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Agenda item

Notices of Motion

This item is to receive any Notices of Motion:  three were received by the deadline

 

Councillors Bernie Attridge, Carol Ellis, Helen Brown and George Hardcastle  – Limiting Council Tax Increases

 

Councillor David Healey – Cyber Bullying

 

Councillor Andy Dunbobbin - Raising Awareness of  Violence Against Women and  Domestic Abuse

 

 

Decision:

RESOLVED:

 

(a)       That the Notice of Motion from Councillor Ian Roberts on limiting Council Tax increases be supported;

 

(b)       That the Notice of Motion from Councillor David Healey on Cyber Bullying be supported: and

 

(c)       That the Notice of Motion from Councillor Andy Dunbobbin on . Raising Awareness of Violence Against Women and Domestic Abuse, be deferred

 

Minutes:

Three Notices of Motion were received:

 

(i)         Limiting Council Tax Increases  - Councillors Bernie Attridge, Carol Ellis, Helen Brown and George Hardcastle

 

‘We call upon Flintshire County Council to give a clear mandate to the Cabinet and the senior management team that the Council Tax be capped at 4.5% for the next budget setting process.

 

We call for this due to representations made by many residents in Flintshire that the 8.75% increase that has been set for 2019/20 is causing hardship and poverty within our County.’

 

In support of the Motion, Councillor Helen Brown said that the 8.75% rise in Council Tax this year was too much for many residents in Flintshire and people were angry about the rise.   She commented that wages had not increased by this level and referred to the rise in daily living costs for fuel, utilities, food, and clothing.  She also referred to the potential increase in  costs  for  school transport, and the intention to discontinue with free TV licences for people over the age of 75.    Councillor Brown also commented on the rise in  child poverty and said it was unfair to increase  pressure on the council tax payers of Flintshire to meet the gap in funding for the Authority.  She asked Members to support the Motion on behalf of the residents of Flintshire. 

 

The Motion was moved by Councillor Helen Brown and seconded by Councillor Carol Ellis.

 

Speaking in support of the Motion, Councillor Carol Ellis said there was a need for National and Welsh Governments to provide adequate funding for local authorities.  She said the funding formula was not “fit for purpose” and cited the example that the Authority did not receive funding for the significant cost of out of county placements as an example.  She continued that the Formula did not take into account that Flintshire had the fastest growing proportionate population of elderly people and the impact on social care costs.   She commented that the WG had created the Well Being Act and the services provided by the Authority under the Act had to be funded from existing budgets.  She spoke of the real hardship faced by some residents who were living ‘hand to mouth’ and referred to the increased use of foodbanks.  Councillor Ellis asked Members to support the Motion on behalf of Flintshire’s residents and reiterated that council tax payers should not be expected to fund the short-fall in funding for local authorities and that  it was the responsibility of national government to provide adequate funding to  the WG to passport onto local authorities. 

 

Councillor Mike Peers said that to agree to the Motion at this point in time would put increased pressure on the Council due to a number of ‘unknowns’ around the budget setting process.  He proposed an amendment to the Motion which was that information be provided to Members at the next available Council meeting of any possible consequences of setting a 5% council tax for the financial year 2020-2021. The Motion was by Councillor Richard Jones.

 

Councillor Ian Roberts said he was unable to support the amendment to the Motion proposed by Councillor Peers and spoke of the positive collaborative work of the Cross Party Working Group to reach a solution to the issues raised.  Councillor Roberts said he wished to propose a further amendment to the Motion. 

 

Councillor Chis Bithell  expressed the view that it was premature to agree to the Motion and an amendment at this point in time.  He said it was too soon to set the Council Tax rate for next year as the Settlement and the Council’s income grant from UK and WG  was unknown. 

 

The Chief Executive gave an outline response to the amendment proposed by Councillor Peers which requested that information be provided  to Members on any possible consequences of setting a 5% Council Tax rise for 2020-2021.  He  explained that in previous years at this time the Council would set a guideline of what the Council Tax might be for the following year. The Council was not able to formally finalise its Council Tax until it knew its budget requirement for the year in question i.e. the level of total income needed to meet planned expenditure after due consideration of all cost pressures, efficiencies and budget reductions/cuts.  He advised that to set the Council Tax now would be too early as the exact budget requirement was not known and the Council had no firm indication from national governments on the Local Government Settlement to be expected. He reiterated that it was premature, and would be setting a direction in the absence of knowledge. 

