Agenda item

Leader's statement (Paper number: COU/WS/23/013)

Paper number: COU/WS/23/013


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 Waterman, Leader of the Council, presented his Leader’s Statement as outlined in paper number: COU/WS/23/013.


In his introductory remarks, Councillor Waterman:


a.       Environment: reported that the protection of the environment remained a key priority of the Council. The Cabinet very much welcomed the recent recommendations of the West Suffolk Environment and Sustainability Working Group and building on that initial work, which was limited to completion by September, the Leader felt it was time to pick up the pace and do more with residents and businesses to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change. It was intended that the Environment and Sustainability Working Group would continue to operate in an evolved form. The Group would consider how best to continue to embed environmental considerations into future decision-making, alongside wider social and economic factors, together with keeping the actions plan under review and identifying new opportunities to address both environmental, climate change and sustainability considerations. 


Engaging with the East of England Local Government Association (EELGA), the Council was endorsing the work of the East of England Hydrogen Cluster which would ensure the East was ready to take advantage of opportunities arising from this emerging technology.


Reference was also given to the Net Zero Innovation Fund which provided grants to businesses that had innovative solutions to drive the county towards its net zero target.


b.       Supporting business: reported on Government funded grants to aid the growth of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in West Suffolk. The grants would be available to apply for through the New Anglia Growth Hub and were from the Government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund and the Rural England Prosperity Fund.


c.       Cost of living support: stated that the Council was from 2 October 2023, carrying out engagement with the public and stakeholders to extend for another year the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme to help those eligible on low incomes by giving 100 percent discount on their council tax. 


d.       Community Chest: reminded members that the deadline of 29 September 2023 for applications to be submitted for the 2024 to 2025 Community Chest round was fast approaching.


e.       A Louder Voice: stated that the Local Government Association (LGA) was beginning work on a local government white paper to be published before the next election. It was a bold ambition to develop a plan to form part of the first King’s Speech after the next General Election to secure a national local partnership in which local government could work to its full potential for its people, places and planet. The work would be underpinned by the LGA’s ‘Make it Local’ campaign which outlined how local government was key to delivering solutions to the biggest issues faced. West Suffolk intended to play a full and engaged role in this debate.


Councillor Waterman also welcomed the fact that Councillor Shipp was a full member of the LGA’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board which demonstrated the Council’s commitment to these areas and ensured West Suffolk had a voice nationally.  


f.       Their future: reported that together with various organisations and businesses, the Council supported a recently held ‘Skills Escalator Day’ initiative. Five schools in and around Newmarket were invited to take part in this career event, which was specifically aimed at younger primary school children of six and seven years of age.


g.       Out and about: listed a wide range of partners and organisations that he had met with in recent weeks and several more were in the pipeline. These were all vital and valuable to strengthen relationships to help achieve common aims and goals which made things better for communities and businesses.


h.       Ward work: thanked all members for their sterling work undertaken in their wards. He felt members made a real and direct difference, demonstrating a shared goal as a force of good and championing the district’s local communities.


The Leader responded to a range of questions relating to:


a.       Lack of gender balance in the Cabinet: that he was not content with the gender balance within the Council in general. It was often the case that working women, particularly those with young children and dependents found it difficult to stand for election and that was reflected in the gender of councillors at West Suffolk.


b.       Provision of refreshments at the conclusion of Council meetings: that it was not the Leader’s decision to reintroduce refreshments at the conclusion of Council meetings, which were at very little cost in comparison to the Council’s overall spending; however, he supported the provision if it meant that councillors could interact on a social footing away from politics.


c.       Use of glyphosate: that it had been a previous decision of the Council to cease using glyphosate for weed control as a means for protecting the environment; however, the adverse impacts caused by excessive weed growth on footpaths, verges etc as a result of not using glyphosate had been recognised. Councillor Shipp, Portfolio Holder for Leisure with the responsibility for open spaces, was leading on a working group that together with other matters, was looking into this issue and would report later in the year with its findings and potential recommendations to Cabinet.

d.       Haverhill: that it was recognised that there were issues of concern in Haverhill; however, the Leader expressed his enthusiasm for the town acknowledging its positive aspects. Proposals would be brought forward in due course regarding ways to improve the vibrancy of all of the district’s towns where required.

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