Venue: Committee Suite 1,2 & 3, Westfields, Middlewich Road, Sandbach CW11 1HZ. View directions
Contact: Josie Lloyd Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Link: audio of meeting
Apologies for Absence
To note any apologies for absence from Members.
Apologies for absence were received from Cllr Benson, Cllr Gilbert and Cllr Warren. Cllr Browne, Cllr Holland and Cllr Parkinson attended as substitutes.
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.
In the interest of openness and transparency in relation to item 5, Medium Term Financial Strategy 2023-27 Budget Consultation, Cllr Akers Smith declared that she was a Trustee of the Everybody Health and Leisure Board.
To approve as a correct record the minutes of the previous meeting held on 10 November 2022.
That the minutes of the meeting held on 10 November 2022 be agreed as a correct record.
Public Speaking/Open Session
In accordance with paragraph 2.24 of the Council’s Committee Procedure Rules and Appendix on Public Speaking, set out in the Constitution, a total period of 15 minutes is allocated for members of the public to put questions to the committee on any matter relating to this agenda. Each member of the public will be allowed up to two minutes each to speak, and the Chair will have discretion to vary this where they consider it appropriate.
Members of the public wishing to speak are required to provide notice of this at least three clear working days in advance of the meeting.
There were no public speakers.
To receive and respond to the Medium Term Financial Strategy 2023-27.
The Committee received a report on the Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) for 2023-2027 and the revenue and capital proposals contained within the MTFS relating to the Committee’s responsibilities. As part of the consultation process, Members were asked to consider the proposals within the remit of the Committee and provide comments and feedback to the Corporate Policy Committee for consideration on 9 February 2023 before a balanced budget was presented to the full Council meeting of 22 February 2023 for final review and approval.
The following comments were raised:
- Cllr Dean raised concerns around the consultation process and that Committee Members had not been consulted or involved in the drawing up of the proposals before them in the report. Committee Members requested that consideration is given to future consultation to ensure there is a clear process for the Committee to be properly consulted on the proposals and detail surrounding them.
- Proposal 92: Review Waste Collection Service – Cllr Dean queried how much it would cost for a green bin to be emptied, what the current position was across the wider local authority sector and what market research had been undertaken to date.
- Cllr Farrall referred to a similar project by Trafford Borough Council which appeared unsuccessful and was later withdrawn.
- Members felt that the proposals could be counterproductive and queried if the proposals would:
a) lead to an increase in fly-tipping and food wastage
b) lead to any public health consequences as a result of home composting
c) encourage residents to blow leaves and other debris onto the highway potentially leading to blocked gullies and flooding
Members expressed a view that waste collection was something Cheshire East did well so it was disappointing that savings could not have been found elsewhere, particularly given the cost of living crisis and some residents struggling financially.
- Proposal 83: Planning and Building Control Income - Cllr Farrall queried if there was anything that Cheshire East could implement at a local level to generate revenue, such as adding a surcharge for fast-tracking planning applications. Members also suggested that the Council lobby Central Government further on the issue of planning application fees and the need to be able to vary these locally.
- Proposal 90: Strategic Leisure Review – Members received an update on the detail behind this proposal. Members raised concerns around some of the proposals being put forward to achieve the budget saving which they felt should have been shared at an earlier stage.
Cllr Groves felt that the introduction of a parking permit scheme would have a detrimental impact and further highlights the need for a fair car parking policy to be introduced.
Members highlighted the significant costs associated with heating swimming pools and queried if there was any work underway to actively reduce the cost of energy usage. Cllr Abel referred to the potential to use solar power to heat pools.
- Proposal 91: Maintenance of Green Spaces – Members queried the savings attached to this proposal and ... view the full minutes text for item 58.
To receive the mid-year review of performance for the Environment and Neighbourhood Services.
The committee received the report which provided an update on the performance across Environment and Neighbourhood Services for the first half of 2022-23 against the relevant priorities, actions and measures of success within the Council’s Corporate Plan 2021-25.
A query was raised as to vacancies within the Planning team and the current backlog of planning applications. The committee were advised that there were vacancies across the service which had not been possible to fill and that there was a contract with Capita to assist with the backlog. The contract was due to end in the next few months due to existing officers having gained more experience. It was agreed that a breakdown of the cost of this contract and how many applications it had dealt with would be shared with the Committee. A further request was made by Cllr Dean for the Committee to receive figures on what the backlog was and what it is now.
A query was raised regarding the prices for hackney carriage hire in Congleton as this appeared to be lower than other areas in the borough and could create an issue with retaining taxi companies in the town. The committee were advised that the set prices were subject to consultation with the companies in the town and that previously Congleton had objected to increases on the basis that they were too high. The Licensing Committee could look at reviewing this if taxi companies in the area wish to raise this.
That the committee note the performance of the department.
To receive the animal welfare licensing policy.
