Agenda and draft minutes

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No. Item

1/21

Variation of Order of Business

Minutes:

In accordance with Standing Order 5.1 of the Council’s Constitution, the Chairman announced that the order of business would be changed.  Questions on Notice would be discussed following agenda item 3. 

 

It was noted that any supplementary questions asked by those Members who submitted the original questions, would be taken in the following order:

 

·        Councillor Birt

·        Councillor Clarke

·        Councillor Morton

2/21

Apologies (Agenda item 1)

To receive apologies for absence. 

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Colman, Dale, Dowling and I Martin.

3/21

Minutes (Agenda item 2) pdf icon PDF 157 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 10 December 2020.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Subject to one abstention, the Minutes of the meeting held on 10 December 2020 were confirmed as a correct record.

4/21

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.

 

Minutes:

None declared.

5/21

Chairman's Announcements (Agenda item 4) pdf icon PDF 27 KB

Minutes:

As everyone continued to work their way through this pandemic, the Chairman wished to record the Council’s thanks to all those who had kept services going in the Breckland communities.  She had received many thanks from the public who had been grateful for a grant, for information, reassurance and for their bins being emptied.  Additionally, following the Christmas jumper day, over £1400 had been raised for the Daisy Programme in Watton. 

 

The Chairman then shared with Members sad passing of six people who all in different ways had been associated or had worked for Breckland Council. On behalf of all Members, a letter or a card of condolence had been sent to all their families.

 

Former Councillor and Chairman of the Council, Mr Paul Ison who had represented the Swaffham Ward from 1976 to 1987.  Former Councillor Jill Ball who represented the then named Wissey Ward and who had sat on several committees during her term of office from 2007 to 2011. 

 

PC Colin Lake, Glen Chapman former Breckland/South Holland Officer, Emily Millington-Smith MBE and Linda Heanue.  Emily and Linda had been instrumental in working to get the voices of older people heard in Norfolk and Breckland.

 

As a mark of respect, a minute’s silence was held.

 

Members were then reminded of the many training opportunities that were available on-line on the Members’ page and all were encouraged to take part.

 

The Chairman and Vice-Chairman would be attending a number of on-line civic events in the near future so that a healthy and informative connection remained between other authorities and agencies whilst also raising the profile of Breckland Council.

6/21

Leader's Announcements (Agenda item 5)

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

 

Minutes:

As it was the first meeting of 2021, the Leader wished everyone a belated Happy New Year.

 

Unfortunately, 2021 had begun in very much the same way as 2020 had ended, but with the vaccination programme now in full swing and people continuing to abide by the National Lockdown Guidance, the Leader was pleased to say that 2021 was beginning to look much brighter.

 

He was aware that local flooding over the previous weeks had impacted many residents across Breckland.  If there was an immediate risk to life, residents must dial 999 for support and contact Norfolk County Council as the Lead Flood Authority at https://www.norfolk.gov.uk/, to allow plans to be put in place where these flooding issues re-occurred.

 

Breckland Council continued to support its residents and local businesses as well as supporting the NHS and Norfolk Public Health sharing information in respect of the vaccine rollout, local testing guidance to ensure that all residents and loved ones remained safe.

 

In respect of the vaccine rollout, this was being led by the National Health Service and Norfolk CCG, there were several GP sites across Breckland already vaccinating and all were doing a sterling job at a local level.  The first large vaccination site was due to be rolled out across Breckland as well as further smaller sites over the coming weeks. This would ensure that those most vulnerable and particular priority groups would be vaccinated followed by the rest of society.  Anyone who had any questions or concerns about the vaccine roll-out were encouraged to visit the following website:

https://norfolkandwaveneyccg.nhs.uk/contact

 

People were encouraged not to contact their local GP practice to arrange an appointment as someone from the health service would contact them when their appointment was due.

 

Breckland District Council had taken the lead on many activities that were making a great deal of difference to local peoples’ lives and their livelihoods. Approximately 10,000 individual grants had been issued to businesses within the District affected by this pandemic and more grants were being provided every single day.  Businesses were able to contact their local Ward Member or the Council itself for further information via the website: https://www.breckland.gov.uk/.

 

Thus far, £35m worth of grants had been awarded to Breckland businesses to ensure that they were protected and supported, and further monies would be available over the coming days and weeks. In additional to the national and local grant funding that had already been distributed. Breckland Council had also earmarked over £1m towards its market town investment to support High Street businesses to bounce back financially in what had been the most difficult year.

 

In terms of supporting the communities, Officers and Covid Support Officers within the Council were helping to deliver the local enhanced track & trace system.  This involved speaking to residents on their doorsteps making sure that contact had been made and making sure that those who had tested positive had been provided with support and were complying with the isolation rules.  Since 15 January 2021, over  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6/21

7/21

Questions on Notice under Standing Order No 6 (Agenda item 6) pdf icon PDF 518 KB

Minutes:

This item was discussed following agenda item 3.

