Venue: Council Chamber, Fenland Hall, County Road, March
To confirm and sign the minutes of 19 May 2021.
The minutes of the meeting of 19 May 2021 were confirmed and signed.
To receive any announcements from the Chairman of the Council and/or the Head of Paid Service.
Councillor Miscandlon said that members will have received by email a copy of the updated committee list showing the changes that have taken place since the commencement of the municipal year, which are simply to note, with the information having been updated on the website. Also, there will be a continuation of the exception to Rule 19 in that members are requested to please remain seated whilst addressing the meeting.
Councillor Miscandlon then made the following announcement:
“It is with great pleasure to welcome ex-councillor Ralph Butcher to this Chamber who joins us today with his wife, Pat. As you will recall, following a motion on 23 February this year, it was agreed that what had previously been known as the Kings Dyke crossing would be officially named as the Ralph Butcher Causeway. This decision reflects the continuous and tireless determination of Ralph to get this bridge constructed. He fought for this for over forty years. I congratulate him and everyone in this Chamber wishes to thank him for that”.
Councillor Miscandlon then presented Ralph Butcher with a certificate as a token of appreciation and recognition of his contribution to this great achievement.
Ralph Butcher said there were many people he would like to thank. He was first elected to the local council in 1971, 50 years ago and that is when we first talked about the bridge. Over all those years there have been many councillors, some of whom are here today, and officers who have done a lot of work on this bridge and he thanked everybody for all their help over the years.
Mrs Butcher then received a presentation of flowers from Councillor Miscandlon and Ralph Butcher stated that all councillors should know that without the help of their partners, you can never get the job done properly anyway.
Following the presentation the Chief Executive, Paul Medd then made the following announcement:
“I am delighted to announce that the Council has once again been reaccredited for Customer Service Excellence.
CSE is a national standard that recognises public bodies that provide customer-focused, high quality, excellent services. Fenland is one of the few councils that have consistently achieved this rigorous standard for all its services.
Following an assessment in June, the CSE assessor was highly complementary of the Council’s emphasis on continuing to deliver excellent customer focused services, especially in view of the Covid-19 pandemic and associated restrictions.
In the final report our assessor said: “It is clear that Fenland has managed the Covid-19 pandemic situation exceptionally well. There was the potential for a significant dip in performance, but Fenland has prevented this through its actions. Since the last review, the Council has increased its efforts to manage the impact of the pandemic”.
The assessor added that: “The Council has played a key role in bringing together and coordinating all the relevant partners to address Covid-19 related needs in Fenland. As a result, residents benefit from many services, including some pioneering, ground-breaking initiatives.
The assessor also noted the following ... view the full minutes text for item C15/21
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 received submitted under Procedure Rule 8.6 and asked if there were any questions under Procedure Rule. 8.4 from Councillor Maul as the nominated representative of Councillor Cornwell, Leader of the Opposition.
Councillor Maul said that at Full Council on 23 February 2021, Councillor Boden had promised to look at the idea of installing electric vehicle charging points within council car parks to meet growing demands. He asked what progress had been made on this.
Councillor Boden said that although it has been our plan for the last two years, the process has been delayed in the attempt to obtain civil parkingenforcement, of which installing charging points in our car parks would form a part. However, the County Council has slowed down with their plans for on-street parking, and without their agreement as the Highway’s authority we cannot move forward with our plans for both on-street and off-street parking, including consideration for the charging points. Each meeting is now being held every three months. However, there should be a Cabinet paper in October explaining what the timelines will be and hopefully the next time Transport Committee of CCC meets they will have some detail agreed.
Councillor Maul thanked Councillor Boden and said although he appreciated that there was reliance on the County Council, Councillor Cornwell has asked for a procedure to be put in place to keep members updated. Councillor Boden said that when the next Cabinet agenda is published there will be a full update for members with the likely projected timescale.
Members asked questions of Portfolio Holders in accordance with Procedure Rules 8.1 and 8.2 as follows:
1. Councillor Patrick addressed Councillor Hoy regarding homelessness and asked why rough sleeping still exists in Wisbech when several million pounds has been spent on this problem. \He also asked why on 28June at a Wisbech Town Council meeting, Councillor Hoy said she did not know whether the matter was confidential or not when she spoke about the possible eviction of the homeless from the gardens of the property of St Peter’s car park. Was she aware that those people were to be evicted, with many of them left out in the rain unable to collect their personal belongings? He asked if anyone at FDC was there at the time to give support and advice for those people, many of them vulnerable, and if not, why not? He would also like to know what is happening with the FDC-owned hostel at Kirkgate Street, which has been closed for three years.
