Agenda and minutes

Extraordinary, Council - Wednesday 29th November 2023 6.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Maldon District Council Offices, Princes Road, Maldon

Contact: Committee Services  Email: committee.clerk@maldon.gov.uk

Note: This meeting will start at 6pm 

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

Chairperson's notices

Minutes:

The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting and went through some general housekeeping arrangements for the meeting.

2.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors M G Bassenger, J C Hughes and C P Morley.

3.

Minutes - 14 September 2023 pdf icon PDF 260 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Council meeting held on Thursday 14 September 2023 (copy enclosed).

Minutes:

RESOLVED

 

(i)               that the Minutes of the meeting of the Council held on 14 September 2023 be received.

 

Minute No. 246 – South Eastern Area Planning Committee Management

Councillor A S Fluker referred to two points of discussion at the meeting when this item was debated which had not been recorded in the Minutes.  These related to the number of people present at South Eastern Area Planning Committee meetings and the upload / download speeds and ping latency which he felt were very important in relation to the item being discussed.  The Chairperson asked that this be noted.

 

RESOLVED

 

(ii)             that the Minutes of the meeting of the Council held on 14 September 2023 be confirmed.

4.

Declaration of Interest

To disclose the existence and nature of any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests, Other Registrable interests and Non-Registrable Interests relating to items of business on the agenda having regard to paragraph 9 and Appendix B of the Code of Conduct for Members.

 

(Members are reminded that they are also required to disclose any such interests as soon as they become aware should the need arise throughout the meeting).

Minutes:

There were none.

5.

Public Questions pdf icon PDF 109 KB

To receive questions from members of the public, of which prior notification in writing has been received (no later than noon two clear working days before the day of the Council meeting).

 

Should you wish to submit a question please complete the online form at www.maldon.gov.uk/publicparticipation.

Minutes:

In accordance with the Council’s public speaking protocol it was noted that the following questions had been received from Mr Tom Kelly:

 

Question one:

‘Why doesn't MDC 'encourage Anglian Water, especially in the overall current Sewage crisis, to provide a much HIGHER LEVEL of Anti-Bacterial Protection in Maldon's Rivers than current levels,, irrespective of the minimum levels set by the dept of the Environment at Government level, thus giving river users...and especially Maldon Mud Race competitors...better health and wellbeing standards?’

 

Question two:

‘Why hasn't there been an increase in the permanent staffing at 'ground level for areas such as the 3 cemeteries, but there is large number...bit like NHS bureaucracy of managers and' directors'....at what cost, and a reliance on Contractors or Volunteers (the latter subject to the dictates of a Health and Safety Officer despite their years of experience)? Isn’t it time members had a proper look on site to understand things?

 

The Leader of the Council had provided the following response to these questions which he read out and had been published as a supplementary document to the Council agenda.

 

Question one:

Unfortunately, the Council has no regulatory jurisdiction over Anglian Water and any storm water discharges from their systems into our rivers and ditch networks. The Environment Agency (EA) is the regulatory body and through a permitting system regulate wastewater discharge activities. They are also responsible for taking appropriate enforcement action where environmental crimes are identified including the unregulated discharge of foul water.

 

Maldon District Council is not able to dictate water quality levels however, our officers do work in partnership with the EA and will share intelligence to assist with their investigations where pollution incidents are identified.

 

As part of this partnership approach, the Council also coordinates group meetings where representatives from Anglian Water attend. Items for discussion include improvement plans for the sewage network in and around the district of Maldon. It is through these groups that we get the opportunity to understand what improvements to the sewer systems are planned and ask the questions about how these will be prioritised for our district.

 

Question two:

The Council recognises the importance of ensuring that we provide peaceful, well maintained cemeteries where our residents can mourn their loved ones, and our staff strive to deliver a good level of service across all of our three cemeteries.

 

We are currently exploring opportunities to ensure that we are able to provide greater resilience to the maintenance of our cemeteries. This includes the way in which the service is delivered as well as opportunities to improve the layout of some areas to enable us to manage the maintenance to maximum effectiveness.

 

We are also looking at how we can improve the way in which we work with and support our volunteers, who add value to the maintenance of our Cemeteries.

 

A report was considered by the Strategy and Resources Committee on 23 November 2023 and proposals were agreed to deliver greater resilience and maintain a more consistent standard  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Chairperson's Announcements

Minutes:

The Chairperson informed the Council that he was suspending Procedure Rule 4(8)3 standing to address the Chairperson.

