Leader's Announcements (Agenda item 5)
To receive a verbal update from Councillor Sam Chapman-Allen, Leader of the Council.
The Leader, Councillor Sam Chapman-Allen echoed his appreciated to Councillor Eagle’s daughter. He also conveyed his appreciation for the Officer’s support in making the arrangements for this Full Council meeting.
The following announcements were then made.
The country was on track to come out of lockdown in less than two weeks. This was a massive milestone for all and testament to how far everyone had come in the fightback against this virus over the last year-and-a-half.
However, the virus was not going to disappear overnight, and complacency was not an option. Whilst everyone took this huge step forward towards near-normal, it did not mean that we should stop being cautious.
The Country was on track to see the rules change on the 19 July, but the Council’s support would continue beyond the easing of restrictions.
Towards the end of June, Breckland Council had successfully released £4m to 1,100 businesses via Breckland’s discretionary grants programme – the full amount allocated to this authority through Central Government’s scheme known as “ARG”.
One final further allocation of resource was anticipated to allow continued exceptional support, particularly through the Council’s ‘Springback’ scheme. Therefore, applications would continue to be accepted to the Council’s Shop Front, Start-Up, Digital and Covid-Safe schemes.
Overall, this meant since the pandemic began Breckland had managed to issue over £50m.
The Council’s Covid Support Officers would continue to have a presence in all the towns in the district over the coming months, to advise businesses, residents and visitors on how to keep ourselves and each other safe.
Covid aside, despite the pressures created by the pandemic – with increased costs and falling income over the last year – the Council ended the last financial year in a good financial position.
This provided the Council with a sound base from which it started this year, and the support to residents and businesses would continue throughout these ongoing challenging times.
This included activity under the new ‘Breckland Cares’ programme. The Council was adapting to its changing role, responsibilities and priorities in the wake of Covid and the Breckland Cares campaign was designed to show the commitment in supporting local people, communities and the environment.
During June, the Leader was pleased to announce that the Council played an active role in promoting Pride – both externally by flying the flag to start that conversation and challenge poor attitudes and promoting the district as an inclusive area for all – and internally, by reviewing policies and processes to ensure they were relevant.
Over the course of the year the main focus would be to include projects and activities that promoted the Armed Forces, Mental Health, Personal Safety, Domestic Violence and Climate Change.
On a similar note, the Council would continue its role as enablers and promoters of positive mental health, and he was delighted that the Council would continue to work with organisations such as YANA to train mental health first aiders who could work within the communities to help people return to – or maintain – positive mental health.
As everyone emerged out of lockdown and looked forward to a bright future, this Council was in a strong position and continued to improve the District, either through the new £1.8m Elm Road housing support centre, the £1m Inspiring Communities Programme, the New Waste Depot in Watton, working with all the Towns and hinterlands to development the plans for the future or investing in areas which residents cared about with Animal Welfare or Fly tipping. The Council would continue to look for opportunities to enhance its communities ensuring that residents and businesses could thrive.
Members were then invited to ask relevant questions.
Councillor Atterwill asked the Leader if he would join him in congratulating the England Football Team that had played very well the previous evening and asked if an England flag would be raised at the offices. As it was rather short notice, the Leader said that he would look in to whether this could be arranged.
Referring to the previous Minutes, Councillor Monument felt that under Minute No. 50/21, the word ‘victims’ should be added to where it stated that, Councillor Lynda Turner, the former Chairman of the Council had championed domestic violence. In response, the Leader advised that the work that the Council and the former Chairman had done with the Daisy Programme. Leeway and Dereham Town Football Club was to raise awareness and start conversations so that any signs of domestic abuse could be spotted.
Councillor Hewett, the Executive Member for Property & Projects informed Members that the Leader had just highlighted and described the £50m that the Council had paid out to local residents and businesses and had been disheartened to note that at the previous meeting one Member had described the Council’s performance as mediocre.
The Leader advised that every Member should be proud of what this Council had achieved throughout this pandemic – it certainly was not mediocre.
Councillor Borrett mentioned the Armed Forces Covenant (AFC) that had been mentioned and felt that the Council should be very proud of the monies that it had given to AFC such vital work that supported families and ex-servicemen and women and had heard nothing but positive statements and thanked Members for their continued support.
The Leader pointed out that the Chairman had very strong links with the armed forces community and was striving to support that further.
Councillor Brindle had listened to the above statements and hoped that thanks were extended to the National Health Service too.
The Leader advised that he had organised a ‘Thank-You’ video that had incorporated the Council’s immense pride in the NHS and reminded Members that most of the Country had turned out week after week in support of all NHS workers.
Councillor Birt revealed that he had made the remark about the Council being mediocre and he still felt it was to a degree as it was mostly about self-congratulations. In his opinion the Council was all too sycophantic and as such any congratulations should be left to people outside of this authority.
The Leader stated it was not about thanking himself or Members, he was thanking the Officers of the Council on behalf of the Council, and he was very thankful for everything that the Officers had done, and he would continue to do so.
The Chairman pointed out that this year was going to be the strangest year for those residents who had been imprisoned in their own homes and he thanked the Leader for allowing him to change the chairmanship to highlight and promote what residents were doing at Full Council meetings such as Councillor Eagle’s daughter.