Agenda and draft minutes

Extraordinary, Council
Friday, 14th December, 2018 6.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Civic Offices, Shute End, Wokingham RG40 1BN

Contact: Anne Hunter  Democratic and Electoral Services Lead Specialist

Link: Watch the video of this meeting

Items
No. Item

73.

Apologies

To receive any apologies for absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were submitted from Laura Blumenthal, Guy Grandison, Kate Haines, Mike Haines, Charlotte Haitham-Taylor, Emma Hobbs, Charles Margetts, Ken Miall, Philip Mirfin, Barrie Patman, Anthony Pollock, Helen Power, Angus Ross, Daniel Sargeant, Wayne Smith, Bill Soane, Oliver Whittle and Shahid Younis.

74.

Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

75.

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 within this agenda.

 

Subject to meeting certain timescales, questions can only relate to 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

Minutes:

In accordance with the agreed procedure the Mayor invited members of the public to submit questions to the appropriate Members.

75.1

Rachel Bishop-Firth asked the Executive Member for Business, Economic Development and Strategic Planning the following question:

Minutes:

Where can I find the decision which gives the total overall scope and budget for the Wokingham regeneration project?

 

Answer

Rather than one decision the regeneration has been the subject of multiple decisions to ensure that the process has been followed correctly and that all deliverables, costs and risks have been fully understood before proceeding.

 

On completion of the Competitive Dialogue procurement process in October 2010 the Council’s cross party Special Council Executive Committee unanimously approved the selection of Wilson Bowden as the Council’s preferred regeneration partner.

 

This was then followed by further reviews of the decision by the Executive in March 2011, the cross-party Special Council Executive Committee in October 2011 and the Executive in June 2012 when the Council granted approval to enter into a Development Agreement with Wilson Bowden. This was then followed by the process of securing planning consent for the detailed schemes.

 

As you would expect each of these reports has included detailed and up-to-date information relating to the scope of works, deliverables, risks, costs and benefits – such as projected income or community elements of the scheme.

 

Information on project scope is easily available and can be found on the Council and regeneration websites and in the detailed planning consents for the different sites. However, due to the nature of the detailed financial information, this is generally within the confidential Part 2 section of the report and is not public.

 

Whilst we recognise this can be frustrating for some, the requirement for confidentiality is important as the appraisals include a range of highly sensitive information such as maximum purchase prices for named properties, detailed cost breakdowns for evaluating build tenders, and minimum acceptable rental levels to name a few critical ones.

 

All of which, if made public, would prevent us from being able to achieve best value for the Borough and its residents. However we do try to share as much cost information as we can with budgets clearly set out and approved by Full Council each February within the annual Medium Term Financial Plan.

 

We also publish summarised figures on the Regeneration website showing the total costs of each element and the value of the completed asset

 

To ensure scrutiny, officers meet regularly with Members, both Conservative and Opposition Groups, to discuss the scheme and look at the detailed financial appraisals to update them on latest information. I’m pleased to report that the regeneration remains completely within the agreed budget and continues to represent an excellent investment that we hope to be able to replicate in the future.

 

Supplementary Question

What differences are there between the original scope and spend and now?

 

Supplementary Answer

That is a good question. I wasn’t involved in the original scoping, so I can’t tell you and I haven’t done an analysis, but I do know that we are within the scope that we have agreed and was approved by this Council.

75.2

Lizzie Bishop asked the Executive Member for Business, Economic Development and Strategic Planning the following question:

Minutes:

Part of the regeneration includes providing a new library at Carnival Pool.  What is going to happen to the current library building?

 

Answer

The decision to re-locate the library to the new Carnival development is based upon an improvement of the services being offered to residents.

 

The relocation of Wokingham Library to the Carnival site will provide the Library Service with greater flexibility and adaptability in providing high quality services to Wokingham residents, along with more usable floor space that is more efficient to manage.

 

Residents will be able to combine visits to the library with a range of other activities, and the site offers substantially better access and parking. 

 

The timing of the re-location is based upon several factors:

 

·           Substantial completion of the Elms Field scheme – so as not to overly impact upon the town’s highways;

·           Completion of the redevelopment of the Bulmershe Leisure Centre – we would not wish to have two leisure centres out of action at the same time;

·           Completion of the Carnival build process.

 

All of the above leads to a commencement of the build process in mid-2020 and a completion in mid-2022. It is at this point that the library can re-locate.

