Venue: Virtual meeting - This meeting is being held remotely using Skype for Business. View directions
Contact: Jo Toomey
Link: View Live Stream
The Chairman welcomed everyone to the first virtual meeting of the Council and stated that the meeting was being recorded.
She expressed gratitude to the NHS and other emergency workers for their work during the Coronavirus epidemic and paid tribute to other critical workers. She also thanked officers within the South Kesteven District Council team who had worked to support local communities especially where demand for services had increased and where staff had been redeployed to help with the Council’s response. On behalf of all the Members she thanked everyone for their efforts. She also paid tribute to the role that Members were playing as part of the COVID-19 response, including those who had signed up to the befriending service supporting elderly and vulnerable residents and the other work Members had been doing to support their communities at this time.
A minute’s silence was held for all those who had lost their lives due to the Coronavirus and their families.
In commemoration of the VE day anniversary, a further minute’s silence was then held for all those who gave their lives, recognising that many of those who had been involved had come from Lincolnshire.
The Chairman then asked for silent reflection for two former Councillors who had recently passed away. Frank Turner and Alan Parkin had both been long serving members of the Council for the Barrowbygate area of Grantham. Frank Turner had been a Councillor from 2003 – 2019 and had been elected Mayor of Grantham twice in 2005 and 2013 and had been a member of the Licensing Committee from 2007 – 2019. Alan Parkin became a Councillor in 1995 and had served the Ward for 20 years retiring in 2015. During his time as a Councillor he had been either Chairman or Vice-Chairman of the Planning Committee and had been Mayor of Grantham in 1999 and Chairman of the Council in 2001. Both had died during the peak of the pandemic so funeral services were only for very close family. Members would be notified of memorial service details when they were known.
A minute’s silence was held to remember the former Councillors.
Members were informed that the meeting would follow the Covid19 Council procedure, a copy of which had been circulated to all Members with the agenda.
As it was the first meeting of full Council the Chief Executive had made an officer delegated decision to adopt the Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020. The procedures included the suspension of the public open forum, Members’ Open Questions and motions on notice for the meeting. The view had been taken that public confidence would be better served by having a well-run accessible meeting at which key information could be shared and urgent decisions made. Once Members were more comfortable with the arrangements for virtual meetings, the suspended items would be reinstated on the agenda.
Members were advised of practical arrangements for ... view the full minutes text for item 94.
Statement by the Leader of the Council on Covid-19
The Chairman invited the Leader to give a factual briefing on the work that the Council had been doing as part of its response to the Coronavirus. As the speech would be longer than the five minute-limit, and in the interests of running an efficient meeting, the Chairman suspended the five-minute limit for this item only.
The Leader of the Council welcomed colleagues and officers across South Kesteven and members of the public who were joining the first virtual meeting of full Council. He referred to the last full council meeting held on 2 March 2020 where life had looked very different. The budget had been debated for the financial year and how the Council could progress work to grow the local economy. A variety of events were being looked forward to which celebrated the wonderful heritage of the District. This was before the impact of COVID-19 which swiftly changed how we lived and worked.
The Council had set out three clear priorities to guide it through the pandemic.
- To protect the health of the Council’s staff, Members and residents.
- To maintain critical services and;
- To support local businesses.
Every decision made supported these priorities and was centred on protecting lives and livelihoods. The Council was committed to putting people first which was being echoed in neighbourhoods and on the streets as people clapped for carers and NHS staff and waved at the waste collectors.
The Leader highlighted the importance of collective and individual action during the battle with COVID-19 and the Leader of the Council personally thanked everyone, Members, staff, community groups, key workers, volunteers and the business community for their efforts. He described it as a humbling show of strength and determination and kindness in adversity. Every act of compassion no matter how small, made a huge difference.
The Leader then gave a snapshot of work that had been undertaken by Officers and Members which included maintaining a full waste service, urgent housing repairs completed within 24 hours of notification and available staff working on void properties to ensure quick relets. Increased resources to support any rise in homelessness and emergency housing cases, this included all rough sleepers known to the Council being given assistance and accommodation.
