A 45-minute period in which members may ask questions of the Leader, Cabinet Members, the Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen of the Overview and Scrutiny Committees and opposition group leaders excluding the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Development Control Committee, Licensing and Alcohol, Entertainment and Late Night Refreshment Licensing Committees and Governance and Audit Committee.
Councillor Terl Bryant clarified that any Member who did not receive an answer to a question that they raised at a meeting of Council would be supplied with a written response after the meeting. He stated that he had not received a response to the question he asked at the previous meeting. The Leader stated that he felt he had sufficiently answered the question at the meeting, taking into account the wider political context and changes to the way in which the Council operated. He suggested that if Councillor Bryant did not feel that he had received an answer he could re-state the question.
Councillor Bryant re-asked his previous question about how it was proposed that lost monies caused by falling Revenue Support Grant, rising costs and additional calls on services to backfill those withdrawn by other agencies would be replaced in light of the plans outlined during the Leader’s speech at the Council meeting on 20 April 2017.
The question was referred to the Cabinet Member for Finance who stated that the Council was looking at a number of solutions to fill the gap so that the Council would remain fully functioning and provide a balanced budget. He promised that more information would be provided in a written answer to the question.
Councillor Selby asked the Leader about the excavation work that was being carried out as part of the new cinema project. He asked whether a thorough archaeological survey had been carried out, whether anything of value was found and what had happened to any artefacts that had been found. The Cabinet Member for Major Development Projects stated that the car park would be closed from Friday 16 June 2017 for the archaeological survey to be carried out.
Councillor Morgan referred to a recent fire at Grenfell Tower in London and raised concerns about fire safety in residential premises in the district. She stated that as a member of the Development Control Committee she had raised the fact that Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue had not been consulted on applications for new developments or where significant changes to a property were proposed. As a member of Lincolnshire County Council she had worked with fire officers and continued to work with officers at Grantham Fire Station. She raised two concerns – that there was no statutory requirement to consult with Fire and Rescue Services on planning applications and that while some fire safety issues were incorporated in building regulations they did not cover all potential issues and the inspections occurred later in the development process.
She asked whether the Council could make a local, best practice decision to consult with Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service on all applications and for support to get the change put into practice.
The Leader stated that another Member had raised the issue of fire safety with him. He stated that he would ask the Chief Executive to undertake a review looking at the current position and where the Council needed to be. The Cabinet Member for Communities and Wellbeing would be heavily involved in the review process.
He stated that the Council did not have buildings of the scale of those in London but fire safety was of paramount importance. All necessary resources would be made available in respect of the review.
Councillor Mike Cooke asked whether, since 2018 was an auspicious year for the RAF, any contact had been made with other organisations about attracting visitors to the area, given the number of air force bases across Lincolnshire.
The Leader stated that the Council had recently won an award in relation to its work on tourism, including aviation heritage. The Chairman of the Culture and Tourism Overview and Scrutiny Committee added her comments that the Committee was preparing its remit and was very aware of the work that the culture team were doing in the background. The Cabinet Member for Retail and Visitor Economy stated that he had attended a meeting in Lincoln the day before this meeting at which the RAF was present. The RAF was in the process of unveiling a national strategy with a range of initiatives and work was underway to try and route visits through Lincolnshire. He added that the Dean of Lincoln Cathedral intended to recreate the fire beacon that was used to mark the homecoming of bomber crews returning from operations. Any activities that the Council intended to promote would need to fit around the RAF’s programme. He stated that Councillor Cook would be welcome to join the group looking at this.
Councillor Hannah Westropp asked a question about the telephone system that was used for customers calling into the customer service centre. She said that there were a large number of options from which the customer had to choose and asked what was being done to improve the offer so that customers were not waiting so long.
The Cabinet Member for Business Transformation and Commissioning answered the question by saying that the 40 60 80 number was a good first point of contact. He added that the customer services team had been affected by long-term illness. Those positions were in the process of being backfilled.
He gave a commitment that by the end of the month a new, simpler system would be in place with less options from which the customer could choose. It would also include a new voicemail facility.
Councillor Exton stated that in the previous structure when the Council had Policy Development Groups, the Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen of those groups would meet on a regular basis with the Cabinet. He asked whether those meetings would continue with the Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen of the Overview and Scrutiny Committees and the members of the Cabinet.
The Leader stated that he was happy to meet with any Councillors and asked Councillor Reid as the Chairman of Overview and Scrutiny Committee Chairmen to liaise with his fellow Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen to agree the best way forward.
Councillor Reid stated that within the new scrutiny structure it was down to each Chairman. Each Committee had a Cabinet Member who was responsible for that area and that the Scrutiny Chairman was there to hold them to account. He stated that he had met with officers and the relevant Cabinet Member to determine the way forward for his committee.
While the thirty-minute extension of time had elapsed, Members agreed that as only one more Councillor had indicated that they would like to ask a question, the meeting should continue to allow the conclusion of business.
Councillor Wootten referred to a meeting of the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust Board that had taken place a week before the meeting of Council. At the meeting Mark Brassington, the Trust’s Chief Operating Officer was asked about the plans for the old part of Grantham Hospital. He had replied that the Trust was interested in engaging with the community. Councillor Wootten asked whether the Leader would support members of the community looking to purchase the building.
The Leader stated that he would be happy to consider what was put before him. He said he suspected that to progress the idea, further consultation would need to be carried out. The Leader stated that the response was neither a ‘yes’ nor a ‘no’, but that the council would look at any proposal and any suggestion to make appropriate investment to support the community.