Agenda and minutes

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Contact: Bev Thomas, Democratic Services Team Leader 


No. Item




Apologies were received from Councillors Bamford, Barnes, Bassett-Smith, Beale, Clarke, Fifield, Flynn, Holliday, Joy, Oliver and Sankey.


Declarations of interest


Councillor Horwood declared an interest in Agenda item 13, and said he would withdraw from the Chamber during the debate for that item.


Minutes of the last meeting pdf icon PDF 733 KB

Minutes of the meeting held on 11 December 2023


The minutes of the meeting held on 11 December 2023 were unanimously approved and signed as a true record.



Communications by the Mayor


The Mayor said that although he doesn’t normally talk about mayoral engagements as he attends so many and cannot mention them all, but on this occasion, he wanted to highlight the following events:

-       the recent No Child Left Behind awards were a credit to all involved – all the groups and young people who were nominated or won awards, and to everyone who gives their time;

-       a play at the Everyman Theatre, performed by young Ukrainian people, exploring their experiences of leaving their homes and families.  This was particularly poignant as it coincided with the second anniversary of the Russian invasion.


He said that HQ Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) have been put forward to be admitted Honorary Freedom of the Borough in recognition and appreciation of the eminent services rendered by them, and Les Bonney, Chun Kong and Michael Ratcliffe MBE have been put forward to be admitted as Honorary Freemen. Members voted unanimously to approve these names being put forward for official nomination at Extraordinary Council in May.



Communications by the Leader of the Council


The Leader updated Members on the following:

-       the Housing Services Tenant and Leaseholder Consultation finished on 11 February, with an excellent response of over 10%.  Thanks to all who responded;

-       planning permission for North Place has been submitted and is awaiting validation.  Thanks to BBS and Wavensmere Homes for working collaboratively with the council to bring the site forward with much-needed housing;

-       congratulations to everyone involved with the first phase of the community orchard project at Weavers Field in Warden Hill, with 20 fruit trees planted, and 40 members of the community involved, including local councillors, Bournside, Leckhampton High School and Warden Hill Primary School pupils, and local residents.  A further ten trees are due to be planted in next month;

-       the assessment process for the Cheltenham Zero Small Business grant award scheme is well underway – it has proved extremely popular with a wide range of businesses applying, and will deliver innovative climate adaptation projects to help drive towards the 2030 vision set out in the Corporate Plan;

-       a recent tour of the MX showed that it is near completion, with furnishings, carpets and desks in place.  It is good to note that the provision of toilets includes changing places facilities.  Now some dry weather is needed to complete the outside of the building and landscaping.


Finally, she spoke about local government funding, and began by saying that although the additional £600m released recently released by the government to the local government sector was welcome, not a huge amount was left to distribute across the sector after £500m was top-sliced for top tier councils.  With councils around the country going bust, she viewed it as a sticking plaster after 10 years of underfunding and neglect.


She went on to say that what was more concerning was the condition that to receive any additional funding, every council must produce a productivity plan to demonstrate efficiency and how it is eliminating ‘wasteful spending’, including programmes such as Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). She said she would have welcomed an opportunity to demonstrate  how hard CBC works to protect services and squeeze every efficiency it can from tax payers’ money – as evidenced by the recent decision on Cheltenham Borough Homes.  She believed that the statement about wasteful spending and comments about EDI were an example of the government’s divisive populism and policy by press release as its only strategy. 


She said our productivity plan will be brought to Council in July, but thought that the government should also be required to produce one, in view of countless reports from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee highlighting many examples of government waste – funding which could be released to public services if the government got its own act together.





To receive petitions


Councillor Harman presented a petition on behalf of Councillor Fifield, concerning the sale of Idsall Drive Car Park in Prestbury.  As more than 750 verified signatures were included, he understood that a debate on the matter would be scheduled for a future meeting.  


Public Questions pdf icon PDF 420 KB

These must be received no later than 12 noon on Wednesday 14 February.


