Agenda and minutes
Venue: Council Chamber, The Shire Hall, St Peter's Square, Hereford, HR1 2HX
Contact: Governance Services
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors BA Baker, PE Crockett DW Greenow, JF Johnson, MD Lloyd-Hayes, PJ McCaull, CA North, and P Rone.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
To receive any declarations of interest by Members in respect of items on the Agenda.
Agenda item 6 (minute 43): Motions on Notice
Councillor PGH Cutter declared a non-pecuniary interest as Chairman of the Wye Valley AONB Joint Advisory Committee.
Agenda item 10 (minute 47), Youth Justice Plan.
Councillors BA Durkin and RJ Phillips declared non-pecuniary interests as they were both magistrates.
Agenda item 12 (minute 49) Changes to arrangements for appointment of external auditors.
Councillor RJ Phillips declared a pecuniary interest as a member of the Local Government Association board of resources.
To approve and sign the Minutes of the meeting held on 30 September 2016.
The minutes of the previous meeting were received.
RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting held on 30 September 2016 be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
To receive the Chairman's announcements and petitions from members of the public.
The Chairman referred to the list of events attended by the Chairman/Vice-Chairman of Herefordshire Council since the last Council meeting on 30 September 2016 included in the agenda papers for the meeting.
The Chairman noted a special announcement handed to him by the group leader of the Independent party, from Councillor Peter McCaull, the Vice-Chairman of Herefordshire Council. It was noted that Councillor McCaull had been suffering from serious illness and was currently in Leominster Community Hospital. Councillor McCaull’s message had been written to all members of the council.
The Chairman read:
Dear Fellow Councillors,
I wish to convey to you all my sincerest and most heartfelt thanks for all your support you have shown me in the last forty-four years whilst I have served as a town and county councillor. I have endeavoured over the years to do my very best for our beloved communities. The support and professionalism which I have received from my colleagues, together with the friendships I have made during my service have been precious to me and will always remain proudly in my heart.
I am so sorry that my illness has now taken its toll on me physically and as a result I am unable to be at the meeting today to be able to thank you all personally. I wish I could be here today to enjoy one last chance to have a drink with you all. However, it is now time for me to bid you all a farewell.
Please continue with your hard work and dedication to help keep our wonderful countryside and community in Herefordshire a fantastic place to live for our future generations.
With kindest and heartfelt regards,
Councillor Peter McCaull.
Attention was drawn to the passing of former chairman of the council Lance Marshall and it was requested that protocols used to remember past councillors were maintained and consistently applied.
To receive questions from members of the public.
A copy of the public questions and written answers, together with supplementary questions asked at the meeting and their answers, is attached to the Minutes at Appendix 1.
To consider the following motion: fracking and any associated hydrocarbon extraction processes in or under Herefordshire’s vitally important Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Council considered the following notice of motion.
Motion one – Fracking and any associated hydrocarbon extraction processes in or under Herefordshire’s vitally important Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
In moving the motion, Councillor Newman made the following points:
· The argumentation for this motion was set out in the published text. This was not an anti-fracking motion and it was not nimbyism. Fracking was a complex issue. The well-considered recent report from the House of Commons’ own Environmental Audit Committee was clear that significant risks existed.
· In Kerne Bridge drilling was being considered in an AONB, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Area of Conservation, with a protected fresh water aquifer under Ross-on-Wye. This licensed area was clearly a most precious landscape and environment. Given the clear risks, the government should not place some of Herefordshire’s most precious assets directly in the front line.
· Herefordshire was significantly more reliant than the average county on tourism. It was noted that nearly 10% of the County’s jobs and over £450m of annual income depended on tourism. The Wye Valley AONB area was an outstanding asset to “Brand Herefordshire”, packed with tourism businesses and jobs, clustered around nationally important sites such as Goodrich Castle, Symonds Yat, and the river Wye itself. The potential damage fracking may cause to the county’s attractiveness to visitors, income and jobs, could detrimentally affect the whole of the county.
Councillor Swinglehurst seconded the motion and reserved her right to speak.
Councillor Norman proposed an amendment to the motion.
Councillor Norman noted support for all points raised, agreeing that the impact on tourism and house prices would be considerable if the fracking licences were issued. Additional risks were felt to apply to the whole county, not just AONBs. The council’s commitment to reducing pollution and mitigating climate change was highlighted. Focus on decreasing dependency on carbon emitting fuels and supporting renewable energy schemes was advocated. The amendment proposed would add the following words to the final sentence of the printed motion: “or in any other part of our county’
The amendment was seconded by Councillor Bartlett.
