Venue: Council Chamber, Municipal Buildings, West Street, Boston, PE21 8QR
Contact: Lorraine Bush, Democratic Services Manager Telephone 01205 314224 e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
To sign and confirm the minutes of the last meeting, held on 21st January 2019.
The minutes of the meeting of the Council held on 21 January 2019 were taken as read and signed by the Mayor as a correct record.
To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Viven Edge and Elizabeth Ransome
To receive communications (if any) from the Mayor and the Chief Executive
The Chief Executive reminded Members that, in accordance with the Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2014, all votes on the council tax and budget setting report would be taken as recorded votes.
The Mayor announced that, in accordance with present arrangements for the selection of Mayor, Councillor Anton Dani had agreed to serve as Mayor for the municipal year 2019/20, subject to being re-elected in May 2019.
DEPUTATIONS AND PETITIONS
To receive deputations or petitions (if any) pursuant to Rules 12 and 13 of the Council’s Rules of Procedure
The Chief Executive reported there were no deputations or petitions.
QUESTIONS FROM ELECTED MEMBERS
To answer questions (if any) from elected members pursuant to Rule 11 of the Council’s Rules of Procedure
The Chief Executive reported there were questions from Councillor Sue Ransome and Councillor Alison Austin.
Question asked by Councillor Sue Ransome pursuant to paragraph 11 of the Rules of Procedure as set out in the Constitution.
I would like to ask you a question relevant to your portfolio of Development Control.
At the time of the sale of the Boston Assembly Rooms by the Boston Borough Council to a private buyer in November 2012, were any conditions applied to the sale agreement regarding the upkeep and appearance of the building which can be enforced, or can any enforcement action be taken in respect of listed building requirements to oblige the current owners to improve the appalling state of the exterior decoration of this iconic town centre building?”
Response by Councillor Michael Cooper
“I thank Councillor Ransome for notice of her question.
Like me I’m sure that many Councillors will share some of your concerns about the appearance of this prestigious Grade 2* listed building.
Officers of the Council have over the years been in regular communication with the owners regarding the general appearance. In fairness there has been some minor progress on occasion.
In so far as regulatory or enforcement powers are concerned, the point at which the council can intervene has to be made on a judgement in considering the potential for success in any legal or enforcement action that we may choose to take.
We do seek professional opinion balanced as is necessary with the likelihood of successful action. In this particular case where it involves a heritage asset (a listed building) we can progress if the building is in disrepair. Unfortunately disrepair is a subjective matter and we have to be confident that there is real harm to the asset.
However the degree of 'harm' caused to the building itself and the detriment to the amenity of the area generally must be considered as to their significance. Following inspection we have determined that there are small amounts of vegetation emanating from the fabric of the building and the general decor of the building shows signs of ageing and there is also a broken window.
Overall however, it is not considered that the building is so poorly maintained or of such poor appearance that could warrant formal enforcement action by the Council. The state of this building is similar to other large buildings in the town where there is a need for minor investment but not to the extent that the Council can seek to enforce the owners to carry out works.
All of this said the information retained on completion of the sale of the Assembly Rooms includes a reference to paint all external parts of the property including windows frames and door frames and facia boards in good quality paint and thereafter to paint the same as often as is considered necessary ....but in any event not less than every five (5) years. The first redecoration completed after the sale took place so ... view the full minutes text for item 43.
QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC
To answer questions (if any) from members of the public pursuant to Rule 10 of the Council’s Rules of Procedure
The Chief Executive reported there was a question from Mr. Neill Hastie.
Question from Mr. Neill Hastie pursuant to paragraph 10 of the Rules of Procedure as set out in the Constitution.
“As portfolio holder for Boston can you tell me if Boston Borough Council has a realistic plan to revitalise the town centre and market with the intention to attract more businesses to the area, and what that plan would involve please?”
Response by Councillor Nigel Welton
“I thank Mr. Hastie for notice of his question.
Mr. Hastie will be aware that the Council, with the support of BTAC and our partners, continues to work hard to invest and support our wonderful town.
Despite the challenging financial circumstances there has been increased investment in events, additional town centre officers to support cleaning and improvement works as well as sustaining and retaining the facilities we enjoy.
