Venue: Virtual Meeting
Contact: Committee Services
DECLARATION OF INTERESTS BY COUNCILLORS
There were no declarations made by Members.
The Chairman advised Members that Councillor Warboys and Councillor Mansel had identified some inaccuracies in the Minutes and those amendments had been made to the Minutes.
Councillor Matthissen advised that paragraph 65.4 of the Minutes should read Environmental Social and Governance report, not Environmental Social and Government report.
It was RESOLVED:-
That the Minutes of the meeting held on 18th February 2021 be confirmed and signed as a true record.
The Chairman invited the Leader of the Council to make her announcements.
Councillor Morley announced the following:
The Leader expressed her support for all those who have been directly and indirectly impacted by the pandemic over the last year with thoughts and prayers going to those who have lost family and friends across the world, and of course, in particular to residents in Mid Suffolk.
The Leader thanked all of the Council’s staff, partners, particularly in the NHS, Police and County Council, and fantastic communities and local volunteers; who had worked tirelessly over the last year to tackle Covid 19.
Progress with the distribution of the vaccine across Suffolk, and particularly in Mid Suffolk continued to be extremely effective. The Leader stated she was confident that all those who have not yet been offered the vaccine would do so in line with the Government’s roadmap, and also that this would be the case for all second doses and any boosters that may be required. She would continue to meet regularly with the Chief Executive of the CCG and through the regular Local Outbreak Engagement Boards to ensure this remained on track.
The infection rates, hospitalisations and deaths continue to fall in Suffolk; but it is essential that people don’t become complacent now. There was no such thing as a ‘post Covid’ world and people needed to learn to adapt to living with Covid.
It was essential that the Council had effective recovery plans and in particular an economic recovery plan. This work was developing well, in line with the timetable for the roadmap out of lockdown, and the Leader would ensure that it was shared with all Councillors, and progress reported to all Councillors during the pre-election period, which started today.
The Chancellor’s Freeport announcement, which included the Council’s site at Gateway 14, was really welcome news, this will inevitably help strengthen economic recovery; enabling the district to ‘thrive’ rather than just ‘survive’.
The Leader was pleased to have launched the Council’s business Innovation Network. This built on the success of Innovation Labs in Stowmarket, which the Council had helped fund; and the inaugural Innovation Awards which was hosted virtually before Christmas. Innovation formed a key plank of the Council’s economic recovery plan; and subject to planning, the Council looked forward to seeing a new Innovation Centre coming forward at Gateway 14.
The Leader took the opportunity to remind local businesses to recheck whether they were eligible for additional financial support from the Government’s Covid-19 Business Support Grant schemes that closed on 31 March 2021.
The Leader commented that is was reassuring to see the Garden Waste service restart again on 8th March. The service was paused for a short period earlier in this year due to the impact of Covid. The Leader reassured all of the Council’s customers that they will not be charged whilst the service was not being delivered.
The Leader was pleased to share two environmental projects which the Council have ... view the full minutes text for item 69.
TO RECEIVE NOTIFICATION OF PETITIONS IN ACCORDANCE WITH COUNCIL PROCEDURE RULES
In accordance with Council Procedure Rule 11, 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 with 214 valid signatures asking the Council to save the School Road Oak Tree in Elmswell had been received and would be dealt with through the planning process.
The Chairman of the Council, Chairs 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 13.
Councillor Matthissen to Councillor Morley, Leader of the Council
Noting that the Endeavour House lease has a break clause which can be triggered later this year, are you prepared to consider alternatives to Mid Suffolk District Council headquarters remaining in Ipswich until at least 2027?
Councillor Morley, Leader of the Council
I feel as though this is a question you have asked in different ways many times and has been answered before. But as you know this is a topic on which your group and the conservative group couldn’t agree when we were considering a coalition arrangement after the last elections. This isn’t an issue at the forefront of my mind at the moment. I do not have sleepless nights thinking about having our HQ at Endeavour House, not least of course because we haven’t really been based there for over the last 12 months. I do have sleepless nights about the pandemic, about the tragic loss of life, about the devastating direct and indirect impact Covid has had on so many of our residents lives, about what we are doing to support our residents and communities, about what more we could do, about the health and wellbeing of our communities and our businesses, and about the other really important issues facing our residents such as those raised in Councillor Otton’s question, and the wider safety of women on our streets and in society as a whole. But I respect your right Councillor Matthissen to ask this question and your wish to receive an answer. The break clause on the lease, if we were to exercise it, would need to be served by this time next year, March 2022. As things stand, I have no intention of asking Officers to exercise that break clause. As you know we have successfully negotiated revised lease terms that phase the contractual increase in service charge costs. We have successfully negotiated the relinquishing of the lease for the Councillor area on the second floor. This has been backdated to be with effect from November 2020 and we are reviewing the other areas that we occupy so that we can build on the societal changes that have come about because of the pandemic. This will mean that we only occupy what we need but also that we have spaces to come together, to collaborate, and to be creative rather than lots and lots of desks. We are reimagining the purpose of our office space. Ultimately though in answer to your question it would be wrong for me to ever rule out any options and so the answer to your question is yes but I personally will take significant persuasion to change my mind to move away from all of the benefits which drew us to move to Endeavour House together with our Clinical Commissioning Groups and the County Council in the first place. I should also add of course as a footnote to my answer that this is not a decision that Mid Suffolk can ... view the full minutes text for item 71.
