Councillor Duncan, the Leader of the Council, presented the following statement:
This is our first full Council meeting of 2020 – and it marks the start of both a new year, and a new decade. I hope we can work together to make this a year of progress and achievement as we deal with a number of key issues. I would like to brief members on some important progress that has been made through the Policy & Resources Committee and its various cross-party working groups.
Public Services Hub
P&R agreed to proceed with the development of a business case for a Public Services Hub. This will involve exploring how we can bring essential public services together into a single, modern, fit-for-purpose facility. We are able to draw down £70k of funding from the Cabinet Office to support this work. Construction work has already begun for the Jobcentre to move into Ryedale House, and tonight we will consider a request for North Yorkshire Police’s neighbourhood team to also move in. This represents many months of hard work from our officers and will greatly improve the service we give to the public.
P&R agreed that the council should once again participate in the Government’s refugee settlement scheme. The scheme will involve housing 18 people by 2024. There is no direct cost to the council and it is a welcomed by our housing team.
We have held three meetings of the cross-party working party looking at how the council can best support the Milton Rooms into the future. These have been interesting and positive discussions, involving a number of different contributors. At the next meeting, which takes place later this month, we will hear from trustees of the Milton Rooms Committee. The findings of the working group will be collated and taken to a future meeting of P&R for consideration.
Car parking strategy
We are making significant progress with the cross-party car parking working party, where we are examining the findings of the consultant’s report. We have already reviewed district-wide recommendations, and we are now in the process of looking at specific measures for each of the five towns. This is an important issue for the people and businesses of Ryedale, and members are playing a full role in making sure we take the right decisions for the future strategy. It is hoped that the final strategy will be ready for approval by council in June.
An independent review of our approach to tackling homelessness resulted in the council receiving the highest mark of any council reviewed so far. For the third year running, we have received the top rating for our administration of housing benefit, something no other North Yorkshire local authority has achieved. We have also been successful in attracting additional funding to address fuel poverty in our district. These are all testimony to the commitment of the officers delivering these services, and I would like to record my thanks to the staff for their work.
And finally, I would like to once again express my thanks to members for their contributions to the important work of this council. By working together in a constructive way I am confident that we will be able to make significant achievements by the end of our term.
The following questions were received on the Leader’s Statement:
1. From Councillor Burr
“I'd like to ask a question regarding the bullying report. Firstly sincere apologies to any staff and former staff who were bullied and not listened to. It was very sad to read the report conducted in 2017. after reading the report it's sad to see in the staff survey that 46.5%, just under half of our staff said that morale was quite low and then it followed on to 60.6% who said it had become even lower. T2020 was implemented with force, a lack of compassion and total disregard for what was needed in staff terms to deliver good services. Our staff work tirelessly but staff do need to be happy, thriving and a less stressed workforce. In the summary, it was heartening to see that the severity and frequency of such behaviours has now diminished and I know that our new Chief Executive has put in place a much happier, productive and pleasant place to work. I feel we must learn from this and we must move forward. Serious bullying cannot be tolerated, so I ask my Leader, would you with me thank Councillor Clark for all the work that he has done to bring this bullying report into the public realm and we can now move forward and be a good Council?”
The Leader replied:
“Thank you Cllr Burr for your question. It isn't a question that relates to my statement however, given the topic that has been raised I'm happy to answer the question and extend my thanks to Cllr Clark and the Overview & Scrutiny Committee. At the very start of the bullying enquiry I was a member of Overview & Scrutiny so I was there at the start of that and I'm pleased that we have now finally got to the point where we are reporting the findings of that enquiry. I would like to, while we're on this topic, stress some of the points that you've raised Cllr Burr, about that fact that we now have new procedures and new policies in place, which I feel mean that we're in a very different place to where we were 2 years ago, 3 years ago, 4 years ago. I'm also conscious however that there is still more that we need to do as a Council, that includes Members and also officers of the Council. So I hope that answers your question, obviously the bullying item is coming later but I am happy to extend my thanks to all the Members of the Overview & Scrutiny who have worked on the report.”
