Council Minutes

Council Minutes

Date:
Wednesday 9 January 2013
Time:
7:00 p.m.
Place:
Council Chamber, Town Hall, Middlesbrough
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Bloundele (Chair), R Mallon (The Mayor), Councillors Biswas, Brady, Brunton, Budd, Carr, Clark, Coppinger, Cox, Davison, Dryden, Hanif, Harvey, Hawthorne, C Hobson, J Hobson, Hubbard, Hudson, Hussain, Junier, P Khan, Loughborough, Lowes, McPartland, Michna, Morby, H Pearson, P Purvis, Rehman, Rostron, Saunders, J Sharrocks, P Sharrocks, Taylor, Thompson, J A Walker, N J Walker, Williams
Officers:
J Bennington, A Hoy, J Lewis, R G Long, G Rollings and P Slocombe.
Apologies for absence:
Arundale, Cole, Kerr, S Khan, Mawston, McIntyre, McTigue, G Purvis, Rooney and Sanderson
Declarations of interest:

There were no declarations of interest made at this point of the meeting.

Item Number Item/Resolution
PUBLIC
12/68 MINUTES - COUNCIL 5 AND 18 DECEMBER 2012

The Minutes of the meetings of Middlesbrough Council held on 5 and 18 December 2012 were submitted and approved as a correct record.

12/69 ANNOUNCEMENTS/COMMUNICATIONS

There were no announcements or communications.

12/70 MAYOR'S REPORT

In a report previously circulated and in a subsequent statement a copy of which would be issued to all Members of the Council the Mayor reported on the issue on whether the Government's provision of a Council Tax Freeze Grant should be accepted or not.

 

In his initial comments reference was made to the analysis of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Comprehensive Spending Review speech in October 2010 which indicated that the Authority would have to make savings of £15 million (2011/2012), £12 million (2012/2013), £12million (2013/2014) and £11 million (2014/2015).

 

As part of the overall background to the economic situation the Mayor referred to the likely consequences of excessive job losses in terms of the local economy and gave an indication of some of the factors impacting on the economic viability in a broader sense in terms of the UK.

 

The Mayor reaffirmed his acknowledgement of the need for the Government to deal with the overall deficit robustly but the rationale of the Government in relation to the proposed Council Tax freeze was not accepted. As previously stated the Mayor believed that the Government failed to understand the challenges facing communities such as Middlesbrough and elsewhere in the North East.

 

Specific reference was made to the Local Government Finance Settlement presented to Parliament on 19 December 2012 when it had been stated that the national average decrease of spending power for councils would be reduced by 1.7%. The Mayor questioned the figure quoted for Middlesbrough Council of  0.7% reduction and stated that the figure would be 6.4% which equated to £1.5 million.

 

Whilst the Government's offer of a £0.5 million grant to freeze Council Tax for the coming financial year appeared initially to be an attractive proposition the Mayor considered that any short term gain would be obliterated by the significant medium and long term impact on future finances. It was suggested that in accepting a Council Tax Freeze Grant and failing to implement a 2% Council Tax rise for the coming financial year would result in less revenue from Council Tax contributions, reduced Council spending power, further cuts in services and exacerbating financial vulnerability in an already unstable financial climate.

 

In conclusion, the Mayor confirmed his original statement to Council to not accept the Freeze Grant and that the Council Tax should increase up to 2%. The Mayor sought the views of Members on the proposal.

 

During the subsequent deliberations several Members expressed support for the Mayor’s proposal and in doing so gave an indication of the evidence available which demonstrated the severe cuts facing local authorities in terms of per head of population with particular regard to those in the North East unlike more affluent areas in the South whilst at the same time having to cope with increased demand led services such as the responsibilities of children looked after and impact of Welfare Reform. Members also reiterated the need to address the current imbalance between higher and lower Council Tax band properties.

 

A number of other Members, however, commented on the likely impact of Council Tax increases on the most vulnerable whilst other Members referred to economic problems which had prevailed 15 years ago and in particular questioned the continuing increases on Council Tax quoting Band D properties over ten years which had experienced a rise from £850 to £1,306. The need for the Council to diversify and maximising opportunities to generate income were considered essential.

 

In response the Mayor reiterated the likely long term impact of accepting the Freeze Grant with particular regard to the loss of jobs, reductions in services and less flexibility in terms of meeting the demands around adult social care and children looked after.

 

The Mayor thanked Members for their contributions to the overall debate.

 

NOTED
 

12/71 DEPUTY MAYOR AND EXECUTIVE REPORTS

The Chair invited Members to raise items for general discussion arising from the Information Booklet of Executive Member reports (previously circulated) which detailed activities carried out within the respective Executive Member portfolios (Section 1), Executive decisions taken (Section 2) or to be taken where known, prior to and following the meeting (Sections 3 and 4).

 

In response to a Members' question the Executive Member for Streetscene Services and Transport clarified the position with regard to the successful bid for Government funding of more than £3.5million to maintain weekly bin collections and support recycling. The grant would be paid over two years, £2.1million in the first and £1.4 million in the second. Confirmation was given that Members would be advised of the new arrangements following the completion of a programme of implementation which was currently being devised with a view to initially undertaking pilot areas.

NOTED
 

12/72 OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY BOARD

Council received and considered a report submitted by the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Board outlining the work of the Board and Scrutiny Panels.

 

Specific reference was made to the work relating to the Boundary Commission, Electoral Review and in particular to arrangements for Workshops to which all Members of the Council had been invited to attend on 10 January 2013 and the opportunity for the political groups to make presentations on possible proposals at the meeting of the Board to be held on 17 January 2013. Whilst supporting such arrangements a Member reiterated their concern that in overall terms such an exercise was being undertaking by the Board rather than a series of meetings involving all Members of the Council.

