Council is asked to receive the Executive Reports (Look Forward 2019/20) 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 Legal, Governance and Democracy Interim Lead Specialist 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.
Copies of an Addendum to Appendix 1 to the Deputy Leader and Housing and Innovation Portfolio Holder’s Executive Report had been circulated prior to the commencement of the meeting.
Councillor Giles Archibald, Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder, introduced the Cabinet Members’ respective Look Forward 2019/20 Executive Reports.
In presenting the reports, Councillor Archibald reminded Members of the need for them to work together for the benefits of South Lakeland’s Communities, also reiterating the fact that his door was always open.
Councillor Archibald raised the issue of Climate Change and informed Members that Councillor Dyan Jones, Climate Emergency and Localism Portfolio Holder, would be responding affirmatively to the support being requested by Kendal Town Council for a Citizens’ Jury. The business case indicated a total cost of £20,000 and the District Council’s contribution would be £5,000. Councillor Archibald encouraged other key service areas and local service areas to monitor the pilot to establish if it had relevance for their communities; the Council would continue to support local initiatives, such as it had done significantly in Ambleside.
Councillor Archibald, due to the importance of security to economic prosperity, announced that he would be proposing to make available a fund from the pool reserves dedicated for economic purposes to part fund new CCTV cameras in conjunction with parish and town councils, and the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). The fund would initially be £12,000, but could be increased, depending on demand; more detail would be provided in due course. Councillor Archibald believed that the PCC had written to parishes on the subject, however, asked councillors who were aware of a parish that may be interested to let him know; he was already aware of several such parishes.
Members raised queries in relation to the Executive reports.
Councillor David Webster referred to Councillor Archibald’s introduction and to his mention of financial contributions to both Kendal and Ambleside. Councillor Webster informed Members that Ulverston Town Council had set up and had made £10,000 available for such a committee to address environmental issues and drew attention to an event scheduled to be held at the Coronation Hall in September. He suggested that a contribution of £5,000 from the District Council towards the Ulverston fund would be greatly appreciated. Councillor Webster also advised that discussions between Ulverston and the PCC were ongoing in relation to CCTV in the Town and further suggested that if the District Council was providing funding in this regard, then Ulverston would make an application.
Councillor Archibald welcomed the submission of a business case from Ulverston, also encouraging others to come forward. The District Council was keen to partner with both Ulverston and other local service areas to tackle such issues.
Councillor Janette Jenkinson, who was a member of the Committee referred to by Councillor Webster, referred to a time when the County Council had attached stickers to refuse bins in order to promote the message, twenty’s plenty. She suggested that practical messages regarding environmental issues could be dealt with in a similar manner, thus enabling residents to become involved. She drew attention to the excellent environmental work being carried out in Ulverston as a result of the Town Council’s contribution. Councillor Jenkinson wondered if the District Council would be willing to take up the idea of posting environmental messages on wheelie bins and, if not, advised that the Town Council would do this.
Councillor Dyan Jones recalled having attended a meeting in Ulverston and advised Councillor Jenkinson that it was her intention to form an appropriate plan.
In accordance with paragraphs 10.2 and 10.3 of the Council’s Rules of Procedure, the following written questions had been submitted to the meeting:-
From Councillor Tom Harvey to Councillor Dyan Jones, Climate Emergency and Localism Portfolio Holder – “As I am sure the portfolio holder is aware, new legislation affecting properties with a septic tank comes into force on the 1st January 2020. Some people are fully briefed, and others have no idea what it means so can the PF give a brief synopsis on their understanding of the legislation and outline what steps this Council will be taking to both inform and help residents and our businesses who may be affected by this?”
Councillor Jones responded, referring her response to a similar question raised by Councillor Kevin Lancaster in the previous year and undertook to forward a synopsis from officers. Councillor Jones explained that this was not a local authority matter, the Environment Agency being the regulator. She suggested that if Councillor Harvey felt that it would be of benefit, then a link to the relevant guidance could be provided on the Council’s Website.
