Meeting documents

Full County Council

Committee Questions

Thu Jun 25 2009

Related Documents:
agenda for these questions
minutes for these questions

1. QUESTION FROM COUNCILLOR HOOK

Re: Close the Door Campaign and Heat Curtains

Is the Executive Member for the Environment prepared to engage with Exeter s Close the Door campaign and others to bring the environmentally damaging and economically wasteful nature of heat curtains to the attention of a Devon wide audience? Will the Executive Member give reasons for the decision and if the response to the question is positive then outline the ways forward?

REPLY BY COUNCILLOR HART

I recognise that heat curtains may not be the most effective means of retaining heat within premises and therefore could represent a source of avoidable emissions. However, it also needs to be recognised that there are other higher priority targets for emissions reduction both within the Authority and the community driven by Government's new mandatory carbon trading scheme - the Carbon Reduction Commitment - which starts in April 2010, and National Performance Framework requirements. We need to focus on these higher priorities for the time being.

2. QUESTION FROM COUNCILLOR CANN

Re: Allowances

There was widespread public disquiet at the 27% increase in the formers leaders allowance back in 2005 that led to the national press including him in the greedy councillors category.

Will the current leadership recognise this increase was totally unacceptable to the general public at large and agree to reduce their allowance to the 2005 level adjusted to the 2009 rate

REPLY BY COUNCILLOR HART

As Councillor Cann will see from the revised Allowances Scheme to be considered by the Council today, the SRAs for both myself and the Deputy Leader will be held at the May 2005, level for the next 4 years.

Similarly, we have given instructions that we should be paid the Basic Allowance at the 2005 level ( 10,000) instead of the current level of 10,970. With these and other changes in the number and amounts of SRAs now proposed, the cost to the Council will be reduced by over 80,000 per annum.

I would be delighted if other members chose to do likewise. Perhaps Council Cann might like to make a similar gesture by foregoing all or part of his SRA as the new Non Aligned Group Leader?

3. QUESTION FROM COUNCILLOR CANN

Re: Westleigh Junction (off the A39, Fremington Rural)

Westleigh Junction has long been a source of concern to residents and my local parishes Councils. Allegations of being unsafe are constantly being made and the junction is certainly very confusing to negotiate.


In the light of public concern and the accident record of the junction, major improvements are necessary.


Between Jan 2006 and Dec 2008 there were a total of 15 collisions at the junction.

1 Serious injury
7 Slight injuries
7 Damage Only

The advice I have received is that the only real solution is a roundabout. Will the Executive Member ensure that this solution is given serious consideration for implementation at the earliest opportunity?

REPLY BY COUNCILLOR HART

Westleigh junction has been a local concern since its original construction by the Highways Agency as part of the North Devon Link Road. Further pressure was placed on the junction when the Bideford Long Bridge was assessed as weak and was the subject of a 3 tonne weight restriction, necessitating that all large vehicles negotiate access to Bideford via the Westleigh junction.

The County Council since taking responsibility for the road after de-trunking in 2002 have taken measures to address both real and perceived safety concerns at the junction.

In 2007 as a part of the collision cluster review process (which uses data such as the member for Fremington Rural quotes) , a series of schemes were devised which ranged from relatively modest signing using Variable Message Signs (VMS) to an expensive roundabout option costing conservatively in the order of 1m.

The most cost effective option assessed at the time was to introduce vehicle activated VMS on the main road approaches to the junction which warns approaching main road motorists about vehicles waiting at the side roads for an opportunity to cross, including those part way through that manoeuvre waiting to complete the right turn into Westleigh or right turn away.

This scheme was implemented in 2008 and the early indications are that it has had some effect as there are no recorded collisions yet in 2009. Clearly it is too early in the scheme life to be certain about the long term efficacy.

Officers will continue to monitor the junction to ensure that the most appropriate intervention is properly specified.

4. QUESTION FROM COUNCILLOR FOWLER

Re: Northern Peninsula Strategic Investment Framework

Could the Leader of the Council confirm that the County Council will still be fully committed to supporting financially and otherwise the projects of the priority area of Ilfracombe as laid out in the "Northern Peninsula Strategic Investment Framework" under the Joint Delivery Team funded by SWRDA, DCC, Torridge District Council and North Devon Councils, incorporating LAA Priorities 2, 3, 14, 15, 20, 22, 23, 24 and 26.

REPLY BY COUNCILLOR HART

The County Council made a commitment of over 300,000 towards the establishment, in partnership with North Devon and Torridge District Councils and South West Regional Development Agency, of a Joint Delivery Team to progress feasibility studies and deliver regeneration projects. I can confirm that this commitment to the Northern Devon Strategic Investment Framework will be maintained.

