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DECLARATION OF INTERESTS BY COUNCILLORS
31.1 The Monitoring Officer had granted dispensation to councillors on the Board of Directors for the council’s companies.
31.2 There were no other declarations of interest from Councillors.
It was RESOLVED:-
That the Minutes of the meeting held on 19 July 2023 be confirmed and signed as a true record.
33.1 The Chair referred Councillors to paper MC/23/12 for noting.
34.1 Councillor Mellen, Leader of the Council, made the following announcements:-
I hope all councillors managed to enjoy a break over the summer.
I would like to mark the passing of former district Councillor Poppy Robinson, who was a member of this council from 2003 to 2015. She represented the Stowmarket Central ward and was a member of planning committee. Poppy passed away since our last council meeting, and I am sure all members will join me in sending our condolences to her family and friends.
Work has been continuing on our administration’s initial plans, and we were delighted last month to launch a new initiative, Pride in Your Place. This has given every town and village in the district the opportunity to apply for funding for projects which improve the appearance and cleanliness of their community. This can be for initiatives like litter picking, sign cleaning, graffiti removal, and the maintenance/enhancement of open public spaces and more.
I would like to remind all councillors that this fund remains open and can I ask you to encourage your towns and parishes to get involved.
In the last month, we have announced two initiatives to support small and new businesses, which are the lifeblood of our communities.
Mid Suffolk Council has teamed up with MENTA to offer start-up businesses free expert support and guidance. The council was given funding from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to deliver this scheme, and the programme is open to those in Mid Suffolk who are thinking of starting a business, are in the process of starting a business or have recently started their business venture.
Meanwhile, businesses in Mid Suffolk can also potentially benefit from a new round of funding thanks to the Rural England Prosperity Fund. Small businesses and community organisations across the districts will have access to three grants under the fund: the Rural Business Growth Fund, the Rural Culture & Creativity Fund and the Rural Communities Fund. Eligible projects include net-zero developments, agriculture and farm diversification, visitor economy business expansion as well as SME investment and diversification or investment in community facilities in our rural areas. Small businesses are so important to our district, and I would encourage them to visit our website to check eligibility and explore details of these grants.
Mid Suffolk has recently responded to a Suffolk Mind survey which identified Stowmarket and surrounding areas as an ‘emotional and physical needs hotspot’, by awarding £50,000 to local projects supporting residents’ wellbeing. We launched the IP14 Wellbeing Fund and have now allocated £50,000 in funding through Suffolk County Council’s Public Mental Health programme to ten local projects. This will allow them to do more important work in this area and support more people. We will continue to work with partners to address wellbeing issues in our district, so people can lead active and healthy lives.
As leader I represent the district on various regional and national bodies. In the last few weeks I have attended meetings of the East of England ... view the full minutes text for item 34.
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.
35.1 None received.
QUESTIONS BY THE PUBLIC IN ACCORDANCE WITH COUNCIL PROCEDURE RULES
The Chairman of the Council 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.
36.1 None received.
QUESTIONS BY COUNCILLORS IN ACCORDANCE WITH COUNCIL PROCEDURE RULES
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.
37.1 None received.
RECOMMENDATIONS FROM CABINET / COMMITTEES
Co-Chair of Joint Audit and Standards Committee
At its meeting on 31 July 2023, Joint Audit and Standards Committee considered Paper JAC/23/02, Annual Treasury Management Report 2022/23. Paper MC/23/13 now includes all the relevant updated information.
RECOMMENDATION TO BOTH COUNCILS
3.1 That the treasury management activity for the year 2022/23 as set out in this report and appendices be noted.
3.2 That it be noted that both Councils activity was in accordance with the approved Prudential Indicators for 2022/23.
RECOMMENDATION TO MID SUFFOLK COUNCIL
3.3 That it be noted that Mid Suffolk District Council’s treasury management activity for 2022/23 was in accordance with the approved Treasury Management Strategy, and that, except for one occasion when the Council exceeded its daily bank account limit with Lloyds, as mentioned in Appendix C, paragraph 4.1, the Council has complied with all the Treasury Management Indicators for this period.
39.1 The Chair invited Councillor Matthissen, Joint Chair of the Joint Audit and Standards Committee, to introduce the report.
39.2 Councillor Matthissen gave an overview of the report and moved the recommendations. Councillor Patchett seconded the motion.
39.3 Councillor Caston referred to the environmental implications in the report and questioned the Joint Audit and Standard Committee’s recommendation to Cabinet to filter investments through ESG, and the Joint Audit and Standards Committee’s recognition that any decision to withdraw funds should be balanced against financial prudence. Councillor Matthissen responded that this referred to the new administration wanting to align their investments with the Council’s priorities towards the environment and climate change. He added that the committee were going to consider a report at their next meeting on ESG to review the financing and how the reduction of value in investments has had an impact.
