Council is asked to receive the Executive Reports (Mid Year Update 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 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.
Councillor Giles Archibald, Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder, introduced the Cabinet Members’ respective Mid Year Update 2019/20 Executive Reports.
In presenting the reports, Councillor Archibald congratulated the Acting Returning Officer and his team for the efficient manner in which the Parliamentary Election had been run, also thanking all those who had supported the process, as well as all parties involved. Councillor Archibald wished everyone a restful and well-deserved festive break.
No queries were raised in relation to the content of the Executive reports.
In accordance with paragraphs 10.2 and 10.3 of the Council’s Rules of Procedure, no written questions having been submitted to the meeting, the following verbal questions were taken from the floor:-
Councillor Eamonn Hennessy referred to the fact that the Climate Conference in Madrid had just ended. He asked Councillor Dyan Jones, Climate Emergency and Localism Portfolio Holder, if she shared his disappointment with the results of that Conference and whether she had any thoughts on how the Council could influence the British Government as it began to prepare for next year’s Conference in Glasgow. Councillor Jones responded, explaining that COP25, governments from around the world who collectively recognised the growing urgency of the climate crisis, had just spent two weeks of talks on the need to bridge gaps between existing targets set in 2015 and scientific advice that said that much more needed to be done. It was reported that few significant commitments had emerged from these meetings, against growing public pressure, frustration and anger. Councillor Jones stressed that strong public and political pressure was vital now more than ever. As a local authority, the Council was in a strong position to lobby and add to this pressure, working together with partners, both established and newly-formed, working across Cumbria and beyond. Councillor Jones believed that how organisations worked together over the next decade to move towards a greener collective would demand more commitment and resources from the UK’s new Government. Protecting natural resources for children, grandchildren and great grandchildren had to be a priority and she hoped that political differences could be put aside and that work could be carried out collectively, the Council leading by example. Councillor Jones wanted a clear message to be sent to Glasgow next year, that expectations were high and answers were sought.
Councillor Philip Dixon expressed his surprise at reference by the Council’s independent auditors, Grant Thornton, to increased levels of inequality in Great Britain. He asked Councillor Suzie Pye, Health, Wellbeing and Financial Resilience Portfolio Holder, to provide details on increases in levels of inequality in South Lakeland and whether the Council should anticipate any further rise in social inequality in the near future. Councillor Pye thought it was important for the Council to remind itself why it should be striving for a more equal society, where residents were presented with equal opportunities regardless of background and circumstances. According to the Equality Trust, “People in more equal societies lived longer, had better mental health and had better chances for a good education regardless of their background. Community life was stronger where the income gap was narrower, children did better at school. When inequality was reduced, people trusted each other more, there was less violence and rates of imprisonment were lower.” Councillor Pye reminded Members of some of the figures that demonstrated the existence of social inequality across the country, based on the Social Metric Commission’s findings earlier in the year in their Measuring Poverty report. In addition, according to Shelter, as of March this year, children living in Temporary Accommodation in the North West had risen by 385% compared with five years earlier. End Child Poverty.org stated that, in South Lakeland, 23% of children were living in poverty. The latest figures from the Kings Food Bank in Kendal showed no sign of a reduction in need, following the recent trend of a rise in referrals of 18% compared with the same time last year. Early signs suggested a significant increase in rough sleeping in South Lakeland. Councillor Pye pointed out that the current number of second homes was 3,800. As to whether the Council should anticipate a rise in social inequality in the near future, Councillor Pye explained that, in a society where the poorest fifth have only 4% of the total income, whereas the top fifth had 47%, tackling inequality on a local level was certainly a challenge, and one that would rely heavily on policy laid out in Westminster by the new Government. She provided details in relation to a number of local factors, i.e. people’s changing circumstances as a result of Universal Credit, the Council Tax Reduction Scheme which was due to remain in place next year, the new Cold to Cosy Homes Scheme, the new Breathing Space Scheme, the forthcoming increase in Housing Association rents and likely reduction in Cumbria County Council Housing-related support. Councillor Pye stressed the need to stay alert to the human aspect, which was demonstrated by a section of the latest newsletter from Kings Food Bank, where Linda Sutherland who ran the food bank stated, “Christmas is fast approaching but, for many people, this can be a harder time than other times of the year. First, because it’s Winter and colder - a choice may have to be made - do we heat the house or buy food, adding extra pressure on finances, it might not be possible to do both! Secondly, when money is limited, what about Christmas? When many of us are able to buy extra at this time of year, many people are unable to do so.” Councillor Pye drew Members’ attention to the fact that this was a reality for residents in South Lakeland.
