Agenda and minutes

Venue: Virtual meeting via Zoom

Contact: Democratic Services  Tel: 01362 656870

Items
No. Item

Cllr Brame opened the meeting

42/20

Election of Chairman (Agenda item 1)

To elect the Chairman of the Council until the next AGM scheduled to be held on 20 May 2021.

Minutes:

Nominations were invited.

 

After being duly proposed and seconded and with no other nominations being made it was RESOLVED that Councillor Lynda Turner be elected Chairman of the Council for the ensuing year.

 

Councillor Turner in the Chair.

 

43/20

Appointment of Vice-Chairman (Agenda item 2)

To appoint the Vice-Chairman of the Council until the next AGM scheduled to be held on 20 May 2021.

 

Minutes:

Nominations were invited.

 

After being duly proposed and seconded and with no other nominations being made it was RESOLVED that Councillor Roy Brame be appointed as Vice-Chairman of the Council for the ensuing year.

 

 

44/20

Apologies (Agenda item 3)

To receive apologies for absence. 

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Ashby, Carter and Duigan.

45/20

Minutes (Agenda item 4) pdf icon PDF 168 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 27 February 2020.

Minutes:

Cllr Birt mentioned that he had not received responses to the Point of Order that he had raised at the previous meeting in respect of not receiving exempt reports within the legal time frame (page 4 of the agenda pack) and not having access to the intranet (page 19 of the agenda pack).

 

Mark Stinson, the Executive Manager for Governance apologised to Councillor Birt and asked the Democratic Services Officer to follow this up for him after the meeting.

 

Subject to the above matters, the Minutes of the meeting held on 27 February 2020 were agreed as a correct record - to be signed by the Chairman as soon as reasonably practicable after the meeting.

46/20

Suspension of Standing Order No. 5 (Agenda item 5)

To consider the suspension of Standing Order No.5 (Order of Business), to enable the order of business for this meeting to be altered.

 

Minutes:

The Executive Manager for Governance advised that in order to keep the business on the agenda as manageable as possible, non-essential business such as, the reporting of Committee Minutes, had been removed.  The Council was therefore asked to suspend Standing Order 5 of the Council’s Constitution.

 

Following a show of hands, it was

 

RESOLVED that Standing Order No. 5 be suspended.

47/20

Declaration of Interests (Agenda item 6)

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:

None declared.

48/20

Chairman's Announcements (Agenda item 7)

Minutes:

The Chairman had prepared a short résumé for her year to date.

 

Firstly, the Chairman reflected on the time when Cllr Nunn, the previous Leader of the Council, contacted her to ask if she would consider standing as Chairman of the Council for the year 2019/20.  She had been honoured at this request and was honoured to serve a second year.

 

Together with the Vice-Chairman, up until 9 March 2020, 103 civic events on behalf of the Council had been attended ranging from a cup of coffee with 2 Dereham veterans in their homes, to the many civic services and receptions.  The Chairman recounted a number of memorable events.  The most memorable, however, had been her own Civic Service held at All Saints Church in Shipdham in July 2019.

 

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and since 9 March 2020 after raising the flag for Commonwealth Day, the Chairman and the Vice-Chairman had attended a number of virtual events including the Change of Command at Lakenheath and the Armed Forces Day. Both had been kept up to date with civic news, appointments and information and both had supported photo shoots in the market towns in respect of the ‘Shop with Confidence’ Campaign and when able had visited local residents and local businesses all at a safe distance. 

 

The Chairman reminded Members of her two nominated charities, The Daisy Programme in Watton and Leeway in Norwich both of which were trying to break the chain of domestic abuse. She was pleased to announce that over £3k had been raised and donated accordingly. 

 

The Chairman thanked all Members for their continued support.  She also thanked the Vice-Chairman and his wife for all their support and conveyed further thanks to Kathryn Boddy, her secretary and the Democratic Services Team for supporting both the Chairman and the Vice-Chairman.

 

No charity would be nominated for this civic year; instead, the Chairman had decided that any monies raised would be put towards a community event so that individuals and community groups could be thanked for their contributions and resilience during the pandemic. 

 

The Chairman said she would do her best for Breckland in whatever shape or form that she could and thanked Members again for their continued support.

 

49/20

Leader's Announcements (Agenda item 8)

To receive a verbal update from Councillor Sam Chapman-Allen, Leader of the Council.

 

Minutes:

The Leader was delighted that so many Members were in attendance for this Annual General Meeting to reflect on what had been quite a year for the Council.

