Agenda and draft minutes
Venue: This meeting will be a virtual meeting and therefore will not take place in a physical location.
Contact: Clive Willoughby Tel: 01946 598328
Apologies for Absence
There were no apologies for absence.
Councillor Sam Meteer raised a query regarding Minute C 20/57 at the foot of agenda page 9 which stated ‘Copeland Association of Local Council’s’ and asked for this to be amended to ‘Cumbria Association of Local Council’s’.
In reply, Councillor Andy Pratt confirmed that in this instance ‘Copeland Association of Local Council’s’ and the minutes were correct.
Councillor Mike Hawkins asked if Minute C 20/57 on agenda page 10 and his supplementary question to Councillor Morgan could be amended as he meant to say ‘redundant Care Homes in Copeland that need redevelopment’.
RESOLVED – That the minutes of the meeting held on 15 December 2020 besigned by the Chair as a correct record.
Declarations of Interest in Agenda Items
The Chair advised Council that all Members present had requested and received a dispensation, which enabled them to take part in the debate and vote on thebudget proposals.
Councillor Joan Hully declared a non pecuniary interest due to being the Chair of Cleator Moor Town Council and a member of Regen NE Copeland.
Councillor Joan Hully also declared pecuniary interest due to being in receipt of Council Tax benefits.
On behalf of the Council, the Chair passed on sincere condolences to Councillor Peter Tyson following the loss of his Wife earlier in the month.
The Chair expressed sadness to hear that former councillor Gilbert Scurrah died on 19 December 2020. Gilbertrepresented the Millom Without Ward on Copeland Council for almost 25 years before standing down at the May 2019 election.
The Chair joined the Council in congratulating Councillor John Kane on being awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s New Year Honours list, for ‘Services to People with Parkinson’s Disease in West Cumbria’.
Questions from Members of the Public - Must relate to Items on the Agenda
To receive questions from members of the public. Maximum time allowed 30 minutes. Questions must be submitted to the Council’s Monitoring Officer at least three working days prior to the meeting.
It was noted that no questions relating to business on the agenda had been received from members of the public.
Written Questions by Members - Must relate to Items 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 Council’s Monitoring Officer at least three working
days prior to the meeting. (45 minutes allowed) – Procedure
It was noted that no written questions relating to business on the agenda had been received from members.
Motion without Notice from Councillor Michael McVeigh
Councillor Michael McVeigh proposed a motion on behalf of the Labour Group that the Grant Thornton item (Agenda Item 9) be brought forward to be taken before the Budget item (Agenda Item 8).
The motion was seconded by Councillor Allan Forster.
A vote was then taken, by way of a roll call.
On a vote of 22 For, 10 Against and 0 Abstentions, it was therefore:-
RESOLVED: that the motion be AGREED.
Councillor David Moore introduced the Independent Remuneration Panel’s report on Members Allowances 2021/22.
In doing so, Councillor Moore stated that this is undertaken yearly.
It was also stated that Members’ Allowances were an individual decision for each Member, who could opt to take part or none of the allowances.
Councillor David Moore moved the report, which was seconded by Councillor Doug Wilson.
Councillor Hugh Branney asked for clarification regarding the broadband allowance.
In reply, Councillor Moore confirmed that, as agreed last year, the broadband allowance was now incorporated within the basic allowance which all Members can receive regardless ofwhether or not they have broadband.
Councillor Brian O’Kane commented that the Independent Remuneration Panel’s report did not include the feedback they had received and asked if this could be disclosed in future.
Councillor Moore replied that the feedback was given in confidence, but he would ask that the comments be included in future, but without who they were received from.
Councillor Felicity Wilson asked if allowances for councillors using public transport were still included and if so, could this be included in the document.
In reply, Councillor Moore confirmed that councillors using public transport can still reclaim out of pocket expenses and this would be included in the documentation.
Councillor Graham Minshawreferred to the proposed increase of 1% for Members with one receiving 2.75% and asked where the justification was.
In reply, Councillor Moore stated that all Members would receive a 1% increase, however, anyone on a salary, for example the Mayor, receivesthe same as staff, which was 2.75%.
There being no further questions, the Chair passed over to the Democratic Services Officer who reminded Council that, as is required by law, the vote on the proposal was a recorded vote.
For the Motion (31) -
Councillors Charles Maudling, David Banks, Hugh Branney,
Graham Calvin, James Date, Gemma Dinsdale, Gwynneth Everett,
Allan Forster, Jeanette Forster, Fred Gleaves, Jeffrey Hailes,
Mike Hawkins, Tom Higgins, Joan Hully,Linda Jones-Bulman, John Kane, Ged McGrath, Michael McVeigh, Sam Meteer, Graham Minshaw,
David Moore, Steven Morgan, Brian O'Kane, Sam Pollen, Andy Pratt, Russell Studholme, Peter Tyson, Carl Walmsley, Eileen Weir,
Doug Wilson and Felicity Wilson.
