Questions and answers with the Leader and Cabinet
The committee to put questions relating to specific portfolio responsibilities to:
Councillor Patrick Molyneux - Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Regeneration
Councillor Brian Robinson - Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for an Efficient Council and Planning Policy
Councillor Diana Edwards - Cabinet Member for Strategic Partnerships and Projects
Councillor Terry Hale - Cabinet Member for Community
Councillor Martin Quaile - Cabinet Member for Environment
Cllr Burford invited Cllr Molyneux, as leader, to introduce the session, followed by the other four cabinet members.
Cllr Molyneux said that one of his key aims was to open up the way in which the cabinet work and improve communications. The cabinet would be working very much as a team, addressing the council vision and priorities to achieve a cohesive approach. The cabinet members were now situated together, close to where other members go in the council offices to be visible and approachable. He invited all members to attend and ask questions at cabinet meetings.
Cllr Diana Edwards, Cabinet Member for Strategic Partnerships and Projects
highlighted the following priorities:
Cllr Diana Edwards confirmed for Cllr Bill Evans that feedback from the seminar held on 13 July would be published.
She confirmed for Cllr O’Neill that racist incidents were recorded and responses collated. Cllr Martin concurred.
She clarified for Cllr Winship that the original European funded RDPE money granted had been re-allocated by central government. Any community project wishing to apply for funding should contact Neil Batt, Programme Manager.
Answering Cllr Martin she said that she was not aware at this stage of any small project funding from the Community Safety Partnership, but that the matter would be discussed at the first formal meeting during the following week.
Cllr Thomson asked if there was a place for member champions in helping to support the activities of delivery groups, as had been recommended by a scrutiny inquiry.
Cllr Molyneux suggested that it would be an excellent way to engage with those groups working directly in the community for any member, particularly as the effects of the Localism Bill become apparent.
Cllr Baynham, as chair of one of the delivery groups and the council’s health champion, fully supported Cllrs Molyneux and Thomson.
Cllr Quaile, Cabinet Member for the Environment, highlighted the following priorities:
Cllr Pugh asked if the cabinet member had considered representations to the local MP regarding the legal problems surrounding sheep.
Cllr Quaile replied that there had been one ‘sheep lift’ recently, that the council would publicise such initiatives. The MP was working with Defra and the council, incidents were being reported and monitored.
Cllr Bill Evans asked if the cabinet member had a preferred technology for waste disposal.
Cllr Quaile answered that he had no preference, but understood the arguments for both in-vessel composting and anaerobic digestion and for energy from waste.
Answering Cllr Winship, he said that he would pass on the results of the Lydney air quality survey to ward members. He confirmed that the enlargement of Lydney station car park would be high on the agenda for an upcoming meeting with Arriva and Network Rail.
He agreed with Cllr Bevan that the council needed to influence Network Rail to ensure that the culverts under its property in Lydney operated efficiently. He added for Cllr Burford that he did not believe the council had the same powers over Network Rail as it did over riparian landowners.
Cllr Hale, Cabinet Member for Community, highlighted the following priorities:
He confirmed for Cllr Martin that he was considering two possible portfolio or task and finish support groups for housing.
He confirmed for Cllr Bevan that he had always rated the work of the street wardens highly and stated that they did a fantastic job.
When asked by Cllr Burford the whole committee concurred with Cllr Hale.
He said that he would urge a focus on providing housing for the elderly in close proximity to where they currently lived and that he would ask for the all-member briefing on housing to be moved to avoid the main holiday period.
Cllr Thomson hoped that the cabinet member would find a way of addressing the issue of footpaths.
Cllr Hale said that he was looking to seek the opening up of routes for safe walking and cycling.
Cllr Robinson, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for an Efficient Council and Planning Policy, highlighted the following priorities:
Cllr Bill Evans commented that the net beneficiary of the GO project savings seemed to be Cotswold District Council. He asked what benefits would come to this council and where he could view minutes from the GO project board
Cllr Robinson explained that Cotswold District Council was the employing authority, but that all partners had equal representation on the GO board. The jobs would go where they were needed geographically - probably across all the partner councils, but initially staff would stay where they were currently working. This council was well placed for accommodation if needed in the future. He added that the Head of Paid Service was investigating how the board’s minutes could be made available.
Cllr Robinson assured Cllr Bevan that he was not aware of any plans to sell off land at Swan Road, Lydney.
He confirmed that he would keep all members informed about the Gypsy and Traveller Support Group’s membership and work. He believed that the public consultation on new guidelines would not be completed in 2012.
Cllr Molyneux, Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Regeneration, highlighted the following priorities:
He confirmed that strategic housing was part of his portfolio, but that the cabinet would be taking a team approach.
He invited members to express an interest in particular portfolio support groups and would ask Democratic Services to put their meetings on the two-week calendar, so that interested members could attend.
Cllr Smart read out the question she had submitted in writing two days before the meeting, explaining that it concerned the Full Council resolution of 14 July 2011 regarding the council’s representation to the Boundary Commission:
‘Do you think Gloucestershire County Council and the Local Government Boundary Commission will really revisit the proposals as they affect the Forest of Dean as Councillor Hogan’s amendment suggests and should it have included specific mention of the concern of many members at Full Council of the new Electoral division comprising Steam Mills and English Bicknor?’
Cllr Molyneux replied that he had been disappointed with the resolution, as there was a danger that the district could lose further representation if the matter was revisited. The crucial issue remained to inform the commission that its suggested boundaries did not reflect natural communities.
The Solicitor informed members that the public consultation was open until 1 August 2011 to all members as individuals to put their views.
Cllr Burford thanked all the cabinet members for their thorough presentations and answers. The committee agreed that at the February committee meeting where Cabinet would take questions, it would be helpful to ask members to send the questions to Democratic Services by 5.00pm on the Monday before the meeting.
Cllr Burford said that the scrutiny process would avoid duplication for the cabinet members. Each panel would give a quick update of its work at each committee meeting.