Agenda and draft minutes

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Items
No. Item

46.

Leader's Announcement

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Pat Hackett reported on the River of Light event which had been held on Sunday, 3 November 2019 at New Brighton.  It had been an absolutely fantastic fireworks display which had been very well attended by local people.

 

Councillor Hackett thanked the Council employees who had been responsible for organising and helping out at this spectacular event.

47.

Members' Code of Conduct - Declarations of Interest

Members of the Cabinet are asked to consider whether they have any disclosable pecuniary and/or any other relevant interest, in connection with any item(s) on this agenda and, if so, to declare them and state the nature of the interest.

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Minutes:

No declarations of interest were received.

48.

Minutes

The minutes of the last meeting have been printed and published.  Any matters called in will be reported at the meeting.

 

RECOMMENDATION:  That the minutes be approved and adopted.

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Minutes:

RESOLVED:

 

That the Minutes of the meeting of the Cabinet held on 30 September 2019 be confirmed as a correct record.

49.

Executive Key Decisions Taken Under Delegated Powers

Key Decisions – taken under delegated powers. Period 20 September 2019 (date of publication of last Cabinet agenda) to date.

 

NB: No Key Decisions have been actioned by Cabinet Members during this period.

 

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Minutes:

It was noted that no Key Decisions had been actioned by Cabinet Members, under delegated authority, during the period 20 September 2019 (date of publication of last Cabinet agenda) to date.  

50.

MILTON PAVEMENTS BUSINESS CASE pdf icon PDF 121 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Pat Hackett introduced a report which sought approval of a strategic acquisition of property by the Council (referred to in the report as “Milton Pavements”) in the heart of Birkenhead town centre.  The report also sought approval to the incorporation of this site into the Wirral Growth Company Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) Option Agreement on appropriate terms at an appropriate time.  The Cabinet was informed that acquiring and assembling this land would contribute significantly towards town centre regeneration aspirations.

 

Additionally, the report also sought approval for a key, Council owned, neighbouring site, Birkenhead Market building, to be transferred into the Wirral Growth Company Option Agreement on appropriate terms and subject to the approval of the LLP.  The Cabinet was requested to give its approval for the site referred to as ‘Allport Lane – Bromborough’ to be removed from the Wirral Growth Company Option Agreement in line with the Board decision of the LLP.

 

The regeneration of the town centre was a long-standing priority for the Council and was reflected in The Wirral Plan: A 2020 Vision.  This Plan had set out the vision for the borough and had economic growth at its heart to ensure residents would be able to access good, high paying jobs in a stable and thriving economy.  The Plan had identified 20 key pledges that the Council, and its partner agencies, must deliver and the proposals in the report directly supported the following pledges:

 

·  Increase inward investment;

·  Greater job opportunities; and

·  Thriving small businesses.

 

The matter affected all Wards within the Borough and was a key decision. 

 

Appended to the report were:

 

Appendix 3 – Redline boundary for ‘Milton Pavements’.

Appendix 4 – Redline boundary for ‘Birkenhead Market’.

Appendix 5 – Redline boundary for ‘Allport Lane Car Park, Bromborough.

 

However, Appendix 1 – Acquisition Full Business Case and Appendix 2 – Acquisition Heads of Terms were exempt by virtue of Paragraph 3, part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 and were included at Agenda Item No. 9 on the agenda.  (Minute No 55 refers.)

 

Councillor Hackett informed that given the well reported decline of the high street nationally and a challenging retail market, it was the responsibility of the Council, as long term stakeholder and investor, to take greater control of the area and ensure that future developments had a positive impact in terms of place making and broader regeneration.

 

The Council’s plans for economic growth were about creating community wealth.  They were about creating opportunities for local people, regenerating commercial areas and inspiring ambition. Prosperous communities were happier, healthier and better places to live.

 

This report set out the Council’s initial plans for the much-needed regeneration of Birkenhead’s commercial town centre and beyond.  It specifically focused on the Council’s vision and ambition to see Birkenhead, once again, become a thriving town with neighbourhoods of choice and a strong commercial heart, generating footfall and visitors alongside a revitalised retail and leisure provision with new streets and squares.