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. 12.
Chair of Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Councillor Welham introduced the report and informed Council that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had considered the following reports:-
Meeting 14th January 2021
Meeting 15th February 2021
The outcomes from these meetings are detailed in the Council report.
Councillor Mansel queried the timeliness of the Minutes of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee?
In response Councillor Welham stated that the draft Minutes from January had been available for Cabinet to consider at their meeting, but the full version had not been available until later. Councillor Welham asked the Chief Executive if he was aware of any issues with the production of Minutes.
In response the Chief Executive stated that he was not aware of any delay in the production of Minutes. Minutes were normally produced in time to be approved at the next meeting. All meetings are recorded and online and cover the entirety of the meeting for reference.
Council noted the report.
Cabinet Member for Planning
Councillor Burn introduced the report and informed Council that this was the third review of CIL carried out by the Joint Member Panel.
The main changes being recommended to the process was the introduction of new additional criteria for dealing with cross county bids which were listed fully in paragraph 4.5 of the report.
All such CIL expenditure that fall beyond each district’s administrative / geographical areas shall be Cabinet decisions.
Councillor Burn also highlighted the key recommended changes to the Communication Strategy that were detailed in Appendix B of the report.
Councillor Burn then paid tribute to the hard work and dedication of the CIL Team before MOVING the recommendations in the report which Councillor
Councillor Pratt queried whether any considerations had been given to include funding for sustainable travel infrastructure as there did not appear to be any obvious reference to this in the report.
In response, the Assistant Director for Planning for Growth informed Councillor Pratt that he would respond to him in the next couple of days to have a detailed discussion on the CIL framework and the role sustainable travel had within it.
Councillor Otton made reference to page 167 of the report relating to the Thurston Railway Crossing and asked what influence the Council had over organisations such as Network Rail where they had been offered £100k of funding and had failed to come up with the project?
In response, the Assistant Director for Planning for Growth informed Councillor Otton that the Council could influence but could not control. He would ascertain whether the feasibility study had been commenced and report back to her.
Councillor Otton also asked why public art had been excluded from CIL bids.
In response, Councillor Burn stated that he would ensure that the subject be included for discussion at the next review.
Councillor Passmore queried whether the provision of mental health facilities on a Suffolk wide basis would be classed as infrastructure?
In response, the Assistant Director for Planning and Growth confirmed that health facilities were an inherent part of the CIL infrastructure and could contribute on a proportionate basis to a county wide provision.
Councillor Field raised concerns that the audience for the document could find it too complicated and asked that the complexity of the document was examined at the next review.
In response, the Assistant Director for Planning for Growth said that he felt that it was really important to maintain the detail of the framework but agreed that some sort of executive summary could be explored alongside maintaining the detail of the framework.
Councillor Eburne commented that there was an awful lot of coordinated work from the parishes and groups to submit a bid and wanted to be sure the funding was getting out to the communities and that the government was not going to change the rules.
Councillor Mansel stated that it was extremely pleasing that there was flexibility within the scheme for community projects to get the funding they need.
Councillor ... view the full minutes text for item 74.
Cabinet Member for Finance
Councillor Whitehead introduced the report and informed Council that this was a long - awaited consultation on the future of New Homes Bonus.
The Council’s Constitution delegates responsibility for responding to consultations to the relevant Assistant Director but in this case the Monitoring Officer had concluded that the consultation was of significant importance so should be referred to Full Council for a response.
Due to the timescales of the response and the number of questions to be considered, there was insufficient time to fully debate this at Council. It was therefore proposed that a cross party working group be established to agree a response in conjunction with the Assistant Director for Resources.
Councillor Whitehead also drew attention to the amended membership of the Babergh Working Group following their Babergh Council meeting.
