Venue: The Breckland Conference Centre, Anglia Room, Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham, NR19 1EE
Contact: Democratic Services Tel: 01362 656870
Apologies (Agenda item 1)
To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Birt, Brindle, Bushell, Sam Chapman-Allen, Clarke, Colman, Crane, Dowling, Duffield, Eagle, Grey, James, Kiddell, Nunn, Sherwood, Turner, Wickerson and Wilkin.
To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 1 September 2022.
The Minutes of the meeting held on 1 September 2022 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
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.
Councillor Cowen, the Executive Member for Finance, Revenue & Benefits, declared a prejudicial interest in Agenda item 11 due to him being a Director of the Breckland Bridge Board and would vacate the room whilst this matter was discussed.
On behalf of the Chairman, Ashely Bunn, a representative from MIND Norfolk & Waveney, will be in attendance to highlight the important work of this charity.
MIND was an important part of the Council’s Inspiring Communities programme and was one of the Chairman’s chosen charities. Unfortunately, Ashley Bunn from MIND was unable to attend this meeting to talk about this worthy charity but instead a short video was shared with Members highlighting how MIND was working in partnership with the Council and the wider work of ‘Inspiring Communities’
The Chairman would be holding fundraising eventsthroughout the year, including walking the Pingo trail on Saturday 15 October and Members were encouraged to join him to help raise funds for these wonderful charities. The walk would start at 10am, meeting in the car park off the main A1075, which was the starting point of the Pingo trail and if any Members wished to join him, all the details had already been sent to Members via email that included a map showing the starting reference and the route that the walk would take them. As parking was restricted, Members were asked to contact Teresa Smith, the Democratic Services Team Leader if they wished to attend so that numbers could be monitored and if needed a different parking location would be provided. To locate the starting point and the car park, Members were encouraged to use ‘what3words’ - ‘wearyendingtweet’ or refer to the email that was sent to them on 30 September 2022 which also included the two ‘Just Giving’ pages that had been created, one for each charity, should Members’ wish to leave a donation.
The Chairman hoped that Members would be able to join him on the day and the weather would be kind.
The Chairman also thanked Councillor Stuart Terry, the Assistant Manager of the Thetford Town Ladies Football Team, for the club’s first appearance in the Vitality Women’s FA Cup. The match was played against Kings Lynn Town Ladies FC on Sunday, 2 October 2022, and although it was a great game, unfortunately, Thetford lost but at the end of the match the Chairman was presented with a plaque which would be proudly displayed in the Breckland Council office.
The Chairman was pleased to inform Members that, Democratic Services Officer, Julie Britton, had been with the Council for 25 years and he thanked her for her long service.
Leader's Announcements (Agenda item 5)
To receive a verbal update from Councillor Sam Chapman-Allen, Leader of the Council.
Councillor Paul Claussen, the Deputy Leader provided Members with the following announcements on behalf of Councillor Sam Chapman-Allen, the Leader of the Council who had sent his apologies.
Cost of Living
The cost of living was rising across the country and in Breckland many households would now be worried about their circumstances.
Breckland Council continued to put its residents first and through programmes such as its £1m Inspiring Communities initiative, this Council was funding projects that helped people to access low-cost food, financial help, and professional services to improve their wellbeing.
For example, to help people access affordable food, Members were aware that this Council had funded The Burrell Supermarket in Thetford and more recently launched the Breckland Mobile Food Store. These projects were now providing low-cost food options and other support to thousands of residents up and down the district and work continued with Norfolk Community Foundation to launch new food hubs in other areas too.
The Deputy Leader was pleased to inform Members that the third-round allocation of the Household Support Fund would see Breckland receive over £126,000 from central government. This would mean it could support more people in financial hardship this winter and was in addition to the £340,000 in household support funding that had already been distributed this year.
Further to this, this Council had distributed over £200,000 in discretionary council tax funding to vulnerable households, with a further £49,000 set to be distributed by the end of November. £12,000 had also been released to help residents who were studying for qualifications in subjects that could enhance Breckland communities in the future, helping to provide them and this district with a bright future.
