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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 Anjum, Foley, R Freeman, Light and Ryles.
Councillor S Barker declared a personal interest as a member of Essex County Council.
The Head of Legal Services advised members who were also members of town or parish councils to declare a personal non-prejudicial interest in the item relating to the Local Council Tax Support Scheme.
The following members were duly recorded as having declared an interest in this item: Councillors Artus, Asker, Davey, Fairhurst, Gerard, Harris, LeCount, Lemon, Morris, Ranger, Redfern and Sell.
In welcoming members to the meeting, the Chairman remarked on the recent change to Modern.gov for accessing and viewing council and committee agenda papers. Ricky Clarke and Craig Rogerson from the company had been present for an earlier training session for members into the use of the Modern.gov app and this had been a valuable introduction to the new system.
To consider the minutes of the meeting held on 10 October 2017.
The Minutes of the meeting held on 10 October 2017 were received, approved and signed by the Chairman as a correct record.
To receive any announcements from the Chairman.
The Chairman reported on his attendance at numerous civic events since the last meeting. He was continuing to find the chairmanship an interesting role often requiring skills of diplomacy. He was frequently required to identify the location of Uttlesford and had been mistaken for Mr Rolfe on more than one occasion!
He thanked Melanie Maguire and Sue Kempster for the excellent support they had provided in organising this year’s carol service which had raised in excess of £400 for his chosen charities. He announced the results of the Christmas card and poetry competitions won respectively this year by Isabel Wigley of Thomas More School in Saffron Walden and Charlie Stevens from Radwinter School.
In the light of national celebrations of the 70th wedding anniversary of Her Majesty The Queen and Prince Philip, the Chairman had instigated a search of the district to find any couple married for the same length of time. One couple, the Hollingworths of Duddenhoe End had been found and he would mark this achievement with a visit.
Together with the Chief Executive and Councillor Ranger, and with the Minister of State, Claire Perry MP in attendance, he had been to the Radison Hotel to recognise the start of the construction phase of the new Stansted Airport Technical College. The college was intended to help bridge the skills gap in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and he hoped it would bring forward opportunities for apprenticeships relevant to Stansted Airport and beyond.
Reports from the Leader and Members of the Executive
To receive matters of report from the Leader and members of the Executive.
The Leader said he was sure members would wish to join him in passing on condolences to the family and friends of the Council’s former housing officer Mary Rowe, and of Alan Johnson, who had been the neighbourhood watch co-ordinator for very many years, both of whom had sadly passed away in recent weeks.
He referred to a booklet produced by the Essex Police Rural Crime Strategy publicising the role of Essex Police in combating rural crime, copies of which were available at the meeting.
With the Chief Executive he had attended the Essex leaders and chief executives meeting to receive an update from Dr Andrew Sentence in his role as advisor to the Essex Economic Commission on the theme of “Enterprising Essex, Meeting the Challenge”. Dr Sentence had reported that the skills base for promoting business growth in Essex was not good and this had a negative impact on GDP. Pro-rata to the size of its economy, Essex had below the expected level of medium size businesses in the county. He highlighted the challenges this presented and the factors needed to boost skill levels and economic growth. These included improved further education provision to help promote the skills needed, the availability of work space and improved connectivity. A further challenge involved the Essex coastal communities.
The Government had launched a consultation under the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 on the principles of establishing locally led development corporations. If enacted, there would be a power available to establish development corporations. The consultation ended on 2 January 2018.
He drew attention to the availability of planning delivery grants to assist with the delivery of garden communities. The three themes were joint working, design quality and innovations. Expressions of interest were invited by 11 January and he intended the Council would be submitting bids.
As the executive member for housing, Councillor Redfern outlined the main achievements of the housing development programme both for last year (149 affordable units) and the coming year (increasing the total to170 affordable units). New or replacement affordable houses had been, or were being, built at a number of locations in the district including:
· Rural exception sites at Newport and Little Hallingbury
· Reynolds Court – 1st phase and 2nd phase
· Hatherley remodelling first phase early 2018, 2nd phase to follow
· Walden Place – examining options
· Sheds Lane garage replacements under construction, one unit adapted for a severely disabled child
· Newton Grove, Great Dunmow starting next year
· Frambury Lane, Newport
· The Moors, Little Dunmow replacement units at the planning stage
· Walden Road, Radwinter
She also reported that a further refugee family had been allocated Council accommodation and would be taking up occupation before Christmas.
Councillor Ranger reported on his attendance at a health issues conference at Genome on 21 November entitled “prevention is better than cure”. This had reported on digital progress and the co-ordination of actions across the services. The reported obesity rates for over 65s were truly alarming.
He reported that the communities team at ... view the full minutes text for item 12.
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.
In referring to the review of Council spending, Councillor Hargreaves asked for details of the cost of this exercise.
