Agenda and draft minutes

County Council
Thursday, 19th December, 2019 10.00 am

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

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

Media

Items
No. Item

35.

Confirmation of the minutes of the Council meeting held on 10 October 2019 pdf icon PDF 499 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Mrs Woodward referred to an omission from the minutes in that, in consideration of paragraph 14 of the Leader’s Statement, she had enquired as to what progress was being made on the management of the Countryside Estate and Mrs Heath had replied that officers were continuing to talk to partners.  However, from a further discussion with Mr Winnington, it would appear that, as yet, partners were not being engaged.

 

RESOLVED – That, subject to the amendment detailed above, the minutes of the meeting of the County Council held on 10 October 2019 be confirmed and signed by the Chairman.

36.

Chairman's Correspondence

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

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Mrs Susan Woodward

 

The Chairman informed the Council that she had been notified by Mrs Woodward that she was to stand down as Principal Opposition Leader on the County Council with effect from 31 December 2019.  Members also noted that Mrs Woodward’s successor as Principal Opposition Leader is to be Cllr Charlotte Atkins and the Deputy Leader is to be Cllr Kyle Robinson. Mr Atkins paid tribute to Mrs Woodward for the valuable contribution she had made to the work of the Council during the three and a half years she had lead the Principal Opposition Group and wished her and her husband well for the future.

 

Honorary Alderman Dennis Heptonstall JP

 

The Council were also informed of the death, on 12 October 2019, of Honorary Alderman Dennis Heptonstall.

 

Mr Heptonstall was a Member of the Council from 1993 until 2005 and represented the former Burton Trent (East Staffordshire) County Electoral Division.

 

Mr Heptonstall served on a number of County Council Committees including the Social Services Scrutiny Committee, Staffordshire Health Scrutiny Committee (of which he was the Chairman) and the Regulatory and Audit Committee.  He also represented the Council on a number of “outside bodies” including the Staffordshire Police Authority and “Relate (East Staffordshire)”.

 

He was awarded Honorary Alderman status upon his retirement from the County Council in 2005.

 

Mr Atkins, Mr Brookes and Mr Clarke paid tribute to the contribution made by Mr Heptonstall during the time he served on the County Council.

 

Councillor Michael Greatorex

 

The Council noted the sad passing on 28 October 2019 of Councillor Michael Greatorex.

 

Mr Greatorex had represented the Watling South (Tamworth) County Electoral Division since his election to the County Council in May 2013.  He served on a number of the Council’s Committees including the Audit and Standards Committee, Healthy Staffordshire Select Committee (of which he was Vice-Chairman in 2015/16 and 2016/17), Corporate Parenting Panel, Charities and Trusts Committee and the Corporate Review Committee (of which he was Chairman in 2019).

 

He also represented the Council on a range of Outside Bodies including the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Authority.

 

Mr Greatorex served as Chairman of the County Council in 2017/18 and 2018/19.

 

The Chairman also read out a letter she had received from Mrs Greatorex expressing her thanks to Members for their support.

 

Mr Oates, Mrs Woodward, Mr Atkins, Mr Smith, Mr Hewitt, Mr Bryan Jones, Mr Sutton, Mr Philip White, Mr Hussain and Mr Deaville tribute to Mr Greatorex following which Members stood in silence in his memory.

 

By-election – Watling South

 

The Chairman, together with Mr Atkins and Mrs Woodward, welcomed Richard Ford to the Chamber and congratulated him on his recent election as the County Councillor representing the Watling South (Tamworth) County Electoral Division.

37.

Statement of the Leader of the Council pdf icon PDF 300 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

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Leader of the Council presented a Statement outlining his recent work since the previous meeting of the Council.

 

Local Government Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) Investigation resulting in a Formal Report

(Paragraph 4 of the Statement)

 

In response to a question from Mrs Woodward, Mr Atkins indicated that she could rest assured that the recommendations contained within the Ombudsman’s report had been enacted.

 

Integrated Performance Report - Quarter 2, 2019/20

(Paragraph 5 of the Statement)

In response to a question from Mr Robinson in relation to the overspend in Children’s Services at the end of both Quarter 1 and Quarter 2 and whether the Council would be lobbying Central Government for an adequate level of funding, Mr Sutherland and Mr Atkins confirmed that an overspend in this service area was anticipated but the Council would still achieve a balanced budget at the end of the financial year.  Mr Atkins also referred to proposals to transform Children’s Services in Staffordshire to provide additional support for families with a view to reducing the number of children who need to be taken into care.

