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Resolved: That the Minutes of the meeting of Council held on 15 November 2022, be approved and signed by the Chairman as a correct record.
To receive any declarations of interest not included in the register of interest from Members in respect of items of business included on the agenda for this meeting.
No additional declarations of interest were received.
The Chairman announced that Christmas had now been and gone, and the brighter days would soon be coming, but that had not stopped her activities in the outdoors. This included the planting of an Alder Tree with the Lady Colgrain, Lord Lieutenant of Kent. The tree formed part of a spectacular sculpture outside of Buckingham Palace during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations and was now in the grounds of Bradbourne Lakes. She had also attended the burial of a time capsule, with Cllr Dyball at White Oak Leisure Centre, as part of marking the 1 year anniversary since its opening. The Leisure Centre also hosted an event with activities on 12 February 2023 to mark the occasion.
The Chairman also announced that she was invited to attend the Chairman of KCC’s Holocaust Memorial Day where we received personal accounts of those who had been directly affected and it gave everyone present a chance for silent reflection. It was an incredibly moving event.
Councillors were reminded that there was still time for thoughts and opinions to be given on the proposed Conservation Area Appraisal for Eynsford, Farningham and Kemsing. The draft proposed appraisal was still available until Friday 3 March 2023.
The Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III would take place on Saturday 6 May 2023, beginning three days of celebrations. The extended bank holiday weekend would provide many opportunities for everyone to come together to mark this special occasion with street parties and community events. The Chairman encouraged Members who knew of anyone considering holding an event, to think about any permissions they may need for certain activities to Kent County Council (KCC) by 3 March 2023.
Members were reminded of the ‘Making it Happen’ voluntary and community awards event on Wednesday 15 March 2023 at St. Nicholas’ Church Sevenoaks. The awards recognised residents and organisations in the District that go the extra mile.
The Chairman was delighted to end her announcements sharing that the Council had been awarded an iESE Certificate of Excellence for its Mentoring Scheme, which was led by Jenny Godfrey and the Communities Team. She expressed her congratulations to all involved.
To receive any questions from members of the public under paragraph 17 of Part 2 (The Council and District Council Members) of the Constitution.
No questions had been received.
To receive any petitions submitted by members of the public under paragraph 18 of Part 2 (The Council and District Council Members) of the Constitution.
No petitions had been received.
a) Homelessness Review 2022 and draft Homelessness and Rough Sleepers Strategy 2023-2028
Councillor Fleming proposed and Councillor Maskell seconded the recommendation from Cabinet. The report detailed the feedback from the public consultation and sought approval for the Strategy to be adopted.
Resolved: That the
a) feedback received from the public consultation, be noted; and
b) Homelessness and Rough Sleepers Strategy 2023- 2023, be adopted.
b) Treasury Management Strategy 2023/24
Councillor Fleming proposed and Councillor Dickins seconded the recommendation from Cabinet. The report sought approval for the Treasury Management 2023/24.
Resolved: That the Treasury Management Strategy 2023/24, be approved.
c) Property Investment Strategy 2023/24
Councillor Fleming proposed and Councillor Dickins seconded the recommendation from Cabinet. The report sought approval for the Property Investment Strategy 2023/24.
Resolved: That the Property Investment Strategy criteria, be agreed.
d) Budget and Council Tax Setting 2023/24
Councillor Fleming proposed and Councillor Dickins seconded, the recommendation from Cabinet. The report sought approval of the proposed budget and required level of Council Tax for 2023/24, and proposed a net expenditure budget of £18.533m with the District Council Tax increasing by 2.98% resulting in Band D Council Tax being £236.70.
The Leader spoke to the motion stating that “Last year we met at the Stag Theatre, one of the last meetings we had away from this Chamber, we were at what we believed was the tail end of the pandemic and the budget position of the council was overshadowed by the significant impact that it had had on the council, the districts residents, and businesses. We met days before Russia’s major escalation of its illegal invasion of Ukraine and the terrible impact this continues to have on that country and its people, and the global economic shockwave that followed.
Whilst I spoke at the time of some of the pressures that were building, including rising inflation, at that stage no one could have predicted what we have seen, financial impacts on a global scale down to family and individual budgets with the rising cost of living.The council found itself moving from the support given to communities during the pandemic to supporting those most impacted by the economic pressures that followed.We saw an almost immediate rise in approaches to the council for housing support, financial and benefit advice.