 

NOTED

 

12/73 LOCALISED COUNCIL TAX SUPPORT

Council received and considered a report introduced by the Mayor regarding the proposed Local Council Tax Support Scheme which had to be determined by 31 January 2013 for implementation with effect from 1 April 2013.

 

The Executive at its meeting held on 11 September 2012 had agreed five principles in respect of the new scheme. Details were provided of the outcome of the consultation exercise around such principles which was undertaken between 14 September and 7 December 2012 a summary of which was provided in Appendix A of the report submitted.

 

The proposed Local Council Tax Scheme included the following:-

 

Proposal 1 - As the consultation results supported the view to pass on the reduction in funding to Council Tax payers, a 20% reduction in Council Tax Support for people of working age should be applied for which it had been estimated would offset the reduction in government funding by £1.8 million.

 

Proposal 2 - Through targeting people on low incomes, Second Adult Rebate, which was based on the income of adults who were not liable for Council Tax in their own right, would be abolished which would offset the reduction in government funding by £34,000 per year.

 

Proposal 3 - Over 65% of the responses to the consultation had indicated that the new scheme should incentivise work. The preferred option was for an increase of £5 for the earnings disregarded from all assessments which would support those entering employment. If the earnings disregarded were increased by £5 it would cost the Council £11,000 in additional support paid to claimants.

 

A further option available to the Council from 1 April 2013 to help meet the shortfall in funding was to limit the Council Tax exemptions /discounts currently applied.

 

Proposal 4 - The Council had the opportunity to remove discounts entirely as outlined, in line with neighbouring Teesside authorities which would generate additional income of £880,000.

 

Proposal 5 - In relation to second homes it was confirmed that at present a 50% charge was payable. To ensure that this did not lose impact it was proposed that a full charge be payable from 1 April 2013 the impact of which would generate an additional £18,000 per year.

 

Proposal 6 - Legislation allowed authorities to charge a premium for properties which were empty on a long term basis (2 years or more). It was recommended that a 150% charge be applied to such properties, which was in line with other Tees Valley proposals.

 

The report provided a summary of the overall financial impact of each of the proposals. It had been estimated that based on the current number of claimants the level of Council Tax Support provided to the Council would be reduced by £2.4 million. Should the proposals be approved the net financial impact on the Council would be a net saving of approximately £321,000 which would be available to mitigate future service budget reductions.

 

It was reported that at the Individual Executive Decision-Making Meeting by the Mayor held on 7 January 2013
Proposals 1 to 6 had been approved and that authorisation be delegated to the Director of Strategic Resources to finalise the scheme for submission to the Department for Communities and Local Government.

 

Moved, seconded and ORDERED as follows:-

 

1. That the impact of the Government's funding cuts on Council Tax Support as outlined be noted.

 

2. That Proposals 1 to 3 as outlined in respect of the Local Council Tax Support scheme be approved.

 

3. That Proposals 4 to 6 as outlined in respect of the existing Council Tax discounts and exemption schemes be approved.

 

4. That authorisation be delegated to the Director of Strategic Resources to finalise the scheme for submission to the Department for Communities and Local Government.

12/74 MIDDLESBROUGH JOINT HEALTH AND WELLBEING STRATEGY

Council received and considered a report introduced by the Executive Member for Public Health and Sport seeking approval of the Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy which was required in accordance with the Health and Social Care Bill 2011.

 

The Strategy set collective, jointly agreed and locally determined health priorities on which to base future commissioning decisions. Additionally, the Strategy was expected to address local needs identified in the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment; support and promote partnership working between key agencies; act as a key level to connect NHS and local government activity; involve local people; and ensure the final strategy was built into all partner commissioning plans.

 

Moved, seconded and ORDERED that the Middlesbrough Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy be approved.

12/75 MEMBERS' QUESTION TIME

There were no questions.

12/76 NOTICE OF MOTION -NO.104 - LIVING WAGE

Consideration was given to the following motion, moved by Councillor Brunton and seconded by Councillor J Sharrocks of which notice had been given in accordance with Council Procedure Rule No. 11.

 

'Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2008 looked at developing a formula for calculating a minimum income standard. For their purposes, a Living Wage could be defined as the level of income needed to provide an acceptable standard of living in Britain to ensure good health, adequate child development and social inclusion. Following detailed research, they concluded that the living wage for a single working age adult
in the UK was £6.88 an hour in 2008.

 

The feedback from contractors who have implemented the London Living Wage is that it provides benefits including:

 

 - Easier recruitment and retention, reducing recruitment costs

- Higher quality staff

- Better attendance and reduced sickness absence

- Better productivity, motivation and loyalty

- Better quality of service. 

 

More recent research by the Centre for Research in Social Policy has calculated that the living wage is £7.45 per hour.

 

To improve the quality of life of people in Middlesbrough and to further advance the causes of social justice, equality and fairness in our town Middlesbrough Borough Council accepts in principle to secure a living wage for all Council Officers and employees and to encourage, advocate and, where necessary, facilitate the implementation of a living wage with private, public and voluntary sector employers in Middlesbrough and the wider Tees Valley.'
 

An amendment was moved by Councillor Michna and seconded by Councillor Hubbard for a further sentence to be added to the above motion as follows:

 

'This Council believes the national minimum wage should be set at the level of the living wage.'
  

On a vote being taken the amendment was declared LOST.

 

The substantive motion was then put.

 

On a vote being taken the substantive motion was declared CARRIED.
 

12/77 NOTICE OF URGENT MOTION

There were no urgent motions.

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