Agenda item

NOTICES OF MOTION

To consider the following Notices of Motion submitted by the deadline of noon Thursday 29 November 2018.

 

The following Notice of Motion was submitted by Councillor M Knight and seconded by Councillor Ms J Wassell.

 

This council will carry out a Community Governance Review for the unparished wards of the Wycombe District to ensure that any changes found to be necessary can be put in place at the same time as the transition to a new Unitary Authority in 2020."

 

The following Notice of Motion was submitted by Councillor K Ahmed and seconded by Councillor R Raja.

 

“In light of the Secretary of State’s decision to establish a single unitary authority covering the whole of Buckinghamshire, this Council recognises the potential implications for governance, service delivery, community cohesion and empowerment and electoral arrangements in the District and particularly for the unparished High Wycombe Town which already experiences a democratic deficit in relation to the rest of Wycombe District.

 

Therefore I call for a motion that this Council agrees to undertake a Community Governance Review for the town of High Wycombe. To include existing neighbouring Parishes, with a view to securing a structure of governance to ensure proper community engagement in the area of High Wycombe, consistent with arrangements for the remainder of the District.”

 

The following Notice of Motion was submitted by Councillor K Ahmed and seconded by Councillor S Graham.

I move that the Council recognises the financial impact on local women affected by the transitional pension arrangements for women born in the 1950s and to note the national campaign to raise awareness about the plight of these women.

I raise this motion on behalf of women born in the 1950s that are affected by the transitional arrangements for changes in pensions.  This is very much a national and a local issue affecting 3.9 million women in the UK which includes thousands living in Wycombe and their families. In addition, the rise in SPA has financial implications for local authorities with extra demand on their services and benefit claims. As many as 147 other councils have debated the issue and over 80 have agreed to write to the Government.

 

 

 

Minutes:

To consider the following Notices of Motion submitted by the deadline.

 

The following Notice of Motion was submitted by Councillor M Knight and seconded by Councillor Ms J Wassell.

 

This council will carry out a Community Governance Review for the unparished wards of the Wycombe District to ensure that any changes found to be necessary can be put in place at the same time as the transition to a new Unitary Authority in 2020."

 

In proposing the motion, Councillor Knight noted that twice this issue had been set to be on the agenda of the Regulatory and Appeals committee, and twice it had mysteriously disappeared from the agenda without even the courtesy of an explanation to members, and the wider public, as to why this was.

 

He pointed out that if as councillors listening to the public who they represented they would know that this was a matter of interest and concern for those who live in High Wycombe. Those who were well rooted in their communities heard from the people that they met on a day to day basis, and knew that there was a desire to see their communities having greater oversight and more investment of time, energy and money put into them.

 

He thought that, as a Conservative led council, the Council would wish to listen to the advice of the Cabinet Minister, who in his statement regarding his support of a single unitary authority stated that he expected councils “to engage with their local communities about the appropriate arrangements for civic representation for towns and parishes”. What better way was there to do this than to simply set up a Community Governance Review. This was something that had been done in other areas as part of the transition to Unitary Authority as it was the right and proper way of identifying any democratic deficit, identifying the costs and benefits of different models of community governance, and ultimately giving local people a say on the final solution.

 

Councillor Knight indicated that he failed to see why this was remotely controversial, why it would be taken off the agenda, and why anyone in the chamber who supported the idea of listening to residents and promoting local democracy, could be against such a move.

Councillor Knight believed it was a case simply about equality. In towns and villages up and down Buckinghamshire one could see what a well-run Parish or Town Council delivered for their community. Many present were part of them. They organised events - promoted community cohesion, managed community facilities such as parish halls, looked after and enhanced the public realm and green spaces. They drew local people into engagement with local decision making and they influenced planning decisions and shaped the future of their communities.

 

Across Wycombe in recent years public assets had been hived off to housing associations, charities, private business… all because Wycombe District Council did not want the responsibility for them. Imagine a different scenario where these assets had been taken on by local Parish Councils – run by local residents, with financial backing from local taxation, not vulnerable to the constant need to fundraise or the whims of grant giving organisations.

