The deadline for questions to be submitted to the Monitoring Officer is 14 February 2022.
The Chairman advised that there were now only two questions to deal with.
Councillor Mark Anderson proposed that the answers to the questions be provided in writing. The Chairman indicated that there was a request to hear the responses, so he asked that they be dealt with.
Question from Councillor Margaret Phipps
Both I and a resident asked questions at Council on 14th September last year about why a deliverability score had been increased facilitating £70,000 being given to a speculative lagoon project in Hurn, as bounce back grant, when the lagoon does not exist.
You replied to me: “The team were quite clear that this proposed grant, which was to fund a planning application, which already had match funding, was clearly deliverable.”
You replied to the resident:
“The Council’s ED team in their screening of the grant applications prior to the judging panel, saw that the grant request was actually only to bring the scheme to submitted planning application stage ……..”
By specific invitation you attended a Hurn Parish Council Meeting on 11th October. Present were Hurn Parish Councillors, my co-Ward Cllr. Vanessa Ricketts and a room full of Hurn residents.
One resident asked - is the money time limited? You replied – the money is to be spent by the end of March 2022. “The developer seemed very serious, I will be surprised if it is not a good application”.
The perception and understanding of every single person I have spoken to, public and Councillors, is that taxpayers bounce back grant money was given to this non-existent operation to fund a planning application, by the due date – the end of March 2022. I now have in writing from the BCP Economic Development Team that this is not the case, and the money was only for phase one - to fund feasibility, landscaping and architectural studies and meetings relating to these. Therefore the £70,000 went straight into a planning consultant’s pocket to deliver a few reports, not a submitted application as you said.
Can the Portfolio Holder explain why he said in public on numerous occasions that the score was changed, and grant money was awarded, to fund a planning application by the deliverable date - when it wasn’t. In fact, it was to pay a planning consultant for a few reports for a speculative development proposal. Why did he mislead, this Council, Hurn Parish Council and residents?
Reply from Councillor Philip Broadhead, Deputy Leader of the Council and Portfolio Holder for Development, Growth and Regeneration
This question has already been answered at the Audit and Governance Committee and previously versions at Full Council. At all stages to be clear, the government guidance and local scheme was followed completely. The recipients of this grant are delivering on what they proposed to deliver, and full monitoring is taking place in line with the conditions of the grant award.
Councillor Phipps indicated that that the above response did not answer the question she asked, and she reiterated the question and previous comments made relating to the delivery of the application. Councillor Broadhead in response explained that his answer was brief because the Audit and Governance Committee had considered this issue in detail as well as numerous other questions that had been asked on both the specific scheme and the bounce-back challenge fund, which was an innovative way the Council was able to help the whole area bounce back after giving grants to help businesses survive. He emphasised that as he pointed out in his original answer every single scheme that had come forward was assessed against a criteria put forward and he had confirmed from the officers that the criteria put forward was being met and was being monitored.
Question from Councillor David Brown
It is now a year since this Council debated and agreed significant changes to BCP Taxi Licensing Policy to align policy across the three towns. This new policy has now been implemented and has no doubt had some impact on the taxi trade across Poole, Christchurch and Bournemouth.
Could the Chair of Licensing Committee and/or the Portfolio Holder for Community Safety and Regulatory Services, please advise what mechanisms have been put in place to allow the taxi trade to feed back their views and experiences of these changes?
Further, could they advise what processes are in place to review the policy to allow any necessary amendments to ensure that the implementation addresses the needs and concerns of the taxi trade at this difficult time for the taxi industry?
Reply from Councillor Judes Butt, Chairman of the Licensing Committee
I thank the Councillor for his questions, I am happy to answer both.
The first, to advise the Councillor of the mechanisms in place to assist feedback from the Taxi trade re the new BCP Taxi policies.
BCP Taxi and Private Hire Policies were implemented on 21st June 2021.
The Taxi trade are commended for how well they have adapted to these new policies.
Our BCP Licensing Manager is the Council’s direct operational contact for all taxi trade representatives, via email, text, telephone, teams and letter and also on a face to face basis via pre LGR established quarterly taxi trade meetings.
The Taxi Trade wished these meetings to be face to face during Covid, so they have not met since 2021, safety of our officers being paramount during this time. However, all other communication platforms remained in place during Covid, in order to receive feedback and for the trade to be advised and supported. Now Covid is hopefully mitigated by vaccination, meetings were reconvened face to face this February.
Your second question – to advise on processes in place to review policy, allowing any necessary amendments, to ensure that implementation addresses needs and concerns of the taxi trade
Feedback from the February Trade Meeting re monitoring new Taxi Policies, will be heard by the Licensing Committee thisMarch 10th, by way of a substantive report from our Licensing Manager. I have invited taxi trade reps to attend, to share their contributions re the evaluation of the policies.
kindly remind the Councillor that all Taxi Policies have separate working documents for Drivers, Vehicles and Operators and can be amended at any time to correct errors, inconsistencies, clarify guidance and statutory changes.
Our new Taxi Policies require effective interaction with the Taxi trade and the public per se, re accessing and communicating the work and operation of our Taxi policies and the full suite of Licensing policies and their applications.
Therefore, the BCP’s Transformation Programme presents a valuable opportunity to improve how our licensing services are delivered and our licensing team is currently working hard on service redesign with our transformation team.
We aim to streamline processes and provide more information to support applicants going forward. We need information about Licensing to be an easily accessible portal and we’ll continue to develop our public engagement methods as we transform the service.
To conclude, the Licensing Committee, with their remit to create and deliver effective policies for taxis and all Taxi drivers and operators, remain on message to ensure that the ongoing implementation addresses the needs and concerns of the Taxi Trade.
Councillor Brown asked that previously at Borough of Poole Council Councillors used to meet with the taxi trade. He asked if the Chair could look at this as well as allowing the taxi trade to make representations at the next meeting and permitting a two-way discussion with the taxi trade and Licensing Committee Members on their concerns, views and to get their input into any future review. Councillor Butt indicated that she would give that her consideration.