The following principal points were made on the proposed amendment:
· It was highlighted that fracking had been positive in the United States of America for their economy and environment. It was noted that fracking offered big advantages for the county which needed to be examined, especially given the context of leaving the European Union. However, it was felt that it was right to support fracking, but in the right and appropriate places.
· Support was offered for the motion, but not for the amendment, on the basis that the council’s proactive planning committee, underpinned by good planning policies, was the appropriate forum to determine where or if fracking applications be granted.
· The academic nature of the debate was emphasised. It was proposed by a number of councillors that fracking should not go ahead in Herefordshire until further testing in other more economically viable parts of the country had ... view the full minutes text for item 43.
To approve the proposed capital budget for 2017/18 as proposed by Cabinet on 1 December 2016.
Council was asked to approve the proposed capital budget for 2017/18 as proposed by Cabinet on 1 December 2016.
The Leader presented the report. He noted that the capital programme was an integral and important part of the council’s forward plans.
The following principal points were raised:
· Reference was drawn to page 41 of the agenda papers and support for the monies being prepared for principal roads. It was asserted that the county’s roads were in a terrible state so financial resource was warmly welcomed.
· A councillor noted that 12% of Herefordshire net revenue budget was used for the capital repayment costs of debt. It was asserted that this was higher than any other unitary authority. It was suggested that the additional borrowing costs may continue for approximately twenty five years.
· Difficulties with approving the capital programme at the meeting were raised in the context of considering the budget in the New Year. A large part of that budget was the capital programme. A question as to how this fitted with the medium term financial strategy was raised. It was argued that approving decisions in December, separately from the budget, made it difficult to create a shadow budget or an alternative set of arrangements.
· The clarity of the paperwork was welcomed and congratulations were given to the interim director of resources and his staff. Placing the transport package under one heading was described as helpful.Further thanks were offered to the interim director for the cooperation and support he had provided during the scrutiny of the report.
That (a) the additional schemes detailed in appendix 2 to the report be approved; and
(b) the schemes be added to the current capital programme set out in appendix 1 to the report to form the capital budget for 2017/18.
To adopt the Herefordshire economic vision as the county’s economic development strategy.
Council was asked to adopt the Herefordshire economic vision as the county’s economic development strategy.
Councillor Harlow, cabinet member for economy and corporate services presented the report.
Councillor Harlow noted that the idea for an economic vision for the county was not a new one. Thanks were offered to Nick Webster (Economic Development Manager) and his team, for their hard work in bringing the report forward. It was highlighted that economic visions often invited a lot of comment and challenge as had proven to be the case with the proposed strategy. The vision was described as deliberately upbeat and aspirational.
The vision had sought to engage with the people of Herefordshire as well as outside investors. Events had been held in Hereford and each of the market towns, with ward and parish councillors invited to attend as well as the Hereford business forum. The general overview and scrutiny committee had offered their views in September.
The paper was outlined in two sections: the broad strategy and the specific investment picture.
Herefordshire Council would continue to invest in infrastructure, on the principal calculation that where public investment was made, private sector investment would follow. The livestock market, the old market shopping centre, the enterprise zone and Fastershire were examples of public money being followed up with private investment. Based on that successful formula, continued investment would be made in areas such as the Hereford bypass and the city link road.
Looking to the future, accessing government funds would be important and reinforced the significance of working with the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). The latest growth fund submission included the University, the Model Farm in Ross, and two sites on the enterprise zone. The vision, which was described as having cross-party political support, was designed to give investors confidence that Herefordshire had the ambition and the appetite to deliver.
The Chairman invited members to speak. The following principal points were raised:
· The involvement of members in the development of the vision was welcomed. Concern was noted that until Highways England and the Department for Transport invested in the motorway network, gaining economic traction in the county would be difficult. It was asserted that the link between growth and better road and rail networks needed to be argued strongly.
· The cabinet member – infrastructure updated the meeting, noting that although full dualling of the A49 was unlikely, Highways England was looking into dualling significant sections between Ross on Wye and Warrington. It was highlighted that this would improve safety and journey times. The A49 was described therefore as an integral part of the strategy and vision
· A perception had emerged that much focus had been placed on Hereford city and not enough on the county’s market towns. It was explained that the city projects extended their benefit across the county.
· Several councillors suggested that that logic should also be applied to projects coming forward in market town areas. This was contextualised with examples including:
· Leominster had just won the Great Britain high ... view the full minutes text for item 45.
To adopt the statement of community involvement.
Council was invited to adopt the statement of community involvement.
Councillor Price, cabinet member - infrastructure, presented the report.
