Agenda and minutes

Venue: Virtual WEBEX video conference via the Council’s YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/user/cheltenhamborough. View directions

Contact: Bev Thomas, Democratic Services Team Leader 

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Councillors Brownsteen, Clucas, Hegenbarth, Parsons and Wilkinson.

2.

Declarations of interest

Minutes:

Councillor Barrell declared a non-pecuniary interest in agenda Item 9 as her son worked for Cheltenham Borough Homes and Councillor Whyborn declared an interest in the Exempt Minute agenda item 16.

3.

Minutes of the last meeting pdf icon PDF 719 KB

Minutes of the meeting held on 7 December 2020

Minutes:

 

RESOLVED THAT:

the minutes of the Council meeting held on 7 December 2020 be approved and signed as a correct record.

4.

Communications by the Mayor

Minutes:

The Mayor paid tribute to Kevan Blackadder, Chief Executive of the Business Improvement District and former Editor of Gloucestershire Echo, who had recently passed away after a short illness.  Kevan had shown a real love of the town and had made a huge and positive contribution to the promotion of businesses in Cheltenham.  The Mayor asked Members to observe a short period of silence.

 

The Mayor congratulated the Council on having been awarded the bronze level in the Defence Employers Recognition Scheme and applauded those involved for the efficient roll out of the vaccinations at the Fire Station. He said the pandemic had seen increased use of food banks in the town and reported that his own food bank had raised over £19,000, most of which had already been distributed with some used for the purchase of a commercial freezer.  He stated there was an on-going need to help families and individuals, particularly post-Christmas and announced the opening of two food co-ordinating hubs. 

 

The Mayor highlighted an appeal being organised by Rotary asking people to donate the cost of their vaccination which would go towards helping buy vaccines for people in less fortunate countries.

 

Lastly the Mayor congratulated Cheltenham Town Football Club on its creditable performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup, where they had lead the premiership club for the majority of the game, but lost 1-3 in the end.

5.

Communications by the Leader of the Council

Minutes:

The Leader of the Council also acknowledged that Cheltenham Borough Council had been awarded the Bronze level of the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme and stated that the Council was committed to supporting the Armed Forces Community and currently employed a number of people with connections to the military.

The Leader reported that a number of funding bids had been submitted to help support the leisure industry and she would confirm if these had been successful at the March meeting.  She also reported that the Council had extended the help hub to ensure that the additional clinically extremely vulnerable residents announced by the Government recently, would continue to receive the support of the Council.

The Leader commented on the thousands of local children who were home-schooling at the moment and commended the Laptops for Learning scheme that went live on 3 February through the Council’s No Child Left Behind programme.   Together with Cheltenham Education Partnership and IT Schools Africa, this scheme helped to ensure local children had access to the right IT equipment to learn at home. So far over £2,000 had been raised and 24 laptops donated.

 

The Leader praised the efficient running of the vaccine centre at the Fire station and wished to thank all the volunteers and fire station staff involved with this.  She wished particular thanks be placed on record to three people who had co-ordinated the venue as a vaccination centre, namely Sarah Gallagher from Portland Practice, Cameron Jackson from Royal Well Practice and Richard Ball from St Catherine’s.

 

Finally she referred to the Cheltenham Town’s football match against Manchester City stating how good the publicity would have been for Cheltenham.

6.

To receive petitions

Minutes:

There were none.

7.

Public Questions pdf icon PDF 116 KB

These must be received no later than 12 noon on Tuesday 16 February 2021.

Minutes:

1.

Question from Graham Bealeto Cabinet Member Healthy Lifestyles, Councillor Flo Clucas

 

I wish to raise a question regarding the recent loss of Erasmus+ as I am concerned that the its replacement, the Turing scheme will not be a sufficient in scope or depth and will likely impact the prosperity of young people in the area; plus my own two daughters who would likely make use of such a scheme.

 

My question therefore: Can you confirm if the Turing Scheme will enable the wide range of activities presently covered by Erasmus+ including youth exchanges, primary and secondary school links, vocational education, lifelong learning projects aimed at encouraging strong relationships with our nearest neighbours in Europe? If the Turing Scheme is not a sufficient replacement, will the council agree to apply pressure on the government to rejoin the Erasmus+ scheme at a later date?