2. Councillor Hoy responded that there will always be difficulties regarding homelessness. A lot of work has been done with the rough sleepers in Wisbech; some have been housed permanently and are doing well, and a full briefing note will be circulated to all members as an update. Unfortunately, however, some have no recourse to public funds due to their immigration status. This is a difficult situation which many local authorities are facing. These people are being visited, but it is a complex issue. We have had discussions with the Home Office about it, and they have been here on several visits but there is no quick fix. Some homeless people have very difficult and complex problems. In relation to the closure order, she mentioned it at Wisbech Town Council purely as an update to members because an FDC officer had rightly mentioned it to her; but the first part of it is to go to consultation. She mentioned it because she was concerned that what she was saying in good faith, which was to inform town council members about a closure order and to seek their views, would potentially be used to say that FDC officers were doing no work on rough sleeping. That is exactly what happened the following morning, which she found depressing because staff do a good job every day and work hard. As it happened the closure order was not required as it involved private land. The landowner felt that people were trespassing, and so took legal action to evict the trespassers as is their right. They were moved on and given time to collect their belongings. We are working with the people that were on the site through outreach and will continue to so even if they have no recourse to public funds. In respect of the Kirkgate Street hostel, it was previously run by a provider who no longer wanted to run it. Covid-19 hit but we could not put rough sleepers in the property because ... view the full minutes text for item C17/21
Councillor Sam Clark presented her motion regarding the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn.
Councillor Hoy seconded the motion and Councillor Miscandlon opened the motion for debate.
1. Councillor Booth said he would support this but wondered if Councillor Clark would make an addition to the motion to send a copy of the resolution to Norfolk and Cambridgeshire county councils given that we are trying to support services in the area. This hospital serves many Fenland residents, and it gives Norfolk a good message that we are willing to support projects in their area.
2. Councillor Bligh agreed with Councillor Booth, but she also wondered if the Royal Family have been questioned on this. They may have used this hospital and they have residents in Sandringham. Their support could add weight to this.
3. Councillor Clark thanked both Councillor Booth and Councillor Hoy for their comments, which she would take on board although the latter request may prove more difficult.
4. Councillor Sutton stated his full support for the motion and said why would you not?
Councillor Miscandlon asked if Councillor Booth wished to make an amendment to the proposal based on his comment. Councillor Booth confirmed he did and proposed the following be added to the motion:
‘(d) to send a copy of this resolution to Norfolk and Cambridgeshire County Councils.’
The amendment was seconded by Councillor Patrick and the amendment was opened for debate.
Councillor Tierney said he did not think this necessary; if it succeeds, it is straightforward to ask officers to send copies of the original motion to different parties without building it into an amendment unless we do not believe they will do that. Councillor Hoy said she thought that Councillor Clark had already accepted Councillor Booth’s motion and therefore agreed this was unnecessary.
Councillor Miscandlon accepted that Councillor Clark had agreed Councillor Booth’s proposal and took a vote on the motion with the addition he suggested.
The Motion, including the additional item, was approved.
To report the commitment and effectiveness of the Corporate Governance Committee and Audit and Risk Management Committee’s work from April 2020 to March 2021.
Members considered the Corporate Governance / Audit and Risk Management Committee Annual Report 2020/21 presented by Councillor Kim French as Chairman of the Audit and Risk Management Committee.
Councillor Miss French thanked members of the Committee for their participation and enthusiasm and officers for their hard work in servicing the needs of the Council.
Proposed by Councillor Kim French, seconded by Councillor Booth and Council AGREED to acknowledge the work of the Corporate Governance Committeeand Audit and Risk Management Committee and its compliance with CIPFA’sannual checklist for 2020/21.
The Overview and Scrutiny Annual Report reflects what has been undertaken and achieved by the Overview and Scrutiny Panel during 2020/21 and takes a forward look at the programme of work and challenges for Overview and Scrutiny in 2021/2022.
Members considered the Overview & Scrutiny Annual Report presented by Councillor Mason, as Chairman of the Overview & Scrutiny Panel.
Councillor Mason paid tribute to Anna Goodall for the tremendous amount of work she had put into supporting the panel over the last few years, providing ample information and advice to all members, for which he is grateful. He welcomed Amy Brown in the coming year as a supporting officer to the panel.
