Agenda and minutes

Council - Tuesday 23 February 2021 6.30 pm

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

Contact: Claire Skoyles: Democratic Services Officer  Email: claire.skoyles@westsuffolk.gov.uk

Note: The link to view the live stream of the meeting is shown in 'Media' below together with a supporting guidance document // Public speakers are directed to the procedure rules for registering to speak under Agenda Item 6 

Media

Items
No. Item

106.

Welcome

Minutes:

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.

107.

Remembrance

Minutes:

Before commencing business, all members were asked to ensure their microphones were muted and observe a minute’s silence in remembrance of Councillor Jim Meikle who had sadly died recently. A statement of condolence was given by Councillor Ian Shipp, reflecting Councillor Meikle’s contribution during his time on the Council.

108.

Meeting Facilitation

Minutes:

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.

109.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 203 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 15 December 2020 (copy attached).

 

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 15 December 2020 were confirmed as a correct record.

110.

Chair's announcements pdf icon PDF 61 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 15 December 2020 are attached.

Minutes:

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 15 December 2020.

 

The Chair drew attention to the virtual event of RAF Lakenheath that he had recently attended, together with a similar virtual event held by RAF Mildenhall where representatives of Suffolk and Norfolk county and district councils had been in attendance.

111.

Apologies for absence

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

 

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Michael Anderson and Lisa Ingwall-King.

 

The Chair paid tribute to Councillor Ingwall-King who was currently unwell. Members joined the Chair in wishing her the very best with her recovery.

112.

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.

Minutes:

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

113.

Leader's statement (paper number: COU/WS/21/001) pdf icon PDF 237 KB

Paper number: COU/WS/21/001

 

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.

Minutes:

Councillor John Griffiths, Leader of the Council, presented his Leader’s statement as outlined in paper number: COU/WS/21/001.

 

In his introductory remarks:

 

a.       Councillor Jim Meikle: In addition to the tribute message that had previously been circulated to members, and the letter of condolence that had been sent to his family, Councillor Griffiths paid further tribute to the late Councillor Meikle.

 

b.       Thanks: Councillor Griffiths once again placed his thanks on record to all staff and members of West Suffolk Council for their sterling work over the past year. He specifically acknowledged their exemplary efforts for supporting businesses and communities during the Covid-19 crisis, while continuing to deliver services.

 

c.       Covid-19: Councillor Griffiths highlighted West Suffolk’s role within the Covid-19 vaccination and testing programme, including that a site in Brandon was now being utilised as a testing centre. The Council was continuing to support vulnerable persons through the Home But Not Alone initiative and individual ward members were heavily involved in local initiatives to support those in need within respective wards. Councillor Griffiths then provided a synopsis of the financial support provided to eligible local businesses from the various Government business support grants that were currently being administered by the Council.

 

d.       Budget: Councillor Griffiths drew attention to the budget for 2021 to 2022 and the proposed plans for the medium term, which was due to be considered later in the agenda. With partners, the Council would support recovery from the impacts of Covid-19 in West Suffolk, including taking the recent decision to again defer the implementation of the previously approved increases to car parking charges that had originally been due to take effect from 1 April 2020. Members were however, mindful that the Council needed to generate much needed income to provide vital services and ensure that West Suffolk continued to remain an attractive place to live, work and visit. He paid tribute to officers and members for the enormous amount of work involved in achieving a balanced budget for 2021 to 2022, particularly in such difficult and challenging times.

 

e.       Environment: Councillor Griffiths reported on the grants recently secured for West Suffolk which, working with partners, would assist local householders in making energy efficiency measures.

 

 

(In the interests of maintaining openness and transparency, Councillor Paul Hopfensperger wished to declare that he was a small business owner in Bury St Edmunds as his question related to a matter in connection with this.)

