|Date:||Wednesday 18 May 2016||Time:||6.00pm||Place:||(First Business Meeting), Shield Room, Civic Centre, West Paddock, Leyland, PR25 1DH|
|Present:||Cllr Mrs L R Woollard (Mayor),
Cllr Mrs A A Ball, Cllr Ms J Bell, Cllr W L Bennett, Cllr Mrs R N Blow, Cllr C J Clark, Cllr C Coulton, Cllr M D Donoghue, Cllr W Evans, Cllr D B Forrest, Cllr P A Foster, Cllr Mrs M Green, Cllr M A Green, Cllr Miss C D Hamilton, Cllr H G Hancock, Cllr J Hesketh, Cllr J M Higgins, Cllr D Howarth, Cllr J C Hughes, Cllr K E L Jones, Cllr Mrs S Jones, Cllr J D Marsh, Cllr K J Martin, Cllr Ms E J Mawson, Cllr Mrs C J Moon, Cllr Mrs J A Mort, Cllr P Mullineaux, Cllr Mrs B A B Nathan, Cllr M Nathan, Cllr M R Nelson, Cllr Mrs R J Noblet, Cllr A F Ogilvie, Cllr J Patten, Cllr J Rainsbury, Cllr Mrs M R Smith, Cllr P J Smith, Cllr Mrs S C Snape, Cllr D H Suthers, Cllr M J Titherington, Cllr C W Tomlinson, Cllr M V Tomlinson, Cllr J G Walton, Cllr Mrs K Walton, Cllr I D Watkinson, Cllr P J H Wharton, Cllr J L Woodcock, Cllr D Wooldridge, Cllr B Yates
|In attendance:||The Chief Executive (Mike Nuttall), the Director of Corporate Governance and Business Transformation (Ian Parker) and Democratic Services Officer (Dave Lee)|
Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Councillors Bird and Watts.
Declarations of Interest
There were no declarations of interest.
Minutes of the Last Meeting held on 30 March, 27 April and 11 May 2016
(i) Minutes attached
(ii) Minutes (46K/bytes) attached
(iii) Minutes (22K/bytes) attached
The Leader, Councillor Mrs Smith, referred to the proceedings of the Council meeting held on 27 April 2016 (bottom paragraph of page 59) with regard to Councillor K Jones? criticism of the council for the lack of response to reappoint a governor to the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust?s Council of Governors. The Leader explained that following that Council meeting she had looked into the paperwork again and did not find any communication/invitation from the Trust on this matter. The Leader stated that at the time she was very concerned as there appeared to be a lack of communication somewhere along the line between the Trust and the council. Subsequently, after further investigations with the Trust it was understood that a letter was sent from the Trust in October 2015 to inform the council that its Board of Directors was to consider the feasibility of asking the council for a nomination for a governor to the Council of Governors. Although the board meeting took place in November 2015, the Leader indicated that she had not received any subsequent communication over this.
Following on from that, the Trust had produced a welcome pack to congratulate the nominated governor to the board however the Leader stated that it lacked fundamental details on the letter (some of these being no name, no address, no commencement date of the appointment, no information of the period of appointment etc). Further information in the pack for the appointed governor included the Code of Conduct and the need to arrange an appointment with the Trust?s Human Resources to complete the documentation and to be inducted.
The Leader pointed out that she took great exception to the comments made by Councillor K Jones at the recent Council meeting as there was no dialogue between the letter that the Trust may appoint and the letter congratulating the appointed governor. The Leader further commented that although Councillor K Jones was a Trustee of the Lancashire Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation, she was disappointed as to the reason why he did not inform the council on the current position instead of criticising her for not replying.
The Leader also went on to explain the circumstances in respect of Chorley Borough Council and how they were in a similar position to this council.
The Leader then referred to the current issues surrounding the licensing function of the authority, and felt that in the interest of transparency, she would provide a more detailed response in respect of the questions asked by Councillor M Tomlinson at the Council meeting held on 27 April 2016 (minute no. 100 refers).
Instead of providing Councillor M Tomlinson with a direct response, the Leader felt that it was important to answer these questions at the meeting and to use this opportunity to give members a full update on the continued progress made.
In respect of the specific dates that the council informed various partners that there was a safeguarding issue within the licensing service, the Leader explained that the council?s Monitoring Officer had confirmed that at no stage it was felt that the Licensing Service was failing to such an extent that there were ongoing safeguarding issues.
Following details of the interim report being covered in the media, the council had since held a series of regular meetings with the chairman of the Safeguarding Board and other partners, including representatives from Lancashire Police and Lancashire County Council, to provide information and reassurance.
A letter from the Independent Chairman of the Lancashire Safeguarding Board (Jane Booth), confirmed that in all cases steps were taken to protect vulnerable children.
