Venue: Council Chamber - Council Offices. View directions
Contact: Emma Denny Email: Emma.Denny@north-norfolk.gov.uk
Presentation by the Priscilla Bacon Hospice
To receive a presentation from Hugo Stevenson of the Priscilla Bacon Hospice – one of the Chairman’s nominated charities for 2022/23.
Hugo Stevenson gave a presentation on the work of the Priscilla Bacon Hospice. He spoke about the ongoing construction of the new Priscilla Bacon Lodge and outlined the additional facilities that would be available. Members were shown visual images of the site, including floor plans and an artist’s impression of the finished lodge. Mr Stevenson concluded by thanking the Chairman for choosing Priscilla Bacon Hospice as one of her charities for the year.
Apologies for Absence
To receive apologies for absence, if any.
Apologies were received from Cllrs A Brown, Dr P Butikofer, P Heinrich, G Mancini-Boyle, G Perry-Warnes, J Punchard, Dr C Stockton, J Toye and A Yiasimi.
To confirm the minutes of the Annual meeting of the Council held on 18th May 2022.
The minutes of the Annual General Meeting of the Council, held on 18th May 2022, were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
Items of Urgent Business
To determine any other items of business which the Chairman decides should be considered as a matter of urgency pursuant to Section 100B (4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972.
Members are asked at this stage to declare any interests that they may have in any of the following items on the agenda. The Code of Conduct for Members requires that declarations include the nature of the interest and whether it is a disclosable pecuniary interest (see attached guidance and flowchart)
To receive the Chairman’s communications, if any.
The Chairman spoke about the civic events that herself and the Vice-Chairman had attended since the last meeting:
19th May – Launch of Norfolk Community Foundation ‘Nourishing Norfolk’ campaign
21st May – Falklands Commemoration Service, Stalham Parish Church
26th May – Jubilee event at Wells Community Hospital
27th May – Jubilee Family Picnic at Antingham & Southrepps Primary School
28th May – Shrek the Musical, Sheringham & Cromer Light Opera Society
2nd June – Jubilee commemorative slate unveiling at Holt
3rd June – Inauguration of the Mayoress of Kings Lynn
3rd June – Jubilee Civic Service, Great Yarmouth Minster
12th June – Lord Mayor of Norwich & Sheriff of Norwich Civic Service, Norwich Cathedral
19th June – VE Day 75th Anniversary presentation of commemorative poppies, Cromer Parish church
The Leader began by speaking about the approaching anniversary of the Srebenica genocide in Bosnia, when 8000 men and boys were massacred. He reminded members that their memory was honoured on 11th July every year and it should never be forgotten that hatred and intolerance could flourish if left unchallenged.
He then spoke about how the Council was addressing rising living costs for residents and staff through various schemes including the creation of two discretionary hardship funds for vulnerable residents, an increase to staff mileage rates and excellent performance in the rapid processing of energy rebates. He referred to the Norfolk Community Foundation’s launch of Flourishing Norfolk, which he had attended with the Chairman and thanked all members who were involved with similar initiatives in their communities. He also thanked staff in the housing team who were working hard to reduce the number of rough sleepers in the District.
The Leader thanked the Council’s Communications Team for their hard work in producing ‘Outlook’ magazine which would be distributed to all households in the District shortly.
He then spoke about concerns that had been raised with him regarding rising energy costs and whether the new Reef Leisure centre would be affected. He said he wished to reassure residents and members that the Council was in a more resilient position than most as it was a very modern and efficient facility.
The Leader concluded by informing members that there would be a special meeting of Cabinet at 1pm on 4th July to share information on the Council’s bids to the Levelling Up fund, ahead of the submission deadline of 6th July.
Public Questions and Statements
To consider any questions or statements received from members of the public.
To receive reports from Cabinet Members on their portfolios.
Members are reminded that they may ask questions of the Cabinet Member on their reports and portfolio areas but should note that it is not a debate.
No member may ask more than one question plus a supplementary question, unless the time taken by members’ questions does not exceed 30 minutes in total, in which case, second questions will be taken in the order that they are received (Constitution, Chapter 2, part 2, section 12.2)
Questions will be taken in the order that they are received.
