Agenda and minutes

Council - Wednesday, 8th December, 2021 4.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Fenland Hall, County Road, March

No. Item


Appointment of Vice-Chairman for this Meeting

To appoint a Vice-Chairman for this meeting of Council due to apologies being received from Councillor Skoulding.


Councillor Meekins was nominated as Vice-Chairman for the meeting.


Previous Minutes pdf icon PDF 247 KB

To confirm and sign the minutes of 30 September 2021.


The minutes of the meeting of 30 September 2021 were confirmed and signed subject to the following comments:

·         Councillor Booth wished for it to be noted that he had left before the Electoral Review item (minute C22/21) due to a prior commitment at a school governance meeting which he had accepted before the date of the Full Council meeting was altered.


To receive any announcements from the Chairman of the Council and/or the Head of Paid Service.


Councillor Miscandlon made the following announcement:


“I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Eric Lewis who was the first Chief Executive of Fenland District Council who sadly passed away on the 29th of September at the age of 96. Qualifying as a solicitor shortly after the war, Mr Lewis took his first post in local government as assistant solicitor at Scarborough Borough Council. He then moved to Reading and Aldrich Councils before being appointed the Town Clerk for Wisbech Borough Council in 1961. Upon local government reorganisation he took up the role of Fenland District Council's first Executive Chairman in 1974. Mr Lewis therefore played an important part in contributing to the history of Fenland District Council and I would like to thank his son and daughter for notifying us of their loss. So, we pay tribute to Mr Lewis today and offer our sincere condolences and extend them to the Lewis family. I would like you to join me in a minute silence for that purpose.”


Members joined Councillor Miscandlon in observing a minute silence.


Following the minute silence Councillor Miscandlon made a further announcement:


“I would like to take this opportunity to ask members to join me in observing a further minute silence in honour and reflection of the life and achievements of Sir David Amess the MP for Southend who tragically lost his life on the 15th of October. Southend was the town I was born in, so I have a personal connection here. His death was rather tragic because he was carrying out his duty as we all do as Council Members so it is something we all should be very aware of. I would like you all to join me in an extra minute silence in respect to Sir David Amess thank you.”


Members joined Councillors Miscandlon in observing a minute silence.


To receive questions from, and provide answers to, councillors in relation to matters which, in the opinion of the Chairman, accord with the provisions of Procedure Rules 8.4 and 8.6.


Councillor Miscandlon stated that no written questions had been submitted under Procedure Rule 8.6 and asked if there were any questions under Procedure Rule 8.4 from Councillor Cornwell, Leader of the Opposition.


·         Councillor Cornwell began by acknowledging the work of Eric Lewis noting that, alongside Ernie Thompson, they handled the pressures of combining the different local authorities well when Fenland District Council was formed and proclaimed that this was a huge achievement in his work.

·         Councillor Cornwell said that he was pleased to hear that the Council was due to receive £48,500 from the Forestry Commission but expressed his disappointment that this would only fund around 4000 whips and 80 standard trees. He noted that the environmental benefits of the award will, therefore, be very slow and that there was only a 2.3 percent tree coverage compared to 16 percent nationally. Councillor Cornwell asked how the Leader planned to address the environmental deficit and increase tree planting on top of the initial grant? Councillor Boden stated that he was reluctant to increase tree planting across Fenland despite the low coverage and this was due to the geography of the area. He noted that historically Fenland was overwhelming made up of peat bogs and has never been a heavily wooded area as the soils are mainly peat or peating so the area requires the right types of trees in the right places. Councillor Boden explained that planting trees in the wrong area, which are not specialised for the peaty soils, results in the withdrawal of water from the peat soils which can cause subsidence and allows the release of more carbon from the soil negating their usual environmental impact of carbon capture. He added that the trees provided must be planted carefully and selectively due to these factors and that Fenland will never be an area with a high coverage of trees. Councillor Cornwell noted that peat originated from forests that were flooded and compressed so there must have been trees in the past but accepted that as long as there was some action in instigating tree planting that they would have to be specialised.

