Agenda and minutes

Venue: Norfolk Room, The Committee Suite, Elizabeth House, Dereham

Items
No. Item

109.

Minutes (Agenda item 1) pdf icon PDF 111 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the meeting held on Tuesday, 22 July 2008.

 

 

 

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting held on 22 July 2008 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

110.

Apologies (Agenda item 2)

To receive apologies for absence. 

Minutes:

There were no apologies for absence.

111.

Declaration of Interest (Agenda item 4)

Members are asked at this stage to declare any interests they may have in any of the following items on the agenda. The Members’ Code of Conduct requires that declarations include the nature of the interest and whether it is a personal or prejudicial interest.

Minutes:

Lady K Fisher declared a personal and prejudicial interest in Agenda item 7, (Minute No. 114/08 below refers) and left the room whilst this item was being discussed.

112.

Non-Members Wishing to Address the Meeting (Agenda item 5)

To note the names of any non-members who wish to address the meeting.

Minutes:

Mrs D Irving, Mrs L Turner, Mr G Bambridge, Mr B Borrett, Mr P Cowen, Mr P Duigan, Mr K Gilbert, Mr R Goreham, Mr A Joel, Mr M Kiddle-Morris and Mr D Myers were in attendance.

113.

Chairman's Announcements (Agenda item 6)

Minutes:

The Strategic Director for Services announced that, as part of the Pride in Breckland Campaign, Councillors would be issued with disposable cameras to take photographs of any fly-tipping areas. 

114.

The use of Commuted Sums from Section 106 Agreements (Agenda item 7) pdf icon PDF 57 KB

Report of the Executive Member for Planning and the Environment (Ann Steward).

Minutes:

The report sought Cabinet’s approval for the use of commuted sums in Section 106 Agreements to be delegated to the Executive Member in consultation with the Strategic Director.

 

The report was presented by the Environmental Planning Manager.

 

The use of the Section 106 Agreements had already been agreed through the signing of the legal agreement between the Council and the other parties involved.  The Council was unable to use the monies for any other purpose.

 

By allocating the resources through a delegated decision with the Executive Member, in consultation with the Strategic Director (and Section 151 Officer if necessary) proper controls over the funds would be retained but would allow flexibility in terms of the timing and the speed of when the monies were used.

 

The monies which were negotiated fell within three general categories:

 

a)           Monies received for a specific purpose on a specific site (i.e. money received for play equipment) where the Council was just acting as a trustee and therefore no formal approval would be required.  These monies would be passed down to a Town or Parish Council.

 

b)           Monies taken when the circumstances were less specific i.e. money for an identified recreational need in the vicinity of the site.  The Council would need to identify where the money needed to be spent.  In these circumstances Cabinet approval would be necessary.

 

c)            Most monies received for Norfolk County Council would go to straight to that authority. Approval was not necessary as Breckland Council just acted as a “post box”.

 

The Executive Member for Planning and the Environment supported the recommendation but felt that Ward Members and the Town and Parish Councils should be involved at the beginning of the planning process.  This would enable Members to see how the monies had been spent.  Following a request from the Opposition Leader, it was agreed that consultation should include the Ward Member and relevant Town and Parish Councils. 

 

The Executive Member for the Transformation Portfolio asked whether a S106 Agreement could be put in place for drainage matters.  In response, the Environmental Planning Manager explained that relevant authorities such as Anglian Water would have to be consulted so that such a scheme could be brought about.  The Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission felt that problems could evolve from such a scheme, particularly where drainage was concerned.  If a local community developed drainage problems, which were another authority’s responsibility, the cost of repairs etc could far exceed the commuted sum.  He asked how the monies were monitored and spent when Breckland Council was not in control.  The Environmental Planning Manager pointed out that the Council could only take money that was related to the development.  It was very much a negotiation; money towards a school had to be spent on a school in that area.  A monitoring system had been developed and Members would receive bi-monthly reports and a S106 report which would be attached to future Development Control Agendas.

 

Members were informed that the public was already  ...  view the full minutes text for item 114.

115.

Medium Term Financial Strategy (Agenda item 8) pdf icon PDF 79 KB

Report of the Executive Member for Governance (Lady K Fisher).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Executive Member for the Governance Portfolio requested that Members consider the Medium Term Financial Strategy prior to recommendation to Council for approval.

 

A number of amendments were proposed (see recommendation below). 

