Council Leader John Boughtflower made his announcements to the Council today.
Following the removal of previous Conservative Councillors, Boughtflower addressed the Council and revealed his objectives for Spelthorne going forward.
Here is his entire speech.
“Good evening everyone and welcome to this Full Council Meeting and the first Leaders Announcements of the new Administration.
My administration wishes to make a clean break with Mr Harvey’s administration and promote a different kind of local politics in Spelthorne - the announcements we will make this evening will evidence this commitment.
I want it to be known that we are no longer a property investment speculator who happens to provide Council services. We are a local Borough Council which is there to serve our Residents; A Council that will help families, the young, the elderly and the needy; A Council that will help protect the environment and our Green Belt. A Council that is there to promote and help grow the local economy; A Council which will provide critical front-line services to all Residents.
Our objective now is to press this Council’s reset button.
We will - where possible - seek resident’s views, listen to what they have to say, and where appropriate incorporate their views into our plans.
This Council will become more aware of our reason for being, of who we are, and how we are perceived by Residents, business, and the public at large.
At the earliest opportunity we will drop SBC’s strapline “Spelthorne Means Business”. We will obviously support businesses where we can – after all they provide jobs, career and growth opportunities for our Residents, and income security - but we will always put “Residents First”.
“Residents First” will be the philosophy which underpins everything we do.
My next announcement is about the Multi-Party Task Group on Governance
I have previously made public my Administration’s wish to establish a Multi-Party Task Group to review this Council’s governance processes and its constitution, including whether we should be moving to a Committee-based system from 2021.
All four elected party leaders have accepted invitations to join this group and I look forward to working together. Our first meeting is in the next couple of weeks.
The move to a committee system will be designed by members for the Monitoring Officer to implement after a full member vote within the chamber.
This is a key priority for the new Administration and again signals a clear break from the historic secretive decision-making practices of Mr Harvey. Once established I will report back to Full Council on next steps.
Colleagues, please understand, this will be an inclusive process and there will be an opportunity for members to participate in this critical process.
Full details of this group and all the other Task Group will be published in the next few days.
My next announcement is the Multi-Party Property Investment Task Group
Since becoming Leader, I have reflected on the property acquisitions and the concern of Residents and others outside Spelthorne.
As a result of these concerns, I am pleased to confirm that my Administration is inviting the Local Government Association (LGA) to undertake, in the autumn, an independent Peer Review into our corporate finances and property activity.
Please note that Peer Reviews are regularly used by Councils to obtain a constructive and independent perspective to recognise good practice and identify opportunities for improvements. I can provide full assurances that this Council will fully cooperate with the review.
We have listened to concerns raised by Residents, by fellow Councillors, parliamentarians, and professional bodies – including those expressed in the media - relating to the excessive borrowings of previous Administration.
This new Administration will establish a Task Group to review some of the property investment decisions made by the previous administration. Many of these decisions were taken by a secretive inner cabinet, with Councillors being asked to take or approve decisions at short notice. This is not how things should be run.
We therefore need to fully understand and assess the current and future financial viability of this Investment Portfolio. I will also ask this Group to review the structure of Knowle Green Estates Ltd with a view to it moving away from purchasing properties and instead focusing on the development of housing.
Part of this Group’s remit will be to comment on the affordable allocations for schemes which have been proposed by the Council, and to make recommendations on any changes in policy required to deliver more affordable units under the Council’s development schemes.
As part of our Governance Review, we will also look at the membership of the Council’s Property Investment Committee. Our objective is to make it more inclusive.
Until these changes are made, and in the interests of openness and transparency, Group Leaders will be kept informed of proposed decisions of the Committee on any major developments. This is an important and positive step forward and a further break with the previous administration.
Let me be clear. This will be a thorough review and investigation showing no fear or favour. This new Administration has nothing to hide.
My next announcement is the establishment of a Local Plan Task Group
I will begin by confirming we have listened to and understood the concerns, worries and frustrations raised by Residents with many of us having supported Residents through the Consultation process.
Although we must form a Local Plan, I would like to assure Residents that we will not be moving forward with those preferred options identified and proposed by Mr Harvey’s Local Plan Working Party, as was presented during the consultation.
I have disbanded this Working Party and created a new Task Group that will include cross party members from each of the Borough wards to ensure local concerns and knowledge are considered.
The New Task Group will begin by considering the findings of the consultation and any new recommendations from this, and they will carry out a complete review of the previously identified preferred options, that concerned many Residents.
This will be an inclusive Local Plan Task Group, with cross-party membership and one working elected party member from each ward.
Part of the remit of this group will be to oversee the sensitive subject of the Green Belt and how we can best protect this whilst meeting our legal obligations in developing a new local plan.
My next announcement concerns the Staines Development Group
In a further signal of our intention to break with the past, I can today announce that the Staines Masterplan Task Group will be renamed the Staines-upon-Thames Development Group. This is not some mere cosmetic change of name – our intention is that the Staines Development Plan group will focus on the Development of Staines, and ALL ward Councillors from Staines Town, Staines South, and Riverside & Laleham will be invited to join this group.
