(maximum of 40 minutes duration)
Questions to members of the Cabinet and responses given were as follows:
(a) Question: Right to Buy Social Housing
Mrs Apel reminded the Council that there were 7,890 properties owned and leased by Registered Social Landlords (RSL) in the district. In the 1980s council tenants had been given the right to buy their homes, but councils had not been allowed to re-invest the receipts to build replacement houses, which had led to a shortage of affordable properties. She asked the Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning whether she supported the new Government’s proposal to extend the right to buy to RSL tenants.
Mrs Taylor (Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning) replied that the devil was in the detail, and little was known at present about how the Government’s proposal would work in practice. She would wait and see.
(b) Question: Toilets in East Pallant House
Mr John F Elliott asked why there were no paper hand towels in the toilets on the lower ground floor of East Pallant House, and whether the force and noise level of the electric hand dryers could be reduced as he believed they created a risk to health and safety.
Mr Finch (Cabinet Member for Support Services) replied that he would investigate and provide a written answer.
(c) Question: Development of Amenity Sites owned by Hyde
Mr Cullen referred to the decision by the Cabinet at their meeting on 7 July 2015 to authorise the Head of Housing and Environment Services, following consultation with the Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning, to give the Council’s consent to the development of amenity sites owned by Hyde, excluding garage sites. He felt that these amenity sites were in many cases very important to local people, and Hyde had a record of poor communications. He believed that such decisions should not be delegated, but should be determined by parish councils.
Mrs Taylor (Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning) replied that the protocol approved by the Cabinet allowed for consultation with ward members and parish councils and tenants. She believed the Council could trust the professionalism of its officers, and the Cabinet Member had to be consulted before the delegation was exercised. The Cabinet Member could, therefore, advise against the grant of consent, if the objections were strong enough.
Mr Oakley added that the Cabinet had agreed that no deed of release would be granted unless planning permission had been obtained for the proposed development, and this and other changes Cabinet had made to the protocol mitigated the concerns that had been expressed.
(d) Question: West Sussex County Council. Annual Internal Audit Report
Mr Ransley asked the Leader of the Council whether, given that this Council’s aspirations for economic growth were dependent on ease of access by way of road or rail to and within the district and given potential arrangements for joint funding of infrastructure improvements, he shared his concern over the recent Annual Internal Audit Report of West Sussex County Council that stated that it was not clear how the Authority was obtaining value for money in its highways maintenance contract.
He also asked the Leader:-
Which dates he had scheduled in his diary over the next 12 months to meet with his opposite number at WSCC?
Will he seek, at such meetings, to exert influence upon our partner organisation to improve their service efficiency and provide greater transparency of process as well as a credible strategy to improve the maintenance of our roads?
Given the importance of partnership working, will he assure this Council that he considers it unacceptable for any partner, let alone an important one like WSCC, to be described as having “a complete breakdown in processes with no visibility as to how risk was considered or actively managed” and that unless such matter is remedied quickly it may not be acceptable in the short term for this Council to be involved in joint contractual arrangements or investment projects?
Mr Dignum (Leader of the Council) replied that he shared concern about the statements in the Internal Audit Report by the County Council’s Executive Director of Corporate Services & Resources and Head of Internal Audit
All leaders of West Sussex Councils met regularly on a quarterly basis, although he did not have the dates to hand, and he and the Chief Executive had access to their opposite numbers at the County Council when required.
The report in the local Press concentrated on the bad news in the Internal Audit Report and did not refer to the remedial action described in paragraphs 2.6, 2.12 and 2.13 of the Report. The Leader of the County Council was writing to the newspaper to give re-assurance that the County Council recognised the problem and was taking steps to deal with it. Given the importance of maintaining a good working relationship with the County Council he did not believe a confrontational approach on the issue would be in the Council’s interests.
(e) Question: IT equipment for members
Having recently received his Council iPad, Mr Lloyd-Williams asked why meeting dates were not entered in the calendar, at what intervals password changes were required and how this was enforced.
Mr Finch (Cabinet Member for Support Services) replied that he would ask the Chief Executive to answer in writing.
(f) Question: Infrastructure Business Plan (IBP) Joint Member Liaison Group
Mr Oakley asked whether the Cabinet was satisfied that the IBP Joint Member Liaison Group would not overlap with the growth board being established by West Sussex County Council
The Chief Executive replied that West Sussex County Council was setting up a separate growth board for each district, with the exception of Chichester where they were happy with the arrangements for the IBP Joint Member Liaison Group.
(g) Question: A27
Mr Plowman asked whether the Highways England presentation on options for the A27 had any impact on the Local Plan.
The Chief Executive replied that the Highways England briefing had been confidential and should not be discussed in open Council meeting. However, Highways England was carrying out Traffic Impact Assessments of the various options. A further meeting would be held in the Autumn and then decisions would be made about which options to pursue and consult upon.
(h) Question: Careline
Mr Ridd referred to the open day held to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Careline. He had been impressed by the enthusiasm and leadership of Brenda Jackson, the Careline Manager, the marvellous staff, and the high regard the service was held in by partners and users.
Mrs Lintill (Cabinet Member for Community Services) welcomed and supported Mr Ridd’s remarks and pointed out that Careline was literally a lifeline to many users and their carers.