Venue: Virtual meeting via Zoom
Contact: Democratic Services Tel: 01362 656870
Opening Remarks by the Chairman of the Council
The Chairman gave a warm welcome to all those in attendance.
Before the meeting started, the Chairman paid tribute to all past colleagues and Mr Colin Armes, a former Councillor and former Chairman of Breckland Council who had recently passed away.
Councillor Terry Jermy, the Leader of the Labour Group lead the tribute and was honoured to be able to say a few words in respect of who he felt was simply a Thetford legend.
Colin had been elected to the Town Council, District Council and County Council on multiple occasions. Serving as Mayor of Thetford twice and as Chairman of Breckland. Colin had been passionate about Thetford and a proud son of Norfolk. After his many years’ service as a postman, it was no surprise that he was such a people person, warmly and vigorously shaking the hand of whomever he came across and embracing them as an old friend. He had been a strong supporter of dozens of local groups, not just there to make up the numbers, but often the driving force behind getting things started and getting things done. He had a tenacity that he maintained throughout his life, right up to the end when he could be spotted pulling up on his mobility scooter to catch the ear of whomever he needed to so that he could highlight a local concern or issue.
A particular passion for Colin was the environment, and he was a strong advocate for Barnham Cross Common and a regular volunteer working to improve our town's river corridor. He inspired many and was one of the reasons that Councillor Jermy got involved in politics. Colin was part of a generation of Labour Councillors and activists that Councillor Jermy grew up with, and that have sadly now departed. In Thetford and the wider Breckland District we owe him an immense debt of gratitude for his many decades of service.
Condolences were then offered to Colin’s wife Sylvia and the wider Armes family at this sad time.
A service of thanksgiving would be held sometime in 2021 when Covid restrictions were eased and further details would be shared in due course.
The Leader, Councillor Sam Chapman-Allen, the Vice-Chairman of the Council, Councillor Roy Brame, Councillor Gilbert, Councillor Kybird and Councillor Wilkin also paid their own tributes as all had fond memories of Colin.
The Chairman had sent a card of condolence to the family on behalf of Breckland Council.
A minute’s silence was held.
Apologies (Agenda item 1)
To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Dowling, Grey, James, Kiddell and K Martin.
To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 5 November 2020.
The Minutes of the meeting held on 5 November were agreed as a correct record.
Suspension of Standing Order No. 5 (Agenda item 3)
To consider the suspension of Standing Order No.5 (Order of Business), to enable the order of business for this meeting to be altered.
Councillor Birt was concerned that the Council was not dealing with all of the required business under Standing Order No. 5 in particular parts J and K.
In response, the Chairman advised that this was the reason that the waiving of Standing Order 5 had been included on each Council Agenda during the pandemic. The business of the Council had needed to remain succinct and manageable in the new environment of virtual meetings.
This matter had, however, recently been discussed with the Leader, Democratic Services and the Executive Manager for Governance and would be reviewed in due course.
Following a proposal which was seconded, it was:
RESOLVED that Standing Order No. 5 be suspended.
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.
The Chairman was delighted that the bookings for the Council’s ‘Zoom into Santa’ events that were taking place on the 12th and 19th December had been very positive and already donations to the Daisy Programme had been made. This had been a Member-led exercise and no Officer time or Council resources had been used. She and Councillor Webb were responsible for the booking line which would remain open until all places had been filled.
The Chairman had also been very encouraged with all the donations made by Members to the Daisy Programme for wearing their Christmas jumpers to the meeting and she thanked everyone for their contributions.
Members were encouraged to take up the training opportunities in respect of the befriending and safeguarding service and she thanked those Members who had attended the recent training sessions.
The Chairman had been made aware of many Breckland success stories during the pandemic and shared just a few of them.
The Gressenhall Gym
The young owner had said that the grants had helped him to secure his business by allowing him to continue to pay his overheads during the pandemic. It had allowed him to use Zoom and other communication platforms to keep in touch with his clients and to run sessions via the internet keeping them fit, well and active as well as mentally sound during these most difficult times.
Cranworth was a tiny village with no facilities other than the Church, a village hall and a playing field. Prior to lockdown, two enterprising young ladies had started a volunteer group and funds had had been raised to get the playing field back in use and the collapsing pavilion fit for purpose. The £10k grant that had been awarded had been a lifeline and the site was ready for use by local and visiting sports teams which was a fitting legacy for generations to come.
