Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Council Chamber, Argyle Road, Sevenoaks. View directions

Contact: Democratic Services 01732 227165  Email: democratic.services@sevenoaks.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

40.

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting of the Council held on 14 November 2023 pdf icon PDF 142 KB

Minutes:

Resolved: That the Minutes of the Council meeting held on 14 November, be approved and signed by the Chairman as a correct record.

41.

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.

Minutes:

Councillors Dyball and Maskell declared for reasons of transparency that they were the Council’s representatives on the Citizen’s Advice.

 

42.

Chairman's Announcements.

Minutes:

The Chairman started his announcements by stating that it gave him great joy in being able to announce thatthe Council, and its UK Shared Prosperity Fund Project Officer Aidan Kiely, had been named Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Champion of the Year at the Institute of Economic Development Annual Awards. Further celebratory news was that Sevenoaks District Council was a finalist in the ‘Working Together’ category for the 'Better Together' community mobilisation project in the iESE Public Sector Transformation Awards 2024. The winner would be announced on 6 March 2024, but what an honour it was to make it to the list of finalists. It was a fantastic submission by the team, he gave thanks to Margaret, Kelly and Yulia.

 

The Chairman drew attention to his upcoming Charity Dinner Dance, which would be held on Saturday 27 April 2024 at Hever Castle Golf Club at 7pm.  Monies raised from this event will go to the Sevenoaks Area Dementia Friends. He reminded Members to get their tickets as soon as possible.

 

In ending his announcements, he reminded Members that ‘Run, walk or push against dementia’ was happening again on 19 May 2024. There was a choice of doing 3K, 5K and 10K, which made the event ideal for all ages and fitness levels.

 

43.

To receive any questions from members of the public under paragraph 17 of Part 2 (The Council and District Council Members) of the Constitution. pdf icon PDF 35 KB

Minutes:

Three questions had been received from Members of the public, Sue Caskey, Anthony Judge and Kevin O’Brien-Wheeler, in accordance with paragraph 17 of Part 2 (The Council and District Council Members) of the Constitution. The Chairman took each of the questions in turn and the Portfolio Holder responded to all of the question en bloc.

 

Question 1: Sue Caskey

 

“I recognise the hard choices that you are having to make in the current

financial climate. However, the Council’s grant support for the Citizens Advice

general advice service is critical in equipping, training, supporting and covering the expenses of a volunteer plus maintaining our two office locations.

For volunteers, the office is where we meet, access technology and work

stations, and receive support from supervisors and colleagues that is essential for training and guidance. This is a vital part of the volunteering experience, without which our capacity and delivery would be severely damaged. My question is whether Council Members understand the impact on its most vulnerable residents and Citizens Advice volunteers that will result from the substantial reduction proposed to the level of grant?”

 

Response: Portfolio Holder, People and Places

Thank you for your question. 

 

Although a difficult decision, the change in funding to Citizens Advice has been made with the utmost care and consideration.  You are quite right in stating that some difficult choices have had to be made in order for the Council to achieve a balanced budget. Budget setting and savings discussions have been ongoing since last year, with cross-party member views and input being sought through the Council’s advisory committees, Cabinet and full Council.   

  

You ask if Members appreciate the impact of the funding reduction and I would respond, that yes, we do. Members and officers have sought to prioritise internal savings, which has seen the Council and notably our staff bear this impact and burden directly, as staffing posts have sadly been cut, services reduced, whilst customer demand only increases. 

  

Then, and only then, have we considered external partners and funding. Citizens Advice, like many other voluntary sector organisations, provides a valued service and even in these difficult times, the grant, will remain the largest grant the Council provides to any voluntary sector organisation. 

  

Both myself and Cllr Maskell are Member representatives for Citizens Advice in North and West Kent and Edenbridge and Westerham. We understand first-hand the services and support offered. However, we are also acutely aware that the finances of Citizens Advice are now at the most stable that they have been for many years. Indeed, we, amongst other funding bodies including Central Government and other local authorities, have been very pleased to contribute to their financial stability over many years and would wish this to continue. 

