Agenda item

Business from the last Council meeting

Questions from Councillors


To answer questions submitted by Councillors under Standing Order No.11(2)


a)               Councillor Birch


b)               Councillor J Walker


c)                Councillor Plant


Question from Councillor Birch to Councillor Clarke.


“Rushcliffe Borough Council has spent £9,597 of taxpayer money applying for, and attending, the?MJ Achievement Awards in London.?Do you consider this to be an appropriate use of taxpayer money during a cost of living crisis?” 


Councillor Clarke responded by saying that it was five years since Rushcliffe Borough Council had last attended the MJ Achievement Awards in London. The Council was the only district council to be shortlisted as a finalist for the Local Authority of the Year alongside five unitaries and counties, and as the only shortlisted district council it was possible to infer that Rushcliffe was indeed the best district council in the sector at this time, which was a magnificent achievement. The Awards were part of the sector’s work to promote best practice and continuous improvement and the shortlisting reflected well on Councillors of all parties and the officers who delivered the Council’s priorities. There was a cost to entering and attending such events; however, Councillor Clarke considered that the benefit to workforce morale and recruitment was immeasurable, and the benefits to the profile and high esteem in which the Council was held was the reward. 


The Council did not budget to enter such awards and it was due to the excellent running of the Council, that it was in a position to be able to afford this from in-year budget efficiencies. In the context of the Council’s gross budget of £39.7m that amounted to 0.02% and Council was reminded that Rushcliffe had the lowest Band D Council Tax in Nottinghamshire and was within the lowest 25% in the country. Thus, the Council played its part to assist those struggling with the challenge of living costs, keeping Rushcliffe taxes low and continuing to provide excellent services to its residents. 


The Mayor asked if Councillor Birch had a supplementary question.


Councillor Birch asked the Leader to justify to tax payers why it was necessary to spend £954 on an overnight stay for three people before giving a presentation at the shortlisting stage of the process.


Councillor Clarke informed Council that the expenses were incurred as this was the best way of attending to ensure that the presentation was delivered in the best possible way and that had resulted in the shortlisting and to the benefits already highlighted. 


Question from Councillor J Walker to Councillor Brennan.


“Considering the new appointment of this Council's Leader and his relationship with the Chair of scrutiny, how will this Council ensure there is transparency and rigour around our scrutiny process?” 


Councillor Brennan informed Council that the governance of the authority was dependent upon the integrity and robustness of processes it used to deliver its services, including its scrutiny process.


Proposed topics for scrutiny were put forward by Councillors or officers and the definition of scope of scrutiny as well as clear lines of enquiry and the driving factors behind the request must be clearly set out. Those were firstly considered by officers, as to whether it was a legitimate item for scrutiny, whether it would add value, and was it achievable within the available resources.  Only if the proposed scrutiny request met those standards would it be submitted to the Corporate Overview Group and would be published with the agenda. The Corporate Overview Group, which met quarterly was comprised of seven members, the Chairs and Vice Chairs of three scrutiny groups and an independent Chair. Three members of the Group were from opposition parties, with the Group supported by a senior officer.


Councillor Brennan confirmed that at each meeting, the submitted matrix was discussed, with the proposer of the matrix invited to speak, and officers explaining their recommendations and those meetings were open to the public, live streamed on YouTube and minuted. The vast majority of scrutiny work was undertaken by the Council’s three scrutiny groups, which were politically balanced, supported by senior managers, held in the public domain, minuted and live streamed on YouTube.


The Executive Model of Governance followed by the Council was clear that scrutiny should provide checks and balances to the Executive and hold it to account and the current Chair of the Corporate Overview Group, had held this role for several years before standing down from the role for one year to undertake the role of Mayor.  The nomination of Councillor Combellack had been agreed by all members of the Cabinet and was voted on by all Councillors at Annual Council, at which point no objections had been raised. No objections were raised at this point. Councillor Brennan concluded by stating that no woman should be prevented from holding a position of responsibility that they were qualified to hold by the position of their partner.


The Mayor asked if Councillor J Walker had a supplementary question.


Councillor J Walker clarified that the objection was to the appointment of the Leader of the Council rather than the Chair of the Corporate Overview Group and asked if the Council had sought advice from the Local Government Association in relation to his appointment.


Councillor Brennan confirmed that she would respond to the supplementary question in writing as she did not have the answer to hand.


c)        Question from Councillor Plant to Councillor J Wheeler.


“The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Scheme Action Plan states that there is already a Rushcliffe Youth Forum. What is the remit for this group?” 


Councillor J Wheeler informed Council that this Forum was led by Nottinghamshire County Council, which was responsible for its role and remit. The Youth Forum campaigned on issues relevant to young people and the communities they lived in.


The Mayor asked if Councillor Plant had a supplementary question.


Councillor Plant asked what support had taken place since the Cabinet decision in March 2023?


Councillor J Wheeler informed Council that the Service Manager – Corporate Services was leading on this project and had been building relationships with the new Chair of the Youth Forum, who had only been in post since the end of July, and Youth Services Officers at the County Council. It was early days yet, but the Cabinet was committed to engagement with the Youth Forum at the appropriate time.