There will be an opportunity for Members to ask questions of individual Cabinet Members and Committee Chairmen.
Members had the opportunity to ask questions of individual Cabinet Members and Committee Chairmen about issues affecting their portfolios/Committee activities:-
(a) Oxford to Cambridge Expressway (Councillor Everitt)
The Leader of the Council confirmed that she was aware that both Milton Keynes Council and an Oxfordshire local authority had entered into a non disclosure agreement with Highways England in relation to the proposed route of the Expressway. The Leader indicated that neither she, or the Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council had been willing to enter into any such arrangement, given the serious concerns they had about the environmental impacts on the Vale.
(b) Household Recycling Centres (Councillor Lambert)
The Cabinet Member for Environment and Leisure advised that there was no analytical information currently available to determine whether or not the changes made to the opening hours and the introduction of charges for certain types of waste had caused any increase in fly tipping.
(c) Fairford Leys Riverine Corridor (Councillor Lambert)
The Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources indicated that, as far as he was aware, the S106 monies would continue to be ring fenced after the transfer of budgets to the new unitary authority, but that he would seek confirmation and write directly to Councillor Lambert.
(d) River Great Ouse, Buckingham (Councillor Mills)
The Cabinet Member for Environment and Health confirmed that further to recovery work undertaken by the Environment Agency after a chemical spill, approximately 25,000 fish had been released into the river. Work had been undertaken using S106 monies to improve flood defences and further work was being explored with Buckingham Town Council and other partners regarding the possible funding of warden schemes.
(e) Former Community Centre, Fairfax Crescent, Aylesbury (Councillor Mrs Morgan)
The Cabinet Member for Planning and Enforcement indicated that he would seek an update regarding the planning permissions granted for the redevelopment of the site and write directly to Councillor Mrs Morgan.
(f) Food Safety Inspections (Councillor Mrs Renshell)
The Cabinet Member for Waste and Licensing advised that there were around 1,500 food businesses within the Vale and that about 80% of these scored 4 or five out of five. Inspections were targeted at high risk and continually poor performing establishments. However all establishments were subject to inspection on a rolling basis.
(g) Council Tax and Business Rates Collection (Councillor Mrs Renshell)
The Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources advised that the authority continued to perform well and employed its own bailiffs which had resulted in the provision of a better customer service. The collection rate for Council Tax was 98.8% and for business rates, was 99.5%.
(h) Domestic Food Waste Collection ( Councillor Huxley)
The Cabinet Member for Waste and Licensing advised that he thought that it should be possible to deal with queries about missed collections on the day they were received and that if Councillor Huxley provided him with details of the incident to which he was referring he would investigate and write directly to Councillor Huxley.
(i) Planning Enforcement (Councillor Huxley)
The Cabinet Member for Planning and Enforcement confirmed that Member updates had been paused for a variety of reasons, not least the need to improve the overall development management process (referred to earlier under announcements). It was however intended to re-instate the previous arrangements when practicable. He thought the suggestion regarding Members undertaking formal enforcement work was interesting but cautioned that there could be potential legal implications associated with any such activity.
(j) Westcott Enterprise Zone (Councillor Whyte)
The Cabinet Member for Economic Development confirmed that he was aware of the enormous existing and future potential economic benefits of developing rocket and satellite technology businesses at the site. He indicated that discussions had taken place with the relevant LEP with a view to encouraging investment in these technologies.
(k) Traffic Congestion A41 Aylesbury (Councillor C Adams)
The Cabinet Member for strategic Planning and Infrastructure advised that whilst the site had been granted planning permission, which included a requirement for additional entry/egress arrangements at the site, the regulation of the highway works was the responsibility of the County Council as Highway Authority. The Cabinet Member for Environment and Leisure (who was also the Deputy County Cabinet Member for Transportation) indicated that the developers, Taylor Wimpey had not undertaken any detailed discussions with the Highway Authority about the execution of the works which was regrettable. It was however hoped that the situation would be resolved satisfactorily in the very near future.
(l) Visual Appearance of key sites in Aylesbury (Councillor C Adams)
The Cabinet Member for Civic Amenities attempts to acquire the site occupied by QD at the bottom of Aylesbury High Street had met with no interest from the owners of the building. The sites opposite the Gateway Offices (Gatehouse Road) and at the former magistrates’ court had been identified for future development, but the owners’ intentions were currently unknown.
(m)Development Management Initiatives (Councillor Town)
The Cabinet Member for Planning and Enforcement confirmed that a recent initiative to focus efforts on overdue planning applications for a week (dedicated to this work only), had been a success, with 165 cases having been determined. It was indicated that a repeat of the exercise would be considered within the context of the other arrangements for improving the service referred to elsewhere in these Minutes.
(n) Aylesbury Vale Broadband (Councillor Christensen)
The Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources advised that the monies currently held in the escrow account could be drawn down reasonably soon. The Leader of the Council agreed that she would arrange a briefing for Group Leaders in the near future at which more detail would be given.
(o) Grass Cutting (Councillor Christensen)
The Cabinet Member for Environment and Leisure confirmed that there had previously been discussions between AVDC, BCC and VAHT about grass cutting arrangements. He acknowledged that there still appeared to be some confusion about responsibility and frequency in relation to specific sites and that he would arrange further meetings with the parties concerned.
(p) Street Cleaning – Aylesbury Town Centre (Councillor Mrs Russel)
The Cabinet Member for Civic Amenities (and the Cabinet Member for Environment and Leisure) advised that there were street cleaning teams in the town centre throughout the day from Monday to Sunday and that performance was monitored. It was confirmed that key areas were regularly pressure washed and that additional funding had been secured to purchase two new pieces of equipment to remove chewing gum from pavements.
(q) Climate Change (Councillor Stuchbury)
The Leader of the Council confirmed that Council would be debating this issue at the September Council meeting (as referred to elsewhere in these Minutes).
(r) Oxford to Cambridge Expressway (Councillor Stuchbury and Councillor Newcombe)
As referred to earlier during the meeting, the leader of the Council confirmed that a non disclosure agreement had not been entered into by AVDC with Highways England. The Council would be advised of the preferred route in the Autumn when publicly announced.
The Leader agreed to seek guidance as to whether or not the Freedom of Information legislation could be used to obtain information included in the non disclosure agreement, as also referred to earlier during the meeting.
(s) Social Housing Delivery (Councillor Powell)
The Cabinet Member for Communities advised that over 1,550 affordable homes had been delivered in the Vale between 2013 and 2018, which was an excellent performance. It was confirmed that affordable rented housing was charged at up to 80% of the market rent, whereas social rented housing was 50% to 60%. Discussions were on-going with Registered Housing Providers about the delivery of new social rented units, with the potential for up to 65 units being delivered.
(t) Audit of Accounts (Councillor Newcombe)
The Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources joined Councillor Newcombe in thanking the finance team who had had to change their work and leave plans to accommodate the late audit of the Council’s accounts. This matter had been reported in detail to the Audit Committee who had expressed strong concerns about the delay in the external audit.
(u) HS2 (Councillor A Cole)
The Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and Infrastructure advised that initial efforts to seek a re-arranged meeting with HS2 had been unsuccessful, with no suitable dates being offered. Further efforts would be made to agree an evening date at which could be open for attendance by County, District and Parish Members.