Agenda and minutes
Venue: The Sapling Room, The Appleyard, Avenue of Remembrance, Sittingbourne, Kent, ME10 4DE. View directions
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No interests were declared.
The Leader announced the recent sad loss of Alison Peters, Principal Urban Design and Landscape Officer. He referred to her excellent work on the Sittingbourne Town Centre Supplementary Planning Document and said she was a great loss. There was a minute’s silence in memory of Alison.
To approve the Minutes of the Meeting held on 28 September (Minute Nos. TBA) as a correct record.
The Minutes of the Meeting held on 28 September 2022 (Minutes Nos. 331 – 338) ere taken as read, approved and signed by the Chair as a correct record.
The Chief Executive introduced the report by explaining that under the Cabinet system, performance monitoring had previously been reported quarterly but under the Committee system due to the timings of service committees, monitoring reports were very often out of date by the time they were presented to the Policy and Resources Committee. She explained that there had been discussions between officers and members to report six-monthly in line with service committees, and to include information on the performance and delivery of the Council’s priorities and projects in the performance report.
The Leader proposed the recommendations which were seconded by Councillor Monique Bonney.
In the discussion that followed Members made points including:
· Initially thought six months was too long but on reflection was a good idea to have a strategic overview;
· suggested a 12 month trial, then review of six-monthly reporting;
· six months was too long between reviewing performance;
· understood the reasons but six-monthly reporting was too long as there were no updates at service committees as there had been under the Cabinet system;
· performance reporting was on the website but was sometimes missing information;
· supported the proposal and said if an update was needed, a member could ask for one;
· supported six months reporting as this reflected the role of the committee;
· some members seemed to struggle with a strategic overview;
· it was important that Policy and Resourced Committee gave a lead to service committees;
· supported a regular review as this should be carried out anyway, but not to a time limit; and
· expected more full reports if only presented every six months.
The Leader reminded members that Group Leaders held bi-monthly meetings and issues could be discussed at those meetings. He agreed with a member that processes should be reviewed constantly to ensure it was working efficiently.
The members that suggested a twelve-monthly review withdrew the suggestion as they agreed that the process should be reviewed regularly.
(1) That the performance report be considered by the committee every six months.
(2) That the performance report be updated to show performance in the delivery of projects.
The Leader advised the Committee that the Prime Minster had committed to removing Planning Inspector’s rights to overrule Council planning decisions. In response to a member’s question he advised it was not yet policy.
The Interim Head of Planning Services introduced the report and said that the Council had published a Local Development Scheme setting out when the Council would be undertaking various stages of the local plan review preparation. The Regulation 19 consultation on the pre-submission draft was due to take place in the coming months and the report set out recommendations to postpone the consultation until the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill had gained royal assent. The Interim Head of Planning Services said that a new Planning Bill was also due to be introduced. She referred to some of the proposals included in the new Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB) but said there was currently no indication of when it would be introduced. The Interim Head of Planning Services referred to the current uncertainty in Government and said that certainty was needed to progress with a sound plan. She said the Council wanted to avoid abortive work and the situation would continue to be monitored.
Members raised questions and made points including:
· A delay was disappointing but understood the rationale;
· did not accept that the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill were the only cause of the delay as the Council had previously stalled;
· praised Town and Parish Councils who had been working together and were now in limbo;
· supported the pause in the process but queried whether there would be a 12 or 18 month pause; and
· drew attention that the legal implications needed to be updated at section 6 of the report.
The Leader said that Town and Parish Councils understood the process. He said that when the Council had prepared the original Regulation 19 work there had been a possibility that new targets with higher housing targets were about to be introduced. Having prepared the work it was sensible to go out to consultation on the proposals even after the new targets were cancelled and strategies had to be tested as there was no straight forward way of building over 10,000 more houses without the necessary infrastructure, and it took time to get evidence to challenge. The Leader said that other Councils were also waiting for certainty from Government. He praised Parish Councils and active community groups and said they should continue to work together as Swale, and Kent had enough housing. The Leader said he understood the uncertainty around speculative development proposals, but residents of the Borough knew that the infrastructure was not in place to accommodate more housing. He said that local employment and entertainment needs had to be met.
The Interim Head of Planning said it would be prudent to allow up to 18 months for any potential delay but if things could be moved more quickly, they would be. She said there would be training for members and Town and Parish Councils on ... view the full minutes text for item 400.
The Chief Executive introduced the report which set out the possible risks arising out of the implementation of voter identification. She explained that there was not yet any secondary legislation and requirements were therefore unknown. The Chief Executive said that training could not be carried out without the guidance and many residents in the Borough did not have acceptable ID. She drew attention to paragraph 2.16 of the report which highlighted that the Government and other organisations were concerned about the issue.
The Chief Executive reminded members that there were Borough elections in Swale in 2023, and under the new legislation it would be the responsibility of the Presiding Officer if a resident could vote, according to the ID produced. She said everyone would be sent a polling card under the assumption they would have Voter ID that they would bring to the polling station to vote, and it would be the decision of the Presiding Officer whether an ID was a good enough likeness for a resident to vote. The Chief Executive said where voting results were close in numbers, it would be a risk. She added that, as Returning Officer, it would be her risk.
To address the risk, the Chief Executive said that Kent Chief Executives were all working together with each other and their elections teams to work through the risks listed in Appendix A of the report.
The Chief Executive then informed members of a further risk to the election that was not set out in the report, around the Coronation of the King which was scheduled to be held on 6 May 2023. She explained that the scheduled Bank Holiday might be moved to 5 May which was the usual day of counting votes. The Chief Executive further explained that the term of existing Councillors ceased just past Midnight on Sunday 7 May. She said that Borough and Parish elections and verifications would make it difficult if overnight counting was required. The Chief Executive said a similar report was being discussed at other Kent Councils and she had also raised the risk with the Borough MP’s, one of whom had written to the Government Minister.
Members were invited to ask questions and make points which included:
· Thanked the Chief Executive for the update which was alarming but out of SBC’s control;
· clarification on the mitigation of risks;
· suggested thumb prints would work better as ID;
· it was unfair of Government to introduce a scheme with no detail that if went wrong meant SBC would be out of pocket – was there insurance?;
· what would the impact be if there was a General Election?;
· was it the same impact on Parish elections?;
· some residents did not have photo ID such as a driving licence or passports;
· how would residents access the Government Portal to receive a Voter Identification document, would there be access across the SBC offices throughout Swale?;
· would there be liaison with the Gypsy and Traveller community;
· concerned that the Presiding Officer had ... view the full minutes text for item 401.
In response to a member’s question on whether the Gypsy and Traveller Policy would sit within the Local Plan or would it be covered separately, the Interim Head of Planning said the decision had not yet been made whether to progress the policy out of the Local Plan framework.
(1) That the report be noted.