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Youth Councillor Florence Wolter addressed the meeting. She provided an update on the Youth Council’s recent work, including the formation of Equalities and Communications working groups. She said Covid-19 had impacted on the lives of young people across the country, although she stressed the resilience young people had shown in dealing with the crisis, particularly the additional pressures relating to the cancellation of exams. She said there was a need for young peoples’ views to be represented in government.
Apologies for Absence and Declarations of Interest
To receive any apologies and declarations of interest.
Apologies for absence were received from the Chief Executive and Councillors Asker, Isham, Jones and Sutton.
Councillor Day declared a non-pecuniary interest in relation to item 13 as he received a police pension.
In response to a question from Councillor Criscione, the Monitoring Officer confirmed he could participate in item 14 and did not need to declare a prejudicial interest.
To receive the minutes of the previous meetings held on 21 July and 25 August.
The minutes of the previous meeting held on 25 August 2020 were agreed as an accurate record.
To receive any announcements from the Chair.
The Chair provided an update on his engagements since the previous meeting in July.
To receive matters of report from the Leader and members of the Executive.
· Update on Appeal Decisions and Associated Costs since 1
· Councillor Day, Portfolio Holder for Communities, Youth and Public Safety.
· Councillor Pepper, Portfolio Holder for the Environment, Green Issues and Equalities.
The Leader briefed Members on the public health emergency and the latest Covid-19 infection figures relating to Essex. He said the current rate in Uttlesford stood at 60 infections per 100,000; the highest in Essex stood at 68 per 100,000. He said this was of great concern and all local government leaders in Essex were meeting in the coming days to discuss safety measures.
In response to a Member question, the Leader said there was no evidence that there was any correlation between the infection rate and Stansted Airport.
In response to a Member question, the Leader said parish meetings should be held on virtual platforms to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Councillor Day said this point had been made at the previous Local Council Liaison Forum.
Questions to the Leader, Members of the Executive and Committee Chairs (up to 15 minutes)
To receive questions from members for the Executive and committee chairs.
Councillor de Vries left the meeting at 7.35pm.
In response to a question from Councillor Coote regarding funding for Covid-19 Marshals, the Leader said he was not aware of what funding was available but it would be looked at.
Councillor Dean said he was alarmed by the forthcoming planning application at Easton Park, specifically the development of land previously allocated for a country park. He read two letters regarding the failed Local Plan and asked why Members were not made aware of the Inspectors’ letter. He questioned why the previous Plan was not approved and said that the previous eighteen months had been wasted.
The Leader said the letter referred to by Councillor Dean was publicised at the time.
The Chair asked for the questions to be put in writing. He reminded Council that it was the Inspector who had found fault with the previous Local Plan, and that was why the process had started anew.
Councillor Lees said the letter was indeed shared with Members in June 2019.
In response to a question from Councillor Caton regarding the Uttlesford’s Sport Strategy, Councillor Armstrong said he had met with Councillor Caton and other representatives to discuss sports facilities in Stansted Mountfitchet. For funding to be granted he said a plan would need to be submitted. He added that the criteria for a football pitch differed from that of a netball pitch, and therefore each case would be considered on its own merits.
Councillor Barker thanked Councillor Day for his comprehensive report. She asked for it to be noted that there was not a combined voluntary service in Uttlesford, but rather that the Council facilitated and supported the voluntary sector in the district.
Councillor Barker asked whether the Administration would contribute to the Local Highways budget for the next financial year, even though match funding would not be offered by the County Council. She said she had spoken to the Chair of the Local Highways Panel and the relevant County Cabinet member, and if the £200,000 in reserve was made available, more local highways schemes could be implemented in the next financial year.
Councillors Hargreaves and Eke both said that this would be looked at.
In response to a question from Councillor Khan regarding Black History Month, Councillor Pepper said she was hopeful that the first community listening event would be held during the month. She said she would work with the Communities team to ascertain what else could be done to promote Black History Month.
In response to a question from Councillor Khan regarding equalities training, Councillor Pepper said she would circulate details of Member attendance outside of the meeting.
Youth Councillor Wolter said the Youth Council had recently established a working group on the subject of equalities. Councillor Pepper and the Chair offered their assistance to the Youth Council and asked to be contacted if they could be of help.
