Agenda

Council - Thursday, 20th January, 2022 7.30 pm

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

Contact: Anne Hunter  Democratic and Electoral Services Lead Specialist

Media

Items
No. Item

62.

Apologies

To receive any apologies for absence

63.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 721 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Council Meeting held on 18 November 2021.

 

64.

Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest

65.

Mayor's Announcements

To receive any announcements by the Mayor

66.

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 the Council

 

Subject to meeting certain timescales, questions can relate to general issues concerned with the work of the Council 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

66.1

Philip Meadowcroft asked the Chairman of the Constitution Review Working Group the following question:

 

Question

At the November 2021 Full Council Meeting, the Mayor, responding to a Members’ query about the previous meeting’s draft minutes, was advised by Democratic Services that the minuting of a written answer to a Supplementary Question (about Members’ use of private email addresses raised at the September meeting) was not required because clause 4.2.9.9 “Written Answers” in the Constitution did not extend to written answers to Supplementary Questions.

 

The first two words of 4.2.9.9, which specifically deals with Written Answers, are “Any questions...” and I consider that the advice given to the Mayor, (which he duly endorsed and thereby dismissed the Member’s query) was patently flawed.

 

To prevent this occurring again, in the interests of transparency and openness (otherwise written answers to Supplementary Questions will be hidden from both public and Members’ view), will this Full Council Meeting tonight urge the Constitution Review Working Group to revise the wording of 4.2.9.9 to ensure that Democratic Services in future advises the Mayor and Leader of the Council (both of whom I trust, on reflection, will agree with me) that written answers to Supplementary Questions will be included in the minutes of the related meeting?

 

66.2

Danny Errawalla asked the Leader of the Council the following question:

 

Question

Please can you give us an update on how the Anti-Poverty Strategy is going?

 

66.3

Juliet Sherratt asked the Executive Member for Neighbourhoods and Communities the following question:

 

Question

In the introduction of the Domestic Abuse Strategy 2021-24 document, it is claimed that prevention is at the heart of the Strategy.  However, there is only one sentence referring to prevention in the rest of the document.  Please can Councillor Soane outline how the Strategy aims to prevent domestic abuse and put prevention at the heart of the strategy to reassure residents that this is not a hollow document?

 

67.

Petitions

To receive any petitions which Members or members of the public wish to present.

68.

Council's Anti-Abuse Charter pdf icon PDF 307 KB

To consider the adoption of a Wokingham Borough Council Anti-Abuse Charter, which is part of the implementation of the Domestic Abuse Strategy 2021-2024.

 

RECOMMENDATION:  That Council approve the adoption of a local Anti-Abuse Charter.

 

69.

Council Tax Base 22/23 pdf icon PDF 453 KB

To set the Council Tax Base for 2022/23 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:  That Council agree the proposed Council Tax Base, for the whole area and by Parish, as set out in the report.

70.

Council Tax Reduction Scheme 22/23 pdf icon PDF 587 KB

To adopt a Localised Council Tax Reduction Scheme which will ensure that all working age Borough residents who may experience financial difficulties in paying their council tax liabilities have access to a scheme of assistance, designed locally, offering financial help to them.

 

RECOMMENDATION:  That the Council agree the proposed Council Tax Reduction Scheme for 2022/23:

 

1)              a local CTR scheme for 2022/23 is adopted on the same basis as the 2021/22;

 

2)              that the full disregard currently allowed for War Widows and War Disability Pensions is continued from 1st April 2022 in respect of the Prescribed and Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme and Housing Benefit schemes;

 

3)              that funds be made available to the hardship fund, known as Section 13a (S13a) scheme, for those who cannot pay their council tax liabilities;

 

4)              Members to note the linkages to the broader Anti-Poverty strategy of both the Council Tax Reduction Scheme and the S13a scheme.

71.

Treasury Management Mid - Year Report 2021-22 pdf icon PDF 554 KB

To consider the mid-year Treasury Management report for 2021-22.

 

RECOMMENDATION Council is recommended to note:

 

1)               that the Treasury Management Mid-Year report was considered and agreed by the Audit Committee at their meeting on Tuesday 30 November 2021;

 

2)               that all approved indicators set out in the Treasury Management Strategy have been adhered to;

 

3)               the contents of “Table A”, as set out in the report, which shows the net benefit per council tax band D equivalent, from the income generated less the financing costs on all borrowing to date equates to £36.62 per band D for 2021/22. This income is used by the Council to continue to provide priority services for the borough residents.

