Agenda and draft minutes
Venue: Ballroom, Town Hall, Accrington
Contact: Democratic Services (01254) 380116/380136/380184
Apologies for absence
Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Councillors Melissa Fisher and Sajid Mahmood.
Declarations of Interest and Dispensations
Councillor Kate Walsh declared a personal interest in Agenda Item 11(1) - Motion on Market Hall Rents, on the grounds that the organisation that she worked for was based in the Market Hall.
There were no declarations of dispensations submitted.
b) Leader of the Council
c) Chief Executive
1. Public Interest Matter
The Mayor reminded Members that they would have received a letter from the Chief Executive giving an update on the position following the public interest matter raised at the last Council meeting. However, the matter remained the subject of internal procedures which had not yet concluded.
So as not to prejudice that process, the Mayor indicated that she was minded not to allow any discussion on this issue under Agenda Items 4 and 9, which dealt with the minutes of recent Council and Cabinet meetings. She thanked councillors in advance for their understanding and cooperation in this regard.
2. Funeral of Ron Hill MBE
The Mayor reported that, with a mixture of both pride and sadness, she had recently attended the funeral of local Olympic legend, Ron Hill. Ron had received a fitting send off from mourners and well-wishers from the athletics community.
3. Armed Forces Day and Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme
The Mayor indicated that she had been fortunate recently to attend two socially-distanced ceremonies, along with Royal British Legion members and local politicians An Armed Forces Day event had been held outside the Town Hall on 21st June 2021, to recognise the on-going commitment of current service men and women. Earlier today, the Mayor had attended an event to commemorate the sacrifices made at the Battle of the Somme, which had a particular significance locally because of the involvement of the Accrington Pals.
There were no announcements made by the Leader or Chief Executive of the Council.
To confirm as a correct record the Minutes of the Annual Council meeting held on 20th May 2021 (attached).
The Minutes of the Annual Council meeting held on 20th May 2021 were submitted for approval as a correct record.
Councillor Peter Britcliffe, Joint Deputy Leader of the Opposition, acknowledged the Mayor’s decision not to allow any discussion on the public interest matter, since the substantive information had already been/was being considered by the relevant bodies. He wished to speak generally about standards in public life and queried whether the Council might have been misled during previous announcements. He indicated that Councillor Fisher had had stated clearly that she knew nothing of the matter referred to in the announcement made by the Leader of the Council at the last meeting. This potentially contradicted a statement made by another councillor who said that he had been approached to vote for Councillor Fisher during the Labour leadership election. The Code of Conduct required councillors to act with honesty and integrity at all times. Councillor Britcliffe believed that it would be proper to convene a meeting of the Standards Committee to consider whether Councillor Fisher had acted with honesty and integrity. He suggested that if standards of behaviour were found wanting, the party whip should be withdrawn.
Councillor Tim O’Kane indicated that he wished to disassociate himself from the announcements made recently about the elections. Any discussion today would be unfair as Councillor Fisher was not present to respond. A complaint could be made about possible misuse of Council resources in the way that the alleged incident had been brought to light. The Police had given a clear indication that there had been no criminality involved in the incident. Councillor O’Kane expressed concern at the way in which the matter had been raised by the Leader of the Council, since this would not normally have allowed a right of reply by the person implicated in the allegation. However, Officers had intervened to ensure that a right of reply was available. Labour councillors had not been notified that any such allegations were due to be raised at the last meeting and the matter had caused significant distress to Councillor Fisher.
The Leader of the Council responded that during his long service as a councillor he had always striven to support honesty and integrity, by doing the honourable thing. When presented with the information about the election issue he had sought to air this in an open and transparent way.
The Mayor reiterated that this was not the appropriate time to carry on a debate on the above subject and called for the vote on the minutes to be taken.
Resolved - That the Minutes of the Annual Council meeting held on the 20th May 2021 be approved as a correct record.
To deal with any questions submitted under Council Procedure Rule A2.2(vi).
The Mayor reported that no questions had been submitted under this Agenda Item.
Change of Appointments to Audit Committee
To consider a recent request from the Conservative Group to change one of their two nominees appointed to the Audit Committee in 2021/22, so as to replace Councillor Josh Allen with Councillor Dominik Allen, with immediate effect.
The Council is invited to approve the request.
