Venue: The John Meikle Room - The Deane House. View directions
Contact: Marcus Prouse Email: email@example.com
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To receive any apologies for absence.
The Mayor called for a minutes silence at the commencement of the meeting in memory of the passing of Councillor Alan Wedderkopp.
Apologies were received from Councillors Hill, R Lees, Perry, Prior-Sankey, Smith and Smith-Roberts.
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:-
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 temporary legislation (within the Coronavirus Act 2020, which allowed for use of virtual meetings) coming to an end on 6 May 2021, the council’s committee meetings will now take place in the office buildings within the John Meikle Meeting Room at the Deane House, Belvedere Road, Taunton. Unfortunately due to capacity requirements, the Chamber at West Somerset House is not able to be used at this current moment.
Following the Government guidance on measures to reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), the council meeting rooms will have very limited capacity. With this in mind, we will only be allowing those members of the public who have registered to speak to attend the meetings in person in the office buildings, if they wish (we will still be offering to those members of the public that are not comfortable in attending, for their statements to be read out by a Governance and Democracy Case Manager). Please can we urge all members of the public who are only interested in listening to the debate to view our live webcasts from the safety of their own home to help prevent the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Clerk read out the following statement on behalf of Mr David Orr;
“Back in 2018, when John Williams proposed a Town Council based only on unparished wards in just half of the town, it was a subpar solution to a Town Council fit for our County Town in historic Somerset. In 2021, with a Unitary Council decision expected within weeks, it is parochial and expedient to carry on with an outdated half-a-town proposal like this. King Alfred had ambitions in Somerset that led to the formation of England and his cakes were over-baked rather than half-baked! To those who say there isn’t enough time to do this properly, I say you have had two years to start earlier.
By direct comparison, David Fothergill for One Somerset says that they can carry out a fully-scoped Town Council project and meet the May 2023 timescale. On the one hand, we have councillors not wanting a new Tiverton and Minehead constituency taking Staplegrove and Norton Fitzwarren wards away from Taunton, while supporting a subpar Town Council project that only covers half the town. Within a few weeks the Secretary of State is expected to announce his preferred unitary solution. I hope that within the Statutory Change Orders, he will decree a proper Town Council for Taunton, after 47 years without one. This half-a-town project will then be obsolete and should be halted in favour of the Shadow Authority running a properly scoped project.
Q1. In the scoping paper for the Working Group it is stated that Taunton parishes adjoining the unparished ward will NOT be part of the remit. Will the Charter Trustees amend the recommendations to allow for early consultation with parishes within Taunton and for those in favour of joining a Town Council to be in-scope?
Q2. So that the work here isn’t wasted if a unitary council is announced, will the Charter Trustees consult now with the Boundary Commission for a whole of Taunton boundary review to determine a viable geography and the settlement boundaries?
Q3. What are the estimated annual running costs of a new Town Council? With the costs only falling on the unparished wards, then what is the estimated band D precept for a Town Council?
Q4. If the project remains narrowly scoped to only unparished wards, will the Town Council consultation be undertaken only with households within the unparished wards (as the future precept payers)?
Q5. With a Town Council based on unparished wards only as a pre-determined option, will the consultation choice simply be between having the unparished wards individually parished or the unparished wards being amalgamated into a half-a-town Town Council? Would that pre-determined choice pass the test of being “a meaningful and genuine consultation”?
Q6. Will the Mayor for a half-a-town Town Council attend events for all of Taunton and will grants be issued to support causes and groups that are whole of Taunton in nature? Is it fair that only the residents in unparished wards will bear those costs for whole ... view the full minutes text for item 25.
The Mayor advised of no communications.
This is a draft report prepared on behalf of the SWT Community Governance Review Working Group.
The Charter Trustees are asked to note and comment on the report.
The Mayor invited the Democracy and Governance Specialist/Clerk to read out the following statement:
Item 5 - Draft SWT Council Report - Community Governance Review for the Unparished Area of Taunton
The draft Council report on the Community Governance Review for the Unparished Area of Taunton originally timetabled to go before SWT Full Council on the 27th July sets out proposals from the Community Governance Review Working Group for a CGR in relation to Taunton. The Council is minded to pause an immediate decision on this report and instead bring a revised report back to Full Council in September. The reasons are set out below and have been discussed and agreed with the Acting Chair of the Working Group; The Council has received legal advice that it is required to formally consult the County Council on the intention to conduct a Review and of their terms of reference. Such formal consultation has yet to take place. Procedurally it would be better to undertake such consultation and take any representations into account before proceeding further. The Report should reflect such steps. In addition, a ministerial decision on local government changes in Somerset is due to be made this week. Such a statement has implications for an intervention by the Boundary Commission and a potential electoral review. The statutory guidance on CGR’s makes clear that councils should avoid starting a community governance review, if a wider electoral arrangements review, is being, or is about to be undertaken. It would be sensible to pause and consider the implications of paragraph 28 of the Guidance and whether, in the light of the ministerial statement, a preliminary discussion with the Boundary Commission would be beneficial. There may be no implications but, at least the report would be better to include such matters. Finally, the council needs to review the reasons for the extent of the planned review area and the terms of reference of the community governance review before it places such before full council. The reasoning for the extent of the review, or any variation of such, needs to be set out with clarity and follow the statutory guidance, or if not, set forth reasons for any departure. Mr Marcus Prouse Mr Kevin Williams Somerset West and Taunton Council.
The Mayor advised that statements or questions only in relation to the statement were allowed;
- The Acting Chair of the Working Group had agreed to this action as it had been felt that there was no alternative. It had to be put on record that she was extremely unhappy with how this had been progressed. She agreed with Mr Orr’s statement that this Council had completely dragged its feet on this issue and this should have been in train 12-18 months ago. This had been a complete failure by this Council and this administration.
RESOLVED that the Charter Trustees for Taunton adjourned the meeting until the end of August until such time that this item could be re-considered.