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Full Council Meeting - 27 Feb 2006

Town Hall, Bideford 27th February 2006

TORRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL

MEETING OF THE COUNCIL

Town Hall, Bideford

27th February 2006

PRESENT: Councillor A G Gould (Chairman)

Councillor T Sillifant (Vice Chairman)

Councillors J Allen, H R Barton, R D Bond, H M Bone, G Boundy,

Mrs M Brown, G C Broyd (left meeting 7.20 pm), Mrs S E I Bushby,

P S Christie, S E L Clarke, P R Collins, J W E Cowle, D J Daniel,

E J Davies, A J Eastman, A Eastwood OBE, Mrs P A Ferguson,

L S Ford, R H Hicks, A T Inch, W G Isaac, K J James, R E Johns,

Mrs C L March, Mrs S A Mounce, Mrs P J Paddon, W W Pillman,

J Rawlinson (left meeting 8.45 pm), P J Sturges and R M M Tisdale

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors A I Bewes, J Morrish and D H Shadrick.

131.

PUBLIC CONTRIBUTIONS

(a) Mr John Russell of Halwill addressed the Council with regard to the planning process, and in particular developments at Anglers Paradise. Mr Russell indicated that he was speaking at Full Council because, unlike other Councils in the area, there was no process for public participation at Torridge District Council's Plans Committee.

Mr Russell advised that he lived in the vicinity of Anglers Paradise, and was concerned about the cumulative effect of the approved planning applications for that business. He referred to the most recent planning applications and their effect on the surrounding private homes.

Reference was also made to advice taken by Mr Russell with regard to approaches and discussions with Councillors, and details provided of such approaches.

Mr Russell called for a planning system where both sides had time to put their case, so that Planning Officers and the Committee could make a balanced and fair decision, based on all the relevant facts.

The address to Members concluded by Mr Russell asking for it to be made clear to Plans Committee Members that it was correct and proper for them to meet with objectors. He also asked if this could be done well before the last batch of Anglers Paradise applications were submitted to the Plans Committee in order that objectors had time to approach Members.

(b) Mr Keith Bines and Mrs Sarah North, the Joint Chairpersons of the Torridge Branch of Unison, were in attendance, and it was indicated Mr Bines wished to address the meeting on the realignment proposals.

Mr Bines referred to the Authority's dedicated staff, who were an asset to the Council, many of whom had been working with inadequate levels of resources. He indicated that the staff wished to work with the Authority towards providing excellent services, and understood the desire for the Authority to become an excellent Council.

Mr Bines confirmed that the branch reserved the right to comment further on the alignment when Members had accepted the proposals, and that this would be pursued through the usual consultation process.

132.

COUNCIL TAX 2006/07

Members considered the joint report of the Strategic Director (Resources) and the Head of Finance relating to Council Tax for 2006/07.

The Chairman of the Policy & Resources Committee presented the formal recommendation for the Council Tax resolution (copy attached to the Minutes).

Approval was also sought for the 2006/07 Revenue Budget (Appendix 1 of the report), the Capital Budget (as set out in paragraph 5 of the report) and the Prudential Indicators (Appendix 3 of the report).

The Chairman of the Policy & Resources Committee looked back over the past year and referred to the establishment of the Authority's visions and goals, and in particular the quest to become an excellent Council. She also referred to the previous restructuring exercises; the current improvement work with the ODPM; the improvements within Revenues and Benefits and Planning through the introduction of Vanguard; the work of the Chief Executive since his appointment some eight months ago; the successful extension of Caddsdown Business Support Centre and the proposed Fish Dock improvements at Appledore.

She concluded by referring to the proposed balanced budget being presented to Members, which if accepted would increase Council Tax by 5%, and would represent an 11p per week increase to a Band D property.

Councillor Mrs P J Paddon moved, and it was duly seconded; "That the joint report of the Strategic Director (Resources) and the Head of Finance, which included the Formal Council Tax Resolution be accepted."

Prior to a vote on this motion, the Strategic Director (Resources) provided a presentation to Members which indicated:

(a) the different precepts making up the Council tax, the largest of which was from the County Council;

(b) comparisons for Band D Council Tax with other neighbouring authorities;

(c) the 2006/07 Revenue Budget Summary, together with the following highlights appertaining to that budget:

(1) No transfer from reserves and balances to support budget.

(2) No significant reduction in services.

(3) Allowance for staffing costs of realignment.

(4) Significant increase in income streams allowing a balanced budget.

(5) Expenditure reviewed against priorities in strategic plan.

(6) Some discretionary expenses reduced or eliminated.

(7) Budget allows for ongoing Vanguard work.

Reference was also made to concessionary fares and the free bus travel introduced for over 60's. It was noted that the full cost of this was approximately £300,000 which had been covered by an increase in the Rate Support Grant.

The Strategic Director (Resources) concluded by advising that a considerable amount of work had been undertaken by the Wider Management Team in order to produce the proposed balanced budget; and that this had involved eliminating unnecessary expenditure and increasing income streams in accordance with the priorities outlined in the Authority's Strategic Plan.

Members considered the documentation before them, and discussed transport costs/grants. In this respect the Leader confirmed that a report relating to concessionary fares was being prepared for consideration by Members.

Councillor P R Collins moved an amendment to the motion before Members and was duly seconded: "That the Council Tax base be set at 3.75%."