  

It is evident from your original contact with the Council ahead of tonight’s meeting that office space is important to volunteers in terms of training and guidance, but also places a high-cost burden to Citizens Advice as they lease a number of offices across the District,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 43.

CHANGE IN ORDER OF AGENDA ITEMS

The Chairman, with the Council’s agreement, brought forward consideration of Minute 44.

44.

To consider any questions by Members under paragraph 19.3 of Part 2 (The Council and District Council Members) of the Constitution, notice of which have been duly given. pdf icon PDF 32 KB

Minutes:

One question had been received from Members in accordance with paragraph 19.3 of Part 2 (The Council and District Council Members) of the Constitution.

 

Question 1: Cllr Purves

 

“Before we commit ourselves to borrowing £3.635 million we need to know: 

Have any cafes / drive throughs committed to take a lease or just shown an interest? 

 

Direct Services equipment. 4 trucks and a great mass of wheely bins, bottle banks and other associated material stored here. Where is this to go if Dunbrik depot is full and no room at Hollybush lock up depot? 

 

Is the contingency percentage (as specified in the Gold pages) sufficient, bearing in mind the increased costs due to unforeseen circumstances at Farmstead Drive and White Oak Leisure centre? 

 

Is this the time to take out more loans bearing in mind the current financial situation with many local councils with over investment? What assurances can be given that we are not going down the same path?”

 

Response: Leader of the Council

 

“There is a report in front of Members, where I believe some of these matters have been addressed but, as you’ve raised them specifically at this point in the proceedings. Your first question was regarding the borrowing and whether any café or drive-through had already committee to the lease or just shown an interest. The Council has received firm interest from drive-through operators, who had given an indication as to the lease terms they might be seeking. While generic provision is being made for such an operation for design and feasibility purposes, such an operation will need to be offered to the market on a competitive basis prior to entering into any particular lease arrangement.  So basically, yes we’ve had interest shown. No we have yet to actually sign up with anybody in particular as we’re too far away but we know that there is interest.

 

Your second question, the current site is not being efficiently used and officers are in discussion as to how best to optimise Direct Services’ operation on this site and the use of alternative sites. This work is on-going. At the moment this is not a priority because we’ve yet to approve it but should this scheme be approved this evening then it will go onto the list of priorities to sort, but yet to have a final solution.

 

Thirdly, the contingency percentage. This level of contingency is quite high given the size, type and scale of the project, but considered sensible and cautious given the early stages of design development we are at. The Council has sought advice on the level of contingency to be applied and the contingency is considered to be appropriate for this particular project. Significant due diligence work including detailed geotechnical site investigation have already been undertaken and these have helped to prepare the contingency levels that we’re working on. It is therefore prudent to have high contingencies at early stages of development and as design emerges and become fixed then that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 44.

45.

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.

Minutes:

No petitions had been received.

46.

Matters considered by the Cabinet and/or Scrutiny Committee: pdf icon PDF 28 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

a)    12 Otford Road, Sevenoaks Business Park Development Project

 

Cllr Thornton moved and Cllr Maskell seconded the recommendation from Cabinet, which sought the approval of £3,635,004 in the Capital Programme for the Otford Road development scheme. It also noted that the scheme would only progress subject to financial viability and planning consent.

 

Cllr Thornton spoke to the motion stating that this was a regeneration opportunity for a Council owed site for a mixed scheme which would provide economic development which was a key policy objective. The scheme was affordable and viable, although further viability testing would be needed as detailed design works were undertaken. The funding would be from internal and external borrowing and met from future rents to meet loan terms. Close monitoring of the finances would continue to be undertaken, noting that financing was at least 12 months away, and the market was indicating that interest rates would be lower. Early occupier interest had been made and was a positive sign. Concerns previously raised had been taken into consideration and necessary design solutions would be applied during the detailed design stages. Subject to the necessary approval officers would commence the appointment of a project team for detailed designs for a planning application for submission in September 2024, determination by December 2024, work starting in spring 2025 and being completed by 2026.

 

The Finance & Investment Advisory Committee considered and discussed and endorsed the scheme which was considered further at Cabinet. It was a unique opportunity for the Council to promote business and job opportunities within the district in an underused challenging site.

