Report number: OAS/WS/22/013
The Leader of the Council, Councillor John Griffiths thanked the Committee for the opportunity to present Report No: OAS/WS/22/013, which outlined the draft West Suffolk Councils’ Annual Report (2021 to 2022) and was before the Overview and Scrutiny Committee for their comments.
Throughout this year the Council had seen dedication, support and community spirit, which made West Suffolk such a very special place to live and work.
The Leader was proud that the Council was at the forefront during 2021 to 2022 as it responded to and began to recover from the impact of Covid 19. At the same time, the Council never lost sight of its core values of supporting its communities and businesses and planning for current and future housing needs. Alongside this, the Council continued to deliver high quality services in waste and recycling, determining planning applications and helping local organisations through the families and communities’ work. As part of the response to Covid 19, the Council continued to administer grants for local businesses.
In collaboration with the Anglian Revenues Partnership the Council distributed its entire allocation of the Hardship Fund, helping residents with rent shortfalls to remain in their homes.
Six town centres benefited from projects undertaken to encourage shoppers back into town centres and support local businesses with Government “Welcome Back” funding. Community groups across West Suffolk were also supported through the Government’s “Community Restart” fund for Covid specific projects.
The Council had delivered on a number of significant projects including the Mildenhall Hub, bringing together a range of services for the benefit of local people and the new Brandon Leisure and Health Hub, which included upgraded fitness facilities and community health facilities.
The draft West Suffolk Council Annual Report (Appendix 1) before the Committee provided highlights of all the work that all members and staff had achieved over the past year. The annual report was a small insight into the good work and positive outcomes which the Council delivers day in and day out. The Leader wished to thank everyone involved on delivering another excellent year of achievements during a difficult time which was fast-moving and ever-changing. The Council had never been busier or had greater challenges to face.
The Council was continuing the approach taken in the 2020 to 2021 Annual Report, by producing a shorter document using infographics, as opposed to the full written report. Feedback received suggested that infographics gave a stronger and more easily digestible summary of the Council’s work and could be used in a number of ways, including for example, for briefing materials, social media and parish councils.
The Chair thanked the Leader for his presentation. The Committee then examined the document in detail and asked a number of questions of the Leader, to which comprehensive responses were provided.
In particular, discussions were held regarding electric vehicle charging points; Covid business grants; the Clinical Commissioning Group; homelessness levels and how families and individuals could be supported to maintain a tenancy and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
Comments and suggestions made by the Committee during its discussions on the draft Annual Report, for example included:
· Page 1: reference be made to the council’s wider suite of documents that report on the performance of the council, including the Annual Statement of Accounts and performance dashboards. Furthermore, that these reporting routes help the council to understand where we need to improve, the challenges we face and areas of focus for the future.
· Page 3: eighth bullet point, the figure of 39,000 tonnes of household waste sent for processing at the Energy from Waste facility in Great Blakenham be confirmed
· Page 8: third bullet point, a link to the Housing Needs Assessment be included alongside a brief overview of the content of the assessment.
· Page 9: third bullet point, include the outcomes from the 1,232 households at risk of homelessness who were provided with advice and support.
· Page 10: add further examples of actions carried out by the council to improve biodiversity.
Officers agreed to look at the comments and suggestions and would incorporate into the final document, where appropriate, to be presented to Cabinet.
The Leader of the Council wished to thank the Overview and Scrutiny Committee for scrutinising the draft Annual Report and for their comments.
It was then proposed by Councillor Julia Wakelam, duly seconded by Councillor Margaret Marks, and with the vote being unanimous it was:
That the Draft West Suffolk Annual Report 2021 to 2022, attached at Appendix 1 to Report number OAS/WS/22/013, be recommended to Cabinet for approval, subject to comments made during the meeting.