5. QUESTION FROM COUNCILLOR FOWLER

Re: Ilfracombe Sporting Chance" project

Would the Leader also confirm his support for the Ilfracombe Sporting Chance project which incorporates an all weather pitch for the community and Ilfracombe College under the partnership of DCC and the FA's Devon Football Foundation. Closely linked with the Building Schools for the Future initiative, This project has reached a critical point in its delivery and decisions have to be made otherwise the bulk of the funding will be lost.

REPLY BY COUNCILLOR HART

I do believe that the Ilfracombe Sporting Chance ambitions should be supported and we hope that a suitable project can be developed. A key component will be the reaching of an agreement with the football club over the value of assets to be transferred. This is being analysed at the moment and pending the outcome I cannot give a firm endorsement. The successful delivery of Sporting Chance aims, alongside investment at the college through the Building Schools for the Future programme, will be high priorities for the authority.

6. QUESTION FROM COUNCILLOR BLACK

Re: Sustainable Communities Act

I note that from the minutes of the Executive from January, Devon took the decision to move forward with supporting the Sustainable Communities Act. This act seeks to promote the sustainability of local communities by encouraging the economic, social and environmental well being of the area. What specific actions have been taken, noting that the submission needed to be completed by the end of July in respect to local communities?

REPLY BY COUNCILLOR HART

The Sustainable Communities Act 2007 allows local authorities to request legal or administrative changes of Government, in response to which would contribute to improved sustainability of local communities. There is a set process which requires a formal invitation to be issued by Central Government, followed by local consultation via citizen panels leading to a formal submission - by 31 July 2009 - to the Local Government Association (LGA) who will act as a clearing house before passing on issues to the Secretary of State.

At its meeting on 13 January 2009 the Executive resolved to submit proposals under the Act in conjunction with District Councils and other public bodies.

This is an untested piece of legislation and is particularly complex to manage in a two-tier area such as Devon given the requirements to manage the process through citizens panels which are run by both County and District Councils. In order to ensure there was no duplication or potential for confusion and to ensure efficient use of resources a decision was made early on to try and work together with Devon's District Councils on this issue.

Three of the Districts have been consulting with residents via their citizens panels and Local Strategic Partnerships and County Council officers and members have attended all of those sessions. A meeting is being planned with relevant officers from the District Councils to consider the results of the consultations and our collective position in relation to the Act following which the new administration will be asked to consider a formal submission.

Some of the main issues which have arisen for consideration so far include:

  • removal of the barriers to local green energy generation;
  • supporting the remaining network of local post offices;
  • promoting local and affordable housing through changes in the planning system and greater powers to bring empty properties into use for local people . A similar proposal relates to the use of second homes council tax for this purpose

However, at least four District Councils have not yet analysed the responses to their request for proposals, so there are likely to be further proposals to add to this list in due course.

7. QUESTION FROM COUNCILLOR GILES

Re: Councillor s Travelling Expenses

Would the Council Leader state what plans he has to produce savings on Councillor s travelling expenses?

REPLY BY COUNCILLOR HART

I have already publicly stated that we intend to undertake a fundamental review of how the Council works and reduce the number and frequency of meetings which will necessarily produce such savings.

We have already made a positive start by today abolishing three Committees, merging two others and not re-appointing Executive Support Members, resulting in fewer people needing to attend fewer meetings with a commensurate decrease in travelling and expenses.

We will also continue to encourage the use of ICT and video and phone conferencing to avoid unnecessary travelling by Members and Officers alike.

I would welcome suggestions from Members as to how we might further reduce Members travel.

8. QUESTION FROM COUNCILLOR SPENCE

Re: Policy Priorities

Would the leader of the council set out the policy priorities of this new administration and the timescale for their implementation?

REPLY BY COUNCILLOR HART

Councillor Hart will respond orally.

QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC

Thursday 25 June 2009

1. QUESTION FROM MR GRIFFIN

Re: Councillors Expenses

In the matter of Councillors expenses, can I please have full details for their expenses for the financial year ended 5 April 2009. The full details should include not only the totals but also individual receipts for all money claimed. I do not mind coming in myself to see the receipts if the Council consider that it would be too expensive to make them available.

REPLY BY COUNCILLOR HART

I will arrange for Mr Griffin to be sent a copy of the outturn report for 2008/2009 which will include details of those allowances and expenses paid to Members, which the Council is required to publish, by law.

If he wishes to inspect the detailed receipts and vouchers then he can do so as part of the Audit process following the inspection of the accounts by the Auditor. The Council places an advert in the paper stating when the accounts are available for inspection and I am sure Mr Griffin will keep an eye out for that.

Date Published: Fri Jun 26 2009