My next announcement concerns Affordable Housing
As a Council, we have already started to deliver essential affordable units for our Residents. The new administration strongly supports this approach, but we want to go further. We believe we now have a real opportunity to increase the number of affordable units we deliver from our development schemes, which will align with the Council’s policies and set an example to private developers, who unfortunately continue to fail to deliver the number and types of affordable units this Borough so badly needs.
Myself and my deputy are strong advocates for affordable housing - Indeed it is a view held by many colleagues and It will be addressing this in response to a Councillor question later.
My next announcement concerns Climate Change and the need to fast forward!
I am pleased to announce that Cllr Bob Noble will become Portfolio Holder for Climate & Environment
He is an advocate of climate change and will appoint the Climate Change Task force within the next week.
The new administration takes protection of the environment for this, and future generations, seriously. Whilst the previous Administration’s approach aligned closely with delivering the Government’s target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, we want to take steps to enable us as a Council to meet this target much sooner, so that we can pass on a better legacy to future generations of Spelthorne Residents.
I will therefore be asking the new Climate Change Task Group to meet in the near future to make recommendations as to how we can accelerate this process, with more challenging targets and actions for the Council, which will help deliver zero net carbon emissions for this authority much sooner than the target set by the previous administration.
My next announcement concerns the reopening of Leisure Centres
I am pleased to confirm that the Council’s two leisure centers in Staines and Sunbury will be reopening this Saturday, having been closed for some 4 months due to the Government’s restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
This follows detailed discussions between the Council and the operator of the centres, Sports and Leisure Management Ltd., to agree a one-off financial support package from the Council for this financial year, which will assist SLM to reopen the centres and keep them running during these continuing difficult times.
Our leisure centres provide a range of essential services which help to support the health and wellbeing of our community, and I know that many of our Residents are desperate to get back to some form of normality and return to the sports and fitness activities they used to do.
In view of the importance of these centres to so many individual people, clubs and schools, it was essential that we get them open as quickly as possible.
My next announcement concerns Surrey County Council’s Unitary Bid
On 21st July 2020, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet decided to promote the concept of a Surrey-wide Unitary Authority covering the whole County. This has already led to the dispatch of a letter from the County Council’s Leader to the Secretary of State, outlining this intention.
Surrey Leaders, at their meeting on 17th July, expressed their disappointment at not being consulted ahead of the County’s decision to push ahead with these actions.
Although it is said that the former SBC Leader, Mr Harvey, supported a Single Unitary Council at a meeting of Surrey Leaders, the new administration does not.
We recognise the principles of localism, many of which are incompatible with a single unitary authority within Surrey. I am therefore instructing the Chief Executive to:
Firstly, urgently investigate alternative forms of Unitary Authorities and the timing of any such reorganisation that may be more advantageous to Spelthorne and its Residents, including any opportunities to collaborate with neighbouring authorities on this issue, and secondly, present such considerations to the September Full Council considering the emerging Government White Paper on devolution (should it be available at that point), if it insists on the establishment of Unitary Authorities, Combined Authorities and elected Mayors.
In the meantime, I have joined other Borough and District Leaders across Surrey in signing a letter to the Secretary of State registering that a Surrey-wide Unitary is not the optimum solution and that we are committed to exploring what would be.
My next announcement concerns Spelthorne veterans
We owe much to the men and women of our armed forces, and to those who have served our country so bravely.
The Council is supporting a change that will be made to the next Census, which will see a new question added to ask Residents if they have ever served in the Armed Forces. This will give us a better idea of the number of ex-service personnel living in Spelthorne and help us tailor our services for this community.
They gave much for us, and it is important we support the where we can.
My next announcement concerns how we can help build cleaner, greener, and safer communities
We all want to see a Spelthorne which is safe, clean, and green.
The radical initiative we are proposing will bring together drivers and Residents enabling them to work in partnership to create cleaner, greener, safer communities. We must not demonise drivers but instead recognise that we can work together to achieve common and worthwhile aims.
We will support those Residents who wish to see 20mph zones and roads within their communities. Whilst SBC cannot enforce speed restrictions (this is Surrey County Council’s responsibility), we can establish 20mph advisory speed limits. We will be encouraging communities on a street by street basis to petition us in support of us introducing 20mph advisory speed limits in their immediate area.
Details for this will be placed on the Council website for Residents to use. Once the official petition form is submitted, and if there is enough local support, we will erect advisory signage.
Whilst we and the Police cannot enforce advisory speed limits, they will send a clear community message to Surrey County Council AND drivers about how they can help us create a cleaner, greener, safer Borough and help us put Residents First.
We need to all make a difference, and this is a start which I’m sure all will support
My next announcements concern specific and heart-warming community initiatives
SBC has been working closely with Shepperton resident Diana Moran BEM, also known as the Green Goddess, to share her `Keep Fit and Carry On’ exercise sessions on the Council’s website and social media.
During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Diana was brought back to the BBC after 40 years, with her easy-to-follow exercise sessions for the over 65s and people who find exercising difficult. On behalf of Residents and the Council I would like to thank her for all her hard work, energy and wonderful commitment to our community.
