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Apologies for Absence and Declarations of Interest
To receive any apologies and declarations of interest.
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Asker, Bagnall, Jones and Reeve.
To receive the minutes of the previous meeting held on 16 December 2019.
The minutes were signed as an accurate record by the Chair, subject to noting Councillor Sell’s apologies at the previous meeting.
Councillor Light said the final paragraph on page 12 was an inaccurate version of events.
The Chair said the matter was under investigation and there would be no further discussion until the issue had been resolved.
To receive any announcements from the Chairman.
The Chair said a summary of his engagements could be found on the website.
The Chair said he had received correspondence since the previous meeting taking issue with a comment he had made regarding the significant contribution volcanoes made to global warming. He said he stood corrected as recent evidence suggested that at most only 2% of global CO2 emissions were attributed to volcanic activity. He was delighted that this was the case as human behaviour could be modified to reduce CO2 emissions, that of volcanoes less so. He thanked those that had provided him with this information and asked for it to be put on record that anthropogenic carbon was the primary cause of climate change.
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.
The Chair said he would amalgamate Items 4 and 5 as a request had been received to extend question time. He said it was a busy agenda but he would allow 30 minutes in total for questions to the Executive.
The Leader highlighted the executive reports that had been included with the agenda papers, as well as circulated with the Members’ Bulletin. He said Executive members would report to Council as necessary and this practice would continue in future.
The Leader provided an update on the status of the Local Plan. The Inspectors’ letter had left Members with a very difficult decision to make as to whether to continue with the emerging Local Plan, considered to be flawed by the Inspectors, or to withdraw it altogether. He said there were pros and cons to both options and Members would have an opportunity to consider these at the extraordinary Council meeting on 31 March. He added that expert guidance had been sought and Local Government Association (LGA) advisors had been contracted to assist Members in reaching a decision. He added that he had written to all councillors, and all town and parish councils, to ensure that the relevant stakeholders were involved in this ‘early decision’ to either continue or withdraw the emerging Local Plan. Terms of reference for the programme would be circulated with all councillors as soon as they had been finalised. He said he wanted to ensure that the process was inclusive and that the best possible decision was reached.
Councillor Tayler said he hoped meetings and briefings were not cancelled at short notice, as they had been during the week, and that all members would be truly engaged in the process. He said it was very difficult for those members that were employed to clear their diaries and asked that schedules were kept to in future.
The Leader said current engagement levels were far higher than under previous Administrations. He said it would have been premature to have held a briefing session this week and due to the fluidity of the situation Members had been asked to hold a number of dates that were subject to change.
In response to a question from Councillor Dean, the Leader said there were no plans to engage with the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) as garden communities were currently “off the table”.
Councillor Dean said the Inspectors’ letter lacked clarity in regard to whether the Plan was undeliverable due to technical reasons. He asked whether the Leader would seek a clear answer from the Inspectors regarding the deliverability of the emerging Local Plan.
The Leader said there was no mechanism to communicate with Inspectors. Councillor Storah concurred and said it was now up to the Council how it responded to the Inspectors’ letter, either by revising the emerging Local Plan or withdrawing it altogether.
In response to three questions asked by Councillor Barker, Members were informed that a recorded vote would be held on the budget; that the £750,000 grant ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
To consider the report on the Felsted Neighbourhood Plan.
The Chair brought Item 12 forward in proceedings for the benefit of the members of the public who were present.
Councillor Evans presented the report relating to Felsted’s Neighbourhood Plan. He said this was only the third neighbourhood plan in the District to come before Council although five more neighbourhood plans were in development. He added that neighbourhood plans protected communities from opportunistic development, whilst ensuring desired developments took place in the interest of the local community affected. He proposed making the Plan part of the statutory development plan for the District.
Councillor Gerard seconded the proposal and commended the hard work of the local team who had put the plan together. He said Newport had a Neighbourhood Plan but the challenge they faced was a lack of a three-year land supply. He urged Members to support the proposal.
Councillor Coote said help and guidance should be provided to smaller villages and parishes who would find it difficult to facilitate the neighbourhood planning process.
Councillor Evans said financial support was available for communities who wished to make neighbourhood plans but lacked the technical expertise and needed assistance with the process.
Councillors Criscione, Dean, Hargreaves and Foley congratulated Felsted’s Neighbourhood Plan team and expressed support for the proposal. Councillor Hargreaves said neighbourhood plans were consistent with the adopted Local Plan (2005) and therefore did carry material weight.
RESOLVED that the Felsted Neighbourhood Plan be formally ‘made’ part of the statutory development plan for the District.
Proposals For Members' Scheme Of Allowances 2020/21
The Chair brought Item 8 forward in proceedings for the benefit of the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) members who were present.
Stephanie Grace, the Chair of the IRP, presented the report outlining the proposals for the Members’ Scheme of Allowances 2020-21.
Ms Grace said she had been involved with the work of the IRP for four years and her term had coincided with austerity measures implemented across the public sector. She said frugality was often at the forefront of the Panel’s discussions when considering the scheme of allowances and therefore the Panel had agreed a 1% uplift to the basic allowance. The Panel were mindful of the LGA’s 2018-19 census when making their deliberations, as well as comparing the allowance to that of similar and neighbouring authorities. She said the next review would occur during the summer and the IRP would like to explore the relationship between the allowance and attracting potential councillors to civic life. The Panel would also review Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs), particularly that of Cabinet Members and of Group Leaders.
The Leader thanked the Panel and proposed the recommendation set out in the report.
Councillor Dean seconded the proposal.
