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Minutes of the meeting of North East Lincolnshire Council held on 27th July 2023

10:58 am, Tuesday, 10th October 2023 - 6 months ago

Present:          

Councillor Lindley (in the Chair)

Councillors Aisthorpe, Astbury, Batson, Beasant, Boyd, Brasted, Cairns, Cracknell, Croft, Dawkins, Downes, Farren, Freeston, Goodwin, Harness, Hasthorpe, Henderson, Holland, Jackson, McLean, Mickleburgh, Morland, Parkinson, Patrick, Pettigrew, Reynolds, Shreeve, Shutt, Silvester, Smith, K Swinburn, S Swinburn, Westcott and Wilson.

 Officers in Attendance:

  • Rob Walsh (Chief Executive)
  • Eve Richardson Smith (Deputy Monitoring Officer)
  • Paul Windley (Democratic and Scrutiny Team Manager)
  • Paul Wisken (Civic and Mayoral Officer)

The proceedings were opened with prayers by the Mayor’s Chaplain.

NEL.20      MAYOR’S ANNOUNCEMENTS

The Mayor welcomed everyone in attendance to this meeting.  He noted that a diary of events in support of the Mayor’s charities was currently being compiled and would be circulated in due course.  He hoped that the events would be well supported by Elected Members.

NEL.21      APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE

Apologies for absence from this meeting were received from Councillors Brookes, Haggis, Hudson, Robinson, Sandford, Shepherd and Wheatley.

NEL.22      MINUTES

The minutes of the meeting of North East Lincolnshire Council held on 16th March 2023, the Mayor Making Meeting of North East Lincolnshire Council held on 18th May 2023, the Annual Meeting of North East Lincolnshire Council held on 25th May 2023 and the special meeting of North East Lincolnshire Council held on 25th May 2023 were approved as a correct record.

NEL.23      DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

There were no declaration of interest in relation to any item on the agenda for this meeting.

NEL.24      QUESTION TIME

There were two questions submitted by members of the public for this meeting, in accordance with the Council’s procedures.

The first question was submitted by Mr Grimmer to Councillor Jackson, Leader of the Council.  Mr Grimmer attended the meeting and put the question as set out below.

“Save the Freshney Valley protesters have demonstrated at every full council meeting for more than two years now to show their strong opposition to the proposed housing development in Grimsby West. Residents from two wards, who are against the development, have used their votes at the last two council elections to overwhelmingly vote in, so far, three new independent councillors who vigorously oppose the unpopular planned development. The Save the Freshney Valley group has a membership of over 2000 people and is still growing. We have clearly shown that the development is not wanted and it obviously is not needed. The North East Lincolnshire five year housing land supply assessment for 2023, currently has plans for more than 13 years supply of houses, instead of just the five years required. All these extra houses are not needed and we will go on demonstrating against the over-development and needless destruction of our precious countryside that can never be replaced. Will this council please listen to the surveys, to the voters, to the local statistics and to our protest group when reviewing the Local Plan and remove the unnecessary Grimsby West development from the plan?”

Councillor Jackson, Leader of the Council, responded by noting that the Council had commenced the Local Development Plan review process and Cabinet had recently agreed the timetable.  The council was looking forward to more public engagement with this review process than when drawing up the current Local Plan pre-2018.  The council will, of course, listen and take account of people’s views but there was a full range of evidence to consider when reviewing the Plan.  The council was currently able to demonstrate a 13-year supply of housing land only because, once the Local Plan was five years old, the annual housing target reverted to the government’s baseline figure.  This took no account of any growth in the local economy or many other local factors.  That’s why it was premature to say that the Grimsby West site “obviously is not needed”, in Mr Grimmer’s words, and it would be wrong of Councillor Jackson to pre-empt the outcome of the Local Plan review process.

The second question was submitted by Mr Dicker to Councillor Margaret Cracknell, Portfolio Holder for Children and Education.  Mr Dicker attended the meeting and put the question as set out below.

“I am a resident of the borough and read the original consultation about the planned closures of three of our nurseries and wish to express my extreme disappointment to learn of these plans, in particular at Scartho.   I am equally disappointed at the short notice that these plans were announced.  In my view, the following questions remain unanswered.

