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Chairman's Opening Remarks
The Chairman welcomed everyone to the first face to face Full Council meeting since the start of the pandemic.
Following some house rules and procedures the meeting commenced.
Apologies (Agenda item 1)
To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Ashby, Bowes, Clarke, Colman, Cowen, Duffield, Grey, James, Jermy, Kiddle-Morris, Ian Martin, Oliver and Taylor.
To confirm the minutes of the annual meeting held on 29 April 2021.
The Minutes of the Annual meeting held on 29 April 2021 were confirmed as a correct record.
Declaration of Interests (Agenda item 3)
The duties to register, disclose and not to participate for the entire consideration of the matter, in respect of any matter in which a Member has a disclosable pecuniary interest are set out in Chapter 7 of the Localism Act 2011. Members are also required to withdraw from the meeting room as stated in the Standing Orders of this Council.
The Chairman conveyed his congratulations to Councillor Eagle’s daughter, Imogen, who had shaved her hair off to make wigs to help unfortunate people who suffered from cancer.
Councillor Eagle thanked the Chairman and was pleased to announce that his daughter had raised £1,520.00 by cutting off 13 inches of hair.
Leader's Announcements (Agenda item 5)
To receive a verbal update from Councillor Sam Chapman-Allen, Leader of the Council.
The Leader, Councillor Sam Chapman-Allen echoed his appreciated to Councillor Eagle’s daughter. He also conveyed his appreciation for the Officer’s support in making the arrangements for this Full Council meeting.
The following announcements were then made.
The country was on track to come out of lockdown in less than two weeks. This was a massive milestone for all and testament to how far everyone had come in the fightback against this virus over the last year-and-a-half.
However, the virus was not going to disappear overnight, and complacency was not an option. Whilst everyone took this huge step forward towards near-normal, it did not mean that we should stop being cautious.
The Country was on track to see the rules change on the 19 July, but the Council’s support would continue beyond the easing of restrictions.
Towards the end of June, Breckland Council had successfully released £4m to 1,100 businesses via Breckland’s discretionary grants programme – the full amount allocated to this authority through Central Government’s scheme known as “ARG”.
One final further allocation of resource was anticipated to allow continued exceptional support, particularly through the Council’s ‘Springback’ scheme. Therefore, applications would continue to be accepted to the Council’s Shop Front, Start-Up, Digital and Covid-Safe schemes.
Overall, this meant since the pandemic began Breckland had managed to issue over £50m.
The Council’s Covid Support Officers would continue to have a presence in all the towns in the district over the coming months, to advise businesses, residents and visitors on how to keep ourselves and each other safe.
Covid aside, despite the pressures created by the pandemic – with increased costs and falling income over the last year – the Council ended the last financial year in a good financial position.
This provided the Council with a sound base from which it started this year, and the support to residents and businesses would continue throughout these ongoing challenging times.
This included activity under the new ‘Breckland Cares’ programme. The Council was adapting to its changing role, responsibilities and priorities in the wake of Covid and the Breckland Cares campaign was designed to show the commitment in supporting local people, communities and the environment.
During June, the Leader was pleased to announce that the Council played an active role in promoting Pride – both externally by flying the flag to start that conversation and challenge poor attitudes and promoting the district as an inclusive area for all – and internally, by reviewing policies and processes to ensure they were relevant.
Over the course of the year the main focus would be to include projects and activities that promoted the Armed Forces, Mental Health, Personal Safety, Domestic Violence and Climate Change.
On a similar note, the Council would continue its role as enablers and promoters of positive mental health, and he was delighted that the Council would continue to work with organisations such as YANA to train mental health first aiders who could work within the communities to help ... view the full minutes text for item 68/21
Please find attached a list of all questions received under Standing Order No. 6, including the responses.
The Questions on Notice including the responses had been circulated to all Members prior to the meeting (see agenda pack).
It was noted that as Councillors Clarke and Jermy had sent their apologies no supplementary questions would be asked of their questions.
