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:

There were no apologies. Cllr Savage had advised that he would be late.

2.

Declarations of interest

Minutes:

Councillor Willingham declared an interest in agenda item 8 and did not participate in the debate.

 

Councillor Babbage declared a personal interest in agenda items 8 and 10.

 

Cllr Barrell’s declared a personal interest in agenda item 8.

 

Councillors Boyes, Cooke and Savage declared an interest in agenda item 10, motion A and did not participate in the debate.

3.

Communications by the Mayor

Minutes:

The Mayor reported that it continued to be a very unusual year but that he had been able to participate in the Remembrance Day celebrations and also to put a poppy wreath on a train to Paddington on Armistice Day itself.

 

He had also visited some allotments to thank the allotment holders who had kindly donated 33 bags of fresh produce to local food banks and he reported that his own food bank fund had raised more than £13,000.

 

The Mayor was pleased to report that the County Council and Borough Council’s help hub was continuing throughout this lock down.  Many people were being affected again so he advised members that the phone number for the Help Hub had not changed and he asked them to make their constituents aware accordingly. 

4.

Communications by the Leader of the Council

Minutes:

The Leader of the Council expressed his regret  that the country was again in lockdown but spoke positively about the strides being taken on developing vaccines.  He said it was critical now to continue to follow the guidelines until vaccines were widely available. He said the continued work of the council to support the help hub was important, particularly the work to strengthen the food network and that at a special cabinet meeting the following day they hoped to agree the latest business grants.  As well as national grants, the council would be receiving about £2.3m for discretionary grants locally and the leader expressed his appreciation to the Head of Revenues and Benefits and her team for allocating these grants out. He also expressed his thanks to all council staff and partners for everything they are continuing to do.

5.

To receive petitions

Minutes:

No petitions were received.

6.

Public Questions

These must be received no later than 12 noon on Tuesday 10 November 2020.

 

**Questions must relate directly to the business of this meeting**

Minutes:

There were no public questions.

7.

Member Questions pdf icon PDF 111 KB

These must be received no later than 12 noon on Tuesday 10 November 2020.

 

**Questions must relate directly to the business of this meeting**

Minutes:

1.

Question from Councillor David Willingham to Cabinet Member Finance, Councillor Rowena Hay

 

Covid-19 recovery revised budget 2020/21

In section 3.38 it has been mentioned that some properties have been reassigned from domestic council tax to business rates, can I seek a confirmation that regulatory and counter fraud checking will be done to ensure that such changes are legitimate and have appropriate regulatory approvals where those are required?

 

Response from Cabinet Member

 

The property owners/leaseholders appealed to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) to have the properties reassigned to business rates and where the VOA was satisfied the requirements were met the change was made by the VOA.  The properties are being monitored but ultimately only the VOA can make the decision to move properties between council tax and business rates and vice versa. 

 

Supplementary Question

 

Councillor Willingham wished to ensure that any changes made by the VOA were made aware to the planning enforcement and licensing teams to ensure they had all the relevant approvals.

 

Response from Cabinet Member

 

The Cabinet Member replied that as far as she was aware there were no structural changes to the buildings that would require a planning application, just a change from residential to business use.  Should it be a change of use then planning or licensing approval would be needed.

 

2.

Question from Councillor David Willingham to Cabinet Member Finance, Councillor Rowena Hay

 

Covid-19 recovery revised budget 2020/21

In section 4.25 it has been noted that certain assets could be disposed of; while not wishing to obstruct disposal of assets, I note that the BT phone boxes outside the Ambrose Street public conveniences seem to be mainly used for antisocial behaviour such as drug dealing, and that BT appear to be reluctant to address this.  Could I seek an assurance that the conditions on disposal of this asset will not make it any more difficult for CBC and our partners to try to tackle this ASB?

 

 

Response from Cabinet Member

 

I believe that if the decision is made to dispose of this asset then once it is sold or the site redeveloped, the daily activity around the property is likely to deter anti-social behaviour, This is an important site with potential to be an attractive space connecting the two parts of the high street. Any development should make it easier to deal with any ASB should it still occur.  In the meantime, further attempts will be made to persuade BT to remove the phone boxes,

3.