 

It was noted that at a recent Chairperson’s quiz £364.10 had been raised for the David Randall Foundation.

 

The Chairperson advised he had, on behalf of the Council, continued to send wishes for a speedy recovery to former Councillor R G Boyce MBE.

7.

Strategy and Resources Committee - 21 September 2023 pdf icon PDF 107 KB

Agenda Item 272 – Fees and Charges Policy 2024 / 25

 

Recommended that the 2024 / 25 Fees and Charges Policies at APPENDIX 1 be approved.

Minutes:

The Council considered the recommendation set out on the agenda coming forward for consideration from the Strategy and Resources Committee.

 

Minute No. 272 – Fees and Charges Policy 2024 / 25

The Interim Chief Finance Officer advised that one amendment was required to the Policy prior to approval.  The amendment related to wharfage fees which the Council, in February 2023, had agreed to provide a 50% discount on until the end of 2025 / 26.  She informed the Council that the detailed Fees and Charges Schedule would be brought back to the Council for final approval.

 

The Chairperson put the recommendation, subject to the above amendment, to the Council.  This was duly seconded.

 

Councillor A S Fluker referred to the ‘Green Waste Bin Service’ item highlighted in Appendix 1 appended to this item on the agenda and particularly reference to ‘and in line with other authorities’.  He expressed concern regarding the proposed change to the Council’s policy and resulting fee increase.  Councillor Fluker then proposed that reference to ‘and in line with other authorities’ in this item be deleted.  This proposal was duly seconded.  The Chairperson advised that there was already a proposal on the table and the Council would vote on that first and should it fail then Councillor Fluker’s’ proposition would be put.

 

The Chairperson then moved his earlier proposition which upon a vote being taken this was agreed.

 

RESOLVED that subject to the above amendment relating to wharfage fees, the 2024 / 25 Fees and Charges Policies attached at Appendix 1 to the report be approved.

8.

Minutes of Meetings of the Council

To note that since the last Council, up until Tuesday 21 November 2023 (Council agenda dispatch) the following Committees have met, and to receive any questions in accordance with Council and Committee Procedure Rule 6 (2).

 

District Planning Committee

6 September 2023

North Western Area Planning Committee

13 September

South Eastern Area Planning Committee

20 September

Strategy and Resources Committee

21 September

Performance, Governance and Audit Committee

28 September

Overview and Scrutiny Committee (meeting as the Crime and Disorder Committee)

12 October

North Western Area Planning Committee

8 November

Strategy and Resources Committee

9 November

South Eastern Area Planning Committee

15 November

Performance, Governance and Audit Committee

16 November

 

 

Minutes:

The Council noted the list of Committees that had met before and since the last meeting of the Council, up until Wednesday 25 October 2023 for which Minutes had been published.

9.

Motion from Councillor A S Fluker (Motion 14/2023)

In accordance with notice duly given under Procedure Rule 4, Councillor A S Fluker to move the following Motion, duly seconded by Councillors L J Haywood, M G Neall, W Stamp and J C Stilts.

 

Motion:

That at its meeting on Thursday 2nd November Council resolves to agree that the New Homes Bonus reserve and the additional monies received through new Business Rate income should not be used to support the General Fund but should instead be used to deliver District wide infrastructure projects for the benefit of all residents and with regards new Business Rate income support for local businesses and commerce.

Minutes:

In accordance with Procedure Rule 4, the Chairperson advised the Council that one Motion, duly proposed and seconded, had been received and was set out on the agenda.

 

Councillor A S Fluker provided the Council with some background information relating to his Motion which included detail of the purpose of the New Homes Bonus when it was set up by the Government and how he felt the Council owed its residents to spend the monies on infrastructure.

 

Councillor Fluker then presented his Motion (as set out below) and duly seconded by Councillors L J Haywood, M G Neall, W Stamp and J C Stilts. 

 

That at its meeting on Thursday 2nd November Council resolves to agree that the New Homes Bonus reserve and the additional monies received through new Business Rate income should not be used to support the General Fund but should instead be used to deliver District wide infrastructure projects for the benefit of all residents and with regards new Business Rate income support for local businesses and commerce.

 

The Interim Chief Finance Officer provided the Council with some context relating to the Motion.  She reminded Members of the decision by the Council in February 2023 to balance the budget for this financial year and as a result the New Homes Bonus (NHB) monies received for 2023 / 24 had not been allocated to any specific projects.  Should the NHB monies for this year (£450k) be ringfenced it would have the effect of increasing the budget gap by the same £450k.  In response to the reference to Business Rates (BR) within the Motion, Members were advised that the Council had a BR equalisation reserve set up to manage BR, which were difficult to accurately predict and fluctuated year on year.  BR for the last financial year had been better than forecast allowing the Council to top up the reserve and the Council was recommended to now use this reserve (rather than General Funds).  However should the Council decide to ringfence some of these monies for alternative purposes this would have a similar impact to the NHB and create a gap for this financial year requiring use of General Fund balances.