The Members who had submitted questions and were in attendance were invited to ask one supplementary question in accordance with the Council’s Constitution, as follows:
Councillor Atterwill thanked the Leader for his response to his first question (question 2 on the list) and was pleased that lessons had been learnt and looked forward to future programmes. In regard to his second question (question 3 on the list), in respect of the Breckworld App, again he thanked the Leader for his comprehensive response but asked if he was confident that the App would be refreshed and updated in time for the up-and-coming holiday season. The Leader was hopeful that the contractors would have the App ready to be re-launched at the start of the July school holidays.
In respect of his third question (question 4 of the list) in regard to the timber building at Wayland Prison. Councillor Atterwill and the Leader had already conversed on this matter on a number of occasions and had agreed to differ.
Councillor Atterwill then asked about the £10,000 that Breckland Council had funded towards the visitor search facility and whether the Council had asked the Police & Crime Commissioners Office if it would have made better use of that money. The Leader informed Members that initially the £10,000 had been allocated towards an ANPR camera at Wayland Prison on the directive of Norfolk Police but due to issues about the siting of this camera and its proximity it was not possible to install. Therefore, in consultation with Norfolk Police, who had also sponsored the camera, the decision had been made to reallocate the money to a search facility.
Cllr Atterwill then asked a supplementary question in respect of his fourth question (question 5 on the list). He had appreciated the response that had been provided in respect of the 250 mental health volunteers in the district and wholeheartedly supported this initiative. However, he had been disappointed as he had only found out about this from a press release and felt it would have been helpful if the Leader had informed Members prior to it going in the press as it was Members who were supposed to be promoting such initiatives across the district. He asked the Leader if he would keep Members informed of any such initiatives in the future. The Leader advised that, he would include such information in his weekly Briefing paper in future. The initial press release was a soft launch and the definitive press release in respect of this matter was still in its final reiterations.
His final question (question 6 on the list) was directed to Councillor Hewett, the Executive Member for Property & Projects. Councillor Atterwill was grateful for his response but in his initial response dated 8 ... view the full minutes text for item 69/21
Questions without Notice under Standing Order No 7 (Agenda item 7)
Councillor Atterwill’s question was in relation to Barnham Broom. He reminded Members of the meeting held in February where this matter had been discussed and felt that it would be very helpful if the Executive Member could provide all Members with a below the line up to date response.
Councillor Hewett said that he would oblige this request, but Members had already been provided with a further update in April.
Councillor Atterwill’s second question related to the Government’s highly controversial proposals to reform the planning system that had recently been published. His particular concern was the proposal to remove the right of local residents to object to individual applications in their own neighbourhood. He asked the Leader if he agreed with this Government proposal, and if not, would he undertake, on behalf of Breckland Council, to write to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) and to Breckland MPs George Freeman and Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss to object to these proposals.
Members were reminded that this Council had responded to the Government’s emerging White Paper in September 2020. The Leader assumed Councillor Atterwill was referring to the deliberate misleading letter sent by the MHCLG Shadow Secretary of State in which the ‘front bench’ of the Government had offered no policies of their own. The Government’s Reforms thus far was a desire to make the planning system more engaging not less, and to make the process much quicker to provide certainty. These were all emerging ideas and no final decision had yet been made. The Government also wanted to ensure that planning applications that fell outside of the remit of local plans or varied from it would continue, as was mentioned in the consultation document, ensuring full public engagement and enhancing it by ensuring that digital tools were transparent and uniformed across the whole country. Planning applications would be required in the usual way and in the usual form going forward and the Leader did not feel it necessary to write to the MHCLG as he had been working closely with the District Councils Network (DCN), the local MPs and with Members on this planning reform and would continue to do so to ensure that Breckland’s voice was heard at the highest levels.
