Agenda item

Questions under Cabinet Procedure 10.7

The deadline for questions is noon on Wednesday, 1st July 2020. 

Minutes:

A.      Mr M. Hunt – Garendon Obelisk and Woods Surrounding

 

“Would the Leader thank officers for the recent attention they have given to the protection and refurbishment of the Garendon Obelisk and their on-going care for the monuments and listed landscape?

 

The woods surrounding the Obelisk are within the Garendon Development Site Area, and at one end integral to Booth Wood in a continuous landscape feature.  What are the current and future plans for these woods which lie within the development site?

 

Would the Leader agree that it would be silly not to manage this area of woodland jointly for the protection of wildlife and controlled public access?

 

When do we expect Booth Wood to become Local Nature Reserves?”

 

The following response had been published prior to the meeting:

 

Booth Wood lies within the boundary of the Garendon SUE development area and is part of a wider area of woodland that surrounds the Obelisk.

 

The woodland within the Garendon estate will be managed for conservation and to control access/recreational use as the new housing develops but its characteristics are quite different from Booth Wood. Booth Wood is an established semi natural woodland with a varied structure and canopy composition whilst the woodland elsewhere on the Garendon estate is even aged plantation with a closed canopy and is understood to have fairly limited ground cover. It is therefore appropriate to treat them differently.

 

The Estate woodland is to be managed by a Management Company as set out in the legal agreement to the planning permission. Booth Wood is owned and managed by the Borough Council and that arrangement is expected to continue alongside those of the Management Company.

 

The Council expects Booth Wood to be declared as a Local Nature Reserve later this year.

 

Mr Hunt wished to ask the following supplementary question:

 

“My sincere thanks for this important background information and the welcome prospect of declaring Booth Wood a Local Nature Reserve.  I am a little confused by the statement that Booth Wood is “within the boundary of the Garendon SUE development area” and would be grateful for clarification of this because the wood clearly lies outside the red line defined in the latest Master Plan*.

 

Whilst I understand that some of the extensive woodland on the estate is different from Booth Wood, would you confirm that the adjoining wood to Booth Wood, extending as far as the Obelisk, is particularly different from Booth Wood in terms of its characteristics and in what way?”

 

*Mr Hunt had submitted his supplementary question to officers in advance of the meeting and had included a map to illustrate this point.

 

In response, the Deputy Leader stated that, in light of the supplementary question, the application details had been checked and it had been confirmed Booth Wood was adjoining but outside the boundary as indicated by Mr Hunt.  An apology was given for the oversight.  The Deputy Leader added that the Council’s Senior Ecologist advises that woodland within the Garendon estate will be managed for conservation and to control access/recreational use as the new housing develops but its characteristics are quite different from Booth Wood. Booth Wood is an established semi natural woodland with a varied structure and canopy composition while the woodland in question on the Garendon estate is even aged plantation with a closed canopy and fairly limited ground cover. It would be considered not necessarily to make sense therefore to treat them in the same way.

 

B.      Mr M. Hunt -  Jubilee Park Outdoor Gym (Loughborough)

 

“What was the final cost of the Jubilee Park Outdoor Gym, how is use monitored and do we have plans to increase its use?”

 

The following response had been published prior to the meeting:

 

The outdoor gym at Jubilee Park was installed at a cost of £20,000, following consultation with local Councillors and feedback received about improvements to open spaces in the area. Outdoor gyms provide free access to gym equipment in the outdoor environment for those who wish exercise outside or who may not feel comfortable in a gym.

 

The Council monitors use and condition of the equipment through its regular programme of inspections for play and outdoor equipment. Users of the equipment can download the Proludic Sports app to monitor and track their exercises on the outdoor gym. We will continue to work with Active Charnwood to encourage healthy lifestyles and access to sports and recreation across all parks in the Borough for local residents.

 

C.      Councillor Bolton – Council Tax Support and Payment

 

“(i)     How many residents have put in claims for council tax support since 1st April 2020?

(ii)     Of those who have put in a claim, how many have been successful?

(iii)    How many residents have failed to pay their council tax on time in the period April to June 2020?

(iv)    How many residents took up the option of deferring their council tax payments to a later date?”

 

The following response had been published prior to the meeting:

 

(i)      902 claims have been received during this time.

(ii)     Identifying the successful and unsuccessful new claims can only be done by a manual check and count which would be extremely labour intensive, estimated to take approx. 1.5 days work. Based on the current workload of the team this would be difficult to provide at present.

(iii)    Approximately 2500 (this figure has been calculated by taking the number of unpaid Direct Debits plus the approximate number of reminders issued last week relating to this financial year).

(iv)    3063 accounts.

 

In making a statement, Councillor Bolton referred to her disappointment and surprise that no analysis of successful versus unsuccessful claims was available, although she understood these were very difficult times.  She wished to ask the following supplementary question:

 

“What are Charnwood Borough Council planning to do to further help residents in difficult financial circumstances to pay their Council Tax and any associated arrears?”

 

In response, the Deputy Leader referred to the availability of a hardship fund for Council Tax to which residents could apply if they so wished.  Also, to the option of deferring payment as referenced in the published question and response.  Officers would willingly speak to any resident regarding arrears and how those could possibly be extended over a period.  The Council was not unreasonable, would consider all circumstances and try to accommodate those as far as it could.  In respect of an analysis of successful and unsuccessful claims not being available, that was done on an equitable basis, but the work involved to provide the information would be substantial.  Councillor Bolton’s disappointment was recognised, but there was no intention to be obstructive, rather it was due to pressures, indeed the service concerned had dealt with substantial numbers of grant applications to assist businesses. The Council would do everything it could to help residents.

 

Both Mr Hunt and Councillor Bolton wished to thank the Cabinet for the responses provided.

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