Agenda item

Open forum

At each Cabinet meeting, up to 15 minutes shall be allocated for questions or statements from and discussion with, non-Cabinet members. As this meeting is being held virtually, members wishing to speak during this session must notify Democratic Services by 9am on the day of the meeting that they wish to attend. Who speaks and for how long will be at the complete discretion of the person presiding.


The following non-Cabinet Members spoke under this item:


1. Councillor Trevor Beckwith, one of the ward members for Moreton Hall, Bury St Edmunds, made a statement in connection with Agenda Item 12: ‘Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO) – review of existing orders.’


Councillor Beckwith made reference to problems with anti-social behaviour, largely caused by unsociable driving, on the Moreton Hall estate and referred to an injunction that had been served in 2016 but due to a number of factors had not been pursued once the matter was heard in court. He now urged the Council to take the measures necessary to resolve all anti-social behaviour issues that were currently blighting the Moreton Hall community.


In response, Councillor Robert Everitt, Portfolio Holder for Families and Communities stated that the application for the Moreton Hall injunction was heard in court in February 2019 and provided the reasons why the matter had not been pursued, which was mainly due to lack of evidence. The Council had not been presented with the evidence to justify an application for an injunction since February 2019, however communication with partners, including Suffolk Police, continued to ensure that if appropriate, this action could be taken.


Councillor Everitt added that as part of the PSPO review, the Council had received a request to consider a stand alone PSPO for the Moreton Hall area. Whilst continuing to work with police colleagues, the Council would consider all options available moving forward, which would involve engagement with ward members and the community to achieve appropriate solutions.


2. Councillor Brian Harvey, Chair of West Suffolk Council and ward member for Manor, made a statement in connection with Agenda Item 11: ‘West Suffolk Local Plan Draft Issues and Options documents – approval for public consultation.’


Councillor Harvey wished to draw attention to page 28 (page 102 of the agenda supplement pack) of Part 3 of the Draft Issues and Options documents, where the map currently showed Barton Mills as being part of the Mildenhall settlement map. Residents in Councillor Harvey’s ward had expressed concern that Barton Mills was being proposed to become part of Mildenhall and reassurance was sought that this was not the case.


In response, Councillor David Roach, Portfolio Holder for Local Plan Development and Delivery, stated that this would be clarified as part of the consultation.


3. Councillor Jason Crooks, one of the ward members for Haverhill South, wished to make a statement in connection with Agenda Item 10: Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Conditions Policy. He firstly wished to remind members of his registered interest as a self-employed taxi driver licensed by West Suffolk Council; however, he was speaking on the issue in his capacity as a councillor and not from a personal perspective.

Councillor Crooks expressed concern regarding the proposals to maintain the two-zone system for hackney carriages in West Suffolk, with a further review being undertaken in two years; and to remove the livery requirement for zone A hackney carriages and not introduce a requirement for private hire vehicles. He felt that residents and the business community had demonstrated support for a single zone and livery requirement and that the aforementioned proposals would be detrimental to the existing status quo.


Councillor Crooks also expressed concern that zone A (the former Forest Heath area) only had five wheelchair-accessible vehicles and therefore he felt this created disability discrimination. He considered a single zone would remove this obstacle as zone B (the former St Edmundsbury area) had several more wheelchair-accessible vehicles. 


Councillor Crooks then explained the challenges the taxi industry was facing and felt the Council was not satisfactorily helping to mitigate such challenges if it continued with the two-zone system.


In response, Councillor Andy Drummond, Portfolio Holder for Regulatory, stated there was sufficient evidence to suggest that the recommendations currently brought before Cabinet did not discriminate towards people with disabilities in the former Forest Heath area. Councillor Drummond stated that the Unmet Demand Survey had identified that current levels of wheelchair accessible vehicles appeared to mirror stated need in both zones. Several organisations that supported persons with disabilities had also been contacted as part of the survey and no concerns had been raised. In addition, an Equality Impact Assessment had been undertaken as part of the consultation process on the proposed new policy. This concluded that changes to the current two-zone system had the potential to change the way in which the taxi industry in West Suffolk operated, which would particularly affect those who relied on taxis due to disability. Therefore, accelerating the amalgamation of the two taxi zones without more fully considering the implications would potentially be discriminatory to disabled residents.


The situation would be monitored and further engagement with key users with disabilities that regularly used the service, and with the trade itself, would be welcomed to develop disability access issues and take the service offer forward.


(Councillor Ian Shipp joined the meeting during the consideration of this item.)