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Declarations of Interest under Standing Order 16
The following Member declared an interest in accordance with Standing Order 16.5:-
RESOLVED – That the minutes of the meeting of the County Council held on 19 December 2019 be confirmed and signed by the Chairman.
The Chairman will mention a range of recent items of news which may be of interest to Members
Joint report of the Leader of the Council and the Cabinet Member for Finance outlining how the Council will finance its operations over the next five years and recommending a budget to the Council for 2020/21.
NOTE: Members are reminded that, under Section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, if they are two months or more in arrears with their Council Tax it is an offence for them to vote on the budget. Members are also required to disclose at the meeting the fact that this Section applies to them.
The Council received a joint report by the Leader of the Council and the Cabinet Member for Finance on the Strategic Plan and Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) 20020/25 and 2020/21 Budget and Council Tax proposals.
Mr Sutherland expressed his thanks to the County Treasurer and those other members of staff who had assisted in the development of the MTFS, the Chairman and Members of the Corporate Review Committee’s Medium Term Financial Strategy Working Group for the robust manner in which they had challenged and questioned Cabinet Members during their scrutiny of the MTFS/budget proposals, and also to his Cabinet colleagues and Members of the Senior Leadership Team.
Introducing the report, Mr Sutherland explained that the Strategic Plan was the primary document that shaped the financial plans and the Corporate Delivery Plan. Developed and delivered in tandem, they were supported by a range of directorate, service and team plans across the council. The Plan had been refreshed and contained the following five priority areas:
· Help Staffordshire’s Economy to grow and generate more good jobs.
· Invest in Infrastructure for growing communities.
· Improve education and training so that life-long learning offers everyone the opportunity to succeed.
· Inspire healthy, independent living.
· Support more families and children to look after themselves, stay safe and well.
Mr Sutherland indicated that these were unprecedented times with the Council having to meet the huge and increasing financial pressures from adult social care and children’s services, with reduced funding from Central Government. He added that, in 2019/20 the Council had managed to balance its budget for 2019/20 and the MTFS overall by closing an initial gap of around £35m each year. The cost reduction options included in this balanced position were not without risk and the achievement of them had been monitored closely throughout this year.
Members noted that in order to continue to provide social care to the most vulnerable people in our communities, as well as continuing to provide a range of services that residents and businesses demand albeit on a reduced basis, the Council had to make some extremely difficult decisions about what it could continue to fund. Mr Sutherland added that it was interesting to note that 10 years ago the council spent around £200m on adults and children care services. For 2020/21 this figure exceeds £320m. The Council was continuing to lobby Government on the critical need for more money for social care and for the sector to return to the arrangements of financial settlements covering a 3 or 4 year period to aid in financial planning.
Mr Sutherland explained that Cabinet proposed a net revenue budget of £479.595 million for 2020/21 giving a Council Tax requirement of £370.977million. With regard to Council tax, Members were informed that Staffordshire County Council had the third lowest council tax level amongst counties in England. This position demonstrated the careful consideration that the council had taken regarding the level of tax demand placed on residents. However, this did restrict the level of funding required to pay ... view the full minutes text for item 46.
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
HS2 Gets Green Light
While the Prime Minister’s announcement that HS2 will go ahead may not have been the news many wanted to hear, including here in Staffordshire, it does bring to an end years of uncertainty surrounding the future of the scheme.
From the outset our priority has been to get the best deal for this county and our communities in terms of mitigation, meaningful compensation, a share of any economic benefits and the offer of swifter, shorter rail journeys for Staffordshire residents.
In Phase One we secured some significant wins including the lowering of 8km of the line in Lichfield and the inclusion of the Handsacre Link in the Hybrid Bill to allow Staffordshire and neighbouring areas to access HS2 compatible trains via Stafford, improving connectivity to both the North and South
Although the Oakervee Review has recommended not proceeding with the link, to be clear this would require fresh legislation, would lead to further delays and legal challenges, Not to mention that in response to a question by Bill Cash MP, Boris Johnson gave his personal backing to Handsacre this week.
We welcome the Government’s commitment to keep a tighter rein on the scheme, including the appointment of a dedicated HS2 Minister. And while the future of High Speed Rail was never in this council’s gift we will remain focused on ensuring the voice of Staffordshire continues to be heard loud and clear along every step of the 45 miles that HS2 will now definitely run through this county.