We faced double digit inflation coupled with increasing demand for almost all our services.Government schemes to support those fleeing Syria, Afghanistan and Hong Kong were supplemented with numerous schemes in support of individuals displaced by the conflict in Ukraine.Sevenoaks residents opened their doors to this latest refugee crisis and the district council alongside our partners supported and continue to support them.This year we had hoped to pause and recharge, but as this was not the case, we threw ourselves into the service of those residents most in need, both old and new, lifelong, and those here for a short time.
Throughout, we continued to provide over 80 services to the public, we continued our capital programme, investing ... view the full minutes text for item 43.
a) Monitoring Officer’s Annual Report
Councillor Ball moved and Councillor Raikes seconded the recommendation from Standards Committee, noting the annual Monitoring Officer’s report.
Resolved: That the Monitoring Officer’s Annual report be noted.
b) Appointment of Deputy Electoral Registration Officers
Councillor Eyre moved and Councillor Bayley seconded the recommendation from Governance Committee, for the appointment of Deputy Electoral Registration Officers.
A Member spoke to the motion, expressing his appreciation for the way successful way elections were run at the Council.
Resolved: That the Chief Officer Customer & Resources, the Electoral Services Manager, and the Deputy Electoral Services Manager, be appointed as Deputy Electoral REegisration Officers for Sevenoaks District Council.
a) Pay Policy Statement
Councillor Fleming proposed and Councillor Dickins seconded the report which set out the authority’s policies relating to remuneration of each of its chief officers, the remuneration of its lowest paid employees and the relationship between the two. Under the Localism Act 2011, the Council must agree the Statement for the forthcoming year and ensure it was available to the public.
Resolved: That the Pay Policy Statement be adopted and published on the Council’s website.
Two questions had been received from two Members in accordance with paragraph 19.3 of Part 2 (The Council and District Council Members) of the Constitution.
Question 1: Cllr Purves
“Sencio is having financial problems due to a combination of factors ranging
from the age of their buildings and plant, effect of COVID, competition from
private gyms and rising utility costs.
I am assuming we are all agreed on the value of public swimming pools in
Sevenoaks and Edenbridge. Should Sencio fail and government grants not be
forthcoming, what are the Council’s plans to make sure we retain public
swimming pools in Sevenoaks and Edenbridge?”
Response: Leader of the Council
“Leisure centres can indeed be costly to operate. However, at present, Sencio has not formally raised that it is experiencing financial problems to the Council.
The Council was currently unable to review Sencio’s current financial position due to the trust deferring its submission of audited accounts. No profit and loss or cash flow reports have been presented to either officers or Sencio Board members since September 2022. However, Council members requested this information at its most recent Scrutiny meeting when Sencio was in attendance. The information will be presented by Trust’s Chief Executive Officer, Jane Parish, at the next Scrutiny Committee (being held in March).
Early in the new year, Sencio spoke with the press highlighting concerns with future utility cost projections. However, we are of the understanding that this has since been contained in the Trust’s 2023 budget, in part due to utility costs beginning to stabilise and reduce and the addition of a new energy support package being announced by Government, which will benefit the Trust.
Sencio’s Chief Executive Officer and Chair have given no indication to this Council that the Trust was currently failing. However, if this became the case, the Council would, of course, review all options to safeguard its leisure facilities in the district.
Our new leisure operator, Everyone Active, at White Oak Leisure Centre, has confirmed that in line with the national picture, they have seen their utility costs stabilise over recent months, which has been further helped by bulk-buying energy from suppliers in advance in order to minimise any cost pressures.
Supplementary question: Cllr Purves
Should Sencio go into liquidation and the Council had to bear the costs, is the money budgeted for should it occur?
Response: Leader of the Council
The Leader advised that currently Sencio had not approached the Council to say they were in financial difficulties and it would be unwise of us to say they were without evidence to say so. That was the position and we would keep all options open should they come to us.
In accordance with the Constitution, no further discussion was allowed.
Question 2: Cllr Dr. Canet
“Heavy rains have resulted in the drainage system in Northern Ward
becoming overloaded. This has resulted in the culverts discharging
untreated sewage into the Mill pond at the top of Mill Lane and local roads
and gardens. ... view the full minutes text for item 46.
To consider any motions by Members under paragraph 20 of Part 2 (The Council and District Council Members) of the Constitution, notice of which have been duly given.
No motions had been received.
The Leader of the Council reported on the work that he and the Cabinet had undertaken in the period 31 October 2022 to 2 February 2023. He took the opportunity to remind Members of the free training provided by the Local Government Association.
Members noted the report presented by the Chairman of the Audit Committee, Councillor McGarvey.