The Independent Chairman referred to the review of four years practice, during which one concern was highlighted. Upon further inspection, it was discovered that this child was indeed safeguarded and no other case raised concerns linked to Child Sexual Exploitation
The Leader said that it was important to note that the letter also described the reality of the situation as being ?far from? the child sexual exploitation scandal in the press reports.
The arrangements to receive, publish and review the final report were now the responsibility of the council?s Scrutiny Committee (as agreed at the Council meeting held on 27 April 2016). The Leader stated that it had always been clear that the council?s intention was to publish the final report in full. She believed that the Chairman of Scrutiny Committee (Councillor Titherington) had an update that he would provide later in the meeting.
The Leader assured members that the council would continue to work towards ensuring its licensing functions were absolutely/completely spot on. The leader stated that work started before the interim report was received by the council and it would continue until the job was completed. Whilst continuing to work towards implementing all the recommendations in the interim report, the council had now recruited an additional manager to the Licensing Service and were currently working on an action plan to carry out further improvements.
The council continued to roll out safeguarding refresher training for staff. By the start of June 2016, every member of staff within the council would have completed this course.
For the last year the council had been working with the Police and Crime Commissioner and Safeguarding Board alongside other councils across Lancashire on new licensing policies, which were considered in draft by the General Licensing Committee in November 2015 and would be adopted at the earliest opportunity.
The Leader reiterated that she stressed at the last meeting that this council was not afraid to open itself up to external challenge, to accept where improvements could be made and to ensure they were implemented. The council had asked that the Lancashire Safeguarding Board completed a full audit of the council?s safeguarding procedures.
The Leader reassured members that the council was working tirelessly to make sure its Licensing Service was the very best it could be and that the council did everything in its power to protect children and young people. It had always been the council?s priority.
The Leader felt that it was important that the council was updated on the present situation. She understood that the letter from the Independent Chairman had been circulated to a number of people including the Chairman of Lancashire County Council, Councillor M Tomlinson and Councillor Foster.
In respect of the Trust, Councillor M Green concurred with the Leader?s update. He indicated that he made separate enquiries with the Trust?s Company Secretary and confirmed that there were no further letters sent following the letter in October 2015. Councillor M Green said that he was not sure why Councillor K Jones did not bring this to the attention of the council earlier as the council could have then put a representative on the Trust which may have been helpful in terms of keeping members and residents informed on the matter.
In respect of the current issues surrounding the council?s licensing function, Councillor M Green indicated that he was not going to comment on this matter in great detail however he believed in the fundamental values of honesty, transparency and integrity. He welcomed the fact that the final report would be brought out in full. Councillor M Green then asked if the full report (without any redactions/amendments) would immediately be sent to all 50 members of the council because he felt that it was crucial that all members have a chance to read each and every single word of what had been written following the independent investigation. Councillor M Green pointed out that the council/residents needed to have the confidence in moving forward and although the Cabinet had put this in place in the right way several months ago, the council needed to be clear and aware what had happened, what action had been taken and ultimately if there was any responsibility to be reported.
The Leader reiterated that the arrangements to review the final report were now the responsibility of the council?s Scrutiny Committee. This was as agreed at the Council meeting held on 27 April 2016 and that Councillor Titherington (Chairman of Scrutiny Committee) would provide an update later in the meeting on details of what progress had been made so far.
Councillor Foster referred to the matter in respect of the Trust and in the light of the comments made he felt yet again that the inference was that it was the fault of his group. Councillor Foster subsequently clarified that he did recall that Councillor K Jones did mention some months ago about the possibility of nomination to the Trust?s Council of Governors.
Councillor Foster then referred to the issues surrounding the council?s licensing function. He indicated that although he specifically asked the Leader to include an agenda item on this matter at every Council meeting, the request was declined and now there was the statement/debate on this matter under the Minutes of the Last Meeting.
Councillor Foster then confirmed that he had not received/seen the letter from the Independent Chairman of the Lancashire Safeguarding Board which was referred to by the Leader in her update. He felt that this was inappropriate as he had not had the opportunity to read and comment on it. Referring to the Leader?s update in respect of the Monitoring Officer?s assurances that there were no significant concerns within licensing, he asked the Leader the reasons why Section 5 Intervention had been instigated. He understood that this was the ultimate intervention to be used if there were signs of significant failure of the service of the council. He further said that he had no confidence in anything he had been told and felt that it had ?all been done underhand and on the quiet?. Councillor Foster added that this issue had got completely out of hand because of how the council had been led.
The Leader informed the meeting that the letter from the Independent Chairman of the Lancashire Safeguarding Board had been received earlier in the day and she felt that in view of the nature of this matter it was appropriate to share this information. The Leader understood it was sent direct to the Chief Executive and copied to a number of people as mentioned earlier in the meeting. In response to Councillor Foster?s comments, the Leader reiterated that the arrangements to review the final report were now the responsibility of the council?s Scrutiny Committee and that this decision was formally agreed at the Council meeting on 27 April 2016. In respect of the confirmation by the Monitoring Officer, the Leader stated that it was related to a letter and some enquiries that were made which she felt was significant to bring this to the attention of the Council.