 

The Questions on Notice including the responses had been circulated to all Members prior to the meeting (see attached).

 

The three Members who submitted the questions were invited to ask one supplementary question in accordance with the Council’s Constitution, as follows:

 

Councillor Birt raised a concern in respect of the questions and responses not being included on the agenda and therefore not being available to the public.  He then asked Councillor Hewett, the Executive Member for Contracts & Assets to disclose the exact value of the Council’s investment, the Green Britain Centre, and to disclose how much money had been lost in this sale.

 

In response, Councillor Hewett felt that his previous written response had clearly answered the question; however, Breckland Council had disposed of a building, a building that had been an iconic part of the Swaffham skyline.  In its prime, it had brought employment, visitors, and income to the town but for the past two years the building had remained empty.  During this time, for the past 18 months, the Council had been in discussions with the Town Council developing a vision, a community and leisure offering that would be more suited to the town and to its aspirations.  This vision had since been dashed albeit for a positive reason and, as a result of the sale, employment and growth could be offered to the town and an alternative location for the Town Council’s vision would be sought. 

 

Councillor Hewett believed that by sharing resources, as a Council, and as Councillors, and as part of the Breckland wider community, everyone could be a part of that vision for Swaffham and he did not intend to apologise to Councillor Birt for supporting the economic spirations of the town.

 

Councillor Birt was asked to put any further questions in writing which would be dealt with accordingly.

 

Councillor Clarke’s supplementary question was in respect of the Chairman’s Panel meetings and the subsequent review.  He felt that any discussions or outcomes that took place between the Chairman of the Planning Committee, Officers and the Executive Member for Planning should be shared with Planning Committee Members, this would then provide an opportunity for those Members to put their views forward at the same time.

 

Councillor Morton asked Councillor Alison Webb, the Executive Member for Housing a supplementary question in respect of the Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery Scheme.  He hoped that the application for funding would be successful as it met the necessary criteria of the scheme.  If not, he asked the Executive Member for Housing to confirm if the Council would be in a position to support a further bid through the Local Energy Hub scheme. 

 

In response, Councillor Webb also hoped that the application was successful.  She pointed out that every time the Council applied for different funding applications, if unsuccessful, the applications were always looked at again as well as requesting feedback from the relevant bodies.  Members were reassured that all schemes  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7/21

8/21

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

Minutes:

Councillor Jermy, the Leader of the Labour Group asked the Leader a question in respect of grants.  It seemed to him to be much more complicated due to the different tiers and different amounts and he asked the Leader if he could provide reassurance that the Team managing these grants had sufficient capacity to distribute this money in a timely manner.  He had spoken to a number of businesses in Thetford who were obviously concerned as these grants had been a lifeline to them.

 

In response, the Leader advised that he had regular meetings with the Executive Directors to discuss resources across the organisation and as such they had daily meetings with their Teams within every service area to discuss the same.  He had not been informed of any resource issues within the Council but asked Councillor Jermy if he knew of any delays to contact the Regeneration Team via their generic email address or as Member such issues could be raised with the relevant Officer directly or via himself as the Leader of the Council.

 

Councillor Birt had two questions to ask, the first one was directed to the Leader.  He felt that for many months, many issues that he had raised had not been totally agreed with, but he hoped, at this meeting today, that some common ground could be found and asked the Leader if he would agree that employment was the best way out of poverty for most working age people, and working close to where they lived, benefited both the employee and the environment by reducing travel.

 

The Leader agreed, getting a job and a better career was the way out of poverty for everyone.  In relation to the locality of employment and residential locations, there was a mix, but people had the right to live where they chose to live and should not be curtailed or restrained.  However, through the Planning system and the Council’s Local Plan where it was placing growth sites for employment, the residential sites should be intrinsically linked not just through their close proximity but also near to public transport and walking and cycling too.  These were some of the comments made by Members which were fed back in response to the recent Planning White Paper consultation and the exact same comments that he himself had made previously to the Right Honourable Christopher Pinch MP, the Minister for Planning.

 

Councillor Birt’s second question was directed to Councillor Ian Sherwood, the Executive Member for Customer Engagement and Climate Change.  Councillor Birt stated that he had recently received the draft Carbon Audit report but was slightly concerned, even though it was a draft copy, that the report, in his opinion, seemed to be making decisions rather than setting out the Council’s position and provided some examples. The document itself he had noticed had been produced on the 15th December 2020 and he asked why this had taken so long for Members to see sight of the draft.

 

In response, Councillor Sherwood  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8/21

9/21

Minutes (for information only) (Agenda item 8)

To note the following Committee Minute documents for the months of December 2020 and January 2021:

Minutes:

Members were asked if they had any questions in respect of the following Minutes to raise their hands and direct their questions to the Chairmen accordingly.

9/21a

Cabinet Minutes (for information only) pdf icon PDF 90 KB

To note the unconfirmed minutes of the Cabinet meeting held on 4 January 2021.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the Cabinet meeting held on 4 January 2021 were noted.

