Agenda item

Public Open Forum

The public open forum will commence at 1.00 p.m. and the following formal business of the Council will commence at 1.30 p.m. or whenever the public open forum ends, if earlier.

Minutes:

Statement

 

The public open forum began with a statement made by Jon Stephenson that related to the notice of motion submitted by Councillor Moran on the Belvoir Hunt. In his statement, Mr. Stephenson asked the Council to distance itself from the Belvoir Hunt. Whilst a supporter of legal hunting, he expressed concerns about criminal activity undertaken by employees of the Belvoir Hunt, from whom the Belvoir Hunt did not distance itself. He also stated that the two people who were attacked were citizens who were legally observing hunt activities.

 

He felt that the motion reflected the views of local people; he had undertaken some canvassing activity in the village in which he resided. He reported that all the residents he spoke to, bar one, supported the motion.

 

Mr Stephenson concluded by referring to Members’ role in representing the views of the public and called on Councillors to support Councillor Moran’s motion, requesting that a recorded vote be taken.

 

Question 1

 

From: Chris Noon, Grantham

To: Councillor Kelham Cooke, the Deputy Leader of the Council

 

In January this year I asked questions to Councillor Cooke at a full council meeting, I have to this day not been given a reasonable answer. Even after a meeting with Councillor Cooke and Mr Aidan Rave, my points and proof were ignored after assurances they would be dealt with. Given the convictions against the Belvoir Hunt employees, the very public pay out which hit all the major news outlets nationally (Online, TV, Radio and newspapers), the hound killed on the A1, the fox in the shed scandal, the hound knocked down on the high street and now proof of the clear and obvious help by some members of SKDC to accommodate the Belvoir Hunt no matter what, even at the tax payers’ expense or reputational damage to our district. I find myself having to ask Councillor Cooke the same question

 

At last year’s Boxing Day meet during an interview with Councillor Kelham Cooke on BBC TV he stated ‘So, it used to happen on St Peter’s Hill, I think the decision was taken this year by the organisers that it would be better to organise it here (that being The Paddock). It’s a better environment for the horses and the hounds and the members of the public that want to come and see’. That statement was not entirely correct, due to laws being politely explained by members of the public to SKDC it became apparent the meet could not legitimately happen on St Peter’s Hill and so was moved. 

 

Let’s return to Councillor Cooke’s statement ‘it’s better for the horses, the hounds and the members of the public’. A return to St Peter’s Hill would be a return to a more dangerous environment given the statement above. Are you prepared to guarantee the safety of all visitors?”

 

The Deputy Leader responded by stating that any application for an event on Council land required the organisers to submit an event management plan and risk assessment. The event management plan and risk assessment submitted in 2018 were considered by the Lincolnshire Safety Advisor Group, which asked questions and set out requirements of the hunt’s representatives so that the event was in the best possible position to be carried out safely. The form also required the event organisers to provide evidence of their public liability insurance. He concluded by stating that it was the Council’s role to ensure event organisers went through the right processes, with advice from experts, so that the event can be staged in a safe environment.

 

Mr. Noon said that he felt the run-up to the event in the paddock was farcical, referring to the withdrawal of support from the Mayor of Grantham, and the submission of an application in the name of the Friends of the Belvoir Hunt. He suggested that the liability insurance, which was a prerequisite for the event would be invalid as the organiser had changed and that he had identified 13 anomalies in the risk assessment that had been submitted. Referring to the event, he stated that there were no visible first aiders or hand washing facilities for children who had petted animals. He added that there were public order incidents conducted by hunt supporters and referred to the loading and unloading of vehicles. He concluded by saying that there were some matters that should have been seen and dealt with on the day.

 

The Deputy Leader stated that he was happy to meet with Mr. Noon to discuss his concerns.

 

Question 2

 

From: Chris Noon, Grantham

To: Councillor Kelham Cooke, the Deputy Leader of the Council

 

On Boxing Day 2018 a road sweeper (LN17 VWS) was filmed and photographed sweeping the road down to and around the paddock. The driver was wearing SKDC PPE, details were taken and given to Councillor Cooke and Aidan Rave who stated he did not believe it was an SKDC truck but would find out if it was. Nothing came back from him. Given the history of road sweepers, SKDC and the Boxing Day event (for the record it was stated by SKDC there was no road sweeper at the 2017 event, despite a full liveried SKDC road sweeper was on standby sat on Avenue Road and was filmed sweeping the horse manure and dog faeces up) we thought we would check up. The truck LN17 VWS was seen multiple times on the roads of Grantham in the early period of 2019 and photographed in the Alexandra Road SKDC compound next to a liveried SKDC truck many months AFTER Boxing Day. It would certainly seem SKDC have had the use of the road sweeper LN17 VWS. Yet on the 19th of February 2019 there was a denial by Councillor and Mayor Adam Stokes that SKDC did any cleaning after the hunt.

