Agenda item

Executive Committee


Town Hall Hub


The Leader of the Council presented a report on the subject of the Town Hall Hub.  Officers were thanked for their hard work on the report, particularly the Interim Section 151 Officer and the Head of Legal, Democratic and Property Services.  The report formed part of ongoing work on the regeneration of Redditch town centre.


During consideration of this item, Members raised the following points:


·             The length of time that had passed since the Council first started to consider regeneration of Redditch town centre as part of work on the One Public Estate project, which was debated by Council in March 2018.

·             The range of public services that would be accommodated in the Town Hall Hub.

·             The extent to which it would be appropriate for the central library in Redditch to relocate to Redditch Town Hall to form part of the Hub.

·             The level of public support in the local community for the relocation of the library to Redditch Town Hall.

·             The consultation that had already been undertaken by Redditch Borough Council in respect of proposals for the regeneration of the town.  Members commented that public consultation had taken place in 2020/21, although the forms of consultation available at that time had been restricted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

·             The public consultation that was in the process of being undertaken by Worcestershire County Council as the lead authority responsible for the provision of Library Services.

·             The potential for there to be a vibrant public sector hub without the library being moved into the Town Hall.

·             The risks to the Council involved in working on the project, including the relocation of the library.

·             The potential challenges for the Council, in terms of the external auditor’s expectations following the issuing of the Section 24 Notice, should the works at the Town Hall fail to be delivered on time and on budget.  Members were reminded that the Section 24 Notice related to the non-submission of the Council’s 2020-21 accounts and not to financial sustainability.

·             The fact that the introduction of a public sector hub in the Town Hall formed part of the regeneration plans for the town, which also included redevelopment of the railway quarter and establishing an innovation hub.

·             The impact that the relocation of the library might have on the area in the town centre where the existing library was located. 

·             The extent to which the Council and partner organisations would be able to attract businesses, including restaurants, to the public square area that would be created as part of the plans, should the library be relocated.

·             The disposal of Council assets and whether this had the support of the public.

·             The benefits to residents arising from the NHS and Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) renting space in the Town Hall.

·             The future location of the Redditch archives should the library be relocated into Redditch Town Hall.

·             The condition of the current building in which the central Redditch library was based.

·             The fact that there was no guarantee that the relocation of the library to Redditch Town Hall would occur as this was subject to consultation.

·             The reasons why Worcestershire County Council would not pay rent for a period of time to Redditch Borough Council for space in the Town Hall for the library, should the relocation proceed.  Members were advised that Worcestershire County Council would benefit from a rent-free period because Redditch Borough Council was asking for control of a separate building in return.

·             The petition that had been submitted to Worcestershire County Council in relation to the relocation of the library.


In accordance with Procedure Rule 17.5 a recorded vote was taken and the voting was as follows:


Members voting FOR the resolution:


Councillors Imran Altaf, Karen Ashley, Tom Baker-Price, Joanne Beecham, Brandon Clayton, Luke Court, Matthew Dormer, Peter Fleming, Lucy Harrison, Anthony Lovell, Emma Marshall, Timothy Pearman and Craig Warhurst (13).


Members voting AGAINST the resolution:


Councillors Joe Baker, Juliet Barker Smith, Andrew Fry, Bill Hartnett, Sharon Harvey, Joanna Kane and Sid Khan (7).


Members voting to ABSTAIN on the resolution:


Councillors Juliet Brunner, Ann Isherwood and David Thain (3).


The vote on the resolution was therefore carried.


(Prior to the vote in respect of this matter, Councillor Michael Chalk left the room and so was not present when the recorded vote was taken.)


Climate Change Strategy / Carbon Reduction Implementation Plan


The Portfolio Holder for Climate Change presented the Climate Change Strategy and Carbon Reduction Implementation Plan for Members’ consideration.  Council was informed that climate change impacted on everyone and was increasingly evident, including through the excessively hot summer that there had been in the UK in 2022.  The Council was only one organisation among many in the Borough responsible for carbon emissions and could not control how other groups and individuals behaved, although it could contribute to reductions in emissions as well as set a positive example.  Action was needed urgently to tackle climate change, which was already having a negative impact on biodiversity.  The Climate Change Cross Party Working Group had discussed the content of the strategy and Members had had a chance to contribute their suggestions as part of this process.


Members were asked to note that there had been carbon literacy training provided to Members and staff earlier in the year.  This accredited training had been very informative and the Portfolio Holder for Climate Change recommended that those Members who had not had a chance to do so should attend climate change training when a further opportunity arose.


Following the presentation of the report, Members discussed a number of points in detail:


·             The potential for the Council to be more ambitious about tackling climate change.

