Aberdeenshire Council Meeting 30th June 2016

Plans for the future governance arrangements for the council, options for managing waste and four planning applications for supermarkets in Stonehaven were considered at today’s meeting of Aberdeenshire Council.

First on the agenda was notices of motion. The first submitted by Cllr Ian Tait read:

“Council agrees to suspend Standing Order 18 so as to consider a decision made less than six months ago at Infrastructure Services Committee on 17 March, 2016, that the Regeneration Groups in Banff, Fraserburgh, Macduff and Peterhead must be chaired by an elected member, thereby disbarring community members from being allowed to Chair.”

Councillors did not agree to suspend standing orders and the notice of motion was not debated.

A second ‘urgent’ notice of motion was submitted by Cllr Jim Gifford and seconded by Cllr Karen Clark.

“Council instruct the Chief Executive (CEO) to include as part of his ongoing investigation into events at the North Sea Commission (NSC) General Assembly earlier this month an assessment into whether damage was done to the reputation of this council by those events. Further instruct the CEO to bring a report to the meeting of council in September with the findings of that part of the investigation and any actions arising.”

Cllr Anne Robertson put forward an amendment, calling on Cllr Kitts-Hayes to refer himself to the Commissioner for Ethical Standards, which was agreed.

Chief Executive, Jim Savege outlined the terms of reference for the investigation as:

“To set out the chronology of events surrounding the Billund NSC conference annual business meeting, including the facts associated with the accommodation arrangements for Aberdeenshire Council delegates and the account of those participants.”

He advised that his investigation would be completed by w/c 25 July.

A further Notice of Motion was submitted by Cllr Ian Mollison, seconded by Cllr Peter Bellarby.

“This council condemns racism, xenophobia and hate crimes unequivocally. We are proud to live in a diverse and tolerant society. Racism, xenophobia and hate crimes have no place in our country. Aberdeenshire Council will continue to work with others to tackle and prevent racism and xenophobia. We reassure all people living in Aberdeenshire that they are valued members of our community.”

The Notice of Motion was unanimously agreed and councillors across the chamber spoke in support of the diverse and welcoming communities of Aberdeenshire and the positive role that the council has in promoting an inclusive society. 

Co-Leader of Aberdeenshire Council Cllr Richard Thomson introduced a report on the future governance of the council describing it as ‘the biggest change since the creation of the authority’. The report asked for councillors to give a general steer on the future direction of how the council’s business is conducted through its committee structure. Cllr Thomson summarised the headlines as retaining the committee structure (having ruled out other models such as a cabinet), retaining the number of committees but changing the names and areas of responsibility, giving financial primacy to full council, the creation of a Communities Committee to cover fire and police scrutiny. The proposals also pass responsibility for service budgets to the relevant policy committee and suggest a new approach to procurement, bringing councillor decision-making in at the start of the tendering process.

The report was agreed, enabling officers to progress further work to support the new governance framework including changes to Standing Orders, Scheme of Delegation, Financial Regulations and List of Powers Delegated to Officers, together with associated protocol and procedures.

It was also agreed that the Future Governance Working Group act as a reference group for members to steer officers towards implementation of the proposals, which are expected to be considered in more detail at the full council meetings in September and November.

Councillors considered a report on the future of residual waste. The report set out the national picture of working towards a target of zero waste. Over the last 25 years, municipal waste collection in the UK has changed dramatically. From being essentially a bulk waste collection and landfill operation in the 1990s most councils now recycle at least 40% of all material collected and by 2025 expect this figure to approach or exceed 60%.

Aberdeenshire Council has demonstrated good progress in reducing the volume of waste sent to landfill and increasing the recycling rate, from a very low rate in 2003. However, councillors were advised that at the current rate of progress the council will not hit the national target of 60% by 2020.

Whilst exploring a range of options, the report indicated that a revised strategy would come forward in summer 2017 setting out short, medium and long term actions to advance the journey to zero waste.

In the meantime, councillors were asked to support on-going work towards the development of thermal treatment capability for Aberdeenshire’s residual waste.

Cllr Rob Merson put forward a motion supporting the continued development of thermal treatment as an option, with a strategy to support the reduction of waste and further efforts to increase recycling.

Cllr Paul Johnston put forward an amendment noting the report, and requesting a further report be considered that outlines all the options for materials recovery and re-use, avoiding or minimising incineration and landfill before consideration of the extent and volume of final treatments.

Following a debate, councillors supported the motion 45 votes to 18, with one no vote.

Head of Finance Alan Wood introduced a report covering the unaudited accounts for 2015/16 for Aberdeenshire Council, set out the council’s revenue budget monitoring position as at 31 March 2016, and considered use for the remaining budget of £234,000.

Councillors recognised the strong financial management in place across the organisation, acknowledging the on-going work to identify efficiencies and minimise impacts on communities of the current financial position.

Co-Leader Cllr Martin Kitts-Hayes suggested that the remaining £234,000 should in principle go to support the work of local credit unions and asked that a report be prepared working up the detail for consideration at Policy & Resources Committee. The suggestion was seconded by Cllr Paul Johnston who said that it would mean that the money would circulate in the North East economy, securing and protecting local families and could having a profound impact on people’s lives.

Cllr Jim Gifford put forward an amendment suggesting that the £234,000 could go towards re-instating the savings that had been placed on the third sector at this year’s budget. It was seconded by Cllr Karen Clark who said it would send a strong message about the council’s intent to support the third sector.

The motion was carried 35 votes to 29 and a report will be prepared for consideration at P&R Committee on the funding being used to support local credit unions.

Councillors agreed to the establishment of a joint committee known as the ‘Northern Roads Collaboration Joint Committee’. The group will encompass Aberdeen City Council, Angus Council, Argyll and Bute Council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, The Highland Council, The Moray Council and The Orkney Islands Council, described as “achieving best value for the public pound”. The committee will work collaboratively on roads projects across the North region. Infrastructure Services will receive an annual report on the work of the committee and Aberdeenshire Council will be lead authority for the first year.

The process by which Aberdeenshire Council can fast track the purchase of affordable housing has been simplified following backing today from councillors. Members agreed to give named officers the power to purchase properties from the open market using the Fast Track Protocol for the purpose of meeting housing need by increasing the supply of affordable housing. This has been done with the backing of the Social Work and Housing Committee. It was also noted that ward members in the areas of purchase will notified accordingly.

Councillors today agreed to a compulsory purchase order, which could help towards the development of the proposed Kintore railway station. A number of landowners have interests in the land required for access and parking arrangements on the proposed site and today councillors agreed to begin the CPO process, deemed important to ensure that the Council has the best chance of obtaining full and proper title to all the land required. Over a million pounds is being spent on the project, part of a major Scottish Government Transport Projects upgrade of the line between Aberdeen and Inverness.