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Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Council Chamber - Swale House. View directions

Contact: Democratic Services, 01795 417330  Democratic Services Officer

Items
No. Item

212.

Prayers

Minutes:

The Mayor’s Chaplain said Prayers.

213.

Emergency Evacuation Procedure

The Mayor will advise the meeting of the evacuation procedures to follow in the event of an emergency. This is particularly important for visitors and members of the public who will be unfamiliar with the building and procedures.

 

The Mayor will inform the meeting whether there is a planned evacuation drill due to take place, what the alarm sounds like (i.e. ringing bells), where the closest emergency exit route is, and where the second closest emergency exit route is, in the event that the closest exit or route is blocked.

 

The Mayor will inform the meeting that:

 

(a) in the event of the alarm sounding, everybody must leave the building via the nearest safe available exit and gather at the Assembly points at the far side of the Car Park.  Nobody must leave the assembly point until everybody can be accounted for and nobody must return to the building until the Mayor has informed them that it is safe to do so; and

 

(b) the lifts must not be used in the event of an evacuation.

 

Any officers present at the meeting will aid with the evacuation.

 

It is important that the Mayor is informed of any person attending who is disabled or unable to use the stairs, so that suitable arrangements may be made in the event of an emergency.

 

 

 

Minutes:

The Mayor outlined the emergency evacuation procedure.

214.

Minutes

To approve the Minutes of the Meeting held on 24 July 2019 (Minute Nos. 151 - 161) as a correct record.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the Meeting held on 24 July 2019 (Minute Nos. 151 – 161) were taken as read, approved and signed by the Mayor as a correct record, subject to the following amendment to Minute No. 157 – Question 11 – Supplementary Question and Response: “In response to a comment, the Cabinet Member concurred with the Member that there was too much fake news in Faversham.”

 

 

215.

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 Chairman 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 room 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.

216.

Mayor's Announcements

Minutes:

The Mayor advised that since the last Council meeting, the Mayor or Deputy Mayor had represented the Council at 15 functions, none of which were out-of-Borough charity events.  Whilst requests for attendance had reduced during the holiday season, this would increase considerably on the run-up to Christmas.

 

The Mayor drew attention to Remembrance Services on Sunday 10 November 2019, and advised that where possible Members would be asked to represent the Mayor, and to lay a wreath, at services within their own wards but this was not always possible.

 

The Mayor announced that a Civic Christmas Church Service would be held on Saturday 21 December 2019 at 6.30pm, and further details would follow in due course.

217.

Questions submitted by the Public pdf icon PDF 49 KB

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).

 

Questions published Friday 6 September 2019.

 

 

Minutes:

The Mayor advised that three questions had been received.  Mr Palmer and Mr Greenhill were not present at the meeting, and so the Mayor advised that the question and answer would be included in the Minutes.

 

Mr Randall was present at the meeting and was invited to ask his question and to ask a supplementary question.

 

The question and response to each question are set out below:

 

Question 1 – Mr Stephen Palmer

 

In the planning application for Spirit of Sittingbourne there was a condition to employ in both its construction and operation to employ 80% of its workforce from Kent, of which 30% from Swale.

 

Can the council provide what the figures actually are for those that have permanent residences in Kent and Swale as opposed to transit workers in temporary accommodation?

 

Response to Question 1 – Cabinet Member for Planning

 

There have been three main contractors on site for the Sittingbourne Town Centre scheme to date. Information has been requested from all of those and the data we have received to date indicates that 12% of employees are from Swale, 40% from Kent and 47% from outside of Kent. It should however be noted that these figures do not include all individuals working across the site, as those not directly employed by the main contractors will not have had their home addresses recorded, and contractors were recording data in different ways and required interpreting based on travel time. The question of permanent residence is not one that can be easily captured, in that the available information should be based on individuals home addresses at that point in time, and length of residence would not have been collected. 

For the Spirit of Sittingbourne and other schemes the previous administration sought to encourage the use of local labour through Section 106 Agreements that accompany the planning permission.  Due to perceived complexities associated with incorporating local labour requirements into these agreements, the relevant clauses are ‘reasonable endeavour’ obligations, which requires the developer and its contractors to use some endeavours, but they need not act in any way which is against their own commercial interests.  This makes enforcement of the obligation difficult, and it is principally through providing positive encouragement and support to willing developers that more beneficial outcomes can be achieved. ?This is not an approach that has proved particularly successful, and the new administration will be looking to ensure any future contracts of this nature aim for a far higher level of local labour, with greater avenues for effective enforcement. Large schemes like these should deliver a lot of local jobs, and it is highly regrettable that this opportunity was not taken full advantage of.

The Cinema and restaurants are already engaged with the Council on developing local recruitment campaigns and we anticipate due to the nature of this employment a significant proportion of the workforce will reside in Swale.

 

Question 2 – Mr Gareth Randall

 

Members will be aware of the intense heatwaves experienced by Swale during the last  ...  view the full minutes text for item 217.

218.

Questions submitted by Members pdf icon PDF 55 KB

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).

 

Topics of questions from Members published Friday 6 September 2019.

