(a) Leader – (Cllr Martin Tett)
The Leader updated Members on the position relating to Covid 19. Infection rates had fallen to 26.7 per 100000 with the highest new cases occurring amongst the 19-39 year age group. 260,000 first doses and 32,000 second doses had been administered in Buckinghamshire up to 16 April 2021. Percentage rates of vaccinations by age group were 96% for over 70 year olds, 90% for over 60s and 86% for the over 50s.
In response to a question, an explanation was provided on the former AVDC Council`s pledge to become Net Zero by 2030 in contrast to the current Council`s objective to reach this figure by 2050. It was anticipated that the Buckinghamshire Council would reach this target earlier than 2050, but the comparison between the two Council`s was not equal due to the vast differences in scope, geography, size and complexity of the two organisations.
In response to a question on whether he would be prepared to take forward two motions at the next ordinary meeting of Council relating to fireworks and Crohn`s disease in the event of the absence of the proposer within the new administration, the Leader informed Members that this would be something to be considered by the new Council following the elections.
The final question related to whether there was a need to now look to provide a solution and to explore and examine the factors which had caused a disproportionate impact on BAME groups during the Covid pandemic. The Leader confirmed that it was important to assist all those who had suffered disproportionately and emphasised the need for early intervention in education to provide the opportunities for improvement and relief of economic deprivation. Further exploration work on this will be the responsibility of the new Council.
(b) CM for Adult Social Care(Cllr Angela Macpherson)
In response to a question of which of the homes in Buckinghamshire were vulnerable due to the lack of financial resilience, Members were informed that some care home owners were indeed struggling but the Council was offering support and resources to these and assisting in helping to explore ways in which the businesses could be reshaped in relation to the changing demands of care.
(c) CM for Resources (Cllr Katrina Wood)
Members were informed that work was ongoing to ensure that the revenue budget and the expenditure on the infrastructure budget were matched and aligned for future years. This would enabe the Council to realise its ambitions.
(d) CM Children`s Services (Cllr Mark Shaw)
The Cabinet Member thanked the outgoing Director for Children`s Services for all the hard work undertaken by himself and his team.
(e) CM Environment and Climate Change (Cllr Bill Chapple OBE)
Members were informed that the reason the percentage level of recyclable waste had significantly reduced in recent months from approximately 70% to -50% had been due to the figure being calculated as a percentage for right across the Council and not just for Household Recycling Centres. It was anticipated that the figure would improve as we headed towards the summer months.
The Cabinet Member asked a Member to forward him a query about the Climate Change and Air Quality Strategy, and on assistance that could be provided for tree planting via the £300,000 Government fund. He would then respond directly to the Member on it.
(f) CM Education and Skills (Cllr Anita Cranmer)
Members were informed that the 11+ exam had been delayed by 2 months this year due to the pandemic and, as such, information on this year’s exam results were not yet available. It was confirmed that discretionary places for disadvantaged children would be made available.
(g) CM Communities & Public Health (Cllr Gareth Williams)
Members were informed that the Domestic Abuse Bill had resulted in £854,000 being made available for life saving support for the victims of domestic abuse. Bucks had set up a Board to improve work in this regard across the county.
The Cabinet Member informed Members that Community Boards would be able to ask the Community Safety Team to help progress the Safe Spaces Scheme which had been introduced in Aylesbury following the recent murder of Sarah Everard. This could include looking at the viability of extending the initiative across Buckinghamshire, and in close collaboration with the Police and Community Boards.
In response to a question, the Cabinet updated Members on planning that was in place to deal with mental health issues as a result of the pandemic and to ensure that there was some resilience in terms of available services for the elderly and the young who may have particularly suffered. Members were informed that mental health and the impact of the pandemic on youth and adolescent health was being closely focussed upon in a multitude of forums including within Community Boards.
Lastly, the Cabinet Member confirmed that he was satisfied that the messaging and the communications from the Public Health Service were both adequate and effective in providing widespread access to public health information. This was a result of a team effort across the Council.
(h) CM Town Centre Regeneration (Cllr Steve Bowles)
The Cabinet Member highlighted the reopening of the High Street and thanked the committed officer team who had worked hard to ensure the provision of much needed support to businesses and to communities.
In response to a question, Members were updated on the revitalisation of High Wycombe Town centre. The High Wycombe Regeneration Board was in operation and was working tirelessly to ensure that both the High Wycombe Town Centre and Chesham Town Centre were revitalised. Funding was also in place to support the regeneration.
(i) CM Property & Assets (Cllr John Chilver)
Members were informed that they could be provided with a copy of the entire asset list for the Council, on request. It was possible that this list would be published in due course. Members who had an query in relation to a particular property were encouraged to put in a request to the property team.
(j) CM Planning and Enforcement(Cllr Warren Whyte)
Members were informed that the Council’s enforcement performance had increased by 51% and that in terms of enforcement activity and notices Bucks was in 12th place nationally and in 3rd place outside greater London.
A Member emphasised that whilst she was pleased to see an increase in the numbers and a revamping of the service, she wished to see greater involvement of the local Ward Member within the enforcement decisions on planning matters. She emphasised that joint decisions between Enforcement Officers and the Ward Member was important due to the Members in depth local knowledge. Councillors were informed that although this was not currently usual practice, quarterly reports were submitted to Cabinet and Town and Parish Councils, and updates to Planning Committees also provided information on enforcement related matters. The Quasi - Judicial nature of planning meant having to strike the right balance and to be able to engage with local Members when and where possible.
(k) CM Transport (Cllr Nick Naylor)
Members were informed that a great deal of work had been done on planning for the Transport for Bucks Contract including exploring alternatives. An options appraisal had been conducted looking at alternative operating models and a list of recommendations produced. The re-procurement of the contract would be implemented in 2023. A report had been submitted in March 2021 to the Cabinet highlighting the information in greater detail.
In response to a question, Members were informed that the start date for work on the A404 to Marlow had been pushed back and was now due to commence in September 2021 and to be completed in May 2022, with a budget of £3.796m.
Finally, Members were informed that real time traffic management information was available on-line on one.network on the A413. This information could be used to assess issues such as rerouting traffic away from the A413 at busy times and preventing rat running on unsuitable country roads.
(l) CM Housing & Homelessness (Cllr Isobel Darby)
The Cabinet Member thanked the officer teams with regards to recent enforcement work stating that they had done a splendid job. This had highlighted the Council`s expectation of Landlords to maintain high levels of standards which the tenants and residents deserved.
In response to a question, Members were informed that work was ongoing, albeit in its early stages, on how social housing could be provided using the Council’s assets to support key workers. Furthermore teams were working hard to ensure that the existing provision could continue.
(m) CM Regulatory Services (Cllr Fred Wilson)
The Cabinet Member thanked officers for all the challenges they had met over the last year and for the support they had provided to businesses and residents. He encouraged them to keep up the good work.