Question from Councillor David Willingham to Cabinet Member Cyber and Safety, Councillor Andrew McKinlay

 

In the Borough Council’s car park strategy, Malvern Walk was proposed to be used to accommodate overflow staff parking to facilitate the use of space for the Minster Innovation Exchange.  The residents I represent in the Taylor’s Yard development have some concerns about ensuing that parking on the ramp doesn’t impact on them.  In light of more staff working from home, can I seek clarification of the current status of Malvern Walk car  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Covid-19 recovery revised budget 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 476 KB

Report of the Cabinet Member Finance

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Cabinet Member Finance presented the Covid-19 recovery revised budget 2020/21 and a copy of her speech is attached to these minutes. 

 

The following responses were given to Member questions:

  • Bereavement services- Cremations were taking place but without the full extent of the service for relatives and mourners due to Covid restrictions. As a result, the fee income had reduced.
  • Additional cost to Ubico-this was due to the changing nature of the profile of the waste and recycling crews were collecting. Recycling figures were increasing but there was an increase in residual waste collection resulting in an added cost.
  • Council tax and business rates-it was acknowledged that there would be a significant impact on cash flow but it was deemed too early to make a judgement as to the magnitude of the losses and how much would be irrecoverable. Once this was know there would be significant lobbying of Government to seek further loss of income compensation.

 

Group Leaders were invited to address Council.

On behalf of the Conservatives, Cllr Harman thanked the Executive Director Finance and Assets for his significant contribution in bringing forward these innovative proposals. He acknowledged the ongoing crisis and recognised the government’s flexibility for authorities to use capital receipts to support budgets in the short term. Longer-term, the reconfiguration of the council was necessary and with the successful shift to home working there had been a significant change to the delivery of services. He expressed his support for the proposals.

On behalf of the PAB, Cllr Stennett welcomed the proposals and fully supported them. He expressed caution that when disposals were undertaken sight should not be lost of consultation and adherence to procedures. He wished to put on record his thanks to the Executive Director Finance and Assets and the finance team. 

The Leader acknowledged that this council had suffered significantly because of Covid.  There were two things he wished to highlight, firstly that the Council would remain in existence to assist with the crisis and secondly that it was able to continue with its long-term plan in the community by delivering its high priority projects. He recognised that the council was in a better position than some authorities to tackle the situation. This was partly due to sound financial planning over decades, which meant that the authority owned assets, which it could capitalise on over a three year period. It was also due to the flexibility and innovation of the response to the situation and in that regard, he paid tribute to the Executive Director Finance and Assets and the Cabinet Member Finance.

In the debate that ensued the following points were made by Members :

  • The Chair of Budget Scrutiny explained that the group had examined the proposals and whilst spending capital receipts to meet revenue was not ideal, it was recognised that this was a short-term approach and the group were happy to support.
  • The proposed solution was innovative and met legal requirements.
  • The extent to which the council was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Minster Innovation Exchange (formerly Workshop Cheltenham) pdf icon PDF 531 KB

Report of the Cabinet Member Finance

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Cabinet Member for Finance introduced the report and reminded Members that Council had taken a decision to invest in the Workshop Cheltenham (WSC) scheme.  However, in July 2020, in response to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government announced a £900m ‘Getting Building Fund’, administered by the LEP, to fund shovel ready schemes which supported the economic recovery.  Council Officers and Directors of Workshop Cheltenham submitted a bid and the council was awarded £3.114m to fund an enhanced scheme.  As a result of this grant, a reduced level of council investment was required.  The rebadged Minster Innovation Exchange scheme has the potential to completely transform a neglected area of the town and forms part of the council’s key recovery plan from the impact of the pandemic. 

The LEP requested that Cheltenham Borough Council took over the commissioning lead for the construction of the building and promoter role and this has resulted in the need to waive the council’s contract rules to ensure that the work undertaken by WSC is progressed in a timely manner.    Given the revised approach on the commissioning lead, the Cabinet Member was requesting Council to approve the overall budget for the enhanced project.