 

The Corporate Finance Manager endorsed the response provided by the Chief Executive and advised that the national position was unclear. It was feared that there could be a delay in the Settlement due to national political developments. 

 

Following the response and comments from Members to his amendment Councillor Peers clarified that he was not seeking to set Council Tax at 5%. He was asking that when the budget process commenced and the level of reserves, the work of the cross party working group, and the indicative settlement was known, what  the consequences might be.  The intention was to give the Council notice that Members wished to give early guidance on an intended maximum  5% Council Tax level.

 

The Chief Executive referred to the budget forecast, options to close the gap, and the Stage 1 and Stage 2  budget setting process, and gave a commitment to continue the usual practice and at each stage of the budget setting process to illustrate and give guidance to Members on the choices and variables including Council Tax.

 

Councillor Mike Peers said he welcomed the commitment made by the Chief Executive and therefore withdrew his amendment.

 

Councillor Richard Jones said there was a need for Officers to work towards achieving the possibility of setting Council Tax at 5% throughout consideration of the budget in conjunction with the work of the cross party working group.

 

Councillor Ian Roberts proposed a further amendment to the Motion which was: “We call upon Flintshire County Council to set an expectation that Council Tax will be limited to the lowest possible level needed as part of budget setting for next year.  Further to this we call upon the UK Government to complete a spending review which releases additional funding for public services across the United Kingdom for 2020/21 onwards, and to fully fund both nationally agreed pay awards and the outcomes of public employer pension fund contribution reviews. We call upon the Welsh Government to provide sufficient funding for local government in Wales to be able to avoid an over-dependence on Council Tax in setting their annual budgets from 2020/21.”

 

The amendment was supported by Councillor Carolyn Thomas.

 

In speaking in support of his amendment, Councillor Ian Roberts said that the setting of Council Tax for 2019/20 had been a difficult decision for Council, however, a choice had to be made around an increase to Council Tax or loss of services.  He commented on the hardship and poverty that would arise from loss of services in leisure, education, and social care, as examples.  Councillor  Roberts  reiterated that  it had been a difficult choice to raise council tax and he apologised that it had caused hardship but he believed it was the right decision to protect vital  services for the residents of Flintshire.   Councillor Roberts thanked all involved in the work of the Cross Party Working Group. 

 

Councillor Tony Sharps said he could not support the Notice of Motion as it would be premature and irresponsible to set a council tax rate at this time until the budget setting process had commenced and the Settlement was known.

 

            Councillor  Patrick Heesom supported the Motion and  argued that Council Tax was an unfair and regressive system and should not be perceived as a ‘reserve fund’ for the Council to use to balance the budget. 

 

To assist Members the Chief Officer (Governance) summarised the following main points of the amendment proposed by Councillor Ian Roberts:  that the Council would set the lowest Council Tax possible; that the UK government should carry out a spending review to enable it to set the funding limits for WG; and the WG provides sufficient funding to avoid an over dependence on Council Tax. 

 

The Chief Executive commented on  the recent third meeting of the Cross Party Working Group and said there had been strong consensus in the Group about the risks of an over-dependence on Council Tax in the UK and Wales fiscal planning, and that all had agreed on the need to feed back to both governments as requested in the proposed amendment put forward by Councillor Ian Roberts.

 

Councillor Clive Carver spoke against the amendment.  He said that at the current time a cap on Council Tax could be set at the higher level of 5% and withdrawn later and would demonstrate the seriousness of the issue to the WG. He explained that this would enable a decision to be reached which could be later amended if required, as deferral of the item until September could cause complications due to the six month rule.

 

Councillor  Richard Jones asked if the amendment proposed by Councillor Roberts could be changed so that instead of setting Council Tax at the lowest possible it could be capped at 5%. 

 

The suggested change was not accepted by Councillor Ian Roberts.

 

Councillor Rosetta Dolphin agreed with the views expressed by  Councillor Richard Jones on the need to set the lowest level of council tax possible.  However, she did not support the amendment as she felt the proposal could result in an 8.75% or higher increase in Council Tax next year.  

