Claire Skoyles: Democratic Services Officer  Email:


No. Item




The Chair formally opened the meeting and welcomed all persons present including those that were viewing the meeting externally via the live broadcast, to this virtual meeting of Council.


Meeting Facilitation


Leah Mickleborough, Service Manager (Democratic Services), was acting as facilitator for the meeting where support was felt necessary, and upon being invited to do so, assisted the Chair in detailing the housekeeping matters and guidance as to how the meeting would operate within the virtual setting.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 169 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 29 September 2020 (copy attached).



The minutes of the meeting held on 29 September 2020 were confirmed as a correct record.


Chair's announcements pdf icon PDF 96 KB

To receive announcements (if any) from the Chair.


A list of civic events/engagements attended by the Chair and Vice-Chair since the last ordinary meeting of Council held on 29 September 2020 are attached.


The Chair reported on the civic engagements and charity activities which he and the Vice-Chair had attended since the last ordinary meeting of Council on 29 September 2020.


The Chair drew attention to the complimentary comments he had received from members of the public regarding the outstanding efforts of staff at West Suffolk Council, specifically in response to the impacts of the pandemic. Particular recognition was given to the Families and Communities Team for their support to vulnerable persons, and to the Parks and Landscapes Team for keeping the parks, open spaces and public toilets located within the parks maintained to a very high standard.


Apologies for absence

To receive announcements (if any) from the officer advising the Chair (including apologies for absence).



Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Rachel Hood, Lisa Ingwall-King, Aaron Luccarini, Joe Mason, Jim Meikle and Richard Rout.


Councillor James Lay was in attendance by viewing the live broadcast only. This unfortunately meant he was unable to partake in any debate or any votes, neither electronically nor verbally. Councillor Lay’s votes are therefore recorded as abstentions.


The Chair paid tribute to Councillors Ingwall-King and Meikle who were currently unwell. Members joined the Chair in wishing them a speedy recovery.


Declarations of interests

Members are reminded of their responsibility to declare any pecuniary or local non pecuniary interest which they have in any item of business on the agenda no later than when that item is reached and, when appropriate, to leave the meeting prior to discussion and voting on the item.


Members’ declarations of interest are recorded under the item to which the declaration relates.


Leader's statement (paper number: COU/WS/20/014) pdf icon PDF 235 KB

Paper number: COU/WS/20/014 TO FOLLOW


Council Procedure Rules 8.1 to 8.3. The Leader will submit a report (the Leader’s Statement) summarising important developments and activities since the preceding meeting of the council.


Members may ask the Leader questions on the content of both his introductory remarks and the written statement itself.


A total of 30 minutes will be allowed for questions and responses. There will be a limit of five minutes for each question to be asked and answered. A supplementary question arising from the reply may be asked so long as the five minute limit is not exceeded.


Councillor John Griffiths, Leader of the Council, presented his Leader’s statement as outlined in paper number: COU/WS/20/014.


In his introductory remarks:


a.       Covid-19: Councillor Griffiths made reference to his involvement with the Local Outbreak Engagement Board meetings, which was the cross-partner body co-ordinating the county-wide response to Covid-19 across Suffolk. The situation was constantly evolving and it was expected that the Government would make an announcement regarding changes to the present tier arrangements on 16 December 2020. Councillor Griffiths urged everyone to adhere to the guidelines to control the spread of the virus.


b.       Business Support Grants: Councillor Griffiths informed that new Covid-19 Tier 2 and Tier 3 Business Support Grants would be available for eligible businesses to apply for in the coming days. Final details were awaited but the Council was ready to make payments once the launch date was announced and grant allocations were received. 


c.       Barley Homes: Councillor Griffiths made reference to Cabinet’s approval of the revised Barley Homes Business Plan 2020 and that it was encouraging to see good progress had been made with much needed housing, including affordable homes, now underway with construction commencing on two sites in Haverhill. Work to bring forward two further sites agreed at College Heath Road, Mildenhall, and School Lane, Great Barton was also continuing. The loan facility had been extended to take advantage of a new opportunity identified in Rougham and to explore other potential pipeline sites.


