The Finance and Assets Portfolio Holder introduced the report, noting he would highlight the key themes rather than going into great detail. He firstly noted that the report demonstrated that South Lakeland continued to be desirable place to live, work and explore. He then informed the Committee that the pandemic had a clear impact on Council Services, as well as the personal lives of staff and residents and that it would be difficult and dangerous to fully assess many statistics until a more stable period was reached.
He then went on to highlight the impact of the pandemic on Council operations, which had led to a sharp reduction in CO2 emissions. However, there had also been a reduction in waste sent for re-use, recycling and composting and an increase in grey waste alongside a temporary suspension of green waste collection. He followed this by drawing Members attention to concerning figures regarding the number of empty homes and informed the Committee that action had already been taken to increase Council Tax for long term empty homes.
He concluded by thanking Officers for their continued dedication which allows the Council to continue to perform well, particularly during the unprecedented impacts faced over the last couple of years.
Responding to comments and questions regarding retaining youth in the County, Cllr Jarvis noted that retention of young people and families was a key challenge for the Council, as well as Barrow and Eden. He acknowledged that there was no simple solution nor one answer, but things such as the construction of a University Campus in Barrow and development of the rural economy would help improve the situation.
In responding to comments regarding empty homes and homelessness, he informed the Committee that the Housing Portfolio Holder would be best placed to provide answers and that he would be happy to relay concerns to her. He added that bringing empty properties back into use isn’t always positive as many can end up as second homes.
Members discussed problems with the level of affordable housing in the area, and issues with residents accessing affordable properties. They agreed that private sector was mainly focused on profit and that Councils have less power to shape development, which was further exacerbated by Central Government Planning Policy. It was suggested that it would be helpful for the Housing Portfolio Holder to attend the Committee to answer Affordable Housing related questions, and that further discussion was needed on how Members can have more involvement in shaping SLDC policy.
Regarding business spaces within Kendal Town Hall, Members suggested a briefing or tour of the redevelopment would be welcomed. They queried whether the building works were progressing as expected and whether any facilities for Members existed in the new building.
Members expressed concern with the figures relating to domestic abuse, noting similar levels to those of 2019/20. It was agreed that it would be helpful to have someone speak on this topic and the Legal Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) suggested that it be put forward to the Chairman of Full Council for consideration as an agenda item.
Members also expressed concern regarding Ulverston Coronation Hall and Ulverston Markets, as there appeared to be a lack of information available publicly. They highlighted that each year implementation were being pushed back, and ultimately costs were increasing the longer things were delayed. The Chairman then asked the Committee for recommendations to Cabinet and it was agreed that the following questions be put forward for a response:
• What is happening with Ulverston Coronation Hall?;
• How are the Ulverston Markets going to develop over the next two years?;
• When are plans for the Leisure Centres likely to come into action?
RESOLVED – That:-
(1) the contents of the report and appendices be noted; and
(2) the following questions be put forward to Cabinet for a response;
a) What is happening with Ulverston Coronation Hall?
b) How are the Ulverston Markets going to develop over the next two years?
c) When are plans for the Leisure Centres likely to come into action?