In response to a question from Councillor Khan regarding the Sports Strategy, Councillor Armstrong said he would ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
To receive the Investment Opportunity 7 report for information.
Councillor Reeve presented the report for information regarding Investment Opportunity 7.
Councillor Sell said it was important to have an ethical code of conduct in regard to the Council’s investments.
The report was noted.
To receive an update on the progress of the Governance Review Working Group.
Councillor Coote summarised the report on the Governance Review update.
Councillor Khan said the Liberal Democrat Group were fully behind a change in governance model and were committed to the establishment of a Committee system. He said he was disappointed that the original recommendation was to pause the review, although he was pleased it would now continue.
Councillor Sell said he did not doubt Councillor Coote’s sincerity to change the governance system at Uttlesford. He asked the Administration whether they were happy with the status quo and highlighted R4U’s pre-election pledge to change UDC’s Cabinet model. He hoped that the required resources would be released in order for the review to achieve its purpose.
Councillor Freeman said there was a real chance to make worthwhile changes to the governance system in the term of this Administration. He concluded that numerous options were available, such as ‘hybrid’ models, and said that this chance to make worthwhile change should not be squandered.
Councillor Lees said this review was referred to in the Delivery Plan and the recommendation was never to stop the review definitively. She said the intention was to re-start in March 2022, when it was hoped that the pandemic situation had improved.
Councillor Light said she was disappointed with the proposed delay. She said she was willing to help and asked Councillor Coote to contact her if she could assist moving things forward.
Councillor Hargreaves said there was a point in time when resourcing this review was an issue as the Council was working to ‘essential spend only’. He said the financial situation had since improved.
Councillor Coote said he was delighted to take the review forward and thanked those councillors who had offered to help.
To consider the Water Resources East report.
Councillor Pepper presented the report on the Council applying to become a member of Water Resource East Ltd.
Councillor Pavitt seconded the recommendation and said the scheme was relevant to Uttlesford as the district shared the chalk aquifer with Cambridge and other local authorities in the eastern housing market place. He said he had spoken to the Managing Director of the company and had been impressed with their approach. The end goal was to find a solution to the long term problem of sustainable water resources.
In response to a question from Councillor Barker, Councillor Pepper said herself and Councillor Pavitt would represent the Council on the forum.
In response to a question from Cllr Bagnall regarding how this would impact on Planning and the Local Plan, Councillor Pepper said lead planning officers were included in discussions with Water Resources East. Councillor Pavitt added that this was not a policy making body, but rather a forum to explore ideas and potential strategies.
In response to a question from Councillor Evans, Members were informed that the only associated cost was £1 liability.
RESOLVED that Uttlesford District Council applies to become a Standard Member of Water Resources East (WRE) Ltd.
The motion was carried unanimously.
To consider the Chesterford Research Park (CRP) Future Funding report.
Councillor Reeve presented the report on the future funding of Chesterford Research Park (CRP). He said the report set out the current position on additional funding at Chesterford Research Park and proposed a revised approach to authorising the release of funding. He said the recommendation was not asking for any new funding; members had already approved the levels of funding outlined in the report. He said the current decision making process was slow in comparison to the Council’s partners Aviva, and there was a need to alter this process to ensure decisions relating to future funding of CRP were made in a timely and effective manner. He proposed the recommendation outlined in the report.
Councillor Hargreaves seconded the recommendation.
Councillor Fairhurst said he welcomed the diversification of the Council’s Investments Portfolio but he still had concerns regarding governance arrangements. He said that by approving this recommendation a blank cheque was being written and that the Investment Board’s input would be bypassed. He could not support the recommendation and would be voting against it.
Councillor Hargreaves said Members of the Investment Board would be kept informed. He said that the current process was slow and not good practice when a prompt decision was required, a view expressed and shared by the independent members on the Investment Board.
Councillor Light said a blank cheque could not be written and power should not be held in the hands of only a few Members. Democracy took time and due process had to be adhered to.
In response to a question from Councillor Barker, Councillor Reeve confirmed that investments were funded fifty-fifty by the Council and their partner Aviva.
Councillor Pepper said investment in the sciences was invaluable and urged Members to support the motion.