Councillor Howell said he did not have the figures available and would respond to Councillor Hargreaves after the meeting.
Councillor Hargreaves said he was puzzled by the inclusion in the survey of a question about the Local Council Tax Support scheme as to whether or not parish councils should be supported. He said the Council’s position was there was no legal responsibility to do so and no funds held for the purpose and asked why, in that case, the Council had included that question in the survey.
Councillor Howell referred Councillor Hargreaves to the discussion of item 7 on the agenda.
To consider a recommendation from the Cabinet meeting on 30 November 2017 to agree the Local Council Tax Support Scheme for 2018/19.
In introducing this item, the Chairman drew members’ attention to the letter of representation received from Saffron Walden Town Council.
Councillor Howell then presented the Cabinet recommendation to approve the 2018/19 Local Council Tax Support Scheme as set out in the report. He said that the Council was required to consult on the scheme and vote annually even if no changes were planned. The period of consultation had been extended and the Cabinet had received helpful feedback from the Scrutiny Committee on 30 November.
The consultation outcome was an indication of strong public engagement and demonstrated how much people cared about the district.
Paragraphs 4 and 5 of the report set out the basis of the scheme. This provided for protection for pensioners on low income, disabled people and carers. He drew Councillor Hargreaves’ attention to item g) stating that a discretionary subsidy grant had been provided to town and parish councils to neutralise the loss of the tax base caused by the way the LCTS operated. The question of continued financial support for town and parish councils had been included in the survey because it was intended to change the policy.
He noted that, if approved, the scheme would be in its fifth consecutive year of maintaining the lowest liability cap in Essex at 12.5% and said the Council should be proud of that achievement.
The effect of the LCTS scheme had been to reduce the taxbase thus affecting council tax calculations. The Government had put in place transitional funding arrangements in 2013/14 and the Council had decided to pass on the benefits of this funding to town and parish councils to ensure they were not disadvantaged by the taxbase adjustments.
The transitional arrangements had now ended as the source of core funding through the Revenue Support Grant would no longer be available. As a result of this change other Essex councils had decided to decrease or discontinue the parish subsidy grant. The grant was reduced to 50% in 2016/17 to reflect changes in the RSG and it was proposed next year to reduce the subsidy payment to zero.
In commenting on the outcome of the public consultation, Councillor Howell said this was not a referendum and the Council was not required to act on the outcome but it was pleasing to note there was broad support for maintaining the 12.5% contribution rate.
Thaxted Parish Council and now Saffron Walden Town Council had written objecting to the withdrawal of the discretionary grant. The letter from Thaxted Parish Council largely reiterated objections made previously and when the grant had been reduced by 50% last year.
The withdrawal of RSG meant there was no additional funding to meet the cost of the LCTS scheme so that the Council would now bear the full burden including the payment of any grant funding made to town and parish councils. With this in mind, the recommendation in the report set out the scheme most appropriate for Uttlesford based on what the Council could afford, ... view the full minutes text for item 14.
To consider a recommendation from the Governance, Audit and Performance Committee meeting on 16 November 2017 to agree a response to the Boundary Commission for England’s proposals for revised Parliamentary constituency boundaries in England.
Councillor Oliver presented the recommendation of the Governance, Audit and Performance Committee to support the revised proposals of the Boundary Commission for England for the Saffron Walden Constituency. He noted that the proposed new constituency included the whole of Uttlesford together with four wards of Braintree District in exchange for four wards of Chelmsford City area in the existing constituency.
The view of members was that the proposal fitted better with the rural nature of Uttlesford, was a more sensible arrangement than the existing boundary, and should be supported.
RESOLVED to submit a formal representation to the BCE in support of the revised proposals for the Saffron Walden constituency.
To consider a report outlining the principles contained in “The Future of Essex” report.
The Leader presented a report summarising the contents of a document entitled “The Future of Essex” setting out the following shared ambitions to guide the county’s evolution to 2035:
Unite behind a sense of identity
Enjoy life long into old age
Provide an equal foundation for every child
Strengthen communities through participation
Develop our county sustainably
Connect us to each other and the world
Share prosperity with everyone
A short video clip was shown to members as seen at the Essex Assembly.
During the short debate, members indicated their support for the principles set out in the report advocating a collaborative approach to channel change in a sustainable direction. This was seen as being consistent with the Council’s vision of working together for the well-being of the community while protecting the character of the district.
RESOLVED to support the principles contained in “The Future of Essex”
Further Chairman's Announcements
To consider any items the Chairman considers to be urgent.
Before concluding the meeting, the Chairman invited Councillor Redfern to encourage members’ participation in the apprentice dragons’ challenge taking place on 18 January 2018 and featuring a screening of The Great Gatsby.
The Chairman wished all present a happy Christmas and a prosperous and healthy New Year.
The meeting ended at 8.45pm.