Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Council Chamber - Municipal Offices. View directions

Contact: Bev Thomas, Democratic Services Team Leader 

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Councillors Baker, Barnes, Brownsteen, Hegenbarth and McCloskey

 

2.

Declarations of interest

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

3.

Minutes of the last meeting pdf icon PDF 512 KB

Minutes of the meeting held on 18 October 2021.

Minutes:

RESOLVED THAT

 

The minutes of the meeting held on 18 October be approved and signed as a correct record.

4.

Communications by the Mayor

Minutes:

The Mayor paid tribute to Susie Starling, former Councillor for the Lansdown ward, who had recently passed away.

As important recognition of the Srebenica genocide he invited Members to take a memorial stone.

He wished to put on record his thanks to Members, officers and volunteers who had prepared Christmas gift bags for children living in poverty in the town as part of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) initiative. He informed that the NCLB awards would take place in January for which he had been involved in shortlisting.

Finally, he wished to thank all Members and Officers who had assisted him as Chair of Council and Mayor this year. He gave particular thanks in advance to all those who would be working over the Christmas workers as essential workers, or on call.

5.

Communications by the Leader of the Council

Minutes:

The Leader reported that a CBC and CBH joint venture called Vivid Living had delivered the first thirteen properties for the private sector rental market as part of the councils commitment to  invest £180 million in new homes which included the private rented sector market place.

 

In the context of the declared climate emergency, the Leader informed that the Cabinet has decided to switch its environmental fleet away from traditional oil-based diesel to biodiesel - certified palm oil free hydro treated vegetable oil. Switching to biodiesel should reduce associated CO2 emissions by up to 90%. She added that electric charging points had already been installed at the council’s depot for lighter vehicles and two electric vans would replace diesel within the next couple of months. Emerging options for heavier vehicles were under constant review on the journey towards carbon neutrality.

 

As part of the Town of Sanctuary initiative to support people desperately fleeing Afghanistan it was anticipated that approximately 10 households would be provided with accommodation within the borough.

 

The Leader referred to the recent concerns expressed by councillor colleagues on behalf of residents relating to the current pressures within the NHS and care sector. She informed that as part of her wider role on the network of South West Councils, District Council’s and the LGA  she had given her full support to a joint letter from the region setting out collective concerns to the Secretary of State on the pressures within the Health and Care services. In addition, she reported that the Chief Executive had also been engaging with senior civil servants and had relayed the concerns of members of this Council, this includes highlighting the recent Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting which was attended by Gloucestershire’s NHS Trust. She wished to put on record her thanks to the senior representatives of the health service for attending that meeting and for providing members with detailed responses to their questions.

 

One key message she wished to highlight was the scale of the challenge that our current health and care sector faced as we moved further into what is likely to be an extremely challenging winter.

 

She referred to a recent study illustrating that the NHS and Care sector was facing over a quarter of a million vacancies at a time when they were needed most.

 

Recognising that Covid represented an added pressure, the situation was unsustainable and a much more fundamental review of our health and care services was required, including better investment, and pay, if we are to genuinely tackle the problem.

 

Finally, the Leader expressed her thanks to all CBC staff and our partners, in particular the UBICO teams who will be working over Christmas, and those staff who will be on duty in case of emergencies.

 

6.

To receive petitions

Minutes:

There were none.

7.

Public Questions

These must be received no later than 12 noon on Tuesday 30 November.

Minutes:

There were none.

8.

Member Questions pdf icon PDF 185 KB

These must be received no later than 12 noon on Tuesday 30 November.

Minutes:

1.

Question from Councillor John Payne to the Cabinet Member Culture, Wellbeing and Business, Councillor Victoria Atherstone

 

The council’s decision to fund the provision of the ice rink on Imperial Gardens as part of an initiative to encourage increased footfall over the Christmas period is welcome but with reservations. The ice rink is being powered by one of two very large diesel generators. How does the Cabinet Member justify one of the most polluting sources of energy generation in the centre of a town that has declared a climate emergency?

 

 

Response from Cabinet Member

 

Thank you for the question Cllr Payne. The use of a diesel generator as the main power source of the ice rink is an unavoidable consequence of there being an insufficient supply of mains electrical power to Imperial Gardens to maintain the rink. This is not a new scenario however and frequently necessitates the use of ancillary power units/generators in Imperial Gardens for many of the larger events and festivals that take place here (as is also the case in Montpellier Gardens).

The need for upgraded infrastructure at these sites– and others in Cheltenham – coupled with new innovations in energy sources and fuel types was identified in the Council’s interim Events Strategy (published last year). This is currently being actively explored therefore with potential solutions being identified as part of our climate change agenda and a more sustainable approach to events in the town.

