Venue: Council Chamber, Penns Place, Petersfield, GU31 4EX
Contact: Penny Milne Democratic Services Team Leader - 023 9244 6234
The Chairman opened the meeting with a short prayer.
To receive any reports the Chairman wishes to make.
There were no matters the Chairman wished to report.
Apologies for Absence
To receive and record any apologies for absence.
Apologies were received from Councillors J Abdey, R Ayer, A Carew, N Noble, A Waterhouse and N Wren.
Declarations of Interest
To receive and record any declarations of interest.
There were no declarations of interest.
Confirmation of Previous Minutes
To confirm the minutes of the meeting of the Council held on 17 January 2019.
The minutes of the meeting held on 17 January 2019 were agreed and signed as a correct record.
To deal with any public questions notified at least two clear working days before the meeting and in accordance with the Council’s protocol for public questions.
The Council received the following Questions from Mr Trevor Maroney under Standing Order 13.4(e) and members of the Cabinet provided responses:
1. It has been the Council’s clearly stated aim to reduce Council Tax to zero. If it feels that it can afford to give away this sum (£1.5m for community and welfare grants) why isn’t this surplus being used to meet this key policy target?
Councillor Millard responded to confirm that reducing Council Tax to zero had never been a stated aim of the current administration.
2. Has a scoping study been done to identify the true size and extent of the problems, the total funding needed to address them in both the short and long-term and whether £1.5m is sufficient? If so, could I please have a copy?
Councillor Millard responded by explaining that the Council was very
aware of the key areas it needed to focus on. This was informed by
Council Insight Data, Hampshire County Council Data, Indices of
Deprivation and feedback from the community.
3. Having raised the community’s expectations, does the Council plan to give away £1.5m annually and dispense with reducing Council Tax to zero? If so, is the new plan sustainable?
Councillor Millard reiterated that reducing council tax to zero had never
been an intention of the current administration. The £1.5m in 2019/20 was
the beginning of a process and would be a phenomenal step forward in
improving residents’ lives. Longer term it was anticipated that this would evolve and grow to offer a sustainable way to best support the community.
The Leader commended the budget, which recognised the importance of welfare. He thanked the officer team for their work in producing the budget and their level of commercial acumen which had made the Council a leading authority.
As Portfolio Holder for Finance, Councillor Shepherd highlighted the journey that the Council had been on over the past five years to address the reduction in central Government grant funding whilst continuing to deliver both statutory and discretionary services, construct two new leisure centres and refurbish a third. This had all been achieved whilst either cutting or freezing council tax. Alternative ways to meet the funding gap had set an example to other councils and given EHDC the status of the best performing council in the country in terms of council tax precept.
The Council’s property strategy to invest £200m was building a portfolio with an average yield of around 6.5%, or 5% after interest. The Council had £30m in reserves which was also being used to generate investment income that was unencumbered by debt.
Despite the nil increase in Council Tax the budget would give pay and pension increases to staff, invest in new software and generate a surplus of £323k. This surplus would be rolled up into two new funds with other reserves to create a £1m Community Grant Fund and a £500k Welfare Fund to help support the most needy in the community.
He congratulated the members and officers for their efforts in setting the strategy and shaping the 2019/20 budget.
Report to follow under separate cover.
In accordance with the Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2014, a recorded vote will be taken on this item.
Councillors spoke in support of the budget, which had been rigorously challenged and would receive an unparalleled level of scrutiny going forward.
Councillors felt that the budget had been exceptionally well drafted and were pleased that two new funds would be established to help those in the community most in need.
Proposed by Councillor Millard and seconded by Councillor Shepherd, it was
RESOLVED that the Council
a) Approves the proposed Revenue and Capital Budgets for 2019/20 including a Council Tax rate of £131.11 at Band D, representing a 0% increase on the current charge;
b) Approves the budget proposals set out in section 5;
c) Agrees the Capital Strategy, Treasury Management Strategy and Prudential Indicators; and
d) Agrees the proposed fees and charges increases set out in Appendix I.