From Councillor Eamonn Hennessey to Councillor Dyan Jones, Climate Emergency and Localism Portfolio Holder – “Climate change meetings are being held around the district. Could you comment as to how well these have been attended and your initial impressions of the suggestions and feedback emanating from the attendees?”
Councillor Jones reported that the meetings had been well attended and well received. Response had been positive and comments about the work being carried out by the Green Team at South Lakeland District Council had been good. There had been many suggestions ranging from challenging supermarkets about the amount of plastic they generated to how public transport in Cumbria needed to be improved. Many ideas were focussed around planning regulations and building requirements and the frustration that more could currently not be done because of Government legislation. The important message from attendees was around the sense of a lack of urgency from Government. Although politics was not discussed, it had been clear at every meeting that people were frustrated with Government and wanted them to move forward, certainly changing laws so that local authorities could do more. Councillor Jones pointed out that South Lakeland was fortunate, with beautiful surroundings, access to green space and low unemployment. This did not, however, make South Lakeland immune to the challenge of climate change and loss of biodiversity. She was pleased to see local action community groups formed out of the meetings and encouraged Members to join a group within their own wards.
From Councillor Kevin Holmes to Councillor Jonathan Brook, Deputy Leader and Housing and Innovation Portfolio Holder – “As portfolio holder you may be aware that Levens Parish council are in the latter stages of putting a plan together to build a new village hall along with 7 low cost houses to rent. All stake holders have signed up on the section 106 apart from SLDC. What steps will you take to move this scheme forward?”
Councillor Brook responded, advising that he was well aware of this much-needed development in Levens, as well as a number of other Community Lead Housing Schemes across the District. Each community scheme came with its own challenges, as the Council’s experience with the scheme in nearby Helsington typified. In respect of the Levens scheme, Councillor Brook provided some background, explaining that the Council had signed a Section 106 Agreement with Levens Parish Council and the other parties in July 2016. This, amongst other matters, had provided funding towards a new village hall and seven low cost houses. The Council has agreed to support these proposals with a grant of some £350,000. More recently, the Council had received a further Section 106 Agreement from the Lake District National Park’s Legal Team. This reflected the changes in boundaries of the Lake District National Park and also, he believed, changes to interested parties in the Agreement. The Council’s Legal Team had received an Agreement signed by all parties on 4 July 2019 and was carrying out due diligence on the Agreement to ensure that the original agreements and commitments were not unnecessarily placed at risk by the current proposals. Councillor Brook undertook to ask officers to keep both Members and himself updated on progress and, as a result of the question, the Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist would ensure that the matter was prioritised. Councillor Brook took the opportunity to mention progress on another community housing scheme by Homes for Ulverston who were working towards converting the former Hartley’s/Robinson’s Brewery site for local occupancy and low cost housing for rent, creating 37 new homes.
From Councillor Dave Khan to Councillor Robin Ashcroft, Economy, Culture and Leisure Portfolio Holder – “I understand that we have been awarded cultural compact status. Can you tell us more about this DESIGNATION?”
