Agenda and draft minutes

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Items
No. Item

Audio Recording

456.

Introduction

Minutes:

The Mayor explained that the Council meeting would be conducted in accordance with the Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panel (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 No. 392.

 

In welcoming all Members and members of the public, the Mayor explained which Swale Borough Council (SBC) officers were in attendance.

457.

Tribute to Councillor Mark Ellen

Minutes:

The Leader, Councillor Roger Truelove, paid tribute to Councillor Mark Ellen who sadly passed away last week.  He spoke of Councillor Ellen’s concern for the needs of Sheppey, the many glowing tributes received and of his devotion to his daughter Holly.   The Leader said that Councillor Ellen was a very talented drummer who played in the band Vanity Fair, and he described a Birthday party at which Councillor Ellen had played an amazing solo on his drums.  He said that Councillor Ellen was a ‘good socialist, a good bloke and a good Dad’ who had lived a good life.

 

Councillor Mike Baldock said that Councillor Ellen challenged policies he disagreed with and had a passion for the environment and helping those he considered were over-looked.  He spoke of the many warm and positive comments written about Councillor Ellen, particularly on music social media pages and said that the Council had lost a human heart.

 

Councillor Ken Pugh said that Councillor Ellen was a valued and active member of Sheppey Matters and was also a volunteer radio presenter for Sheppey FM.  He said that his radio shows attracted a vast following from around the world and on behalf of Councillor Ellen’s music fans, was thankful for the joy he gave.

 

Councillor Angela Harrison said that Councillor Ellen was active in looking out for his residents and she recounted his time as Chairman of the Environment Scrutiny Committee and his passion for environmental issues. She gave her condolences to Councillor Ellen’s daughter.

 

Other Members also gave their personal experiences of Councillor Ellen, including Councillor Cameron Beart who described how Councillor Ellen had taught him to play the drums at school.

 

The Mayor led the minute’s silence in memory of Councillor Ellen.

458.

Minutes

To approve the Minutes of the Council Meeting held on 6 January 2021 (Minute Nos. 376 - 390) and the Extraordinary Council meetings held on 2 February 2021 (Minute Nos. 433-434 and 435-438) as correct records.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the Council meeting held on 6 January 2021 (Minute Nos. 376-390) and the Extraordinary Council meetings held on 3 February 2021 (Minute Nos. 433-434 and 435-438) were taken as read, approved and signed by the Mayor as correct records.

459.

Declarations of Interest

Councillors should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves or their spouse, civil partner or person with whom they are living with as a spouse or civil partner.  They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.

 

The Mayor will ask Members if they have any interests to declare in respect of items on this agenda, under the following headings:

 

(a)          Disclosable Pecuniary Interests (DPI) under the Localism Act 2011.  The nature as well as the existence of any such interest must be declared.  After declaring a DPI, the Member must leave the meeting and not take part in the discussion or vote.  This applies even if there is provision for public speaking.

 

(b)          Disclosable Non Pecuniary (DNPI) under the Code of Conduct adopted by the Council in May 2012.  The nature as well as the existence of any such interest must be declared.  After declaring a DNPI interest, the Member may stay, speak and vote on the matter.

 

(c)          Where it is possible that a fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts would conclude that there was a real possibility that the Member might be predetermined or biased the Member should declare their predetermination or bias and then leave the meeting while that item is considered.

 

Advice to Members:  If any Councillor has any doubt about the existence or nature of any DPI or DNPI which he/she may have in any item on this agenda, he/she should seek advice from the Monitoring Officer, the Head of Legal or from other Solicitors in Legal Services as early as possible, and in advance of the Meeting.

Minutes:

No interests were declared.

460.

Mayor's Announcements

Minutes:

The Mayor had no announcements.

461.

