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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 LeCount, Loughlin and de Vries.
Councillors Foley and Tayler declared non-pecuniary interests as members of Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE).
Exclusion of Public and Press
Consideration of a report containing exempt information within the meaning of section 100I and paragraph 3 part 1 Schedule 12A Local Government Act 1972.
The Chair said he would bring the Investment Opportunity item forward in proceedings to give Members the appropriate time to discuss the item.
RESOLVED that under section 100I of the Local Government Act 1972 the public be excluded for the following item of business on the grounds that it involved the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 3 part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act.
To consider an Investment Opportunity.
The Leader of the Council outlined the report. He said reduced funding from central government had put pressure on the budget and if the Council was to continue to provide the current level of services, additional income needed to be generated through investment opportunities such as this one. The investment project came in two stages. The decision to proceed with Phase Two of the investment would be brought for Council’s consideration during the 2020/21 financial year.
Councillor Khan said he agreed that additional income was needed to maintain council services but the report inadequately informed Members of the risk management measures that would be implemented to safeguard the Council’s interests. Furthermore, the Investment Board had only heard indirectly from independent investment advisors, and legal advice had only been received the night before. This was a matter of procedure and governance and he asked for the decision to be deferred until further information was provided.
Councillor Caton said the report only outlined the “best case scenario.” He requested that members be given “worst” and “mid-case” scenarios to assist in their deliberations. More robust procedures needed to be put in place by the Council as a stronger risk analysis was needed before taking such a decision.
Councillor Fairhurst said this was an exciting moment but the opportunity should not be taken on “blind faith”. Further information was required before Members could be asked to make a decision of this importance.
Councillor Lees said the investment had to be made to ensure the continuation of council services. Investments, by their nature, were uncertain but Members could only make a decision based on the evidence before them. She said due diligence had been carried out and she supported the recommendation.
Councillor Coote said the governance surrounding the investment process did require improvement, but there was no alternative in the face of budget cuts other than to support this investment opportunity.
Councillor Lavelle said more time was spent on risk management than any other aspect of this investment during the Board’s deliberations. He said the risks of such an investment had been considered carefully and effectively.
Councillor Light said she accepted that income would need to be generated through investments but she could not support this opportunity due to the lack of information presented to Members.
Councillor Hargreaves said legal advisors were satisfied with the Council’s approach to the investment and such advice had been circulated with members of the Investment Board.
Councillor Khan said he was not anti-investment or risk averse but there was not enough evidence before him to make a decision. He proposed deferral of the item.
The Chief Executive said the debate could be adjourned which, in effect, would defer the item.
Councillor Khan proposed for the debate to be adjourned. Councillor Light seconded and requested a recorded vote.
The Leader said he was perturbed that Liberal Democrat members had numerous opportunities to raise their concerns at the Investment Board but had waited until Full Council to “kick the can down ... view the full minutes text for item 3.
Mr Veal, Ms Yellowlees, Mr Gildea, Mr Dodge and Ms Muir made statements regarding the Climate Change motion.
To receive the minutes of the previous meetings held on 8 October and 31 October 2019.
The minutes of the previous meeting were approved as a correct record.
To receive any announcements from the Chairman.
The Chair provided an update on his activity since the last meeting.
To receive matters of report from the Leader and members of the Executive.
· Update on Appeal Decisions and Associated Costs since 1 May 2019.
The Leader said Members had found themselves swamped with information and a better way of communicating needed to be found. He said future reports from the Executive would be circulated with the Members’ Bulletin, rather than being presented at Full Council.
The Leader reported his concern at the previous Essex Leaders’ meeting, where it was learnt that no other council in Essex, except Uttlesford, had offered to house refugee families fleeing from the conflict in Syria. He said Uttlesford would continue to rise to the challenge and from personal experience he attested to the positive contribution that refugee families made to society.
With regard to the Local Plan process, the Leader said the Council was still waiting for a letter from the Inspector but, in the meantime, Local Delivery Boards had been established for the North Uttlesford and Easton Park settlements. These Boards would have a key role in designing and delivering the proposed garden communities.
The report relating to Planning Appeals was noted.
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 response to a question relating to the lack of public consultation regarding the upcoming budget, Councillor Hargreaves said the consultation had been cancelled as it had been deemed expensive and ineffective.
Councillor Dean said it was unacceptable that an independent and objective consultation on budget proposals had not been carried out.
Councillor Criscione said the new Administration had promised change on issues such as transparency, openness and democracy. He asked if there were any plans to enact these changes and questioned the progress of the new Administration.
The Leader said he had offered various roles to opposition members in an attempt to create an inclusive and different political culture at the Council. He said the Administration could “stand on its own two feet” and highlighted the imminent Corporate Plan as proof of this.
In response to a question relating to the Local Plan process, the Leader said the Inspector’s letter was expected in the early New Year.
In response to a question from Councillor Gregory, the Leader said public notices were published in only one Saffron Walden newspaper for efficiency’s sake but this would be reviewed in the coming weeks.
In response to a question regarding the Stansted Airport planning application, Councillor Merifield said a committee meeting date would be scheduled for January.
To consider the Local Council Tax Scheme Proposals 2020/21.