(The detailed Council Tax calculation is set out in the Annex to these minutes)
For the Motion:
Councillor D Ashcroft
Councillor B Bentley
Councillor E Brandt
Councillor K Budden
Councillor J Butler
Councillor K Carter
Councillor T Costigan
Councillor F Cowper
Councillor N Drew
Councillor D Evans
Councillor L Evans
Councillor A Glass
Councillor G Hill
Councillor D Brooks Jackson
Councillor M Johnson
Councillor A Joy
Councillor C Louisson
Councillor J Matthews
Councillor R Millard
Councillor R Mocatta
Councillor K Moon
Councillor B Mouland
Councillor A Muldoon
Councillor D Orme
Councillor Y Parker Smith
Councillor D Phillips
Councillor L Pienaar
Councillor S Pond
Councillor R Saunders
Councillor S Schillemore
Councillor G Shepherd
Councillor M Smith
Councillor R Standish
Councillor I Thomas
Councillor E Tickell
Councillor G Watts
Councillor A Williams
Against the Motion:
Councillor R Ayer
Councillor A Carew
Councillor N Noble
Councillor M Kendall
Councillor A Waterhouse
Councillor N Wren
Questions under Procedural Order 23.4(a)
To deal with any questions from Councillors received at least 48 hours before the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 23.4(a).
The Council received the following Questions from Cllr Robert Saunders under Standing Order 23.4(a) and Councillor Ingrid Thomas, as the relevant Portfolio Holder provided the responses as below:
1. Has the Council made any estimate as to the projected loss of income from such a proposal as set out in the petition?
Cllr Thomas confirmed that the Council had assessed the cost of waiving car park charges for the estimated 10 months of the closure, which would be a considerable amount. It was considered too soon to make any such decision as only three weeks of data was available on the effects on numbers of vehicles parking in the town.
The Council was carefully monitoring the usage of car parks each week. Interestingly for the week 29th January to the 4th February the numbers of cars parking were considerably down, only 6620 cars parked, but that had been the weekend of the snow.
The following week, 5th February to 11th February, 9151 cars had been parked in Alton and the following week 9167 cars had been parked against the 2018 average of 8287. This illustrated that just over this short period the number of cars parked was rising.
The figures showed that footfall had not been falling, except on the weekend of the snow.
2. Will the Council look at any other measures to support local high street businesses during this period of disruption e.g. free parking for one hour?
Councillor Thomas explained that the Council had a number of schemes which actively supported high street businesses and the Council also worked with Alton Town Council.
1) The Retail Improvement Grant Scheme was jointly run with Alton Town Council and accepted applications until the end of October. This scheme provided money to enhance shop fronts, help with staff training and improve the interiors of shops. Eight applications had been received and three had so far received money.
2) Small business rate relief was available, but had only been claimed by 194 of the 704 small businesses in Alton
3) As Winter was the ideal time to promote the town to travel journalists several recent and successful visits had been arranged.
4) EHDC had provided funds towards town wide wi-fi to assist with digital marketing and also to promote tourism.
5) The Council welcomed suggestions for schemes that could directly improve business for the whole district and understood the problems that the whole retail industry was currently facing nationwide.
In response to the second part of the question, 57 free half hour spaces were currently available in Alton either on the High Street or very close to it.
Questions under Procedural Order 23.4(b)
To deal with any urgent questions received in accordance with standing order 23.4(b).
There were no urgent questions under Standing Order 23.4(b).
To receive the minutes of the following Committees held since the last meeting of the Council:
Planning Committee – 10 January 2019
Extraordinary Cabinet – 17 January 2019
Licensing Sub-Committee – 2pm, 21 January 2019
Cabinet – 7 February 2019
RESOLVED that the minutes of Committees held since the last meeting of the Council were received.