Cabinet members (listed alphabetically)
Cllr T Adams (Leader / Executive Support)
Cllr A Fitch-Tillett – Coast
Cllr W Fredericks – Housing & Benefits
Cllr V Gay – Leisure, Culture & Wellbeing
Cllr R Kershaw – Sustainable Growth
Cllr N Lloyd – Environment
Cllr E Seward – Finance, Assets & Legal
Cllr L Shires – Organisational Resources
Cllr J Toye – Planning & Enforcement
The Chairman asked if any Cabinet members wished to provide an update to their written report. Cllr E Seward, Portfolio Holder for Finance & Assets, referred to the figure in his report for council tax collection for 2021/2022 which was 98.10%. He clarified that this put NNDC in the top 15% of all local authorities for collection rates.
The Chairman invited members to ask questions:
Cllr J Rest referred to Cllr Seward’s report and the reference to a lease at the Fakenham Connect building. He said this was another example of local members not being kept informed of matters in their ward. He asked for more information on the lease arrangements. Cllr Seward apologised that local members had not been informed and said that he would provide a written response.
Cllr N Dixon referred to the recent ‘no notice’ resignation of the Director of Resources. He asked the Leader why it happened the way that it did and whether there was any connection to the many criticisms of NNDC and the events of May 2019 made by the Council’s external auditor, Ernst & Young, in their Annual Report for 2019/20. The Monitoring Officer advised Cllr Dixon that his question may have to be rejected as it was not possible to provide an answer without the disclosure of confidential exempt information. The Leader confirmed that as the questions concerned matters about staffing it could not be discussed in public session.
Cllr C Cushing asked the Leader to what extent he was involved in the discussions resulting in the ‘no notice’ resignation of the Director of Resources and whether there was any extraordinary departure deal agreed to enable this to happen, and whether the Leader had any involvement in such a deal. The Monitoring Officer advised that the question could not be answered without the disclosure of confidential exempt information and must therefore be rejected. The Leader referred Cllr Cushing to his previous response.
Cllr J Stenton asked the Leader whether the residents of North Norfolk would be told the details of any departure deal and any disciplinary action that had been taken. The Leader reiterated his previous response and said that such matters would not be discussed at any local authority and he did not intend to discuss them now.
Cllr M Taylor asked the Leader whether members, who had a collective responsibility for the governance of the Council, would ever be told the contents of any extraordinary departure deal and if it was a confidential agreement, would there be a provision for members to be told confidentially. The Leader referred Cllr Taylor to his previous response.
Cllr G Hayman asked for a point of clarification. He said that the Leader had declined to answer a range of questions, some of which didn’t ask for any confidential information to be disclosed. He asked whether the Leader could confirm whether he was involved in any discussion regarding a departure deal as that was not confidential information. He said that he was concerned that the ... view the full minutes text for item 26.
The following recommendations were made by Cabinet to Council at the meeting held on 6th June:
The Chairman invited Cllr L Shires, Portfolio Holder for Organisational Resources to introduce the first recommendation:
Cabinet Agenda 06 June 2022 – Agenda Item 14: Cromer Pier Infrastructure Works
Cllr Shires proposed the recommendations. She queried the inclusion of exempt papers in the agenda as there had been an agreement at the Cabinet meeting that some of the financial information should be shared in the public domain. The Chief Executive replied that the capital budget amount was specified in the recommendation which was included in the public papers.
Cllr C Cushing said that £1,134k was a huge sum of money to come out of the Council’s purse and he had queried the bulk of the financial information being included in exempt papers at the Cabinet meeting. He said that he had concerns that this seemed to be yet another large amount of money being requested for the Pier. He added that for many residents of the District, the Pier was not always seen as a huge asset but more of a financial ‘black hole’. He asked what other options had been considered for maintaining the pier in the future to prevent further requests to release substantial amounts of money and why, despite previous assurances that the Council would not need to continue to keep paying out for the maintenance of the pier, were members being asked yet again to support such a request.
