Venue: Conference Chamber, West Suffolk House, Western Way, Bury St Edmunds IP33 3YU
Contact: Claire Skoyles: Democratic Services Officer Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Please note that we are continuing to take precautionary health and safety measures with the aim of reducing and restricting transmission of COVID-19. See Public Information Sheet and Agenda Item 6 for further details.
Welcome and introduction
The Chair opened the meeting and welcomed all persons present in the Conference Chamber. She explained the rationale behind the precautionary health and safety measures that remained in operation for this meeting which aimed to reduce and restrict the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 14 December 2021 (copy attached).
The minutes of the meeting held on 14 December 2021 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
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 14 December 2021 are attached.
The Chair reported on the civic engagements and charity activities which she and the Vice-Chair had attended since the last ordinary meeting of Council on 14 December 2021.
Particular recognition was drawn to the excellent attendance at the Holocaust Memorial Service held in the Holocaust Memorial Peace Garden, Abbey Gardens on 27 January 2022.
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 Richard Alecock, Michael Anderson, Trevor Beckwith, Mick Bradshaw, Patrick Chung, Jason Crooks, Dawn Dicker, John Griffiths, Rachel Hood, David Palmer, David Smith, Ian Shipp, Clive Springett and Don Waldron.
The Chair paid tribute to Councillors Alecock and Bradshaw who remained significantly unwell. All members joined the Chair in wishing them well in their 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.
Paper number: COU/WS/22/001
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.
On behalf of the Leader, members may ask the Deputy Leader questions on the content of both her introductory remarks and the Leader’s 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.
On behalf of the Leader of the Council, Councillor Sara Mildmay-White, Deputy Leader, presented the Leader’s Statement as outlined in paper number: COU/WS/22/001
In her introductory remarks, Councillor Mildmay-White:
a. Storms: thanked councillors and staff for their support in helping to keep residents safe during the recent storms. Special recognition was given to the emergency services and the Suffolk-wide emergency planning team.
b. Budget: made references to the proposed budget for 2022 to 2023, which was to be considered later on the agenda.
c. Historical anomalies: that work was being undertaken to look at historical anomalies between the former St Edmundsbury and St Forest Heath councils when West Suffolk Council was created. The proposed review would not only look at street lighting and other similar issues, as highlighted by other members but would look at the future role and relationships the Council could have with the district’s town and parish councils.
d. COVID-19 Additional Relief Fund (CARF): West Suffolk Council had received an allocation of £4 million from the CARF, and applications could now be made by eligible businesses. This funding was to be used to support businesses most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but who were not eligible for earlier business rates reliefs linked to COVID-19.
e. Easing of COVID-19 restrictions: following the Prime Minister’s recent announcement to further ease mandatory COVID-19 restrictions, the Council remained committed to its business continuity plans and would ease restrictions in line with these plans. This involved making better use of space within the office, adopting a flexible approach which would allow staff to work collaboratively on projects, as well as providing sufficient desks to enable staff to work individually. Capacity was not being reduced and would return to pre-pandemic levels; however, working patterns within the office would fluctuate depending on working practices of individuals and teams.
f. Environment: the Council was continuing with implementing initiatives to protect and improve the environment, and tackle climate change. The West Stow Anglo Saxon Village had recently won the RAC Cooling Industry Awards 2021 Building Energy Project of the Year for its bespoke heating and cooling systems, which demonstrated a range of benefits and efficiencies.
g. New Community Centre: was delighted to attend the opening of the new community centre on the Howard Estate, Bury St Edmunds. This was an excellent example of the community coming together to achieve a common goal. Supported by public bodies, this project to replace the former nearby out-dated centre was led by the New Bury Community Association.
h. Families and communities: recognised the importance of the Council’s priority to support families and communities, which included a significant budget investment in councillors’ locality funding and the Community Chest grant scheme. Over £460,000 had recently been allocated to voluntary and social enterprise organisations throughout the district following applications received for the 2022 to 2023 round of Community Chest funding. Examples of organisations receiving funding and their valuable work were provided.
i. Community Governance Review (CGR): reminded members that the deadline for ... view the full minutes text for item 184.
