To receive an update on the work of the Council and future plans.
Members received an update on the work of the Council and future plans from the Leader, Cllr M. Brunt. Council services were largely back to normal operations, with some exceptions. Planning was underway for the expected second wave of the COVID-19 emergency response. The Committee’s Recovery Scrutiny Panel had scrutinised the work of the recovery programme (set out in Minute 23).
The Leader highlighted ongoing work which included the following areas:
· Promoting the needs of the local economy with Surrey MPs who had been supportive in getting this message to the Treasury.
· Additional costs to the Council due to COVID-19 emergency response was predicted to be £3.024m at the end of the first quarter on 30 June. There was a projected £3.74m loss of income. Budget pressures were expected to be offset by Government grant; £1.16m had been received by the end of quarter 1. There was a forecast £317k reduction in commercial rent but the majority of property rents continued to be collected. The forecast risk to the Collection Fund (business rate and council tax income shortfalls) was better than expected but the Council still had to pay receiving authorities like Surrey County Council and the police. (Clerk’s note – more detail was set out in Minute 24 on Q1 2020/21 financial performance reporting).
· Homeless people were continuing to be supported while the housing team prepared for an expected rise in evictions in the autumn. Community centres had reopened, with COVID-19 safety measures in place. Storage had been found in Redhill to keep stocks of food and for food banks to have access to these to meet demand in the longer term.
· The Waller cinema and the café at the Harlequin in Redhill had reopened. Greenwich Leisure Limited were due to reopen the three swimming pools in the borough on 12 September with bookable slots for swimming.
· The garden waste service had restarted with an additional 500 garden waste bins provided for new subscribers to the service. The refuse and recycling teams were working on the frontline and given the support and protection they needed to deliver these services.
· Council Committee meetings would be held remotely until the end of the year with a comprehensive return to the Town Hall not expected until early next year. Staff were mainly continuing to work from home with a small number working in the council offices. Results from a staff survey and Member survey were being analysed. ICT had faced challenges but continued to focus on ensuring the network was maintained. The Leader praised the dedication of the ICT team and their support for staff and Members working remotely.
· The Marketfield Way development in Redhill was making good progress with the groundworks. Significant funding for the project had been secured from the Local Enterprise Partnership and government funding. Building work was continuing in Cromwell Road and at Pitwood Park after initial delays.
Members asked questions and made observations on the following areas:
Swimming pools – Members asked if the latest COVID-19 government guidance on restrictions to social gatherings “the rule of six” would affect the recent reopening of the Borough’s three swimming pools. It was noted that organised sports facilities which have carried out the required health and safety assessments were likely to be exempt from this rule.
Marketfield Way development – residents had suggested that the temporary fences round the development site in the centre of Redhill be replaced with professional-looking hoardings, including designs of what the future site might look like with a proposed multiplex cinema and shops. Members said this would give confidence to the business community about the town centre’s regeneration plans. Members asked for an update on the communications planned.
Proposed local government reorganisation – Members asked about proposals to create a unitary authority structure in Surrey. It was noted that the Government’s expected White Paper had been delayed until possibly October. Consultants KPMG were starting work on a business case to analyse the different options for Surrey’s 11 districts and boroughs. This report would be shared with all Members once completed.
Homelessness – as the furlough job scheme came to an end and the economic impact of COVID-19 continued, Members asked how the Council was getting ready to accommodate residents in need while maintaining social distancing rules. It was noted that accommodation was returning to allow near normal occupancy levels. Court evictions had been put on hold since March, but the Council was preparing and planning for an expected rise in demand once this was lifted.
RESOLVED – that the update from the Leader, Cllr M. Brunt, on the work of the Council and the observations of the Committee be noted.