Against the Motion (0) -
Abstentions (2) -
Councillor Jackie Bowman and Mayor Mike Starkie.
a) the Members’ Scheme of Allowances for the year 2021/22, as set
out and listed in Appendix A of the agenda report, be approved,
b) a further report be submitted to Council in respect of paragraph
33 of the Independent Remuneration Panel’s report, following consultation with disabled members, with a view to adopting a policy which reconciles the scheme and makes it comparative to Council employee conditions, and
c) the Independent Remuneration Panel be asked to review the
Scheme of Members’ Allowances for the 2022/23 municipal year at the ... view the full minutes text for item C 20/74
Consideration was given to a report made under section 24 schedule 7 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 by the Council’s external auditor Grant Thornton.
The Mayor introduced the report by reading the Grant Thornton recommendations and Management responses as shown on Pages 7 and 8 of the supplementary agenda.
Mayor Mike Starkie then moved the report, which was seconded by Councillor David Moore.
The Section 151 was then invited to address Council.
The responsibilities, powers and duties of the Auditor were outlined, followed by their conclusion that it was appropriate for them to use their powers to make written recommendations under section 24 of the Act, due to inadequate arrangements and capacity at the Council to prepare reliable financial statements by the statutory deadline and concerns regarding the Council’s timely implementation of actions to address internal control weakness.
The background to making their recommendations was also outlined, including the small Finance team and the major cyber-attack in 2017.
The consequences of the weaknesses identified were then highlighted.
Since joining the Council in June 2018, when he was the only qualified accountant, time has been taken to build experience within the Finance team and now have four qualified accountants and a restructure has been held.
Due to the cyber-attack, the amount of additional testing required has been significant.
It was confirmed that there was no suggestion of fraud, confirmed by the auditors.
The section 151 officer concluded that Priority 1 and 2 recommendations are taken seriously by the management team and significant progress had been made on these in the last few years and the progress was also regularly reported to the Audit Committee.
The Mayor began to provide a history of the accounts dating back to 2007.
A point of order was raised by Councillor Sam Meteer stating this did not relate to the agenda item, as was over-ruled by the Chair.
A point of order was then raised by Councillor Michael McVeigh stating that he had summited a request to discuss the Grant Thornton Section 24 recommendations dated February 2021 that alludes specifically to that date and could not see why we were going back.
The Chair reminded Councillor McVeigh that his motion was to amend the running order of the agenda item only and over-ruled his point of order.
The Mayor continued, citing the Audit reports from 2011, 2012 and 2015, the reliance on two inexperienced interim appointments and that the account contained material errors.
He noted that prior to 2015, there had been eight different S151 Officers in eight years. The Council now had a S151 Officer who had been in post for three years and five qualified accountants.
The Mayor highlighted the Council’s business continuity plan and stressed that during 2020-21 and the Covid-19 pandemic the business continuity plan was exemplary.
Questions were then invited from Members.
Councillor John Kane asked why nobody from Grant Thornton was present.
The Mayor responded that this was an Audit function and that Grant ... view the full minutes text for item C 20/75
Before inviting the Mayor to present his budget, the Chair asked the Director of Corporate Resourcesand Commercial Strategy (Monitoring Officer) to set out the budget process.
The Director of Corporate Resources and Commercial Strategy (Monitoring Officer) advised Council: “As set out in Chapter 7 of the Constitution, a local agreement agreed by Council on the 9thApril 2015 requires any amendment to be submitted to the Director of Financial Resources at least 2 working days priorto the meeting so that he can consider it and advise Council. Council must takeinto account that advice before the matter is voted on. As of close of businesson Wednesday 5thFebruary, no amendments had been received.
If an amendment is brought forward and seconded today, I will ask the Director of Financial Resources if he has been consulted on the amendment in accordance with the local agreement and if so what is his advice. If he has not been consulted, then we may need to adjourn for a period so that he can consider the proposal and how it fits with the rest of the budget.
Having received that advice, the Chair will then invite debate on the
amendment. Council will then vote on the amendment. The Chair will then ask ifthere are any further amendments and they will follow the same procedure. Ifany of the amendments are passed by a simple majority then this agenda itemwill, by law, be referred back to the Executive for consideration with mediationby the Budget Resolution Working Group. The Executive will then bring back thebudget to Council on a date to be confirmed. It will not be possible, by law, toapprove the budget today.
In the event that there are no amendments which are duly voted on and carried,then it will be possible to take the vote this afternoon on the Mayor’s budget aspresented which will be carried by a simple majority.”
The Mayor then introduced his budget and commended it to the Council.
The budget was seconded by Councillor David Moore.
The Chair then invited debate.
Councillor Linda Jones-Bulman asked the Mayor to justify the increase in over 16 year olds crematorium fee during a pandemic
In response, the Mayor stated that up to 2015 crematorium fees had increased 7.8% every year, in the last six years the increase had been less than the rate of inflation. During this time energy costs had gone up and the rise was below cost recovery. Other services such as a simple and discounted funerals were also now being offered.
Councillor Mike Hawkins also commented on the crematorium fees being increased during a pandemic.
Councillor David Moore noted that the proposed Council Tax rise in Copeland was the lowest of all the authorities in Cumbria. He also asked for the political balance of the Council Tax Setting Committee to be corrected as there should be only one Independent member ... view the full minutes text for item C 20/76
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