Councillor K Jones thanked the Leader for her response in respect of the matter relating to the nomination for a governor to the Council of Governors although he felt that the Leader may have misunderstood him. He confirmed that he had raised this matter several times since December 2015.
Councillor M Tomlinson felt that the Leader did not answer the specific questions he had asked at the Council meeting on 27 April 2016. Although he understood the reasons why the questions were not answered at that meeting he followed this up by email to all members of the council, however he did not receive any response. Councillor M Tomlinson referred to the length of time it had taken to receive the response from the Leader and he was disappointed that members have still not yet received the independent interim report.
Councillor Tomlinson added that he understood that there were serious safeguarding issues in the contents of this interim report which involved a 5 year old child. Councillor M Tomlinson concurred with Councillor Foster?s comments and stated that he was not in a position to accept that everything was fine. He added that he wanted to see evidence that there were no safeguarding issues and the reasons how the council managed to get to this position. He noted that the final report was now the responsibility of the council?s Scrutiny Committee however he stated that this could take weeks before the report was finalised. Councillor M Tomlinson then referred to ?Private Eye? and explained that in the light of this matter he had found it difficult to fulfil the expectations of residents within his ward because he felt that the council had not shared important information. He referred to Councillor Foster?s comments and stated that he too had no confidence in anything that he had been told until there were clear evidence.
That the minutes of the ?
(i) meetings held on 30 March and 27 April 2016 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Mayor; and
(ii) meeting held 11 May 2016 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Mayor subject to the inclusion of Councillor Rainsbury?s apology for absence under minute no. 1.
The Mayor provided an update on the events she had recently attended and her forthcoming engagements.
To receive the Names of the Members of the Cabinet appointed by the Executive Leader
Report (74K/bytes) attached
In respect of the appointment of the Cabinet by the Leader, Councillor Wharton indicated that he was disappointed to see wholesale changes had taken place. Whilst as a new member, he was not personally experienced in the dealings of the last nine years of this council, he was aware from historical record that this change was unprecedented.
He enquired as to the reasons why the council had found itself in a position to move forward in absence of Cabinet Members who have excelled in their portfolio duties in the last 12 months. He referred to his recent comments on BBC Radio Lancashire, and he informed the meeting that he had engaged with BBC North West News earlier in the day to reiterate the importance of openness, honesty and transparency from the Leader of the Council.
Councillor Wharton commented that he believed that there were members on all sides of the chamber who would be able to agree with him that it was paramount beyond all politics that the truth be told to residents of the borough.
Councillor Wharton believed that members were aware that questions were being raised about the leadership of the council (most recently by Councillor Foster in demanding answers on the ongoing licensing investigation). He stated that he was one of those persons who have questioned the integrity of the Leader and her leadership, as he believed that it was important that the leadership was open, honest and transparent. He added that it was the least the residents of the borough could expect and he believed that it was the duty of every elected member to actively challenge colleagues (regardless of their position) if members did not consider they were being given the whole truth.
Councillor Wharton indicated that he had seen an element of openness and transparency with a genuine desire to work for the best interest of the borough from certain members of the Cabinet over the last 12 months, and he reiterated that it was most unfortunate that those members were not included in the new Cabinet. Councillor Wharton hoped that those members named in this “dynamic Cabinet” continue to drive forward the desire to operate with the same integrity shown by those members who had departed.
Councillor Mrs Moon indicated that she wanted to take the opportunity to reflect briefly on her portfolio in the past year. She explained that although she felt that the council had in some way stood still and achieved very little in the past few months whilst dealing with the ongoing licensing issues, she wanted to ensure the council that it was not the case within the portfolio she held.
Councillor Mrs Moon added that she was pleased to report that over the course of the year she had been involved in a number of new initiatives some of these being the new homeless pilot, digital vision (introduction of print and post, self-service online modules etc), increased efficiency within the council’s enforcement functions and the issuing of smart phones to staff and members.
Councillor Mrs Moon welcomed the support she had of the Scrutiny Committee. The vision laid the foundation of business transformation that would assist the council in driving efficiencies, meeting significant budget deficit and bringing improvements in service delivery. Councillor Mrs Moon indicated that she was saddened to see that the Corporate Support portfolio no longer existed.
Councillor Mrs Moon went on to explain that although the Leader had asked whether she would wish to continue on the Cabinet for the next 12 months, she felt that she had to decline the offer. She stated that her ability to serve on the cabinet was rendered impossible because she felt that false and defamatory allegations was made against her and Councillors Bennett and M Green on 27 April 2016. Although the allegations were still being allowed to linger, Councillor Mrs Moon assured the council that she (and her fellow councillors) were not involved in a cover up. Whilst her integrity and credibility remained in question she indicated that her position within the administration felt untenable.