 

Over the 6 weeks of the ice rink’s operation, we expect to welcome upwards of 30,000 skaters to enjoy this event in Cheltenham (with the additional spend within the town centre as a consequence). Whilst we cannot suggest of course that each and every one of these would have travelled elsewhere to enjoy the distinctive festive experience of a Christmas ice rink (Gloucester or Malvern being the closest), had Cheltenham’s ice rink not gone ahead, it is not unreasonable to assume that a proportion of this number will have made a far longer journey to visit one of these other rinks with the consequent emissions and impact from these journeys.

 

 

Supplementary question

 

There does not appear to have been any impact assessment of the generators, which have high diesel consumption. Will this be addressed, and when will the results be available?

 

 

Response from Cabinet Member

 

I am working closely with the Cabinet Member Climate Emergency on this, including a meeting last week on the events strategy which highlighted the importance of addressing the impact of generators and seeking suitable alternatives like biofuel. The new events strategy will align with the new culture strategy, which is due in early 2022. I agree that we need to move away from using diesel generators.

 

2.

Question from Councillor Diggory Seacome to the Cabinet Member Culture, Wellbeing and Business, Councillor Victoria Atherstone

 

Can the Cabinet Member justify the generators for the Imperial Square Ice Rink, given that they are run on diesel fuel, and also given that they are producing a permanent hum which is  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Council Tax Support Scheme 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 261 KB

Report of the Cabinet Member Finance

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Cabinet Member Finance introduced the report and explained that each year since 2013 the council has been required to set its local council tax support scheme for working age residents. Council tax support for pensioners was not localised and continued to be provided for by a national scheme.

 

The cost of the scheme is funded by this council and the precepting authorities in proportion to the share of council tax. Funding for the scheme was initially cut by 10% in 2013/4 then was rolled into revenue support grant and subject to annual cuts. As this Council no longer receives revenue support grant it must fund its share of the cost of the scheme.

 

Despite the reduction in funding this council continued to provide the same level of support to working age residents that was available under the former council tax benefit scheme. By 2018/19  CBC was one of only 36 councils that hadn’t made changes to their scheme to reduce the cost.

 

In 2019/20 a new scheme was approved. One of the main aims was to ensure that the most vulnerable and those with the lowest incomes continued to receive 100% support. The scheme is based on 5 income bands with the highest band providing support at 100% of the council tax liability, then reducing to 80%, 60%, 40% and 20% as household income increases.

 

In the first year of the scheme the overall costs reduced and the most vulnerable and those with the lowest incomes were protected.   Due to the impact of Covid the caseload for working age people increased significantly in 2020/21 and was up by 25% in April 2021. The Cabinet outlined the following :

 

1st March 2020

 3,984 recipients cost £3.3million

 

1st April 2021

4,988 recipients  cost £4.7million

 

31 October 2021

4,839 recipients  cost £4.5million  (Later point than figures in the report)

 

Despite the increase in the number of working age residents who require assistance, the council continued to provide 100% support to the most vulnerable and those with the lowest incomes.  During 2021/22 the income bands were increased so that residents benefitting from the £20 Universal Credit uplift would not be penalised because of this additional income.  For 2022/23 the income bands are being maintained and will remain at the higher level. This will benefit residents if they choose to take on extra work as a result of losing the £20 uplift.

 

The Cabinet Member explained that although the number of working age residents receiving council tax support was now reducing it was anticipated that it will continue to reduce slowly. The caseload in 2022/23 is expected to remain higher than at pre-pandemic levels. Many people are still recovering financially from the effects of the pandemic and the scheme will provide the vital help they need during 2022/23.  

 

 

He wished to put on record his thanks to all the officers in the revenue and benefits teams for what has been an extraordinary amount of work during the last 12 months supporting residents in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Treasury Mid-Term Report 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 541 KB

Report of the Cabinet Member Finance

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Cabinet Member Finance introduced the report which formed part of the council’s annual financial monitoring. The report has been reviewed and scrutinised by the Treasury Management Panel which recommends to Council that the comments are noted.

 

He reflected that following 10 years of austerity and a commitment to fund discretionary services such as leisure and culture, the Council had looked to commercialise its operations wherever possible. With the cost of services at £22m and income from taxation and grants equalling £14m, the void of £8m had to be filled through trading and investment income.

 

The Cabinet Member highlighted that it was critical to get the right balance between social, environmental, and financial factors and to not lose sight of the fact that the treasury portfolio was diversified to maximise the return to ensure that the £7m costs associated with discretionary services such as leisure and culture could be maintained.