Breckland Council was aware of the importance of getting help to the people who needed it as quickly as possible and therefore the Deputy Leader was pleased to announce that Breckland Council was amongst the very first councils in the entire country to distribute national support to local people. This included the Council Tax Energy rebates, which were paid into everybody’s accounts before the end of June and provided around £8m in funding to local people.
In addition to financial aid, this Council continued to build on its partnerships to evolve the range of support available locally, including the social prescribing service that provided holistic care to people struggling with their welfare. It had been recognised that concerns around the rising cost of living could well be putting more pressure on people and their households, which was why it remained so important that Breckland Council had a well-established and successful partnership with Norfolk and Waveney Mind and other mental health organisations, ensuring quality and accessible mental health support and advice was on hand for people during these challenging times.
There was an overview of the key support that was on hand for residents on the website and Members were encouraged to signpost any residents in their Wards to take a look and get in touch if they were in need of help. ... view the full minutes text for item 103/22
The questions on notice including the responses had been published prior to the meeting. No further questions could be asked under this item.
Questions without Notice under Standing Order No 7 (Agenda item 7)
Councillor Jermy directed his question to the Deputy Leader, Councillor Claussen.
Councillor Jermy was aware that there was a whole range of environmental organisations and charities that had raised concerns about the Government’s proposals for investment zones, including the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) which he was very proud to have based in his Ward but one of the proposals was to minimise the burden of environmental assessments and he asked if the Deputy Leader could confirm which assessments the Government deemed unnecessary and were the likes of the BTO in the District right to be concerned about the Governments approach to the environment.
The Deputy Leader stated that unfortunately, no-one had the answer to that specific question at this time but having just returned from the Conservative conference such matters were absolutely in the forefront of everyone’s minds. The number of stands at the conference that had been dedicated to environmental issues had been overwhelming and as Members would have heard from the Leader at the recent Cabinet meeting there were still many misunderstandings in respect of the Government’s proposals.
Councillor Atterwill thanked the Deputy Leader for the update on the Gold Award and as someone who represented a military village, he was very pleased and congratulated everyone involved. In Councillor Sherwood’s absence, he directed his question to the Deputy Leader. He had noticed that there had been a great deal of coverage in the local press about the avian flu outbreak and asked if the Deputy Leader could provide an update on the work this Council was doing with other agencies to help minimise its impact and raise awareness across Breckland and support any effected businesses.
The Deputy Leader directed the question to Sarah Shipley, the Assistant Director for Environment; however, Rob Walker, the Monitoring Officer, pointed out that according to the Council’s Constitution, the responses must be provided by the Cabinet or Leader not by an Officer and therefore, the response to Councillor Atterwill’s question would be provided in writing.
Councillor Morton asked Councillor Cowen, the Executive Member for Finance, Revenue & Benefits what the effect of high inflation was on the salary budget and why the increment had been set at 2%.
In response, Members were informed that at the time the budget had been set inflation rates and all the various indicators that the Council used had been fairly consistent but now inflation was running much higher than originally anticipated. The Executive Member of Finance, Revenue & Benefits advised that the budget for next year was now being put together and as a consequence such an impact would be taken into account but in respect of any pay negotiations, he asked Councillor Morton if he would not mind waiting until he had more accurate information which he would then provide to him in writing in due course.
At the last Cabinet meeting the Qtr1 financial report was presented, and Councillor Borrett asked if Councillor Cowen agreed, given the current world situation, if that had been a remarkably ... view the full minutes text for item 105/22
Motion Received under Standing Order No. 8 (Agenda item 8)
NOTICE OF MOTION: Proposed by Cllr Atterwill and seconded by Cllr Land
PROMOTING CREDIT UNIONS
Breckland Council notes that:
The rising cost of living crisis is causing genuine problems for people with their finances. There is anecdotal evidence of an increase in loan shark and pay day lender activity across the Breckland district with residents being forced into credit options at significantly high levels of interest. Often residents become unable to make the repayments and are pushed into a spiral of debt. Conversely, the level of credit union engagement in the district is low.
