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Contact: Paul Williams Democratic Services Team Leader
Apologies for Absence
Councillor Seb Gran had extended his apologies stating that he would be late to join the meeting.
Members’ Disclosures of Pecuniary and Non-pecuniary Interests
No declarations on interest were made.
Minutes of the meeting of Council held on 8 February 2021.
The minutes of the meeting of Council held on 8 February 2021 were agreed as an accurate record to be signed by the Chair.
1) Retirement of Jane Pollard, Legal Service Manager
Councillor Alan Cockburn (Chair of Council) announced the forthcoming retirement of Jane Pollard. He read out the following statement.
“Jane Pollard, Legal Service Manager, who many of you will know from her many years of committed service to the Council in roles within Legal and Scrutiny is retiring at the end of March.
Jane has been with the Council for 39 years and 3 months. Jane trained as a solicitor with the Council and went on to hold many roles including as a solicitor, managing the scrutiny function and as Legal Service Manager for the Corporate and Commercial Legal teams. Jane has practiced in many areas of law, as diverse as prosecutions, governance and child safeguarding.
When she started at the Council, women were not permitted to wear trousers, textbooks on practicing law still sounded surprised that women had joined the profession, and the legal team would have tea and biscuits at 3pm in the County Solicitor’s office, with the fire lit on a cold day.
The Council and the legal profession have changed significantly during this time, but Jane has remained a constant. Jane is a force of nature who knows more about the workings of local government and the legislation that underpins it than the authors of Cross on Local Government Law and the Encyclopaedia of Local Government Law combined. She also has a razor-sharp commercial acumen and an ability to cut through the weeds to find the real issues. She has given the benefit of her wisdom and training to many colleagues during her time with the Council and has ensured that we have an excellent group in place to pick up where she leaves off.
She will be a tremendous loss to the Council but whilst we will miss her reatly; we wish her a long and very happy retirement”.
Members joined to wish Jane Pollard a happy retirement.
Councillor Izzi Seccombe (Leader of the Council) stated that when Jane made a decision or offered advice you knew that it was sound. She was thanked for her help and guidance over the years (and for her Victoria sponge cakes).
Councillor Jerry Roodhouse (Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group) thanked Jane for her support over the years and for her guidance when she thought the constitution was not being adhered to. She had been a great asset to the council and to the people of Warwickshire.
Councillor Dave Parsons (Deputy Leader of the Labour Group) echoed the previous comments adding that when Jane provided advice it was given in a way that was clear and concise. She also displayed a great sense of humour.
Councillor Judy Falp stated that she had known Jane for many years. They had shared many experiences and she would be missed by the County Council and the district and borough councils.
2. Retiring County Councillors
Councillor Alan Cockburn noted that a number of serving councillors will not be standing in the May 2021 local ... view the full minutes text for item 1(4)
To receive any petitions submitted in accordance with the Council’s Petitions Scheme.
The Chair welcomed Mr Philip Stickley to the Council meeting. Mr Stickley had organised a petition against the proposed closure of the council’s outdoor education centre in North Wales, Marle Hall. The petition had attracted almost 7000 signatures.
Mr Stickley explained that he had been a teacher in Warwickshire schools for 20 years and for 15 years had taken groups of young people to Marle Hall. His work now continues with an outdoor education charity. Mr Stickley stated:
· Young people in the UK are currently at the centre of an obesity and mental health crisis. One-third of young people are overweight or obese. One in ten have mental health problems.
· The current Pandemic has exacerbated the problems.
· Outdoor education plays an important part in helping to maintain wellbeing in youngsters.
· The council has an important role is helping to secure young people’s wellbeing.
· The 2016 Nature Connections report identified benefits of outdoor education including health, the development of social skills, team working, improved behaviour and a greater understanding of nature.
· Outdoor education should be provided in settings such as Snowdonia. Some providers deliver their services in an enclosure which is a poor substitute.
· The staff at Marle Hall are experienced experts in walking, climbing, canoeing etc. Some other providers use gap-year students to deliver classes. This is not ideal as they often lack the experience they need.
· Outdoor education can be transformational. Parents are often amazed at the difference in their children when they return from their outing.
· Marle Hall is not run down. It carries fifty years of history with it having provided breaks for Warwickshire children since 1971.
· If Marle Hall is allowed to close it will be impossible to reproduce.
· Any proceeds from the sale of Marle Hall will be lost in general reserves.
Councillor Colin Hayfield (Portfolio Holder for Education and Learning) thanked Mr Stickley for the petition adding that he knows Marle Hall well and that the council recognises the value of outdoor education. Council was informed that no final decision has been made regarding the future of Marle Hall. All options will be considered.
To note any requests to speak on any item on the agenda in accordance with the Council’s Public Speaking Scheme (see note at end of the agenda).
