Questions on Notice under Standing Order No 6 (Agenda item 6)
- Meeting of Budget & Council Tax Setting, Council, Thursday, 25th February, 2021 10.00 am (Item 20/21)
In accordance with Standing Order No. 6, the following question has been received by Councillor Tim Birt and the response will be circulated prior to the meeting:
At previous Council the Leader agreed with me that jobs are the best way out of poverty and having work close to where you live benefits both the individual and the environment. Looking at official labour market statistics from the ONS (via nomisweb.co.uk):
Breckland has plummeted to the bottom in terms of jobs density and our performance has merely 'flat-lined' over the last 5 years; similar charts show Breckland at the bottom in terms of salary. Would the leader provide an explanation of how the Council plans to reverse this disappointing trend?
Should this important 'jobs density' statistic be included as a Breckland KPI (key performance indicator) and be reported regularly to Council?
The Questions on Notice including the responses had been published and circulated to all Members prior to the meeting.
The two Members who submitted the questions were invited to ask one supplementary question in accordance with the Council’s Constitution.
Councillor Birt thanked the Chairman for arranging the questions and responses to be published on the Council’s website prior to the meeting.
He felt that the Leader had not appeared to answer his first question in respect of job density but instead had referred back to an ONS comment that had been made several years ago about an urban comparison between London and Norwich which he felt had nothing to do with Breckland. He asked the Leader if he believed the ONS density figures and what Breckland was going to do to improve the situation. Cllr Birt had also noted that the Leader had followed up his question by stating that there would be a key performance indicator review and asked when this would take place and if he would be able to contribute to that.
The Leader informed Members that the KPI review would be undertaken by the Overview & Scrutiny Commission (O&SC). The Chairman of O&SC was currently working with a Cabinet Member and Officers to look at the KPIs across the District and what was applicable. Based on his response to the question on notice, the Leader stated that he had not understood the question raised by Cllr Birt and what he was trying to achieve and therefore had attempted to respond accordingly. Such work was being undertaken with Norfolk County Council, New Anglia LEP and the Chamber of Commerce to ensure that everyone was supporting growth and inward investment within the District, this work continued prior to Covid and would continue. Members had heard earlier how £42m had been allocated to businesses across the District to ensure that businesses could thrive and as part of Breckland’s roadmap, current employment sites and allocated growth sites were being looked at within the Local Plan. Work was continuing with the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) and with the Kickstart programme to ensure individuals across the District were able to link up to relevant jobs.
The Leader informed Councillor Birt that if he had a supplementary question, he would be happy to pick this up off-line after the meeting and respond to him in greater detail in respect of his concerns.
Councillor Birt raised a supplementary question in response to his second question under this Standing Order regarding the carbon audit report. At point 2 of the response where it stated that only properties that the Council owned responsible for energy provision were included in the audit report. Councillor Birt felt that there was some inconsistency in the response provided and asked what the difference was between leisure centres and Barnham Broom Golf & Country Club as both seemed to appear under ‘scope 3 inclusions’ but not much detail had been provided.
On point 4, Councillor Birt asked why it had been so difficult to provide Members with actual energy usage data for the Council’s own electricity and gas despite the fact that such information would have been needed for the carbon audit report. He had been trying to get hold of the data for many months and was still missing about six-month’s worth of evidence that, in his opinion, seemed perverse that such information could not be obtained for the bills that were actually being paid.
Councillor Sherwood, the Executive Member for Climate Change advised that the answers provided to Councillor Birt’s questions were full and detailed and if there were any additional points that he wished to raise he would be happy to oblige after the meeting. He was aware that Councillor Birt had been asking for information in respect of energy consumption at Elizabeth House and he believed that he had been responded to but advised that some of that data would not be in direct relation to the Council’s own use but to commercial tenants’ usage too.
Councillor Morton had been slightly disappointed with his response and asked if the Council was going to go ahead and approach this Local Energy Hub scheme in a positive manner.
Councillor Sherwood was pleased to inform Members that Officers would be attending a meeting very soon in respect of the Energy Hub. The Council was fully participating and fully involved in the scheme and would take up this opportunity for the Council and its residents.