Stroud District Councillors’ Report
Summary of SDC Wotton Ward Councillors’ Council meetings and local business.
Following acceptance of the Budget proposals for 2018-19 by Full Council on 25th January, the precepts required to deliver these proposals were agreed at Full Council on 22nd February. District Council increases amounted to 2.99%. The combined Parish/Town, District and County Council Precepts for each parish and Rate Band can be viewed at:
Following the loss of Revenue Support Grant from Central Government, in 2018-19, some budgetary reductions and efficiency savings have to be made across the District. The number of staff employed by SDC will be reduced by 20% over the next 4 years. These changes will be implemented in a phased approach, and the first phase relates to vacant posts, to avoid redundancies. However, we continue to protect important local services, including the Neighbourhood Wardens and grants to voluntary organisations.
Gloucestershire is one of 10 areas of the country that is to be given ‘pilot’ status for 100% business rate retention in 2018/19 which will provide some additional funding to help fill the gap left by the loss of Revenue Support Grant – but the future financial position for local government remains very difficult. However, following representation led by SDC (and other local Districts) to Sajid Javid MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, we understand from local MP, David Drew, that some favourable factors are being considered. We wait to hear more.
Car parking charges.
There will be consultation in 2018 on introduction of car parking charges in Wotton and other towns in the District. Increases over existing charges have already been introduced in Stroud, Stonehouse and Painswick.
Stroud Subscription Rooms
Following the decision not to accept any of the previous bids, the latest process is well underway, with bids being presented to SDC this week. The aim is to keep it in public ownership, whilst ensuring that the level of Council cost is significantly reduced and promotes and enhances the availability of the venue to the public for public arts, community use and education. The Task & Finish Group (Cllr Tucker attends) will review the bids starting 6th March and then arrange meetings with bidders in the following few weeks to clarify their and SDC’s questions. The Group are expected to report their recommendations back to Strategy & Resources Committee on 12th April.
The Oatground (Wotton) dog fouling.
Cllr Tucker has been working with residents, Neighbourhood wardens and SDC’s Animal Welfare team to try and eliminate the dog fouling in ‘The Chair’ and ‘The Oatground. Path stenciling, new warning notices and Friday night patrols by NHW and AW team members will take place randomly over the next few months.
Community Services and Licencing – No Meeting
Environment Committee - 8th February (Cllr Tucker)
Market Town Centers Initiative Fund - letters to be sent to town councils for expressions of interest (£50 k per annum for next four years). Full details and criteria of funding will not be available until August. Funding will be on a 50/50 basis.
Multi service vehicle contract - high level of support for recycling and food waste collection has required SDC to hire additional vehicles which the Council is now likely to purchase, as it is cheaper. The Task & Finish Group (Cllr Tucker attends) is currently reviewing officer’s proposals. The AGM of Ubico, our refuse collection providers, provided some further answers to questions we have previously raised. Following our concerns that SDC may be ‘part paying’ for services delivered in adjacent Districts, Ubico are now also providing regular finance data to SDC accountants and there is, at last, also some meaningful dialog between SDC and provider. This has previously proved more difficult than one might expect, especially as SDC part-own Ubico!
Heritage Planning Advice - The Committee approved the proposals for a Stroud District Heritage Planning Advice Strategy. As its name suggests, this will help and force developers to encompass acceptable methods and plans to protect our build heritage.
Environment Strategy (2018-2025) - A sub-group (Cllr Tucker attends) is reviewing the current strategy that will protect our environment locally within the District. Consideration of current plastic waste, quantity and disposal, will be high on the agenda. SDC aims to take the lead by eliminating the sale of plastic bottles at Ebley Mill.
Fly Tipping - The Council has taken 2 companies to Court in the last month over fly tipping in our District. Both were successful and resulted in large fines and costs. Please report any fly tipping directly to SDC and they will remove material as soon as practical.
Animal cruelty - The appalling treatment and subsequent slow death of a Staffie dog, Yola, in Dursley was reported in local, national and international press. SDC took its owner, Emma Miles, to Court, which was successful and resulted in penalties, fines, costs and community service. Many of your local District Councillors signed the media petition to have the ban of 10 years before having a further pet, extended for life. Following a graphic background presentation to District Councillors, the Animal Welfare team were congratulated on the harrowing and difficult work needed to secure this prosecution.
Investment and Development Panel – 19th February (Cllr Tucker)
Stroudwater Canal - The grant application to Heritage England for lottery money to help with Phase 1B of the Stroudwater Canal (Stonehouse to Saul Junction) has now been acknowledged. However, it will be some time before we know if the SDC led team have been successful. If so, SDC will put in £3m over a 3-year period to support this work, which will further increase tourism to the area.
