Venue: Virtual Meeting
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Note: This meeting was recoreded over two videos - please follow the links below to view the recordings.
Link to meeting recordings
The Reverend Ralph Kemp said prayers at the request of the Mayor.
Apologies for Absence
There were no apologies for absence.
Declarations of Interest
To provide an opportunity for Members and Officers to declare any disclosable pecuniary and non-pecuniary interests in any item on the agenda.
Item 8 - In the interest of openness, Councillor B Puddicombe declared that he was the Council’s nominated representative on the Peaks and Plains Housing Trust, which was mention as being part of a consortium making a bid for a green homes grant in the report.
To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting of Council held on 16 December 2020.
That the minutes of the meeting held on 16 December 2020 be approved as a correct record.
To receive such announcements as may be made by the Mayor.
1 expressed his thanks to all those Members who had joined him at the Council’s Holocaust Memorial Day Service last month. He also thanked Mrs Judith Hayman, who at the Service had talked in such an engaging way about the horrific impact of the Holocaust on her family, and thanked the Rev Michael Morton, from St Winifred’s Church, Sandbach, who had also spoken at the Service.
2 referred to the recent media interest in a meeting of Handforth Parish Council, of which he was a member, and stated that nothing should detract from the importance of the business being considered at today’s meeting which included agreeing the budget and the Council Tax precept, and that the Council had an agreed procedure for dealing with code of conduct issues.
Public Speaking Time/Open Session
In accordance with paragraph 1.32 of the Council Procedure Rules and Appendix 7 to the rules, a total period of 15 minutes is allocated for members of the public to speak at Council meetings. Individual members of the public may speak for up to 2 minutes, but the Chairman will have discretion to vary this requirement where they consider it appropriate.
Members of the public wishing to ask a question or make a statement at the meeting should provide at least three clear working days’ notice in writing and should include the question with that notice. This will enable an informed answer to be given.
Jane Smith referred to planning application 20/2540C and asked why the Council had given permission for the removal of the 10 metres of hedgerow for temporary vehicular access in spite of Alsager Town Council’s concerns, which were backed up by policies in their recently adopted Neighbourhood Plan. The Portfolio Holder for Planning responded that Local Plan Policy PG6 – Open Countryside allowed for the development of public infrastructure and essential work to be undertaken by public service or authorities or statutory undertakers and the application related to the upgrading of a water treatment plant and was therefore acceptable in principle. Policy NBE4 of Alsager Neighbourhood Plan stated that, if because of development, trees and hedgerows were lost they should be replaced by native species and this had been secured by a condition of approval of the application.
Sue Helliwell referred to the Brighter Future Together Programme and stated that it appeared from details within the budget that there were going to be cuts or savings to the Programme and made reference to member behaviours. Sue Helliwell asked how the Council could ensure that the culture of the council kept on improving if cuts were to be made to the Brighter Future Programme. In response the Portfolio Holder for Public Health and Corporate Services stated that the Council’s Brighter Future workstream was much wider than the cultural workstream and include four other areas of transformation and that there were no savings proposals in the MTFS relating to the cultural work.
Paul Duffy spoke in relation to the proposal to close the Congleton Recycling Centre with no option for a replacement and asked if the submitted petition and calculations for extra C02 were taken into consideration in deciding to close the recycling centre in Congleton and how did closing a recycling centre fit in with the Climate emergency declared by Cheshire East back in 2019. The Portfolio Holder for Highways and Waste confirmed that the consultation responses and petition were taken into consideration and emphasised that a decision had not yet been made, and the matter would go back to the scrutiny committee before a decision was made by Cabinet.
Congleton Town Councillor Robert Douglas referred to the proposal for the closure of the Congleton Recycling Centre, making reference to damage it would cause to the environment, and stated that it was unthinkable that a town the size of Congleton would not have its own recycling site. He asked how many alternative sites Cheshire East had seriously considered to replace the existing site and what was their approximate acreage and distance from the centre of Congleton. In response the Portfolio Holder for Highways and Waste stated that the decision had not been taken to close the site and the matter would go back to the scrutiny committee before going to Cabinet for decision and asked that people put forward any suggestion were cuts could be made in other services to enable a site to be built in Congleton which they would consider. ... view the full minutes text for item 40.
Leader's and Deputy Leader's Announcements
To receive such announcements as may be made by the Leader and Deputy Leader.
The Leader of the Council, in summary:
· stated that the Covid-19 infection rates in Cheshire East had fallen sharply in January from a peak of about 400 per 100,000 of population but in early February the decline had stopped at about 200 per 100,000 and that this appeared to be due to a number of outbreaks in care homes.
· reported that the rate was now at 134 per 100,000 and he thanked everybody who has helped to reduce the infection rate, including those simply following the rules and observing the hands, face, face guidance.