I respectfully ask that you provide references to the sources of information on which you are basing these plans.  It has emerged that you have taken figures of occupancy from data during the Covid 19 Pandemic, and those that rest in GPs within Scartho.   We need to know the true figure that doesn’t include the period where many parents were working from home, and how this correlates with the business plan that the nurseries were requested to submit but are yet to feed back on.   The figures portrayed are wider than the Scottish and Brexit referendum results.

I understand that there is a claim of the need to refurbish the nurseries.  Following a Freedom of Information request on behalf of Scartho and Great Coates, I received a response that there is only day to day maintenance and no value has been attached to this.    Will the council release this to the public and the nurseries who took the time to ask questions as a result of such a poorly run consultation?”

Councillor Cracknell, Portfolio Holder for Children and Education, responded that a new process had started. The council was working with these settings and looking at all relevant information relating to the setting to enable the schools to develop sustainable models for the future, with support from the local authority.   Occupancy numbers for these settings were available on the Schools Financial Benchmarking website.  This was data that had been published by the Department for Education and showed occupancy numbers Full Time Equivalents over a number of years – as far back as 2018.  Both settings, as already stated, were currently under-subscribed and in a deficit budget position, and had been for a number of years.  The council was working with the individual settings to explore sustainable models for the future, and as part of this process would be sharing relevant information with the leaders of those settings.  Other than estimated costs, there was currently no value attached to these works, and therefore the council was not able to publish anything more widely on this.

NEL.25      THE LEADER’S STATEMENT

The Council received a statement from the Leader of the Council.

The Leader noted the recent announcement by Cabinet to put an immediate end to the consultation around the future of Great Coates and Scartho nurseries, and the Reynolds Day Care facilities.  The settings would therefore remain open as normal with parents encouraged to enrol for the new term in September.  The council would now take time to work with staff, governors, and parents to try to ensure that these nurseries became sustainable from both an occupancy and financial viewpoint.  The Leader made clear that the way in which this process was set in train was totally unacceptable, with Cabinet unaware that letters had been sent starting a consultation around potential closures of the three settings.  Therefore, as Leader of the Council, he had instigated an independent external review as to how this situation arose, and to ensure lessons were learned. 

The Leader reported that, following Ofsted’s last monitoring visit, positive feedback had been received from inspectors in respect of the integrated front door and other related matters but there remained a long way to go.  Our Improvement Plan had two clear areas of priority – to improve outcomes for children and to build a stable and resilient workforce in children’s social care.  The council continued to work effectively with both Lincolnshire County Council, as our sector led improvement partner, and our Commissioner.  The challenges in children’s social care were not unique to this authority but our financial challenges were particularly acute, and it was imperative that more was done to control and reduce expenditure in children’s services as well as making sure that money spent delivered positive outcomes for our children and families.

On health and care integration, work continued with the Humber and North Yorkshire Integrated Care Board to support the further development of our place based integrated health and care arrangements in North East Lincolnshire.  Our recent Corporate Peer Challenge referred to our national best practice in this field and it was important to build on that.  Our good performance, for example, in key areas such as hospital discharge was a result of our well-established integrated model.

The Leader turned to positive developments around levelling up, business, industry and regeneration.  The council was fully engaged with the Government regarding a possible Greater Lincolnshire devolution deal.  This work would continue over the summer and no major decisions would be taken without formal Cabinet consideration and Full Council involvement.  However, it was essential that collaboration around the Humber continued where it was in our mutual interest.  The Humber Freeport, officially up and running since earlier this month, was an example of private and public sector partners working successfully together around the Estuary, with three clear workstreams – decarbonisation, skills and innovation.  The Leader reported on progress against each of those workstreams.

The Leader reported that three Grimsby firms had recently benefitted from over £5 million of UK Seafood Fund Infrastructure Scheme grant monies from DEFRA, which was a huge vote of confidence for our thriving seafood sector.  Fastnet Fish was awarded £1.2 million to increase cold store capability in their existing facility, New England Seafood International received £3.8 million to deliver a state-of-the-art processing facility in Grimsby and Seafish Processing Limited was awarded £315,000 to expand its processing facility. 

The Leader updated on progress since the purchase of Freshney Place shopping centre.  A performance report demonstrated increasing footfall, an increased centre occupancy rate and new lettings bettering the business plan. Together with the proposed NHS Community Diagnostic Centre in Baxtergate, there was also a potential exciting new letting; part of a national retail chain that would occupy the old WH Smith’s unit.  In the autumn, work on the ground would start on the repurposing of the western end of Freshney Place to deliver the new multiscreen cinema, leisure facilities and market and food hall.  The Leader noted that there was still much to do in Freshney Place, but the first year has been very positive. 