The Silver Social Programme
Now in its 4th year, the Silver Social Programme brought the arts and activities and friendship to the elderly and vulnerable people in Breckland’s communities. Live events would normally take place in the towns and villages but during this pandemic all were being held on the internet. From these activities, friendships were formed, new groups emerged, and a foundation was built to help manage loneliness and isolation. The Chairman encouraged everyone to take part and contact the Council’s Communities Team for further information.
Finally, on behalf of all the Members, the Chairman conveyed a huge thank you to all Breckland Officers for all their hard work and efforts during these difficult times.
Leader's Announcements (Agenda item 6)
To receive a verbal update from Councillor Sam Chapman-Allen, Leader of the Council.
The Leader, Councillor Sam Chapman-Allen was, pleased that so many Members had made an effort to wear their Christmas jumpers and donate to the Daisy Programme.
The following announcements were made.
Following the recent periods of national restrictions, Breckland’s High Streets were once again open for business and all Members were encouraged to support their local shops going forward. The Council was still working closely with all local traders throughout this pandemic providing them with advice, support and millions of pounds of grant funding to help them to remain viable now and into the future.
Following the success of the Council’s Confidence Campaign in the Spring and Summer 2020, a new campaign was underway to support those businesses in the run up to the Christmas period – ‘Enjoy, Discover and Explore’ that called upon all residents in Breckland to support their High Streets and shop locally in all five market towns.
A team of Covid Officers had recently been recruited in response to the pandemic. These Officers were already in place on the High Streets within the market towns and would provide a presence in the coming weeks and months to provide support, advice and guidance - not just to businesses but to local shoppers as well. They would also be undertaking door knocking for the local ‘track and trace’ that had proved to be a valuable tool in the attempt to prevent the spread of the virus. Officers would be introduced via social media platforms and Members and the public watching this meeting were encouraged to follow the videos and on-line content to understand what roles these Officers would be undertaking in the coming weeks.
As 2020 drew to a close, in what had been a dreadful year for many, Members and Officers were encouraged to look forward and focus on the new year ahead. The draft budget was already well underway for the forthcoming financial year and would be shared in due course through the committee process. Breckland Council was in a balanced budget position and would not have to make some of the difficult decisions that many other Councils were facing. All frontline services would be protected, and further investments would be made in respect of environmental issues, a new Animal Welfare Officer, new waste collection services and enhanced fly-tipping support.
A positive response had been received in respect of the Council’s Market Towns Initiative (MTI). Breckland Council was still committed to the investment of £150,000 for every market town in the District. The first tranche of projects was being prepared and it was anticipated that delivery would be in the latter part of the current financial year, all being driven local Members.
For Watton, new improved sustainable street furniture would be installed in the High Street to enhance the look and feel of the town centre making it a fantastic place for people to live and to visit
In Thetford, new lighting and new seating would be installed along the riverside, together with new attractions ... view the full minutes text for item 94/20
Councillor Morton to the Executive Member for Customer Engagement & Member Champion for Breckland Sustainability Strategy:
Can the Cabinet Member for Sustainability confirm that an application for funding under the Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery Scheme, which closes on 4th December, was made?
Monthly electricity consumption figures show that unmetered street lighting accounts for over a third of our annual usage at 593721 KWh for year ending March 2020. It is encouraging to see the March 2020 figure of 42664 is 12000 down on the previous year. Can the Member for Climate Change confirm if this is expected to continue and what has contributed to this dramatic reduction of 22%?
Councillor Wickerson to the Executive Member of Planning:
Firstly, thanks to Simon Wood for responding to my Question without Notice from the last Full Council meeting, which, in itself was helpful, but did generate further questions which I hope can be answered in writing accordingly.
Can we please see a comparative report showing similar figures for the past 10 years to enable a full picture of the historic extent of Planning Enforcement workload?
In addition, it would be helpful to understand how many of the “closed” cases related to genuine Enforcement issues which required full Officer time as opposed to those that were immediately “closed” as not genuinely falling under the auspices of Planning Enforcement.
Councillor Birt to the Executive Member for Customer Engagement & Member Champion for Breckland Sustainability Strategy:
After some difficulty and delay I have now received the electricity consumption figures which formed the answer to my question raised at the 24 September meeting. These figures are a useful measure to help show our progress in reducing our climate impact. It has been agreed that I will receive regular updates and I suggest these be more widely disclosed to Members and Residents via our website.