 

4)               that as at the end of September 2021, the total external general fund debt was £416m, which reduces to £120m after taking into account cash balances (net indebtedness); External debt is forecast to reduce to £266m by the end of the financial year.

 

72.

Procurement of External Audit pdf icon PDF 142 KB

To consider proposals for appointing the external auditor to the Council for the accounts for the five-year period from 2023/24.

 

RECOMMENDATION:  That Council agree the preferred approach to appoint the external auditor for the accounts for the five-year period from 2023/24, as recommended by the Audit Committee on 30th November 2021 of using the Sector Led Body, the PSAA by indicating an option to “opt-in.”

 

73.

Appointment of Town/Parish Council Representative on the Standards Committee pdf icon PDF 138 KB

To consider the appointment of a Town/Parish Council representative to the current vacancy on the Standards Committee.

 

RECOMMENDATION that: Councillor Sheena Matthews (Earley Town Council) be appointed as a Town/Parish Council representative on the Standards Committee.

74.

Appointment to Royal Berkshire Fire Authority pdf icon PDF 281 KB

To consider an appointment to the Royal Berkshire Fire Authority following the resignation of Councillor Anne Chadwick.

 

RECOMMENDATION:  That Councillor Alison Swaddle be appointed as one of the Council’s representatives on the Royal Berkshire Fire Authority.

 

75.

Timetable of Meetings pdf icon PDF 179 KB

To consider the proposed Timetable of Meetings for the 2022/23 Municipal Year.

 

RECOMMENDATION:  That Council approve the Timetable of Meetings for the 2022/23 Municipal Year, as set out in the agenda.

76.

White Ribbon Motion pdf icon PDF 445 KB

To receive an update on Council Motion 469 which was considered at the November 2021 Council meeting and subsequently referred to the Equalities Working Group to examine the benefits of the actions set out in the motion.

 

RECOMMENDATION: That Council note the update and agree the recommendations of the Equalities Working Group as follows:

 

1)               Council explore how it can improve communications to residents on what it is doing to support domestic violence victims;

 

2)               Council Officers explore whether there is a more comprehensive accreditation to certify at which level the Council is performing when it comes to domestic violence provision;

 

3)               The Leader of the Council to write to the Home Secretary in support of making public sexual harassment a specific offence and impress the need for wider cultural change and write to the four MPs that cover Wokingham Borough and PCC to encourage them to also support this;

 

4)               The Executive Member for Children's Services to write to local schools on how they're upholding the Department for Education's September 2021 ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ policy on public sexual harassment.

 

77.

Member Question Time

To answer any member questions

 

A period of 30 minutes will be allowed for Members to ask questions submitted under Notice

 

Any questions not dealt with within the allotted time will be dealt with in a written reply

77.1

Gary Cowan asked the Executive Member for Resident Services, Communications and Emissions the following question:

 

Question

The Council’s plan to tackle climate change contains the following

  • Reduce carbon dioxide emissions from transport
  • Create a local plan that specifies net zero construction and infrastructure
  • Increase the levels of carbon sequestration the Borough through greening the environment
  • Engage with young people and support sustainable schools
  • Encouraging behaviour change.

 

Part of the Arborfield Green (Garrison) planning permission was to provide two primary schools for the new occupants and had the developer not agreed planning permission would have been quite rightly refused by the Planning Department. 

 

When the primary school was nearing completion Wokingham Borough Council’s Children’s Services agreed to shut Farley Hill School and moved it in its entirety to the new school location at Arborfield Green, even calling it Farley Hill Primary School, so denying children living directly outside the gates of the new school access.

 

As a result of this decision all the primary school aged children in Arborfield Green have to be driven to surrounding primary schools while many who attended Farley Hill now have a much longer drive to the new school

 

How does this fit in with the five bullet points in the Council’s plan to tackle climate emergency?

 

77.2

Sam Akhtar asked the Executive Member for Neighbourhoods and Communities the following question:

 

Question

In Charvil village, I have had some issues with graffiti and have attempted to get this removed.  However, I have been informed by the Council that their policy is to only remove graffiti which is offensive.  Can you confirm why this policy is in place and if the Council will consider changing the policy to include non-offensive graffiti in order to keep our Borough graffiti free?

 

77.3

Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey asked the Executive Member for Highways and Transport the following question:

 

Question

When is the safety audit on Woodward Close entrance expected to be finished and the safety problems of the entrance finally fixed for the residents?

