Agenda and minutes

Council - Monday, 11th December, 2023 4.00 pm

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

No. Item


Previous Minutes pdf icon PDF 194 KB

To confirm and sign the minutes of 2 October 2023.


The minutes of the meeting of 2 October 2023 were confirmed and signed.


Civic Engagements Update. pdf icon PDF 145 KB


The Chairman drew members’ attention to the civic activities undertaken by himself and the Vice-Chairman in the weeks preceding Full Council.


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


The Chairman paid respect to former District Councillors Barry Wales and Florence Newell who had recently passed away.


The Chairman stated that Barry Wales was a District Councillor from August 1997 until May 2003 for the March West/East ward and had served on various committees including Leisure, Policy, Environmental Services, Appeals, Best Value and Staff.


The Chairman advised that Florence Newell was a District Councillor from June 1992 until May 2003 and then again from July 2006 until May 2019 for the Chatteris South/Slade Lode ward and had served on a number of committees including Planning, Corporate Governance, Standards, Community Services, Development and Leisure, Leisure Services Board and Development Control Sub-Committee.


Members joined the Chairman in observing two minutes silence to commemorate Barry and Florence’s lives and their service to Fenland District Council and its communities.


The Chairman thanked everyone who had attended his Carol Service that took place on 8 December 2003, which was an enjoyable event in the historic St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Wisbech. He extended his thanks to Member Services for their assistance in organising the event as well as Reverend Canon Matthew Bradbury, the children of Elm Road Primary School and the Choristers of St Catherine’s College, Cambridge.


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.


The Chairman stated that no written questions had been received under Procedure Rule 8.6. Councillor Booth asked the following question under Procedure Rule 8.4 as Leader of the Opposition:

·         Councillor Booth referred to the Quality Organisation report where it mentions the work of the Audit and Risk Management Committee (ARMC), and feels from an independence perspective and with the ARMC being the critical friend, is it appropriate that the report comes from Councillor Boden, who is the finance portfolio holder and he would have thought it should have come from Councillor Miss French as Chairman of the ARMC. He expressed the view that there may need to be a separate section where updates are given on audit and risk management and also potentially Overview and Scrutiny from the Chairs of those committees in future so the differences can be delineated in the independence of those committees. Councillor Boden responded that the portfolio holder reports are reports from the portfolio holders and he is not only the portfolio holder for finance but also for governance. He stated that this does not mean he performs all or even the important parts of the governance of the Council merely that he has responsibility to ensure that governance and risk management are being carried out in the way in which they should be. Councillor Boden advised that this does not mean that he will agree with it and also means that he has to be subject to it but ultimately he has got a responsibility to ensure that the Council has a system in place for governance and of risk management which is appropriate for the Council. He added that where it is necessary, which happened at the last Full Council meeting, the Chairman of the ARMC, Councillor Kim French, does give a report and is able to be asked questions on the contents of the report and there may be other occasions where Councillor Miss French may also come forward, which may not be such a pleasant occasion as if something goes wrong. Councillor Boden made the point that as the portfolio holder with responsibility for ensuring that the overall system is in place he is pleased to say that it is in place, that the Chairman of ARMC is doing a very good job and he looks forward to the continuing challenge from the ARMC to ensure that both himself and the Cabinet continue to do their jobs as efficiently and effectively as they can.


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 1 MB


Members asked questions of portfolio holders in accordance with Procedure Rules 8.1 and 8.2 as follows:

·         Councillor Mrs Mayor referred to the fact that virtually all the bus services have been lost in Fenland and several large rural villages and settlements have no public bus service at all. She stated that bus services between Peterborough and Whittlesey have been reduced by more than half and the late weekday bus from Peterborough to Whittlesey is now non-existent, making it very difficult for young people and people working shifts to get to and from home. Councillor Mrs Mayor asked the Leader what action has been taken to reverse the rapid deterioration of bus services across Fenland generally and in Whittlesey in particular? Councillor Boden responded that it is not the responsibility of Fenland District Council to provide bus services, that responsibility has in recent years moved from the County Council to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) and what has disappointed him is that much of the additional subsidy which has been given by the CPCA to bus services has gone to the south of the region rather than to Fenland or Peterborough. He stated that he has taken this up on several occasions with the Mayor and with the staff and the portfolio holder responsible, Councillor Seaton, together with officers of Fenland District Council have also taken this matter up with the relevant officers and councillors at the CPCA. Councillor Boden expressed the view that it has got to the stage where now in meetings before he gets the chance to say his piece the Mayor interrupts and says I know what you are going to say about what is happening in Fenland and it is with some relief that he received a communication from the Mayor in the last couple of weeks, which stated “Your observations about the deterioration of bus services over the last 18 months in Fenland are ones of course that are a real concern to all of us, concerns also felt in other parts of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and are part of a gradual and declining national trend in patronage. The impact in deprived rural areas is considerable as the availability of alternative modes is less, placing more need and dependency on buses for access to education, employment and other services. As you know the situation would have been even worse had we not stepped in to rescue the bus services terminated by Stage Coach last Autumn. Your advice on gaps in the current network across Fenland is helpful to see and I am grateful to you for sharing, the CPCA team met with your officers earlier this month to discuss and I will take each of the three points in turn. On a basic Sunday service it is my understanding that only two services across the subsidised network run on Sundays, one the CPCA inherited from the Peterborough City Council and the other introduced by the previous Mayor at Papworth, I think support for  ...  view the full minutes text for item C26/23