Just a stone’s throw away from Freshney Place, the long-abandoned St James House was being developed into a vibrant business hub named ‘The Hive.’  One of the six Towns Fund projects, this ambitious scheme would help breathe new life into the heart of Grimsby town centre, providing local and small businesses with state-of-the-art office accommodation and business event space and would significantly contribute to the town’s regeneration.  The redevelopment was expected to be completed by the end of 2024 but would be carried out in a phased approach, with floors being released for letting as soon as possible.

Another Towns Fund project, the refurbishment of Riverhead Square to provide an improved public meeting and events space, was progressing apace.  A third Towns Fund project was the redevelopment of brownfield land on Alexandra Dock.  This was identified for green urban housing in Grimsby’s Town Centre Masterplan.  Preliminary market consultation was currently underway to find a development partner to bring forward this regeneration project.

Finally, for Grimsby town centre, work had now begun on Grimsby’s much-anticipated Horizon Youth Zone, as construction staff moved on to the Garth Lane site in June.  The Horizon state-of-the-art youth centre was expected to open in early 2025 in the Grade II Listed West Haven Maltings buildings, which had been a derelict eyesore for many years.  It would provide thousands of young people with opportunities to engage in activities, and access support from skilled youth workers. 

The Leader added that Cleethorpes had not been forgotten and planning work continued for the delivery of the three Cleethorpes Masterplan projects for which £18.4 million of Levelling Up Funding was received earlier this year – Sea Road, Cleethorpes Market Place and Pier Gardens.

The Leader touched on the recent LGA Corporate Peer Challenge.  He clarified that this was not an inspection but a way to gain an external perspective and advice from experienced local government peers on five key strands of our activities.  The report was broadly positive and offered ten recommendations for areas of improvement, none of which came as a surprise.  The report and its recommendations were very positively received by Cabinet, and an associated action plan agreed.  Progress would be monitored.

With the passing of the 500th day of the appalling Ukraine war, the Leader updated Council on North East Lincolnshire’s involvement in the Ukrainian Refugee Scheme.  Currently North East Lincolnshire had 77 guests with 32 sponsors.  19 guests had left the area or country independently.  Two guests had been rematched to another area and three rematched into North East Lincolnshire.  Another two or three arrivals were imminently expected.  There were now 13 households privately renting and another four or five were awaiting being moved into a new development.  The Leader thanked all local residents and businesses who had offered their support.

The Leader concluded by noting that there were no special urgency decisions taken by Cabinet or portfolio holders since the last ordinary meeting of Council in March.  The tracking of Council actions update had been circulated to members.

NEL.26      PETITION FOR DEBATE – WATERWAYS

The Council received a petition for debate requesting that the Council play its part in helping to clean up and protect the Borough’s waterways.

Councillor Aisthorpe was invited to introduce the petition.  She noted that the petition had been signed by over a thousand people and sought to address the urgent issue over the dumping of sewage.  She highlighted that there had been a sewage pollution report today cautioning people against swimming in the water at Cleethorpes beach.  She felt that the issue compromised the tourism and economy of our area and she wished to advocate for stronger action.  She moved a motion calling for the Council to:

•     Ensure the Council’s Natural Assets Plan and the Local Plan support river and coastal recovery.

•     Embed river recovery in all strategic decision, budgets and approaches to decisions by the Council (particularly in planning, regeneration and economic policy).

•     Create an online portal on the Council website to update the public on the river and coastal recovery process.

•     Write to Anglian Water to request details of their plans to eradicate the practice of untreated sewage discharge to local rivers and coastal waters.

•     Work where possible with Anglian Water, the Environment Agency, Grimsby and Cleethorpes MPs, Coastal Partnerships, and other agencies, to combat threats to the quality of water in our local rivers and coastal waters.

Councillor McLean seconded the motion.

Following a debate, the motion was put to the vote and carried unanimously.

RESOLVED –

1.That this Council ensure that the Natural Assets Plan and the Local Plan support river and coastal recovery.

2. That this Council embed river recovery in all strategic decision, budgets and approaches to decisions by the Council (particularly in planning, regeneration and economic policy).

