Clerks Report – Parish Council Meeting 17th June 2020, via Zoom.

Supplementary documents circulated to support the agenda:

  • Virtual Meeting Policy
  • Standing Orders (unchanged)
  • Annual Return Documentation
  • Accounts summary to 31st May 2020.
  • Letter received from WMAS regarding the withdrawal of enhanced resources for First Responders.
  • Delegated decisions list.
  • Accounts for payment and those paid since the last meeting.
  • Footpaths Maintenance Proposal (Cllr. Taylor)
  • Resident Correspondence

Committee Updates (to note):

Footpaths:

  • Cllr. Taylor has completed a large piece of work to update the Footpaths Marshals scheme and the Clerk is now in receipt of a revised Footpaths Marshals schedule listing all active marshals and the paths they will be responsible for checking and reporting any issues. The next stage to support this is to consider how best to address the need to support maintenance by the recruitment of someone who can complete minor rectification works, with Mr. Smith supporting in an advisory capacity. Cllr. Taylor has submitted a proposal for consideration.

Enhancements:

  • Elford Heath has been a popular destination for local residents and many positive comments have been received regarding the work completed. The water level of the pool is healthy, although work still needs to be completed to locate and clear any inflow to the pool. The remaining tree works surrounding the pool were completed in April.
  • The next steps are:
    • To level and tidy the car park area. The car park will be made as big as possible, which means clearing as much vegetation as possible before putting the stones down. They will bank the cleared vegetation in the space between the car park and the common so that cars cannot drive through.
    • The ditch will be cleared so that the water runs freely.  They will make sure the pipe/ culvert is clear and dispose of the rubbish in the surrounding area, flattening it down
    • At present, grass regrowth is good in the area which was churned up, so this will be monitored and reseeding may not be necessary.
    • There is still a large amount of overgrowth, and in the future, works will need to be considered that will tidy the area but still retain it as an excellent habitat for local wildlife.
  • The new bench at Copmere picnic site has now been installed and Rod is working on the refurbishment of the benches provided by SBC. He will also restore the plaque that is there (no extra charge).
  • The hedge belonging to 9 Church Road has been cut back.
  • The trimming back of Footpath 13 has been completed by TGM, and Taylor Wimpey have sprayed the Knotweed after this was raised with them as an ongoing issue.
  • Cumbria Clock company are re-commencing work and have scheduled in the Pillar Clock works for w/c 22nd June.

Traffic Management:

  • A number of residents have noted that the reduced traffic volume has encouraged speeding, reported on the Newport Road and Stone Road. This information has been shared with Safer Roads partnership.

Policy and Resources:

  • A grant application from Eccleshall Community Amateur Dramatics Group has been received to be considered at the next Policy meeting, or next PC meeting as appropriate, to reduce delays.

Borough Councillor Update:-

No report

Liaison Reports:

Community Centre:- No report.

Offley Hay Village Hall – No report

Visit Stafford – No report.

Slindon News:- No report.

Croxton :- No report.

Community Transport – No report.

Allotments – No report.

Ecclian Society:-

  • Ecclian Society volunteers have now managed to plant up 25 mangers in our back garden and other volunteers intend to put them out in the town centre on Sunday, June 14th. They will, of course, still need to be watered and the Ecclians have arranged with Steve Hill at Perry’s Butchers that he will use his staff to carry out this task. One of their members, Richard Egan is refurbishing the watering trolley used many years ago.

The cost will be in the region of £1260 for 14 weeks of watering.

To note: Eccleshall Parish Council has agreed to support the watering costs of the mangers, which will be completed by staff from Perry’s. This is lower than the expenditure usually incurred with the full watering contract.

  • They were very encouraged by the response to the Union flags that the Ecclian Society put up to celebrate and commemorate the VE Day anniversary and feel Eccleshall residents will very much appreciate our efforts to produce some street planting. Some of the union flags were later replaced by NHS flags. The NHS flags were a joint project with Bishop Lonsdale Academy and organised by Richard Egan.
  • The next joint Ecclian/ Bloom meeting is scheduled for April 7th.
  • It has been a difficult year for the Ecclian Society finances with no funds from Open Gardens (normally about £3000) or the tool stall at the Eccleshall Festival Street market (normally about £1000). There has also been no sponsorship funding this year from local businesses for obvious reasons.
  • With the loss of Open Gardens, Luke Serjeant is organising a virtual Open Gardens, which will be available shortly.

Children/Young People:  No report.

First Responders: No report.

