Agenda item

Leader's statement (Paper number: COU/WS/23/009)

Paper number: COU/WS/23/009


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 Cliff Waterman, Leader of the Council, presented his Leader’s Statement as outlined in paper number: COU/WS/23/009.


In his introductory remarks, Councillor Waterman:


a.       Suffolk Day: reflected on the benefits of living in Suffolk together with drawing attention to the range of events being held in the district and across the county to celebrate Suffolk Day on 21 June 2023.        


b.       West Suffolk: drew attention to the various positive aspects of living, working and visiting West Suffolk, particularly highlighting examples within the district’s towns.


c.       West Suffolk Working Partnership: set out an outline of the core areas upon which the West Suffolk Working Partnership would be focusing its efforts in the coming months, which included (but not limited to): protecting the environment; business growth; the right housing development in the right place; and supporting residents with the cost of living crisis through the extensive families and communities work.


d.       Invitation to all ward members: urged members to accept his offer to all members to discuss pertinent matters within their wards within the next year.


e.       Cabinet – 13 June 2023: that the first meeting of his Cabinet was held on 13 June 2023 at the Mildenhall Hub, where amongst other issues considered, it had agreed the establishment of a number of working groups. This included a new Environment and Sustainability Working Group which would commence work very shortly in accordance with its approved terms of reference. It was intended that the venues for Cabinet meetings would alternate between West Suffolk House, Bury St Edmunds and the Mildenhall Hub to encourage better access to open democracy.


f.       Gender balance and diversity: that he very much supported equality and diversity amongst West Suffolk councillors to build on the excellent breadth of knowledge and skills the Council already had. In response to a question following his introductory remarks, the Leader reinforced this view. He was extremely proud of his Cabinet, which he felt demonstrated a range of exceptional talent; however, he recognised the important issue of improving gender equality and increasing diversity particularly in the wider context of society.


g.       Events: provided details of current and forthcoming events including the Makers Markets and Young Traders Market competition; the hosting of the Jobs and Skills Fair in Haverhill Arts Centre; the Mutiny in Colour art exhibition; and various events commemorating Armed Forces Week.


h.       Council priorities: that work was progressing to develop the Council’s priorities, which included working with partners and organisations to support the identification of challenges and opportunities.


The Leader responded to a range of questions relating to:


a.       New administration: that the detail of the broad agenda upon which the new administration was working would be forthcoming in due course. Priorities were being carefully developed and reviews of ongoing issues, such as the examples given of street lighting provision and the present restricted growth in Brandon due to the protection of stone curlews, were being undertaken and would be progressed accordingly.


b.       ‘Debate not hate’: welcomed support from all councillors for the Local Government Association’s (LGA) ‘debate not hate’ campaign. A programme of training developed by the LGA would be offered to councillors in due course.


c.       Families and Communities portfolio: that the Families and Communities portfolio was extensive which would support the work of members within their wards. This included working positively with partners and communities, including providing support to voluntary sector organisations, where possible. The West Suffolk Grant Working Party had been re-established which in due course, would look at recommending the awarding of Community Chest funding to successful applicants, which included a range of voluntary sector organisations.


Consultations were currently being carried out on the Public Space Protection Orders and Cumulative Impact Assessment areas in the district. Taking the outcome of the consultations into account, appropriate recommendations on whether to renew or not would be presented to Cabinet in September 2023. 


The Leader agreed that it was unacceptable, not only locally but on a national scale, for unclaimed benefits to reach such significant levels. He aimed to actively pursue this matter with Suffolk Public Sector Leaders and other partners, where appropriate, to encourage greater uptake of benefit claim entitlement.


The Portfolio Holder for Families and Communities added to the Leader’s response, stating that the portfolio covered such a wide-ranging spectrum, the Leader’s statement had not focussed on specific areas of work. The direction of the portfolio was however, being developed and further detail would be shared with all members in due course.


d.       Leaders of political groups: providing confirmation that the leader of the largest minority group, the Conservative Group, was Councillor Nick Clarke. The leaders of the Progressive Alliance Grouping and the Independents were Councillors David Smith and Victor Lukaniuk respectively. 


e.       Special Responsibility Allowances (SRA): providing confirmation that in accordance with the adopted Members’ Allowances Scheme, Councillor David Smith would receive an SRA of £1,447.86 per annum as Group Leader of the Progressive Alliance minority group. In line with the requirements of the Members’ Allowances Scheme, Councillor Victor Lukaniuk would claim one SRA as Deputy Leader of the Council and not as leader of the Independents minority group. Whilst the Deputy Leader was not responsible for a specific portfolio, his workload remained significant. Councillor Waterman added that a budget was provided for all allowances payable under the Members’ Allowances Scheme.

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