    3. That this Council create an online portal on its website to update the public on the river and coastal recovery process.

    4. That this Council write to Anglian Water to request details of their plans to eradicate the practice of untreated sewage discharge to local rivers and coastal waters.

    5. That this Council work where possible with Anglian Water, the Environment Agency, Grimsby and Cleethorpes MPs, Coastal Partnerships, and other agencies, to combat threats to the quality of water in our local rivers and coastal waters.

    NEL.27      AUDIT AND GOVERNANCE COMMITTEE ANNUAL REPORT 2022/23

    The Council received a report detailing the activities of the Audit and Governance Committee during the council year and setting out how it had discharged its responsibilities. This report was referred to Council by the Audit and Governance Committee at its meeting on 20th April, 2023

    The Mayor welcomed the independent Chair of the Audit and Governance Committee, Mr. Tim Render, to the meeting and invited him to introduce his report. Standing Orders were suspended for this purpose.

    Mr. Render thanked the Mayor and Members for an opportunity to present the annual report.  Mr Render drew Members’ attention to the challenges, as well as significant opportunities, faced by the council, all of which required appropriate governance and control arrangements to be in place.  He provided his annual reminder of how big a business the Council was, and one that became more complex by the year. The committee ensured that the rules set by the Council were followed, that it was protecting public assets, and had effective arrangements for managing resources and securing value for money. He was pleased to confirm that the committee could provide substantial assurance about those arrangements. That conclusion followed the work it had reviewed from internal and external audit, the specific exercises it had carried out in looking at treasury management, the council’s accounts, and its work monitoring and reviewing the governance effectiveness of partnerships.

    The committee’s work programme had been agreed and shared with scrutiny to ensure that our respective work was complementary and added to the effective functioning of the Authority. The committee had also assessed itself against the standards of effectiveness expected for Audit Committees. This had concluded that the committee was effective, but there were areas of its work where all the elements of good practice for committees may not have been demonstrated. Most of the improvements relate to how the committee was structured within the governance arrangements of the council.

    Mr Render summarised the work undertaken by the committee, as set out in the report, and made particular reference to the External Auditor’s opinion on the financial accounts.  This had again been a “clean” one, but it had not yet been possible for the audit to be completed due entirely to some national technical issues which had only recently been resolved.  He cautioned that, although there had been progress on the children’s social care improvement journey, the situation was such that the value for money judgement for 2022/23 was again likely to be qualified.  The Committee, sitting as the Audit Working Group, had devoted a whole meeting to reviewing the governance arrangements within and for Childrens’ Services and control arrangements would continue to be monitored.

    The committee had considered and accepted a recommendation from CIPFA that principal authorities include two independent members on audit committees, and not one as the committee had now. This would now be the subject of a proposal to Council.

    Mr Render thanked officers for their support of the committee’s work. He was, as ever, grateful to members of the Committee who continued to demonstrate enthusiasm in developing the audit function; and tenacity in following through issues. He was pleased to see that the membership of the committee had little changed for the current municipal year as continuity was so important to the specialised role that the committee had. He commended the report to Council.

    RESOLVED – That the Audit and Governance Committee annual report for 2022/23 be approved.

    NEL.28      BROADCASTING OF MEETINGS

    The Council received a report from the Monitoring Officer on the practicality and cost of the live broadcasting of full Council meetings.

    RESOLVED – That, in line with the recommendation of the Communities Scrutiny Panel, the introduction of an audio-visual system for the Council Chamber, Grimsby Town Hall initially, on the basis of one microphone per two members, be the preferred option to be taken forward by Cabinet, subject to the internal governance process as set out at paragraph 1.10 of the report now submitted.

    NEL.29      STANDING ORDER AMENDMENT

    The Council considered a report from the Monitoring Officer setting out a proposed amendment to the Council’s Standing Orders.  The recommendations in this report were considered by the Standards and Adjudication Committee at its meeting on 26th July 2023 and its draft minutes were circulated at this meeting.

    RESOLVED –

    1. That the proposed amendments to the Council’s Standing Orders, as set out in paragraph 1.2 of this report, be approved subject to the wording for the change to Standing Order 11.1 being amended to read that the deadline (six working days excluding the day of receipt and day of the meeting) would be 11.59 pm on the Tuesday of the previous week if the meeting was on a Thursday.
    2. That Standing Order 10.4 be amended to state that responses to questions asked by Members should be answered fully, in a manner that was non-vexatious, non-frivolous or not derogatory to the dignity of the Council.