Cllr Shires replied that this was the third and final phase of the project. She said that the work was necessary to ensure that the pier was a safe structure for the public to access. The alternative would be to dismantle the pier and she did not think that this was a feasible option. Cllr Cushing said that he felt there was more work to be undertaken regarding how much money had been spent in recent years on maintaining the pier and what guarantee was there to assure members that this large tranche of money would be enough. The Chief Executive said that advice had always been sought regarding any works to the pier. It was a Grade II listed structure and the Council had a duty to maintain it. He said that alternative models of funding had been explored including sponsorship and the establishment of a trust but they were not considered appropriate at the time. He concluded by saying that many local authorities had responsibilities and obligations to preserve and maintain historic assets. Cllr Cushing commented that there should be a further discussion at some point to review the options available.
Cllr T FitzPatrick said that he was baffled why there were exempt papers for thisitem. He said that he understood that the contract had been awarded for both the capital project and the insurance contract (the second recommendation). He said that the cost to residents was over £10 a head. He asked about the tender process and that there was only one tender received. The Chief Executive replied that there had been an ... view the full minutes text for item 27.
Contact Officer, telephone number and email:
Democratic Services & Governance Officer (Scrutiny)
Email: Matthew.Stembrowicz@north-norfolk.gov.uk Tel: 01263 516047
The Chairman of Overview & Scrutiny Committee, Cllr N Dixon, introduced this item. He explained that this was a statutory report which provided the Council with an outline of the role of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and a summary of the work undertaken throughout 2021 – 2022. He commended the work of the committee and highlighted its many achievements, however, he said that he wanted to draw members’ attention to three recommendations, which had been raised in previous years. They were a constraint and a restriction to the extent to which the committee could grow and add value.
The first, related to an insufficient number of substitutes. He said that on many occasions when apologies were given, there was not a substitute member in place and this meant that the committee was not operating at its full capacity.
The second recommendation highlighted the continued late submission of reports. This caused volatility in the committee’s work programme. At pre-agenda meetings in particularly, draft reports were often not available and there was no opportunity to comment or request additional information ahead of agenda publication.
The last recommendation highlighted concerns around ‘last minute’ requests to include items under ‘urgent business’. Again, this degraded the quality of scrutiny and limited the opportunity to add maximum value to the process.
It was proposed by Cllr C Cushing, seconded by Cllr N Pearce and
To note the report, affirm the work of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee, and consider the following concerns raised within the report:
· Additional Committee substitutes required to adequately address the number of apologies given.
· Late submission of reports continues to cause volatility in the Work Programme.
· Too many ‘last minute’ requests to include items under Urgent Business which degrades both the quality of scrutiny and the opportunity to add maximum value to the process
The Chairman invited the HR Manager to introduce the report. He explained that the report provided members with information to consider a medium-term increase in mileage rates for staff due to the ongoing situation with respect to increased fuel costs. If supported, the increase would remain in place to the end of the 2022/2023 financial year.
Cllr T FitzPatrick said that he knew how hard staff worked and acknowledged that fuel costs were high, however, he could not support the proposals during a time of an unprecedented rise in the cost of living. Inflation was rising sharply and mortgages were being pushed up. People were struggling to pay for food and it was the wrong message to give to the hard pressed people of North Norfolk at this time. He requested a recorded vote.
Cllr G Hayman said that he agreed with Cllr FitzPatrick’s comments regarding the timing and optics of the proposal. He added that there could be an issue with expenses that if they were higher, then it encouraged and increased use of them, whereas if they were lowered it could encourage a reduction in the use of vehicles. He said that the Portfolio Holder for the Environment should have concerns around such proposals as it the Council should be taking the opportunity to cut the number of journeys being undertaken by staff. He then asked if the mileage rate increase would apply to members. The HR Manager confirmed that these proposals just applied to officers. Members’ allowances were dealt with under a different process.
Cllr Hayman then asked if it was possible to have a list of officers and the mileage that they claimed for over the period of a year. He suggested that Overview & Scrutiny Committee could review this. The HR manager replied that he could provide this information on service basis rather than by individual.