2. From Councillor P Andrews
“My question why is there no mention in the Leaders statement in regard to flooding issues and rising water issues in view of the recent downpours and I do have a supplementary question Chair.”
The Leader replied:
“Thank you Cllr Andrews for your question. Strictly speaking I suppose you could say that is a question on the statement and the absence of something within it. All I would say as I've said previously, my statement cannot include all of the work that this Council does and every single issue and item. It tries to reflect the key items which are coming forward from the work of the Policy and Resources Committee. Obviously we have had stormy weather over the past few weeks and that has had an impact on Ryedale communities but as I say, the statement is there and I can't include everything.”
Councillor P Andrews asked the following supplementary question:
“My question is something that I have actually raised with Cllr Duncan and the Chief Executive not so very long ago and that is when are we going to have the next meeting of the Flooding Liaison Group and why have we not had quarterly meetings of that group for the last year?”
The Leader then replied:
“Again, I've tried to be generous in allowing questions which do not relate to my statement and when I did that at the last meeting I gave an inch and I felt like people took a mile. What I will do is I will provide you with an answer to that question outside of this meeting because it does not relate to the contents of my statement.”
Councillor P Andrews requested:
“Could I ask that in your written answer you actually tell me a date for the next meeting of that group.”
3. From Councillor Potter
“With regard to housing, at the last meeting I asked a question about the enabling development for the Fitzwilliam Trust Corporation with regard to the Cattle Market and the reply from the Leader referred to such enabling development 227 houses on Showfield Lane, 35 houses in Old Malton, another 50 in Rainbow Lane, plus and I quote "Commercial development at Eden Camp". Now would Cllr Duncan agree that for accuracy and I include for the accuracy of the Ryedale public, he should be quite clear that this about providing a livestock market and not merely commercial development, because if he was to look at the actual planning application, that is exactly what it says - erection of new livestock market blah, blah and business park.”
The Leader replied:
“Thank you Cllr Potter. I don't want to give you an answer when I haven't been able to check the full details and information, so what I will do is provide you with a written answer to your question.”
4. From Councillor Clark
“Trying to help you with your Leader's statement as I usually do and the last one being very fulsome in political and leadership terms wishing us Christmas and very little else, I'd like to point out that it is the Leaders' statement, not the Chair of P&R's statement and we have got here Public Service Hub - P&R, Refugee Settlement - P&R, Milton Rooms - P&R, Car Parking Strategy - P&R, Housing - P&R. On that basis you said that you weren't going to have any questions that weren't on your statement and your Leader's statement says nothing that Leader has done at all, makes it a little difficult. Now I'm sure that's an administrative error on your part and on that basis I wonder if you could, rather than tell Council what Council was perfectly able of watching and seeing what you did in full display at P&R, what you may have done since the last Full Council in the more translucent areas of meeting that the Leader may have throughout the county, throughout the country, however far your wings have spread?”
The Leader replied:
“Thank you Cllr Clark for your question. I feel that it's important that all Members of the Council have the opportunity to ask myself, who is Leader and Chairman of P&R, questions on important issues which are being discussed by Policy and Resources, some of which have not come to this Council for decision. I felt that I was hopefully helping out and being constructive and giving people the opportunity to ask me about some of things that Policy and Resources has been working on even if they are not members of the Policy and Resources Committee. That's why the statement is framed as it is. My last Leader's statement was doing what I thought again was quite a nice thing to do, which is trying to wish everybody Merry Christmas and say thank you to Members for their hard work in the year that was just passing by. I'll keep working on my Leader's statement Cllr Clark and try to reflect on the comments that are raised but I would also stress that it is the Leader's statement and it is written by the Leader of this Council and what I put in there and what I don't put in there is down for Leader to decide.”
