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To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies were received from Councillors H Farbahi, C Morgan, P Pilkington and N Thwaites.
Declarations of Interest
To receive and note any declarations of disclosable pecuniary or prejudicial or personal interests in respect of any matters included on the agenda for consideration at this meeting.
(The personal interests of Councillors and Clerks of Somerset County Council, Town or Parish Councils and other Local Authorities will automatically be recorded in the minutes.)
Members present at the meeting declared the following personal interests in their capacity as a Councillor or Clerk of a County, Town or Parish Council or any other Local Authority:-
Public Participation - To receive only in relation to the business for which the Extraordinary Meeting has been called any questions, statements or petitions from the public in accordance with Council Procedure Rules 14,15 and 16
The Chair to advise the Committee of any items on which members of the public have requested to speak and advise those members of the public present of the details of the Council’s public participation scheme.
For those members of the public who have submitted any questions or statements, please note, a three minute time limit applies to each speaker and you will be asked to speak before Councillors debate the issue.
Temporary measures during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Due to the Government guidance on measures to reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), we will holding meetings in a virtual manner which will be live webcast on our website. Members of the public will still be able to register to speak and ask questions, which will then be read out by the Governance and Democracy Case Manager during Public Question Time and will either be answered by the Chair of the Committee, or the relevant Portfolio Holder, or be followed up with a written response.
Peter Berman submitted the following:-
I write this both as an individual resident and as the representative of Wiveliscombe Town Council at a meeting where Town and Parish Councils met Leaders from Stronger Somerset and One Somerset.
In our Town Council’s response to the consultation document, a copy of which was sent to your Council, we advocated a poll/referendum on the two proposals. On a previous occasion when SCC tried to impose a unitary authority on the County, nearly 80% of those who took part in a poll organised by the Districts voted to reject that proposal. If such a fundamental change is to happen to the organisation of Local Government in Somerset, the public should have the maximum opportunity to express their views. The consultation document from Government is too lengthy and narrowly worded and does not give this facility. The Leader of the County Council totally failed to give a convincing reason as to why the poll should not be carried out.
It was interesting to note how much better the District Leaders performed at the meeting, especially in pointing out some of the “mis-statements” by the County Council.
Just one point for consideration at the meeting. Should the options include “no change”? At a time when Local Authorities will be occupied for many months with what we can only hope is the aftermath of the pandemic, it seems illogical to force this extra burden upon the staff and to divert them from the main task in hand. I have had personal experience as a Non-Executive Director of an NHS Trust of both the additional work and the disruption and anxiety caused to our staff by reorganisation.
The Leader responded:-
Thank you for your letter in consideration of holding a poll on the future of local government.
Thank you for your support of the poll ensuring that all residents have a democratic voice in this very important choice for the future of our local democracy and how our services are delivered.
As you will be aware the Council overwhelmingly endorsed the running of the Poll and residents will be receiving their packs very shortly. You have asked the question about whether the poll should include an option for “no change” This was considered however the Secretary of State has been very clear that no change is not an option and is minded to implement change.
Once again thank you for taking the time to provide your support and views on this very important issue.
Denise Wyatt submitted the following:-
My name is Denise Wyatt. I am a member of Somerset Independents, a pressure group and political party formed a year ago during Lockdown to stand up for Somerset residents.
Somerset Independents was formed because residents suspected that you councillors were not standing up for them. And that was indeed the case with this Council reorganisation that no residents asked for. In fact, 2007 82% of them voted against any unitary authority. Yes, 82% ... view the full minutes text for item 180.
To receive any communications or announcements from the Chair of the Council
The Chair of the Council did not have any announcements to make.
To receive any communications or announcements from the Leader of the Council
The Leader of the Council did not have any announcements to make.
To receive only in relation to the business for which the Extraordinary Meeting has been called any questions from Councillors in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 13
No questions were received under Procedure Rule 13.
This matter is the responsibility of the Leader of the Council, Cllr Smith-Roberts.
During the discussion, the following points were made:-
· Councillors welcomed the choice a Poll would give on behalf of the local residents.
· Concern was raised on the wording used on the ballot paper.
· Councillor Palmer proposed an amendment to the wording on the ballot paper: 2.3 d) a) One council for Somerset (the plan for a single council proposed by Somerset County Council. 2.3 d) b) One council for Eastern Somerset and one council for Western Somerset (proposed by Somerset West and Taunton Council and the other district councils for Somerset. This was duly seconded by Councillor Bolton.
· Councillors agreed that the wording was confusing but raised concern as the ballot had been agreed by all four councils and queried whether we could request an amendment.
· Councillors queried whether some narrative would be sent along with the ballot papers.
