Agenda item

Leader's Announcements (Agenda item 5)

To receive a verbal update from Councillor Nunn, Leader of the Council.

 

Minutes:

The Leader reported on the following matters:

 

·         The Strategic Economic Plan for Norfolk had been announced and released.  The Council recognised that it needed more engagement with its businesses and its Business Forums and the Deputy Leader and the Chief Executive had already been tasked to meet with the largest companies in the District to realise their concerns.  This had already flagged up issues such as recruitment retention and the lack of support in relation to skills and apprenticeships.  At some point in the future, a Business Forum would be arranged where those businesses could attend and facilitate that discussion and the implications of Brexit. 

 

·         The East Harling Incident -   The Leader and the Senior Investigating Officers had been very impressed by the help and assistance provided by Riana Rudland, Sarah Simpson and Matt Barnard in what had been a very difficult time.    Members applauded the Officers concerned.

 

·         Market Town Initiative – work was already underway.  Included on the Council agenda was the extension to the discretionary rate relief pilot scheme which, if approved, would be rolled out to all market towns. 

 

A meeting had been held with Attleborough and Swaffham Town Councils with a view to resolving the towns’ car parking issues. 

 

Work had already started with Thetford Town Council in relation to a major Heritage Lottery Bid which hopefully would be successful.

 

In Watton, some work on targeted ‘hot spots’ intervention work by Breckland Council’s Environmental Services and Communities Team was underway.

 

Grant funding had been awarded to Wayland Partnership for a two year project on tourism. 

 

Breckland Council was supporting its market towns and would be working in partnership with each of them thus making any funding available go further.

 

·         Budget preparation – the Officers had been tasked to take £1.8m out of the budget.

The Leader felt that the New Homes Bonus should not all be used as core funding for the Council but should be given back to the communities that had agreed to take the additional housing in their areas.  The numbers would be reported back to O&SC and then onto Full Council in due course.

 

Councillor Duigan referred to the Strategic Economic Plan for Norfolk – he had seen sight of the draft and had felt that it was very weak in respect of the Breckland area particularly in relation to what the Council was trying to do for the market towns.  He also felt that it was very weak in terms of future improvements to the A47.  Dereham had not been mentioned in the document and he felt that the town should be considered as a strategic site for industry and he hoped that in any future conversations that more focus would be given to Breckland’s priorities as it should not all be about the A11.  In response, the Leader explained that it was quite difficult to deal with any Plan that involved every Council across Norfolk; however, the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) was the main driver of this project and a report would be presented to Cabinet in October where all Members would have the opportunity to voice their concerns and have some input into the Plan.

 

Councillor Clarke had been very pleased with the Cabinet’s recommendation to Council in relation to the approval of the business rates scheme but raised concern about high rents in the area and asked if the Council had any influence with the Landlords.  In response, the Leader explained that many properties in the District were owned by national companies/landlords and were held for capital gain and was unsure what influence the Council would have.

 

Councillor Wassell referred to the budget and suggested that rather than tinkering around the edges with the current budget the Council, although a much longer process, should adopt a zero budget and start again.  The Leader advised that he had asked Officers to provide the Cabinet with exactly that.  The Executive Members had met and had been through the items rather than the budgetary lines to understand what the implications would be and the complications with discretionary and statutory services.  Conversations were still on-going.

 

Councillor Jermy said that he was being given a ‘hard time’ by the Residents Association in Thetford in relation to the empty units on Riverside.  Councillor Stasiak pointed out that he had received written questions from Councillor Jermy and the responses had been included later on in the agenda.

 

Referring to the budget again, Councillor Wassell mentioned that the Opposition could have input into the agenda and actually put together their own budget.  The Leader said that he would be very happy with that.