Agenda, decisions and minutes
- Attendance details
- Agenda frontsheet PDF 148 KB
- Agenda reports pack
- Summary of the Council's Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic - March 2020 to February 2022 - Appendix 2 PDF 3 MB
- Public Questions PDF 120 KB
- Minutes of the last meeting PDF 371 KB
- Printed decisions PDF 173 KB
- Printed minutes PDF 238 KB
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Contact: Harry Mayo, Democracy Officer
Cllr. Atherstone sent apologies.
Declarations of interest
There were none.
Minutes of the 15th February meeting to follow
The minutes of the 15th February meeting were approved and signed as a correct record.
These must be received no later than 12 noon on Tuesday 22nd February.
Report of the Cabinet Member Climate Emergency
The Cabinet Member Climate Emergency presented the report, noting that planning formed an important part of the council’s declaration of a climate emergency. Current planning regulations, both locally and nationally, were not adequate to meet the demands of tackling the climate emergency. This report was part of a bottom-up approach that would lead on the issue, and he hoped that their introduction of the SPD would feed up into the national planning agenda. He noted that last year’s attempt by national government to update planning rules had run aground partly due to local authorities not being convinced that the changes would adequately tackle climate change.
He noted that the report was clear and understandable, with infographics for clarity, and at 30 pages long it was also concise. Nobody could be left in any doubt of the standards the council was expecting of future developments, including new build homes, extensions and retrofits, both domestic and non-domestic. It came along at an important time, with the Climate Emergency Action Plan and Cheltenham Green Deal having been adopted last week, and applications for the town’s first carbon neutral homes having recently been passed by Planning Committee. It was encouraging to see that developers were already taking notice of the agenda being set by the council.
The SPD called for all developments to meet high standards, moving beyond gas-powered properties entirely. This would be beneficial not only environmentally but also in terms of energy security, with recent events making clear that global fossil fuel markets did not guarantee this. A clear message was being sent to developers that if they wanted to develop in Cheltenham, they needed to meet higher standards than before. The document would form a key part of the planning process and would inform the decisions made by Planning Committee. There was no excuse for developers to not pay heed to it. The next step was now consultation, in order to find out the views of the local community.
The Cabinet Member Housing praised the SPD’s conciseness and clarity, and emphasised the need for partners across the town, county and region to hold themselves to the same standards as this authority. Public consultation was key, and the county council had not adequately done this before removing the vegetation around the Arle Court Transport Hub.
The Cabinet Member Customer and Regulatory Services added that he was fully behind the SPD as the Cabinet Member responsible for planning. It was putting the climate emergency declaration into practice, and should put Cheltenham in the spotlight nationally as a radical leader on the topic. It set out vital steps to mitigate the dangerous consequences of climate change and the ecological crisis that goes hand in hand with it. He was pleased with the focus on biodiversity and the wide range of buildings it covered, as well as radical steps like encouraging new buildings to not connect to the gas grid.
The Cabinet Member Safety and Communities echoed this, stressing that it was an opportunity to ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Report of the Leader of the Council
Appendix 2 to follow
The Leader of the Council presented the report, noting that it highlighted the enormous changes that needed to be made at a very fast pace at the start of the pandemic. This included moving seamlessly to virtual committee meetings by May 2020 to restore full political decision-making following the March lockdown. Over 90% staff were working from home by April 2020, making full use of the new technology introduced prior to Covid-19 as part of the council’s modernisation agenda.
Staff wellbeing was an essential part of the pandemic response, and the latest survey showed that 94% of staff felt they were supported and had enough contact with their team or line manager and could raise any issues with them. 87% of staff were having either daily, twice a week or weekly contact with their line manager, and 92% of staff felt they had the technology to stay connected and do all aspects of their role effectively.
At the height of the pandemic, the Building Control Service introduced virtual inspections with the aid of video apps, allowing site operations to continue where necessary under the restrictions whilst ensuring building standards were satisfied. Recycling rates continued to improve throughout, going from 51.23% at the end of 2019/20 to 53.98% at the end of September 2020, thanks to the strong partnership the council had with Ubico.
She added that Covid-19 had presented particular challenges in tackling rough sleeping. The Housing Options Team made 125 placements into hotels for rough sleepers by August 2020, and by September 2020 had eliminated the need for hotel accommodation altogether.
Business support was another essential part of the council’s response. Recognising the worry businesses had due to loss of income, the council had used its own cash reserves to ensure grant payments could be allocated as rapidly as possible. They were ultimately the first authority in the UK to commence grant payments, and as a result they received a Community & Business Champion Award from Punchline magazine.
The council had also responded proactively to the potential dangers of a ‘postcode lottery’ of business grants, by bringing together district councils in the Discretionary Business Grant Scheme in less than three weeks. Working on advice from the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and local Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), they created a scheme that ensured both consistency of criteria and maximum impact.
The Revenues & Benefits team had continued to establish grant schemes to ensure that businesses in need received support. In December 2021, another scheme was rapidly set up with a new round of the discretionary business grants, offering financial support to pubs, clubs, bars, restaurants and travel businesses. In total, the council had distributed 10,637 grants since the start of the pandemic, totalling £48,686,982.
