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Council Minutes

Date:
Thursday, 9th February, 2012
Time:
7.30pm
Place:
Council Chamber, Council Offices, Gernon Road, Letchworth Garden City
 
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor M.E. Weeks (Chairman), Councillor Joan Kirby (Vice-Chairman), Councillor Mrs A.G. Ashley, Councillor A. Bardett, Councillor David Billing, Councillor Judi Billing, Councillor John Bishop, Councillor John Booth, Councillor Tom Brindley, Councillor P.C.W. Burt, Councillor Dave Chambers, Councillor Paul Clark, Councillor Lisa Courts, Councillor Tricia Cowley, Councillor Bill Davidson, Councillor Jane Gray, Councillor Jean Green, Councillor Gary Grindal, Councillor Richard Harman, Councillor Cathryn Henry, Councillor Fiona Hill, Councillor T.W. Hone, Councillor A.F. Hunter, Councillor S.K. Jarvis, Councillor David Kearns, Councillor Lorna Kercher, Councillor Marilyn Kirkland, Councillor I.J. Knighton, Councillor David Levett, Councillor Bernard Lovewell, Councillor Paul Marment, Councillor Alan Millard, Councillor Gerald Morris, Councillor M.R.M. Muir, Councillor Elliot Needham, Councillor Mrs L.A. Needham, Councillor Lawrence Oliver, Councillor Michael Paterson, Councillor Mike Rice, Councillor R.L. Shakespeare - Smith, Councillor R.A.C. Thake and Councillor A.D. Young.
In attendance:
Chief Executive, Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance, Strategic Director of Customer Services, Strategic Director of Planning, Housing and Enterprise, Accountancy Manager, Corporate Legal Manager, Democratic Services Manager and Committee and Member Services Officer.
Also Present:
Chief Executive, Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance, Strategic Director of Customer Services, Strategic Director of Planning, Housing and Enterprise, Accountancy Manager, Corporate Legal Manager, Democratic Services Manager and Committee and Member Services Officer.
Item Description/Decision
PART I
50 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors: D.J. Barnard, R. Inwood, David Miller, Deepak Sangha and Mrs C.P.A. Strong.
51 MINUTES
RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the meeting of the Council held on 10 November 2011 be approved as a true record and signed by the Chairman.
52 NOTIFICATION OF OTHER BUSINESS
No additional business was presented for consideration by the Council.

However, the Leader of the Council wished to address the Council prior to the commencement of business. It had become apparent that a ‘global’ email sent on her behalf concerning the appointment by the Employment Committee of David Scholes, the Strategic Director of Planning, Housing and Enterprise, as the Interim Chief Executive had not in fact been received by all Members This was due to an error at the main IT Server which was not apparent to officers. Councillor Lynda Needham gave her sincere apologies to all Members for this error, which was not intentional, and stated that officers would be investigating this problem to ensure that in future all such ‘global’ emails reached Members and staff. Councillor Lynda Needham took the opportunity to congratulate Mr Scholes on his selection.
53 CHAIRMAN'S ANNOUNCEMENTS
(1) Green Apple Awards

The Chairman was delighted to announce that the Council, along with its partners, had won a number of Green Apple Awards recently. The awards were:

(a) Regional bronze winner - Community Reassurance events: partnership events involving police, fire service, DVLA, Waste and Grounds teams to clear up areas, remove graffiti, flytips, provide advice on fire safety, remove untaxed vehicles. Dan Kingsley, Jo Lines and Steve Gibbs would be receiving this award on behalf of NHDC.

(b) Regional Gold Winner- Spring Clean Letchworth project: a partnership project between Spring Clean Letchworth, NHDC and other partners to clean up/litter pick areas which were not covered by the street cleansing contract i.e. private land. There were 2 awards - Heather Cotton and Margaret Redding would be receiving one on behalf of Spring Clean Letchworth and Dan Kingsley and Jo Lines would be receiving the other on behalf of NHDC.

