Venue: Virtual Meeting. View directions
Contact: Anne Hunter Democratic and Electoral Services Lead Specialist
To receive any apologies for absence
An apology for absence was submitted from Councillor Charlotte Haitham-Taylor.
Declaration of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest
There were no declarations of interest received.
Statement by the Leader
This is going to be a long evening with the penultimate Executive of the year and the last Full Council of the Municipal Year. To complete the business in the allotted time Members will need to be efficient in their interventions.
The pandemic started a year ago. The first lockdown started on 23rd March 2020. It has been a long hard road. The weekly rate to 11th March in Wokingham is 35.1 today, which is well below the peak of 606 on the 4th January but still compares very badly to below five in August. We suspect that it will be adversely affected by the schools going back and conversely favourably by the rollout of the vaccinations. Happily, both hospitalisations and deaths are declining. Our lives have changed, unrecognisably for some, and many lives have so sadly been lost. I can only restate my condolences for those that have suffered so much.
Deaths within the UK for those who have been diagnosed with Covid within 28 days have now risen to above 125,000.
Please join me in a moment’s silence for those who have died of this dreadful pandemic in Wokingham, the UK, and all around the world, and those who have suffered not just the effect of the virus itself, but the problems which have accompanied it.
Please also remember in your thoughts the very sad death of Sarah Everard.
Our GPs continue to be magnificent. All the over-50s in England are now able to get an appointment. It means the final group in phase one of the inoculation programme can get a vaccine and just confirmed by the Prime Minister, just 5 minutes ago. So, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting ever brighter. We must, however, nervously look across the Channel at what seems to be a third wave, which is bedding in with ever increasing lockdowns. We are grateful to our Government who has had the foresight and acumen to establish the research into the vaccination programme and the unequalled roll-out.
It has never been more vital that we play our role and continue to observe the rules.
Again, a big thank again to all the carers, doctors, health staff, social care staff, health, police, fire, rescue, ambulance, teachers, school staff, charities, volunteers, our staff, and in particular our staff. In short everybody who has stepped up to the plate and made it possible for life to continue during these appalling times.
Many of our critical proactive measures 'going over and above' would not have been possible if we did not have a stable and strong financial foundation on which to fund our numerous measures intended to assist our community.
Despite, new responsibilities that needed funding, losing vital income sources such as car parking and leisure, and cost reduction programmes on hold, we had the financial resources to go well above the bare minimum. It is with this that illustrates the true strength of our financial management; CIPFA ... view the full minutes text for item 102.
Public Question Time
To answer any public questions
A period of 30 minutes will be allowed for members of the public to ask questions submitted under notice.
The Council welcomes questions from members of the public about the items included on this agenda only.
Subject to meeting certain timescales, questions can only relate to the items which are on the Agenda for this meeting. For full details of the procedure for submitting questions please contact the Democratic Services Section on the numbers given below or go to www.wokingham.gov.uk/publicquestions
There were no public questions submitted.
Member Question Time
To answer any Member questions.
A period of 20 minutes will be allowed for Members to ask questions submitted on the items included on this agenda.
Any questions not dealt with within the allotted time will be dealt with in a written reply.
In accordance with the agreed procedure the Chairman invited Members to submit questions to the appropriate Members
Lindsay Ferris asked the Leader of the Council the following question:
Can the Leader of the Council confirm that in addition to setting up a cross-party working group to look at the formation of a standalone service, will that working group also be looking at whether:
(a) it would be possible to improve the current PPP arrangement to better meet the needs of local residents in Wokingham Borough; and
(b) will look at whether there are parts of the current PPP service which could be retained/used by Wokingham Borough Council in the future?
The Liberal Democrat Group believe that the Council needs to have a backup position should the move to a standalone service encounter problems, which prevents, or delays the establishment of such an arrangement.
The institutions which govern this proposal will be appropriate to ensure that the project can be successfully delivered. Suitable cross party and multi-layered committees will ensure that for each legislative obligation WBC has a policy coupled with an appeals procedure if appropriate.
The PPP has delegated authority for over one hundred pieces of legislation. Notwithstanding this, our residents hold us responsible when issues are not tackled to their satisfaction. To provide the wrap around service that we aspire to for our residents, we need to repatriate the control of that legislation. Our residents are bemused that we do not have the control they would expect. The PPP works at our request, but we do not have full authority to set priorities important to our residents in our different localities. It is therefore not possible within the current Inter Authority Agreement to achieve this level of control.
Depending upon the agreement we reach with Bracknell and West Berkshire, there are opportunities to subcontract parts of the service to Bracknell/West Berks ie the PPP. This will be decided on during the period of negotiation.
