Agenda item

Leader's Announcements and Cabinet Question Time, including the Composite Report of the Cabinet (1 Hour Maximum)

Council is asked to receive the Executive Reports (Mid-Year 2018/19) from the Leader and Cabinet and to deal with any questions raised by Members to the appropriate Cabinet Members on the contents of the reports.


To receive announcements from the Leader and, in accordance with Paragraphs 10.2 and 10.3 of the Council’s Rules of Procedure, to deal with any questions to the Leader and/or Portfolio Holders on any topic which is within the jurisdiction or influence of the Council and is relevant to their Portfolio.  Any Member who poses a question will be entitled to ask one supplementary question on the same topic.


Members are encouraged to give 24 hours’ written notice of questions to the Solicitor to the Council of questions to be raised under the Agenda Item.  If no notice is received, then the Portfolio Holder can reserve the right to give a written answer.  Where written notice of questions has been given, these will be taken first.  Should a Member wish to ask more than one question, questions should be listed in order of priority.  If more than one Member sends in a question, these will be taken in alphabetical order of Members’ names, alternated from meeting to meeting.  Each question and each response is restricted to three minutes.


In introducing the Executive Reports (Mid-Year 2018/19), Councillor Giles Archibald, Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder, informed Council that discussions had continued to take place between Members of Parliament, the Council and GKS regarding the forthcoming closure of its sterile injectables manufacturing unit at Ulverston.  GSK remained committed to work with the community.  There had been a proposal of a transfer of some land to the public sector on which to form new businesses and enterprises.  GSK was also committed to job creation and assisting people in finding new work, as well as the apprentice programme.  The Company had reconfirmed its commitment to support the new Leisure Centre at Ulverston to the tune of £2m.  Councillor Archibald said that he continued to emphasise to GSK the Council’s concern with regard to the effect of the closure on employees whose welfare was of the utmost priority.


Councillor Archibald spoke of the need for the Council to ensure that children were provided with safe walking and cycling paths to school and referred to the excellent example of the Masters Grange path in Kirkby Lonsdale.  He asked Members to approach their local schools to find out if there was anything that the Council or other government tiers could do in order to assist.


Councillor Archibald announced the good news of the award of a £60,000 grant for the scheme of improvements to Millerground, money for which had already been earmarked within the Capital Programme.  Millerground was an excellent example of partnership working with the community and the additional funding would help all aspirations to be met.  Councillor Archibald expressed thanks to all involved in the work and in attracting the grant.


In accordance with paragraph 10.2 and 10.3 of the Council’s Rules of Procedure, the following written questions had been submitted to the meeting:-


From Councillor Tracy Coward to Councillor Graham Vincent, Economy and Assets Portfolio Holder - You often tell us of the strong South Lakeland economy.  Could you please put this into a North West context?


Councillor Vincent responded by saying that, last year, the Office for National Statistics had shown that South Lakeland had the biggest economy in Cumbria.  New figures announced on the previous day had shown that South Lakeland was still the biggest economy, adding a further £21m.  South Lakeland’s economic partner, Barrow, once again showed strong growth.  Barrow and South Lakeland were the only Cumbrian districts to have increased Gross Added Value, all of the others having decreased.  However, South Lakeland’s other economic partner’s, Lancaster’s, had grown by even more than South Lakeland.  This had brought the Council’s economic partnership into sixth place in the North West, behind Manchester, Cheshire East, Liverpool, Cheshire West and Chester and Trafford.  Morecambe Bay was now an official grouping in the Office for National Statistics charts.  Morecambe Bay was establishing a strong economic position and continued to grow collectively and individually.  It had prepared and distributed its prospectus and was in the final draft of its asks of the Government.  This would require the Local Enterprise Partnerships of Cumbria and Lancashire to work together to support ambitions.  South Lakeland had a position in the North West as a powerful economy.  Although a further £0.5b increase in Gross Added Value was needed to move into fifth place, it was an aim.


From Councillor Eamonn Hennessy to Councillor Graham Vincent, Economy and Assets Portfolio Holder - The Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership has Advanced Manufacturing as one of their 3 main priorities.  Is South Lakeland a contributor to this priority?