(c) National Silver Winner - WEEE events: Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment collection events, where car parks in the District were used for residents to bring their unwanted electronic items for re-use or recycling. In May 2011 during our series of 3 events, in Letchworth, Hitchin and Royston, 21 tonnes of electronic waste was collected, which otherwise would have been landfilled. These events were very popular with residents and 3 more were being held into February 2012. There were 2 awards - Elaine Easton from Veolia would be receiving one and Dan Kingsley and Jo Lines from NHDC would be receiving the other.

The Chairman invited the winners to come forward and he presented them with their awards.

(2) Chairman’s Charity Quiz

The Chairman thanked all those who had agreed to take part in his Charity Quiz Night at Knights Templar School in Baldock on Saturday, 11 February 2012. 20 Teams had entered, and it promised to be an enjoyable evening.

(3) Civic Reception

The Chairman advised that the date and venue for the Civic Reception had now been resolved. It will take place on Friday 2 March 2012 at Blakemore House, Little Wymondley.

(4) Civic Service 2011/12

The Chairman announced that the Civic Service 2011/12 would take place at 3.15pm on Sunday, 11 March 2012 at St. Mary’s Church, Baldock.

(5) Declarations of Interest

The Chairman reminded Members that, in line with the Code of Conduct, any Declarations of Interest needed to be declared immediately prior to the item in question.
54 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
The Council was addressed by Town Councillor Frank Lovett (Chairman of Letchworth Garden City Town Council) in respect of Item 6 on the agenda: Community Governance Review - the town of Letchworth Garden City.

Town Councillor Lovett thanked the Chairman for the opportunity to address the Council and confirmed that he was the current Chairman of the Town Council and speaking on behalf of the residents of Letchworth. Councillor Lovett opined that the formation of the Town Council was an unnecessary and superfluous additional tier of local government, which had become expensive and inefficient, with staffing and administration costs accounting for more than two thirds of the precept.

Councillor Lovett considered that Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation and the NHDC Letchworth Area Committee provided a service that the residents of Letchworth needed and that a Town Council was not required by Letchworth residents and tax payers. Councillor Lovett reminded Members that at the last Town Council Elections in 2009 there had been a resounding vote for the dissolution of the Town Council with 22 of 24 seats won by HELP (Help Eliminate Letchworth Parish) who stood for abolition. The purpose of the address was to commend to the Council the approval of a Community Governance Review to be undertaken by NHDC to assess the validity of closing down Letchworth Town Council. Councillor Lovett concluded his presentation by opining that to delay the review would incur extra time and expense for the Town Council that would erode existing funds and that there was no need to have two full terms for the Town Council, there was no statutory period and each case must be considered on its own merits.

The Chairman thanked Councillor Lovett for the presentation.
55 COMMUNITY GOVERNANCE REVIEW - THE TOWN OF LETCHWORTH GARDEN CITY
The Council considered the report of the Chief Executive in respect of a request received from Letchworth Garden City Town Council for a Community Governance Review of the town of Letchworth Garden City . The following appendices were submitted with the report:

Appendix A - Letter and report of the Chairman of Letchworth Garden City Town Council;
Appendix B - Review Terms of Reference;
Appendix C - Timetable.

The Leader of the Council (Mrs L.A. Needham) advised that Councillor Mrs C.P.A. Strong (Portfolio Holder for Policy) was unable to be present to propose the recommendation in the report and that she would act on her behalf. The Leader took Members through the report and emphasised that the Council were not seeking the abolishment or retention of the Town Council. The report asked Members to consider whether there should be a Community Governance Review (CGR), should there be a deferral of a review or no review at all? If Council were to approve a review then the information presented at Appendices B and C were also for approval.

It was moved by Councillor Mrs L.A. Needham and seconded by Councillor T.W. Hone that the recommendation set out in the report be approved.

The Chairman referred to a letter from a Mr Phillip Ross concerning the Community Governance Review and that all Members had read the copy laid at their place in the Chamber. The Chairman invited Councillor Michael Paterson to address Council.