Members considered a recent request from the Conservative Group to change one of their two nominees appointed to the Audit Committee in 2021/22, so as to replace Councillor Josh Allen with Councillor Dominik Allen, with immediate effect.
Resolved - To approve the replacement of Councillor Josh Allen by the appointment of Councillor Dominik Allen to the Audit Committee in 2021/22, with immediate effect
Members considered a report of the Leader of the Council, providing an update on the Parliamentary Boundary Review 2023, which set out the initial proposals from the Boundary Commission for England (the Commission) concerning the Hyndburn constituency and which sought the Council’s support for the Commission’s initial recommendations.
The Leader gave a brief verbal introduction to the report, referring to the Council’s response to the previous Review and highlighting the importance of retaining the name Hyndburn and keeping the parliamentary seat largely co-terminus with the Borough boundary. The Commission had a difficult job across the country, but brought an impartial view. The changes proposed by the Commission would preserve the socio-economic character of East Lancashire.
The report indicated that the Commission was an independent and impartial non?departmental public body, which was responsible for reviewing Parliamentary constituency boundaries in England.
On the 8th June 2021 the Commission had published a report on their initial proposals to ensure that the number of electors in each constituency was more equal (electorate equality), which included a boundary change to the Hyndburn constituency and again proposed the name Hyndburn CC (County Constituency) which the Commission had proposed in the final review back in 2018.
The Commission’s latest proposals for the Hyndburn constituency included the loss of the Haslingden area to the West Pennine Moors constituency and the gain of three additional wards (Billington & Langho; East Whalley, Read & Simonstone; Whalley & Painter Wood) from the Ribble Valley constituency, whilst keeping Hyndburn coterminous with the district council’s boundary.
Following the passing of the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 2020 in December 2020, and the publication of the relevant Parliamentary electorate data in January 2021, the Commission had begun a new review of all Parliamentary constituencies in England. They referred to this as the ‘2023 Review’, as they were required to report with their final recommendations by 1 July 2023.
The 2023 Review of Parliamentary constituencies had been formally launched in January 2021. The Commission was required to ensure that the number of electors in each constituency was more equal; in doing so, the number of constituencies in England would increase from 533 to 543 (ten more than there were currently). The Commission was undertaking an independent review of all constituency boundaries in England and would present its final recommendations to Parliament by July 2023. Each constituency that the Commission recommended would have to contain no fewer than 69,724 Parliamentary electors, and no more than 77,062 (except two ‘protected’ constituencies for the Isle of Wight). By law, these electorate figures related to the electorates as they were on 2 March 2020.
Applying the statutory formula to the electorate figures meant the total 650 constituencies was distributed during the review to the four parts of the UK with England receiving 543 seats, Scotland with 57, Wales with 32 and Northern Ireland with 18 seats. This Commission had applied the same distribution formula to the English allocation, which resulted in the following redistribution of constituencies among ... view the full minutes text for item 50.
Members considered a report of Councillor Joyce Plummer, Portfolio Holder for Resources, on the National Non Domestic Rates Nursery Discount Scheme for 2021/22 and the new Nursery Discount Scheme, both for the period of 1st July 2021 to 31st March 2022
Councillor Plummer highlighted the key features of the report and the four schemes indicated which underpinned the Government’s previous and on-going support for leisure, hospitality and childcare businesses. The funding could amount to around £2M for local business funded by the Government.
The report stated that, in its response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Government had announced a raft of measures to support business rates payers – deliverable via billing authorities using their existing discretionary powers under Section 47 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988.
Government had supported billing authorities and their preceptors by funding, in full, the discretionary reliefs awarded under these measures using grants delivered under Section 31 of the Local Government Act 2003.
The administration of all discount schemes within this report was subject to restrictions laid out in Section 47 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 which stipulated that any variation or termination of a discount scheme under Section 47 that would result in an increased financial liability for the ratepayer must be done at the end of a financial year and with 12 months’ notice. By extending the 2020/21 schemes and implementing new schemes from 1st July 2021, the Council’s administration of business rates relief remained within the legal boundaries of its discretionary powers.
Expanded Retail Discount Scheme 2021/22 Scheme
Since 2019/20 the Government had provided a Business Rates Retail Discount for retail properties which for 2020/21 it expanded to include the leisure and hospitality sectors. On 3 March 2021 the Government confirmed that the Expanded Retail Discount would continue to apply in 2021/22 at 100% for three months, from 1 April 2021 to 30 June 2021.