 

The last few months had clearly brought major challenges and had required the Council to change its focus and priorities in order to best serve the immediate needs of Breckland’s residents and businesses.

 

The Leader took the opportunity to thank everyone for their support in responding to the pandemic and the role that all Members had played in keeping residents informed and protected as much as possible.

 

Members had passed messages on to residents within their Wards about the help available, made frontline teams aware of vulnerable residents, been involved in delivering food parcels and made welfare calls.  Whatever the contribution, the Leader felt that the way Members had responded as a whole council – alongside support from local volunteers - had been fantastic.

 

He pointed out; however, that he did not want to overlook the excellent progress that had been made by the Council prior to the pandemic.

 

As a Council, its priority was to make sure the district was a great place in which to live, work, visit and invest. The delivery of quality, cost-effective services - such as regular bin collections, housing support and tacking anti-social behaviour was at the heart of what it did.

 

The Council played a key role in the health and wellbeing of its residents, delivering sustainable growth, and driving positive change among the communities.

 

Core services such as community safety, economic development, planning, housing, leisure, wellbeing and environmental services had been increasingly recognised as vital components of local health systems.

 

The Council had been helping vulnerable people protect themselves from harm or exploitation, with a particular focus on tackling county lines drug exploitation, domestic abuse and violence, social isolation, and mental health.

 

This included extending the popular Silver Social Arts Programme for a further three years, working with expert organisations, such as the Daisy Programme, that supported people experiencing domestic abuse, and reviewing opportunities to provide mental health first aid training to members of our communities.

 

Steps had also been taken in managing growth of the district - both in terms of housing and jobs and adopting the new Local Plan in December 2019 that would be used as a blueprint for growth until 2036, subject to review.

 

Another area of focus for the Council was climate change.  The environment was an important issue for residents who wanted the Council to take action. The Council had committed to developing a long-term sustainability policy and programme of activity to address this issue. This would focus on ways the Council could be more environmentally-friendly as an organisation, ways it could influence its communities through statutory powers, and ways to empower communities to make greener lifestyle choices.

 

Whilst the pandemic had unfortunately slowed some of this work, it had not stopped the Council from making progress. In the last few months it had:

·        Confirmed that the Council  ...  view the full minutes text for item 49/20

50/20

Questions on Notice under Standing Order No 6 (Agenda item 9)

Questions on Notice have been received from the Members listed below and the responses will be presented to Council at the meeting:

 

·        Councillor Helen Crane

·        Councillor Tim Birt

·       Councillor Harry Clarke

·       Councillor Keith Gilbert

·       Councillor Roger Atterwill

·       Councillor Terry Jermy

·       Councillor Mike Brindle

·       Councillor Stuart Terry

·       Councillor Susan Dowling

·       Councillor Chris Harvey

Minutes:

The Chairman explained the process of how the questions and responses would be provided.

 

Councillor Birt was pleased that so many questions had been raised but pointed out that he had been informed by a Chief Officer in November 2019 that any responses provided would be made available prior to the meeting to allow the author of the question time to consider a subsequent response.  As this had not been demonstrated at this meeting, he asked if the correct procedure could be explained. 

 

In response, Mark Stinson, the Executive Manager for Governance explained that procedurally, there were two options available, the question could be responded to at the meeting or within 5 working days after the meeting.  Under normal circumstances, where there was sufficient time, the questions would be circulated and responses provided prior to the meeting.  On this occasion, there had been a large number of questions and with everyone working remotely it had been difficult to co-ordinate; however, from a strictly procedural perspective, Councillor Birt was informed that there was no requirement to circulate such questions and responses prior to the meeting.

 

Question 1: Councillor Helen Crane to the Executive Member for Planning – Cllr Paul Claussen

 

The residents of Breckland need to have confidence in this council that S106 obligations are monitored and invoices sent to developers on time and chased accordingly if payment not received. The delay in this meant that Saham Toney did not receive a substantial sum of money when the developer submitted a planning obligation application some years after the development was completed and had never received an invoice from this Council, it only coming to light when I became District Councillor for Saham Toney and spotted a large sum of money on the available list, which turned out to actually not be available, having never been invoiced at the trigger point.  Can we confirm to the Council that there is now a robust system in place to ensure that this will not happen in the future?

 

RESPONSE: Cllr Claussen thanked Cllr Crane for her question and apologised for the issues surrounding the payment of monies to Saham Toney Parish Council.