    Note – Councillor Freeston left the meeting at this point.

    NEL.30      NOTICE OF MOTION

    To consider a Notice of Motion, to be proposed by Councillor Holland and seconded by Councillor Henderson, submitted in accordance with the Council’s Standing Orders as set out below:

    The budget originally set for Children’s Services and Lifelong Learning for the financial year 2022/23 was £36.5 million. The provisional outturn figures for the year show that actual spend was £66.5 million, some £30million above the original estimate. Despite various measures being put in place to attempt to bring costs down, there was actually a large increase in costs over the previous year.

    The budget envelope set for Children’s Services for the current financial year is £46.9 million. Whilst it is hoped that this budget can be adhered to, it is almost £20 million less than was spent last year and there is still a situation of high inflationary pressures. It is almost inevitable that the budget will need to be increased.

    Attention of members to the Financial Regulations of the Constitution with respect to the transfer of budgets and the virement process.

    This Council confirms that any increase in the Children’s Services Budget of more than £350,000 that will be funded by transfer from another budget or from Council reserves will require pre-approval from the Cabinet in accordance with the approved virement procedure. Such pre-approval will be formally recorded in the minutes of the relevant monthly Cabinet Meeting.

    Arising from the debate on the motion, Councillor Mickleburgh proposed an amendment to remove erroneous figures quoted in the motion.  This was seconded by Councillor Goodwin.

    Following a debate, the amendment was put to the vote.  A recorded vote was held in accordance with the requirements of the Council’s Standing Orders.  The votes cast were recorded as follows:

    For the Amendment:

    Councillors Aisthorpe, Beasant, Downes, Farren, Goodwin, Henderson, Holland, McLean, Mickleburgh, Morland, Patrick, Shutt and Wilson (13 votes).

    Against the Amendment:

    Councillors Astbury, Batson, Boyd, Brasted, Cairns, Cracknell, Croft, Dawkins, Harness, Hasthorpe, Jackson, Lindley, Parkinson, Pettigrew, Reynolds, Shreeve, Silvester, Smith, K. Swinburn, S. Swinburn and Westcott (21 votes).

    The amendment was therefore lost.  Following further debate, the original motion was put to the vote.  A recorded vote was held in accordance with the requirements of the Council’s Standing Orders.  The votes cast were recorded as follows:

    For the Amendment:

    Councillors Aisthorpe, Beasant, Downes, Farren, Goodwin, Henderson, Holland, McLean, Mickleburgh, Morland, Patrick, Shutt and Wilson (13 votes).

    Against the Amendment:

    Councillors Astbury, Batson, Boyd, Brasted, Cairns, Cracknell, Croft, Dawkins, Harness, Hasthorpe, Jackson, Lindley, Parkinson, Pettigrew, Reynolds, Shreeve, Silvester, Smith, K. Swinburn, S. Swinburn and Westcott (21 votes).

    The motion was declared lost.

    NEL.31      QUESTIONS ON NOTICE

    The Chair invited Councillor Farren to present the following question to the Leader of the Council, the question having been submitted on notice in accordance with Council’s Standing Orders.

    Reflecting on the Nursery Consultation, please can you clarify the role of a councillor and what is expected of a councillor to support their stakeholders and their residents?”

    Councillor Jackson, the Leader of the Council responded that Article 2 in Part 2 of the Council’s Constitution explained the role of elected members. He also referred Councillor Farren to the Protocol for Member and Officer Relations within Part 3 of the Constitution.  Section 4 of that document addressed the role of members.

    In a supplementary question, Councillor Farren asked whether Councillor Jackson would agree that extracts she read from the Council’s Constitution would provide clear guidance to assist ward councillors in their practice when representing residents and stakeholders during consultations.

    Councillor Jackson agreed.

    The Chair invited Councillor Holland to present the following question to the Leader of the Council, the question having been submitted on notice in accordance with Council’s Standing Orders.

    Throughout the scrutiny and consultation period running up to the Full Council meeting held on February 23rd of this year including the two budget scrutiny sessions, the Medium-Term Financial Plan was based on a forecast increase of council tax of 2.98% for this financial year. This was the figure recommended to Council by Cabinet at their meeting of 22nd February, the day before the full council budget meeting.  On the day of the budget meeting of Full Council, however, the cabinet had apparently undergone a very rapid change of direction and now recommended a rise in council tax of 1.98%, that is a full 1% less than that recommended just 24 hours earlier.