This measure is an important 'Key Performance Indicator' but is only a start.
Cllr Birt to Executive Member for Planning:
I would have liked to have asked this question of the Local Plan Working Group; however, they have not met for many months so that has not been possible.
Referring to the Breckland Local Plan, Local Development Scheme (LDS) section 2.3; it states we must keep the LDS under review and the LDS will be monitored on an annual basis, part of which includes a Monitoring Report.
It has been a year since we adopted the Local Plan, so a Monitoring Report is due. Please would the Executive Member for Planning give us a summary of its findings and release the Monitoring Report for inspection.
The responses to the questions raised under this Standing Order had been emailed to all Members prior to the Full Council meeting (see attached).
Under this Standing Order and according to the Council’s Constitution, amember asking a question (under paragraph 6.1 or 6.2 of the Constitution) may ask one supplementary question, without notice, of the member to whom the first question was put or by whom it was answered. The supplementary question must arise directly out of the original question or the reply.
The following supplementary questions were asked.
Councillor Morton was pleased to learn that the Council had applied for the ‘Green Homes’ grant and asked that Members were kept informed of progress. He hoped that this was the first of many applications that the Council made to the ‘Green’ schemes going forward and if successful would data be collected to evaluate the financial and carbon benefits for the insulations work that was being carried out.
In response, Councillor Sherwood, the Executive Member for Customer Engagement & Member Champion for Breckland Sustainable Strategy advised that, as part of the Norfolk Green Homes funding bid, the Council was planning to nominate a Park Homes site in Breckland for insulation works. The properties must be of an EPC rating of E, F or G and such homes had to fall within certain financial criteria. He did not have an exact answer to the question as to whether this would be monitored but he presumed that it would, and a written response would be provided to Councillor Morton in due course.
Councillor Morton asked a supplementary question in respect of his second question. He asked Councillor Sherwood if he could provide a written response to confirm whether street lighting was metered and if so, how they were analysed, and how many streetlights had been converted to LED as of March 2020.
Councillor Sherwood advised that he was aware that the cost of streetlighting had reduced due to the lamps being switched to LED bulbs and would be happy to provide an response in writing.
Councillor Wickerson thanked Simon Wood, the Director of Planning & Building Control for his very detailed response to his question with notice. He did have a supplementary question but as it was equally detailed, he would be presenting that to him in writing and continue his dialogue on the planning enforcement issue with the Director of Planning & Building Control accordingly.
Councillor Birt had noted that Key Performance Indicator decisions would be dealt with in the next year and he looked forward to reviewing these in January. However, he felt that his question had not been fully answered in that he had asked whether the data that he had been provided with, on electricity consumption, could be disclosed on the Council’s website as this would be useful for assessments and carbon targets and felt that such data should be available to everyone.
In response, Councillor Sherwood advised that the information that had already been supplied to Councillor Birt had not ... view the full minutes text for item 95/20
Questions without Notice under Standing Order No 7 (Agenda item 8)
Councillor Jermy, the Leader of the Labour Group asked a question relating to a recent report in the Telegraph newspaper where it stated that one in ten Councils had written to the Government objecting to the latest planning proposals particularly in respect of the new algorithm that had been devised. He asked the Leader, Councillor Sam Chapman-Allen if he believed it was now time for the Government to scrap the Planning White Paper and go back to the drawing board.
The Leader did not feel that it was the time for the Government to scrap the Planning Consultation White Paper as there had been a phenomenal amount of work carried out by civil servants and local government which, if scrapped, would all be wasted. Local Government had provided Central Government with a wealth of responses and he believed that the Government should now go through all that information in great detail to formulate their response. If it turned out to be unfavourable to the residents of Breckland and Norfolk as a whole, then there were various lobbying forums in place such as the DCN and the LGA and through local MPs to ensure that our voices were heard.
Councillor Atterwill asked the Executive Member for Planning if he would join him in urging those community groups who were producing Neighbourhood Plans to carry on with their work despite the uncertainty created by the Government’s Planning White Paper.
In response, the Executive Member for Planning said the simple answer was yes.
Councillor Atterwill’s second question was directed to the Leader of the Council. He pointed out that in the last 10 years, Norfolk County Council’s Conservative Group had cut Youth Services, the Connection Service, Children’s Centres and was now closing Holt Hall. He asked the Leader if there was any scope for Breckland Council to provide additional help for the young people of Breckland.