Customer Service teams had been enabled to work remotely and were dealing with their own work and providing support for calls in relation to council tax, benefits and rents, this had enabled the revenues and benefits team to deliver direct specialist support to residents and businesses affected by hardship.
InvestSK had been realigned to focus on business continuity and resilience. SKDC was one of the top Councils in the country for delivering grant aid to eligible businesses. Nine hundred grants had been paid out to businesses within 24 hours of the Council receiving the money from Government. To date £25M had been paid out to 2,115 businesses of the £31.7m that had been received from Government. Business Rate Relief in the region of £17m had been given to ... view the full minutes text for item 95.
Register of attendance
The Chief Executive took a register of attendance of all Members. An apology was received from Councillor Benn and Councillor Kingman gave apologies for her late attendance.
Disclosure of Interests
Members are asked to disclose any interests in matters for consideration at the meeting.
It was noted that all Members had an interest in agenda item 6, the extension to the six-month attendance rule.
No further disclosure of interests was made.
The minutes of the meeting held on 2 March 2020 were proposed, seconded and agreed as a correct record.
A report of the Leader of the Council to consider granting an extension to the six-month attendance rule to prevent Councillors ceasing to be a Member of the authority under Section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972.
The Leader of The Council proposed a dispensation for all Members to allow them to consider granting an extension to the six-month attendance rule established in Section 85 of the Local Government Act 1985, Due to the COVID19 pandemic many meetings had been suspended, which had made it difficult for Members to attend a Council meeting. Granting an extension to the six-month rule was something that could only be done by full Council.
One Member felt that the dispensation was unnecessary and could lead to unwanted consequences, giving an example of what was considered to be a possible consequence.
The Monitoring Officer stated that dispensation could only be granted by a meeting of full Council. When COVID19 happened this presented a difficulty as there was not an opportunity to call a meeting of full Council and meant that three Councillors were at risk of losing their seat through no fault of their own. For this reason, the report had been brought before the Council in case Coronavirus meant that a Councillor could not attend a meeting and it was not possible to convene a meeting of Council to grant the dispensation.
Clarification was sought on the time the extension would cover; it was confirmed that the extension would remain in place until 30 September 2020. When a Member attends a meeting within that period, their six-months would be reset.
A further comment was made about the need to have an extension especially as the majority of Members were present at the meeting.
The dispensation proposal was seconded and on being put to the vote it was AGREED:
To grant a dispensation to allow Members to consider extending the six- month attendance rule contained in Section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972.
Following the granting of the dispensation it was proposed, seconded and, on being put to the vote, AGREED:
To grant an extension to the six-month rule until 30 September 2020 in order to avoid any Councillor ceasing to be a member of the Authority under Section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972
A report of the Leader of the Council and the Chairman of the Constitution Committee proposing amendments to the Council’s Constitution to provide clarity in future emergency situations.
The Chairman of the Constitution Committee informed Members that the Coronavirus pandemic had meant that the Council had to look at how things could be done differently. Decisions had needed to be made quickly to ensure that services could continue to be delivered; decision-making also needed to be transparent. Relying on current provisions within the Constitution and taking account of arrangements that were being used by other local authorities, three areas were identified where greater clarity was needed. Those areas were the powers of the Chief Executive, contingency arrangements in the absence of the Leader of the Council and arrangements for postponing meetings. Research was undertaken and wording drafted to provide clarity in any future emergency situation to which the Council needed to respond. The Chairman of the Constitution Committee proposed the recommendations contained within the report with the addition of a sentence on page 26 at (iii) under the Chief Executive’s emergency powers to include “Informing the Opposition Group Leaders of the action that has been taken”. The proposal including the addition was seconded.
One of the opposition group leaders stated that while some decisions needed to be taken urgently, where practicable, the opposition leaders should be consulted. She proposed an amendment, changing the word “informed”, to “consulted”.
