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
Apologies were received from Councillors S Carter and B Murphy.
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.
There were no declarations of interest.
To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meetings of Council held on 21 October 2020 and 19 November 2020.
On consideration of the minutes, Councillor R Bailey referred to a question she had asked in relation to 20 mph zones at the meeting of 21st October 2020 as referred to in Minute 18. She said that in asking the question, she had referred to the impact on the surrounding roads of Sandbach. She also pointed out that ‘Audlem’ had been misspelt in the minutes as ‘Audlum’. She asked that the minutes be amended in respect of both matters.
That subject to the amendments requested by Councillor Bailey, the minutes of the meetings held on 21st October 2020 and 19th November 2020 be approved as a correct record.
To receive such announcements as may be made by the Mayor.
1. Expressed his pride at the way in which Cheshire East Council had responded to the Coronavirus emergency and thanked staff for their hard work, ingenuity and commitment over what had been a very difficult and challenging year. He also paid tribute to those across Cheshire East who had kept essential services working, including doctors, nurses and paramedics, and those working in care homes. Finally, he paid tribute to the work of members of the Council in providing leadership in their communities over the last year.
2. Extended his sympathies to the families and friends of those who had lost their lives due to Coronavirus.
3. Expressed his appreciation of the Chief Executive who had joined the Council at a difficult time.
4. Referred to the Council’s momentous decision to move to a Committee system from next May. He thanked all Members for the way in which the debate had been held at the Special Meeting, and he also thanked the Officers for the tremendous amount of work that they had done over many months to prepare the way for the decision.
5. Said that it had been a privilege to serve a second year as Mayor in difficult times but wished that it had not been necessary.
6. Wished everyone a peaceful Christmas.
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.
Sue Helliwell asked the Council to provide free parking to support local businesses and residents. She also referred to a lack of public consultation and funding in relation to active travel schemes. The Leader responded that shop keepers in Knutsford had asked that parking charges be kept in order to prevent office workers from using spaces intended for shoppers. With regard to active travel schemes, he commented that all members had been emailed on 4th August. A public consultation was launched was still running. Of nine schemes put forward, one had been withdrawn and several others amended in response to comments received during the consultation. The Deputy Leader added that Sue Helliwell’s reference to a £26m projected spend was actually a projected budget deficit resulting from additional costs and lost revenue arising from Covid-19, and this had now fallen to £13m, largely due to the work of officers.
Congleton Town Councillor Robert Douglas stated that the Council’s proposals for household waste recycling sites, which were out to public consultation, were misleading in that they were based on the period of the first lockdown when many residents did not use the sites and that the figures of usage were much higher than stated. He also said that the proposals did not include a detailed analysis of the environmental impact and the likely increase in fly tipping. He asked that the current consultation be withdrawn and that any future proposals contain up to date information and address environmental impact. The Portfolio Holder for Highways and Waste responded that sufficient information was available during the current consultation and she encouraged people to respond before the close of the consultation on 4th January 2021.
Macclesfield Town Councillor Fiona Wilson indicated that the Town Council was supporting the ’20 is Plenty’ initiative and she asked Cheshire East Council to support the motion before them today. She said that the initiative would support active travel schemes and lead to safer streets and lower carbon emissions. The Mayor indicated that the matter would be debated later in the meeting.
Nick Cheetham also asked the Council to support the ’20 is Plenty’ motion on the agenda and referred to his experience of living in Edinburgh where a city-wide 20 mph restriction had been introduced.
Jane Smith asked the Council to ban trail hunting on its land. The Portfolio Holder for Environment and Regeneration responded that the Council’s current policy did not allow hunting with hounds, or the promoting of such activities, on its land. The Council retained such rights when granting leases. There were a few instances where the Council was unable to exercise such control where a lease predated the creation of the Council in 2009 but these related to quite small pieces of land.
Brian Fox urged the Council to support the ’20 is Plenty’ motion on the agenda as a way of providing an environment which would enable children to move about freely and safely.
Mary Edwards also asked the Council to support ... view the full minutes text for item 29.