Councillor M Green thanked his fellow councillors for giving him the opportunity to serve on the Cabinet in the past year. He explained that it had been a useful experience in lots of ways and a lot of work had gone into it. At the time of leaving the Cabinet he wanted to comment on his fellow councillors who was also leaving the cabinet at the same time. Councillor M Green congratulated Councillor Bennett for the tremendous work he had done (firstly as Deputy Leader and secondly as Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources). Councillor M Green felt that Councillor Bennett was the most successful portfolio holder for Finance and Resources that this council had ever known. He stated that Councillor Bennett brought forward new ideas, new ways of working and new types of investment and he delivered an excellent budget.
Turning to Councillor Mrs Moon, Councillor M Green indicated that he was disappointed 12 months ago when the Leader offered the portfolio to Councillor Mrs Moon because he had some part of that portfolio previously. Councillor M Green stated that he wanted to try and bring forward the modernisation of the council’s business transformation as he felt that that was the key importance of the council moving forward. Whilst disappointed, Councillor M Green was pleased to say that Councillor Mrs Moon had delivered and delivered in an exceptional way over the past year. He felt that she had taken forward business transformation and brought forward a number of key initiatives (working closely with the Director).
Reflecting on his portfolio in the past 12 months, Councillor M Green explained that it was established 12 months ago. Councillor M Green stated that the Leader said at the time that it was to reflect the priorities of the administration and its workload over the 4 years period. Councillor M Green listed some of the key achievements that included the delivery of the first housing framework in South Ribble’s history with £3m of funding attached to this and the Disability Facilities Grant. The council had actually secured an increase of 62% in the amount of grant funding this year. Councillor M Green added that this was tremendous achievement and a lot of pressure had gone on to achieve that. Over £200,000 extra had been brought into this council and Councillor M Green indicated that he hoped that the new Cabinet would continue the progress being made on South Ribble becoming a dementia friendly borough. This was key importance and something that all members across the chamber share.
Councillor M Green thanked Councillor Mrs Nathan for her support as the Older People’s Champion over the last year. He also took the opportunity to thank all those officers for the invaluable support in particular the Directors and Housing Officer together with his opposite number, Councillor Ms Bell and the Scrutiny Committee.
Councillor M Green stated that although the Leader did offer him a place on Cabinet he felt that he could not accept that as a result of the untrue and defamatory comments which were made at the Council meeting on 27 April 2016 by Councillor Foster. Councillor Green stated that these issues would be dealt with in due course and evidence would be provided for everybody to see how untrue those comments were. Councillor M Green went on to explain that it was with great sadness and as a result of that it had rendered him impossible for him to serve on the administration at this moment in time. He would now focus on serving the residents of his ward.
Councillor Bennett indicated that he too would like to pass on his regard to the new Cabinet and wished them well in the future. He stated that it had been a great honour to serve as Deputy Leader over the last 12 months in what had been a busy period in the portfolio.
Councillor Bennett was delighted to report that he had been able to bring forward a number of initiatives in the 2016/17 Budget, including the release of £3m for the council’s new Housing Strategy and support for a number of neighbourhood projects across the borough. He had utilised monies held for some time along with providing the additional capital investment, while raising financial awareness amongst members in an open and transparent manner.
His creation of new Borough Investment Account would also see significant funds invested in South Ribble in the years to come, bringing in additional rental income to ensure the council become self-sustaining by 2019/20. Something the council must ensure was delivered at the earliest opportunity.
In the coming weeks members would see the asset review coming forward, the investment account strategy and the on/off street parking consultation period, with a service, unique in Lancashire proposed. Councillor Bennett thanked Councillor John Fillis at the county council for his assistance in finally getting that boxed off.
Councillor Bennett explained that he looked forward to joining the backbenches and continuing to serve the residents and fantastic community groups he had in his ward. Councillor Bennett stated that whilst certain individuals had tried to tarnish his reputation with false and defamatory allegations recently they would need to be addressed elsewhere in the future.
Councillor Bennett placed on record his thanks to officers, Cabinet and to his Conservative colleagues for their support over the last 12 months.
Councillor Howarth asked the reasons why there were 6 Cabinet positions however there were only 5 Cabinet Members specified in the report.
Councillor Foster stated that there were significant issues as he felt that a portfolio had been ditched because Councillor Mrs Moon did not wish take the position on the administration. Councillor Foster referred to the decision making process and indicated that he was surprised to see the outcome of this report.
Councillor Foster referred to his comments at the Council meeting on 27 April 2016 and how it had now been stated as false and defamatory remarks. Councillor Foster said that “it was either a cover up, stitch up or a cock up”. Councillor Foster explained that the three members that were no longer on the Cabinet were highlighted because they were dealing with the issues with the Monitoring Officer and in accordance with the constitution he felt that the way in which this matter had been dealt with was inappropriate.
