Full Cabinet – 22 April 2009

PRESENT:-    Councillor Kirk in the chair.Councillors Foster (vice-chair), Carlile, Gosling, Grant, O’Sullivan, Regan and Swift.

Councillors Ali, Barker, B Briggs, Poole, Mrs Simpson, Whiteley and Wilson also attended the meeting.

Simon Driver, Caroline Barkley, Stacey Dickens, Chris Ellerby, Barry Hutchinson, Denise Hyde, Neil Laminman, Sally McDavid, Paul Savage, Jeff Tattersall, Dave Watson, Mike Wedgewood, Sarah Williamson, Mike Wood, Peter Young and Mel Holmes also attended the meeting.

802  DECLARATIONS OF PERSONAL OR PERSONAL AND PREJUDICIAL INTERESTS – Councillor Mark Kirk declared a personal interest in the item on the Lincolnshire Lakes as a member of Yorkshire Forward.

803  MINUTES – Resolved – That the minutes of the meeting of cabinet held on 11 March, 2009, having been printed and circulated amongst the members, be taken as read and correctly recorded and be signed by the chair.

804  (104)  OUTSTANDING ACTION FROM PREVIOUS MEETINGS OF CABINET – The Service Director Legal and Democratic submitted a report which contained a schedule of outstanding issues on which cabinet had requested reports to future meetings.

805  (105)  NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE – ECONOMIC SITUATION – With reference to minute 795, the Chief Executive submitted a report updating cabinet on the current economic situation in North Lincolnshire.  The report contained information about the situation both nationally and in North Lincolnshire and indicated that the demand on council services continued to rise.  The current recession had two main challenges for the council –

  • Supporting local businesses, helping to safeguard jobs and bring more employment opportunities to the area.
  • Ensuring that support for individuals was in place and that recession led increases in demand on services could be met.

The report outlined some of the actions being taken by the council in relation to these key issues.

Resolved – (a) That the report be noted; (b) that cabinet agrees that the council continue to provide support for local businesses and individuals affected by the recession, and (c) that further reports be submitted to cabinet, including the impact of the recession on the services provided by the voluntary sector.

806  (106)  UPDATE OF COUNCIL’S STRATEGIC PLAN – The Chief Executive submitted a report seeking approval of the council’s strategic plan for 2009/2012.

In June 2006, council had approved the strategic plan which showed –

  • How we manage the council and our priorities for improvement.
  • How we align our resources to meet our strategic priorities.
  • How we contribute to the shared ambitions for the area.

There had now been a number of changes to both the format and the content of the plan which now included –

  • Stronger links with revenue and capital projects approved in line with the financial plan 2009/2012.
  • Strengthened links supporting strategies including value for money and human resources.
  • Greater clarity about outcomes and local area agreement performance measures.
  • Replacing the council’s internal ambitions with the transformational plan.

The report contained further information about the plan, copies of which had been deposited in the political group offices and were available on request.

Resolved – That the council’s strategic plan for 2009/2012 be approved and adopted

807  (107)  CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUES – The Service Director Legal and Democratic submitted a report which considered a number of constitutional issues.

The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 introduced a timetable for authorities to move to one of two new executive arrangements.  A council such as North Lincolnshire would have to choose between an elected mayoral system and a new form of leader and cabinet executive.  This new form differed from the current one in that all executive powers would be invested in the leader who by definition would therefore become a “strong leader” who –

  • Would determine the size of cabinet (within the statutory framework).
  • Appoint members of cabinet.
  • Allocate executive functions.
  • Has a four year term of office.

The timetable for this process omits reference to unitary authorities such as North Lincolnshire.  However, best opinion is that they will be regarded as being included in the same category as non metropolitan districts and so an appropriate resolution would need to be in place by 31 December 2010 with the system becoming effective in May 2011.  This interpretation would fit in with the full council elections which would take place at that time.

The report also referred to the Act giving powers to councils to delegate or devolve council functions to individual members.  The purpose of this is to enhance the role of ward members and the ability to progress issues without going through the executive decision making process.  A council exercising such powers would need to put in place strong governance arrangements as regards the recording of decisions and the role of ward members in multi member wards and wards with members of differing political parties.

Section 119 of the Act provided councillors with the opportunity to ask for debate and discussion at scrutiny panels on issues where local problems had arisen and other methods of resolution had been exhausted.  This is called the “councillor call for action”.  Any councillor will be able to call for debate and discussion at a scrutiny panel on any topic of neighbourhood concern.  It is however limited to issues affecting single council wards and more general policy issues would continue to be dealt with by scrutiny panels under their existing powers.  The councillor call for action should be seen as a means of “last resort” only coming into play after all other methods of resolving a problem had been exhausted.  Further work was being carried out in conjunction with the Scrutiny Co-ordinating Panel as regards developing appropriate procedures and processes and identifying changes to the Constitution which will need to be put in place.

