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County Councillor Jill Waring
The Chairman informed the Council that Councillor Waring had been unwell for some time and wastherefore currently unable to attend meetings of the Council and its Committees. He therefore sought the approval of the Council for her continuing absence to be authorised for a further period of six months.
Resolved – That, in light of Councillor Jill Waring’s continuing ill health, and for the purposes of section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972, her continuing absence from Council meetings be authorised for a further period of six months.
Declarations of Interest under Standing Order 16
There were no declarations of interest on this occasion.
Resolved – That the minutes of the meeting of the County Council held on 20 July 2023 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
Honorary Alderman Edward Boden
The Chairman informed the Council of the recent death of Former County Councillor Eddie Boden.
Mr Boden represented both the former Cross Heath and Audley and Chesterton (Newcastle-under-Lyme) Electoral Divisions on the County Council from 1993 to 2009.
He served on a number of the Council’s Committees including the Regulatory Committee, Planning Committee, Standards Committee, Corporate Policy and Audit Scrutiny Committee and the Partnerships Scrutiny and Performance Panel.
Mr Boden served as Chairman of the County Council between May 2003 and May 2005 and was appointed as an Honorary Alderman upon his retirement from the Council in 2009.
Councillor Tagg paid tribute to the contribution made by Mr Boden during his service as a Member of the County Council and also whilst serving on Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council.
Former County Councillor John Russell
The Chairman also informed the Council of the death, on 5 August 2023, of former County Councillor John Alan Russell. Mr Russell represented the Stone Rural (Stafford) County Electoral Division from 1994 to 1997. He served on a number of the Council’s Committees including the Education Committee, Youth and Community Sub-Committee, Enterprise and Economic Development Committee, Planning Committee, Development Services Group Committee and the Policy and Resources Group Committee.
Councillor Parry paid tribute to the contribution made by Mr Russell during his service as a Member of the County Counciland also whilst serving on Stafford Borough Council and Barlaston Parish Council.
Members stood and observed a one-minute silence in memory of Mr Boden and Mr Russell.
Members’ Long Service Awards – Mike Worthington
The Chairman informed Members that, since 1985, the County Council had recognised the service of its Members who had completed 12 years (i.e. three full terms of office) through the presentation of a Long Service Award.
Mr Worthington first became a Member of the County Council in 2011 and had served on the Council since that date.
The Chairman invited Councillor Mike Worthington to come forward and receive his Long Service Award.
My first six months as Chairman
The Chairman informed the Council about his first six months as Chairman. He indicated that, in addition to the plethora of events he had been invited to by external organisations, from a Speech Day at Lichfield Cathedral School to the Armed Forces Parade in Newcastle under Lyme, his focus had very much been on recognising the valuable work of the County’s many volunteers. Over the past few months, he had taken the opportunity to visit a number of the County’s Libraries and had met with many of the voluntary groups which usedthe libraries as their base.
He added that plans were also well advanced to introduce “Unsung Heroes” afternoon teas in County Buildings to recognise the work of volunteers across the County. For the first afternoon tea, the Chairman had asked Members representing ... view the full minutes text for item 28.
In accordance with the County Councils’ petitions scheme, to consider the petition: Staffordshire County Council decision to take away valuable sports pitches and building.
Members were informed that,under the Council’s Petition Scheme, any petition that exceeded 5,000 valid signatures automatically triggered a debate at the next available Council meeting.
A petition had been received concerning development proposals for County Council owned land at Cherry Close, Chasetown, Burntwood. The petition consisted of an e-petitioncontaining over27,400 signatures.
Kieran Newey of the Midland Soccer Academy, on behalf of the petitioners, outlined the reasons for the petition which included:
· The Council’s proposals for the land would result in the Midland Soccer Academy becoming homeless.
· Players from the Academy could not be absorbed into other local teams as those teams were already at capacity.
· The Council’s proposals went against policies in the Local Plan in relation to access to openspaces and sport and recreation.
· The proposals would result in the loss of good quality football pitches.
· Other sites in Burntwood could be used to accommodate the Council’s proposed development.
· A suitable alternative site to which the Academy could relocate had not been found.