Councillor Foster indicated that his group were the opposition and they have a duty to hold the administration to account. He stated that his group’s main aim over the licensing issue was to ensure that the right thing was done at the right time and whoever was found responsible within that report must be held accountable. Councillor Foster said that he could not accept that the report was still not available. He added that it had now been 3 weeks since Councillor Titherington was appointed and he still had not had the opportunity to speak to the Independent Investigator.
Councillor Foster stated that everything his group did was to try and put the authority back on the “straight and narrow” and to give the residents the assurances that they needed. Councillor Foster added that as an opposition they had agreed to support the Leader and give her opportunities to resolve this however he felt that she had ignored this. Councillor Foster further added that the evidence would dictate what the outcome was and “nothing else, no spin, no politics”. Councillor Foster said that he could not accept how this council had got itself in this position and the complete and utter silence over the last few weeks.
Councillor Foster then referred to the Cabinet positions and stated that there was no explanation as to the reasons for dropping the two Cabinet positions. He stated that it had now appeared that individuals did not wish to take up the roles. Councillor Foster found it hard to believe that in the light of the number of Conservative members, Cabinet positions were not filled to the maximum. He felt that the borough was in meltdown because there was no leadership, no structure and his support now for the Leader and for the administration was wearing very thin. Councillor Foster stated that unless the Leader showed some decisive leadership some of these being, “filling these Cabinet positions, getting this council back on the straight and narrow and get that report in front of members in the next few days” then they would have no options then to express no confidence in the Leader and her leadership.
Councillor Foster believed that as an opposition they had given the administration more than ample opportunity to deal with this. He felt that it had gone from bad to worse over the last 4 weeks. He stated that he could not let this happen any longer.
The Leader explained that this Cabinet had been formed to manage the workload and fulfil its responsibilities. The Leader confirmed that she had spoken to a number of her colleagues and she felt that it was necessary to have a bit more time to consider what the best way forward was with regard to the Cabinet portfolio for Housing and Healthy Communities.
The Leader added that the council had got to a situation where the council had got to get to the point where everybody could feel that they could have their say on this matter. The Leader felt that until that happened there was no point in providing a report. The Leader stressed that it was not possible to move things any quicker because they were independent investigators and they would complete the task in their own timescales. The council had asked them to carry out this enquiry/investigation and the Leader indicated that it was fundamental that members understood that and take that on board.
The Leader understood the reasons why her previous Cabinet members did not wish to take up a place on the administration because she felt that the comments made at the Council meeting on 27 April 2016 were out of order. The Leader added that they were all diligently trying to put this matter in the right perspective. The Leader concluded that her members had the same abilities as everybody else.
Councillor Foster indicated that he would like to meet with Councillors Bennett, M Green and Mrs Moon in private to discuss the comments he made at the Council meeting on 27 April 2016.
Members received and noted the names of the members of the Cabinet and their areas of responsibility.
Report of the Cabinet
Report (26K/bytes) attached
The Leader, Councillor Mrs Smith, presented the report of the Cabinet meeting held on 6 April 2016. The report was seconded.
CIL Payment in Kind, Provision of Infrastructure
Councillor Hancock enquired as to what effect this would have on Penwortham Town Council. Under the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) payment he understood that the town council would normally receive a percentage.
The Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning explained that the council had two options (the money or the infrastructure). The council would then work on the principle of which was the best option. In this instance the CIL worked out less than the cost of the infrastructure work.
1) the report be noted (unanimously)
(YES ? 43, ABSTENTION ? 2, NO ? 0):
1. the principle for the signing of a legal agreement for the provision of infrastructure in lieu of payment of Community Infrastructure Levy in relation to Planning Permission 07/2013/0008/ORM be approved; and
2. the final detail and approval of the legal agreement be delegated to the Planning Manager in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Strategic Planning.
3) Parks Refreshments and Ice Cream Tender
(YES ? 45, ABSTENTION ? 0, NO ? 0):
that the Worden Park Refreshments and Ice Cream contract be awarded to Tender Number 1 as detailed in the Cabinet report.
Report of the Scrutiny Committee
Report (33K/bytes) attached
Councillor Titherington presented the report of the Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 19 April 2016. The report was seconded.
In respect of the licensing matter, Councillor Titherington felt appropriate for him to provide an update on the actions he had taken since the Council meeting on 27 April 2016.
As agreed at that meeting, Councillor Titherington indicated that as the Scrutiny Committee Chairman he was charged with the responsibility of making arrangements to receive the final report from the firm of solicitors carrying out the investigation.
On 5 May 2016 he met with the Leader, the Leader of the Labour Group and the Chief Executive. Councillor Howarth was also invited but was unable to attend because of a prior engagement.
Councillor Titherington indicated that at that meeting, he made it clear that it was of prime importance that the report was finalised and available for publication as soon as possible. He had instructed the Chief Executive to make contact with Watkin Chapman, the solicitors involved, and impressed upon them the urgency that was required. Later that day he wrote to the Chief Executive and stressed the need for the solicitors to be aware of his feelings.