The report also referred to the council’s current arrangements for dealing with petitions and referred to the proposals in the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill, which is currently passing through parliament, which will put in place arrangements nationally for dealing with petitions.  North Lincolnshire has had a written petitions procedure in place since its establishment in 1996 which was revised in 2001 to make it less formal and less daunting for petitioners to put their case.  The current procedure works very well with a number of petitions being received and dealt with increasing year by year.  The report referred to the development of e-petitioning which had been piloted by Bristol City Council in September 2004.  The Bristol system was re-launched in January 2008 in partnership with the Public i Group Limited using a new open source e-petitioning tool specifically designed for local government.  The development of e-petitioning using the above mentioned open source software would complement the council’s existing processes which, subject to the impending legislation will need to be reviewed, and meet the government’s requirements contained in the Bill referred to above.

In addition to developing e-petitioning within the United Kingdom, Public i is also working with the European Union which is sponsoring a 24 month euro petition e-participation trial project to develop, scale up and prove an open source e petition service based on the Bristol model.  This project will also utilise the Public i open source software and the aim is to produce a trans european euro petition service that will allow local authorities across the EU to facilitate e-petitions and on-line discussion groups with their citizens.  The project will pilot trial the co-ordination of five across border euro petitions to the European Parliament’s Petitions Committee.

The proposal is to set up five cluster groups in five EU nations including the UK.  Each cluster group will consist of a number of councils.  A lead partner will host and manage the group’s cluster site and in the UK the cluster co-ordinator will be Bristol City Council.  North Lincolnshire Council had been asked to take part in the pilot and, given the council’s previous successful experience of dealing with petitions, and the government’s proposals with regard to e-petitioning, participation will provide a good opportunity to compliment the previous experience gained.

Resolved – (a) That the contents of the report be noted; (b) that the development of e-petitioning on the lines indicated in the report be approved; (c) that further reports be submitted to cabinet in due course detailing the proposals relating to e-petitioning; (d) that the council agree to participate in the euro petitions pilot project, and (e) that at the appropriate time arrangements be made for a presentation to all members of the council about e-petitioning and the euro petitions pilot project, and (f) that the report be referred to the council’s Independent Elected Members Remuneration Panel for discussion on the issues relating to scrutiny

808  (108)  CAPITAL STRATEGY AND CORPORATE ASSET MANAGEMENT PLAN 2009/2012 AND PROPERTY STRATEGY 2009/2023 – The Service Director Asset Management and Culture submitted a report seeking consideration of the council’s Capital Strategy and Corporate Asset Management Plan 2009/2012 and the Property Strategy 2009/2023.

The council is required to produce a Capital Strategy and Corporate Asset Management Plan which should be reviewed regularly.  In addition, it is also required to produce a Property Strategy which should be updated annually.  The government views this as good practice.  The council had large amounts of capital invested in assets, and revenue spending on property is the second biggest item in the council’s budgets after staffing.

The Capital Strategy set out how the council’s capital assets were managed and showed how the planned, prioritised and effective use of capital helped meet council priorities.  This included headline information on highways.  The Corporate Asset Management Plan sets out –

  • The council’s asset management arrangements and improvement plans.
  • Outcomes in line with community and council ambitions.

It also summarises key proposals that affect assets from service plans, including the new capital programme.

The Property Strategy –

  • Looks in detail at each of the council’s non school properties and reflects on data for each one, based on a “traffic light” approach.
  • Sets out outline proposals on plans to turn round non performing buildings over a 15 year period, by refurbishing, rationalising, replacing and removing poor buildings, joining up approaches and programmes.
  • Sets out strategies to work with services to review assets across all areas.

Following a review of each of these documents cabinet was asked to approve the revised documents, copies of which had been deposited in political group offices and were available on request.  The report contained further information in relation to the plans and strategies.

Resolved – That the combined Capital Strategy and Corporate Asset Management Plan for 2009/2012 and the Property Strategy for 2009/2023 be approved and adopted

809  (109)  NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE HEALTHY WEIGHT STRATEGY – The Director of Public Health and the Service Director Neighbourhood and Environment submitted a joint report in connection with the North Lincolnshire Healthy Weight Strategy.

In June 2006, cabinet had approved a joint strategy with the Primary Care Trust in respect of tackling obesity.  In 2008, the Healthier Communities and Older Peoples Scrutiny Panel had carried out a study into obesity in North Lincolnshire and as a result an Annual Report by the Director of Public Health, which highlighted obesity as one of the three major health problems in North Lincolnshire was produced.  The panel made a number of recommendations which had been considered by the North Lincolnshire Tackling Obesity Partnership. The partnership had responded to the recommendations by revising the obesity strategy and by developing an action plan specifically in response to the panel’s recommendations.  The revised obesity strategy and action plan, now referred to as “Healthier Eating, Active Living” North Lincolnshire Healthy Weight Strategy 2009/2011 were attached as appendices to the report.