 

This is three and a half years away and, therefore, no decision has been made in respect of the existing library site – this decision will be made nearer the time of re-location.

 

Supplementary Question

Is it usual to make multi-million pound decisions without producing a business case or having any firm proposals?

 

Supplementary Answer

Yes. We did both.

75.3

Adrian Mather asked the Executive Member for Business, Economic Development and Strategic Planning the following question:

Minutes:

With particular regard to the Wokingham Town Centre Regeneration, who makes the decisions on spending, in regard to these Council Projects?

 

Answer

The Executive make decisions in public in respect of expenditure of Wokingham Town Centre Regeneration projects. The detail of all such decisions is included in the response I gave to the question from Rachel Bishop-Firth earlier.

 

Supplementary Question

How have these decisions been made available for scrutiny and transparency to Councillors and other people?

 

Supplementary Answer

Regular Overview and Scrutiny reviews have occurred on this project with a further review happening in the New Year.

76.

Election of the Leader of the Council

Following the current Leader of the Council’s decision to step down from the role, and in accordance with the governance arrangements which were adopted by Council at its meeting on 18 November 2010, the Mayor will call for nominations for the Office of Leader of the Council for a four year term (or until the Leader’s Term of Office as a Councillor expires).

 

The Mayor will then ask the Council to vote on the nomination(s).

 

The Leader of Council will notify Council of the name of his/her Deputy and the remainder of the Members appointed to the Executive, outlining the scope of their respective portfolios, the terms of delegation to them and Officers if applicable (To be tabled).

 

The Leader of Council/Executive Members will be allowed to speak for up to 10 minutes in total.  The Leader of the Opposition will be allowed to speak for up to 5 minutes.

Minutes:

Following the previous Leader of the Council’s decision to step down from the role and, in accordance with the governance arrangements which were adopted by the Council at its meeting on 18 November 2010, the Council elected a new Leader. The new Leader would serve for four years (or until his/her term of office as a Councillor expired).

 

It was proposed by Alistair Auty and seconded by John Halsall that Julian McGhee-Sumner be elected as Leader of the Council.

 

On being put to the vote it was:

 

RESOLVED that Julian McGhee-Sumner be elected as Leader of the Council.

 

Councillor McGhee-Sumner addressed the Council as follows:

 

“Every Councillor in this chamber tonight sits here with one common objective, to represent our residents. It is on this fundamental principle that I wish to address the Council this evening.

 

Over the past few weeks I have spoken to a number of our residents from across the Borough and a common message has emerged. They like a lot of what we do – building more affordable homes, building new schools, looking after our vulnerable residents. However, they have highlighted how we communicate and manage priorities, like cutting the grass, filling in potholes and collecting the rubbish, as less than adequate. It is clear that mistakes have been made, for which I apologise, and I therefore wish to outline for you this evening the changes I will be making to address these issues.

 

Shortly, each Executive Member will be set five key targets that impact on our residents in order to improve upon the services we offer. Each Executive Member will be aligned to a Director, so it will be abundantly clear to all our residents who is responsible for which area of Council policy.

 

Effective communication will be a core requirement for each Executive Member. With responsibility comes accountability and I want us to be a Council which listens to our residents, which tries to find solutions to problems and which residents can have trust in. All too often, we forget why we are here and that must change.

 

For some time now, residents have raised concerns about Executive Members receiving additional payments for the work they undertake in addition to their Executive roles. I have, therefore, decided to change that and, from the start of the New Year, no Executive Member will be able to claim any allowance in excess of the £10k set for each Executive role. Some will remain on the Fire Authority or a Housing Company, but will not claim the additional allowance regardless of the work undertaken. This is a big step change, but one readily accepted by those Executive Members impacted. I would like to thank them for their commitment to public service.

 

Another big area the Council is judged on is housing. At the present time we have various areas in the Council that deal with housing. We have Tenants Services, Wokingham Housing Ltd. and the development of Gorse Ride to name but three. But no single  ...  view the full minutes text for item 76.

77.

Confirmation of Permanent Appointment of Chief Executive and Head of Paid Service pdf icon PDF 95 KB

To consider the recommendation of the Personnel Board and approve the permanent appointment of the Council’s Chief Executive and Head of Paid Service.

 

RECOMMENDATION:  To be advised

Minutes:

Following the recent recruitment exercise, the Council considered the recommendation of the Personnel Board regarding the appointment of the Council’s Chief Executive and Head of Paid Service.

