Agenda and draft minutes

Council
Wednesday 21st October, 2020 7.00 pm

Venue: Online meeting - Livestreamed. View directions

Contact: Rebecca Dobson  Tel: (01279) 502082 Email:  rebecca.dobson@eastherts.gov.uk

Link: The livestream for this meeting can be viewed here

Media

Items
No. Item

193.

Chairman's Announcements

To receive any announcements.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman welcomed all those attending the meeting online and those observing the livestream.  He reminded Members that “show of hands” voting would be via the tools within the online software and that any Members who were participating by telephone would need to speak to say how they vote.  He asked whether there were any Members who were attending by telephone. 

 

Councillor Frecknall confirmed he was attending by telephone.

 

The Chairman then reported on his recent civic duties, including attending a service in St Alban’s Cathedral.

 

The Chairman referred to the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, and said he was delighted that a number of East Hertfordshire residents had received recognition. All had been invited to attend this meeting, and it gave him great pleasure to welcome to the meeting two recipients, Laura Higgins and Claire Uwins, who were present. He outlined the achievements for which both had received recognition.

 

The Chairman said Laura Higgins,from Bishop’s Stortford was the National Crime Agency’s Head of Strategy and Portfolio within the Digital, Data and Technology team (DDaT). She had been awarded the MBE for her services in enabling the agency to maintain critical operational effectiveness during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Her leadership had ensured that over 3,500 officers were kept safe during lockdown, enabling effective remote working, and assured support and sustainment to the agency’s investigative capabilities and services.

Laura Higgins said she was overwhelmed at having been nominated and was incredibly proud to receive this award. She was also very humbled that her contribution had been recognised in this way. She said it was important to her that this recognition was not just of her personally but rather the role the NCA had in protecting the public. This year had been a challenge for everyone and this award was an incredible bright spot in an otherwise difficult time. Having the agency’s work and contribution to law enforcement recognised on such a level was something for all her colleagues to be proud of.

 

The Chairman said Claire Uwins, who had received a BEM for services to her rural community in Much Hadham, had initiated a wonderful project that had seen the village come together during the virus. She had set up a buddy system whereby residents had kept in contact with more isolated members of the community. Councillor Devonshire had buddied with a 94-year-old lady for whom he did shopping, picked up medicines, posted letters and generally kept an eye on her welfare. The scheme had expanded into the surrounding areas, including Perry Green, Green Tye and Hunsdon.

 

Claire had also expanded her Sunday Lunch Club which she had run for many years. People could turn up at a local pub for lunch at no cost in a friendly atmosphere.

 

Claire Uwins addressed the meeting. She said she had felt humbled to have received the honour on behalf of the health centre. She thanked all Members, and in particular the Leader, who had originally suggested to her 10 years ago that she might  ...  view the full minutes text for item 193.

194.

Apologies for Absence

To receive any Members’ apologies for absence.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Bull and Crystall.

 

195.

Minutes – 22 July 2020 pdf icon PDF 220 KB

To approve as a correct record and authorise the Chairman to sign the Minutes of the Council meeting held on 22 July 2020.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Jones proposed, and Councillor Fernando seconded, a motion that the Minutes of the meeting held on 22 July 2020 be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman. 

 

The motion to approve the Minutes being put to the meeting, and a vote taken, it was declared CARRIED.

 

RESOLVED – that the Minutes of the meeting held on 22 July 2020 be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

 

196.

Declarations of Interest

To receive any Members' declarations of interest.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

 

197.

Public Questions pdf icon PDF 122 KB

To receive any public questions.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman invited Chris Ramsden to ask his question.