Thirteen public questions had been received, with the responses published and taken as read.  There were four supplementary questions:

1.  Question from Mr Steven Thomas to the Leader, Councillor Rowena Hay

As a Cheltenham resident who was born here, I am very concerned about the Cheltenham / Gloucester / Tewkesbury “Super City” which will become one of the largest cities in the UK: 

The public consultation that was carried out in 2018 showed that the public are not in support of this, and despite the council saying that that there are no plans for this to happen, the development taking place in West Cheltenham contradicts this. First, we have the Cyber Park which will give rise to approximately 3,000 – 4,000 new homes: 

Secondly, plans were announced a few weeks ago for an additional 4,000 homes in Elm Park: 

Both of these developments would fuel an exponential rise in the population of Cheltenham, taking it from the “Centre Of The Cotswolds” to a larger urban development much akin to what is being proposed in the “2050 Super City”.  

I listened to the entirety of the council meeting on the 11th December 2023, and heard many concerning quotes being thrown around by members of the council: 

We mustn’t lose the ambition to spread the load”, and “Tewkesbury has far more ability to build”.  (in reference to housing). 

“We have made the commitment, but have to test” (in respect to developing on the Green Belt), which implies the decision to develop has already been made. 

Cheltenham, Gloucester and Tewkesbury each have their own unique heritage, so why is there such a push to rapidly redevelop them into something that the public do not want? This is not just my opinion, but one that is shared by many others who have lived here all our lives and are proud of our cultural history. It seems to all of us that Cheltenham Borough Council are going full steam ahead with the Super City but are trying not to overtly call it that in any of the meetings or refer to it as such through the Joint Core Strategy between the three councils. 

Cabinet Member response: 

I would like to thank Mr Thomas for his question which I will answer in two parts.

The first part of the question relates to the adopted  Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Joint Core Strategy (JCS), approved in 2017.  The sites referenced, Elms Park and West Cheltenham, are both strategic allocations which were allocated for development through the preparation of the JCS.  This plan forms part of the statutory development Plan for Cheltenham and was the subject of statutory public consultation together with an independent examination in public.  The evidence base which informed the preparation of this plan can be viewed via the following link

To respond to the second part of the question. In line with the council’s statutory duty to keep its development plan up to date we have  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


Member Questions pdf icon PDF 620 KB

These must be received no later than 12 noon on Wednesday 14 February.



Eleven Member questions had been received.  The responses were taken as read.

1.  Question from Councillor Paul Baker to Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets, Councillor Peter Jeffries

It is right that the Council is looking to increase Council tax on empty residential properties unless there are extenuating circumstances. I am equally concerned that the Council should be charging business rates on empty commercial property, be that retail or industrial. Empty properties represent a wasted opportunity and owners must be encouraged and cajoled to let them, even if it means reducing rents.

I understand no business rates are payable for the first three months that a property is empty but after that the full charge will be levied whether the property is empty or not. Members will all be aware of empty properties in their area, in the High Street; I know of one in Swindon Road which has been empty for as long as I can remember, and there will be others.

I understand that there are exemptions such as listed buildings, properties owned by charities, and buildings with a rateable value under £2,900, but can the Cabinet Member assure me that, where we can, full business rates are being levied on qualifying empty commercial properties?

Cabinet Member response: 

I thank Councillor Baker for his question. It is correct that the Council is looking to charge a higher level of council tax on residential properties treated as second homes. We already charge higher council tax on long term empty properties and I welcome the change in legislation allowing us to do the same on second homes. Charging the higher level of council tax will encourage all owners to consider bringing their properties in to use as much needed homes and generate additional council tax income. There will be some exemptions for extenuating circumstances. We don’t have the details yet but these will be applied before the increased charges start in April 2025.

With regards to business premises, regrettably the council doesn’t have any power to increase the level of business rates on empty properties so can’t use this as a tool to incentivise owners to bring their business properties in to use.

