Agenda item

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


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




As if the COVID-19 pandemic and the prospect of reorganisation were not enough to deal with, our district was confronted with a new problem last month: flooding. This council rose yet again to the challenge however, going above and beyond, as we always do, to help those affected.


Amidst these major challenges, I am proud of how we have continued to deliver day today services while also bringing forward a range of key and transformational projects to benefit of our residents. The past few months have shown the very best of what our council can do, and I know from the comments I have received it has been very much appreciated by the community.




Last month, Malton, Norton and Old Malton faced their biggest flooding challenge since the defences were installed. Despite tense moments, the cross-agency effort on the ground meant the worst-case scenario was averted. The majority - but sadly not all properties in the towns were protected. We had 29 pumps deployed on the ground at the height of the situation, with teams working round the clock. I salute their heroic efforts.


Flooding was not contained to just this area, however. Fryton, Slingsby, Low Marishes, Buttercrambe, Pickering and others were also affected, with a number of properties flooded or cut off by road closures. We were able to support residents here too.


Thank you to everyone involved in the effort, from Ryedale District Council, the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water, North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue and others. The task now for this council is to use its influence to bring partners together and push for further protection. We must identify relevant measures, and ensure they are delivered. While it is right for us to contribute, we cannot do it alone, nor should we. Our officers have started preliminary work with a view to reporting to members in due course.




Ryedale citizens and businesses continue, on the whole, to be exemplary in following the national lockdown. I thank them wholeheartedly for this. Testing sites at Thornton Dale and Malton are being used regularly. Meanwhile, GP surgeries in Malton and Pickering are playing their part in the amazing nationwide vaccination effort. We are supporting this, with our car parks commandeered to assist with the local programme.


We are working to get the latest business grants out to those who so desperately need them. So far, we have sent out over £30m in total, including £8m for the six schemes we currently have open. There is support too for citizens who are worried about paying their rent or mortgage, and for the lowest paid who are self-isolating. We continue to work with our partners, community organisations and amazing volunteers to support our most vulnerable.


In addition to the above, we now have a dedicated COVID Marshall patrolling Ryedale daily to help give advice and educate businesses about the current government guidance and restrictions. The Marshall works across all departments of the council and reports back any issues for the Environmental Health Department to follow up. His work is likely to only increase as we reopen sectors of our economy in coming months.


North Yorkshire Police


Malton’s Neighbourhood Policing Team and front counter services moved into Ryedale House on February 1. Our priority has been to ensure police officers remain stationed locally in Malton, for the benefit of the town and the wider district. I’m delighted to confirm that’s what we’ve been able to achieve after years of uncertainty. Going forward, the move should help our district be an even safer place, with our communities team able to work in even closer cooperation with police officers on issues such as speeding and antisocial behaviour.


Investing in Ryedale


We continue to make significant investment in our district. Already we have approved £450k to improve infrastructure in Malton and Norton and around £3.5m, rising to £5.2m with Homes England grant funding, to deliver the most ambitious housing programme since the transfer of our council homes. We have also agreed, with eight other authorities, to commence discussions with the Government about a devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire worth more than £2bn.


Tonight we discuss a new car parking strategy for the district, a funding contribution to the Milton Rooms and significant investment in Thornton Road Industrial Estate in Pickering - one of the biggest economic investment projects this council has even been involved with, stimulating growth and creating jobs at a time they are needed most. This progress represents an immense amount of background work and significant cross-party agreement, which should not be downplayed.


Hungate Centre


Efforts to save the Hungate Centre for community use continue. At the time of writing, I am due to meet with RVS management directly to stress the strength of feeling amongst councillors and the public we represent. It is my hope that a solution can be found in line with the council’s wishes. I will update councillors in due course.


Climate change


Work to deliver our Climate Change Action Plan is gathering momentum. We have supported an application for BEIS funding for a Geothermal Heat Project in collaboration with Third Energy Ltd and the LEP. We are also supporting the Circular Malton and Norton project team in investigating the feasibility of an Anaerobic Digester/ Biogas development project. Progress with the Malton to Pickering Cycle Route continues, as does the development of a Low Carbon Staff Travel Plan.


We are also putting in 10 additional electronic vehicle charging points across five of our car parks: Cleveland Way in Helmsley, Town Farm in Kirkbymoorside, Vivis Lane and Eastgate in Pickering and Wentworth Street in Malton. The streetlight replacement

scheme continues, with 262 of 277 conventional lights replaced with LEDs so far. Excellent progress, but with more to do.


Local government reorganisation


At the time of writing, it is expected that government will soon consult on proposals for local government reorganisation. On the current timeline, a final decision by the Secretary of State on which option to implement - North Yorkshire and York, or East & West - is expected this summer. Whatever the future may hold for local Government in Ryedale, it is vital that we continue working to best meet the needs of our residents, ensuring the next few months go down as amongst the most productive in our 47-year history.


