Agenda item

Public participation

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, andwould 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 March 2022. The written notification should detail the full question to be asked at the meeting of the Council.


The following members of the public spoke under this agenda item:


1. James Sheen asked a question in connection with the costs required to run the Haverhill Business Improvement District (BID) process and ballot, and whether the Council would attempt to force a BID into Haverhill or any other West Suffolk towns in the future and therefore, be required to spend similar amounts to operate future BID ballots.


In response, Councillor Susan Glossop, Portfolio Holder for Growth, stated that the BID process in Haverhill was not initiated by West Suffolk Council. The BID proposal was a business led initiative which accorded with the Council’s aim to put local decisions in the hands of local businesses. It was not in the Council’s gift to impose a BID. Once the process had been initiated by local businesses, it was the Council’s legal duty to then facilitate a fair ballot and allow the businesses eligible to vote to decide.


The funding spent on the BID campaign and ballot was not sought to be recouped and this would apply to whether the vote to establish a BID was successful or not.


Councillor Glossop then provided further detail on the Council’s position regarding its role with the establishment and operation of BIDs and provided information to mitigate potential misconceptions around this.


As the maximum five-minute time allocation for the question to be put and answered had been reached, no supplementary question arising directly from the reply was asked.


2. Rob Dorling had registered to speak on behalf of West Suffolk taxi drivers.  He asked a question in connection with the seeking of fare increases for Hackney Carriage drivers in West Suffolk. He stated that the Licensing and Regulatory (L&R) Committee had not met in over two years and sought the convening of an extraordinary (L&R) Committee meeting to consider proposals for an emergency fare increase, providing background and the rationale for his question.


In response, Councillor Andy Drummond, Portfolio Holder for Regulatory and Environment, firstly acknowledged the valuable key role taxis played in supporting the night time economy and vulnerable people in West Suffolk’s communities.  The challenges associated with the rising cost of living that faced many in the community was also recognised.  


A review of fares was in hand and a report was due to be presented to the L&R Committee in July 2022 for a decision to be made.  Some benchmarking had however, already been undertaken in respect of how West Suffolk fares compared with other districts across the county in the last six months and, notwithstanding the recent fare review in Ipswich, West Suffolk’s Hackney Carriage fares were not any lower than those in other local authorities.  The Council did not oversee or have any influence regarding the setting of private hire vehicle fees.


While an extraordinary meeting of the Committee could be convened to consider substantive business in-between diarised meetings, it was considered that the request for a fare review was already being responded to in a timely manner and an extraordinary meeting was therefore, not required.


Councillor Drummond then explained that since the creation of West Suffolk Council in 2019, the L&R Committee had met regularly on an informal basis as no decisions had needed to be made. He then reiterated the purpose and remit of the L&R Committee; and the decision making process associated with licensing and regulatory matters and how the public was able to participate in this. These matters were set out in the Constitution, which could be found on the Council’s website.


As the maximum five-minute time allocation for the question to be put and answered had been reached, no supplementary question arising directly from the reply was asked.


The Chair thanked Mr Sheen and Mr Dorling for attending and welcomed their presence for the remainder of the meeting should they wish to do so.