Council and democracy
Venue: Committee Room 1 & 2 - Guildhall. View directions
Contact: Martin Whelan 01223 457012
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies were received from Councillor Dryden and Councillor Benstead (Labour Alternate).
Declarations Of Interest
Members are asked to declare at this stage any interests that they may have in an item shown on this agenda. If any member of the Committee is unsure whether or not they should declare an interest on a particular matter, they should seek advice from the Head of Legal services before the meeting.
Cllr Cantrill declared a personal interest, as a family member was an associate of Cambridge United
There were no public questions.
Amendments from groups on the Council may be submitted up to Friday 28 January and therefore will not be available for publication until next week.
The Head of Legal Services explained the purpose of the meeting and its role in the overall budget setting process. Members were also advised of the arrangements for the Council meeting.
The Chair ruled that under section 100B(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972, items 4 of the published agenda be considered despite not being made publicly available for five clear working days prior to this meeting.
The reason that these documents could not be deferred was that they formed an integral part of the budget-setting framework of the council.
The Committee was required to consider the items at this meeting prior to further discussion and decision at the full council meeting on 17 February.
The Leader of the Council introduced the Executive Amendment.
The following questions were put by Members on the items in the Executive amendment and answered (A) as listed:
i. Cllr Herbert requested clarification on whether the revision for 2012/13 would result in the government using a lower base for future allocation of funding? A - The Director of Resources explained that its was currently believed that the revision was merely a transfer of resources between 2012/13 and 2011/12 and that it would not affect the overall base.
The Leader of Labour Group introduced the Labour Amendment.
The following questions were put by Members on the items in the Labour amendment and answered (A) as listed:
i. Greater clarity was requested on budget lines LBO 1 and 2. A – Cllr Herbert clarified the purpose of budget lines LBO1, 2 and 13.
ii. Advice was sought from the Director of Resources on the robustness of the potential saving targets associated with R&R budgets, in relation to proposal LB04. A – The Director of Resources explained the current arrangement in relation to R&R and confirmed that the provision was reviewed annually. The Director of Resources also confirmed the overall level of R&R provision.
iii. The suggestion of touch screens were welcomed, but it was noted it would be useful for these to be used for more than just revenues and benefit. It was noted that the introduction of touch screens was being considered.
iv. Clarification was requested on the relative breakdown of the different elements of LB013. A – Cllr Herbert advised that the breakdown would be broadly 50:50 between the two parts of the scheme.
v. It was questioned how the savings figure in relation to returning all planning to the main committee was calculated. A – Cllr Herbert advised that the figures were based on the reduced requirement for senior officer attendance and venue hire later at night.
vi. Further information was requested on the details of how commercial property incomes would be increased. A – Cllr Herbert advised that the proposal was based on using the available space better and more efficiently.
vii. Further information was requested on the details of how open spaces incomes would be increased. A – Cllr Herbert noted the events policy for open spaces, but explained that the proposal focussed on more effective use of existing space.
viii. The level of proposed increases to the Environmental Improvement Project and Cycleways Joint Project were questioned. A – Cllr Herbert noted the comments and indicated that the figures would be revised prior to Council.
ix. The Labour Group was questioned on their proposals in relation to gritting and highways issues. A – Cllr Herbert explained the reasons for the proposals and the concerns of the Labour Group in relation to gritting.
x. The Green Group questioned whether the Labour Group had considered the implications of the increased provision for the Environmental Improvement Programme, in light of the clarification provided earlier in the meeting. A – Cllr Herbert confirmed that the increase could be accommodated within the overall budget, as in years 2 to 4 an under spend was projected.
xi. The Green Group sought clarification on the level of funding required for the refurbishment of the Silver Street toilets, and how the project could be achieved with a reduced budget. A – Cllr Herbert outlined the reasons why the Labour Group was proposing to re-phase the budget for the Silver Street toilets. It was also noted that no reduction on the budget was being proposed, as the amendment was designed to be in addition to the existing provision in the executive budget proposal.
xii. Clarification was requested on whether the proposals in relation to the Lion Yard toilets, included any provision for potential legal challenge. A – Cllr Herbert confirmed that the budget proposal was simply to defer the income. It was noted that the City Council didn’t automatically need to accept the current offer, and that consideration should be given to attempting to improve the offer. Cllr Herbert also questioned whether the proposal approved on 17th January 2011 was compliant with equalities legislation.
xiii. The logic of the proposals in relation to the Climate Change Fund was questioned. A – Cllr Herbert challenged the transparency of the funding. The view of the Labour Group, was that the fund should be self funding and that other approaches to funding projects of this nature should be explored.