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


1. From Councillor Paul Andrews:


“I first of all would like to commend the work that the Council staff has done in dealing with the [flooding] crisis. What I'm concerned about is the way in which the Councillors

dealt with flooding before the crisis actually arose. Members of Ryedale District Council, used to meet on a quarterly basis in what used to be called a Flood Risk Management Liaison Group . I think, eventually it had a different name. The last meeting of that took place about two years ago, and I can't recall the decision ever being made to wind it up. So, can you please Councillor Duncan tell me why has this not met? And when it’s going to meet again? And what action will be taken to immediately make sure that Members are involved in the planning in regard to flood prevention?


I have a second question related to the same issue. And that is in regards to the Arup plan. The Arup plan was approved by this Council, I think about two years ago. And yet, I haven't seen any work being carried out on the ground. Could Councillor Duncan, please explain what the position is, what progress has been made? And when we may expect to find that, when we may expect to see someone on the ground actually doing some work to implement it? Thank you, Chair.”


The Leader replied:


“On the first question that Councillor Andrews raised about the Flood Risk Management Liaison Group, it's my understanding there are no plans for that group to meet. However, as I'm sure he is aware, there is a community client group which is meeting to oversee, engage and inform the Malton, Norton and Old Malton flood alleviation scheme. He is a member of that body, and it is due to meet on the 22nd of February.


In terms of the second question, which he raised about the Arup plan, I am going to take that to mean the Malton, Norton and Old Malton flood alleviation scheme which we invested over £300,000 in alongside our partners, North Yorkshire County Council and the LEP. Significant work has taken place on the rollout and development of that scheme. And the work is due to conclude on the 31st of March. So, progress has happened. It will continue to happen. And the engagement will continue to take place with local elected members and others through the community client group which has been established.”


Councillor Paul Andrews then asked the following supplementary question:


“I have some supplementals Chairman, because I don't think Councillor Duncan has answered the question. I asked him why had the Flood Risk Management Liaison Group meeting been discontinued. Who had authorised its discontinuance? Is it just Councillor Duncan who's decided to discontinue that meeting? I want an answer. Members should be involved and as far as I can see, members have been deliberately marginalised.


Now I've realised that there is a community client group, but that is associated directly and only with Malton and Norton. It has absolutely no remit to deal with anything outside Malton and Norton. This is therefore not the same thing as the Flood Risk Management Liaison Group . And I would therefore please ask when was it was agreed by this Council that we were going to discontinue those meetings? Who agreed it? Who decided it?


On the second question, which was about the Arup scheme, what I asked was, when would we see any work being done on the ground? Not how far have we got to the planning stage. I just want to know when we can actually see somebody actually doing some work there. Thank you, Chair.“


The Leader replied:


“With regards to Flood Risk Management Liaison Group, that has no formal constitution basis within the Council. I don't know when it was established and why it was established. I don't know why it hasn't met. But there is now this body [the community client group] which is due to meet on the 22nd of February, where a range of members from across Malton and Norton are able to meet to discuss the rollout of the for the flood alleviation scheme.


The second part related to that scheme, the work is already ongoing on the ground, and is due to complete next month.”


Councillor Paul Andrews replied:


“Therefore, Chairman, the decision to wind up the Flood Risk Management Liaison Group has not been made by Members of this Council, it has been made by Councillor Duncan. And I think that is absolutely appalling.”


The Leader replied:


“I've just confirmed that no decision has been taken by me with regards to the Flood Risk Management Liaison Group. I don't know on what basis it was ever constituted, and on what basis it ever met, but it was really an informal grouping. And as I stated very clearly, there is going to be the community client group which will bring together all the relevant agencies including local councillors, of which Councillor Andrews is one, to discuss issues related to flooding, not just the flood alleviation scheme, but more wider issues as well in the Malton, Norton and Old Malton area.”


2. From Councillor Keal:


“In reference to your comments, Councillor Duncan, on flooding, I'd like to add my thanks to the efforts made by the Council, especially by the effort via depot staff for their prompt response to the crisis. And I have to say, that everything did not run as smoothly as I think you would probably like us to believe but that’s something that needs to be picked up outside this meeting.


There are some comments in your statement, which really worry me. And I'd like to ask for clarification and commitment from you as Leader. Mainly, for the sentence that was in the motion that Councillor Mason and myself are putting later on in the meeting but is likely to stand straight deferred to P and R. The comments that I'd like some clarification on are, ‘we further call on the Council to request that officers enter into immediate talks with Yorkshire Water, the Environment Agency and North Yorkshire County Council, to seek funding contributions towards a scheme that will be required to build a permanent pumping solution’. And the following sentence ‘following recent events in Norton, when floodwaters were only kept out of people's homes and businesses by 24/7 pumping and property was once again surrounded by raw sewage’, ‘this matter be considered urgent and requiring immediate action’. So, my question is Councillor Duncan as a fellow Norton Councillor, do you as Leader agree that the type and the levels of flooding in Norton along with the ongoing repercussions is totally unacceptable both to the residents affected, the community as a whole of Malton and Norton, and to this Council? And will you commit to treating this matter with the urgency it deserves and ensuring that a report on this motion is brought before the next meeting of P and R, and the motion returns to the very next Full Council? Because I think this matter is incredibly urgent and I would like to you to commit to that process and so, that would have bring a report back to the April meeting of full Council. Thank you.”


