Paper number: COU/WS/20/012
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/20/007.
In his introductory remarks, Councillor Griffiths:
a. acknowledged the outstanding work of West Suffolk staff and councillors in responding to the continuing challenges of Covid-19;
b. drew attention to agenda item 7.B.3. which would seek members’ approval for going out to consultation on the West Suffolk Local Plan Draft Issues and Options documents. Councillor Griffiths explained that this was the first stage of planning the future of West Suffolk up to 2040 with the Issues and Options stage setting the foundations to support the development of the new Local Plan. The new Local Plan was not only about building new homes in the right places but would promote the future prosperity of West Suffolk by supporting jobs as well as providing access to health, education, green spaces, leisure and many more services, all within the context of addressing the effects of climate change and making better transport links;
c. stated that in accordance with one of the Council’s strategic priorities, namely promoting ‘resilient families and communities that are healthy and active’, and having worked in partnership with the West Suffolk Health Alliance to promote the integration of health and leisure facilities, the Cabinet would be considering on 6 October 2020, an almost £2 million investment in Brandon Leisure Centre for making improvements to its current facilities;
d. stated that from the beginning of October 2020, all electricity for the Council’s buildings would be supplied from renewable energy sources. A two year contract had been agreed with Ecotricity Limited and bills would remain competitive as current. This, together with several other green initiatives, as summarised in the written statement, was part of the wider programme of proposed actions arising from the work of the Environment and Climate Change Taskforce;
e. congratulated the Building Control service on their recent award in the Local Authority Building Control (LABC) East Anglia Building Excellence Awards, which were held annually across the UK. The team was ‘Highly Commended’ for the Sybil Andrews Academy entry in the ‘Best Public Service or Educational Building’ category. In addition, the Democratic Services Team had been shortlisted for Team of the Year by the Association of Democratic Services Officers (ADSO). The national association, which had members from numerous local authorities from across the UK, would announce the outcome at its virtual annual conference in November 2020;
f. reported that the two Barley Homes developments in Haverhill were progressing well and the pipeline projects were satisfactorily moving forward too;
g. stated that independent research had reported that through increased tourism, the West Suffolk local economy was boosted in 2019 by 4.5 percent from 2018. Due to the impacts of Covid-19, this was however, unlikely to be the case in 2020; and
h. stated that lobbying was continuing on achieving fair funding for West Suffolk. Not only was the Council faced with the additional challenges created by Covid-19 but the Council was facing ongoing budget pressures and it was therefore crucial that a fair deal was sought from Government. In the meantime, the Local Enterprise Partnerships and Suffolk Public Sector Leaders’ Group were launching funding initiatives which could assist the Council with supporting the West Suffolk area with its economic recovery.
The Leader responded to a range of questions, which included:
a. expressing his support to the suggestion of Councillor Paul Hopfensperger to formally record thanks to Alex Wilson, Director and the team that had been working on the new community centre and homes project located on the Howard estate, Bury St Edmunds. Details of the project, which was set to begin construction in the next two months, were set out in paragraphs 51. to 56. of the Leader’s statement;
b. acknowledging the efforts of Haverhill Town Council for their, and other partners’ contributions towards the success of the Lifelink project in Haverhill which was to be rolled out in areas across West Suffolk;
c. that working with partners, a variety of environmentally-friendly initiatives in Haverhill and across West Suffolk were promoted, such as the installation of electric vehicle (EV) charging points on lampposts and the provision of solar panels on business premises. ‘Green’ schemes could be explored for utilisation within disused or under-used estate garage blocks, as appropriate;
d. that councillors and the organisation as a whole were accountable for trying to make energy and fuel savings from its key emission sources such as buildings, vehicles and fuel use. There was no specific officer appointed to monitor carbon and cash savings emanating from ‘green’ initiatives as such; however, progress made was measured and monitored through the Environment Statement which was published with the Council’s Annual Report;
e. that in connection with the installation of EV charging points on lampposts Councillor Marks asked whether the vehicles continued to charge overnight when the street lights were off and whether there should be concerns regarding vandalism if the street light was turned off but cars were plugged into it. In response, Councillor Griffiths confirmed vehicles would continue to charge while the light was off; however, he added that further information would be provided on the operation of the scheme to Members in the form of a written response; and
f. several discussions were being held in respect of the Western Way Development project. Updates would be provided to all members in due course.
(Councillor Crooks joined the meeting during the consideration of this item.)