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.
The Constitution allows that a person who wishes to speak must register at least 15 minutes before the time the meeting is scheduled to start. Due to applying coronavirus health and safety measures, precautions taken will apply to members of the public in attendance and registered to speak, and 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.
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 February 2022. The written notification should detail the full question to be asked at the meeting of the Council.
The following members of the public had registered to speak under this agenda item:
1. Nathan Loader was not in attendance but had submitted a written question in connection with the proposed Haverhill North West relief road. Mr Loader had provided context to his question in respect of the road’s connection to the planning permission granted for development of a strategic site to the north west of Haverhill and asked whether the programme of construction of the North West relief road, including the start and completion dates, was still on track for completion by 21 March 2023; and if not, the nature of restrictions that would be imposed on both the North West and North East Haverhill construction sites.
The following response was provided by Councillor David Roach, Portfolio Holder for Planning:
“Outline planning permission SE/09/1283 for North West Haverhill includes planning permission for the construction of a relief road, residential development, a primary school, a local centre including retail and community uses, public open space and associated development. The S106 Obligation (legal agreement) for the development includes the requirement that the relief road should be complete no later than five years after the commencement of development (21 March 2023) or before the construction of the 500th dwelling on the site whichever is the sooner.
No date for commencement of the relief road has been given yet but work continues to prepare for its commencement and with an estimated build time of nine months, officers from West Suffolk planning team and Suffolk County Council Highways team have confirmed that the relief road is still on track to be delivered before the March 2023 deadline.
There is no restriction relating to the construction of the relief road on the planning permission for the North East Haverhill (Great Wilsey) development granted under planning permission DC/15/2151/OUT. This was not deemed necessary by Suffolk Highways Authority at the time permission was granted given the timings of the restriction on the North West Haverhill consent, predicted capacities and delivery rates relating to the two developments taken as a whole and the existence of the NW Haverhill relief road bond.
The current completion rates for the two developments are 230 at North West Haverhill and at North East Haverhill their first completion was at the end of January 2022.”
As Mr Loader was not in attendance, no supplementary question was asked arising directly from the reply. The above response would be emailed to Mr Loader following the meeting.
2. James Sheen asked a question in connection with the forthcoming ballot for the establishment of a new Business Improvement District (BID) in Haverhill, and whether the Council should abstain from exercising its right to vote in the ballot as Mr Sheen felt the businesses of Haverhill should decide for themselves how their town should be promoted.
Councillor Susan Glossop, Portfolio Holder for Growth, thanked Mr Sheen for his question and stated that he would be provided with a written response.
As the question was not ... view the full minutes text for item 185.
Report number: COU/WS/22/002
A. Referrals from Cabinet: 8 February 2022
1. Financial Resilience - Strategy Statement 2022 to 2023 and Treasury Management Code of Practice
Portfolio holder: Councillor Sarah Broughton
2. Treasury Management Report (December 2021)
Portfolio holder: Councillor Sarah Broughton
3. Budget and Council Tax Setting 2022 to 2023 and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2022 to 2026
Portfolio holder: Councillor Sarah Broughton
(The recommendations emanating from this item, together with Cabinet’s approval of the recommendation contained in Report number: CAB/WS/22/005 ‘Recommendation of the Performance and Audit Scrutiny Committee: 27 January 2022 - Delivering a Sustainable Medium-Term Budget’ 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.)
Council considered the referrals report of recommendations from Cabinet, as contained within report number: COU/WS/22/002.
A. Referrals from Cabinet: 8 February 2022
1. Financial Resilience – Strategy Statement 2022 to 2023 and Treasury Management Code of Practice
Approval was sought for the Financial Resilience - Strategy Statement 2022 to 2023 and the Treasury Management Code of Practice.