Cllr V FitzPatrick said that this was a difficult matter. He reminded members that the Council was not always held in the highest regard by the public and he felt that awarding such a sizeable increase in mileage rates could cause significant reputational damage. He added that many people were really struggling with rapidly increasing costs and proposals such as this just added to the public’s perception of a ‘them and us’ culture within local authorities. He concluded by saying that it was a terrible message to send out during such a difficult time and he could not support it. All alternatives to car usage should be considered instead.
Cllr N Pearce agreed with the previous comments. He acknowledged the challenges that everyone faced, including high fuel costs. He reminded members that during the pandemic staff had adapted quickly to working from home and modern technology should be utilised fully. He said that the focus should be on essential journeys only. He said it was the wrong message at the wrong time and it also went against the Council’s ambition of achieving net zero status.
The Leader, Cllr T Adams ... view the full minutes text for item 29.
The Chairman invited the Chief Executive to introduce this item. He explained that Section 151 of the Local Government Act 1972 required the Council to designate a Chief Finance (Section 151) Officer. The Chief Finance Officer had a number of statutory duties and responsibilities relating to the proper administration of the Council’s finances, assets and resources and be responsible for those arrangements including managing the relationship with the Council’s Internal and External Audit functions, submission of Government returns.
Following the recent resignation of the officer who had fulfilled this role for the Council since September 2016, it was necessary to designate a new officer to fulfil the Chief Finance Officer role for the authority on an interim basis until a permanent appointment of a new Director of Resources was made. He said that he had begun conversations with neighbouring local authorities and the East of England Local Government Association (EELGA) about filling the vacancy on an interim basis to provide the necessary support for the Council to fulfil its section 151 obligations in the intervening period whilst recruitment took place for the Director of Resources role. He had not been able to conclude discussions with a neighbouring authority but they had been positive and he was hopeful of reaching an outcome soon. He therefore sought delegated authority, in consultation with the Group Leaders, to make the interim appointment.
Cllr N Dixon asked who had held the responsibilities of Section 151 Officer from 1st June until now. The Chief Executive replied that there was a deputy S151 Officer but they were currently absent from work due to sickness. The matter had been discussed with the Council’s external auditors and had brought forward this report to members at the first opportunity.
Cllr G Hayman asked about the level of risk that the Council was exposed to in the absence of both the S151 officer and the deputy 151 officer. The Chief Executive replied that the risks were identified in section 2.5 of the report, adding that it would be possible for the S151 Officer to be absent on leave and the deputy to be absent through sickness and at present the Council’s position had not varied from that.
Cllr N Housden asked what level of indemnity was the Council covered for in the absence of a S151 Officer. The Chief Executive replied that he would have to come back to Cllr Housden with a response on this. He said that he had advised the Council’s external and internal audit partners of the situation and they had indicated that on the basis that a report was taken to Full Council as soon as possible, they were satisfied with the current situation.
Cllr N Pearce asked what arrangements had been in place to oversee the responsibilities of the Director of Resources. The Chief Executive replied that there were processes in place to cover the line management responsibilities of the Director of Resources and these currently shared between the Council’s two other directors. The appointment ... view the full minutes text for item 30.
Questions Received from Members
Please note that the total time allotted for this item is 30 minutes – as set out in the Constitution, Chapter 2, paragraph 3.7(d)
The following item of Opposition Business has been proposed by Cllr C Cushing, seconded by Cllr N Dixon:
On behalf of the residents and businesses of North Norfolk, this District Council notes the financial support provided by the Government over the last two years. Amongst a wide range of support schemes the following are examples of funding and grants that the Government has awarded over this period:
1. COVID Business Support Grants - £126 million paid out to over 3,500 businesses.
2. The COVID Furlough scheme which amounted to many millions.
3. Universal Credit Uplift during the pandemic.
4. The Housing Benefit Subsidy for 2020/21 which totalled £21,085,852.
5. Household Support Fund (HSF) which allocated £115,899 from October 2021 – March 2022 to provide support for 342 vulnerable households most in need of support during last winter.