He commented that the statement of community involvement (SCI) was part of the makeup of the local plan, with a local development scheme being devised to set out a timetable for a series of local development documents. The SCI was one of those documents, setting out how the council would engage with communities on planning matters.
The SCI set out who would be consulted and when they would be involved in plan making decisions. It had been designed to be clear and easy for everyone to understand, encouraging early engagement with the community and all interested parties. It was noted that use of information and communication technology (ICT) had increased extensively. The SCI reflected that culture shift.
Localism gave communities the opportunity to take responsibility for shaping developments in their areas – within the parameters of the core strategy. Legislation had brought forward neighbourhood planning; those plans, subject to a majority vote via referendum, would work in tandem with priorities within Herefordshire’s local plan.
Consultation on the SCI has been undertaken on line and publicised through local media, social media pages and the council web-site. The SCI had been considered by the general overview and scrutiny committee on 5 September. Further amendments had been made to add clarity and guidance. Cabinet had considered these and recommended the SCI’s adoption.
In discussion it was noted that as a result of going through due process the SCI was a stronger document. The lack of public engagement was placed in the context of ensuring that future communication on related issues was presented with less technical language and greater clarity.
That (a) the revised Herefordshire Council statement of community involvement (at appendix 1a & 1b to the report) be adopted; and
(b) authority be delegated to the monitoring officer to make any consequential amendments to the statement necessary following future changes to the council’s constitution relevant to public engagement in order to ensure consistency between the documents.
To approve the Youth Justice Plan.
Council was asked to approve the Youth Justice Plan.
Councillor Lester, cabinet member – young people and children’s wellbeing, presented the report.
He commented that youth offending constituted only a very few children in Herefordshire. In the year 2015/16 there were one hundred and fourteen children out of a total of sixteen thousand two hundred and sixty one (or 0.86 per cent of the youth population). It was emphasised that any child entering the youth offending system could be described as a failing on society’s part in some way. However, the general picture was encouraging.
It was reported that over the last seven years the levels of offending had reduced. Taking the offending cohort of the year ending June 2010, there were three hundred and twenty young people offending. In the year ending June 2014, that figure had reduced to one hundred and forty three. This was a decrease of fifty five per cent over a three year period.
The plan sought to improve service delivery and make further progress toward understanding the issues and tracking re-offending in real time. It was noted that the principal aims and objectives of the children’s and young people plan were to give children the best possible start in life.
The Chairman invited speakers to respond. The following principal points were made:
· It was noted that just over one third of young people (or 36.3%) receiving an outcome that required youth offending intervention were children in care. In addition, in 2015, just under half (49%) of young people receiving youth offending intervention had mental health or emotional problems. How were these issues being dealt with?
· Reference was drawn to the recent past, where offending in the county had resulted from people being placed here from other authorities. Had this situation changed at all?
· It was noted that junior attendance centres had been established in Worcestershire. Questions sought clarity on whether this meant that Herefordshire youth offenders had to go to Worcestershire to access those services, or would there be a youth attendance centre in Hereford?
· The report was welcomed for highlighting that young people felt they had a real say in their futures. This was reflected in the high percentage of those who had sought and received help. It was evidence that rehabilitation was leading to less re-offending.
· Reference was drawn to the majority of youth offending in Hereford being at the top end of the age profile. Re-offending, where it occurred, may well fall in to the adult age profile. Reassurances were sought that those people were tracked and not aged out of the system.
Councillor Lester was invited to respond.
· On the issue of looked after children, it was noted that in 2015/16, about sixty five individuals made up that cohort of which twelve were from Herefordshire.
· Mental health was noted as a very important issue and a key factor bringing young people into the youth offending system. It was noted that work was underway to help address mental ill health ... view the full minutes text for item 47.
To adopt a revised constitution including designation of certain posts as statutory officers.
Council was asked to adopt a revised constitution including designation of certain posts as statutory officers.
Councillor Newman, chairman of the audit and governance committee, presented the report.
He commented that a cross-party governance improvement working group had been formed in October 2014 to review the Council’s constitution. The design principles had been agreed by the audit and governance committee in November 2015. The working group had consulted with political groups, distributed questionnaires, held focus groups and run an all member seminar. He thanked members of the working group for their time and expertise.
At its meeting on 28 November 2016 the audit and governance committee had received a report from the solicitor to the council and considered amendments to the council’s constitution proposed by the working group. The audit and governance committee had agreed the recommendations set out to council in the report.
