Agenda item

Minutes:

The following Cabinet Members gave updates in respect of their Portfolio

activity:-

 

Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Housing

“I think I’m in the very lucky position as a Deputy Leader of the Authority to have a finger in many pies, seeing all things that the Council does.

 

However, over the last two years I’ve spent as a Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Health and while I intend to give a brief synopsis of what’s happened over the last few months, I just wanted to put on record how proud I was to do that role.  If Members will allow, I picked it up after many years of neglect and misdirection and feel I have taken Leisure and Health into a clearer path now.

 

Particularly highlighting things that we did, like the outdoor cinemas; that many Councillors will recall during the last summer were a particular proud moment for me, but the main one being the Kirkby Leisure Centre and changes to Hucknall Leisure Centre.

 

We have put some serious investment into Leisure, something that this Council and all Members, particularly from the Ashfield Independent Benches, should be very proud of.       

 

Leisure is a fantastic thing in Ashfield.  We are going to be renegotiating the contract very shortly with a new or existing company to take them over, and those initial conversations prove just how good our leisure offering is compared to other districts and that was not the case when this Administration took over. 

 

I think other things to highlight is that we renegotiated recently the Christmas lights.  I certainly feel that they are the best Christmas lights we have ever had; I mean I particularly draw attention to the large polar bear we had in Kirkby.  I thought it was fantastic and the lights we had in Sutton and Hucknall as well and you can really see the different direction that this Council has taken.  I certainly feel very proud to be a part of that and I only hope Councillor Kier Barsby will continue the good work that has begun under the Portfolio.  Thank you.”

 

Leader of the Council

“Thank you Mr. Chairman, I note the clock says 28 minutes, I’m not sure that’s enough!  Mr. Chairman I’ll be brief.  There has been very few things happen under my remit over the last couple of months that I’ve not already updated Council on, but a couple of key things I think are important.

 

Firstly, that this Authority went through a Peer Review recently from the Local Government Association, they were here for three full days, and we’ll be receiving the full review in due course and presenting it to full Council.  So, I won’t talk too much about it but I do want to say an enormous thank you to all the Members and officers and outside partners who took part in that, Mr. Chairman.

 

In total, the Peers interviewed over three hundred hours’ worth of face to face interviews with staff, with partners, with Councillors and I think what they came back with were some really constructive points.

 

I was particularly delighted, as Pete will be, with the very, very healthy clean bill of health of our finances and how they have moved in a positive way significantly over the last year and over the two years, particularly.   I think, Mr. Chairman, that’s not just what the LGA have said, the Government websites show as well that our finances have moved into a much more robust and stable and healthy position that will allow our ambition for Ashfield to be delivered, despite what are tough times financially.  So I’m very pleased with that.

 

I was also very pleased with the headlines about how the LGA felt that the Leadership Team corporately and politically had drive and ambition and understanding of the District, in a way that they’ve seldom seen in Local Authorities, and we were commended highly for that.  So I, I think, everything I thought I knew about us has been verified.

 

So I’m very pleased with that and it allows for the detail to come through on the things that we aren’t doing quite so well.   We have not got everything quite perfect just yet, although I do say we are like Mary Poppins, “practically perfect in every way”.   The humble amongst us will know it, we have got things to learn, and there are many things that we can improve on, and this Council aims to do that, Mr. Chairman, so I am going to take those very strongly forward.

 

The second thing, Mr. Chairman, just to note, is that last week we were at the District Council Network Conference.  Members will know I am the Vice Chairman of the District Council’s Network and the Leader for the Independent Groups nationally, and what that allowed last week, Mr. Chairman, for me to do, was chair the session for the entire conference on future of our town centres and high streets. 

 

I was sat with the Director of Companies that lead this work as commissioners for local government, and most crucially Mr. Chairman, the Head of the Policy Unit from Government, who quite literally has her hands on the cheque book. 

 

So having seats at the top table in Government and through those Authorities, like the District Council’s Network, Mr. Chairman, has allowed us to forge relationships on what I think will be the most transformational pieces of work for this District in a generation, namely the Future Town’s Fund and the Future High Street Fund.   Hopefully, we will get near the money we have been told about; most Authorities are being told it is probably around ten million, rather than the ‘up to twenty five’, that is for cities.)

 

Ten Million pounds spent in Kirkby and ten to twenty million pounds spent in Sutton is an opportunity not to be missed, Mr. Chairman.  I think for us to have the reins on strong master plans and ideas about how we change our towns economically and socially, to make them vibrant places for the future, is a very exciting place to be.

 

 I was very proud to be part of that and I think Ashfield District Council is very much punching above its weight, Mr. Chairman, and it was standing room only there so I think we’ve got all to play for as we go forward, so I was very delighted to represent the Council there.  So thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

 

Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Community Safety

“Thank you Mr. Chairman.  I just want to start off by saying a big thank you to all the teams that we’ve got within the Environment Department, but an even bigger one to the teams that worked over the weekend.  We had some horrendous weather conditions that made work very difficult for them, and they did some fantastic work in very difficult conditions.