 

In response to a question concerning the amendment in recommendation number (1) (see below) the Chief Executive advised that it would be wrong to state that the £2m Commercial Property Reserve was a fixed figure as it depended on any downturn in the economy; it was there to shield the council tax in any downturn that might occur.

 

The Opposition Leader asked whether this strategy should reflect, not just the economic downturn, but also the Local Government Review (LGR), as an unquantified and unspecified risk which might result to the extent of the Council looking favourably at schemes that were being developed.  The Executive Member for the Business Transformation Portfolio advised that the Council would continue to support its communities.  He reminded Members; however, that if the LGR did continue to go ahead communities should be made well aware that their council tax could double. 

 

The options available to Members were either to recommend or not to recommend the strategy to Council for approval.

 

The reason for the recommendation was to provide a clear framework for Officers to manage the Council’s finances over the medium term and to meet the requirements of the Use of Resources Key Lines of Enquiries.

 

RECOMMEND to Council that, subject to the following amendments, the Medium Term Financial Strategy be approved:

 

1)           Appendix A, page 32 of the report - additional wording be added to the end of the fourth paragraph, to read: “the Authorities annual assessment of reserves will be sued to ensure this risk is mitigated against by maintaining the Commercial Property Reserve at £2m”.

 

2)           Appendix D, page 66 of the report - the wording to Budget Principles number 6, to read: “we should seek additional scrutiny and challenge for accessing capital resources and ensure the programme only reflects schemes that are sufficiently scoped to allow delivery which commence during the financial year (although schemes may cross over financial years where their nature necessitates this commitment)”.

 

3)           Appendix D, page 67 of the report - additional wording to Budget Principles number 16, to read: “A Revenue and Capital Budget is set for one year with an indicative budget being set for a five year period up to 2013/14 in line with the Business Plan”.

 

4)           Appendix F, page 71 of the report – additional wording be added to the fourth paragraph, to read: “the Cabinet receives quarterly governance reports and the Audit Committee receives reports on financial and risk matters”.

 

116.

Treasury Management Performance Report (Agenda item 9) pdf icon PDF 133 KB

Report of the Executive Member for Governance (Lady K Fisher).

Minutes:

The annual treasury report was a requirement of the Council’s reporting procedures.  It covered the treasury activity for 2007/08 and the actual Prudential Indicators for 2007/08.

 

The Chief Executive had recognised the volume of work that had gone in to delivering these reports and the work involved in the development of the capital programme.  He thanked the Officers responsible for all their hard work.

 

The options available to Members were to approve or not to approve the actual 2007/08 Prudential Indicators within the report and note the treasury management performance report for 2007/08.

 

The reason for the recommendation was to comply with the Local Government Act 2003.

 

RESOLVED that

 

1)           the actual 2007/08 Prudential Indicators within the report be approved;

 

2)           the Treasury Management Performance report for 2007/08 be noted; and

 

3)           the Minimum Revenue Provision Policy be approved.

117.

Capital Strategy (Agenda item 10) pdf icon PDF 68 KB

Report of the Executive Member for Governance (Lady K Fisher).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Executive Member for the Governance Portfolio requested that Members consider the Capital Strategy prior to recommendation to Council for approval.

 

The options available were to recommend or not to recommend the strategy for Council approval.

 

The reason for the recommendation was provide a clear framework for Officers to manage the Council’s finances over the medium term and to meet the requirements of the Use of Resources Key Lines of Enquiries.

 

RECOMMEND to Council that the Capital Strategy be approved.

118.

Private Sector Housing Strategy (Agenda item 11) pdf icon PDF 68 KB

Report of the Executive Member for Economic and Housing (Paul Claussen).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The purpose of the report was to bring forward a Strategy for the private sector housing function reflecting changes in legislation and good practice.

 

The Principal Environmental Health Officer explained that whilst there was no statutory requirement to have a separate Private Sector Housing the Audit Commission had recommended it as good practice.  This Strategy would not change anything that the Housing Team was currently doing; it would just provide the public and Members with clear lines of how this Strategy should and would be driven.

 

The options available to Members were:

 

1)           to adopt the new strategy which reflected current legislative provision and the powers already adopted by Cabinet; or

 

2)           not to adopt the new strategy.  The Audit Commission had commented in its last report that the Council did not have a separate Private Sector Housing Strategy.

 

The reasons for the recommendation were:

 

1)           To enable the Council to comply with the Audit Commission’s suggestion that the Council should have a separate Private Sector Housing Strategy to direct its housing enforcement function.

 

2)           For the Council to be able to justify its actions to a Residential Property Tribunal.