 

As Chairman of the Personnel Board, Alistair Auty confirmed that, following a rigorous recruitment process involving six strong candidates, Susan Parsonage was recommended for appointment. Susan had significant experience in senior local government leadership roles and was currently Chief Executive of Lancaster City Council.

 

It was proposed by Alistair Auty and seconded by Julian McGhee-Sumner that Susan Parsonage be appointed as the Council’s Chief Executive and Head of Paid Service.

 

On being put to the vote it was:

 

RESOLVED that Susan Parsonage be appointed as the Council’s Chief Executive and Head of Paid Service.

78.

Council Tax Base 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 123 KB

To set the Council Tax Base for 2019/20 in respect of the whole Borough and all constituent parts so that each precepting parish can subsequently set their Council Tax budgets for the year.

 

RECOMMENDATION Council is asked to:

 

1)        agree the proposed Council Tax Base, for the whole area and by Parish, as set out in the report;

 

2)        approve the proposed allocation of £20,000 grant to the parishes in respect of council tax reduction as set out in the council tax base table;

 

3)        agree a Premium payment of 100% (increased from 50%) on those homes that have been empty and unfurnished for a period of two years or more.

Minutes:

The Council considered a report, set out at Agenda pages 7 to 11, which gave details of the proposed Council Tax Base (the number of properties liable for Council Tax) for 2019/20.

 

The report stated that every local authority must ensure that their Council Tax Base for the forthcoming financial year was approved by the Council by 31st January. This year’s Tax Base calculations showed that with a total of 67,635 properties on the Council Tax register at 1st October 2018, after making all relevant adjustments the proposed Tax Base of Band D equivalents was 70,176.60 for 2019/20.

 

The report also recommended an allocation of £20,000 to Towns and Parishes to offset some of the reduction in the Council Tax Base for them arising from the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, which replaced Council Tax benefit in 2013.

 

Finally, the report recommended increasing the Empty Homes Premium on long-term empty properties (two years or more) from 50% to 100%. This would encourage owners of long-term empty homes to bring them back into use.

 

It was proposed by Julian McGhee-Sumner and seconded by Stuart Munro that the recommendations set out in the report be approved.

 

On being put to the vote it was:

 

RESOLVED that:

 

1)     the proposed Tax Base, for the whole of the area and by Parish, as set out in the report, be approved;

 

2)     the proposed allocation of £20,000 grant to the Parishes in respect of Council Tax reduction, as set out in the Council Tax Base Table, be approved;

 

3)     a premium payment of 100% (increased from 50%) on those homes that have been empty and unfurnished for a period of two years or more, be approved.

79.

Redesignation of Polling Places pdf icon PDF 84 KB

Council is asked to consider the re-designation of polling places in Maiden Erlegh and Charvil Wards for any elections held in 2019.

 

RECOMMENDATION That Council agree that for elections held in 2019:

 

1)         Aldryngton School be designated as the Polling Place for Maiden Erlegh Ward, instead of Maiden Erlegh School;

 

2)         Charvil Village Hall be designated as the Polling Place for the whole of the Charvil Ward.

 

Minutes:

The Council considered a report, set out at Agenda Pages 13 to 15, which set out proposals for two alternative Polling Places.

 

The report stated that a Member working group was currently preparing recommendations for Polling Places throughout the Borough for 2020 onwards. In the meantime it was necessary to consider proposals for Maiden Erlegh and Charvil wards for any elections to be held in 2019. Specifically:

 

·           As Maiden Erlegh school no longer had the space to facilitate voting it was proposed that Aldryngton School be used instead;

 

·           In Charvil ward, the designated polling place for polling district CAM1 was the Jubilee Hall, which was likely to be demolished. It was, therefore, proposed that Charvil Village Hall be designated as the Polling Place for the whole of the Charvil ward.

 

It was proposed by David Chopping and seconded by John Halsall that the recommendations set out in the report be approved.

 

On being put to the vote it was:

 

RESOLVED that for any elections held in 2019:

 

1)     Aldryngton School be designated as the Polling Place for Maiden Erlegh ward instead of Maiden Erlegh School;

 

2)     Charvil Village Hall be designated as the polling place for the whole of the Charvil ward.

 

 

80.

Motions

To consider Motion 414 as deferred by the agreement of Council at it’s meeting held on 22 November 2018.

