Venue: Main Auditorium, Gordon Craig Theatre, Lytton Way, Stevenage
Contact: Ian Gourlay (01438) 242703 Email: email@example.com
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Councillors Lizzy Kelly and Lin Martin-Haugh.
There were no declarations of interest.
To receive any communications that the Mayor may wish to put before Council.
The Mayor announced that she has accepted an urgent motion for consideration at the meeting concerning the achievements of the England Football Team at the recent European Championships.
The Mayor drew Members’ attention to the fact that the Minutes of the Annual Council meeting held on 26 May 2021 were not on the agenda for the meeting due to a member of staff falling ill and not being able to complete them. However, she advised that the Summary of Decisions for the Annual Council meeting was on the SBC website, and that the finalised Minutes would be presented for confirmation at the next scheduled Council meeting in October 2021.
The Mayor summarised the activities that she and her consort had been involved with since the Annual Council meeting, which included:
· Photo shoot for the town’s time line mural;
· KFC community activists team Great Britain clean up;
· Attending the online Leslie Bedford Lecture 2021 (on all things aeronautical);
· The virtual Town Twinning Conference;
· Kadoma Link Garden Fete;
· Filming a message for the virtual Stevenage Day and attending the NHS, Social Care & Frontline Workers Day;
· Starting the Knebworth Park Half Marathon;
· Various school visits;
· The virtual unveiling of the underpass mural on Martins Way; and
· A visit to Leyden House (one of her Mayoral charities), a day centre for adults with learning disabilities;
The Mayor referred to the recent terrible weather in Belgium and Germany over the past couple of weeks and the associated tragic loss of lives and livelihoods. She announced that the Council had been in contact with the Mayor of Ingelheim (Ralf Klaus), Stevenage’s twin town in Germany, to enquire both if they had been affected and to offer them the Council’s sincerest condolences to those that had. Fortunately, Ingelheim itself had not been directly affected by the bad weather, but its Mayor was very touched by the Council’s concern for those affected.
The Mayor had the pleasure of presenting long service awards to Councillors Mrs Joan Lloyd (45 years’ service) and Margaret Notley (25 years’ service), and a number of members spoke in tribute to both councillors.
There is no Main Debate.
There was no Main Debate.
PETITIONS AND DEPUTATIONS
There were no Petitions and Deputations.
QUESTIONS FROM THE YOUTH COUNCIL
There were no Questions form the Youth Council.
A written answer to this question will be published on a supplementary agenda.
(A) Question from Mr Jim Borcherds
“I was a member of the Stevenage Citizens Panel on Climate Change that met over 4 sessions from 26th to 29th October 2020.
We were informed that there would be some information forthcoming in January 2021.
It is now over two years since this Council declared a Climate Emergency, and it is over 8 months since the Citizens Panel met.
Please can the citizens of Stevenage have an update on the priorities that the Citizens Panel voted to be taken forwards and what progress has been made towards putting them into action?”
The Council received one question from a member of the public relating to the Council’s Climate Change agenda. The response to the question had been published in the supplementary agenda for the meeting.
The questioner (Mr Jim Borcherds) was present in the meeting, and made the following introduction prior to him asking a supplementary question:
“I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you along with other members of the Citizens’ Panel. My concern is that this all seems to be taking a long time.
One of the things that came out of the Citizens’ Panel discussions was how hard it is for people who live in flats to do recycling; they also have issues with bicycle parking - these are particular things that the Council should be helping people to resolve. The Council has started to install bike hangars (I believe there is one), but there has been little publicity about this.
The Council should be promoting all initiatives to support action on climate change, for example you can now recycle medicine blister packs in Superdrug, the Co-op has just started an any soft plastic recycling scheme nationwide and at the Oval in Stevenage, but the SBC recycling webpage has no information about this, and it advises that some recyclable items should be put in the refuse bin.