Councillor Paterson referred Members to the three additional resolutions to the substantive motion - a copy of which had been provided to all Members. Councillor Paterson advised Members that the amendments were solely about process, not concerned with possible outcomes and did not seek to influence any outcomes. Cllr Paterson advised Members that the Town Council had referred the request for a CGR to NHDC on 22 December 2011 and having read the report (Section 4) from the Chief Executive he was of the opinion that there were no significant reasons for declining or delaying a review. Councillor Paterson considered that there was sufficient supporting detail from the Town Council for this Council to undertake a CGR and based on Paragraph 12 of the Guidance on Community Governance Reviews issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government. Councillor Paterson referred Members to Table 5.2 in the main body of the report which listed the key components and functions of the review.

Accordingly as an amendment it was moved by Councillor Michael Paterson and seconded by Councillor Paul Marment that the three additional recommendations be approved:

"(1) That a Community Governance Review of the Town of Letchworth Garden City be undertaken;

(2) That the Terms of Reference for the Community Governance Review as presented at Appendix B to the report be approved for consultation purposes;

(3) That under Delegated Authority the Democratic Services Manager be requested to finalise the timetable for the Community Governance Review, as presented at Appendix C to the report."

In response to an enquiry as to whether the Council were legally able to conduct the CGR the Corporate Legal Manager confirmed that it was clear that NHDC could do so and it was clear and unambiguous.

There followed an extensive debate on the merits of the CGR and reference was made to the work of NHDC Letchworth Area Committee and the Heritage Foundation A Member considered that a Town Council should enhance the work of NHDC and Letchworth Area Committee and that the Heritage Foundation would support the Town Council. During the debate several Members suggested that the CGR should be deferred until the next parish elections in 2013 and that the people of Letchworth should decide as to whether there should be a town council.

Councillor T.W.Hone acknowledged that the cost of up to £24,000 for the CGR was a significant sum but that there could not be a ‘price’ placed on democracy. The results of the parish election in 2009 and the resolution by the Town Council to call for a CGR had to be met and it was incumbent on the Council to accede to the electorate’s wishes.

Councillor David Kearns referred to the letter from Mr Ross and in particular to the penultimate paragraph and the opinion expressed in that letter that public money could be wasted on a CGR which following abolition could be followed by a new petition signed by 10 per cent of the electorate within 24 months which would automatically re-instate the Town Council by virtue of the 2007 Act where any town of over 1,000 population voting for a town council must be progressed by the Local Authority. Councillor Kearns also suggested that if there could not be resolution at this meeting on legal matters there should be a deferral to the next meeting of Council on 16 February 2012. Through the Chairman, Councillor D. Kearns asked the Corporate Legal Manager to respond.

It was acknowledged that the cost of a CGR would be borne by NHDC but several Members asked whether the Town Council could contribute to the overall cost of the CGR and a Member requested legal clarification of the 10 per cent vote referred to in Mr Ross’s letter and whether it was possible to accept a financial contribution from the Town Council?

The Chairman referred these questions to the Corporate Legal Manager who advised that she was unable to respond to these detailed questions at such short notice, and Councillor Mrs L.A. Needham commented that it was very difficult at such short notice to respond to issues raised in this letter and that officers had not been aware of the letter until the date of this meeting.

The Chairman proposed and it was agreed that, in light of the number of questions and matters for clarification, it would be appropriate to adjourn the meeting to allow officers an opportunity to discuss the questions and comments.

The meeting was adjourned at 8.26 p.m. and re-convened at 8.42 p.m.

The Chief Executive advised Members that this was a complex issue and had the following three points for the Members to consider:

1. The guidance appears clear on the point that any petition to re-create a Parish Council would need to be submitted after 24 months had passed following any abolition of a current Parish. Such a petition would give the District Council a duty to carry out a further review. The letter submitted by Mr Ross was incorrect in referring to any possibility of such a duty occurring within 24 months;
2. Referring to ‘automatic re-instatement’ following a petition it was not possible confirm one way or the other at this meeting of the Council. The Council cannot rely only on this guidance and officers did not have adequate time to review the primary legislation and relevant case law.
3. Therefore on balance it would seem appropriate for this Council to agree to carry out a review as this Council could agree to undertake a review at any time.

Following the statement provided by the Chief Executive it was moved by Councillor David Kearns and seconded by Councillor Judi Billing that the proposal to undertake a CGR should be deferred. Upon being put to the vote, this amendment was lost.