    Could the Council Leader inform members as to what information, if any, had been received and considered by Cabinet after their meeting of 22nd February to trigger such a change in direction at such late notice?  This change resulted in the unedifying spectacle of the Section 151 Officer needing to read out a verbal Section 25 statement, giving no time for members to properly digest the information and consider the long-term budget implications.

    Councillor Jackson responded by firstly challenging the statement “the unedifying spectacle of the Section 151 Officer needing to read out a verbal Section 25 statement.”  The Section 151 officer provided clear and unequivocal advice to Cabinet prior to the Full Council meeting and to all members at the meeting itself.  That was one of the Section 151 Officer’s key responsibilities.   Councillor Jackson noted that the decision to levy a 1.98% council tax increase rather than 2.98% was as a result of feedback from the residents of North East Lincolnshire about cost of living pressures.  Certainly, members of his Group received numerous requests from their electors for the Council to levy a lower council tax and he suspected that Cllr Holland had received similar requests.  The Conservative Group responded by trying to help residents.  There was a full and transparent debate at the Full Council meeting before the decision was taken.

    In a supplementary question, Councillor Holland referred to a Liberal Democrat election leaflet that had been criticised for using the same Council Tax figure as that agreed by Cabinet and asked for an assurance that the only factor considered in the council tax setting process was the financial wellbeing of the Borough and not party politics.

    Councillor Jackson provided such an assurance.

    The Chair invited Councillor Holland to present the following question to Councillor Harness, Portfolio Holder for Finance, Resources and Assets, the question having been submitted on notice in accordance with Council’s Standing Orders.

    The recently received Corporate Peer Challenge Feedback Report on page 22 said this:

    ‘The 2023/24 budget is balanced, but it is not without risk. There is significant reliance on one-off funding; for example, the flexible use of capital receipts arising from the disposal of £4.6m of surplus assets and investment properties; using reserves; and the consequences of the decision to keep council tax increases low. It is not entirely clear whether members fully understand the consequences of keeping council tax increases to low levels on the longer-term council tax base and the long- term budget of the council.’

    It is assumed that council officers provided robust advice to Cabinet with respect to the risk of keeping the council tax increase low prior to the decision made to reduce the Council Tax increase from 2.98% to 1.98%. Could the portfolio holder kindly inform members as to whether Cabinet fully understood the risk of reducing revenue stream at a time when the finances are extremely fragile.

    Councillor Harness, Portfolio Holder for Finance, Resources and Assets responded that they did understand the risk.

    In a supplementary question, Councillor Holland enquired why the 1.98% increase could not have been put on the table much earlier in the process to allow proper scrutiny and avoid the resulting criticism within the Corporate Peer Review report.

    Councillor Harness disagreed with the direction of the question.  There had been numerus meetings and advice from officers.  He reiterated the environment in which the decision was taken, including the war in Ukraine, double digit inflation, rising energy costs and petrol prices.  The administration simply wanted to try to give something back.

    The Chair invited Councillor Patrick to present the following question to Councillor Harness Portfolio Holder for Finance, Resources and Assets, the question having been submitted on notice in accordance with Council’s Standing Orders.

    “Can the portfolio holder remind Council of the good news that was reported last week locally with regards to Freshney Place? “

    Councillor Harness, Portfolio Holder for Finance, Resources and Assets responded that there was good news that footfall had increased, a number of lease transactions had been completed, arrears amounting to over £180k dating from prior to the purchase by the council had been collected, occupancy rates were doing exceptionally well, the local hospital trust had secured funding to open a community diagnostic centre within Freshney Place and there was also news of an exciting potential new letting.

    In a supplementary question, Councillor Patrick asked, given the food on offer in the centre, whether the portfolio holder had sold this Council a pork pie.

    Councillor Harness responded that he had not.

    The Chair invited Councillor Patrick to present the following question to Councillor S. Swinburn, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Transport, the question having been submitted on notice in accordance with Council’s Standing Orders.

    “Would the portfolio holder agree with me that the council has an unwavering duty to replace the damaged lion statue at the entrance to Weelsby Woods? “

    Councillor S. Swinburn, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Transport responded that he wouldn’t agree that the council had an unwavering duty to replace the statue.  The council had no statutory duty to provide sculptures and art in public places.  The council had limited funding to maintain open space features and if it were to choose to spend funding on such discretionary items it would be mean less being spent on other key features such as benches, fences and playgrounds.