Legislation dictates that an exemption must be given when properties first become empty. Industrial premises are exempt for 6 months and all other types of premises, such as retail or offices get 3 months. The business rates team monitor all business properties. They collect lots of information and make checks including inspecting properties before deciding, in line with what the rules say, whether occupied or empty rates should be charged. Where properties are classed as empty and not exempt, such as listed properties then yes empty business rates are being charged. 

Supplementary question

It is reassuring to hear that we are on top of the business rates situation with regard to long-term empty commercial properties in the town, and a shame that we don’t have the power we have with residential properties whereby we can charge  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.


Final General Revenue and Capital Budget Proposals 2024-25 and Quarterly Budget Monitoring Report, October-December 2023 pdf icon PDF 872 KB

Report of the Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets


Report to follow.

Additional documents:


The Mayor explained the process, then invited that Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets to introduce the budget.  He began by highlighting the following points:

-        despite another 12 months of economic uncertainty and instability and the cost of living crisis, the budget is driven by support residents and investing in the town;

-        we are faced with severe national and local challenges – a housing crisis, climate crisis, broken NHS and social care systems, mental health crisis, ecological crisis, poverty crisis, and struggling education and police services;

-        the national debt is hovering around almost 100% of GDP; in 2022-23, the current government spent around £108bn servicing the debt, more than it spent on education, and over £100bn-worth of waste and fraud has been identified by the parliamentary accounts committee;

-        moving on to the challenges of the local authority funding crisis, for over a decade local authorities have been under unprecedented, sustained pressure with government funding reduced by around 50%, below-inflation council tax rises, and commercial-driven revenue savagely affected by the government’s mini-budget and economics which, with cost and demand pressures rising faster than funding, will, by 2024-25, have added £15bn (28.6%) to the cost of delivering council services;

-        eight authorities have issued 114 notices, unable to balance their budgets and facing bankruptcy, and a recent LGA survey shows that one in five authorities are likely to issue a 114 notice this year or next.  Financial resilience in the sector is at an all-time low as a result of the current government’s political choices;

-        it isn’t true to say that Cheltenham gets a good deal – it is the 19th worst-funded council in the country, despite delivering vital services and support to vulnerable residents.  The council’s financial resilience has been tested – we have innovated, changed the shape and structure of the council and how services are delivered, and continue to find efficiencies, savings and additional income to bridge the funding gap, which takes time, resources and no small effort from Cabinet colleagues and officers across the council.


He then moved on to the ways in which our strategy enables the council to continue to deliver services, support residents, invest in the town and put Cheltenham first:

-        keeping all our services running efficiently and effectively to support businesses, the daytime and night-time economy and our residents;

-        directing grant funding to support our leisure and cultural sector, also working collaboratively and in partnership, underpinning the town’s economic activity and preserving its uniqueness, loved by residents and visitors;

-        supporting vulnerable residents with our council tax discount scheme, benefit and money advice measures, working with Cheltenham’s food network, and supporting voluntary and community organisations through the third sector rent support policy;

-        working to reduce CO2 emissions whilst promoting biodiversity in Cheltenham’s parks and gardens;

-        leading the way with kerbside recycling and being the only district council in the country to offer its residents a town household recycling centre.


He said the budget underpins our  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.


Housing Revenue Account Revised Forecast 2023-24 and Budget 2024-25 pdf icon PDF 475 KB

Report of the Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets


Report to follow.

Additional documents:



The Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets introduced the report, highlighting that the same economic challenges faced by the General Fund continued to put financial pressure on the Housing Revenue Account (HRA). That said, he was pleased to report that with the confirmation of national rent policy for 2024/25, along with the small reduction in interest rates from the peak in 2022, the long-term position of the HRA has started to show signs of improvement.