Councillor Birt raised a question about Covid-19 security and the return to Elizabeth House. He then held up a Covid-19 certificate that had to be signed by oneself and felt that there must be some evidence that allowed someone to sign this form. He had also found that this certificate only applied to employees of the Council, but the Council also consisted of Members and just as importantly members of the public. Just recently, the Prime Minster had indicated that everyone should be taking personal responsibility but in order to take personal responsibility evidence would be required and urged the Leader to publish the evidence that verified that the Council was operating in a Covid secure manner. Councillor Birt said he was still waiting for responses on ... view the full minutes text for item 70/21
Motion Received under Standing Order No. 8 (Agenda item 8)
To consider the following Motion:
The use of pesticides such as glyphosate in the UK has increased by 60% in real terms since 1990. Italy and Portugal have both banned the use of glyphosate and France is working towards this.
There is compelling evidence that glyphosate and a wide range of other herbicides and pesticides may be harmful to human health.
The use of pesticides and weed killers reduces biodiversity, impacting negatively on insects, birds and bees, in a time when the world is losing 2.5% of its insect population per-year.
Harmful weed killer residues can creep into the food chain.
Pets and children should not be playing in parks, in our streets or any area treated with such chemicals.
Council recommends that cabinet resolves to:
Phase out the use of all pesticides and weed killers on council land by Council employees or contractors working on its behalf.
Trial pesticide-free alternatives during this period. Particularly those adopted by the likes of Hammersmith and Fulham and Lewes Councils who use biodegradable foam or hot steam treatments on weeds.
Grant an exception to the above ban regarding the control of Japanese knotweed, or other invasive species, where there are currently no effective mechanical techniques available. However, in this case chemicals such as glyphosate will only be stem-injected, rather than sprayed, to reduce its spread in the environment.
Grant an exception on sprays only in relation to Giant Hogweed where it’s not safe to be dug out or safely removed by other means and then cordon off the surrounding area.
This Motion was proposed and seconded by Councillor Dowling and Councillor Atterwill.
Councillor Dowling added the following information to the Motion that had been submitted.
The use of herbicides such as glyphosate in the UK had increased by 60% in real terms since 1990. Glyphosate was toxic to all plants unless they were genetically modified to resist it. It was the active ingredient in many herbicides and in weedkiller it was combined with other chemicals that altered the toxicity of the final product making it up to 150 times more toxic.
Recent research had shown that these other chemicals included arsenic, lead, cobalt and nickel and a recent study had exclusively focused on short term high dose animal trials, but real-life exposure occurred over the long term. Independent research had found that glyphosate was not only carcinogenic, but it also affected the body’s endocrine system and interfered with the enzymes in the human gut.
Recent research showed that glyphosate formulations destroyed the micro- organisms in healthy soil and affected earthworms. This herbicide was the most widely and heavily used agrichemical worldwide, in agriculture, parks and amenities as well as in gardens.
If weedkiller was used on grass people could be exposed to glyphosate by breathing it in or touching it, and if exposed people could experience irritation and many other health problems including, if swallowed, nausea and vomiting.
People could also be exposed to glyphosate in food. It reached the food chain in raw food before being processed. A recent World Health Organisation report highlighted that 43 out of 45 oat-based products tested contained glyphosate including breakfast cereals and snack bars.
Glyphosate had been banned in organic farming, but cross contamination could occur from neighbouring fields. It poisoned the soil and reduced the biodiversity impacting on insects, birds and bees at a time when the world was losing a great deal of its insect population every year.
The license for glyphosate usage in the EU had recently been under discussion and the agrichemical industry had requested a 15-year renewal but concerned environmental groups wanted it banned and a compromise was reached for 5 years only. A recommendation was also added minimising its use in parks and public places.
Austria had been the first EU country to ban glyphosate. In France glyphosate would be used until 2023 and in Germany until 2024. It had also been banned in some US states and parts of Australia.
The Hazardous Substances Advisory Committee had also restricted the use of glyphosate and was considering a ban. As a responsible Council, Breckland Council needed to follow other authorities and commit to the phasing out of these toxic pesticides and herbicides and to use a more environmentally friendly approach to weed control, such as hot steam treatment.