6. The Council Tax Hardship Fund for 2020/21 where the Government provided £723,834 of funding to NNDC allocate to applicants to help with the payment of their Council Tax during the pandemic. As at 31st March 2021, the council paid out £543,737 of this funding, leaving an underspend of £180,097.
7. This £180,034 was used to create Discretionary Hardship & Support Grant which is currently to help Council Tax payers in need.
8. Norfolk Warm Homes Consortium – NNDC is one of five districts that will receive a share of a £3.85 million grant to provide energy efficiency improvement works for homes occupied by low income households.
9. The Energy Rebate Scheme where the Government has provided funding for NNDC to give households whose primary residence is valued in Council Tax bands A – D a one-off Council Tax energy payment of £150.
10. The Heritage Action Zone grant of £3 million to renovate the centre of North Walsham.
11. The Coastal Transition Accelerator Fund where NNDC will receive an allocation from a £36 million fund to explore innovative approaches to adapting to the impacts of coastal erosion.
This is not an exclusive list but gives a clear indication of the Government’s help and support.
The Conservative Opposition makes the following recommendations for the Liberal Democrat Administration:
· The Leader of the Council writes to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on behalf of the residents of North Norfolk to thank the Government for the considerable support it has given and continues to give the people and businesses of the District.
· A copy of the letter is sent to Duncan Baker, the Member of Parliament for North Norfolk, and Jerome Mayhew, the Member of Parliament for Broadland, so that they understand the gratitude of this Council.
The Leader of the Opposition, Cllr Cushing introduced the motion. He said that it had been brought forward to highlight the financial support provided by the Government to North Norfolk during the pandemic. Examples of some of the grants provided were listed in the motion and he drew members’ attention to the following – £130m of business grants paid out to businesses across the District, the furlough scheme which provided vital support to many residents and the Universal Credit uplift. He then said, that almost as soon as the pandemic began to ease, there was a global surge in fuel costs which was exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine, stoking inflation and creating a cost of living crisis. The Government had responded quickly to help the most financially vulnerable. Again, he highlighted key programmes of support such as the energy rebate scheme, for which so far almost £6m had been paid out to North Norfolk residents. He then spoke about the Council Tax Hardship Fund for 2020/21 where the Government provided £723,834 of funding for NNDC to allocate to applicants to help with the payment of their Council Tax during the pandemic. As at 31st March 2021, the council had paid out £543,737 of this funding, leaving an under-spend of £180,097. He explained that the Government had allowed Councils to retain the under-spend for allocation to residents during 2021/22. NNDC had opted to use the £180,034 to create a Discretionary Hardship & Support Grant which was being used to help Council Tax payers in need.
Cllr Cushing then read out a letter, written by the Leader, Cllr T Adams, that had recently been published on the North Norfolk Liberal Democrat Group’s website. He said that the letter clearly indicated that the Administration of the Council had chosen to provide funding to support vulnerable residents, when in fact it was Government money that had been allocated for that specific purpose. He said that this was not the only example of the Administration trying to claim credit for Government funding – highlighting another leaflet issued earlier in the year relating to Covid grants. He read out the text of the leaflet and said, yet again it was a clear misconception that was being presented.
He concluded by saying that it was disappointing that an item of Opposition Business had to be brought forward to highlight that it was the Government which had provided substantial funding not the Administration.
Cllr T Adams responded by quoting former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher who had said ‘ it is your money, there is no such thing as public money, only taxpayers’ money’. He said that he could therefore not see why the residents of North Norfolk should be grateful to the Government. In fact there had a considerable reduction in funding support to Councils in recent years and, as a rural area, the spend per capita was much lower than in urban areas. Now, with the cost of living crisis escalating fast, the Government was being ... view the full minutes text for item 32.
Notice(s) of Motion
Exclusion of Press and Public
To pass the following resolution – if necessary:
“That under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following item(s) of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph(s) _ of Part 1 of Schedule 12A (as amended) to the Act.”