d.       Homelessness funding: Councillor Griffiths reported that the Council had secured over £600,000 in homelessness funding from the Government, and working with partners, Sanctuary Supported Living, had been awarded significant grants from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Next Steps Accommodation Programme. These grants would be used to provide extra support for those with additional support needs, and for providing additional units of temporary accommodation. Since the first lockdown in March 2020, the Council had helped more than 520 households, including a significant number of rough sleepers, with the provision of housing advice and support.


e.       Leisure: Councillor Griffiths highlighted the need for good leisure facilities and emphasised the importance of integrating community health and leisure facilities to achieve better health benefits and outcomes. Combined health and leisure facilities would be a key part of the £1.97 million refurbishment of Brandon Leisure Centre. Support had been given to Abbeycroft Leisure during these difficult times in the form of providing a Covid-19 loan facility, and details were awaited on the Government’s national leisure support grant and which aimed to provide financial support to leisure trusts such as Abbeycroft.


f.       Thanks: Councillor Griffiths placed his thanks on record to all staff of West Suffolk Council for their sterling efforts over the past year, including drawing attention to the tremendous success of new initiatives put in place on Haverhill market. He also recognised the successes of the other markets within the district.


The Leader responded to a range of questions relating to:


a.       National award achievements for the West Suffolk Operational Hub: Councillor  ...  view the full minutes text for item 101.


Public participation

Council Procedure Rules Section 6. Members of the public who live or work in the district may put questions about the work of the council or make statements on items on the agenda to members of the Cabinet or any committee.


(Note: The maximum time to be set aside for this item is 30 minutes, but if all questions/statements are dealt with sooner, or if there are no questions/statements, the Council will proceed to the next business.)


Each person may ask one question or make one statement only. A total of five minutes will be allowed for the question to be put and answered or the statement made. If a question is raised, one supplementary question will be allowed provided that it arises directly from the reply and the overall time limit of five minutes is not exceeded.


If a statement is made, then the Chair may allow the Leader of the Council, or other member to whom they refer the matter, a right of reply.


As the meeting is taking place virtually, a person who wishes to speak must register by 9am on 14 December 2020 to ensure that there is time to brief them on how they can speak at the meeting. This can be done by sending the request to or telephoning one of the numbers provided on the Public Information Sheet at the start of this agenda. Members of the public will either be set up as a ‘Guest Speaker’ or provided with a telephone number they can call when prompted to do so during the meeting to enable them to participate. If a member of the public cannot attend the meeting remotely, they may submit a written question or statement to Democratic Services by midday at the very latest on the day of the meeting and this will be read out on their behalf during the meeting.


The following member of the public spoke under this agenda item:


1. Marilyn Sayer of Fornham St Martin, made a statement in connection with the consultation process undertaken by the Council on the West Suffolk Local Plan Issues and Options. Mrs Sayer expressed concern that there was a lack of engagement with the public and despite Covid-19 restrictions being in place, she felt that more could have been done to reach communities, particularly those individuals that were not proficient with the use of online technology.


In response, Councillor David Roach, Portfolio Holder for Local Plan Development and Delivery, stated the reasons for undertaking the consultation at this time, and that with the advent of Covid-19, this had meant different methods of consultation had been utilised at a time when face to face meetings were discouraged as a precautionary measure to ensure communities remained safe.


A range of promotional material had been utilised, which included both electronic and more traditional methods such as posters and flyers in order to reach out to the community in a safe way. The Council’s offices had needed to remain closed to the public during the pandemic, but Local Plan literature had been placed in libraries, sports centres and supermarkets throughout West Suffolk area. A virtual exhibition room was also created and to date had been popular with respondents.


Councillor Roach also listed the engagement undertaken with town and parish councils; statutory consultees, stakeholders and other harder to reach groups.  He explained that a detailed written response on the consultation process would be provided to Mrs Sayer, and a copy would also be provided to all members.


The Chair allowed a supplementary question to be asked, and in response, Councillor Roach stated that it was imperative that the council offices were kept as Covid-secure as possible (and reducing the chance of them being involved in a local outbreak). A number of staff have needed to continue to work in them throughout 2020 to ensure services kept operating, including partner organisations such as the Job Centre, Adult and Children’s Care, Public Health England and Community Nurses.  In order to keep premises Covid-secure, any public access to them would have had to be supervised and controlled by staff. Opening offices to the public and providing staff to support exhibitions would have not been consistent with either Government guidelines or the Council’s need to protect essential public services.