39.4 Councillor Overett questioned whether the Council had any investments in fossil fuels. The Corporate Manager – Finance, Commissioning and Procurement responded that Appendix C listed the areas that the Council had funds in and however there was not a breakdown in the spread of these investments.
39.5 Councillor Eburne stated that a report on ESG considerations had been pushed for by the Council from the treasury advisors for a long time and that it should be ensured that any changes made to treasury strategy need the financial considerations fully evaluated. Additionally, the short-term borrowing from the council was extensive and due to increasing interest rates these needed to be greatly monitored.
By a unanimous vote.
It was RESOLVED:-
1.1 That the treasury management activity for the year 2022/23 as set out in this report and appendices be noted.
1.2 That it be noted that both Councils activity was in accordance with the approved Prudential Indicators for 2022/23.
1.3 That it be noted that Mid Suffolk District Council’s treasury management activity for 2022/23 was in accordance with the approved Treasury Management Strategy, and that, except for one occasion when the Council exceeding its daily bank account limit with Lloyds, as mentioned in Appendix C, paragraph 4.1, the Council has complied with all the Treasury Management Indicators for this period.
Cabinet Member for Housing & Property
40.1 The Chair invited Councillor Winch, Cabinet Member for Housing and Property to introduce report MC/23/14.
40.2 Councillor Winch gave an overview of the report and proposed the recommendations in the report. Councillor Eburne seconded this motion.
40.3 Councillor Whitehead questioned the portfolio transactions relating to the 10 rent reviews and whether the capital losses were overstated based on these reviews. The Director Strategic Asset Management JLL responded that the valuation reflected a point in time and that evidence had been created to support a higher value and this was active asset management to increase income.
40.4 Councillor Scarff queried whether a change in the investment guidelines would be possible, or if the guidelines were fixed to the length of the portfolio. The Director – Assets and Investments responded that the guidelines were set up when the portfolio was initially set up and these could be amended in the future to reflect the current market and circumstances if CIFCO were seeking properties again.
40.5 Councillor Caston commented that CIFCO was a great legacy for the Council, that the management of the portfolio was excellent and that he was impressed by the EPC improvement works.
40.6 Councillor Mellen thanked Councillor Winch for his introduction to the report. He outlined that CIFCO was an inherited responsibility and that in the future it would be reviewed but would not be withdrawn. Clarity on both the rewards and the risks of CIFCO were required. Short-term borrowing within CIFCO was a risk due to interest rates, however this was not a reflection on how the company was run.
40.7 Councillor Whitehead welcomed the highlighting of the unrealised capital losses. He further commented on the interest rates and the potential of profit from the Council in Gateway 14 without taking on long-term borrowing that could be affected by a crash in interest rates.
40.8 Councillor Eburne highlighted that as the administration had inherited CIFCO they were reviewing how it was working and how it could be improved. In future the timing of the business plan should be brought forward. Additionally, as a lot of the funds come from short-term borrowing this needed to be monitored due to the rise in interest rates.
40.9 Councillor Winch summarised that whilst the administration did not fully agree with CIFCO they had to be realistic that they had inherited a property company that was well run, however this would be shaped in the future to be in line with the new administration’s principles.
By a unanimous vote.
It was RESOLVED: -
1.1 That Council notes CIFCO Capital Ltd trading activity and performance for the year to 31st March 2023.
1.2 That Council approves CIFCO Capital Ltd’s 2023/24 business plan for adoption by CIFCO Capital Limited.
EXCLUSION OF THE PUBLIC (WHICH TERM INCLUDES THE PRESS)
To consider whether, pursuant to Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, the public should be excluded from the meeting for the business specified below on the grounds that if the public were present during this/these item(s), it is likely that there would be the disclosure to them of exempt information as indicated against the/each item.
The author(s) of the report(s) proposed to be considered in Part 2 of the Agenda is/are satisfied that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
RESTRICTED APPENDIX - CIFCO CAPITAL LTD BUSINESS PLAN (Exempt information by virtue of Paragraph 3 of Part 1)
Cabinet Member for Housing and Property
RE-ADMITTANCE OF THE PUBLIC (WHICH TERM INCLUDES THE PRESS)
Cabinet Member for Performance and Resilience
44.1 The Chair invited the Leader of the Council, Councillor Mellen to introduce the report.
44.2 Councillor Mellen introduced the report and moved the recommendations as set out in the report. Councillor Teresa Davis seconded this motion.
44.3 Councillor Warboys queried whether there was any information on the progression of students under the age of 18 in the report. The Corporate Manager – Strategic Policy responded that this information was not currently in the report but could be considered going forward.