In responding to the petition, Councillor Deaville expressed his thanks to Mr Newey for bringing the petition to the County Council. He added that, together with partners, the County Council proposed to provide a state-of-the-art Health, Care and Nursing Complex on the site which was much needed and had been long-awaited in Burntwood. The development would provide massive benefits, not only to residents of Burntwood, but also the surrounding area. The Complex would consist of a new, modern General Practice and Community Health Facilityreducing the need for people to travel to hospital. The proposed development would also provide 70 individual homes for older people with associated care and support facilities. Councillor Deaville added that the County Council and Lichfield District Council had been working and would continue to work with the Midland Soccer Academy to find an alternative site for the Academy to enable them to continue the excellent work they did.
Councillor Hood indicated that, whilst sympathising with everything Councillor Deaville had said, there was still a need to provide green spaces for children and young people to be able to run about as this was crucial for their physical and mental health. She added that it was a real shame that the County Council was in a position that it needed to debate the competing demands for the site.
Councillor Jessel added that whilst she empathised with the Academy, its staff and the young people they served, it had been known for a long time that the site was due for redevelopment and was vacated from its original use in 2014. Since then, the site had been used by a number of different users on short-term leases/licences. She indicated that the Academy was on a 48 hour lease which meant that they, or the County Council, could terminate ... view the full minutes text for item 29.
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
The Leader of the Council presented a Statement outlining his recent work since the previous meeting of the Council.
Staffordshire Means Back to Business - Oral Update
(Paragraph 1 of the Statement)
Councillor Smith referred to the proposed developments in his Division including the provision of a facility with 30 electric vehicle charging points; the regional headquarters for a major company and a 10-acre site for hi-tech manufacturing.
Councillor Yates requested an update with regard to the Chatterley Valley site and, in particular, the delays in completing the ground works. In response, Councillor Philip White indicated that the sub-contractor undertaking the ground works had gone into administration and that the Council was working with the main contractor to secure a new sub-contractor to complete those works.
Councillor Winnington spoke about the recentannouncement by the Prime Minister that the second phase of HS2 between Birmingham and Manchester was to be cancelled. He also referred to the need for the Council to look to maximise the benefits which could be harvested in relation to the announcement of Government funding to support local transport schemes. Councillor Cox added that he supported Councillor Winnington’s comments on the need to look to maximise the benefits from any additional Government funding to support local transport schemes. Councillor Hood also spoke about the devastating impact of HS2 on her Division including the work which had been commenced to construct a railhead. In response, Councillor Philip White indicated that the County council had consistently opposed the construction of HS2 but that if the project did proceed, the Council was committed to extracting every ounce of economic benefit for Staffordshire and this remained the case. He welcomed the announcement of additional Government funding for local transport schemes and stated that he was awaiting the full details of what this would mean for Staffordshire.
Councillor Hussain referred to the closure of Wilkinsons stores across the UK and asked the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills that every effort was made to ensure that workers at the stores received their rightful pension, redundancy payments and a reliable safety net to avoid them falling into poverty. In response, Councillor Philip White indicated that Staffordshire had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the region with 1.6 vacancies for each person looking for employment, a large proportion of which were in retail. He added that a multi-agency group had been put together to support those employees affected by the closure of Wilkinsons and also the Amazon site in Rugeley.
Councillor Jessel spoke about the investment which had taken place along the A38 including the development at Branston Locks and the proposed upgrading of the interchange at Branston. Councillor Hudson also referred to prosed work to improve two junctions along the A50 in Uttoxeter.
Councillor Philip White referred to the Enjoy Staffordshire ... view the full minutes text for item 30.
(a) Proposed addition to the Scheme of delegation in relation to the Handling of S53 Applications under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
The Council’s approval was sought tothe granting of delegated authority to the Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Corporate Services to prioritise the making of Definitive Map Modification Orders in either of the following two instances.
i.an application has been the subject of court proceedings which has required the Council to obtain such a level of legal expertise and advice, that any potential delay in making an order might result, over time, in the loss of that knowledge, or
ii.routes may be affected by major projects, such as HS2.
In moving consideration of the recommendations contained in the report, Councillor Worthington suggested that, in the light of comments which had been madeabout the use of delegated powers by officers, the following recommendation be added to those contained in the report:
“(b) That the exercising of delegated authority by the Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Corporate Services be reported to the next available meeting of the Countryside and Rights of Way Panel.”
Resolved – (a) Thatthe following proposed addition to the Scheme of Delegation be approved, and that the Constitution and Scheme of Delegation be updated accordingly:
e. To prioritise the making of Definitive Map Modification Orders in circumstances where:
a. an application has been the subject of court proceedings which has required the Council to obtain such a level of legal expertise and advice, that any potential delay in making an order might result, over time, in the loss of that knowledge, or
b. routes may be affected by major projects, such as HS2.