The long-term solution to the problem must be to increase wages and control the cost of living so that people are not forced into their arms, but in the short-term more needs to be done to give residents information about other ways to access alternative credit options.
This Council believes that credit unions offer a sustainable alternative to high-cost short-term credit and should be supported by this council.
This Council therefore resolves:
1. To promote local credit unions through the Council’s communication channels including the website, social media and Transforming Breckland magazine.
2. To promote the benefits of credit unions directly to residents accessing Council support services such as the Early Intervention Fund, Discretionary Housing Payments etc.
3. To provide training and information to ensure that all staff and partners are fully briefed on the benefits of credit unions and encourage use of a credit union by staff whether they be employed directly by the Council or not.
4. To block access to payday loan websites through council-controlled IT systems and display information about local debt counselling services and local contacts for credit unions.
5. To request that officers develop opportunities to increase the availability and access to credit unions through Council owned properties and the Mobile Food Bus.
6. To allocate £10,000 from the new Household Support Fund money in the current financial year to promote and access to credit unions within the Breckland District – funding to support credit unions to expand their reach within the District, support publicity costs and undertake any necessary actions that would increase the take up of credit union services by Breckland residents e.g., supporting sign up costs etc.
Councillor Atterwill the proposer of the Motion which had been seconded by Councillor Land was asked to explain the reasoning behind his Motion.
Councillor Atterwill explained that Credit Unions were financial co-operatives owned and ran by their members with a self-help ethos that enabled members to save and borrow money to suit their own personal budgets and circumstances. Credit Unions offered straight forward saving accounts and loans to their members. Membership costs as little as £2.00 per year and included life insurance and loan protection. All members aged 18 and over were able to vote at the annual meeting on policy and other Credit Union matters and stand for election to any of the officer posts and receive an annual dividend payment. Credit Unions were regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority the Prudential Regulation Authority and belonged to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme that meant members’ savings up to £85,000 were safe. Credit Unions encouraged people from all backgrounds and ages to save their money and the various services that they provided were explained.
In this time of financial need Councillor Atterwill felt that it was important to provide people with the tools to help themselves. Managing personal finances was not taught in schools but was an important life skill and the cost-of-living crisis could very well leave some individuals and families vulnerable to unscrupulous loan shark practices and payday loans with crippling interest payments. Membership of a Credit Union offered a safe and secure alternative. Currently there were very few Credit Unions located in Norfolk and none that he was aware of in Breckland. With the closure of mainstream bank branches and post offices in some rural towns and villages, this Council needed to encourage alternatives. Breckland Council had the IT resources and an outstanding and innovative Inspiring Communities Team who he believed could rise to this challenge. He hoped that Members would support this Motion and in advance of this meeting he had submitted this Motion to the Director responsible for Inspiring Communities and had also had a conversation with the Cabinet Member too.
Councillor Land seconded this Motion.
Councillor Webb, the Executive Member for Health & Communities thanked Councillor Atterwill for taking the time and trouble to talk to her before the meeting. She explained to Members that she had carried out some research herself and had found that the Council was already doing a great deal in respect of such matters and already worked with Citizen’s Advice and Britain against Poverty together with a lot of work supporting vulnerable people.
Councillor Webb then proposed that this matter be forwarded to the Overview & Scrutiny Commission to discuss and make recommendations on all these important issues that Councillor Atterwill had raised, to ensure that this Motion was debated in full.
Councillor Kiddle-Morris seconded the proposal.
The Monitoring Officer advised that now that the amended Motion had been proposed and seconded, the amendment required consideration.
Councillor Jermy did not believe that this was an amendment as it was simply referring ... view the full minutes text for item 106/22
Minutes (for information only) (Agenda item 9)
To note the following Minutes:
Councillor Atterwill said that at the Planning Committee meeting on 6 September, he had asked Simon Wood, the Director of Planning & Building Control a question about the changes in the timetable for the production of the Local Plan review and had been advised that he would be provided with a response in due course but as yet, a response had not been received. Since then another revised timetable had been produced without any scrutiny by Councillors and given this was a subject that affected all Wards, he asked Councillor Suggitt, the Executive Member for Strategic & Operational Planning, if she would provide an undertaking and provide all Councillors with at least a written brief to update Members with the changes to the timetable and an update on the financial resources.
