Venue: Exhibition Hall 3, Floor 1, Rowley Mile Conference Centre, Millennium Grandstand, Newmarket Racecourse (Rowley Mile), Newmarket, CB8 0TF
Contact: Claire Skoyles: Democratic Services Officer Email: email@example.com
Note: A map and directions to the meeting venue is shown in 'Media' below. The link to view the livestream of the meeting is also shown in 'Media' below together with a supporting guidance document .
Welcome and introduction
The Chair formally opened the meeting and welcomed all persons present, including those that were viewing the meeting externally via the live broadcast, to the ‘in person’ meeting of Council.
For the benefit of members of the public that may be watching the livestream, the Chair provided the rationale behind holding the meeting in person with COVID-19 restrictions in place rather than virtually. Due to the expiry of special legislation on 7 May 2021 which allowed Council meetings to be held virtually, and despite an unsuccessful High Court challenge, the law required that publicly accessible decision making meetings were to be held in person at a specific geographical location.
To be able to have meetings in person, the Council also needed to consider the Government guidance in relation to the safe use of council buildings and carefully consider the capacity of its venues to host meetings. This was challenging as it was difficult to find suitable and available venues within the district to accommodate 64 councillors under the present social distancing guidelines. The Council had some important decisions to make at the meeting, and it was not considered prudent to defer matters until restrictions on social contact were eased. The venue at Newmarket Rowley Mile Racecourse provided suitable accommodation which allowed all members to partake in the debate and decision-making seated two metres apart from each other.
The Chair then welcomed to the meeting, Dr Stephen Dunn and Kate Vaughton, representatives of the NHS. The NHS were a key partner in the proposed Western Way Development and therefore the Chair would seek to suspend standing orders to allow Dr Dunn and Ms Vaughton to speak when that agenda item was reached.
To confirm the minutes of the meetings held on 23 February 2021 and 19 May 2021 (copies attached).
To receive the notes of the non-decision making virtual meeting held on 18 May 2021 (copy attached).
The minutes of the meetings held on 23 February 2021 and 19 May 2021 were confirmed as correct records and signed by the Chair.
The notes of the non-decision making virtual meeting of Annual Council held on 18 May 2021 were received.
To receive announcements (if any) from the Chair.
A list of civic events/engagements attended by the Chair and Vice-Chair since their election at the Annual Meeting of Council held on 19 May 2021 are attached.
The Chair reported on the civic engagements and charity activities which she and the Vice-Chair had attended since their election at the Annual Meeting on 19 May 2021.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, attendance at engagements in person remained few and far between and it was very much hoped that this situation would change in the coming months ahead.
As Suffolk Accident and Rescue Service (SARS) was one of the Chair’s chosen charities during her year in office, she wished members to note the awarding of the new Suffolk Award to Jeremy Mauger, Consultant Anaesthetist at West Suffolk Hospital, member of SARS and member of the East of England Air Ambulance service. This was in recognition of Mr Mauger’s work supporting people across Suffolk throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chair then presented Councillor Brian Harvey, outgoing Chair of West Suffolk Council with his past Chair’s badge. Due to the impact of COVID-19, which had prevented an Annual Meeting of Council being held in 2020, Councillor Harvey had served two years as the first Chair of West Suffolk Council since its creation in 2019.
Councillor Harvey warmly accepted his badge and a socially distanced photograph of he and the Chair was taken.
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 Mick Bradshaw, Trevor Beckwith, Simon Brown, Jason Crooks, Diane Hind, James Lay, Aaron Luccarini, John Smith and Cliff Waterman.
Councillors Colin Noble and Richard Rout were also unable to attend the meeting.
The Chair paid tribute to Councillors Bradshaw, Hind and John Smith who were currently unwell. Members joined the Chair in wishing them the very best in their respective recoveries.
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.
Paper number: COU/WS/21/006 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/21/006.
