Agenda and draft minutes

Cabinet - Wednesday, 12th February, 2020 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Rooms 2 & 3, Civic Offices, New Road, Grays, Essex, RM17 6SL. View directions

Contact: Lucy Tricker, Democratic Services Officer  Email: Direct.Democracy@thurrock.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

65.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 128 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of Cabinet held on 15 January 2020.

Minutes:

The minutes of the Cabinet meeting held on 15 January 2020 were approved as a correct record.

66.

Items of Urgent Business

To receive additional items that the Chair is of the opinion should be considered as a matter of urgency, in accordance with Section 100B (4) (b) of the Local Government Act 1972.

Minutes:

There were no items of urgent business.

67.

Declaration of Interests

Minutes:

There were no items of urgent business.

68.

Statements by the Leader

Minutes:

The Leader began his statement by describing how in April 2017 the Grays Public Space Protection Order had been launched to tackle problems such as street drinking and anti-social behaviour in Grays. He felt these issues were caused by a minority of people, but had a disproportionate negative effect on residents, businesses, and people that shopped in Grays. He stated that although there had been a mixed response, more resources were now being used to support the Public Space Protection Order such as additional Environmental Enforcement Officers, more town-centre policing teams, and regular walkthroughs of Grays. He stated that officers were currently seeking an extension of the Order, and a consultation had been launched online for residents, businesses and high-street users to have their say. The Leader urged people to take part in the consultation, as resident feedback was needed. He felt that the Public Space Protection Order was necessary as lots of future change and investment was coming to Grays.

The Leader then discussed the recent Keep Britain Tidy (KBT) awards, during which the Environmental Enforcement team had won Team of the Year, at this nationally recognised event. He felt this was testament to the commercial investment that allowed for additional Environmental Enforcement Officers. He added that the event had been very productive, as it allowed for officers and Members to share ideas with other boroughs, and bring back good ideas to Thurrock. The Leader also congratulated Redbridge Council and Braintree Council for their wins.

The Leader then outlined the Clean It, Cut It, Fill It Update, and stated that since April 2019: 1568 potholes had been filled (99% within target time); 987 fly-tips had been cleared; 2996 tonnes of waste had been cleared; 3487 Fixed Penalty Notices had been issued; 284 £400 fines had been issued; 268 people prosecuted for non-payment of on the spot fines; and 3 illegal encampments had been moved on. The Leader explained that Thurrock Council would soon be going to court to make the illegal encampment injunction permanent.

69.

Briefings on Policy, Budget and Other Issues

Minutes:

Councillor Watkins thanked the environment team for their recent hard work dealing with Storm Ciara, and highlighted that 17 trees had fallen due to the high winds. He clarified that under the Tree Planting Strategy these trees would be replaced on a like-for-like basis, and added that another storm was due, and the team would again be out working to tackle any fallen trees or debris. The Leader extended his thanks to the team, and to landowners in rural communities who had helped to remove trees that had fallen across the road, as this helped keep the borough moving.

70.

Petitions submitted by Members of the Public

Minutes:

There had been no petitions submitted by members of the public.

71.

Questions from Non-Executive Members

Minutes:

There had been no questions submitted by Non-Executive Members.

72.

Matters Referred to the Cabinet for Consideration by an Overview and Scrutiny Committee

Minutes:

The Leader stated that one item, Item 13: Fees and Charges Pricing Strategy 2020/21, had been referred from Overview and Scrutiny Committees, so would be heard first. 

73.

Fees and Charges Pricing Strategy 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 151 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Hebb introduced the report and stated that it outlined the services provided by the Council and the associated costs for 2020/21, as well as the proposed price changes and removed charges. He stated that the fees and charges outlined in the report helped the Council to meet its long-term financial plan, and was an amalgamation of hard work across every directorate in the Council. He stated that the proposed fees and charges had been benchmarked on market prices, and the market would continue to be analysed throughout the year to ensure balance. He commented that this report updated the Cabinet on specific fees and charges, and ensured that no department ran at a loss.