 

Response from Cabinet Member

 

The loss of the Erasmus+ scheme is a devastating blow for students. Providing as it did away for UK students to learn in an international context with fees paid and assistance for living expenses, it gave a huge opportunity to take in more than the academic experience. Paying for UK students to study overseas was one aspect; the other was bringing European students to study in the UK. The transfer of experience was unique and beneficial for both the outgoing and incoming student, for the universities, local communities and for the countries concerned too.

 

The Turing scheme, which we are told is to be a worldwide scheme for the best universities, rather than European focussed, has a promised funding profile of £100m. It will give the 35000 or so students who are accepted, some £3000 to pay for tuition fees and living expenses. For students from less well off households, it will not be nearly enough to pay tuition fees, never mind living costs.

 

As the full extent of the Turing scheme is not yet known, I cannot confirm that it will have the same range of activities or opportunities that Erasmus does. Indeed, Prof Mary Beard amongst others has expressed her concern about the loss of Erasmus.

 

The questioner asks if we will work to rejoin the Erasmus + scheme if the Turing scheme is not a sufficient replacement. While the question is addressed to the Cabinet member, I would hope that the Council as a whole, would answer is an unequivocal ‘yes’. 

 

2.

Question from Emma Nelson to Cabinet Member Economy and Development, Councillor Victoria Atherstone

 

National planning policy requires local authorities to have sufficient sites ready for development to meet their housing need for the next 5 years. 

I understand that if an authority cannot demonstrate a 5-year housing land supply, then national planning policy and a “presumption in favour of sustainable development” comes to the fore over local considerations. This might make it difficult for a local authority to refuse planning applications when it might otherwise do so.  

What was the 5-year supply of land for housing in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Member Questions pdf icon PDF 181 KB

These must be received no later than 12 noon on Tuesday 16 February 2021.

Minutes:

1.

Question from Councillor Chris Mason to Cabinet Member Climate and Communities, Councillor Max Wilkinson

 

Clean Air Cheltenham have pointed out that it was a legal requirement for local authorities to have an air quality action plan in place by 2020.  Could the Cabinet Member for Climate and Communities please explain why Cheltenham does not have an up to date plan?

 

Response from Cabinet Member

 

I’ve met regularly with Clean Air Cheltenham to take their feedback on local proposals for improving air quality.  Their campaigning in Cheltenham is important and valued, alongside the work of other environmental groups. 

 

When a local authority puts in place a new Air Quality Management Area (AQMA), it has a year to publish a plan.  I understand we are on course to have a new plan reviewed by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in that timescale.  We look forward to hearing Clean Air Cheltenham’s view on the plan.  Councillor Mason might also wish to get involved and I’d welcome his input – perhaps through the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, of which he is chair. 

 

The consultancy working on our Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) is considering how we can go further to hit our environmental goals, including extra monitoring.  However, as Councillor Mason will know, the majority of our air quality problems are caused by emissions from motor vehicles.  He may wish to ask my counterpart on Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) what is being done by the County, as highways authority, to help reduce air pollution from motor vehicles in Cheltenham.  GCC’s recently published Local Transport Plan was a missed opportunity to implement many of the suggestions put forward by this authority during the consultation process, to help tackle air pollution in our borough.

 

 

Supplementary Question

 

As the Cabinet member was not present, the questioner would undertake to ask the supplementary question directly with the Member.

2.

Question from Councillor Tim Harman to Cabinet Member Finance, Councillor Steve Jordan

 

Can you please update the Council on the decision of the Borough Council to return £3 million to Government in connection with the Portland Street Car Park. Were all options considered and are there any plans going forward?

 

Response from Cabinet Member

 

To avoid any confusion Cheltenham Borough Council (CBC) hasn’t returned £3m as it had not received any money. It has mutually agreed with Homes England to withdraw a bid to the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF). This is because MF Freeman, the owners of the Portland Street site, who would have received the money, have made it clear they now intend to sell the site as a car park and do not intend to develop it for housing which was a requirement of the proposed funding.

