Venue: Council Chamber, Cecil Street, Margate, Kent
Contact: Anona Somasundaram
Apologies for Absence
An apology was received from Councillor Goodwin, to whom Members asked that their good wishes be conveyed.
Minutes of Previous Meetings
To approve the following Minutes, copies attached.
On the proposal of the Chairman, seconded by the Vice-Chairman, the minutes of the meeting of Council held on 8 December 2011 were approved by Council and signed by the Chairman.
It was NOTED that Minute No. 72 should be amended as follows:
“That the words,
‘Together with the appointment of Councillors C Hart & Poole to the East Kent Joint Arrangements Committee’
be added immediately after the word, ‘NOTED’ “.
On the proposal of the Chairman, seconded by the Vice-Chairman, the minutes of the extraordinary meeting of Council held on 19 January 2012 were, subject to that amendment, approved by Council and signed by the Chairman.
To receive any announcements from the Chairman, Leader, Members of the Cabinet or Chief Executive in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 2.1 (iv).
Tribute to the late Former Councillor Leo Forbes
The Chairman referred to the recent death of Leo Forbes, who had been a Councillor for the Former Thanet Parishes Ward from 1995 to 1999.
Tribute was paid to the late Former Councillor Forbes on his work on behalf of the community, particularly as part of the Disabilities Forum, which he had helped to set up, and for regeneration of the area.
All Members stood for a minute’s silence as a mark of respect.
Declarations of Interest
To receive any declarations on interest
Members are advised to consider the extract from the Standards Board Code of Conduct for Members which forms part of the declaration of interest form at the back of this agenda. If a Member declares an interest, they should complete that form and hand it to the officer clerking the meeting.
It was NOTED that all Members present had a personal interest in Agenda Item No. 12, “Members’ Allowances Scheme” (Minute No. 84 refers).
Petitions to Council
To receive petitions in accordance with the Council’s Petitions Scheme
It was NOTED that no petitions had been received in accordance with the Council’s Petitions Scheme.
Questions from the press and public
To receive questions received from the press or public in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 13
It was NOTED that no questions had been received from the press or public in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 13.
Questions from Members of the Council
To receive questions from Members of the Council in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 14
The following questions were asked by Members in accordance with Council Procedure Rule No. 14.
Councillor Worrow asked Councillor Fenner:
“I am aware that the Council is looking into setting up a new telephone system for the public; can you please inform us of what steps will be taken to ensure that it will be compliant with the Council’s Equalities Agenda?”
Councillor Fenner replied as follows:
“The Public Sector Equality Duty is designed to ensure public bodies have due regard to the three aims of the Duty when making decisions and carrying out public functions.
“Contact Centres in Canterbury, Dover and Thanet experience high levels of calls which can peak significantly during times such as council tax billing.
“The system that we recommend is designed to reduce waiting times in ‘phone queues so people calling in will wait for shorter periods of time. Also, they can access relevant information 24 huors/7 so they can ‘phone us during their ‘off peak’ periods to reduce the cost to them. A detailed report is being provided to Cabinet in March 2012.
“An initial equality impact assessment has been undertaken by EK Services as part of the project scope, which has been shared with Councillor Worrow and me. This shows no negative impact on protected groups and demonstrates that there are advantages to people on low incomes due to the 24 hours/7 availability when ‘phone calls are cheaper. Those that need to speak to an officer should have their call dealt with much quicker.
“The trial phase will also have its own impact assessed. This impact analysis will be informed by performance, officer and customer feedback and actual events during the course of the trial phase.
“Obviously, we need to spend a lot of time working on the menu options and automated information we will be giving out, but we have given ourselves double the recommended time to do this.
“There are various ‘good practice’ guides available regarding designing IVR [Interactive voice response] systems which have been obtained and EK Services will refer to these when building the system.
“Research carried out with other Councils using this system indicates 50% of calls can be fully dealt with by the self-serve system. Some councils who have implemented this system have seen up to 85% of calls being dealt with via the ‘self-serve’ option.