The Leader invited Councillor Rigby to speak on the discussions held at Cleaner, Greener and Safer (CGS) Overview and Scrutiny, as she had been the Vice-Chair in the Chair for the meeting that discussed the proposed fees and charges. Councillor Rigby explained how officers had outlined the changes that were proposed to fees and charges under the remit of CGS Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and all recommendations had been agreed. She highlighted that some Members of the Committee had felt concern regarding the increase of charges relating to sport, but that it had been explained to them as necessary to allow the department to be cost-neutral, and discounts were available to those that met certain criteria. She summarised and stated that no other issues had been raised.

The Leader thanked Councillor Rigby for her feedback, and felt that it was good to see Overview and Scrutiny understand the reasons for fees and charges increases to ensure cost neutrality. He added that the Council had a duty to supply services to residents, and this report would ensure that residents paid a fair price for those services. Councillor Huelin highlighted the fee increase for hiring rooms in libraries, and other commercial rents, but assured residents that community groups and charities would pay a lower fee. She added that Health and Wellbeing groups and the theatre would also pay lower fees.

Councillor Watkins thanked Councillor Rigby for her feedback and stated that he understood the concern of the Committee regarding the sport fee increase. He commented that this increase would be a phased approach over a number of years, and the Council would work with groups and users to monitor the impact. He stated that the Council had to ensure cost neutrality, but also had to ensure services could continue to be supplied, and would receive the necessary upkeep. Councillor Watkins added that a new sport and leisure policy was currently being developed which would show the Council’s commitment to sport across the borough. He also mentioned the new enforcement charges that were being added in this report, such as to tackle engine idling, which would improve air quality across the borough. He stated that the officers tackling engine idling would use a considered approach, and would focus on areas where drivers tended to idle, such as  ...  view the full minutes text for item 73.

74.

Housing Development Options List pdf icon PDF 81 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Johnson introduced the report and stated that Site 20 from Appendix B had been removed. He stated that the report detailed a list of sites, which would help the Council to meet its target of 500 new council homes, and clarified that all sites met the 3R’s policy of release, retain or reuse. He added that some sites fell within his own ward, but all sites would be going to further consultation and investigation, and this report did not grant planning application. Councillor Johnson stated that this policy was open and transparent, with the process being previously agreed by Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee and Cabinet. He mentioned that if the report were agreed it would give consent for investigatory works, and not planning applications. Councillor Johnson clarified that any sites identified would meet the previously agreed criteria, and would go to a full consultation with residents and Ward Councillors, and objections to specific sites could be made at that stage. He clarified that no site identified within the report was closer to development than any other, and some might be further away from development, as could be dismissed once investigatory work and consultation had been completed. Councillor Johnson stated that Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee had discussed the report last night, and debated every individual site. He stated that the purpose of the report was not to discuss the merits or drawbacks of each potential site, but to agree the recommendations that they should go forward for further investigation. He summarised and stated that the report was trying to be open and transparent so residents and Councillors could see the next stages.

The Leader stated that due to the general election and purdah, this report had had to go to Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee last night, rather than at their previous meetings, but felt it would have been good to see the outcomes from their discussion. Councillor Coxshall added that the policy of the 3R’s had been agreed when the Conservatives had first taken power, as it was important to shine a light on the reasons for decisions, particularly regarding land. He mentioned that as there would be a full consultation for each site, the outcomes of these could present new ideas that may not have been previously considered. He stated that it was important for members of the public and other Councillors to see how decisions were being made.

Councillor Little stated that she had a non-pecuniary interest as one of the proposed sites was in her ward, and echoed the Leaders comments that it would have been good to see the minutes from Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Councillor Little then proposed that Site 19 be removed from the report, as she felt it did not meet the 3Rs criteria, or the Cabinet agreed process, as the suggested site contained private houses that were not owned by the Council. She felt that the proposed Site 19 did not aid regeneration of the area and would  ...  view the full minutes text for item 74.