Crucially, the Council should be providing information about what can be done not just what the Council does. All decisions the Council makes should have Climate Change factored in, in particular this should apply to Planning decisions, but it should be one of the first paragraphs of any report.
Since I submitted my question, changes have been made to the climate change website. There is now a Citizens’ Panel summary report on the website which has no publication date. In the next steps section the summary states: ‘It is important that the Council now identifies what the next steps are for implementing the recommendations and that a formal response to the Panel is given.’
When will the full report be published and when will these actions be taken?”
The Portfolio Holder for Environment & Regeneration stated that he would request officers to provide a full written reply to the supplementary question. He was aware that some of the Citizens’ Panel recommendations had been referred to the Hertfordshire Sustainability and Climate Change Committee for consideration. The Council was awaiting details of the Government’s new Waste Strategy, which could impact significantly on recycling operations. Similarly, the Council was awaiting the Government’s Environment Bill, which it was expected would require all Local Authorities to take into account Biodiversity implications in all its planning decisions. He was pleased to report that SBC had been one of the first local authorities to have adopted a Biodiversity Supplementary Planning Document (SPD).
LEADER OF THE COUNCIL'S UPDATE
In accordance with the Council’s Standing Orders, the Leader of the Opposition shall be given the opportunity to raise one matter relevant to the Borough that has arisen since the last meeting of the Council. The Leader of the Council shall then have the opportunity to advise the Council of matters relevant to the Borough that have arisen since the last meeting.
The Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Phil Bibby, asked the following question:
“Could the Leader of the Council give an assurance that she is committed to a transformation policy aimed at delivering efficiencies as part of the Council’s Covid recovery plans?”
The Leader of the Council confirmed that a report on a transformation programme would be considered at the August meeting of the Executive. The Council had already approved emergency budgets in June and September 2020 due to a funding deficit due to a lack of Government funding. She was fully committed to the transformation programme, with the aim of continuing the delivery of Council services in spite of cuts to Local Government funding.
The Leader of the Council advised that GlaxoSmithKline had recently revealed plans for the creation of one of Europe’s largest life sciences parks on the Catalyst/Catapult site adjacent to Junction 7 of the A1(M) in Stevenage. This would be an extraordinary opportunity for Stevenage, and it was hoped that 5,000 new jobs would be created over the next 10 years, together with multi-million pound investment in the science park.
The Council then received updates from relevant Executive Portfolio Holders on the following matters:
· Stevenage Economy Taskforce;
· Life Sciences Vision;
· Rough Sleeping Accommodation;
· Housing Awards;
· Resources & Waste Strategy for England;
· Regeneration progress;
· Queen’s Canopies;
· Health Protection Board Covid Grants;
· Neighbourhood Management Strategic Board;
· A Future Vision for Leisure;
· Creative Recovery; and
· Equalities Commission.
The Leader of the Opposition asked the Portfolio Holder for Environment & Regeneration if he would be agreeable to a Combined Waste Authority for Hertfordshire?
The Portfolio Holder for Environment & Regeneration replied that he would not be supportive of such a proposal, and considered that waste and recycling collection was best provided as a public service at local Borough/District Council level.
UPDATE FROM SCRUTINY CHAIRS
To receive updates from the Chairs of the Scrutiny Committees on the recent activities of those Committees.
The Chair of the Committee Select Committee reported that the Committee had recently met to determine its Work Programme for 2021/22, and that she was pleased that face-to-face meetings had resumed.
The Chair of the Environment & Economy Select Committee reported that the Committee had recently met on two occasions, and that its work on the economic impact of the Covid pandemic on the work of the Council would be completed shortly. The Committee had completed its work on a review of the Neighbourhood Centres, which he hoped would feed into the work of the newly established Co-operative Neighbourhood Teams. The next major project for the Committee would be to scrutinise the work that had been carried out in association with the Council’s 2019 declaration of a Climate Change Emergency.