 

77.4

Shirley Boyt asked the Executive Member for Finance and Housing the following question:

 

Question

Lilly May Court is an affordable development in my ward under a shared ownership arrangement.  It has emerged that these properties weren’t constructed in accordance with planning conditions and mitigation intended to reduce the impact of noise from haulage yards was not installed.  Furthermore, a covenant regarding the yards and the mitigation wasn't disclosed at the point of sale. 

 

When residents complained to their provider about intolerable noise and pollution from the haulage yards, they were treated with contempt and told that they were ‘not allowed’ to complain about the hauliers and should ‘keep their windows closed’.  

 

It has finally been accepted that a breach of planning has taken place and the provider is now pressurising the residents to accept the mitigation.  However, the majority of residents would never have bought into these properties had they been given the full facts at the point of sale and have requested the properties are bought back by the provider, who has refused.

 

The provider, Housing Solutions, is a ‘Preferred Registered Provider’ of WBC, so my question is - what pressure can WBC exert to encourage this provider to buy back these flats to enable these families to move on with their lives?

77.5

Jackie Rance asked the Executive Member for Children's Services the following question:

 

Question:

Could you give me an update on the situation with 6th Form provision in the South of the Borough?

77.6

Shahid Younis asked the Executive Member for Children's Services the following question:

 

Question

Now most of our schools in WBC are academies and as such beyond WBC control what are you doing in Children’s Services to ensure our children are properly educated?

 

78.

Minutes of Committee Meetings and Ward Matters

A period of 20 minutes will be allowed for Members to ask questions in relation to the latest circulated volume of Minutes of Meetings and Ward Matters

79.

Statements by the Leader of the Council, Executive Members and Deputy Executive Members

To receive any statements by the Leader of the Council, Executive Members and Deputy Executive Members.

 

In accordance with Procedure Rule 4.2.23 the total time allocated to this item shall not exceed 20 minutes, and no Member shall speak for more than 5 minutes

80.

Statement from Council Owned Companies

To receive any statements from Directors of Council Owned Companies.

 

In accordance with Procedure Rule 4.2.24 the total time allocated to this item shall not exceed 10 minutes, and no Director, except with the consent of Council, shall speak for more than 3 minutes.

81.

Motions

To consider any motions

 

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

81.1

Motion 472 submitted by Rachel Burgess

 

Wokingham Borough Council must continually review the support offered to families facing financial crisis to ensure a robust safety net is in place for those in need.

 

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic there were already too many families in Wokingham struggling to make ends meet, and now many more families have been thrown into crisis, without the ability to pay their rent, heat their homes or feed their children.

 

The Local Welfare Provision Scheme exists to provide immediate financial support to households facing an emergency situation.  However, the number of people helped by this scheme in Wokingham borough has fallen by 76% since 2016-17, with just 21 people helped in 2020-21.  In 2019-20, just £3,000 was spent providing support through this scheme.  Over the last three years only 23% of the allocated budget was actually spent, on average.

 

Now more than ever, with the Covid-19 pandemic causing an unprecedented downturn in incomes, Wokingham Borough Council must continually review the support offered to families in crisis. Wokingham Borough Council will:

 

·       Review the effectiveness of Wokingham’s Local Welfare Provision Scheme

·       Consult with residents and the voluntary sector to ascertain how those who need crisis assistance can be better supported

·       Ensure residents in need of support can easily access the scheme and work to remove barriers to application

·       Ensure effective signposting of the scheme in conjunction with the voluntary sector

·       Ensure frontline staff are trained so that they are fully aware of the scheme and are able to advise residents on how to apply

·       Prioritise the delivery of cash-first support, which is more empowering and respectful to those on lower incomes

·       Ensure cash can be provided within 24-48 hours of a successful application

·       Consider relaxing the qualifying criteria and disclosure requirements for the scheme, ensuring that residents’ dignity is respected throughout.

 

81.2

Motion 473 submitted by Guy Grandison

 

This Council welcomes the pause and review of the draft Planning Bill by the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.  This Council strongly believes in the principle of local decision-making in planning, and urges the Secretary of State to place this at the heart of reforms to the planning system.  Further, this Council requests that the Leader of the Council writes to the Secretary of State, asking him to consider the following:

 

  1. A revision of the Housing Need formula to ensure that it does not penalise areas like Wokingham Borough for being prosperous places to live;

 

  1. Enhanced local community decision-making on development, including the potential for individual streets or villages to vote on whether to accept more housing; and

 

  1. Greater powers for local planning authorities to get developers building applications they have already been granted and the end the practice of ‘land-banking’.