Members were informed that Breckland Council made youth provision both within its leisure facilities and outreach activities across the District. All Councils had statutory responsibilities but whilst looking at budgets going forward all must ensure that the finances were targeted to those most in need whilst continuing to deliver its statutory services.
Councillor Birt addressed his question to the Leader of the Council. He had a number of outstanding issues including a complaint against a Senior Executive Officer of the Council but had not, as yet, had a response. He asked the Leader if these matters would be dealt with and there was sufficient time and resource for the new Head of Paid Service to complete this work.
The Leader advised that a Full Council meeting was not the appropriate forum for such matters to be discussed. There was an internal process through which such complaints could be addressed. In relation to any outgoing member of staff where a complaint had been made against them this would be looked at to establish whether the complaint was substantive enough to spend time and resource investigating.
The Leader asked ... view the full minutes text for item 96/20
Report of Councillor Sam Chapman-Allen, Leader of the Council and Nathan Elvery, Head of Paid Service & Strategic Adviser.
The Chairman was delighted to welcome Nathan Elvery the Head of Paid Service & Strategic Adviser to the meeting.
The Leader of the Council, Councillor Sam Chapman-Allen provided Members with an overview of the report, explaining that the vast majority of shared officers were now primarily place based as a temporary measure whilst dealing with the Council’s emergency response to the pandemic. It was proposed that this arrangement should continue until the Head of Paid Services completed his strategic review in March 2021.
Councillor Birt read with interest on page 18 at section 1.4 of the report that most planned-for emergencies tended to have a geographic dimension; this he very much agreed with, but he wondered if the Council was inching its way towards admitting that it did not have a proper plan in place. This pandemic was a Tier 1 Risk that appeared on every significant emergency plan as the first item and he felt that the Council should be a little more explicit on the things that had not worked well so that improvements could be made in future.
The Leader of the Council disagreed with Councillor Birt’s comments. Breckland Council had within 3 days been able to pivot and organise Place Based Teams across two Councils to ensure that responses could be made at pace in the emergence of the pandemic. Not only were the officers able to work from home but also to support residents and businesses alike whilst ensuring the Executive function continued in accordance with delegations and the Constitution. Hindsight was wonderful and, in due course, the Leader believed that all organisations would reflect on what went well and what did not, so that improvements could be made, and important lessons learnt.
After being duly proposed and seconded, it was:
1. the contents of the report be noted;
2. the extension of the current place-based management arrangements at both Councils, until the conclusion of the strategic review in March 2021 and the preferred option had been approved by both Councils, be supported; and
3. the resignation of Christine Marshall (Executive Director) as Company Director of ARP Trading Ltd and the appointment of Sarah Wolstenholme-Smy as her replacement be agreed.
Report of Councillor Gordon Bambridge, Executive Member for Environmental Services & Public Protection.
Councillor Bambridge, the Executive Member for Environmental Services & Public Protection presented the report.
Section 5 of the Licensing Act 2003 required Breckland Council, as a Licensing Authority, to prepare and publish a statement of its Licensing Policy at least every five years. The current Statement of Licensing Policy came into force on 7 January 2016.
For ease of reference, all the proposed changes to the Policy had been highlighted in yellow (see Appendix A of the report) and Councillor Bambridge drew Members’ attention to a number of these. He thanked Councillor Marion Chapman-Allen, the Chairman of the Licensing Committee, and the Members of the Licensing Committee, for achieving unanimous cross-party support for all the changes and additions to the Statement.
Josie Hoven the Licensing Team Leader was in attendance to answer any questions.
After being proposed and seconded, it was
RESOLVED that in order for Breckland Council, as the Licensing Authority, to discharge its statutory duties under the Licensing Act 20003, the revised Statement of Licensing Policy be approved and adopted.
Report of Councillor Sarah Suggitt, Executive Member for Governance.
Councillor Sarah Suggitt, the Executive Member for Governance presented the report.
The report contained a number of amendments to the Constitution. Several were routine matters to reflect legal requirements.
Councillor Suggitt drew attention to recommendation A of the report, relating to proposed changes to call-in for Non-Key Officer Decisions. She suggested that this should be referred back to the Governance & Audit Committee for further consideration.
