Agenda item


In accordance the Council Procedure Rules, opportunity is provided for Members of the Council to ask the Mayor or the Chair of a Committee any question about a matter which the Council, or the Committee has powers, duties or responsibilities.


At Council meeting, there will be a maximum question time period of 30 minutes. A period of two minutes will be allowed for each Councillor wishing to ask a question.  The Mayor will have the discretion to vary this requirement where they consider it appropriate.


Cllr Q Abel referred to climate change and asked if Cheshire East had a water management plan for drought, possibility of wildfires and the potential for huge quantities of water falling in a short period of time causing extensive damage. He asked if, as the lead flood authority, the Council had applied for and received grants, how any grants had been spent and which committee did this responsibility sit under.  


Cllr C Browne, Chair of Highways and Transport Committee, responded that the Council did have a water management plan. As a lead local flood authority, the Council had a statutory duty to participate in a six-year cycle identifying flood risk areas, and there was also a flood risk management plan, which was a national strategic plan, that had measures or actions that were identified in flood risk areas. The flood risk management plans were published by the Environment Agency, who obviously work closely with the Council, but also with other risk management authorities as well to produce them. In addition, the Council itself had a local flood risk management strategy that considered measures to help reduce flood risk including everything from better planning of new developments to ensuring emergency responders had a better understand where the greatest risks are.  In relation to the question about where the responsibility sat, Cllr Browne reported that this was recently the subject of a report which went to the Highways and Transport Committee for consideration entitled ‘It’s Not Just Water’ and the Committee unanimously agreed that at this particular time oversight of that statutory function was retained under the remit of the Highways and Transport Committee.   Cllr Browne undertook to provide a written response in relation to the grants received and how the money had been spent.


Cllr J Clowes referred to the Council receiving nearly £4.5m of additional Household Support Grant funding and asked how the Council would implement these additional funds and, in particular, take advantage of the examples of good practice that the Government had identified that all local authorities should take on board where applicable.


She also asked when she would receive a definitive answer on the transfer of maintenance of the closed church yards in Wybunbury to Cheshire East Council.


In response Cllr A Stott, Chair of the Finance Sub Committee, stated that the funding had come through very recently and the scheme was similar to previous covid 19 schemes, so although the funding would not impact on the Council’s budget as such, it would impact on workload. The Council would be responsible for passporting the funds out to residents as appropriate.


Cllr D Edwardes referred to EV charging points and asked what grants the Council had applied for to allow the instalment of chargers, how much money had been received, and did the Council have a policy on charging infrastructure in Cheshire East.


In response Cllr C Browne, Chair of Highways and Transport Committee, stated that the Council had a policy, which was adopted by the Highways and Transport Committee, and set out the mix of public and private investment that was needed. The Strategy was kept under regular review and an updated version was due to come back to the Committee for consideration during 2023. In relation to grants, the Council applied to the On Street Residential Charge Point Fund for a sum of £200k and was successful in being awarded £151k from that fund, which had to be used by March 2024. It was expected that the Council would submit an expression of interest to the new national Low Emission Infrastructure Fund when the opening of expressions of interest was announced.


Cllr S Gardiner asked if it was possible to have an item on a future agenda of the Adults and Health Committee to consider the issue of the Stanley Centre and to look at what could be done to save it or if not look at alternative provision of day care within Knutsford.


In response Cllr J Rhodes, Chair of Adults and Health Committee, stated that the matter would come to the Committee in the new Council because a decision had to be taken by the Committee following consultation so there would be an opportunity for the matter to be discussed.


Cllr P Redstone asked what mitigation measures officers had applied to the approved MTFS to ensure the spending cuts put forward did not disproportionately affect the rural community. He stated that the Leader of the Council had suggested that it made good sense for residents or areas which do not receive specific services should not have to pay for them and asked when this policy would be enacted.


Cllr S Corcoran responded that he thought that Cllr Redstone had misquoted him slightly and what he had said was that if a resident cannot use a service, for example if they have not got a garden and they cannot use garden refuse, this was not the same as do not use. Cllr Corcoran stated that there was an interesting discussion around ‘what about education,’ if you don’t have children but he did think everybody benefited from education. What about Leisure Centres because some people do not use leisure centres, but you have to pay for them if you go there, but they are funded by the Council. It had been mentioned about electric car charging points. It was quite hard to provide enough electric car charging points in rural areas, it was much easier to provide them in urban areas, so there was a balance there and Cllr Corcoran stated he was happy to discuss this over the coming years.


