Agenda item

Open forum

At each Cabinet meeting, up to 15 minutes shall be allocated for questions or statements from and discussion with, non-Cabinet members. Members wishing to speak during this session are encouraged to give notice in advance. Who speaks and for how long will be at the complete discretion of the person presiding.


The following non-Cabinet members spoke under this item:


1.      Councillor Andy Neal (Ward Member for Mildenhall Queensway)

Councillor Andy Neal addressed the Cabinet and wished to raise the following for their future consideration:


-      Delivery of the West Suffolk Local Plan.

-      In-house management of the Council’s commercial property portfolio.

-      Funding of the provision of future leisure facilities.

-      Quality of grounds maintenance/grass cutting contract.

-      Implementation of the outcomes from the markets review, undertaken by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee in the previous Council administration.

-      Upgrading of street lighting to LED and associated costs.


The Leader of the Council acknowledged the areas raised and responded by stating that:


-      On the Cabinet agenda this evening was the proposed re-constitution of the West Suffolk Local Plan Working Group (Report number CAB/WS/23/025).

-      In terms of leisure provision, a review would be undertaken of the Western Way development.

-      A review would also be undertaken on the Council’s grounds maintenance contract.


2.      Councillor Roger Dicker (Ward Member for Kentford and Moulton)

Councillor Roger Dicker wished to refer to the poor state of the grass cutting within the District, particularly within his Ward and the complaints which he was receiving from his residents.  Councillor Dicker welcomed the undertaking of a review on the grounds maintenance contract and asked in addition, for a review to also be undertaken on the Council’s stance to not spray round trees and in other public areas during the spring and autumn of this year.   Councillor Dicker also asked whether it would be possible for a larger budget to be provided within this particular service area.


3.      Councillor Joe Mason (Ward Member for Haverhill North)

Councillor Joe Mason addressed the Cabinet and asked what new initiatives or priorities had been identified for the Families and Communities portfolio, along with clarity as to what the Cabinet intended to change or prioritise for the benefit of communities across the District.


The Leader of the Council responded by explaining that the Cabinet would be developing their future priorities, which would be mainly centred around helping its residents with the cost of living crisis; the housing crisis and the development of the local economy.  The Cabinet would also be looking to especially focus the Council towards the growth area within Cambridge.


4.      Councillor Carol Bull (Ward Member for Barningham)

Councillor Carol Bull addressed the Cabinet and wished to expressed her personal disappointment and sadness on the lack of diversity of the new Cabinet, in that there were only two women who had been appointed. 


The Leader of the Council responded and thanked Councillor Bull for her very important question.  The Leader also agreed that he would have liked to have had a more diverse make-up of the Cabinet.  However, some of the members who had been asked to join the Cabinet, had considered that they did not have the time or resources to be able to participate in this role.  However, opportunities around the potential for job sharing roles within the Cabinet was being considered.


5.      Councillor Susan Glossop (Ward Member for Risby)

Councillor Susan Glossop addressed the Cabinet and expressed her concerns around the future policies and strategies for the Council.  Being the ‘outgoing’ Portfolio Holder for Growth, Councillor Glossop was also particularly interested in the growth projects and asked whether they would be continuing in the new administration.


The Leader of the Council, responded by confirming that the growth projects would be continuing into the new administration.


6.      Councillor Nick Clarke (Ward Member for Clare, Hundon and Kedington and Leader of the Conservative Group)

Councillor Nick Clarke wished to congratulate Councillor Cliff Waterman on his appointment as Leader of the Council and on his appointment of his Cabinet.  Councillor Clarke also wished to raise his concerns around the current gender imbalance on the Cabinet.


Councillor Clarke also expressed his concerns regarding the delay in the Council’s audit process, which was being caused by the Council’s external auditors.  The Leader of the Council, responded to these concerns raised and explained that the audit delays were not due to the Council.  However, this situation would continue to be followed through.  The Leader also wished to thank Officers for ensuring that the audit deadlines imposed on the Council continued to be met.


Councillor Clarke also explained that residents did not appear to understand the political groupings on the Council, particularly with regards to the establishment of the West Suffolk Working Partnership (WSWP).  Councillor Clarke referred to the information on the Council’s website, which listed the political groups and asked whether this could be reviewed for clarity. Councillor Waterman apologised for any confusion around the political groupings within the Council and for clarity purposes, confirmed that the three political groups which had been formed on the Council were:


-      The West Suffolk Progressive Alliance Grouping (which consisted of Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green parties)

-      The Independents

-      The Conservatives


In addition, a partnership had also been formed between the West Suffolk Progressive Alliance Grouping and the Independents to work together, under the title of West Suffolk Working Partnership (WSWP), to form the new Council administration.  The Leader agreed to review the information which was currently on the Council’s website to ensure clarity around this.


At the conclusion of this item, Councillor Waterman also encouraged all members to raise any issues which they may have with the relevant Portfolio Holders.  In addition, Members attending to address the Cabinet under this Open Forum agenda item were very much welcome.  Although this was not a formal requirement, the Leader explained that it would be useful for notice of the content of the question/statement to be provided in advance, which would then assist with the Cabinet being able to provide a substantive response.