An exception to the ban should be given in some cases but such chemicals should be stem injected rather than sprayed.
This Council owed a duty of care to its residents. Children and pets should not be playing ... view the full minutes text for item 71/21
Minutes (for information only) (Agenda item 9)
To note the following Committee meeting Minutes as follows:
The Minutes of the Cabinet meeting held on 4 May 2021 were noted.
a) Quarter 4 Financial Performance Report (Minute No. 59/21)
1. That capital budgets (& associated funding sources) of £7,247,467 be carried forward into 2021-22 to support projects in progress.
2. That the final capital out-turn and funding for 2020-21 as detailed in appendix B of the report be approved.
3. That the revised capital budget and associated funding for the 2021-22 capital programme as detailed in appendix C of the report be approved.
4. That the additional Control Outbreak Management Funding (COMF) totalling £464k be added to the budget to be spent in areas which comply with the funding guidelines (as detailed in paragraph 1.6 of the report).
b) Cabinet Minutes
RESOLVED that the Minutes of the Cabinet meeting held on 21 June be noted.
Councillor Birt asked for his compliments to Councillor Oliver, the Chairman of the Overview & Scrutiny Commission to be recorded for championing and standing up for a hybrid O&SC meeting that had taken place recently. He was aware that such meetings were still being held in Parliament.
RESOLVED that the Minutes of the Overview & Scrutiny Commission meeting held on 3 June 2021 be noted.
Members were informed that these Minutes had already been noted at the previous Council meeting in April 2021.
RESOLVED that the Minutes of the Planning Committee meeting held on 5 May 2021 be noted.
Report of Councillor Phil Cowen, Executive Member for Finance, Revenues & Benefits.
Members are asked to note that this report was discussed and the Governance & Audit Committee meeting on Thursday, 24 June 2021 and the first recommendation was recommended to Full Council accordingly.
Alison Chubbock, the Assistant Director of Finance & S151 Officer presented the report.
The report was an annual regulatory requirement and detailed the Council’s Capital spend in the last year and highlighted that it had been fully funded. It detailed the Council’s cash, investment and Reserve balances and confirmed that the Council had complied with all indicators and had kept within those indicators.
The report was discussed at a recent Governance & Audit Committee and recommended to Council for approval.
Councillor Borrett, the Chairman of the Governance & Audit Committee thanked the Officers for this report. He pointed out that Breckland Council continued to be debt free and did not have any borrowing requirements which was quite unusual in these uncertain times. He was happy to endorse the recommendations.
The recommendations were proposed and seconded, and it was
1. the actual 2020/21 prudential indicators within the report be approved; and
2. the Treasury Management stewardship report for 2020/21 at Appendix B and Appendix C of the report be noted.
Report of Councillor Mark Robinson, Executive Member for Customer, Digital and Performance.
Councillor Mark Robinson, the Executive Member for Customer, Digital & Performance presented the report.
The current Corporate Plan had been adopted by the Council in February 2019 and was scheduled to finish in 2023. However, over the last 15 months the landscape in which the Council operated and what it had looked to achieve had changed. The current Plan had been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Council’s 10-year strategic partnership with South Holland District Council had ended and a climate emergency had also been declared.
All the above had significantly impacted the Council moving forward and rather than the usual light touch refresh it had been decided that a more fundamental review and rewrite was required to ensure that the Council had a clear and transparent direction of travel going forward.
The new Corporate Plan had been set out at Appendix A of the report and aimed to set the vision under three external focused themes and one internal focused theme (see section 1.4 of the report).
It was noted that the Corporate Plan refresh had also been considered at a recent meeting of the Overview & Scrutiny Commission. The feedback from that meeting was read aloud and Members were assured that the suggestions had been considered and some had been incorporated.
The look and feel of the document would become more accessible to a variety of different audiences and a more infographic style would be adopted and would be included on the Council’s website.