There were no public speakers registered.
The Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2021-26 sets out the Health and Wellbeing Board’s ambitions and approach to ensure support is effective and available where it is most needed. Council is aksed to approve the Strategy.
Councillor Les Caborn introduced the published report, explaining that the strategy provides a high level plan aimed at reducing inequalities and improving the health of citizens. The refresh has taken full account of the challenges presented by the Covid-19 Pandemic and has made use of the countywide Joint Strategic Needs Assessment. Councillor Les Caborn added that whilst people’s health in Warwickshire is generally better than the national average there remain variations across the county. One in four adults will experience some form of mental health problem in their life and to help address this additional funding is to be provided. Health improvements can take a long time to be realised. For example, smoking cessation programmes have been successful but have taken 25 years to reach the stage they have. Prevention needs to be prioritised as does the need to make communities stronger. The Heath and Wellbeing Board and Adult Social Care and Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee will monitor the delivery of the strategy.
Councillor Wallace Redford seconded the motion and reserved the right to speak.
Councillor John Holland agreed that mental health should be a high priority. It is difficult to move forward when cuts are being made to budgets. Children, he added, have suffered during the Pandemic as have people of working age. The key to successful service delivery is joint working especially with the district and borough councils.
Councillor Jerry Roodhouse commended the document noting that it had been developed jointly with partners. He did not agree with the JSNA boundaries. Poverty and mental health, he concluded, are major challenges facing communities.
Councillor Nicola Davies commented that it is important not to overlook personal safety. Women need to be able to access open space and exercise opportunities in a safe way.
Councillor Johnathan Chilvers (Leader of the Green Group) questioned the ability to deliver the strategy at a time that cuts are being made to budgets.
Councillor Jo Barker stated that it had been a pleasure helping to develop the strategy. She suggested that health and wellbeing should be factored into every policy decision the council makes.
Councillor Neil Dirveiks welcomed the report but questioned why it did not contain any SMART targets. He asked if these were to follow.
Councillor Dave Parsons agreed that the document should include a series of targets that could be used to provide an indication of success. He was concerned over the continuing situation regarding inequalities and suggested that closer work with the district and borough councils could assist in relieving this. A study by Cardiff University was cited. In it the relationship between property rentals and in-work poverty was recognised.
Councillor Helen Adkins (Leader of the Labour Group) agreed that the strategy requires targets. She also echoed previous comments regarding the impact of budget cuts on services. Austerity she said, has had a serious impact on people’s health and whilst the strategy is welcome it has been a long time in development.
Councillor Keith Kondakor agreed with comments over the ... view the full minutes text for item 2.
Directors of Public Health have a statutory requirement to write an annual report on the health and wellbeing of their population, and the local authority is required to publish it. This report is now presented to Council to note and comment on.
Councillor Les Caborn introduced this item thanking the Director of Public Health, Shade Agboola, and her team for their hard work over the last year. He commended the report adding that it is part of a suite of documents along with the Health and Wellbeing Strategy and the Covid-19 Recovery Plan. The use of case studies in the report was welcomed as was the focus on certain key areas such as self-harm, obesity, alcohol consumption and dementia. The role of the Adult Social Care and Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee was recognised as was the importance of working in partnership.
Councillor Margaret Bell seconded the motion and reserved the right to speak.
Councillor Keith Kondakor welcomed the report adding that attention should be paid not just to the homeless but also to those living in substandard accommodation. Mortality rates in Nuneaton and Bedworth remain very high. The causes of this phenomenon are well known. The Pandemic has not helped. Lockdown has led to weight increases and in many cases a general reduction in activity. Councillor Kondakor concluded by stating that it is important to deliver on reports such as the one before council. However, in order to do this it is important to have the funds.
Councillor Jill Simpson-Vince thanked the Public Health team, for their hard work. That they were able to produce an annual report as well as dealing with the Pandemic was remarkable. This view was echoed by Councillor Clare Golby.
Council agreed that the report should be included as part of the welcome pack for new members following the May 2021 elections.
Councillor Helen Adkins stated that the incidence of many serious health conditions including bowel cancer, diabetes, depression and self-harm made for harrowing reading. Austerity leads to health inequality she added. There is a need to invest in education, accommodation, employment opportunities and efforts to reduce child poverty. By reducing budgets people’s lives have been jeopardised. These views were echoed by Councillor Dave Parsons who further commended the report.
Councillor Kam Kaur (Portfolio Holder for Customer and Transformation) challenged the view that reductions in funding had had an impact on life expectancy. She stated that the Transformation Programme had enabled the council to continue to deliver good quality services even allowing for reductions in funding. Further, it had enabled the council to invest in the future.