 

Minutes:

The Mayor advised that eight 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 responses are set out below:

 

Question 1 – Councillor David Simmons

 

What does the Council Leader think the increased cost will be to Swale Borough Council if it leaves the Mid Kent Waste Partnership in 2023, when the current contract ends, and brings the waste contract in "House"?

 

Response – Leader

 

Thank you for your question which has topicality given the evidence of widespread public concern about the delays to waste and food bin collection over the recent extremely hot Bank Holiday weekend. That is under the contract which I believe you agreed.

So, as your question rightly implies cost of the contracted service is an important consideration, but so too is efficiency and reliability. It is important too that contractors have a willing workforce. Consequently, it will also matter to us that future contractors take on board our commitment to the real living wage. Agreeing to parsimonious contracts can lead to household waste not being collected and overfilled street waste bins, something the current Cabinet Member and Head of Service are working hard to prevent but within the context of the contract agreed in the past.

However, as you of all people should know the question is a little premature.

The current Mid Kent Waste Partnership contract does not come to an end until 31st March 2023. As with all commissioning of major contracts, a great deal of work goes into looking at the strategic direction we want the service to go in e.g. what outcomes do we want for residents, the best model(s) to use to achieve these outcomes and then who in the market is best placed to deliver these.

Given the size of the waste and street cleansing contract, this work will start in earnest towards the end of this year, with a strategic direction agreed in 2020 and then a formal tender process between 2021 and 2022. So, you will appreciate it would not be possible to state the perceived costs of any type of model at this time, as it will be totally dependent upon the specification we design to meet our strategic direction. I hope we can learn from past mistakes.

 

Supplementary Question and Response

 

In response to a question as to the arrangements for involvement of Scrutiny when the contract was renegotiated, the Leader responded by confirming that there would be Scrutiny involvement and that all options available would be considered, in particular quality of service, as well as cost.

 

Question 2 – Councillor Roger Clark

 

Would the Cabinet Member for Community detail the action he took to add impetus to and accelerate the delivery of the skatepark which he claimed in his response to the question from Councillor Whelan at the last Council meeting?

Response –  ...  view the full minutes text for item 218.

219.

Motion submitted in accordance with Procedure Rule 15

Proposed by Councillor Hannah Perkin and seconded by Councillor Ben J Martin.

 

1. This council notes that:

a)    Women and minority groups face discrimination and disadvantage on a daily basis.

b)    Hate crime across different minority groups has risen by 123% in the last eight years.

c)    Minority groups are underrepresented as councillors both nationally and locally:

a.    Fewer than one-third of councillors nationally are female, while in Swale the figure is less than one-fifth.

b.    Nationally fewer than a quarter of councillors are aged between 18 and 49, whereas this same age range makes up approximately half of the general population.

c.    A significantly smaller proportion of councillors nationally have a disability or other long-term health problem than is the case for the whole population, notwithstanding councillors’ high average age compared to the general population.

d)    The pace of change in improving the representativeness of elected representatives is negligible.

 

2. This council believes that:

a)    All forms of hate crime are abhorrent.

b)    We should condemn all forms of discrimination based on personal characteristics.

c)    We should provide all our members with the training and support needed to eradicate discrimination and champion diversity.

d)    We should welcome and support people from underrepresented groups to stand as councillors, because more inclusive councils bringing more diverse perspectives are better equipped to represent the interests of their communities.

 

3. This council therefore resolves:

a)    To agree that members will work actively with each other to encourage a safe and fair working environment for all members, by advocating robustly and actively for minority groups and by condemning incidences of discrimination in their role as a councillor, whether in the chamber or out in their communities. 

b)    To support members and officers in speaking out against and condemning any form of discrimination based on personal characteristics, whether this be racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, maternity-, paternity- or faith-based discrimination, or any other form of discrimination.

c)    To encourage greater diversity within our council by working to understand and break down barriers for underrepresented people wanting to stand for election.

d)    To recall its adoption in 2017 of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism, and to adopt the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia as follows:

Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.

e)    To implement compulsory training for all members on diversity and equality, including unconscious bias, and to request officers to consider how the allocation of seats on some committees could be restricted to those who have completed the training.

f)     To call on those charged with providing pastoral care to members (including group leaders and senior officers) to be sensitive to diverse members’ needs and ready to signpost to sources of help and support.

g)    To call on the standards committee to ensure that incidents of harassment and discrimination in any form are dealt with appropriately.

h)   To request officers to produce  ...  view the full agenda text for item 219.

Minutes:

The Mayor advised that one motion had been submitted, and confirmed that he was happy for the Council to debate it, notwithstanding that it would need to be referred to the General Purposes Committee for further consideration.

 

The Deputy Monitoring Officer confirmed that the motion, if approved, would set the strategic direction and would act as a guide for Members and officers when considering the motion in more detail at various Committees.

 

Councillor Hannah Perkin proposed the following motion:

 

“1. This council notes that:

a)   Women and minority groups face discrimination and disadvantage on a daily basis.

b)   Hate crime across different minority groups has risen by 123% in the last eight years.

c)    Minority groups are underrepresented as councillors both nationally and locally:

      (i)    Fewer than one-third of councillors nationally are female, while in Swale the figure is less than one-fifth.