Councillor Vincent explained that Advanced Manufacturing was the manufacture of products that required significant technical background and process control  South Lakeland and South Cumbria both had many significant Advanced Manufacturing companies, a number of which were leaders in their fields and, all together, provided the largest Advanced Manufacturing base in Cumbria:-


·         James Cropper – technical fibre products;

·         Anord-Mardix – switch gear and power distrubtion systems (500 employees);

·         Gilbert Gilkes – hydro turbines (150 employees);

·         Team – on-site pipe maintenance (100 employees in Cumbria);

·         Kendal Nutricare – highly nutricious baby food (140 employees);

·         Hollingsworth and Vose – global manufacture of filtration materia (50 employees);

·         Billerud – renewable packaging for pharmaceutical industry (140 employees);

·         Acrastyle – high voltage sub-station protection and controls (60 employees);

·         Marle International – LED technology (100 employees);

·         Oxley Group – LED technology (180 employees);

·         Siemens Subsea – high specification sub-sea connections;

·         Tritech – sonar specialists (60 employees); and

·         GSK – antibiotics manufacturing (190 employees);


Councillor Vincent added that Barrow’s economy was booming, centred around BAE Systems, with high performance engineering on site.  Other Advanced Manufacturing included Gyro Data – steerable drilling systems.  This list demonstrated that South Lakeland was big not only in tourism but also in Advanced Manufacturing.


From Councillor Kevin Lancaster to Councillor Giles Archibald, Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder - Some members will recall that some time ago I asked a question concerning Private Water Supplies in South Lakeland and the implementation of the EU Drinking Water directive.  Those members will also recall that I received a dismissive and unhelpful response.  The parish council in Garsdale, a ski instructor from Cautley and many others have since asked many questions and none has received what they considered to be a worthwhile answer.  Tales of the actions of our sub-contractors feature regularly in every bar in the more remote valleys of the district as I am sure Cllr Mitchell will be able to confirm.  One pensioner claims she was verbally threatened with imprisonment whilst another felt so intimidated that she needed my colleague Cllr Capstick to be present when the visit was conducted.  No-one who has read any of the reports written by our contractor can be left in any doubt as to their poverty of argument.  Four years have passed.  How many of these reports have you read and is your administration proud of the way it has implemented the EU Drinking Water directive in this district?


Councillor Dyan Jones, Environment Portfolio Holder, responded to the question, which fell within the remit of her portfolio.  She explained that local authorities acted as the regulators for private water supplies and had a number of statutory duties under the Private Water Supplies Regulations.  These Regulations placed a duty on local authorities to conduct a risk assessment of each private water supply within their area at least once every five years and to undertake monitoring in order to determine compliance with drinking water standards.  Most importantly, the service protected the health of residents and visitors who consumed water from a private supply whilst living, working, or exploring South Lakeland.  This was very important, as 10% of the local population relied on private water supplies and some 2.81 million visitors had stayed in hotels, bed and breakfasts, holiday cottages, camping and caravan sites and bunkhouses in 2017, many of which were on private water supplies.  Councillor Jones found it difficult to believe the accusations contained in Councillor Lancaster’s question and was not aware of any complaint having been made against the Council’s contractor, about whom only positive feedback had been received.  Councillor Jones took the opportunity to update members on South Lakeland’s private water service and the essential protection to public health which it provided.  South Lakeland had approximately 1,700 private water supplies, of which 690 were required to be Regulated.  The Regulated supplies were those which served either commercial premises, or those which served more than one property.  Single domestic supplies were exempt from the Regulations.  The most recent Chief Drinking Water Inspector’s (DWI’s) report, published in August 2018, showed that South Lakeland had the largest number of private water supplies of any District Council in England and Wales, with only the unitary authorities of Cornwall, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Carmarthenshire and Powys having more.  Since the last response to questions raised regarding this service, there had been a number of changes.  The Private Water Supply 2009 Regulations had been superseded by the Private Water Supply (England) Regulations 2016, and the Private Water supply (Amendment) Regulations 2018.  The Council had written to all residents and businesses within district whilst these Regulations had been in their consultation period in order to allow residents to respond to any concerns they may have directly to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).  The main changes imposed by these Regulations had been:-


·         An increased consideration of radioactive and radiological substances which may be present in private water supplies – over the last three years the Council had carried out a survey of radon in private water supplies across the District and, as a result, has gained an exemption from the requirement for further monitoring – Councillor Jones understood that South Lakeland District Council was the only local authority in England and Wales to gain this exemption and this was important because the laboratory analysis cost for a radon sample alone was £90 and would increase to just over £100 in the New Year.