The Chief Executive then wrote to the solicitors and informed Councillor Titherington that he was to speak with them to ascertain when Councillor Titherington could expect to receive the final report. Unfortunately the partner leading the team of investigators had not been available due to holidays and sickness and as a consequence the Chief Executive was not able to speak with him until late evening on 17 May 2016.
Councillor Titherington stated that he had spoken with the Chief Executive earlier in the day and he had advised him that he had been informed that the report would be available for publication no later than the week commencing 6 June 2016. He had insisted that the report should be directly forwarded to him as soon as it was available.
Councillor Titherington added that he had received assurances that a draft final report had not been viewed by the Chief Executive and or the Leader and to his knowledge no other council officer or elected member.
Councillor Titherington believed that the contents of that report would, when published, have to be closely scrutinised and he would expect any findings to be substantiated in an open and transparent forum.
Councillor Titherington also advised the Council that, through the Local Government Association, he had spoken to a legally qualified consultant who had extensive experience in the public sector at local and national level and had had a proven track record in resolving contentious and potentially damaging issues in a positive manner (positively). He indicated that he would be calling on her to assist him and the Scrutiny Committee.
Councillor Titherington reminded members that the Council also agreed that the Scrutiny Committee should in addition to the final report identify any further issues for examination and review.
Councillor Titherington added that he had been giving much thought to the terms of reference of any review and to the issues and questions elected members and members of the public felt needed to be addressed. He said at the Council meeting on 27 April 2016 that it was in the best interests of all parties that the council was as open and transparent in dealing with all matters involved in giving rise to this unsavoury affair.
Councillor Titherington said that he had proposed to meet with the new Scrutiny Committee and advised them on what his thoughts were in an endeavor to move things on effectively and efficiently. He would be arranging for the committee to meet with the consultant the following week.
In respect of Councillor Nelson?s question about the interim report, Councillor Titherington reiterated that the Leader had explained earlier in the meeting that the interim report was a working draft. It was not his place to say why the report had not been released. As far as the solicitors were concerned and the interest of all elected members the purpose was to receive the final report, to look at what the findings were and discuss that in an open and transparent way.
In respect of Councillor M Green?s question about whether the final report would be forwarded directly to him as the Chairman of Scrutiny Committee and then to all members of the council without any redactions to the report, Councillor Titherington categorically assured the council that it would not be altered or doctored. The producers of the report would substantiate the information and Councillor Titherington anticipated that they would be called before the Scrutiny Committee to explain or answer any questions in the terms of the contents of the report. Councillor Titherington understood that the report would come in to the Chief Executive in the first instance and then it would be forwarded to him without delay. Councillor Titherington stated that there would be serious consequences if it was discovered that changes had been made to the solicitors? report. He assured the Council that it would be completely transparent and that all members would be able to receive a copy of that report. Councillor Titherington added that he was fully aware of the responsibilities he had in that regard and he was determined to discharge his duties in accordance with the proper standards that anybody in public life would expect.
In respect of Councillor Mrs Noblett?s question on whether the report would be sent directly to him, Councillor Titherington said that the first point of contact was the Chief Executive and that he had been given assurances that the report would be forwarded to him immediately.
In respect of Councillor Coulton?s question on whether Councillor Titherington had any regret that Scrutiny Committee did not address the licensing activities earlier, Councillor Titherington indicated that he did not wish to turn this into a debate about Scrutiny Committee. Councillor Titherington added that there was a need to get this matter into some sort of perspective. As the chairman of the Scrutiny Committee he had been charged with a responsibility. Councillor Titherington felt that it was not in the remit of Scrutiny Committee to see if another committee was acting in a proper manner. Councillor Titherington added that he was not aware that had been any malfunction with the Licensing Committee. Councillor Titherington stated that it was important that the Scrutiny Committee remained open minded and approach any review in a manner without any pre conceived ideas. Councillor Titherington indicated that he did not think that Scrutiny Committee could be held responsible for not identifying the issues relating to licensing earlier.
Report of the Governance Committee
Report (14K/bytes) attached
Councillor Ogilvie presented the report of the Governance Committee meeting held on 13 April 2016. The report was seconded.
In respect of Councillor Foster?s concern and disappointment over the decision to defer the findings of the internal audit reviews on pay roll and flexi time at the committee, Councillor Ogilvie explained that this decision was taken by him due to officers? conflicting work priorities following the associated ongoing investigation.
Councillor Ogilvie added that he had been assured that the specific management actions detailed in the report had already been actioned/implemented. Accordingly, he felt that deferring this item until its next meeting in June would allow the committee a better opportunity to evaluate the evidence of the actions implemented by the management.
Councillor Ogilvie noted the concern expressed by Councillor Foster and the thanks to the committee from Councillors Mrs Moon and Bennett for the introduction of the automatic reporting mechanism of internal audit reports.
Appointment of Committees 2016/17
Report (76K/bytes) attached
The Leader presented the report outlining the nominations for membership of committees for 2016/17. The report was seconded.