 

RESOLVED that the Private Sector Housing Strategy be adopted.

119.

New Buckenham Play Area - Match Funding (Agenda item 12) pdf icon PDF 83 KB

Report of the Executive Member for Communities (Stephen Askew).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Sustainable Communities Manager presented the report which outlined the reasons for requesting £15,900 capital match funding towards the development of a new play area in the village of New Buckenham.

 

The Ward Member for New Buckenham was in attendance and explained that the play area sat on the edge of the common.  The existing equipment, although well used by children of all ages, had to be removed due to Health and Safety reasons.  The Village Hall Committee would also be donating a sum of money towards the new play equipment.

 

The Executive Member for the Communities Portfolio stated that New Buckenham, as a community, had been exceptional; it had delivered questionnaires to families in the village and had generated a 60% response rate.

 

Three options were made available to Members.  These were:

 

1)           to approve the application for funding on the grounds of the high score and subject to offer letter conditions;

 

2)           to award funding at a reduced level;

 

3)           reject the application for funding.

 

The reason for the recommendation was that a sound community project had been developed based on thorough consultation and research within the local community.  There had been clear evidence of support from the whole community project.

 

RESOLVED that a capital match funding sum of £15,900 to New Buckenham Parish Council for a new play area be approved, subject to:

 

1)           a maximum sum of £15,900 or 30% of the cost of the scheme, whichever is the lower;

 

2)           confirmation of the total cost of the project;

 

3)           the balance of all other funding being confirmed; and

 

4)           the funding being allocated from the revenue 2008/09 match funding reserve.

120.

Empty Homes Policy (Agenda item 13) pdf icon PDF 69 KB

Report of the Executive Member for Economic and Housing (Paul Claussen).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report concerned a replacement policy for the existing Empty Dwellings Policy reflecting changes in legislation.

 

The legislation surrounding the powers available to a Local Authority had changed with the enactment of the provisions in the Housing Act 2004.

 

Members were informed that in reality this policy would be rarely used as all avenues had to be exhausted before Empty Management Orders (EMO) could be applied.

 

The Assistant Director for Prosperous Communities drew Members’ attention to page 127 of the report which stated that, where a dwelling had been unoccupied for at least two years immediately prior to being refurbished and improved for occupation, the works could be rated at 5% VAT, and in certain cases, the sale of renovated dwellings could be zero rated for VAT if the dwellings were being sold after being empty for ten years or more since the completion date of the renovation.

 

A Member wished to know what the timetable was for restoring these empty dwellings for human habitation as he knew full well that in the area of Breckland there were more than 1000 empty properties.  In response, the Principal Environmental Health Officer explained that bringing an empty dwelling back into use was actually cheaper than a new build.  He then explained how long it took to get to the EMO stage. 

 

The concerns expressed by the Overview and Scrutiny Chairman regarding extreme cases where property owners could not be found was noted.

 

The options available were:

 

1)           To adopt the new policy that reflected current legislative provision and the powers already adopted by Cabinet.

 

2)           Not to adopt the new policy and to continue with the old policy that did not reflect the new powers already adopted by Cabinet.   Such a conflict could result in the Council being unable to justify its actions to a Residential Property Tribunal.

 

The reasons for the recommendation were to enable the Council to exercise the powers already adopted by Cabinet and to be able to justify its actions to a Residential Property Tribunal.

 

RESOLVED that the replacement Private Empty Dwellings Policy be adopted subject to the following amendments:

 

1)           to require that the Ward Member be informed of any instances where an Empty Dwellings Management Order was to be pursued in their Ward; and

 

2)           to require that in extreme cases, where the owner cannot be traced, and it was proposed that a property was required to be demolished and/or redeveloped, such action to be subject to the approval of full Council.

121.

Match Funding Application - Thomas Paine Festival 2009 (Agenda item 14) pdf icon PDF 88 KB

Report of the Executive Member for Communities (Stephen Askew).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report considered a match funding application for the sum of £10,000 made by the Thetford Society to assist with the cost of celebrating the life of Thomas Paine; 2009 would be the 200th anniversary of his death.

 

The Executive Member for the Communities Portfolio felt that this event would encourage tourism in the area.

 

Options

 

1)           The advantage of not supporting the proposal would be that the Council could retain its funding.  There were significant disadvantages in this approach principally in terms of poor publicity implicit on the Council not taking the opportunity to support a significant opportunity to celebrate a major event.