 

Councillor Carol Ellis reiterated that it was the responsibility of national and WG to provide adequate funding to local authorities to enable them to  provide services.  She asked for clarification on the level of income required from Council Tax to bridge the funding gap in 2020/21.  Officers advised that 1% Council Tax equated to circa £700k of income.

 

Councillor Glyn Banks spoke in support of the amendment. He referred to the positive work undertaken in the Cross Party Working Group by all political groups and said it remained the Council’s intention to set the lowest possible level of Council Tax whilst protecting services, citing education and social services in particular.  Councillor Banks cited some of the pressures for this year and referred to non-school pressures of £4.4m which included £2.1m for NJC pay awards, £6.5m school pressures for pay awards and teacher pensions,  service demands which included £2.8m for Out of County placements and children’s  services, and £0.5m for  legislative changes.  In summarising, Councillor Banks said the pressures added up to more than £13m in total.

 

Councillor Derek Butler emphasised that there was no indication as yet from  UK or WG government of  the Settlement and it was too premature to set a figure for Council Tax at this point in time.

 

Councillor Chris Bithell commented on the shift from national funding to local taxation to fund the services provided by local authorities.  

 

Speaking on the amendment, Councillor Bernie Attridge said the Notice of Motion brought by the Flintshire Independent Group was intended to send a clear message to both national and WG that the Authority would not bridge the funding gap through an 8.75% rise in Council Tax at it would cause hardship for the residents of Flintshire.

 

Councillor Mike Peers spoke on the amendment and said setting the lowest possible level of Council Tax , given the “unknowns” around income and expenditure, could result in a Council Tax rise which was higher than last year and could not support the amendment for this reason.  He confirmed  he had withdrawn his amendment to the Notice of Motion following the commitment given by the Chief Executive and Corporate Finance Manager to provide further information.      

 

Councillor Helen Brown said she could not support the amendment proposed by Councillor Ian Roberts as the level of Council Tax setting was unknown and would not be safe.

 

The Chief Executive reminded Members that it was Cabinet’s responsibility to lead the budget process and officers’ responsibility to advise Cabinet and  Members.  It was the  Council’s responsibility to set a legal budget and set the Council Tax alone - as part of the budget process. These decisions were reserved matters.

 

A recorded vote was taken to the amendment proposed by Councillor Ian Roberts.  In requesting a recorded vote the requisite 10 Members stood in support.

 

The Chief Officer (Governance) summarised that the amendment was that council tax be set at the lowest level possible; the UK Government completes the spending review to inform the WG; and the WG provides sufficient funding to local authorities to avoid the over dependence on raising income through council tax.  The Chief Executive added that in referring to the spending review  the amendment also asked that  the UK Government fully funded both nationally agreed pay awards and outcomes of public employer pension fund contribution reviews. 

 

The following Councillors voted for the amendment:

 

Councillors: Janet Axworthy, Glyn Banks, Haydn Bateman, Sean Bibby, Chris Bithell,  Derek Butler, Geoff Collett, David Cox, Paul Cunningham, Jean Davies, Ron Davies, Chris Dolphin, Ian Dunbar, Mared Eastwood, David Evans, David Healey, Gladys Healey, Cindy Hinds, Dave Hughes, Kevin Hughes, Joe Johnson, Paul Johnson, Christine Jones, Colin Legg, Richard Lloyd, Hilary McGuill, Billy Mullin, Ted Palmer,  Michelle Perfect, Vicky Perfect, Neville Phillips, Ian Roberts, Tony Sharps, Aaron Shotton, Paul Shotton, Ian Smith, Carolyn Thomas, Martin White, Andy Williams, and David Wisinger

 

The following Councillors voted against the amendment:

 

Councillors: Mike Allport, Bernie Attridge, Sian Braun,  Helen Brown, Clive Carver,  Bob Connah, Rob Davies, Rosetta Dolphin, Carol Ellis, Veronica Gay, George Hardcastle,  Patrick Heesom, Andrew Holgate, Richard Jones, Brian Lloyd, Dave Mackie,  Mike Peers, Ralph Small, Owen Thomas,  and Arnold Woolley

 

The following Councillor abstained:  Councillor Marion Bateman

 

The amendment was carried.