Leader's Statement

Minutes:

The Leader said that it was nearly a full year since meetings were last held in Swale House when the General Purposes Committee and Cabinet met very briefly during urgent preparations to go into the first lockdown.  He highlighted the human misery the Covid-19 pandemic had caused in Swale, the UK and across the world including:

 

·         Over 100,000 people in the country had died according to the statistical analysis based on 28 days from a positive Covid-19 test;

·         many others had died because of the suspension of other clinical care;

·         widespread phenomenon of ‘long Covid’ with people suffering from persistent symptoms;

·         people had endured severe isolation, cut off from families, isolated in care homes or incarcerated by the needs to shield;

·         businesses in parts of the economy had been decimated;

·         the impact on many people’s livelihoods was evidenced by the growing use of food banks;

·         people of all ages were suffering a mental health crisis;

·         domestic abuse was growing alarmingly;

·         people were enduring frustrating restrictions on lifestyle and the capacity to enjoy life to the full; and

·         children were having their childhood and their opportunities taken from them.

 

The Leader said there was now more cause for hope, with the successful administration of the vaccine programme and the fall in infection rates but hopes had to be tempered with reality.  He said that we could not leap into an overoptimistic abyss, the virus had not retreated, and we would not return to a normal state as before March 2020.

 

The Leader said that the Council had responded admirably to the challenges of the last year and once again thanked senior officers who had taken the lead and all staff who had put in so much extra work.  He extended his thanks to all Members of the Council who had looked out for their communities and the whole Borough during difficult times.  The Leader said that in being actively involved in community support, Councillors had re-enforced the public health message appropriately and as things had begun to get better, had encouraged people to take a more optimistic view.

 

Referring to the first lockdown in the Spring and Summer of last year, the Leader said that the Council moved quickly to take up the targets set by the Government.  Action had included:

 

·         Rough sleepers were placed into safe accommodation;

·         the Community hubs had brought extensive relief to many in the community; and

·         business grants were issued to local businesses with a painfully limited staff resource.

 

The Leader said that the whole of local government, especially district councils, responded well to the extra demands made on them.

 

Referring to the second wave of the virus in late Autumn 2020, the Leader said that Swale had encountered a set of different challenges and as the Borough became the most infected in the country, a robust response had been needed in the face of public and media scrutiny, despite SBC not being either the NHS, nor the local Public Health Authority.  He said that some  ...  view the full minutes text for item 461.

462.

Nominations for Mayor 2021/22 - speeches

Each candidate’s proposer and seconder will be invited to speak for up to three minutes in support of their nomination.

 

If more than one nomination is received for the position, a secret ballot by electronic survey will be taken.

Minutes:

Councillor Mike Baldock nominated Councillor Paul Stephen for the role of Mayor elect for the 2021/22 civic year and gave a supporting speech. The nomination was seconded by Councillor Monique Bonney who also gave a supporting speech.

 

On being put to the vote, the nomination was agreed.

 

Resolved:

 

(1)  That the Mayor elect for the civic year 2021/2022 be Councillor Paul Stephen.

463.

Nominations for Deputy Mayor 2021/22 - speeches

Each candidate’s proposer and seconder will be invited to speak for up to three minutes in support of their nomination.

 

If more than one nomination is received for the position a secret ballot by electronic survey will be taken.

Minutes:

Councillor Roger Truelove nominated Councillor Simon Clark for the role of Deputy Mayor elect for the 2021/22 civic year and gave a supporting speech. The nomination was seconded by Councillor Angela Harrison who also gave a supporting speech.

 

On being put to the vote, the nomination was agreed.

 

Resolved:

 

(1)  That the Deputy Mayor elect for the civic year 2021/2022 be Councillor Simon Clark.

464.

Questions submitted by the Public

To consider any questions submitted by the public.  (The deadline for questions is 4.30 pm on the Wednesday before the meeting – please contact Democratic Services by e-mailing democraticservices@swale.gov.uk or call 01795 417330).

 

 

Minutes:

There were no questions submitted by the public.

465.

Questions submitted by Members

To consider any questions submitted by Members.  (The deadline for questions is 4.30 pm on the Monday the week before the meeting – please contact Democratic Services by e-mailing democraticservices@swale.gov.uk or call 01795 417330).

 

Minutes:

The Mayor advised 3 questions had been received from Members.  Each Member was invited to put his/her question, which was responded to by the relevant Cabinet Member.  The questioner was then invited to ask a supplementary question. 