For 2021/22, the Expanded Retail Discount would be applied after mandatory reliefs and other discretionary reliefs funded by grants made under section 31 of the Local Government Act 2003 had been applied. Other locally applied discounts under section 47 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 would have to be applied after the Expanded Retail Discount.
Expanded Retail Discount awards were made under section 47 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988, as amended.
For the extended 2020/21 scheme, a total of 311 businesses were set to benefit from 1st April to 30th June 2021 with a total of £1.1M in business rates relief awarded. For the new 2021/22 scheme, fewer businesses were due to accept the relief due to cash caps and some national chains had requested relief to 30th June 2021 only. The Council’s current estimate of relief to be paid under the 2021/22 scheme was £2.1M.
The Retail Discount Scheme provided by the Council, in line with guidance and funding provided via MHCLG had been updated to reflect changes made to policy on a national scale. The ... view the full minutes text for item 51.
To receive the Minutes of the Cabinet meetings held on 17th March and 9th June 2021 (attached).
Rules of Debate
· The Leader of the Council will move the Minutes, the Deputy Leader of the Council will second the Minutes.
· Non-executive Members will be invited to make comment or ask questions on the Minutes (5 Minutes).
· Cabinet Members will be invited to make comments and respond to any points raised (5 Minutes).
· The Leader of the Council will be given up to 15 Minutes to respond and to answer any questions raised.
The minutes of the meetings of Cabinet held on 17th March and 9th June 2021 were submitted.
Resolved - That the Minutes be received and noted.
To receive the Minutes of committees, as set out below:
Rules of Debate
· The Leader of the Council will introduce the Minutes as a whole.
· Any Member may raise any issue from the Minutes; the Chair of the relevant
· Committee may respond (5 Minutes).
· The Leader of the Council will close the debate (5 Minutes).
The Minutes of the following meetings were submitted:
Resolved - That the Minutes be received and noted.
1) Motion Submitted on Notice – Market Hall Rents
The following motion was proposed by Councillor Marlene Haworth and seconded by Councillor Peter Britcliffe under Council Procedure Rule A9:-
“Trading is not back to normal in Accrington Town Centre, as restrictions on Covid-19 are being lifted across the country. This is probably due to the relatively high incidence of COVID-19 in the Borough, which means residents continue to exercise caution.
To alleviate problems for Market Hall traders and to help them get back on their feet the Conservative Group respectfully request that the Cabinet bring in a further 50% reduction in rents for the 6 month period July to December. The cost of any lost income to be met from reserves.”
Councillor Haworth outlined the background to the motion. A letter had been set recently to the Leader of the council from Sara Britcliffe MP requesting a reduction in rents in the Market Hall. The Conservative Group had been delighted to learn that the Labour administration had listened to the case put forward and responded positively to the motion. She hoped that it would not now be necessary to have a lengthy debate on the matter. She thanked the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council for their decision and swift action. She expressed a hope that the controlling administration would respond in such a positive way to other suggestions brought forward by the Opposition. Close co-operation demonstrated that the Opposition Group were not, as one Member had suggested, ‘as thick as bricks’.
Councillor Haworth confirmed that she did not wish to propose withdrawal of the motion at this time.
Councillor Britcliffe also expressed delight at the response from the Labour Group to the written question submitted to them by the MP. It was acknowledged that the Council was awaiting the longer term support to be provided under the Levelling Up Fund thanks to the efforts of the MP and the Leader of the Council. It was especially important that Hyndburn did not slide into the abyss. As an example, the planters outside the Town Hall were currently full of weeds which gave the impression that the Council was unable to take care of its key public assets. He urged all concerned not to allow the Borough slip any further down.
Councillor Britcliffe asked if he could withdraw the motion. The Chief Executive indicated that it was not possible for the seconder to unilaterally withdraw a motion.
The following amendment was then moved by Councillor Paul Cox and was seconded by Councillor Miles Parkinson OBE:
· In paragraph 2 of the motion after the word ‘feet’ deletion of the words ‘the Conservative Group respectfully request that the Cabinet bring in a further 50%...’and the insertion of the words ‘this Council respectfully requests that the Cabinet consider continuing the 52.5%...’
Councillors Miles Parkinson and Loraine Cox spoke in favour of the amendment and highlighted the difficult time faced by traders. A wide range of stakeholders were coming together for the benefit ... view the full minutes text for item 54.