Cabinet Members will answer questions from Members on their Portfolios.
Councillor R B Evans addressing the Cabinet Member for the Environment asked:
Given the recent announcement on our fleet services contract, what assurances have been sought from fleet services on their carbon emissions reduction business plan, what has been built into the contract seeking known carbon emissions measurements taken now in order that any claimed carbon reduction over the period of the contract can be accurately measured and what part of the contract specifically ensures their corporate vision and actions are compatible with MDDC’s stated policy aim of zero carbon emissions by 2030.
The Cabinet Member responded stating that a lengthy answer would be provided to Councillor Evans but that he would give a brief summary for the meeting: over the 7 year plan with the fleet on a like for like replacement plan, there has been built in flexibility to change any vehicle for a different type when it is due for replacement and we can increase or decrease the fleet in line with the business. With regard to the emission of vehicles, flexibility that we have on the contract allows us to trail new vehicle types as technology changes over the 7 years. As electric vans and electric refuse vehicles do become available they can be trialled and used in Mid Devon and Exeter as part of the joint process. More information about SSFS can be obtained if required.
Councillor Mrs M E Squires addressing the Cabinet Member for the Environment stated that ash dieback was going to be a problem over the foreseeable future. In Mid Devon there was an abundance of native trees which would need to be felled, this was the responsibility of the landowner, Devon County Council are urging land owners who have trees by the road to take responsibility to minimise the risk to the public and have suggested that the trees to be felled are replaced on a 3 to 1 basis. Over 90% of the ash trees are likely to be affected and with 448,000 falling within distance from the road this is a problem. There are obviously many more trees not adjoining the road, most of the trees that you see are mature and there has been little planting over the last few years, I would like to know what the Cabinet Member proposes to do to encourage more planting, given that we have the obligation for climate change.
The Cabinet Member responded stating that a full response would be provided with a full written response. He did however inform the meeting that in the parish of Bradninch, there was a clear policy that when property owners asked to remove trees in the community, they were asked to replace the tree, either in their garden or in a specific location, the town council had also carried out extensive tree planting in Bradninch.
Councillor C J Eginton addressing the Leader stated that the Campaign for Local Democracy in Mid Devon had recently announced to the media that they had written to the Leader regarding the administration’s plan with regard to the reform of the cabinet system, had the Leader replied to them and if so could he inform Council of his response, if he had not responded when would he be doing so and what would be his response?
The Leader responded stating that he had responded to that letter informing them that he would be looking to review the Constitution in respect of members and public concerns over some things that had happened and that report would come back to the informal Cabinet in September/October and it would be presented to members following consideration. Alderman Nation was aware of the response.
Councillor C J Eginton addressing Councillors: Barnell, Taylor and White (and with a written response requested from Councillor Clist), given that meetings of the Cabinet, Cabinet briefings and other internal meetings involving the Cabinet had been moved to the evenings, Conservative Members were questioning the detrimental effect that this was having on officers work/life balance with the additional evening commitments. He was aware that Councillors Deed and Knowles and Woollatt were able to attend daytime meetings, he asked the 4 Liberal Democrat Cabinet Members individually if they were able to regularly attend day time meetings relating to their Cabinet roles, and given the extra commitment on officers, would they commit to holding all non- publicly attended meetings during the 9-5 working day? If they could not attend day time meetings relating to their Cabinet position, did they believe that the role of the Cabinet Member should be predominately an evening role?
The Cabinet Member for the Environment responded stating that some meetings had been moved to the evenings and some officer comments had stated that evening meetings were a common occurrence in other authorities. There was a mixed bag for times of meetings so that people who did work could become an active member of the Cabinet. With regard to a member of the Cabinet becoming an evening role, he had attended some external meetings during the day and meetings with officers had taken place during the daytime. He was available via email and felt that he was fulfilling the role of Cabinet Member. With regard to the work/life balance of staff, officers did understand that this was a council decision.
The Cabinet Member for Finance stated that he could not attend day time meetings as he had a full time job, he felt that it was important that members of the public could partake in meetings. To engage with the public it was important to schedule meetings when the majority of the public could attend. He referred to the number of candidates that stood for election, was this related to people not having the time to commit to council work because of day time meetings as they had other commitments such as work and children.
The Cabinet Member for Planning and Economic Regeneration stated that the portfolio was quite onerous and involved a lot of daytime meetings. He supported the set piece meetings going to the evening for the reasons that had been previously described.
Councillor Eginton addressing the Cabinet Member for Planning and Economic Regeneration highlighted the Lib Dem election leaflet and in particular rural transport issues, he questioned the alternatives to buses and what new technologies were proposed and what were the costs to the authority?
The Cabinet Member responded referring to the Green Devon agenda and the need for greener transport arrangements, a long term strategy with regard to electric vehicles, the use of technology and the connectivity agenda alongside Devon County Council and central Government. He referred to the idea of bookable vehicles for the rural areas rather than one bus a day and the idea of subsidising cycle ways; also there is a need to look at the railway system and park and ride facilities. He felt that there were many planning initiatives that he could take forward under the planning portfolio.
Councillor Eginton addressed the Leader with regard to the number meetings the Cabinet members had attended with senior officers to be fully briefed on all aspects of their roles, he requested a written statement detailing the dates and times that Cabinet members had met with directors, group managers and senior officers.
The Leader stated that he would provide a written response.
Cllr R J Dolley addressing the Cabinet Member for Planning and Economic Regeneration stated that there was a need for some joined up thinking with regard to transport services in the area some of which were underused.
The Cabinet Member stated that rural and town transport issues required a joined up approach.
Councillor Mrs F J Colthorpe addressing the Cabinet Member for Planning and Economic Regeneration asked whether he was aware of the work of the Coastal and Market Towns Initiative and the outcomes of the consultation process for this work. The most favoured venture was a cycle way between Tiverton and Exeter and she along with other county councillors, were continuing discussions with regard to this along with a park and ride facility on the Mid Devon side of Exeter, she reminded the Cabinet Member that this was a county matter.