9/21b

Overview and Scrutiny Commission (for information only) pdf icon PDF 156 KB

To note the unconfirmed minutes of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission meeting held on 3 December 2020.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the Overview & Scrutiny Commission held on 3 December 2020 were noted.

9/21c

Governance & Audit Committee (for information only) pdf icon PDF 115 KB

To note the unconfirmed minutes of the Governance and Audit Committee meeting held on 17 December 2020.

 

The recommendations to Council will be discussed under agenda items 9 and 10 respectively.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the Governance & Audit Committee meeting held on 17 December 2020 were noted.

 

The recommendations under Minute Nos 53/20 and 55/20 were dealt with under agenda items 9 and 10.

9/21d

Planning Committee (for information only) pdf icon PDF 97 KB

To note the unconfirmed minutes of the Planning Committee meeting held on 14 December 2020.

 

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting held on 14 December 2020 were noted.

10/21

Annual Report on the Treasury Management Service and Actual Prudential Indicators 2019-20 (Agenda item 9) pdf icon PDF 75 KB

Report of Councillor Sarah Suggitt, Executive Member for Governance & Maxine O’Mahony, Executive Director, Strategy & Governance.

 

This report was discussed at the Governance & Audit Committee meeting on 17 December 2020 and recommended to Full Council for approval.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

 

The two reports had been discussed at the Governance & Audit Committee meeting on 17 December 2020 where both reports at agenda item 9 and 10 had been debated fully.  Many questions had been asked and were answered accordingly as could be seen from the Minutes. 

 

The Governance & Audit Committee had recommended various recommendations to Council for adoption.

 

One matter that had come across in both reports was the significant reduction both now and looking ahead on investment income which demonstrated that interest rates were likely to be held at 0.01% for some considerable time to come.    

 

Alison Chubbock, the Chief Accountant and Deputy S151 Officer was asked to continue with presenting the report.

 

In summary the first report agenda item 9, it was noted that the Council had not breached any limits, there was no borrowing need and all requirements had been complied with.

 

For agenda item 10, the Policy and Strategy had not changed from the current year and was fit for purpose. 

 

Accepting that the world was in a very difficult place at the moment, and on-going financial turmoil would surely follow, Councillor Birt had noticed that on page 66 of the agenda pack, revenue funding was going to be halved, however, this was prior to Covid and he asked if the Council had set itself up correctly in the first place.

 

Members were informed that revenue funding was not used very often and the reason it had been halved was due to the Council committing some funding for broadband for approximately £1m.  This was a one-off and hence the halving of the value.

 

Councillor Crane mentioned the 0.01% interest rates and was interested to know, as the Council had all these assets, what the average income interest rate the Council was receiving from these assets in comparison to what it would get in the bank.

 

Councillor Cowen stated that it would depend on the asset but as the Council held significant assets across the District and a strategy had been set for what income stream the Council might expect from each of those assets.  He was aware that this ranged from between 3% and 5% up to 8% or 9% on the capital effectively that the Council had invested in the buildings.  There was the potential to increase the Council’s revenue stream by holding property assets even in these difficult times.  Breckland Council would continue to invest in its District in order to grow and provide employment and see away out of the pandemic through further growth and investment throughout the District.

 

Councillor Atterwill heard what had been said about investment in property portfolios but asked Councillor Cowen if he agreed that there was a certain amount of risk too.

 

Members were informed that any investment, whoever made it, carried a risk, but that was the reason why the Council had an analysis carried out by the Commercial Property Team and took out a full risk  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10/21

11/21

Treasury Management Policy & Strategy 2021-22 (Agenda item 10) pdf icon PDF 97 KB

Report of Councillor Sarah Suggitt, Executive Member for Governance & Maxine O’Mahony, Executive Director, Strategy & Governance.

 

This report was discussed at the Governance & Audit Committee meeting on 17 December 2020 and recommended to Full Council for approval.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

This report was discussed under agenda item 9 (see Minute No. above).

 

After being duly proposed and seconded and subject to one abstention, it was:

 

RESOLVED that:

 

1)     the Treasury Management Strategy 2021-22 to 2023-24 at Appendix A of the report be approved;

 

2)     the Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) statement contained within Appendix A of the reportwhich sets out the Council’s policy on MRP, be approved;

 

3)     the Prudential & Local Indicators and limits contained within Appendix A of the report(Tables 1-11) be approved;

 

4)     the Investment Strategy 2021-22 (Appendix B) and the detailed criteria included in Appendix B1 of the report be approved; and

 

 5)   the Treasury Management Policy at Appendix B2 of the report be approved.

12/21

Nominations for Committee and other Seats (if any) (Agenda item 11)

To receive nominations for any changes to Committee and other seats from political groups.

Minutes:

None.

13/21

Amendments to the Constitution (if any) (Agenda item 12)

Minutes:

None.

14/21

Any other items which the Chairman decides are urgent (Agenda item 13)

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.

Minutes:

None.