Agenda item

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.


Mr Alan Debenham submitted the following questions:-

1.  In the recent Commons debate on the Local Government Settlement, the MHCLG Minister, Luke Hall MP, said that this year’s settlement was very generous in that overall it involved a 4.5% increase in real terms compared with last year and local residents would much benefit. 

The opposition strongly refuted this by saying that Local Councils generally were having to take a serious hit over inadequate funding for the Covid-19 emergency, whilst still suffering from real terms cuts of up to 40% over the past decade through severe Tory austerity cuts, and including still the much diminished Revenue Support for 2021/22.  The so-called 4.5% real terms increases were achieved only by loading them onto very regressive Council Tax, with nearly all Councils – including this one, plus the County Council and Police – making local residents, especially the struggling poor, pay another 5% more for the same or less services, with inflation running at about 1.5% in both RPI and CPI.

What was the Leader’s response to this damning critique of the government’s  and this Council’s position as the overall charging authority, albeit increasing its 9% part of the total Council Tax bill by only 3% in contrast to the County Council’s 5% increase as the bulk ( 80%+) tax demander and the Police’s usual exorbitant percentage increase?

2. Many people, certainly as I do, very much welcomed the Council’s really positive move to at last return to the pre-Thatcher days of building Council houses and flats to rent at affordable rates, with recent completion of the quality big renovation building scheme at Creechbarrow in Taunton and the excellent progress made in the even bigger similar scheme in Taunton North.  What had been done - if it could be under Tory mania for private ownership and Council asset sell-offs under the lure of discounted prices - to prevent all those desperately needed socially rented properties from quickly disappearing into the hands of greedy speculators?

3.  Whether or not there were to be County Council elections next May still seemed to be unknown for Somerset West and Taunton residents when everywhere else were definitely having elections.  Why did this remain unknown when time was fast running out for proper preparation for County elections and what was the very latest position known to the Electoral Returning Officer?

Signed: Alan Debenham


The Portfolio Holder for Corporate Resources gave the following response:-

I would like to thank Mr Debenham for his comments and questions.

For the first part it had been well reported, and discussed many times in our council meetings, that core funding for local government had been gradually and significantly reduced over the last decade. This trend was expected to continue. The Executive was recommending that the Somerset West and Taunton’s council tax rate was increased by 3% per year, which was £5 on a Band D property, and which would increase our income for services by £280,000. This would make a valuable contribution to funding vital services we provided to our communities next year, and meant for example we could help to protect services and invest in our top priorities such as climate change. Council tax would fund around half of the Council’s Net Budget in 2021/22.

We did not control or influence council tax decisions of the other precepting authorities, therefore it’s not for this Council to comment on that. We were mindful that Council tax forms an important source of income for local authority services – not just district council services – and carefully considered both the short term and long term funding requirements for SWTC as well as of course the overall impact on household income. In this regard we operated a Council Tax Support scheme that helped to reduce council tax bills for currently around 11,300 lower income households across the district.

In terms of your second question I believed you were referring to the Right to Buy scheme. Under the Housing Act 1985 all Council tenants had the Right to Buy after 3 years holding a public sector tenancy, there wasn’t a requirement for this to have been with SWT and could have been with different public sector housing providers. Tenants were only exempt if they had a current CCJ or were currently Bankrupt or had an active Notice Seeking Possession.

All properties classed as “General Needs” were eligible to be purchased through the Right to Buy with the exception of any which had a demolition notice on them or any properties which were deemed to be especially suitable for an aging population.

Any new-build properties or properties which had received an extensive amount of work would have a cost floor applied for the following 15 years, which meant they would not be sold for less than the total spent on the property, including acquisition and the cost of works done.

To your final question, the Chief Executive at SCC is the Returning Officer for the SCC elections and was the person who had officially requested the deferral of the election so in fairness you would need to direct your question to him. This Council conducted the elections on his behalf.


Mr David Redgewell submitted the following question:-

In view of the importance of public transport to the growth and economic development of Taunton town centre and Minehead town centre. 

What budget had the council put forward to maintain and clean bus shelters in both Taunton and Minehead town centres and in view of the closure of the bus station that you part owned and now fully own.

To invest in new bus shelters in The Parade, Corporation Street, Castle Way and East Reach to make them fit for a bus interchange facilities with real time in Taunton.

In Minehead to provide bus shelter outside the railway station. 

David Redgewell, South West Transport Network and Railfuture Severnside