Venue: Council Chamber, The Forum. View directions
Contact: Corporate and Democratic Support 01442 228209
Note: This meeting will be streamed live on Youtube, the link we be available 15 minutes before the meeting
To confirm the minutes of the previous meeting of the council
The minutes of the previous meeting, 18th January , were accepted as a true record.
Declarations of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest
There were no declarations of interest from members.
To consider questions (if any) by members of the public of which the appropriate notice has been given to the Assistant Director (Corporate and Contracted Services)
There were no members of the public present.
To receive announcements and business brought forward by the Mayor, Leader, and Members of the Cabinet or the Chief Executive.
4.1 By the Mayor:
4.2 By the Chief Executive:
4.3 By the Group Leaders: Any apologies for absence
4.4 Council Leader and Members of the Cabinet:
Councillor Williams Leader of the Council
Councillor Banks Communities
Councillor Anderson Place
Councillor Elliot Corporate Services
Councillor Griffiths Housing Services
Councillor Williams Commercial Strategy and Delivery
Councillor Barrett Neighbourhood Services
Apologies were noted on behalf of Cllrs Wyatt-Lowe, Oguchi, Allen, McDowell.
Portfolio Holders Updates
Cllr Williams – Leader of the Council
Cllr Williams noted that he was asked to write to the Police and Crime Commissioner and Secretary of State for Energy Security. A reply is still awaited and these will be circulated once received.
Cllr Banks – Portfolio Holder Communities
Cllr Banks advised that the Air Quality Action Plan has been updated and the revocation of the air quality management area at North Church has been approved by Cabinet. It was also confirmed that capital funding has been secured to replace and relocate the real-time air quality analyser. Cllr Banks noted that the Food Service Recovery Plan has been approved. Two unrelated fly-tipping offences have been prosecuted, with both convicted after pleading guilty to the unauthorised depositing of controlled waste in rural locations across the borough, and were collectively ordered to pay fines of £4,630, costs of £3,461 and a victim surcharge of £533. It is hoped that the press release will help deter those who seek to fly tip in the district.
Cllr Banks noted the nomination for Keep Britain Tidy Excellence in Environmental Enforcement Award, and advised that whilst Ben Stephens had narrowly missed out on the main award, the Council congratulated BStephens, the team and Dacorum for its achievements.
Cllr Banks commented on the Golden PawPrint Award that was awarded to DBC for its excellent service provided around stray dogs. It was noted that the Council has responsibilities for the Animal Welfare Act and any concerns should be reported through the Animal Welfare inbox.
Cllr Banks confirmed that the website is being regularly updated with cost of living advice and that Community Action Decorum are running a series of community engagement events in the coming weeks.
Cllr Banks advised that the next round of community grants will be running in April and additional points are being awarded for those looking at cost of living support and the King's Coronation.
On community safety, Cllr Banks noted that all members present have been given hard copies of 'If You See It, Say It', and that electronic copies are also available.
Cllr England asked what the Portfolio Holder is doing regarding the discovery of poor air quality at the junction of Marlowes and Queensway, which has been found to be above the legal limit in 2021 and is now as bad as Lawn Lane and London Road, Apsley.
Cllr Banks reminded members and residents that there are currently only three areas that are above Defra guidelines and that they are working closely with stakeholders and partners, including HCC, to ensure that remedial actions are being taken to bring levels under control.
Cllr England noted that the ASR for 2021 showed readings taken in Marlowes and Queensway were as bad as Lawn Lane and London Road, Apsley, and asked what action the Portfolio Holder had taken when notified of the breach on 21st December 2022 and ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
5.1 MOTION ONE – Proposer Cllr Anderson
The Government’s furlough scheme supported many businesses and individuals and saved the economy during the covid crisis, and the Government has provided welcome support with energy bills during the cost of living crisis.
However, energy bills have still risen by 80 to 100%, whilst wholesale energy prices have fallen away dramatically, and energy exploration profits have risen sharply.