 

 

The Leader responded to the following question from Councillor Paul Hopfensperger relating to:

 

a.       Brexit support: Whether anything was being done by West Suffolk Council to highlight to Government the issues, challenges and difficulties faced by small businesses following the UK’s exit from the European Union. Councillor Griffiths stated that the Council’s Economic Development team were working with, amongst others, partners in the Chamber of Commerce, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and Suffolk Public Sector Leaders regarding this issue. He referred the matter to Councillor Susan Glossop, Portfolio Holder for Growth who reiterated Councillor Griffiths’ statement  ...  view the full minutes text for item 113.

114.

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 Monday 22 February 2021 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 democratic.services@westsuffolk.gov.uk 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.

Minutes:

Frank Stennett of an address located within the district, a member of the public, had registered to speak under this agenda item; however, Mr Stennett was unfortunately unable to attend the meeting and a member of the Democratic Services Team read out his written statement on his behalf:

 

Mr Stennett’s statement was in connection with a range of issues which included promoting environmental initiatives and technologies as well as suggesting ways for attracting people to the high streets and markets within the district’s towns.

 

Mr Stennett ended his statement by asking whether the Overview and Scrutiny Committee could be commissioned to investigate residents’ parking, parking charges and market traders’ fees in the light of Covid-19, stimulating the town centres before any fee increases would be implemented.

 

In response, Councillor John Griffiths, Leader of the Council, firstly thanked Mr Stennett for his statement and indicated that he would confirm his reply in writing.

 

In reply to the specific question, Councillor Griffiths stated that:

 

·         In respect of car parking charges, the Council had taken the decision to once again defer the increase in charges that had been approved for implementation from 1 April 2020. These increases and schemes (such as ‘Free from 3’), which were now being kept under review, were originally developed and recommended by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

 

·         The subject of Markets was already on the forward work programme of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and that Councillor Griffiths was looking forward to any conclusions and recommendations the Committee may reach.

 

·         Finally, the Council with its partners, would now be turning their attention to how West Suffolk would successfully plot their own Covid-19 recovery plan now that the Government had announced its roadmap out of England’s current lockdown. This would include the future of the district’s town centres.

 

As Mr Stennett was not in attendance within the virtual meeting itself and was anticipated to be viewing the livestream instead, there was no opportunity for a supplementary question to be asked arising directly from the reply.

 

No other members of the public had registered to speak under this item.

 

 

 

 

 

 

115.

Referrals report of recommendations from Cabinet (Report number: COU/WS/21/002 pdf icon PDF 135 KB

Report number: COU/WS/21/002

 

A.      Referrals from Cabinet: 9 February 2021

 

1.       Delivering a Sustainable Medium-Term Budget

 

          Portfolio holder: Councillor Sarah Broughton

 

(The recommendations emanating from this item have been incorporated into the main budget setting report due to be considered later on this Council agenda at Agenda Item 8. No decision is therefore required at this stage.)

 

2.       Financial Resilience Report: December 2020

 

          Portfolio holder: Councillor Sarah Broughton

 

3.       Financial Resilience - Strategy Statement 2021 to 2022 and Treasury Management Code of Practice

 

          Portfolio holder: Councillor Sarah Broughton

 

4.       Budget and Council Tax Setting 2021 to 2022 and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2021 to 2025

 

          Portfolio holder: Councillor Sarah Broughton

 

(The recommendations emanating from this item have been incorporated into the main budget setting report due to be considered later on this Council agenda at Agenda Item 8. No decision is therefore required at this stage.)

Minutes:

Council considered the referrals report of recommendations from Cabinet, as contained within report number: COU/WS/21/002.

 

A.      Referrals from Cabinet: 9 February 2021

 

1.      Delivering a Sustainable Medium-Term Budget

 

The recommendations emanating from this item had been incorporated into the main budget setting report due to be considered later on the agenda at Item 8. No decision was therefore required at this stage.

