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APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies were received from Councillors Tom Burrows, Lee Parker and William Shropshire.
Councillor Peter Burgoyne said that Councillor Neil MacMaster sadly passed away on Sunday 10 December 2017 and a minute’s silence was held in his memory.
DECLARATION OF INTERESTS BY COUNCILLORS
There were no declarations of interests.
TO CONFIRM THE MINUTES OF THE MEETINGS HELD ON 21 NOVEMBER AND 4 DECEMBER 2017 - TO FOLLOW
The minutes of the meetings held on the 21 November and 4 December 2017 were deferred until the next meeting.
In addition to any announcements made at the meeting, please see Paper BC/17/22 attached, detailing events attended by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman.
7.1 The Chair referred to Paper BC/17/22 outlining events attended by the Chair and Vice-Chair.
7.2 That afternoon the Chair had also attend an event at Stephen Walters and Sons Ltd. in Sudbury, which was attended by HRH Princess Royal to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the making of her silk wedding dress.
7.3 Councillor Jenny Jenkins, the Leader of the Councils, announced that it was with great sadness she was standing down as Leader of the Council with immediate effect, and that Councillor Jan Osborne, the Deputy Leader, would automatically become Acting Leader of Babergh District Council until a new leader was formally elected at the next full Council. She hoped that a smooth transition would be possible and ask Members to consider carefully before electing the new leader of the Council.
7.4 Councillor Jenkins said that she was disappointed that some Members had felt it necessary to submit paragraph 3 of the motion on the agenda, especially as Councillor Jenkins had intended to step down as Leader of the Council at the Annual Council in May. However, as a result of this she had made the decision to step down as she had to consider what was best for the electorate, the community, the Council, services and staff.
7.5 Councillor Jenkins thanked all of the current and previous staff and many of the Councillors who had supported her over so many years and said that during her time as Leader of the Council, a great many achievements had successfully been completed.
7.6 Peter Burgoyne, the Chair of the Council, thanked Councillor Jenkins.
7.7 He announced that under Article 6 in the Constitution, the new Leader could not be elected until the next regular meeting of the Council and that until such a time that this meeting could be held the Deputy Leader Jan Osborne would be Acting Leader of Babergh District Council.
7.8 A point of Order was made by Councillor Alastair McCraw, who said that that since the decision had been made before the Council meeting, this meeting was in fact the next Council meeting.
7.9 The Chair referred to the advice received from the Monitoring Officer and said his decision was final in this matter.
7.10 Councillor Jan Osborne, in her role as Acting Leader of the Council, said this was a sad day for Babergh Council and she felt that the Council was losing a leader who had integrity, commitment and knowledge, and who had worked tirelessly for the Council.
7.11 Councillor McCraw presented a motion without notice for the meeting to adjourn.
7.12 The Motion was seconded by Councillor Bryn Hurren.
It was RESOLVED:-
That a 15 minutes adjournment was to be allowed and that the meeting to be convened by 6.00 pm.
TO RECEIVE NOTIFICATION OF PETITIONS IN ACCORDANCE WITH COUNCIL PROCEDURE RULES
In accordance with Council Procedure Rule No. 10, the Chief Executive will report the receipt of any petitions. There can be no debate or comment upon these matters at the Council meeting.
A petition was received from Long Melford signed by 56 valid signatures. The full petition was submitted as a consultee response to the Joint Local Plan.
QUESTIONS BY THE PUBLIC IN ACCORDANCE WITH COUNCIL PROCEDURE RULES
The Chairmen of Committees to answer any questions by the public of which notice has been given no later than midday three clear working days before the day of the meeting in accordance with Council Procedure Rule No. 11.
QUESTIONS BY COUNCILLORS IN ACCORDANCE WITH COUNCIL PROCEDURE RULES
The Chairman of the Council, the Chairmen of Committees and Sub-Committees and Portfolio Holders to answer any questions on any matters in relation to which the Council has powers or duties or which affect the District of which due notice has been given in accordance with Council Procedure Rule No. 12.
Questions were asked in accordance with Council Procedure Rule No.12.
Question from Councillor John Hinton to Councillor Jan Osborne, Acting Leader of Babergh Council
In June 2017 after the publication of the Annual Monitoring Report for Babergh District Council, or rather just before it was published, the Five-Year Land Supply calculations and subsequent qualifications were released.
Those involved in planning will be aware of how this has been utilised to effectively emasculate Baberghs valid Local Plan and with it effectively the constitutionally adopted neighbourhood Plans within the District. The constructive ambiguity of the wording within the NPPF and its interpretation by officers and influence upon councillors of limited weighting has approved numerous applications against local wishes and some would claim against our Local Plan and Neighbourhood Plans. We now have some 3,000 valid applications for building but with limited construction starts which in most cases were apparently not included in the Five-Year Land Supply calculations.
Several attempts to ascertain the methodology and calculations for the Five Year Land Supply assumptions were made by a constituent using the legal resource of a Freedom of Information request. (FOI). These were not answered within the legal time frame or with such omissions as to render the responses unintelligible.
A formal complaint concerning this breach of the regulations has been submitted and accepted by the Information Commissioners Office and is currently being formally investigated.
Can the Leader explain why the rules and regulations concerning FOI’s are being ignored contrary to legislation from Parliament and the reputation of Babergh District Council is potentially being further dismantled by this breach of the regulations, after the ignominious ruling against the council of the Judicial Review into the planning application for ten homes in East Bergholt in December 2016, and the necessity to take itself to JR over another planning mix up?