In his introductory remarks, Councillor Griffiths made reference to:
a. The proposed Western Way Development, which was to be considered later in the agenda
b. The closure of the College Heath Road offices in Mildenhall, having also been used as a vaccination centre
c. The gradual opening of the school, health and leisure facilities, and other services and council offices within the new Mildenhall Hub
d. The exemplary work of officers and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic and the support given to communities and businesses as part of the recovery process
e. The new Barley Homes site at Westmill Place (former Westfield Primary School site) in Haverhill
f. The Crucial Crew initiative, which would be held virtually this year
The Leader responded to a range of questions:
a. In the context of installing electric vehicle charging points in towns and larger areas of the district, how very rural, smaller communities were going to achieve a change to no petrol or diesel vehicles.
b. How the electrification of the Council fleet was going, including how many electric cars and other vehicles it had now, or planned to buy in the near future.
c. That Councillor Griffiths shared Councillor David’s Smith disappointment and frustration with the Planning Inspector’s decision to allow an appeal for planning permission to be granted for 155 residential dwellings on the site of the EpiCentre (Haverhill Research Park), despite this Council refusing permission on the grounds that the site should remain a key employment site for research and development businesses, thus promoting the future growth and prosperity of Haverhill. The Council had fought hard to seek sufficient financial funding to support the EpiCentre from the Local Enterprise Partnerships and other potential funding partners, but this had been unsuccessful. The Inspector had concluded that the loss of the larger high quality employment site and the vision and ambition it held out for Haverhill was to be regretted, but he felt the time had come to accept that market forces were against the proposal and that an alternative use should be permitted on the site.
d. That the relationship with Suffolk County Council, as the Highways Authority, was continually improving. This Council was working with them to ascertain what improvements could be made to ease traffic congestion around the Mildenhall Hub, and how similar situations could be prevented in other areas coming forward.
In respect of questions a. and b. above, written replies would be provided and circulated to all members.
No further questions were asked.
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. The Constitution allows that a person who wishes to speak must register at least fifteen minutes before the time the meeting is scheduled to start. However, due to the need to comply with current coronavirus regulations and guidance, necessary health and safety precautions taken will apply to members of the public registered to speak. We would therefore strongly urge anyone who wishes to register to speak to notify Democratic Services by 9am on the day of the meeting so that advice can be given on the arrangements in place.
(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 an alternative to addressing the meeting in person, written questions may be submitted by members of the public to the Monitoring Officer no later than 10am on Monday 21 June 2021. The written notification should detail the full question to be asked at the meeting of the Council.
No members of the public had registered to speak on this occasion.
Referrals report of recommendations from Cabinet
There were no referrals emanating from the portfolio holder decisions taken on 16 March 2021 or 25 May 2021.
Note: The virtual Cabinet meeting originally arranged for 16 March 2021 needed to be cancelled due to technical difficulties preventing the meeting being able to be accessed by the public via a livestream. ‘Minded to’ decisions were taken at the non-decision making virtual Cabinet meeting held on 25 May 2021. On both of the aforementioned occasions, portfolio holder decisions were taken on the items listed on the agendas for each meeting.
Council noted that in place of Cabinet meetings, portfolio holder decisions were taken on 16 March 2021 and 25 May 2021. On both occasions, there were no referrals to Council.
Report number: COU/WS/21/007
(Councillor Joanna Rayner declared a local non-pecuniary interest as she was employed by West Suffolk Hospital and should the scheme proceed as proposed, the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust were anticipated to be key partners within the Western Way Development. She remained in the meeting during the consideration of this item and took part in the debate and vote.)
Council considered this report which sought approval for a review and update of the business case for the Western Way Development (WWD), Bury St Edmunds and, as part of the wider scheme, the replacement of the Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre.
Members noted that since the distribution of the agenda and papers for the meeting, the following typographical amendments had been made to the main business case update and review document. No changes were required to the recommendations contained in the report as a result of the amendments, and they had been rectified on the online version:
An incorrect total number had been transposed into the summary tables of modelled phase 1 demand (8,250 square metres instead of 7,750 square metres) set out in both the executive summary (paragraph 24) and Part C of the review document (paragraphs 29 and 30).
8,250 square metres would include some of the ancillary spaces such as meeting rooms, multi-activity areas of ‘The Street’, and so on, from which a small estimated income (“other income”) had been included in the illustrative revenue model in Part E of the review. However, for the purposes of the comparison of spaces being made in the earlier tables, 7,750 square metres was the correct number.
In order to allow Dr Stephen Dunn and Kate Vaughton, invited guests of the NHS to speak, and to allow technical matters to potentially be resolved during the debate, the Chair sought to suspend standing orders, as set in paragraph 19.1 of the Council Procedure Rules of the Constitution.