The Leader replied:


“Thank you Councillor Keal for your question. And just picking out some of the parts there. In the preamble, you mentioned that some of the response may not quite have gone as smoothly as we could have hoped. Clearly, if there are any lessons which we need to learn they will be taken forward by the multi-agency meeting that is due to take place. We will learn from anything which we can, which will help inform the response to future flood events if and when they happen. Clearly, the response is never going to be perfect. As you know, as we all know, the river level this time was the highest that it has ever been, the highest recorded level, with flood levels above the 2000 record. We had at the height of the event 29 pumps on the ground keeping water away from properties, we had a number of our officers out, we deployed 1700 sandbags. And we had a number of officers on the ground, providing reassurance, knocking on doors. So, I do think that we have done a really good job as a Council and appreciate your comments with that regard.


In terms of where we go from here and what we do next, clearly Ryedale District Council has always gone, I think, above and beyond not just in terms of response, but in terms of pushing for action. I know, Councillor Keal that you've been on with this for a very long period of time as have of other members of the Council. That is something which we need to continue to do, to use our influence and our role to ensure the partners that we work very closely with fulfil their responsibilities. And that we can take the action which we need to, to ensure that we get the very best levels of resilience, very best levels of prevention in place. It's not going to be easy.


As I was trying to get across in my statement, it's going to take a lot of hard work and effort. But I think that as a Council, we are in a perfect place to bring people together. In terms of the urgency element of this, I believe that you are right, we do need to ensure that we take urgent action on this item. But we also need to ensure that any money which we spend on flood measures are the right ones, and that we are ensuring the partners are also contributing. So, we will be able to consider your motion.


I would like to believe that at the next meeting of Policy and Resources there will be a report. I would like to believe that we could bring something back to the next meeting of Full Council. However, the request that is in your motion is for £2.5 million. I'm not 100% clear on the costings for that and how we may be able to ensure delivery of it as a district council with no legal power to do so given that other bodies have those legal powers, duties and responsibilities. So, it's going to be a difficult one but it needs full and thorough consideration which I am pledging will take place from this Council to see what is the best thing we can possibly do to help move these issues forward. We don't want to have roads closed. We don't want to have sewage in people's gardens. We don't want to have properties flooded. We all want to help address those issues and do what we possibly can. But we need to ensure that every penny and every pound that we spend is spent in the wisest way possible for the maximum benefit of the residents of the district.”


Councillor Keal then asked the following supplementary question:


“I just want to make Members aware that I believe that the matter and the motion, whatever we discuss this evening, is that my motion actually said up to £2.5 million. So, I wasn't saying that Ryedale would commit to that. What I am asking is for that urgency. And so, I think you've committed so far, Councillor Duncan to getting something to next P and R meeting, I would like you to go slightly further than that. And say that you would like to return this for the next Full Council meeting in April.”


The Leader replied:


“Thank you, Councillor Keal. What I would say is with regard to the costing of the £2.5 million, I do recognise that is an up to cost. But clearly, we need to ensure that whatever we are committing to fits in with what partners are doing in terms of their work programmes and the measures which can be put into place. What I would say as well is that I believe we should make an in principle decision to contribute to the works and measures which you are talking about. Perhaps other measures and other works as well. We make that in principle decision to contribute. And then we look at what exactly are the schemes. How is it going to work? Who is going to deliver them? And how are we going to ensure that we get the benefit to the residents which we represent. That is going to take a period of time but I think an in principle decision to contribute - I'm not saying that's necessarily £2.5 million. I'm not saying definitively for the scheme you've outlined. An in principle contribution I think is the right thing for us to do as a Council.


In terms of bringing something back to the Council next time, it will be obviously the will of the Policy and Resources Committee. And I haven't seen the information. I'd like to try and endeavor, Councillor Keal, to bring your motion back so that we can at least give some clarity, so it's not just sitting there for months on end. I would like to hopefully try and say, I think we both want the same thing here as representatives of Norton. I'd like to try and get us there in the quickest way that we possibly can and hopefully that answers your question.”


Councillor Keal then asked:


“During my time on this Council, as Members know I’ve been heavily involved in a lot of the development and funding of flood alleviation, both in Malton, Norton, Old Malton and in Pickering. I've always worked closely I believe with officers, particularly postevent on what has happened after the many floods that Ryedale has faced. So, my question is, due to the fact the role of Member Champion is now under review, when did it become the policy of this Council to ask a Member Champion, rather than an officer to gather feedback from other Members on topics that are as important to our residents as flooding? And just as a point of clarification before you answer that Councillor Duncan, this is with no disrespect to the Member Champion concerned, I just want to know, whether the policy of the Council has actually changed because I've never been in this position before. I've always been able to feedback directly to officers. Thank you.”