Councillor Barker declared a non-pecuniary interest as a member of Essex County Council.
Councillor Hargreaves presented the report on the Local Council Tax Support (LCTS) Scheme Proposals 2020/21. He said the LCTS scheme would be set on the same basis as 2019/20 and therefore the contribution rate would be frozen for the fifth consecutive year. The scheme would protect pensioners, disabled people and working age people on low incomes. He added that Uttlesford would have the lowest contribution rate within Essex.
In response to a question relating to the poor response rate to the public consultation despite it being widely advertised, Councillor Hargreaves said it was difficult to carry out an effective survey with such a small sample size. In previous years, the Council had paid significant sums to carry out telephone consultations but had learnt very little from the results. On this occasion, an economic approach was taken and the public could respond online or in paper form.
RESOLVED to approve the Local Council Tax Support scheme for 2020/21 as set out in this report and recommended by Cabinet on 26 November 2019:
I. The 2020/21 LCTS scheme is set on the same basis as the 2019/20
scheme and therefore the contribution rate is frozen for the fifth
II. The Council continues to protect Vulnerable and Disabled Residents and Carers on a low income.
To consider the Commercial Strategy.
The Leader presented the report on the updated Commercial Strategy, which had been adopted at the previous Council meeting on the condition that the strategy would be brought back with governance arrangements included.
Councillor Khan said the strategy required more vision of where the Council would be in five to ten years’ time, as well as an officer dedicated to the crystallisation of commercial development.
RESOLVED to approve the revised Commercial Strategy.
To consider the motion regarding Climate Change (as attached).
Councillor Light presented the motion regarding Climate Change to Full Council. Under rule 12.7 of the Council’s procedure rules, she moved to alter the motion as follows (alteration in bold):
On 30 July 2019 this Council resolved to declare a Climate and Ecological Emergency, acting now to prevent a climate and ecological catastrophe that will greatly impact our children, grandchildren and future generations. Following this, an Energy and Climate Change Working Group has been established to produce “a bold plan of action that is realistic, measurable and deliverable”.
The huge scale of the climate and ecological emergency is becoming ever clearer, as is the need for urgent, bold, ambitious and decisive action.
This Council now resolves:
1. To call on the Cabinet and Climate Change Working Group to develop an Environmental Road Map for approval by Council on February 25, 2020. This Environmental Road Map will have clearly defined actions, deliverables, timelines and costings with definitive, timed and measurable milestones and targets to be met by December 2020 and annually thereafter until April 2023.
2. To ask the Cabinet to include in its budget recommendations for 2020/21 substantial budget provision for the development and implementation of the Council’s Energy and Climate Change Strategy and to deliver the Environmental Road Map initial priority actions during the year.
3. That the Environmental Road Map will include at least, but will not be limited to the following priorities:
Tree planting across the district
In partnership with local community and environmental organisations, county, parish councils and other landowners to:
· Plant a tree per resident in the next year and 10,000 a year after that
· Provide a tree for life for every expectant family in Uttlesford
· Develop planning policy to require one tree per bedroom to be planted for each new build property in the district, with at least two trees planted to replace any tree which cannot be preserved and is felled.
Bees and other pollinators
· Map and protect their habitats and create new ones
· Adjust the Council’s grass-cutting schedule to encourage the establishment of wild flower meadows on public green spaces and verges
· Establish bee hotels and green walls on Council buildings and incentivise residents to set up bee hotels
· Plant bee friendly trees and plants and work with residents to encourage planting
· Stop using insecticides and herbicides on all Council owned and managed land and encourage residents and local farmers to do the same
Hedgehogs and habitats
· Create at least six wilding sanctuaries and corridors and preserve existing ones
Electric car charging points
· Install a minimum of 55 points in the next 12 months and 250 by 2023 within a clear strategy to encourage growth of electric vehicles
· Develop planning policies to facilitate installation of charging points for new houses
· Install charging points at Council-owned properties
· Change the Council’s fleet to electric vehicles by the end of 2023
· Install solar panels on all council buildings and include sustainable energy sources in its property investments
· Ensure that the new Waste Management ... view the full minutes text for item 11.
To consider the motion regarding the North Essex Economic Strategy (as attached).
Councillor Pavitt presented the motion to Council. He said the purpose of the motion was to request a pause in proceedings before taking the next steps with the economic strategy. He said NEES provided little benefit to Uttlesford and would tie the district’s future with Stansted Airport, which was at odds with the climate change concerns expressed during the item before. He said Uttlesford’s future should instead be aligned with that of Cambridge, a high wage and tech-driven economy.
The Leader said he was sympathetic to the motion although it was north Uttlesford centric. He said the district had a number of economic partners and the Council could not turn to one area alone.
The Chair said there was insufficient information before members to make a decision and asked the proposer whether he would be willing to withdraw the motion. The motion then could be reconsidered at a later date with additional information on NEES provided.
Councillor Gregory said he was surprised that Members were unaware of NEES but made the point that the strategy would tie Uttlesford to a low wage – high carbon economic approach.
Councillor Pavitt said he was willing to withdraw the motion in light of the lack of awareness regarding NEES.
The motion was withdrawn.
The meeting ended at 9.30pm.