Councillor Wharton indicated that he was confused over the appointments of the Scrutiny Committee. Councillor Wharton said that although he had spoken to the Leader and confirmed that he would be delighted to stay on committee, he was disappointed to find out just before the meeting that he was no longer a member of Scrutiny Committee. He asked if the Leader would provide an explanation.
The Leader confirmed that she did ask Councillor Wharton. The Leader was aware that Councillor Wharton had twice in the last 12 months expressed to her that he did not wish to stay on this committee because he found it difficult to attend the meetings due to his working commitments. The Leader indicated that she decided to propose those members because they expressed an interest and had the time to serve on the Scrutiny Committee.
RESOLVED (YES ? 46, ABSTENTION ? 1, NO ? 1):
That the Membership of Committees 2016/17 as detailed in the attached schedule to the report be approved.
Appointment of My Neighbourhood Area Chairs and Vice-chairs 2016/17
Report (50K/bytes) attached
The Leader presented the report outlining the appointments for the period until the First Business Meeting of the 2017 Municipal Year. The report was seconded.
That, in accordance with the Council?s Constitution, the appointments for the period until the First Business Meeting of the 2017 Municipal Year be ratified:
Central Area ? Chair: Councillor Walton; Vice-chair: Councillor Mort
Eastern Area - Chair: Councillor Nelson; Vice-chair: Councillor M Nathan
Leyland Area ? Chair: Councillor Ms Bell; Vice-chair: Councillor Mrs S Jones
Penwortham Area ? Chair: Councillor Martin; Vice-chair: Councillor Bird
Western Parishes Area ? Chair: Councillor Coulton; Vice-chair: Councillor Suthers
Representation on Outside Bodies 2016/17
Report (53K/bytes) attached
The Leader presented the report outlining the nominations to outside bodies for 2016/17. The report was seconded.
The Leader informed the meeting that she would undertake a review shortly on the charities/trustees (nos. 24 and 25 refers) on the list of outside bodies. The Leader said that she wanted to see what purpose they serve at present as she was aware that they did not meet on regular basis.
In respect of the Local Authority Elected Member Older People?s Champions? Network and notwithstanding the proposed nomination of Councillors Mrs Blow and Mrs Snape, Councillor Foster commented that he would like to see some of his group members being given the opportunity to assist in this work. He added that he would welcome some form of engagement as these nominations could be non-political.
Councillor Martin felt that it would be helpful if there was a mechanism to enable representatives on outside bodies to provide an update to the council.
The Leader concurred with Councillor Martin?s comments and indicated that it was important that regular progress reports be provided to the council from outside bodies. This would also assist the outside bodies and the council each year when appointments were considered.
That the representation on Outside Bodies for 2016/17 be approved in accordance with the attached schedule.
Questions to the Leader
Councillor M Tomlinson asked the Leader the reasons why the submission on the council?s annual self-assessment of its safeguarding arrangements had not yet been submitted to the Lancashire Safeguarding Board. The Leader indicated that she was not aware that this had not yet been completed, however she would investigate this matter and respond to Councillor M Tomlinson.
Councillor M Tomlinson referred to the Leader?s comments at last year?s First Business Meeting of the Council that all 7 Cabinet positions were absolutely vital to deliver the new administration?s priorities. He asked the Leader what had changed her mind in the light of this year?s new Cabinet. The Leader felt that at this moment in time there had been issues. It was Cabinet?s intention to stabilise that and to work a way forward to ensure the priorities would be fulfilled efficiently and effectively. The Cabinet was happy and prepared to take on any extra workloads at this moment in time.
In respect of a question from a member of the public about hackney carriages drivers from other boroughs working in South Ribble, the Leader indicated that if taxi drivers had evidence of that taxi firm was employing drivers from other boroughs then this council would investigate the matters.
The Leader stressed that it was the duty of taxi drivers to report/provide evidence on anyone that did not comply with the conditions of the licences to the council. The Leader stated that she had received a late evening telephone call recently from a taxi driver regarding a similar matter and after a lengthy conversation with him she asked him to provide the information/ evidence to the council the next normal working day. The Leader confirmed that she had personally checked whether this evidence was provided and she was still waiting for this information.
The Leader concluded that if there were difficulties and grievances that needed to be addressed between the taxi operators, the council would require evidence and at present she was not aware of any supporting evidence provided.
In respect of a number of questions from a member of the public and a member of the Taxi association about whether the final report (un-redacted) on the licensing issue would be available to the public and the press, the Leader confirmed that the final report would be publicly available. The Leader reiterated the update provided by Councillor Titherington earlier in the meeting that this document would be available the week commencing 6 June 2016. The report would then be considered by the council?s Scrutiny Committee and she had envisaged that at some point it would be presented to the Taxi Licensing Forum where members of this forum would wish to have their say. The Leader concurred with the comments made by the member of Taxi Association that the majority of taxi drivers in this borough were honest and hardworking people that would want to carry on with their livelihoods. The Leader assured the meeting that this had been a blip and it would be resolved.