Members were advised that the effect of the above amendment would need to be quantified by Officers. Details were provided of the costs involved if a decision on the Council Tax Base was delayed, together with the benefit of savings if Members were minded to make a decision on the Council Tax Base at the current meeting.

The Chairman indicated that he proposed to first take the vote on the motion moved by Councillor Mrs Paddon, and duly seconded, since the amendment would necessitate an adjournment of the meeting to allow Officers to prepare the relevant documentation, causing a delay to the preparation of the 2006/07 Council Tax bills.

In accordance with the Constitution, Members called for a recorded vote on the following Motion which had previously been moved and seconded:

(1) That the revenue budget for 2006/07 as set out in Appendix 1 to the joint report of the Strategic Director (Resources) and the Head of Finance be approved.

(2) That the Capital Budget as set out in paragraph 5 of the joint report be approved.

(3) That the Prudential Indicators as set out in Appendix 3 of the joint report be approved.

(4) That the formal Council Tax resolution for 2006/07 be approved in accordance with the Appendix attached to the joint report.

For the Motion:

Councillors J Allen, H M Bone, G Boundy, Mrs M Brown, G C Broyd, Mrs S E I Bushby, P S Christie, S E L Clarke, J W E Cowle, A J Eastman, Mrs P A Ferguson, A G Gould, R H Hicks, W G Isaac, K J James, R E Johns, Mrs C L March, Mrs S A Mounce, Mrs P J Paddon, W W Pillman, T Sillifant and P J Sturges (22)

Against the Motion:

Councillors P R Collins, E J Davies, A Eastwood, L S Ford, A T Inch, J Rawlinson and R M M Tisdale (7)

Abstentions:

Councillors H R Barton, R D Bond and D J Daniel (3)

The motion was therefore carried.

133.

REALIGNMENT PROPOSALS

The meeting discussed the presence of the UNISON representatives during the debate on the realignment which was to be taken in Part II of the meeting. A Member also raised an issue with regard to the presence of a solicitor for the discussion.

(Councillor Broyd left the meeting)

The Chief Executive explained that the realignment related to the paid service, and that the UNISON representatives would be expected to adhere to the Code of Conduct.

In response to a question, the Chief Executive confirmed that he had responded to letters received from UNISON.

Councillor A Eastwood moved, and it was duly seconded: "That we suspend Procedural Rules to allow the UNISON representatives to be present during the debate."

In accordance with the Constitution, Members called for a recorded vote on the above motion.

For the Motion:

Councillors J Allen, H R Barton, R D Bond, H M Bone, G Boundy, Mrs M Brown, P S Christie, P R Collins, J W E Cowle, D J Daniel, E J Davies, A J Eastman, A Eastwood OBE, A T Inch, W G Isaac, K J James, R E Johns, Mrs S A Mounce, Mrs P J Paddon, W W Pillman, J Rawlinson, T Sillifant, P J Sturges and R M M Tisdale (24)

Against the Motion:

Councillors Mrs S E I Bushby, S E L Clarke and Mrs C L March (3)

Abstentions:

Councillors Mrs P A Ferguson and A G Gould (2)

Out of the Room:

Councillors L S Ford and R H Hicks (2)

The motion was therefore carried.

Thereafter, the Chairman proposed, and it was duly seconded, and;

Resolved: That under Section 100(a)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended) the public be excluded from the meeting with the exception of the UNISON representatives for the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 1 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act.

The Chairman then invited the Chief Executive to make his presentation to Members relating to the realignment proposals. The Chief Executive began by providing background information and referred to the previously established goals, vision and strategies of the Authority and the aim to become an excellent Council. He also referred to the realignment objectives, the previous restructuring exercises, proposals for Local Government reorganisation, the need for change, the Recovery Plan and performance reporting.

Details were given on the approach taken to the realignment, and the useful input from staff, which had resulted in some cases in the structure proposals being revised. Members were also advised that the organisation structure/principles had the support of the ODPM, GOSW and the Audit Commission.

The Chief Executive then provided details of the current organisation structure, followed by the realignment principles and the proposed new organisation charts, together with the staffing and financial implications. In this respect the Chief Executive confirmed that the annual cost of the realignment had been included within the 2006/07 budget, and that the one-off costs were affordable if they were dealt with properly.

The Chief Executive concluded his presentation by outlining the next steps in the process and recommended, "that the Council agree the new organisation structure" so as to increase strategic management and corporate capability to support the Council's improvement process, and the delivery of the Council's aligned vision, within the financial constraints of the budget.

Members were then invited to submit questions and the issues debated related to the handling of staffing matters; press releases; the delivery of the proposals; investment in the proposal and subsequent financial implications and benefits; the possible effect of Local Government reorganisation; and the need for the Authority to be fit for purpose and achieve excellent status.

(Councillor Rawlinson left the meeting during the Members questions and debate).

Councillor R H Hicks moved, and it was duly seconded, and;

Resolved: That the Council approve the new organisation structure presented by the Chief Executive.

(Vote: 28 For, 0 Against and 2 Abstentions)

In response to a question it was confirmed that consultation would now commence with regard to the paid staff.

The Chairman concluded the meeting by thanking the Chief Executive for his informative and comprehensive presentation.

The meeting commenced at 6.30 pm and ended at 9.00 pm.