Agenda and minutes

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Venue: Council Chamber - Council Offices, London Road, Saffron Walden, CB11 4ER. View directions

Contact: Democratic Services  Email: committee@uttlesford.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Public Speaking pdf icon PDF 28 KB

Minutes:

Daniel Brett, Martyn Everett and Tina Mawer spoke at the meeting. Summaries of their statements are appended to these minutes.

 

2.

Apologies for Absence and Declarations of Interest

To receive any apologies and declarations of interest.

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Councillors Artus, Asker, Goddard, Harris and Mills.

 

Councillors Fairhurst and Freeman declared personal interests as members of Saffron Walden Town Council.

 

Cllr G Barker declared a personal interest in that he was married to Cllr S Barker, who was a member of Essex County Council.

 

Councillor S Barker declared a personal interest as a member of Essex County Council in relation to the Council Tax resolution in Item 13 and the motion regarding library services at Item 19.

 

In response to a Member question, the Assistant Director - Governance and Legal said there was only a need for district councillors to declare an interest as town or parish councillors if there was an item relevant to their organisation on the agenda. In this instance, the precept from Saffron Walden Town Council was a part of the agenda.

3.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 128 KB

To receive the minutes of the previous meeting.

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meeting were approved and signed by the Chairman as a correct record, subject to the following changes:

 

C58: Councillor Ranger said ‘he would arrange meetings with the users of the libraries at Stansted and Thaxted’ to ‘he would be happy to attend meetings requested by parish councils with the users of the libraries at Stansted and Thaxted.’

 

C59: Remove the words ‘reinstate the council’s failed monitoring equipment in order to’ from the following resolution:

 

RESOLVED: DEFRA’s response to UDC’s Air Quality Annual Status report highlights that, “after distance correction, there are now no exceedances of the annual mean objective for Nitrogen Dioxide within the Saffron Walden AQMA, or any results within 10% of objective levels at positions of relevant exposure” and goes on to state that “The recent monitoring results are extremely encouraging, and the Council should maintain the strategy outlined within the Action Plan”. This council welcomes this response and will continue its work to improve further the air quality in our District and urges the Cabinet to reinstate the council's failed monitoring equipment in order to return the air quality reporting to the more accurate local validation preferred by DEFRA.

 

4.

Chairman's Announcements

To receive any announcements from the Chairman.

Minutes:

The Chairman said she had attended a number of events since the last Council meeting. These had included:

·         a range of carol services

·         a production at the Harlow Playhouse

·         the Uttlesford District Council Staff Long Service Awards,

·         a Queen’s Award presentation to Kestrel Liner Agencies

·         the Essex Wing Training Corp Presentation Evening

·         the opening of the London and Quadrant Independent Living Development in Saffron Walden

5.

Report of the Leader of the Council pdf icon PDF 50 KB

To consider receive a report from the Leader of the Council.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Leader of the Council presented his report. He highlighted the following points:

·         The opening of Harlow College at Stansted Airport. The College was now full and had a waiting list for future years. There was very positive feedback from some of those attending.

·         There had been a conference held at Chesterford Research Park to discuss the role of digital in future housing. The technology emerging to drive a cleaner and more effective environment was very sophisticated and exciting. It would be a big part of the future.

·         The London Stansted Cambridge Consortium Group was looking at the M11 Innovation Corridor. A cross-party meeting with representatives of Cambridge City Council, South Cambridgeshire Council and the Combined Authority had been held to share ideas on innovation in the area. The Leader had also had a meeting with the political advisor to the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government to discuss better connectivity between the Ministry, the Department for Transport and the district authority.

·         The Livewell Wheel diagram could be found on page 25 of the pack. This would be a key part of the way forward for the next administration. The Essex Partners Board and the Essex Health and Wellbeing Board were focused on connectivity between the NHS and local authorities, because the health service would not be able to take on sole responsibility for prevention and must do so in partnership with local government.

6.

Report of the Portfolio Holder for Communities and Partnerships pdf icon PDF 58 KB

To receive a report from the Portfolio Holder for Communities and Partnerships.

Minutes:

Councillor Ranger, the Portfolio Holder for Communities and Partnerships, presented his report. He highlighted the following additional points:

·         The work on developing the Sports Strategy for submission to the Local Plan examination continued to progress according to programme, and it was hoped it would be ready to submit to the Local Plan Inspectors in April.