Councillor Suggitt agreed that an update would be provided.
The Minutes of the Overview & Scrutiny Commission meeting held on 8 September 2022 were noted.
Members are asked to note that the recommendations under Minute Nos 82/22 and 83/22 will be discussed under Agenda items 10 and 11 below.
The Minutes of the Cabinet meeting held on 26 September 2022 were noted.
Report of Councillor Alison Webb, Executive Member for Health & Communities.
Councillor Webb, the Executive Member for Health & Communities presented the report.
These were exciting new plans for Attleborough and would provide enhanced leisure provision for the town which would encourage major investment for the benefit of local residents. As a Council, it was committed to support residents’ health and wellbeing across Breckland and this upgraded sports centre improvements would put fitness and leisure on the high street and would make a difference. As Members were already aware, the site currently comprises a sports hall and some basic gym equipment. The expansion would redevelop the gym and equipment levels and fitness classes would be able to be held on site. The requirements for this new leisure provision were driven by demand data, considering current levels and an element of future growth. The project costs were expected to cost approximately £2.6m utilising S106 monies together with £650k from the Council’s Reserves. Additionally, the Council was requesting £200k from the Inclusive Growth Reserve for district wide sports provisions which could possibly enhance the 3G football pitch element of the project.
This proposal had already been considered at the recent Cabinet meeting where it was unanimously agreed to endorse this project.
All recommendations were then read aloud.
Rob Walker, the Monitoring Officer then explained that Members were only being asked to consider the recommendations to Full Council (recommendations 3 to 6), the first two recommendations had already been approved by Cabinet.
The recommendations were seconded by Councillor Bambridge, the Executive Member for Housing and Homelessness.
Councillor Martin, a Ward Member for Attleborough hoped that the necessary funding could be released as he felt that this had been a long while coming and the town deserved better leisure facilities. He had been disappointed with the lack of assistance from the Town Council and asked for more information on the 3G artificial grass pitch project.
Members were informed that Officers were still liaising with the Town Council as the 3G pitch was not in the scope of this project but could develop into a further project phase.
Councillor Dale, also a Ward Member for Attleborough but as a resident of the town she felt this was a superb opportunity not just for Attleborough but for the hinterlands too and would help increase footfall in the town. The history of the present sports hall was highlighted, and she wanted some reassurance that these facilities would be available for residents during the day and not just for schools.
Members were assured that residents and visitors would be able to access the facilities as there would be schedules in place and there was no reason not to work alongside schools.
Councillor Bambridge had been pleased to support these recommendations at the Cabinet meeting. He had spent a great deal of his time in Attleborough and felt that it was a growing, vibrant town and the work that Breckland Council was doing in getting this sports centre moving was to be applauded.
Councillor Oliver, another Ward Member for Attleborough also ... view the full minutes text for item 108/22
Report of Councillor Paul Hewett, Executive Member for Property, Projects & Procurement.
Councillor Cowen left the room whilst this item was being discussed.
Councillor Hewett, the Executive Member for Property, Projects & Procurement was delighted to introduce the report but as also identified at the Cabinet meeting not every element of the Breckland Bridge Business report had been included but those appendices had been provided to those Members who requested them. In his absence at that Cabinet meeting quite a lengthy introduction had been provided in respect of this report and there had been some good discussion points raised including environmental aspects as well as some excellent conversations around the quality of the homes that the partners continued to develop including the high level of consultation that Breckland Bridge undertakes as part of its day-to-day business.
He then referred to a couple of onerous comments that had been made at the time in the local press – this was a Business Plan and the Business Plan for Breckland Bridge tried to extract as much value out of all land, small and large and assured Members that not all the land/assets in this Business Plan were earmarked for disposal, what the Plan identified was, should land come up for disposal, it showed what the next step would be in the process and as the Cabinet Minutes demonstrated, property and land that the Council owned helped local communities meet other objectives and would continue to ensure that local needs were addressed whenever any land suitable for disposal was considered. Councillor Hewett looked forward to Members approving these recommendations that he then read aloud.