The other opposition leader felt that he had been kept informed and supported the original use of the word informed. He stated that this had been discussed at a recent group leaders’ meeting to which all opposition leaders had been invited. He urged Members of his group to support the original proposition.
Further discussion followed and the amendment to replace the word consulted with informed was seconded.
The Leader and the Chief Executive were thanked in relation to the early decisions that had been taken and the circulation of information to Members in relation to COVID-19. Some Members who spoke in support of the amendment felt that the word “consulted” should be used rather than “informed” and they referred back to the speech that the Leader had made when he was elected and his speech about collaboration across all parties. Supporters of the amendment felt that by using the word “informed” they were being dictated too.
The Independent Group Leader repeated that he did not object to the word informed. The Leader of the Council confirmed that the issue had been discussed at a recent Group Leaders’ meeting which he said one of the Group Leaders had unfortunately been unable to attend. He stated that the Council was run under the strong leader model and whether it was “informed” or “consulted” decisions still needed to be taken. The Leader stated that he was taking decisions were taken in consultation with the Chief Executive and he always tried to work with other group leaders. He reiterated his support for the word “informed” which had been agreed at the recent Group Leaders’ meeting.
One Member stated that the reason for a leader was to represent the Group, and therefore she felt that ... view the full minutes text for item 100.
Update from the Leader of the Council
A report of the Leader of the Council summarising Key Decisions that have been made under urgency provisions and officer delegated decisions taken as part of the Council’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Leader of the Council referred Members to the report in the agenda which listed the urgent decisions that had been taken in consultation with the Chief Executive during the COVID-19 crisis and went through each in turn giving Members the opportunity to comment and ask questions.
Appendix1 – Scheme of Delegation – COVID19 response period
This appendix dealt with the changes to the Leaders Scheme of Delegation, so that the making of Key Decisions was reserved to him in consultation with the Chief Executive during the COVID-19 crisis. Cabinet Members remained responsible for making Non-Key Decisions relevant to their remit.
Appendix 2 – Gravity Fields Festival 2020 (Key Decision)
The Leader, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Culture and Visitor Economy, made a Key Decision on 9 April which became effective on 23 April 2020. The decision postponed the Gravity Fields Festival to 2022 as there was no guarantee that movement and gathering restrictions would be lifted by September.
Appendix 3 – Council Tax hardship fund
The Key Decision had been taken in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, Councillor Adam Stokes. The decision was made on 11 May and came into effect on 19 May 2020. The Government had awarded the Council £924,000 to fund a Council Tax hardship fund for all working age claimants as per the guidance. An award of £150 would be made available to each eligible working age claimant for the council tax bill 2020/21. The grant would also be used for awarding new cases during the financial year. The remaining grant would be used for other hardship cases that maybe considered by the Council particularly those affected by employment issues arising from COVID19.
Appendix 4 – Ward Member Grant Scheme
A Key Decision was taken on 23 March 2020 to increase the allowance from £500 to £1,000 so that Members could support good causes and groups in their Wards that needed support during the Coronavirus.
An endorsement was made on the Council’s response to the crisis and the reinstatement of £1000 for the Ward Members grant to support COVID19 related needs in the communities. Other Members agreed with the increase of the grant and its benefit within communities and asked that the £1,000 grant be retained in future budgets. Members also gave examples of individual organisations that had benefitted from the grants within their communities.
Appendix 5 – Temporary Amendments to the South Kesteven District Council Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy
The decision was made on 24 March 2020. A pragmatic approach had been taken to the policy for taxis that were coming to the end of their vehicle age during the lockdown by granting a temporary six month extension. The extension was in response to business closures and restriction of movements. Existing taxi drivers were allowed to self-certify in relation to medical fitness, while an MOT certificate would be acceptable in lieu of a compliance test. The decision also included the suspension of applications for new ... view the full minutes text for item 101a
Close of Meeting
The meeting closed at 15:43pm.