Agenda item

Questions at Cabinet Meetings

To answer any written and/or oral questions from a County Councillor, (or anyone living or working in the county, or anyone who is affected by the work of the County Council), about matters which relate to any item on the agenda for this meeting. Up to 30 minutes is allowed for this item.

 

The closing date for the receipt of written questions was 4.00 pm on Thursday 5 November 2015.

 

Please send questions to the Chief Executive marked for the attention of Jo Moore (email: jo.moore@gloucestershire.gov.uk)

 

An oral question may be asked by a member of the public if notice of the question is given by the questioner to the person presiding at the meeting, or the Chief Executive’s representative, at least 30 minutes prior to the start of the meeting.

 

Please note that the start time of this meeting is 9.30 am.

 

Depending on the nature of the questions, it may not be possible to provide a comprehensive answer at the meeting, in which case a written answer will be provided as soon as reasonably possible after the meeting.

 

Questions received and proposed responses do not accompany this agenda but will be circulated prior to the meeting.

Minutes:

Public questions

No public questions were submitted for consideration at this meeting.

 

Member questions

Please refer to the following link to view the responses to the member questions submitted for consideration at the meeting.

 

http://glostext.gloucestershire.gov.uk/documents/s26789/Member%20questions%20and%20responses%20-%2011%20November%202015.pdf

 

A total of 19 member questions were submitted for consideration, for which the following supplementary questions were asked at the meeting.

 

Question 1: Cllr Jeremy Hilton

 

You have failed to answer my question on how much in percentage terms the gate fees have risen in the negotiations on the revised project plan. Your answer states savings of £153 million, when you previously stated this would be £190 million, down by £37 million. This is a financial disaster for the council. We could have built an MBT Plant cheaper than £37 million. On a previous occasion the Chief Executive told me what the gate fees would be for the revised project plan.By the end of today, could you please provide me with a written note on what the gate fees will be and what we will be paying per tonne?

 

Response by: Cllr Ray Theodoulou – Cabinet Member for Finance and Change

 

You know I cannot give you this information as it is subject commercial confidentiality. 

 

Response by: Cllr Jeremy Hilton

 

It is disappointing you are unable to confirm what the gate fees will be. We have a right to know. I will be calling in this decision for failing to provide the information.

 

Question 2: Cllr Jeremy Hilton

 

Your figures show a cash injection of £30 million (£13 million plus £17 million). This will only reduce the project costs over 25 years by the same sum of £30 million. Surely, this is a reckless use of public money. We could get a better return of our money over 25 years by just leaving £30 million in the bank. Please justify this cash gift of £30 million of public money to the private company UBB.

 

Response by: Cllr Ray Theodoulou – Cabinet Member for Finance and Change

 

There is no question of paying a cash gift to a private company. Construction costs have escalated over time, and because of the delays it has been necessary to inject further funds.  

 

Question 3: Cllr Jeremy Hilton

 

There must be a long list of capital projects your cabinet colleagues would like to start, but are unable to because you are blowing £30 million on a cash gift to UBB. For example, in Avonmouth, four councils built a MBT plant with greater capacity than your mass burn incinerator, for just £25 million. When will you apologise to your cabinet colleagues and the members of this council for squandering council reserves by such reckless spending?

 

Response by: Cllr Ray Theodoulou – Cabinet Member for Finance and Change

 

It is not reckless spending. The project will give substantial benefits to the people of Gloucestershire by diverting 92 per cent of residual waste from landfill. The project will also avoid the production of harmful methane gas. This profitable project will yield £153 million savings.

 

Question 4: Cllr Jeremy Hilton

 

You are really struggling with his portfolio. In June you said you were ‘quietly confident’ you could get the overspend down. The overspend has now snowballed to £9.3 million. You are using one off money to bring this down. A £9.3 million overspend carried forward into next year could mean a Council Tax increase of nearly 8 per cent or cuts in other vital frontline services. I therefore ask you, will you resign if you fail to bring your budget, as set by council in February, back into balance by the end of this financial year?

