Leader's and Portfolio Holders' Announcements
Members are reminded that under paragraph 11.1 of part 4 of the Constitution, questions can be asked of the Leader and Cabinet Members without notice about any matter contained in any address. Questions shall be limited to five minutes in total for each announcement.
The Leader of the Council, Councillor R Blunt, announced that Newmarket had been successfully launched in early September to great reviews. Trading days are currently Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. He advised that responses from traders had been positive and that both permanent and pop-up food vendors occupied the catering units. As well as the food offer, Newmarket provided customers with a diverse range of products for sale including sweets, dried groceries, shoes, clothing, beauty products, jewellery and craft stalls. He added that enrolment days would be held by Stephenson College in November and a range of activities would be taking place over Christmas with a Santa’s grotto, activities for children, craft workshops and late night shopping with live music. A programme of activities would be taking place in the period after Christmas.?
The Leader was pleased to announce the progress being made to deliver Marlborough Square. He reported that work was being undertaken by Severn Trent Water who had recently completed repair work for a collapsed sewer which was needed before work could be commenced. In the knowledge that these underground works have now been completed, officers have moved forward to put the contract out to contractors. To speed up the process, a two stage tender approach is being used. Stage One prices were returned on 5 November and were currently being analysed with the intention of selecting a preferred contractor, who would then be asked to submit their final full price for the works. It was anticipated that Cabinet would receive a report from officers in early February to confirm the contractor’s appointment. If all went according to plan, the council should see this key project delivered during 2022.
The Leader turned to the less positive news that the Central Government had missed the opportunity to invest in the future of Coalville through the Levelling Up Fund and no grant support was included in the spending review announcement for the Coalville Lyceum bid. He added that it was a collaborative submission with the Belvoir Shopping Centre and Stephenson College and was undertaken on the basis of “nothing ventured, nothing gained” and believed it was the strongest possible proposal for a community building which would have accommodated a new cinema for the town. However, this enabled the Council to turn its attention back to its original plans for a cinema. Officers had already identified alternative ways in which the project could be brought forward and he hoped to be in a position to update Members in due course.
As his final announcement, the Leader was pleased to advise that the accommodation programme continued to move at pace. It was anticipated that Stenson House would be renovated by September next year, the back-office staff would be moved to Whitwick Business centre in July and the new Customer Service Centre would be opened in May. He advised that he was aware that owners of the Belvoir Centre had recently terminated a lease with a tenant who was on a rolling one-month tenancy in the part of the centre which would be occupied by the Council. However, it was a commercial decision for the owners of the shopping centre, and the units the Council would be occupying were the only ones suitable and available.
The operators of the centre would continue to work with the business affected to look at future options, and the Business Focus Team was available to assist.
The Chairman invited comments.
In response to questions from Councillor M Wyatt regarding the collapsed underground sewer, the closure of Buddy’s Bar and the failed levelling up bid, the Leader advised that the Council had no power over Severn Trent and had no control over when it undertook repairs; nor did it have any business involving itself in a landlord and tenant arrangement. The tenant knowingly undertook a short-term lease and the owners of the Belvoir Centre had made a commercial decision on which the Council had no business to intervene. Finally, when a grant was made available it was tempting to apply but it had become apparent that Coalville did not appear to be on the Government’s radar when allocating funding so he would be less inclined to apply for grant funding in the future.
In response to a question from Councillor J Legrys, the Leader advised that due diligence would be applied when undertaking the tender and subsequent contract processes to avoid a repeat of some of the issues experienced with the Newmarket project.
Councillor R Bayliss, Housing Portfolio Holder, updated Members on the Council’s recent success in completing the delivery of the Green Homes Grant Phase 1B funded improvement work. He advised that through accessing Government funding of over £263,000, with additional funding from itself the Council had been able to carry out a range of energy efficiency improvements to 56 of the poorest performing homes in terms of their energy efficiency.
All 56 properties had now been elevated from their previous Energy Performance Certificate rating of D, E and F, to either A, B or C. Not only would this reduce the carbon footprint of tenants’ homes, it would also significantly help tenants heat and light their homes more cost effectively, and supported the Council’s target of becoming Zero Carbon by 2030.
Councillor Bayliss advised that feedback from tenants had been very positive, with 100% overall tenant satisfaction from a survey of those having had the work completed; and the successful completion of this pilot project had allowed the Council to gain much knowledge about the technologies involved, the grant funding process, and the challenges of that type of work being undertaken in tenants’ homes. The learning would be taken forward to help inform subsequent energy efficiency programmes.
The important initial step would be followed up by further grant funding bids in 2022 under the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund initiative, as the Council looked to move all its tenants’ homes to an Energy Performance Certificate rating of C or above by 2030. That would require significant funding from the Council as well as any grants it could access, as over 2,700 homes require investment, alongside the need to maintaining the Decent Homes standard of improvement, as well as continue to build and acquire new affordable homes.
The Chairman invited comments.
In response to a question from Councillor Bigby about the reality of meeting the requirement to improve 300 homes a year over the next 9 years, Councillor Bayliss advised that in order to meet the requirement, additional funding would be needed and in that respect there was some reliance on the availability and timing of Government grants being made available. In the meantime, initial plans were under development and Councillor Bayliss advised that he would be pleased to share these with Members once they had been finalised.
In response to a question from Councillor Legrys, Councillor Bayliss advised that in terms of the works that had been undertaken, 31 properties had air source heat pumps, two had external wall insulation, all 56 had solar photo voltaic with batteries, 13 had LED lighting and 12 had additional loft insulation. The works were included within the bid and similar works would be included in any future bids.