 

Staffordshire County Council Property Strategy

(Paragraph 6 of the Statement)

 

Mrs Woodward urged Members who had not already done so, to read the confidential report on issues within the Strategic Property Function which had recently been considered by the Audit and Standards Committee.

 

Mr Tagg welcomed the Strategy but expressed concern at the lack of references to the value of input from local members who were often best placed to speak on behalf of local communities.

 

In response, Mr Deaville stated that he would take on board the comments made by Mrs Woodward and Mr Tagg.  He added that the Strategy would improve transparency on property matters; give best value, meet the needs of residents and supports regeneration and economic growth.  Mr Atkins also indicated that in respect of matters before the Property Sub-Committee for consideration, the relevant local members would be invited to the meeting and/or submit their comments for the Sub-Committee’s consideration.

 

Schools Capital Programme 2019/20

(Paragraph 7 of the Statement)

 

In welcoming the Programme, Mr Philip White referred to the proposals to build six new Primary Schools, one new First School and to extend four Secondary Schools and also the proposed maintenance programme for existing schools in the County.

 

Mrs Clements welcomed the proposal to build a new Primary School at Anker Valley in Tamworth and the expansion of two Secondary Schools so as to provide additional school places in Tamworth. Mr Greatorex also welcomed the proposals for improvements at Nether Stowe Secondary School and the provision of an additional two primary schools in Lichfield.

 

Mr Bryan Jones referred to the recent opening of the Poppyfield Primary Academy in the Hednesford and Rawnsley Division which had been constructed as part of a large housing development in the area.

 

Mrs Woodward referred to the pressures on the budget for the maintenance of existing schools, particularly the older Victorian ones.  She also stated that the condition of school  ...  view the full minutes text for item 37.

38.

Recommendations to the Council - Revisions to the Members’ Code of Conduct and Standards Complaints System pdf icon PDF 262 KB

Report of the Audit and Standards Committee

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Council were informed that the Audit and Standards Committee had recently reviewed the Members’ Code of Conduct and the Standards Complaints System in the light of a Report by the Committee for Standards in Public Life (CSPL) on their Review of Ethical Standards in Local Government.

 

The CSPL made 26 recommendations covering all aspects of the Standards Regime applied to Local Government.  For the County Council the recommendations were most relevant in the following three areas:

 

·         Use of Social Media - The Audit and Standards Committee supported the inclusion of an additional General Undertaking in the Members’ Code of Conduct, the publication of guidelines for members on the use of social media and the adoption of criteria for use by the Monitoring Officer when assessing complaints about information posted on social media by members.

 

·         Declarations of ‘Other Interests’ - Acknowledging the CSPL recommendations that local authorities in the same geographical area should endeavour to achieve consistency amongst their Codes of Conduct, the Audit and Standards Committee agreed to the extension of the current Code to cover general pecuniary interests and to include a section on ‘Other Interests’ as referred to in the Localism Act 2011. These related to membership of organisations, whether as the Councils representative or through personal interest.  These additional Declarations would require minor changes to the Council’s Procedural Order no. 16. A general advice note will be made available to members on declaring these additional interests

 

·         The process for considering alleged breaches of the Code and the sanctions available - The first meeting of a Standards Panel to consider a complaint against an elected member took place in Spring 2019. It highlighted the need to better define the stages and actions involved in that process. Consequently, proposed revisions were supported by the Audit and Standards Committee as were suggested additional sanctions for cases where the Code was found to have been breached.

 

Mr Tittley referred to the “use of social media” and requested Members to think carefully about their usage as this was an area which tended to generate complaints about Members’ conduct.

 

The Council were also informed that the CSPL report suggested that to ensure full independence, Independent Persons (IPs) should only serve for a 2 year period. However, the Audit and Standards Committee felt that the current practice of having a 4 year term of office, renewable once, should continue. In reaching this view the Committee felt that 2 years did not provide sufficient opportunity for IPs to develop their knowledge and understanding of the Standards Regime and political context to be able to make a meaningful contribution to discussions on complaints.

