To receive a statement by the Leader of the Council on the activities and decisions of Cabinet and items included on the Forward Plan.
The Leader presented the statement that had been circulated about the activities and decisions made by Cabinet to allow questions and comments.
The Leader provided a verbal update on two items: national judging for Britain in Bloom would take place on 27th July at Castle House and there had been a large incursion of travellers on Wolstanton Marsh; the Council had obtained the Section 78 order and they had been moved off the site in the evening.
The Leader thanked the local Newcastle LPT Police Commander for his proactive approach to the removal of travellers.
Questions were raised and responses were provided as follows.
On paragraph 2 – Walleys Quarry Odour Issues
Councillor Adcock advised that there had been good feedback on the Community Engagement event held at the Fire Station and asked the Leader if he would support another such event, should there be demand for it.
The Leader stated that he would support such an event and hoped the Environment Agency would arrange another in the community soon.
On paragraph 3 – Town deal and Future High Street Fund
Councillor Brockie asked for assurance that the scale and appropriateness of developments in the town centre would remain under active review.
Councillor John Williams asked for assurance that the Ryecroft site would be designed and built to complement the existing town centre.
The Leader stated that there was a blueprint for the development that had been to Cabinet, part of which was about having a good standard of design on the sites which would complement existing buildings and any other buildings on the Ryecroft.
Councillor Williams also asked if the proposed Wammy Changing Rooms could be used for other sporting activities in the area.
Councillor Parker asked the Portfolio Holder for Finance, Town Centres and Growth how the relocation of the remaining York Place tenants was progressing.
Councillor Sweeney stated that there were two tenants still on there, the Cooperative Bank and Specsavers, both were scheduled to vacate by Christmas and would be remaining in the town centre.
Councillor Paul Waring made reference to the Shared Services Hub which would improve Kidsgrove Town Centre.
Councillor Gorton asked the Leader for reassurance that the Philip Astley Centre would not be a stand-alone body but would work with the Museum, Newcastle College and other performing arts groups.
Councillor Gorton also asked the Leader if he would impress upon the team who take the project forward that collaboration, particularly with overseas links, would be essential to its success.
The Leader stated that Andrew Van-Buren was part of the steering group for the project and he did have links overseas, particularly in Monaco and with Newcastle College.
Councillor Fox-Hewitt asked if he was correct in his understanding that the amount spent on the performing arts centre had increased by £100,000.
The Leader confirmed that there was no increase in spending.
On paragraph 4 – Sustainable Environment Update:
Councillor Panter asked the Portfolio Holder for Sustainable Environment for the progress in the Council’s adoption of Hydrated Vegetable Oil (HVO) for the Council fleet, effect on vehicle emissions and any financial advantages in adopting it.
Councillor Hutchison advised that the Waste and Recycle Fleet had all been running on HVO since March, 2023. No new CO2 would be released into the atmosphere. All raw materials were checked and verified by the Department of Transport. In addition, CO2 emissions of the vehicles had been reduced by 90%. HVO was purchased on the open market, with any price fluctuations being monitored and buying when appropriate, saving the Council and its residents thousands of pounds.
On paragraph 5 – Active Lifestyles Strategy:
Councillor Stubbs referred to the removal of nine 850 Anniversary banners on the main road through Kidsgrove and their replacement with banners advertising a fast food outlet which was located within Cheshire East.
The Leader stated that these were hired out spaces by the County Council and he had taken the matter up with the relevant director at the County Council.
Councillor Dymond asked the Leader to confirm if any funding had been allocated for new or refurbished tennis courts in Clough Hall Park, Kidsgrove.
The Leader advised that the Council had applied to the Lawn Tennis Association for funding, so any further streams of funding coming from that come forward, could be used for the refurbishment. Also, if there was any re-profiling of Town Deal Funding it could be put into enhancing sports facilities and the tennis courts could then be put forward for inclusion.
Councillor Burnett-Faulkner welcomed the Strategy and made reference to the first anniversary yesterday, of the reopening of Kidsgrove Sports Centre which was celebrated with an open day.
Councillor Skelding congratulated Kidsgrove Sports Centre on its first anniversary of re-opening. They had set a target of recruiting 700 members within the first year and, as of yesterday they had over 1100 signed up members. In addition, they had a target of teaching 500 children to swim within the first year - this figure currently stood at 750.
Councillor Crisp asked what the membership figures were for J2 and if they had been affected by Kidsgrove Sports Centre.
The Leader echoed members comments and stated that there were currently 3330 members at J2, a ten percent increase on pre-lockdown levels. There had been no impact from Kidsgrove Sports Centre – they actually complimented each other.
On paragraph 6 – Financial and Performance Review Report – Fourth Quarter 2022-23:
Councillor Panter asked the Leader if he agreed that the Borough Museum, with its new extension, was a true asset and a place to celebrate the cultural history of our Loyal and Ancient Borough.
The Leader shared these comments. It had really come into its own during this anniversary year.
Councillor Bettley-Smith asked the Leader if he agreed that the Council was taking the matter of long term sickness very seriously and if he was content with the actions being taken.
The Leader confirmed that the Council was doing all that it could to address the matter, some of which was still stemming from the Covid outbreak through health service delays, which were affecting some staff awaiting treatment operations. FAPS Scrutiny Committee had asked for a detailed report on the issue at its next meeting.
There were no comments or questions on paragraph 7 – Corporate Peer Challenge and Action Plan.
There were no comments or questions on paragraph 8 – the Forward Plan.
Resolved: That the statement of the Leader of the Council be received and noted.