“We will carry out a baseline customer satisfaction survey pre-implementation and then repeat the exercise with the same questions a few months after implementation. Feedback will be closely monitored to ensure no drop in customer satisfaction.
“Based on other Councils’ experiences, their level of customer satisfaction has risen and is extremely high when using the system.”
Councillor Worrow then asked a supplementary question:
“Can you let us know if anything has been done to prevent a negative impact on our elderly residents?”
Councillor Fenner replied:
“I have here the equality impact assessment which was carried out and the first category looking into a possible negative impact is to do with age: ‘Does the service, policy or procedure impact have a negative impact on ... view the full minutes text for item 79a
Councillor Bayford asked The Leader the following question:
“Would Councillor Hart, in his role of strategic economic development portfolio holder, advise on the progress of producing Thanet’s economic development strategy and give Council an indication of the main themes of this strategy.”
Councillor Hart replied:
“Work is underway on producing an economic development and regeneration strategy for Thanet.
“Councillor Johnston and I have had meetings with leading officers (including the newly appointed officer for regeneration), and with Kevin Lynes of KCC. A range of other meetings have taken place with key businesses and business representatives of organisations, alongside a range of desk top analyses.
“A draft for consultation and discussion should, therefore, be available during March.
“The consultation draft is likely to set out the key themes which help deliver a vision for a stronger, more resilient economy in the isle of Thanet.
“The themes in the draft should include references to:
“The strategy will highlight the role that high streets have in creating a sense of place and identity for towns within Thanet. We will look to build on the debates started by the Portas review.
“As the strategy is developed further, the process for delivery will be developed, clearly articulating roles and responsibilities and environmental issues will always be a serious consideration. This will be a strategy for the Isle of Thanet, but delivery will not fall just to Thanet District Council.”
Councillor Bayford then asked the Leader a supplementary question, as follows:
“The Leader has very specifically taken strategic economic development as part of his portfolio. I wonder if he could tell us what skills and experience he brings to the role and what value he thinks he adds to this vitally important function.”
The Leader responded as follows:
“I stand by my CV. I would like to know someone who has got more practical experience of regeneration; more practical experience of working with voluntary community groups; and more practical experience of working with public sector industries and private sector industries. I have also developed working ... view the full minutes text for item 79b
Councillor Wells asked Councillor Johnston:
“Could Councillor Mrs Johnston please update the Council on the progress of the Landlords’ Judicial Review of the Selective Licensing proposal for parts of Cliftonville West and Margate Central?”
Councillor Johnston replied:
“I think it is fair to say that probably everyone in this room shares the frustration at the delay in getting on with this. The designations became operative on 21 April 2011, but it wasn’t until 19 September that permission was granted to proceed. We progressed as best we could perhaps, under your stewardship. However, since I have been given this post, both officers and I have regularly asked where this is getting to. Those Members who happened to be familiar with the background should know that this had cross-party support. We need to deal with the HMOs in Cliftonville West and Margate and then further afield. The conditions that people live in and how they should be improved have been an issue, perhaps, all my life.
“Where we have got to at the moment on the applications is:
“We are, as you know as a council, supportive of all of this and I just hope that we can continue to work together. Certainly, along with Mrs Homer, Mr Reilly and others we have been doing our best to make this happen and it is a shame that it is taking so long.”
Councillor Wells then asked Councillor Johnston a supplementary question:
“Could you tell us exactly how and where you are going to approach the High Court? ... view the full minutes text for item 79c
Councillor Bruce asked Councillor Poole:
“How can Councillor Polle assure the residents of Minnis Bay and Grenham Bay that a new robust and sustainable policy on seaweed removal and disposal has been finalised for this season?”
Councillor Poole replied:
“I can assure Councillor Bruce that we now have a robust and sustainable policy on seaweed removal and disposal.
“Last year, despite having a licence under the Controlled Waste Regulations to remove and spread seaweed on farmers’ fields, the problem was the lack of available land at the time the seaweed needed to be removed.