The recommendations were proposed and seconded.
Councillor Birt was disappointed about the ‘soft touch’ of the climate emergency within the Corporate Plan. He did recognise a number of small improvements that had been made and felt that this was a step in the right direction; however, referring to page 91 of the agenda pack under the strategic priorities he was not happy with the wording under bullet point 5 and felt that it should be a ‘requirement’ to deliver the Council’s target to be NetZero by 2035 and not ‘working towards it’. He would; however, vote in favour of this refreshed Corporate Plan but felt it still had some way to go.
Councillor Atterwill had read the Plan thoroughly and had welcomed this Corporate Plan refresh. He did however have a question relating to the last paragraph on page 88 of the agenda pack where it stated: “Finally, we are extremely excited to share our Breckland Cares campaign for the first time, which is made up of seven ‘campaigns’ delivered over a rolling twelve-month programme” and he asked where in this document could any detail about the seven campaigns be found and if, they were not listed anywhere, should they be listed or would these come in an addendum at some point later on.
In response, the Executive Member for Customer, Digital & Performance informed Members that the Corporate Plan was an overarching document and set out the path that the Council would be taking, and such details would follow.
Councillor Atterwill acknowledged what had been ... view the full minutes text for item 74/21
Report of Mark Robinson, Executive Member for Customer and Performance and Maxine O’Mahony, Executive Director for Strategy and Governance.
Members are asked to note that this report was discussed at the Overview & Scrutiny Commission meeting on 3 June 2021.
Councillor Mark Robinson, the Executive Member for Customer and Performance presented the report.
Adele Newsome, the Customer Experience Manager, was in attendance to answer any questions.
Approval was sought to proceed with the implementation of the proposed structure changes to the Customer Services Team following the service review.
The recommendations were proposed and seconded.
Councillor Atterwill welcomed this review but did have concerns about how good the Artificial Intelligence (AI) would be particularly for elderly residents who would most likely prefer to speak to someone on the telephone and hoped that the technology would be robust enough to do the job that the Council wanted it to do. For clarity, he asked if some of the staff would be working offsite and not in Elizabeth House. Members were informed that there would be a combination of agile working ensuring that the environment was suitable for staff in respect of privacy issues.
1) the Council approves the implementation of the revised staffing structure for the Customer Services Team; and
2) the Council approves the implementation of the revised staffing structure for the Customer Services Team as detailed in this report.
Report of Councillor Ian Sherwood, Executive Member for People, Communications & Governance.
Members are asked to note that this report was discussed at the Governance & Audit Committee meeting on Thursday, 24 June 2021 and subject to a number of minor amendments was recommended to Full Council accordingly.
Councillor Ian Sherwood, the Executive Member for People, Communications & Governance presented the report.
It was noted that this report had already been discussed at the Governance & Audit Committee meeting on Thursday, 24 June 2021, and subject to a number of minor amendments that had been incorporated in this report, the amendments had been recommended to Full Council for approval.
The Executive Member for People, Communications & Governance thanked the Governance & Audit Committee Members for their review and input it had been most helpful.
The Constitution must be reviewed regularly by the Monitoring officer to ensure that it remained fit for purpose and this report detailed amendments that were currently deemed appropriate. The first few amendments followed on from the separation with South Holland District Council and the restructure that followed and the glossary of terms relating to staff and references to Senior Officers had to be amended accordingly.
The remaining variations to the Constitution were highlighted.
The recommendations were proposed and seconded.
Councillor Birt had also attended the Governance & Audit Committee meeting where he had raised a number of concerns. These concerns related to the definition of a ‘Special’ meeting and reminded Members of such a meeting that had taken place in October 2020. The disclosure of documents ahead of that ‘Special’ meeting had not been sent within the normal statutory timeframe and was matter of concern. He had queried at the time whether there was such a thing as a ‘Special’ meeting, and he had received a very confused response. According to the 1972 Local Government Act, there were three types of meeting – an annual meeting, an ordinary meeting and an extraordinary meeting and it was very clearly defined as to how these should work. He did recognise that there could be a place for a ‘Special’ meeting but such meetings, in his opinion, should not be making any decisions. That was where his concern lied as the parameters had not been defined as to what a ‘Special’ meeting was.