 

The Chief Officer (Governance) advised that the amendment would become the substantive notice of motion if there were no further amendments from Members.

 

Councillor Richard Jones proposed that the amendment be amended to  include reference to 5%  as an indicative guideline for setting Council Tax .  In acknowledging the points raised by Councillor Richard Jones, the Chief Officer (Governance)  suggested that Members may wish to consider that the Notice of Motion be reworded to read: “we call upon the UK Government and WG to fund local authorities to a level where the Council Tax increase could be kept at below 5%”.   Councillor Richard Jones moved this as a proposal and this was duly seconded.

 

The Chief Executive referred to the assumption in the WG Green (Budget) Book this year  of a 6.5% Council Tax  requirement across Wales and commented on the work of the Cross Party Working Group to seek more decision making around this at a Wales level.

 

Speaking on the amendment proposed by Councillor Richard Jones, Councillor Ian Roberts said it would not be wise to commit the Council to a specified figure for  setting a level which the Council Tax increase could be kept below at this point in time and he could not support the amendment.

 

The Chief Officer (Governance) summarised the proposed amendment put forward by Councillor Richard Jones and said that the Council called upon the UK Government to fund the WG and the WG to properly fund local government to a level which means local authorities do not have an over reliance on Council Tax so that the Council does not have to set a Tax increase at more than 5%.

 

Councillor Ian Roberts read out the proposed substantive notice of motion which was: “We call upon Flintshire County Council to set an expectation that council tax will be limited to the lowest possible level needed as part of the budget setting for next year.  We call upon the UK Government to complete a spending review which releases additional funding for public services across the United Kingdom for 2020/21 onwards, and to fully fund both nationally agreed pay awards and the outcomes of public employer pension fund contribution reviews. We call upon the Welsh Government to provide sufficient funding for local government in Wales to be able to avoid an over-dependence on Council Tax in setting their annual budgets from 2020/21.” 

 

The Chief Officer (Governance) advised that the proposed amendment would add the following words to the proposed substantive notice of motion “and in any event WG to fund local government to a level where it does not have to set the council tax increase above 5%”. 

 

A recorded vote was taken to the amendment proposed by Councillor Richard Jones.  In requesting a recorded vote the requisite 10 Members stood in support.

 

The following Councillors voted for the amendment:

 

Councillors: Mike Allport, Bernie Attridge, Janet Axworthy, Sian Braun,  Helen Brown,  Clive Carver, Bob Connah, Rob Davies, Rosetta Dolphin, Carol Ellis, Veronica Gay, George Hardcastle, Patrick Heesom, Andrew Holgate, Richard Jones, Brian Lloyd,  Dave Mackie, Hilary McGuill, Mike Peers, Ralph Small, Owen Thomas, and Arnold Woolley

 

The following Councillors voted against the amendment:

 

Councillors: Glyn Banks, Haydn Bateman, Sean Bibby, Chris Bithell, Derek Butler, Geoff Collett, David Cox, Paul Cunningham, Jean Davies, Ron Davies, Chris Dolphin,  Ian Dunbar, Mared Eastwood, David Evans, David Healey, Gladys Healey,  Cindy Hinds, Dave Hughes, Kevin Hughes, Joe Johnson, Paul Johnson, Christine Jones, Richard Lloyd, Billy Mullin, Ted Palmer, Michelle Perfect, Vicky Perfect, Neville Phillips, Ian Roberts, Tony Sharps, Aaron Shotton, Paul Shotton,  Ian Smith, Carolyn Thomas, Martin White, Andy Williams, and David Wisinger.

 

The following Councillors abstained: 

 

Councillors Marion Bateman and Colin Legg

 

The amendment was not carried.

 

The Chief Officer (Governance) advised that the amendment moved by Councillor Ian Roberts stood as the substantive notice of motion. 

 

On being put to the vote the Motion was carried.

 

 

(ii)        Cyber-Bullying – Councillor David Healey

 

‘Council notes concerns about the impact of cyber bullying on the mental health of young people.

 

Council also recognises that this is a national problem and that adults, as well as young people often bully others on social media.