Improving the Emotional Health and Wellbeing of Children and Young People in Staffordshire
Mrs Atkins enquired as to how the new contracts for the Emotional Health and Wellbeing services would be integrated with the “School Traiblazers”. In response, Mr Flunder indicated that an All Party Working Group was looking at the “Trailblazers” project and would be reporting their findings to Cabinet in due course.
Mrs Edgeller informed the Council of the responses she had received from a group of looked after children when she met them recently and asked them about the negative and positive things which impacted on their mental health. She also asked Members to check with their local schools as to whether they provided a “quiet room” and also a dedicated individual children could talk to about mental health issues.
Mrs Woodward expressed concern that schools were not embedded in the Emotional Health and Wellbeing strategy. In response, Mr Sutton indicated that the Strategy aimed to ensure that children and young people could live independently and well and that their aspirations were met. He added that the model hade been developed jointly by the County Council and Clinical Commissioning Groups, with input from the young people themselves and also Scrutiny. Mr Sutton also explained ... view the full minutes text for item 47.
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
Mrs Atkins asked the following question of the Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport whose reply is set out below the question:-
What progress has been made in reviewing the provision of school crossing patrols throughout the County? How many posts are currently vacant and where are they located? How many mobile patrols are presently being employed to cover vacancies?
A full review of the School Crossing Patrol (SCP) service was carried out in 2018/2019 to inform MTFS saving proposals. Further to consideration of feedback from consultations with schools, communities and staff, the decision was made not to implement the MTFS savings and to continue with the service on a business as usual basis.
Each SCP site is routinely assessed against national criteria on a biennial basis and, in addition, each site is reviewed when the incumbent Patrol has resigned or retired.
Despite community support for the service, it is often difficult to recruit to vacancies. The number of vacancies fluctuate on a week by week basis but there are currently 32 across Staffordshire (specifically at the locations listed below).
There are currently 12 Mobile Relief Patrols who are deployed on a priority basis across the county to cover predominantly short term and emergency absences of the regular Patrols. Recruitment is currently taking place to increase the number of Mobile Patrols to 15.
Schools are contacted by the SCP service to inform them of any absences and/or vacancies on their local Patrol points, so that parents and carers can be made aware.
In order to promote recruitment to vacancies as they arise, the SCP service utilise a Facebook page and have issued the Mobile Relief team with tabards especially designed to make local communities aware of the vacancy.
Current vacancies as at 07/02/2020
Newcastle and Moorlands
A410 Priory Road/Abbot's Way Newcastle
A315a Pepper St, Silverdale
A435 Knutton Lane / Ashfields New Road, Newcastle
A437 Church Lane, Wolstanton
A614 Alexandra Road, Wolstanton
A614a Alexandra Road, Wolstanton
A491 Leek Road, Church Lane, Endon
A429 - Loggerheads, Newcastle Rd
A606a - Clayton Lane, Clayton High School, Newcastle
A436 Seabridge Lane/Roe Lane Clayton
A541 Wallbridge Drive Leek
A464 Spring Gardens/Burton Street, Leek
Mobile Relief Patrol - Leek
A423 High St Maybank jct Upper Marsh (Zebra]
A423a High St Maybank jct Upper Marsh (Zebra]
Cannock, Rugeley and South Staffs
B386a - Cannock Rd, Penkridge (canal bridge)
B386 - Wolgarston Way, Penkridge
B387a - Marsh Lane, Penkridge
B072 - The Parkway, Perton
378b - Walsall Rd, Norton Canes, for Jerome Primary
B371 New Penkridge Rd, Hatherton
Mobile relief x 2
Stafford and Lichfield
D155 Great Haywood
D161 St Leonards Primary, Stafford
D524 St Filumena's, Caverswall
Tamworth and Burton
E1 Branston Road/All saints Road, Burton-upon-Trent
E021 Church Hill St/Eldon St, Winshill
E206 Main St, Yoxall
E216 Holly Road, Uttoxeter
Mobile Relief - Burton-upon-Trent
From your answer, it would appear that the review of the impact of the changes to school crossing patrol provision has not happened and I would ask ... view the full minutes text for item 48.
An opportunity for Members to present and speak on petitions submitted by their constituents
(a) Request for repairs to Chapel Street, Butt Lane
Mr Robinson presented a petition from local residents requesting the immediate repair of Chapel Street, Butt Lane.