Venue: David Hicks 1 - Civic Offices, Shute End, Wokingham RG40 1BN
Contact: Neil Carr Democratic & Electoral Services Specialist
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were submitted from Parry Batth, Kate Haines, Pauline Helliar-Symons, Bill Soane and Shahid Younis.
Philip Houldsworth and Abdul Loyes attended the meeting as substitutes.
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
There were no public questions.
Member Question Time
To answer any Member questions.
There were no Member questions.
To consider the Call-In of the Executive decision to transfer 22 apartments at Peach Place, Wokingham to a Council-owned company.
The Committee considered the Call-In of the decision taken by the Executive, at its meeting on 27 September 2017, relating to the proposed transfer of 22 apartments at Peach Place, Wokingham to a Council-owned company. The decision had been called in by Councillors Prue Bray, Lindsay Ferris, Clive Jones, Imogen Shepherd-Dubey 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;
· A presumption in favour of openness had not been observed;
· Clarity of aims and objectives had not been achieved;
· Details of the options taken into account were not recorded.
The following witnesses were invited to submit evidence and/or answer questions in order to assist the Committee in its deliberations:
· Councillor Prue Bray to set out the reasons for the Call-In;
· Councillor Julian-McGhee-Sumner, Bernie Pich and Louise Strongitharm to provide facts, figures and justification for the Executive decision;
· Councillors Stuart Munro, Anthony Pollock and Oliver Whittle, Graham Ebers and Bill Flood to answer Committee Member questions.
Councillor Keith Baker (Chairman) welcomed the witnesses and explained the format of the meeting. Witnesses would be invited to make a short address to the Committee followed by a question and answer session. Due to the exempt information contained in the Agenda the Chairman explained that this process would be followed in both Part 1 and Part 2 sessions. Members were reminded of the importance of ensuring that any questions relating to exempt information were saved for the Part 2 session. Following the Part 1 and Part 2 witness sessions 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:
“We have called this decision in on the grounds listed on Page 7 of the agenda – proportionality, openness, clarity of aims and lack of information about other options. We support the provision of affordable housing at Peach Place, but we do not believe the financial details of the scheme demonstrate acceptable or proportionate use of S106 commuted sums. Because all those financial details have been placed in Part 2, frustratingly I cannot talk about them while the public are present, even though I believe that some of the information has been wrongly withheld. Fortunately, there is quite a lot about this that I can say without breaching any rules of confidentiality.
Before I move on to the explanation for the Call-In, I do want to say how disappointed I am in Julian McGhee-Sumner. In a piece he wrote for last week’s Wokingham Paper he claimed we were calling in this item for “minor technical points”. He knows that due to confidentiality we cannot tell anyone what we think is so wrong. I thought he was better than that. I want to make it clear that we are not seeking to stop these 22 flats from becoming affordable housing, ... view the full minutes text for item 40.
Exclusion of the Press and Public
The Committee may exclude the press and public in order to discuss the Part 2 sheets associated with Agenda item 40 and to do so it must pass a resolution in the following terms:
That under Section 100a (4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act (as amended) as appropriate.
RESOLVED That under Section 100A (4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act as appropriate.
Call-In of Executive Decision - Peach Place Residential - Part 2
The Committee considered the exempt information relating to the Call-In of the Executive decision relating to Peach Place Residential.
The Committee received further submissions from Councillor Prue Bray,
Bernie Pich and Graham Ebers and put further questions to the panel of witnesses, following which the Committee considered all the information it had received.
1) The witnesses be thanked for attending the meeting and answering the Committee’s questions;
2) The Committee concurs with the Executive’s decision on Peach Place Residential;
3) The Executive be recommended to ensure that any future affordable housing scheme which departs from the Council’s normal procedures be supported by details of how the scheme is different and the benefits provided for the Council. This should include the reasons why any detail has been included in a Part 2 section (e.g. that financial data is commercially sensitive).
To consider a report on proposals relating to the annual public Budget Engagement process.
The Committee considered a report, set out at Agenda pages 55 to 66, which gave details of the proposed Budget engagement process for 2018/19 and 2019/2020.
The aim of the proposals was to increase residents’ awareness of the Council’s financial position and to inform residents how they could influence future Budget decisions.
The report reminded Members of the Budget engagement process used in previous years which included public meetings with residents across the Borough. In order to build upon the events held in previous years it was proposed to develop a two year process that would deliver a wider Budget engagement process by involving more residents and targeting a wider demographic range. Year 1 would involve consulting on broad priorities and using the feedback to guide more detailed Budget decisions. Year 2 would involve consulting at a more detailed level where there was a question over actual lines of expenditure.
Appended to the report was a Communications Plan setting out the objectives, target audience and communication methods.
In the subsequent discussion the following points were made:
· Could Members submit comments on the proposals? It was confirmed that additional Member comments could be submitted for the next seven days.
· Would there be a Calendar of engagement events for Members? It was confirmed that this suggestion would be considered.
· Was this a replacement for the Citizens’ Panel? It was confirmed that the aim was to develop a database of residents who could be approached in relation to a range of consultations.
· Would the public surveys include contextual information about the Council’s priorities and funding options? It was confirmed that this suggestion would be considered.
· Was the Council looking at best practice form other authorities and the private sector? It was confirmed that best practice from elsewhere was being considered and that ideas and suggestions were welcome in order to improve the process for the next two years.
1) Councillor Whittle and Graham Ebers be thanked for presenting the Budget engagement proposals;
2) The Budget engagement proposals set out in the report be endorsed;
3) Members submit further ideas and comments on the proposals as necessary;
4) The Committee receive a further update report in 2018/19.