The Council supports the introduction of a tax on the windfall profits made by energy firms as a result of high prices, but, with the reduction in wholesale prices, and the review of the price cap due at the end of March, the Council is keen to ensure that measures are put in place to support households and businesses, including where appropriate a reduction in energy costs.
The Council therefore calls on the Leader of the Council to write to the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Grant Shapps MP, to ask for this help.
5.2 MOTION TWO – Proposer Cllr Sheron Wilkie
Female firefighters and police officers suffering sexist and misogynistic treatment.
Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Service have launched an independent review amid damning testimony shared with ITV News from female firefighters claiming sexist and misogynistic treatment within the organisation. This follows an investigation into South Wales Fire Service where comparable complaints were raised. A similar review was undertaken by the London fire brigade last year that revealed incidents of misogyny racism and bullying in UK’s largest firefighting service.
Several female firefighters told ITV News of experiencing persistent sexual harassment, including one male firefighter demanding sexual favours at the scene of a fire. The women also revealed dozens of explicit photographs and unsolicited messages they had been sent by male colleagues, including demands for sex.
The former Chief Crown Prosecutor for the North-West, Nazir Afzal OBE, has said ‘This isn’t a London problem — it’s a nationwide problem, and I think what we are seeing now is the Fire Service’s #MeToo moment.’
There are parallel issues in the police force with an official report from His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary stating that defective vetting and leadership failures have allowed a ‘prevalent’ culture of potentially thousands of officers who are ‘predatory’ towards women to join ,and stay in, the force.
Officers carried out unwarranted stops on women in an abuse of power known as ‘booty patrols’, with crimes such as sexual assault and large-scale harassment of female officers and members of the public, either ignored or covered up.
Within this context this Council:
1. Unequivocally condemns any such behaviour in Hertfordshire Fire Service and Hertfordshire Police Service and will take the following actions :
2. That the Leader of the Council write to the Chief Fire Officer for Hertfordshire Fire Service, to support the actions being taken to ensure that all complaints of sexual harassment and misogynistic behaviour within the Service are ... view the full agenda text for item 5.
5.1 Motion One
Cllr Anderson proposed the first motion that was seconded by Cllr England. Cllr Anderson noted that he had been informed that an amendment may be proposed and advised that he would move the main motion though would not accept the amendment that he had been alerted to.
The Mayor noted that any member can propose an amendment at any point and that in the absence of any amendment being proposed then he would need to ask Cllr Anderson to expand on the motion.
Cllr Anderson presented the motion, noting that the main issue around the cost of living crisis has been the effect on retail energy prices. It was noted that those facing increases in average monthly bills of around £6,700 a month, the government grants to households has helped considerably, and Cllr Anderson referred to those who have experienced increases of £200 per month, stating that he has been contacted by residents who have faced this impact. Cllr Anderson noted the profits made by energy companies as a result of high prices and stated that they were now at a level that was no longer acceptable.
Cllr Anderson stated that it is important to note that retail energy prices are used to calculate inflation and that they therefore need to keep prices as low as possible. It was also noted that high energy prices are stifling the economy, and the impact on people and businesses was raised.
Cllr Anderson asked members to support the motion so they could lobby the government to ensure further support for residents.
The Mayor noted the motion to call on the Leader of the Council to write to the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Grant Shapps MP, to ask for his help.
The seconder reserved their right to speak.
Cllr Tindall presented the amendment, noting that he was in agreement with the motion, though there have been calls for action from the government for a considerable amount of time that have been resisted. Cllr Tindall noted that they have been through a winter with high prices when the windfall tax could've been brought in at an earlier date and that they therefore didn't agree with the first half of the statement congratulating the government.
Cllr Tindall asked that members support the amendment to allow for the motion to be supported.
The Mayor asked for the wording of the proposed amendment.
Cllr Tindall advised that the amendment was to remove the first two paragraphs of the motion and to insert 'Despite the government providing welcome support with energy bills during the cost of living crisis caused by Covid, international factors, including Brexit, made worse by the government's disastrous mini-budget in September 2022, energy bills have still risen by 80 to 100%. Also energy prices have fallen away dramatically and energy exploration and production profits have risen sharply. Still the government ignores requests for increased windfall taxes' as the first paragraph. Cllr Tindall stated that the rest of ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
To consider any business referred from the previous meeting
No outstanding business was raised from the last meeting.