On the motion of Councillor Margaret Marks, seconded by Councillor Mike Chester, it was put to the vote and with the vote being unanimous, it was
That, in accordance with paragraph 19.1 of the Council Procedure Rules of the Constitution, standing orders be suspended until the debate on agenda item 8, ‘Western Way Development, Bury St Edmunds: final business case update and review’ is concluded. Normal standing orders will resume immediately prior to the vote being taken on the item.
Councillor Joanna Rayner, Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Culture and Community Hubs, drew relevant issues to the attention of Council, including reminding members of the processes that had previously been undertaken to progress the WWD. The final business case for the Western Way Development (including the business case for a replacement leisure centre) had been approved by Council in September 2019 with a view to moving ahead with delivering the scheme. Up to the point of spring 2020, several other significant steps had been taken to successfully progress the project and the only formal councillor decision still needed was for Cabinet to sign-off the ... view the full minutes text for item 145.
Paragraph 7.5.1 of Article 7 of the Council’s Constitution requires that:
‘The Overview and Scrutiny Committee and the Performance and Audit Scrutiny Committee must report annually to the Council on their workings and make recommendations for future work programmes and amended working methods if appropriate’.
Report number: COU/WS/21/008
Council received and noted the West Suffolk Annual Scrutiny Report for 2020 to 2021.
Article 7 of the Council’s Constitution required that ‘the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and Performance and Audit Scrutiny Committee must report annually to the Council on their workings and make recommendations for future work programmes and amended working methods if appropriate.’
Councillor Ian Shipp, Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee drew relevant issues to the attention of Council. He placed his thanks on record to the Committee, its partners and to Cabinet, and acknowledged the work of officers that had supported him and the Committee, with particular recognition given to Christine Brain, Democratic Services Officer (Scrutiny), and to Leah Mickleborough, Service Manager (Democratic Services).
Councillor Ian Houlder, Chair of the Performance and Audit Scrutiny Committee, drew attention to the specific work of that Committee and its two sub-committees. He placed his thanks on record to the Committee and to Rachael Mann, Director (Resources and Property) and to her teams in Finance and Internal Audit for their continuing support.
In response to a question, Councillor Shipp informed Council that following the declaration of the climate and environment emergency by this Council, and the work undertaken by the Environment and Climate Change Taskforce, the Cabinet was due to consider on 20 July 2021, an update on progress on the previously agreed Environment and Climate Change Action Plans.
(Councillor Max Clarke left the meeting at the conclusion of this item.)
Report number: COU/WS/21/009
(Councillor Broughton declared a pecuniary interest as she and her husband owned a parcel of land within the area covered by the Great Barton Neighbourhood Plan. She left the meeting during the consideration of this item and therefore did not take part in the debate or the vote.)
Council considered this report, which sought approval for Council to ‘make’ (adopt) the Great Barton Neighbourhood Plan as part of the statutory development plan for West Suffolk.
Neighbourhood Plans were introduced into the planning process by the Localism Act 2011. Their aim was to allow local communities to take responsibility for guiding development in their area. This approach was subsequently embedded in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in 2012, and subsequent revisions in 2018 and 2019.
Legislation required a neighbourhood to meet a set of basic conditions, as summarised in the report. In addition, in order for a Neighbourhood Plan to become part of the development plan it must follow a statutory process involving public consultation at each formal stage including the designated of the plan’s area, pre-submission, submission, examination and finally by referendum.
Section 3 of the report summarised the above process that had been followed, which culminated in a referendum being held on 6 May 2021. The referendum asked the question "Do you want West Suffolk Council to use the Neighbourhood Plan for Great Barton to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?" The Neighbourhood Plan was successful at the referendum with a clear majority of 688 people voting ‘Yes’ and 91 ‘No’ from a turnout of 45 percent.
Councillor David Roach, Portfolio Holder for Local Plan Development and Delivery, drew relevant issues to the attention of Council including that the Council had a duty to support communities who were preparing Neighbourhood Plans and the Council’s responsibilities in respect of providing this support were clearly set out in the relevant Regulations. The Plan had been independently examined and agreed by West Suffolk Council to meet the Basic Conditions; it had been endorsed by the community having been subject to a referendum and had otherwise complied with all the legal requirements of plan production. It was considered that the Plan met European legislation and was compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights within the meaning of the Human Rights Act 1998 and should therefore be ‘made’ to become part of the development plan for West Suffolk.
