Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: This meeting is in line with The Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020

Items
No. Item

Opening comments by the Leader of the Council

The Leader, Councillor Sam Chapman-Allen welcomed everyone to the meeting, the first of its kind for Breckland Council being streamed live.

 

The declaration of interest and voting procedure were explained to the Cabinet Members.

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Minutes (Agenda item 1) pdf icon PDF 81 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the meeting held on 3 February 2020.

Minutes:

At the previous Full Council meeting held on 27 February 2020, Councillor Atterwill had raised a concern that the February Cabinet minutes had not reflected some of the questions that he had raised and the responses provided.  At that time, the Leader had assured Councillor Atterwill that the Cabinet Minutes would be amended accordingly. 

 

Subject to the agreed amendments, the Minutes of the meeting held on 3 February 2020 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

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Apologies (Agenda item 2)

To receive apologies for absence. 

Minutes:

None.

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Urgent Business (Agenda item 3)

To note whether the Chairman proposes to accept any item as urgent business, pursuant to Section 100(B)(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972.

Minutes:

None.

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Declaration of Interests (Agenda item 4)

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.

 

Minutes:

Councillor Philip Cowen, the Executive Member for Finance & Growth reinforced his declaration as an architect in practice in Breckland in respect of Agenda item 11, the Local Plan.

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

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

 

Members wishing to speak pursuant to Standing Order 34 should inform the Chair in advance of their intention to do so and on what items they wish to be heard.

Minutes:

Councillors Atterwill, Birt, Borrett, Bowes, Bushell, Marion Chapman-Allen, Crane, Dale, Duigan, Eagle, Gilbert, Grey, James, Jermy, Kiddell, Kiddle-Morris, Ian Martin, Keith Martin, Morton, Nairn, Nunn, Terry, Turner, Wickerson and Wilkinson.

 

Councillor Bowes and Councillor James were in attendance as Executive Support Members.

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Chairman's Announcements (If Any) (Agenda item 6)

Minutes:

None.

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Covid-19 update (Agenda item 7) pdf icon PDF 110 KB

Update by Councillor Sam Chapman-Allen, Leader of the Council and Gold Command.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Leader presented the report.

 

The report provided a high level outline of the work undertaken to date in responding to the threat posed by the outbreak of COVID 19.  It also set out on-going work being undertaken to ensure that all possible steps were being taken to prepare the Council and the District for the challenges in the coming weeks and months.

 

The Leader praised the staff and Members of this authority for a fantastic effort to keep the Council’s critical services running throughout the crisis; whilst supporting vulnerable residents and businesses in new and innovative ways.

 

The Leader also took the opportunity to thank Members for their support at this time and hoped that he had kept them fully abreast of developments through his regular briefings. 

 

The Government had tasked local authorities with two core objectives during the emergency response phase.  One had been to support vulnerable and shielded people within the community by ensuring that they had food and medicine supplies.  The second had been to support businesses through the distribution of Business Rate Support and grants distribution.

 

A COVID 19 Operational Recovery Plan was currently being developed. The Plan would focus on how the Council would recover as an organisation, how it reintroduced services, supported its staff and Members, learning from the experience of dealing with COVID 19, benefited from its new community and business links, and more fundamentally how it ensured that residents could access the services they needed. 

 

The Leader finished by thanking every single member of staff for their professionalism and dedication throughout Covid-19.  To all the Members of the Council for their patience, understanding and the phenomenal champion work that had been undertaken within their Wards, the District and the County; and to every other volunteer, resident and business in Norfolk and Breckland who had gone out to support those in need and those who had continued to do so.

 

 Members were invited to ask questions.

 

Councillor Paul Hewett, the Executive Member for Contracts & Assets mentioned the distribution of grants and asked the Leader if he would pass on his thanks to the Officers, in particular for the distribution of grants to the various community groups within the District and certainly within his Ward in Shipdham, Cranworth and Scarning who otherwise would have really struggled.  This grant funding had been an absolute lifeline and he felt that it was through the swift and diligent, effective distribution of grant monies to those organisations that this essential community work could continue. 

 

The Leader echoed the above comments.  It had been a very difficult time for the Council as it had to work at pace to distribute those grants following guidance and legislation from Government and he hoped that this funding had made a little difference to those organisations/businesses across the District.  The next phase of funding would now be launched, a further payment of £1.5m for those businesses/organisations that had not been eligible in the first tranche and he asked every business to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 31/20

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Financial implications of Covid-19 (Agenda item 8) pdf icon PDF 72 KB

Report of Councillor Philip Cowen, Executive Member for Finance & Growth.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Philip Cowen, the Executive Member for Finance & Growth presented the report and updated Members on the potential financial implications resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

Further to the previous report, he hoped that Members appreciated the significant cost to the Council and the alternative ways of working, none of which had been anticipated back in February 2020 when the budget had been produced. 

