Venue: Virtual Meeting
Contact: Committee Services
DECLARATION OF INTERESTS BY COUNCILLORS
1.1 There were no declarations made by Councillors.
TO RECEIVE NOTIFICATION OF PETITIONS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE COUNCIL'S PETITION SCHEME
2.1 None received.
QUESTIONS BY THE PUBLIC
To consider questions from and provide answer to members of the public on any matter in relation to which the Committee has powers or duties and of which due notice has been given in accordance with the Committee and Sub-Committee Procedure Rules.
3.1 None received.
QUESTIONS BY COUNCILLORS
To consider questions from and provide answer to Councillors on any matter in relation to which the Committee has powers or duties and of which due notice has been given in accordance with the Committee and Sub-Committee Procedure Rules.
4.1 None received.
Members are asked to scrutinise the Town Centre Parking proposal (paper BCa/20/24)
Cabinet Member for Environment
Assistant Director – Environment and Commercial Partnerships
5.1 Councillor McCraw made the Committee aware of the decision process for this item and asked for Members to remain apolitical.
5.2 Councillor Malvisi – Cabinet Member for Environment introduced the report and stated that the report would be amended to take into account comments from this Overview and Scrutiny meeting and the debate on the petition at Council on 19 January 2021 before being taken to Cabinet in February.
5.3 Councillor Malvisi detailed the background for the report and explained that several car parks in Babergh were in need of repair to make them fit for purpose and that action plans were needed for bicycle parking and electric charging points.
5.4 The revised Car Parking Review would enable car parks in town centres to pay for upkeep of the car parking spaces and be financially viable for the future.
5.5 The Assistant Director - Environment & Commercial Partnerships detailed the main content of the report. She explained how the Car Parking Survey in February 2020 had been conducted and how the observations were made for the use of car parks in Hadleigh and Sudbury.
5.6 She stated that any changes should be based on strategic requirements and that parking tariffs were to be used as a tool to change parking behaviours to utilise the spaces available for parking in the town centres. The survey had identified several aspects including the number of cars parking, for how long and if there was enough appropriate parking available. However, a much wider strategic review would be needed but this survey was the first step.
5.7 Budgetary considerations had been included in the report and Option 2 was the preferred option. Currently the cost of maintaining and running the car parks was subsidised and the proposal endeavoured to cover the cost of the service and to reinvest into the service. An element of some of the income would be invested in sustainable travel.
5.8 The Chair thanked the Assistant Director and proposed possible areas of questioning to Members.
5.9 Councillor McLaren stated that the report was comprehensive, however, she felt that the subsidy of parking had been a major point for residents, and that the remainder of the report had been overlooked. She asked if this had been taken into consideration in preparing the report. She also asked how long Babergh had been subsidising car parking in Sudbury.
5.10 The Assistant Director – Environment and Commercial Partnerships responded that the car parking service had always been subsidised and that the reaction to the subsidy issues had been anticipated but could not coherently be separated from the report.
5.11 Councillor Dawson asked why this report had been brought to Cabinet in January with little or no communication or consultation with Ward Members or other stakeholders.
5.12 The Assistant Director – Environment and Commercial Partnerships explained that it had been a corporate objective for some time to review the parking provision within the Babergh District and that the report had been in progress since February 2020 ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Councillor John Ward – Cabinet Member for Finance
Assistant Director – Corporate Resources
Note: The Committee adjourned between 11:50 am and 12:00 Noon.
6.1 Councillor Ward – Cabinet Member for Finance introduced paper BOS/20/2 and summarised the main points in the budget. Overall, the Council was in a good financial position for the year, however the prediction for the coming years for the Council’s financial position required careful attention.
6.2 Councillor Grandon understood the seriousness of the Council’s situation and asked why there was only a minimal increase for the brown bin collection. She felt that as it was an excellent service it could be increased further, and she believed an increase would not discourage current or new subscribers.
6.3 Councillor Ward responded that this had been reviewed earlier in the year. However, after comparison of garden waste collection charges with other authorities, it was felt that £2.50 was the right amount.
6.4 Councillor McLaren referred to page 47, bullet point 6.6, in relation to the Public Realm service, which was being brough in-house and asked if there were other services, which could be brought inhouse.
