Agenda item

Leader's statement (paper number: COU/WS/20/014)

Paper number: COU/WS/20/014 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/20/014.


In his introductory remarks:


a.       Covid-19: Councillor Griffiths made reference to his involvement with the Local Outbreak Engagement Board meetings, which was the cross-partner body co-ordinating the county-wide response to Covid-19 across Suffolk. The situation was constantly evolving and it was expected that the Government would make an announcement regarding changes to the present tier arrangements on 16 December 2020. Councillor Griffiths urged everyone to adhere to the guidelines to control the spread of the virus.


b.       Business Support Grants: Councillor Griffiths informed that new Covid-19 Tier 2 and Tier 3 Business Support Grants would be available for eligible businesses to apply for in the coming days. Final details were awaited but the Council was ready to make payments once the launch date was announced and grant allocations were received. 


c.       Barley Homes: Councillor Griffiths made reference to Cabinet’s approval of the revised Barley Homes Business Plan 2020 and that it was encouraging to see good progress had been made with much needed housing, including affordable homes, now underway with construction commencing on two sites in Haverhill. Work to bring forward two further sites agreed at College Heath Road, Mildenhall, and School Lane, Great Barton was also continuing. The loan facility had been extended to take advantage of a new opportunity identified in Rougham and to explore other potential pipeline sites.


d.       Homelessness funding: Councillor Griffiths reported that the Council had secured over £600,000 in homelessness funding from the Government, and working with partners, Sanctuary Supported Living, had been awarded significant grants from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Next Steps Accommodation Programme. These grants would be used to provide extra support for those with additional support needs, and for providing additional units of temporary accommodation. Since the first lockdown in March 2020, the Council had helped more than 520 households, including a significant number of rough sleepers, with the provision of housing advice and support.


e.       Leisure: Councillor Griffiths highlighted the need for good leisure facilities and emphasised the importance of integrating community health and leisure facilities to achieve better health benefits and outcomes. Combined health and leisure facilities would be a key part of the £1.97 million refurbishment of Brandon Leisure Centre. Support had been given to Abbeycroft Leisure during these difficult times in the form of providing a Covid-19 loan facility, and details were awaited on the Government’s national leisure support grant and which aimed to provide financial support to leisure trusts such as Abbeycroft.


f.       Thanks: Councillor Griffiths placed his thanks on record to all staff of West Suffolk Council for their sterling efforts over the past year, including drawing attention to the tremendous success of new initiatives put in place on Haverhill market. He also recognised the successes of the other markets within the district.


The Leader responded to a range of questions relating to:


a.       National award achievements for the West Suffolk Operational Hub: Councillor Griffiths agreed that the site for the Waste Transfer Station (WTS) had originally been identified by Suffolk County Council at a site at Rougham Hill, Bury St Edmunds; however, due to a number of factors and following thorough investigations and a detailed site selection process, the proposal for a combined WTS, depot and Household Waste and Recycling Centre was agreed for the now existing site of the Operational Hub on Fornham Road. The Leader acknowledged the contributions of numerous partners, and the community, that had helped shape the project as it progressed to the construction phase.  The Council had taken the decision to consult extremely thoroughly with stakeholders, community groups and individuals and this had resulted in positive engagement to achieve in a superb fit-for-purpose, future-proofed facility.    


b.       Collection of council tax: Councillor Griffiths stated that a written reply would be provided in response to a question put by Councillor Diane Hind, to confirm the support being provided by Anglia Revenues and Benefits Partnership regarding the collection of council tax and advising how to register for council tax support. The response would be circulated to all members.


c.       Homes for Life: Councillor Griffiths stated that there may be potential for itemising the existing number of ‘homes for life’ in the district and those that may be required in the future; however it was important to ensure the data collated complied with the correct definition and those identified for the future were the right kind of homes required.


d.       Haverhill: Councillor Griffiths shared Councillor John Burns sentiments regarding the success of the market in Haverhill and the new initiatives adopted; and the marketing for the homes on the new Barely Homes’ sites was in hand.


e.       Temporary Accommodation: Councillor Griffiths stated that a written reply would be provided in response to a question put by Councillor Max Clarke, in respect of the number of temporary accommodation units the Council had available throughout the year; and the number of units of supported accommodation the Council had and whether West Suffolk Council had been given any indication that a Covid-19 recession may affect its capability to support vulnerable people in the future. The response would be circulated to all members.


(Councillor Roger Dicker left the meeting during the consideration of this item at 7.01pm.)

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