Councillor David Webster referred to the mop up meeting following the Ulverston Dickensian Festival when South Lakeland District Council staff had been commended for their work in tidying up the Town following the event. Councillor Webster asked Councillor Dyan Jones, Climate Emergency and Localism Portfolio Holder, if, when looking at green issues, consideration might also be given to electric vehicle charging points on Council-owned car parks. He expressed concern that, without these points, people using this type of vehicle would not visit the area. There were seven such points in Ulverston which were used every day, bringing tourists into the Town. Councillor Webster also felt that if more electric vehicle charging points were made available, people would be more likely to transfer to using electric vehicles. Councillor Jones agreed with Councillor Webster that this transition needed to be made and informed Members that a scheme was currently being investigated with regard to facilities for those without off-road parking. In addition, promoting and encouraging people to use electric vehicles was something that she hoped the new Government would be doing. Councillor Ben Berry added that it was incumbent on private businesses to make appropriate provision for charging electric vehicles, pointing out that some car manufacturers were willing to provide free equipment where access to electricity was made available.
Councillor Hazel Hodgson said that it had recently been National Tree Week when many schools and members of the public had planted trees. She asked Councillor Dyan Jones, Climate Emergency and Localism Portfolio Holder, whether South Lakeland would pledge to plant 50% more trees throughout the area. Councillor Jones pointed out that she had already answered this question earlier in the meeting, again explaining that it was not feasible to double the amount of trees on land in private ownership. She repeated the fact that the Council would be planting 350 trees over the Winter. Councillor Hodgson referred to pledges which had been made by other councils to provide 50% more tree cover over in their authority areas by 2045 and asked if South Lakeland could do something similar on its own land. Councillor Jones advised that, before any commitment could be made, discussions would need to take place with the relevant officers.
Councillor Janette Jenkinson referred to the recently-elected Conservative MP for Barrow and Furness, drawing attention to the fact that the District of South Lakeland was represented by two MPs. She asked Councillor Giles Archibald, Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder, to ensure that the Council championed both MPs to take forward initiatives on the District’s behalf. Councillor Archibald stressed that the Council had enjoyed a working relationship with the previous MP for Barrow and Furness and that he looked forward to working with the new MP on any issue of importance to that part of the District.
Councillor Malcolm Lamb, on behalf of the residents of Ambleside, Greenbank and Castlefield, expressed thanks to South Lakeland District Council for the funding for the refurbishment of their play areas. He added that the residents of Grasmere were eagerly awaiting completion of a similar scheme. Councillor Lamb asked Councillor Eric Morrell, Customer and Commercial Services and People Portfolio Holder, if he could confirm that this approach of shared fund raising and management of projects would continue in other areas. Councillor Morrell responded, explaining that all of the projects had involved working in partnership with local community groups or town/parish councils. The funding had come from District Council capital and LIPs grants, and external grants from companies and trust funds. Broadgate Meadow at Grasmere was nearing completion and tenders for Lightburn Park in Ulverston were being evaluated, with the work due to take place in Spring 2020. Work was currently underway in order to secure funding for Queens Park in Windermere, as well as raising funds for North Lonsdale Work in Ulverston. Both of these projects had received funding from LIPs and from the National Lottery Community Fund. The next project would be for Owlet Ash in Milnthorpe. In addition, as part of the Grange Promenade Project the playground on the Promenade would receive some funding for redevelopment as part of that scheme. Councillor Morrell confirmed that this was a successful programme and that the intention was to continue to work with partners for some years to come.