Upon the substantive motion, including the three additional recommendations proposed as an amendment, being put to the vote it was

RESOLVED:

(1) That Council had considered how to proceed towards a Community Governance Review;

(2) That a Community Governance Review of the Town of Letchworth Garden City be undertaken;

(3) That the Terms of Reference for the Community Governance Review as presented at Appendix B to the report be approved for the consultation process;

(4) That under delegated authority the Democratic Services Manager be requested to finalise the timetable for the Community Governance Review as presented at Appendix C to the report.

REASON FOR DECISION: To respond to the request received from Letchworth Garden City Town Council for a Community Governance Review of the town.
56 ITEM REFERRED FROM LICENSING & APPEALS COMMITTEE: 21 NOVEMBER 2011 - PROPOSED STREET TRADING POLICY 2012-17
The Council considered the Minute of the meeting of the Licensing and Appeals Committee held on 21 November 2011, in respect of the proposed Street Trading Policy 2012-17 (Minute 7 refers). A copy of the report considered by the Licensing and Appeals Committee was included with the agenda, as were the following appendices:

Appendix A - Schedule of comments received during the consultation, including recommendations;
Appendix B - Schedule of comments received during the additional consultation with Area Committee, including recommendations;
Appendix C - Proposed Street Trading Policy.

It was moved by Councillor Bernard Lovewell, seconded by Councillor Mrs L.A. Needham, and following debate, it was

RESOLVED: That all streets within the town centres of Baldock, Hitchin, Letchworth Garden City and Royston, as annotated within Appendices A to D of the Street Trading Policy, and all arterial roads within North Hertfordshire, as listed in Paragraph 2.2.3 of the Street Trading Policy attached as Appendix C to the report, be designated as consent streets for the purpose of Schedule 4 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982.

REASON FOR DECISION: To simplify the Street Trading process by enabling town centre landowners, or their agents, and not-for-profit event organisers to apply for a collective consent.
57 ITEM REFERRED FROM CABINET: 24 JANUARY 2012 - CORPORATE BUSINESS PLANNING - BUDGET SETTING 2012/13
The Council considered the Minute of the meeting of the Cabinet held on 24 January 2012, in respect of Corporate Business Planning - Budget Setting 2012/13 (Minute 87 refers). A copy of the report considered by the Cabinet was included with the agenda, as were the following appendices:

Appendix 1 - General Fund estimates for 2012/13 to 2016/17;
Appendix 2 - Expenditure Reduction proposals;
Appendix 3 - Revenue Investment proposals;
Appendix 4 - Collection Fund Projection 2011/12.

Also included with the referral were the comments of the Letchworth and Southern Rural Committees regarding the proposed Budget for 2012/13, made at their respective meetings on 18 and 19 January 2012; and an addendum report of the Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance, which outlined the final Government Finance settlement for 2012/13 and the Council Tax requirement for 2012/13 and the Council Tax base and precept for each Parish for 2012-2013.

Prior to the consideration of the Budget Setting for 2012/13, the Leader of the Council and the Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Finance and IT presented a Budget Speech and drew attention to the addendum report containing details of the final settlement announcement from Government, the Council Tax requirement and the Parish precept requirements.

Councillor T.W. Hone confirmed that there would be no increase in Council Tax for the residents of North Hertfordshire in 2012-2013.

These documents are reproduced at Appendix A to these Minutes.

It was moved by Councillor T.W. Hone, and seconded by Councillor Mrs L.A. Needham, that the recommendations contained in the Cabinet referral be approved.

The Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group (Councillor S.K. Jarvis) and Leader of the Labour Group (Councillor David Billing) both gave responses to the speeches made by the Leader of the Council and the Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Finance and IT. In particular Councillor S.K. Jarvis welcomed the proposal to re-visit the twice weekly Members’ Courier Service and consideration of amending the financial arrangements for the Chairman’s annual Civic Reception.

As an amendment, it was moved by Councillor David Billing, and seconded by Councillor David Kearns that Recommendation (4) be amended to read:

“(1) That recommendation (4) be amended to read that the position of the other Reserves and Balances, as detailed at Paragraph 4.3.9 be noted subject to reducing:

(1) The special Reserve by £250,000 to enhance new homes building;
(2) The Housing Delivery Grant Reserve by a total of £70,000 over two years to permit the appointment of a two year fixed term 0.6 fte post of Economic Development Officer as Agreed by Cabinet in July 2012.