 

The Council were also informed that, at present IPs were consulted by the Monitoring Officer on if/how a complaint against an elected member should be taken forward.  The IP had no formal involvement in the later stages on the complaints process.  The Audit and Standards Committee agreed with the CSPL recommendations that the IPs views should contribute to the formal decision making  ...  view the full minutes text for item 38.

39.

Access to Information Rules - Special Urgency Notices pdf icon PDF 185 KB

Report of the Leader of the Council

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Council noted that, in accordance with the Access to Information Rules contained within the County Council’s Constitution, the Leader of the Council is required to submit quarterly reports to the Council detailing those key decisions taken by the Cabinet where it had not been possible to give the requisite 28 days public notice of the intention to take such a decision.  Similarly, where a decision being taken by or on behalf of the Cabinet is urgent and any delay likely to be caused by the call-in process would seriously prejudice the Council’s or the public’s interests or the interests of any person(s) to whom the decision relates, then the Leader of the Council may seek the approval of the Chairman of the Corporate Review Committee to that decision being exempt from call-in.  A report on the use of this procedure must be submitted to Council on a quarterly basis.

 

Members were informed that the Cabinet, at their meeting on 4 December 2019, took a key decision relating to the sale of the former Meadows School site in Biddulph. As it had not been possible to give the requisite 28 days public notice of the intention to take the decision, the Special Urgency powers referred to above were utilised.  In addition, in order to achieve the completion of the sale prior to the calendar year end, the approval of the Chairman of the Corporate Review Committee was sought to the decision being exempt from call-in.

 

RESOLVED – That the use of the special urgency and exemption from call-in provisions contained in the Council’s Constitution in respect of the Cabinet’s decision on 4 December 2019 on the sale of the former Meadows School site in Biddulph, be noted.

40.

Report of the Chairman of the Staffordshire Police, Fire and Crime Panel pdf icon PDF 213 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Mr Flunder referred to issues relating to the old Police Station in Blythe Bridge and expressed the hope that a solution would be found to enable the building’s use as a community asset.  In response, Mr Sweeney stated that he would raise the matter with the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner at the next meeting of the Panel on 3 February 2020.

 

RESOLVEDThat the report be received.

41.

Questions pdf icon PDF 189 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:

Mr Robinson asked the following question of the Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport whose reply is set out below the question:-

 

Question

 

Given the severe flooding experienced by residents of Staffordshire in 2019, what plan of action has been put in place by Staffordshire County Council to avoid repeat occurrences and what further funding has been committed to drain clearance and repairs?

 

Reply

 

I hope you are aware that this autumn has been England’s fifth wettest Autumn since records began, with Staffordshire experiencing 170% higher rainfall than the 1981-2010 average.

 

Rural areas in particular have suffered the effects of saturated ground conditions, resulting in significant amounts of water running-off from surrounding land, discharging onto roads and silting up the highway drainage systems.

 

However, flooding is only one effect of poor weather conditions and a balance has to be struck with other operational matters, like fallen trees that also present a significant risk to highway users.

 

Our highway teams have worked tirelessly, around the clock and often in very poor weather conditions, responding to incidents to help keep us all safe and on the move as quickly as possible.

 

The information we collect about localised areas of flooding is routinely captured and used to inform our future cyclical gully cleansing programmes and to also help establish priorities for improvements to highway drainage systems.

 

Next year’s highway capital investment programme is currently being developed for Cabinet approval in April. This will include a 4th year of £5m/year continued extra investment from the County Council, since 2017/18. A proportion of this money will again be targeted towards highway drainage improvements.

 

However, it’s also important to bear in mind that many cases of highway flooding is actually a direct symptom of local Water Authority carrier systems and/or watercourses simply being unable to accommodate the high volume of rain fall and run-off. Information on these locations is also shared with the local Water Companies and/or Environment Agency for their own respective improvement programmes.

42.

Petitions

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

Additional documents:

Minutes:

(a) Request for a reduction in the Speed Limit along the A5 at Weston Under Lizard

 

Mr Sutton presented a petition from local residents requesting a reduction in the speed limit from 40 mph to 30 mph along the A5 at Weston-under-Lizard.

 

(b) Request for a Pedestrian Crossing on Heath Way, Hawks Green, Cannock

 

Mr Hewitt presented a petition from local residents requesting a Pedestrian Crossing with traffic lights on Heath Way, Hawks Green, Cannock.

 

 

 

 

Chairman