Agenda and draft minutes

County Council
Thursday, 19th March, 2020 10.00 am

Venue: Council Chamber, County Buildings, Stafford. View directions

Contact: Mike Bradbury.  Email: michael.bradbury@staffordshire.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

50.

Appointment of Chairman

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Mr Atkins moved, Mrs Atkins seconded, and it was:

 

RESOLVED – That, in the absence of both the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the County Council, Mr Parry be appointed as Chairman for the Meeting.

51.

Declarations of Interest under Standing Order 16

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The following Members declared interests in accordance with Standing Order 16.5:-

 

Member

Minute Nos.

Interest

Reason

Mark Winnington

56

Personal

Chairman of West Midlands Rail

Ben Adams

57

Personal

Staffordshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Candidate

Susan Woodward

59

Personal

Resident of Ironstone Road, Chase Terrace

 

52.

Confirmation of the minutes of the Council meeting held on 13 February 2020 pdf icon PDF 378 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RESOLVED – That the minutes of the meeting of the County Council held on 13 February 2020 be confirmed and signed by the Chairman.

53.

Chairman's Correspondence

The Chairman will mention a range of recent items of news which may be of interest to Members

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no items of Chairman’s Correspondence on this occasion.

54.

Statement of the Leader of the Council pdf icon PDF 204 KB

The Leader will inform the Council about his work and his plans for the Council, and will give an overview of decisions taken by the Cabinet (and Portfolio Holders) since the previous meeting of the Council

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Minutes:

The Leader of the Council presented a Statement outlining his recent work since the previous meeting of the Council.  In introducing his statement, the Leader also informed the Council of the following additional matters:

 

Committee and other Member Meetings during the Coronavirus Pandemic

 

“In order to make sure we are following the Government’s advice, I am reviewing which meetings we need and which we can manage without over the coming months. What I am proposing is that:

 

We categorise our meetings into essential, desirable and non-essential:

 

·         The essential meetings (Cabinet, Property Sub and Full Council) will continue to meet unless cancelled by the Leader or Chair due to lack of essential and urgent business.

·         The desirable meetings (which includes our Scrutiny committees) will only meet where the Chair considers it necessary in order to conduct essential and urgent business.

·         The non-essential meetings (Schools Forum, SACRE etc) will be postponed until further notice.

·         We will run our meetings with bare quorums, and no Member will be expected to attend if they fall into the 3 vulnerable categories.

 

I am sure Members will understand the need for these changes in the current circumstances, and I will obviously keep the arrangements under review in light of emerging government advice and I will consult with the Opposition as appropriate.”

 

Coronavirus COVID-19

 

The Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Health, Care and Wellbeing also made a statement on the Covid-19 Pandemic and the County Council’s and Central Government’s response thereto, a copy of which is attached as Annex A to the minutes.

 

Mrs Atkins thanked the Deputy Leader for his statement and said that this was an unprecedented national crisis during peace time.  She enquired as to how long people could be expected to self-isolate to keep themselves safe; how the Council could ensure that the efforts of the volunteer groups which were springing-up were not duplicated?  She also expressed the hope that the County Council would work closely with the borough and district councils to tackle the issues which arose and that the lessons learnt could be utilised to help communities in Staffordshire in the future, for example, through different ways of working. 

 

Staffordshire Library Service 2020-2025

(Paragraph 5 of the Statement)

 

Mrs Woodward referred to the cleaning contracts for the Council’s community managed libraries and expressed the concern that, although members of the controlling group had been briefed on the arrangements, that information had not be shared with members of the opposition group.  She requested that opposition members be kept informed when changes to services were to take place.  She also enquired as to what measures were being put in place to monitor the performance of the contractor.  In response, Mr Winnington indicated that County Council staff would be working with the volunteers in the community managed libraries to ensure that the services provided by the contractor were to an appropriate standard.

 

Integrated Performance Report 2019/20 - Quarter 3

(Paragraph 7 of the Statement)

 

Mrs Atkins enquired as to what assessment had been  ...  view the full minutes text for item 54.