The Leader replied:


“Thank you, Councillor Keal, for your question. What I would say is that every Member of this Council is free to speak to our officers at any time and pass feedback, be it on flooding, be it on any other item, they are free to do so. With regards to the Member Champions, you're right. They are under review, and they have been under review now for many months. The outcome of that review, I'm not certain when that might be. And I'm not sure whether it is at the top of our priority list at this point in time. But clearly, we do have Member Champions that have been appointed to be responsible for certain championship areas, their duties and their responsibilities are not clear to me as Leader of the Council. And what I would say is that I’ve had no engagement directly with the Member Champion for climate change and environment, which appears to have taken flooding as well, so I can't comment on his actions and I can't comment on the process leading to that. All I will say is that any Member, yourself included, is free to engage with our officers and provide feedback at any time.”


3. From Councillor Raine:


“I would just like to ask Councillor Duncan, where he's got up to now with negotiations with the Hungate Centre. As you say, at the time of writing, I'm due to meet with the RVS management directly. So, I just wondered if it's possible to have an update?”


The Leader replied:


“Thank you, Councillor Raine, for your question. I have now met with RVS management. The meeting, I think, was a positive one. And they were able to present their point of view on clearly an issue which many people care about, and feel passionately about. They have promised to share with us some financial information relating to the funding which they are seeking to reap from the sale. And they have now done that, but that information has only come through to me today. Councillor, I think you've seen it as well, and other Councillors may also have seen it. It was only sent to me today. So, I haven't been able to digest all of that information at this point in time. The meeting on the whole was a positive one. But what I would say is, they have still not had any formal bid put to them by any community group to acquire the building, to purchase the building from them. And clearly, they were keen for that to happen. But that has not been possible at this point in time.


In terms of identifying the role for this Council, clearly, if a sale does proceed on the open market and residual funding is released above the amount that they are seeking to recover, then on that basis there may be a role for Ryedale to investigate what we can play in allocating, looking after that amount of funding on behalf of the trust, which originally was responsible for the building.”


Councillor Raine then asked the following supplementary question:


“Obviously, Councillor Duncan you're not being totally updated with the fact that Mel Bonney from CaVCA has put in a bid that the actual CaVCA in takeover, transfer of the trusteeship. And she's waiting to hear from the RVS, she's put that in a while ago now. So obviously, if CaVCA were to take over the trusteeship, it would be wonderful. So, I'm not sure you know, what you know about that? Or you don't know about that?”


The Leader replied:


“What I would say, Councillor Raine, is obviously, I know, you're asking me a question here. But it sounds like you know more information than I do with regards to the bid, the request that's being put in to the RVS. That sounds very encouraging if that has been put forward. And if that could be a viable way forward, that to me would be very encouraging. And I'm happy to engage with you separately about that. If there's anything I can do to help and assist bring that to a sort of successful fruition.”


4. From Councillor Wass:


“The question I want to ask is about flooding, actually. As Councillor Duncan mentioned, you know, gathering information for future meetings that Councillor Keal has asked for is obviously going to take some period of time. But the problem is with everything we're dealing with, we don't have that comforter, if you like. You know, people are in desperate need, either of community services, such as the RVS Centre or in terms of being safe. And if we are to believe what the scientists are telling us and as Councillor Duncan said, that the river levels were at the highest this time that they've ever been, things are only going to get worse. And I haven't been on the Council, a great deal of time, but you're already hearing the same problems being reiterated to do with sewage. And it just seems as though, that nothing is been dealt with as a matter of urgency. And we shouldn't need to be discussing this. This should be uttermost in our minds to support and save people from what really is a Dickensian kind of mindset. You know, we wouldn't put up with this in that day and age. Why should we be putting up with it now? And my question to Councillor Duncan, is could he give me any figures about the effects of flooding to the people in the Pickering area? Thank you.”


The Leader replied:


“Thank you, Councillor Wass. Just addressing some of the issues which you raised in the preamble to your question. When you say we, I think we need to be very clear about who the ‘we’ is here.


Ryedale District Council has no powers or responsibility to do many of the things which need to happen to alleviate some of the problems which we are facing. Ryedale District Council has an important role to play in terms of bringing partners together and we are already doing that. So, officers have started conversations with NYCC, who are the lead flood authority, with Yorkshire Water and with the Environment Agency that will continue.


In terms of history, and this goes beyond as well my time on the Council, Ryedale District Council has always gone above and beyond contributing funding to a range of measures to prevent and combat flooding issues, particularly, in the Malton and Norton area but also in the Pickering area. Going back to 2003, and following the 1999-2000 floods, the Council invested in the flood defences which now keep the town safe.


In 2013, the Council invested £950,000 in the Slow the Flow scheme, which obviously benefits your constituents in Pickering. In 2016, we funded £12,000 for a project manager to deliver schemes in the Malton and Norton area, £2,500 towards the CCTV survey and we also established a £50,000 flood grant scheme. In 2019, we allocated £320,000 towards the Malton, Norton, Old Malton flood alleviation scheme. So, in total since 2013, we have contributed as a Council £1.3 million of our resources into a range of measures to help with flooding issues.