“Working with the Environment Agency, the Council has had to look further afield and have now managed to identify farms outside the district that will take seaweed in large quantities across the main season.
“The required sampling has been undertaken and the sites now have the support of the Environment Agency. This provides the ability that was not available last year to remove much larger quantities of seaweed from our beaches.
“However, there are a significant number of sections of Thanet’s coast where the physical access to or the statutory protection of areas means that effective removal of seaweed is not possible. This can mean that there are whole bays or parts of bays where the use of machinery is not possible.
“That said, we now have the ability to remove seaweed in far greater quantities than last year and, where it is necessary and practical to do so, the Council will take this action.
“As Thanet’s beaches are a key part of the district’s tourism offer, both for visitors and local people, it is important that we are seen to be taking a proactive approach to the seaweed problem. This is why we will be launching a high profile campaign about seaweed this Spring.
“This campaign will involve working closely with local groups to proactively communicate what the Council is already doing to tackle the problem, what we will do in the future and to explain the unique ecology of our coast, which causes such high volumes of seaweed each year.
“I am happy to work with Councillor Bruce as I am aware of his expertise in this field and I look forward to hearing from him.”
Councillor Bruce then asked a supplementary question, as follows:
“You have mentioned about this farming business and farms being asked to take it outside of the island. There are three local farms, which I won’t name here, which regularly used to take this seaweed. The three farms have not been approached this year, and I would like to ask the question, ‘Why?’. Why are you adding cost to the transport when you don’t need to?”
Councillor Poole replied:
“We will not be pushing seaweed back into the sea. This afternoon, I spoke to a local farmer and I am making arrangements for him to take seaweed when it is available.”
Councillor S Tomlinson put the following question to Councillor Fenner:
“Could Councillor Mrs Fenner please explain what the constitutional authority is for appointing a diversity champion; what formal training and constitutional authority her chosen champion will have; and how she ensured an open and transparent appointment process was used to bring forward a diverse range of candidates for the position?”
Councillor Fenner replied:
“I am delighted to be given the opportunity to address specifically this important issue of equality and diversity. To my knowledge, it has not been discussed in this Chamber, probably since the Anti-Poverty Strategy which was developed by the then Labour administration.
“It has three aims:
“A lot of work is in progress, but there is still a lot to be done, working beyond their compliance.
“An equality objectives plan is being developed and the equalities policy is in great need of updating, since the last one dates back to 2007 and has not been updated.
“It has to be a constant work in progress, so that this new policy is not one left to gather dust on the shelf. In this context, I was made aware of the need for an elected Member to champion the equalities agenda because it is everyone’s responsibility and there has to be a corporate-wide commitment.
“This position does not attract a Special Responsibility Allowance, but the Champion would report to me and to the Cabinet. It is the Leader’s prerogative to identify an important position in promoting corporate-wide issues. This was delegated to me, as Cabinet Member for corporate identity issues.”
Councillor S Tomlinson then asked a supplementary question:
“Could Councillor Fenner please advise why or when she would need to use the services of the Diversity Champion?”
Councillor Fenner replied:
“It is, as I explained, the responsibility of everyone and a policy decision made by this Council will have to go through an equalities impact assessment. The Champion will, obviously, have some say in addressing this issue.
“I would like to point out that the decision to ask Councillor Worrow to be the Champion is really another example of how inclusive this administration is. Indeed, we agreed to keep the Heritage Champion from the Conservative Group. Therefore, it seemed fair and logical to turn to the Independent Group for this position, and Councillor Worrow expressed an interest. I have no reason to doubt his ability to take on this role. In fact, having been a Councillor for a number of years, he has shown how capable he is in terms of campaigning and pushing forward ideas.
“Of course, like for many other Members, there will be a need for further training concerning the issues at stake and how to implement the legislation. This appointment, I repeat, is part of the Equality Objectives Plan which I referred to earlier.”
Councillor Kirby asked Councillor Johnston the following question:
“As we approach the reports on East Kent Housing’s first year in existence, it would appear that service for Council tenants has never been better. How does Councillor Mrs Johnston view this step forward?”