75.

Incorporation of South East Local Enterprise Partnership pdf icon PDF 84 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Leader stated that as he had a pecuniary interest in this item, he would not be voting and would be removing himself from the room.

Councillor Gledhill left 8.07pm.

Councillor Hebb, as Deputy Leader, introduced the report and stated that this outlined the governance processes for the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), and sought agreement for it to become a limited company. He stated that SELEP boosted job growth across the region, and helped to improve the local economy. Councillor Coxshall highlighted the importance of SELEP for Thurrock, and felt that Thurrock was already seeing the results from schemes that had been bought forward by SELEP.

RESOLVED: That Cabinet:

1. Noted that the Council will become a member of South East LEP Limited, with articles of association as set out in Appendix 1.

2. Noted that the Council will sign the framework agreement as set out in Appendix 2.

3. Agreed that the Leader will be the Council’s initial member of the Board, with the Portfolio Holder for Regeneration and Strategic Planning as alternate director.

4. Agreed that the Leader will be the Council’s initial member of the Accountability Board, with the Portfolio Holder for Regeneration and Strategic Planning as principal substitute.

Councillor Gledhill returned 8.09pm.

76.

Procurement of Transport and Highway Contracts pdf icon PDF 85 KB

Minutes:

Councillor Maney introduced the report and stated that it was a good news report as it ensured that money could be spent on delivering the Council’s priorities, and could procure the necessary works contracts over the next 5 years, and deliver on the capital works programme. He highlighted point 2.5 on page 68 of the agenda and stated that this explained the rationale for the report, as spending had increased to £60million in year 6, which was over contract value and therefore needed a new procurement exercise. He stated that Cabinet had agreed the process for procurement in 2015.

The Leader stated that he felt glad to see this report come to Cabinet as it helped deliver schemes such as Kerb It, upgrades to Stonehouse Lane, and smaller projects such as the installation of zebra crossings.

RESOLVED: That Cabinet:

1. Delegated authority to the Director of Place and the Director of Environment and Highways, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Highways and Transportation, to decide the appropriate procurement route for the delivery of the Transport and Highways services and schemes for the next five years, commencing 1 April 2021.

2. Approved the process to commence procurement of Transport and Highways services and schemes for a five-year period commencing 1 April 2021, which will be compliant with relevant EU Public Procurement Regulation, the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, and the Council’s Contract Procedure Rules.

3. Delegated authority to the Director of Environment and Highways, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Place and Environment and Highways, to award any contracts necessary for the delivery of transportation and highways services for a five-year period commencing 1 April 2021.

Reason for decision: as outlined in the report
This decision is subject to call-in


77.

A13 East Facing Access Scheme Update pdf icon PDF 1 MB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Coxshall introduced the report and stated that this scheme had been long awaited by residents and Members alike, and felt it was good to see the scheme moving forward. He clarified that approval had been received by the Minister at the Conservative Party Conference, and could now progress to the next stage of development. He explained that the East facing access on A13 would relieve the problem of congestion, particularly at the Treacle Mine Roundabout, Sainsbury’s Roundabout and at junction 30/31 of the M25, as the new access would mean that traffic could go straight from Lakeside onto the A13. He described that the next stage in the process, if agreed by Cabinet, would be to send the outline business case to the Minister for them to make a decision on, and then work could begin quickly. Councillor Coxshall mentioned that the proposed route of the LTC also contained similar problems to the current Lakeside access problems, as there was no local connectivity to the LTC, so residents would have to travel to Stanford-le-Hope and back on themselves to gain LTC access. He stated that Highways England were currently undertaking a second round of consultation, and urged residents to take part.

