Agenda, decisions and minutes

Council - Monday 23rd November, 2020 7.00 pm

Venue: Zoom Virtual Meeting

Contact: Gayle Roach  01900 702502

Link: View Meeting (Allerdale BC YouTube Channel)

Items
No. Item

189.

Declaration of Interests

Councillors/Staff to give notice of any disclosable pecuniary interest, other registrable interest or any other interest and the nature of that interest relating to any item on the agenda in accordance with the adopted Code of Conduct.

Minutes:

None declared.

 

190.

Exclusion of the Press and Public

To consider whether there are any items on the agenda for which the press and public should be excluded.

Minutes:

There were no items on the agenda for which the press or public should be excluded.

 

191.

Notices of Motion

The following motions have been received -

 

1.  From Councillor Alan Smith

 

‘Council notes that we are in lockdown in a pandemic which prevents effective engagement with all our citizens, especially those without online facilities.

Council also notes that central government intends to issue a White Paper "in the Spring" on local government reorganisation which may set out criteria which may be amended following full national consultation and responses to the content of the White Paper.

Council therefore urges central government to defer consideration of any responses which may be received to the civil servant's letter of 9 October 2020 until after consideration of responses to the White Paper and after publication of the final criteria for local government reform which should include fully inclusive consultation and analytical processes for such significant decision making.

Council instructs the Chief Executive to convey the text of this resolution to central government’

 

 

2.  From Councillor Michael Heaslip

 

‘Council notes that the current proposed criteria  for unitary local governments  include a minimum population of 300,000 which is bigger than the population of the majority of existing unitary Councils; and has no basis in legislation nor in the experience of those unitary Councils, many with populations less than 150,000 and in some cases less than 100,000, which nevertheless are assessed as providing economy, efficiency and effectiveness for their residents and excellent public value.

Council further notes that a minimum population threshold of 300,000 is incompatible with the other criteria of providing effective representation of places which reflects their identity and geography, particularly where population density is lower and where such a threshold renders the “local” meaningless.

Council notes that West Cumbria/Cumberland (Allerdale/Copeland) is an ancient historic entity with an economy, culture, geography, sense of place and identity which distinguishes it from the rest of present-day Cumbria, and believes that the option of establishing a unitary Council which reflects that distinct identity should not be ruled out by arbitrary criteria, but should be available to them, if that is what the citizens of West Cumbria/Cumberland (Allerdale/Copeland) choose.

Council instructs the Chief Executive to convey the text of this resolution to central government’.

 

Minutes:

1.  Councillor A Smith submitted the following motion;

 

‘Council notes that we are in lockdown in a pandemic which prevents effective engagement with all our citizens, especially those without online facilities.

Council also notes that central government intends to issue a White Paper "in the Spring" on local government reorganisation which may set out criteria which may be amended following full national consultation and responses to the content of the White Paper.

Council therefore urges central government to defer consideration of any responses which may be received to the civil servant's letter of 9 October 2020 until after consideration of responses to the White Paper and after publication of the final criteria for local government reform which should include fully inclusive consultation and analytical processes for such significant decision making.

Council instructs the Chief Executive to convey the text of this resolution to central government’

 

On moving his motion Councillor A Smith said due to being in the middle of a pandemic there has been no engagement with members, the general public or most importantly our stakeholders on whether to have two unitary authorities or maybe even three or four. Councillor Smith said it was morally wrong at this present moment to carry on with the exercise. He asked, why is it so important to get Cumbria through before the White Paper becomes available in the spring, we should wait until this becomes available. He wanted it noted that he was a staunch supporter of reorganisation in Cumbria. He said, there have been moves to sort out local government in Cumbria for the last 20 years, waiting another few months would not make a difference, we should wait for the Paper and we might get a better deal.

 

This was seconded by Councillor P Scott, who said he was a big believer in local government reorganisation and agreed that it was what was needed in Cumbria however, he felt the Government had failed to deliver the white paper most probably due to the pandemic. Councillor Scott said, I am concerned that council leaders have continued to have meetings and agreed to plough ahead, without the White Paper, during a worldwide pandemic. He said, our managers and staff are here to focus on the residents of Allerdale and I see this as a political distraction. There is also the discussion regarding democracy, we have seen no decision from the Executive yet, and seen the Deputy Leader trigger processes that may see Allerdale wiped off the map. He said, this Council should have had its say, there should have been working groups and a debate. He concluded to say that the Independent Group were fully supportive of the motion.

 

Councillor J Farebrother was in full support of the motion. Councillor Farebrother commented she thought it strange that Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Somerset seemed to have been singled out to be rushed through against guidance that was issued in 2006, 14 years ago since which, the world had changed.  She asked, how can we move forward in such a precarious time, it is letting our communities down. We must make a protest like, I understand, Barrow and South Lakeland have done and stand up for our communities.

 

In support of the motion Councillor A Semple said he was a great believer in democracy and he had not met anyone in his ward that believed it was the right thing to do. He said it was the wrong time.