Councillor Sarah Broughton, Portfolio Holder for Resources and Property, 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 2022 to 2023 was attached as Appendix 1 to Report number: FRS/WS/22/002, 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 27 January 2022, the Performance and Audit Scrutiny Committee (PASC) considered the report and asked various questions relating to the setting of net costs, capital and revenue limits and the borrowing strategy, to which responses were provided. In particular, the Committee discussed the Treasury Management Code of Practice (Appendix 2) and referred to page 24 of the Code and the section which related to ‘Use of External Brokers/Advisors/Fund Managers’. The Committee expressed some reservations around the wording used within that section, in that the Council ‘will’ employ the services of other organisations to assist it in the field of treasury management. The Committee recommended that this word be replaced with ‘may’, so that the Council had the flexibility around the use of services of other organisations.
The Cabinet had supported the approval of the Code of Practice, including the proposed amendment, and approval of the Treasury Management Strategy Statement 2022 to 2023, as summarised above.
On the motion of Councillor Broughton, seconded by Councillor Ian Houlder, it was put to the vote and with the vote being 45 for the motion, none against and four abstentions, it was
1. The Treasury Management Strategy Statement 2022 to 2023 as set out in Appendix 1 to Report number: FRS/WS/22/002, be approved.
2. The Treasury Management Code of Practice, as set out in Appendix 2 to Report number: FRS/WS/22/002, be approved, subject to an amendment within the section of the Code of Practice entitled ‘Use of External Brokers / Advisors / Fund Managers’, with the removal of the word ‘will’, to be replaced with the word ‘may’, to ensure that the Council has the flexibility on the use of services of other organisations.
2. Treasury Management Report (December 2021)
Approval was sought for the Treasury Management Report for the third quarter of the 2021 to 2022 financial year.
Councillor Sarah Broughton, Portfolio Holder for Resources and Property, drew relevant issues to the attention of Council.
Report number: COU/WS/22/003
Council considered this report, which presented the proposals for Budget and Council Tax Setting in 2022 to 2023 and the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) 2022 to 2026.
West Suffolk Council had an exemplary track record in robust financial management which had meant it continued to deliver high quality services as well as meeting the strategic vision of the authority.
This was despite a series of challenges. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic which had not only reduced income (Government policy had been that councils created income to supplement reduction in national funding) but also costs to the Council in playing its role to support communities and businesses. National finances had been reduced significantly over the last decade for local councils and added burdens had been placed on authorities too during this time.
The 2022 to 2023 budget had been created not only to be balanced and sustainable but as an investment in the priorities of the district’s residents and businesses. It was designed to make the communities of West Suffolk greener, healthier and more prosperous.
Members considered the report in detail, which included the following issues for securing a balanced budget for 2022 to 2023 and plans for the medium term from 2022 to 2026, together with corresponding detailed appendices:
Section 1: Summary: which included reference to the Council’s proposed new £9 million investment in a range of initiatives to help meet priorities that would contribute to achieving the aspiration of zero carbon emissions by 2030; progressing its health and wellbeing agenda; and a proposed £1.3 million (2022 to 2026) for the upkeep of the district’s open spaces, parks and other leisure attractions.
Section 2: Context: which included reference to the Council’s robust financial planning and management enabling the Council to deliver both services and the strategic aims of West Suffolk despite the pressures on local government finances; the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Council’s finances, including the role of the Council in supporting residents and businesses throughout the pandemic; ‘Investing in our Growth Agenda’; the Council’s transformation programme; and further detail on the Council’s plans to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
Section 3: Provisional local government finance settlement: which included reference to the Revenue Support Grant and Rural Services Delivery Grant; the Lower Tier Services Grant; the new 2022 to 2023 Services Grant; the future of New Homes Bonus; the expected cessation of the Sales, Fees and Charges Lost Income Reimbursement scheme; business rates and business rates reliefs; Transitional Relief and Supporting Small Business Relief; Collection Fund deficits; council tax referendum limits; and support for energy prices – the council tax energy rebate.
Section 4: Council tax for 2022 to 2023
Section 5: Setting the budget – 2022 to 2023 and across the medium term to 2025 to 2026:which included reference to inflation assumptions assumed in the MTFS; fees and charges (as approved by Cabinet on 8 February 2022); delivering a sustainable future beyond 2022 to 2023.
