Agenda item

Questions to the Leader, Members of the Executive and Committee Chairs (up to 30 minutes)

To receive questions from members for the Executive and committee chairs. Written questions are attached and responses will be published on 19 July 2021.


The Chair said the pilot protocol was being implemented for the first time in regards to questions to the Executive and Committee Chairs. It would be trialled for two meetings and he asked for Members to give the new process time.


In response to a question from Councillor Barker, the Chair said he would like to proceed with the protocol and notice of urgent questions had been received on Cabinet Member reports.


The Chair invited Councillor Dean to ask his urgent question regarding the continuation and funding of Day Centres in the district.


In response, Councillor Freeman said the term ‘former day centres’ was a working term and had replaced the previous term ‘reimagining day centres’, although he conceded that it was confusing as the day centres were continuing, although he hoped they would take on a different incarnation than previously. He said the objective of the working group was to future proof day centres in the district. They should be independent of politics and stability should be provided regardless of the Group in administration. He said the working group was looking at extending the function of these Centres to attract a wider demographic. He said this was still a work in progress and two work streams had arisen early in the process; one, to ensure that the day centres were operating as they were previously. Secondly, to reinvigorate day centres in order to fulfil additional functions for the wider community. He said it was likely in future that day centres would draw more heavily from their own resource, as well as the support of volunteers, rather than employees of the district council.


Councillor Dean was invited to ask his second urgent question regarding the publication of potential sites for development and housing numbers in the emerging Local Plan process.


In response, Councillor Evans said this information could be found in the minutes of Cabinet and Local Plan Leadership Group (LPLG) meetings, and the newsletters circulated on 21 June and 13 July. He encouraged all members to sign up for updates to ensure they stayed informed. The question of housing numbers was reviewed by the LPLG and details on how the figure was calculated could be found in the relevant Housing Numbers report. The call for sites information would be published tomorrow (21 July), and officers had worked hard to get the information into the public domain as soon as possible. Engagement with the public and parish councils would begin next week.


Councillor Khan was invited to ask his urgent question regarding the ring-fenced budget for Day Centres and its use for redundancy pay.


In response, Councillor Freeman said he had only recently learnt that part of the £94k ring fenced for Day Centres had been reassigned for redundancies and rent costs. He said he had raised the matter and a satisfactory budget would be required to move ahead with the Day Centres project. He was aware of the outstanding request for funding from the day centre in Stansted. He said he was committed to getting the project underway and that members should continue to liaise with him to move the matter forward.


The Chair said he would take any questions of clarification on the nine written questions submitted and published with the papers. Supplementary questions would not be permitted.


In response to a question of clarification from Councillor Pavitt regarding the rivers and water study, Councillor Evans said obtaining independent advice did appeal to him but he would discuss the practicalities with officers before confirming whether this was possible.


In response to a question from Councillor Light regarding the Saffron Walden Day Centre, Councillor Freeman said the Garden Rooms in Saffron Walden remained closed but the Council intended to make alternative, local provision.


In response to a question of clarification from Councillor Khan regarding the number of council homes built and the reduction of carbon emissions in the building process, Councillor Lees said a draft housing strategy was being prepared and a more concrete forecast on the numbers built would be available once that had been completed. She said she was unable to give a full answer on the reduction of carbon emissions but she confirmed they were built to environmental standards. She would provide a more detailed response outside of the meeting.


In response to a question of clarification from Councillor Khan regarding the ongoing police investigation and the impact on the Council’s reputation, the Leader said there had been no progress nor change to the answer previously given.


In response to a question from Councillor Smith regarding Local Highways funding, Councillor Hargreaves said that highways funding had been made available year on year to the County but had not been taken up. He had referred to officers at both district and county level to confirm that this was correct. Furthermore, he had received correspondence from the Chair of the Highways Panel who had said that Essex County Council could not deliver any further works this year. He said funding would be made available for next year.


The Chair said question time had exceeded 30 minutes and he would move onto the next item after one further point.


Councillor Driscoll said he had asked Essex County Council (ECC) members why they had not accepted the money; he said they responded by saying that they would only accept when they had match funding.


Councillor Barker raised a personal statement. She said it was made clear that ECC would not be match funding this year and it had been said at the Highways Panel meetings in January, March and October. 



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