Report number CFM421 of the Cabinet Members for Environment and Finance. (Enclosure)
1. The amendment of the General Fund budget framework for 2017/18 in order to include a supplementary estimate of £661,000 revenue and £226,500 capital to facilitate the delivery of the “Big Clean” project.
2. The financing of the supplementary estimate in 2017/18 to be met from the Council’s local priorities reserve.
The Cabinet Member for Environment presented the recommendations in report number CFM421, which related to proposals to amend the Budget Framework for 2017/18 to fund the Big Clean project. In making his proposition, the Cabinet Member referred to residents’ priorities, where litter and cleanliness commonly recurred within the top 5. He talked about the first impression created by the current environment and its impact on the reputation of the Council and the area. Consequently, he was proposing a new approach that would start with the Big Clean, a three month operation that would kick-start a longer-term change in the way the Council dealt with street cleaning, weeds that blighted pathways, detritus, graffiti and broken street furniture. The work already undertaken by a number of residents in keeping their area clean and tidy was acknowledged and it was hoped that the Big Clean would provide an opportunity to build on this as a key aspect would involve engaging with the volunteer network. He stated that the current budgetary provision did not have capacity to enable the Council to do better, so it was proposed that the Budget be adjusted to provide greater flexibility for the Council to respond. The project would be delivered by five teams of cleaners (4 temporary and 1 permanent) and working in partnership with local volunteers and colleagues in different agencies. Members were advised that the project would not prioritise towns over villages and anything not done in the initial 3-month phase would be picked up by the permanent team going forward.
The proposal was seconded and Members’ attention was drawn to the work that had been done by the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
The Cabinet Member for Finance gave a brief overview of the proposed changes to the Budget Framework; costs for the first year would be funded from reserves, then going forward they would be incorporated within the base budget. It was hoped that working with community groups and volunteers would help offset some of the costs associated with the project.
During debate Members expressed support for the project; it was considered a positive step to address concerns that had been raised by local residents. There was also a lot of support for the hybrid approach of using professionals employed by the Council and community volunteers. A number of comments were made, however, about the prioritisation of funding and the split between towns and parishes. One Member that spoke highlighted the comment that neither towns nor villages would be given priority, but the issues associated with each were not equal. The Members also discussed where intelligence would come from to identify those areas that needed cleaning with specific reference made to Mrs Dugmore who had attended the meeting to talk about an issue in her local area.
An amendment was proposed to allocate or devolve one third of the one-off budget directly to parish and town councils shared on a per capita basis and to allocate or devolve one third of the ongoing budget to parish and town councils shared on a per capita basis. This was seconded.
Those Members who spoke in support of the amendment felt that parish and town councils would have the best idea about those areas within their locality that needed particular attention and they could recruit staff from within the local community. Reference was also made to the proactive approach that many town and parish councils were already taking; Members suggested that this work would be enhanced if a proportion of the project’s funding was provided directly to them. Supporters of the amendment also suggested that devolving funding to town and parish councils would serve as a form of acknowledgement of the work that they already did and encourage them to do more.
Those Members who spoke against the amendment felt that the project already took full account of working with villages and parish councils, including increased funding for the community cleaners scheme. Concerns were also raised that as Grantham did not have a town council, it would lose access to a proportion of the funding. Further comments indicated that the option to saturate the district had been considered and rejected and that the current proposal had been based on an assessment of demand and consultation with parishes and villages. Some Members stated that voting in favour of the amendment would mean that economies of scale could not be met and it would prevent the purchase of larger pieces of equipment. Examples were also given of areas that had formed part of a trial for the project and the feedback that had been received from members of the public in that area.
The Cabinet Member for Environment, as the mover of the original proposition, was given the opportunity to sum up the debate on the amendment. He urged people to vote against it; he wanted the project to be available to everyone but reiterated the commitment to engage with town and parish councils. He added that the £15k budget for community cleaners was in addition to the £60k already approved as part of the Budget and said that he hoped the Big Clean project would encourage more people to take advantage of the fund.
A vote was taken on the amendment and lost.
Debate returned to the original proposition and included discussion about whether aspects of the project would cover statutory services provided by partners – specific reference was made to the spraying of weeds on pavements by Lincolnshire County Council. Some Members were concerned that including this kind of activity within the project would mean that Council Tax payers in South Kesteven were paying twice for the service. The County Council would continue to provide this service whilst funding provided through the Big Clean project would see the removal of those weeds.
Some members felt that it would be better to use local staff for the project as they did not feel agency staff would have sufficient pride in an area. They also suggested that employing local people would provide longer-term benefits using their pride to ensure that the standard is maintained beyond the life of the project. Further comments were made about the issues raised by Mrs Dugmore during the public speaking session, the pride of local residents in the Tattershall Drive area of Market Deeping and providing support to them in securing the green space.
Comments were also made about the condition of grass verges and along the side of the A1; there were reports that they were overgrown and there were large amounts of litter. Members agreed that keeping these areas in a good condition would create a better impression for tourists and visitors to the area.
A statement made in favour of the proposals advocated the project as the beginning of a new approach and an ongoing commitment to maintain the standard of the environment within the district.
The Cabinet Member for Environment, in summing up, reiterated the positive points that had been made during debate and asked Members for their support.
On being put to the vote, the proposition was carried.