Cllrs. Bentley and Roberts attended this meeting.

The meeting began with an adjournment following a member of the public who had been told not to speak refusing to comply.

There were a number of questions from members of the public and of the Council. Of these three issues might be of interest to SWF residents. The first related to complaints of substandard social housing (cases of mould, poor insulation, dangerous electrical wiring and overcrowding) by some of the housing providers used by Chelmsford City Council to house people on our register. Cllr. Rose Moore replied that it is the responsibility of the landlord to ensure any property in which Chelmsford residents are housed is of a good enough standard. If this is not the case, the landlord should be contacted first to provide a remedy. Should the landlord not rectify any serious issues the complainant should then contact the Council either using the Council's website or through their ward councillor(s). The Council will follow up any complaints made and will take enforcement action if necessary. Unfortunately, this does not cover issues with privately rented housing.

The over 65s swimming scheme is to be tweaked in the New Year. If you are currently using the subsidised scheme or thinking about using it, check with the swimming pool for the details. We will publish them together with our comments once they are officially available. We would like to see the scheme return to 60+, with the subsidy being tapered at 60, 65 and free to use from 70 so that a greater number of senior residents can enjoy the proven health benefits of swimming. We are also supportive of targetting those who are less able to afford to pay the standard rate.

The cafeteria concession at Hylands House is due to end on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, the company which had been selected to replace the previous one pulled out as it assessed current market conditions were not favourable to start the business in the middle of winter. Residents are assured there will be hot drinks and cakes available until a new company can be found to take it on.

S106 Spending Plan

Cllr. Bentley asked if there was a plan to use local media to communicate the details of the S106 spend, particularly at Saltcoates Park, rather than simply give residents general headlines. He was assured that this would happen once the work was scheduled.

Financial update and review of fees and charges

Some fees and charges for Council services will be increased to cover part of the budget shortfall (approximately £7.9million) in 2023-24. These changes should raise about £900K. Practically all the Conservatives group opposed the increases on the grounds that the administration were responsible for overspend on capital projects. Since the budget is for revenue, not capital, we felt the issues were being confused and voted with the administration on the basis that if fees are not raised then services will need to be cut further, which we definitely oppose. Better that people who make use of facilities pay a bit more rather than lose the facilities altogether, as is happening in other authorities. Further details are available in the agenda and we look forward to hearing how the LibDems will close the remaining £7million black hole in the New Year.

The agenda for this meeting can be found at: Council Agenda. The minutes are now available at: Council Minutes.