 

Councillor M Johnson said, I asked the Mayor for the meeting tonight after listening to the views across the political spectrum over the past couple of weeks, I respect the fact that members have their say on this important issue for our area for their residents and I look forward to hearing what you all have to say this evening. He said we have had many false dawns for reorganisation in Cumbria, we have never successfully concluded the debate which is why it comes back around. I think we can all agree that our failure to conclude the debate has hurt the people and businesses of this County. Local government reorganisation is an opportunity to address many of the challenges that we face as a Council and as an area, there is too much at stake and we cannot afford to wait any longer. This decision is about the next five years in Cumbria, we need a strong united voice for our communities to put our case to Government. 

 

Councillor P Kendall was in full support of the motion and raised the point that not everyone in the community had access to the internet and said that if the council could not hold physical meetings to allow engagement with those individuals on the reorganisation proposals then it was a lack of democracy.

 

Councillor T Markley said, we have been fighting on with this issue since 2007, now is the time to move forward. We have been asked by Government to put forward a proposal, we are following what the other authorities are doing in the County and if we don’t we will be left behind. We need one voice, a bigger voice, to get more money in to Cumbria, in to West Cumbria.

 

Councillor M Heaslip said he agreed with a lot with what had been said in regards to the reorganisation, he was in favour of it but not with the rush. We have got to get it right and I blame the Government for rushing the process during a pandemic, without a white paper and without consultation.

 

Councillor M Fitzgerald said there is likely to be four submissions to Government from the Cumbrian authorities, if we do not participate in the process we could have something imposed on us that we had no say in. Then at that stage, Government would look at what were viable options and then there would be public consultation for people to have their say.

To suggest this was being done in a closed way is not the case, within the council we have had an extra Scrutiny meeting, two information sessions for councillors, it has been made very clear that councillors can contact the Executive and in addition to that we have a cross party group that has met several times to discuss progress.

 

Councillor Campbell-Savours said, the motion is not telling the Executive not to participate in the process but to express our concerns as a Council that now is not the time to be doing it. The Government should know how we feel.

 

In his right of reply Councillor A Smith said that, following comments made on the hope of bringing money back into Cumbria, it is our own money that we want back. Thanks to eleven years of Conservative Government cuts it is the money we have lost from frontline services.

 

A vote was taken on the motion, 28 in Favour, 16 against and 0 abstentions.

The motion was carried.

 

 

The Mayor extended the time allowed for the agenda item by a further 10 minutes.

 

 

2.  Councillor M Heaslip submitted the following motion;

 

‘Council notes that the current proposed criteria for unitary local governments include a minimum population of 300,000 which is bigger than the population of the majority of existing unitary Councils; and has no basis in legislation nor in the experience of those unitary Councils, many with populations less than 150,000 and in some cases less than 100,000, which nevertheless are assessed as providing economy, efficiency and effectiveness for their residents and excellent public value.

Council further notes that a minimum population threshold of 300,000 is incompatible with the other criteria of providing effective representation of places which reflects their identity and geography, particularly where population density is lower and where such a threshold renders the “local” meaningless.

Council notes that West Cumbria/Cumberland (Allerdale/Copeland) is an ancient historic entity with an economy, culture, geography, sense of place and identity which distinguishes it from the rest of present-day Cumbria, and believes that the option of establishing a unitary Council which reflects that distinct identity should not be ruled out by arbitrary criteria, but should be available to them, if that is what the citizens of West Cumbria/Cumberland (Allerdale/Copeland) choose.

Council instructs the Chief Executive to convey the text of this resolution to central government’.

 

On moving his motion Councillor M Heaslip said, the Council and local people should be able to express their preferences for how local government is structured, but we are not able to. We are being told you can only have a unitary local government structure with a population of 300,000. Following research the 300,000 figure was taken from a paper produced for the County Councils Network, an argument based on economies of scale and an assumption that a population of 300,000 gives you one main centre with a population around it. But Cumbria doesn’t work like that, we don’t have one main centre we have three, Carlisle, Barrow and one to include Maryport, Workington, Whitehaven, Cleator Moor which would be a centre of around 80,000 people. I would argue for local government to be clustered around, representing each of those three main centres, but we are not allowed to do that. You can’t reorganise everything in Cumbria around one main centre.

 

This was seconded by Councillor W Wilkinson who said it was his belief we were being ruled by criteria and felt that the geography was wrong.

 

Councillor M Johnson said, I agree that new authorities should reflect the distinct identity and geography of the area that is why our preferred option of a new authority is to operate on the existing footprint of Allerdale, Copeland and Carlisle councils. The fact you may wish to argue that the 300,000 figure has no basis in legislation the Government has made its position clear. We need to think about what we want, what the government wants and how we can both come away happy.

 

Councillor I Greaney said his main concern was the lack of democracy in the whole process. He had concerns around how the process was initiated in July by three Conservative members, with no consultation or any upfront assessments or option study work been undertaken to determine the best way forward for the residents of Allerdale, or assessing economic impact upon services. Councillor Greaney said he felt this was an irresponsible approach driven by the Conservative Group at both ministerial and borough level.