Councillor Whitehead then MOVED the recommendations in the report which Councillor Hadingham SECONDED.
Councillor Field raised concerns that Councillors who were not involved in the Working Group would not get to see the responses.
The Assistant Director for Corporate Resources informed Councillor Field that two meetings would be held to discuss the responses and Councillors who were part of the Working Group would be encouraged to keep the other members of their Group informed of the progress.
The full submission would be circulated to Members for information once completed.
Councillor Matthissen felt that the Council had experienced difficulties when completing these types of consultation and requested that the Monitoring Officer circulated some general advice on the submission of responses to consultations to Councillors and officers.
It was RESOLVED:-
1.1 That a joint cross-party working group be appointed to formulate the Councils’ response to the Future of the New Homes Bonus Consultation and that the membership of the working group be agreed as detailed in paragraph 4.6 of the report.
1.2 That delegated authority be given to the Assistant Director for Corporate Resources to formally submit the consultation response agreed by the working group on the Council’s behalf.
Leader of the Council
Councillor Whitehead introduced the report and informed Council that the Council was required to produce a Pay Policy Statement for each financial year under Section 38 (1) of the Localism Act 2011. As Mid Suffolk and Babergh have a single organisational structure with harmonised pay, grades and terms and conditions of service, a single pay policy covered both Councils.
Councillor Whitehead added that the Council was also required to report on its gender pay gap. The date of the reporting had been extended from 31st March 2021 to 31st October to take into account the impact of Covid. Although a report must be published for each Council, the combined data was more relevant due to the workforce being fully integrated. The report does not need the approval of full Council and will be published on the website when available.
Councillor Whitehead then MOVED the recommendations in the report which Councillor Ekpenyong SECONDED.
Councillor Mansel queried the links to the report as they appeared to be linked to the Babergh report.
In response, Councillor Whitehead informed Councillor Mansel that his understanding was that the report had yet to be published and would be published later in the year to meet the report deadline.
The Chief Executive added that the Council was obliged to publish the report for each organisation, there would also be a joint report because of the fully integrated workforce which would be more meaningful. This information would be contained within the same documents when published and linked to each Council on the website.
Councillor Geake queried why the report wasn’t published if the data was available?
In response, Councillor Whitehead informed Council that although the data was available, the data needed to be consolidated, narrative and explanation added for SLT to analyse it.
Councillor Eburne raised concerns that the Transparency part of the website for Mid Suffolk contained no documents under the pay gap and requested that when the report was finalised that it was circulated to all Councillors
The Chief Executive confirmed that the report would be circulated to all Councillors and that the link on the Mid Suffolk website would be fixed.
Councillor Otton queried how it was possible to know that an equality impact assessment was not required when the report had not been published yet?
The Chief Executive explained that the wording in the report referred to the Pay Policy Statement and not Gender Pay Gap report. A full equality impact assessment would be undertaken when the Gender Pay Gap report was produced and would be available for scrutiny.
Councillors raised concern about the wording of the recommendations.
The Monitoring Officer recommended that additional wording be added to recommendation 2.2 “that the delay to the publication” to clarify the recommendation.
The Chair PUT this proposal to the Proposer and the Seconder and it was accepted.
It was RESOLVED:-
1. That the proposed pay policy statement for 2021/22 as set out in section 4 be approved.
2. That the delay to the ... view the full minutes text for item 76.
The Corporate Manager for Governance and Civic Office introduced the report and informed Council that the current panel that was appointed in 2016 had now reached the end of their term. Under the Local Authorities (Members Allowances England) regulations 2003, the Council is required to establish and maintain a Panel known as the Independent Remuneration Panel to make recommendations and amendments of the Members Allowance Scheme.
A recruitment exercise had been undertaken, candidates were selected from applicants who had made a formal application and underwent a competitive interview.
Council was being asked to approve the formal appointment of the recommended panel of members for four years with an option to extend this for another 4 years and to confirm the fee payable for each review and the payment of reasonable expenses.
Councillor Morley MOVED the recommendations in the report which Councillor Brewster SECONDED.
Councillor Eburne queried when the review was likely to take place.
In response, the Corporate Manager informed Council that the review would be commenced almost immediately with recommendations being brought to Council by the end of the year.
Councillor Stringer felt strongly that voting on your own allowance was very damaging and asked if the timing of the review could be changed so that the recommendations would go to the Council meeting before the district elections.
Councillor Geake supported his views and felt that this should be the last action of this Council.