Councillor Tayler asked the IRP to consider the remuneration on offer to those members still in employment during the next review.
RESOLVED to adopt the recommended scheme of allowances for the year 2020/21 as set out in Appendix 1 to the report, effectively increasing the current level of basic allowance and all existing special responsibility allowances (SRAs) by 1%.
To consider the draft Corporate Plan 2020-24.
Councillor Barker declared a non-pecuniary interest as member of Essex County Council.
The Leader presented the report on the draft Corporate Plan. He said the Administration had put much work into the Plan and had taken on board the constructive comments of the Scrutiny Committee, which had considered the draft Plan on two occasions. He said the Corporate Plan Delivery Plan would be made available at the end of March 2020.
The Leader proposed to adopt the Draft Corporate Plan for 2020-24. This was seconded by Councillor Coote.
Councillor Dean, who had
provided notice of an amendment to the proposal, said the draft
before members was nothing more than a wish list that did not
stipulate how and when its objectives would be delivered. He said
it was imperative that the Delivery Plan was available at the point
of Council approving the Budget. The amendment was proposed as
Council is resolved:
Councillor Caton seconded the amendment.
Councillor Day said the Corporate Plan’s purpose was to set out the Council’s direction in broad terms. He said the delivery stage of the strategy would provide the detail that Councillor Dean was requesting.
Councillor Light agreed and said whilst it would take time to implement the Corporate Plan, a delivery plan should be attached to the budget. She added that there had been no consultation with residents and that the budget should be deferred.
Councillor Sell said it was not good enough to say political campaigning or canvassing constituted an adequate consultation process. He said Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) group had not canvassed significantly in Stansted so it could not be said that its residents had been consulted.
Councillor Driscoll said he had canvassed opinion in Birchanger and Stansted in the form of Ward meetings and question and answer sessions as an R4U member.
The Chief Executive said the item could not be formally deferred but under Rule 12.10 of the Constitution the debate could be adjourned to a later date.
Councillor Light proposed to adjourn the debate until the Delivery Plan was available. Councillor Fairhurst seconded the motion.
In response to a question from Youth Councillor Widuch, Councillor Lees said young people had not been specifically consulted on the Corporate Plan, but it would be something the Administration would look at in the future.
To consider the Medium Term Financial Strategy and Budget Proposals 2020/21.
Councillor Hargreaves presented the report on the Medium Term Financial Strategy and Budget proposals for 2020/21. He said he had received no questions in advance of the meeting and there would be a recorded vote on the Council Tax Resolution, as required by law.
Councillor Hargreaves outlined the key issues stated in the report, the supporting strategies were as follows:
He highlighted the following in his report:
· Future years’ allocations for the New Home Bonus would be based on legacy payments only, with no payments from 2023/24.
· Council Tax would be increased by £5 (per annum) in 2020/21 for a Band D property, with future years based on an uplift of 1.99%.
· The General Fund – 5 year summary was outlined and Members were informed that the Commercial Strategy 2020-2024 would be key in addressing the deficit and maintaining the current level of council services.
· The Treasury Management Strategy 2020/21 outlined borrowing, investments and risks. The Strategy increased authorised borrowing and recommended suitable counterparties from whom the Council could borrow, to mitigate against risks.
· The Capital Strategy outlined capital expenditure and financing relating to assets that would be used for more than one year. For 2020/21, the Council was planning capital expenditure of £25million on General Fund projects (ICT development, asset maintenance and vehicle replacement), HRA (council housing) and Capital Investments. The Annual Minimum Revenue Provision statement, which stipulated the minimum provision the council was required to put to one side to repay debt in later years, stood at £4,212,000 for 2020/21.
· The creation of the Uttlesford Norse Group was not a cost saving exercise but rather to future proof the Council’s maintenance service.
· The New Homes’ Bonus scheme had received more money than originally budgeted.
Councillor Hargreaves thanked the Finance officers for their hard work in preparing the budget. He formally proposed the recommendations listed in the report.
Councillor Armstrong seconded the proposal.
Councillor Dean, who had given notice of an amendment to the recommendation relating to the Capital Strategy, Appendix F formally proposed the amendment as follows:
Council notes that in the Capital Strategy (page 103 and at Annexe F2 on page 119) the proposed capital expenditure on Council Housing in year 2021/22 and succeeding years will reduce from the current level.
Council is therefore resolved to:
The proposed amendment was seconded by Councillor Caton.
Councillor Dean said Central Government had lifted restrictions that prevented local authorities from borrowing to build council housing, ... view the full minutes text for item 8.
To consider the Business Rates Relief Policy.
Councillor Fairhurst declared a pecuniary interest as he paid business rates in the District.He took no part in the debate, nor the vote.
Councillor Hargreaves summarised the report to Council. The business rates relief would be awarded automatically to eligible businesses in the area and would take effect from 1 April 2020.
The following points were highlighted:
· The business rates retail discount scheme for occupied retail properties with a rateable value of less than £51,000 would increase from 33% to 50%.
· A discount of £1,000 would be available to eligible pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 in 2020/21.
· The extension of the £1,500 business rates discount for office space occupied by local newspapers would apply for an additional 5 years, 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2025.
Councillor Hargreaves said the additional money would be welcomed by businesses and proposed adoption of the policy.
Councillor Lees seconded the proposal.
RESOLVED to adopt the Business Rates Discretionary Rate Relief/Discount Policy as set out in Appendix A
The Chair adjourned the meeting until the 10 March where the remaining business would be considered.
The meeting was adjourned at 11.00pm.