·         The Council had recently formed a small steering group with local sports groups in Saffron Walden to carry out a feasibility study for a modern high-quality multi-sports campus located in or near to the town. The Council aimed undertake an examination of the currently identified shortfall of sports facilities in greater detail, and to identify a cost-effective site to improve provision for a wide range of sports and activities. Work was beginning in parallel with working with clubs and organisations in the south of the district.

·         Uttlesford had a foodbank delivered by a group of volunteers who were very professional in their work. The foodbank was now a registered charity. It had now signed a lease on premises in Shire Hill. It would be positive if the rent was securely funded. The next administration should consider raising a motion to contribute 1% of Members’ allowances to pay the bulk of the rent.

·         There had been a disagreement at the December Council meeting between himself and Councillor Hargreaves as to what should have been minuted on minute item C35 in the minutes of the October Council meeting. They had now agreed a substituted minute. This new wording now gave the impression that, should the Residents for Uttlesford become the administration in Uttlesford District Council, they would seek to remove from the Constitution, the protection which prevented decisions being made in secret.

7.

Report of the Portfolio Holder for Economic Development pdf icon PDF 81 KB

To receive a report from Portfolio Holder for Economic Development.

Minutes:

Councillor Ryles, the Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, presented his report. He highlighted the following:

·         The success of the Saffron Walden Business Improvement District, which had drawn more customers into the town.

·         Gigaclear was planning to roll out Phase 3 of superfast broadband in July 2020.

·         The Council was bidding to play a role in the Digital Innovation Strategy Zone (DIZ). It had submitted one bid for the Government’s 5th Generation Rural Mobile Testbed Trials, and would submit a proposal for involvement in the Local Full Fibre Network to deliver full fibre connections to all GP practices in the DIZ area. He commended the Economic Development Team on this work.

·         A procurement process for ticketing machines in car parks was underway.

·         The Council was waiting on responses from residents to help find solutions to parking issues on Caton’s Lane/Little Walden Road.

·         He would be meeting with officers next week to put together a bid for Saffron Walden to be the first of Uttlesford’s towns to apply for the Future High Street Fund. This would then follow with a bid for Dunmow in 2020. Only one bid could be submitted each year.

8.

Report of the Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services

To receive a report from the Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services.

Minutes:

The Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services presented her report. She apologised for the lack of a written report, and made the following points:

 

·         The Local Plan had been submitted in January and two inspectors had been appointed. They had already sent a list of initial questions to the Council, and hearings on the plan would take place in July.

·         The Police and Fire Commissioner’s plan included an additional 215 additional police officers on the street and an additional 50 police staff, including a dedicated team for Saffron Walden.

·         The Council had an exceptional Christmas with its bin collections. Missed bins were at an all-time low, new vehicles had been acquired and there had been an increase in litter-picking staff. A planning application for a new depot in Dunmow would be submitted in March.

9.

Report from the Portfolio Holder for Housing pdf icon PDF 55 KB

To receive a report from the Portfolio Holder for Housing.

Minutes:

The Portfolio Holder for Housing presented her report. She highlighted the following points:

 

  • The Council had a team that worked on private sector housing. New licensing laws had come into force regarding house of multiple occupation (HMOs). Since October, the Council had licensed 11 HMOs and there were more pending.
  • An application for redevelopment of The Moors at Little Dunmow would now go to the Planning Committee in April, rather than March.
  • In the 2017-2018 year, the Council had sold 9 properties under the Right to Buy, and in the 2018-2019 year, it had sold another 8, with another waiting to be sold that week. When selling a property under the Right to Buy, the Council was only allowed to retain 30% of the receipts. This was provided the Council could spend it on building a new property. The Council held £5 million in Right to Buy receipts, and the Council had a planned development programme in order to use these receipts. If the Council did not have this programme, it would have repay this money, and £400,000 in interest to the government. The debt cap for Council borrowing had been raised, enabling the cost of building new properties to be covered.
  • She had been working with Councillor Dean and a team to look into what types of housing it would be necessary to supply in the three new garden communities.

10.

Report from the Portfolio Holder for Finance and Administration pdf icon PDF 49 KB

To receive a report from the Portfolio Holder for Finance and Administration.