Councillor Watkins supported the recommendations as he felt that the new East facing access would reduce congestion at the Dartford Crossing, and help residents in Stifford and Chafford Hundred, as traffic would not be diverted through their residential areas. He added that this would also improve air quality in the area, and 3-4 Air Quality Monitoring Stations were currently being set up near to Lakeside and surrounding residential areas. Councillor Mayes also supported the recommendations as he felt it would reduce pollution, as the biggest pollutant in the borough was traffic. He felt concerned regarding the LTC scheme put forward by Highways England as he felt it would have a negative effect on people’s health. He stated that the new East facing A13 access would benefit residents health as it would reduce congestion on the M25, ensuring more free-flowing traffic and less pollution.

The Leader highlighted that new traffic modelling projections showed the new access scheme would reduce congestion in the area, and at junction 30/31, by 40%. He stated that Thurrock remained opposed to the LTC, but wanted to ensure that if it was built in Thurrock, it was built right by design. He stated that the outline business case would be submitted to government, but every year the scheme was delayed cost more to the taxpayer, as the scheme increased in price by £1million per year due to inflation.

RESOLVED: That Cabinet:

1. Noted and endorsed the work undertaken to develop the A13 East Facing Access scheme to date.

2. Noted and endorsed the Options Assessment process identifying the sifting process and prioritisation of schemes for submission to the Department for Transport.

3. Noted the funding implications associated with the A13 East Facing Access scheme options, as set out in Section 7.

4. Agreed that the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 77.

78.

Draft 2020/21 Budget Proposals & Medium Term Financial Strategy Update pdf icon PDF 292 KB

Minutes:

Councillor Hebb introduced the report and stated that this was a budget for residents, and would benefit elderly residents, mental health provision, infrastructure, leisure provision, air quality, and other Council services. He stated that the Council provided both statutory and discretionary services for residents, and due to continued service review, the budget would be balanced for the next three years. He stated that Council would have a surplus of £4.1million in 2020/21, a surplus of £1.4million in 2021/22, and a small surplus in 2022/23. Councillor Hebb compared this to the budget in 2016/17 when services such as street cleaning, the environment, and PCSO’s could not be funded, and the Council were running a deficit. He stated that Thurrock were one of the lowest unitary authorities in the country in terms of council tax, but were still able to fund additional services from the General Fund such as new policing teams, anti-social behaviour enforcement, and mental health provision for schools. He highlighted that 97% of other council’s had been unable to raise council tax under inflation, and the proposed 1.49% council tax increase would be ring-fenced for areas such as social services, and environmental enforcement.

Councillor Hebb highlighted that the majority of councils experienced pressure regarding social care funding, but Thurrock had been able to continue to fund good quality services for elderly and vulnerable residents. He stated that the proposed 2% social care precept increase would go to services that needed it the most, such as an additional 5% funding for the Adults, Housing and Health directorate. He explained that Thurrock were also committed to working with the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, and had promised an additional £700,000 for new police officers, as well as the additional 20,000 police officers promised nationally by the Prime Minister. He felt that these new police officers would make town centres safer and green spaces more accessible for residents. He added that £600,000 funding was also being given to the Youth Offending team to reduce reoffending rates and deter crime; and £600,000 was being given to deter illegal car parking on green spaces. He added that £400,000 was being spent on air quality, such as by implementing a new tree planting strategy, new cycle ways, and new ‘switch-off’ engine zones. He felt that this would have a positive impact on resident’s health, as it would improve air quality and reduce the rates of COPD.

Councillor Hebb added that £500,000 was also being given to tackle mental health problems across the borough, by introducing an early intervention mental health service, which would intercept crises earlier. He mentioned that regeneration projects were also occurring across the borough, and improvements would be made to leisure and sports facilities, to ensure residents remained in the borough for their sport.

Councillor Hebb moved onto outline the capital plan, as good infrastructure was needed to ensure that residents could access services. He highlighted that a number of infrastructure projects were already underway, such as the Purfleet-on-Thames regeneration  ...  view the full minutes text for item 78.