 

Councillor Knight indicated that he had often been told that Parish Council were expensive, but from what he saw they delivered excellent value for money. It was an undisputed fact that the people of High Wycombe paid slightly less Council Tax than those residents who had a Parish or Town Council – but you only had to look across High Wycombe to see the price paid for a lack of locally focused community investment over the last 45 years since the Wycombe Urban Borough was abolished. Yes there had been the big redevelopments. But looking more closely one saw entrenched neglect across the town, and that small reduction in Council Tax had been at great cost to the community infrastructure.

 

Councillor Knight commended the motion and thanked Members for their support in anticipation.

 

Councillor Ms Wassell as seconder reserved her right to speak until later.

 

Councillor K Ahmed then proposed an amendment to the motion in that he proposed it be amended to his wording on the same topic of a High Wycombe Town Community Governance Review as featured in the second motion submitted as follows (seconded by Councillor R Raja):

 

“In light of the Secretary of State’s decision to establish a single unitary authority covering the whole of Buckinghamshire, this Council recognises the potential implications for governance, service delivery, community cohesion and empowerment and electoral arrangements in the District and particularly for the unparished High Wycombe Town which already experiences a democratic deficit in relation to the rest of Wycombe District.

 

Therefore I call for a motion that this Council agrees to undertake a Community Governance Review for the town of High Wycombe. To include existing neighbouring Parishes, with a view to securing a structure of governance to ensure proper community engagement in the area of High Wycombe, consistent with arrangements for the remainder of the District.”

 

In opening the debate Councillor Pearce expressed his support for the CGR (Community Governance Review) but also his reservations in respect in multiple parishes in the town area, he supported one solitary High Wycombe Town Council he felt such had a stronger voice.

 

Councillor Farmer indicated he felt a High Wycombe Town Council was well overdue, with Unitary coming, High Wycombe needed a voice.

 

The Leader of the Council - Councillor Ms Wood indicated that her colleagues had entrusted her as Leader, to once again affirm their long-standing and continuing commitment to keep the High Wycombe Town Committee within the heart of this Council, and not risk relinquishing it to become an expensive lower tier of government, with less capacity to act in the interests of their residents.

 

Ms Wood noted that the Council had covered the arguments against doing a town-wide community governance review, and the possibility of creating a new council for the town, many times. The only aspect that had changed was the decision to move to a unitary district council for the majority of Bucks.

 

It was disappointing that some members of this chamber were using this as an opportunity to generate baseless fear amongst residents.

 

Ms Wood indicated that the move to unitary presents many possibilities, but they are possibilities for financial savings, operational efficiencies, and for improving service delivery.

 

There were no examples of a move to unitary where these objectives had been furthered or achieved by the inclusion of a community governance review, and the creation of a new tier of local government.

 

Financially, a CGR would likely increase the cost of living for town residents.

 

Currently, High Wycombe Town residents enjoyed the lowest precept, the parish level element of their council tax bill, in the District.

 

Aside from financial considerations, there were also notable operational benefits to the present structure. The combined District Council and Town Committee structure ensured Councillors from Town Wards had a voice and a vote at both levels and could directly influence proceedings to the maximum benefit of their residents.

 

When needing support, the Town Committee could access the full breadth and depth of the skills and resources that were available here at the District Council. Any change as a result of CGR would likely mean a skills support and workload capacity reduction.

 

Ms Wood outlined that a community governance review at that point in time would not provide any benefit to the residents of High Wycombe Town, or indeed residents across the wider District.

 

Ms Wood was confident that she spoke for the majority of Members in the room when saying that she did not really understand why anyone would want to vote in favour of a process that had every chance of leading to higher taxes, reduced service, and reduced democratic authority

 

Councillor K Ahmed (the amendment proposer) responded indicating that any decision regarding the establishment of a town council for Wycombe sat fully with WDC, as did the management of a community governance review to investigate the potential to establish a town council. And yet WDC had consistently declined to acknowledge its responsibilities to the residents of Wycombe, attempting to defer any decision to other authorities that did not yet exist.

 

By committing to run a community governance review, WDC would, in the event of a decision to establish a town council, still have sufficient time to plan for town council elections at the same time as those scheduled for the new Unitary Authority in May 2020.

 

This would be a most efficient approach and the best use of scarce local resources. It would also ensure that the residents of High Wycombe were not obliged to endure a period of less local representation than any other town in the county. Were the opportunity of a 2020 town council election missed, it could be another 3 years before elections were held.