(i) Town and Country Planning
To consider the following motion submitted by the Labour Group:
In the Queen’s Speech on 11th May 2021, the Conservative Government announced sweeping changes to the planning system that it is now clear to see amount to a ‘Developer’s Charter’. This plan to introduce legislation to ‘zone’ areas for development and then allow developers a free rein with no further democratic planning process, is a recipe for untrammelled and inappropriate development in every town and community. No-one hear would argue that there is not a case for reform in the planning system, but these proposed reforms are taking planning absolutely in the wrong direction, away from the communities they affect.
Our Council has a very deep commitment to delivering the homes that people need, so we do not bring this motion forward as ‘nimbys’ who want no development at all. But we believe that our new town principles should continue to be upheld, we believe in homes being built alongside the infrastructure to support them and with the creation of sustainable communities at the heart of the planning system.
Under these new proposals planning decisions will be taken away from democratically elected local councils and handed to development boards appointed by Ministers in Whitehall. It is these new quangos that will decide where the ‘zones’ for development are located, with little local knowledge or input from local people. Residents living in areas zoned for growth will find they no longer have an automatic right to object to individual planning applications on their own doorsteps, no right to object to inappropriate development on green space and no right to object to development that over-burdens local infrastructure like roads, doctors’ surgeries, schools, health facilities or public transport.
Plans to extend the permitted development regime are also of great concern to us in Stevenage as they too, see development taking place with no local democratic and community input and this regime does not require developers to contribute to infrastructure or affordable housing. In Vista Tower where we see leaseholders facing huge and unaffordable charges to remedy fire safety issues, we see the worst of this permitted development regime.
So we bring forward the following resolution to urgently address the concerns we have relating to the Government’s proposals:
“That this Council believes that planning works best when the local community, councillors and developers work together to shape local areas and deliver the new homes that are necessary and therefore calls on the government to protect the right of communities to object to individual planning applications. We demand that the Secretary of State urgently re-thinks these ill-conceived planning reforms.
Council requires that our Executive Member for Environment and Regeneration write to the Secretary of State setting out our concerns about all local democratic input being stripped from the planning system.
Council also pledges to lobby the Government to reconsider the extension to the permitted development regime. Every local development should have the benefit of community input and ... view the full agenda text for item 9.
(i) Town & Country Planning
Councillor John Gardner moved and Councillor Sharon Taylor seconded a motion in respect of Town & Country Planning. Following debate and upon being put to the vote, it was RESOLVED that:
“This Council believes that planning works best when the local community, councillors and developers work together to shape local areas and deliver the new homes that are necessary and therefore calls on the government to protect the right of communities to object to individual planning applications. We demand that the Secretary of State urgently re-thinks these ill-conceived planning reforms.
Council requires that our Executive Member for Environment and Regeneration write to the Secretary of State setting out our concerns about all local democratic input being stripped from the planning system.
Council also pledges to lobby the Government to reconsider the extension to the permitted development regime. Every local development should have the benefit of community input and for both objectors and supporters to be able to express their view to decision-makers in public through the democratic process.”
(ii) Electric Bus Link
Councillor Sharon Taylor moved and Councillor Lloyd Briscoe seconded a motion with regard to an Electric Bus Link. Following debate and upon being put to the vote, it was RESOLVED that:
“This Council asks that every effort now be made to carry out a feasibility study on this initiative complete with costings. This work should explore the possibility of delivering this service with partners, the highway authority (Hertfordshire County Council), the Local Enterprise Partnership, the Town Development Board and Hertfordshire Growth Board and explore all options for funding the project including use of grants, government initiatives, community infrastructure levy and section 106 funding and specific funds for sustainable transport initiatives.
That a report be brought before the Council’s Executive setting out the options as quickly as possible and no later than the first quarter of 2022.”
(iii) Supporting tougher action on pet thefts
The following motion was moved by Councillor Alex Farquharson and seconded by Councillor Jody Hanafin:
“That this Council notes:
§ Hertfordshire Constabulary data shows a 54% increase in dog thefts in the county during 2019/20 compared to the previous year.