55.

Recommendations to the Council pdf icon PDF 183 KB

(a)  Pay Policy Statement 2020/21 - Section 38 of the Localism Act 2011

 

(b)  Members’ Allowances Scheme - Independent Remuneration Panel Report

Additional documents:

Minutes:

 

(a)          Pay Policy Statement 2020/21 - Section 38 of the Localism Act 2011

 

The Council were informed that it was a legal requirement of the Localism Act 2011 for the County Council to have a Pay Policy statement which must be published annually before 31 March.

 

Mrs Woodward referred to the lease car subsidy available to some senior officers as part of their contract of employment and enquired as to whether there had been any consideration as to the environmental impacts of the policy and whether all officers who were eligible claimed the subsidy.  In response, Mr Atkins indicated that he did not have the detailed information to hand and would therefore respond to Mrs Woodward in writing and would ensure that all Members of the Council received a copy of the response.

 

RESOLVEDThat the Pay Policy Statement for 2020/21 (as set out in Annex A to the report) be approved.

 

Note by Clerk:  Mr Dudson abstained from voting on the recommendation.

 

(b)          Members’ Allowances Scheme - Independent Remuneration Panel Report

 

Members were informed that the County Council was required to establish and maintain an Independent Remuneration Panel to provide advice and recommendations to the Council on its Members’ Allowances Scheme.  Any decisions on the nature and level of allowances were a matter for the Full Council, but the Council must have regard to any recommendations submitted by the Independent Remuneration Panel before establishing or amending the Members’ Allowances Scheme. The Panel met annually to consider the recommendations to be made to the Council in respect of the level and nature of the forthcoming year’s allowances.

 

As part of their deliberations this year, the Panel proposed that, in line with normal practice, Members’ Allowances be increased by 2% in line with the employee pay award for 2019-20.  The Panel also expressed the view that the Planning Committee Chairman’s Special Responsibility Allowance should remain at the same relative level, providing that they were also the Chairman of the Countryside and Rights of Way Panel.  The Panel did not propose any other changes to the Members’ Allowances Scheme.

 

Mr Dudson expressed the view that the workload of the Countryside and Rights of Way Panel was such that it should be treated as a separate Committee of the Council and not as a “sub-committee” of the Planning Committee.  In response, Mr Atkins suggested that Mr Dudson should write to the Independent Remuneration Panel setting out his views

 

Mrs Atkins referred to the remuneration paid to Community Cabinet Support Members and expressed that, some were proactive and performed well and others less so.  She enquired as to how the Leader of the Council intended to ensure that there was a more consistent approach to the role and how their effectiveness would be assessed.  In response, Mr Atkins indicated that a new job description/specification was being prepared for the role with clear guidelines on the approach to be adopted.

 

Mrs Trowbridge extended her thanks to the members of the Independent Remuneration Panel  ...  view the full minutes text for item 55.

56.

Notices of Motion

Mr Atkins to move the following motion:

 

“Now that the Prime Minister has given the go ahead for HS2, at the very least this brings an end to years of uncertainty for our communities.

 

From the outset as a county council, while opposing HS2, we have been committed to getting the best deal for Staffordshire if HS2 gained Parliamentary approval, and our resolve to achieve this remains as strong and as firm as ever.

 

Therefore, this council moves that we now:

 

(i)    Work constructively with the Government and HS2 Ltd to mitigate the impact on Staffordshire, our communities and our diverse natural landscape.

 

(ii)   Welcome the appointment of a new dedicated HS2 Minister.

 

(iii)  Ensure that Staffordshire shares in any economic benefits from HS2.

 

(iv)  Ensure that Staffordshire benefits from improved connectivity and access to HS2 including compatible trains via Stafford.

 

(v)   Continue to work closely with our strategic transport partners to ensure that Staffordshire benefits from an integrated approach to connectivity across the region.”

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Mr Atkins moved, and Mr Winnington seconded, the following motion:

 

“Now that the Prime Minister has given the go ahead for HS2, at the very least this brings an end to years of uncertainty for our communities.

