Venue: Council Chamber, Rushcliffe Arena, Rugby Road, West Bridgford
Contact: Helen Tambini 0115 9148320
Declarations of Interest
The Mayor invited declarations of interest. A number of Councillors declared an interest in Item 9 – Petition: Community Governance Review (Bingham Town Council) as follows:
Councillor Purdue-Horan stated that he is a member of Bingham Town Council and would be leaving the room during the debate.
Councillor J Stockwood declared a non-pecuniary interest and stated that he would leave the room during the debate.
Councillor M Stockwood declared an interest and stated that she would not take part in the debate but intended to remain in the room.
Councillor Williams declared an interest as a member of Bingham Town Council and stated that he would leave the room during the debate.
Councillor R Walker declared an interest as Chairman of the Standards Committee, and the recent Hearings Committee, that heard complaints that could be considered to relate to matters in the petition. He went on to state that he had not considered the recommendations included in the report in either role. In addition, the report focuses on the community governance review provisions in the Local Government Involvement and Public Health Act and Councillor R Walker reported to Council that he did not feel this was a standards matter nor one that he could not approach with an open mind and without predetermination. Therefore, he did not intend to stand down from Council for the item.
Councillor Mason declared an interest as a member of the Standards Committee, and the recent Hearings Committee. She informed Council that the recommendations in the report, and the report content, related to matters that she had not considered in those roles and, therefore, she felt that she could approach the debate with an open mind and without predetermination, and did not intend to stand down from Council for the item.
Councillor Phillips declared an interest as a member of the Standards Committee, and the recent Hearings Committee, that heard complaints that could be considered to relate to matters in the petition. He went on to state that he had not considered the recommendations included in the report in either role. Therefore, he did not intend to stand down from Council for the item.
Councillor R Mallender declared an interest as a member of the Standards Committee, and the recent Hearings Committee, that heard complaints that could be considered to relate to matters in the petition. He went on to say that the recommendations included in the report, and the report content, relate to a community governance review and had not been considered by him in either role so he felt he could approach the debate with an open mind and without predetermination, and did not intend to stand down from Council for the item.
Councillor Simms declared an interest as his wife is a Bingham Town Councillor. He informed Council that he felt he could approach the debate with an open mind and in an unprejudiced manner, and therefore intended to take an active role in the debate.
Councillor Brennan declared an interest as ... view the full minutes text for item 22.
To receive as a correct record the minutes of the Meeting of the Council held on 1 July 2021.
The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday, 1 July 2021 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Mayor.
The Mayor informed Council that she had attended 17 engagements since the last Council meeting. These events included the Taste of Rushcliffe event, the opening of Busy Bees nursery in Edwalton. The Mayor noted that she enjoyed attending the Kite Festival at Rushcliffe Country Park, the Hickling Scarecrow Festival and the Proms in the Park event at Bridgford Park. The Mayor was pleased to inform the Council that she had completed her 98 mile walk around the Borough to raise money for her chosen charities and had also made her 100th blood donation and encouraged residents and councillors to donate blood if they were able to do so.
The Leader was pleased to inform the Council that the Freeport outline business case had been submitted and hoped that the project would be up and running by March 2022. The Leader stated that Rushcliffe Country Park had been awarded green flag status for the 15th time and that the Council was investing in facilities at the country park including a café and were also applying for funding for a changing places facility which would improve accessibility to the park.
Chief Executive's Announcements
There were no Chief Executive’s announcements.
The Mayor informed Council that it was her intention to switch items 7 and 8 to allow the presentation of the Petition to be followed immediately by the report relating to the petition.
To answer questions submitted by Citizens on the Council or its services.
The Mayor invited Mr Tony Wallace to read his Citizen’s Question as submitted:
“Oppressive behaviour and harassment of employees is unlawful. It impacts negatively on the working environment and on the work that the organisation strives to deliver. Does Rushcliffe Borough Council agree that there’s no place in the modern workplace for behaviours that could be described as harassment or oppressive in the treatment of any member of staff by an elected Councillor?”
Councillor Moore thanked Mr Wallace for his question and stated that Rushcliffe Borough Council agree that there is no place in the modern workplace for this kind of behaviour.
To receive any petitions in accordance with Standing Order No. 10 and the Council’s Petitions Scheme.