Councillor Ashcroft was pleased to inform Members that this was the case and provided an update. Arts Council England had advised the Council, as lead authority on the Cultural Compact Proposal, that the submission for the Morecambe Bay – Lancaster and South Cumbria Economic Region (LSCER) to become a Cultural Compact made to the Government Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Arts Council England had been successful and that all of the Compact’s proposals had been approved by the DCMS. Moving forward, the Council, as part of the collective LSCER partnership with Barrow and Lancaster authorities would now be part of the national pilot of Cultural Compacts and part of a cohort of places around the UK that would develop this new model. The LCSER was in a privileged position to be part of the national pilot and it was a tremendous opportunity for the LSCER to co-create and co-deliver a holistic vision for culture – that Morecambe Bay would be the best rural cultural and creative capital of the UK. Councillor Ashcroft reported that the formal acceptance process was now being followed which would produce an offer letter from Arts Council England. He explained that the recommendation to establish Cultural Compacts had come from the UK Cultural Cities Enquiry which had reported on how cities could create new development opportunities through investing in arts and culture to create economic and social value for people from every background. At the heart of these recommendations was the idea of a Cultural Compact – an effective place based partnership structure that enabled a place to take full advantage of its cultural resources and embed them within wider local and national networks to fully realise their potential to contribute to inclusive growth. Arts Council England had said that there were pleased with the quality of the proposals, and with how these places had taken this Cultural Cities Enquiry recommendation and had really thought about what this approach could contribute to their strategic plans. Councillor Ashcroft informed Members that a Cultural Compact was a strategic cross sector partnership driven by a common ambition for culture and place within the broader strategic development of a locality. What defined a Compact was ambition. Government believed that, by adopting a Compact, places could harness culture’s contribution to growth and assist with the development of Local Industrial Strategies. These partnerships sought to bring together local authorities, business, education, cultural and community leaders to co-design and deliver a vision for culture in a city. DCMS were interested to see if the Cultural Compact idea could work with a rural model and the LCSER had been chosen to be the pilot for such. Compacts were groups that provided the leadership and strategic capacity that enabled key stakeholders to work together to realise their vision for a place and allow more people to feel the social and economic impact of cultures in their lives. DCMS wanted to collaborate with places in the pilot programme to learn how this approach benefitted localities, what challenges it presented and what learnings could be developed together to take into the future policy perspectives about the role of culture in place making. Councillor Ashcroft informed Members that the work on Morecambe Bay “Becoming a Cultural Compact” was due to commence in September 2019, and would be completed by March 2020. This was a very significant opportunity for South Lakeland, as well as Lancaster and Barrow, and Councillor Ashcroft paid tribute to the Council’s officers, both over the longer term in establishing South Lakeland’s excellent reputation with the Arts Council, and in securing the Cultural Compact.
From Councillor Helen Ladhams to Councillor Suzie Pye, Health, Wellbeing and Financial Resilience Portfolio Holder – “Poverty continues to be concern. What benchmarks and figures are you paying most attention to?”
Councillor Pye responded, having researched a few different sources to try and to provide an overview of poverty levels both nationally and in South Lakeland. The Social Metrics Commission (SMC) had published a detailed report last autumn in which they had identified that an estimated 14.2 million people in the UK were living in poverty. Of those, 8.4 million were working age adults, indicating that employment was not necessarily a guaranteed path out of poverty; 4.5 million were children; and 1.4 million were of pension age. Councillor Pye felt there was some good news, with less pensioners than in recent history living in poverty. 6.9 million people in poverty (nearly half) were living in a household with a disabled person, which, she felt, was worryingly disproportionate. Councillor Pye informed Members that the SMC’s definition of poverty was for a family to have an income of 55%, or less, of that of the median family. Unlike previous measures of poverty, this took into account a wider range of unavoidable costs associated with personal circumstances, such as disability, as well as access to savings. It also included those living on the streets and those in overcrowded housing that were not identified in other measures of poverty. The SMC broke up the national figures into regions – South Lakeland was in the North West region, which was only partly useful for examination of this area. Councillor Pye advised Members that she had asked the SMC for data relating to South Lakeland but that they were unable to provide these details due to the methods they used to gather data. However