Councillor Johnston’s reply was as follows:
“You will appreciate that modesty prevents me from agreeing that ‘service for Council tenants has never been better’.
“Those of us who have been Councillors for many years will know the dedication of former Cabinet Members and Housing Officers and the part they played a part in achieving the best for our tenants. Now it is my job to ensure we get the best out of the present system, which, as you know, has concerned me and probably still concerns me.
“A programme of regular meetings with tenants and officers is already being implemented and for those of you who couldn’t attend our tour of the Council estates on Tuesday, I have asked for handouts to be circulated.
“Prior to the visit, I asked Mrs Hatcher, who is an excellent officer of East Kent Housing, for the Delivery Plan for 2012 to 2014 to be sent to all Members and also a “Who’s Who” of staff in East Kent Housing and a leaflet to be filled in for compliments or complaints.
“Councillor Binks, an excellent representative, was able to attend.
“The ten objectives laid out in the Delivery Plan will be closely monitored and I will continue to rely on Ward Councillors for information on how we can best support our tenants.
“The improvements demanded by the Decent Homes Standards continue to be met by enthusiastic and committed East Kent Housing staff, many of whom had previously worked for Thanet District Council. It is a pleasure to meet and work with them and, I have to say, we do work as a team.
“The void management performance is pleasing and, following discussion with Mrs Hatcher, considerable improvements are being made in dealing with arrears and giving debt advice. This work is bound to increase with the changes and the universal benefits coming in next year. It is a real worry for us that people will be getting their benefits all in one lump sum. As owners of Council property, we want to make sure it works for us, and that is another reason for supporting a CAB [Citizens Advice Bureau] in Ramsgate.
“I think we all need to work together to makes sure East Kent Housing achieves its three star status. We will have to set challenging targets for them and ensure that the mistakes that have been made elsewhere in the country aren’t replicated here.”
Councillor Kirby asked a supplementary question:
“In view of your administration’s wholesale opposition many months ago to the setting up of the East Kent Housing unit, do you feel now like joining me in congratulating the Conservative Group in pushing forward with this project and ensure that its existence will be maintained?”
Councillor Johnston replied: ... view the full minutes text for item 79f
Councillor Moores asked the Leader the following question:
“Could the Leader please explain how the mathematical multiplier was arrived at for the Manston Airport consultation by which those living under the flight path will have their views weighted?”
The Leader replied:
“I think Councillor Moores is getting a little bit mixed up between what is quantitative data and what is qualitative data.
“It has always been a commitment of this Council to pay particular attention to those most affected by Manston Airport’s night time flying proposals and that has been understood to mean those living under the flight path. The change to the consultation process does not change that commitment; it is merely a case of clarifying our approach to weighting, which, I accept, cannot be undertaken in any statistical sense but can instead be achieved through the feedback from the members of the public being reported back to Councillors in full, broken down into those who live under the flight path and those who don’t and, at this point, I would say that it is for Councillors to determine how they view these responses and to use their informed judgement as to what the Council’s response to Manston should therefore be.”
Councillor Moores put the following supplementary question to the Leader:
“While the environmental issues surrounding night flights at Manston are, quite understandably, a source of concern for those of Ramsgate living under the flight path for Runway 28, which is the western runway, will the Leader concede that he has a much wider responsibility to the people of Thanet in encouraging and stimulating the economic potential of the Airport itself, to create jobs, travel and tourism?”
The Leader responded by stating:
“Our Group is fully behind the Airport. We are in the middle of a consultation, so I don’t want to go into too much detail, but the bottom line is, we want the airport to succeed, but not at any environmental cost. I can’t stand here, as a Margate and Cliftonville Councillor, and turn a blind eye to environmental hazards that happen to some of our residents that don’t live in my ward; that live in other parts of Thanet. I am going to take those views into account. I will do what your Group Leader and I have promised. I will weight their views accordingly when it comes to giving our opinion.
