A period of up to 30 minutes will be allocated for this item, to include those questions where notice has been provided and questions which may be asked without notice.
Members wishing to ask a question without notice should indicate this intention to the Democratic Services Team Leader prior to the commencement of the item. Members’ names will be drawn at random by the Chairman until there are no further questions or until the expiration of the 30 minute time period.
Questions without notice were asked and answered as follows:
Question by Councillor Bridget Smith
Councillor Bridget Smith, Leader of the Opposition, asked when officers had been appointed in respect of the proposed Combined Authority relating to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough devolution deal and who their employers were.
Councillor Peter Topping, Leader of the Council, reported that the Combined Authority would be created as a result of the Statutory Order that had recently been made available should an agreement be made for a devolution deal. He emphasised that this was not yet a body but made the point that it was necessary and sensible to commence with preparations in advance should a Combined Authority be formally established. Leaders and officers from the partner Councils included as part of the proposed devolution deal had met regularly to take forward this work, further to which it had been deemed as sensible to the Leaders to collectively decide that some officers should take on additional responsibilities. He reflected that those specific officers had put a great deal of effort into supporting the work associated with the proposed devolution deal.
Councillor Smith sought clarity that these officers continued to be employed by their respective Councils. Councillor Topping confirmed that this was correct.
Question by Councillor Douglas de Lacey
Further to his question at the previous meeting of Council in relation to card payments, Councillor de Lacey asked the Portfolio Holder to explain why the Council still used Capita to process card payments when it had to pay for the privilege and the company was essentially practicing extortion on the district’s residents.
Councillor Simon Edwards, Portfolio Holder for Finance and Staffing, agreed to provide Councillor de Lacey with a written response.
Question by Councillor Aidan van de Weyer
Councillor Aidan van de Weyer, following calls by a local Member of Parliament to extend the deadline for spending for the first phase of the Greater Cambridge City Deal, asked whether the Portfolio Holder could inform the Council what discussions he had held on this with the City Deal Executive Board and the Government.
Councillor Francis Burkitt, Portfolio Holder for the Greater Cambridge City Deal, explained that no discussions had yet taken place. Heidi Allen MP had agreed to facilitate a meeting with the relevant Minister but as of yet Councillor Burkitt had not received an agenda for such a meeting.
Question by Councillor Sebastian Kindersley
Councillor Sebastian Kindersley expressed his concern in what he and some of his colleagues perceived as a move towards the removal of the democratic role of Members when sitting on the authority's Planning Committee. He understood that applications should be judged on material planning grounds, but said that Members also had to consider an element of protecting the district's parishes and that it was down to individual Members to decide the greater or lesser weight in their consideration of applications in this respect. Councillor Kindersley raised this issue in response to the consideration of a recent application where there had been an obvious move towards clear material planning considerations at the cost of the representative role of Members, to the extent where he questioned the point of the Planning Committee as a body.
Councillor Robert Turner, Planning Portfolio Holder, agreed that local Members did represent the views of the residents they represented in their electoral wards, as well as the views of all residents of the district. He understood the point but also highlighted the need for Members of the Committee to consider legal advice, together with advice on national and local policy. Councillor Turner stated that the way in which applications were determined was entirely a decision of the Planning Committee, but reminded Members that any appeal decisions against the authority then had to be addressed. He said that Members of the Committee were able to represent their residents, but ultimately the Committee's decisions could be challenged.
Councillor Kindersley said that it was alarming that, in his opinion, it was becoming more acceptable for the Committee to make a decision which officers subsequently felt was not the right decision. He asked whether the Portfolio Holder agreed that it was a dangerous precedent for an application to be re-submitted to the Planning Committee for reconsideration.
Councillor Turner acknowledged that Councillor Kindersley was referring to an application at Waterbeach. He said that the Committee would be required to consider that application based on the information presented before Members at that meeting.