 

Chris Ramsden asked the Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Financial Sustainability the following question:

 

“The Council has been wise to re-examine the current business plans for the impact of Covid and Brexit. If I am not mistaken, the capital budget over the next 4 years is 120M which is a considerable amount of money, and if borrowed at existing interest rates would lead to an annual finance charge of just under 6M which is roughly 40% council tax income. If any of these figures are wrong, I am of course happy to be corrected.  In the interests of prudent financial management and Council taxpayer buy in, all business plans should be independently, objectively and transparently reviewed by publishing as much information as possible so that interested Council tax payers are able to assess the position and that they are assured that the plans are robust to future changes, likely to achieve the benefits and planned returns, and that the risks of non-achievement are manageable. In my attempts to achieve this, my brief investigations have encountered a number of issues including entire documents being restricted and missing figures. In order for such a review to occur:

 

-                 All business plans currently being re-examined should be published. If there is a need to restrict any content, then they should be published in a way that minimises the restriction to sensitive data only.

-                 All published business plans should contain figures for Top line (total revenue), broken down into components, the various deductions, and the bottom line (council contribution surplus/subsidy). Various deductions includes figures for direct costs, indirect costs, staff costs, financing costs, and service costs as separate line items.

 

“The council tax payer (as end customer, ultimate funder and risk taker) requires from the review assurances that:

 

-                 there is high confidence that the top and bottom line figures are achievable, and that any risks of non-achievement are manageable;

-                 all assumptions are valid over a time period of at least the duration of the loans;

-                 the plans are robust with respect to any future long term Covid consequences and new trends including possible changes to car parking needs, cinema going use, retail shopping habits and EH residents working at home etc.

 

“Please will the Council:

 

1.             publish the business plans as openly and transparently as possible (along the lines above) in a report to Council;

2.             perform an independent open, and objective review that publishes as a report the answer to the question ‘What assurances can the Council give that each  business plans is viable and that, for example, an independent hard-nosed business person  would invest in each project?’

 

Councillor Williamson, the Executive Member for Financial Sustainability, gave the following response.

 

“Thank you for your question Mr Ramsden. Within your question you say you are happy to be corrected if any of the figures you have given are wrong so, if I may, for the public record and to give  ...  view the full minutes text for item 197.

198.

Members' questions pdf icon PDF 32 KB

To receive any Members' questions.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Ruffles asked the Executive Member for Wellbeing the following question.

 

“I’m aware that a number other agencies worked with Highways at County trying to ensure that our High Streets and Shopping Centres were able to re-open safely.  Could the Executive Member for Wellbeing please explain the role of our East Herts Environmental Health team, and describe any particular challenges they may have faced?”

 

Councillor E Buckmaster responded as follows:

 

“The Environmental Health team has been playing a pro-active role supporting local businesses throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. This has included contacting more than 400 local businesses to give detailed, bespoke advice including undertaking advisory visits or phoning or writing to businesses to share information about how to operate safely with regards to both staff and customers alike. This is key way in which the council has sought to ensure business owners and managers are up-to-date on the latest regulations.

 

“Environmental Health officers have been conducting a significant amount of their duties outside of the council’s normal office hours so as to reach businesses when they are operating. This is particularly the case with cafes, restaurants and pubs. When the 10pm closing time was recently introduced, the team conducted 42 joint visits with the police to local businesses operating in the night time economy on a single Saturday night.

 

“To date the team have followed up 557 individual reports from the public, members, the police and others about businesses appearing to not be following the guidance properly. The team’s stance whether in response to a report or during a proactive visit is a supportive rather than a punitive one with a four Es approach being adopted to ensure compliance for everyone’s safety; that is, engagement, explanation, encouragement and then finally enforcement, although to date this later approach has not been necessary.

 

“Support to help local businesses stay afloat at this challenging time has also included the Licensing team speedily setting up a process to licence tables and chairs on the pavement. Being able to serve customers outside can overcome some of the restrictions applicable indoors. Any premises that sell food or drink for consumption either on or off the premises may apply. This is a temporary measure which acts as an alternative to the pavement licences that Hertfordshire County Council has the power to issue. East Herts Council’s licences are time-limited and the fee is less than a third of the cost of a licence issued by the County Council because the measure is expressly about helping businesses while of course, not interfering with the safe use of pavements. To date, the council has issued two pavement licences in Hertford and one in Bishop’s Stortford. “

 

Councillor Ruffles thanked Councillor Buckmaster and asked as a supplemental question, what had been happening about Test and Trace.