Following debate, and being put to the vote, the amendment was lost.

As a further amendment, it was moved by Councillor David Billing and seconded by Councillor David Kearns:

(2) That recommendation (6) be amended by changing ‘totalling £609K’ to read ‘totalling £597k’, and by adding after ‘budget estimates for 2012-2013’ the words ‘subject to the reduction of E1 (public conveniences) by £12,000 to allow Hitchin Markets toilets to be opened on all days if Hitchin Markets Ltd take responsibility for market days.

Following debate, and being put to the vote, the amendment was lost.

As a further amendment, it was moved by Councillor David Billing and seconded by Councillor David Kearns:

(3) That a new recommendation (7) be added, and the remainder re-numbered, as follows: ‘That the Base Budget adjustments in Appendix 1 of the report be reduced by £12,000 to £281,435, by capping the total consultancy expenditure at £12,000 less than assumed in the service department budgets, with efforts to be made during the year to save more in this way.

Following debate, and being put to the vote, the amendment was lost.

As a further amendment, it was moved by Councillor David Billing and seconded by Councillor David Kearns:

(4) That original recommendation (7) now re-numbered (8), be amended to increase the investment proposals to £396K to include the additional £250,000 to enhance new homes building.

Following debate, and being put to the vote, the amendment was lost.
As a further amendment, it was moved by Councillor David Billing and seconded by Councillor David Kearns:

(5) That original recommendation (8) now re-numbered (9), be amended by changing ‘£15.566 million to £15.815 million and adding the words ‘as amended by (1), (2), (3), and (4) above’ after ‘the report’.

Following debate, and being put to the vote, the amendment was lost.

The Chairman thanked all Members for their contribution to the debate and following remarks by the Portfolio Holder for Finance and the substantive motion being put to the vote and it was:

RESOLVED:

(1) That the provisional Government support for 2012/13 of £5.360million, as referred to in Section 4.1 of the report, be noted;

(2) That a net increase in projected expenditure in 2012/13 of £98K, as referred to in Section 4.2 of the report, be noted;

(3) That it be noted that the Chief Finance Officer considers the budget for the year, including the allowance for risks, is adequate, and that a General Fund balance of £1.668million be approved, to be used in the precept calculations;

(4) That the position of the other Reserves and Balances, as detailed in Paragraph 4.3.9 of the report, be noted;

(5) That the position on the Council Tax Collection Fund, including that there is a surplus of £16K projected at 31 March 2012 and no contribution to or from the Collection Fund is required in 2012/13, be noted;

(6) That the Efficiency Proposals, totalling £609K, as detailed in Appendix 2 of the report, be approved for inclusion in the budget estimates for 2012/13, and that further consideration be given to efficiencies in the Member Courier Service as discussed at the earlier Members’ Workshops, with officers being invited to report back on possible options with a view to making an in-year saving during 2012-2013;

(7) That the Investment Proposals, totalling £119K, as detailed in Appendix 3 of the report, be approved for inclusion in the budget estimates for 2012/13;

(8) That the estimated 2012/13 net expenditure of £15.566million, as detailed in Appendix 1 of the report, be approved;

(9) That a 0% increase on the Council Tax (average band D) be levied upon the Collection Fund for 2012/13, a precept of £9,944,498.

REASON FOR DECISION: To ensure that all relevant factors are taken into consideration when arriving at the proposed Council Tax precept for 2012/13; and to ensure that a balanced budget is set for 2012/13.
58 ITEM REFERRED FROM CABINET: 24 JANUARY 2012 - CAPITAL PROGRAMME 2012/13 ONWARDS
The Council considered the Minute of the meeting of the Cabinet held on 24 January 2012, in respect of the Capital Programme - 2012/13 Onwards (Minute 88 refers). A copy of the report considered by the Cabinet was included with the agenda, as were the following appendices:

Appendix A - Capital Programme Summary;
Appendix B - Capital Programme Detail;
Appendix C - Capital Investment Proposals for 2012/13 and onwards.