I would hope that this would be an endeavour to which all the Council responds and invite the Opposition to second the motion. However, the Administration is equally happy to spearhead this alone if the Opposition feels unable to support a step change improvement in customer service.
1) the Council serves formal notice on the Public Protection Partnership before 31st March 2021, which if effected would take place on 31st March 2022;
2) the delegation to PPP in respect to the Executive and Council functions and duties (including environmental health, licensing and trading standards) will end and will be exercised by the Council directly from 1st April 2022;
3) The Director of Place and Growth and Deputy Chief Executive (and Section 151 Officer), in consultation with the Lead Member for Environment and Lead Member for Finance and Housing, are authorised to commence design of the new services structure and any resulting negotiations on an Exit Plan and to address timeframe (including earlier dates than stated in recommendation 1 and 2 if agreed by the Councils), mitigation of risks and costs, key milestones, ongoing resources and staffing implications for a successful departure from the partnership;
4) The Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Place and Growth create and work with a task force of Officers and Members to create the new in-house service;
5) it be noted that a special item of £500k, spread over financial years 2021/22 and 2022/23, was included in the Medium Term Financial Plan to fund a safe and effective transition.
The Executive considered a report relating to a proposal to authorise the services delivered by the Public Protection Partnership (PPP) to be brought back in-house to Wokingham Borough Council as from 1 April 2022.
During his introduction of the report the Leader of Council advised that the Council had to continually analyse its limited resources to ensure that they were focussed to the greatest benefit of residents. The Council’s ambition was to provide a wraparound service for residents to keep them safe, secure and happy.
One way of providing that wrap around service, was to repatriate the control of the more than one hundred pieces of legislation, which had previously been delegated to West Berkshire Council, and then subsequently to the PPP. Whilst residents held the Council responsible for these duties the Council did not, however, have the power to set the priorities of the PPP to ensure that residents were provided with the service they expected and that which the Council would wish to give.
Councillor Halsall advised that the aim of the proposal therefore was to tailor service delivery at a locality level which would provide a clearer cohesive response to issues that arise in the community eg anti-social behaviour, fly tipping, unauthorised encampments, noise, bonfires, neighbourhood disputes. The intention was for delivery of these services to be integrated into other Council services, such as Localities, Community Safety, Legal, Children’s and Adults. This would make better use of the capacity of existing locality officers offering earlier incisive intervention and prevention. It was also anticipated that this would engender effective joined up professional responses across the Council’s service specialisms i.e. safety, enforcement and environmental health, with swift responses, resulting in increased resident satisfaction and potentially efficiencies.
Councillor Halsall set out the benefits and advantages to the Council and residents of bringing the control of the service back in-house which included:
· Greater control, in one organisation with direct influence over policy, implementation, and accountability;
· More visible ownership and flexibility to focus on residents’ priorities;
· An integrated single Council approach to delivery in localities, which crosses specialisms, with the efficiencies, in respect to time and outcomes, by tackling issues holistically that this approach brings. That is, “do it once’ with joined up and combined responses to issues that consider the range of enforcement powers that the Council possesses. For example, consideration of anti-social behaviour alongside neighbour disputes, planning enforcement, noise and bonfires;
The meeting was advised that the Inter Authority Agreement (IAA), which ... view the full minutes text for item 105.
That Council be recommended to approve the Equality Plan (2021-2025) and associated Action Plan (2021-2022).
The Executive considered a report relating to a proposed Equality Plan covering 2021-2025 and an associated action plan covering 2021-2022 which were being recommended to Council for approval.
The Leader of Council highlighted the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act and advised that the Equality Plan had been developed in line with the Council’s vision and Corporate Delivery Plan. The Equality Plan sets out how the Council intends to enrich the lives of all residents in safe and strong communities and outlines the ambition to tackle inequality.
Councillor Halsall outlined the consultation that had been carried out on the Equality Plan, which included an online survey and a number of focus sessions with community groups, staff and Members. The qualitative feedback received from the consultation had provided a valuable insight into understanding what the Council could do better as well as what it could do to ensure that it delivered more inclusive services that would lead to improved outcomes for communities.
It was noted that the priorities proposed for the coming four years were:
The action plan, which sets out how the Council would seek to ensure that there was progress against each of the priorities through the first year of the plan period for highlighted. It was noted that the Local Government Association Equality Framework had been adopted. This was an established, credible and objective performance framework which would be used to measure the Council’s performance and results. Progress and delivery would be monitored to ensure that the Council progress to the highest levels possible for each element of the Framework. Councillor Halsall advised that at a future point, the Council would be able to invite peer challenge and support to ensure that its assessments of its performance and progress were credible and robust.
RECOMMENDATION: That Council be recommended to approve the Equality Plan (2021-2025) and associated Action Plan (2021-2022).