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 five-year land supply, contrary to Babergh existing local plan and made village neighbourhoods plans since the anomalies of the five-year land supply in June 2017 and how many have been held back as contrary to the East Bergholdt JR Rule.
Thank you, Councillor Hinton for that question, I do not have the answers here tonight I will talk to the Officers and will provide a comprehensive response outside the meeting and forward this in turn to all Members.
Councillor Hinton requested this response was provided with three months.
Question from Councillor Luke Cresswell to Councillor John Ward, Cabinet Member for Economy
The State of the Nation report by the Social Mobility Commission, published on 28th November, rated our District at 270 out of 324. Why are we so incredibly low on the social mobility ratings? What has the council done over the last year and what does it plan to do over the next year, to increase social mobility in the Babergh District?
Full report can be found here-
Short report - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-42112436
The State of the Nation report by the Social Mobility Commission uses 16 indicators to assesses the education, employability and housing prospects of people living in each of England’s 324 local authority areas. The indicators span each major stage from early years through to in people’s working lives and focus on two outcomes:
· Educational outcomes of disadvantaged children; and
· Outcomes achieved by adults
Babergh was ranked at 270 out of 327 lower tier English Local Authority Areas.
The following factors are used to calculate their scores and are compared between districts. These include:
· Assessed levels of deprivation – Babergh has higher levels than Mid Suffolk;
· House prices against wage ratios – Babergh’s ratio is higher than any neighbouring district;
· OFSTED ratings of secondary schools – Babergh has no schools with a rating of ‘outstanding’;
· Economic activity of the population – Babergh has an older population which is less economically active (this does not take account of activity the older population may take up that is not classified as ‘economically active’);
· More of Babergh’s children live in low income families; and
· Babergh’s population has fewer qualifications.
Babergh and its’ partners are however proactively working to improve social mobility in the district. This includes the following programmes that are being supported by our partners in Suffolk County Council’s Directorate of Health, Wellbeing and Children’s services:
· Adult Learning provision
· The roll out of the national work and health programme
· The pending roll out of the ESF/New Anglia work and health programme (should SCC be successful in securing funds)
· The youth employment service, MyGo
· The work of the Early Help teams, in particular work delivered by Specialist Youth Support Workers for young people who are NEET
· Other programmes of work within the Development Suffolk Talent scheme, which includes a revised Apprenticeship Strategy, Work Inspiration agenda etc.
In addition, our Economic Development team has partnered with Connect Education Business to support local High Schools with access to career and employment experiences for their then year 9 pupils. This targeted schools with lower than average attainment and higher than average Free School Meals take up. Outcomes include Holbrook High School having had an additional six employer led interventions.
In the recently closed consultation on the Babergh & Mid Suffolk Joint Local Plan the Councils’ included specific questions regarding our approach to the provision of affordable housing. The aim is to develop policies to deliver the affordable housing needed in the district.
Given the breadth and complexity of issues involved with regard to Social Mobility this may be an area that Cabinet wishes to refer to the Overview & Scrutiny Committee for more detailed consideration.
I asked what has been done in the last twelve months. It is a simple question: how many council houses are going to be built to completion in the next twelve months?
I will get that information and supply it to you outside the meeting.