 

They went above and beyond the call of duty including helping flooded properties, taking sandbags out to properties and working in the cemeteries.  We had some major issues in one of our cemeteries that they dealt with extremely well, but not only that, they were helping the County Council with trees that had blown over and fallen and were in the middle of the road and blocking roads and things like that.  I’d like to put on record a big thank you to all the teams that worked over the weekend.

 

So back to my report.  The Big Ashfield Spring Clean started on Monday.  It started in Sutton, Huthwaite and Stanton Hill, and this year’s campaign will role out week commencing 17th February in Hucknall, and the 24th of February into Kirkby, Jacksdale, Selston and Underwood.

 

Kerbside Collections - residents are invited to have a clear out of their houses and dispose of their extra waste put out with their regular bin collection during the relevant weeks on your usual bin day.  Within the first hour we’d collected an additional four tonnes of waste, and that is a fantastic amount because a big chunk of that would have been fly-tipped, I can almost guarantee it.  So that’s saving the Authority money later on.

 

Free Bulky Waste Collections - residents can take advantage of Free Bulky Waste Collections when they book during the Big Ashfield Spring Clean from the 10th February to the 28th February.  Each household can take advantage of one free collection of up to three items.  So far this year, two and a half thousand more houses have booked onto that scheme than they did this time last year.  So that is a fantastic amount.

 

The number of resident generated reports of dog fouling have reduced by 35% in the last year.  Nearly half of the level two years ago.  Over the last two years we have engaged in dog fouling campaigns including installation of a new score-board, new signage and provision of twenty five free dog bag dispensers, and on top of that we have our Community Protection Officers stopping people, asking them if they’ve got a suitable receptacle for their dog waste in our parks and open spaces.

The last thing, Mr. Chairman, is that resident generated service requests for litter and fly-tipping have shown overall decreases since the same time period within a 3% reduction in litter demands, and 19% reduction in fly-tipping.  The Council has led on a development of the collaboration of agencies and partners branded as the Cleaner Nottinghamshire Group.

 

The first countywide “Not in Notts Campaign” was launched in this quarter, and demonstrated an instant reduction in fly-tipping by 10% in the two weeks that followed.  And I’d just like to say on that as well, I think it should be noted that Charles Edwards and Sam Dennis have both done an absolute fantastic job as the “Not for Notts” Group.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

 

Portfolio Holder for Streets, Parks and Town Centres

“Well, in a little under a year, my predecessor, Councillor Robert Sears-Piccavey, a long-standing friend of mine, delivered a budget speech in here which was a balanced budget and it was a great thing to see.

 

He waited a long time in the wings to come forward and do that, and of course he handed it over to me and I took it on full pace.   All I have to say about the job is that there is lots that I could say about the actual budget and there are many marvellous things going on.  Nothing that this Council does would be in the same vein if it weren’t for the hard work of the Finance Team and the same for the Housing Finance Team, and Craig Scott who’s not here who does Revenues and Benefits.

 

They are all a brilliant, dedicated, bunch of people and the tenacity in which the Cabinet has turned the finances round, 2.4 million deficit we had to find and we found that, and we haven’t cut any services, we haven’t got rid of anything, we are still spending money on parks and it’s a win-win story.

 

The procurement process and the due diligence of the purchasing of the financial properties that we’re buying, the Investment Property Portfolio is that good that other councils are coming to us for it.  So I think when Councillor Zadrozny sits there and says ‘we are punching above our weight’ we certainly are.

 

Lack of support from the Government, the Revenues Support Grant and no business break re-set; they have been major issues to this Council in the past, but we are steaming ahead, and the Cabinet, expanded as it is, works very, very well.   There is now a feel-good factor across the Council because of all of the good work that’s coming from it.

 

Without the doom and gloom approach of the prior years, the cuts, the austerity, and all the misery that goes with it, when you meet Council workers now out and about in the parks, as we all do, they’re all happy.  They are happy people because they know their jobs are secure, and people like what the Council does because the finances are sound, and it is able to carry on without that threat of cut, cut, cut.  That is the major thing that makes this Council different.

People want to work here.  We’ve just had a recent staff survey and they like their jobs, they’re happy at it, and it’s a real bonus and, and the way the Council continues….we were berated by the County Council for suggesting that they invested more money.  They laughed at us and said we were being too flamboyant, but in actual fact we’ve made more money than they’ve saved this year.  That is no mean feat.  Our turnover is 16 million, the County Council’s is 600 million.

 

We have actually invested and made more than they’ve saved.  Double.  That is the strength of the finances of this Council.  We are the tail that wags the dog here and long may it continue and I hand over, wholeheartedly to my colleague, Councillor Madden, ex tax-inspector…so don’t think you’re going to get anything easy!

 

I would just like to pay tribute to the hard work of the Finance Officer, especially Pete whom I’ve been calling Paul all year because Paul’s sat next to him, and they confuse me.  I am not good with names, but they are good with figures and that’s the main thing.  The feel-good factor of those meetings and the scrutiny and the way in which they delve into every single area, and I’ve asked questions, and they’ve come back with answers, and they’ve always been right, and they’ve always been strong and they’ve always been good.