 

Due to WDC’s delay in addressing this issue with any degree of commitment, High Wycombe was currently set to be the largest unparished area anywhere in the UK. The legacy of WDC would be to leave the majority of its residents with the largest democratic deficit in the country. There was still time to do the right thing by the town and the residents of High Wycombe, by calling for this community governance review.

 

Councillor R Raja in seconding the amendment expressed his worries that if a Town Council was not established how exactly would the advisory only Town Committee fit into the new Unitary arrangements. In comparing High Wycombe with Aylesbury and its existing Town Council precepts and electoral numbers indicated a cost for the High Wycombe Town Council of only £1 per household per week.

 

As per Standing Order 16.7 more than 7 members agreed to the request for a recorded vote to be taken.

 

The proposed amendment was then put to a recorded vote.

 

In accordance with subsection (7) of the Council`s Standing Order 16 (voting) the voting of the Members in respect of the motion / amendment was recorded as follows:

 

In favour of the motion / amendment

 

Councillors: K Ahmed, M Asif, Ms A Baughan, Mrs L M Clarke OBE, R Farmer, S Graham, M Hanif, M A Hashmi, M Knight, B Pearce, R Raja  and Ms J Wassell

 

Against the motion / amendment

 

Councillors: Mrs J Adey, Ms S Adoh, M Appleyard, D Barnes, S Broadbent, Miss S Brown, D Carroll, A Collingwood, M Davy, R Gaffney, G Hall, M Harris, D Johncock, Mrs J Langley, N Marshall, H McCarthy, I McEnnis, Mrs C Oliver,  G Peart, S Saddique, R Scott, D Shakespeare, N Teesdale, A Turner, D Watson, C Whitehead and Miss K Wood.    

 

Abstentions

 

Councillors: Z Ahmed, M Clarke, A Green, Mahboob Hussain, Maz Hussain, Mrs G A Jones, Mrs W Mallen, J Savage and P Turner.

 

In favour – 12

 

Against – 27

 

Abstentions – 9

 

(N.B. Councillors A Hussain and S K Raja had left the meeting before the above vote was taken).

 

The amendment was therefore lost.

 

The Meeting then returned to debating the original Motion submitted by Councillor M Knight.

 

Councillor Ms Wassell, the seconder, pointed out that she had never seen a fully scoped out published report from officers evaluating the pros and cons of carrying out a Community Governance Review. Ms Wassell regretted that High Wycombe residents considering standing for public office had never had the career path of ‘parish, district then county’ available to residents elsewhere in the District. She felt the major fear of opponents to the review, was that a Town Council, if created, could fall into opposition hands.

 

Councillor M Knight the proposer summed up saying that if voted down he was confident a sufficient petition could be collected. In terms of the Totteridge and Micklefield petitions presented earlier that evening, signatures had been easily obtained, the High Wycombe public were on board with the idea of Parish / Town Council representation.

 

He asked all members to examine the consciences and felt they could not surely be comfortable with the people of High Wycombe continuing to live with the current Democratic deficit.

 

Again as per Standing Order 16.7 more than 7 members agreed to the request for a recorded vote to be taken.

 

The motion was then put to a recorded vote.

 

In accordance with subsection (7) of the Council`s Standing Order 16 (voting) the voting of the Members in respect of the motion was recorded as follows:

 

In favour of the motion

 

Councillors: K Ahmed, M Asif, Ms A Baughan, Mrs L M Clarke OBE, M Clarke, R Farmer, S Graham, M Hanif, M A Hashmi, M Knight, B Pearce, R Raja and Ms J Wassell

 

Against the motion

 

Councillors: Mrs J Adey, Ms S Adoh, M Appleyard, D Barnes, S Broadbent, Miss S Brown, D Carroll, A Collingwood, M Davy, R Gaffney, G Hall, M Harris, D Johncock, Mrs J Langley, N Marshall, H McCarthy, I McEnnis, Mrs C Oliver,  G Peart, S Saddique, R Scott, D Shakespeare, N Teesdale, A Turner, D Watson, C Whitehead and Miss K Wood.    

 

Abstentions

 

Councillors: Z Ahmed, A Green, Mahboob Hussain, Maz Hussain, Mrs G A Jones, Mrs W Mallen, J Savage and P Turner.