 

A debate ensued during which a number of Members spoke giving their support both for and against the proposed Motion. 

 

In summing up at the end of the debate, Councillor Fluker referred to Southminster being in the lowest 20% of council areas with regards to deprivation and referred to Mr Gove (government minister) saying that NHB should be used for infrastructure.  He noted the comments regarding costs and cuts but felt this was a bigger issue and something the Council should be thinking about.  He then put his Motion.

 

In accordance with Procedure Rule No. 13 (3) Councillor A S Fluker requested a recorded vote.  This was duly seconded.

 

The Chairperson then put the Motion in the name of Councillor Fluker to the Council and the voting was as follows:

 

For the recommendation:

Councillors A S Fluker, L  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Questions in accordance with Procedure Rule 6(3) of which notice has been given

Minutes:

There were none.

11.

South Eastern Area Planning Committee Management pdf icon PDF 245 KB

Following adjournment at the Council meeting on 14 September 2023 (Minute No. 246 refers, Minute extract enclosed), to resume debate on the report of the Director of Strategy and Resources (copy enclosed).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members were reminded that this item of business had been adjourned from the last meeting of the Council (14 September 2023).  The related report and an extract from the Minutes of the September meeting were attached to the agenda for Members’ reference.

 

The report sought Members’ review of the South Eastern Area Planning Committee (SE) running from Burnham-on-Crouch Town Council (BTC) offices along with options for the future set up of these meetings.

 

Prior to Members resuming their discussion on this item of business the Director of Strategy and Resources provided a detailed update which included:

 

·                  details of the two SE meetings that had taken place since the last Council meeting and how live streaming of these meetings had not been possible.

 

·                  the IT resources, both inside and outside of working hours, that had been diverted from other projects to try and resolve the issues relating to SE meetings.

 

·                  at the last Council meeting Members had reported that BTC were due to update broadband etc., but to date this had not taken place.  However, should the broadband issues be addressed there was still a requirement for local support and the Director reported that had been advised this was not the plan for BTC IT.

 

·                  the poor service currently being given to both residents and Members.

 

The Director drew Members’ attention to section 3.8 of the report which set out three options for Members’ consideration.

 

Councillor V J Bell, Chairperson of the SE advised that she had that afternoon received an update from BTC.  She informed the Council that BTC had now commenced with work to upgrade the internet and if it was not in place for the December SE meeting it would be for the January 2024 meeting.  The update from BTC included a cost saving of £60 on the room hire, which would remove the provision of a member of BTC staff to open up for the SE meeting etc.  Councillor Bell proposed that in light of this information, the importance of democracy and the need to keep the meetings locally, evidenced by the number of people attending, that the Council should agree Option 2 as set out in the report.  This was duly seconded.

 

In response the Director commented that the information from Councillor Bell was not consistent with the latest information received by Officers.  He was only able to present in respect of the latest information available to Officers.

 

A lengthy debate ensued during which a number of Members supported Councillor Bell and SE meetings remaining at BTC offices.  However some concerns were also raised regarding the ongoing costs and quality of streaming available to the public. 

 

In response to a question regarding the additional £45,000 per annum detailed in the budget and resources required for option 2 (as set out in the report), the Assistant Director – Resources explained the make-up of the cost which had been based on the number of hours of IT expertise provided for recent SE meetings.  She suggested that should Option  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.

12.

North Essex Councils pdf icon PDF 144 KB

To consider the report of the Director of Strategy and Resources, (copy enclosed).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Council considered the report of the Director of Strategy and Resources updating Members on progress since agreeing the North Essex Authorities’ (NEA) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in December 2022 (attached as Appendix 1 to the report).  The report also sought approval to establish the North Essex Councils (NEC) Partnership (the Partnership) and commit resources to enable its objectives to be delivered.

 

The report highlighted the local authorities located in the north of Essex which made up the NEC and the other strategic partnerships established with other Essex authorities.  Since agreement of the MOU senior offices from each NEC had been meeting to discuss and develop an action plan to delivery the aims of the MOU.  The NEC Leaders agreed for formalize the Partnership in July 2023 and the report set out a number of outcomes that had been agreed.