 

Council also believes that the vast majority of young people, within the County, are responsible in the way in which they engage with social media and do not engage in cyber bullying.

 

Council also notes that all members of the Education and Youth Overview & Scrutiny Committee and Officers stood, in the Council Chamber, on 20 May 2019, in order to pledge that they would not, themselves, engage in social media in ways which denigrate other individuals.

 

Members of this Council now rise to take a similar pledge so that Flintshire County Council, as a whole, can be seen to be leading the way in setting an example itself with regard to the shameful activity of cyber bullying.

 

Council calls upon Flintshire residents to make a similar commitment with regard to their engagement with social media so that, in the sixth largest county in Wales, we can all work together to stem the tide of toxic abuse which is causing mental health problems for others, young and old.

 

Council further requests  the  Officers to draw up an appropriate report to committees so that this  expectation can be embedded in future practice within the Council.’

 

The Notice of Motion was seconded.

 

Speaking in support of the Motion, Councillor David Healey, said cyber bullying  was a matter of great concern.  He referred to a recent meeting of the Education & Youth Overview and Scrutiny Committee which had considered a report that included information on a survey taken across Flintshire schools and included in the report was information that around 25% of students had been victims of cyber bullying.  He commented on the need to set an example to young people and said all members of the Education & Youth Overview and Scrutiny Committee had stood to pledge that they would not themselves engage in the inappropriate use of social media  in ways which denigrate other individuals.  He commented on the increase in mental health problems amongst young people in schools and said online bullying was a contributing factor.

 

In conclusion, Councillor Healey suggested that Members and Officers may wish to take a similar stand as that taken by members of   the Education & Youth Committee against the issue of  cyber bullying.  He also asked that  Town and Community Councils in Flintshire, places of work, and the local press,  be asked to join the campaign to bring about a cultural change in behaviour.  .        

 

Councillor Billy Mullin gave the following response from the Council:  ‘As a Council we accept that at times people will have different views and the right of free speech.  Expression must stop short of abusive or aggressive behaviour, the use of foul language, or harassment in any form.  Through the ongoing development of our cyber bullying policy the Council will take positive action to lead by example and invite and encourage others to do the same.  We ask all Councillors and Officers to themselves set the highest standards of behaviour at all times.’

 

Councillor Owen Thomas spoke in support of the Motion and said that any form of bullying needed to be stopped.

 

Councillor Richard Jones commented that cyber bullying took place 24 hours a day.  He supported the stance against cyber bullying but said there was a need to describe how the Council was supporting action against it.  In response the Chief Officer referred to the final paragraph of the Notice of Motion which stated  that the ‘Council further requests Officers to draw up a report to Committees so that this  expectation can be embedded in future practice within the Council’ and said he expected the report to define what the Council would do in practical terms to end bullying behaviour.   

 

The Chief Executive commented on the positive actions taken by the Council, within its power, to safeguard young people in education and care against bullying and said detailed information could be provided in a report to both the Education & Youth and Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committees. 

 

Councillor Mike Peers said he supported the Motion and asked if the information provided in the report  could be shared with all schools in Flintshire.

 

Councillor Clive Carver commented that bullying behaviour also occurred against adults as well as young people. 

 

Councillor Paul Cunningham said bullying in any form was deplorable and Members should lead by example.

 

In response to  a request by the Chair, all Members and Officers stood in support of the Notice of Motion and to pledge that they would not themselves engage in bullying or in social media in ways which denigrate other individuals. 

 

The Motion was carried.

 

(iii)       Raising Awareness of Violence Against Women and Domestic Abuse – Councillor Andy Dunbobbin

 

As Councillor Andy Dunbobbin had left the meeting and was unable to move the Notice of Motion it was agreed that it would be deferred to the next meeting.  The Chief Executive commented on the ongoing work in the Council around raising awareness of violence against women and domestic abuse.

 

RESOLVED:

 

(a)       That the Notice of Motion from Councillor Ian Roberts on limiting Council Tax increases be supported;

 

(b)       That the Notice of Motion from Councillor David Healey on Cyber Bullying be supported: and

 

(c)       That the Notice of Motion from Councillor Andy Dunbobbin on . Raising Awareness of Violence Against Women and Domestic Abuse, be deferred

 

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