Other Updates:

Beech Road: – SBC has advised (email received 8th June) that the current situation has delayed the consideration of our proposal, but it is hoped to be considered by Cabinet in August.

Police Post: The Council has been advised (email received 4th June), that ‘Matters are still in consideration & discussion with PCC’s office. We have, as you may be aware 4x properties currently on the market & there is some progress to be made on each of them so it is slightly slower going than we would have anticipated. One of us will be in contact once there is further news to update all the bidders on.’

Information to support agenda items:                 

  1. The Virtual Meeting Policy has been circulated to all members. This defines the procedural changes allowed by the temporary Coronavirus regulations[1] that differ from Standing Orders.
  2. Public Participation: Residents have access to the meeting in the same way as a physical meeting but will be asked to contact the Clerk in advance if they wish to speak if possible, which will assist in the online meeting administration.
  3. Accounts: The Audit report will need to be reviewed formally in the order stated below, and each item approved in turn by full Council. The Chair must sign the Governance Statement and Accounting statement as part of the meeting, which he will have received in advance.

A1 – To receive the Internal Audit report

A2 – To Approve the Annual Governance Statement (Section 1 of the Annual Return)

A3 – To consider and approve the Accounting Statements (Section 2 of the Annual Return)

Delegated payments made since the last meeting will be included as part of the monthly accounts sheet.

  1. To note the delegated decisions made since the last meeting: These have been circulated as a separate table with the agenda and as already actioned, are for information.
  2. To review and re-adopt the Standing Orders of the Council: Normally completed at the annual meeting, annual review is required. There has been no update to the NALC model standing orders in the last twelve months so it is recommended that they are re-adopted with no amendments.
  3. To approve the appointment of Mr. Alan Toplis as internal auditor for 2020/21. Mrs. Christine Heelis will no longer be undertaking Local Council audits. EPC has used Mr. Toplis in the past and he is highly recommended. Mr. Toplis has submitted his formal proposal to confirm he is able to provide his services, at a cost of £115, plus VAT and travel expenses. It is recommended to accept this proposal.
  4. To discuss the Annual Meeting of the Council: As most Councils were unable to meet in May, when the Annual Meeting is required to be held, temporary Coronavirus regulations have allowed for the deferral of the Annual Council meeting until May 2021.

The Council will need to consider:

  • If it is happy to defer the meeting until May 2021, which means all appointments of Chairs/VC’s and committees remain the same. The Chair is happy to continue in the role.
  • Hold an annual meeting online via Zoom, which will include the statutory obligations to elect a Chair/Vice Chair.
  1. To discuss future meeting schedule for Council and Committee meetings, to agree the required frequency and structure whilst meetings cannot be held physically. Options include:
    1. Only convening a full Council meeting when necessary.
    2. Initially running monthly meetings for Parish and Planning meetings (with planning applications falling between those dates either requiring a deferral request to SBC, delegated response or if requiring discussion, scheduling a meeting to deal with it in accordance with our usual two weekly schedule). We usually only have planning in August due to the main Council meeting break.
    3. Returning to bimonthly planning and monthly Council meetings but no other committee meetings (which may be dependent on what business can be conducted at present).
    4. Returning to a normal schedule of Committee and Council meetings from July or deferring until a future date (this could vary for each committee, as some may have activities to progress than others).
  2. Footpaths maintenance proposal circulated separately.
  3. To note and respond to any additional items in the Clerks Report not covered already, circulated with the agenda:
    1. (Circulated separately)
      1. Resident feedback on precept increase.
      2. Resident query re police post correspondence
  • WMAS response
  1. To consider the need for a resolution to approve continuation of delegation to the Clerk:

The delegation approved at the meeting in March was defined to end at the next convened council meeting. If monthly Parish Council meetings are to be resumed going forward, there should be no need to reinstate this delegation at this meeting as the Council can operate as normal, albeit virtually. The July meeting agenda will still request temporary delegation until September, to cover the August meeting break.

Correspondence, further information:

See separate documents

Correspondence circulated, to note:

  1. SPCA Weekly Bulletins
  2. NALC coronavirus updates
  3. Visit Stafford Updates

General Council Updates:

  • Any items for inclusion on a meeting agenda must be received by the Clerk 10 clear days ahead of the meeting date.

Notes:

SCC- Staffordshire County Council                                 SARH – Stafford and Rural Homes

SBC- Stafford Borough Council                                      SPCA – Staffordshire Parish Councils Assc.

EPC – Eccleshall Parish Council

[1] (The Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels(Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020)