 

It was no secret that all Councils in the country were facing an unprecedented call on resources.  The report, therefore, asked for the financial implications of the pandemic to be noted and that this was an assessment at a moment in time when this report had been drafted some days previous.  This provided the Council with a picture of where it thought its costs had been and where they might be going and it also looked at some analysis data providing its optimistic, realistic and pessimistic views. 

 

Government had granted the various local authorities funding at different levels to support the efforts that everyone had to put in place very quickly to deal with the pandemic.  There was also a high level of uncertainty about some of the costs, some of which could be clearly defined, for example, the purchase of equipment.  For others going forward, it was unclear how long some of these costs were going to be incurred.  Appendix A, clearly highlighted where the Council had anticipated these costs. 

 

Councillor Cowen stated that the Council had a prudent set of finances over the last few years and the impact was perhaps not as great as some local authorities were facing but it was under no misapprehension that the costs that the Council was facing were significant. 

 

Councillor Jermy referred to Appendix A of the report where it listed the assumptions for lost income and although he felt it was helpful to have those figures in percentages he thought it would also be useful to have the cash equivalent and asked if the table could include the financial amounts.  Also, referring to the section in respect of in-year savings, he appreciated that a new budget would be coming back in July but wondered how Members could contribute to this process moving forward over the year, and lastly, the financial plan assumed a maximum Council Tax increase over the next few years and asked if there had been any murmurs from Government about the possibly of lifting the cap of council tax increases moving forward.

 

In response, Councillor Cowen was not aware of any current proposals from Central Government to lift the council tax cap.  As far as the budget proposals were concerned, and clearly Members would have seen within the Leader’s report, the new structure for the recovery phase of the Council was fundamentally different to the current structure and it was going to take some time to bed in and all Members had a part to play in this; therefore, he felt that this would perhaps be an opportunity for wider Member engagement to understand  ...  view the full minutes text for item 32/20

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Breckland Sustainable Strategy (Standing Item) (Agenda item 9)

Councillor Ian Sherwood, Executive Member for Customer Engagement to provide an update on climate change/environment.

Minutes:

Councillor Ian Sherwood, the Executive Member for Customer Engagement and Leader Member for Climate Strategy provided Members with the following update.

 

Since March 2020, due to the outbreak of the coronavirus and subsequent emergency activities environmental work had been paused. COVID-19 had changed the way that many Breckland residents viewed the world including their views on their local environment, climate change and, in particular, issues such as air quality.

 

These matters would now require further thought as to what Breckland’s potential approach might be.  At present, the most effective way of picking up this work would be to ensure that this was considered as part of the Council’s work on recovery. Given that there was still a lot of uncertainty around restarting the economy and its impact, it would be difficult to establish at this point if positive impacts on the environment, such as reduced nitrogen dioxide levels, would remain once industry restarted.  Additionally, given the guidance around social distancing and to avoid public transport it was likely that there would be a greater usage of cars; therefore, at this point, some of this work would be a watching brief so that the impact could be understood over the coming weeks and months.

 

The Norfolk-wide Climate Change Partnership Working Group would be reconvened on 20th July 2020 to look at collective partnership recovery actions across Norfolk.

 

On 15th June 2020, a Climate Change Post-Graduate Intern would be starting a placement with the Council until the end of August following his previous placement in 2019.  This would add some extra resource around this agenda and help to restart the process of looking at what the Council’s strategy should look like and to understand where resident’s expectations had moved to.

 

Councillor Morton commented on the update and understood that the Covid crisis had dominated the recent months; however, he reminded Members that at the Cabinet meeting in February 2020, it had been agreed that an all Member session on sustainability would be held - to date he had not seen any record of this.  The response to the Covid crisis had shown what the Council could do in such a short time period and he felt that climate change in the longer term would me more of a threat than Covid and he felt that the Council needed to put more strength and urgency behind it. He also asked if more resources rather than just an intern could be devoted to climate change. 

 

Councillor Sherwood was very passionate about climate change and understood Councillor Morton’s disappointment.  Covid-19 had set back many projects not just in Breckland but all over the country and the Council’s achievements on this matter should not be forgotten.  He agreed that the Climate Change Strategy had been delayed by a few months but an initial budget had already been allocated and the university intern would start in August.  This he felt would be an opportunity to see how Covid-19 had changed the way people looked at the world  ...  view the full minutes text for item 33/20

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Breckland Community Funding Applications (Standing item) (Agenda item 10)

Councillor Mark Robinson, Executive Member for Community, Leisure & Culture.

 

To consider any applications put forward, and to receive an update on the community grants that have been provided during Covid-19.

 

Minutes:

Councillor Mark Robinson, the Executive Member for Community, Leisure and Culture provided Members with an update on the work that had been undertaken within his Portfolio in respect of the Covid-19 outbreak.

 

At the end of March 2020 following lockdown the Council had worked as part of a countywide partnership to establish the Community Hub.

 

The Hub sought to ensure that vulnerable residents in Breckland had access to essential supplies such as food and medicine and was operational within a week.