44.4 Councillor Linder questioned whether the number residents per GP could be included in the report as this would be helpful in terms of planning considerations. The Corporate Manager – Strategic Policy responded that health infrastructure needs, and this information could be looked into and how signposting to existing information could be incorporated into future state of the district reports.
44.5 Councillor Winch suggested that it would be useful under the housing section of the report to have a focus on affordability with a comparison of average salaries in the district and average rents, and the local availability of housing at the local housing allowance rates.
44.6 Councillor Hicks suggested that when the report was published on the website that a link to the Suffolk Observatory be included as it was a source for much of the data, and it is updated frequently.
44.7 Councillor Row queried whether it would be possible where figures are separated by gender that they include figures on non-binary people, in line with the most recent census. The Research and Insight Lead stated that this could be included going forward.
44.8 Councillor Overett questioned why the tree canopy cover of 8.5% was significantly lower than the national average of 16.3%. Councillor Mellen responded that the Council had undertaken a tree canopy survey, and this had highlighted that Mid Suffolk was behind other districts. This was something that the Council wanted to improve on, and that work was ongoing by the County Council, farmers, and community groups in order to improve tree cover across the district.
44.9 Councillor Pratt stated that due to a lot of the land in Mid Suffolk being agricultural land there was a greater dispersion in tree coverage. He suggested that gaps in hedgerows should be filled in to allow for stronger wildlife corridors and that work needed to be done with private landowners, and on council land, in order to improve tree coverage.
44.10 Councillor Whitehead endorsed the report and stated that he was heartened to see the reduction of 36% in emissions between 2005 and 2021, and the decrease of 39% in domestic emissions. However, whilst domestically 99% of residents had central heating, three quarters of residents used oil and gas which provided a challenge to the Council in moving towards net zero.
44.11 Councillor Davis highlighted whilst most residents lived in homes they owned in low crime areas, there were still residents who were over 66 and living on their own, people with difficulty accessing a GP, vulnerable ... view the full minutes text for item 44.
Head of Paid Service
45.1 The Chair invited the Corporate Manager – Governance and Civic Office to introduce the report.
45.2 Councillor Mellen proposed the recommendation as set out in the report. Councillor Stringer seconded this motion.
45.3 Councillor Caston asked for clarification on the allocations for qualifying groups. The Corporate Manager – Governance and Civic Office responded that a post would be allocated to each qualifying political group, however groups were not required to appoint to this role.
45.4 Councillor Mellen outlined that political assistants were common throughout local government and whilst Mid Suffolk had not had them previously, they had been requested by the new administration. The rules surrounding the appointments were strict and the role was politically restricted and limited to the length of the council term, and the position should be appointed to on a part time basis. He added that the role would help Members of political groups to fulfil their role by providing information, researching ideas, finding best practice in other councils, and providing support, communication, and organisation to the group. It had been agreed across the administration that a part time political assistant would help them be better Councillors and therefore would benefit the district.
45.5 Councillor Whitehead enquired whether the Independent Renumeration Panel would be reviewing Cabinet Member allowances following the appointment of political assistants to run group meetings and research.
45.6 Councillor Hicks stated that political assistants were used in the County Council and were invaluable, and due to the size of Mid Suffolk District Council a part time assistant was proportionate. However, it may be better value for money for the Council to instead appoint more Cabinet members.
45.7 Councillor Eburne highlighted that political assistants would primarily be used for researching best practice at other councils, and that many district councils across the country used political assistants, such as East Suffolk. The appointment of a political assistant would be a cost of £20,000 per year, and that currently for the new administration there had been a saving of £24,000 per year with £12,000 coming from a reduced Cabinet.
45.8 Councillor Scarff stated that most posts across the Councils are shared posts and that if Babergh District Council had also agreed to have political assistants it would have provided more legitimacy, especially in groups where there are fewer Members. He added that in a group of four there is seen to be less of a need for a political assistant as they may only need to be required once a week.
45.9 Councillor Stringer outlined that researchers would be beneficial for researching facts, best practice and accurate details and giving access to this for all groups would aid democracy. Additionally, a political assistant would be beneficial in order to identify legislative changes from central government and inform Councillors on how they affect ongoing work. They could also help inform motions on notice to Council and questioning.
45.10 Councillor Mellen highlighted that the appointment of political assistants would increase the quality of work done by the ... view the full minutes text for item 45.
46.1 The appointments as set out in the tabled papers were proposed by Councillor Mellen. Councillor Mansel seconded the recommendation.
By a unanimous vote.
It was RESOLVED:-
That Councillor Tim Weller be appointed to the Suffolk Safer and Stronger Communities Board.
MOTIONS ON NOTICE
47.1 There were no motions on notice.