Councillor Clark then asked the following supplementary question:
“I'm not sure whether other members are flattered by the fact that they're whether not capable of being on P&R, attending P&R, listening to the tape or reading the minutes. But never mind - I did ask you a question on what you've done as Leader and you then proceeded to justify that the Leader's statement, the clue is in the name, was all the things you've done and why you've covered everything to do with P&R. And then a blank space, nothing has happened as the Leader. I think that's a clear indication that what we need is a very good, which I'm sure we have, Chair of P&R and have no need for a Leader of Council at all.”
The Leader then replied:
“Thank you Cllr Clark for your question. In my answer previously I didn't say that no work has taken place in my role as the Leader of this Council. What I would like to stress again to all Members is that this statement is here and people have the chance to ask me questions on the statement, points of clarification, additional points on the issues that are there but increasingly people seem to be using it as an opportunity to ask me a whole host of questions and that is not what this space of time is meant to be for. This is a statement by myself to the Council which goes on the record of the agenda papers and I do try and be flexible, I do try to be reasonable in answering the questions but I do wonder sometimes how constructive this session may be with some of the questions that are being asked. Just picking up on one of the points that you raised Cllr Clark, there are some people who attend Policy and Resources who are there, listen to what's going on yet still fail to understand what has happened on some occasions.”
5. From Councillor Burr
“This question you'll be happy to hear is related to your Leader's statement. I'd like it to be put on record that I personally support the Hub and I support Ryedale District Council remaining in this building. Yes, money needs to be spent on the building but I feel that will be far cheaper than spending £5-6 million on new Council buildings. I think we have a duty to protect Council Tax payers money. I think the Job Centre must move into Ryedale District Council building and should have been done years ago and I'm happy for some North Yorks County Police to work from this building but what I strongly disagree with is the closing of Malton Police Station and the glossing over of the hugely important matter by saying some of the Police are moving into RDC. Government has promised more Police on our streets, so why would we close the Police Station in Malton. My question is would you agree with me that we need to keep Malton Police Station open at all cost, we cannot allow it to close. Austerity is now over, we are going to get more Police and we need Malton Police Station.”
The Leader replied:
“Thank you Cllr Burr for your question. There's several different angles to that. The first one is that with regards the work that we are doing as a Council in terms of the Public Services Hub, you mentioned there about the relative costs of different options for this building and this site. What Policy and Resources has commissioned is experts in these matters to draw up all of the options and compare the costs, the benefits of all the options, so that we're making the right decision. Obviously neither me or you are expert surveyors or anything along those lines so this is going to arm us with the information we need to make an informed decision with regards to what we do with our building. Turning to the Police, you are right to reference that obviously I believe that the Police have been looking for quite some time at their assets and one of their assets is the current Malton Police Station. We are not in charge of the Police Service in North Yorkshire, there is a completely separate governance arrangement and it's for them to decide how best to use their assets and the Police and Crime Commissioner obviously is involved with that. I don't think it would be right for me at this point in time, without more information, to discuss the future of that building but it's important that we recognise the messages that we have had, they want to move into this building and we have the opportunity tonight later in the debate to allow that to happen and secure a publically accessible police office, which the people of Malton, Norton and the surrounding area are going to be able to use. So I'm hoping that Council will endorse that and give it's backing to what I think will be a really positive and constructive move for this Council and also for North Yorkshire Police. I know that you'd voiced opposition to that at Policy and Resources but our staff here, the Communities Team, the Customer Services team and also the staff at North Yorkshire Police think that is going to be a really positive move for both organisations and allow us to work more closely together on some of the issues where there is a cross over eg anti-social behaviour, rural crime, animal welfare and other items, so I see it as a real positive and I would like to think that Members of this Council, in particular Members that represent Malton and Norton will give their backing to what I think is a really positive and important move for Ryedale District Council and North Yorkshire Police.”