 

Details of the questions and response are set out below:

 

Question 1- Councillor Steve Davey

 

I would like to ask if the Cabinet member for Housing, if he knows how many houses in Swale, managed by Housing Associations, are currently being sold off, either via agents or by auction, and the reasons that they give for this practice.

 

Response – Cabinet Member for Housing

 

Seven Optivo Housing Association homes have been listed for disposal this year (between August and December 2020), with all homes being sold through public auction sites. This is a legitimate practice as part of the disposal process governed by the Social Housing Regulator and Homes England. Deregulatory measures for social housing regulation (April 2017) introduced by the Housing and Planning Act 2016, changed the classification of Registered Providers (Housing Associations) to “non-public bodies” and as such they are no longer required to secure Homes England or Local Authority approval before selling existing vacant stock.

 

Of the seven properties listed by Optivo for disposal, 1 was in Lynsted (Aug 2020), 1 is in the Faversham Area, 2 in the Sittingbourne Area and 3 on Sheppey.

 

The seven homes put forward as disposals by Optivo were listed as uneconomical to maintain due to major levels of building repairs, refurbishment and SAP (Standard Assessment Procedure for Energy rating) improvement works required to bring the homes up to Optivo’s decent home lettable standard.  Capital receipts generated from local disposals are re-invested into new and more easily maintained homes to meet housing needs of the borough. So far this year the number of new build affordable and social rented homes delivered far outweighs the number taken to auction for disposal, with over 200 new affordable homes delivered so far this civic year. Optivo are currently developing 2 sites in the borough which will deliver 61 affordable rent homes and 27 shared ownership properties, some of these new homes have already been delivered, with other expected throughout the rest of the year. 

 

We have previously partnered with Optivo to look into options of purchasing homes that are being sold for council use, however, the cost to purchase and repair them is outside of our budget.

 

There was no supplementary question.

 

Question 2 – Councillor Lloyd Bowen

 

At the Cabinet meeting held on the 16th December a Southern by-pass was discussed for Teynham. The minutes of the meeting referred to 1100 dwellings at Teynham and included reference that the allocation was not expected to come forward until 2028 due to the proposed Southern bypass at Teynham which would take traffic, including HGV traffic away from the A2.

 

Please could the Cabinet Member outline where this by-pass is being considered, where will it potentially start from and end and advise what the timescales are for building  ...  view the full minutes text for item 465.

466.

Budget and Council Tax for 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 957 KB

Minutes:

The Leader introduced the report by explaining that it had already been agreed by Cabinet on a number of occasions and had been thoroughly examined by the Scrutiny Committee.  He said that the financial planning of the Council had been overwhelmed by the Covid-19 pandemic and he highlighted its impact on Council finances and services as well as on the local communities and local economy.

 

The Leader referred to the impact that Government’s decisions had on Swale, drawing attention to the high level of borrowing to finance the furlough scheme as well as business grants, community hub funding, rough sleeper initiatives, winter grants and support for local government.  He warned of the financial consequences in the future that the high levels of borrowing to fight the disease would have, including mass and repeat vaccinations and he also highlighted the need for additional funding in NHS and mental health care.

 

Referring to the restrictions on entertainment and hospitality, the Leader said he hoped to soon see demand for Swale’s local hospitality and entertainment.

 

The Leader reminded Members that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be introducing his budget on 3 March 2021 and he hoped he would not introduce premature measures to start paying off the debt before the economy had time to grow again.

 

The Leader explained that many local Councils faced the prospect of issuing Section 114 Notices, but SBC were not in that position and had managed its way through the current financial year through good management and financial backing.  He referred to the estimated £4million gap (approx. 20% on top of SBC’s budget) had said that approximately the same amount of Government funding had been received. 

 

Turning to the 2021/22 budget, the Leader said that Government had provided over 50% more than the £1m anticipated, and the call on reserves was therefore smaller than predicated, at £662k.  He stressed that the use of reserves was not a long-term solution, but the current situation was extraordinary and the only alternative would be serious staff reductions or a freeze on staff pay, neither of which were palatable.  The Leader said that a 2% pay award for staff had instead been agreed, as indicated in the Medium-Term Financial Plan, at a cost of £263k.  He said that staff reductions or a pay freeze would have been a poor way of acknowledging the outstanding contribution staff had made in the current crisis.