The committee received the report which sought approval of a new Animal Welfare Licensing Policy. Following this, the policy would be published and implemented by the Animal Welfare Team as part of animal welfare licensing activities.
That Environment and Communities Committee approves the proposed Animal Welfare Licensing Policy contained as Appendix 1 to this report.
To receive an update on the progress the Council has made towards becoming carbon neutral.
The committee received the report which provided an update on the progress the Council had made towards being a carbon neutral council by 2025 and a carbon neutral borough by 2045.
A query was raised regarding peat restoration and the report which the Council had commissioned to evaluate peatland and mosses within the borough. It was noted that this piece of work would fall under the Economy and Growth Committee but it was agreed that the Environment and Communities Committee could be provided with a copy of the report.
A further query was raised regarding tree planting in Congleton and whether that had been included in the figures presented. Officers undertook to provide a written response to confirm this detail. The Council was currently working with Mersey Forest to assess the failure rate of the tree planting and to re-plant so information on this and lessons learned could be shared once the assessment was complete.
That the Environment and Communities Committee:
1. Note the progress made towards the Council’s target to be carbon neutral for its own emissions by 2025.
2. Note the contents of the borough wide baseline report 2045 (Appendix 1) and authorise the Head of Environmental Services to develop proposals with regional and local partners for priority action areas to begin to influence a reduction in borough wide carbon emissions towards the 2045 target.
To consider the Notice of Motion in relation to safe night-time travel for workers.
The Committee considered a report in response to a Notice of Motion put to full Council in October 2022. The motion, which had been proposed by Cllr Laura Smith and seconded by Cllr Sally Handley, proposed a number of actions to improve night-time travel for workers.
Cllr Bratherton, who addressed the Committee on behalf of Cllr Handley, asked what powers the Council had, if any, which would allow the Licensing Committee to include additional criteria when considering applications. It was requested that consideration was given to establishing a Working Group to look at this area of work.
Officers referred to the Statement of Licensing Policy which provided guidance for applicants and information relating to expectations under legislation. The Licensing Act restricted what could be taken into consideration. It was noted that Cheshire East was bound by case law that identified what could be included in the Statement of Licensing Policy. It was highlighted that, should any additional requirements be included in the policy that were wider than the Council’s powers as the Licensing Authority, the policy would be deemed unlawful and decisions made under the policy would be subject to challenge.
Officers undertook to provide a written response to the questions raised by Cllr Handley.
RESOLVED (by majority):
That the Environment and Communities Committee:
1. Note the national and local policy and guidance in relation to licensing late night refreshment and the taxi and private hire vehicle regime.
2. Note the planned review of the Council’s Statement of Licensing Policy during 2023.
To consider the Notice of Motion in relation to hydraulic fracturing.
The committee received the report in response to a Notice of Motion put to full Council in October 2022.
Members raised a concern that the recommendations were to note the report and that this could mean no further action is taken. A motion was therefore moved and seconded which sought to amend the second recommendation to strengthen the wording and refer the item to the Economy and Growth Committee, to explore the options available within that committee’s remit. The motion was carried.
RESOLVED (by majority):
That the Environment and Communities Committee:
1. Note the national and local planning guidance and policy in relation to hydraulic fracturing.
2. Note there are more controls the Council can put in place on land within its ownership and refer the matter to the Economy and Growth Committee to be explored.
Standing Item: Members Advisory Panel: Cheshire East Cemeteries Strategy Review
To receive a verbal update from the Chair of the Member Advisory Panel.
Councillor Joy Bratherton, Chair of the Cemeteries Strategy Review Member Advisory Panel, provided a verbal update to the committee.
The public consultation had ended on 23 December 2022. The timeframe for this had been extended to allow proper consultation across the community and, as a result, had increased the number of responses by 42%.
The consultation of the evaluation report may have to be set back slightly from 1 March. It was hoped that a strategy document could be shared with the committee in June and be brought to committee for a decision in August/September.
The areas that were being looked at were changing needs and expectations in the public, a range of memorial options, expanding cemeteries where the land is available, planting trees and encouraging wildlife into cemeteries, looking into woodland burial sites and exploring the option of transferring cemeteries to town and parish councils.
Standing Item: Working Group: Household Waste & Recycling Centres
To receive a verbal update from the Chair of the Working Group.
Cllr Laura Crane, Chair of the Household Waste and Recycling Centres Working Group, provided a verbal update to the committee.
The group had met a couple of times but had taken a brief pause while consultation for the MTFS was ongoing as a lot of the work may be dependent on the outcome. A further update would come to the next committee meeting.
To consider the work programme and determine any required amendments.
The committee considered the work programme.
It was noted that the Review of the Cemeteries Strategy would be deferred to August/September.
It was requested that a briefing be arranged on the Cleaner Crewe project.
That the work programme be noted.