Under Standing Order 10, the Mayor invited Mr Fox to present the petition entitled ‘Bingham Deserves Better’:
Mr Fox introduced himself as a member of the ‘Bingham Deserves Better’ group formed of ex-town councillors and concerned residents seeking the Borough Council’s intervention to bring about reform at Bingham Town Council.
Mr Fox explained that it was the view of the ‘Bingham Deserves Better’ group that some town councillors had repeatedly broken the Nolan Principles of ethical standards in public life and that this was indicative of widespread and longstanding concerns about the leadership of Bingham Town Council. Mr Fox highlighted that multiple complaints had been made to the Monitoring Officer over the last two years about concerning behaviour and dubious decision making at the town council. He referenced the recent Borough Council Standards Committee investigation into allegations of bullying and harassment of the town council Clerk by two town councillors and informed Council that as far as the residents of Bingham were concerned the findings of the Standards Committee, which had been widely publicised, had not been acted upon by those concerned.
Mr Fox went on to say that the petition, which was submitted in advance of the previously mentioned Standards Committee Hearing, met the requirements contained within the legislation to trigger a Community Governance Review despite being conducted during a national lockdown. The strength of feeling within the Bingham community should be clear to Councillors. The petition calls for Bingham Town Council to be temporarily dissolved pending new elections in order to create a collaborative and cohesive town council moving forward. Mr Fox suggested that a toxic environment at Bingham Town Council was damaging to the reputation and credibility of both councils and called upon Borough Councillors to take the robust action required to resolve the situation.
The report of the Chief Executive is attached.
Councillors Purdue-Horan, J Stockwood and Williams stepped out of the chamber for the consideration of this item.
The Leader and Portfolio Holder for Strategic and Borough Wide Leadership, Councillor Robinson, commended Mr Fox, and his team, for their hard work and dedication in putting the petition together and thanked him for the passion with which he presented it.
Councillor Robinson stated that the Nolan Principles to which Mr Fox had referred were a fundamental part of all tiers of government and that he felt there was no valid excuse to not abide by these or to seek support when these principles were not adhered to. He mentioned the Local Government Association and the National Association of Local Councils, both of whom offered support and guidance when local authorities were faced with challenges and they did not feel equipped to deal with.
Councillor Robinson highlighted the two actions called for by the ‘Bingham Deserves Better’ petition: firstly, that the Borough Council dissolves Bingham Town Council and takes over its operation until new elections can be held; and secondly, that the Borough Council takes action to reset the culture and strengthen the procedures at Bingham Town Council. He reminded Councillors that the petition was not about the Standards Committee, not about the behaviour of two councillors, not about the budget and finances at the town council; it is about this Council considering the two calls for action contained within the petition.
The Leader referenced the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 and the specific guidance relating to Community Governance Reviews published in 2010. He informed Council that this was the legislative lens through which the petition had to be viewed. The petition is effectively asking the Borough Council to trigger new elections in Bingham; the Council’s legal advisors, both internal and external, have advised that this is not something the Borough Council can do within the aforementioned legislation. Elections and the electoral cycle are pillars of local democracy.
Councillor Robinson drew Council’s attention to the Chief Executive’s report and the five recommendations that she had proposed. He outlined his intention to strengthen the final recommendation to ensure that robust and tangible action is taken to address the situation highlighted in the ‘Bingham Deserves Better’ petition. The revised recommendation offers to establish an improvement board to provide support and oversee changes at Bingham Town Council, and also calls upon the Council’s Monitoring Officer to make changes to the Council’s Constitution in order for this to happen.
The Leader outlined the key features of the proposed improvement board, such as an independent chairman, appropriate sector-focused support, and individuals committed to driving the improvements outlined as necessary by the petition to ensure Bingham Town Council is more efficient, effective, fit for purpose and serves the needs of the local community. Councillor Robinson also committed to write to the new Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities requesting that the Community Governance legislation is updated to ensure it is also fit ... view the full minutes text for item 29.
The report of the Monitoring Officer is attached.
The Leader and Portfolio Holder for Strategic and Borough Wide Leadership, Councillor Robinson presented the report of the Monitoring Officer which recommended the appointment of Mr Christopher Richards and Ms Helen Richardson as the Council’s Independent Persons for standards as required by the Localism Act 2011 (the Act). It was noted that on 11 July 2019, Council adopted the Best Practice Principals and recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL). Best Practice 7 states: “Local authorities should have access to at least two Independent Persons.” Therefore, the Portfolio Holder asked the Council to support the recommendations in the report to meet its statutory obligations as prescribed by the Act and thanked Mr Baggaley for his work as the Council’s independent person since 2013.
