Agenda item

To Receive a Statement from the Leader of the Council and to Receive Questions and Give Answers on that Statement


Councillor Duncan, the Leader of the Council, presented the following statement:


“Back to basics”


This is the shortest Leader’s Statement so far - but I hope to use it to make an important point.


Politicians, even at a local level, increasingly seek to demonstrate their political prowess with mammoth projects. They aim to construct permanent and expensive landmarks with a gold plaque bearing their name and attesting to their legacy.


But as we know politicians on Ryedale District Council are not quite the same as those elsewhere. We act, think, look and operate in a slightly different way.


This is now no longer a “new council” and we cannot hide behind “historical issues” or be shackled by the decisions of our predecessors. We have looming over us key questions on major projects and we need to find a way forward, but whatever decisions we take must be rooted in reality, be achievable and not distract us from our core duty: to protect the public purse and deliver value for money to the taxpayers of Ryedale.


As we commence outlining our priorities and knuckle down to business, we should not lose sight of the fundamental services we are here to deliver. We need to go “back to basics” and focus on ensuring we can give the very best service to the public in everything we do.


The following questions were received on the Leader’s Statement:


1.    From Councillor Clark


“The question I've got relates to what's already been mentioned and that is the two motions 13b and 13c. Will the Leader of Council please confirm that he will place the contents of 13b and c on the agenda for consideration by the Milton Rooms Working Party?”


The Leader replied:


“I can confirm that the motions later on in the agenda will be discussed as part of the work of the Milton Rooms Working Party.”


2.    From Councillor P Andrews


“That being the case would you confirm that those two items are given priority or you will use your influence to persuade the Working Party to give those two items priority?”


The Leader replied:


“I would point out to both Councillor Clark and Councillor Andrews that I don't actually specifically mention the Milton Rooms in my statement but I am happy to take the question. You mentioned there about using my influence on the Policy & Resources Committee. You've attended some of those meetings, if you'd attended some others you will see that I don't always have as much influence as you might think I would on that committee. But I would point out is that they are there, they have come before us at least once for discussion, they're going to come back to the Working Party and they will be discussed. There are lots of things that we need to work, including a timetable of what we want to discuss and when. But I can give the assurance as I've done so already that they will discussed as part of the discussions ahead of the conclusion in February 2020.”


P Andrews then asked the following supplementary question:


“I'm asking Councillor Duncan if he can give his assurance, from a personal point of view I understand that Councillor Duncan doesn't have as much influence with the Policy & Resources Committee that perhaps he might like to have, but would he please confirm that he will use his influence to ensure that those two items are given priority please?”


The Leader then replied:


“I will agree that they will be discussed as a matter of priority by the Working Party.”


3.    From Councillor P Andrews:


“I actually welcome the main gist of the statement if it says what I understand it says. Are you saying that this Council will, in future, not pursue grandiose schemes but will look at schemes that are more appropriate to a district of this size and of this particular market status?”


The Leader replied:


“What I am saying is that this Council has got lots of things it needs to do and lots of things that may well be on its agenda. But we what need to do is recognise that we've got limited resources in terms of staff and also in terms of finance and therefore we need to ensure what we are prioritising and what we are doing and when and not taking on too much at once and failing at everything.”


4.    From Councillor Thackray:


“Who are these people to whom you are referring who are interested in demonstrating their political prowess with mammoth projects? Could I also have it clarified what you mean by the word mammoth projects and which specific projects are mammoth?”


The Leader replied:


“The point I'm making here is that there are lots of different Councils across thiscountry, some of which are very large councils, some of which are very small councils. I would class RDC in that latter category, we are one of the smallest councils I think in the country and that means that we don't have all of the resources that some other councils do in order to do some of those big projects which others are doing. As I've stated in my reply to Cllr Andrews, we need to ensure that whatever we are doing is manageable and deliverable with the resources that we have got. It doesn't refer necessarily to any specific mammoth projects.”


5.    From Councillor Burr


“When I read the Leader’s statement I was really pleased to read it and I thought it was really sensible. Then I thought it can't be right, I must be reading something wrong, how can I agree with this but I do agree with it because I do honestly believe and I've said it before that we aren't such a huge council. I do think that we should be ambitious and I do think that we should look at different things and be imaginative and do things differently. But I passionately believe that we are not commercial builders and I think that what we've got to do is think about what is going to benefit our residents. I think that if we put our residents at the heart of everything we do then we should get it right and we can work together on that. What are the big mammoth projects that you are referring to?”