Minutes:

The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Administration declined to speak on his report as he would be discussing the budget proposals, the business rates relief and the pay policy later that evening.

11.

Questions to the Leader, Members of the Executive and Committee Chairmen (up to 15 minutes)

To receive questions from members for the Executive and committee chairmen.

Minutes:

Councillor Dean said in certain areas the standard of workmanship as superfast broadband was being installed had been poor. A number of verges had been left in appalling condition, and junction boxes left open. This needed to be sorted. One site on Foresthall Road had exposed a lot of litter.

 

In response to this, the Portfolio Holder for Economic Development said sometimes contractors just intended to leave the soil in the trenches to settle. He asked that Councillor Dean to send him an email in order that he could follow the issue up.

 

Councillor Dean said the Council intended to invest over £100 million in commercial investments. However there was nothing in the capital programme for housing to take into account the lifting of the borrowing cap. He asked if the Portfolio Holder for Housing could confirm that the Council would be investing money, where it could, in Council housing.

 

In response to this question, the Portfolio Holder for Housing said that the Investment Strategy did not include investing in council housing as a commercial proposition. Instead there was provision in the Housing Revenue Account for investment in council-housing. There was an ongoing programme to deliver as many council homes as possible, and the Council would be looking at how the raising of the debt cap could be used. The Council had already done a lot to deliver council homes. The lifting of the debt cap was recent, and the Council might well borrow further to invest in council housing.

 

Councillor Sell asked if it would be possible to provide paper copies of the agenda pack for budget meetings in the future. This would be conducive to good decision-making. He said it was regrettable there was no mention of libraries in the Leader’s report. He asked if Councillor Rolfe could explain his actions regarding library services since the last meeting.

 

In response to these points, Councillor Rolfe said it had been decided that digital copies of agenda papers were the right environmentally-friendly strategy. He would reserve his comments on libraries for the debate at Item 19.

 

Councillors Knight, Jones and Loughlin supported Councillor Sell on his point about hard copies of the agenda. Councillor Knight said it was difficult to skip through pages of the agenda with ease on the iPad. Councillor Jones said the Council should take into account that some people might wish to follow the Council’s work on paper, and that the Council might benefit from having a debate on the issue. Councillor Loughlin said her iPad was now not working, so she had had to borrow a paper copy in any case.

 

Councillor Lees said she was a big fan of no paper and that people could print off important sections of the agenda if they considered it necessary.

 

Councillor Lodge asked if the Councillor Ranger could explain his statement suggesting that should the Residents for Uttlesford become the majority party at the Council, the group would seek to remove the protection which prevented decisions being  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.

12.

Budget Proposals 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 74 KB

To consider the report on the budget proposals for 2019/20.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Administration presented the report. The Council was required to prepare detailed reports to enable the annual budgets for the General Fund and Council Tax, Housing Revenue Account and the Capital Programme to be set. The Section 151 Officer was also required to provide Members with a Section 25 report giving advice and assurance on the reserves position. The Council also had to provide a number of supporting strategies. All of these documents were presented in the report.

 

He had been asked by Councillor Dean, the Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee, to clarify that there was no vote at Scrutiny Committee on the budget, and the report to Council was wrong to state that it had endorsed the budget.

 

He reflected upon the last four years as a Council. The very significant challenge of a one third cut in government funding had been navigated, and the Council had protected services, continued to invest in additional priority services, undertaken a significant programme of capital investments and some important strategic investments, built up a sinking fund to the relocation of the Dunmow Depot, funded the Local Plan, and put in place the Local Council Tax Support Scheme, which was by far the most generous in Essex. This had been done by a combination of efficiencies and identifying an additional source of income.

 

A 2.99% increase in Council Tax was proposed for the coming year. Over the last ten years, Uttlesford Council Tax had only increased by 2.8%, and Uttlesford continued to have the lowest rate of Council Tax than any other district in Essex.

 

The Council faced significant financial challenges in the future. Government funding was likely to decline by over 50% in the next five years, from £6.6 million to £3.1 million. There was likely to be a growing deficit going forwards, though the reserves would likely smooth the process. There was scope for efficiencies and increasing council tax, but this would not plug the funding gap. It was therefore proposed to add another aspect to the Investment Strategy. The Council’s investment in Chesterford Research Park was forecast to bring in £1.7 million in 2019/20, and had been a valuable first step. There was capacity to expand the park, but it would not grow fast enough to meet the challenge. A resolution to agree in principle further expansion of the investment strategy was therefore proposed.