Councillor Moore seconded the recommendations of the report and reserved the right to speak.
Councillor J Walker supported the recommendations in the report and thanked Mr Baggaley for his work as the Council’s independent person since 2013.
Councillor Jones, Mallender and Thomas all supported the recommendations in the report.
It was proposed by Councillor Robinson and seconded by Councillor Moore and RESOLVED that the Council appoint Mr Christopher Richards and Ms Helen Richardson as its Independent Persons for standards under section 28(7) of the Act for a fixed period of two years.
The report of the Chief Executive is attached.
The Leader and Portfolio Holder for Strategic and Borough Wide Leadership, Councillor Robinson presented the report of the Chief Executive which recommended that Council support and endorse the Leader and Chief Executive’s involvement in continued discussions about a “County Deal” in Nottinghamshire with any arrangements affecting Rushcliffe Borough Council to be brought back to Council for full discussion and approval prior to adoption. It was explained that the Prime Minister had set out a vision for new devolution deals across the country in his “Levelling Up” speech offering counties the ability to have devolved powers like some of the cities. On the same day, the Secretary State for Housing, Communities and Local Government wrote to Local Authority Leaders and Chief Executive setting out a commitment to “devolving power to local places and closer to citizens.” It was hoped that the Council’s involvement in the devolution and “Levelling Up” in Nottinghamshire would provide efficiency and effectiveness to local government authorities in Nottinghamshire.
It was expected that deals would include significant reform proposals, including ways to achieve greater financial efficiency, administrative streamlining and / or more joined up services in an area. It was explained that this would not mean that unitary status for the county of Nottinghamshire would be required but that it would include partnership working with Nottingham City Council. The Portfolio Holder was pleased to report that Nottinghamshire District Leaders and Chief Executives were invited to meet with the Leader and Chief Executive of Nottinghamshire County Council to discuss working closely together with the City Council to support a bid to be a “pathfinder” area for County Deals and that more details will be provided in the Government’s Levelling Up white paper in the autumn.
It was proposed that the starting point for the governance for any devolution deal based on a County Deal is the Economic Prosperity Committee which was originally set up in 2015. The Council were informed that legal advice will be sought on any amendments that would need to be made and any sub groups/committees that would be set up.
The Leader assured the Council that any formal agreements that would impact on the Borough Council would be brought back to Council for full discussion and debate prior to an agreement and adoption.
Councillor Edyvean seconded the recommendations and was pleased to note that a “County Deal” was widely supported across political parties.
Councillor Gowland noted that the Labour group supported the recommendations outlined in the report. She suggested that a town council in West Bridgford be appointed to deal with planning applications, West Bridgford High Street and the schedules of grass cutting. Councillor Gowland stated that it was essential for powers to be devolved to local authorities in order to tackle austerity. It was noted that the number of employees of central government had increased by 23% whereas the number of employees of local government had decreased by 30%. Additionally, spending fell by 18% in the East Midlands compared to 13% nationally. Councillor Gowland ... view the full minutes text for item 31.
Notices of Motion
To receive Notices of Motion submitted under Standing Order No.12
a) This Council calls on the Government to provide funding over five years to local authorities accommodating vulnerable Afghan Refugees so that practical and social support can be provided and in the case of large families, considers deferring the application of benefit caps to avoid recreating poverty and homelessness.
Councillor R Jones
b) This Council recognises that food waste contributes hugely to climate change and appreciates the carbon benefits that could be realised if Rushcliffe's household food waste was collected separately and processed via Anaerobic Digestion or In-Vessel Composting. Council will seek to influence relevant partners and agencies to bring this forward as soon as is practically possible.
Councillor C Thomas
c) The "Planning for the Future" White Paper appears to be in tatters due to many of the government's own supporters having turned on it and the recent Cabinet reshuffle. The proposals could take away the right of local communities to comment on individual planning decisions by introducing zones where consent in principle is predetermined. Combined with wide-ranging changes to "permitted development rights" this is undermining the more democratic process that has regulated planning decisions for generations.
This Council calls on the government to halt the destructive programme of so called "planning reform" set out in the "Planning for the Future" White Paper, particularly the zoning proposals, and keep local councillors, communities, and democracy at the heart of the planning process.
Councillor J Walker
a) The following Notice of Motion was proposed by Councillor Jones and seconded by Councillor Begum.