 

2)           To support the application would enable the Council to play an important part in supporting an event which fitted well within its corporate objectives and contributed to the Council’s aims.

 

The reason for the recommendation was that the application had been well considered and it had provided good evidence of consultation which had been used to shape the activities and community involvement.  There was a sound fit with the Council’s corporate objectives and the Thetford Society through the Project Group having given significant thought to the management arrangements that needed to be put in place.

 

RESOLVED that a revenue match funding sum of £10,000 to the Thetford Society to assist with the cost of celebrations for the anniversary of Thomas Paine be approved, subject to:

 

1)           a maximum sum of £10,000 or 10% whichever is the lower;

 

2)           confirmation of the total cost of the project;

 

3)           the balance of all other funding being confirmed; and

 

4)           the funding being allocated from the revenue 2008/09 match funding reserve.

 

122.

Watton Horse Fair (Agenda item 15) pdf icon PDF 82 KB

Report of the Executive Member for Governance (Lady K Fisher).

Minutes:

The Deputy Chief Executive presented the report.  The report had been considered at the Overview & Scrutiny Commission at its meeting on 4 September 2008.

 

The two main issues involved were as follows:

 

  1. The issue of the Watton Horse Fair.
  2. The issue of the stationing of caravans on a field which occurred at the time of and on land adjoining the site of the Horse Fair.

 

So far as the Horse Fair was concerned, it had been consistently stated that the Fair as presently comprised did not require planning permission; there were no contraventions of law and no licence was required.  Therefore, there was no question of any enforcement action by the Council as there was no contravention of any law.

 

With regard to the issue of the stationing of caravans, the report clearly stated there had been a contravention of law that was a criminal offence in that a field had been used without a Caravan Sites Licence.  There was evidence of this offence and the Council could conduct a prosecution. 

 

However, the report concluded that it was not in the public interest to pursue a prosecution and, even if the Council were to prosecute, it would have no impact on whether the Fair continued or not.  The other reason behind this decision was that it was likely to lead to a widespread relocation of caravans onto far less suitable land.  The reasons a prosecution was not considered to be in the public interest were as stated in the report at paragraphs 3.4.2, 3.4.3 and 3.4.4.

 

A Ward Member for Watton was in attendance for this item.  He thanked the Leader for bringing this matter forward to Cabinet.  He stated that the area in question was near to land designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and urged Members not to accept the Overview and Scrutiny Commission’s recommendation which was not to prosecute.  The Ward Member felt that the perception of the public would be that the Council was providing one law for the travellers and one for others.  By prosecuting, the Council would be sending out a message to other landowners that any illegal caravan sites would not be tolerated.  He again urged Members to prosecute as everyone that had been involved in the matter, who he knew, had agreed that a criminal act had been committed.

 

Mr Philips, who ran a legitimate caravan site on the adjoining land, spoke against the recommendation not to prosecute, as he felt this would set a precedent and would indicate to others that Breckland would not take action against similar offences.  He quoted a statement from the Overview and Scrutiny Commission meeting that the Executive Member for the Governance Portfolio had cited and requested that a further report be represented to the Commission without delay.

 

The Opposition Leader reminded Members of the annual aftermath of these fairs and of the damage done to the environment.  He did, however, accept part of the recommendation, to continue to monitor the site (see  ...  view the full minutes text for item 122.

123.

Free Swimming Programme (Agenda item 16) pdf icon PDF 95 KB

Report of the Executive Member for Communities (Stephen Askew).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Strategic Director for Services introduced the report which outlined the Departure of Culture and Media and Sports (DCMS) proposal for free swimming as publicly announced in June 2008.  The report detailed the level of grant support available to the Council and the various options that were being proposed.  It also provided an overview of the practical issues relating to the implementation of the scheme and the current position of other districts and their anticipated response to the offer.

 

It was felt that this scheme would make swimming more accessible to the people of Breckland.  The Executive Member for the Communities Portfolio thought it was a great idea but was disappointed that the DCMS had set time limits on its budgets and felt that further time to consider the offer should be requested.

 

The Opposition Leader agreed with the aforementioned comment and asked the Cabinet to request more time.  He also felt that assistance should be offered, not only in swimming, but also for other types of sports.  In response, the PFI Monitoring and Sports Development Officer pointed out that there were a number of other sports initiatives available.