 

Either you have an SKDC employee engaging in TWOC (Taking Without Owners Consent) or someone is not telling me the truth. It certainly appears to be another instance of tax payers’ money being abused, misused and the Belvoir Hunt given special treatment.

 

Can I ask that you, (in line with your new transparent style of council) have an internal review, get to the bottom of this, charge the Belvoir hunt accordingly, deal with the SKDC employees involved.”

 

The Deputy Leader responded that any event staged in the district would require an element of post-event clean-up, including the meeting of the Belvoir Hunt on Boxing Day 2018. It had been agreed with hunt representatives before Boxing Day, that they would meet all costs associated with the event. Following the vacation of the paddock, hunt staff cleared the whole area, leaving it in the same condition in which it was handed over to them. The roadsweepers, which were mobilised in anticipation that they may be needed were therefore not required, therefore they carried out routine cleaning of roads in the area, therefore no further review was required. The Deputy Leader added that hunt organisers had since offered to meet the full cost and an invoice had been issued.

 

Mr. Noon was given the opportunity to put a supplementary question. He stated that he had correspondence that indicated that a sweeper had not been used. He made comments regarding the misuse of public funds, citing the purchase of Christmas refreshments for the Belvoir hunt, including Brandy in an ‘alcohol free zone’, grant funding of £200 made to Knipton cricket club (which was located outside the district), the low charge for the use of barriers and the labour and transport costs of transporting them. He also referred to the money collected for charity during the hunt meeting, challenging whether the collection receptacles complied with legal requirements. He asked whether there would be an investigation as to how such occurrences had recurred each year, stating that he was happy to engage and disclose the information that he held.

 

The Deputy Leader reiterated that he was happy to meet with Mr. Noon with the Chief Executive to discuss any matters that related to South Kesteven District Council, but did note that some of the comments made related to the Grantham Charter Trustees.

 

Statement

 

A statement was made by Kit Henson, who spoke on behalf of the Belvoir Hunt. He stated that he wished to correct some of the statements that Councillors had heard, both inside the meeting and through correspondence received outside the meeting.

 

Mr. Henson stated that the Belvoir Hunt continued to operate within the law following passing of the 2004 Hunting Act. He also gave examples of other events arranged by the Belvoir Hunt, which included dog shows, social evenings and clay pigeon shoots. He added that the hunt remained an important part of the fabric of rural life and that the Belvoir Hunt continued to operate to the highest standards as an employer and in respect to its animal husbandry.

 

Mr. Henson proceeded to state that the Hunt had not been prosecuted for any offences, nor were there any matters pending. The animal cruelty case to which reference had been made had not related to an employee of the Belvoir Hunt. Only one employee of the Belvoir Hunt had been convicted for criminal activity having pleaded guilty to ABH under joint venture; that individual no longer worked for the Belvoir Hunt.

 

He confirmed that the cost of the road sweeper on Boxing Day had now been dealt with and all other invoices settled. He stated that monies raised through the street collection were donated to charity, however the amount raised had been lower in 2018 than previous years.

 

Mr. Henson concluded by stating that the hunt meet was a tradition enjoyed by large numbers of people and that it should not be stopped because of the action of one individual. Finally, reference was made to protesters who attended the 2018 hunt meet, whom Mr. Henson stated were not local.

 

Statement

 

The public open forum concluded with a statement made by Val Harvey, who spoke on the declaration of a climate emergency, set out in both agenda item 11 and the notice of motion proposed by Councillor Baxter.

 

She provided some historical context about steps taken nationally in respect of climate change, referring to a speech made by Margaret Thatcher to the UN in 1989 and the 2000 Nottingham Declaration. She believed that the Council appointed an officer to look at fleet and building emissions following the Nottingham Declaration.

 

Ms Harvey also spoke about local activity that had taken place in Stamford, including creation of community allotments, thermal imaging and draft-busting. All of this work had been carried out prior to the increased profile of climate change generated by Sir David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg, and from which the group Extinction Rebellion was born. The group had three key objectives: to tell the truth about climate change, to act now and that action should be taken forward through a citizens’ assembly. Ms Harvey suggested that, to help advance action, school sixth forms could be tasked to consider what could be done.

 

The Chairman closed the public open forum.