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, due to heavy workloads, he had introduced a new Portfolio role to pick up responsibility for the planning function and had made a few changes to the portfolio area which previously had responsibility for planning, the full details of which were set out in the additional papers circulated ahead of the meeting. He welcomed Councillor K Merrie as a member of Cabinet. The Leader also spoke about the long awaited and welcome opening of Newmarket this week and encouraged members to go along and see it for themselves, adding that this was not a direct replacement of the previous market but something new and different. It is a place to meet and to socialise as well as offer opportunities to local businesses and it contributes to the Council’s aim to make Coalville a vibrant and friendly town. Finally, the Leader referred to the demolition works which had been commenced on the site of the Belvoir Centre to allow a new access point and move the Centre into the 21st century.
The Chairman invited comments. Congratulations were extended to Councillor K Merrie on his new role, concern was raised about the lack of a cinema and the difficulties experienced in relation to Marlborough Square; and news about the works having commenced at the Belvoir centre was welcomed.
Councillor Woodman, Community Portfolio Holder announced that he had attended the Awards for Excellence in Recycling and Waste Management in London which sought to celebrate and recognise the achievements of those working in the recycling and waste industry. This Authority was runner up in the ‘Best Local Authority Recycling Initiative’ category for the successes and progress of the council’s Recycle More plan including the recycling trolley trial, food waste collection trails, introducing battery and mobile phone collections but also the increase in our recycling rate – which has climbed to 46.3%, one step closer to the goal of 50% by 2023.
Councillor Woodman further advised that the Council had set up a Zero Litter Taskforce to help stamp out littering across the district in the best way possible. To date the Council has:
• Introduced a new litter picking procedure for communities to litter pick safety and have their hard work collected by the council in blue bags;
• Distributed over £6,000 of litter picking kit to 23 town/parish councils and individual litter pickers.
• investigated 40 littering cases and issued 22 fines for littering.
• issued three fines for fly tipping.
• Held educational talks with workers at Tulips, Coalville to advise them not to drop cigarette ends during breaks.
The Chairman invited comments. Concern was expressed about the use of plastic bottles which had been introduced to minimise the use of shared contact with water jugs and glasses during the Covid pandemic. Members asked that the jugs and glasses be reintroduced.
Councillor Bayliss, Housing Portfolio Holder announced that he was saddened to watch the tragic situation in Afghanistan develop over recent weeks and that it was clear that there are many Afghan people in urgent need of our support and assistance in this their greatest hour of need. He advised that as a Council we should do what we can to help in this humanitarian crisis. It was noted that, through the successful participation in the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, nine families had been welcomed into our communities, with support offered through our partnership working with Charnwood Borough Council who have been leading this work across Leicestershire, and other agencies. Councillor Bayliss further reported that, in response to the current crisis, there are two Government schemes to assist people who will be resettling in the UK.
The first scheme is already up and running and is providing resettlement to Afghan Locally Employed Staff and their families who worked with our troops in Afghanistan providing interpreting services. Through this scheme, the Government has pledged to provide resettlement to 5000 interpreters and their families by the end of August. The Government has recently confirmed the financial aspects of this scheme, and they are more than adequate to meet the initial needs of the arriving families, thus avoiding any direct burdens on local budgets.
The scheme was established before the recent escalation in events in the country and the Council has already pledged and offered one Council property, and we are awaiting details from the Home Office of the family to whom it has been allocated. Once we have this, the preparations to support their arrival will be made in detail, to ensure we make their transition to this country as smooth and positive as it can be.
As the situation has escalated more recently the Government has announced a second wider scheme, details of which we are anxiously awaiting to ensure we can fully contribute to wider national response. This new scheme is expected to mirror the Syrian resettlement scheme and provide resettlement to 20,000 Afghans over a 5-year period. With these situations, there is always a balance to be struck between continuing to assist our own communities by providing affordable housing for those in need and helping on the wider international stage.
Councillor Bayliss advised that he was sure that members would agree with him that we must do as much as we can to help those being forced to resettle here from Afghanistan. This may be through working with local private landlords, our Housing Association partners, or using our own Council accommodation. He advised that he would keep members informed of developments regarding this new scheme, particularly regarding the number of properties we will be pledging to make available, as details of the scheme are confirmed.
The Chairman invited comments and the statement was welcomed by members although disappointment was expressed that the Government had opted to take 5 years to take in 20,000 refugees which equated to only one or two per town in the UK.