xiv. Clarification was requested on the proposals relating to Cambridge Matters, and how communications would be progressed without Cambridge Matters. A – Cllr Herbert questioned the ability to deliver a newsworthy resource that was only published quarterly. Alternative communications arrangements such as flyers delivered by refuse staff or greater engagement with the local press were suggested. It was emphasised that the Labour Group saw no value in the resource.
xv. Further information was requested on the details of how garage incomes would be increased. A – Cllr Herbert advised that the proposal was based on using the available space better and more efficiently.
xvi. It was questioned whether certain proposals in the housing proposals were pre-judging existing reviews. A – Cllr Herbert noted that reviews were ongoing in relation to stair lift charges and Housing Officer provision, but emphasised that the Labour Group were entitled to make alternative proposals.
xvii. Clarification was requested on why it was proposed to fund the Cambridge Energy Co-operative separately and not via the Sustainable City Fund. A – Cllr Herbert explained that the co-operative was an idea rather than an existing group. It was noted that the proposal could be potentially funded through the Sustainable City Fund, but that it would not be appropriate to remove funding from other groups.
xviii. Further information was requested on the Equalities Impact Assessment undertaken on the proposals. A - Cllr Herbert highlighted a number of issues such as access to information and access to meetings which the budget proposals sought to address.
The Leader of Green Group introduced the Green Amendment.
Prior to the beginning of the questions, the Director of Resources highlighted a factual correction with PPFG8 being incorrectly assigned to the Community Development and Health portfolio. It was noted the item formed part of the Arts and Recreation portfolio.
The following questions were put by Members on the items in the Green amendment and answered (A) as listed:
i. The Green Group were congratulated on the production of their first budget amendment.
ii. Clarification was requested on the risk analysis associated with the overall reduction of reserves. A – Cllr Pogonowski advised that the proposed reserves, were on the advice of officers, sufficient.
iii. In light of the recent Strategy and Resources decision, the ability to further reduce the level of stationary costs within the organisation was questioned. A – Cllr Pogonowski advised that officers had confirmed that the further reductions as outlined in the amendment were potentially very achievable.
iv. The Green Group were asked to comment on how they were expecting members to fully undertake their duties if car allowances were reduced. A – Cllr Wright acknowledged the difficulties in moving away from car travel and the travel commitments, which were an integral part of the role of Councillor. It was noted that a number of issues around member’s allowances would be progressed through the Independent Remuneration Panel process.
v. It was explained that the process of changing car parking charges was a long process taking around 6 months, and it would probably be too late to make changes for 2011/12. A – Cllr Pogonowski welcomed the explanation of the process, although it was noted that officers had provided advice that changes would potentially be possible. The Executive Councillor for Climate Change and Growth agreed to supply a briefing note on the process for setting car parking charges to the Green Group.
vi. Clarification was sought on what level of risk analysis had been given to the possibility of the pay on foot equipment failing. A – Cllr Pogonowski noted the concerns and the reasons for the proposal.
vii. It was questioned why Drummer Street had been prioritised for making it free? A – Cllr Wright advised the location had been selected due to its proximity to the coach station and its current level of usage.
viii. It was noted that SG4 was already reflected in the Executive budget. A – Cllr Pogonowski noted the comment, but explained that following further investigation the proposal was not viable due to the high level of costs.
ix. The Labour Group questioned how a ½ yearly magazine could be effective. A – Cllr Pogonowski suggested that the reduced frequency would require greater focus on the relevance of the content, and require the magazine to focus solely on the issues that are most important to the residents of the city.
x. The potential difficulties in guaranteeing external finance income were highlighted, and the Green Group were questioned on how they would manage this situation. A – Cllr Pogonowski explained the proposed mechanisms within the amendment.
xi. It was questioned whether the proposals in relation to trees represented a funding cut? A – Cllr Pogonowski explained that £30k would be rephased from year 4, and that a pause/review would be undertaken in year 4.
xii. The Labour Group questioned the logic of reducing funding for the provision of P/V cells. A – Cllr Pogonowski outlined the concerns of the Green Group, notably the long pay back period and the limited environmental benefit.
xiii. The Labour Group sought clarification on the basis of the logic of starting a local “Green Deal” scheme prior to the introduction of auditing. A – Cllr Pogonowski outlined the principles of the scheme, and that the scheme would initially be based on existing thermal imaging evidence collated 7/8 years ago. In response to further questioning the Green Group, highlighted the social equity aspects of the project and the projected costs per house. The Leader agreed to forward a briefing note on the subject to the Green Group.
ix. The benefit to people of the proposed increase in Historic Environment Grants was questioned. A – Cllr Wright explained the benefits of the scheme to people.
All members were thanked for participating in the debate.