Agenda item

Leader and Cabinet Members' Question Time (15 minutes)

Any Member of the Council may ask the Leader of the Council or any Cabinet Member any question upon:


·       Any matter relating to the Council’s administration

·       Any matter relating to any report of the Cabinet appearing on the summons

·       A matter coming within their portfolio of responsibilities


Only one supplementary question is allowed per question.


Questions must be submitted to by 12 noon on Thursday 2nd December 2021. Responses to questions will be published in an addendum to the agenda by 12 noon on the day of the Cabinet Meeting.


RESOLVED that the written questions submitted and corresponding responses are noted.


In respect of question 1, Councillor Hilton referred to the 1,665 planning applications processed and stated that he had been informed that no planning officer had made a physical site visit since March 2020.  He enquired if the Cabinet Member for Planning and Housing Strategy shared his concern that applications appeared to be assessed only on documents and data.  The Cabinet Member for Planning and Housing Strategy invited the Head of Place to respond.  The Head of Place advised that the information was incorrect.  He stated that site visits undertaken with COVID-19 risk assessments had in fact been made, including for the most recent application processed (Kingsway Local Centre Planning Committee 7th July 2021).  The Head of Place sought clarification on which applications the information received by Councillor Hilton related to.  Councillor Hilton replied that he would pass on the details.  


In respect of question 2, Councillor Hilton noted that the 29 planning applications determined by the elected committee represented 2.7% of the total whereas the Cheltenham Borough Council Planning Committee had determined 179 over the same period.  He asked if Gloucester’s process was as democratic as it could be.  The Cabinet Member for Planning and Housing Strategy responded that the current process had been adopted by full Council.  The Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources reminded Councillor Hilton that Ward Members have the right to refer applications to committee if they so wish.  The Head of Place advised Members that the current procedures were well regarded in the industry and that increasing committee determinations could cause delays for applicants.  The Cabinet Member for Environment commented that delegation to officers was often the most efficient and timely means of determination.


In respect of question 3, Councillor Pullen sought clarification on why a public consultation was not carried out in the period between July 2021 and the submission of the Lord Mayor status bid in addition to an apology for not having done so.  The Leader of the Council gave reassurance that resident’s views would usually be sought in such matters but that in this case there was so much work to do for officers in preparing the bid within the timescale that it had not been possible.  He reiterated that he had not committed to a public consultation and had stated that it would be made, if it were possible (Council 8th July 2021 minute 19.5).


In respect of question 4, Councillor Hilton expressed surprise at some recent determinations not taken to the Planning Committee.  He asked if the policies needed review to make them as democratic as possible.  The Cabinet Member for Planning and Housing Strategy indicated that he would be satisfied in principle to instigate a review and sought guidance from the officers present on how it might be achieved.  The Managing Director confirmed that the policies were a constitutional matter for which the General Purposes Committee had to make recommendations to Council.  He reassured Members that the Head of Place could be directed to investigate a review. 


In respect of question 5, Councillor Hilton asked if the Council Member to be appointed to the Board of the Kings Quarter Estate Management Company (Agenda item 12) had to be a Cabinet Member or a member of the administration.  The Leader of the Council answered that the person would be very carefully selected based on their ability, experience and qualifications alone to ensure that the best choice is made.