It was RESOLVED:-
1.1 That the following persons be appointed to the Council’s Independent Remuneration Panel:
· Amanda Orchard
· Sarah Way
· Monica Calbio
· John Clough
· Sue Putters
1.2 That the IRP members each be paid £500 for each review carried out and be reimbursed any expenses reasonably incurred in the performance of their duties.
1.3 That the IRP be appointed for a period of 4 years with the option to extend this for another period of 4 years if required.
Councillor Morley informed Council that Councillor Paul Ekpenyong had been appointed to the Board of Gateway 14 and Councillor Harry Richardson had been appointed as Cabinet Member for Health and Well Being.
Council noted the appointments.
MOTIONS ON NOTICE
Councillor Eburne introduced the Motion and informed Council that the Motion called for Council to carry out a review of green space to ensure that it was optimising the biodiversity and well being aspects of natural and amenity green space in Mid Suffolk.
Councillor Eburne went on to say that during the last year, the importance of green space to our communities had been highlighted more than ever with people taking advantage of local outdoor space. Green space was important for many reasons. For both physical and mental health, we know that social prescribing works, that people who can access green space have healthier lives, exercise is beneficial, and time spent outdoors improves our mental health. As green lungs in our town centres where homes have very little gardens or none at all, it provides areas for dog walkers, access to nature and areas to combat pollution. Green space is important for our children, so that they can run free and avoid all of their time looking at screens, an area where they can play, an outlet for their energy and areas where they can be just children.
Our green spaces also attract visitors in our villages. Green centre spaces full of wild flowers that inspire visitors to stay a while and makes residents proud.
Green spaces are also areas for wildlife and wild flowers, for greater biodiversity in responding to the climate emergency. We should be prioritising our areas of biodiversity ensuring our ponds, trees, hedges and areas of rough ground are creating the right habitats for creatures and wildlife.
Pieces of land that are of significant historical importance that are found on tired old maps and in local history.
Or green space known simply for its beauty. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, this could be a rough scabby piece of land, can mean as much as a wild flower meadow or a copse of trees.
We should be creating new opportunities for green space, positively looking for new areas and where there are gaps, it is not just about green spaces
per se, it is about their availability and access to them. In our rural district people often have to travel more to get to a green space. Natural England have proposed a standard for green space provision no more than 300m or five minutes walk from home. This does not refer to privately owned farmland or footpaths but publicly available and accessible areas They need to be accessible with the ability of a parent to walk with their toddler for someone to be able to cycle to and for a wheelchair user to able to access.
Where we have green space we should be looking to enhance them and improve biodiversity.
These spaces should be publicly owned by the community by local councils even by the district council and covenanted so that no development can ever take place on them.
Finally, we need to protect the spaces we do have to ensure that our ... view the full minutes text for item 79.
To consider the Motion on Notice received from Councillor Eburne
Motion on green space in Mid Suffolk:
Mid Suffolk District Council recognises the significant impact of green space* on the health and wellbeing of its citizens and notes that many communities are calling for green spaces to be enhanced and protected. The Council also notes that green space can contribute significantly to the climate change and biodiversity targets in the district in line with the Council’s climate change reduction and biodiversity action plans, and also contribute greatly to the health and wellbeing of residents.
That the Council carries out a review of green space to ensure that it is optimising the biodiversity and wellbeing aspects of natural and amenity green space in Mid Suffolk.
The Council has already agreed to prepare supplementary planning guidance to support its biodiversity commitments, and inclusion of well-designed green spaces as a material consideration for all new housing developments would add a health and wellbeing element to the biodiversity programme; the Council is urged to set out a timeframe which is consistent with the new Joint Local Plan implementation.
*Green space is defined with reference to Natural England ‘Accessible Natural Green Space’ Standard, and as discussed in the Open Space Study supporting the Joint Local Plan: https://www.midsuffolk.gov.uk/assets/Strategic-Planning/Current-Evidence-Base/Babergh-and-Mid-Suffolk-Open-Space-Study-May-2019.pdf):
i) Accessible natural and semi-natural green space covers a variety of partly or wholly accessible spaces including meadows, woodland and copses all of which share a trait of having natural characteristics and wildlife value, but which are also open to public use and enjoyment; and
ii) ‘Amenity green space’ which can provide important local opportunities for play, exercise and visual amenity that are almost immediately accessible.
iii) Additionally and as a practical matter, in the countryside access to public rights of way or publicly accessible land should be considered to meet the proposed definition of green space.
Proposer: Councillor Rachel Eburne
Seconder: Councillor Jessica Fleming
Full Minutes to Follow.