§ Data for England and Wales shows an 11% increase in dog thefts nationally during 2020/21 compared to the previous year.
§ There are currently discussions in central government and parliament about increasing penalties for pet theft, which could potentially include custodial sentences.
That this Council resolves:
§ To encourage residents to ensure their pets, especially cats and dogs, are microchipped and that their microchip information is up to date. This is the best precaution to hinder the sale of stolen pets as well as identifying them once recovered by police.
§ To request that the Chief Executive of the Council writes to the Home Secretary to express this Council’s support for tougher pet theft penalties.
§ To request that the Chief Executive of the Council writes to Stephen McPartland MP to thank him for signing a parliamentary amendment calling for tougher ... view the full decision text for item 9.
Written answers to the following questions will be circulated on a supplementary agenda.
(A) Question from Councillor Margaret Notley
“I am fully aware that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused major financial problems for SLL, but why was careful financial monitoring not carried out to highlight problems earlier and will there be strict monitoring with any new contract, when the present one expires in 2023?”
(B) Question from Councillor Adam Mitchell CC
“Do you believe the Council has done enough to move towards paperless working?”
(C) Question from Councillor Nicholas Leech
“How would you describe your record on delivering more electric car charging devices?”
(D) Question from Councillor Wendy Kerby
“I would like to ask the following question with regard to the article in the Comet “Council breaks safety laws in major refurb of flat blocks” and the Council's subsequent response:
Have the Council reviewed the results of the contractor's internal investigation into this incident? What corrective action have they taken to mitigate the situation and what further action are they taking to prevent recurrence?”
(E) Question from Councillor Graham Lawrence CC
“Is the Council’s support for thousands of new flats in Stevenage appropriate and realistic for the Post-COVID world?”
(F) Question from Councillor Alex Farquharson
“Do you believe the current relationship between the Council and staff trade unions is appropriate and in the tax payers’ best interest?”
(G) Question from Councillor Andy McGuinness
“What is the Council doing to maintain our town’s cherished woodlands?”
(H) Question from Councillor Graham Snell
“Given that the proposed changes to Lytton Way will not take place for several years, what changes will be made to help passengers with mobility difficulties travel between the new Bus Station and the Train Station?”
The Council received eight questions from Members to Committee Chairs/Portfolio Holders. The responses to the eight questions had been published in the supplementary agenda for the meeting.
(A) Question from Councillor Margaret Notley re: Leisure Management Contract
No supplementary question was asked.
(B) Question from Councillor Adam Mitchell re: paperless working
Supplementary question – “In view of the fact that the cost of printing committee agenda in 2020/21 was £39,000, and in the light of the Council having declared a Climate Change Emergency in 2019, does the Portfolio Holder find this excessive cost embarrassing and an inefficient use of tax payers money?”
The Portfolio Holder for Neighbourhoods & Co-operative Council replied that progress was being made to move towards a paperless way of working, with Members being encouraged to use the ModernGov app for accessing committee papers. This was part of the wider transformation exercise regarding improved digital access to meet Climate Change ambitions.
(C) Question from Councillor Nicholas Leech re: Electric Vehicle Charging Points
Supplementary question – “What is SBC doing to substantially increase the number of Electric Vehicle Charging (EVC) points in the town to increase Stevenage’s position in the County “League table” of numbers of EVCs?”
The Portfolio Holder for Economy, Enterprise & Transport replied that a recently held Local Government Association webinar on EVCs had identified a number of areas that needed to be addressed with the Government, including a requirement for the Government to clearly indicate the national rollout capacity; to provide national leadership on a preferred technical solution; and to provide sufficient capital and revenue resources. In the meantime, SBC would be working with Hertfordshire County Council to support the principles contained in their EVC Action Plan.
(D) Question from Councillor Wendy Kerby re: safety issues in relation to the major refurbishment of the Council’s flat blocks
No supplementary question was asked.