 

From the outset as a county council, while opposing HS2, we have been committed to getting the best deal for Staffordshire if HS2 gained Parliamentary approval, and our resolve to achieve this remains as strong and as firm as ever.

 

Therefore, this council moves that we now:

 

(i)    Work constructively with the Government and HS2 Ltd to mitigate the impact on Staffordshire, our communities and our diverse natural landscape.

 

(ii)   Welcome the appointment of a new dedicated HS2 Minister.

 

(iii)  Ensure that Staffordshire shares in any economic benefits from HS2.

 

(iv)  Ensure that Staffordshire benefits from improved connectivity and access to HS2 including compatible trains via Stafford.

 

(v)   Continue to work closely with our strategic transport partners to ensure that Staffordshire benefits from an integrated approach to connectivity across the region.”

 

Mr Atkins indicated that this was the third Notice of Motion brought to the Council in respect of HS2 and would enable the Council to talk to HS2 to get the best mitigation possible for the communities which would be affected.

 

Mrs Atkins stated that the County Council had no alternative but to work with the Government on HS2 and that it would be years before HS2 would bring any economic benefits to the West Midlands and the North of England.  She added that there were a number of other projects which were “shovel ready” which would improve local commuter routes, remove bottlenecks and make a real difference to the local economy.  However, such schemes were likely to be starved of cash due to the imperative to proceed with HS2.  She there stressed the need to impress on Government the need to invest in local commuter routes to end the daily misery of commuters.

 

Mr Pert indicated his support for the motion and expressed his concern at the impact on the local community of the proposed railhead at Yarnfield, particularly during its construction phase which would see 2,500 lorries per day using the local highway network.  He urged the Council to lend its support to seeking the relocation of the proposed railhead.   Mrs Hood added that she shared the concerns expressed by Mr Pert in relation to the proposed railhead and its impact on Yarnfield, Stone and the surrounding area.  She requested that the Council to use its influence with the MP’s representing constituencies in Staffordshire to press for the relocation of the proposed railhead.

 

Mr Francis indicated his support for the motion and added that he welcomed the news that the Handsacre Junction was to go ahead as this would lead to new employment opportunities in Stafford, Stoke and Crewe.  He also indicated that he still believed that the HS2 project was fundamentally flawed and that the funding for the scheme could be better spent on other  ...  view the full minutes text for item 56.

57.

Report of the Chairman of the Staffordshire Police, Fire and Crime Panel pdf icon PDF 276 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Mr Adams suggested that the Council should offer its support to the Emergency Services in respect of the additional pressures on them as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Mrs Woodward urged Members to respond to the current consultation document on “Have your say” on the future direction of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on Trent Fire and Rescue Service.

 

RESOLVEDThat the report be received.

58.

Questions pdf icon PDF 178 KB

Questions to be asked by Members of the County Council of the Leader of the Council, a Cabinet Member, or a Chairman of a Committee.  The question will be answered by the relevant Member and the Member asking the question may then ask a follow up question which will also be answered

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Mrs Woodward asked the following question of the Leader of the Council whose reply is set out below the question:-

 

Question

 

Following the County Council’s recent social media campaign recognising the ‘inspirational’ contributions of women to life in Staffordshire, will the Leader now commit to ensuring that the default form of address for all members, male and female, is the title ‘Councillor plus surname’ rather than the discriminatory use of ‘Mr’ for male councillors and ‘Miss, Mrs or Ms’ for female councillors?

 

Reply

 

I applaud the inspirational contributions of women to society and life in Staffordshire.

 

The proper title is County Councillor not Councillor.

 

On your election ballot paper, you can choose how you are known.

 

When officers are contacted by members of the public calling themselves councillor, to avoid confusion with parish and district councillors, a convention of preferred title or first name was adopted.

 

So, I would refer to myself as Philip Atkins, County Councillor for Uttoxeter Rural, and might be addressed in return as Mr Atkins or county councillor in any reply by an officer, as they may feel uncomfortable in addressing me by my first name.