Councillor Lees said democracy was not about giving everyone a say every single time; authority could be democratically delegated to allow for more effective and efficient decision making.
In response to a question from Councillor Lemon, Councillor Reeve said the interest rate on the borrowing for this investment stood at around 4.5%.
Councillor Barker said the Council loaned money to Aspire at a higher rate. The Director – Finance and Corporate Services agreed and confirmed that the Council also saw a return on this lending.
asked how backbenchers would be kept informed of the performance of
Aspire. Transparency and the reporting mechanism needed to be
improved to ensure all councillors were kept up to date.
Councillor Reeve said all Members would be advised on the performance of Aspire, via the publication of quarterly reports on the Council’s investments.
1. Members approve the allocation of the sum of £17.4 million for future loans to Aspire (CRP) Ltd to be drawn down as required; and
2. That each loan shall be at market rates applicable at the time; and
3. The authorisation of the loan(s) is delegated to the Chief Executive in consultation with the Leader, Portfolio Holder for Finance and Budget and the Portfolio Holder for the ... view the full minutes text for item 10.
To consider the Member Motion – Deposit Return Scheme as proposed by Councillors Pepper and Caton.
Councillor de Vries entered the meeting at 8.50pm.
Councillor Barker left the meeting at 8.55pm.
Councillor Pepper presented her motion regarding a national deposit return scheme (DRS). She provided background information relating to the current waste packaging situation and explained that a DRS was a financial incentive to encourage consumers to return a used product to allow it to be reused or recycled, and she welcomed the Government’s plan to introduce such a scheme. She thanked Councillor Foley, Councillor Caton and the Assistant Director – Environmental Health for their work in bringing this motion to Council. She proposed the motion as follows:
The Council welcomes the Government’s plan to introduce a Deposit Return Scheme to encourage increased recycling of glass, plastic bottles and cans. The Council also urges the Government to consider wider fiscal measures to ensure producers of ALL packaging, particularly ‘on the go’ products, make them reusable or readily recyclable through existing infrastructure.
Councillor Caton seconded the motion.
Councillor Fairhurst expressed support for the motion and said such a scheme had existed in South Africa for twenty years or more. It was important that businesses were engaged in the issue and he said the establishment of a ‘Plastics Charter’ across the district would be a step in the right direction.
In response to a question from Councillor Dean, Councillor Pepper said the purpose of the motion was to prompt Government and to encourage the scheme to be established as soon as possible.
Councillor Coote said he supported the motion but highlighted the fact that the Labour Party, alongside Rescue Poverty, were looking into this issue. There were concerns whether the scheme would be utilised by those on lower incomes and pointed to evidence that showed 85% of returnable funds were not claimed. He said the policy had not been well thought through.
In response to a question from Councillor Bagnall, Councillor Pepper said the Government would be lobbied on this matter and she would write to the local MP.
Councillor Criscione offered his support and said he would be willing to assist Councillor Pepper in her efforts to lobby government on the DPS.
Councillor Caton said there was true cross-party consensus on this matter. He said the Council ought to lobby both the local MP and the relevant Government Minister, as he had seen little progress since the scheme was first proposed in 2019. He urged Members to support the motion.
RESOLVED that the Council welcomes the Government’s plan to introduce a Deposit Return Scheme to encourage increased recycling of glass, plastic bottles and cans. The Council also urges the Government to consider wider fiscal measures to ensure producers of ALL packaging, particularly ‘on the go’ products, make them reusable or readily recyclable through existing infrastructure.
The motion was carried unanimously.
To consider the Member Motion – Harper’s Law as proposed by Councillors Day and LeCount.
As the meeting had moved past the two-hour mark, the Chair asked Council whether they were willing to continue. Members indicated that they were content to do so.
The meeting was adjourned at 9.10pm for a comfort break.
The meeting was reconvened at 9.15pm.
Councillor Armstrong left the meeting at 9.45pm.