Councillor Borrett seconded the proposal.
Councillor Jermy had been very pleased regarding the points that had been picked up at Cabinet, as it was absolutely crucial to build good standard eco-friendly homes as well as a mixture of housing types. However, he had been looking through the list of some of the sites in Thetford which in his opinion were not at all suitable and as a Ward Member for Thetford, he felt that there were not enough safeguards in place and would therefore be voting against the recommendations.
Councillor Hewett said that it was a shame as he agreed with everything that Councillor Jermy had said but a standard of build did have to be set and dictate what good practice should look like. Value should be measured but not just in financial terms as Breckland Bridge had been designed to extract financial value for the district but also as a community value. It was noted that consultation would not start until the Business Plan had been agreed.
Referring to consultation, Councillor Jermy pointed out that there was already a Breckland Bridge planning application going to Planning Committee that Members had not been aware of.
Members were informed that, that particular site had been identified over 2 years ago so Members should have seen sight of it.
Councillor Morton still had concerns that the environmental issues had not been considered thoroughly such as heat pumps being installed instead of being reliant ... view the full minutes text for item 109/22
Report of Councillor Gordon Bambridge, Executive Member for Housing & Homelessness.
Councillor Bambridge, the Executive Member for Housing & Homelessness said that it gave him great pleasure to present this report to Members to purchase properties for use as temporary accommodation for homeless households.
The recommendations were read aloud and were seconded by Councillor Webb, the Executive Member for Health & Communities.
Councillor Kybird understood that by Breckland owning the property it could access a higher level of government funding.
Councillor Bambridge stated that he thought that by owning the properties that this was the case but would have to check and there were officers in the room who could provide Councillor Kybird with an answer to that question.
Rob Walker, the Monitoring Officer explained that if the Council owned the property as compared to the nightly privately paid arrangements, it was not funding in a sense but was access to housing subsidy and benefit rebate.
Councillor Jermy very much supported this as the principle of this formed part of the Opposition Groups budget amendment. The Council could have saved a great deal of money if it had happened when the amendment had been put forward a few years ago. He highlighted the many issues in Breckland which thankfully were not as serious as other Districts and provided details of another form of assistance for single homeless people called spareroom.co.uk. He asked Councillor Bambridge if there was any on-going support provided for these people who would be residing in these properties.
Members were informed that it would depend on the individual circumstances, but he would provide a response via email after the meeting.
Councillor Borrett felt that this Council was very lucky to be able to spend millions of pounds on this project unlike other councils that did not have the finances or the resources and all this was the result of the monies made by the Council’s commercial portfolio. He endorsed the recommendations and hoped that it received unanimous support.
Councillor Atterwill said that he was aware of the conversations that were being had about homes being released on the Robertsons Barracks site and felt that it would be good for this Council to purchase some of these properties and asked if this could be funded through existing reserves.
Councillor Bambridge said that he could not possibly comment as it was beyond his remit.
Following a unanimous vote for approval, it was:
Nominations for Committee and other Seats (Agenda item 13)
To receive nominations for any changes to Committee and other seats from political groups.
Licensing Committee/Committee of the Licensing Authority
RESOLVED that Councillor Taylor be appointed to the Licensing Committee and Committee of the Licensing Authority and Councillor Colman be removed.
Norfolk Rivers Internal Drainage Board
RESOLVED that Councillor Borrett be removed as substitute and appointed as a shared Member of the Norfolk Rivers Internal Drainage Board.
Amendments to the Constitution (if any) (Agenda item 14)
Councillor Atterwill felt that some parts of the Constitution should be reviewed as it was somewhat clunky and was definitely not user friendly.
The Monitoring Officer explained the rules in respect of Standing Order No. 7 and further explained that it was only during ‘questions without notice’ where officers were not permitted to comment.
Councillor Atterwill said that was exactly his point, it was not user friendly.
Councillor Borrett suggested that Councillor Atterwill put something in writing to the Governance & Audit Committee for consideration.
An alternative was then suggested which was not supported.
Any other items which the Chairman decides are urgent (Agenda item 15)
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.