Mark Stinson, the Executive Manager for Governance was in attendance to answer any questions.
As Chairman of the Governance & Audit Committee, Councillor Borrett thanked the Executive Member for the Committee to have further opportunity to consider the call-in for non-key officer decisions and seconded the proposal.
a) That the proposed changes to Call-in for Non-Key Officer Decisions be referred back to the Governance & Audit Committee for further consideration.
b) Licensing functions
· That the terms of reference of the Licensing Committee be amended to include reference to the Animal Welfare functions, and to clarify the licensing functions for which it is responsible as shown in Appendix B to the report.
· That the terms of reference of the Licensing Panel be amended to refer specifically to Regulation 2 and Schedule 1 of the Local Authorities (Functions and Responsibilities (England) Regulations 2000 as shown in Appendix B to the report.
· That the Monitoring Officer be authorised to amend the Constitution to include reference to any future additional licensing matters which come under the above terms of reference, subject to a report being submitted to full Council for information, and the Log of Delegation to Officers be amended accordingly;
c) Shareholder/trustee issues – that the list of functions exercised by the Cabinet detailed at Part 3 Section D (Delegations to Committees) of the Constitution be amended as detailed in paragraph 2.17 of the report;
d) Contracts – signing of contracts / entering into contracts as deeds – that Article 13, Standing Order no. 49 and Contract Procedure Rule 22.2 be amended in accordance with Appendix C to the report;
e) Contract Procedure Rules – delegation to vary or waive the Rules – that the Log of Delegations to Officers and Contract Procedure Rule 7.2 be amended as shown in Appendix D to the report;
(f) Vacation of office by failure to attend meetings – that Standing Order no. 56 be amended as shown in Appendix E to the report; and
g) Virements and Grants - that the Financial Procedure Rules contained within the Constitution be amended as shown in Appendix F to the report insofar as they relate to virements and grants.
Nominations for Committee and other Seats (if any) (Agenda item 12)
To receive nominations for any changes to Committee and other seats from political groups.
Amendments to the Constitution (if any) (Agenda item 13)
Councillor Birt advised that he had been having various discussions with the Executive Manager for Governance about updating the Council’s Constitution in line with the Nolan Principles and referred Members to the relevant section of the Constitution. The text that the Council used within its Constitution was out of date as the descriptors relating to the Nolan Principles had been updated in 2013. Councillor Birt felt that this matter should have been addressed after he had notified the Executive Manager for Governance.
The Executive Manager for Governance explained that the Local Government Association (LGA) was currently working on a new draft Model Code of Conduct. The error that Councillor Birt had identified was in the current Code of Conduct, a copy of which was included in the Constitution. In addition, the House of Lords Committee on Standards Public Life had made a number of recommendations to local authorities in respect of their arrangements for investigating Standards complaints. Once the LGA had completed its work on the new Model Code of Conduct, a report would be prepared to cover that and any of the recommendations from the House of Lords Committee which needed to be reflected in the Council’s Standards Arrangements.
The Executive Manager for Governance then reminded Members of the recent link to the consultation paper that had been sent to all Members and which was also on the Members’ page that formed this piece of work.
Councillor Borrett agreed with the comments made by the Executive Manager for Governance and this was a matter of which the Governance & Audit Committee was aware.
The Chairman reminded Members of the Constitutional Working Group that had been formed previously where all Members of that Group had spent many hours together trying to put something together that was fit for purpose and was suitable for Breckland Council going forward. Members were encouraged to contact Councillor Borrett, the Chairman of the Governance & Audit Committee if they had suggestions or comments they wished to make.
Any other items which the Chairman decides are urgent (Agenda item 14)
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.
Closing Remarks by the Chairman of the Council
The Chairman read the following statement:
This Christmas would be very different and difficult for many residents but with the help and support of the health & care workers, key workers, volunteers, scientists, councils and all other agencies, lives had been made a little easier during the pandemic. There was still a long way to go, the vaccination programme would take many months to reach everyone but there was a light at the end of the tunnel and in the words of the great gentleman Captain Sir Tom Moore, we will get through this and come out of it stronger, more united and ready to face any challenge together.
The Chairman asked Members to raise their glasses not only to absent friends but to everyone in the community and beyond who had played a part, however small or great, in keeping the communities going in Breckland.
On behalf of the Council, the Chairman wished everyone a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year and a happier and safer 2021.