 

CBC have been discussing the site with MF Freeman since shortly after they purchased it to help ensure its development for housing while also meeting thecondition of 40% affordable homes. CBC were concerned that the amount paid for the site made this unlikely. When  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Housing Revenue Account - Revised Forecast 2020/21 and Budget Proposals 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 664 KB

Report of the Cabinet Member Finance and Assets

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Cabinet Member Finance and Assets introduced the report and thanked Cheltenham Borough Homes (CBH) for going above and beyond in terms of maintaining services during the pandemic whilst providing additional support. Demand for Universal Credit had increased by 30% whilst arrears were reducing, a tribute to work with tenants building up debt.  Covid had impacted the capital investment programme to a degree with some delays.  Customer satisfaction remained high.

 

In terms of the specifics, the Cabinet Member Finance and Assets referred to the social housing white paper which proposed a charter for tenants.  Looking at that so far CBH were complying with this which was positive.

 

Universal Credit roll out was still ongoing and there had been a big increase in take up due to the pandemic. Government had temporarily increased the maximum that can be claimed by £20 a week and the Cabinet Member advocated that this should be maintained.

 

In terms of rent, national policy was CPI plus 1% .The rent would be slightly less than anticipated as inflation was 0.5% so that resulted in a 1.5% rent rise. Whilst there would be less rent receipts, CBH have been able to freeze the management fee.

 

Under right to buy there is permission to spend money received, but this is restricted by a time limit. As part of the consultation CBC was lobbying government for more flexibility in how that money is spent and the outcome of the consultation was eagerly awaited.

 

With regards to the proposed planning reform there was concern that the immediate impact may be the reduction of affordable housing being built and this had been raised in the council’s response to the consultation.

 

The top priority for the 2021/2022 budget remained the provision of customer services. Assumptions were made with regard to the same level of voids, that right to buy would continue and there would be continued support from Homes England. There were also assumptions that garage rents would increase in line with housing rents with a 1.5% rise.  Cleaning charges were being kept to a minimum at 0.4% and the net effect of this was the projection of an increased surplus, which would be put back into the services. 

 

Other budget priorities focussed on climate change and CBC and CBH were working closely on this. With regard to community investment, this related to health and wellbeing, community safety, education and training, skills, and enabling community involvement. The projection was that this would equate to £15 million of social value being added into the community for the coming year. 

 

The capital programme for next year amounted to £24 million – £9 million into existing stock. It focussed on measures to tackle climate change. Safety was a significant issue emphasised by Grenfell, and it was confirmed that all fire risk assessments were up to date and more vigorous standards were being introduced, starting with sheltered housing and places occupied by more vulnerable people would be brought in over the coming year.  Asbestos checks were  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

General Fund Revenue and Capital - Revised Budget 2020/21, and Final Budget Proposals 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 655 KB

Report of the Cabinet Member Finance and Assets

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Cabinet Member Finance and Assets presented the budget report, explaining that it continued the Covid recovery work which invested in the economy and tackling climate change. He wished to place on record his thanks to all staff for their efforts during Covid and praised them for rising to the challenge. He paid tribute to the Executive Director Finance and Assets and his team for their work on distributing a total of £31.4 m of business grants to date.

He explained that the budget before Members was based on the Covid recovery budget agreed by Council in November 2020. This had focussed on certain asset disposals so the council was able to underwrite the budget for the next three years. Since November, the country had entered into a further lockdown which impacted the budget in terms of reduced income, amounting to a net £100k which would be funded from general balances. The 2021/22 budget builds on the recovery strategy. In terms of the national context, the government settlement was confirmed on 10 February and was only for one year which was disappointing, particularly as there had been promises of a business rates and fair funding review. On a positive note, government commitment to support loss of income by 75% had been extended to the end of June, although there was concern that loss of income would continue. It was therefore difficult to predict the impact of this and the impact of Covid on the potential to collect council tax and business rates. New Homes bonus had been extended for a further year and revenue support grant remained at zero. A lower tier service grant had been received amounting to £121k; this represented an adjustment grant and was top-sliced from the national new homes bonus allocation.

In terms of council tax support, more than 4,000 people locally had benefitted from the CBC scheme. The Gloucestershire business rates pool continued to prove beneficial meaning the council was £1.184m better off against its baseline target. Covid was having an impact on business rates as government had allowed zero rates. To that end, projected income has dropped but government funding was in place to cover this. Government had requested local authorities to delay billing until the national budget had been announced.