On the motion of Councillor Roach, seconded by Councillor Peter Stevens, it was put to the vote and with the vote being unanimous, it was
1. the Great Barton Neighbourhood Plan (Referendum version) be ‘made’ (adopted) so that it becomes part of the statutory development plan, and a materialconsideration for determining planning applications in the Great Barton Neighbourhood Area.
2. Delegated authority be given to the Service Manager (Strategic Planning), to make minor non material consequential changes to the plan, as necessary, and exercise all of the Council’s functions and responsibilities in relation to making the Great Barton ... view the full minutes text for item 147.
Report number: COU/WS/21/010
Council considered this report, which sought approval for a number of amendments to the Council’s Constitution.
The Constitution Review Group met periodically to review the effectiveness of the Constitution. On 10 May 2021, the Group met to consider a number of proposed changes to the Constitution, as set out in the report. These related to:
· Proposed changes to officer appointments procedures
· Amendments to the Code of Conduct for employees
· Budget and policy framework procedure rules
Councillor Carol Bull, Portfolio Holder for Governance, drew relevant issues to the attention of Council.
On the motion of Councillor Carol Bull, seconded by Councillor Joanna Rayner, it was put to the vote and with the vote being unanimous, it was
1. the amendment to the Officer Appointments Committee and the creation of an Independent Panel, as attached at Appendix 1 to Report number: COU/WS/21/010, be approved.
2. The amendments to the Officer Code of Conduct, as attached at Appendix 2, be approved.
3. The amendments to the Budget and Policy Framework Procedure Rules, as set out in section 4 of Report number: COU/WS/21/010, be approved.
Report number: COU/WS/21/011
(Although the Pay Policy Statement 2021 to 2022 did not make specific reference to individual employees' pay, Councillor Alecock declared a pecuniary interest in this item as his spouse was employed by West Suffolk Council. He remained in the meeting but abstained from the vote.)
Council considered this report, which sought approval for the Pay Policy Statement 2021 to 2022.
The Localism Act 2011 and supporting guidance provided details of matters that must be included in this statutory pay policy, but, also, emphasised that each local authority had the autonomy to take its own decisions on pay and pay policies. The Pay Policy Statement must be approved formally by Council each year. The statement could be amended in year, must be published on the Council’s website and must be complied with when setting the terms and conditions of Chief Officers.
Set out in paragraph 1.2 of the report, were details of what was included in the Pay Policy Statement 2021 to 2022, which was attached at Appendix A.
Councillor Carol Bull, Portfolio Holder for Governance, drew relevant issues to the attention of Council.
Councillor David Smith asked the following questions of Councillor Bull to which she provided responses but would follow up with a written reply that would be circulated to all members.
· How many zero hours contracts does the Council provide?
· From which service/s and how many staff were furloughed during the Covid-19 pandemic, and have they all now returned to work on full pay?
· The comparison data table in Appendix A did not include detail for West Suffolk Council, however, the missing detail was given in paragraph 11.3. Councillor Smith commented that this could be a ‘worrying trend’ if the ratio continued to increase from 7.5:1 to 7.9:1.
On the motion of Councillor Bull, seconded by Councillor David Roach, it was put to the vote and with the vote being 51 for the motion, none against and one abstention, it was
That the Pay Policy Statement for 2021 to 2022, as contained in Appendix A to Report number: COU/WS/21/011, be approved.
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.
Exclusion of press and public
To consider whether the press and public should be excluded during the consideration of the following item because it is likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, that if members of the public were present during the item, there would be disclosure to them of exempt categories of information as prescribed in Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, and indicated against each item and, in all circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
See minute 152. below
Exempt appendix: Western Way Development, Bury St Edmunds: final business case update and review (paragraph 3) (Report number: COU/WS/21/007)
Exempt appendix 4 to Report number: COU/WS/21/007
(Note that this exempt appendix is provided for background purposes only, and can be found electronically here Paper copies have not been provided to members.)
Council considered the exempt appendix to this report. However, no reference was made to specific detail and, therefore, this item was not held in private session.