Venue: Civic Offices, Shute End, Wokingham RG40 1BN
Contact: Neil Carr Principal Democratic Services Officer
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were submitted by Councillors Parry Batth, Kate Haines, John Jarvis, Philip Mirfin and Shahid Younis.
Councillor Abdul Loyes attended the meeting as a substitute.
Declarations of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest.
There were no declarations of interest.
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 work of this committee.
Subject to meeting certain timescales, questions can relate to general issues concerned with the work of the Committee or an item which is 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
In accordance with the agreed procedure the Chairman invited members of the public to submit questions.
Keith Malvern asked the Chairman the following question:
At the Executive at the end of March I asked a question about the early notice given confidentially to local members and? the Town Council about the proposed relocation of the library, and the lack of public consultation. The Executive agreed '...the proposal be publicised as soon as practical to enable feedback on these proposals and subsequently the design'. Two relevant things have happened since then - the proposal has been called in and the Council has proposed further plans for Phase 2 of the Carnival Pool site including the totally unexpected demolition and rebuild of the swimming pool. For this proposal there will be a series of engagement events for people to input into this process (the series of events is 2 3-hour sessions and comments need to be in by the 21st of May).
The Officer response to the call in under consultation attempts to convince us that there is no need for further consultation on the proposed relocation, even though the Executive had already agreed to do just that.
Can the Committee confirm that the Council's intention is to have a public consultation on the proposed library move?
On the 30th March 2017 the Executive took the following decision in relation to the Library service in Wokingham:
1. it be agreed in principle to relocate Wokingham Library to a new building on the Carnival Phase II site;
2. approval to relocate is subject to a full impact assessment and detailed business case being agreed by the Executive Member for Resident Services;
3. the proposal be publicised as soon as practical to enable feedback on these proposals and subsequently the design.
I understand that, following this meeting a timetable was published showing the range of engagement events that would be happening throughout May 2017 that relate to the proposed relocation of the library service. This includes specific events within Wokingham town centre, including the existing Wokingham Library building.
I also understand that, during this time, people can submit their views on any aspect of the proposed relocation of the library service and can speak directly to Council Officers to share their thoughts and to ask questions on any points they are not clear about.
In relation to your final point, the role of the Committee tonight is limited to reviewing the decision made by the Executive on 30th March.
In your response you say some interesting things about the timetable of events involving Wokingham Library. Your answer includes new information which I was not aware of from looking at local newspapers and the WBC website. Hopefully we are going to get clarification in Shute End as I have not been able to visit the Carnival Pool. I have seen the information boards in the Shute End Reception. From the new information available this evening, how serious is the ... view the full minutes text for item 75.
Member Question Time
To answer any Member questions.
There were no Member questions.
To consider the Call-In of the Executive decision relating to the proposed relocation of Wokingham Library.
The Committee considered the Call-In of the decision taken by the Executive, at its meeting on 30 March 2017, relating to the “in principle” relocation of Wokingham Library from its current site to the new Carnival Phase 2 site. The decision had been called in by Councillors Prue Bray, Lindsay Ferris, Clive Jones, Ian Pittock and Rachelle Shepherd-Dubey.
The Executive decision had been called in on the following grounds:
· The proposed action was not proportionate to the desired outcome;
· Due consultation had not taken place;
· A presumption in favour of openness had not been observed;
· Clarity of aims and objectives had not been achieved.
The following witnesses were invited to submit evidence and answer questions in order to assist the Committee in its deliberations:
· Councillor Prue Bray to set out the reasons for the Call-In;
· Josie Wragg (Interim Director of Environment) and Mark Redfearn (Service Manager, Libraries and Community Development) to provide facts and figures relating to the Executive decision;
· Councillor Pauline Jorgensen to represent the views of the Council’s Executive.
Councillor Simon Weeks (Chairman) welcomed the witnesses and explained the format of the meeting. The witnesses would be invited to make a short presentation to the Committee followed by a question and answer session. Following the witness session the Committee would consider all the written and oral evidence and decide to either confirm the decision or make appropriate recommendations to the Executive.
Councillor Prue Bray addressed the Committee on the reasons behind the Call-In and made the following statement:
“This call-in is not about whether or not it is a good idea to move Wokingham Library to a new building next to the Carnival Pool. The call-in is purely about process.
I am not going to read out what is on the call-in notice. It’s in the agenda. I am going to explain what’s behind it.
First, an argument we have rehearsed many times before. The Council has a habit of keeping things secret, so they only pop out into the light at the point where they are already done and dusted, with little chance to change anything. Secrecy not only breeds suspicion but makes life harder for the Council because it prevents external voices being heard, external voices which may well have sensible suggestions to make. The quality of projects is poorer for the lack of timely external input. And has no-one learned from past mistakes that keeping things secret tends to add to public disapproval, not reduce it?
In this case, the first the public and some Councillors knew about the idea of moving Wokingham library was when the Executive agenda was published in late March. Supposedly, the decision made in March was “in principle”, and subject to a full impact assessment and business case. However, last week, the Council announced its plans for the Carnival Pool area. The drawings included a library.
The obvious conclusion is that the decision has already been made that the library is going to move – even though the business case ... view the full minutes text for item 77.