Councillor Burr then asked the following supplementary question:
“My question to you was would you agree with me that we need to try to keep Malton Police Station open and I don't think you quite answered that. What I don't object to is the Communities team being here and I think that's really good that we work together and move forward together but my initial worry is that we are actually closing the Police Station.”
The Leader then replied:
“What I would say all public sector organisations in this particular era need to be looking less I think at their assets and their buildings that the own and focus increasingly more so on the way that we are delivering services and dealing with the public. I think that's the really crucial thing is ensuring that we're meeting the needs of the Ryedale population, the North Yorkshire population, not focussing on particular buildings and particular assets. So that's what I would say on that and with regards to your last point that we are closing Malton Police Station, we - as Ryedale District Council - are not closing Malton Police Station. It is an issue for North Yorkshire Police and they have got to make fundamentally, as we do as Ryedale District Council, the right decisions for the taxpayers of North Yorkshire, which fundamentally they fund North Yorkshire Police.“
6. From Councillor Thackray
”Didn't expect to be commenting on the Leader's statement tonight but as we're talking about things that are missing, I must mention the sculpture of Henry Moore who was as you probably all know was famous for the big holes that were in his sculpture and indeed Henry Moore himself considered those to be just as important as the actual metal part of the works themselves. I look upon Cllr Duncan, the Leader's statement as being similar in that the bits that are missing and not there are vitally important. I'd just like to reference as Cllr Duncan likes to quote things I've written, I'd like to quote what he has said in the Gazette & Herald in respect of a new baby for me and something that I intend to see come to fruition, a new roundabout at the Musley Bank end of the A64 and slip roads at the B1257 Broughton Road. An article appeared in the Gazette on the basis that I wrote to all members of Council, including the press, to advocate that we make this a Council priority. Cllr Duncan with his great generosity, responded to the article in the Gazette by saying "Cllr Thackray seems to think he's invented the wheel with his proposal for new roundabouts but this idea has in fact been on the cards for decades. I'm a big supporter of all direction access at York Road and I believe the public are too". He added "Anyone and everyone can shout about it but we actually need to work to make it happen." and this is the key hole in Henry Moore's sculpture "And RDC is working very productively with North Yorkshire County Council to do so as quickly as possible." For members of the public who don't understand the way this Council works, which includes me, there is a Notice on Motion tonight which Cllr Duncan has squirrelled away, he's not going to let us talk about it. However, I am told, I have it reliably have been told, in respect of the work that has been very productively progressing with North Yorkshire County Council, there are no minutes of any meetings having taken place, so could Cllr Duncan please explain to the Members and to the members of the public precisely what you're talking about?”
The Leader replied:
“Cllr Thackray. Again your question does not relate to the Leader's statement and again the Leader's statement is not an opportunity for Members to make speeches. It is supposed to be an opportunity to ask questions. There are quite a lot of elements to your question. I think the key point there is about North Yorkshire County Council and Ryedale District Council working together to help improve the traffic situation in Malton and Norton and you know as well as I do the work that has been happening through the joint study that has taken place that has reviewed all sorts of options looking at the traffic situation. You may or may not also be aware that North Yorkshire County Council has established a steering group looking at traffic congestion in Malton and Norton and the County Councillors of those two areas, of which I am one, are members of that steering group. So work has been taking place, there are minutes of that steering group but that's not myself as Leader of this Council that's been taking part, it is in my role as a County Councillor for Norton. We are all determined I believe to improve the traffic situation in Malton and Norton but there are processes which we have to go through to get there. It takes time, it's frustrating I think for everybody that's involved but we nevertheless have to go through that process and I feel that we are making progress. On another point that you raised about the motion being squirrelled away, this meeting is not my meeting, it is the Chairman of Council's meeting and I have taken no action whatsoever with regards to that motion. It's on the agenda papers and it will follow the course as dictated in the Constitution.”