Agenda and minutes

Council - Monday, 3rd October, 2022 4.00 pm

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

No. Item


Previous Minutes pdf icon PDF 262 KB

To confirm and sign the public minutes of 11 July 2022.


The minutes of the meeting of 11 July were confirmed and signed subject to the following comment:  


·         Councillor Booth said it should be noted that where it states he left the meeting at 5.40pm, he had explained it was to attend a meeting of Wisbech St Mary Parish Council, and that is also why Councillor Bligh was not present.




Civic Engagements Update. pdf icon PDF 147 KB

For information only.


Councillor Miscandlon drew members’ attention to the civic activities undertaken by himself in the weeks preceding Full Council.



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


Councillor Miscandlon reflected on the momentous national events of the past few weeks following the sad passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II on 8th September and the proclamation of HM King Charles III Accession to the throne on 10th September.


He stated he had the honour of reading the local proclamation for the new King and on 16th September attended a Community Thanksgiving Service at St Peter’s Church in March to commemorate the life and legacy of Her Majesty. He added that for 70 years she reigned with warmth, dignity, and humanity. Her unrivalled service and devotion to our great nation and the wider Commonwealth, through decades of unprecedented change, was remarkable and she will be greatly missed. Councillor Miscandlon added that King Charles III will continue to serve the country with the same absolute dedication and unfaltering duty as did our beloved Queen.


Members joined Councillor Miscandlon in observing a minute’s silence for HM the Queen.


Councillor Miscandlon then paid his respects to former Whittlesey councillor Ralph Butcher who had recently passed away, saying he was a much-loved and admired character who gave over five decades to working in public life. Ralph was first elected as a councillor in 1971, joining Fenland District Council in 2003, and as well as being Chairman from 2009 and 2011 was a member of various committees over the years.


Councillor Miscandlon said that Ralph would be most remembered for his tireless championing to get the long-awaited Kings Dyke Crossing scheme built in Wisbech, which has since been renamed the Ralph Butcher Causeway in his honour. Councillor Miscandlon reflected that he would remember Ralph as a tenacious, hard working and one of a kind councillor who will be very missed.


Members joined Councillor Miscandlon in observing a minute’s silence for Ralph Butcher.



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 questions had been submitted under Procedure Rule 8.6 and asked if there were any questions under Procedure Rule. 8.4 from Councillor Cornwell as Leader of the Opposition.


1.    Councillor Cornwell said he would like to know the anticipated effect on the Council’s budgets given the unprecedented energy price increases and requested a summary of how prepared the Council is to deal with the many community issues arising from expected high levels of fuel poverty in Fenland. Councillor Boden responded that he could not provide an answer or even a realistic prediction in respect of the effects of fuel price changes on the Council’s budget for this or future years. Firstly, we have yet to fully understand the implications of additional money from the Government which will be made available to reduce fuel costs for local government functions. Secondly, we do not know what fuel prices are likely to be at any point in the future. Councillor Boden added that although he cannot provide any figures, in practice we will need to be prudent and cautious, and when approaching budget time advice will be sought from officers as to the likely effects on our direct and indirect costs. Regarding the effect on our businesses and residents, support is being given for residential use fuel costs, particularly those with the greatest need, but undoubtedly there will be an increase in the number of people who will face difficulties. Responsibility for this largely lies with the County Council but our Housing Team will undoubtedly be receiving a greater number of enquiries in term of living conditions and potential additional homelessness. If required we may need to look at staffing levels but at this time it is difficult to predict the degree of extra demand there will be.

2.    Councillor Cornwell thanked Councillor Boden, saying he could understand the difficulty but would have expected some form of risk assessments to be underway within the Council to at least try to prepare for situations as they arise. Every household within Fenland is going to go through a tough time and this will surely impact on the services this Council delivers, particularly housing. He stated that less house building is going on and therefore he wondered if that service is being affected by extra demands such as the homes for Ukrainians scheme and immigration. If fuel poverty is going to be an element that leads to homelessness, how prepared are we as a Council?

3.    Councillor Boden responded that he agreed with mostly all that Councillor Cornwell had said. The Portfolio Holders Report gives information about the trend already experienced this year towards a greater demand on our homelessness service. However, the report also states what has been done and will be done to increase capacity on that. He is not aware that there will be any impact caused by the Ukrainian refugee scheme, and the decamping of individuals awaiting asylum from hotels into local communities’ scheme has not started yet.  ...  view the full minutes text for item C27/22


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 3 MB


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


1.    Councillor Bligh addressed Councillor Boden saying she is aware of a small community grant fund of £500 available from Fenland District Council and asked if this has been exhausted or if any monies are still available. Councillor Boden said the fund does exist although it has almost run out, but he is trying to eke out what remains to those wards which have not yet received any money from it in the last three years and would welcome any applications received.

2.    Councillor Bligh addressed Councillor Hoy saying she is concerned about the number of empty properties owned by Clarion, particularly given the previous comments regarding homelessness. She stated that empty properties can encourage anti-social behaviour, and this is happening in Thorney Toll which has about seven empty Clarion homes in a small area.  Councillor Bligh asked if Councillor Hoy could help by ensuring Clarion refill their homes. Councillor Hoy thanked Councillor Bligh for advance notice of the issue so she had been able to ask about the Thorney Toll situation and although she could not say much publicly, she will ask officers to update Councillor Bligh as she understands there are plans for a scheme there. Also, representatives from Clarion are coming to a meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Panel in January so members can ask for an update on that and other schemes then. Regarding the number of empty homes, this was discussed at the last meeting of Council, and we had the number across all providers not just Clarion, being about 40 out of 400 empty homes across the district. A large proportion of that number belongs to Roman Court in Leverington, which members are aware is due to be demolished, so the numbers will come down, but Councillor Hoy agreed with Councillor Bligh that this is something we need to keep an eye on because those empty homes do need to be filled. Councillor Bligh thanked Councillor Hoy for her support which is appreciated.

