Questions to Members of the Cabinet.
In accordance with Council Procedure Rule 9.3, all questions –
v must be relevant to matters for which the Council has powers or duties
v must not relate to an item which is included elsewhere on the Council agenda
v should be limited to obtaining information or pressing for action; and
v should not exceed two minutes in duration.
Questions should not divulge or require to be divulged, confidential or exempt information.
(Councillor M Humphrey entered the meeting at 8.15pm).
Councillor D N Keane asked about the impact of online shopping and the need to ensure that the town centres remain a viable destination to visit for retail, possibly through the provision of free car parking. In response Councillor Ms M Beuttell, Executive Councillor for Operations and Regulation explained that there had been numerous studies around the provision of free car parking but there would always be the environmental, social or financial cost. She reiterated that the District Council’s decision surrounding the new system of car parking charges enabled greater choice of flexibility for the shopper to encourage longer parking times.
Councillor P Kadewere raised a question regarding the impact of a no deal Brexit, specifically relating to the smooth running of schools and the contingency plans which the District Council had put in place should there be potential food, medicine or fuel shortages or an increase in safeguarding referrals. In response, the Executive Leader, Councillor G J Bull, explained that the District Council had the necessary plans in place, with key Officers liaising regularly with external agencies. He was confident that there would be mechanisms in place to be able to deal with any implications.
Councillor B S Chapman asked how increasing the car parking charges would aid and support the town centre economy. He asked how it was possible to reconcile the suggested contradiction that increasing the minimum stay times would increase the length of time visitors to the town centre remained and as detailed in the report to Cabinet on 14th February 2019 the new charges had been assessed on 10-30% fall in car park usage. In response Councillor Ms M Beuttell hit back at Councillor Chapman’s claims and suggested that he had been spreading lies regarding the car parking charges, as well as abuse against her personally and the Managing Director on Facebook and Black Cat Radio, which suggested that she had circumvented the Council’s Constitution to achieve the aim of increasing car parking charges. These were blatant lies and the proper procedures had been followed and scrutinised throughout. She further stated that Councillor Chapman had not produced any evidence of his suggestion that when he was Portfolio Holder that if the Council reduced car parking charges this would generate more revenue. The Chairman concluded the discussion on this question and stated that this had received full scrutiny with all Members fully briefed and party to the consultation on the development of the car parking strategy.
Councillor J M Palmer responded to a question from Councillor T D Sanderson on the parks and open spaces review and also provided an update on the negotiations with Cambridgeshire County Council on the redevelopment of Hinchingbrooke Country Park. He explained that work was being drawn up with a consultant and a public consultation had recently been concluded on the District Councils Parks and Open Spaces Strategy.
Arising from a question by Councillor K Prentice on Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding for St Neots, Councillor R Fuller, Executive Councillor for Housing, Planning and Economic Development confirmed that the suggestions by another Member that CIL funding already agreed for St Neots Riverside Park was not in fact CIL funding were false. Councillor Fuller explained that the CIL funding for St Neots projects that had been agreed by the Cabinet was additional investment in the town that was not linked to previous Section 106, Combined Authority or County Council funding. Councillor Fuller reported that this Council had awarded nearly £500k for the new projects in the Riverside Park and the town centre and was keen to emphasise the positive benefits that these projects would deliver.