The Executive Member for People, Communications & Governance reminded Members that the Constitution was reviewed regularly, and a further review was already underway. This would be an ideal opportunity for Members to put forward and consider any further issues or concerns.
The recommendations were taken enbloc, and subject to 4 x votes against the recommendations and 2 x abstentions, it was
1) With a view to reducing the necessity for multiple Constitutional amendments following any future structure reviews, the following generic definitions be added to the Glossary of Terms (Definitions relating to Staff):
· "Directors" means tier 2 officers (immediately below the post of Chief Executive whether or not a Chief Executive is actually in post). Currently the Executive Directors
· "Assistant Directors" means tier 3 officers (immediately below the Directors). Currently, the Assistant Directors
· "Service Managers" means tier 4 officers (immediately below the Assistant Directors) who manage each service unit. Currently the Service Managers.
(2) All references to "Executive Directors(s)" within the Constitution be amended to read "Director(s)"; and ... view the full minutes text for item 76/21
Nominations for Committee and other Seats (Agenda item 14)
To receive nominations for any changes to Committee and other seats from political groups.
The Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Paul Claussen presented the following changes, and it was:
· Cllr Steve Askew to replace Cllr Helen Crane as a substitute member on the Overview & Scrutiny Commission
· Cllr Keith Martin be removed as Vice Chairman of the Licensing Committee & Committee of the Licensing Authority
· Cllr Tina Kiddell to be appointed as Vice Chairman of the Licensing Committee & Committee of the Licensing Authority
· Cllr Tina Kiddell be removed as Chairman of the Member Development Panel
· Cllr Lynda Turner be appointed as Chairman of the Member Development Panel
The Deputy Leader thanked Councillor Keith Martin for his dedication and hard work as Vice Chairman of the Licensing Committees. Councillor Martin would remain as a Member on these Committees.
Councillor Tina Kiddell would remain as a Member of the Member Development Panel.
It was further RESOLVED that the following change be made to the following Outside Body Appointment:
· Councillor Fabian Eagle to replace Councillor Helen Crane as substitute member on the Norfolk Health Overview Scrutiny Committee.
Any other items which the Chairman decides are urgent (Agenda item 15)
NOTE: No other business is permitted unless by reason of special circumstances, which shall be specified in the minutes, the Chairman is of the opinion that the items(s) should be considered as a matter of urgency.
Exclusion of Press & Public (Agenda item 16)
To consider passing the following resolution:
“That under Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and the public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 3 of Schedule 12A to the Act”.
PART B – ITEM FROM WHICH THE PRESS AND THE PUBLIC ARE EXCLUDED
Prior to the vote being taken to move into a private & confidential session, the Chairman expressed his thanks to the public for watching this meeting The meeting would close after this item had been discussed.
Following a show of hands and subject to one vote against the resolution, it was:
RESOLVED that under Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and the public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraphs 1, 2, 3 & 4 of Schedule 12A to the Act.”
The Chairman announced that the public part of this Full Council meeting was now closed.
Breckland Training Services (Agenda item 17)
Report of Councillor Paul Hewett, Executive Member for Property & Projects.
Councillor Paul Hewett, the Executive Member for Property & Projects provided Members with a detailed overview of the report and the background information in respect of Breckland Training Services.
The recommendation was proposed and seconded.
Alison Chubbock, the Assistant Director of Finance & S151 Officer then highlighted the financial aspects of the service and Jason Cole, the Assistant Director for Customer & Performance informed Members of the staff that would be affected.
Following a vote, it was:
RESOLVED that the recommendation on page 117 of the agenda pack be approved.