 

Members debated the motion. Members were advised that the report had been heavily discussed at the Finance & Investment Advisory Committee with active questioning and debate from Members. The Committee thought it was a good use of the site, with some issues raised that had since been addressed and further checks and balances would continue for due diligence on the project. Other Members raised points concerning economical conditions and contingency allowances, as well as the impact on local housing, air quality and the Sevenoaks Town Neighbourhood Plan.

 

In her right of reply, Cllr Thornton advised that under the 2019 Local Plan, the site had been marked as a previously developed site, and was underused. The report requested for funds to be secured, and during the detailed design works, formal consultation would be undertaken.

 

The motion was put to the vote and it was

 

Resolved: That the provision of £3,635,004 in the capital programme for the Otford Road development scheme and notes that the scheme will only progress subject to financial viability and planning consent being received, be approved.

 

 

b)    Treasury Management Strategy 2024/25

 

Cllr Maskell moved and Cllr Thornton seconded the recommendation from Cabinet to approve the Treasury Management Strategy 2024/25.

 

Cllr Maskell spoke to the motion stating that the report had been considered in detail at the Finance & Investment Advisory Committee in January, and prior training had been provided by Link, the treasury advisors to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 46.

47.

Matters considered by other standing committees: pdf icon PDF 24 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

a)     Local Government Boundary Commission For England Electoral Review

 

It was moved by Cllr. Esler and seconded by Cllr. Penny Cole that the recommendation from Governance Committee that the timetable of the electoral review and the formation of a working group to advise Council, be noted.

 

Cllr Esler spoke to the motion.

 

Resolved: That

 

a)   the timetable for the electoral review being undertaken by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England, be noted; and

 

b)   a working group, set up by the Governance Committee had been formed to advise Council on the electoral review as it progresses, be noted.

 

 

b)     Review of the Scheme for Members’ Allowances

 

It was moved by Cllr. Esler and seconded by Cllr. Penny Cole that the recommendation from Governance Committee to adopt the Members’ Allowance scheme as amended, be approved.

 

Cllr Esler spoke to the motion. Members discussed the scheme, and thanks was given to the Working Group for their work.

 

Resolved: That

 

a)   the recommendations of the Joint Independent Remuneration Panel be agreed subject to the following changes:

i)  The Deputy Leader continue to be remunerated at £14,023 but this allowance be frozen until such a time as the JIRP determines the sum to fall within 10% of the Kent Councils Deputy Leader Allowances mean; 

ii)  Opposition Group Leaders continue to be remunerated at £298 per group Member;

iii) Subsistence allowances be maintained at the £9.86/£12.21 for lunch/evening meal, subject to the Member being on Council business out of the District; and

 

b)  The next review of the allowances by the JIRP, be requested to be undertaken in advance of the next election cycle.

 

c)     Scrutiny Committee Procedure Rules

 

It was moved by Cllr. Esler and seconded by Cllr. Penny Cole that the recommendation from the Scrutiny Committee to adopt the revised appendix C and part 5 of the constitution, be agreed.

 

Cllr Esler spoke to the motion advising that the revisions were to clarify and update the sections of the constitution so they were less ambiguous when it came to call-in. 

 

It was moved by Cllr. Streatfeild and duly seconded by Cllr. Leaman that the revised appendix C, paragraph 18.4 be deleted and insert with the following wording:

 

Members can call-in a decision for one or more of the following reasons:

(a) The decision is not in line with the Council’s Policy Framework,

(b) The decision is not in accordance with the Council’s Budget,

(c) The decision was not taken in accordance with the principles of decision- making set out below, and/or

(d) The decision was not taken in accordance with the Constitution of the Council.

The relevant principles of decision-making referred to in (c) are:

(a) Action proportionate to the desired outcome.
(b) Due consultation and the taking of professional advice from Officers.

(c) Respect for human rights in all its forms.
(d) A presumption in favour of openness.
(e) Clarity of aims and desired outcomes.
(f) Explanation of the options considered and giving reasons for decisions.”

 

Cllr Streatfeild spoke to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 47.