 

Councillor Buckmaster responded as follows:

 

“It is worth noting that on top of this work, since the beginning of October, Environmental Health officers have also been involved with the local test and trace system. If neither  ...  view the full minutes text for item 198.

199.

Executive Report - 1 September 2020 pdf icon PDF 53 KB

To receive a report from the Leader of the Council and to consider recommendations on the matter below:

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Leader presented a report on the matters considered at the meeting of the Executive on 1 September 2020. She said that meeting seemed a long time ago now, as a significant focus on measures to tackle Covid-19 was continuing for all local authorities. She congratulated the recipients of the Queen’s Birthday Honours.They had demonstrated a real sense of looking after their community and were a credit to society and to this District.

 

Councillor Haysey referred to the recommendation in the Executive report regarding the updated safeguarding policy, which had been submitted for Council’s approval with no amendments made by the Executive.

 

Minute xx refers to the item for recommendation.

 

199a

Revised Safeguarding Policy

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Neighbourhoods said he was delighted to propose this item. The guidance reflected national guidance and now included additional areas such as management of VIP visits and safer recruitment. The item had been supported by the Executive with no amendments.

 

Councillor Curtis seconded the proposal.

 

Councillor Goldspink said the Liberal Democrat Group were happy to support the proposals, which were comprehensive.

 

A motion to support the recommendation having been proposed and seconded, after being put to the meeting and a vote taken, it was declared CARRIED.

 

RESOLVED to adopt the updated Safeguarding Policy, as set out at appendix A in the report to the Executive on 1 September 2020.

 

200.

Executive Report - 6 October 2020 pdf icon PDF 64 KB

To receive a report from the Leader of the Council and to consider recommendations on the matters below:

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Leader presented a report setting out recommendations to the Council made by the Executive at its meeting on 6 October 2020.

 

Minutes xx, xx, xx and xx refer to the four items on which recommendations were made. 

 

200a

East Herts District Plan – Amendments to Policies Map

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Haysey presented the recommendation which was referred to in the Executive report of 6 October 2020, regarding amendment of inaccuracies in the adopted East Hertfordshire District Plan Policies Map. 

 

Councillor Devonshire, as the Ward Member for the area affected, proposed that the recommendation in the Executive report (at Minute xx above) be supported.

 

Councillor Goodeve seconded the proposal.

 

Councillor Goldspink said the Liberal Democrat Group were happy to support the motion.

 

The motion to support the recommendation having been put to the meeting, and a vote taken, was declared CARRIED.

 

RESOLVED - that the amendments at Appendix B to the report be noted and approved to form part of the adopted East Herts District Plan 2018 Policies Map.

 

200b

Policy for Enforcing Standards for Private Sector Landlords

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Neighbourhoods proposed the recommendation made by the Executive, as referred to in the Executive report of 6 October 2020, in respect of new housing standards enforcement powers. The measures, which had been developed with other local authorities, would help improve housing standards and would provide for civil penalties to be imposed in a consistent way. He proposed a motion to support the recommendation.

 

Councillor Symonds said these measures had been anticipated for a considerable time. She seconded the motion.

 

Councillor Goldspink said the Liberal Democrat Group supported the policy, but she questioned what would happen to tenants affected by banning orders. She asked whether a small amendment could be made to ensure the Council confirmed it would be alert to the needs of tenants.

 

Councillor Redfern supported Councillor Goldspink’s comments.

 

Councillor Boylan said he took note of the point raised, but that there was no need for an amendment, as Officers would take all due consideration required in applying the policies.

 

The motion to support the proposal having been proposed and seconded, it was put to the meeting. Upon a vote being taken, it was declared CARRIED.