The report contained further information about this matter and cabinet was asked to approve the revised strategy.

Resolved – That the revised obesity strategy and action plan, “Healthier Eating, Active Living” North Lincolnshire Healthy Weight Strategy 2009/2011 be approved and adopted.

810  (110)  CHILD AND ADOLESCENT MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES (CAMHS) IN NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE – The Service Director Children, Strategy and Partnerships and the Chief Executive of NHS North Lincolnshire submitted a joint report which addressed the recommendations of the Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Panel regarding the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in North Lincolnshire.

The Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Panel had prepared a report and a number of recommendations which had been approved by council on 25 June 2008 and subsequently by Cabinet.  Cabinet had requested that an action plan be prepared in response to the recommendations and this had been developed and agreed in collaboration with relevant officers from North Lincolnshire Council and NHS North Lincolnshire.  The action plan was attached as an appendix to the report.

Resolved – (a) That the action plan attached as an appendix to the report in relation to the CAMHS be approved and adopted, and (b) that the plan be reviewed in twelve months with progress being presented to cabinet

811  (111)  LINCOLNSHIRE LAKES – This matter was considered after the chair had decided it was urgent because of the need for cabinet to discuss the issues raised and agree a future course of action.

The Head of Strategic Regeneration, Housing and Development submitted a report in connection with the delivery of the final report of the Lincolnshire Lakes Feasibility Study.

North Lincolnshire Council had been working for some time with the Regional Development Agency, Yorkshire Forward and the Scunthorpe Town Team on the Scunthorpe Urban Renaissance Programme.  This programme identified the way forward to successfully reposition Scunthorpe over the next ten to twenty years.  Lincolnshire Lakes is seen as a key to Scunthorpe and North Lincolnshire’s ambitions.  At its core it offered the prospect of a lakeside setting, which would transform the present approach to Scunthorpe.  It would create a major opportunity for bio diversity alongside an attractive place for living, employment and leisure.  In short, it would create, over a number of years, a sustainable economy, bringing financial, social and environmental benefits.

The Halcrow Group Limited had been commissioned by North Lincolnshire Council to undertake a feasibility study for Lincolnshire Lakes and to investigate its potential for delivery, both in terms of technical issues and economic viability.  The study had been undertaken in two phases.

Phase 1 provided a “baseline assessment” and Phase 2 developed detailed assessments and created options for a master plan for the area.  The study had now been finalised and confirmed the economic value and viability of the scheme.  At the same time, it identified processes around flood risk alleviation.  Clearly these would need to be overcome before any physical development could take place.  The council had already entered into discussions with the Environment Agency with the aim of seeking a full understanding of flood risk issues of this location and to find a way forward.  Yorkshire Forward had shown its commitment to this challenge.  The Lincolnshire Lakes Project Team included representatives from the Environment Agency and the Internal Drainage Board.  The detailed delivery of Lincolnshire Lakes would be guided by an “Area Action Plan” once the sequential and exception tests had been completed.  The report contained further detailed information about the project.

Resolved – (a) That cabinet welcomes the findings from the Lincolnshire Lakes Feasibility Study that the scheme, while clearly ambitious and to be phased over many years, is technically viable, economically sound and would make a major contribution to ensuring Scunthorpe and North Lincolnshire continued to grow and is able to compete successfully for inward investment in an increasingly competitive environment by offering a quality location design to the highest standards of sustainable development; (b) that cabinet agrees to an “investors day” to be held in August/September 2009 to widen awareness of the Lincolnshire Lakes Project among developers and investors; (c) that cabinet agrees that the Lincolnshire Lakes Project should be an integral part of a range of large scale investment and development initiatives in which the council is playing a significant community leadership role, including the South Humber Bank Gateway proposals which had been reported to cabinet on 11 March 2009; (d) that cabinet approves the necessary work to move the project forward, including establishing the roles of both the public and private sectors in providing the necessary funding streams and including the funding role of the Homes and Community Agency/English Partnership, North Lincolnshire Council, Landfill Communities Fund Contributions and funding levered through the planning system, and (e) that further discussions be held with the Environment Agency and North Lincolnshire’s members of parliament in relation to this matter.

812      INVESTMENTS IN ICELANDIC BANKS – This matter was considered after the Chair had decided it was urgent in order to update cabinet on the latest information about the council’s investments in Icelandic Banks.

The Service Director Finance submitted an oral report on recent announcements about investments in Icelandic Banks.  Much work had been carried out by the Local Government Association and the administrators of Heritable Bank and it was reported that it was likely that 80% of the council’s investments could be returned to the council.

Resolved – That the report be noted.