6.5 Councillor Ward responded that currently no other services had been identified.
6.6 Councillor McLaren then queried the use of external consultants and Councillor Ward explained that external consultants were only used when necessary to provide specialism and skills for specific projects, which the Council’s officers could not provide.
6.7 Councillor Dawson referred to the service charges for Endeavour House and that the rental income in the commercial market had come down. She questioned why the service charge for Endeavour House had increased by £43K.
6.8 The Assistant Director – Corporate Resources clarified that when the Council entered the rental and service charges contract with Suffolk Country Council (SSC) it included planned increases. However, as a result of the current situation an ongoing conversation with SCC for a reduction in service charges was being conducted as SCC had seen a reduction of overhead charges. However, there were still fixed overheads included in the charges and the Council had agreed to increases when the agreement was signed with SCC.
6.9 Councillor A. Osborne thanked the Finance team for putting together a balanced budget in difficult circumstances.
6.10 Councillor McCraw queried the £404K surplus forecast for this year, achieved by using the New Homes Bonus, Section 31 Grant and Rural Service Delivery Grant, and he compared this figure with the £381K in the reserves and asked if consideration had been made to not using the reserves and have a smaller surplus.
6.11 Councillor Ward responded that the reserves were earmarked for specific service areas. He added that the New Homes Bonus was reducing every year, however, the new reserves were used for the Council’s priorities such as the biodiversity commitment for the coming years.
6.12 The Assistant Director – Corporate Resources added that the reserves were used to fund particular service areas such as homelessness. The Council received funding for homelessness on an annual basis and this funding was put into the reserves and was drawn upon when required ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
Councillor Jan Osborne – Cabinet Member for Housing
Assistant Director - Housing
7.1 Councillor Ward – Cabinet Member for Finance, introduced paper BOS/20/3, and summarised the main points of the report to Members.
7.2 Councillor Grandon asked for a clarification of the service charges for sheltered housing tenants and what was included in the increase of 69 pence per week.
7.3 Councillor J. Osborne – Cabinet Member for Housing responded that the new residents in the de-sheltered houses had been offered to continue the same service as the sheltered houses at a cost. For the sheltered sites the services remained the same.
7.4 The Assistant Director – Housing, added that the service was a wraparound service and included Health & Safety and a warden on-call system and utilities costs which was all included in the service charges. A review would be brought to Cabinet later in the year. The 69 pence increase paying for increase in utility charges.
7.5 Councillor Grandon asked how many tenants live in the Council’s sheltered accommodations and the Assistant Director- Housing response approximately 450 tenants but he would provide a more detailed response outside of the meeting.
7.6 Councillor McLaren referred to the national reports of thousands of council houses standing empty and asked if an update could be provided for the number of empty houses and garages across the District.
7.7 The Assistant Director – Housing responded that the demand for garages was higher in some area while other areas had a low demand. There would be a project around the consideration of strategic sites and the use of sites in the long term in due course. There was a turnover of houses becoming empty as tenants moved and the property had to be maintained between tenants. There was also a review of empty garage sites, some of which might be under consideration for redevelopment.
7.8 Councillor McLaren asked if the Council would provide ‘pods’ for rough sleepers, similar to Ipswich Borough Council.
7.9 The Assistant Director – Housing responded that this came under the General Fund Budget, but he reassured Members that the Council had made every effort to ensure that rough sleepers had been provided with accommodation. This could be either in the Councils own accommodation or in B&B and hotel accommodation in which the Council currently housed rough sleepers as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic. The Cabinet had considered the options and made the decision that hotel accommodation was the best option, based on a business case, and was more cost effective and flexible for the Council.
7.10 Councillor Jan Osborne added that some properties might appear to be empty when a resident has gone into temporary care as the property had to remain available as stated in the tenancy agreement until the resident went into permanent care.
7.11 Councillor McCraw asked when the last time was the Council had increased the council housing rent and he referred to the increase of 1.5% in recommendation 3.3 in the report.
7.12 The Assistant Director - Housing responded that the council housing rent had ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
FORTHCOMING DECISIONS LIST
To review the Council’s Forthcoming Decisions List and identify any items to be brought before the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
Please note the most up to date version can be found via the Website:
It was RESOLVED:-
That the Forthcoming Decisions List be noted.
To agree the Work Plan.
It was Resolved: -
That the Babergh Overview and Scrutiny Work Plan be noted.