 

The S106 process in the Council has been undergoing change in the last 12 months and updating all its records. There is improved co-ordination between the Planning Department and Finance to ensure that all received monies are properly recorded and kept up to date.

 

Invoices have been issued on old applications where monies have not been received following an extensive audit exercise.

 

Inevitably some developers, once they have been reminded of their obligations, choose to seek to modify the obligation. Any such application has to be assessed against the Local Plan and National Planning Guidance.

 

From the end of this year, we will be required to provide an Infrastructure Funding Statement which will detail how monies received from S106 payments has been spent.

 

The work is underway to ensure this is done in line with the requirement.

 

This, together with  ...  view the full minutes text for item 50/20

51/20

Questions without Notice under Standing Order No 7 (Agenda item 10)

Minutes:

The Chairman reminded Members that the period for questions under this Standing Order was limited to not more than 30 minutes and if anyone had any questions to direct them to the Leader, Councillor Sam Chapman-Allen who would answer them or direct them to the appropriate Portfolio Holder.

 

Councillor Jermy reminded the Leader that in 2019, Breckland Council submitted two funding applications to the Government’s Towns Fund to provide much needed support to both Thetford and Dereham town centres.  Sadly, both these applications had been unsuccessful but very recently the National Audit Office published a report into the Government’s decision making process criticising how these had been selected.  The report revealed all the scores for the towns submitted and the Thetford application scored higher than both Norwich and Ipswich, both were awarded funding, and the Dereham bid scored more highly than Norwich but neither Thetford nor Dereham had been successful.  He had noted that two thirds of the successful applications were in Conservative Party areas ahead of 2019s General Election and he asked the Leader if he would write to the Secretary of State asking why these Breckland towns had been overlooked for this funding despite their high scores in the assessment process.

 

In response, the Leader advised that he had seen sight of the audit report but had not studied it as yet so he was thankful to Councillor Jermy for his question.  If it was appropriate to do so he would certainly write to the Secretary of State confirming his disappointment and frustration with the system if what Councillor Jermy had said was indeed accurate. 

 

Following the agenda item at the recent Overview & Scrutiny Commission regarding the current situation in Attleborough, and the Chairman’s response in questioning the validity of this item, and the involvement of Breckland Councillors, Councillor Wickerson asked the Leader if all Members could be sent advice and guidance from the Council’s Legal Team on the extent of Breckland Councillors becoming directly involved in the internal affairs of town councils.

 

The Leader advised that the Chairman of the Overview & Scrutiny Commission was in attendance and part of this question could be directed to him.  In terms of the Council’s involvement in this matter, the role of Breckland Council was not to intervene and be involved with the governance of statutory bodies of town or parish councils.  The role of a District Council was to work in partnership with many different bodies including town and parish councils.  There had been concerns about Attleborough Town Council and there was an opportunity, through the Overview & Scrutiny Commission (O&SC), to consider these concerns.  The O&SC would be receiving this item again for discussion as part of its agenda at the next meeting in September and the Commission maybe minded to write to the Secretary of State or the Prime Minister or others in relation to governance in respect of parish and town councils.  The Leader reiterated that it was not the responsibility of Breckland Council to intervene  ...  view the full minutes text for item 51/20

52/20

Annual Appointment of Committees, Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen 2020-2021 (Agenda item 11) pdf icon PDF 71 KB

Report by Maxine O’Mahony, Executive Director of Strategy & Governance and Monitoring Officer.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Executive Director of Strategy & Governance (Monitoring Officer) presented the report. 

 

In accordance with the Constitution, the Council was required to make appointments to the main Committees of the Council.  In the case of formal decision-making meetings, the appointments needed to be politically balanced in accordance with the Political Group Regulations. 

 

The attached appendix outlined all the Committees and the appointments and Full Council was asked to consider the recommendations set out in the report.

 

The recommendations would be taken enbloc and a role call would be taken for the votes.

 

Councillor Atterwill proposed an amendment to the appendix in respect of the membership of the Local Plan Working Group being increased from 5 to 7 to include Councillor Clarke and Cllr Wickerson. He explained the reasons why this proposal should be supported.

 

Councillor Jermy seconded the proposal.

 

Councillors Birt, Atterwill, Brindle, Clarke, Dowling, Gilbert, Harvey, Jermy, Morton, Terry and Wickerson asked for their votes in support of this amendment to be recorded.

 

Following the roll call, the amendment was lost.