 

In his right of reply councillor M Heaslip said he felt that the Council was entitled to ask the Government to change its mind and to make an argument to challenge the set criteria.

 

A vote was taken on the motion, 28 in favour, 16 against and 0 abstentions.

The motion was carried.

 

The Mayor adjourned the meeting at 8.05pm

The Mayor reconvened the meeting at 8.20pm

192.

Local Government Re-organisation pdf icon PDF 294 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor M Johnson introduced the report to Council and explained this was an opportunity for members to debate the issue in advance of the Executive meeting being held on Wednesday 25 November 2020.

 

Councillor A Pitcher said he believed that we need to step forward and try and make a change for the good for Cumbria and Allerdale, to make sure we do the right thing by the people.

 

Councillor T Markley said, I’ve been a councillor for a long time and I’ve heard residents say for a long time that there are far too many councillors and too many councils. We need to go forward with a stronger voice and it is not just a conservative push, the County Council is a Labour/Liberal Democrat led council who are all in agreement.

 

Councillor I Greaney said he was not adverse to the unitary process but after reading the report said it was lacking in substance and not good enough to propose a way forward.

 

Councillor O Martin said, we live in a time where things need to change, a number of people across Cumbria, including ourselves, have expressed interest in moving forward. If we take a step back then we might find ourselves in one big unitary authority which would not represent the people of Allerdale well at all. Therefore we must, as a group and never mind politics, do what’s best for the people we represent.

 

Councillor S Lansbury made reference to paragraph 3.7 of the report and said, there still wasn’t an agreed proposal or indeed local support given that there was likely to be four proposals to be submitted from Cumbria. She said change was inevitable but not at this rushed pace.

 

Councillor J Cook refuted any comments that had been made that the Executive had not been open and transparent during the process.

 

Councillor M Fitzgerald made comment that if indeed four proposals were to be submitted, and if Government accepted them all as viable proposals then there would be consultation on each of those. Also she clarified that the report presented to members was an outline document, which was to be followed up with a detailed business case.

 

Referring to paragraph 6.4 of the report Councillor J Farebrother said it included some quite significant risks, the one she felt was a weakness in the report was that the Executive only had one proposal therefore, there was no back up if it was not supported by either Government or local residents.

 

Councillor A Smith said, I am pro-unitary, the present three tier system doesn’t work for the people out there, they don’t know who to contact. West Cumbria has its own identity, Allerdale and Copeland have many things in common and what’s bothering me is one of the proposals includes Carlisle and Eden. That wouldn’t be a good mix for West Cumbria as everything would be governed from Carlisle. We have nothing in common with some of those areas.

 

Councillor T Annison was in agreement with the Executives preferred proposal and said that more councillors does not mean more democracy, less councillors was the way forward. He added that we are a rural county and we do not all have the same things in common, ‘Allerdale’ is not West Cumbria, Thursby, Wigton and Crummock are not West Cumbria and this should be recognised.

 

Councillor A Daniels said Covid-19 should not be used as an excuse to do nothing, we don’t know how long it will go on for, it could be another year or more we need to move forward and not be left behind.

 

Referring to the report Councillor E Lynch said, there are no practical details included at all, when will they come in. I am mindful and concerned about what this would all mean for Parish and Town Councils, who is going to be in charge of what. If we end up with a single unitary authority, or maybe even two unitary authorities then it would make things more remote, Cumbria is the second largest County in England with very different areas.

 

Councillor P Scott said he was a big believer in moving forward and the key was doing so correctly, the key wording being geography and identity and those being what we need to focus on. He said the 300,000 figure was a magical figure, bigger is not always better and with the size of Cumbria this was a difficult job. Councillor Scott felt the process was dysfunctional and hoped the Executive took the comments on board.

 

Councillor C Bell said she was in support of the proposal and felt it would be a really good thing for Cumbria to move forward. She said there was more to Allerdale than just the west coast. Councillor Bell said the best way forward was by coming together to make us stronger to consider what was best for the people of Allerdale.

 

Councillor J Lister clarified that under the proposed changes there would still be Parish and Town councillors, there would be no Borough or County councillors but one unitary authority councillor for each area. Councillor Lister said the change would mean we get more grants and have a louder voice and more ‘clout’ in Westminster.

 

In closing the item Councillor M Johnson explained he had listened to all comments raised during the debate and the Executive would take them on board.

 

The Mayor thanked everyone for their contribution.

 

The Mayor adjourned the meeting at 9pm

The Mayor reconvened the meeting at 9.15pm

Councillor L Maguire left the meeting

193.

Election of Leader

Minutes:

The Mayor invited nominations for a Leader of the Council.

 

Councillor N Cockburn nominated Councillor Paul Scott as Leader of the Council; this was seconded by Councillor W Wilkinson.

 

No further nominations were received.

 

A vote was taken on the motion; 16 in favour, 26 against and 1 abstention. The motion was lost.

 

Resolved

 

No Leader of the Council was elected therefore current arrangements to remain in place until such a time as a new Leader of the Council can be elected.