they had said that they had the potential to provide data down to local authority levels in the future. For now, the SMC remained a useful new tool for looking at the state of poverty nationwide and in wider regions. Regarding local levels of poverty, Councillor Pye reported that the End Child Poverty Website provided very recent statistics for the number of children currently living in poverty in South Lakeland, which, as of May this year, stood at 23% after housing costs – an increase of 1.1% on the previous year. These figures could be broken down into ward level so that it was possible to see that, after housing costs, the former Kendal Underley and Kendal Kirkland wards had the highest levels of child poverty in South Lakeland, at 34.6%. Councillor Pye explained that child poverty had long-lasting effects. By GCSE age, there was a 28% gap between children receiving free school meals and their wealthier peers in terms of the number achieving at least 5 A*-C GCSE grades. The Council was also keeping in touch with the local food banks in order to monitor the trends they were witnessing in terms of numbers of people relying on them to feed themselves and their families. The King’s Food Bank in Kendal had recorded an 18% increase in usage year on year for the last two years. They were in no doubt that the roll out of Universal Credit and the associated five week wait was a major contributing factor to their increased usage. Ulverston Food Bank, which was part of the Barrow Food Bank, had provided Councillor Pye with their latest statistics which showed that, in Ulverston alone, there had been a 38% increase in usage over the past few months, compared with the same period in the previous year. Councillor Pye stressed that it was worth remembering also that, with the school holidays now in full flow, there would be more families struggling to feed their children than usual, which presented an added strain to the already busy food banks. The SMC had stated that, as well as the 14.2 million people living in poverty in the UK, a further 2.5 million people lived less than 10% above the poverty line. This meant that a relatively small change – a rise in the cost of living, a change in income, or a cut in benefits - might be all it took to push these people into poverty. Councillor Pye pointed out that many people were just one piece of bad luck, one unfortunate decision, or one unforeseen crisis away from potential poverty.
From Councillor Matt Severn to Councillor Robin Ashcroft, Economy, Culture and Leisure Portfolio Holder – “Is there any progress to report on the Lancaster and South Cumbria Economic Region?”
Councillor Ashcroft responded in the affirmative. He first highlighted the objectives of the Strategy and the potential benefits to Lancaster, Barrow and, in particular, South Lakeland. He emphasised how together, growth could be driven and skills in energy, advanced manufacturing, digital technologies, health innovation, life sciences, higher education and the visitor economy built on to grow a nationally and internationally significant economy. Councillor Ashcroft reported on progress to date:-
· 30 May 2019 – South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) Cabinet Members and officers had met with Lancaster University to discuss ways in which each other’s knowledge and support could be used to progress the initiative and also how other issues such as Climate Change, Biodiversity and skills enhancement and retention could be collaborated on.
· 31 May 2019 – SLDC had met with the new Leader and Chief Executive Officer of Lancaster City Council to agree their support for the proposed launch event and also for the forthcoming cultural compact bid.
· 4 June 2019 – SLDC officers had met with the jointly-appointed consultants, Mickledore, to outline the potential offers and asks of Government based around individual and collective strengths; this work was ongoing.
· 5 June 2019 – The Leader and Chief Executive had met with Barrow’s new Leader/Executive and Chief Executive Officer and it had been agreed to take forward the initiative to take forward the launch event.
· 6 June 2019 – A collective bid had been made to the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport for a cultural compact, supported by the Arts Council.
· 14 June 2019 - Lancaster and South Cumbria Economic Region (LSCER) Launch Event at Lancaster University. More than 100 delegates had heard about the opportunity and potential of the area. This had included many local businesses from South Lakeland, and feedback had been very positive. The plan was now to engage further with local businesses for them to help shape a future deals or investment plan for SLDC and Barrow/Lancaster.
· 19 June 2019 – SLDC Leader/officers had met with Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership. He had been encouraging of the initiative and had offered his help in preparing for any future work with Government.
· 3 July 2019 – An informal meeting of three Leaders had been held at the Local Government Association Conference in Bournemouth to discuss progress and future plans.
· 8 July 2019 – SLDC/Barrow Chief Executive Officers had met with Cumbria County Council Chief Executive Officer/Director to discuss potential support for the initiative.
· 17 July 2019 – SLDC Deputy Leader and Chief Executive Officer, along with Barrow Deputy Leader and Chief Executive Officer, had met with three of the Morecambe Bay Members of Parliament in Westminster to outline potential future plans and how they could support the initiative.