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:
· Reported, in relation to the coronavirus pandemic, that the government would announce what tier of restrictions Cheshire East would be in over Christmas, later today. The speed of decrease in the infection rate had levelled off recently and in the last few days had started to rise again. He urged all residents to remember the basic steps needed to keep safe.
· Reported that, in September, when it was clear that the second wave was starting, Cllr Craig Browne and he had written to the Secretary of State asking for more local control of Test-Trace and increased powers to enforce restrictions locally. The Council had now been granted most of the powers it had requested in September. The Council would use the new powers to work with businesses to ensure that their establishments were Covid-secure. However, the powers available to the Council, which included the power to issue improvement notices and immediate restriction notices, would enable the Council to act more quickly where businesses were in breach of the regulations and people were put at risk.
· Reported that, in October, all leaders of Cheshire local authorities had jointly submitted a request for financial support from Government to assist local businesses. A reply was still awaited.
· Reported that the Pfizer vaccine was now being rolled out across Cheshire, and the AstraZeneca vaccine was not far behind. Although it would take some months for the vaccination programme to be rolled out, he felt that, once we were through what was likely to be a difficult winter, we could look forward to a better 2021. He wished everyone a merry and safe Christmas.
The Deputy Leader of the Council, in summary:
· Reported that there had been a positive response following the consultation on the Corporate Plan. The Council would be considering all feedback received and making some refinements to the Plan in the new year.
· Reported that, following consultation in 2019, the draft SADPD had been amended, removing a number of green belt sites from local service centres. Further representations were being received and would be sent, with the final draft, for examination by a planning inspector.
· Reported that Covid restrictions had had an impact on planning applications, enforcement, Section 106 Agreements and Discharge of Conditions applications, which were all taking longer to process. The Council was intending to address this through additional staffing resource but in the meantime was making some temporary changes to services, the details of which would be notified to all members.
· Reported that the Council’s response to the Greater Manchester proposal for a Clean Air Zone had been submitted on 3rd December. A response was expected in the spring.
· Reported that the Council’s response to the HS2b Western Leg Refinements consultation had been submitted on 11th December.
· Reported that the Chancellor had presented his Spending Review 2020 on 25th November. The details of this would potentially have implications for the Council’s MTFS, and those details were expected to be ... view the full minutes text for item 30.
To consider the recommendations from Cabinet.
Consideration was given to the recommendations of Cabinet on 1st December 2020 in relation to the domestic tax base 2021/22.
The Portfolio Holder for Environment and Regeneration, as the Cabinet member responsible for housing, welcomed the proposal that the premium charged for properties that had been empty for 10 years or longer be increased from 200% to 300% as a way of bringing properties back into occupation across the Borough.
1. in accordance with the Local Authorities (Calculation of Tax Base) Regulations 1992, the amount to be calculated by Cheshire East Council as its Council Tax Base for the year 2021/22 be 153,796.10 for the whole area;
2. the premium charged for property that has been empty for 10 years or longer be increased from 200% to 300%; and
3. the Council Tax Support Scheme for 2021/22 be unchanged, other than increasing the income bands in line with CPI.
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. 20’s PLENTY IN 2020
Proposed by Councillor S Akers Smith and seconded by Councillor J Barber
Cheshire East is a caring council, where the needs of residents come first. 20mph speed limits improve quality of life, helping to create places where walking, cycling, conversations and playing are prioritised over vehicle traffic.
20mph speed limits are supported by many bodies including the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health, Alzheimer's Society, Cycling UK, World Health Organisation, Cheshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Transition Towns and cities, towns and parish councils and community groups.
30mph speed limit was created in 1934 and has never been reviewed, despite a significant increase in number of vehicles from 1.5 million to 40 million. The speed and weight of vehicles kills 5 people every day in the UK, which prevents people from feeling safe walking and cycling.
Reducing the default speed limit to 20mph on most urban and residential roads except where it is safe and compatible with community needs for it to be 30mph, will encourage parents to allow their children to walk and cycle to school, creates safety for those using mobility aids and the partially sighted and will help many people feel safer cycling on the roads because lower speeds make the environment feel safer. This change will also reduce congestion, improve air quality and improve the fitness of the borough’s residents, as well as improve the economies of town centres by making them nicer places for people to want to spend time in.