The council had also been one of the first in the country to publish its recovery strategy, featuring a number of initiatives to support economic growth. These included the Big Screen, supported by the government’s Welcome Back fund, which was estimated to have generated between 5,000 and 10,000 ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
Report of the Cabinet Member Culture, Wellbeing and Business
In the absence of the Cabinet Member Culture, Wellbeing and Business, the Leader of the Council presented the report, which provided an evaluation of the delivery and outcomes of the 2021 Christmas ice rink. It drew conclusions on principal learnings that would inform any future decisions on delivering another ice rink in Christmas 2022 and in future years.
The ice rink had been based in Imperial Gardens from 18th November 2021 to 2nd January 2022. During these 45 days, it attracted 43,563 skaters (more than the estimated 30k-40k) and led to increased footfall in the town centre, exceeding pre-pandemic figures. Along with the Christmas Market, it lifted the spirits of residents and visitors and provided a much-needed boost for the local economy, with retailers reporting record takings and council-owned car parks being the busiest they had been for two years. Financially, it covered its costs and made a small £5k surplus, with clear scope for this to be built upon.
She emphasised that this was a major achievement considering the challenges of the pandemic, and thanked all those who contributed to delivering its overall success. Should Cabinet agree to bring an ice rink back to Cheltenham in 2022, they would benefit from longer lead times for generating ticket sales, be able to build on key learnings from 2021, and have fewer obstacles in order to live safely with Covid.
The recommendations in the report included an early commitment to organise and deliver an ice rink for Christmas 2022, thus allowing sufficient time to secure the necessary planning consents, undertake a robust procurement of an operator, implement the proposed changes outlined in the report and improve upon the delivery, financial performance and wider outcomes achieved in 2021.
The Cabinet Member Housing added that it was a fantastic facility to have, especially after the last few years. Families had come from all around to have fun there, and he was especially pleased that discounted and free tickets were offered through No Child Left Behind. The £5k surplus was a positive but the economic boost to the surrounding area would have been much larger.
The Cabinet Member Climate Emergency noted that it had attracted around a thousand visitors a day on average, which was very impressive. It was a genuinely fun thing for people and families to do, and had provided a massive boost to the area.
The Leader moved to the vote, where it was unanimously:
1. the overall success of the ice rink in 2021 and the impact of the ice rink on residents and Imperial Gardens, as set out in Section 6 be noted;
2. a temporary ice rink in Cheltenham for the 2022 Christmas period be approved, subject to:
a) a fully costed business case;
b) securing the necessary planning consents;
c) procuring an operator;
d) the final commitment being brought back to Cabinet for approval.
3. the ability to deliver fixed power infrastructure as identified in the Council’s interim events strategy be fully assessed.
Briefing from Cabinet Members
The Cabinet Member Climate Emergency thanked CK Futures for inviting him to visit last week and present the Climate Emergency Action Plan. There had been challenging questions and a good debate, and he thanked those who had turned up. Planet Cheltenham had also invited him to a workshop in St Pauls, and he was pleased that the council would be supporting this.
The Cabinet Member Customer and Regulatory Services added that a lot of work was going on behind the scenes on two reports, one relating to CIL governance arrangements and the other on licensing for hackney carriages, and they would be brought before Cabinet and Council soon.
The Cabinet Member Safety and Communities added that she would shortly be meeting with schools and businesses to discuss the Large Enterprise Action Group. It was important to provide access to learning and mentoring within businesses, and this was a really good way to link the two and offer a solid grounding for young people in terms of their careers. The Big Local’s national trust had visited last week and been very impressed by the work done in Cheltenham and the council’s support. The No Child Left Behind awards would take place at the Town Hall next week, with all winners selected by the children involved in the projects. The Cheltenham Alliance for Racial Equality was also due to launch next week.
The Leader took a moment to pause for reflection on the invasion of Ukraine, and those caught up in it. She also added that on Thursday last week, she called an urgent meeting of Group Leaders so the council could put out a joint statement on the disaster happening there. A statement also went out from the Twinning Association, suspending activities with Sochi, and a letter was sent to the political leadership of Sochi to let them know this.
Decisions of Cabinet Members
The Cabinet Member Culture, Wellbeing and Business had taken a decision on 22nd February to enter into a funding agreement with the NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group.
The Cabinet Member Housing had taken a decision on 23rd February to expand the cohort of households that CBC had committed to accommodate from the British Forces Afghan Relocation and Assistance scheme to include families resettled through the Afghan Citizen Relocation Scheme (ACRS) and British Nationals leaving Afghanistan. He also noted that they would review their current target of rehousing 7 to 15 families across Cheltenham, with a view to increasing it in due course. This decision combined three separate government schemes to make it easier to manage, and allowed for expansion as a result of the success of the project so far. Cheltenham were the only authority in the county to have increased their commitment.
The Leader had taken a decision on 1st March to approve the continuation of the Gloucestershire Economic Growth Joint Committee until 31 March 2023, with delegation to the Chief Executive to agree and complete legal documentation with regard to this.