 

We have an excellent Finance Team and that is key to running an excellent Council.  Therefore, I would just like to end this year in Finance saying, “thank you very much” to the Finance staff and good luck Rachel.  You don’t need any luck because it’s already there.”

 

Portfolio Holder for Place, Planning and Regeneration

“Thank you, Chair.  The Discover Ashfield brand continues to be promoted with good support from partners.  The Ambassador scheme has been developed further and over 60 ambassadors for Ashfield have been signed up.

 

The Kirkby Master Plan has been reviewed and the new Plan is due for completion in our February Cabinet and I’m very excited with how that’s looking.  I think, as we were touching on earlier with the Christmas lights the buzz around Kirkby is great to see and I’m looking forward to continuing that and continuing the regeneration of this area.

 

Kirkby and Sutton were included in the Government’s Town’s Deal Funding and will receive up to 25 million each for investment in Urban Regeneration Skills and Enterprise and Digital and Transport Connectivity.  The Discover Ashfield Board has agreed to act as the Town’s Deals Board, as Jason stole my thunder earlier, to oversee the funding.  The bid for the Future High Street’s Funding was approved for a full business case, and we have received £474,000 of revenue funding to help us with the feasibility work for all of these bids.

Electric Vehicle Charging Points were installed in public car parks in all three town centres which is part of our ongoing work to help Ashfield play its part in tackling climate change. 

 

The occupancy of Idlewells indoor market has now reached 100% and footfall has increased significantly.  I am sure that anyone who has visited the indoor market will agree that it is a wonderful place now and for those who’ve yet to go I highly commend you to go. 

 

The Heritage Lottery Funding project for the Kings Mill Reservoir is progressing well with work started on the new Visitor’s Centre, viaduct restoration and dredging works.  A ranger has also been appointed to facilitate community engagement.

 

Our Planning Team are doing great with planning applications which continue to be processed well above the nationally prescribed standard targets, with all major planning applications being processed within 13 weeks.  I also just want to second Helen’s point about the flooding teams at the weekend, they came out to Sutton Junction and did incredible work helping my residents out, so I would like to pass on my thanks also for that.  Thank you, Chair.”

 

 

Portfolio Holder for Regulatory Services

“Thank you, Chairman; it’s a bit of news on the Regulatory Services Portfolio.   As far as Licensing is concerned, we are delighted to note the investment in this area by OLA UK as a new private hire operator, located on the Sherwood Business Park, utilising Ashfield as their East Midland’s Hub for their based taxi hailing service.

 

The company is valued as of October 2019 at $10 billion (dollars).  OLA has licences in London and several UK cities, so for them to choose Ashfield as their East Midland’s Hub demonstrates that the criteria for drivers, vehicles, and operators, set locally, and services provided by the Licensing Authority, assist the District to be attractive to new investments.

 

A review of the income received by the Licensing Team continues to show a healthy balance, allowing the Authority to put plans in place to invest in the development of the tax testing facilities at the Motor Transport depot.   Also to further increase the number of staff within the Licensing Team, in order to maintain the excellent levels of customer service and prompt turnaround of applications and enforcement actions.

 

On Environmental Health, a new food business called “Through the Looking Glass” approached the Environmental Health Department for advice on how to comply with food law.  An advisory visit was carried out and advice on legal requirements and good practice was provided.  The food business operator fully implemented the advice and received a five-food hygiene rating during the subsequent unannounced routine visit that is for inspection of the business.

Concern raised by local residents regarding an open stretch of riverbank in Sutton where persons passing by were throwing drink bottles, food wrappers and many other things onto the embankment and leaving a mess.  Following investigation the riverbank was found to belong to a local neighbouring company, who arranged for the clear up, and now have a maintenance contract in place.

 

The Environment Health Department organised for a street waste bin to be installed and four companies with staff, who walked along the side of the riverbank to access their work place, were written to, asking them to remind their staff not to contribute to littering and use the bins provided at the workplace.

 

Just to give you a little bit of an activity report from the Licensing Committee report that’s going to be sent to the Licensing Committee very, very shortly.  On the Licences, total applications granted in 2019 were 649.  So we now have 3,529 licences in statute, so it’s a fantastic achievement for an authority of our size.

 

One or two of the little things that have been very good, we’ve had 131 applications for Temporary Event Notices, which means things are happening in Ashfield, good events, and people think that it’s good to come to Ashfield to put these events on, which is fantastic.

 

We have also done a lot of things on Hackney Carriages.  175 new applications there which have been accepted and there is 782 taxis now available in Ashfield, which is fantastic.

 

In the Enforcement Action area, we have been very, very fortunate that we haven’t had to take anyone to court at all because when they’ve actually done something wrong we’ve gone to see them and they’ve put that wrong to rights, and it’s been a fabulous situation for that to happen.

 

We also have a very good productive working relationship with the Environmental Health Service and the Environmental Protection Service, Community Safety and the Community Response Services, Planning Service and of course, Nottinghamshire Police.  This is wonderful because it means that we are all working together for the same things.  Thank you, Chairman.”