· 18 July 2019 – Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, had met with Leaders and officers of the three Councils in Lancaster to discuss the potential way forward and progression to Government.
· 19 July 2019 – SLDC’s Operational Lead Specialist Services and the Deputy Leader of Barrow had made a presentation to Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership to gather support for any future initiative.
Councillor Ashcroft closed, saying that, notwithstanding the fact that both Lancaster and Barrow Councils, post the May elections, had seen new Members and officers setline into new roles, he was sure that Members would recognise the considerable progress that had been made to date. The initiative had gained considerable support already, with much enthusiasm for moving it forward.
From Councillor Tom Harvey to Councillor Dyan Jones, Climate Emergency and Localism Portfolio Holder – “Recent media coverage has highlighted how the collection and disposal of general waste and recyclable waste particularly plastic, is at the forefront of many people’s concerns. This coverage has demonstrated how in some cases, plastics which are collected and disposed of in apparently the correct way, actually end up without the knowledge of local authorities in landfill, often thousands of miles away. I appreciate SLDC has a clear general summary on the website of how and where our recyclable material goes, but my question is will the PF provide Councillors with a clear audit trail, such as the companies that deal with the waste and the final destination of our recycled plastic, showing the route of this waste so that we, as Councillors, can tell our residents that the sterling work they do on recycling their waste is indeed a worthwhile exercise?”
Councillor Jones advised that she was unable to provide Councillors with a clear audit trail as the information was of a sensitive nature. She advised, however, that there was a clear audit path and a strict reporting structure that the Council complied with; this had been in place since 2003. Councillor Jones explained that South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) was responsible for collection of waste; Cumbria County Council (CCC) was responsible for the disposal of residuals. SLDC managed its recyclable waste and had a full audit trial of where this recyclable waste ended up. SLDC received income and recycling credits for this product as it was re-used. Nothing managed by SLDC left the UK. Councillor Jones reported that waste was audited quarterly. A significant audit had been recently completed by CCC, and SLDC had a duty to report every month to the County and the Environment Agency. Called waste data flow, its purpose was to record every kilo of waste collected and where it had gone. This was a nationwide database. Councillor Jones suggested that there was a subtle inference in Councillor Harvey’s question that the communications message was inaccurate and that access to an audit trail would allay any concerns from the public. However, she reiterated that the information requested was of a confidential and sensitive nature. Councillor Jones reported that, in the last three months, an officer from SLDC had audited Kendal Fell/Sinkfall, Ulverston/Cumbria Waste, Carlisle. The process carried out by the three sites in the Midlands that SLDC used were audited by the Environment Agency. CCC also followed an audit trail. Councillor Jones said that, pending publication by the Government of the results of the Waste Strategy, there were questions to consider. Would the current state of inertia continue or would it be pushed back or delayed? Would Westminster recognise the different challenges faced by rural and urban authorities? Would they recognise some of the impact that the new Strategy would have on the budgets and revenue and, ultimately, the risks and costs associated in providing a food waste collection service? Councillor Jones took the opportunity to thank residents for the good work they did sorting at source, in other words, at kerbside. This was why SLDC had a great record of recycling at consistently over 40%, because of household participation. In South Lakeland, recyclable material was of such high quality that it was keenly sought after. This translated into value for residents and the figures spoke for themselves; SLDC alone had recycled 40m items in the previous. Councillor Jones felt that Members would wish to join her in recognising the great job done by South Lakeland’s community in sorting their recyclable waste.
Councillor Harvey, referring to the briefing for Members held prior to the meeting on Freedom of Information and Data Protection, put a supplementary question to Councillor Jones, asking her to revisit and confirm whether there was an obligation to provide the information requested.
The Chairman of the Council advised that Councillor Jones would provide a written response.
Note – In accordance with the Council’s Constitution, Part 4, Rule 8 (Rules of Procedure), a motion to continue the meeting past 9.30 p.m., was carried.