      (ii)  Nationally fewer than a quarter of councillors are aged between 18 and 49, whereas this same age range makes up approximately half of the general population.

      (iii) A significantly smaller proportion of councillors nationally have a disability or other long-term health problem than is the case for the whole population, notwithstanding councillors’ high average age compared to the general population.

d)   The pace of change in improving the representativeness of elected representatives is negligible.

 

2. This council believes that:

a)    All forms of hate crime are abhorrent.

b)   We should condemn all forms of discrimination based on personal characteristics.

c)    We should provide all our members with the training and support needed to eradicate discrimination and champion diversity.

d)   We should welcome and support people from underrepresented groups to stand as councillors, because more inclusive councils bringing more diverse perspectives are better equipped to represent the interests of their communities.

 

3. This council therefore resolves:

a)  To agree that members will work actively with each other to encourage a safe and fair working environment for all members, by advocating robustly and actively for minority groups and by condemning incidences of discrimination in their role as a councillor, whether in the chamber or out in their communities. 

b)   To support members and officers in speaking out against and condemning any form of discrimination based on personal characteristics, whether this be racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, maternity/paternity, or faith-based discrimination, or any other form of discrimination.

c)    To encourage greater diversity within our council by working to understand and break down barriers for underrepresented people wanting to stand for election.

d)   To recall its adoption in 2017 of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism, and to adopt the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia as follows:

Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.

e)   To implement compulsory training for all members on diversity and equality, including unconscious bias, and to request officers to consider how the allocation of seats on some committees could be restricted to those  ...  view the full minutes text for item 219.

220.

Leader's Statement

Minutes:

The Leader gave an update on some permanent issues of concern, namely (a) Planning (b) the Sittingbourne Town project and (c) general progress on the Coalition agenda.

 

(a) Planning

 

Since the last Council meeting, the Council has had to account to the Secretary of State for the shortfall in meeting Government housing targets. He wished to dispel any illusion that they had an anarchic approach to these targets, by emphasising that there were three key areas to consider: policy, infrastructure and the state of the housing market.

Much as the Coalition would like to make rapid progress on reviewing the Local Plan, the Leader advised that they must rely on the adopted Plan, which many of them opposed, for policy guidance. So, it was proper for the Planning Committee to refuse applications that clearly breached the Local Plan by annexing significant areas of countryside land onto allocated sites. If that led to appeals then the Council had to fight them robustly.

He considered that the Council must respond to Government pressure on targets by pointing out the major infrastructure deficits faced either through lack of Government investment or through the parsimony of ambitious developers.  The reality was that the numbers imposed by the Government were simply unrealistic and whatever the Council did as planning authority, the Leader did not see that the market would be able to deliver.

He emphasised that they were not anarchic and they could work towards targets. Whilst the Council could be threatened with dire consequences for non-compliance,  he could not see the Government carrying out such threats.

b) Sittingbourne Town Centre

The Leader referred to the last Council meeting where he had hinted at a range of past flawed decisions made around the Sittingbourne Town Centre project. He explained that the delay to the Multi Storey Car Park was not reflected in the miraculous rumours circulated in public discourse, but was due to misunderstandings and disputes that had their origins in initial agreements with the construction company. The difficulties had been resolved and the car park was now in operation.

Likewise, as the Scrutiny Committee had heard at its meeting on Wednesday 4 September 2019, progress was being made on the Spirit of Sittingbourne Leisure element. However, there was a little local difficulty and that was that the building did not fully comply with the planning permission granted in 2015 and, as with the car park, there was a little inconsistency between planning permission and contract. He advised that the Council could expect to have to determine a variation to the original permission. The breach clearly happened at the early stages of the development.

He questioned how and why this had happened, and referred to the Planning Committee meeting in March 2015 when planning permission had been granted. He considered that very little evidence had been presented in favour of the application, whilst Member and public objections were ignored. At the break of dawn, the town was full of intrusive billboards telling us all “It’s  ...  view the full minutes text for item 220.

221.

Audit Committee Annual Report pdf icon PDF 59 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Simon Clark, Chairman of the Audit Committee, introduced the item and proposed the recommendation to agree the report, commenting on the excellent work of the committee and the positive feedback from the external auditor regarding the quality and submission of the accounts.  The proposal was seconded by Councillor Peter Marchington, who had been a member of the Committee in the year 2018/19.

 

The Leader of the Conservative Group congratulated the Chairman on his first meeting of the Audit Committee and spoke highly of the internal audit team and staff, commenting in particular on the quality of papers, their work on internal audit and risk management and their relationship with the external auditor.  These sentiments were echoed by other Members who spoke highly of the work of the Committee and the important role it played.

 

During the discussion, all Members were encouraged to attend the Audit Committee Training which was scheduled to take place on Tuesday 17 September 2019.

 

A Member commented on the alternative options section of the report and considered that there should always be alternative options.

 

Resolved:

 

(1) That the Audit Committee Annual Report for 2018/19 be agreed.

 

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