Councillor Booth said he would like it to be noted that when the report came before Overview & Scrutiny, he raised the point that in Section 6.8 regarding urgency decisions we ought to amend the wording to reflect that this is only done in exceptional circumstances and was done because of Covid. However, the text has not been updated and he feels it is an important point to make; this is a check and balance that we need to ensure it is used sparingly. Councillor Mason said he will ensure it is included in the report.
Proposed by Councillor Mason, seconded by Councillor Connor and Council AGREED to acknowledge the broad scope of work undertaken by the Overview and Scrutiny Panel during 2020/21.
The purpose of this report is to consider the overall financial and operational performance of the Council’s treasury management activity for 2020/21.
Members considered the Treasury Management Annual Report 2020/21 presented by Councillor Boden as Leader and portfolio holder for finance.
Proposed by Councillor Boden, seconded by Councillor Davis, and Council AGREED to note the report.
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 initial part of the electoral review process regarding the proposed future Council Size which is the numbers of Councillors required to run the Council in future.
Members considered the Fenland Electoral Review – Council Size report presented by Councillor Boden.
Membersmade comments,asked questionsand receivedresponses asfollows:
1. Councillor Hay said she fully supports the recommendations. Our workload has increased with the additional CPCA committees, but we want to give our best for residents and there needs to be enough members to spread the load. It is better to be proactive rather than reactive so reviewing the boundaries now will ensure that councillors represent closer to the average number of electors overall come the 2023 elections and that the number of electors supported by members is equitable. Furthermore, if we want to attract good quality candidates to stand for council the workload must not be such that it puts people off and prevents them from standing.
2. Councillor Booth said that he broadly supports the recommendation but feels there still needs to be a root and branch review of local government in our area. We have too many tiers of local authority and that does not appear to be progressing. However, this will help to keep the situation equitable as stated by Councillor Hay, and it is important we have the right number of councillors to ensure we have a diverse representation. (Councillor Booth and Councillor Maul left the meeting at 5.34pm).
3. Councillor Tierney agreed with Councillor Booth that there are too many tiers of government in Cambridgeshire. However, for this review it comes down to whether you think councillors are good value for money or not, and he believes they are. He has always voted against rises in councillor allowances but that is not because he does not value the work they do; they put a large amount of their time into their work in helping residents and if paid it would probably be less than minimum wage. A small increase in the number of councillors to spread the load and be more effective in helping residents can only be a good thing. Yes, it is a small extra cost to have additional councillors, but it would be great value for money and the people that do contact their councillors are often very welcoming of the help they get.
4. Councillor Sutton said from the comments he made at the last Council meeting it would be no surprise that he does not support this and does not think we should put more on our council-tax payers at this time. County councillors represent a greater number of residents as does Peterborough City Council, which is a unitary authority fulfilling both district and county roles, so he fails to see why we cannot reduce the number of members we have. He feels the Leader was swayed from his original opinion stated at the working group, of reducing the number of members to 30 which Councillor Sutton would support fully. Therefore, he would like to add a bullet point to the recommendations and propose that if the LGPCE do agree to extra councillors, there ... view the full minutes text for item C22/21
To approve the appointment of Amy Brown, Head of Legal and Governance as the Council's Acting Monitoring Officer to cover a period of maternity leave for the existing Monitoring Officer and to note the appointment of Kathy Woodward, Internal Audit Manager, as Acting Deputy Monitoring Officer for the Council, during the period in which Amy Brown is Acting Monitoring Officer.
Members considered the Appointment of Monitoring Officer and Notification of Deputy Monitoring Officer report presented by Councillor Boden.
Councillor Boden stated that the report speaks for itself; Amy Brown has shown herself to be more than capable and competent to be our acting Monitoring Officer during the period of maternity leave for the existing Monitoring Officer. As far as the Deputy Monitoring Officer position is concerned, it is merely for us to note since this post is devolved to another officer.
Proposed by Councillor, seconded by Councillor Tierney and AGREED:
· To approve the appointment of Amy Brown, Head of Legal and Governance as the Acting Monitoring Officer for the Council to cover a period of maternity leave. These arrangements will come into immediate effect from the date the maternity leave commences.
· To note the appointment of Kathy Woodward, Internal Audit Manager as Acting Deputy Monitoring Officer for the Council during the period in which Amy Brown is Acting Monitoring Officer.
(Amy Brown left the room for this item).