3.    Councillor Bligh thanked Councillor Murphy for mentioning the Guyhirn play equipment in his portfolio holder report and that it is having a complete overhaul. She would also like to thank the officers involved and put on record her thanks to Galliford Try Highways England and C R Civil Engineering without whom the entire project would have fallen flat on its face as they removed the existing play equipment.

4.    Councillor Patrick asked Councillor Boden if he is aware that Wisbech is considered the most dangerous middle-sized town to live in within Cambridgeshire with a crime rate much higher than both the local and national average. He also asked what actions will be taken if any to try and help reduce crime in Wisbech. Councillor Boden said he is not sure about the definition ‘most dangerous middle-sized town in Cambridgeshire’ as it seems a subjective comment, but ultimately it does not matter because it  ...  view the full minutes text for item C28/22


Overview & Scrutiny Annual Report pdf icon PDF 241 KB

The Overview and Scrutiny Annual Report reflects what has been undertaken and achieved by the Overview and Scrutiny Panel during 2021/22 and takes a forward look at the programme of work and challenges for the Overview and Scrutiny in 2022/2023.



Members considered the Overview & Scrutiny Annual Report presented by Councillor Mason as Chairman of the Overview & Scrutiny Panel.


Councillor Mason gave his grateful thanks to all members, officers and Member Services for their assistance in compiling this report.  


Proposed by Councillor Mason, seconded by Councillor Purser and Council AGREED to acknowledge the broad scope of the work undertaken by the Overview & Scrutiny Panel during 2021/22.


Constitutional Amendments pdf icon PDF 172 KB

The purpose of this Report is to seek Full Council’s ratification of the changes that have been made by the Acting Monitoring Officer since its last meeting and to approve a further amendment following approval of a recommendation to Cabinet at its meeting on 3rd October 2022.



Members considered the Constitutional Amendments report presented by Councillor Boden.


Councillor Cornwell said that in respect of the proposal to move the Motion deadline, another option would be to change the day of the Council meeting; if it is moved to a day other than Monday there is no need to change the Constitution. Councillor Boden responded that the day of the meeting and day of the submission of the Motion is irrelevant as regardless of which day of the week it is, the same position applies that there is a 5pm deadline to submit a Motion and the Agenda must be published by 6pm at the very latest the same evening.


Proposed by Councillor Boden, seconded by Councillor Connor and Council AGREED to note and ratify the changes that the Monitoring Officer has made to the Constitution in exercise of the authority delegated to her under Part 3, Table 4, paragraph 47 of the Constitution and to agree the proposed amendments to paragraph 10.1 of the Standing Orders as recommended by Cabinet so that motions on notice are required to be submitted by 12 noon as opposed to 5pm.



Discretionary Policy to Stimulate Commercial Development pdf icon PDF 182 KB

The purpose of this report is to set out a discretionary business rate relief policy to help stimulate commercial development on greenfield and brownfield sites in the district.



Members considered the Discretionary Policy to Stimulate Commercial Development Report presented by Councillor Benney.


·         Councillor Cornwell said he can see where this report is coming from and understands the intention but asked if we are not at risk of ending up with a situation similar to what happened in Chatteris, where buildings were developed but the Council had no income from them and one of our saving graces was that we were able to get business rates out of those properties, he is thinking particularly about Tesco. Councillor Benney responded that he could understand the question, but the risk is not the Council’s, this would be to the commercial markets to take that risk whether they build or not. If they do, we are currently getting nothing in terms of council rates on green or brownfield land but after this 12-month period we will then get the commercial rates back on that, or once that building is let to its first tenant. Councillor Cornwell thanked Councillor Benney.

·         Councillor Boden agreed the proposal is time limited, and in two ways. The first is that the grant will only be available for a maximum of 12 months or until the first occupation takes place but secondly it is also a 12-month pilot. This is because the Council wants to encourage more developers to build more speculatively primarily, but not exclusively, for small and micro businesses. There is a massive shortage of capacity within Fenland to provide this sort of accommodation which has led to businesses leaving Fenland because we cannot give them the accommodation they require. This provides the Economic Growth Team with an additional tool to encourage the necessary development to take place.

·         Councillor Yeulett stated that he welcomes this and anything that will provide an incentive for businesses to grow; after all it is better to get 5% of something rather than 5% of nothing. 

·         Councillor Booth said he should point out for the public record that he is an employee of the company that Councillor Cornwell mentioned but this is a forward-looking policy, so he does not believe he has to declare an interest only having recently joined them. To follow up on Councillor Boden’s point about time-limiting, there is not a time limit if looking at occupation by the first tenant because in theory that could go on for some time. It does have the deadline of 31st March 2024 so he assumes it would be 2025 in theory, so is that correct? Councillor Benney said it would be from when the building is complete, i.e., 12 months from the date of building completion or from the first tenant moving in. Councillor Booth said he accepts this as long as that is clear and what people are intending.

·         Councillor Booth added that he welcomes this also, but it is a pity that there is not better information in the Financial Implications because it says there will be no financial implications, but if this policy works then it  ...  view the full minutes text for item C31/22


Confidential Minutes

To confirm and sign the confidential minutes of 11 July 2022.


The confidential minutes of the meeting of 11 July 2022 were confirmed and signed as a correct record.