Report of the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Growth
The Deputy Leader echoed the Leader’s comments regarding the importance of the business rates pilot as it offers a huge opportunity to provide a competitive advantage for the West Sussex economy, particularly with the enhanced digital connectivity.
He confirmed that the Micro Business Grant scheme has recently concluded with over 40 businesses successfully receiving grants of over £70,000 in total. This in turn resulted in over £160,000 match funding being secured. He also confirmed that preparations are underway for the Open-For-Business event being held at the Harlands Road College site, which will be co-hosted by the annual apprenticeship fair run by Mid Sussex District Council and West Sussex County Council. Speakers will include a panel discussion from the Young Apprenticeships Ambassador Network allowing young people to share their experiences of apprenticeships.
Report of the Cabinet Member for Finance and Performance
The Cabinet Member confirmed that the draft Corporate Plan and Budget will be presented to Council in February, following recent scrutiny by members of the Scrutiny Committee for Leader, Resources and Economic Growth.
She drew Members attention to a report circulated today on the Empty Homes Premium, the purpose of which is primarily to bring homes back into use, and to maximise the income available. She noted that there are a number of circumstances where the premium will not apply. For example circumstances could include properties qualifying for council tax exemption, probate cases and people attempting to sell the property. The local discretionary council tax relief policy would also allow the Council to provide support for customers suffering hardship. In response to Members questions, the Cabinet Member confirmed that the Council Tax Inspectors have records of empty properties and can carry out site visits to check. The Empty Homes Premium also applies to housing association property.
Report of the Cabinet Member for Customer Services
The Cabinet Member provided Members with an update on the Voter ID Pilot and communications to residents. A redesigned leaflet with clear information and Frequently Asked Questions will be issued with Household Notification Letters, Council email signatures will include appropriate messaging and the Pilot will feature in the next edition of Mid Sussex Matters, to be delivered to all households in March.
She acknowledged that the Council’s Business Administration apprentice has been in post for 2 months and is an established part of the Comms team. The team have recently made a short film for social media promoting the Council’s independent retailer training and has positive received comments from a local business who have found the training beneficial in cutting costs and increasing productivity.
In conclusion the Cabinet Member confirmed that the latest edition of the Mid Sussex More e-newsletter was issued on Monday.
Report of the Cabinet Member for Service Delivery
The Cabinet Member thanked the Scrutiny Committee for Customer Service and Service Delivery for their positive remarks concerning the recycling trial carried out with the British Heart Foundation.
With regards to waste management, he confirmed that fly tipping continues to be an issue with over 16 tonnes cleared in December, although this is down from previous months. Both Mid Sussex District Council and the Waste Reduction Partnership are working together to enhance all recycling options across the District and West Sussex. He concluded by noting that memberships of leisure centres continue to grow, as does attendance across all leisure centres.
Report of the Cabinet Member for Community
The Cabinet Member confirmed that Officers continue to work with partner organisations such as Sussex Police, the Youth Offending Service and Transport Police to manage antisocial behaviour. Officers have recently engaged with community safety officers in coastal areas to address issues with youths travelling within areas. Recommendations on when and how the Council propose to use additional tools to help address key issues around antisocial behaviour were proposed to the Scrutiny Committee for Community, Housing and Planning and staffing resources are being monitored to ensure there is adequate provision to cover the new legislation. In response to Member’s questions he confirmed that interaction with schools is important and in response, Sussex Police have established posts for 20 School Officers across Sussex.
He highlighted the subject of suicide prevention, having recently attended a conference on the subject, drawing Member attention to the importance of having the knowledge of who to call in case of immediate need, when having conversations with residents. He referenced the Grassroots Suicide Prevention which is Brighton based, the Stay Alive app, the Samaritans and 999. He provided statistics from a recent happiness survey of Year 5 and 6 pupils and noted that in-person and on-line bullying was a concern, stressing the importance of parents monitoring social media access.
The Cabinet Member confirmed that he had recently attended a meeting at West Sussex County Council with the Chief Executive of Public Health England to update him on the strong health and well-being partnerships being developed across Mid Sussex. He noted that Mid Sussex District Council is a front runner in this area of work despite not being the responsible authority for wider health care delivery. The West Sussex Health and Wellbeing Board was also held last week where a comprehensive view of the Council’s wellbeing service offer was presented.
The Cabinet Member will be attending the Police and Crime Scrutiny Panel which will consider a report by the Budget Working Group. As part of this work, the Head of HR for Sussex Police provided evidence on the challenges of recruiting 800 new officers which will lead to a net increase of 200 Officers on the ground by 2022. In addition, the policing settlement announcement allows for increasing of the precept by £24 per annum and the Chief Constable is tasked with identifying where the additional funding could most effectively be used.
In conclusion he provided a positive update from the Environmental Health and Licensing teams that there are currently no food outlets in the District with a zero rating, and the number of outlets rated 1 and 2 have reduced. He also confirmed that the Rt. Hon James Brokenshire MP recently announced that the department for Housing, Communities and Local Government will implement all of the Hackett Enquiry recommendations following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. This means that Local Authority Building Control Officers such as the well qualified ones at Mid Sussex District Council will be the only ones to carry out building control checks on higher risk residential buildings.
The Cabinet Member confirmed that the Mid Sussex Partnership recently agreed funding for the Safe Places pilot in East Grinstead and a Member thanked Inspector Dommett for actively working in East Grinstead, particularly in regards to the Pilot.
Report of the Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning
The Cabinet Member noted the recent training provided to Members on the Homelessness Reduction Act and thanked those who attended.
He highlighted that the Act recognises that preventing people from becoming homeless is the way forward. Currently Registered Social Landlords (RSL’s) do not have a duty to refer their tenants when they are at risk of losing their accommodation however the National Federation have now established a Commitment to Refer. The Council will be encouraging RSL’s to sign up to this commitment at the next RSL forum. He also noted that the Housing Needs Team have used £155k of the £169k government contribution for Discretionary Housing Payments. As the full amount will be used before the end of the financial year, a £30k top-up has been agreed.
Regarding the Dart, Packer and Manor Court schemes, he confirmed that the Council is continuing to press Clarion to provide more rental units within the new schemes. Demolition of Dart and Packer has been held up by the discovery of bats but should take place after March. Anti-Vandal paint and boarding has been put in place to prevent vandalism, and in response to a Member’s query, he will look into resolving issues with the shrubbery by the Manor Court bus stop. With regards to a concern about residents living in damp conditions, he confirmed that Officers can carry out site visits to advise.
The Cabinet Member provided an update on the Pease Pottage Development where work has started on site with the first handover of affordable housing due in 2 years. Radian Housing Association will be the affordable housing provider for the whole scheme and will accept Mid Sussex nominations from the Common Housing Register.
Regarding the Northern Arc, he confirmed that Homes England have submitted an outline planning application seeking consent for approximately 3,000 homes (including 30% affordable housing), new community facilities, three schools, health provision, employment opportunities as well as vehicle, pedestrian and cycle connections.