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, made the following announcements:
Watton Skate Park
The Leader was sure that a number of Members had been watching the amazing achievements of Sky Brown, the new World Skate-boarding champion at just 14 years of age.
Not only had Sky won the world championships, but she was Great Britain's youngest Olympic medal winner of all time after winning bronze at the Tokyo 2020 Games.
He was therefore delighted to announce that Breckland Council’s latest community investment of £107,000 would fund a new skatepark in Watton that had been warmly received by the community.
This was just the latest investment in the communities made by this Council that would mean a new generation of Breckland skateboarders could enjoy the positive physical, wellbeing and social effects associated with skating and skateboarding, whilst also potentially enabling them to follow in Sky’s footsteps and possibly even bringing back gold to Breckland from a future Olympics!
The Leader acknowledged all the hard work in bringing this project to fruition, including the support of the local Watton Ward Members. He knew that Councillor Kiddell in particular had been very passionate about making this project happen for the community for a number of years and Councillor Wilkinson for his work with Breckland Youth Advisory Board (YAB) who had helped develop this project.
As Member’s were aware, this Council had faced repeated calls for information relating to one of its proposed commercial transactions to be made public, that had been resisted.
Not, as some had regrettably suggested, to stop a full examination of this investment.
Rather, in dealing with this matter appropriately and confidentially, all this Council had sought to do, was to protect the sensitive commercial interests of a third-party business operating in Norfolk.
It was, therefore, unfortunate that a Member of this Council felt it necessary to challenge this stance through the Information Commissioner’s Office.
It was also unfortunate that a significant amount of Officer time and resource had been taken away from the important work of the Council to deal with this matter, and more unfortunate that this Council had incurred over £15,000 in legal costs. Money that could have been better spent elsewhere in further supporting local businesses.
It was regrettable that Breckland Council had found itself in this position, fighting to protect the interests of a local business.
The Leader was pleased to inform Members however, that following a first-tier tribunal in the General Regulatory Chamber, the Council’s stance had been fully scrutinised and found to be correct.
A quote directly from the findings was read aloud, the “tribunal had been persuaded without reservation” that the Council had acted appropriately.
The Leader was pleased that the Council’s stance had been declared sound, and he hoped that this now drew a line beneath this issue, and that it provided residents with reassurance that this Council continued to operate appropriately, as well as providing reassurance to the tenants and organisations with whom this authority worked with.
The Leader was aware that the Chairman had already notified all Members that Breckland Council would be shortly hosting a royal visit to Breckland, and he wanted to take this opportunity to record why he felt that this was such an important occasion for this Council and the district.
When Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal visits the Elm House site in Thetford, she would be able to witness first-hand the difference Breckland Council was making to the lives of its residents.
The £1.8 redevelopment project had seen a disused community building turned into much-needed temporary accommodation for people who were homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless.
The Royal visit, at the end of March would allow Princess Anne to see how this authority’s further investment of £1.2m had seen the terrace of brand-new temporary homes constructed on the same site.
This visit demonstrated once again that Breckland Council was a district council that delivered. It continued to invest in services that makes a real difference to its residents, including those who were at a particularly vulnerable moment in their lives.
The Leader was confident that The Princess Royal would leave Breckland impressed that it was a district that cared.
The strong partnership with Citizens Advice had been further enhanced.
Breckland Council had invested an additional £85,000 per year, on top of the £50,000 already provided annually, that would enable Debt Advisors delivering integrated support from the council offices in Dereham and also in Thetford, working side by side with the Council’s own front-line services.
These expert advisors would help identify debt and welfare issues earlier, providing advice and support, and avoid Breckland residents transitioning into crisis due to their financial situation.
As a Council, it stood side by side with its residents, and on Friday, 24 February 2023, solidarity with Ukraine would be reaffirmed, and with its unwavering support for the people of Ukraine, including those who had fled to the Breckland district from their home country due to the ongoing war.
As a nation, all wanted to send a clear signal of its enduring support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression, and as a mark of respect for the bravery and sacrifice of the Ukrainian people.
Here in Breckland, 143 Ukrainian’s who had fled the aggression, including 54 children, were being helped. The Leader had met many of these Ukrainian guests over the festive period and had heard heart-breaking stories of what had happened to their homeland.
He was immensely proud of the support shown by Breckland Council, local guest sponsors and the wider Breckland community and he thanked everyone for the support and community spirit they had all shown.
Breckland Council would be joining others across the UK in coming together at 11.00 am for a national moment of silence to mark one year since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This occasion would be marked by raising the flag of Ukraine at Elizabeth House and highlighting the anniversary via its own digital channels and all invite ala Members were invited to attend this flag raising event and participate in the moment of silence.
Finally, looking further ahead, the Leader was delighted to share that this Council’s Inspiring Communities programme had been shortlisted in the prestigious LGC Awards 2023.
This was the second time in two years that its innovative £1m programme had been named a finalist in these esteemed national awards, which was a testament to the excellent and innovative support provided locally by this Council.
This year it was running for the Health and Social Care category, recognising the impact of this programme and particularly our its partnerships with the NHS and others to deliver holistic care for Breckland residents.
Health and social care was not traditionally a space that district councils operated in, therefore, to be recognised for the excellent work that this Council had done and the benefits to the NHS on the national stage was a magnificent achievement. The Leader then thanked all the Members and Officers who had gone above and beyond to make this programme such a success. Breckland Council was up against tough opposition, and he asked Members to join him in congratulating the team behind the programme for their achievements to date and to keep their fingers crossed when the winners were announced in June.