 

An item regarding the governance structure for a significant increase in investment would come to the following Council meeting. It was important for Council to be the decision-making body, but a new structure would ensure early engagement from a wide-range of councillors, non-executive and professional advisors. It was important that decisions on investment must be taken in standalone meetings, or at the beginning of meetings. It was important to see beyond the next election.

 

Some Members expressed support for the view that decisions on investment should not take place at the end of meetings, and should have standalone meetings. These decisions  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12.

13.

Business Rates Retail Relief pdf icon PDF 81 KB

To consider the report on the business rates relief policy.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Administration presented the report. He said the Council did not set business rates but it did collect them. A consequence of a revaluation exercise was that 1370 businesses across Uttlesford received 100% relief and there were reduced rates for 294 other businesses. This meant 49% of businesses throughout Uttlesford paid no or reduced rates.

 

Proposals in the report were for a rate relief programme lasting 2 years for retail businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000. 268 businesses would benefit from the scheme, and it would be applied in accordance with the guidance issued by local government.

 

                        RESOLVED to:

1)    Adopt the discretionary Retail Relief Discount for the years 2019/20 and 2020/21 as set out in this report and the attached Business Rates Policy (Appendix B) under Section 47 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988.

2)    Delegate authority for decision making on awarding Retail Relief to eligible businesses to the Section 151 Officer.

 

14.

Pay Policy pdf icon PDF 54 KB

To consider the report on the pay policy.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Administration presented the report. He said the pay policy complied with all government directives and guidance. The policy was in place to accord with good governance and transparency requirements, and provided extensive information on the Council’s pay policy.

 

He noted on average, the Council paid its female employees slightly more than its male employees, and there was no significant pay gap.

 

                        RESOLVED to approve the pay policy.

15.

Corporate Plan Refresh 2019-2023 pdf icon PDF 54 KB

To consider the report on the Corporate Plan Refresh 2019-23.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Leader of the Council presented the report. He said the Plan was consistent with the previous plan. Three additional bullet points had been added to the bottom of the Plan to underpin the Plan’s priorities as important considerations for how the Council delivers its services.

 

The bullet points were:

·         to manage and minimise the environmental impact of our activities

·         to maximise the use of digital and SMART technology to enhance well-being

·         to demonstrate our commitment to diversity and inclusion

 

RESOLVED to approve the Corporate Plan refresh 2019-23.

16.

Thaxted Neighbourhood Plan pdf icon PDF 78 KB

To consider the report on the Thaxted Neighbourhood Plan.

Minutes:

The Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services presented the report. The Thaxted Neighbourhood Plan had undergone a successful examination and referendum in accordance with neighbourhood planning regulations. There had been a 35% turnout 896 people voted of which 861 endorsed the plan.

 

Councillor Foley, as one of the ward members for Thaxted and the Eastons, commended the work of those who worked to see the plan to completion.

 

The Leader of the Council congratulated the group on the work they had put in.

 

Councillor Gerard, as a member of the Newport Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, said he understood the amount of work that had been put in and congratulated the group on their achievement.

 

RESOLVED to approve that the Thaxted Neighbourhood Plan is formally ‘made’ as part of the statutory development plan for the District.

17.

Committee Timetable 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 52 KB

To consider the timetable of Council and Committee meetings for 2019/20.

Minutes:

This item was deferred until the following meeting.

18.

Notice of Motion Received from Councillor Light pdf icon PDF 138 KB

This Council recognises that libraries make a significant contribution to education, well-being and community activities. 

 

Any library closures or reductions in services will disproportionately affect the well-being of children and young families, the elderly, the unemployed and other vulnerable groups and increase their social isolation.

 

We condemn the unnecessary cuts that are being proposed by Essex County Council and we will not allow the removal of services from any library in the district of Uttlesford.

 

Instead, as a Council committed to enhancing the well-being of our community, we will invest in and develop our libraries. 

 

Minutes:

This item was deferred until the following meeting.

 

 

The meeting ended at 11.00.