 

2.      Financial Resilience: December 2020

 

Approval was sought for the Financial Resilience Report for the third quarter of the 2020 to 2021 financial year from 1 April 2020 to 31 December 2020.

 

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 Clive Springett, it was put to the vote and with the vote being 58 for the motion, none against and one abstention, it was

 

Resolved:

 

That the Financial Resilience Report (December 2020), as contained in Report number: FRS/WS/21/001, be approved.

 

 

3.      Financial Resilience - Strategy Statement 2021 to 2022 and Treasury Management Code of Practice

 

Approval was sought for the Financial Resilience Strategy Statement 2021 to 2022 and the Treasury Management Code of Practice.

 

Councillor Sarah Broughton, Portfolio Holder for Resources and Performance, drew relevant issues to the attention of Council, including that the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy’s (CIPFA) Treasury Management Code of Practice required that, prior to the start of the financial year the Council should formally approve a Treasury Management Policy Statement and Investment Strategy, setting out the Council’s treasury management policy and strategy for the forthcoming year.

 

The Treasury Management Strategy Statement 2021 to 2022 was attached as Appendix 1 to Report number: FRS/WS/21/002, and the Treasury Management Code of Practice attached as Appendix 2.

 

The report also included additional supporting information on treasury advisors; borrowing strategy; investment strategy counterparty ratings and interest rate projections.

On the motion of Councillor Broughton, seconded by Councillor Andrew Smith, it was put to the vote and with the vote being 57 for the motion, two against and no abstentions, it was

 

Resolved:

 

That:

1.           the Financial Resilience Strategy Statement 2021 to 2022 as set out in Appendix 1 to Report number: FRS/WS/21/002, be approved; and

 

2.       the Treasury Management Code of Practice, as set out in Appendix 2 to Report number: FRS/WS/21/002, be approved.

 

 

4.      Budget and Council Tax Setting 2021 to 2022 and Medium-Term Financial Strategy 2021 to 2025

 

Similarly with the first Cabinet referral outlined above, the recommendations emanating from this item had been incorporated into the main budget setting report due to be considered next on the agenda at Item 8. No decision was therefore required at this stage.

 

 

 

116.

Budget and Council Tax Setting 2021 to 2022 and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2021 to 2025 (Report number: COU/WS/21/003) pdf icon PDF 288 KB

Report number: COU/WS/21/003

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Council considered the above report, which presented the proposals for Budget and Council Tax Setting in 2021 to 2022 and the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) 2021 to 2025.

 

The 2021 to 2022 budget had been prepared in the context of not only the significant challenges facing local government, such as reductions in national funding streams, but also a national and worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in the UK, a number of events had occurred which had had a significant impact on all local government, including West Suffolk Council’s financial position in the current financial year and these were expected to continue into 2021 to 2022. Some of these had been restrictions imposed by Government which would continue to affect the Council’s investments, assets and services; and other events had been announcements of Government financial support.

 

The Council had played a vital role in responding to the pandemic, in supporting businesses and communities for example, as well as running essential services during challenging conditions. Further details were provided in section 1 of the report, including the impact of Covid-19 on the Council’s financial position which would not be fully known for a significant time.

 

The medium term plans had also been prepared in the context of significant uncertainties around Government policy, examples of which were contained in section 1.8 of the report, while continuing to acknowledge the economic impact, challenges, uncertainties and unknowns of the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

Councils nationally were expected to achieve a balanced budget through savings and producing local income to fund services due to reduced Government funding. This year, as a one off to assist with the expected continued impact of Covid-19, the Council would see an increase in funding from the Government.  However, members noted this would not completely neutralise the impact expected from the pandemic. Nor would it address the financial challenges that already existed for local government following a decade of funding reductions and increases in the demand for services such as housing and homelessness support.

 

Despite this and the additional pressures presented by Covid-19, through prudent budgeting, a review of the Council’s vacant posts, investment as well as transformation, West Suffolk Council was in a good financial position. However, while this meant a balanced budget could be set for 2021 to 2022 there were gaps to be met in later years, as set out in the report.