 

In accordance with Procedure Rule 4.2.11.2 a maximum period of 30 minutes will be allowed for each Motion to be moved, seconded and debated, including dealing with any amendments.  At the expiry of the 30-minute period debate will cease immediately, the mover of the Motion or amendment will have the right of reply before the Motion or amendment is put to the vote


80.1

Motion 414 submitted by Prue Bray

 

The Constitution commits this council to ensuring that “the principles of efficiency, transparency and accountability are demonstrated throughout the decision making process and the delivery of services.”

 

The Wokingham town centre regeneration project has now been running for some years.  It is the largest single project being undertaken by the council.  No income and expenditure figures for the project as a whole have been published.  Nor has any assessment of progress or variation from the original specification.  This makes it extraordinarily difficult for both residents and councillors to find out how the project is going, and means that the council’s constitutional commitment to transparency and accountability is not being observed.

 

While ongoing spend and future commitments may be difficult to quantify, or may need to be kept confidential for commercial reasons, income and expenditure which has already happened in previous financial years must have been accounted for in the council’s accounts, which have all been properly signed off.  In addition, any contracts entered into are required to be published by the Transparency Regulations.  This means that all the information relating to past spend on the Wokingham town centre regeneration project should be readily identifiable and available to be pulled together into one document covering the whole project.

 

Therefore, in order to ensure the transparency and accountability to which it has committed itself, this council will by the end of December 2018 publish a report detailing

-          The total income and expenditure from 1st April 2012 to March 31st 2018 on all works associated with the regeneration of Wokingham town centre, including the Market Place joint project with Wokingham Town Council, broken down to show separately the figures for Peach Street phase 1, Peach Place, Elms Field, Carnival Pool, the Market Place and any other subprojects, and, for each project, broken down to the stages of the project, such as design, and construction

-          The original budget and timetable for each of those elements

-          An explanation of any variances between the original budget and actual income and expenditure and original timetable and actual progress

-          The sources of the funding, with the amounts obtained from each separate source.

Minutes:

The Council considered the following Notice of Motion, submitted by Prue Bray and seconded by Imogen Shepherd-Dubey.

 

“The Constitution commits this Council to ensuring that “the principles of efficiency, transparency and accountability are demonstrated throughout the decision making process and the delivery of services.”

 

The Wokingham town centre regeneration project has now been running for some years.  It is the largest single project being undertaken by the Council.  No income and expenditure figures for the project as a whole have been published. Nor has any assessment of progress or variation from the original specification. This makes it extraordinarily difficult for both residents and Councillors to find out how the project is going, and means that the Council’s constitutional commitment to transparency and accountability is not being observed.

 

While ongoing spend and future commitments may be difficult to quantify, or may need to be kept confidential for commercial reasons, income and expenditure which has already happened in previous financial years must have been accounted for in the Council’s accounts, which have all been properly signed off.  In addition, any contracts entered into are required to be published by the Transparency Regulations.  This means that all the information relating to past spend on the Wokingham town centre regeneration project should be readily identifiable and available to be pulled together into one document covering the whole project.

 

Therefore, in order to ensure the transparency and accountability to which it has committed itself, this Council will by the end of December 2018 publish a report detailing:

 

·           The total income and expenditure from 1st April 2012 to March 31st 2018 on all works associated with the regeneration of Wokingham town centre, including the Market Place joint project with Wokingham Town Council, broken down to show separately the figures for Peach Street phase 1, Peach Place, Elms Field, Carnival Pool, the Market Place and any other subprojects, and, for each project, broken down to the stages of the project, such as design, and construction;

 

·           The original budget and timetable for each of those elements;

 

·           An explanation of any variances between the original budget and actual income and expenditure and original timetable and actual progress;

 

·           The sources of the funding, with the amounts obtained from each separate source.”

 

It was moved by Keith Baker and seconded by Stuart Munro that the Motion be amended as follows:

 

 

“The Constitution commits this Council to ensuring that “the principles of efficiency, transparency and accountability are demonstrated throughout the decision making process and the delivery of services.”

 

The Wokingham town centre regeneration project has now been running for some years.  It is the largest single project being undertaken by the Council.  No income and expenditure figures for the project as a whole have been published. Nor has any assessment of progress or variation from the original specification. This makes it extraordinarily difficult for both residents and Councillors to find out how the project is going, and means that the council’s constitutional commitment to transparency and accountability is not being  ...  view the full minutes text for item 80.1