In response to Member questions, the Cabinet Member confirmed that:

  • Workshop Cheltenham Ltd was a completely separate entity to Cheltenham Borough Council.   Hub 8 represented a group of entrepreneurs who instigated the concept, are independent and have no links to the council.   They are not investing themselves but take a profit share out of it.
  • The project was time limited and was ready to go, as the Building Better Fund was all about shovel ready schemes and if they were not completed by a certain time, the government would request the funding back.  That was why it had come as an urgent item to full council.  An Officer confirmed that the project had to be delivered by next Christmas so the intention was to use a highly fast construction method with modular buildings to be able to meet that delivery date.

 

One member referred to paragraph 4.2 of the report which considered the delivery of the project and the one option to use CBC staff, but questioned whether CBC staff would be able to fully resource this.  The Cabinet Member replied that the scheme was fully funded and part of the funding included project management which would be undertaken by WSC.  The Member also referred to the removal of hundreds of cars in 3.3 of the report, suggesting this would not happen, they would just use a different car park.

The chair moved to debate and a Member expressed his full support for this excellent scheme for Cheltenham which was vital to reenergise the economy at this difficult time partiularly as there were very few development opportunities in the town centre.  It represented an excellent use of land and the government funding was to be welcomed.

Upon a vote it was RESOLVED THAT

The gross capital budget for MIE of £4,671,000,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Notices of Motion pdf icon PDF 112 KB

Minutes:

Motion A: Proposed by Councillor Clucas, seconded by Councillor Horwood

Gloucestershire County Council’s Health & Overview Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) meeting on 15.09.20 approved the Hospital Trust’s proposal to extend the three-month closure of Cheltenham’s Type 1 A&E Department for a further six months. 

Council appreciates the work the NHS Trust has done, particularly during the current pandemic, and understands the original three-month closure was to help keep Cheltenham General ‘COVID Free’, during the height of the COVID transmission, so elective surgery - such as orthopaedic and cancer surgery could be resumed. 

Council is concerned that A&E at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital does not have the capacity to cope with all A&E patients from the whole County.  It is also less accessible from large parts of the county and does not have the Emergency Ambulance capacity. Council is also concerned the additional six-month extension could become a long term or permanent change. 

Council  appreciates the Hospital Trust is committed to re-opening the A&E Department at Cheltenham General “when it is safe to do so”, but should like to hear more about what plans the Trust has to re-open the Department when it is possible.  Council also seeks assurance the new plans for redevelopment of Cheltenham General will include the existing Type 1 A&E Department, or a new Type 1 A&E Department. Cabinet welcomes their promise to HOSC that a further downgrade of Cheltenham A&E to a Minor Injuries Unit would not be included in their permanent change proposals.

Cheltenham Council urges the Trust not to downgrade our Type 1 A&E at all (i.e. to an Urgent Treatment Centre) and to present local councils with a long-term plan for the full restoration of a 24 hour Type 1 A&E at Cheltenham. 

For the avoidance of doubt, Council remains opposed to permanent closure or downgrading of Accident and Emergency (A&E) facilities at Cheltenham General Hospital. This follows decisions formerly taken by Cheltenham Council. 

Council is pleased to see Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group and Gloucestershire Hospitals' Trust are presenting their latest proposals at an all-member event, to which all Cheltenham Members have been invited.

Further, Council recognises that the Trust’s permanent change consultation are under way. Proposals may yet include another permanent move of general surgery to Gloucester Royal Hospital. Council is requested to prepare a consultation submission reflecting the observations and direction in this motion. Council can formally agree such submission prior to submission.

In proposing the motion, Councillor Clucas recognised and thanked those who worked in the health service. She stressed that the consultation on the future of the hospital was poorly timed and should be deferred to a later date, but that it was still important to respond properly to the consultation despite objecting to how it was being run. She added that some of the questions in the consultation were, in her view, inadequate and clearly sought to lead respondents towards a particular answer. The consultation period was due to end  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.

11.

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

Minutes:

None.