Councillor Margaret Bell, who had seconded the motion, thanked the Director of Public Health for her report. The extensive use of data allows practitioners to see where resources should be targeted. It has shown the impact of the Pandemic and of the resulting lockdowns. Councillor Bell called for the development of a health inequalities action plan. In addition, any communications need to be tailored to meet the needs of the communities they are aimed at. Prevention is very important as is the need to signpost people to services. Portfolio Holder meetings have been very useful and need to continue she concluded.
In closing, Councillor Caborn stated that a new ... view the full minutes text for item 3.
Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service (WFRS) has a statutory duty under the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004, via the Fire and Rescue Service’s National Framework, to prepare an Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP). This report seeks approval of the IRMP.
Councillor Andy Crump introduced the report, reminding council that the IRMP had been considered by Cabinet and the Resources and Fire and Rescue Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Council was informed that there is a statutory duty to produce an IRMP which ensures that the service makes the best use of people, resources and equipment in a well managed and risk assessed way.
Councillor Adrian Warwick seconded the motion and reserved the right to speak.
Councillor Sarah Boad (Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group) stressed the need for members to read and understand the IRMP. Regarding the responses to the consultation that had been undertaken Councillor Boad noted that 22% of respondents had objected to a proposal that the workforce of the Fire and Rescue Service should reflect the communities it serves. This was regrettable and surprising. The service has a good record regarding diversity, and it continues to work with communities to ensure that it recruits the correct people for the job.
Councillor Maggie O’Rourke agreed with Councillor Boad’s comments adding that it is important to challenge peoples’ prejudices. Having been the Labour Group Spokesperson on Fire and Rescue for a number of years she commended the service for its response during the pandemic and its support to the communities it serves.
Councillor Mark Cargill expressed his support for the Fire and Rescue Service and in particular for the staff at Alcester fire station. He had seen a mention on social media of a proposal to close Stratford fire station and sought clarification on the matter.
Councillor John Cooke commented on the size of the document pack and commended the service for its work during the Pandemic.
Councillor Keith Kondakor observed that the motorway system in Warwickshire places a major burden onto the service. He had heard that Bedworth fire station was set to lose an appliance and sought clarification on this. The service has done good work around fire prevention but there is a danger of it being stretched too thin he said.
Councillor Wallace Redford commended the report adding that the service is now firmly embedded in the community.
Councillor Adrian Warwick, who seconded the motion commended the service for its work around the Pandemic. The document before council set out priorities but it is important to appreciate that they are part of an evolving picture. He agreed with the concerns expressed around diversity but suggested that it is important to focus on the positives around the consultation. The technical ability of the service and its ethos are of importance. Finally, Councillor Warwick thanked the Resources and Fire & Rescue Overview and Scrutiny Committee for its work.
In closing Councillor Andy Crump acknowledged the contributions made by Councillors Boad and O’Rourke to the development of the Fire and Rescue Service. He agreed with comments made around diversity. The work of the Chief Fire Officer and his team was commended. Regarding the future of Stratford fire station Councillor Crump offered to brief Councillor Cargill on this at a later ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
Under the Localism Act 2011, local authorities must put in place arrangements to promote and maintain high standards of conduct amongst its councillors and co-opted members. As part of those arrangements the Council must appoint independent persons.
Councillor Izzi Seccombe proposed the motion and was moved by Councillor Peter Butlin. The importnace of the independent persons was emphasised by Councillor Seccombe.
A vote was held.
53 votes for the recommendation
1 vote against the recommendation
Council extends the term of office of the following independent persons until 19th October 2021
Mr David Stone
Mr Garth Murphy
Ms Maureen O’Sullivan
Mr Ray Tomkinson
Mr Howard Darling
Ms Mumtaz Goolam
Notices of Motion
To consider the following motions submitted by members in accordance with Standing Order 5:
(1) Labour Group Motion
It has been reported to local councillors that a significant decline has occurred in the number of families accessing the aid of the Family Support Workers by as much as 30-40% in some settings in Warwickshire
In support of its commitment to the Family Support Worker service, this Council asks the Strategic Director for People to investigate the reasons why there has been a sharp decline in access figures and to report the outcome of the investigation to the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
Proposer: Councillor Caroline Phillips
Seconder: Councillor Corinne Davies
(2) Green Group Motion
This council recognises the massive contribution health centres have played during the Covid pandemic. However, some areas are currently underserved with difficulty in finding suitable locations for blood tests, blood donations, vaccinations and other services. New health centres can reduce health inequalities as well as providing employment and footfall to our town centres.
Therefore, this Council,
1. Will seek with partners to identify resources to progress the development of a strategic business case for the planned provision of the health services within the Transforming Nuneaton project.
2. Requests the Adult Social Care and Health OSC to review the way in which the County Council can support, and the opportunities for, the inclusion of accessible town and village health centres as part of future regeneration projects across the county by September 2021
Proposer: Councillor Keith Kondakor
Seconder: Councillor Johnathan Chilvers
Motion 1 - Family Support Workers
Councillor Caroline Phillips proposed the following motion.