·         Councillor Cornwell said that at the Overview and Scrutiny meeting of 8 November 2021 he and other members were surprised to hear that the Planning Shared Service only related to the Head of Planning and the Technical Team Manager. He noted that the promised integrated service had never come to fruition as was originally promised and asked whether Councillor Boden would instigate a review of the current arrangements alongside Peterborough City Council’s review to ensure that the original promised financial and service improvements can occur? Councillor Boden explained that he had already asked the Planning Portfolio Holder to consider how to proceed in future arrangements, which he hoped would still include Peterborough City Council but that it was actively under consideration. He explained that they were looking at the cost and efficiency of the service and reviewing the current arrangements to get the most cost-effective service  ...  view the full minutes text for item C27/20


To receive reports from and ask questions of Cabinet members with portfolio holder responsibilities, in accordance with Procedure Rules 8.1 and 8.2. pdf icon PDF 5 MB

This PHB report includes an update from Freedom Leisure. 


Members asked questions of Portfolio Holders in accordance with Procedure Rules 8.1 and 8.2 as follows:


  • Councillor Patrick commended the Leader on his efforts to encourage the uptake of Covid vaccinations, which is important given that the Fenland was the only area in the Country with an enhanced response status. He noted that those who had opted against the vaccination were 10 times more likely to die which placed an even greater strain on the NHS and reminded the Council of the new Omnicron variant which was showing signs of being more transmissible. Councillor Patrick explained that there was a low uptake in areas such as Wisbech North and asked what further actions the Council can take to encourage further people to come forward and have the vaccinations? Councillor Boden stated that the Council work in conjunction with the Combined Authority, Director of Public Health and other national agencies. He explained that it was important to continue to promote the messages around keeping safe in order to reduce transmission and that the communications needed to be hard hitting. Councillor Boden stated that the facts needed to be right and that they also needed to be careful and bear in mind that certain individuals cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. He noted that the statistic provided by Councillor Patrick was not inaccurate and that this had been used widely, with the statistics being even worse when looking at those in intensive care. Councillor Boden reiterated that it was important for facts to be presented in an honest and accurate way in order to encourage more individuals to make rational decisions and the Council would continue to provide services whilst working in close proximity with partners and utilising additional funding to continue to promote the vaccines and boosters. He stated that it was too early to say much about the Omnicrom variant and that more time was needed to study it before predictions could be made.
  • Councillor Patrick noted that from the social media activity of some members of the Council it appeared that there were a few individuals who were against vaccination and asked whether the Leader could assure him that all members of his Cabinet were fully supportive and on board with his efforts to encourage people to vaccinate. Councillor Boden explained that Fenland District Council did not have responsibility for this area of work and that it was through his other roles that he had the responsibility. He explained that it was not a requirement for everyone to have the same opinion, that individuals should not be discriminated against based on their opinion and that they needed to push positive messages and facts rather than discriminating against non-vaccinated individuals.
  • Councillor Wilkes asked for an update on the March to Wisbech Railway line as progress had seemed to stall. He noted that the service would be of great use to those with disabilities and would make Wisbech much more accessible. Councillor Boden replied that the current position was disappointing for  ...  view the full minutes text for item C28/20


Treasury Management Strategy Statement & Annual Investment Strategy Mid-Year Review 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 156 KB

The purpose of this report is to review the Council’s Treasury Management activity for the first six months of 2021/22.



Members considered the Treasury Management Strategy Statement and Annual Investment Strategy Mid-Year Review 2021/22 presented by Councillor Boden.


Proposed by Councillor Boden, seconded by Councillor Lynn and AGREED to note the report.


Review of Gambling Policy pdf icon PDF 3 MB

To adopt the proposed Gambling Statement of Principles Policy.



Members considered the review of Gambling Policy presented by Councillor Lynn.


Councillor Meekins paid his compliments to the Licensing Manager for her hard work on the policy.


Proposed by Councillor Boden, seconded by Councillor Meekins and AGREED to adopt the Statement of Gambling Principles for the period of 2021 - 2025.