 

The Leader warned that whilst, with support from Government, a balanced budget could be presented, further future challenges might emerge for Local Government which would need monitoring by Government.  He said whilst Government had met a large share of the costs of the Covid-19 pandemic, core funding over the last decade had not kept pace with demand and need, and Government needed to consider the role of local government, the capacity for devolution and the role of districts in local economic growth.  He said transparency on the future funding of Councils, whilst understandably delayed, was needed in the near  ...  view the full minutes text for item 466.

467.

Treasury Management Strategy 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 318 KB

Minutes:

The Leader introduced the report which set out and sought approval of the Treasury Management Strategy 2020/21 and the Prudential and Treasury Management Indicators.  He said that it was an economic cycle of low borrowing costs and low returns on deposits, and borrowing costs from the Public Works Loan Board were now more attractive and would be utilised in the future. 

 

Once again, the Leader repeated that the Council had not invested in speculative property investments, but the previous administration had invested in the Sittingbourne Town Centre Regeneration scheme and future investment included the Swale Rainbow Housing Company, which he hoped would benefit the lives of the residents of Swale.  He said that the Council held significant invested funds made up of income received in advance of expenditure plus balances and reserves and given the low return, the Council mainly used the money market fund for short-term investment. 

 

The Leader proposed the recommendation which was seconded by the Deputy Cabinet Member for Finance.

 

The Leader of the opposition gave his support to the Treasury Management Strategy 2021/22 and the Prudential and Treasury Management Indicators.  He praised the work of the Chief Financial Officer, Financial Services Manager, and the Finance Team.

 

A Member expressed her concern over future negative interest rates and drew attention to paragraphs 2.16 and 2.17 on page 57 of the report which outlined the possible impact of this.  She said this should be monitored carefully.

 

Resolved: 

 

(1)  That the Treasury Management Strategy 2021/22 and the Prudential and Treasury Management Indicators be approved.

468.

Pay Policy Report pdf icon PDF 92 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

In introducing the report, the Leader drew attention to the key changes in the annual document which were in relation to the Chief Executive’s salary which was reviewed in July 2020.  Based on the review, the salary was reduced in line with  Chief Executive salaries at other similar sized local authorities.

 

The Leader was pleased to draw attention to the pay increase of 2% to all staff.  He referred to the other payments at paragraph 3.5 of the report and said they had also been updated.

 

The Leader highlighted Appendix 1 (H) on page 99 of the report which set out the salary details of senior employees at the Council whose salary was in excess of £50k per year.  He reiterated that the staff were the Council’s key asset and was pleased to advise Members that SBC continued to pay the Real Living Wage in line with the policy agreed in 2019.  He proposed the recommendations which were seconded by the Deputy Cabinet for Finance who reserved his right to speak.

 

The Leader of the opposition extended his thanks to Head of HR Shared Service and her team and spoke in support of the Pay Policy.

 

The Deputy Cabinet Member for Finance thanked all staff for their hard work.

 

Resolved:

 

(1)  That the proposed Pay Policy Statement be agreed for publication on the Council’s website.

 

(2)  That the information within the Pay Policy Statement is updated with actual year-end figures before final publication.

469.

Election of Mayor and Deputy Mayor Elect 2021/22

Minutes:

The Mayor advised that as only one nomination was received for Mayor Elect 2021/22 and for Deputy Mayor Elect 2021/22, it was not necessary to hold the secret ballot and the vote had taken place.

470.

Timetable of Meetings pdf icon PDF 79 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Leader introduced the report, highlighting the addition of quarterly Cabinet Advisory Committees from July 2021. He proposed the recommendation.

 

In seconding the recommendation, the Leader of the opposition spoke in support of the structured Timetable of Meetings 2021/22.

 

A Member asked for further consideration to be given to the alignment of Cabinet meetings with Scrutiny Committee meetings in order to consider more up to date Financial Management reports.  The Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee advised that he had spoken to the Chief Finance Officer and was confident that the Scrutiny Committee could discuss financial information at the most appropriate time.