Motion submitted by Councillor Taylor pdf icon PDF 64 KB

Motion submitted by Councillor Taylor in respect of supporting local farmers.


Councillor Taylor presented his motion regarding supporting local farmers.


Councillor Woollard seconded the motion and it was opened up for debate. Members made comments as follows:

·         Councillor Tierney stated that he is going to support this motion as he thinks it is important that people have the free choice to eat what they want to eat, it is not the job of councils or Government to instruct people on how they should feed themselves and if someone wants to be a vegan, vegetarian or to follow a keto diet then good for them. He made the point that there are all sorts of medical advice which is quite different and they all have experts backing them up but people should read what they can and make their own decisions as adults and for their children for what is best for them. Councillor Tierney expressed the view that whilst it does seem to be coming from the left, the left in this Council Chamber is normally more reasonable than the left seen elsewhere.

·         Councillor Sennitt Clough stated that she fully supports the motion as the minute people’s choice is taken away from them it is a slippery slope.

·         Councillor Carney expressed the view that it is greatly important that a local authority should be seen to supporting its local food and drink producers and as has already been said there is a good number of them in this District. He feels it is important to remember that there is a choice out there and it is good to highlight the fact that this Council does support lesser food miles. Councillor Carney referred to Hertfordshire County Council who were going down the route about a year ago where they were going to be completely plant based which effectively denies people who do not want to eat plant based products so he thinks this motion is the way forward and he does not know what the Council food and drink procurement policy is but he thinks it is worth throwing weight behind it to show that the Council is doing the right thing by supporting its local producers.

·         Councillor Booth stated that he supports the motion, he is a liberal and believes in free choice and the benefits of supporting the District’s local economy is great. He expressed surprise that a few years back the Council looked at its procurement policy and the whole aim of that was to try and buy more locally produced goods but it appears that this might not being achieved.

·         Councillor Woollard stated that being a lifelong Fenlander he appreciates the impact that the farming community has within the area and the Council must be seen to support individual choices and on this particular issue it is important that this Council supports a very key factor within the community which is the farming sector.

·         Councillor Taylor thanked members for supporting the motion and stated that he is working closely with the Countryside Alliance as this is a nationwide  ...  view the full minutes text for item C27/23


IRP recommendations/Members Allowance Scheme review pdf icon PDF 234 KB

To present to Council the conclusions and recommendations of the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) in respect of its review of the current Members' Allowances Scheme.



Amanda Orchard, Chairman of the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP), presented the recommendations of the IRP review of Members’ Allowances. She stated that whilst she is no longer a resident of Fenland she does have strong links to the District and does have a soft spot for Fenland as she grew up and went to school in the area.


Amanda Orchard advised that the IRP met to conduct a statutory review of Member Allowances as requested by the Council, with a statutory review having to be conducted every four years. She advised that the IRP consisted of herself, Ged Dempsey and Nicky Blanning, all of whom are experienced remuneration panel members having worked on other local reviews in this area and she thanked both of them for their input into this review and the officers of the Council for their support.


Amanda Orchard thanked all the councillors who provided their views into this review, either in written format or via the virtual meetings. She stated that councillors were very candid in their thoughts and not only provided views around the allowances in the context of the financial climate but also regarding the time commitment required to effectively fulfil the role of District Councillor.


Amanda Orchard stated that she often gets asked what is the benefit of the IRP being convened to consider remuneration rather than it being set at a national level and she feels there is a couple of advantages as they can tailor the requirements specifically to the authority as every authority is different in terms of geography, financial position and Council make up and they look at all those factors to ensure the remuneration recommendations are fair and proportionate. She advised that all issues that are brought to the IRP are considered and discussed fully and the other difference to an IRP v national Government is that they listen and react accordingly.