Prior to presenting his motion Councillor Jones informed the Mayor that he wished to make a small alteration under Standing Order 14 (highlighted in italics below). After outlining the alteration, consent was given by Council and Councillor Jones proceeded to move the motion.
“This Council calls on the Government to provide funding over five years to local authorities accommodating vulnerable Afghan Refugees so that practical and social support can be provided and in the case of large families, considers deferring the application of benefit caps to families as they are comprised on arrival to avoid recreating poverty and homelessness.”
Councillor Jones informed Council, in moving the motion, that this was a call for the government to extend its current three-year funding model to five years in recognition of the long-term support and stability needed by refugee families. Evidence from the Syrian Resettlement Programme should be sufficient to demonstrate that longer term funding is needed for the following reasons: funding is required to set up homes including basic furniture and provisions, it is required to fund the refugee workers to support families to register with GPs, apply for jobs or benefits, set up a bank account or find a gas and electricity supplier; and this is before addressing the emotional distress caused by trauma, resettlement and building an entirely new life. Councillor Jones informed Council that resettlement takes time and requires stable funding which is why he has brought forward this motion to seek five-years’ worth of funding instead of three as well as requesting the deferment of the application of the benefits cap for refugees from Afghanistan to avoid creating further hardship and homelessness.
Councillor Begum seconded the motion and reserved the right to speak.
Councillor Brennan proposed an amendment to the motion. She stressed that no one can have failed to be shocked by how quickly the situation in Afghanistan deteriorated after the withdrawal of western troops or to fear deeply for the safety of the women and girls left behind. It was noted that simply the use of social media would not secure their freedoms and safety. The UK government has been at the forefront of humanitarian aid with relocation and resettlement schemes already operational such as “Operation Warm Welcome” and the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Scheme. It was explained that under these schemes that £200 million of government funding would enable the UK to welcome 20,000 Afghan citizens. Additionally, it was announced by the Home Office that that everyone arriving under these schemes would be given?indefinite?leave to?remain.?Granting Indefinite Leave to remain provides certainty and stability to those resettling in the UK. It provides the right to work and recourse to public funds, including?social housing?and homelessness assistance. Whilst this Council would like to offer as much support to displaced families as possible, it seems a little premature to suggest that longer term funding is required to ... view the full minutes text for item 32.
Questions from Councillors
To answer questions submitted by Councillors under Standing Order No. 11(2)
a) Question from Councillor Jones to Councillor Inglis
“Precisely when will the Council get on top of the planning issues arising from the building on Sharphill and the several breaches of environmental requirements?”
Councillor Inglis responded that the Council acknowledges the environmental issues raised by Councillor Jones and takes the implementation and enforcement of the Supplementary Planning Framework very seriously. As such, the Council has recently restructured the Planning Service to create a new dedicated Planning Monitoring and Implementation role at Principal level in order to take a proactive lead on the Sharphill enforcement and others across the Borough.
Councillor Inglis also informed Council that the Planning Service Manager met with a Director from the housebuilder last week to raise the concerns about the potential environmental breaches and is expecting a response in the near future. In addition, a dedicated Officer in the Economic Growth team has been appointed to facilitate a resolution and liaise with the developer and local stakeholders.
Councillor Jones asked:
“Given that the builders on Sharphill have not conformed to the Council’s Supplementary Planning Framework document, and that buildings have been and are being erected much closer to the Council’s nature reserve than that specified by this Council, what assurance can you give that the so-called developers will be made to apply them?”.
Councillor Inglis reported that the Council is investigating this issue and where breaches have occurred, the Council will seek to negotiate compliance with the developer. Although it is hoped it won’t be necessary, the Council can use appropriate enforcement powers where necessary.
b) Question from Councillor Gowland to Councillor Robinson
“Please can the Council tell me how much Voter ID will cost Rushcliffe Borough Council when running a General Election.”
Councillor Robinson notified Councillor Gowland that it is currently unclear exactly what will be involved and, therefore, he cannot answer the question at this time. However, most costs of delivering the general election can be reclaimed from the government. If there are extra duties that take up staff time and resources prior to the elections, then there may be a new burdens payment from Government.
Councillor Gowland asked:
“How many cases of voter fraud were there in Rushcliffe at the last general election?”
Councillor Robinson informed Councillor Gowland that he did not have that information to hand but would ensure that it was circulated to Councillors within the next seven days.