The rules and regulations concerning Freedom of Information are not being ignored. Clear legal advice was received that the numerous requests received from a particular individual were manifestly unreasonable. As a point of clarification, the information requested falls within the provisions of the Environmental Regulations 2004 (EIR), not the Freedom of Information Act. Although the EIR has similar provisions to the Freedom of Information Act there are some differences. Section 14 of the Freedom of Information Act provides that a public authority is not obliged to comply with a request for information if the request is vexatious. Under the EIR, Regulation 12(4)(b) provides that a public authority may refuse requests that are ‘manifestly unreasonable’.
Bearing in mind that the Chief Executive exchanged contact with my constituent before referring him to Tom Barker, who promised to contact him concerning the matter in September but has yet failed to do so, what confidence can the public have in the Council’s accountability, its processes and is ability to manage it finances and legislative functions of the Babegh District and further more how may new properties have been approved on the grounds of a lack of a ... view the full minutes text for item 10.
11.1 A motion was moved by Councillor Tony Bavington and seconded by Councillor Stephen Williams, the requisite notice thereof having been given in accordance with Council Procedure rule no 13.1.
11.2 The Chair informed Members that Part 3 of the motion could no longer be considered by the Council, and that in accordance with Article 6 in the Babergh Constitution the Deputy Leader of the Council Jan Osborne was now Acting Leader of the Council.
11.3 Members debated the resignation of the Councillor Jenkins and if it could be determined when she had decided to resign. They also questioned if the Monitoring Officer and the Legal Services had provided advice on the basis that Councillor Jenkins was resigning.
11.4 The Chair responded that the advice from the Monitoring Officer was in accordance with Article 6 page 17 of the Babergh Constitution and that advice had been sought to provide clarity and responses for all eventualities for the Council meeting, irrespectively of the decision of Councillor Jenkins.
11.5 The Monitoring Officer clarified Article 6 to Members and continued that all Councillors could and did receive confidential advice at appropriate times and this was given in good faith before any meeting.
11.6 Councillor Bavington outlined the reasons for moving the motion and said that the move to the Cabinet Governance model and the adopted Constitution had weakened the strength of the Council and that it was time for the Council to take back control of its own policy framework and budget.
11.7 Councillor Bavington felt that the merger with Mid Suffolk District Council was in direct contradiction to the wishes of the electorate as established in the referendum of 2011 and that only another referendum would be able to determine the decision on the current merger proposal with Mid Suffolk District Council.
11.8 Councillor Williams explained his reasons for supporting the Motion, part 1 and part 2, including:
· That the retired leader rejected requests for a referendum on the merger with Mid Suffolk District Council despite the result of the referendum in 2011,
· That the merging of staff for Babergh and Mid Suffolk had not produced that promised savings as the loss of staff and redundancy cost equated to the savings,
· That the move to Endeavour House, had been undertaken before the actual cost of the rent was quantified,
· Employment in south Suffolk was actually falling, regardless of the promise of more employment opportunities.
11.9 A demand for a recorded vote was received in accordance with Council Procedure Rule No. 18.5.
11.10 Before the recorded vote was conducted Members debated the motion including:
· the retired Leader had not listen to the Council nor to advice offered by Members,
· That despite the 2011 referendum a guarantee for a referendum on the merger with Mid Suffolk District Council had not been forthcoming,
· Decisions were made in advance and the Boundary review was put forward as an example of this,
· There was a lack of information for both Members and electorate.
The result of ... view the full minutes text for item 11.
CABINET DECISIONS TO BE NOTED BY COUNCIL
To note the following decision made at Babergh Cabinet on Thursday 7 December 2017:
Report No: BCa/17/37 - Living Wage Motion to Council
Decision made by Cabinet:
It was RESOLVED: -
1.1 That the option of working towards accreditation as a Real Living Wage Employer was NOT approved.
Reason for Decision: Due to the cost and resource implications associated with becoming an accredited employer.
Alternative Options Considered and Rejected: To pursue the option of working towards accreditation as a Real Living Wage Employer.
To be Noted
It was RESOLVED:-
That Report BCa/17/37 – Living Wage Motion to Council be noted.
Cabinet Member for Finance – Peter Patrick
13.1 The Cabinet Member for Finance presented the report and reminded Members that the Council Tax Reduction Scheme supported those customers of working age and on low incomes.
13.2 There were four changes being proposed:
· To align the current scheme with the Housing Benefit scheme;
· Make provision for Universal Credit;
· Introduce a minimum weekly award of £1 per week; and
· Increase the maximum entitlement to 95% i.e. reduce what people have to pay
13.3 These proposed changes were intended to reduce the burden of administration of the separate schemes, treat customers’ circumstances the same for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction, support customers in receipt of Universal Credit and continue to support those customers most in need.
13.4 The changing of the maximum liability was to assist the working-age customers at a relatively small cost of £8k to the Council
13.5 The outcome from the consultation exercise was that over 70% of those who responded were in favour of adopting the revised scheme.
By a unanimous vote
It was RESOLVED:-
That Babergh District Council adopt the Council Tax Reduction (Working Age) Local Scheme (Revised) from 1 April 2018, as set out in Appendix A of the report.
There were no appointments.
The business of the meeting was concluded at 7.19 pm.