(Councillor Peter Thompson joined the meeting during the consideration of this item.)



Referrals report of recommendations from Cabinet (Report number: COU/WS/20/015) pdf icon PDF 218 KB

Report number: COU/WS/20/015


A.      Referrals from Cabinet: 10 November 2020


1.       West Suffolk Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme (LCTRS) 2021 to 2022

Portfolio holder: Councillor Sarah Broughton


2.       Council Tax Technical Changes 2021 to 2022

Portfolio holder: Councillor Sarah Broughton


3.       Council Tax Base for Tax Setting Purposes 2021 to 2022

Portfolio holder: Councillor Sarah Broughton


B.      Referrals from Cabinet: 8 December 2020


(These referrals have been compiled before the meeting of Cabinet on 8 December 2020 and are based on the recommendations contained within each of the reports listed below.  Any amendments made by the Cabinet to the recommendations within these reports will be notified to members in advance of the meeting accordingly.)


1.       Delivering a Sustainable Medium-Term Budget

Portfolio holder: Councillor Sarah Broughton


2.      Financial Resilience (September 2020)

Portfolio holder: Councillor Sarah Broughton


Council considered the referrals report of recommendations from Cabinet, as contained within report number: COU/WS/20/015.


A.      Referrals from Cabinet: 10 November 2020


1.      West Suffolk Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme (LCTRS) 2021 to 2022


Approval was sought for the West Suffolk Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme (LCTRS) 2021 to 2022.


Each year the Council was required to review its LCTRS. Report number CAB/WS/20/067 set out the various considerations with regard to the application of the scheme in 2021 to 2022.  Given these considerations, Cabinet was recommending to continue with the current scheme in 2021 to 2022, before undertaking a more comprehensive review early next year that took into account learning from Covid-19. At this point a range of options may be considered for possible consultation.  This would also bring stability to customers’ household budgets as they recovered or managed the impact of Covid-19.


Councillor Sarah Broughton, Portfolio Holder for Resources and Performance, drew relevant issues to the attention of Council.


On the motion of Councillor Broughton, seconded by Councillor Mike Chester, it was put to the vote and with the vote being 52 for the motion, none against and 3 abstentions, it was





1.           the review of the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme (LCTRS) for 2020 to 2021, as outlined in Report number: CAB/WS/20/067, be noted; and


2.       the retention of the existing Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme (LCTRS) for 2021 to 2022, be agreed.



2.      Council Tax Technical Changes 2021 to 2022


(The following local non-pecuniary interests were declared by the following members:


·         Councillor John Griffiths as a director and shareholder of a company that rented out properties in the district. He remained in the meeting but abstained from the vote.

·         Councillor Beccy Hopfensperger as the owner of an empty property located within the district. She remained in the meeting but abstained from the vote.

·         Councillor Paul Hopfensperger as the owner of an empty property located within the district. He remained in the meeting but abstained from the vote.

·         Councillor Victor Lukaniuk as a landlord of properties in the district. He remained in the meeting and voted thereon.

·         Councillor Margaret Marks as a landlord of properties in the district. She remained in the meeting but abstained from the vote.

·         Councillor Karen Soons as the owner of an empty property located within the district. She remained in the meeting but abstained from the vote.

·         Councillor Don Waldron as the owner of an empty property located within the district. He remained in the meeting but abstained from the vote.)


Approval was sought for the West Suffolk Council Tax Technical Changes Scheme for the 2021 to 2022 financial year.


Since April 2013, councils had the discretion to charge up to 100 per cent for some previously exempt properties, to charge up to 100 per cent in respect of furnished empty properties (usually referred to as holiday homes), to charge up to 100 per cent in respect of second homes and to charge up to 50 per cent (100 per cent  ...  view the full minutes text for item 103.


Any other urgent business

To consider any business, which by reason of special circumstances, should in the opinion of the Chair be considered at the meeting as a matter of urgency.


There were no matters of urgent business considered on this occasion.





On conclusion of the meeting, the Chair thanked all present for their attendance at this virtual meeting of Council. The live broadcast subsequently ended at this point.