The Leader replied:


“I think I have answered the question although I do welcome what Cllr Burr has said about my statement and hopefully upon reading it again she agreed that her initial gut instinct is that it was a good statement which she welcomes.”


6.    From Councillor Wass


Obviously you mentioned in your second paragraph about politicians at a local level but actually "Back to Basics" for those of you that do remember was initiated by John Major back in 1993 to relaunch the Conservative Government and to get a bit more unity in the ranks. His appeal was for traditional values of neighbourliness, decency, courtesy and promoting the traditional family.  It seems as though this is coming back today with what he said was the old values. He said self-discipline and respect for the law. If you look at the way things are going and what happened after he launched this “Back to Basics”, the wheels fell off the Tory party and basically the Conservative Karma Sutra took over and then things went awry. Also in 1992 they were battling unity in Europe with the Maarstricht Treaty. My question is, to do with that, even Edwina Currie said Back to Basics in her 2002 biography was humbug. My question is which one of these is your “Back to Basics”?


The Leader replied:


“I wasn't aware of the historical connotations with the phrase “Back to Basics” when I wrote them within my Leaders Statement. I think John Major ceased being Prime Minister when I was 2 years old and I haven't read Edwina Currie's biography although I'm pleased to hear that he has done so. Going back to the serious point that I was trying to make within the statement is that we have to work within the resources that we've got as a council and before embarking on any kind of major project we have to ensure that it's viable, that we want to do it and that we can deliver it. That's the key point that I want to make and in the background of that there are a number of key areas of Council policy which in my opinion we need to get on top of, which are core responsibilities to the people of Ryedale. I think that we need to ensure that we're getting those right first before embarking on things which may not be necessarily directly our responsibility.”


7.    From Councillor J Andrews


“The “Back to Basics” idea if I'm reading this correctly is getting the core things like the dog warden, streetscene, affordable housing, toilets, all the things that we should be delivering well and that's what we're going to do first and foremost before we start on mammoth projects. Is that correct?”


The Leader replied:


“Briefly yes. I had written down housing, planning, environmental health, streetscene, street cleansing, those core services which we are responsible for and we have to ensure that these are working as we would like them to be working. That's not to say that there aren't things that we need to look at seriously, this building is one of those for example and we need a decision on that. As I've referenced in my statement there are other things which we've inherited from the previous council, some of us are still here from that council, and we need answers on those but the core things we need to focus on are those services which you have outlined.”


8.    From Councillor Potter:


“I'm not 100% sure but I think we've just established, possibly, that mammoth's bad and major is good. Could the Leader just confirm whether climate change is mammoth or major?”


The Leader replied:


“I'm not sure at this time how to answer that question although all I will say is that climate change obviously is a serious issue, it's on our agenda tonight for us to discuss at length and I think we should wait til that point to discuss it further.”


9.    From Councillor Mason


“Are you aware that it's a core responsibility for us to set climate change targets in the 2008 Climate Change Act?”


The Leader replied:


“Yes what I will say is that this Council has got a climate change action plan of which you are aware and which some members around the chamber have worked on in the previous council and which was approved. I think that they have had within them logical, comprehensive ways forward to reducing our carbon footprint and playing our role in meeting the targets that have been set by government. As you know I think we are the first major economy to set the challenge of becoming net zero carbon and we need to play our role in doing that.”


10.Councillor Mason then asked the following supplementary question:


“I think you need to define whether it's a plan or a policy. It is a core responsibility for us to actually set  local targets for reducing our emissions as defined in the 2008 Climate Change Act and the 2008 Planning Act.”


The Leader then replied:


“I'll acknowledge what Councillor Mason is saying.”


11.From Councillor Clark


“You've said tonight several times and we've had several councillors saying we have consensus on this one, we have agreement on it. One of the early things you said in your "Would like to be Leader" speech was that you were hoping to get consensus wherever possible. Could you answer me that where you've got consensus, will you try to build on it?”


The Leader replied:


“I will simply say yes.”

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