Cllr L Anderson thanked Councillor Corcoran for his announcement earlier about looking at the charges of the fees for the road closures for the Coronation and asked when it was considered, could it include anyone that had already applied for road closures and had already paid their fees. Cllr S Corcoran agreed that this was a good point and would look into it.


Cllr L Wardlaw asked that the leadership commit to a refresh and a recommitment to the Brighter Futures Programme in view of some of the behaviours exhibited at the meeting when the Council went into the new cycle of meetings following the elections. Cllr J Rhodes responded and stated that she was currently the Chair of the Members Input Panel and that the Panel and, Members as a whole, had never not been committed to the Brighter Future programme.


Cllr S Handley asked a question in relation to comments made earlier in the meeting regarding cuts to staff in the Children and Families services and sought reassurances that there would not be any reduction in statutory frontline workers. Cllr K Flavell, Chair of Children and Families Committee, responded and gave assurance that there would be no cuts to staff and statutory frontline workers. The Council was trying to fill the vacancies in the social workers team. The savings that were being made would include some staff reductions, but this would be as part of streamlining services to make the service work more efficiently and more effectively.


Cllr B Puddicombe referred to claims being made in leaflets and on social media that the Administration had removed £5m of planned expenditure for Macclesfield Town and asked the Chair of the Economy and Growth Committee if there were any truth to these claims. In response Cllr N Mannion stated that there never was a guaranteed £5m pot of money for Macclesfield Town Centre. Funding of that order was referenced in what was called the addendum to the Council’s budgets between 2017 and 2021/2022 with relation to capital expenditure and to be approved only if suitable projects and business cases could be developed demonstrating affordability and sustainability. The presence of the addendum was found to have raised too many expectations and was costly from a revenue perspective, therefore the full Council, at its meeting when it set the budget last year, agreed to stop having such a mechanism and the addendum was therefore no longer part of the Council’s business planning process.


Cllr Mannion reported that new projects and, therefore investment, for Macclesfield had been developed in line with the Council’s requirements for fully costed business cases. For example, in the last two years two levelling up bids were submitted seeking funding from central government to make significant capital improvements to the market and public realm area in Macclesfield Town Centre. However, they were unsuccessful despite being commented upon for the quality of the submissions. Work was currently ongoing to enable the installation of the replacement public toilets through the Changing Places programme in the Indoor Market in Macclesfield with a project cost of around £160k. A funding package significantly boosted by a generous contribution by Macclesfield Town Council. These replaced the public toilet facilities lost some years ago on Churchill Way.


Cllr A Farrall stated that sometime ago the Highways and Transport Committee had reviewed the Highways Service Improvement Plan and resolved to investigate the recruitment of an independent Quality Assurance Officer for the highways programme and asked if this had taken place. Cllr C Browne, Chair of Highways and Transport Committee, confirmed that the recruitment process had taken place before Christmas and that the relevant officer was now in post, and carrying out evaluation and quality assurance processes on behalf of the Council.


Cllr R Moreton referred to a question he had asked at the last Council meeting asking if Cheshire East would be contacting all their social housing providers concerning issues around damp in their properties. He reported that he had been working closely with Plus Dane in Congleton and work had been programmed for nearly 20 houses. Plus Dane had been really helpful in their approach to this in Congleton and he would continue to work with them. He asked if other areas were getting the same support.


In response Cllr N Mannion, Chair of Economy and Growth Committee, thanked Cllr Moreton for his hard work in Congleton, and reported that the Regulator for Social Housing had written to all registered providers of social housing to ask about property conditions in relation to damp and mould. In Cheshire East there nearly 22,000 social rented homes and the Cheshire East Council’s Housing Strategy Team had also contacted all the local registered providers of social housing to ask them to share their response that they submitted to the regulator. Of those contacted, over half had responded. The information had been shared with the Council on a confidential basis and would not be shared outside the Council. Cllr Mannion stated that all the registered providers that responded had demonstrated they were taking a proactive approach to concerns raised by tenants in relation to damp and mould.  Cllr Mannion reported that the Regulator for Social Housing had published an initial report and he would share details of the initial report with Members. The Council was also focusing on the private rented sector and was due to start a review and develop a protocol of how the Council would work with that sector to have the robust processes in place to deal with complaints associated with disrepair within their properties. Sessions were to be organised for Members on the Council processes in relation to damp and mould and the main registered housing providers would be invited to attend and share their learning.


Cllr S Hogben asked if the Council would consider the installation of solar farms on its public car parks in the future with a view to generating power and income. Cllr S Corcoran responded that he knew that Bentley Motors have done something similar, and Crewe Alexander Football Club were planning to do something similar and stated that it was something the Council should be looking at.