Monday Night – Full Council

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Well, whilst possible not quite as exciting as Monday Night Football, last night in the alternative venue (as opposed to the norm) of Buxton’s Pavilion Garden’s a meeting of the full council took place.

The main purpose of the meeting was around setting the council’s budget for the forthcoming year, but it also considered one or two other things as well.

After the initial formalities it started off with questions to the executive, with an initial 12 questions been asked which received written answers at the start of the meeting, followed up by several supplementary questions.

The initial 12 covered themes including the county council’s youth services, proposals, council tax, benefits, housing, scrutiny, the equality act, pensions and the Glossop one stop shop, with the follow up’s going in to some further details.

Out of the 12, I received two, one around the effect of the changes to the benefits system and the effect this will have on local residents, the other on training and scrutiny around the changes happening to the council’s housing revenue account.

Next up was consideration of three recommendations from the council’s executive, (the report containing the full details is available at : http://www.highpeak.gov.uk/sites/default/files/meetings/papers/106_1.pdf) the first of which was the new corporate plan.

The corporate plan is the document which set outs the council’s vision, aims and objectives, and has been a work in progress other the last few months, with some steps still to complete around the targets that will be used to judge, whether the plans has been successfully implemented or not, and as opposed to the previous plan under the last council seeks to see the council looking more outwards to work with our community to improve the quality of life in the High Peak than it has done in the past.

The plan has four key aims, and was supported by all but one of the councillor’s on the council, who’s main concern seemed to be around one of the aims wanting support our communities rather than people.

Next up was the main event of the evening the council’s budget and medium term financial plan. In terms of the main headlines our budget was passed by the council, and that budget includes a 0% council tax rise, a average 4.51% rent rise for council housing and garages, no increases in car park charges and no increases in leisure prices.

As with most reports that end up at full council, the budget report had been through the scrutiny process and the executive, however despite that the Conservatives decided to wait until the final point of the council meeting before proposing an amendment to the budget, with the amendment last night altering the councils medium term financial plan.

The section of the plan that the conservatives wanted amending was the council’s efficiency and rationalisation strategy or to put it more simply the council’s ‘cuts’ strategy in response to the cuts in budget been imposed by the coalition government.

The reason for the amendment was because we had taken the decision to extend the plan for a further year allowing further time for the ‘cuts’ to be more fully considered and put in place.

Unfortunately when put to the vote, despite these concerns been raised by us, the Conservatives, supported by there government coalition partners the Lib Dems, and the various ‘independents’ on the council decided that faster cuts were more important than ensuring a measured response protecting local services, and voted through this amendment to the council’s medium term financial plan meaning that a quicker ‘cuts’ program will need to come back to the next full council meeting.

Next up was the last of the recommendations from the executive, around the final approval of the Glossop Design and Place Making Strategy, which has been through many draft stages some of which I’ve commented on in the past, and now becomes a supplementary planning document guiding any future planning application (within the area’s it covers) in Glossop, this was supported by all members of the council.

After the potential excitement of the budget, it was on to more technical details in a sense with a recommendation from the council’s audit and regulatory committee on the council’s treasury management strategy, which guides how the council deals with debt and investments, and has an important part to play this year with the changes to the council’s housing revenue account which see the council take on an additional £37.481 million pounds of debt in a move that will remove the council from the former housing subsidy system.

As with the previous recommendation this was approved by all with thanks been paid to the relevant members of staff for there work on it.

Following on from this was the formal motion to set the council tax, which although billed and collected by High Peak, is actually made up of up to five sections the biggest chuck of which is the precept from the county council, followed by the Police and Fire authority precepts and lastly depending on where you live parish or town council precept with the only element increasing this year been the precept for some parish and town councils.

Last up was a new report, which was coming before the council for the first time due to a requirement in the localism act which was passed at the end of last year, which requires the council to state its pay policy, which includes amongst other items details of the pay for it’s chief officers along with an element which is a cause of some concern around the gap between the lowest and highest paid. You can view the details of the report and the statement by clicking here, and again it was passed unanimously by the council.