“So, at the end of the day, we are trusting Members to take the information that we glean, the qualitative information that we have got and to make use of it and use it alongside the report from the Airport itself and the independent response that was commissioned by your side.
“We will take those three parts of the triangle together and we will make the decision together.”
Councillor Wise asked the Leader the following question:
“Development of the harbour as a marina would represent the final piece of the jigsaw for the regeneration of Margate, making it an even more attractive destination for visitors.
Would the Leader tell Members what he is doing to promote this important aspiration for the town?”
The Leader replied:
“I can remember taking photographs of boats bobbing about in the water. I, too, am concerned about the way things have gone at Margate Harbour, but this possibility has been explored in outline by the Council, but at present it is not being taken forward for the following reasons:
“There is the further question about being able to support business from two marinas in Thanet. We would not want to take any business away from Ramsgate, which is thriving.
“There is no denying that a marina in Margate would add to the attractiveness of the town, but there is a need to be realistic about what we can achieve and the funding that is likely to be available, especially in the current circumstances. That needs to be taken into account for Margate and other locations.”
Councillor Wise asked a supplementary question:
Given your penchant for inclusivity and transparency, Leader, I did set up a meeting with the Crown Estates, which you did not allow me to attend. Can you tell me why?
The Leader replied:
“I’d like to thank Councillor Wise for making those initial contacts. We did indeed have that meeting and the relevant officers of the Council, Cabinet Members and Ward Councillors were there. We had a fruitful meeting, where we learned exactly the response that I had given you regarding the money and the viability and sustainability of that project. It’s just not viable.
“But we didn’t waste that opportunity. We are following up with other projects and other aspects that the Council is involved with and we are in negotiations with them to help us with other projects.”
Notices of Motion
To receive any Notices of Motion from Members of Council in accordance with the Council Procedure Rule 16
It was NOTED that no motions on notice had been received in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 16.
The Leader reported that since becoming Leader, he had had a series of meetings with various business groups. Despite the current economic climate, he was optimistic for the future for the area, particularly regarding Ramsgate Port and Harbour, where companies involved in renewable energy were establishing themselves in ever increasing numbers.
Councillor Poole and he also had an excellent meeting with the Principal of Thanet College, at which a clear focus on training was agreed upon.
He believed the voluntary sector to be a key partner of the Council and he had met constantly with residents from all manners of organisation - from heritage, arts, sport and culture through to improving the local street scene and staging events – and he would do all he could to support them.
Councillor Johnston and he had met with KCC and the housing communities’ agencies and he believed that, with the help of council officers a successful Live Margate Project could be launched.
The Leader also referred to his attendance at Kent Forum at County Hall where he had highlighted the devastating effect that the Government’s Welfare Forum proposals, changes to housing rules and the forthcoming universal credit plans would have on our district.
He also stated that he had forged good working relationships with Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council and Cabinet Members, Mike Hill & Kevin Lynes. He was convinced that they all accepted that the serious issues affecting Thanet were too important to play politics at leadership level.
The Leader concluded by expressing his thanks to his fellow Councillors, Chief Executive and officers, particularly Annette Firmin, for all their support.
Councillor Bayford, as Leader of the Conservative Group, said that it was gratifying that the new administration was continuing the work initiated under the Conservative administration, particularly in relation to the work of Thanet Regeneration Board, which had evolved from the Margate Renewal Partnership, the Margate Task Force and Housing Intervention. However, the new administration’s record did not show competence at following through proposals, for example, in relation to the development at Hartsdown Park, which had gone to three Cabinet meetings, a Cabinet site meeting and full Council.
Councillor King, Leader of the Independent Group, referred to the voluntary work carried out by his local Residents’ Association and, whilst welcoming new businesses, urged that the viability of small shopkeepers be taken into consideration when proposals by large multinational organisations come forward.
Councillor Johnston asked, in relation to the work of Margate Renewal Partnership, if the money paid out to organisations in error had been paid back to the Council. She expressed the hope that a draft of the Economic Strategy would soon be available.