 

He brought Members’ attention to the fact that exposure to gas and oil investments currently stood at £280k. This was part of the Schroder Income Fund and made up 4% of the £7m invested in Pooled Funds. Given the council’s current climate priorities he assured Council that steps were being taken to ensure our investments are contributing to our goals and the council’s climate commitment. He explained that this investment was part of a £2m pooled fund taken out in 2018 before the climate emergency was declared in Cheltenham. On advice from our treasury advisors, the investment was made for 5-7 years which should provide a long-term return with annual dividend income to support the general fund. He also noted that it was also an equity pooled fund which are very sensitive to changes in the money markets. When there is a significant downturn in the market, for example in the first lockdown, the investment can lose value. The capital value of this fund fell at this time but has recovered some of its lost value and at the end of October it was valued just over £1.5m.

 

The Cabinet Member expressed the council’s commitment longer term to reduce investment in oil and gas but this needed to be balanced with ensuring we are making the right financial decisions to safeguard our residents, businesses, and communities. The performance of this fund would continue to be closely monitored and when it is financially prudent to do so, the climate implications of how we invest this money in the future would be considered.

 

Finally, the Cabinet Member Finance explained that treasury management activity continued to perform well, and he wished to thank Officers and Members of the Treasury Management Panel for their work and support in this area.

 

In response to Member questions the following responses were given :

·         The Treasury Management Panel was always looking at the route towards a policy of divestment from particular investments and work was currently ongoing on a broader treasury management policy into which TMP would input.

·         Investments in fossil fuels were made prior to the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.

11.

Process for determining any applications and appeals for the payment of discretionary awards (under the Local Government (Discretionary Payments) (Injury Allowances) Regulations 2011 or subsequent legislation) pdf icon PDF 314 KB

Report of the Chief Executive

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chief Executive introduced the report as Head of Paid Service, emphasising the council’s commitment to supporting the wellbeing of its employees. There were rare occasions where injury or illness occurred while at work, and this report related to discretionary awards in these cases. There was a statutory requirement to have a policy in place to assist with the determination of these cases when they arise.

The following responses were given to Member questions by the Legal Officer /Chief Executive:

  • It was good practice and now a statutory requirement to have a policy in place
  • It related to both mental wellbeing and physical injury
  • The trade unions had been consulted on the draft policy and had not raised any particular concerns
  • The regulations worked independently and if allowances were paid they were on a no fault basis The allowance was limited to employees of the local government pension scheme-Members were excluded
  • The report aimed to put a fair process in place, with the priority being the health and wellbeing of employees

 

RESOLVED (unanimously) THAT

 

1.      authority be delegated to Directors (in consultation with Human Resources) to determine applications (including any review of the amount payable) under the 1996 Regulations and/or 2011 Regulations (or subsequent regulations) made by those employees on NJC terms and conditions

2.      authority be delegated to Executive Directors and/or the Head of Paid Service, Monitoring Officer or Section 151 Officer (in consultation with Human Resources) to determine internal appeals under the 2011 Regulations (or subsequent regulations) made by employees on the NJC terms and conditions

3.      authority be delegated to Executive Directors and/or the Head of Paid Service, Monitoring Officer or Section 151 Officer (in consultation with Human Resources) to determine applications (including any review of the amount payable) under the 1996 Regulations and/or 2011 Regulations (or subsequent regulations) made by employees on JNC terms and conditions

4.      authority be delegated to Executive Directors and/or the Head of Paid Service, Monitoring Officer or Section 151 Officer (in consultation with Human Resources) to determine internal appeals under the 2011 Regulations (or subsequent regulations) made by employees on the JNC terms and conditions

5.      In the case of an internal appeal under the 2011 Regulations (or subsequent regulations) where there is no officer who is able to determine an internal appeal, the Appeals Committee determine the internal appeal

6.      the Policy Statement as set out in Appendix 1 be approved and the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Leader, be authorised to make any minor amendments to the Policy Statement

 

12.

Council Motion update report pdf icon PDF 317 KB

Report of the Chair of Overview and Scrutiny

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair of Overview & Scrutiny introduced the report. He explained that the recent meeting with senior representatives of the health service had been both engaging and productive and he wished to thank them for attending to talk about the pressures they were facing. He emphasised the main messages of how Members could assist and support which was principally by encouraging residents to access care in the appropriate way. Communication was key.

The Chair was thanked by the Leader and Members for chairing the meeting and the manner in which valid questions were posed and responded to by the NHS

Members recognised the Leader’s efforts in joining with South West Councils, the LGA and the District Councils network to put effective pressure on government to address the issues raised.

Members thanked all staff in the health and social care systems, recognising the significant pressures they were under.

 

RESOLVED (unanimously) THAT

 

the update report be noted.

 

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

 

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)

 

16.

Exempt Minutes

Exempt minutes of the meeting held on 18 October 2021

Minutes:

RESOLVED THAT

 

The exempt minutes of the meeting held on 18 October be approved and signed as a correct record.