To consider the following referrals from Cabinet:
24th January 2023
7.1 CA/08/23 COMMITTEE TIMETABLE
7.2 CA/09/23 TREASURY MANAGEMENT
14th February 2023
7.3 CA/18/23 QUARTER 3 FINANCIAL MONITORING REPORT 2022-23
7.4 CA/20/23 BUDGET REPORT
7.5 CA/25/23 RELEASE OF COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE LEVY CORE FUNDS
7.6 CA/27/23 LEADERSHIP TEAM (TIER 2) AND CORPORATE SUPPORT RESTRUCTURE
Cllr Williams referred to 7.1 CA0823, Committee Timetable. This was seconded and agreed.
Cllr Williams referred to 7.2 CA0923, Treasury Management. This was seconded and agreed.
Cllr Williams referred to 7.3 CA1823, Q3 Financial Monitoring Report. This was seconded and agreed.
Cllr Williams referred to 7.4 CA2023, Budget Report. Cllr Elliot commented that when he recommended the budget last year, the country was unknowingly entering a period of significant geopolitical and economic uncertainty. A year on, the Council continues to have many challenges, though is in a much improved position with services back in full operation and the local economy able to fully trade. Economic and financial challenges previously bought about by Covid were significant, though the Council took a proactive and structured response with the creation of the Economic Recovery Reserve to support services, and secured additional funding support. This has meant that the 2023 budget shows reserves increasing and a medium-term strategy to return to pre-Covid reserve levels. DBC has played a key role in the Covid response and Cllr Elliot noted his pride in the Council, whilst continuing to provide its day-to-day services, for being a beacon of stability amidst financial uncertainty.
Looking at support for business, Cllr Elliot stated that the Council has implemented the post-Covid business rates relief schemes and business grant schemes on behalf of central government. Schemes that would ordinarily be designed over a number of months or years have instead been rolled out within weeks. During 2022-23, £7.8m has been awarded in rates relief to over 850 local businesses. Cllr Elliot noted Council staff, particularly those within the Revenue and Benefits team and Economic Development team, and their ability to stay on top of constantly evolving government guidance. This has been helped by the development of the Economic Recovery Board and bringing together of major businesses, stakeholders and the Council to drive forward key requirements to support business growth. The Council has worked closely with its commercial tenants to ensure it does all it can to support them through the pandemic, resulting in occupancy levels remaining high at around 95%. The Council will continue to work closely with public and private sector partners over the coming months to ensure as much as possible is done to help the local economy during a challenging environment. Over the last 10 years, the Council has saved over £8m whilst also protecting and improving frontline services that are provided to residents.
Cllr Elliot advised that the budget outlines plans to achieve a further £2m through efficiencies and income generation in 2023-24. The medium-term future of local authority finance will remain uncertain until the end of the current parliament, when it is expected that the next government will undertake a local government finance review. The Council has proposed a budget with a strong focus on sustainability and continuing to deliver its corporate priorities into the medium term. Initiatives of over £900,000 have been identified to address medium-term financial strategy saving targets up to 2027. ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
Cllr Williams presented the report and moved the item. This was seconded and approved.
A Recorded vote was conducted on the report. The motion was carried with 41 votes in favour, 0 against and 2 abstentions.
The recorded vote was as follows.
Overview and Scrutiny referrals
There were no Overview & Scrutiny referrals
Changes to committee membership
To consider any proposals for changes to committee membership
No changes to committee membership
Change to committee dates
To consider any proposals for changes to committee dates
No Changes to Committee dates
Call in and Urgency Procedure
To inform the Council of an urgent Portfolio Holder Decision.
This is for information purposes only
PH-002-23 - Business Rate Relief
Cllr Williams noted the Business Rate Relief paper.
The Mayor closed the meeting at 10:55pm