(E) Question from Councillor Graham Lawrence re: the building of new flats in the town
Supplementary question – “Will you reconsider the plans for flats, and build proper houses with gardens that people need and want to live in?
The Portfolio Holder for Environment & Regeneration replied that it would be difficult to double-guess the look of the post-Covid world. When the Stevenage Local Plan was produced, the Planning Inspector had considered the numbers, type and mix of residential units proposed to be acceptable. He stated that GlaxoSmithKline had just announced expansion plans for the Catalyst/Catapult life sciences park, which it was estimated would create 5,000 new jobs, and he felt that the type and quality of accommodation to be provided by the SG1 development would be suitable and ideally located for those individuals who would be looking to start or continue a career in the life sciences sector.
(F) Question from Councillor Alex Farquharson re: the relationship between the Council and staff trade unions
Supplementary question – “Why is SBC content to not charge Trade Unions a fee for allowing trade union subscriptions to be deducted from employees’ salaries, when other Councils charge ... view the full decision text for item 10.
To consider and approve the Council’s Community Safety Strategy 2021 – 2024.
It was moved by Councillor Jackie Hollywell, seconded by Councillor Sharon Taylor, and following debate and upon being put to the vote, it was
RESOLVED that the proposed final Community Safety Strategy 2021 – 2024, as attached at Appendix B to the report, be approved, noting its focus on the work of the SoSafe Partnership.
To consider and approve the proposed Employee Code of Conduct 2021.
It was moved by Councillor Mrs Joan Lloyd, and seconded by Councillor Sharon Taylor, that the recommendations in the report be approved.
In response to a number of issues raised by a Member during the debate, Councillor Mrs Lloyd asked the Member concerned to send these in writing to her so that she could give consideration as to whether or not they could be incorporated into the Code of Conduct document.
Upon the motion being put to the vote, it was
1. That the revised Employee Code of Conduct, as attached at Appendix A to the report, be approved.
2. That the revised Employee Code of Conduct be adopted for immediate implementation.
3. That the proposed measure that every employee must complete a declaration, confirming they have read the revised Employee Code of Conduct, be approved.
To consider the Annual Scrutiny Report 2020/21.
It was moved, seconded and RESOLVED that the work undertaken by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee and Select Committees during 2020/21, as set out in the report, be noted.
To note the Minutes of the Audit Committee meetings held on 3 February 2021, 24 March 2021 and 8 June 2021.
The Minutes of the meetings of the Audit Committee held on 3 February 2021, 24 March 2021 and 8 June 2021 were received and noted.
EXCLUSION OF PRESS AND PUBLIC
To consider the following motions –
1. That under Section 100A of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as described in Paragraphs 1 – 7 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act as amended by Local Government (Access to Information) (Variation) Order 2006.
2. That Members consider the reasons for the following reports being in Part II and determine whether or not maintaining the exemption from disclosure of the information contained therein outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
It was RESOLVED:
1. That under Section 100A of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as described in Paragraphs 1 – 7 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act as amended by Local Government (Access to Information) (Variation) Order 2006.
2. That the reasons for the following report being in Part II were accepted, and that the exemption from disclosure of the information contained therein outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
REPORT ON URGENT PART II DECISION MADE BY THE EXECUTIVE ON 9 JUNE 2021 - DANESTRETE ROUNDABOUT SITE DISPOSAL
To consider a report on an Urgent Part II decision made by the Executive at its meeting held on 9 June 2021 in respect of the Danestrete Roundabout Site Disposal.
In accordance with Paragraph 12 of the Access to Information Rules contained in its Constitution, the Council considered a Part II report in respect of an Urgent Part II decision made by the Executive at its meeting held on 9 June 2021 with regard to the Danestrete Roundabout site disposal.
It was moved, seconded and RESOLVED that the Urgent Part II decision made by the Executive at its meeting held on 9 June 2021 regarding the Danestrete Roundabout site disposal, as set out in Paragraph 3.4 of the report, be noted.