To receive any questions from members of the public, of which due notice has been given in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 8, to be submitted and answered.
The Mayor advised that four questions from members of the public had been received under Council Procedure Rule 8.
1. Question from Robert Banks
“The Household Recycling and Waste Collection Service provider (Urbaser) has asked this Council to contribute a maximum of £150,00 towards the early lease termination costs associated with a number of the existing fleet, in order to lease circa forty-four vehicles new vehicles on an 8-year lease which will extend beyond the end of the existing service contract. If this proposal is accepted, what will the Council's additional annual financial liability be for the initial 4 years, the subsequent 4 years after the existing contract has expired and the estimated cost of converting the vehicles to use biofuel rather than diesel”
Answer from Councillor Everitt
This one-off payment, will allow for the re-rounding and re-fleeting which will enable a more efficient use of resources to meet the changing demands on the service, reducing travel distances, carbon emissions and vehicle down time and improving the stability of the service. I know members in this room will greet that news favourably and our residents equally, given that they have expressed the importance they place on this service in the recent budget response. This payment is one off and there are no additional annual financial liabilities attached to the proposal.
I am also happy to say that forty-four vehicles to be leased would require no further conversion costs to use HVO fuel as opposed from diesel.
Once again thank you for your question.
Supplementary question from Robert Banks
So, I did not catch show of the amount of changing into biofuel, and also I was under the impression that at the present rate we will not be carbon neutral by 2030 and other measures were going to have to be taken.
Supplementary Response from Councillor Everitt
To clarify your question of other vehicles there were no costs and no costs for those new vehicles on the new lease to use HVO in relation to reaching our 2030 commitment to be carbon neutral in the work the Council does we haven't produced a new carbon reduction pathway to 2030 but certainly reaching the 2030 commitment I hold and everyone in the Chamber holds, but to reach that goal, we have to produce a new carbon reduction pathway and that will have to take account of any decisions we make, thank you.
2. Question from Charlie Keeling
“How much will the preparation of 'Suggested Changes' to the local plan cost – could that be itemised by consultant/other 3rd party, and this is against the backdrop that all Councils currently appear to be very cash-strapped?”
Answer from Councillor Pound
Thank you Mr Keeling for your question.
There are some specific pieces of work are being undertaken such as on the Stage 3 Greenbelt study which is being done by consultants LUC and will be at a cost to the Council of £57,496.00.
Further work is being undertaken on Master planning, Transport and Flood Risk, which is evolving, and the final cost will depend on the complexity of this work so no final figure is available at this stage.
Nevertheless, the Council has prudently set up a Local Plan Reserve which has £851,000 available to ensure the adoption of a sound Local Plan and future work associated with it.
Supplementary question from Charlie Keeling
Thank you Councillor Pound.
Bearing in mind that so far, all the local plan has cost Tunbridge Wells Borough Council £1.27million as I understand from the minutes you approved this evening.
to get to a position yeah yet more of the council's under-pressure budget is being allocated if you'll pardon the expression to flog a dead horse, will the council now removed Tudley Village from the local plan, as clearly preferred by the Inspector, if not, what is the further additional cost of providing further evidence in pursuing Tudley Village. Including a fourth Green Belt study and revisions to the transport modelling, especially in regard to journeys to and from Tonbridge, and the justification for the 5 Oak Green bypass.
Supplementary response from Councillor Pound
I have to admit Mr. Keeling, I probably did not capture all of the points that you were asking about and I will ensure that you get a written reply to that supplementary in full, I would, however. challenge that the local plan, as it is currently under examination and is in the submission stage, is not flogging a dead horse, it is a Plan that everybody in this Chamber, or almost everybody in this Chamber, wishes to see being adopted by the council because it will provide us with housing and infrastructure for the future of the whole borough, but I will provide a fuller answer to all of the points you have made.
3.Question from Sarah Hamilton (read out by Caroline Britt)
“I am KCC Member for Tunbridge Wells Rural Division, Chairman of Heritage Paddock Wood and Member of Paddock Wood Town Council.
In line with my letter to the Times of Tunbridge Wells, and presentation to Cabinet I express grave concern about the Wesley Centre in Paddock Wood
It is surprising the Wesley Centre faces the risk of potential disposal in the current times, and many are rightly very concerned. It is protected in the Towns Neighbourhood Plan which the Borough Council has not challenged.
Paddock Wood Town Council supports the Wesley Centre is retained. The Paddock Wood Neighbourhood Plan supports it is retained and so do all four of the Borough Cllrs for Paddock Wood.
There is no heritage-based facility in an area with a substantial amount of housing development. Needs are evolving. The value of green space for emotional health & wellbeing becomes even more important. Heritage and the arts deliver on that for social value.
Now the Amelia can serve as inspiration and direction will this Council be open to constructive discussions about the potential of this valuable facility.
Are you willing to remove the Wesley Centre from any risk of disposal at this time, or the near future. Using some words from your documents will you ‘explore develop and exploit opportunities for collaborative working with bodies such as KCC and partner agencies’ to build on existing relationships and facilitate a viable opportunity.
To be outgoing and enabling in line with your own aspirations and the strategic direction of both authorities.
Response from Councillor Hall
I believe my answer may be somewhat shorter than the question.
The Wesley Centre has been deemed a surplus asset for a number of years, as you will be aware.
I will consider all the comments and representations made to Cabinet on 9th February and during the consultation. I believe there were one hundred or so responses and comments on this particular site. I would be open to proposals to continue to utilise the site as a community building and for other parties to take it over from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, and would welcome it transferring to the local community, provided a suitable valuation can be met.
However, I would not be willing to remove it from the Asset Management Plan and would prefer instead to maintain our current schedule of assets so that it can be reviewed on its merits along with other assets owned by the Council, in the best interests of residents.
4.Question from Robert Banks
Has this council consulted other Councils, who have contracted Urbaser for House Recycling and Waste Collection Services, to ascertain their level of satisfaction with this provider and whether they have received similar requests for further funding?
Approached other providers of council refuse services, to determine whether any of them could provide a similar or improved service without the requirement for this Council to be obligated to provide further funding to assist in assessing new vehicles?”
Answer to question From Councillor Everitt
Thank you for your question Mr Banks.
Firstly, just to clarify, in your question just to be clear that as a council we are not obligated in this matter, nd it is a proposal that has been put forward to us.
After careful consideration with Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, our partner in this contract, we have collectively agreed to a proposal put forward by our service provider to undertake changes to the current food, recycling and refuse collection rounds and introduce of a new fleet of collection vehicles.
Having consulted with Tonbridge and Malling we have pooling the expertise of both Officer teams who have excellent knowledge of the refuse provider market and what else is practical and available in that market. Given this concrete understanding of the current refuse collection market both partners have agreed that this proposal is an opportunity to bring about a number of benefits that our residents should expect.
I would add that in tune with our commitment to transparency that we are committed to this decision has gone through various meetings that place this squarely within the public realm. But in a further positive step we will be publishing a VEAT (Voluntary Ex-Ante Transparency Notice) notice, or a form of procurement notice that will, given how small the market in waste collection is, inevitably inform other providers of the details of this proposal.
Given that we are in an agreed existing contact and the nature of local government procurement it would not be best practise to approach other service providers asking them if they can provide our service.
Supplementary from Robert Banks
You have not approached the councils at the moment because of your negotiations have I got that correct?
Supplementary response from Councillor Everitt
In terms of approaching other councils, we have certainly approached Tonbridge and Malling who are our partners, but in terms of a formal approach to other councils to discuss this proposal, that's not been part of the process,