48.

To consider the following reports from the Chief Executive or other Chief Officers on matters requiring the attention of Council: pdf icon PDF 39 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

a)    Pay Policy Statement

 

It was moved by Cllr. Thornton and duly seconded by Cllr. Perry Cole that the recommendation to adopt the Pay Policy Statement be agreed.

 

Resolved: That the Pay Policy Statement, be adopted by the Council and be published on the Council’s website.

 

b)    Supplementary Estimates

 

It was moved by Cllr Maskell and duly seconded that the recommendation for the approval of supplementary estimates for the cost of planning appeals be agreed.

 

Cllr. Maskell spoke to the motion.

 

Resolved: That the cost of planning appeals in excess of the budget in 2023/24 be met from the supplementary estimate of £120,000, be agreed.

 

c)     Changes to Committee Appointments

 

It was moved by Cllr Thornton and seconded by Cllr Perry Cole that the changes to Committee appointments be agreed.

 

Resolved: That

 

a)   Cllrs Skinner and Manston be removed from the Development Management Committee and Cllrs. Granville and Barker be appointed to the Committee; and

 

b)   Cllr Manston be removed from Scrutiny Committee and the Standards Committee and Cllr Lindop be appointed to the Scrutiny Committee and Cllr Barker be appointed to Standards Committee.

 

49.

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. pdf icon PDF 112 KB

Minutes:

Cllr. Manston proposed the following motion, which was seconded by Cllr. Lindop.

 

This Council pledges to:

 

Lead by example and remove single-use plastic items from its premises and operations, wherever it has the power to do so;

 

encourage plastic-free initiatives in Sevenoaks, promoting the campaign and supporting events that aim to raise awareness of single-use plastics and reduce the use of them; and

 

support Cllr Manston in convening and chairing a cross-party Plastic Free Community Steering Group and establishing appropriate terms of reference, KPIs and reporting.”

 

Cllr Manston spoke to the motion, highlighting to the meeting that this would be a cross-part initiative using a third party framework to allow focus on shared objectives. As the next big plastic count was on 11 March, she advised it would be an excellent opportunity to launch this type of initiative. If all the objectives were met, the plastic free logo could be used in all of the Council’s communications. She further advised that this had not gone through the committee process, as it was being suggested to be a Councillor led initiative within the responsibility of Councillors, without a budget and to save Officer resources. A lot of the work had already been undertaken by Councillors throughout the District and therefore a lot of expertise was already there. Working with the Cleaner & Greener Advisory Committee, and where appropriate, to have advice from Officers to provide sound performance indicators. Cllr Manston further detailed that the steering group would have Members from different parties, and would look to have two meetings a year. There would be projects assessing carbon footprints, the big plastic count and supporting the Sevenoaks climate action network climate fair. It was a new approach to create a steering group, not through the normal committee process which would in turn, ease pressure on Officers and financial implications.

 

The discussion moved into debate, and it was noted the care and thought that had been put into the motion. However it was felt that Cleaner & Greener Advisory Committee needed to be more fully involved, with Officer guidance.  It was moved by Cllr. Clack and duly seconded that the motion be amended to delete “wherever it has the power to do so, and insert “wherever it is viable to do so. The review and recommendation will be reported at the next available Cleaner & Greener Advisory Committee and all members will be invited to give their views to the review.”

 

On paragraph two to put a full stop after “them” and take out the word “and,” and delete paragraph three.

 

Members debated the amendment. It was noted that Sevenoaks Town Council had a plastic pledge to which 20 businesses were already signed up, including a pub in New Ash Green, and the Council had also signed up at its conception. The Town Council had been promoting the pledge for a number of years. It was raised in debate that the Council were already taking action to reduce its use of single use plastic. In  ...  view the full minutes text for item 49.

50.

To receive the report of the Leader of the Council on the work of the Cabinet since the last Council meeting. pdf icon PDF 45 KB

Minutes:

The Leader of the Council reported on the work that she and the Cabinet had undertaken since Council 14 November 2024. She brought to Members attention that it was the 50th anniversary of the Council soon and there would be some communications work on this.

 

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