Councillor K Jones had submitted the following written question to the Leader in advance of the meeting.
?When the new arrangements for the Catering Service were agreed by Cabinet in September 2013 a figure of ?25,000 per year was quoted to provide the residual catering service.
The actual total payments, excluding VAT, made to the Catering Contractor (Moss House Farm) have been:
?9,938.50 (part-year: 2013/2014)
The Council?s constitution states that all procurements with a cumulative value of over ?75,000 shall be classed as High Value Procurements and must be put out to tender. As this limit will be breached in a matter of weeks, when is the Leader proposing to initiate the tendering process??
The Leader explained that the decision to close the former catering services was not taken lightly. The council was now working with an external caterer. A delivery model was currently under development to provide catering service to the council and other functions. The council was also looking at the possibility of using the kitchen and the wider banqueting suite as part of these arrangements. The Leader added that the Scrutiny Committee had appointed a Task Group to look at the use of the banqueting suite and the Leader understood that this should conclude and was helpful in informing the tendering process shortly.
Councillor Foster commented that he agreed with Councillor K Jones that everything above ?75,000 was high value. The contract procedural rules stated that anything over ?10,000 should be tendered. Councillor Foster asked the reason why this had not been tendered in the last 2 years and how many other breaches in the authority of the contract procedural rules were there. The Leader indicated that she would investigate this matter and respond to Councillor Foster as quickly as possible.
Questions to Members of the Cabinet
Deputy Leader and Finance and Resources
Councillor Howarth asked the Cabinet Member whether he had recognised that for those in the rented housing sector, housing benefit could often be the crucial difference between being able to cope financially or being in financial difficulty.
Councillor Howarth then asked whether the Cabinet Member was concerned by the fact that in the latest figures issued by the Department of Work and Pensions, this council had the worst performance out of the 12 Lancashire districts for the average speed of processing new claims, and had the second worst performance in the average speed of processing changes in circumstances.
Councillor Howarth further asked the Cabinet Member whether he could assure the council that he would address it.
The Cabinet Member indicated that he was new to this portfolio, however he would investigate this matter and respond to Councillor Howarth.
Neighbourhood and Street Scene
Councillor Howarth asked the Cabinet Member whether he would agree with him that the council should take a pride in its local heritage such as that in his ward (Howick and Priory), the 14th Century listed St Mary?s Church, the listed gravestones in its churchyard dating to 1682 and 1686, and the scheduled Ancient Monument of Castle Hill Motte.
Councillor Howarth then asked that if so would the Cabinet Member give assurance that the council would recognise its responsibility for the only closed churchyard in the borough by allocating specific resources to maintaining the graveyard headstones.
Councillor Howarth further asked the Cabinet Member whether he would give an assurance that a tree survey would be carried out on the Motte with a view to their removal to meet requests made by English Heritage. The Cabinet Member indicated that he would investigate this matter and respond to Councillor Howarth.
In respect of a question by a member of the public about the reasons why the flood defence protection for residential properties around Royal Avenue/Parkgate Drive had not yet been carried out, the Cabinet Member indicated that he would investigate the matter.
In respect of a question by Councillor Martin about whether the council had a longer term plan to eradicate Giant Hogweeds in this borough, the Cabinet Member indicated that thankfully instances of Giant Hogweed on council owned land were extremely rare mainly due to the council?s proactive approach in dealing with it. As and when the council become aware of it immediate steps would be taken to eradicate the problem.
The Cabinet Member said that when the plant was juvenile it was treated with a weed killer applied via a knapsack sprayer, if the plant was larger the chemical was injected directly into the stem of the plant, these treatment would continue until the plant had been eradicated. This could take up to 3 years to completely eradicate a plant.
The Cabinet Member explained that where plants were found to be growing on private land adjacent to the land owned by the council, the landowner would be contacted and they would be ask to deal with it in an appropriate manner. The Cabinet Member indicated that this was the case with both Railtrack and Lancashire County Council who were responsible for sites adjoining the Margaret Road area of Penwortham. The Environment Agency was also looking to treat instances on the banks of the River Ribble.
The Cabinet Member indicated that if members see any Giant Hogweed it be helpful if this was reported to Gateway, to enable treatment. If the instances be on private land the council would contact the land owner and they would be asked to deal with it appropriately.
The Cabinet Member concluded that there were 2 types of Hogweed, which should not be confused. Common Hogweed grows across South Ribble that was relatively harmless and was not subject to control by the council. Giant Hogweed was a much larger plant which would cause blistering of the skin and this was what the council controls. Cow Parsley which commonly grows in roadside verges was often mistaken for Giant Hogweed due to its white flowers.
Questions to Chairmen of Committees and My Neighbourhood Areas
There were no questions.
Questions to Member Champions and Representatives on Outside Bodies
There were no questions.