Cabinet round-up 5 December 2018
Introduction pre-agenda – statement from the Leader
This week marks the first anniversary since I returned as Leader of the Council and I thought it would be worthwhile to first of all reflect on all of the excellent work which elected members and officers have been involved with during that time and secondly, as we approach the end of 2018, to look ahead.
As we busy ourselves in our daily work, we can sometimes lose sight of the tremendous work that goes on at this council and it is only when we pause, look back and reflect do we recognise the breadth and scale of our achievements together as we create a growing borough that is an attractive and welcoming place for all.
During the last 12 months we have:-
- Successfully run the borough’s first all-out elections. After the difficulties associated with the General Election in the summer of 2017 this was a major step forward in rebuilding public confidence in our democratic processes.
- Produced a new Council Plan with an updated set of priorities which set out the path for this council and the work we will be focusing on to benefit our communities.
- Successfully completed the transition from the old Civic Offices into Castle House.
- Brought forward proposals with our partners for the Keele University Growth Corridor – a project which will have massive implications for the wealth and prosperity of large numbers of our residents.
- Successfully negotiated an agreement with the community and Staffordshire County Council which will bring Kidsgrove sports centre back into public use and make a positive contribution to the health and well-being of residents in the town.
- Taken firm action to decide the future of the important Ryecroft site in Newcastle town centre. We need to see this site brought back into use and we are making sure steps are being taken to get us moving ahead with this.
- Reviewed the Council’s Car Parking Strategy and town centre CCTV provision; took back control of the borough’s historic market and finalised proposals for community use of the Guildhall.
- Begun the process of revamping our recycling and waste collection services following one of the most extensive consultations with our residents that this council has ever undertaken.
- Agreed a Growth Deal with Staffordshire County Council with a set of joint priorities between the two councils.
Obviously there are many other examples of excellent and positive work by the officers and members at our council, but those outlined above give you a flavour of some of our actions to date.
Looking forward, our new Chief Executive Martin Hamilton will be joining us on 4 February 2019.
In the meantime, acting Chief Executive John Tradewell will remain with us to provide guidance, leadership and support for both officers and elected members as we aim to keep up the momentum in key areas during this period so that we can continue to deliver for the people of the borough.
As we welcome our new Chief Executive we bid farewell to Neale Clifton who will be leaving the Council after 29 years of service. I would like to wish him all the best for the future.
I would like to personally thank all of our staff and also our elected members for their hard work on behalf of all of our communities during 2018.
The year ahead will certainly be a challenging one but it is also one which is full of exciting opportunities which can shape our borough for generations to come.
Cabinet discussed a new Council partnership, the Growth Deal and the document that outlines what the Deal stands for.
The ‘Growth Deal’ is a joint initiative between Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council and Staffordshire County Council that aims to reflect the continued and enhanced commitment of the two councils to working together in order to deliver on a number of specific initiatives for the area over the next four years.
The document outlines the shared priorities that can be achieved by close partnership working including economic growth, accelerated housing development, improved jobs and skills, and development of the borough’s distinctive identity.
The Growth Deal prioritises growing the professional services in Newcastle and making the most of the unique independent retail services.
Lancaster Building and the historic outdoor market have also been recognised as being key areas of focus in the town’s future and the Ryecroft site has been identified as one of the key drivers for a new direction in bringing forward land uses that will generate greater footfall in the town centre.
In Kidsgrove, town centre partners will work together to make sure that all parts of the community benefit from the many opportunities that HS2 can provide, including a regeneration package to secure the wider economic growth of the borough’s second town centre, which will include working with the community to develop deliverable plans for a new leisure centre, possibly as part of a new public services hub.
Some of the partner organisations that will be working closely with the two councils are: the Constellation Partnership (housing and employment around HS2), Midlands Connect (rail connectivity) and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (employment and skills).
Other geographical areas that are included in the shared vision are Knutton, where there will be more housing choice for local people, and Keele University and its Science and Innovation Park where the partners are seeking more high value, knowledge-economy jobs along with housing on parts of the former golf course.
The new Growth Deal continues the established close working of all of these partners and follows on from the commitments set out in the ‘Keele Deal’.
Over the last two decades, among other achievements, the partnership has helped to regenerate Silverdale Colliery and Holditch Colliery sites, creating more than 4,000 jobs and 300 new homes and, in more recent times, has delivered the Castle House building in Newcastle, a state-of-the-art shared hub for public services.
All Cabinet members in attendance at the meeting welcomed the plan and its aspirational aims.
The ‘Growth Deal’ will be discussed by Staffordshire County Council on 19 December after which the document will be finalised and formally adopted by both councils.
Cabinet discussed plans to invite the Council’s partners to support plans to significantly upgrade the CCTV system in Newcastle town centre.
The proposal comes as a result of a comprehensive review of the existing CCTV arrangements overseen by the Cabinet’s portfolio holder for community safety and wellbeing, Cllr. Jill Waring.
Cllr. Waring submitted the report to Cabinet which recommends a partnership approach after she became aware of the limitations of the current system including obsolete equipment, limited visibility and insufficient coverage.
The current system is monitored under a paid contract supported by CCTV volunteers. This agreement ends on March 2019.
An option would be to re-tender the agreement when it expires next year, but this would not address the issues around non-monitoring of the cameras or provide any improvement in the effectiveness or sustainability of CCTV in the town.
As the Council no longer has the funds to upgrade the system by itself it must look to partners’ services and the possibilities around sharing and improving the system alongside partners, including the Police and Crime Commissioner, Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Newcastle’s BID businesses and Staffordshire Police.
Contract options Revenues and Benefits
Cabinet reviewed the options for the continued support and maintenance contract for its Revenues and Benefits Software with Northgate Public Sector for a further period of three years.
To continue with this contract the Council will waive its own contract procedural rules regarding procurements over £50,000 as Northgate are the only economic operator who can provide a complete application support service for the Revenues and Benefits Software.
The Council has used Northgate since 2010. The Revenues and Benefits package was procured via an open tender, on an initial five plus two year term.
The Council made a capital investment to procure the software licences and cover setup costs, followed by an annual maintenance payment for support and ongoing upgrades.
Cabinet discussed the contract and noted that over the life of its contract, the Northgate system has performed extremely well for the authority, incurring very little unplanned downtime and requiring minimal maintenance by ICT other than routine upgrades.
The system has also proved to be very flexible; facilitating the addition of self service options, hybrid mail for billing and timely compliance with legislative changes.
The Council holds a number of contracts for the Northgate system which have been created as additional components have been procured. These all expire at different dates, but in general are in or around January 2019. Ordinarily, when a contract reaches the end of its term, further maintenance fees are paid on an annual basis and the Council continues to use the software, uninterrupted.
The Council has a legal obligation to ensure that its software is appropriately licensed, which it is and continuation of the contract with Northgate also ensures that the Council will continue to have access to the latest updates and technical support services.
The costs of the Revenues and Benefits software maintenance can be met from ICT’s existing revenue budgets, as these are already accounted for.
Cabinet agreed that the contract should be continued and then after the three year period a tendering process should be undertaken as the market will have changed and there may be more options available.
End of meeting. The next Cabinet meeting will take place on 16 January at 2pm.
Full details of all reports considered by Cabinet are available on the Borough Council’s website – www.newcastle-staffs.gov.uk – under the “Your Council” section.
Last updated 5 December 2018