In terms of Pickering, obviously I've mentioned the Slow the Flow scheme. In terms of actual events on the ground, my understanding, Councillor Wass, and I would need to clarify this, is that there was a property flooded in the Pickering area and we did assist the resident of that property as best as we could.”


Councillor Wass then replied:


“Thank you for that, Councillor Duncan. And I want to clarify there, I wasn't directing that as a slur against anything the Council is doing or officers. But I do think as you said we haven't gotten the necessary powers to act immediately on things. But what we have got is the art of communication and the fact that we need to be directing things more urgently than ever before and making sure that this is a priority. And I'll count myself in that as well. Thank you.”


5. From Councillor Potter:


“I’ve actually got three questions being as it's quite a lengthy Leader’s statement.


First, can I just go back to what's been said about the Flood Risk Management Liaison Group Councillor Wass mentioned the art of communication there. I've been going along to that Flood Risk Management Liaison Group group for probably over 10 years. And I found it to be a very important, and I stress, very important forum. And I think it's a great shame that it's been removed against the will of Members. And that is quite counterproductive as well. And with little or no feedback from officers about discussions that might be going on with North Yorkshire. Right, so I'll go on to this first question. I'll do them one at a time to save any confusion. So, I too am on the flooding on paragraph three and the Leader rightly thanks various authorities for the excellent multi-agency response to flooding and I very much agree with him. But he makes no mention in there of the lead local flood authority which is North Yorkshire County Council. So, what's the reason for this important omission, given the task is now to bring funding partners together to push for further protection?”


The Leader replied:


“Thank you, Councillor Potter for your question. I knew exactly when you started your question there what the question was going to be because I realised after publication of my statement that there has been a genuine oversight. And I would like to say very strongly, thanks as well to North Yorkshire County Council, of which I'm a Member, for the role that they have played not only in the response to the flooding event but the role that they have played also in preventative works, including the Malton, Norton and Old Malton flood alleviation scheme.”


6. From Councillor Potter:


“I'm on to the investing in Ryedale in paragraph two and referring to investments in the Thornton Road industrial estate. The Leader references significant cross party agreement. Now given that the vote at P and R went to the Chairman's casting vote, how exactly does he justify that comment? Is it Alice in Wonderland or Harry Potter? And why are we completely ignoring our own climate change policy and agreed climate emergency in the construction of this industrial development?”


The Leader replied:


“Thank you, Councillor Potter, for your question. I'm just checking the minutes of the Policy and Resources meeting where the only group not to support that was the Liberal Group. So, there is significant cross party support and I stand by that statement. Although I do recognise that the liberal group did not support, on the whole the other groups who were present were in support of that development. And this is obviously a decision this evening, which we will or will not take. And, obviously, we need to discuss that and it is an exempt item. So, I don't want to delve too much into the detail of the report. What I would say is that this development is really vital, I believe, to the fortunes of Ryedale's economy, particularly northern Ryedale, particularly the area which you represent, Councillor Potter. It is significant and important and it is vital, I believe, that we agree to make that investment this evening.


What I would also say in terms of the sustainable build standards, there is information within the report relating to those standards and being BREEAM - very good, which is in the top 25% of performance. It's deemed to be advanced, good practice.


I believe that we are setting a good example to others who may be constructing in the Ryedale districts. And I believe that we are complying with our policies, and the LEP is complying with its policy and its aspiration towards not only carbon neutrality but carbon negativity.”


Councillor Potter then asked the following supplementary question:


“So as Climate Change Champion, I'm rather acutely aware that climate change in the short to medium term is going to impact far, far more greatly than short term economic development.


And I was, of course, referring to P and R’s refusal to implement our own climate change policy, which did go to a casting vote. So, does the Leader believe that no firm steer from Elected Members regarding climate change impact represents strong leadership? Or is that just absolving our responsibility onto officers?”


The Leader then replied:


“Thank you, Councillor Potter. I believe we are providing very strong leadership in this area, not only in relation to this development, but also in relation to all of the other activity which is taking place, which has been detailed in my Leader’s statement. I don't want to touch necessarily on all of those items, but you will see that there has been really very significant progress with regard to the implementation of our climate change action plan.”


7. From Councillor Potter:


“In that climate change section, the Leader usefully lists where we are largely facilitating others to take action on climate change, largely at other people's costs and effort. However, as the body responsible for strategy at this Council, in what way are we influencing all economic development to be carbon neutral, in line with our own existing climate change policy?”


The Leader replied:


“Thank you, Councillor Potter. I will just have to take issue I think with what you said there. These are largely things which we are facilitating. There is a whole host of activities listed in that section of my statement, which are really very good and welcome achievements that this Council has done at its own cost, at its own initiative, with its own officers. Some of them are listed in the statement regarding the low carbon staff travel plan, regarding the ten additional electronic vehicle charging points across car parks and of course the streetlight replacement scheme, which is now almost complete. There are a whole host of things which we are doing as a Council. They should not be underestimated and they should not be diminished, because they are significant and I believe very welcome.”