It was moved by Councillor T.W. Hone, and seconded by Councillor Mrs L.A. Needham that the recommendations in the report be approved Councillor Hone confirmed that there was one additional item concerning repairs to Westmill Community Centre which would be subject to discussions with North Hertfordshire Homes.

Councillor Hone was also able to reassure Members that funds would be available for the North Hertfordshire Museum Service and Community Facility at Hitchin Town Hall as and when required.

Upon the substantive motion being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED:

(1) That the provisional Capital Programme for 2012/13 to 2015/16, including the projects listed in Appendix C to the report, be approved;

(2) That the 2012/13 Investment Proposals, as listed in Appendix C to the report, and totalling £732K overall (£697K profiled in 2012/13), be approved;

(3) That the inclusion in the Capital Programme of the 2013/14 Investment Proposals (C3, C6 and C9), as listed in Appendix C of the report, as an early indication of £302K of investment required (£213K profiled in 2013/14), be approved;

(4) That the on-going commitment to the tenant Cash Incentive Scheme, Housing Association Grant Scheme, Disabled Facility Grant Scheme and Private Renovation Grant Scheme to the level detailed in Paragraph 4.7 of the report, be approved.

REASON FOR DECISION: To ensure that the Capital Programme meets the Council’s objectives and officers can plan the implementation of approved schemes.
59 ITEM REFERRED FROM CABINET: 24 JANUARY 2012 - TREASURY MANAGEMENT STRATEGY FOR 2012/13
The Council considered the Minute of the meeting of the Cabinet held on 24 January 2012, in respect of the proposed Treasury Management Strategy for 2012/13 (Minute 89 refers). A copy of the report considered by the Cabinet was included with the agenda, as were the following appendices:

Appendix A - Treasury Management Policy Statement;
Appendix B - Treasury Management Practices;
Appendix C - Treasury Strategy Statement.

Councillor T.W. Hone emphasised to Members that there were no overseas investments of NHDC assets, with all cash invested in government guaranteed institutions and that the Council would not take risks with funds that were owned by the residents of North Hertfordshire.

It was moved by Councillor T.W. Hone, seconded by Councillor Mrs L.A. Needham, and:

RESOLVED: That the Treasury Management Strategy for 2012/13, as set out at Appendix C to the report, be adopted.

REASON FOR DECISION: To ensure the Council’s continued compliance with CIPFA’s Code of Practice on Treasury Management and the Local Government Act 2003, and to ensure that the Council manages its exposure to interest and capital risk.
60 QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS
(A) Metal and Waste Site in Hitchin

In accordance with Standing Order 10.4(a), the following question had been submitted by Councillor Lisa Courts to Councillors Tom Brindley (Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Planning, Transport and Enterprise) and Bernard Lovewell (Cabinet Portfolio for Housing and Environmental Health):

“What action is this Council going to take in response to the recent High Court decision on the Metal and Waste site in Hitchin, in order to address the problems in this area?”

Response from Cllr Tom Brindley (Portfolio Holder for Planning, Transport and Enterprise).

“The Planning Authority for the Metal and Waste site is the responsibility of Herts County Council. NHDC supported HCC in its unsuccessful application and we both await the details of the judge's decision. In addition we are pursuing the options for Traffic Regulations Orders and I have a meeting next week with Hertfordshire Highways where I hope to formulate an action plan. I also intend to bring any proposals to the Hitchin Area Committee”.

Councillor Lisa Courts asked the following supplementary question.

“Could you please provide an update following the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 7 February 2012 concerning the movement of HGV vehicles and the possibility of night time bans on the parking up of HGVs?’

Councillor Brindley gave the following reply: I am aware of the question (Minute 90 refers) raised by Councillor David Billing and the reply from the Strategic Director of Planning, Housing and Enterprise. A meeting arranged by the NHDC Transport Policy Officer to discuss this problem is scheduled for Friday, 17 February 2012 and that Traffic Regulation Orders would be required to implement no overnight parking of vehicles in the Hitchin Industrial Area.
61 NOTICE OF MOTIONS
There were no Notice of Motions.
Published on Tuesday, 6th March, 2012
10.18pm