On Wednesday night PitsnPots were in attendance of the borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme Full Council Meeting.
In accordance with tradition Mayor Ann Heames entered the Chamber with all councillors and guests upstanding. After prayers the Mayor called the council to business.
The Mayor asked for the minutes of the previous full council meeting on 19th May 2010 to be approved.
This was agreed.
Mayor’s Announcements (none)
Consideration of the Treasury Management Annual Report 2009/10
Cllr Helen Morris (Con) called for it to be received.
Cllr Nigel Jones (Lib Dem) questioned if there would be any changes made due to new government.
Cllr Helen Morris (Con) assured the council that she was confident no changes will need to be made.
The report is approved.
At this point, the Liberal Democrats presented a motion to the Council with regards to new legislation in the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 which requires all councils operating executive arrangement to opt for a new leadership model. Local authorities now have to choose between one of two models of governance:
“¢ A directly elected mayor with a four-year term who then appoints the executive or
“¢ An indirectly elected leader, appointed for a four year term by the council, who then appoints councillors to the executive
The Liberal Democrat motion insisted both proposals were “Ëœun-democratic in that they place too much power in one person’. Cllr David Beckett (Lib Dem) presented this motion arguing that the proposals are not only un-democratic but also expensive. He drew attention to the failure of an Elected Mayor and Council Manager in Stoke-on-Trent to support his point. He suggested that a consultation article should be prepared for the Reporter (council newspaper) which will included a summary of the current system and will ask residents for responses in favour of one or the other proposals or in rejection of both.
Council Leader Simon Tagg (Con) then seconded this. Several other councillors from all parties also spoke out in agreement for example Cllr Andrew Fear (Con) said that the concentration of power in fewer hands leads to bad decision making and Cllr Robin Studd (Lib Dem) said it needs to be strongly argued against and again pointed to the failure of the system in Stoke which he called “Ëœour dysfunctional neighbour’.
The motion was put forward and agreed.
Statement of the Leader of the Council to Full Council received
Firstly, Cllr Gareth Snell (Lab) asked the council leader if the Reporter would be kept when the Conservative government had spoken out against council newspapers and deemed them too costly.
Council leader Simon Tagg (Con) insisted that the council had made savings in other areas, however, if guidance came from the government that council newspapers are not needed he said “Ëœit will be scrapped’. Although he also pointed out that Staffordshire Moorlands had previously stopped their newspaper and are now in the process of reinstating it.
At this point, Chief Executive Mark Barrow pointed out the success of the communication of Newcastle Borough Council nationally.
Secondly, Cllr John Williams (Lab) drew the council’s attention to the new Drivers and Vehicles Licensing Agency wheel clamping removal powers and asked if a person was to report a vehicle would this be confidential?
The council executive management team assured the council that in this case, and many others, the council has the ability to protect members of the public and names would not need to be given unless they were required by law.
Thirdly, Labour leader Eddie Bowden questioned the financial situation of the new Health and Wellbeing Centre as well as its popularity when free swimming is stopped for senior citizens.
Cllr Wenslie Naylon (Lib Dem) assured the council that the financial situation looked promising and that the centre was “Ëœmore than just swimming’ and would therefore bring in revenue from other activities. In addition, Chief Executive Mark barrow informed the council that the business plan did not take into account free swimming and was robustly tested.
Cllr Mick Clarke (Lab) then asked what steps were in place to ensure the project does not overrun in terms of time and budget.
Executive Director of Regeneration and Development Neale Clifton said he was confident that the centre would be on budget and on time. He informed the council that the cost is estimated at £12.2 million which is significantly less than the £14 million budget.
Cllr Gareth Snell then brought the councils attention to the Chesterton swimming facilities which are now run by the school and questioned how these swimmers are going to be attracted back?
In response Chief Executive Mark Barrow insisted the Chesterton facilities were never factored in and also that swimmers may still be using the facilities at Chesterton they are just now run by the school. Moreover, Cllr Wenslie Naylon (Lib Dem) assured Cllr Gareth Snell that the new centre will be “Ëœan absolute star’ for the borough.
Cllr George Cairns (Lab) then spoke out in support of the new centre, however, he also brought Cllr Wenslie Naylon’s attention to the Knutton Recreation Centre which is being closed.
In reply, Cllr Wenslie Naylon suggested the public may use the college facilities instead. However, Cllr George Cairns informed the council that the public was unable to do so as it was booked until late at night by semi-professional sports teams.
Cllr Derrick Huckfield (UKIP) then spoke out in support of the Knutton Recreation Centre asserting that it has “Ëœmassive demand’ and that it should remain.
To conclude this point, Labour leader Eddie Bowen that voiced his support the Health and Wellbeing Centre.
Fourthly, Cllr Nigel Jones (Lib Dem) then highlighted the council’s decision to pull out of the North Staffs regeneration plan as well as the impression given, particularly by The Sentinel, that Newcastle Borough Council does not want to be associated with Stoke. He asked for clarification on this and asserted that he thought it “Ëœfoolish to go it alone’.
In response, Council leader Simon Tagg (Con) said that some articles in The Sentinel perhaps border on sensationalism and that the council engages in “Ëœhigh level collaboration with all councils in this area.’
The Mayor then asked for verbal reports from the Chairs of the Overview and Scrutiny Committees.
Several of the committees were yet to meet this municipal year. However, several Chairs raised some points. (UKIP) Cllr John Williams (Lab) Chair of the Cleaner, Greener and Safer Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee raised several points relating to Aspire housing and youth provisions. Cllr Christian Barber (Con) Chair of the Economic Development and Enterprise Overview and Scrutiny Committee insisted on the importance of the regeneration of Newcastle town, Kidsgrove and Audley. Cllr Eileen Braithwaite (UKIP) also questioned the usage and availability of blue badges.
Consideration of the reports of the various Committees (none)
The Mayor asked for any petitions to be presented (none)
Consideration of any communications which of an urgent nature
The last item was a celebratory one as Council leader Simon Tagg (Con) presented a motion to recognise the achievement of Newcastle Town during the 2009/10 season (particularly after England’s defeat to Germany on Sunday) and to wish them good luck in their next season. If agreed he wishes a letter wishing the team all the best to be presented to the team during an awards evening on Friday 2nd July by the Mayor Ann Heames.
Several councillors spoke out in support of this. Cllr Andrew Fear (Con) said that what Newcastle Town had achieved was remarkable and the council should very much send a message of congratulations. Furthermore, Labour leader Eddie Bowden expressed his agreement as he has been a supporter of Newcastle Town for many years. In addition, Cllr George Cairns (Lab) commended Newcastle Town and expressed his support for any letter.
The motion was carried.
PitsnPots would like to thank Simone Bridgewater and all at Newcastle-under-Lyme Press Office for their kind assistance in helping us to bring you this report.