Our partners such as the Boston in Bloom committee year on year achieve excellent standards, there is the recently announced multi-million Townscape Heritage Initiative attracting huge investment in the town, the continued freeze on parking charges remains despite the growing requirement to maximise fees income to maintain services, there is new street furniture and litter bins, a greater focus on tourism and support to our friends at St Botolphs and others.
Being shortlisted for a national award for our innovative ground breaking environmental and enforcement practices is a huge national recognition of Boston’s achievements and commitment. I could go on and on and on.
All of this said we all know and recognise that the retail environment is a challenging one and I’m sure Mr Hastie will recall my detailed response to Councillor Dani at the previous Council meeting following his question, which was very similar to this.
Boston town centre is the hub of enterprise where small businesses grow and local jobs are created, but as consumer patterns change as spending increasingly moves online, our expectations of high streets are changing too.
At the last meeting I called upon all of Boston to support our collective desire for a successful application to the Government’s High Streets fund to enhance Boston’s ability to bring about that transformative change. I am determined that Boston unites with a collective and constructive commitment to make our town as good as it can be within the statutory and financial parameters within which we all have to operate.”
Supplemental question asked by Mr. Hastie pursuant to paragraph 10.8 of the Rules of Procedure as set out in the Constitution:-
“Thank you for the in depth response, most of which I agree with. It is difficult to challenge the internet, but why doesn’t Boston go the other way and attract retailers whose products aren’t suitable for the internet to set up in Boston. The town centre needs to be revitalised, how are you going to promote the town to attract visitors and retailers and address their concerns?
Response by Councillor Nigel Welton
“Yesterday we held a Future of the High ... view the full minutes text for item 44.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
To receive declarations by Members of any interests in respect of items on the agenda
No declarations of interest were made.
(To receive the confirmed minutes of the meeting of the Audit and Governance Committee held on 10 December 2018)
Councillor Jonathan Noble introduced the confirmed minutes of the Audit and Governance Committee held on 10 December 2018 highlighting the key matters considered by the Committee.
It was moved by Councillor Jonathan Noble, seconded by Councillor James Edwards and
(Report by the Chief Finance Officer)
Portfolio Holder: Councillor Aaron Spencer
Councillor Aaron Spencer introduced a report by the Chief Finance Officer which outlined the 2019/20 revenue and capital position for the General Fund and the proposals for the setting of discretionary fees and charges.
The Local Government Act 2003 introduced a requirement for the Chief Financial Officer to report on the robustness of the budget. The estimates had been prepared in a prudent manner, although it was highlighted that there were a number of elements outside of the Council’s control. These had been identified within the report and would be mitigated through the budget monitoring and risk management processes of the Council.
Having taken advantage of the Government’s four-year settlement announcement, the final year of which was 2019/20, the Council was entering the period beyond that in a reasonable position taking into account the new financial regime from 2020/21 following the upcoming Fairer Funding Review, the proposed introduction of 75% localisation of business rates and the revised funding formula, although the recent closure of one of the largest local businesses highlighted the difficulties facing the economy.
Whilst the recent Budget had set out the Government’s overall public sector spending figure for the coming years, the 2019 Spending Review would allocate resources between government departments, providing councils with a better understanding of the likely resources available in the medium term. The changes meant that there would be additional risks to future funding levels which would require careful management. Therefore, the financial position modelled in the report on a current basis, could result in a rather different position by the end of the forecast period. The new Council to be elected in May 2019 would need to be clear about its priorities and make resource allocation decisions accordingly.
It was noted that there were significant areas of uncertainty in the coming years, including the impacts of the Brexit process, local government funding changes, and the 2017 Business Rate revaluation outcomes locally. The Council had robust risk management processes in place and, alongside the quarterly performance reporting, would update the likely future impacts as the situation became clearer.
In developing the Council’s budget proposals for 2019/20, it had managed inflationary pressures on operational costs and pressures on some areas of income collection. Areas where net budget reductions had been delivered to produce a balanced budget included Leisure Services and Planning.
In order to deliver a balanced budget beyond 2019/20 and develop proposals for a secure medium term financial position the Council would seek innovative opportunities to achieve the annual budget reductions required without adversely affecting service delivery or compromising on its priorities. Reports would be presented for deliberation and approval as projects were worked up, which would mean a refresh of the Transformation Programme once the future funding position became clearer.
The following key proposals contained within the budget report were noted by Council as part of the introduction: -
· A rise in Council Tax of just below 3% with Band D council tax being £189.09;