Councillor Potter then asked the following supplementary question:


“There are indeed some very good initiatives there. But there's an admirable amount of fluff and green flag waving there as well.


So, are we only encouraging carbon neutrality if it's somebody else's responsibility, and somebody else's money, or will the Leader commit to implementing our own climate change policy?”


The Leader replied:


“Thank you, Councillor Potter. I'm failing really to understand your question because on the one hand you've diminished what's in my statement, on the other hand you're saying actually there has been some very good work. I'm really struggling to understand that from that perspective. In terms of encouraging other people to play their role, I believe that we are doing that and it's starting with us as a Council. We are setting the example that I'm hoping that others will follow.”


8. From Councillor Riby:


“I agree with the Leader about the agency doing a good job. However, would the Leader agree with me that following the line of the Environmental Agency is just a very silly thing to do, because they have got ideologies that don't work in some situations? So, my concern is the rewilding of the Derwent is just going to contribute every year to more and more risk of flooding. If you go far enough forward, I suppose eventually when the Derwent becomes totally clogged with trees and silt, we will have the Vale of Pickering so we won't be able to live there any longer. I would suggest that we really challenge the Environment Agency about the policy. And I would suggest that if we did remove aquatic growth, somewhere between Kirkham Abbey Weir up to where the Rye joins the Derwent, you will probably find that the level of river water in Malton will be lowered by I guess 25 to 30 centimetres. And perhaps at the point of where the Rye enters the Derwent, it would probably be 35 to 40 centimetres. The advantage of lowering it at the entry of the rise to the Derwent is that the area that you talked about, the six places that are flooding would be less at risk, because it's a backup thing. The work they’ve done at Pickering, the storing water is fine and we can fill out that in various areas. But the fact is, if you stop the water running, which is what the policy is, it will just start to build up and you'll get more and more floods.


Do you agree we should challenge the views of the Environment Agency? And I quote the Somerset levels where they were totally opposed to dredging in the River Parrett. And guess what? After pressure from the Government and the Council in Somerset, guess what? We've gone four years without any further flooding in that area of any consequence anywhere. So, please, challenge don't just say thank you, what a wonderful guy you are, Environmental Agency. Say that you're wrong. We don't want floods.”


The Leader replied:


“Thank you, Councillor Riby for your question. It sounds like you've got a lot of technical information there, which I do not have. I'm not an expert on these matters. I can't comment really on the position of the Environment Agency because I don't know what the position of the Environment Agency is. I don't know what their views are. However, what I will say is that we obviously do work very closely with the Environment Agency and we have to do so. They are the statutory body with functions and we really have very little choice but to try and work constructively with them. I want to be very clear what their views are on the issues, which you have raised, so perhaps we can take the view as Elected Members and communicate that back to them. But I wouldn't want to unilaterally do that myself as Leader of the Council, because I don't have that understanding. And I'm also not quite sure necessarily how constructive that might be. But I'm happy to have a conversation with you, Councillor Riby, in more detail on this issue.”


9. From Councillor Frank:


“Thank you, Chair. My question is on the government reorganisation. The unitary bid. I wanted to know what the exact costings were and how much of the £49K has been spent. If we've gone over, under or the same as the other Councils, the £15k that they committed to? Thank you. “


The Leader replied:


“Thank you, Councillor Frank, for your question. What I would say is that in terms of the six district councils that have worked on the East & West proposal, all of the costs have been equitable across those authorities in terms of development of that bid, that submission to government, which is now there for their consideration.


I do not have any further update on the consultation at this stage. Although I believe that we are going to have perhaps an imminent announcement in relation to which of the bids, the two that have been submitted, are going to be taken forward.


In terms of the costings around the development of the East & West proposal, we have spent in total £40,000. So that's £40,000 since the start of the development of this work. That's the original £25,000 plus £15,000 from the £50,000, which was subsequently agreed by Policy and Resources.


I believe it is important there is transparency around these costs. But what I would say is that clearly, we all have a vested interest as Members, myself, yourself, Councillor Frank, and others, to ensure that we have the very best bid, which we’ve now submitted, and that we try to get the very best outcome out of the consultation, because all of us, all of our lives, and all of our residents lives are going to be affected by whatever situation in terms of local government, we end up with ultimately at the end of this process.


Councillor Frank then asked the following supplementary question:


“So what you are actually saying is that we've just spent 15K of the 49K that was allocated? So, what's going to happen to the rest of that money? Is it going to be spent on this unitary bid? Or is it going back into our capital programme?”