 

A further roll call was taken on the original recommendations; and it was:

 

RESOLVED that:

 

1.     the Council appoints for 2020 – 2021 the Committees and Panels as set out in Appendix  A; and

 

2.     where so indicated on the Appendix, the Chairmen, Vice-Chairmen and Councillors of those Committees and Panels subject to any changes that maybe notified by Group Leaders be appointed.

 

Councillors Birt, Atterwill, Brindle. Clarke, Dowling, Gilbert, Harvey, Jermy, Morton, Terry and Wickerson asked for their votes against the recommendations to be recorded.

 

53/20

Appointment of Councillors to Outside Bodies 2020 - 2021 (Agenda item 12) pdf icon PDF 74 KB

Report by Maxine O’Mahony, Executive Director of Strategy & Governance and Monitoring Officer.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Deputy Leader, Councillor Claussen presented the report.  He highlighted a number of changes to the following outside bodies:

 

  • Norfolk County Playing Fields - Sarah Suggitt to be replaced by Mark Robinson

 

  • Youth Advisory Board - Mark Robinson to be replaced by Ian Sherwood

 

  • Water Resources East - Paul Claussen to be added as Sub.

 

Councillor Wilkinson pointed out that he had been omitted from the Youth Advisory Board and the Board of Governors to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital had not been included on the list.  It was noted that these matters would be dealt with after the meeting.

 

A roll call was taken for voting purposes and it was:

 

RESOLVED that the representatives on the list of Outside Bodies be appointed.

 

 

 

 

 

A comfort break was taken

54/20

2019-20 Full Year financial Performance (Agenda item 13) pdf icon PDF 75 KB

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

 

This report has already been considered at the Cabinet meeting on 13 July 2020; however, due to there being recommendations to Full Council the report and appendices have been included on the agenda.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Philip Cowen, the Executive Member for Finance & Growth provided Members with a detailed overview of the actual full year financial position of the Council as at 31 March 2020.

 

Before presenting the report, Councillor Cowen reiterated and echoed the Leaders comments in respect of the tremendous work that all staff had carried out during this crisis.  The Finance Team had pulled out all the stops to produce all the detailed content within the report against a background of having to do much more than their normal day job over the last few months, particularly with all the grants that they had managed and dispensed to the businesses in Breckland.

 

He drew Members’ attention to a number of factors within the report to highlight where the Council had been and where it hoped and anticipated to head in the future, including:

 

Revenue

 

An above budget spend of £224k despite the fact that the Council had been able to mitigate overspend through judicious use of funds that the Council had and had managed to retain throughout the years. The key reasons for this overspend had been highlighted in paragraph 1.2 of the report. 

 

This was not a position that Councillor Cowen felt incredibly comfortable with, but he was delighted that due to the judicious husbandry of the Council’s finances over the last few years it was not as high as it could have been.

 

Paragraphs 1.4 and 1.5 were highlighted and explained.

 

Capital

 

The actual out-turn showed a spend of £4,579k (71%) against the budget which had been anticipated and the reasons and rationale as to why the 100% had not been reached could be seen in the subsequent tables attached to the report.

 

Page 37 of the agenda pack included the actual revenue outturn chart and the net effect of moving financial resources from various budgets and reserves meant that the Council was £224k adrift. 

 

Table 2 on page 38 of the agenda pack highlighted the significant variances and explained the reasons why the Council was in this position.  Housing benefit was by far the largest amount closely followed by the one-off retained business rates. 

 

The remaining figures contained in the appendices were explained in great detail.

 

There were a number of recommendations that Members were asked to consider, and it was suggested that these be taken enbloc.

 

Councillor Atterwill thanked the Executive Member for his comprehensive report.  His question related to the overspend in respect of temporary accommodation due to the lack of affordable housing.  He was concerned that, despite supporting the need for affordable housing, the Council seemed to concede to developers who sought to reduce affordable housing allocations.  He asked the Executive Member if he had any suggestions as to what the Council could do about this to protect the monies in revenue being spent on temporary accommodation.

 

Councillor Cowen advised that temporary accommodation covered a range of topics and affordable housing was not the Council’s responsibility; it was entirely in the hands of the builders/developers and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 54/20

55/20

Innovative Projects Fund - acceptance and spend of grant, and associated match funding (Agenda item 14) pdf icon PDF 88 KB

Report of CouncillorPhil Cowen, Executive Member for Finance and Growth.

 

This report has already been considered at the Cabinet meeting on 13 July 2020; however, due to there being recommendations to Full Council the report and appendices have been included on the agenda.

 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Philip Cowen, the Executive Member for Finance & Growth presented the report.