 

Over 50 Breckland staff had been redeployed from roles across the Council to ensure those that needed help were supported with welfare calls·

 

The Hub worked in close partnership with community groups and local businesses that had begun to mobilise in response to the growing pandemic. As part of the Council’s existing programme to support vulnerable residents, some partners re-purposed to ensure that they could continue to offer support, for example:

 

·        The Daisy Programme, funded by the Council, to support victims of Domestic Abuse quickly moved to offer online counselling as well as continuing its therapeutic singing groups which were held using Zoom.

 

·        ‘Tripstart’ adapted by delivering essential prescriptions from Pharmacies to residents· Many other local businesses also donated food for onward distribution and Norwich City FC provided approximately 200 food parcels· A decision had already been taken to allocate £10,000 to Foodbanks to help support this aim.

 

This he felt had been one of the greatest collective efforts the District had ever seen.

 

Every Breckland resident had been sent a letter explaining how to access support if they needed it, over 500 prescriptions had been picked up and medication delivered, approximately 400 food packages had been delivered and 3000 calls had been made to vulnerable Breckland residents·

 

These figures were just those that had gone through via the Community Hub, many more residents had been helped directly by Foodbanks and Community Groups.

 

Breckland Council had sought to support the community where possible including, awarding a £5,000 grant to Norfolk Accident Rescue Service (NARS), to help continue its vital work in supporting the emergency services and saving lives in the community.  This Dereham-based charity was now celebrating its 50th year serving the community and was currently experiencing a dramatic increase in demand for its services provided by a group of highly trained volunteer advanced clinicians. This was a crucial time for them to receive this grant as all of the traditional fundraising channels had been cut off almost instantaneously due to the pandemic.

 

It was now time to start planning for the future to establish how this authority could continue to support its vulnerable residents.  A decision had been taken by the Cabinet, prior to this pandemic, to prioritise a vulnerability programme. This programme covered four main themes: county lines, social isolation and loneliness, domestic abuse and mental health.

 

A number of these significant issues had been exacerbated by the current pandemic making the programme more important than ever and those who had already been in contact were being  ...  view the full minutes text for item 34/20

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Local Plan Update and Direction (Agenda item 11) pdf icon PDF 161 KB

Councillor Paul Claussen, Deputy Leader & Executive Member for Planning.

 

The reports (revised) and the Minutes from the Local Plan Working Group meeting held on 14 May 2020 are attached.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Paul Claussen, the Executive Member for Planning presented this item.

 

The report and the appendix from the Local Plan Working Group (LPWG) meeting held on 14 May 2020 and the Minutes from that meeting had been attached to the agenda. 

 

The salient points from the report were highlighted and the recommendations from the LPWG were explained and proposed accordingly.

 

Councillor Hewett, the Executive Member for Contracts & Assets asked if Councillor Claussen would agree that although in some ways there was some frustration about the need for a review so soon after the adoption of the Local Plan in many ways this should be seen as an opportunity particularly bearing in mind the previous concerns/ conversations raised earlier in this meeting that everything had changed.  People were working in new ways, the Council’s finances needed to be re-considered and a new collaborative way of thinking was needed.  The environmental concerns, the challenges about transport everything would have an impact in terms of how the Council moved forward, and as such, the only way it could bring all these issues into one place had to be through a full review. 

 

Councillor Claussen agreed.  In addition, he felt that all these points need to form part of the recovery phase too including a review of the rural and urban economies.

 

Councillor Birt had been surprised that the meeting notes had not made any mention of the climate emergency.   He felt that such matters should be looked at in earnest and be fed into the LPWG. Also, he was aware that the Future Homes Standard was due to come out in less than 5 years and would require a dynamic change to house building.  He asked if the LPWG Members were aware of this change and how this might have an impact on the policies - bearing in mind that this Local Plan review should be completed at the same time as the release of the Future Homes Standard. 

 

Additionally, he asked Councillor Claussen how the selection of Members to the LPWG had come about and the skills that each of those Members brought to the Group.

 

Assurance was given that all Members had the relevant experience and knowledge to sit on the LPWG. 

 

Councillor Duigan commented that different designs standards for new dwellings would be required due to more people working from home and needing office space in future. 

 

Councillor Atterwill asked what the full review was going to cost against the cost of carrying out a partial review and what additional resources would be required.

 

In response, Councillor Claussen did not have the figures to hand but he reminded Members that Officers and the Executive Director had felt that a full review would be the most economical way forward. 

 

Councillor Morton mentioned the Government White Paper ‘Planning for the Future’ – that highlighted some changes to the system and raised concern that if Members approved the recommendation of a full review, which he supported in principle, how was the Council going  ...  view the full minutes text for item 35/20

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Next Meeting (Agenda item 12)

To discuss and make the necessary arrangements for the next meeting.

Minutes:

The arrangements for the next meeting had yet to be confirmed.