The Leader then replied:


“Any funding that has been allocated of that £50,000 that is not spent stays with us in our bank account. “


10. From Councillor Burr:


“I would just like to say a huge thank you to everyone who worked tirelessly on the recent flooding events. However, 29 portable pumps and three weeks closure of County Bridge cannot be the best way for our towns and our residents. And I look forward to this Council using some money for permanent pumps and I'm pleased to hear our Leader of the Council say that he wants to move forward with this. So, I'm looking forward to that. And just moving on to thinking about investment, in Ryedale, we have a growing elderly population who are our concern and do need investing in. Now, Councillor Duncan and I, we voted for an increase in council tax at North Yorkshire County Council yesterday, and it's all about Adult Social Care. My question is, would you agree with me, Councillor Duncan, that it really now is time that we worked across parties to establish a long funding solution to actually look after our residents regarding Adult Social Care?”


The Leader replied:


“Thank you, Councillor Burr, your question. I believe that is a question which would have been better asked at the County Council given that they have responsibility for Adult Social Care, not the District Council. So, I wouldn't wish to comment in this forum in terms of the Leader statement, as a Leader of the Ryedale District Council at this point in time.”


Councillor Burr then asked the following supplementary question:


“Whether we ask questions at County or at Ryedale, these are our residents and I'm sure the Leader has a personal view on what he feels about Adult Social Care because it is actually in crisis at the moment. So, I'm sure he's got a view that maybe he could share with us.”


The Leader then replied:


“As I stated, Councillor Burr, I am here as Leader of Ryedale District Council. Ryedale District Council does not have responsibility for Adult Social Care and therefore what I'm saying to you is that your question would have been more appropriately put forward to the Leader of the County Council who will have a whole host of information and a much better understanding than I can because it is his authority that has responsibility for Adult Social Care in Ryedale and in North Yorkshire.”


11. From Councillor Clark:


“I wonder if the Leader could inform me why he opposed the backstop if the negotiations didn't work over the Hungate Centre and why did he oppose the backstop of Ryedale Council buying it if necessary?”


The Leader replied:


“Thank you, Councillor Clark, for your question. Clearly, if this Council made the decision to buy the building without anybody prepared to run the building, or with a plan to run the building, which until tonight I hadn't been aware that RVS has been presented with, then we will have been buying a building with all the liabilities that come with it but without any public benefit whatsoever. So, it was on that basis which we felt that buying the building was not the appropriate course of action at this time. Because clearly, if you remember the decision of Council was that we were calling on the RVS to try and work with community groups to find a solution as the best outcome to deal with this issue. And clearly, it seems to me that if we now have that potential interest there from CaVCA, that would be a really ideal solution which means that Ryedale District Council has not used its limited resources to purchase the building. Potentially the CaVCA interest would not have come forward had it done so.”


Councillor Clark then asked the following supplementary question:


”So if that works and we’re then in a position of not having a building or people to run it. That doesn't strike me as the best outcome for Pickering, do you agree?”


The Leader then replied:


“Councillor Clark, are you suggesting, and I think you are suggesting, that we purchase a building against all the very strong officer advice. I don't want to get too much into that because again, that was an exempt item, but that we purchase a building, that then there was nobody to operate, to bring community value or community use to the people of Pickering. I don't understand why we would purchase a building with all the liabilities that come with it potentially up to significant figures, which you are aware of, and I'm aware of, that were in the report with no operator prepared to run the building. Now clearly, if someone has come forward and has approached the RVS, then that is a welcome scenario and I hope that that will come to fruition eventually.”


Councillor Clark then asked:


“If that works and it's good, that's fine. But not having confidence in the community of Pickering to run a building doesn't bode well for Pickering from this standpoint.


My second question is in relation to that there appears to be nothing in your statement about a staff survey. Has there been one? And what was the outcome?”


The Leader replied:


“Thank you, Councillor Clark. Just in relation again to the Hungate Centre about the confidence in the people of Pickering. What I would say is that the RVS, there was that six month period, and there was another six month period, and I think there was another month extension and in that period of time, longer than a year, no viable business plan was presented to the RVS to allow transfer to a community organisation. They've had a year and that did not come forward, rightly or wrongly. But that proposal did not come forward. Now, clearly, if there is now a proposal on the table, that is welcome news, and I would welcome it as Leader of the Council.


Turning to your question there around the staff survey, my understanding is that a pulse survey has taken place and that the results of that will be communicated to all members in due course.”


Councillor Clark then asked the following supplementary question:


“Have you any idea, Leader, why the staff champion was not informed of either the survey or the outcome?”


The Leader then replied:


“Thank you, Councillor Clark. I have no idea and can't comment.”


12. From Councillor Oxley:


“The Leader statement contains lots of good things that we're doing. We're not perfect and there's a lot of work to do. But would the Leader agree with me that it is these positive things that we ought to be reflecting and letting the people of Ryedale know what we are doing on their behalf?”


The Leader replied:


“Thank you, Councillor Oxley. I think that is worth saying that while we have been faced with immense challenges, as I referenced earlier on in the meeting, COVID, flooding, reorganisation, these are three things just to name three, which I’ve faced in my time as Leader of the Council, that we've all faced in our time as Members, which have presented extremely unique circumstances and challenges. But despite that, we have been able to make significant achievements and I think it is right that we do celebrate the achievements which we have been able to achieve. And I say that as ‘we’ meaning the entire Council of 30. Clearly, I believe we do have, at the core of everything, a common interest which is to deliver for our residents. And I believe that when we do work together and there is consensus around things, and we are able to achieve a lot for our residents. I would like to try and encourage that. And as Leader, I would like to see that happen. It's not always easy. But there are things which we have been able to achieve and which we should celebrate.