In 2019 Cheshire East Council committed to fight climate change and implementing a default 20mph speed limit in areas where there is a mix of vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists will help us achieve this. I urge councillors to make a real change to their communities and vote in support of this much needed Motion and join 21million other people in this country who have adopted the same policy, a default 20mph in central, urban and residential areas across the borough, unless where it is safe and compatible with community needs for it to be 30mph.
The Motion for “20’s Plenty in 2020” asks Council to resolve to lend its support to:
1. The principle of introducing a default 20mph speed limit in central, urban and residential roads (these to be formally agreed in line with the law and the Council’s decision-making arrangements) - not a blanket measure.
2. Consideration of the practicalities and timescales of introducing such a scheme in consultation with the Director of Highways and Infrastructure, and the Portfolio Holder for Highways and Waste, with formal consideration by the appropriate decision-making body/bodies, as early as possible in 2021.
3. Working with Cheshire police to help maintain compliance, once such arrangements are established.
4. Working with town and parish councils and the community, collaboratively and financially, to ... view the full minutes text for item 32.
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 S Brookfield asked if the Government had raised unrealistic expectations about visiting in care homes, and whether care homes in Cheshire East would have the necessary resources to undertake the additional work involved. The Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care responded that officers were working closely with Public Health and the care homes to support the roll-out of testing.
Councillor M Simon asked how the Council could ensure that the work of the Crewe Town Board was adequately scrutinised. The Portfolio Holder for Environment and Regeneration responded that information on the work of the Board was available on the Council’s website and that the work of the Board was adequately scrutinised by the Council in its role as the Accountable Body.
Councillor J P Findlow asked what had happened to the rejuvenation of Macclesfield Town. The Portfolio Holder for Environment and Regeneration responded that he would be inviting local members to a briefing on the matter in the spring. Councillor Findlow also asked if the Council would be reviewing local service centres such as Prestbury. The Portfolio Holder was not aware of any plans relating to villages.
Councillor L Smetham asked for an update on the number of planning appeals still in the pipeline. Such update reports had regularly appeared on planning agendas until recently. The Portfolio Holder for Planning referred to a recent email to Members outlining current pressures on the Planning Department, but asked Cllr Smetham to email details of her concerns to her, whereupon she would respond in writing.
Councillor R Fletcher sought an assurance that the funding currently in the Medium Term Financial Strategy for highway improvements to Bank Corner, Alsager would not be removed from the Capital Programme. The Portfolio Holder for Highways and Waste responded that the proposed junction improvement works were currently at the feasibility stage and that this would establish the scope of the necessary works and their costs which in turn would establish whether the scheme would proceed.
Councillor A Gage referred to a local resident who had an adult son with special care needs who until recently had attended the Beeches Day Care Centre. Earlier this year, Council funding had been withdrawn. He asked why the funding had been withdrawn. The Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care undertook to provide a written response.
Councillor D Stockton wished to ask a question on a specific issue relating to environmental impacts. He had no evidence that the Council had followed up on, and enforced, an appeal decision by the Secretary of State. He provided a reference number for further information and asked that the Portfolio Holder for Planning provide a written response.
Councillor M Benson referred to the two-way cycling scheme introduced in Sandbach and said that he had not been consulted on the scheme which had resulted in the loss of much-needed parking and had attracted objections from local residents. The Portfolio Holder for Highways and Waste responded that Councillor Benson had received an email on the matter on 4 ... view the full minutes text for item 33.
To note the urgent decisions taken by the Chief Executive on behalf of Council.
Council received a schedule of urgent decisions taken by the Chief Executive on behalf of the Council which was reported for information in accordance with Appendix 4 of the Council procedure rules.
That the schedule of urgent decisions be noted.
At the conclusion of the formal business of the meeting, the Mayor congratulated Mr Brian Reed, Head of Democratic Services and Governance, on having served in local government for 35 years.
The Mayor wished everyone a happy Christmas and closed the meeting.