 

Councillor Hackett stated that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 50.

51.

Council Tax (Empty Homes Premium) pdf icon PDF 107 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Pat Hackett introduced a report which outlined the current arrangements for the charging of Council Tax on Empty Homes in Wirral together with new powers to increase this charge under the Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Act 2018.

 

The report sought approval to allow a 200% premium to be levied, on homes that had been empty for five years or more, from the 1 April 2020.  This would make the Council Tax payable on such properties 300%.

 

The matter affected all Wards within the Borough.

 

Appended to the report at Appendix 1 was Exemptions to the Empty Homes Premium.

 

Councillor Hackett informed that this was an initiative put forward by Councillor Janette Williamson and the driver behind the proposal was not increased revenue through council tax, it was about bringing pressure to bear on owners of empty properties to bring them back into use and provide homes for people who needed them.  The Council’s figures indicated that there were hundreds of properties which could be in use but were being left vacant.  Wirral was currently under pressure to build at least 800 new homes a year and the owners of these empty properties should be playing their part by bringing their property back into use for rent.  Ideally, no one would be paying this extra council tax and of course people could avoid it by letting their properties and providing homes for people in Wirral.

 

Councillor Hackett reported that there were Wirral residents desperate for homes and there was a scandalous situation where hundreds of homes were vacant and that could not be right.  Vulnerable people were looking for homes and this initiative was an attempt to alleviate the situation.

 

Councillor Stuart Whittingham informed that homelessness took many forms and unfortunately people who slept rough were just the tip of the iceberg.  There were people sofa surfing, staying with relatives and adults still living with their parents because they could not find a home of their own.  It was an absolute scandal that, whilst that was going on, there were homes standing empty. Councillor Whittingham knew that property owners might see the charges as being punitive but he encouraged them to speak to the Council who would encourage and help them to get these homes occupied again and so avoid this charge.  The Council had a very active team that dealt with empty properties.

 

Councillor Chris Jones reported that landlords and owners needed to take responsibility.  People would never have pride in their streets when they were living beside empty and dilapidated houses, if this was allowed to carry on.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the Cabinet recommends to the Council that the full premium of 200% be applied to homes that have been empty for five years or more as allowed by the Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Act 2018 from 1 April 2020.

52.

COUNCIL TAX - REDUCTION SCHEME pdf icon PDF 96 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Pat Hackett introduced a report which outlined proposed changes to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme operated by Wirral Council.  The proposal had previously been considered by Members and approved in principle.

 

The report sought approval to allow a reduction in the minimum amount payable by non-protected groups from the current 22% minimum to a 12% minimum. 

 

The report also sought the Cabinet’s approval to simplify the claim process to enable notifications received from the Department of Work and Pensions for applicants applying for Universal Credit to be treated as a claim for Council Tax Reduction.

 

This matter affected all Wards within the Borough and was a key decision.

 

Councillor Hackett informed that this was an initiative put forward by Councillor Janette Williamson and reported that in 2013, the Conservative-led Coalition Government had abolished Council Tax Benefit for hundreds of thousands of low-income households across the county.  It had replaced this support with the Local Council Tax Support Scheme, cutting the funding by 10% at the same time.

 

The Government’s decision had disadvantaged thousands of vulnerable, low-income Wirral families.  Since its implementation, the Council had tried its best, of course, to retain protection for these households, giving them the support that has been sadly lacking in national policy.

 

Councillor Hackett was delighted that the Council had now developed a proposal to help us go further.  The report provided a proposal for a new scheme of Council Tax reduction, an investment of more that £800,000 which would see more than 9,000 low income households get a better deal on their Council Tax.

 

The proposals in this policy increased the level of support currently provided to thousands of the most financially vulnerable in Wirral by reducing their Council Tax liability and  simplified the system for many residents including those on Universal Credit, zero hours contracts and irregular incomes.

 

Councillor Stuart Whittingham informed that this was another measure that he warmly welcomed and it was nice that the Council could play a part in alleviating some of the issues brought about by the Government’s approach to welfare policy.  He found it particularly appalling to see the increased use of food banks across the country.  Councillor Whittingham also referred to a damning report from the United Nations about the Government’s approach to poverty and the policies that had actually been promoted that had actually increased poverty, in-work poverty and child poverty.  He considered this to be a disgrace and was, therefore, happy to support the report and any measures the Council could put in place to alleviate the situation.