Fenland Electoral Review - FDC Warding Arrangements pdf icon PDF 131 KB

For Members to consider and agree the formal Council consultation submission in relation to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) Electoral Review of Fenland District Council. This report forms the Council's response to the second part of the electoral review process regarding the proposed future warding arrangements, including future ward boundaries, number of elected representatives per ward and future ward names.



Members considered the Fenland Electoral Review - Warding Arrangements report presented by Councillor Boden.


Members made comments as follows:

·         Councillor Booth explained that he would not be supporting the warding arrangements for 42 councillors as he felt that it split the rural areas and failed to represent shared communities. He feels the views and ideas of the opposition have simply been dismissed with exception to the rural working group which focused on a 41-member scheme and aligned more closely with the current rural wards. Councillor Booth reminded the Council that he was on the last working group in 2012 and they had attempted to gain a consensus at the last review but feels this has not been the case this time. He feels there should be a recorded vote as this is a recommendation from the Conservative Group which favoured them and did not respect Fenland communities.

·         Councillor Tierney expressed his disappointment on hearing these remarks and feels that on the reviews he had attended everyone’s views were listened to and officers had been very helpful. He noted that Councillor Booth had suggested that the boundaries were politically motivated and questioned whether his opposition to them was also politically motivated. Councillor Tierney explained that it would be impossible to know whether the changes would be advantageous to any member or party and stated that he would be supporting the proposal.

·         Councillor Lynn stated that he would also be supporting the recommendation and made the point that as a Conservative councillor the changes would mean that he would lose his ward as it would no longer exist in its current state. He argued that the scheme was not a Conservative agenda and he believes that despite possibly losing his ward he was doing the right thing in supporting the recommendation.

·         Councillor French stated that she would also be supporting the recommendation and thanked the officers and Councillor Boden who had worked hard on all the changes.

·         Councillor Wallwork made the point that communities are more complex than who your councillor is or your postcode. She stated that communities are made up of similar interests, shared ideas, beliefs, values and hobbies and that communities cannot be split or shattered by boundary lines in terms of political representation.

·         Councillor Cornwell acknowledged that councillors work for their communities and that the last thing he wants to see is any splitting of natural or actual communities. He believes certain aspects of the proposal to be wrong and stated that the opposition would not be supporting the recommendation and would instead be submitting their own proposals to the Commission.

·         Councillor Booth clarified his earlier comment and stated that he wished to thank the officers for their hard work but feels the issues described previously were due to the way that the meetings had been conducted along with a lack of engagement with the wider community, including Parish Councils. He thought the last recommendation to the Commission had variances of more than 5 percent as it was  ...  view the full minutes text for item C31/20


Constitutional Amendments pdf icon PDF 36 KB

For Council to agree a constitutional amendment to increase the number of Cabinet Members permitted to sit on the Planning Committee.



Members considered the constitutional amendments presented by Councillor Boden.


Members made comments as follows:

·         Councillor Cornwell argued that the reason for the amendment was due to a lack of members in the majority group wanting to put themselves forward for Planning meetings. Councillor Hoy argued that some members of Councillor Cornwell’s group had poor attendance as well, noting that a member of the group had to be placed on planning to avoid the six-month rule. Councillor Cornwell stated that appointing people to stand in for meetings was also used frequently by the Conservative Party across the years.

·         Councillor Booth expressed his concern for the change and reminded the Council of the issues with the constitution of the committee a few years back when there were too many members of Cabinet on the committee. He argued that it was a step backwards and stated that he would not be supporting it due to the governance implications.

·         Councillor Connor stated that as Chairman of the Planning Committee he welcomed the proposal and hoped that members would support it.

·         Councillor Boden summed up that the amendments were there to allow flexibility. He stated that it was not due to an insufficient number of members of the Conservative Party not wishing to be on the committee, making the point that there were plenty of members willing to join planning but that there were issues around proportionality as there cannot be too many members from one area and that there had to be a balance of members from town and rural areas.


Proposed by Councillor Boden, seconded by Councillor Connor and AGREED to the constitutional amendment as set out at Appendix 1 to increase the number of Cabinet members allowed on Planning Committee from 3 to 4.


Resolution under s.85 of the Local Government Act 1972


Councillor Miscandlon informed the Council that this item had been withdrawn.