· stated that the vaccination programme organised by NHS Cheshire CCG and local GPs was going exceptionally well and over 90% of those in the top 4 cohorts had been vaccinated.
· encouraged those over 70 and who had not yet had their first vaccination to call 119 and book an appointment.
· praised the work done in distributing food and energy vouchers to the vulnerable and that with the help of schools, colleges, early years settings and other family support service more than 11,000 vouchers had been distributed.
The Deputy Leader of the Council, in summary:
· reported that since November last year a total of 14,000 business grants, had been paid out and that the Business Support Team had processed a further 561 applications within the last week. By the end of March the Council was expected to have paid out more than £4.5m in grant payments.
· reported that public consultation had commenced on second phase of our active travel schemes to encourage cycling and walking following a further award of government funding.
· reported that the Council’s expression of interest to the Department of Transport’s Rural Mobility Fund had been successful and a business case for a demand responsive transport scheme serving rural communities in the south of the Bourgh had been submitted.
· stated that HS2 Phase 2A had gained royal assent, which would bring high speed rail travel to Crewe.
To consider the recommendations from Cabinet.
Council considered the recommendations from Cabinet in relation to the approval of supplementary revenue estimates and supplementary capital estimates.
RESOLVED: That Council approve:
1. fully funded supplementary revenue estimates above £1,000,000 relating to Covid-19 grants in accordance with Financial Procedure Rules, as detailed in Appendix 2 Table 1 to the report;
2. a supplementary capital estimate of £1,808,000 relating to Best4Business in accordance with Financial Procedure Rules, as detailed in Appendix 4, Annex D to the report;
3. an additional Supplementary Capital Estimate of up to £3,500,000 from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Fund to further the Council’s carbon neutrality objectives; and
4. an additional Supplementary Capital Estimate in relation to £1,523,750 from The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) for Green Homes Grant, Local Authority Delivery Scheme Phase 1B (GHG LAD P1B).
To consider the recommendations from Cabinet.
Note: The Corporate Plan and Medium-Term Financial Strategy documents for this item have been circulated as a separate document to all members of the Council. Members are asked to use this version of the documents when the item is considered at the meeting.
Cabinet, at its meeting on 2 February 2021 had considered a report presenting the Corporate Plan and the Medium-Term Financial Strategy for Cheshire East Council for 2021-25. The report set out how the Council would approach the financial challenges over the medium term and forecast a balanced budget for 2021/22.
Cabinet had recommended to Council the items in Appendix A to the report and these were proposed and seconded.
During the debate two amendments were proposed.
To start the initiative for devolved ward budgets it is recommended that:
a) the Council establish devolved ward member budgets of at least £4,200 per Ward Member for the financial year 2021/2022.
b) the proposals to be funded from the current allocation of Capital Grant funding to the Area Highway Groups of £350,000.
c) that the Committee System be asked to review achievements of the ward budgets scheme in 2021/22 with a view to widening the scheme in 2022/23 and beyond with a significant increase in the budget amount to be allocated to each Ward Member.
The amendment was moved and seconded. The mover and seconder of the recommendations from Cabinet to Council agreed to accept the amendment subject to the addition of ‘highways’ so it read “...devolved highways ward budgets…”. This was acceptable to the mover and seconder of the amendment and therefore the amendment became part of the substantive proposition.
Propose that an additional £1m be added into the highways budget. This should be used for a concerted gully emptying programme to protect our highways infrastructure and to reduce flooding across the borough. This money should come from savings on travel and subsistence as we have saved over £1m so for this year! Any further saving in this year’s budget should be ringfenced for highways to reduce any risk. On next year’s budget any shortfall to be funded from unified communications p165 and waste extra tonnage p189.
The amendment was moved and seconded.
The Section 151 officer advised that a balanced business case in relation to the amendment had not been submitted and that the funding within the amendment was not a surplus and that the underspend on travel was already reflected in the budget as it stood. The amendment would lead to a unbalanced budget and the Section S151 Officer therefore advised Council not to adopt the amendment. The Monitoring Officer confirmed that the amendment as put would leave the budget unbalanced and was something which could not be voted on as it would be an unlawful budget.
In the light of the advice received the mover and seconder withdraw their amendment.
Following debate on the substantive recommendations, these were put to the vote, and in accordance with legislation, a recorded vote was carried out with the following results:
Councillors Q Abel, S Akers Smith, J Barber, L Brathwaite, J Bratherton, S Brookfield, C Browne, C Bulman, P Butterill, S Carter, S Corcoran, L Crane, D Edwardes, B Evans, H Faddes, A Farrall, K Flavell, T ... view the full minutes text for item 43.
To set the Council Tax for Cheshire East for the financial year 2021/22.
Consideration was given to a report relating to the setting of the Council Tax for 2021/22.