Brimscombe Port - Work into the viability of converting the existing Brimscombe Port back into a working marina and associated infrastructure continues. An excellent report from consultants, Atkins, shows that the proposals are viable, the best solution inevitably costing more. SDC continue to work with other consultants and commercial operators currently on site (including the highly successful Rush skate boarding park), to find other suitable locations for their businesses. Up to 150 new homes are being considered for this site, along with a new community centre, boat chandlers and restaurants. The canal at Brimscombe (to the east of Stroud) will eventually link to the east end of the Stroudwater Canal at Wallsbridge Upper Lock, which HRH Price Charles opened on 2nd February, at which Cllr Tucker was a guests.
Merrywalks Shopping Centre, Stroud - SDC are supporting a bid by Dransfield Properties to buy Merriwalks Shopping Centre. The Centre has not had the necessary funding over the last 10 years to keep it ahead of customer needs and is in a poor state of repair. Dransfield, who have successfully turned similar Centres into thriving shopping malls, have had their offer accepted and are currently in ‘due diligence’. Assuming this is successful, SDC will loan Dransfield £3m over 4 years at commercial lending rates. We have met CEO Mark Dransfield on several occasions and are very impressed with his vision for Merriwalks and business acumen. Having purchased the Centre for approx. £10m, Dransfield intend to spend a further £10m to make significant changes. Inclusion of M&S, Next and other top high street names are a distinct possibility.
Housing (Cllr Braun)
Council home repairs and maintenance: A new contractor – Mi-Space (part of the Midas Group) has been appointed on a to replace Mears on a two year contract. They will start on 13 March and it’s expected that they will catch up with the delays in the capital programme in the South of the District over the next 18 months. Tenants and Leaseholders have been informed.
Dryleaze Court building – is on the market with the closing date for offers on 9th March – though this may need to be extended, up to 16th March at the latest.
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) – currently the District Council is required to license a small number of large HMOs - of which there are only 30 in the District. From this autumn, the requirement to be licensed extends to any HMOs with 5 or more residents (who are not all part of the same family). It’s estimated that this will require between 250 and 400 properties to be licensed in future, and will provide additional protection to these tenants.
Civil Penalties Policy – a new policy has been adopted to implement powers related to offences under the Housing Act 2004 (link). In practice, these powers are not likely to be used, since issues with landlords (such as failure to comply with an improvement notice) are dealt with directly, before a civil penalty would be issued, and overall there are relatively few issues notified in the district in relation to rogue landlords.
Bearlands: Work on the new play area has been delayed due to the need for further work on a retaining wall, which will be undertaken by a separate contractor. Hopefully this will proceed in the coming weeks, with a view to opening the play area later in the spring / early summer.
For information – recent response to a member’s question on plastic waste (22/2/18)
Can the chairman please confirm the route taken by Stroud District’s plastics recycling, after it leaves the kerbside, so that the ratepayers can have the assurance that their waste is not ending up in the oceans? In asking for this I recognise that the matter is in the hands of Ubico, and our control may be limited. It would be helpful to know the basis for the contracts Ubico have established with their processors.
Firstly it is worth pointing out the majority of plastic that ends up in the sea is plastic waste that is throw away into rivers or directly into the sea rather than being collected as part of a recycling system. It is estimated that between 88-95% of the 4 million metric tonnes of plastic that enters the seas each year comes from ten rivers Yangtze, Yellow, Hai He, Pearl, Amur, Mekong, Indus, Ganges, Niger and Nile.
Dry recyclates collected by SDC are taken to our depot at Breadstone before being collected by our MRF contractor (Pure) where it is sorted and plastic sent on to plastic reprocesses. Stroud District Council has limited control over the final destination. The most recent information is that mixed plastics are sent to two reprocesses.
1) Monoworld Ltd, Monoworld Business Park, Rushden Road, Sharnbrook MK44 1NB (Bedford).
2) Total Communities Limited Cervre PET Akpinar Mah. Ismet Atilla Bulvaria. No 58 Sinanpasa Afoyonkarahisa, (Turkey)
Both companies separate mixed plastic creating plastic beads or liquid esters to sell on to plastic manufacturers.
It is worth noting that Officers are currently investigating how to eliminate all single use plastic within SDC buildings.
Meetings attended by Councillors during February:
Local Government Association Independent Group training course (2-3 February)
North Nibley Parish Council (5 February)
Housing Committee (20 February)
Housing Review Panel meeting (27 February)
Merrywalks Development Briefing
Development Control Committee Training
Stroud Sub Rooms Task & Finish Group. (1 Feb)
SDC Stroudwater Canal opening (introduced to HRH Prince Charles). (2 Feb)
North Nibley Parish Council meeting. (5 Feb)
SDC Chief Exec meeting with Group Leaders. (5 Feb)
SDC Environmental Protection Seminar. (8 Feb)
SDC Environment Committee. (8 Feb)
Meeting with residents regarding Fountain Crescent housing development. (14 Feb)
Wotton Town Council meeting. (19 Feb)
SDC Investment and Development Committee. (19 Feb)
SDC Group Leader’s Meeting. (19 Feb)
SDC Sub Rooms Task & Finish Group. (22 Feb)
SDC Full Council. (22 Feb)