Paper number: COU/WS/21/015 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/21/015.
In his introductory remarks, Councillor Griffiths:
a. Personal remarks: expressed his condolences to the family of Joy Childs and welcomed Councillors Lance Stanbury and Nick Wiseman to West Suffolk Council.
b. Staff Awards: recommended viewing the recording of the West Suffolk Council Staff Awards that had been held virtually via Teams that afternoon.
c. COVID-19: encouraged members and staff to get vaccinated and have the booster in light of the rapid increase in the infection rate of COVID-19 which appeared to be due to the new highly contagious Omicron variant. The potential implications associated with this, including ensuring the delivery of essential services was maintained, was highlighted. Such services included refuse collection, for which revised rounds for the festive season had been issued. Members were encouraged to cascade the temporary arrangements throughout their various communication outlets accordingly.
d. Barley Homes: stated that in respect of reference to paragraph 36. of his Statement, following delivery of Barley Homes’ properties at Stonemill Park, this would amount to a combined total of 63 homes delivered at Westmill Place and Stonemill Park in Haverhill.
e. Housing priorities: stated that the Council’s housing priorities were debated by Cabinet on 7 December 2021 (Report number: CAB/WS/21/059 refers). Decisions included extending the life of the Housing Strategy to 2024 and approving revisions to the associated Implementation Plan.
f. Energy and environment: stated that the Council continued with its drive to be carbon neutral by 2030, which included facilitating the implementation of the Solar for Business grant scheme. This initiative was operating extremely well and included the biggest installation to date, which would commence in Newmarket in the new year.
g. Proposed incubation units: stated that Council would be debating the proposed provision of incubation units at Suffolk Business Park later in the meeting (COU/WS/21/016 refers). Councillor Griffiths considered this proposal was an excellent example of an economic growth initiative that would bring investment, jobs and skills to enhance future certainty and prosperity for West Suffolk. The scheme was designed to be cost neutral, providing a valuable asset whilst supporting the growth of local businesses. An opportunity had been seized for investment in appropriate infrastructure that accorded with the Council’s priorities.
The Leader responded to a range of questions relating to:
a. West Suffolk Council: that since the creation of West Suffolk Council in 2019, it had achieved far more than it could have as the separate predecessors of Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury councils, which not only had delivered savings but supported families and communities; built new homes and the Mildenhall Hub as well as refurbishing Brandon Leisure Centre; invested in growth and green energy, to name a few. This was not only due to the Conservative administration but a combined, stronger, better cross-party effort of members working collaboratively to achieve its aims for the residents of the entire district of West Suffolk.
b. Barley Homes: that a number of environmentally beneficial initiatives had already been successfully incorporated into the new homes built by Barley Homes and an aspiration to achieve zero carbon homes in the future was a consideration. However, together with other considerations, cost implications needed to be taken into account before a commitment could be made to this.
c. Housing delivery in Brandon: that Natural England’s position regarding the protection of the stone curlew in The Brecks, which significantly impacted potential housing growth in Brandon, was recognised. As part of the development of the new West Suffolk Local Plan, work was being undertaken to try and overcome the complexities associated with this issue. Engagement with neighbouring authorities who were also affected by Natural England’s stance on this matter, ward members and other partners was key to this work.
d. Street lighting: the operation of street lighting was largely transferred to Suffolk County Council several years ago; however, due to a variety of reasons, which were mainly historical, the ownership and maintenance of some street lights remained with some town and parish councils, including in the former Forest Heath area. This would be investigated to ascertain whether the situation could become equitable across the entire district.
(Councillors Mick Bradshaw, Dawn Dicker and Roger Dicker left the meeting during the consideration of this item.)