Venue: District Council Chamber, South Lakeland House, Kendal
Contact: Inge Booth
Following confirmation that the live stream of the meeting had commenced, the Chairman welcomed everyone to the virtual meeting. He referred to the new Government legislation allowing councils to conduct remote meetings and explained in detail to all taking part, and for the benefit of members of the public observing, the procedures for the meeting. The Chairman then asked the Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) to carry out a roll call, during which all Members present indicated by which means they were taking part and confirmed that they were able to see (where practicable) and hear all Members participating in the meeting. The Chairman referred to officers present who would introduce themselves when asked to address the meeting.
During his introduction, the Chairman took the opportunity to place on record, on behalf of all Members, their thanks to James Airey following his recent resignation from the Council, for his many years of public service. Councillor Tom Harvey, Leader of the Conservative Group, also paid tribute to James, pointing out that both the District and County councils, as well as residents, had lost a tremendous advocate for the area. Councillor Mark Wilson, Leader of the Labour Group, explained that James had been a Member in the ward next door to his and that they had always tried to work across the boundary in partnership. Councillor Peter Thornton drew attention to the benefit of James having been a strong opponent which, Councillor Thornton believed, had made himself perform better as a councillor. All Members wished James well for the future.
To authorise the Chairman to sign, as a correct record, the minutes of the meeting of the Council held on 5 November 2020.
No Member having raised concern when asked by the Chairman, it was
RESOLVED – That the Chairman be authorised to sign, as a correct record, the minutes of the meeting of Council held on 5 November 2020.
Any member of the public who wishes to ask a question, make representations or present a deputation or petition at this meeting should apply to do so by no later than 0:01am (one minute past midnight) two working days before the meeting. Information on how to make the application can be obtained by viewing the Council’s Website www.southlakeland.gov.uk or by contacting the Committee Services Team on 01539 733333.
(1) Questions and Representations
To receive any questions or representations which have been received from members of the public.
(2) Deputations and Petitions
To receive any deputations or petitions which have been received from members of the public.
No questions, representations, deputations or petitions had been received from members of the public in respect of this meeting.
Declarations of Interest and Dispensations
To receive declarations by Members of interests in respect of items on this Agenda and to consider any dispensations.
Members are reminded that, in accordance with the revised Code of Conduct, they are required to declare any disclosable pecuniary interests or other registrable interests which have not already been declared in the Council’s Register of Interests. (It is a criminal offence not to declare a disclosable pecuniary interest either in the Register or at the meeting.)
Members may, however, also decide, in the interests of clarity and transparency, to declare at this point in the meeting, any such disclosable pecuniary interests which they have already declared in the Register, as well as any other registrable or other interests.
If a Member requires advice on any item involving a possible declaration of interest which could affect his/her ability to speak and/or vote, he/she is advised to contact the Monitoring Officer at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting.
The Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer), in relation to Items Nos. 5 and 6, reminded Members that a dispensation had been granted to all Members with regard to allowances in respect of matters relating to Local Government Reform and Devolution for a period of four years.
In addition, she explained that, for Agenda Items Nos.5 and 6, councillors who were dual-hatted, i.e. District Councillors and County Councillors, would have an Other Registrable Interest under the Code of Conduct. The Other Registrable Interest would be recorded and, unless any Member considered themselves to be biased or predetermined, they could speak and vote on both items.
In terms of the Other Registrable Interests and Members in attendance at this meeting, these would be recorded for Councillors Ben Berry, Roger Bingham, Pete McSweeney, Peter Thornton and Mark Wilson. In addition, with regard to those Members present who had indicated at the last meeting that they were employees of Cumbria County Council, Councillors Tracy Coward, Alvin Finch and Jon Owen, and, more recently, Councillor Helen Ladhams, they had indicated that they were not biased or predetermined on any of the matters but their interests would be recorded.
Members having been asked, no other declarations of interest were raised in respect of any of the items on this Agenda.
Local Government Act 1972 - Excluded Items
To consider whether the items, if any, in Part II of the Agenda should be considered in the presence of the press and public.
There were no excluded items on the agenda.
To consider the full proposal for a Bay Area Unitary Authority (appendices 1 and 3 to follow).