It was reported that Cheshire East Council, as a billing authority, was responsible for the billing and collection of Council Tax from local taxpayers and must, therefore, make a resolution to set the overall Council Tax level. This meant the Authority also collected Council Tax income to cover not only its own services but also precepts set by other authorities. The Council Tax levied was, therefore made up of four elements: -
· Cheshire East Borough Council
· Town & Parish Council precepts
· Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire precept
· Cheshire Fire Authority precept
Council was recommended to set the Council Tax for Cheshire East Council for the financial year 2021/22 at £1,579.03, in accordance with the formal resolutions as shown in section 13 of the report.
The motion in respect of the setting of the Council Tax was proposed and seconded. Following debate, in accordance with legislation a recorded vote was carried out in respect to this item, with the following results: -
Councillor Q Abel, S Akers Smith, J Barber, L Braithwaite, J Bratherton, S Brookfield, C Browne, J Buckley, C Bulman, P Butterill, S Carter, S Corcoran, L Crane, D Edwardes, B Evans, H Faddes, A Farrall, K Flavell, R Fletcher, T Fox, M Goldsmith, S Handley, A Harewood, S Hogben, M Houston, M Hunter, D Jefferay, L Jeuda, I Macfarlane, N Mannion, D Marren, A Moran, R Moreton, D Murphy, J Nicholas, J Parry, S Pochin, B Puddicombe, J Rhodes, J Smith, L Smith, A Stott, R Vernon, M Warren and P Williams.
Councillors M Addison, M Asquith, R Bailey, M Beanland, M Benson, D Brown, J Clowes, S Davies, T Dean, S Edgar, JP Findlow, A Gage, S Gardiner, L Gilbert, A Gregory, P Groves, G Hayes, S Holland, A Kolker, C Leach, A Martin, K Parkinson, P Redstone, L Roberts, J Saunders, M Sewart, M Simon, L Smetham, D Stockton, L Wardlaw, J Weatherill, J Wray and N Wylie.
Councillors B Burkhill and B Murphy.
The motion was declared carried with 45 votes for, 33 against and 2 not voting.
That the Council Tax for Cheshire East Council for the financial year 2021/22 be set at £1,579.03, in accordance with the formal resolutions as shown in section 13 of the report, as follows: -
1 That it be noted that on 16 December 2020 the Council calculated the Council Tax base 2021/22.
(a) for the whole Council area as 153,796.10 (item T in the formula in Section 31B of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, as amended (the “Act”)).
(b) for individual parishes, as in Appendix A to the report.
2 That the Council Tax requirement for the Council’s own purposes for 2021/22 (excluding Parish precepts) is £242,848,656.
3 That the following amounts be calculated for the year 2021/22 in accordance with Sections 31 to 36 of the Act:
a. £681,018,752 being the ... view the full minutes text for item 44.
To consider the recommendations from the Staffing Committee.
Consideration was given to the recommendations of the Staffing Committee in respect of the Pay Policy Statement for 2021/22.
The Staffing Committee, at its meeting on 21 January 2021, had considered the draft Pay Policy Statement and resolved that Council be recommended to the approve and publish the Pay Policy Statement 2021/22 and delegate authority to the Monitoring Officer to make any necessary in-year amendments to the Statement.
Councillor C Bulman, Chair of Staffing Committee, referred to The Restrictions of Public Sector Exit Payments Regulations 2020, which had come into effect on 4 November 2020 and introduced a £95,000 cap on exit payments. Cllr Bulman reported that the Government had agreed that the cap may have unintended consequences and that the Treasury had ruled that it would disapply the regulations with immediate effect and therefore the cap would no longer apply. As a result of this the Monitoring Officer would be asked to amend the Pay Policy Statement accordingly.
1 the Pay Policy Statement for 2021/22 be approved and published accordingly; and
2 the Monitoring Officer be authorised to make any necessary in year amendments and any further changes required to the Statement.
To consider any Notices of Motion that have been received in accordance with paragraph 1.34 of the Council Procedure Rules
Consideration was given to the following Notices of Motion, which had been submitted in accordance with paragraph 1.34 of the Council Procedure Rules.
1 Universal Credit
Proposed by Councillor L Smith and Seconded by Councillor D Marren
This Council notes:
· This April the Government plan to cut the benefit level for millions of claimants by ending of the time limited increase to the basic rate of Universal Credit (and the tax credit equivalent) announced by the Chancellor on 20th March as part of his pandemic response package.
· The £20 a week boost reflected the reality that the level of benefits were not adequate to protect the swiftly increasing number of households relying on them as the crisis hit. Exactly because that increase was a very significant and welcome move to bolster low- and middle-income families living standards, its removal will be a huge loss.
· Pressing ahead would see the level of unemployment support fall to its lowest real-terms level since 1990-91, and it’s lowest ever relative to average earnings. Indeed, the basic level of out-of-work support prior to the March boost was – at £73 a week (£3,800 a year) – less than half the absolute poverty line.