 

Councillor Anita Leech referred to the cuts to the Council’s budget and its continuing budget pressures and informed that when Councillor Janette Williamson had discussed this initiative with the Cabinet it had agreed that it could benefit 9000 households who were extremely vulnerable.  She was pleased to support the report.

 

RESOLVED: That:

 

(1)  The Cabinet recommends to the Council an amendment to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme for Wirral to reduce the minimum amount payable  ...  view the full minutes text for item 52.

53.

MODERN SLAVERY STRATEGY FOR WIRRAL pdf icon PDF 354 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Tom Usher introduced a report which informed that Wirral Council had set out a Strategy, Action Plan and Code of Conduct addressing Modern Slavery to ensure a coordinated approach together with partners and communities, to prevent criminals being able to prey on the most vulnerable people in the Borough.

 

The Cabinet noted that under Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act councils had a duty to do all that they reasonably could to prevent crime and disorder in their administrative areas, which included modern slavery and trafficking.

 

As part of Pledge 19; ‘Wirral’s Neighbourhoods are Safe’, the Safer Wirral Partnership Board had already committed to protecting the most vulnerable victims of crime.  The Cabinet noted that the Wirral Modern Slavery Officers Group was meeting regularly to monitor progress of Wirral’s Modern Slavery Action Plan and report to the Safer Wirral Partnership Board which would be responsible for the governance of Wirral’s Modern Slavery Strategy.

 

Wirral’s Modern Slavery Strategy had been scrutinised by the Elected Members Working Group in October 2018, where it also had considered the recommendations of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting of November 2016:

 

The Elected Members Working Group had taken into account the borough wide concerns about Modern Slavery and had endorsed both the priorities laid out within Strategy and the recommendations from the Committee to be incorporated into a Modern Slavery Action Plan for Wirral. 

 

This was a key decision.

 

Appended to the report were:

 

·  Wirral Modern Slavery Action Plan 2018 - 2021;

·  Wirral Modern Slavery Strategy 2018 - 2021;

·  Wirral Council Supplier Code of Conduct; and

·  Wirral Modern Slavery Scrutiny Report of the Environment Overview & Scrutiny Committee – November 2018.

 

Councillor Usher reported that the Modern Slavery Strategy had been presented to the Cabinet because Members wanted to do all that they could to respond to and combat modern slavery in all of its forms and that encompassed human trafficking, slavery, servitude and forced labour.  Members noted that modern slavery was the fastest growing organised crime in the world and it was growing rapidly in the UK and regionally as well.

 

Councillor Usher informed that between 2011 and 2017 there had been a 300% increase in the number of modern slavery victims in the UK and on Merseyside the cases that had been identified had grown from 38 to 89 which was an increase of 134%.  Often it was the most vulnerable and isolated people who had fallen victim to modern slavery and they either, did not recognise their situation, or had no personal connections in the country, other than with those who had been actually exploiting them.

 

Councillor Usher also informed that the Modern Slavery Act had been passed in 2015 to tackle the worst exploitation and that Wirral Council had signed up to the Co-operative Party’s Charter against Modern Slavery in 2016.  This was to ensure that the Council’s procurement practices did not support modern slavery in any of its forms, to consider the wider impact of it and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 53.

54.

Exempt Information - Exclusion of the Press and Public

The following items contain exempt information.

 

RECOMMENDATION:  That, under section 100 (A) (4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public be excluded from the meeting during consideration of the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined by the relevant paragraphs of Part I of Schedule 12A (as amended) to that Act. The Public Interest test has been applied and favours exclusion.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RESOLVED:

 

That, under section 100 (A) (4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting during consideration of the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined by paragraph 3 of Part I of Schedule 12A (as amended) to that Act. The Public Interest test had been applied and favoured exclusion.

55.

MILTON PAVEMENTS BUSINESS CASE (exempt appendices)

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RESOLVED:

 

That further to Minute No. 50 above the content of the exempt appendices circulated with the agenda be noted.