Agenda item

Leader's Question Time


The Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Stewart Fletcher, believed that following emails to Members there may be some confusion regarding the proposed changes to Clitheroe Market. He asked if the Leader believed it would be beneficial for the Council to hold a public meeting or arrange a further press release so that residents and stallholders alike felt consulted and informed.


The Leader thanked Councillor Fletcher for his question. He noted that the Council had been awarded Government funding for capital projects, which included approximately £2million under the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. He added that Policy and Finance Committee had agreed £800,000 of that funding would be spent on Clitheroe, with one of the schemes being to improve the very successful Clitheroe Market. He agreed with Councillor Fletcher that arranging a future press release on progress would be eminently sensible and added that a full report on the scheme would go to the next Policy and Finance Committee. This would set out the scheme that the Council would recommend for tender, and Market Traders would continue to be kept informed. He felt it was vital that the funds allocated were spent within the financial year, if at all possible, to avoid any risk that the funds may be lost.


In a supplementary question, Councillor Fletcher noted that a number of the concerns were around pop-up stalls and asked if priority could be given to permanent stallholders.


Councillor Atkinson responded saying he was sure this was something Officers could examine.


Next Councillor Fletcher stated that a building in Longridge that had been a hive of community activity for over 25 years was now occupied by a pet shop, and that a proposal had been given to RVBC by a local charity to turn the building into a Community Hub. He asked the Leader to enlighten members on the procurement process of buildings owned by the Council, how the winning bid was determined, and what weight was given to what the councils assets are proposed to be used for?


The Leader set out the process in regards to the stated building. In September 2022, Policy and Finance Committee had accepted the recommendation from the Longridge Assets Working Group to offer the former over-60s club premises for rent on the open market. At the Committee, Members were also informed that the Working Group had requested that Officers approach the Town Council to ask whether they had any thoughts on what the building could be used for, which led to some of the Town Councillors visiting the premises. Following this correspondence Longridge Community Action had expressed an interest in the building.

Policy and Finance Committee had agreed for the Director of Economic Development and Planning to obtain an updated valuation of the Over 60s club and procure services to market it for rent and authorised the Chief Executive to agree a suitable rental value for the Over 60s Club to take it to market and to agree to a reasonable offer for the property.

Following this resolution, the property was revalued, and the services of letting agent were procured to market the property for rent. At Committee in January 2023, Members were advised that there had been some interest in the building however to date no formal offer had been received. The interest was from Longridge Community Action Group who sent a proposal to the letting agent in November 2022. This proposal did not set out how much the group would pay for renting the building and the information was therefore requested by the letting agent however no response was ever received. In February a Limited company offered to lease the building for the advertised rent and a lease was progressed on those terms. Only one formal offer was received for the over 60s club which met the marketed rental amount for the property and the offer had been accepted by the Chief Executive under the delegation from Policy and Finance Committee. The Leader concluded by advising that when premises became vacant a report was presented to the appropriate Committee who would consider what direction to authorise officers to take.


Finally, Councillor Fletcher quoted David Attenborough saying “If we have not taken dramatic action within the next decade, we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies.” Councillor Fletcher felt that the Council’s response to international concerns on climate change had been rated as very poor in comparison with other councils, stating that in 2019 Friends of the Earth had rate RVBC as last but one in their league table of performance on climate change, and in 2022 Lancs Live rated RVBC as 302nd out of 318 Councils. He advised Members that Lancaster was rated 8th by Lancs Live with their spending being 30p per person on environmental issues, which was just 8p more than RVBC. He asked that, given the success of the recent Ribble Valley summit on Climate and Nature, did the Leader believe that the Climate Change Working Group should invite members of local environment groups to support its work.


The Leader responded noting the datasets upon which Friends of the Earth had chosen to base their opinion, which in their view were appropriate to measure the approach to climate change. He added that he felt, given the datasets, that it wasn’t surprising that the Ribble Valley came towards the bottom of the table along with other rural areas such as Craven and Richmondshire, and a number of the other Lancashire districts. He informed Members that those near the top included Camden, Salford, Greenwich, and Milton Keynes, and he therefore queried if the right data sets were picked. The Leader added that, since the Friends of the Earth data was published, the Council had created a Climate Change Working Group, published a Climate Change Strategy, developed a Climate Change Action Plan, and widened the Climate Change Working Group membership to include representatives from all parties on the Council. He felt that those elected representatives would represent the views of their constituents when working on Climate Change issues.


In a supplementary question, Councillor Fletcher asked if the Climate Change Working Group would be meeting in the near future.


The Leader responded noting that he would request that a report be brought to the next meeting of the Council.