 

The purpose of the report was to accept and spend a grant award from the Innovative Projects Fund (IPF),along with associated match funding, on behalf of the Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor (CNTC) for carrying out an exercise aimed at supporting and growing the manufacturing and engineering industry in the area.

 

This grant for approximately £181k, was for the New Anglia Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering (NAAME) project to drive innovation forward in various ways.

 

This funding if accepted would affect, not just Breckland, but other businesses along the Tech corridor and the objective was to try and attract technology businesses into the District.  It was a plan to try and build back stronger, not just Breckland but also Norfolk and in particular industries along the A11 that would then span out to other market towns both in the District and elsewhere in the County.

 

The key outputs had been highlighted at paragraph 1.7 of the report along with the medium and long-term objectives at paragraphs 1.8 and 1.9.

 

This was one of the key activities in the re-start phase and part of an integral component within the re-build phase over the next 3 years of the Cambridge & Norwich Tech Corridor’s delivery plan.  It was vital and the options available at 2.1 and 2.2 of the report were highlighted.

 

The Portfolio Holder hoped that after reading the expected benefits in paragraph 4 of the report, Members would be happy to support the recommendations.

 

Councillor Birt, in a previous role, had been involved in the manufacturing industry.  He pointed out that there were a number of extremely capable companies in the area; however, there were some that could be overly enthusiastic and overconfident and as a word of caution he felt that any investment should be carefully monitored.  

 

Following a roll call for voting purposes, it was:

 

RESOLVED that:

 

1)     the Innovative Projects Fund grant to the value of £180,700, and associated financial contributions of £19,500, in order to support the delivery of an exercise aimed at growing the manufacturing industry in the area, as set out within this report be accepted; and

 

2)     delegated authority be given to the Chief Executive to sign the grant offer letters in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Finance and Growth.

 

56/20

Coronavirus - Emergency Governance Measures (Agenda item 15) pdf icon PDF 146 KB

Report by Maxine O’Mahony, Executive Director of Strategy & Governance and Monitoring Officer.

Minutes:

Prior to presenting the report, the Executive Manager for Governance advised that he had a constitutional matter that required reporting for information only in respect of decisions that the Chairman of the Overview & Scrutiny Commission (O&SC) had approved as not being subject to call-in due to urgency.

 

There had been two decisions that were urgent directly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Two of the Council’s tenants had become subject to a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) and in both cases a proxy vote on that matter needed to be taken very quickly. Relevant Members had been consulted and the reason for the urgency was that the Council would not have been able to respond in the timeline allowed had the Chairman not excluded the call-in. 

 

Referring to the report, the Executive Manager for Governance advised that the coronavirus emergency had changed the way that people lived and worked, Breckland Council was no exception. 

 

Social distancing requirements prevented the normal committee processes for decision making. 

 

Regulations were in place until May 2021 allowing virtual meetings.  There were a number of the Council’s usual rules within Standing Orders and elsewhere in the Constitution that needed to be amended in order to accommodate this new way of working.     

 

These changes would be temporary and the proposals within the report were set to expire at the point the regulations expired. 

 

In addition, the crisis had tested some of the Constitutional provisions and one such provision related to the Chief Executive’s emergency powers. Changes were only proposed to ensure that these powers could be used in the absence of the Chief Executive to make it clear that decisions taken in an emergency under emergency powers could not be called in.

 

Finally, Members were reminded of the implications if a Members failed to attend a meeting during a six month period. Many scheduled meetings had been cancelled for a significant period of time and although virtual meetings were now permissible, there were fewer meetings available for Members to attend.  At the same time, some Members could have potential difficulties that affected their capability to attend meetings, such as caring responsibilities, possible IT difficulties and potential illness.  The report, therefore, recommended that the Council approves in advance any absence exceeding six months, and such prior approval to be effective until the Annual meeting in 2021.

 

Councillor Birt drew attention to page 60 of the agenda pack at Appendix A where he had spotted a small typo under Standing Order 41.3 referred to itself twice rather than referring to 41.2.

 

Councillor Birt also expressed some concern over some of the proposed changes set out in Appendix B relating to consultation with Cabinet.

 

The Executive Manager for Governance responded that there was a provision in the Constitution that would enable him to correct minor numbering errors.  The changes proposed at Appendix B reflected the fact that, in an emergency, decisions often needed to be made immediately and it would not be practicable to do so in consultation  ...  view the full minutes text for item 56/20

57/20

Any other items which the Chairman decides are urgent

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.