 

Members considered the report in detail, which included the following issues for securing a balanced budget for 2021 to 2022 and plans for the medium term from 2021 to 2025, together with corresponding detailed appendices:

 

Section 1:    Background and context, which included reference to the Council’s ‘Investing in our growth agenda’ and the proposed transformation of West Suffolk Council 

Section 2:    Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement, which included reference to the Revenue Support Grant and Rural Services Delivery Grant; the new Lower Tier Services Grant; the future of New Homes Bonus; the homelessness and rough sleeping funding allocation; Covid-19 support funding;  funding from  ...  view the full minutes text for item 116.

117.

West Suffolk Planning Code of Practice (Report number: COU/WS/21/004) pdf icon PDF 115 KB

Report number: COU/WS/21/004

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Council considered the above report, which sought approval for a revised West Suffolk Planning Code of Practice.

 

In developing the West Suffolk Council Constitution, the Shadow West Suffolk Council agreed a Planning Code of Practice. The Code of Practice operated alongside the Code of Conduct, providing guidance to all members on how they should act in relation to planning applications in their own ward, and provided additional guidance to members of the Development Control Committee on the steps they should take to ensure planning applications were made in a fair, consistent and transparent manner.

 

A report issued by Transparency International in August 2020 highlighted potential risks to the planning system and encouraged authorities to adopt a range of best practice recommendations to reduce the risks of conflict when dealing with planning applications. In addition, incidents reported within recent caselaw placed emphasis on steps that should be taken to avoid potential conflicts for those members who had led on development proposals. With officer guidance, this prompted the Constitution Review Group to take the opportunity to review and update the existing Planning Code of Practice for West Suffolk. 

 

Councillor Carol Bull, Portfolio Holder for Governance, drew relevant issues to the attention of Council, including responding to the following questions:

 

a.       That a presentation on the new Code of Practice could be given to members of the Development Control Committee in the near future

 

b.       Where officers made planning decisions under delegated authority, these were made in accordance with the officers’ Code of Conduct contained in the Constitution.

 

c.       Residents could report planning concerns to their respective ward members, who could then take these forward on their behalf, as appropriate. 

 

On the motion of Councillor Bull, seconded by Councillor Andrew Smith, it was put to the vote and with the vote being 57 for the motion, none against and one abstention, it was

 

Resolved:

 

That the revised Planning Code of Practice, as contained in Appendix A to Report number: COU/WS/21/004, be approved for inclusion in the West Suffolk Council Constitution.

 

(Councillor Mary Evans left the meeting during the consideration of this item and therefore did not vote.)


118.

Calendar of Meetings 2021 to 2022 (Report number: COU/WS/21/005) pdf icon PDF 117 KB

Report number: COU/WS/21/005

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Council considered the above report, which sought approval for the proposed calendar of meetings for West Suffolk Council in 2021 to 2022.

 

Councillor Carol Bull, Portfolio Holder for Governance, drew relevant issues to the attention of Council, including that largely due to the uncertainties around the Covid-19 situation which had impacted on the ability to convene meetings in person, no venues had been stipulated on the calendar at present. In addition, a flexible approach was required to be taken in respect of when the Council offices at College Heath Road would be vacated. New office and meeting accommodation would then be provided in the Mildenhall Hub which was due to open in phases later in 2021.

 

Other specific changes proposed to previous years’ calendar of meetings, as set out in Section 2 of the report were also noted.

 

On the motion of Councillor Bull, seconded by Councillor Sara Mildmay-White, it was put to the vote and with the vote being unanimous, it was

 

Resolved:

 

That the Calendar of Meetings 2021 to 2022, as attached at Appendix A to Report number: COU/WS/21/005, be approved.

119.

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.

Minutes:

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

 

120.

Conclusion

Minutes:

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.