 

The Chief Executive stated that there were many issues that had to be considered.  Tactically and politically it was a very good idea and this was a scheme that Breckland Council should embrace; however, he agreed the funding should not be ring-fenced as it would be difficult to predict the impact it could have on the Council Tax.  He felt that Officers should also be instructed to write to the DCMS expressing Breckland Council’s concern around the two year funding opportunity and the shortness of time to consider this scheme and suggested that a further recommendation be added to incorporate all of the above.

 

The options available were:

 

1)           not to take part in the scheme;

 

2)           to sign up to provide free swimming for people aged 60 and over;

 

3)           to sign up to provide free swimming to people aged 60 and over and submit an expression of interest to provide free swimming to people aged 16 and under.

 

The reason for the recommendation was that this scheme would make swimming more accessible to the residents of Breckland whilst providing an opportunity to increase participation in sport and physical activity.  The health benefits of such a scheme were clear and in addition it would provide a legacy for the Breckfest programme.

 

RESOLVED that:

 

1)           the Government grant of £47,574 be accepted to offer free swimming for people aged 60 and over;

 

2)           an expression of interest be submitted to roll out the scheme to people under the age of 16 subject to clarification from the Department of Culture Media and Sports (DCMS) of arrangements for pools managed by third parties; and

 

3)           Officers be instructed to write to the DCMS and express concern over the time given to consider this, the two year funding opportunity and the transfer of the risk of potential overspend to the local authority and its  ...  view the full minutes text for item 123.

124.

References from the Overview and Scrutiny Commission (OS&C) pdf icon PDF 73 KB

To consider references, if any, from the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission held on 4 September 2008.

Additional documents:

124/071

Fuel Poverty Policy - Reference from O&SC

Minutes:

The Overview and Scrutiny Chairman explained that attention had been drawn to this matter under the Housing Strategy item that had been discussed at the Policy Development & Review Panel meeting on 29 July 2008.

 

Members had concerns around the issue of fuel poverty in the light of the current level of increases in fuel costs and their view that the Council needed a policy to address the poverty problems that would occur in the forthcoming months.

 

The Leader was in favour of the recommendation as long as the Government provided the funding for such a policy.

 

RESOLVED that:

 

1)           a policy be put in place to address the fuel poverty problems that might occur in the forthcoming months; and

 

2)           the Council be seen to support local people by actively raising awareness of fuel poverty in the District by placing articles on the matter in future editions of Breckland Voice.

124/072

Breckland Community Car Schemes - Reference from the O&SC

Minutes:

The Commission had considered a report on the Breckland Community Car Schemes and proposals for the future delivery of this service.  It had also considered that there was a need for substantially more funding than the £10,000 proposed if the Council was to achieve the aims to expand the scheme and to support existing schemes in the future.  It had been suggested that a more realistic figure of £100,000 be considered. It had been further suggested that the Council should meet the costs of the CRB and medical checks.

 

The Chief Executive felt that more clarity was required as there was a significant difference between £10,000 and £100,000 and that officers should provide a further report on costs.

 

Although there were a number of concerns with regard to the funding, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s comment that seldom had any Council initiative been so unanimously supported was noted.

 

RECOMMEND to Council that:

 

1)           robust governance arrangements and legal agreements between Breckland Council and all scheme operators and volunteer drivers be put in place as a requirement to qualify for funding support;

 

2)           the principle of substantial funding for new and existing Community Car Schemes, to include meeting costs of required CRB and medical checks be supported; and

 

3)           a further report be submitted to the Council to establish full costs and clear reasoning for greater investment in this scheme.

 

125.

Next Meeting (Agenda item 18)

To note that the date of the next meeting of Cabinet will be held on Tuesday, 14 October 2008 at 9.30 am.

Minutes:

The next meeting of the Cabinet would be held on Tuesday, 14 October at 9.30am in the Norfolk Room.

126.

Exclusion of Press and Public (Agenda item 19)

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 paragraphs 2 and 3 of Schedule 12A to the Act”.

Minutes:

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 may involve the disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraphs 2 and 3 of Schedule 12A to the Act.

127.

Provision of Pest Control Service (Agenda item 20)

Report of the Executive Member for Planning and the Environment (Ann Steward).

Minutes:

The Principal Environmental Health Officer presented the report.

 

The three options that were being examined were explained.

 

In response to a question concerning call-out costs, Members were advised that this issue would need to be addressed at the final contract stage.

 

The risks had been addressed in the report at paragraphs 4.1.1 of the report.

 

Options

 

See report.

 

Reasons

 

See report.

 

RESOLVED that the service be put out to private contractor with a 12 month contract with an option to renew for a further year.