In preparing the budget, Cabinet were mindful of the economic difficulty many people and businesses were facing. The council continued to try to maximise efficiency, reduce costs and increase income where practicable and he was pleased to report that a further £400k of savings could be banked into this budget. This was an exceptional effort, given the circumstances.

The budget would continue to protect frontline services whilst investing in tackling climate change and economic growth locally. The council’s commercial strategy, adopted in 2018 would continue, maximising the use of skills and assets and aiming to achieve long term, sustainable growth. Evidence showed that Cheltenham remained an attractive place to invest which was positive in terms of the council approach.

The Cabinet Member highlighted  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.

11.

Council Tax Resolution 2021-22 pdf icon PDF 213 KB

Report of the Cabinet Member Finance and Assets to follow

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets, Councillor Steve Jordan, introduced his report relating to the setting of the Council Tax for the year 2021/22.  He commented that  the Council had just agreed its budget and was now required to  formally approve the total Council Tax for the residents of Cheltenham for the ensuing year,  including the Council Tax requirements of the County Council, Police and, where relevant, parishes.  He recommended members’ support.

 

There being no questions or comments, the Mayor moved to a recorded vote.

 

RESOLVED (unanimously) THAT:

 

·         the formal Council Tax resolution at Appendix 2 be approved

·         the commentary in respect of the increase in Council Tax at Paragraph 6 of Appendix 2 be noted.

 

FOR: (35): Atherstone, Babbage, Baker, Barnes, Barrell, Boyes, Britter, Coleman, Collins, Cooke, Dobie, Fisher, Flynn, Harman, Harvey, Hay, Hobley, Holliday, Horwood, Jeffries, Jordan, Mason, McCloskey, McKinlay, Oliver, Payne, Savage, Seacome, Stafford, Stennett, Sudbury, Wheeler, Whyborn, Williams, Willingham.

 

AGAINST: (0)

 

ABSTENTIONS: (0)

12.

Appointment of Mayor-elect and Deputy Mayor-elect pdf icon PDF 228 KB

Report of the Chief Executive

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chief Executive, Gareth Edmundson, introduced his report and confirmed that the Order of Precedence had been amended and up-dated.  He then read out an amendment to the recommendation that had been circulated to members prior to the meeting.

 

There being no questions or comments, the Mayor moved to the vote.

 

RESOLVED THAT:

 

·         the Order of Precedence in Appendix 2be noted.

·         Councillor Sandra Holliday and Councillor Steve Harvey be put to the Annual Council Meeting for election as Deputy Mayor and Mayor respectively for the Municipal year 2021 - 2022.

FOR: (32)

AGAINST: (2)

ABSTENTIONS: (1)

13.

Notices of Motion

Minutes:

There were none.

14.

Any other item the Mayor determines as urgent and which requires a decision

Minutes:

None.

15.

Local Government Act 1972 -Exempt Information

The committee is recommended to approve the following resolution:-

 

“That in accordance with Section 100A(4) Local Government Act 1972 the public be excluded from the meeting for the remaining agenda items as it is likely that, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, if members of the public are present there will be disclosed to them exempt information as defined in paragraph 3, Part (1) Schedule (12A) Local Government Act 1972, namely:

 

Paragraph 3; Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular

person (including the authority holding that information)

Minutes:

RESOLVED THAT:

 

“That in accordance with Section 100A(4) Local Government Act 1972 the public be excluded from the meeting for the remaining agenda items as it is likely that, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, if members of the public are present there will be disclosed to them exempt information as defined in paragraph 3, Part (1) Schedule (12A) Local Government Act 1972, namely:

 

Paragraph 3; Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular

person (including the authority holding that information).

 

 

The Mayor declared an interest in this item and left the meeting.

16.

Exempt Minutes

Exempt minutes of the meeting held on 7 December 2020

Minutes:

The Deputy Mayor took the Chair.  

 

As several Members had had problems accessing the Exempt Minutes from the Modern.Gov application, and thus had not been able to read them, it was agreed to defer the approval of the exempt minutes from the 7 December 2020 Council meeting to the next full meeting of Council in March.