·             The debate in respect of the item that had taken place at a recent meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at which Members had made suggestions about potential changes that could be made to the Local Plan to encourage developers to build more energy efficient properties.  Whilst recommendations on this subject had not been agreed by the Committee, it was noted that Members could influence the content of the Local Plan by participating in meetings of the Planning Advisory Panel (PAP).

·             The fact that the Climate Change Strategy represented a starting point that would help the authority to work towards becoming carbon neutral.

·             The frequency with which meetings of the Climate Change Cross Party Working Group had taken place.  Members noted that four meetings of the group took place each year and three meetings of the group had already taken place in 2022 with a further meeting due to take place in December.

·             The extent to which it would be possible to arrange for meetings of the Climate Change Cross Party Working Group to take place in public.

·             The timing of the report which was being considered at the same time that the COP27 summit, dedicated at an international level to tackling climate change, was occurring in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt.

·             The work that had already been undertaken at the Council to reduce carbon emissions in the Borough, including through the installation of solar panels on various Council owned properties and the upgrading of the windows and insulation in the Town Hall.

·             The Council’s carbon reduction plans in terms of how these compared to other Councils in the region.  Members commented that the Council’s actions and strategy compared favourably to those in place at many other local authorities.

·             The need for appropriate measures to be in place for tackling carbon emissions so that Members could monitor progress.

·             The potential for Redditch to have a greener, digital economy moving forward and the positive impact that this could have on carbon emissions in the Borough.

·             The many trees in the Borough which made a positive contribution to tackling CO2 emissions and the benefits arising from planting more trees.


Voluntary Bodies Scheme


The Leader presented the Voluntary Bodies Scheme for Members’ consideration.  Council was advised that the report had been drafted following consultation with Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) organisations concerning the various options available to support the sector moving forward.  The option that had been proposed was in line with the feedback that had been received from VCS groups.


Members discussed the options in the report and in so doing made reference to the fact that support for concessionary rents would be withdrawn under the proposals that had been put forward.  Concerns were raised about the impact that the withdrawal of concessionary rent support could have on some VCS groups and questions were raised about the extent to which the sector would be supportive of this measure.


Reference was made to discussions that had been held at a recent meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee when the report had been pre-scrutinised.  At this meeting, it had been made clear that, whilst there was cross party consensus amongst Members about the benefits of moving to a system of two types of grant application depending on the size of the funding requested, this consensus did not extend to the removal of support for concessionary rents.  Instead, some Members asked for it to be noted that they were opposed to the removal of the concessionary rents support.


Consideration was given to the fact that Redditch Borough Council was one of a small number of local authorities that still provided grant support to VCS organisations.  This was something that Members agreed the Council could be proud of moving forward.


Fees and Charges 2023/24


The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Enabling presented the Fees and Charges 2023/24 report for Council’s consideration. 


Members discussed the proposed changes to the Council’s fees and charges and in so doing noted that there would be a 10 per cent increase to most fees and charges under the proposals.  Increases at this level corresponded with the level of inflation on the date of the Council meeting and would help to ensure that the authority could secure full cost recovery for service delivery.


Concerns were raised that people on low incomes might struggle to pay for Council services given the proposed increases.  However, Members also noted that there was a need to manage the Council’s finances in a sustainable manner and this would be best achieved through securing full cost recovery where possible.


During consideration of this item, the following areas were queried:


·             The commentary for the fees recorded for replacement pendants and for key safes for the Lifeline service and the reasons why the basis for calculating this had changed from actual cost plus a 17 per cent administrative fee to full cost recovery. 

·             The service charges that had been recorded for the three storey flats, the Woodrow Estate, Evesham Mews and the communal blocks and the reasons why these fees were set to achieve full cost recovery rather than being a fixed fee.

·             The heating charges recorded for Bredon House, Mendip House and Malvern House, the reasons why these were set at full cost recovery rather than a fixed price and the regularity with which tenants needed to pay these charges.  Members were advised that the Council had moved to achieving full cost recovery for these charges in 2021/22.


Council was informed that further information would be provided to Members in response to these questions outside the meeting.


Reference was made to the fact that many fees had been increased in order to achieve full cost recovery.  Questions were raised about what this meant in practice and Members suggested that it would have been useful for examples to be provided.  Concerns were also raised about the proposed 35 per cent increases to fees for the Dial a Ride and Shopmobility services and the extent to which the new charges would be affordable for customers.  However, Members also commented that the Council could not subsidise all services and, wherever possible, the costs of service delivery needed to be covered in order to ensure that they remained sustainable.




the minutes of the meetings of the Executive Committee held on 11th October and 25th October 2022 be received and all recommendations adopted.



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