Copies of appendices 1 and 3 to the report, which had been marked “to follow” on the agenda, had been circulated to Members and published on the Council’s Website on 4 December 2020. A revised version of page 13 of Appendix 1 had subsequently been sent to Members on 7 December and had also been published on the Council’s Website, with a fully revised version of Appendices 1 and 3 having been circulated and published on the Council’s Website earlier in the day of the meeting.
Councillor Giles Archibald, Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder, reported that, further to the decisions of Cabinet and Council on 5 November 2020 to submit an outline proposal for a Bay area unitary authority, work had continued on development of the full proposal which had to be submitted by the deadline of 9 December 2020.
The full proposal formed Appendix 1 to the report and presented the case for a new unitary council for the Bay, focussed on the cohesiveness of the area and its communities. It indicated the opportunities, strengths and strategic needs of the area’s communities and economy and how they may best be addressed through the leadership and resources of local government based on the geography of the functioning economic area and health services footprint.
The proposal set out the approach which had been followed to develop a clear and justified proposal which met the criteria for local government reorganisation. It demonstrated that the Bay was a credible geography and population size, that the proposal had strong level of local support, that it would deliver affordable and efficient local government and that it was deliverable.
The proposal was founded on the principle that ‘form follows function’. The starting point was an understanding of what needed to be addressed in the Bay area, ‘the drivers of change.’ The proposal identified the critical importance and opportunity for public services transformation so that whole system approaches were adopted to address needs. It set out opportunity for a new relationship between communities, the third sector and public services, enabling co-production of services and principles of subsidiarity. From this assessment of needs and opportunities for service reform came the objectives for the Bay Authority and the basis on which success could be measured.
The proposal provided comparison with alternative proposals against the criteria for reorganisation. It presented a financial assessment, identifying financial cost, benefits and sustainability of The Bay. It set out the cost and approach to managing the transition from existing to new arrangements. It emphasised that, by adopting the ‘form follows function’ approach, the most significant benefits for the area and the affordability of public services were derived from service reform and transformation in addition to the savings from organisation structural changes.
The proposal provided commentary on an option for the organisation of local government in the remainder of Cumbria should the proposal for the Bay be implemented. It provided commentary with regard to Lancashire. It presented the opportunity for future discussions to ... view the full minutes text for item C/71
To consider whether to request the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to postpone local elections in May 2021 on account of proposals for local government reorganisation.
Councillor Giles Archibald, Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder, presented a report asking Council to consider whether it wished to seek postponement of local elections in May 2021 on account of proposals for local government reorganisation and in response to a request from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
Council, having approved the submission of a full proposal for local government reorganisation at C/71 above, the decision of the Council with regard to the local elections would be conveyed to MHCLG on 9 December 2020.
The report suggested that a postponement of elections would place at risk: the need for certainty to plan for elections at a time when Covid-19 may still exist; a need to refresh councillors, several of whom may be retiring; and the opportunity to give residents the chance to vote in the full knowledge of the plans afoot for reorganisation. The report further suggested that, from a procedural point, there did not appear to be justification to postpone local elections on account of the proposals being put forward. It was pointed out, however, that the timing of any consultation and issue of purdah was wholly within the decision of MHCLG and that they should be advised of the need to consider timing in this regard.
Councillor Archibald drew attention to approval in the previous item for the proposal for a Bay Unitary Authority and explained that elections to the new authority would not take place until 2023. It was felt, therefore, that there was not a need to ask for any delay in the 2021 elections, as councillors elected in 2021 would serve for a period of two years.
Councillor Archibald having moved the recommendations within the report was seconded by Councillor Dyan Jones.
Concerns were raised with regard to the cost implications of full elections, to safety for voters in the light of Covid-19, as well as to those involved in political campaigning and the delivery of leaflets, and to the imminence of reorganisation. A particularly strong concern was raised at the holding of elections in May 2021, reference being made to the sacrifices being made by NHS workers, and it being stressed that this would be irresponsible during a pandemic and that it would not be until at least June before there was any sign of normality.
A number of comments were raised. It was suggested that, should the elections go ahead, they should be carried out through all-out postal votes, thereby allowing residents to engage safely, with attention being drawn to the fact that not everyone would have been vaccinated against Covid-19 by May 2021. A pressing need for all-out postal votes was stressed and the fact that it was in the Council’s gift to make comment within its response to MHCLG to ask for consideration to be given to this or to some other safe method of voting. Another suggestion was that more postal votes should be encouraged but that this should not be enforced, with some residents ... view the full minutes text for item C/72