 

This also avoids confusion where members have the same name, with for example County Councillor Charlotte Atkins

 

Supplementary Question

 

I think the use of the term “Councillor” would be more formal and appropriate in this Chamber.  When is the Leader going to consider the wishes of Members who do not wish to be referred to as Ms, Miss or Mrs?

 

Reply

 

I refer to my written answer.

 

Mrs Atkins asked the following question of the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People whose reply is set out below the question:-

 

Question

 

What plans does the County Council have to increase per - pupil funding to special schools in line with the increase in mainstream school funding?

 

Reply

 

In 2020/21 special school budgets have been set in line with rises recently approved for all maintained schools next year, i.e. an increase in the underlying lump sum factor to £114,000 (up from £90,000 in 2019/20), a minimum funding guarantee of 1.84% (significantly higher than the MFG set by Government of 0%) and no capping of gains.

 

As Government set the amount for planned places, any increase providers receive will be through the top up rates and, in particular, the specific School Adjustment Rate to ensure that, on a like for like basis, all schools receive an overall funding increase next year of at least 1.84% (note: the average increase in school funding is estimated to be around 2.3%). Individual school budgets for 2020/21 were confirmed at the end of February and will be regularly updated going forward to reflect changes in the school roll arising throughout the year.

 

Supplementary Question

 

I’m being told by Special Schools that they are not effectively getting an increase in their budgets.  There appears to be some confusion over this and there obviously needs to be clarification.  I’d be grateful if you could clarify the confusion?

 

Reply  ...  view the full minutes text for item 58.

59.

Petitions

An opportunity for Members to present and speak on petitions submitted by their constituents

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Flooding in Ironstone Road, Chase Terrace

 

Mrs Woodward presented a petition from residents of Ironstone Road, Chase Terrace, requesting the Council to find an effective long-term solution to the flooding issues between the road’s junctions with Biddulph Park and Kingsdown Road.

 

 

 

Chairman

ANNEX A

 

Coronavirus COVID-19

 

Background

 

1)        In December 2019 we began to hear reports of a new coronavirus that had emerged in the city of Wuhan in China. Coronaviruses are common: they are one of the viruses that cause the common cold. This new virus appears to cause more serious illness, especially in the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions. The illness has been named COVID-19.

 

2)        It spreads via the respiratory route. Infected people produce droplets when they cough or sneeze, these can be breathed in by others who are in close proximity, or contaminate surfaces and then be picked up on others hands and transferred to the mouth, nose and eyes. As it is a new virus, no-one is immune and everyone is susceptible. It has already spread to 146 countries around the world.

 

3)        There are over 200,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 7,500 deaths globally. In the UK there are over 2,000 confirmed cases and 100 deaths, including 10 confirmed cases in Staffordshire. The number of cases is increasing day by day. Note that in addition to the confirmed cases there will be many more cases that will not have been diagnosed.

 

4)        The government is planning for a ‘worst case’ scenario under which 80% of the population contracts the coronavirus over the next few months. Of these about half would have no symptoms and the majority would have a mild illness.

 

5)        However a significant proportion might require hospitalisation, and up to 1% might die, with the risk of complications and death highest in the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions. We are still learning about the virus so whilst we are planning for the ‘worst case’ scenario we don’t know for sure how many cases there will be.

 

UK response

 

6)        The government has development a coronavirus COVID-19 action plan which includes three phases, contain, delay and mitigate, with research throughout to learn more about the virus. We are currently in the delay phase. The aim is to push cases into the summer months and distribute them over a longer period to reduce the pressure on NHS, social care services and wider society.

 

7)        To achieve this the government is rolling out a series of control measures to create ‘social distancing: reducing contact between infected people and the rest of the population, and especially between infected people and the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions.

 

8)        People with symptoms of COVID-19 are being asked to stay at home and self-isolate for seven days. The main symptoms are a new, persistent cough and/or a fever above 37.8C. If they live with other people then the whole household is being asked to stay at home for 14 days.

 

9)        Everyone else  ...  view the full minutes text for item 59.