Agenda item

Leader's and Portfolio Holders' Updates


The Leader and Portfolio Holders gave brief updates on current issues not reported elsewhere on the agenda:

·         The Leader advised that the Chief Executive was due to start in his new role as Joint Chief Executive of Guildford and Waverley Borough Councils on 1 December.  He also advise that the Council was taking advice from local public health authorities and the Government on the new Omicron variant and reminded those present that the Council was not responsible for setting the rules, only enforcing them.  Appropriate updates would be made to guidance and communications.

·         Councillor Clark gave an update on the developing Customer Services strategy, to improve the experience of customers and ensure that every part of the Council becomes completely customer-centric.  He reminded those present of the three corporate service standards relating to simplifying contact for customers, responding to correspondence within two working days and keeping residents updated which would be key to the success of Waverley as a council.

·         Councillor MacLeod gave a brief update on the improvements made in the planning department under the new Business and Performance Manager and the restart of the pre-application process.  A positive meeting had been held recently with planning agents.  There would be a big focus on Local Plan Part 2 over the coming weeks.  Crest Nicholson were hopeful that tenants for the Brightwells development would be signed up before Christmas.

·         Councillor Merryweather gave a detailed update on the current financial pressures on the council to protect front line services, in light of the rise in inflation and the cost of the social care levy.  The business rates review would not go far enough to address the issues in the system, which had been compounded by the pandemic.  The Council had no control over the setting or spending of business rates and the current system was unfair as the Council had no ability to retain those rates for reinvestment in the borough.  Council fees and charges income had been impacted by the pandemic and he urged the Government to consider funding the recovery from the pandemic; and to fully compensate the Council for the removal of fees for garden waste service.  The Council was working hard to deliver carbon reduction and he asked the Government to develop a fully funded framework for responding to this national issue.  The Council would be writing to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to urge the Government to recognise the above pressures and it was hoped there would be cross-party support.

·         Councillor Mirylees advised that 29 organisations had responded with 33 applications for the Thriving Communities Fund and the panel would be holding its first meeting to score those applications on 1 December. 

·         Councillor Townsend advised that the Dunsfold Park supplementary planning document was currently in the public consultation stage and thanked the officers and Allies & Morrison for their work.  There would be a series of consultation events held and there were instructions on how to submit comments on the Council’s website.  The Tree and Woodland Management Policy had been considered by the Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee and this would eventually sit alongside the Council’s Pesticides Policy and Biodiversity Policy which was currently being worked on.  The policies would sit under the overarching Greenspaces Strategy.

·         Councillor Williams welcomed the work done under Councillor Townsend’s portfolio relating to sustainability.  The Climate Change supplementary planning document was currently being drafted, due to be completed in the new year with consultation following and adoption in the summer.  The Godalming Greenway consultation had completed and responses were being collated and considered.  The process for development of a walking and cycling infrastructure plan for the borough had begun and it was recognised that this would be challenging due to the rural nature of the borough.  The Climate Emergency Board met on 30 November to discuss a possible ethical and sustainable procurement policy for Waverley and there was a verbal update on the Carbon Neutrality Action Plan, with a formal update coming to the Executive on 8 February 2022.