Section 6: Capital programme 2020 to 2025: ... view the full minutes text for item 187.
Report number: COU/WS/22/004
Council considered this report, which sought approval for proposed amendments to the Constitution following their consideration by the Council’s informal Constitution Review Group.
Councillor Carol Bull, Portfolio Holder for Governance, drew relevant issues to the attention of Council, including that as a result of requests for change, the following issues had been considered and accepted by the Constitution Review Group. These would require amendments to the Constitution, further details of which were set out in section two of the report:
· Formalisation of the procedure allowing adjacent ward members to be able to speak on applications at Development Control Committee meetings, on behalf of and with the approval of the relevant ward member(s)
· Changing the commencement time for Council meetings from 6.30pm to 7pm, which would allow greater flexibility for working members of the Council, or those with other commitments, to attend on time.
On the motion of Councillor Bull, seconded by Councillor Andrew Smith, it was put to the vote and with the vote being unanimous, it was
That, with immediate implementation of the decisions:
1. the revised wording to paragraph 4.2 of Section 3 (Functions and Responsibilities) Section 2 – Responsibility for Council (Non-Executive) Functions – Development Control Committee as set out in paragraph 2.1 of Report number: COU/WS/22/004, be approved.
2. It be agreed for Council meetings to start at 7pm, effective from the Annual Meeting of Council in May 2022, as set out in paragraph 2.2.
(Councillor Paul Hopfensperger left the meeting during the consideration of this item.)
Report number: COU/WS/22/005
Council considered this report, which sought approval for the proposed calendar of meetings for West Suffolk Council in 2022 to 2023.
Councillor Carol Bull, Portfolio Holder for Governance, drew relevant issues to the attention of Council, including that there had been an increasing number of meetings cancelled over the past few years due to no items requiring decision. This had been particularly noticeable for full Council meetings.
To try to avoid this situation this year, before producing next year’s calendar the Democratic Services Team had completed some analysis of meetings held and cancelled over recent years and adjusted the meeting dates and frequency to reflect forthcoming expected agenda items. Members noted that some additional reserve dates for Council and Cabinet had been included in the proposed 2022 to 2023 calendar, which would be used for meetings if required. This should see less meetings being cancelled.
No venues had been stipulated on the calendar at present. This was largely due to the COVID-19 situation as was known at the time of preparing the report, together with the need to have the required equipment in place to support meetings at the Mildenhall Hub.
Furthermore, a corporate hybrid meeting project was currently ongoing. The outcome of which would influence future meeting operation, being mindful of current legislation which required public, decision making meetings to be held in person, but noting that the Government was considering a longer-term decision about whether to make provision for councils to be able to meet remotely on a permanent basis. The venues would therefore be reviewed throughout the year and members would be updated accordingly.
Other specific changes proposed to previous years’ calendar of meetings, as set out in section two of the report were also noted.
In response to questions, Council was informed that:
· In future, communication would be had with town councils in advance of the report containing the draft meetings calendar being published on the Council’s website in order to avoid potential meeting clashes, where possible.
· Since the creation of West Suffolk Council, the Licensing and Regulatory Committee had met regularly, but this was largely on an informal basis as no decisions had needed to be made. For 2022 to 2023, four meetings had been scheduled and, as agreed with the Chair of the Committee, these had been arranged as informal briefings as it was not yet known when formal decisions would be required. If a decision was needing to be taken then, with agreement of the Chair, the meeting would be changed to a formal public, decision making meeting.
Decision making meetings of Licensing and Regulatory Sub-Committees, for which membership was drawn for each hearing from the full Committee, were held quite regularly on an ad-hoc basis.
On the motion of Councillor Bull, seconded by Councillor Mike Chester, it was put to the vote and with the vote being unanimous, it was
That the Calendar of Meetings 2022 to 2023, as attached at Appendix A to Report number: COU/WS/22/005, be approved.
(Note: the ... view the full minutes text for item 189.
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.