    In a supplementary question, Councillor Patrick asked whether the portfolio holder would accept an invitation to meet with the Friends of Weelsby Woods to explain his position on this.

    Councillor Swinburn responded that he was happy to meet with any community group.  He reminded Councillor Patrick that this particular incident was the result of a road traffic accident and there was the possibility of financial reimbursement from insurers.

    The Chair invited Councillor Patrick to present the following question to Councillor Hayden Dawkins, Portfolio Holder for Culture, Heritage and the Visitor Economy, the question having been submitted on notice in accordance with Council’s Standing Order.

    “Does the portfolio holder share my congratulations to the organisers of Grimsby and Cleethorpes pride on another successful event and wish them every luck in the future?”

    Councillor Dawkins responded that he did share his congratulations.

    In a supplementary question, Councillor Patrick asked whether the portfolio holder could clarify whether any member of the Conservative Group was in attendance.

    Councillor Dawkins responded that he had attended a number of events in the five weeks that he had been in his role but family illness had prevented his attendance.  He could not speak for other members of the Conservative Group.

    The Chair invited Councillor Patrick to present the following question to Councillor Silvester, Chair of the Children and Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Panel the question having been submitted on notice in accordance with Council’s Standing Orders.

    “Was the Chair aware that a member of the public attempted to ask a question to the portfolio holder at the recent meeting of his scrutiny panel before the member of the public was told that their question had been refused?”

    Councillor Silvester responded that he wasn’t but he was not responsible for managing the submission of questions for scrutiny.  Having checked with Democratic Services, he confirmed that no questions were refused for the panel meeting in question.

    In a supplementary question, Councillor Patrick asked whether the Chair agreed with his view point that any question submitted should be ruled out of order only by himself, in consultation with relevant officers.

    Councillor Silvester responded that he was confident that correct democratic processes were being followed at all times.

    The Chair invited Councillor Henderson to present the following question to Councillor Shreeve, Portfolio Holder for Health, Wellbeing and Adult Social Care, the question having been submitted on notice in accordance with Council’s Standing Orders.

    “A key issue for the council is its capacity, which in part relates to its stated priorities. Within the organisation there is a view that capacity is stretched, not aided by the feeling that everything is a priority. People struggle to describe what is of lesser importance or that the council has stopped doing or is delivering in a different way. There are also concerns for the health and wellbeing of many employees from frontline staff through to senior managers.   As the Portfolio Holder for Health, Wellbeing and Adult Social Care, could the Portfolio Holder indicate what is being done to address these very worrying concerns regarding the health and wellbeing of council staff? It is, after all, difficult to address the wider needs of the Borough if our own staff are struggling.”

    Councillor Shreeve responded that the administration was sensitve to the pressures that our staff were under and there was a comprehensive suite of support available to staff and managers, including two dedicated wellbeing officers who offer one to one support to anyone struggling with any aspect of their wellbeing, work with small groups to identify issues, proactively work with colleagues where spikes of absence in relation to wellbeing were noticed and triage directly to local counsellors for specialist support.  Able Futures provide up to nine months support for mental health associated issues by developing and working on a dedicated individual action plan. There was a North East Lincolnshire Council toolkit for managers on how to respond to wellbeing issues seen in the workplace.  There were also Learn NEL modules around self-help and development.  The Humber and North Yorkshire Staff Resilience Hub was funded and supported by the NHS and provided access to online resources and webinars as well as specialist support.  There was an in house occupational health provision and a health and safety team that proactively develop campaigns and advise on stress, mental health and wellbeing procedures as well as referring for physiotherapy.  The Leader and himself did regularly attend consultative committee meetings with trade unions when staffing issues were discussed.  As a member of the Integrated Care Board he noted that a great deal of time was spent within the NHS on this very matter and they had an incredible suite of programmes designed to support staff.

    In a supplementary question, Councillor Henderson enquired whether the portfolio holder would join him in calling for a benchmark of staff views on their roles and workloads to enable us to properly understand the issues being faced.

    Councillor Shreeve felt that he had laid out a comprehensive suite of available resources and he felt that this was doing its job.