Amanda Orchard stated that the IRP considered not only the impact of the Combined Authority on members, but the new Executive Advisory Committees as well as the matter of annual increases particularly given that public sector staff have been awarded lump sum annual increases in more recent years. She added that the IRP were keen to recommend a formula on which to calculate the Basic Allowance to ensure transparency and the Basic Allowance was then used as the basis for calculating Special Responsibility Allowances (SRA).


Amanda Orchard stated that the IRP recommended the introduction of new SRA in respect of the Combined Authority and whilst it is recognised that not all councillors who took part in the review were supportive of this change all recognised the significant extra responsibilities the Combined Authority roles required as well as additional time commitment and the benefits that being involved in the Combined Authority had for the District. She made the point that it was not a decision that the IRP took lightly as she can recall at the very beginning that the Combined Authority was not to cost  ...  view the full minutes text for item C28/23


Treasury Management Strategy Statement & Annual Investment Strategy Mid-Year Review 2023/24 pdf icon PDF 195 KB

The purpose of this report is to review the Council’s Treasury Management activity for the first six months of 2023/24 and to provide members with an update on matters pertinent to future updates to the Council’s Treasury Management Strategy.



Councillor Boden presented the Treasury Management Strategy Statement and Annual Investment Strategy Mid-Year Review 2023/24.


Councillor Boden stated that the report lays out where the Council is as far as its treasury management function is concerned over the last six months and the Council is pretty much where it was expected to be, with there being three differences. He advised that one of the differences is that interest rates have remained higher than it was anticipated they were going to be so the Council is on track to earn more at the year end in investment interest and similar in revenue.


Councillor Boden added that secondly those who have any interest in UK commercial property will be aware funds have not been doing particularly well over the course of the last 9 months so the amount of money the Council is now expecting to receive from its property fund investment is somewhat lower. He stated the third area where there is a change is shown in Paragraphs 5.10 and 5.11 of the report which are the changes in the operational boundary and authorised limits for external debt and some members might have looked at this and thought why is there such big number changes and what does this mean but this basically relates to what is anticipated to be in the capital programme and the authorised limit is always significantly higher than the operational boundary. He added that the reason that the numbers have gone down so far from the original estimate to the revised estimate is overwhelmingly because Fenland Future Ltd has not progressed with the speed envisaged some 9-10 months ago and where it was thought funding would be lent to Fenland Future Ltd for two developments this is not likely to happen until next year rather than this year so the numbers are anticipated to have an outturn significantly lower than was the case 9 months ago.


Councillor Boden made the point that the Council has stayed within its financial limits and remained on track with the exception of the timing difference in terms of funding Fenland Future Ltd.   


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


Polling District Review Report pdf icon PDF 365 KB

To consider the outcome of the recent review of polling districts and places, as required by the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013.



Councillor Boden presented the Polling Districts and Polling Places Review.


Councillor Boden made the point that this exercise had been undertaken recently so although it is a legal requirement for there to be a review at this time there was little that had to be changed. He stated that the main changes are in March South where there has been an increase in polling districts to reflect the significant residential expansion that is being made in this area and additionally in Wimblington parish it was no longer possible for a separate location to be found for residents of Stonea to vote so the whole of the parish of Wimblington will now vote together at Wimblington Village Hall.


Councillor Boden referred to two significant concerns in Whittlesey with the original report that was produced, the first was the suggestion that the residents of Turves would need to go to Coates to vote and the second was the lack of suitable polling stations in the Whittlesey North West ward. He stated that he was pleased that, with a lot of hard work from officers, that a location has been found in a private residential house in Turves and a location has been found for the eastern most of the two polling districts in Whittlesey North West, with it being possible to continue to have two polling stations to cover a two member ward.


Councillor Boden thanked the officers who played a large part in getting the report to this position.


Councillor Miscandlon seconded the proposal and the item was opened up for debate.  Members made comments as follows:

·         Councillor Booth stated that he is happy with the majority of the report but one area he has concern with is regarding the polling station for Guyhirn. He referred to Page 89 of the pack where it contains the response from Wisbech St Mary Parish Council and their recommendation was to move it to the community room because that is now established and recognised within Guyhirn as a hub, with it having a very active committee and the reason why it has been discounted again is that it was previously visited and if it had been visited recently officers would have found that the Parish Council have undertaken a lot of work on the access, there is more street lighting and an enlarged car park at the front of the facility. Councillor Booth referred to the fact that it says the tarmac roadway is blocked off, but it is not necessarily blocked off, it is locked and that can be overcome and there will be additional car parking outside the community room as the Parish Council is going through the process of expanding that car parking. He expressed the opinion that it is a pity that officers have not actually engaged with the community to see what has happened, with much of this taking place over the last year and he would like to see this report amended so that the community room  ...  view the full minutes text for item C30/23