The Director of Internal Operations confirmed that a leaflet with a summary of both proposals would be included with the ballot paper.
· Councillors were not happy that the third option of ‘No Unitary Authority’ had not been included. However, they understood the reason for why the third option had not been included on the ballot paper.
· Councillor Aldridge proposed an amendment to the wording and requested that a line was added after 2.3 d) b) to read ‘subject to legal advice and agreement of other district authorities’. This was duly seconded by Councillor Palmer.
· Concern was raised that the amendment had been requested too late as the wording had been agreed by all four councils due to the collaborative nature of the work involved.
The Leader of the Council agreed that the amendment should have been raised earlier to allow for the four Leaders to discuss and agree on any amended wording to be used. All four councils were holding their meeting on the same day, so it made any amendments difficult to implement.
· Some councillors believed the wording was clear and that there was enough information available to clarify each option the residents had to choose from.
· Councillors queried the wording within the recommendations compared to the wording used within the report and which would be used on the actual ballot papers.
The Leader of the Council confirmed that the wording within the recommendations would be the wording used on the ballot paper.
· The vote on the amendment was taken and lost.
· Councillors agreed that the report was informative but that the four councils should have held a joint meeting, so that the vote would have been taken altogether.
· Councillors highlighted that the Somerset County Council had not been involved with the Poll carried out in 2007 either.
· Councillors hoped that the Secretary of State would not be biased in their decision making and that it would be unwise of him to not take into consideration the result of the Poll.
· Councillors queried the costs quoted within the report, as they appeared to be different for each council.
The Leader of the Council gave information on the costs of ... view the full minutes text for item 184.
(The meeting ended at 12.15pm)
Adjourned Special Full Council meeting from 29 April 2021 restarted at 12.25pm
Constitution Update Report (deferred from Special Full Council held on 29.04.2021)
This item has been adjourned from the Special Full Council meeting on 29 April 2021.
This item will be debated at the rising of the Special Full Council starting at 10am on 30 April 2021.
This matter is the responsibility of the Leader of the Council, Councillor Federica Smith-Roberts.
To present the Committee with a number of proposed changes to the Constitution.
To view the documents for this item, please see the agenda for the Special Full Council meeting held on 29 April 2021.
During the discussion, the following points were raised:-
· The Section 151 Officer gave an update on the figures and dates within the report.
· Concern was raised as the Planning Committee appeared to have taken a while to settle down and that it needed to be streamlined.
· Councillors agreed that the meetings of the Planning Committee took too long, including the debates on smaller less contentious applications.
· Concern was raised on recommendation 2.3 and limiting the amount of public speakers at Planning Committee.
The Monitoring Officer advised that the Planning Advisory Service had given the advice on how to limit speakers and how that would work.
· Councillors agreed that it was not democratic to lower the number of public speakers for the Planning Committee.
· Councillors agreed that the debates at Planning Committee needed to be more focused and less repetitive.
· Councillor Habgood proposed an amendment to the wording in the recommendations as follows: 2.2 All councillors were trained to be able to substitute for members of their own political group in the absence of a Planning Committee member of their political group and 2.8 Site visits for the Planning Committee were introduced for specific reasons only, held prior to the meeting taking place and follow the guidance as set out in the revised Planning Committee Member’s Code of Good Practice. This was duly seconded by Councillor Whetlor.
The Leader of the Council was happy to accept the amendment.
· Concern was raised on the amended wording for recommendation 2.2.
The Monitoring Officer advised that training was not compulsory, so could only be a recommendation for all councillors to take part.
· Concern was raised on the logistics of a site visit.
· Councillors did not agree on the lowering of seats on any of the Committees.
· Councillor Cavill proposed an amendment to the recommendations as follows: 2.11 a list of such written off debts be referred to the Portfolio Holder quarterly for information. This was duly seconded by Councillor Blaker.
The Leader of the Council was happy to accept the amendment.
Resolved that Full Council approved the following:-
2.2 All Councillors were trained to be able to substitute for members of their own political group in the absence of a Planning Committee member of their political group.
2.4 The Planning Committee Procedure (attached as Appendix A) was adopted and added to the Constitution, as well as being published on the SWT website.
2.5 Planning Committee meetings should be 4 hours maximum (with the Chair having discretion to conclude an agenda item if part way through), and the procedure rules within the Constitution amended to only allow 2 x 30 minute extensions beyond the original 3 hour meeting.
2.6 Regular breaks were introduced for 15 minutes every two hours (to be taken off the duration of the meeting).
2.7 Where there was a controversial planning application going before the Planning Committee that a single item agenda meeting is held.
2.8 Site visits for the Planning Committee were introduced for specific reasons only, held ... view the full minutes text for item 187.