    The Chair invited Councillor Henderson to present the following question to the Councillor S. Swinburn, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Transport,the question having been submitted on notice in accordance with Council’s Standing Orders.

    “The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove was quoted in the press at the weekend as saying, “We’re the party that wants to make sure that you have a liveable, walkable regeneration in our cities, which is where those who are aspiring to get on the housing ladder will want to be in many cases. By contrast, Labour is the party of suburban sprawl who want to devour the greenbelt”.  As we currently work through the review of the Local Plan, would the Portfolio Holder agree that suburban sprawl which devours our green spaces is a bad thing which should be avoided?”

    Councillor S. Swinburn responded that the development of the Local Plan was a prescribed process that collected views on how we best cater for housing and other growth needs for the future in a controlled and strategic way.

    In a supplementary question, Councillor Henderson asked if the portfolio holder agreed that we were now at the point were we no longer needed to build houses on the edge of town and town centre building projects were a better blueprint for meeting people’s needs.

    Councillor Swinburn responded that he trusted the Local Plan process, and all sites would be carefully considered in order to provide the best balance between housing growth and preserving green field land.  He added that it was important that all Members made their voices heard during this process.

    The Chair invited Councillor Morland to present the following question to Councillor Cracknell, Portfolio Holder for Children and Education, the question having been submitted on notice in accordance with Council’s Standing Orders.

    “As portfolio holder would you clarify whether it was yourself or an officer who communicated to the press the closure of three nurseries in North East Lincolnshire?”

    Councillor Cracknell, Portfolio Holder for Children and Education, responded that it was neither because at no point was it communicated by the council that these settings were going to close. She added that in all of our communication to the press, we had made it clear that we were consulting on proposals to close these settings.   She emphasised the word consulting.

    In a supplementary question, Councillor Morland asked whether the portfolio holder agreed that the community deserved better as we were supposed to be developing provision rather than closing them.

    Councillor Cracknell agreed that it had been a challenging position and that was why the Leader had commissioned an independent review of the consultation process on this matter.

    NEL.32      MINUTES OF THE CABINET AND COMMITTEES OF THE COUNCIL

    The Council received the minutes of decisions taken under delegated powers at the following meetings:

    • Cabinet – 8th March 5th April and 14th June 2023
    • Portfolio Holder Environment and Transport – 3rd April and 19th June 2023
    • Scrutiny Panel Children and Lifelong Learning – 9th March 2023
    • Scrutiny Panel Communities – 23rd February 2023
    • Scrutiny Panel Economy – 28th February 2023
    • Scrutiny Panel Health and Adult Social Care – 22nd March
    • Scrutiny Panel Tourism and Visitor Economy – 16th March 2023
    • Joint Meeting of the Communities Scrutiny Panel and the Economy Scrutiny Panel – 2nd March 2023
    • Place Board (operating as the Health and Wellbeing Board – 20th February 2023
    • Audit and Governance Committee – 20th April 2023
    • Planning Committee – 1st March, 29th March and 26th April 2023
    • Licensing and Community Protection Committee – 7th March and 20th June 2023
    • Licensing Sub Committee – 9th February 14th February and 9th March 2023
    • Appointments Committee – 22nd June 2023

    RESOLVED –

    That the minutes of the following meetings of Cabinet and the Committees of the Council be approved and adopted:

    • Cabinet – 8th March 5th April and 14th June 2023
    • Portfolio Holder Environment and Transport – 3rd April and 19th June 2023
    • Scrutiny Panel Children and Lifelong Learning – 9th March 2023
    • Scrutiny Panel Communities – 23rd February 2023
    • Scrutiny Panel Economy – 28th February 2023
    • Scrutiny Panel Health and Adult Social Care – 22nd March
    • Scrutiny Panel Tourism and Visitor Economy – 16th March 2023
    • Joint Meeting of the Communities Scrutiny Panel and the Economy Scrutiny Panel – 2nd March 2023
    • Place Board (operating as the Health and Wellbeing Board – 20th February 2023
    • Audit and Governance Committee – 20th April 2023
    • Planning Committee – 1st March, 29th March and 26th April 2023
    • Licensing and Community Protection Committee – 7th March and 20th June 2023
    • Licensing Sub Committee – 9th February 14th February and 9th March 2023
    • Appointments Committee – 22nd June 2023

    There being no further business, the Mayor declared the meeting closed at 9.38 p.m.