 

RESOLVED – that the following policies relating to housing standards enforcement, using powers introduced in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 be adopted, as set out in Appendix C to the report submitted to the Executive on 6 October 2020:

(1)        Issuing of civil penalties;

(2)        Applications for rent repayment orders;

(3)        Applications for banning orders; and

(4)        Use of the Rogue Landlords and Property Agents Database.

 

200c

Council Tax Reduction Scheme 2021/22

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Financial Sustainability proposed a motion to support the recommendation of the Executive to Council on continuation of the Local Council Tax Support Scheme for 2021/22. He said the arrangement helped the most financially vulnerable citizens in the District, and he was pleased to recommend that it should continue unchanged.

 

Councillor Kemp seconded the motion.

 

Councillor Goldspink confirmed her Group’s support for this item.

 

On being put to the meeting, and a vote taken, the motion was declared CARRIED.

 

RESOLVED - to continue the current local Council Tax Support Scheme for 2021/22.

 

200d

In principle agreement to use of CPO powers to acquire land to implement Gilston Area development infrastructure requirements

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Leader presented the recommendation from the Executive on in principle agreement to use compulsory purchase order powers to secure land for the delivery of transport infrastructure in the Gilston Area allocation in the East Hertfordshire District plan. The powers would only be required if agreement with landowners could not be negotiated. She proposed a motion to support the recommendation.

 

Councillor E Buckmaster seconded the proposal.


Councillor Goldspink said her Group supported this proposal.

 

On being put to the meeting, and a vote taken, the motion was declared CARRIED. 

 

RESOLVED – that (a), in principle, (and subject to Harlow District Council resolving to follow the same course of action) the Council be prepared to use powers available to it under section 226(1)(a) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to compulsorily purchase land in the Gilston area, as generally shown on the plans at Appendix 1 to the report to the Executive on 6 October 2020, to enable the construction of transport infrastructure to support the  delivery of the Gilston Area allocation in the East Herts District Plan (The Gilston Area Allocation) and the achievement of the wider strategic planning benefits referred to in the report; and

 

(b) to note that Officers will undertake the work needed to prepare for a possible Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) together with the associated documentation and, if  necessary, will bring a further report back to the Executive and Council seeking authority to make a CPO.

 

201.

Appointment of s.151 Officer pdf icon PDF 58 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chief Executive submitted a report seeking confirmation of the appointment of Steven Linnett as the Council’s section 151 Officer.

 

Councillor Andrews proposed a motion to support the recommendation in the report.

 

Councillor Bolton said she was delighted that Steven Linnett was on board, and seconded the motion.

 

Councillor Goldspink said she was very happy to support the motion.

 

On being put to the meeting, and a vote taken, the motion to support the recommendation was declared CARRIED.

 

RESOLVED – that the appointment of Steven Linnett as the Council’s Chief Financial Officer and Section 151 Officer be approved.

 

202.

Report of urgent key decision taken by the Leader - SLM request for financial support pdf icon PDF 227 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Financial Sustainability said the report before Members was for noting, in that an urgent key decision had been taken in August 2020, in relation to a request for financial support from the company operating the leisure centres in the District, Sports and Leisure Management Ltd (SLM Ltd). The decision had been taken with the consent of the Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, in accordance with the urgency process. As the decision was outside the budget and policy framework, it was now required to be reported to Council. However, as an update on this item, he said SLM Ltd had applied for Covid business support and no longer required the loan from the Council.

 

Councillor Goldspink asked that urgent decisions be reported to all Members at the time they were taken, in addition to being subsequently reported to Council.


The Democratic Services Manager confirmed that urgent key decisions were notified by email direct to Members when they were taken, but they could also be publicised in the Members’ Information Bulletin.

 

The report was noted.

 

The Chairman said this was the final meeting at East Herts Council for the Democratic Services Manager, and on behalf of all Members, he thanked her and wished her well.

 

The Chairman reminded all Members that the next meeting on 16 December was traditionally an occasion when Members wore festive jumpers, upon making a donation to the Chairman’s charities. He said this year he would ask that Members donate to the Isabel Hospice direct.