What I would like to say is that clearly I have now been Leader for coming up two years and I feel that what we've been able to achieve in the past two years is greater than what we achieved in my first four years on this Council. I believe that we've been able to achieve more than that entire period of time and if we have a year or two left, I believe that we can achieve yet more in that short period of time before we do finally close the doors for the final time and Ryedale District Council sadly ceases to exist.”


13. From Councillor Oxley:


“With regard to the flooding, it was pointed out already to the Leader that there was an omission in his list of thanks. Could I please ask him if he would also reference Pickering Town Council in that, as they were the body that stepped in last minute and provided the money for the maintenance that made the whole thing happen. Thank you.”


The Leader replied:


“Thank you, Councillor Oxley. What I would say is that my list is not totally prescriptive and I'm sure that there are a whole host of people and organisations, Pickering Town Council being one, that I would extend my thanks to. It has been a phenomenal effort in all parts of the district not just Malton and Norton but other places as well which meant that we were able to support people and I thank everybody, individually and collectively who was involved with that.”


14. From Councillor Mason:


”I just want to know whether Keane as Leader and Chair of Policy and Resources Committee regrets the decision with the recommendation not to install the electric permanent pumps back in November 2019. That Policy and Resources maybe in hindsight that could have been a better decision?


And the second one really is looking at the climate change bit in your statement ‘’work to deliver our Climate Change Action Plan is gathering momentum, we have supported applications for geothermal, with Third Energy, supported the Circular Malton and Norton team’, just exactly what support are we giving them? I would just like to know because I know I'm giving them support and I know other people may be giving them support. But I'd like to know personally, what maybe Keane you're doing to support?”


The Leader replied:


“Thank you, Councillor Mason for your question. With regards to the electric permanent pumps, I think it's important to clarify what was meant by that term, what you understand that term to mean and what in general understanding people who are involved with flooding issues understand that term to mean. What I would say is that in terms of a permanent pumping solution, what has never been put forward and what this Council has never declined to be involved with, is a permanent pumping solution, which is what I believe yourself and Councillor Keal are calling for the Council to fund. That has never come before us and has never been approved or rejected because it's never actually come before members for a decision.


If you are talking about electric pumps that are permanently installed in a location, then I think that is perhaps a better way of describing what I think we discussed at Policy and Resources and is going back a while in a period in time, but that is a very important distinction. A permanently installed portable pump in the Castlegate area is not a £2.5 million plus permanent pumping fitted underneath a road, for example. So that is a very important distinction to make and in terms of public comments that are made, it is important that all councillors do have an understanding of that because people could get a wrong impression about what this Council has and has not decided to do in the past. And as I've already stated, this Council has invested in recent years, more than a million pounds of its resources in schemes which can provide tangible benefits to residents.


In terms of climate change and the questions which you asked, I believe that we are doing a lot as a Council and I believe that as Leader of the Council. I am ensuring that our Officers are delivering our Climate Change Action Plan, which is an example, I think it was before you joined the Council, Councillor Mason, where the Council came together to support that action plan on a cross party basis and I do have to say we wouldn't have got that far without the involvement of Councillor Clark and the Scrutiny Committee who put an immense amount of work into devising that action plan. So, I welcome their work on this and I welcome the work of all Members across the Council in supporting its delivery going forward.”


Councillor Mason then asked the following supplementary question:


“With all due respect, Keane, I do know what the difference between a permanent and portable pump is. I think most councillors will assume common sense is that portable does not mean permanent. Let’s have plain English here, Keane, and not trying to go around the circle with this one. What I actually asked was what support are we doing for the geothermal project and Third Energy and also supporting the circular Malton and Norton project. I welcome and I think the work that the Liberals did before I was elected on the Climate Change Plan, was brilliant. That's not what I asked. I want to know what we are doing to support the feasibility work that's happening now. Not what happened two years ago and also to be honest following up on Councillor Potter, agreeing with him actually there doesn’t seem to be that much action happening from us to get going quickly?”


The Leader then replied:


“Thank you, Councillor Mason. Again, just going back to the issue of pumps, I believe there has been a misrepresentation, hopefully inadvertent, unintentional that this Council rejected permanent pumping. This Council has not done so. And that needs to be stated very, very clearly. Hence, why it was important to make that differentiation so that everybody is clear that that has never been the case.


Secondly, what I would like to say with regards to the delivery of the Climate Change Action Plan, and I'll underline this again, we set a series of objectives, many of them extremely ambitious. We have managed to achieve against those objectives. There is more work to do. We know that and clearly, Councillor Mason, you're heavily involved in those issues, other councillors are heavily involved as well. But we have done nothing other than support delivery of that plan by ourselves, by our partners, and by the wider community. And that will continue.”

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