 

It was noted that announcement of the proposed Level 2 Devolution Deal for Greater Essex had strengthened the case for establishment of the NEC and would be a key opportunity for the Council to access funding and have a strategic voice within the Combined Authority.  Appendix 2 to the report provided further details of the Devolution deal and a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of potential impacts and opportunities for Maldon District in relation to the devolution proposals was attached at Appendix 3.

 

To enable the Partnership to put in place the resources necessary to take forward NEC work on behalf of all Councils each constitution council would be required to contribute £20,000 in 2023 / 24.  Contributions for 2024 / 25 would be in the region of £40,000 and need to be considered as part of the 2024 / 25 budget process.  It was noted that Braintree District Council would be the accountable body for the NEC.

 

Members were advised that should they not support the recommendations set out in the report the Council would risk jeopardising the positive relationship it had with the NEC and missing out on opportunities as outlined in the report.

 

The Leader of the Council introduced the report and provided some background information regarding the NEC, the need to ensure that Councils were working together to make them efficient and effective in the future and how through this they could shape together the north of the District.  The NEC allowed the Council to access a huge variety of knowledge and expertise which could not be replicated by the Council investing the requested monies itself.  The Leader referred to Economic Board and the benefits it had brought to the District and the Council in terms of working with businesses.

 

The Director of Strategy and Resources presented his report and in response to a question clarified that in respect of the £40,000 mentioned in recommendation (iii) this had been allocated in the budget process for 2024 / 25 and would be agreed through that process not as part of this report.

 

In reply to some comments the Leader confirmed that businesses across the District  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12.

13.

Council Tax Base pdf icon PDF 136 KB

To consider the report of the Interim Chief Finance Officer (copy enclosed).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Council considered the report of the Interim Chief Finance Officer which sought agreement of the tax base for the financial year 2024 / 25 in order to set the Council’s council tax requirement.  It was noted that the Council had to notify its tax base calculations to Essex County Council, Essex Fire Authority, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex and Parish / Town Councils in order that they can also set their council tax for 2024 / 25.

 

It was noted that annual setting of the Council’s tax base was a pre-requisite for all local authorities under the Local Government Finance Act 1992.  Appendices to the report set out the calculation of the tax base (Appendix A) and the tax base for each Parish / Town Council (Appendix B).

 

The report provided an update on the current collection rate and reduction in the number of local council tax support cases.  It was noted that the Council Tax Base figure for 2024 / 25 represented an increase of 1.96% and this related to the rise in the number of chargeable properties, an improved collection rate and decrease in the Local Council Tax Support Scheme.

 

The Chairperson moved the recommendations as set out in the report.  This was duly seconded and agreed.

 

RESOLVED that in accordance with the Local Authorities (Calculation of Tax Base) Regulations 2012 the amount calculated by Maldon District Council as its council tax base for the 2024 / 25 year shall be set at 26,400.2.

14.

Member Vacancy pdf icon PDF 108 KB

To consider the report of the Director of Strategy and Resources (copy enclosed).

 

Minutes:

The Council considered the report of the Director of Strategy and Resources seeking Council’s agreement to appoint to the Liberal Democrat vacancy associated with Councillor K Jennings’ recent withdrawal from the Strategy and Resources Committee (S&R).

 

It was noted that Councillor Jennings had resigned from his seat on the S&R.  In accordance with Member Group numbers and political balance provision, the Liberal Democrat Group had nominated Councillor N D Spenceley to the vacant seat.

 

RESOLVED that Councillor N D Spenceley be appointed to the vacant seat on the Strategy and Resources Committee following the resignation of Councillor K Jennings.

15.

Essex Wide Devolution Update

To receive a verbal update on Essex Wide Devolution.

Minutes:

The Leader of the Council advised how at a recent Essex Leaders’ meeting the agreement for a combined authority had been received.  Good transport infrastructure and education had been included and alongside this he had raised how people in the Dengie were unable to get a bus to go to colleges etc. 

 

The Director of Strategy and Resources provided a verbal update in relation to Essex Wide Devolution, advising that:

 

·                  unfortunately, the deal had not been announced as part of the comprehensive spending review on 22 November. 

 

·                  whilst the deal and text had been agreed and was in its final draft there was a hold up due to political support at an MP level, and issues had to be resolved before this could move forward.

 

·                  should the deal be announced before Christmas it was likely it would go out to consultation in early January 2024.

16.