(b) That the exercising of delegated authority by the Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Corporate Services be reported to the next available meeting of the Countryside and Rights of Way Panel.
(b) Potential Appointment of Independent Members to the Audit and Standards Committee / Review of the Audit and Standards Committee Terms of Reference
The Council’s approval was sought to:
(i)The Proposed Appointment of a Non-Voting co-opted Independent Member to the Audit and Standards Committee.
(ii) Proposed revised Terms of Reference for the Committee.
Members were informed that the option of appointing co-opted IndependentMembers to serve on the Audit & Standards Committee was in line with guidance produced by CIPFA within its 2022 ‘Position Statement: Audit Committees in Local Authorities and Police’.
Members also considered proposed revised terms of reference for the Audit and Standards Committee as contained in the CIPFA’s Publication - “Practical Guidance for Local Authorities and Police 2022 Edition.”
Resolved – (a) That section 11, Paragraph 25.1 of the Constitution be updated to show the membership of the Audit and Standards Committee to include one non-voting, co-opted independent member.
(b) That the ‘Governance and decision making’ section of the revised Terms of Reference include under the remit for ... view the full minutes text for item 31.
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
Councillor Yatesasked the following question of the Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport whose reply is set out below the question:-
As all Members are very much aware, roads around schools are plagued by excessive numbers of cars parked both illegally and inconsiderately around schools, creating an inconvenience to residents and a direct danger to the safety of our children. Given that current traffic management around schools is obviously not working, what new and innovative initiatives are being considered for introduction to resolve this issue?
Staffordshire County Council works with a range of partners to keep the roads around schools safe. Finding sustainable solutions to school parking challenges will require continued collaboration between School Travel Advisors, the School Crossing Patrol team, Road Safety Education Team and the Civil Enforcement Teams.? Ongoing engagement with schools is also essential, promoting active travel, educating pupils and asking parents to park considerately and safely. Current behaviour change initiatives include parking buddies, anti-idling and Pupil Parking Toolkits for schools.?
Where serious issues and complaints are received from schools, higher enforcement may be required, with police presence over a short period, supported by communications to parents.??The County Council has trialled enforcement by use of a camera car in East Staffordshire, which had mixed success and still requires Civil Enforcement Officer support to issue the Penalty Charge Notices (PCN).
The County Council can implement zero-minute observations for parking restrictions, where considered appropriate, such as where people are driving off during the observation period, however there is currently no progression of the PCN as the enforcement code (01) is not supported under the Traffic Management Act, so there is no follow-up when the driver does not pay.
We are also exploring bids to national funding pots to trial different ways of working, as well as learning from best practice across the Country. Bids to Active Travel England that include School Streets are welcomed and have the potential to secure funding.? They are being delivered by other local authorities, supported by Sustrans and Living Streets, and rely on the temporary removal of moving traffic outside school gates at drop-off and pick-up times, giving the street environment back to pedestrians for this short period within the day.?As yet, we haven’t delivered any School Streets in Staffordshire, but we are keen to discuss the idea with Councillors and identify schools where it could work.?
Finally, I would like to highlight that the Prosperous Overview and Scrutiny Committee is considering Civil Parking Enforcement at a future meeting which will provide a good opportunity to explore options for managing the areas around schools.
We currently have a situation where parents are following the school bus in their cars, adding to the congestion and pollution around our schools, as they live slightly outside the free bus catchment area and are unable to pay for vacant seats. What work is the Council undertaking to resolve this frustrating issue and, in the ... view the full minutes text for item 32.
An opportunity for Members to present and speak on petitions submitted by their constituents
(i) Request for a weight Restriction on Shaws Lane, Great Wyrley
Councillor Perry presented a petition from local residents requesting a weight restriction order along Shaws Lane, Great Wyrley to stop its use by HGV’s
(ii) Request for Safety Improvements Along Chester Road, Stonnall
Councillor Smith presented a petition from local residents requesting safety improvements along the junctions of Chester Road with Lazy Hill, Gravely Lane, Main Street and Downsgate, Stonnall.
(iii) Request for the Resurfacing of Chancery Drive, Hednesford
Councillor McMahon presented a petition from local residents requesting the resurfacing of Chancery Drive, Hednesford.