The Chairman invited speakers to comment. The following principal points were raised
· The wellbeing of elected members was noted with the suggestion that anything affecting the working or wellbeing of elected members, in any respect, should be brought to the attention of all members and their views sought.
· Thanks were offered to the working group members for their hard work and dedication. Particular thanks were expressed to Annie Brookes, head of corporate governance, and Claire Ward, solicitor to the council, for their exceptional amount of work. It was noted that this work had evolved considerably as a result of member involvement and consultation. The proposals for three scrutiny committees to reflect the three directorates was a very positive step.
· A concern was noted that the recommendation did not include retaining the working group or a form of sub–committee to keep an eye on the constitution in the future.
· It was suggested that the constitution needed to be a living document. It was advocated that a further recommendation be added to convey ‘that the constitution, once published, remains a living document and that the audit and governance committee is delegated to consider any future issues or amendments to the constitution before any changes to the constitution are returned to full council for formal adoption’.
The monitoring officer was invited to comment on these points.
· The issue of member’s wellbeing was noted as a new issue which would be taken away and looked at further by the working group.
· In regard to the proposed additional recommendation she commented that the constitution was a function of the audit and governance committee and an annual review was part of the revised constitution.
That (a) the revised constitution at appendix 1 to the report be adopted for implementation with effect from annual council in May 2017 other than the following:
• democratic services manager be designated statutory scrutiny officer to be implemented with effect from 1 January 2017
• chief finance officer be designated section 151 officer to be implemented once recruitment to the new post is complete
• delegation to audit and governance committee for approval ... view the full minutes text for item 48.
To approve arrangements for the appointment of external auditors.
Council was asked to approve arrangements for the appointment of external auditors.
Councillor Newman, chairman of the audit and governance committee, presented the report.
It was noted that the audit and governance committee had received a report from the head of corporate finance on 22 September 2016 regarding the necessary changes to the appointment of external auditors. Following closure of the audit commission, the council would need to put in new arrangements in time to make a new appointment by 31 December 2017.
The audit and governance committee had considered this matter and agreed a recommendation from the head of corporate finance that the council opt in to a national sector led arrangement.
RESOLVED: That Herefordshire Council advises the Local Government Association of its intention to ‘opt-in’ to a national sector led body for the procurement of external auditors.
To receive the Leader’s report, which provides an overview of the Executive’s activity since the last Council meeting.
The Leader introduced his report on the activities of cabinet since the meeting of Council on 30 September 2016. In particular, the Leader drew attention to the very good things the council did. He said that given Herefordshire was such a small county with such limited resources the council had done remarkably well in the circumstances. The list of achievements in his report was by no means comprehensive, but it did give a flavour of the work that the council did. Irrespective of politics, members and officers alike should be congratulated on their hard work and achievements.
The following principal points were made:
· A councillor sought a point of clarity on the position adopted by the council on possible increases in council tax following national policy announcements. The situation was described as rather vague as to what the scale of the rise could be. A concern was also noted that the council should not be blamed for a council tax rise, the origins of which stemmed from a national policy announcement.
Leader: Current understanding suggested introducing no more than 3% in one year. The option to keep council tax at current levels remained an option. It was considered inappropriate, to confirm the council’s position until final clarification from national government had been gained.
· Referring to paragraph 7 of the leader’s report, a councillor noted the plans to work with partners in the wider local government family. With specific reference to parishes and decisions around their precepts, clarity was sought on how thinking was developing and how partnership working might be achieved. There was a view that work should start now, given their planning for delivering of services for 2018/19.
Leader: It was noted that wider local government working included parish and town councils as principal partners. This extended to other local partners such as the LEP and the combined authority. Emphasis was placed on providing information as to parish councils as soon as was possible. One material barrier was noted as needing the final settlement to be confirmed.
· Reference was drawn to paragraph 4, noting the importance of recognising the success of the enterprise zone. It was highlighted that without the council’s backing, none of the work would have been undertaken. The council should be proud of its investment and take credit for the success that enterprise zone now enjoyed.
Leader: Reference was also made to the university, noting that even with the difficult economic climate the determination of the council was delivering great successes.
· A councillor noted the smallholding disposal plan and sought to explore how consultation process with the tenants was progressing.
Leader: Agents have been appointed, to deal specifically with the farm business tenants early on and to deal with matters of compensation. It was inappropriate to discuss individual cases on matters of sales, but the consultation was progressing as expected. No significant stumbling blocks or unforeseen difficulties were apparent.
RESOLVED: That the report be noted.
To receive any written questions from Councillors.
A copy of the Member questions and written answers, together with supplementary questions asked at the meeting and their answers, is attached to the Minutes at Appendix 2.