Councillor Driver asked the Leader to use his influence on the Government to include Thanet in the East Kent Enterprise Zone and said that he was encouraged by the reference in the Leader’s report to work with the voluntary sector.
Councillor Ezekiel enquired as to the Leader’s strategy to acquire sponsorship for ... view the full minutes text for item 81.
It was proposed by Councillor Everitt, seconded by Councillor Poole, and resolved that the recommendation as set out at Paragraph 10.1 of the report be adopted, namely:
“To note the report, the treasury activity and approve the changes to the prudential indicators”.
Report to follow
It was proposed by Councillor Everitt, seconded by Councillor Poole and resolved:
It was noted that all Members present had a personal interest in this item (Minute No. 76 refers).
It was proposed by the Leader and seconded by Councillor Fenner that the recommendations as set out at paragraphs 7.1 to 7.5 of the report be adopted, namely:
Debate ensued, during which the equalities implications of the proposed cut in SRAs were considered
Following debate, the motion in so far as it related to Recommendations 1 & 2 above, was, upon being put to the vote, declared LOST.
Subsequently, it was RESOLVED that the motion in so far as it related to Recommendations 3, 4 & 5 above be ADOPTED.
It was proposed by the Leader and seconded by Councillor Poole:
It was proposed by Councillor King and seconded by Councillor Grove:
“That Councillor Driver be nominated to the East Kent Housing Area Board for Thanet”.
Upon the nominations being put to the vote, Councillor Driver was declared appointed to the East Kent Housing Area Board.
It was RESOLVED that the Kent Police & Crime Panel be added to the list of executive appointed designated outside bodies.
The Leader thereupon nominated himself to the Kent Police & Crime Panel.
Report to follow
It was proposed by the Leader and seconded by Councillor Poole:
“That the Pay Policy Statement for 2012/13 as set out in Annex 1 be approved, subject to the final paragraph of Paragraph 4.3 thereof being amended to read:
‘The size of the award paid to employee(s) is that deemed commensurate with the work being rewarded. Ex gratia payments and market premiums, for staff other than Chief Officers, are authorised by the Chief Executive in consultation with the Senior Management Team with advice from the HR Manager as appropriate, on a case by case basis.
Ex gratia payments and market premiums for Chief Officers, other than Chief Executive and Director of Shared Services, are authorised by the Chief Executive in consultation with the Leader and main opposition Leader.
Ex gratia payments and market premiums for the Director of Shared Services are authorised by the Chief Executive in consultation with the Chief Executives of Canterbury City Council and Dover District Council’
and published as required under the Localism Act 2011.
An amendment was proposed by Councillor Driver, as follows:
“That the words:
‘as set out in Annex 1 be approved and published as required under the Localism Act 2011’
be substituted with the following words:
‘be deferred to a future meeting of the Council when a more detailed report is provided to Members for approval which includes the following information and commitments:
a) A breakdown of the staff grading scheme with pay scales for each grade including incremental points;
b) The number, gender, disability and ethnicity profile of staff on each grade;
c) A clear explanation of the Chief Executive’s pay increment arrangements including full information about all increments and any special payments received by her since her appointment;
d) A clear explanation of the incremental progression system (if any) which will apply to the Chief Executive and Chief Officers after the current system ceases on 1 April 2012;
e) A full explanation, including details of any amounts proposed to be paid, as transitional or compensatory payments for the Chief Executive or Chief Officers for moving from one incremental progression scheme to another;
f) That any proposed payments as described in e) above are first authorised by a meeting of the Council
g) A commitment that the salaries, expenses, ex gratia payments and market premiums paid to the Chief Executive and all Chief Officers are published on the Council’s website in a similar and transparent way to that used by Kent County Council.’
The Chief Executive pointed out that the Council was required, under the Localism Act 2011, to publish its Pay Policy Statement before 31 March 2012 and that the Statement as set out at Annex 1 to the report reflected existing policies.
The amendment FELL, as it failed to find a seconder.
Following debate, the substantive motion was declared CARRIED.