Councillor Day presented his motion regarding Harper’s Law to Council, which called for a change in the law to ensure a mandatory full life tariff for killers of emergency service workers. He said there was a great need to “protect our protectors” and was saddened by correspondence that objected to the motion. He proposed the motion as follows:
This Council is resolved to request that the Chief Executive write to both the Rt. Hon. Robert Buckland QC, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice and Priti Patel, Secretary of State for the Home Department outlining its support for the widow of Police Constable Andrew Harper in calling for a change in the law to ensure a mandatory full life tariff for killers of emergency service workers to ensure they ‘spend the rest of their lives in prison’.
The campaign is known as ‘Harper’s Law’.
We as a Council believe that such a change in the law will allow both offenders and the families of victims to ‘get the justice they rightly deserve’. It will mean that anyone wilfully or recklessly killing a police officer, firefighter, prison officer, nurse, doctor or paramedic who is acting in the course of their duty is jailed for life.
Councillor LeCount seconded the motion.
Councillor Dean said the death of PC Andrew Harper was a truly terrible event and expressed condolences to all those effected by cases of manslaughter and murder. However, he explained the legal distinction between murder and manslaughter, and expressed concern that this motion, while well intended, could bring the Council into disrepute. He urged Members to reject the motion.
Councillor Fairhurst said decent people were right to be outraged by the death of PC Andrew Harper, but he was reluctant to impose prescribed sentences on judges as each case should be adjudicated on its own merits. He said he would support the motion in solidarity with victims, but he felt this was a “bad law”.
Councillor Sell said the current legislation already allowed for life sentences for cases of manslaughter, depending on the circumstances, and therefore this law was not required. He said legislation should not come from an “emotional place”.
Councillor Coote said this law had not come about due to one death, and cited the case of another young police officer who was killed in the line of duty. He said he would be supporting the motion.
Councillor Tayler said he did have an issue with creating a new law in relation to cases of manslaughter and murder of emergency workers. However, he did want justice to be done for the families of victims. He said he felt the sentences in this case were unduly lenient. He ... view the full minutes text for item 12.
To consider the Member Motion - Planning White Paper as proposed by Councillor Loughlin.
Councillor Gregory left the meeting at 10.25pm.
Councillor Loughlin spoke to her motion regarding the Planning White Paper. In summary, she said she was concerned that the proposals in the Planning White Paper would lead to central Government, or developers, imposing housing on communities without input from local government. She said the Planning White Paper would be a disaster for democracy and for local planning, and particularly detrimental to local communities.
Councillor Caton seconded the motion
Councillor Evans had provided notice of an amendment. He said there was very little difference between his amendment and the original motion, but he had proposed an amendment in an attempt to extract a commitment across the Council to show there was common interest in approving a “tighter” motion with cross-party support. He urged Members to vote for the amendment.
Councillor Driscoll seconded the amendment.
Councillor Caton asked why the amendment was tabled if there was little difference between the amendment and the original motion. He said he felt the amendment was not an improvement and demonstrated that there was not a cross party consensus in Council. He asked why the two points had been removed from the original motion, relating to the housing of the vulnerable and those on lower incomes. He said he would be proposing his further amendment.
Councillor Light said she could not see the point of the amendment as Councillor Loughlin’s original motion accurately encapsulated the issues at hand. She would be voting against the amendment.
Councillor Fairhurst said that the amendment did not materially change the original motion. He said it was an odd situation as he could vote for both the amendment and the motion.
Councillor Criscione said he was sympathetic to the motion but he could not support it. Whilst he and his Group shared concerns regarding the White Paper, his approach would be to work with Parliament and Local Government colleagues to improve the proposals. He said the motion had triggered a conversation with Kemi Badenoch MP, who was working on the issue.
Councillor Merifield said she was disappointed that the original motion had been tabled as the Council was always going to respond to the Government consultation. She said Councillors had a duty to represent the people of the district and she could not see the sense in bringing this to Full Council for debate.
Councillor Driscoll said such an important issue should not become a political matter and he had seconded the amendment to include reference to cross party support.
Councillor Loughlin said the amendment had weakened her motion; she was particularly disappointed with the removal of the reference to the housing numbers algorithm. She said she could not support this amendment.
In response to a point of clarification from Councillor Merifield, Councillor Evans confirmed that the consultation response relating to the housing algorithm had already been sent. In reply to previous points made, he said many issues would be covered and consulted upon before a further response was submitted in the lead ... view the full minutes text for item 13.