 

Response by: Cllr Dorcas Binns – Cabinet Member for Older People

 

No. I think this is the last thing that is needed. We continue to look after our people as best we can. With the measures in place, (outlined on pages 54 and 55 of the decision report), I am still quietly confident the overspend will be reduced. This is not an easy task, particularly with the large number of people involved, and with an ageing population. It is not only this council with such issues, this is a nationwide concern.

 

Question 5: Cllr Jeremy Hilton

 

We only have five years to increase recycling to 60 per cent. At last week’s Environment and Communities Scrutiny Committee meeting it was reported that you will have to increase our recycling rate by a further 13 per cent by 2020. Bearing in mind the incinerator will burn and not reuse or recycle household waste, how will you achieve the objective target of 60 per cent in five years?

 

Response by: Cllr Ray Theodoulou – Cabinet Member for Finance and Change

 

As reported at Joint Waste Committee meetings, district authorities are working hard to improve recycling rates. There has been a modest increase, and a number of programmes have been put in place to achieve this. There are some areas where this is difficult to achieve, primarily in urban areas such as Gloucester, and in Stroud, where a programme has been put in place to improve the historically low recycling rates. The districts are doing their best, and we are doing everything we can to encourage them.

 

Question 8: Cllr Lesley Williams

 

Can you confirm the purpose of Electronic Call Monitoring will be for missed visits, not time spent on visits.

 

Response by: Cllr Dorcas Binns – Cabinet Member for Older People

 

I was a little disappointed to receive these detailed questions. There have been a lot of discussions, including discussions at Shadow Member meetings, where Cllr Kathy Williams and I, along with council colleagues spoke at length about on Electronic Call Monitoring, (ECM). I am sorry you were not briefed after the Shadow Member meetings and will be happy to meet you outside this meeting to update you. There is nothing sinister about the proposal. It has been a very open and transparent process.

 

Response by: Cllr Lesley Williams

 

I appreciate and welcome this invitation. In the meantime, could I ask if you have seen how it works?

 

Response by: Cllr Dorcas Binns – Cabinet Member for Older People

 

I am going to see how the system works next week. I believe the system will provide huge benefits for the council and I look forward to briefing you on my visit.

 

Questions 15 and 16: Cllr Steve Lydon

 

What are the opportunity costs of using these reserves? What other purposes could these reserves be used for, e.g. supporting front line services such as those with an overspend in adult social care? Surely this would be a better  use of money.

 

Response by: Cllr Ray Theodoulou – Cabinet Member for Finance and Change

 

These reserves are capital reserves for use with capital projects. They can’t be used for revenue purposes.

 

Question 17: Cllr Steve Lydon

 

Negotiation means having endeavoured to reach agreement. What is to stop UBB holding the council to ransom? What figure is the council prepared to go to?

 

Response by: Cllr Ray Theodoulou – Cabinet Member for Finance and Change

 

Our aim is to negotiate to the best possible position, for which there are lines we won’t move beyond. We have not reached these lines.  Discussions are ongoing.

 

Question 18: Cllr Steve Lydon

 

Is this not smoke and mirrors? Why not put to the vote at full council? Surely this would be in the best public interest?

 

Response by: Cllr Mark Hawthorne – Leader of Council

 

In accordance with the Local Government Act, the powers of Council and the powers of the Executive are quite different. In legal terms, the decision at item 8 of the agenda falls within the remit of the Cabinet (Executive) of this authority.

 

Question 19: Cllr Steve Lydon

 

It defies logic that, bearing in mind the pressures front line services are under, the Conservative administration is still prepared to use scarce reserves for a project that has been rejected by surrounding districts and parishes. Many of us would like to see what other projects the £17 million could have been used for.

 

Response by: Cllr Ray Theodoulou – Cabinet Member for Finance and Change

 

I know of no such projects.

Supporting documents: