ECCLESHALL PARISH COUNCIL Meeting Minutes – January 22nd, 2020

A meeting of Eccleshall Parish Council was held on January 22nd, 2020 at Eccleshall Community Centre at 7.30pm. This meeting was followed by a meeting of the Planning Committee at 9.40pm.

01/20). Present were:-

Councillor P. Jones (Chairman) Councillor L. Dale
Councillor R. Taylor Councillor P. Stenning
Councillor B. Delanchy Councillor P. Mullee
Councillor J. Jones Councillor M. Watson
Councillor E. Amos Councillor J. Leather
Councillor S. Perren Councillor C. Wilkins
Councillor G. Dale

Mrs S.J. Worden (Clerk)
1 member of the public

Apologies were received and accepted from Councillors Langford and Mifflin, and Borough and County Cllr. Pert.

02/20). To consider Declarations of Interest and Councillor requests for dispensation relating to items on the agenda.

There were no requests to receive, and no declarations of interest were made.

03/20). Public Participation:-

There was 1 member of the public present. The resident had two issues to raise:
• The recent accident at the zebra crossing where a pedestrian was knocked down. Concerns were raised regarding poor visibility, signage and location in proximity to the roundabout and whether any improvements could be made.
• The resident reported recent suspected vandalism of a cycle track in Bishops Wood. The Forestry Commission has been contacted and a ranger will be speaking to the group who uses the track. It was suggested that the Parish Council may wish to be involved and support the local group in order to retain the track.

04/20). To approve the minutes of the Parish Council meetings held on November 20th, 2019 and December 4th, 2019:-

The minutes, which had been previously circulated, were agreed and signed.

05/20). Reports from Borough and County Councillors:-

Borough Councillor P. Jones advised that the Castle Street planning application has not yet been allocated a meeting date, so it will not be discussed on the 29th January. The date will be advised when available.
A Borough Council Local Plan briefing will be held on the 3rd February and will be attended by Cllrs. B. Delanchy and J. Jones.

06/20). Committee Reports:-
Traffic Management Committee:-

Minutes of the meeting held on January 8th were circulated to all members prior to the meeting.
Cllr. L. Dale provided the following update:-
• Members of the committee will be attending a meeting with Highways on the 28th January. The concerns regarding the zebra crossing were noted and this will be taken up with Highways, following on from requests already made.
• Positive feedback from residents has been received regarding the speed indication devices, and some have requested the signs are permanently sited. The sign near the Cricket Club has struggled with the low light and has not always been able to display the speeds. The Clerk will look to avoid scheduling the device for that location in December if possible. Due to the success of the devices, the committee proposed to recommend the purchase of a further two devices at a cost of £3589.10 plus VAT. The Council resolved to approve this course of action and the balance of the expenditure not covered by the remaining Traffic Management budget can be vired from the savings made on the Parish Council insurance policy.

Enhancements Committee:-

Minutes of the meeting held on December 4th were circulated to all members prior to the meeting.
Cllr. L. Dale provided the following update:-
• Elford Heath pool is now filling up after the silt works have been completed. The next stage of the works is to complete further tree works around the pool to remove overhanging branches and to coppice some of the smaller trees at the far side of the pool. This will reduce the amount of leaf litter falling into the pool which builds up as silt. The Parish Council resolved to approve the quotation of £1,325.00 by Rob Keyzor to proceed with the works.
• The Cumbria Clock Company completed their investigation of the Pillar Clock on Monday 20th January. It was a minor repair to a micro switch, and the work was successfully completed on site with no additional cost to the original quotation.
• The Council resolved to approve the quotation of £155 to remove an existing 8ft stretch of chain link fence at Bishops Court and replace with a post and rail fence that will be in keeping with the existing fence. It was noted that the rest of the wire fence is buried within the hedge and so is not visible.
• The trees at Croxton have undergone a recent tree survey, which concluded that in order to promote the strong growth of the younger trees, some thinning work will be required. Remedial work on the redwood trees was also recommended, as wells as some coppicing work. Two contractors quoted for the work, and the Council resolved to approve a quotation of £750 by Rob Keyzor, to complete the works at the earliest opportunity.
• A working group has been formed, comprising Cllrs. L. Dale, Stenning, Langford and Taylor, in order to formulate a strategy to support Climate Change issues. The first meeting was held this morning.
• Concerns were raised regarding the narrow footpath area along Church Street up to Kerry Lane, caused by an overhanging hedge from the adjacent property, and exacerbated by the verge overgrowth onto the pavement. The Parish Council resolved to write and request the support of the householder in cutting back of hedge. The Parish Council also resolved to approve for Trent Grounds Maintenance to dig off the verge overgrowth along the path from the Washpits to Kerry Lane, which was last completed in Jan 2019 at a cost of £60. It was noted that this could be considered for addition to the annual maintenance schedule when the contracts are due to be renewed.

Policy and Resources Committee:-

Minutes of the meeting held on December 4th were circulated to all members prior to the meeting.
Cllr. P. Jones provided the following update:
• The Council resolved to approve the virement of £676 from contingencies to publishing, to cover the cost of extra publishing materials which included survey printing costs, walks leaflets, bus flyers and posters and additional newsletter print costs.
• Approval of the Budget 2020/21:- The Clerk had circulated a draft budget for consideration by members prior to the meeting and presented a summary. Some amendments had been noted since discussions at the Policy committee in Dec 2019. Planned additional spend for this year has reduced the expected cash available by the year end which would have rolled forward towards next years proposed budget, creating a shortfall in predicted funds. The council resolved to accept the draft budget.
• Consideration and approval of the Precept 2020/21:- The Council discussed the options at length. It was noted that the draft budget included all the planned projects the Council wished to undertake or continue. In order to achieve these plans, the precept would need to be increased accordingly to bridge the shortfall in funding, which has increased since the Policy committee meeting. Feedback from the Parish Survey indicated residents were willing to support an increase in the precept to support community improvements. The Concurrent Functions Allowance from the Borough Council was to remain unchanged at £3,733.

The Council resolved that a precept of £81,250.00 should be levied for 2020/21 – taking into consideration the increase in the tax base this would be an increase of 36.8% for a Band D property, equivalent to 83 pence per month, or £10 per year.

• Consideration of roll of honour noticeboard:- Investigations into costs and board designs are ongoing. It was suggested that a possible location for the board would be within the Co-Op window, where the fire tender is located.
• Commemorative activities for VE Day celebrations are going well. The first meeting for those wishing to participate in the Variety Show on the 8th/9th May will be held on the 28th January and all are invited. The primary school will also be getting involved. On the afternoon of Friday 7th May, an afternoon tea is planned for residents who don’t have much opportunity to get out, and transport will be provided. A quiz is planned for the Thursday evening. The council resolved to approve a budget of £200 for start-up costs, and it is hoped that overall a profit will be generated which can be ringfenced for use on a future project for the benefit of young people.
• The staffing committee met to review the Staffordshire Pension Funding Strategy Statement and proposed employer contributions for the next 3 years from April 2020. The staffing committee proposed to accept the statement and planned contributions and no feedback to the Pensions Fund was required. The Council resolved to recommend approval of this course of action.
• The committee discussed the proposal for the Clerk to attend the 3 study days per year (6 over 2 years) within works hours and recommended that the expenses incurred by the studies will also be paid in accordance with the Clerks contract. Coursework will be completed in the Clerks own time. The Council resolved to approve this course of action.
• The committee also discussed a proposal to increase staffing to cover the additional workload being generated. The post could be fixed term in the first instance, and hours considered were around 7 per week, which will still fall below the previous total hours provided by the last, full time, Clerk. The costs have been included in the budget for next year. The Council resolved in favour of the Clerk producing a detailed staffing proposal for consideration.

Footpaths Committee:-

Minutes of the meeting held on January 8th were circulated to all members prior to the meeting.
Cllr. Mullee provided the following report:
• Cllr. Mullee was appointed Chair of the committee, and Cllr. Taylor Vice-Chair.
• Walks 8 and 12 have now been reviewed and the committee recommended approval of print costs for publishing updated walks 8 and 12 leaflets, at a cost of 126. The council resolved to approve this course of action.
• The committee discussed the need for additional resource to support the maintenance of footpaths. At present, any reported issues are not able to be addressed, apart from requesting action by the Rights of Way team.
• Cllr. Taylor is looking to re-launch the Footpath Marshalls project by contacting those that used to do the role to see if they are interested in taking this up again. The volunteers will be made aware that any reports may not be actioned straight away until resource is found to support the Council. Cllr. Taylor is also enquiring as to whether anyone would be interested in taking up the role. It was advised that the Council currently pays the National Living Wage per hour for this work.
• The lack of adequate route markers for walking route 8 was discussed. The Clerk has spoken to Rights of Way who has suggested that way markers could be installed, but landowner permission would need to be sought, and resource found to do this. The Clerk will be sent additional footpath marker discs, but these can only be added to Rights of Way owned ‘furniture’ unless permission is granted by the landowner to add to fences.

07/20). To consider and approve additional councillors for committee membership.

It was resolved for Cllr. G. Dale to be added to the Policy and Resources, Enhancements and Traffic committees, and for Cllr. C. Wilkins to be added to Traffic and Enhancements committees.

08/20). Liaison Representatives:-

Reports were accepted by the Council, as circulated in the Clerk’s Report prior to the meeting.
Community Centre:- Bookings are very good and there is a pantomime being held on the weekend of 25/26 January.
First Responders:- The defibrillator being sponsored by the Parish Council is now in place on the Catholic Church and is awaiting approval to connect to the power supply.

09/20). To consider any New Development updates:-

Castle Street:- As noted previously, no date has yet been set for the Borough Council planning committee meeting. If the date fell on the 19th February it will clash with the next Parish Council meeting, and some Councillors may attend the planning meeting instead.
To consider any quotations submitted for landscaping around the Eagle Sculpture:- two quotations were received for the landscaping works around the sculpture and were discussed. A third quote was not possible, although more contractors had been approached. The aim of the landscaping is to provide a deterrent for theft and climbing, in line with police recommendations. Members considered the cost of proceeding with the project, and it was noted that any grants would have to be repaid if the project did not continue. The Council resolved to approve a quote of £3,045 for the landscaping works, by David Gough Landscapes.

10/20). To consider the proposal to request that Stafford Borough Council allow the Parish Council to take over Beech Road play area, either by lease or asset transfer.:-

Stafford Borough Council has advised that the Parish Council will need to formally write to request taking over Beech Road play area, which will start the process. One option is on leasehold basis, where a peppercorn rent is paid and the Parish council is leased the land. However, at the end of the lease, the land and any equipment on it reverts back to the Borough Council. Alternatively, the Parish Council can request for the land to be transferred into its ownership under asset transfer and will from then on own and be responsible for all future maintenance. It was resolved to write to the Borough Council to formally request for the asset transfer of Beech Road play area to the Parish Council. It was noted that the help of the Borough Councillors will be invaluable in supporting the process.

11/20). To approve costs for Civic Amenity Visit provision for 2020/21:-

In order to continue with the provision of the 6 Civic Amenity visits per year for 2 hrs a visit, the cost for 2020/21 is £828, an increase of £24. The Parish Council resolved to approve continuation of the service at the current level.

12/20). Review of qualitative survey responses and to discuss next actions:-

The Clerk provided all members with a copy of all responses to the narrative questions, in order to provide an overview of the breadth and variety of responses. However, as this was a 35 page document, it was clear that the data needed to be analysed to pull out key issues for discussion. Cllrs. Stenning and Wilkins agreed to analyse the responses to provide a summary for consideration.

13/20). Updates regarding proposal for Police Station property:

There has been no information from the vendor to advise whether the bid has been successful. The loan application has been submitted and is under consideration.
• Further correspondence from Cllr. Pert for consideration:- Cllr. Perts letter was circulated to all members prior to the meeting and was carefully considered and discussed. It was resolved to advise Cllr. Pert that the Parish Council has concluded that it does not consider that the actions taken by the Council have been improper, and as such, does not have any further comments to make in addition to those already submitted previously.

14/20). To discuss methods of Councillor communication with residents.

Concerns were raised regarding communication with residents with some members feeling current methods are not effective. Initially the Parish Survey was intended to be undertaken in the form of focus groups to encourage engagement, but unfortunately the need to expedite it to meet the time constraints of the police post bid made this method impossible to do at the time. Members noted the need to be proactive and meet with local community groups. Community engagement is being explored within the Climate Change discussions and the proposal expected in April will include some ideas for consideration.

15/20). Council engagement with younger members of the community.

Ways to engage with the younger members of the community were discussed, as it was felt that residents in the 30-40’s were not interested in the role of a Parish Councillor, and many local organisations tended to consist of older people. The use of individual ward Facebook pages run by Councillors was discussed, and there were mixed views. Further consideration of a clear proposal will need to be undertaken and it was agreed to revisit this after further thought.

16/20). To discuss the practice of prayers at the start of Parish meetings.

At present, prayers are said prior to the convening of the meeting. Some members felt that this practise was no longer necessary and not relevant to members who were not practising Christians. Others felt it was a way to pause and think about the meeting ahead. After discussion, it was resolved in favour of continuing with prayers prior to the start of the meeting.

Cllr. P. Jones requested permission to extend the meeting past 9.30pm, which was granted.

17/20). To receive the Clerk’s report and correspondence:-

The Council resolved to accept the Clerk’s report.

• Letter from resident raising queries in response to survey and the precept:- The Council discussed the concerns raised by the resident regarding the survey and the process by which the survey had been used to inform the decisions and financial planning of the Council. It was resolved to write to the resident to explain how the Council has used the information received in the survey and the processes involved in both the setting of the precept and budget, as well as confirming that the responses on the police post involvement did inform the decisions of the Council to proceed.

18/20). Chairman’s Report:-

The Chair represented the Parish Council at the December Carol Service held by Stone Town Council on the 8th December, and also attended an Allotments dinner on Saturday 18th January.

19/20). Accounts:-

Retrospective approval was granted for payment of the following accounts:-

Eccleshall Rugby Union FC – replacement grant cheque 250.00
Came and Company – Parish Council Insurance policy 1142.09
Woods Farm – supply of Christmas Trees 1831.00
Traction – Cherry picker hire for Christmas Tree lights 120.00
Trent Grounds Maintenance – Croxton play area and footpath 13 567.00
AS Electrical Services – installation of Xmas Lights 660.00
D&G Bus – No. 14 service provision for November 210.00
D&G Bus – No. 14 service provision for December 200.00
Mr. A.G. Jones – movement of speed devices (Dec) 48.00
Traction – Cherry picker hire for Christmas Tree lights 120.00
ICO – Annual Fee (paid by Direct Debit) 35.00
Japhlin – IT Maintenance Contract (Direct Debit) 46.14

Accounts for payment January 2020:-

Authorisation was sought for payment of the following accounts:-

Staffing Costs 2140.39
AS Electrical Services – removal of xmas lights 300.00
Stafford Brigades Marching Band – Carols Round the tree 150.00
Chairs allowance 40.00
Mr. A.G. Jones – movement of speed devices (Jan) 60.00

All were in favour and the cheques were signed.

• It was resolved to accept the financial summary and bank reconciliation up to 30th December 2019.
• It was resolved to approve the £20 cost for attendance at a Councillor Training Course.
• It was resolved to approve the cost of £224 plus VAT in order for a councillor to attend the NALC London conference on 17 March 2020. It was noted there were a number of relevant sessions that will benefit the Council.

20/20). Items / Date and Venue for next meeting:-

The next full meeting of the Parish Council will be held on February 19th, 2020, Eccleshall Community Centre, 7.30pm. Items for addition were requested to be sent to the Clerk.

There being no further business, the Chairman declared the meeting closed at 9.40pm.