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 the appointments and delegations of executive functions for the forthcoming municipal year as follows:
Leader – Councillor Richard Blunt
Deputy Leader and Planning and Infrastructure Portfolio – Councillor Robert Ashman
Community Services Portfolio – Councillor Andrew Woodman
Corporate Portfolio – Councillor Nick Rushton
Housing, Property and Customer Services Portfolio – Councillor Roger Bayliss
Business and Regeneration Portfolio holder – Councillor Tony Gillard
As in previous years, the Executive responsibilities were to be delegated to the Cabinet to take decisions collectively.
He advised that in March he had taken the decision to delegate powers to Portfolio Holders to make individual urgent decisions during the COVID-19 period that allowed the Council to function and that, now the Council was in the recovery phase, the powers would be revoked with immediate effect.
He stated that the past twelve weeks had been unprecedented and he was extremely proud of the way the Council had responded to the situation. He highlighted that a number of services had been delivered remotely, critical help provided where needed and new services, such as the community hubs had been introduced. He noted that the Council had worked with volunteers to help provide support to the most vulnerable and those actions had helped many people to deal with self-isolation. He recognised further help the Council had provided such as support to individuals from entering financial hardship, insuring homes for those in need and working in partnership with colleagues across the County.
He informed Members that the community support network had help co-ordinate more than 500 volunteers and many amazing acts of kindness had been shown. He acknowledged the real community spirit that had not been seen in this lifetime and that many had risen to the challenge across the district, and plans were being put in place to recognise many of those local heroes.
He thanked staff and councillors for their dedication and hard work. He advised that 95% of the Government business grant had been delivered so far and that 250 applications had been received in relation to the discretionary grant scheme. He noted that there was still lots more to be done in relation to economic uncertainty but the Council was determined to play a key role in revitalising the local economy.
Councillor R Blunt acknowledged the loss of members of the community, with many families mourning their lost ones, and that it would take time for communities to recover. He advised that the Council would be there to support were it could.
Looking forward, he stated that the Council would need to focus on support to the economy and communities as they recovered from the past three months and that it would be a difficult road ahead. He advised the authority’s regeneration plans remained key in supporting the high streets to grow again and it would work closer with businesses. He informed Members that the business case for the Future High Streets Fund bid had been submitted the week before and he thanked all who had contributed to the robust submission, with the outcome being announced in the autumn. He credited the Council and community for what they had achieved in a short space of time and offered his thanks to the Chief Executive for her professional behaviour during the situation.
Councillor S Sheahan echoed the comments of the Leader in relation to the hard work of the staff and volunteers, and the support that they had given to the vulnerable residents of the district. He noted that it had made a difference to them and local businesses. He acknowledged that the Chief Executive had been outstanding and a tower of strength through the process.
He advised that the Labour Group’s shadow portfolio team would remain the same as the previous year and he acknowledged that the reference to individual portfolio holder decisions had been dropped as he had felt that the decision was brought in too quickly, as it did not allow proper scrutiny or response to the decisions that were being made. He felt it was not good for democracy and did not wish to repeat the decision in the future.
Councillor R Blunt welcomed Councillor S Sheahan’s comments and advised that Leaders from all political groups had met during the past few weeks and they had all worked well to deal with the situation. He thanked them all for their hard work and acknowledged that the district would be proud of them.