The work of the nationally acclaimed Swan Sanctuary in Shepperton has received a welcome boost thanks to the donation of a veterinary ambulance by Heathrow. The Swan Sanctuary was founded by Dorothy Beeson in the early 1980s and has been based in Shepperton since 2005.
The team are on 24-hour alert, 365 days a year. When a ‘swan in distress’ call comes in, a local rescue squad is on its way within minutes to provide treatment. If the birds are seriously injured, they are transported to the sanctuary via veterinary ambulance and then assessed. Once a swan has been treated and regains its strength, it is transferred to a rehabilitation pen before being released back into its natural habitat.
The Council has been working with the Rotary Club and ‘Painting Our World In Silver’ to create activity packs for elderly Residents, who may be feeling bored or lonely as a result of the changes brought about by Coronavirus. Many elderly Residents have been forced to self-isolate during the pandemic and users of the Council’s Community Centres have been greatly missing the companionship offered by our Centres.
To help tackle the problem, Cllr Robert Noble set about raising funds and worked alongside the Shepperton and District Rotary Club which together donated £2,000. The packs have been distributed via local groups including the Greeno and Fordbridge Centres, Purple Angels, Shepperton Community Support, community foodbanks and Spelthorne’s Meals on Wheels service. On behalf of the Council and our Residents I would like to thank Cllr Noble and everyone involved in this tremendous initiative,
My next announcement concerns the establishment of a cross-party working party
The Financial Reporting Task Group will be looking at how the Council reports financial information and how this can be made more graphical in reporting and much easier to understand.
My next announcement is to update colleagues and Residents on our response to COVID-19
The Council continues to play a key role in tackling COVID-19 and supporting our communities through the pandemic. Our role has now moved more from emergency response to recovery, supporting our wider society; assisting with the reopening of our High Streets and issuing the Government Grants which are so hugely important to keep businesses afloat.
We have been paying government grants to businesses affected by Coronavirus and to-date have paid 980 retail, leisure and hospitality grants, totaling £12.7 million; and 109 discretionary business grants worth a total of around £508,000.
Our economic development staff continue to look for options to support local businesses at this difficult time and our Community Wellbeing team continues to help those in need, with housing and welfare support. Our officers have also been working to minimise the prospect of a second wave, whilst also preparing for the possibility that this will occur.
Our Environmental Health staff continue to work with Surrey Public Health on the development of the county’s test and trace system. The infographics we have published on our website and in the Borough Bulletin outline the sheer scale of support this Council has provided since the pandemic began.
The social and economic impacts of this virus have been immense. We are far from being out of the woods, so as a Council we must remain strong and above-all focused. Our officers are stretched trying to progress our recovery plans and there are some big-ticket items which we must progress with, such as the Local Plan, climate change and now Surrey’s bid for unitary authority status.
Whilst these pressures remain, we must be mindful of our corporate capacity, particularly when many of our staff have been fully engaged for some 4 months without respite. All I am saying to you and our Residents is please be patient with us.
On the subject of our staff I would like to say a huge thank-you to all of the Council’s teams who have done so much amazing work supporting our communities during such difficult times. We have all seen so many messages of appreciation from Residents of our wards for the support they’ve received from this authority.
For many, this has been a lifeline that has simply made the difference between life and death. I would therefore ask you all to take this opportunity to show your appreciation again for the fantastic work our staff have delivered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
My next announcement concerns local democracy and Resident engagement
Whilst the Covid pandemic has been a cause of great worry and in some cases tragic loss for Residents, it has also shown our Borough at its best. The Council stepped up to the plate and our officers and staff were exceptional.
But above all, our community came together. If we are to build a strong connected Council which serves Residents - which is relevant to their lives - we need to involve everyone.
This is why I propose establishing a forum ensuring we engage properly with Residents, to seek their views on what we are doing, and to hear their voice.
I am therefore proposing that we establish a Residents Forum to be made up the Leaders of recognised Residents Associations.
This will give RA’s direct access to Councillors and Officers. We do not want layers of bureaucracy slowing down decision making and frustrating Residents.
We want to ensure we can listen to the concerns and constructive contributions of Residents Associations and act decisively to put Residents First.
People asked what we had been doing in the four weeks since I became Leader.
We said we would be bold, and we would be different. We said we meant business, and that we would bring multi-party unity to our Council. Outside of dealing with the HUGE backlog created and left by the previous administration this is what we’ve been doing. I ask that the majority of the chamber tonight gets behind these bold new plans for REAL DEMOCRACY and DO NOT buy-into spiteful tactics of a few seeking to divide this chamber again undermining our Residents and your voters. Take this opportunity to join together to bring true democracy to Spelthorne Borough Council!
My final announcement concerns Neighborhood Grants
I would like to announce some further assistance to support our communities and help them get back on their feet.
In order to assist Councillors across the chamber with engaging and supporting their local communities, the theme for this year’s locality neighbourhood spend will be ‘Recovery’.
To assist this process, I am proposing that the sum available for this financial year for all Councillors to spend in their wards be increased to £1,500. I know all of you are anxious to work with your communities and would urge all of you to make the best use of this funding to assist in your localities, in whatever way you can.