79.

Capital Strategy 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 78 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Hebb introduced the report and stated that Thurrock Council had received £31million in investment this year, which would increase to £35million in the next financial year, and this money was used to benefit residents and services. He commented that this report confirmed the guidelines used by officers, and Cabinet had agreed this process in October 2017, 2018 and 2019, with cross-party agreement. He stated that the Council’s Spending Review received regular oversight of investments, as well as Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and all officers had to ensure due diligence when undertaken investments, to reduce risk and increase security. He added that in 2018 and 2019, Full Council had agreed the limits for borrowing and investment, and two separate external auditors had agreed on the strategy and current spending levels. He clarified that 75% of debt was short-term debt, and 25% was spent on the capital programme, but that there were mechanisms in place under the Minimum Revenue Position to pay these back and earn money on investments.

Councillor Hebb highlighted an additional recommendation that had been made by the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee for additional democratic oversight on investments, and although he felt there was currently a robust process, the Cabinet would work to review democratic oversight. He stated that a piece of work would be undertaken by Governance Group to work out the scope of this oversight, and what it might look like, and this would be outlined in the next financial outturn report.

The Leader welcomed the additional recommendation for increased oversight, and felt pleased to see that a piece of work would be undertaken regarding this. He felt it was important for financial decisions to be appropriately scrutinised, ensuring no confidentiality rules were broken. He also felt pleased that the external auditors had shown no concern with the process.

RESOLVED: That Cabinet recommended that Full Council:

1. Approve the Capital Strategy for 2020/21, including the approval of the Annual Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) statement for 2020/21.

2. Approve the adoption of the prudential indicators as set out in Appendix 1.

3. Notre the revised 2019/20 and 2020/21 Treasury Management projections as set out in Annex 1, paragraph 2.32.

4. Considers the recommendation from the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee to further increase the democratic oversight of investment activity.

Reason for decision: as outlined in the report
This decision is subject to call-in

80.

Housing Revenue Account - Business Plan and Budgets 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 207 KB

Minutes:

Councillor Hebb introduced the report and stated that Thurrock Council had received £31million in investment this year, which would increase to £35million in the next financial year, and this money was used to benefit residents and services. He commented that this report confirmed the guidelines used by officers, and Cabinet had agreed this process in October 2017, 2018 and 2019, with cross-party agreement. He stated that the Council’s Spending Review received regular oversight of investments, as well as Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and all officers had to ensure due diligence when undertaken investments, to reduce risk and increase security. He added that in 2018 and 2019, Full Council had agreed the limits for borrowing and investment, and two separate external auditors had agreed on the strategy and current spending levels. He clarified that 75% of debt was short-term debt, and 25% was spent on the capital programme, but that there were mechanisms in place under the Minimum Revenue Position to pay these back and earn money on investments.

Councillor Hebb highlighted an additional recommendation that had been made by the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee for additional democratic oversight on investments, and although he felt there was currently a robust process, the Cabinet would work to review democratic oversight. He stated that a piece of work would be undertaken by Governance Group to work out the scope of this oversight, and what it might look like, and this would be outlined in the next financial outturn report.

The Leader welcomed the additional recommendation for increased oversight, and felt pleased to see that a piece of work would be undertaken regarding this. He felt it was important for financial decisions to be appropriately scrutinised, ensuring no confidentiality rules were broken. He also felt pleased that the external auditors had shown no concern with the process.

RESOLVED: That Cabinet recommended that Full Council:

1. Approve the Capital Strategy for 2020/21, including the approval of the Annual Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) statement for 2020/21.

2. Approve the adoption of the prudential indicators as set out in Appendix 1.

3. Notre the revised 2019/20 and 2020/21 Treasury Management projections as set out in Annex 1, paragraph 2.32.

4. Considers the recommendation from the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee to further increase the democratic oversight of investment activity.

Reason for decision: as outlined in the report
This decision is subject to call-in