Agenda and minutes
Venue: Bainbridge Room, The Copeland Centre, Catherine Street, Whitehaven. CA28 7SJ
Contact: Clive Willoughby Tel: 01946 598328
Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Carla Arrighi, Jackie Bowman, Anne Bradshaw, John Burns, John Dirom, Gwynneth Everett, Allan Forster, Jeanette Forster, Fred Gleaves, Michael Guest, Tom Higgins, Keith Hitchen, Alan Jacob, John Kane, Michael McVeigh, Peter Stephenson, Graham Sunderland and Gillian Troughton.
Declarations of Interest in Agenda Items:
Councillor Joan Hully declared a non-pecuniary interest in agenda Item 6 (Proposals for Council Tax Discount and Premium Scheme) due to living in social housing and being in receipt of benefits and agenda Item 7 (Accessible Information Policy) due to being visually impared.
Councillor Ged McGrath declared a non-pecuniary interest in agenda Item 6 (Proposals for Council Tax Discount and Premium Scheme) due to being a landlord, but not in Copeland.
Councillor Martin Barbour declared a non-pecuniary interest in agenda Item 6 (Proposals for Council Tax Discount and Premium Scheme) due to being a landlord.
The Chairman announced that Agenda Item 8 (Dispensation – Councillor Fred Gleaves) had been withdrawn from the agenda.
Written Questions from Members of the Public - Must relate to business on the agenda.
To receive questions from members of the public. Maximum time allowed 30 minutes. Questions must be submitted to the Head of Governance and Commercial at least three working days prior to the meeting.
It was noted that no written questions had been received from members of the public.
Written Questions by Members - Must relate to business on the agenda.
Written questions to the Mayor or any other
Member of the Council in relation to content of any recommendations
or reports before the Council.
Questions must be submitted in writing to the Head or Governance
and Commercial at least three working days prior to the meeting.
(45 minutes allowed) – Procedure Rule 11.2.
It was noted that no written questions had been received from Members.
The portfolio holder for Strategic and Regulatory Services, Councillor Allan Holliday, presented the proposed Council Tax Discounts and Premium Policy for Empty Homes to Council.
Councillor Ray Gill welcomed the report, which had previously passed through the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and by way of an amendment asked that a Task and Finish Group review the policy when it had been in operation for one year to iron out any anomalies in time for the 2020-2021 budget cycle.
The portfolio holder and Council agreed to the amendment.
Councillor Dave Banks sought and received clarification that the policy applied to social landlords.
Councillor Doug Wilson asked for clarification on properties that were in receipt of penalties, but were unable or unwilling to pay the Council Tax did the Council have any form of redress?
The Portfolio Holder undertook to provide a written answer.
Councillor Ged McGrath referred to a number of empty properties in his ward and asked how the 1.5 times Council Tax ‘stick’ helped in getting these properties back into use. He stated he would like to see more of a ‘carrot’ to encourage people.
The Portfolio Holder stated there were a number of exemptions that could be applied to genuine property owners to help them in getting their properties back into use.
Councillor Bob Kelly welcomed the report, however was concerned regarding its implementation. He further asked if there had been conversations with the Housing Associations and was advised there had.
Councillor Felicity Wilson took exception to comments made by Councillor McGrath stated that property owners in her Millom Newtown ward were trying hard to bring their houses up to standard.
Councillor McGrath apologised to Councillor Felicity Wilson for any offence, which he had not intended, but stated this was an area he would like to see regenerated by young people and help with funding for building work was required.
The Portfolio Holder stated there was enough in the policy to help.
Councillor Martin Barbour sought clarification on declaring an interest.
The Solicitor provided clarity stating if Members had an empty second home at the moment or believed they were going to have one in the foreseeable future, they should declare a Pecuniary Interest. If Members did not have an empty second home at present and not likely to have one in the foreseeable future, then there was no need to make a declaration.
Councillor Hugh Branney asked how many voids there were in Copeland at present and was advised there were approximately 100 long term voids.
Councillor Branney further stated that there were a large number of empty second homes within the Lake District National Park, that were empty most of the year.
The Portfolio holder confirmed these properties paid Council Tax, but perhaps not enough.
Councillor Chris Reay asked if the Task and Finish Group could look at the problem of empty second homes in the National Park before the next Council meeting.
The Mayor replied that the properties within the National Park were empty for ... view the full minutes text for item C76
Councillor Andy Pratt introduced the Accessible Information Policy to Council due to him having chaired the Overview and Scrutiny Task and Finish Group.
Councillor Ray Gill as Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee thanked Councillor Pratt for the work he had put into the report.
Councillor Brian O’Kane welcomed documents in plain English and stated that research suggests the average reading age in the UK was 9 years, therefore documents should be aimed at an audience ranging from 9-14 years of age.
Councillor Joan Hully asked if Council Tax bills could be issued in audio format and was assured the bills could be made available in audio or braille on request.
Councillor Graham Roberts asked if there were facilities to issue documents in braille and was advised that all documents were available in braille on request.
Documents could also be listened to via the use of a speech reader, however these did not read pdf documents.
Councillor Sam Meteer advised Council that transcripts of documents were also available via the Royal National Institute for the Blind.
Councillor Joan Hully reminded Council that not all residents had access to the internet.
Councillor Dave Banks highlighted from within the report that font size 14 would be used, but then goes on to state font size 12. Also, it states justified text should be avoided, but the report is full of justified paragraphs.
Councillor Ray Gill advised that IT is moving so fast that it was difficult to keep up with changes, he suggested that this policy be treated as a work in progress.
Councillor Chris Reay agreed with Councillor O’Kane in supporting simplified text.
a) The Accessible Information Policy be approved and adopted, and
b) All existing documents be changed, where possible, to adhere to the policy.
This item was withdrawn from the agenda.
Date and Time of the Next Meeting:
The next meeting of Council will be held on Tuesday 9th April 2019 at 2.00pm in the Bainbridge Room, The Copeland Centre, Catherine Street, Whitehaven. CA28 7SJ.
It was noted that the next meeting of Council would be held at 2:00pm on Tuesday 9th April 2019 in the Bainbridge Room, The Copeland Centre, Whitehaven.