He made the following comments:


-       he regretted what he felt was the continued short-term policy approach from government towards local authority housing, emphasising the need for longer term funding plans and rent policy in order to address the growing homelessness crisis and the lack of affordable and social housing, which need long-term commitments, policy certainty and sensible funding solutions;

-       the Cabinet set a clear direction of travel in October 2023 to bring housing services back in house which was in the best interest of communities. This bold vision had been set to deliver savings to retain the council’s financial resilience, but also presented an opportunity to deliver services better, and to be better placed to respond to further government regulations or compliance requirements;

-       a commitment was made in last year’s budget to continue to grow the HRA in order to support tenants by investing in new and existing homes, despite the financial challenges faced. He believed this has proved to be the right approach.


He said the HRA interim budget proposals for 2024/25 before Members would deliver on the ambition set by the council to provide a housing service that:

-        places residents at the centre of decision making;

-        delivers high quality new homes;

-        reinvests in existing homes and neighbourhoods;

-        delivers value for money;

-        continues to support the most vulnerable and those in financial hardship in our communities.


He ended by putting on record his thanks to all the staff at Cheltenham Borough Homes and officers within the council, whose hard work on behalf of the town’s communities was valued and recognised. The HRA budget for 2024-25 enables us to continue supporting our tenants, invest in their homes, deliver new homes, and continue to put Cheltenham first.


Member Questions

In response to a question, the Cabinet Member confirmed that the cost of bringing CBH back in house would be met from CBH reserves.


Member Debate

The Cabinet Member for Housing began by thanking all officers from CBC and CBH for their outstanding work in the last 12 months, especially in view of the increase in demand for housing services.  She made the following points:

-        it was upsetting to see people being forced out of their homes with limited opportunity to find alternative accommodation, but was pleased that building and investment in new homes would continue, highlighting 390 affordable new homes in the pipeline over the next four years –high quality, sustainable, energy efficient homes. It is exciting that nine such homes have already been built in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.


Council Tax Resolution 2024-25 pdf icon PDF 299 KB

Report of the Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets


Report to follow.

Additional documents:


The Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets said that now that the budget had been agreed, Members were required to formally approve the total council tax for the residents of Cheltenham for the coming year.  This includes the council tax requirements of the county council, Police and where relevant, parishes.

There were no questions or debate on this item.


1.    the formal Council Tax resolution at Appendix 2 is approved and the commentary in respect of the increase in Council Tax at Paragraph 6 of Appendix 2 is noted. 


For (unanimous):  Andrews, Atherstone, Babbage, Baker, Boyes, Britter, Chelin, Chidley, Clucas, Collins, Dobie, Fisher, Harman, Harvey, Hay, Horwood, Jeffries, Lewis, McCloskey Pineger, Seacome Smith, Tailford, Tooke, Wheeler, Wilkinson Williams, Willingham


Council Tax Discount Scheme for Care Leavers pdf icon PDF 445 KB

Report of the Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets

Additional documents:


The Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets introduced the report, which recommends some changes to CBC’s existing care leavers’ council tax discount scheme, recommended after last year’s review of Gloucestershire’s offer, by the Department of Education’s national advisor for care leavers.  There is currently a common policy across the districts, so the recommendations put forward will form an extension of this policy. The proposed change is that from April 2024, care leaves are eligible up until their 25th birthday (previously 22nd) and will include care leavers previously in the care of other local authorities as well as Gloucestershire County Council.

He said that all six districts are recommending that the care leaver discount scheme is amended from April 2024 to include these changes, and knowing how vulnerable care leavers are, he was happy to be bringing the report and recommendations, which he hoped Members would support.


There were no Member questions.


The Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Culture, Tourism and Wellbeing commented on another example of the council’s big-hearted approach, looking after its most vulnerable residents. A Member said that his group fully supported the recommendations, and having met a number of care leavers and being aware of the big challenges they can face, felt that the council should do all it could to support them.


The Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets noted that this is not a political issue, but has cross-party support across the county. 



1.    the Council Tax Discount for Care Leavers scheme in Appendix 2 is approved.




26 in support

1 abstain



Council Tax Premium on Empty Properties and Second Homes pdf icon PDF 457 KB

Report of the Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets

Additional documents:


Councillor Horwood left the Chamber for this item.