 

The Leader said that he hoped the implementation of the Cabinet Advisory Committees would provide for closer examination of the financial reports.

 

Resolved:

 

(1)  That the programme of meetings set out in Appendix I to the report be agreed.

471.

Updated Cabinet Portfolios pdf icon PDF 79 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Leader introduced the report which provided a summary of an updated list of Cabinet portfolio responsibilities following some recent changes.  He made a correction to the title of Community and Public Realm portfolio in the document, to Community portfolio.  He proposed the recommendations which were seconded by the Deputy Leader.

 

Resolved:

 

(1)  That the updated Cabinet portfolio responsibilities set out at Appendix I be noted.

 

(2)  That the Scheme of Delegations set out in Part 3 of the Constitution remains otherwise unchanged be noted.

472.

Recommendations for Approval pdf icon PDF 46 KB

Council is asked to note the recommendations from the following meetings:

 

Cabinet meeting held on 10 February 2021 (Minute Nos. 447 and 448) which are the subject of separate reports on the agenda.

Minutes:

Resolved:

 

(1)  That the recommendations in Minute Nos. 447 and 448 from the Cabinet meeting held on 10 February 2021 be noted.

473.

URGENT ITEM - Local Plan review: extension of consultation period pdf icon PDF 76 KB

Urgent item added 19.2.21

Minutes:

The Cabinet Member for Planning introduced the report which sought to extend the Regulation 19 consultation period of the Local Plan Review to 30 April 2021.  He said he wanted as many residents as possible and other interested parties to engage with the consultation and make their views known.  The Cabinet Member for Planning explained the impact that the current Covid-19 pandemic had in reducing consultation meetings and access to public buildings to view the consultation documents, but said that all information was on-line, hard copies were available, and virtual meetings with Parish Councils were taking place.

 

The Cabinet Member for Planning said that he had always hoped for a longer consultation period but was advised that this should not extend too far into the pre-election period.  After seeking further legal advice, and working with other Councils, he considered the risk of extending into the pre-election period was appropriate.  The Cabinet Member for Planning said the consultation could not wait until after the elections in May 2021 as the final Local Plan submission had to be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate in August 2021, to hold the Examination in Public (EiP) before the current plan expired in Spring 2022.  He said that whilst running the consultation in the pre-election period had to remain non-party political to avoid any conflict, an extension to the consultation would enable more people to respond to the Regulation 19 consultation. He proposed the recommendation. 

 

In seconding the recommendation, the Deputy Cabinet Member for Planning reserved his right to speak.

 

The Leader said the administration wanted to moved forward, and there was a serious risk of unwanted and evasive planning applications if there was any further delay in holding the consultation.  He said the uncertainty around the elections taking place in May 2021 had caused difficulties and there was a danger that the consultation would be used as a campaigning tool which he warned against.  The Leader said that given the degree of public concern and the current restrictions because of the Covid-19 pandemic, he supported the extension of the consultation for public.

 

The Leader of the opposition said that the urgency of the report and proposed extension was of the Council’s making as it had not planned properly.  He compared the process with another Kent authority who agreed to a Regulation 19 consultation and whose anticipated submission for their plan was a month before SBC’s deadline.  The Leader of the opposition said that the administration had ignored opposition Members who had warned against missing out the Regulation B step of the consultation.  He said that whilst the extension of the consultation would be supported, it did not go far enough, and he proposed the following additional recommendation which was seconded by Councillor Roger Clark:

 

That this Council requires the Cabinet Member for Planning to bring the outcome of the consultation to Full Council for consideration by Members on completion of the analysis.

 

In the debate that followed Members raised points including:

 

·         should have listened earlier  ...  view the full minutes text for item 473.

474.

Adjournment

Minutes:

The meeting was adjourned at 20:57 and reconvened at 21:03 and at 21:58 and reconvened at 22:08.

475.

Extension of Standing Orders

Minutes:

At 10pm and 10.30pm Members agreed to the suspension of Standing Orders in order that Council could complete its business.