· The increase in benefits have had a positive effect on the lives of thousands of local claimants who are better able to pay for life’s essentials such as food, clothing, and utilities.
· The local economy has also benefited from the increase in benefit levels as claimants spend their money locally thereby supporting local businesses and jobs.
This Council resolves to:
· Write to the Chancellor, Rushi Sunak and to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson demanding that the £20 increase to Universal Credit is made permanent and extended to claimants on legacy benefits.
· Work with other local government organisations to form a coalition to pressure the government to make the £20 increase to Universal Credit permanent.
That the Motion be referred to Cabinet.
2 International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of Anti-Semitism
Proposed by Councillor S Gardiner and Seconded by Councillor
This Council reaffirms its commitment to employ the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism as a key pillar of the Council’s equality and diversity policies.
That the Motion be referred to Cabinet via the relevant overview and scrutiny committee.
Proposed by Councillor R Bailey and seconded by Councillor M Beanland
This Council places on record their thanks to all involved in the Covid 19 vaccination programme within Cheshire East. This includes all health staff, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service and volunteers.
That the Motion be approved.
Before consideration of the next Notice of Motion, the Mayor announced that it would be inappropriate for him to chair the meeting whilst the Motion was being considered and would therefore leave the meeting during its consideration and that, following consultation with the Group Leaders, Councillor Rod Fletcher would take the chair.
The Mayor left the meeting room and Councillor Fletcher took the Chair.
In accordance with paragraph 1.18 of the Council Procedure Rules, opportunity is provided for Members of the Council to ask the Mayor, the appropriate Cabinet Member or the Chairman of a Committee any question about a matter which the Council, the Cabinet or the Committee has powers, duties or responsibilities.
At Council meetings, there will be a maximum question time period of 30 minutes. A period of two minutes will be allowed for each member wishing to ask a question. The Mayor will have the discretion to vary this requirement where they consider it appropriate. Questions will be selected by the Mayor, using the criteria agreed by Council. Any questions which are accepted, but which cannot be dealt with during the allotted period will be answered in writing. Questions must be brief, clear and focussed.
Councillor P Redstone asked how many planning officers had left since 2018, whether they had been replaced, what was the establishment of the department in 2018 and what was it now. The Portfolio Holder for Planning undertook to provide a written answer.
Councillor D Marren, in relation to flooding in his ward, referred to the Local Government Ombudsman setting up virtual meeting with the Council on 23 February and asked who would be attending, and if he could attend. The Portfolio Holder for Highways and Waste agreed to provide a written response to the question.
Councillor A Farrall referred to the Armed Forces Covenant and asked if the Council would consider if establishing a dedicated housing outreach officer to engage directly with members of the armed forces. The Portfolio Holder for Environment and Regeneration responded that he would ask officers to look at examples at other councils to see if the Council could improve its offer and asked Councillor Farrall to forward the information he had.
Councillor J Clowes and Councillor M Asquith both referred to planning enforcement issues in their wards and asked that action be taken on these and meetings be arranged so the Parish Councils could put forward their concerns. The Portfolio Holder for Planning responded that they would need to discuss the issues raised with officers and undertook to provide a written response.
Councillor S Gardiner asked about the Council’s policy for the reuse/recycling of items taken to the household waste sites which were of sufficient quality to be recycled. In response the Portfolio Holder for Highways and Waste stated that the operator’s contract allowed for goods which could be reused to be salvaged and undertook to provide a written response with the details.
Councillor S Akers Smith referred to two Congleton residents who had received awards from the High Sheriff of Cheshire for their volunteer work and asked if the Council could also recognise the achievement of volunteers during the pandemic. The Portfolio Holder for Communities responded that the lockdown restrictions had prevented the holding of any events to recognise the work of volunteers and asked Members to let him know of ideas on how this Council could do this. The Leader of the Council asked Councillor Akers Smith to forward him the details of the two Congleton residents so that they could personally congratulate them on their award.
Cllr B Puddicombe asked about what plans the Council was making for post covid recovery in Cheshire East and especially in major towns. The Portfolio Holder for Environment and Regeneration responded that the Council had been working hard to process and pay out grants to businesses and was working on an economic recovery plan. In Macclesfield the Council had been working with the Town Council and stakeholders to develop a town centre recovery plan and these plans would be developed for the other towns in Cheshire East.
Cllr C Bulman asked for clarification on the situation in relation to highways which had been raised earlier ... view the full minutes text for item 47.
To note the urgent decisions taken by the Chief Executive on behalf of Council.
Council receieved a schedule of urgent decisions taken by the Chief Executive on behalf of Council, which was reported for information in accordance with Appendix 4 of the Council procedure rules.
That the schedule of urgent decisions be noted.