To answer Open Questions asked by Members of the Council under Part 4A, Rule No. 13.7 of the Council’s Procedure Rules.
The Chairman invited the Minority Group Leaders to ask a question, prior to the consideration of questions that had been placed in the Open Question receptacle.
(1) Councillor Zerny asked about the funding and delivery of Silsoe Leisure Centre.
The Leader explained that funding for Silsoe Leisure Centre had been secured through a Section 106 Agreement and the role of the Parish Council in the delivery of the Centre.
Councillor Zerny asked a supplementary question that referred to a leaflet which had made claims about the delivery of the Leisure Centre. He also commented on references to the provision of roads in the Sandy area.
The Leader explained that Central Bedfordshire Council had contributed and supported the development of Silsoe Leisure Centre. The Council had made improvements in Sandy that included extra car parking and improvements to the Winchester Road Estate.
(2) Councillor Ryan confirmed that the Labour Group did not have any questions.
(3) Councillor Downing referred to the 40mph speed limit on the A6 and B530 in the direction of Bedford and the reasons for this.
The Executive Member for Community Services explained that this section of the road was maintained by Bedford Borough Council.
(4) Councillor Matthews noted that 4,000 council houses had been built nationally and asked how many Central Bedfordshire Council had built?
The Leader advised that the Council was committed to building housing for all residents. The Council had built around 62 homes a year for each of the last 4 years. The Council’s aim was to increase this number to 300 a year now that the Housing Revenue Account debt cap had been removed.
Councillor Matthews asked a supplementary question about the comparative performance of neighbouring authorities?
The Leader explained that the total number of houses built by Milton Keynes, Bedford and Luton Borough Councils combined was about the same as Central Bedfordshire Council.
(5) Councillor Wells asked about the Council’s financial outturn against budget for 2018/19.
The Leader anticipated a small underspend.
Councillor Wells asked a supplementary question about suggestions concerning the need for an emergency budget.
The Leader explained that the Council was in a robust financial position and the services over the last four years had been maintained.
(6) Councillor Stay referred to a comment made by the Chief Operating Officer at LGSS Law regarding the public sector.
The Leader would raise this issue with the Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Corporate Resources.
(7) Councillor Blair asked what percentage of primary school children were offered their first choice of school?
The Executive Member for Families, Education and Children advised that 95% of school children had received their first choice place at a primary school. In 2018, the Council had achieved the best performance in the country, together with Northumberland, for allocating students to their first choice of secondary school.
(8) Councillor Nicols referred to an article written by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) that suggested that housing growth could have been accommodated on brownfield sites.
The Executive Member for Regeneration explained that there had already been a significant development of brownfield sites in the north of Central Bedfordshire. New homes were needed in the south of the area and green belt land had been released to allow for this. All brownfield sites in Central Bedfordshire had been assessed and they had either already been built on or planning permission had been granted for them.
(9) Councillor Maudlin asked about affordable housing and support to local people wishing to purchase their first homes.
The Executive Member for Regeneration explained that over the last 5 years 8,300 homes had been built in Central Bedfordshire, with 32% of these being affordable through Help to Buy and shared ownership.