·         A requirement to now serve enforcement notices in all situations where supplies fell short of minimum standards or where they failed to meet microbiological and chemical parameters when tested.

·         Removal of the maximum fee which Local Authorities could previously charge in recognition that the time taken to bring many of these supplies up to minimum standards often far exceeded the limits previously set in 2009.

·         Under the 2018 Amendment Regulations the Council was now required to sample for a much wider range - approximately 45 – of parameters set out in the Regulations for three years (in most cases three annual samples) and then, providing samples were below 30% of the maximum permitted concentration or value, the Council could exercise its discretion and cease sampling for them.  This was a new additional resource demand and more time would be required to collect the samples.  As the Council started to reduce parameters, it would need a method of managing the sampling programme so that it knew which parameters were required at each of the premises from where samples were taken.  The IT Group was currently helping the team develop a bespoke solution.

·         In order to accommodate the additional sampling requirements and ensure that samples were transported in the correct temperature-controlled environment, the Council would be trialling the use of a temperature controlled vehicle in the first quarter of the new year.

·         The 2018 Amendment Regulations also required local authority sampling officers to be United Kingdom Accreditation Service accredited – to assist local authorities, the Drinking Water Inspectorate was developing a local authority accreditation scheme and, once available, officers would become accredited.


In response to these changes, the Private Water Team had submitted evidence to the DWI that radioactive and radiological substances were not a significant risk to supplies within district, saving approximately £100 per water test to residents.  Fees associated with the service still remained within the limits imposed by the 2009 Regulations, despite these limits having now been removed as requested by a number of Local Authorities.  The fees charged were done so on a reasonable cost recovery basis to support the service which the Council delivered.  Private water supply risk assessments had to be carried out by the local authority or those appointed by them and had to be carried out using a risk assessment tool produced by the DWI, which was part of DEFRA. The DWI was the competent authority for ensuring the Drinking Water Directive requirements were met in England and Wales.  It provided independent reassurance that public water supplies in England and Wales were safe and that drinking water quality was acceptable to consumers and had a statutory role to act as technical advisors to local authorities in relation to the implementation of the Private Water Supplies Regulation.  This included the provision of technical and scientific advice on all aspects of drinking water quality, including on private water supplies.  The Inspectorate published an annual report on private water supplies in England and Wales.  In February 2018, inspectors from the DWI had met with Council officers to discuss progress of its private water service.  Although generally pleased with the progress made, and the visible improvements to supplies within district which they visited, Inspectors had felt that the service was under-resourced in order to undertake the rolling programme of risk assessments on supplies.  A contractor had subsequently been identified and employed to support the work of the Council’s officers.  Any work submitted by the contractor, Watersense UK, was carefully reviewed by the Council’s officers to ensure that it met the DWI requirements before it was passed to those responsible for the water supply.  Additional resources to support this ongoing important public protection work for the future would be identified through the Customer Connect Programme.  In response to the final part of the question, Councillor Jones informed Members that she would not generally see personal and property specific information contained in Risk Assessment reports unless directly approached by a resident to investigate a specific enquiry.  Officers had implemented a complex series of Regulations which far exceeded the Regulatory requirement prior to 2009.  The work they have undertaken had led to the improvement of a significant number of private water supplies within the district.  They had implemented a charging regime which was fair, consistent with other similar sized local authorities, and focused on reasonable cost recovery.  Councillor Jones concluded that, despite comments, she was proud of how the Council had implemented the requirements of the Regulations.


Councillor Lancaster was of the opinion that the response demonstrated that the Administration of the Council was not interested in the poor way in which its officers implemented the Private Water Supplies Regulations.  He referred to the Council’s commitment to the provision of affordable housing and asked Councillor Jones if she would agree that this commitment did not extend to affordable water?


Councillor Jones undertook to provide a written response.


From Councillor Doug Rathbone to Councillor Jonathan Brook, Deputy Leader and Housing, People and Innovation Portfolio Holder - I have heard good things about our handyman scheme. Please would you describe some of its successes?  How can Councillors and their Wards or Parishes tap into this valuable service?