 

In favour – 13

 

Against – 27

 

Abstentions – 8

 

(N.B. Councillors A Hussain and S K Raja had left the meeting before the above vote was taken).

 

The motion was therefore lost.

 

 

The following Notice of Motion was submitted by Councillor K Ahmed and seconded by Councillor S Graham.

I move that the Council recognises the financial impact on local women affected by the transitional pension arrangements for women born in the 1950s and to note the national campaign to raise awareness about the plight of these women.

I raise this motion on behalf of women born in the 1950s that are affected by the transitional arrangements for changes in pensions.  This is very much a national and a local issue affecting 3.9 million women in the UK which includes thousands living in Wycombe and their families. In addition, the rise in SPA has financial implications for local authorities with extra demand on their services and benefit claims. As many as 147 other councils have debated the issue and over 80 have agreed to write to the Government.

Councillor Graham explained that he had no hesitation in seconding this motion to remove an injustice and inequality which affected a considerable number of women across the UK and of course in Wycombe District. All the major parties had shown a lack of judgement and communication leading to this unexpected hardship to a considerable number of households. Many present had mothers or partners affected by the decision.

 

A Member pointed out that many suffering this injustice were women who had forsaken careers to look after families and to build homes.

 

Equality in the dates of pension payment was necessary but a staged adjustment to avoid the hardship of this policy would have been more appropriate.

 

Other Members sympathised with the affected WASPI’s (Women Against State Pension Inequality) but countered that saying ‘life was’ at times ‘unfair’. Others indicated that the far longer life expectancies of the last 20 years (particularly amongst women) made pension unsustainable from public tax payer funds.

 

Councillor K Ahmed the motion proposer, outlined that there had been a number of misunderstandings about the increase in women’s SPA (State Pension Age). It had been said that the women affected were given 20 years’ notice of this change. They weren’t. Most women were officially told by the DWP as late as 2011about their SPA being increased not once but twice.

 

To date, the government had not responded favourably to any of these efforts. Many women, born in the 50’s, would have to rely entirely on their state pension. They had worked and contributed to this country from the age of 15 or 16 – some even earlier than that - paying tax and national insurance and believing they would have at least some small measure of financial security when they reached the age of 60.

 

Councillor Ahmed indicated that this wasn’t a party political issue. It was a fairness and justice issue. Supporting this motion would not commit Wycombe District Council to any financial or legal liability. The Prime Minister has indicated that she wanted to put fairness at the centre of her government. He indicated that the Council could ask her to demonstrate this by implementing transition payments to help the women who were affected by this unfair increase in women’s state pension age.

 

Thanking the members of the Wycombe WASPI Group, some of whom were in the public gallery that evening, he urged Members of the Council to show their support by unanimously voting for the motion.

 

Again as per Standing Order 16.7 more than 7 members agreed to the request for a recorded vote to be taken.

 

The motion was then put to a recorded vote.

 

In accordance with subsection (7) of the Council`s Standing Order 16 (voting) the voting of the Members in respect of the motion was recorded as follows:

 

In favour of the motion

 

Councillors: K Ahmed, M Asif, Ms A Baughan, R Farmer, R Gaffney, S Graham, M Hanif, M A Hashmi, Mrs G A Jones, M Knight, B Pearce, R Raja and Ms J Wassell

 

Against the motion

 

Councillors: Mrs J Adey, Ms S Adoh, Z Ahmed, M Appleyard, D Barnes, S Broadbent, Miss S Brown, D Carroll, Mrs L M Clarke, M Clarke, A Collingwood, M Davy, G Hall, M Harris, Mahboob Hussain, Maz Hussain, D Johncock, Mrs J Langley, Mrs W Mallen, N Marshall, H McCarthy, I McEnnis, Mrs C Oliver,  G Peart, J Savage, R Scott, D Shakespeare, N Teesdale, A Turner, D Watson, C Whitehead and Miss K Wood.    

 

Abstentions

 

Councillors: A Green and P Turner.

 

In favour – 13

 

Against – 32

 

Abstentions – 2

 

(N.B. Councillors A Hussain, S K Raja and S Saddique had left the meeting before the above vote was taken).

 

The motion was therefore lost.