In introducing his report, the Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets said that, with the continued housing crisis, the council uses all the tools at its disposal to bring empty homes back into use, including our discretionary powers to levy council tax on long-term empty properties. The level of premium and current number of properties is shown at 2.3 in the report, but changes in the relevant acts of parliament mean that, if Members are supportive, we can now charge the premium on properties that have been empty for one year instead of two.


In addition, a new power means that we can now charge a premium for second homes.  Until now a loophole in the legislation means that if a long-term empty home is furnished, it can be classed as a second home, thus circumnavigating the empty homes premium.


He said there are currently 963 properties classed as second homes, and although most of these are not long-term empty, they do not positively contribute to community cohesion, and the changes should encourage their owners to consider freeing them up.  Taking the decision now means that we will be prepared and proactive as soon as the changes come into force in April 2025.


A Member asked how the council recognises that a property has been empty for more than a year.  The Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets confirmed that the council is notified when a property is vacated, and if no council tax payments are subsequently received, officers will assume the property has remained empty and undertake investigations to check.


A Member said it is an eye-opener to see how many empty properties there are across the town, and hard to think that many of them could not be put back into good use.  With the new policy coming into effect next year, this will help encourage people to bring those homes back into use for other Cheltenham residents;

The Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets summed up by saying that although this is not a huge problem, it is a problem none the less, and he thanked Jayne Gilpin and the council tax team for the fantastic work they do on behalf of Cheltenham residents.



1.    the change to the Empty Homes Premium is approved, so that properties which have been unoccupied and unfurnished for one year, instead of two, will become subject to the 100% premium from April 2025;


2.    the implementation of the 100% Second Homes Premium from April 2025 is approved;


3.    authority is delegated to the Executive Director for Finance Assets and Regeneration in consultation with the Cabinet Member Finance and Assets to amend the policy so that it meets the requirements of any guidance/ regulations due to be issued by Government and to ensure the premiums are administered efficiently.



Council Order of Precedence - Nominations for Mayor Elect pdf icon PDF 375 KB

Report of the Chief Executive

Additional documents:


The Chief Executive said this is the regular report to Members, as required by the Constitution, which looks to confirm the order of precedence for the nomination and election of the next Mayor. Councillor Baker is put forward, subject to the outcomes of the May election, and the official appointment of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor will take place after the election.


There were no Member questions or debate on this item.



1.    the Order of Precedence in Appendix 2 is noted;

2.    pending the outcome of the borough elections, Councillor Paul Baker will be put to the Annual and Selection Council Meetingfor election as Mayor for the Municipal year 2024–2025;

3.    the Councillor nomination for Deputy Mayor for the Municipal year 2024-2025 will be put to the Annual and Selection Council Meetingfor election.



Council Diary pdf icon PDF 373 KB

Report of the Leader

Additional documents:


Introducing the item, the Leader said everyone had been consulted and given the opportunity to comment on the proposed corporate diary for 2024-25.  She said it is always a challenge to accommodate all the committees and working groups at times which work for everyone, and officers work hard to avoid high days and holidays and group meetings, although there is inevitably some conflict.  She thanked the Democratic Services team for pulling it together.


In response to a Member’s question, she confirmed that party conferences were taken into consideration when assembling the diary.




-       the draft Council Diary of meetings for September 2024 – August 2025 is approved. 



Notices of Motion


There were no motions on this occasion.


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


There was none.


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 paragraphs 1, 2 and 3, Part (1) Schedule (12A) Local Government Act 1972, namely:


Paragraph 1; Information relating to any individual


Paragraph 2; Information which is likely to reveal the identity of an individual


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

person (including the authority holding that information)




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 paragraphs 1, 2 and 3, Part (1) Schedule (12A) Local Government Act 1972, namely:

Paragraph 1: Information relating to any individual

Paragraph 2: Information which is likely to reveal the identity of an individual

Paragraph 3: Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).



Organisational Review

Report of the Chief Executive


Report to follow.


The Chief Executive introduced his report, and following a debate, Members voted in support of the recommendations.