Councillor Brook responded, pointing out that, as indicated within his Executive Report, Handy Person scheme jobs were up by 48% and Disabled Facilities Grant completions up by 115% during 18/19.  Occupational Therapist referrals had increased, as well as the number of approvals for jobs.  The scheme was intended to help elderly or vulnerable householders carry out very simple, but essential, works at their homes.  The labour was provided free-of-charge and the cost of items and materials paid for by the householder, unless these had been supplied to the scheme by a partner agency (as in the case of some security items).  They were small jobs but with significant results.  Types of jobs and the figures for those carried out in 2018/19 included:-


·         Supply and Fit Grab Handle(s) (220);

·         Supply and Fit Hand Rail(s) (147);

·         Fit Key Safe (105);

·         Fit Curtains/Pole/Rail/Blinds (61);

·         Fit LED Light Bulb (50);

·         Move/Assemble Furniture (49);

·         Fit Hand/Grab Handle(s) - Customer Supplied (48);

·         Replace Washers in Taps/Cisterns/Ball Valves (42);

·         Replace Light Bulb/Fluorescent Tube/Lamp Shade (41);

·         Repair Door(s)/Window(s) (37);

·         Repair/Renew Light Fitting (28);

·         Replace Sealant Around Sink/Bath (23);

·         Fit Picture/Mirror, etc., to Wall (23);

·         Repair/Fit Toilet Seat (23);

·         Unblock Sink/Repair Minor Leak (15);

·         Fit Passive Infrared Security Light(s) (14);

·         Fit Door Lock (13); and

·         Repair Gate/Fence/Path (11).


Councillor Brook said that, bearing in mind the demographic of the area and the concerns of elderly and the need to move towards lifetime homes, the Handy Person scheme had a significant and growing role to play in the safety and security of South Lakeland’s residents and in the reduction in care costs.  Councillor Brook explained how councillors could tap into the scheme through the Website or directly through the Housing Standards Team.  He welcomed discussions with Members on how to publicise the scheme within individual wards, for example, in community centres.


The written questions having been presented and answered, the following verbal questions were taken from the floor:-


Councillor James Airey asked Councillor Andrew Jarvis, Finance Portfolio Holder, about the financial implications of the plans to build a hotel and leisure complex on the Glebe and whether the Council was not simply content with having offered up the Royalty within the Lake District National Park Local Plan?


Councillor Jarvis’ understanding was that nobody had the right to build on the Glebe as there was a covenant on the property.  He said that there had been no such discussions between officers, the Cabinet or the Lake District National Park Authority.  There was no such intention, nor had it ever been the intention, and there was no such proposal in the Lake District National Park Local Plan.


Councillor Airey, as a supplementary question, asked whether officers had put the Glebe forward in the Plan without the knowledge of the Administration.


Councillor Jarvis responded by saying that since he had become a Member of the Cabinet, there had been no such proposal.


Councillor Giles Archibald, Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder, pointed out that this was misinformation.  He emphasised the fact that there was a covenant on the Glebe and that this had been pointed out at a recent meeting of the Cabinet.  Councillor Archibald reminded Members that when he had become Leader of the Council he had extended an offer to all group leaders for early discussions on issues in order to pre-empt misinformation, however, explained that not all had taken up the opportunity.


Councillor David Williams referred to the Executive Report from Councillor Graham Vincent, Economy and Assets Portfolio Holder, and questioned the portfolio responsibility for the promotion of small businesses in both towns and rural areas, as well as Councillor Vincent’s earlier mention of Gilkes as being a local Advanced Manufacturing company.  He referred to a recent meeting of the Planning Committee at which Councillor Giles Archibald had spoken in opposition to a planning application for a gas fired electricity generation station at Old Hutton.  At that meeting, a representative from Gilkes had addressed Members in support of the application due to the fact that the Company would be supplying the machinery and that this was a contract which was urgently needed.  The Company had indicated that it was prepared to diversify its business to meet the contract.


Councillor Vincent informed the Council that, during talks, Gilkes had only expressed interest in battery storage which formed an element of previous application that had been refused by the Planning Committee, and not in wind turbines.  He undertook to research the matter and to provide a response in writing.  Councillor Giles Archibald, Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder, added that the Council had always believed in sustainable growth, however, that he had spoken in object at the Planning Committee meeting due to a lack of mention of carbon footprint during the construction phase and the need for a reduction in greenhouse gases.

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