“It has been reported to local councillors that a significant decline has occurred in the number of families accessing the aid of the Family Support Workers by as much as 30-40% in some settings in Warwickshire
In support of its commitment to the Family Support Worker service, this Council asks the Strategic Director for People to investigate the reasons why there has been a sharp decline in access figures and to report the outcome of the investigation to the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee”.
The motion was seconded by Councillor Corinne Davies who reserved her right to speak.
In support of her motion Councillor Phillips stated that Family Support Workers were now only available at children’s centres for 16 hours a week. This was down from a maximum of 90 hours a week. The Family Support Workers are at the front line of support for incidents of domestic abuse. Their presence can help prevent problems turning into crises.
Councillor Jeff Morgan tabled the following amendment.
“Regarding the concerns raised with some local councillors and to maintain the high number of families accessing the aid of the Family Support workers across the county, this Council will maintain its commitment to the Family Support Workers’ service and will continue to work with providers to ensure effective service delivery to those most in need and asks that the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee keeps the Family Support Workers' service under review as part of its on-going performance monitoring”.
The amendment was seconded by Councillor Pam Williams who reserved her right to speak.
Councillor Jeff Morgan stated that he could not accept the Labour Group motion as it was inaccurate. Across Warwickshire access to Family Support Workers is very high.
Councillor Dave Parsons suggested that the evidence is very clear. The Labour Group motion asks the council to investigate the circumstances behind a reported decline. Councillor Helen Adkins questioned why there appeared to be an effort to make it appear that there was no issue to investigate. Issues, she said, should not be brushed under the carpet.
Councillor Bill Gifford questioned whether the Conservative amendment could be regarded as such. The Labour motion was not unreasonable in his view.
Councillor Keith Kondakor supported the Labour motion adding that if Councillor Caroline Phillips had heard of a decline in access to services then the circumstances should be investigated. No criticism was being levelled at the service.
Councillor Pam Williams, the seconder of the amendment, stated that she has witnessed an increase in services provided by Family Support Workers. She suggested that with Covid recovery it may be a good time to review the service. No such review has been undertaken sine 2007.
Councillor Corinne Davies, the seconder of the original motion, informed council that it can be difficult to contact Family Support Workers. Forms have to be completed or the council phoned. For some ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
Member Question Time (Standing Order 7)
A period of up to 40 minutes is allocated for questions to the Leader, Cabinet Portfolio Holders and Chairs of Overview and Scrutiny Committees.
A series of questions were asked by members.
1) Question to Councillor Butlin from Councillor Kondakor – Warwickshire Property and Development Company
The Warwickshire Property development company business case assumes a strong and consistent rise in house prices that is well above the general rate of inflation for every single year. That business case will have been done a considerable time ago before we had any significant impact of the multiple waves of Covid and the massive reduction in trade with the EU.
Will this council undertake a full remodelling of the business case using realistic estimates this summer once these impacts can properly be assessed but before major commitments are made to the Warwickshire Property Development Company, yes or no?
Councillor Butlin stated, “Whilst I hear the point Cllr Kondakor makes, no, we do not intend to undertake any remodelling of the business case at this time. The business case has had the benefit of input from external professional advisors and has also been the subject of sensitivity analysis. Any further remodelling would significantly delay getting the company up and running and operational at a time that we now need to press forward with recovery. There is also a risk that any remodelling exercise we undertake now could itself be out of date within a relatively short space of time.
Instead, there will be an annual review and update of the business plan and in our role as shareholder we will be expecting the company to closely review and monitor key house price information and wider economic conditions as they bring forward individual sites for development. In addition, for each individual site, a detailed scheme development plan will be brought forward to Cabinet for consideration which will enable costs, pricing and market conditions to be considered at the right time - before any building work starts on site but not too far in advance. This is critical given the business plan covers a period of more than 20 years.
The Council's Medium-Term Financial Strategy has taken a prudent view on the possible numbers it included from the business case and has also established a specific reserve to manage any short-term volatility in returns.
These are very uncertain times, and the Council has rightly put in place a robust way to both test and regularly monitor the business case and its delivery, to cover both uncertain and more normal times which we expect to see over the lifetime of the property company. We are committed to taking action which supports Warwickshire’s economy by utilising our surplus land and supporting and working with business in creating jobs and homes for our residents. We will work with our public sector partners, utilise our collaboration pilot with Homes England and work with the private sector. We are confident that this will support the economic recovery and have already put in place robust and timely review arrangements to ensure delivery by the company.
In response Councillor Kondakor asked by what percentage house prices ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
Any Other items of Urgent Business
To consider any other items that the Chair considers are urgent.
There were no other items of business.