Questions to the Leader of the Council in accordance with Procedure Rule 1 (3)(m)

Minutes:

Councillor R G Pratt asked the Leader of the Council if he would help him make the Hythe Quay more accessible to visiting yachtsmen.  He referred to the silting at the quay and was happy to discuss the matter outside of the meeting.  In response the Leader confirmed he was happy to do this with the Director of Service Delivery and his team, commenting that silting had been an issue for a while.

 

Councillor W Stamp asked the Leader of the Council if he would support, within three weeks, an all Member briefing on the Burnham-on-Crouch Pontoon project.  She was concerned regarding the status and escalating costs related to the project.  The Leader confirmed he was happy to support any engagement with Members regarding an update on this project.  The Director of Service Delivery confirmed that the briefing would be arranged.

 

Councillor A S Fluker referred to the Leader of the Council having confirmed or reconfirmed the importance of Members treating each other with respect and dignity and the importance of the Nolan principles.  He referred to a meeting of the Strategy and Resources Committee (S&R) where the Leader had made comments about some members of the Committee for which he later apologised.  Councillor Fluker asked the Leader if he agreed with him that he was a hypocrite and if he could explain to the Council and residents why he wouldn’t do the right thing by his own words to the Council and resign.  In response the Leader informed the Council that at the S&R meeting he made no personal comments regarding any Councillor but had made reference to a political party, his apology had been accepted by the Chairperson of that Committee.  At no point had he had an issue with his behaviour and always abided by the Nolan principle.  The Leader advised he welcomed a conversation with anyone that felt he had behaved inappropriately.

 

Councillor K Jennings asked the Leader of the Council when a picture of the King would be put up in the Chamber.  In response the Chairperson outlined the procedure following the death of her late Majesty and that an official portrait of the King had been requested by Officers.  It was his understanding that the official portrait was not being taken until early January 2024.  The Chairperson advised in relation to this he had requested that the portrait of her late Majesty be taken down and placed in the Members’ Room whilst the Council awaited the new official portrait of the King.

 

Councillor S White advised her question followed on from that previously asked by Councillor Pratt. She asked the Leader of the Council if it was possible for interested Members to form a group regarding the siltation or a Blackwater group to support Maldon and the District.  The Leader of the Council referred to the Council’s Working Groups and advised that the Hythe Quay was an asset and therefore it would be appropriate to take this to the Asset Management  ...  view the full minutes text for item 16.

17.

Business by reason of special circumstances considered by the Chairperson to be urgent

Minutes:

There was none.

18.

Exclusion of the Public and Press

To resolve that under Section 100A (4) of the Local Government Act 1972 the public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Act, and that this satisfies the public interest test.

Minutes:

RESOLVED that under Section 100A (4) of the Local Government Act 1972 the public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Act, and that this satisfies the public interest test.

19.

Adjournment of the Meeting

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the meeting be adjourned for a short break at 8:29pm.

20.

Resumption of Business in Closed Session

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the meeting of the Council resumes in closed session at 8:45pm.

21.

Commercial Project Decision

To consider the report of the Director of Strategy and Resources (copy enclosed).

 

Minutes:

The Council considered the report of the Director of Strategy and Resources providing an update on the progress of a commercial project and seeking Members’ decision on the next steps.

 

The report provided background information regarding the Council’s Affordable Housing needs, including the lack of affordable housing stock across the district.  Members noted the Council’s decision in August 2020 to purchase land specifically for affordable housing development and the work of Officers and the Corporate Projects Board since then.  Following the agreement in July 2021 by the Strategy and Resources Committee to enter into a ‘Option Agreement’ and in November 2021 the Council had done so.  A detailed update was provided in respect of progress with submitting a planning application on the related site, Homes England grant funding and work with Registered Providers (RPs).

 

At this point the Chairperson reminded the Council that this report was not a planning application but presenting commercial decisions for consideration by Members.

 

The report set out three options which Members considered and debated.  A number of Members raised concern as to whether the proposal now met the objectives set by the Working Group and the net costs to the Council. 

 

During the debate Officers were praised for their work on this project and the report which had been brought forward.

 

The Chairperson then proposed an amendment to recommendation c) as set out in the report adding to it “and maintain all intellectual property in house and do not sell to any outside bodies”.  This proposal was duly seconded.

 

In response to questions the Commercial Manager and Interim Chief Finance Officer provided the Council with details of the proposed housing mix and further update.

 

The Chairman then moved that recommendation c) as amended be agreed.  This was unanimously agreed by the Council.

 

RESOLVED that the Commercial Project be stopped, and the Council maintains the intellectual property in house and not sell it to any outside bodies.