Minutes of the Meeting of Eccleshall Parish Council held on JANUARY 20th, 2021

A meeting of Eccleshall Parish Council was held online via Zoom videoconferencing on January 20th 2021, at 7.30pm. This meeting was followed by a meeting of the Planning Committee at 9.30pm.

The meeting opened with prayers

1/21).  Present were:-

 Councillor P. Jones (Chairman)            Councillor L. Dale

 Councillor R. Taylor                              Councillor R. Langford

 Councillor J. Leather                            Councillor S. Kean

 Councillor J. Jones                              Councillor P. Stenning (until 8.50pm)

 Councillor E. Amos                              Councillor G. Dale

 Councillor S. Perren (from 7.50pm)      Councillor B. Delanchy

 Councillor C. Wilkins                           Councillor S. Mifflin

 Mrs S.J. Worden (Clerk)

 Borough and County Councillor J. Pert

 5 members of the public

 There were no apologies to receive.

2/21).   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.

3/21).    Public Participation:

There were 5 members of the public present, but no-one wished to speak.

4/21).    To approve the minutes of the Parish Council meeting held on November 18th, 2020:

The minutes, which had been previously circulated were agreed, and will be signed at the earliest opportunity.

5/21).    Co-option of Councillor to the Town Ward vacancy:

No applications were received, so the co-option was deferred until the next meeting.

6/21).    To receive any reports from Borough and County Councillors:

Borough and County Councillor Pert provided a verbal report to the Council. Upcoming actions   included:

  • Flooding, and in particular the Stone Rd floods were raised. Cllr. Pert hoped a solution could be delivered by the autumn. It was noted that landowners have a duty of care to deal with water on their own land rather than use highways drains, which function to drain water that lands on the highway.
  • The Stone Rd build out work is expected for spring/early summer.

     Borough Councillor P. Jones advised he will be looking at trialling a Zoom online surgery.

7/21).    Committee Updates:

Traffic Management:        

  • Receipt of speed stickers from Safer Roads Staffordshire was noted.
  • It was resolved to approve an investigation into the ownership of the land off Cherry Tree Close with a view to use as a possible car park, following up from previous enquiries.
  • It was resolved to approve proceeding with enquiries to the Manager/Owner of the Kings Arms to see if there is an opportunity to rent their car park on a temporary basis.
  • It was resolved to approve the proposal that all pavements in the Parish to be cleared and maintained to a standard suitable for mobility scooters where possible. Quotations for further works have been requested and will be brought to the Council for consideration when available.
  • It was resolved to approve the proposal that when businesses return to normal to investigate the idea of the Council facilitating a scheme where residents rent out their drives to traders/businesses.

Footpaths:

Cllr. Taylor advised there is now a full complement of footpaths marshals and maintenance works are ongoing.

Litter Picking:- There are 3 areas where volunteers are still required and recruitment is ongoing.

Enhancements:

  • It was resolved to approve the quotation for removal of the obsolete post at Bishops Court and to upgrade the fence panel at a cost of £225.

Policy and Resources:

  • The minutes of the meeting held on the 6th of January 2021 were circulated prior to the meeting and noted.
  • Approval of the draft Budget 2021/22. The Clerk summarised the current budget for 2020/21 and provided an overview of the expenditure to date. It was noted that the forecasted planned expenditure may vary between now and the end of the financial year dependent on additional activities approved. The Council considered the proposed budget for 2021/22, based on planned activity for the upcoming year. This included:
  • Health and Wellbeing projects budget of £7,000 to cover a proposed voucher scheme as well as other activities to support the community and address areas of concern
  • Pavement Verge works budget of £6,000, to cover increased level of removal of verge overgrowth.
  • Staffing – for an assistant Clerk to support the work of the Clerk and bring total resource hours up to 34hrs a week.
  • Additional funding ringfenced for Eccleshall Cares, if needed
  • Increased funding for rights of way path maintenance.
  • Increased project allocation to allow consideration of project proposals such as a community hub, recycling initiatives.
  • Painting of Pillar clock and blue bins
  • Car parking, electric car charging points.
  • Retention of bus subsidy allocation, to pursue alternatives to the D&G provision.

(Cllr. Perren joined the meeting at this point).

The importance of clarifying the detail of the planned activities and publicising this clearly to residents was noted, so the community is aware of how the precept will be spent. It is expected that the Business Plan will also provide a clear guide to residents of the strategic plan of the Council.

It was resolved to accept the draft budget of £105,954.00

  • Consideration and approval of the Precept 2021/22. The P&R committee considered the cash reserves of the Council and the total income required in order to balance out the proposed budget expenditure. The committee was keen not to impose undue burden on the residents.

The committee resolved to recommend that a precept of £82,600 be levied for 2021/22. This is a slight increase to the amount received for 2020/21 but due to the increased tax base, would ensure a 0% increase to residents.

The total estimated income for the council is £89,638, and the balance of the budget will be covered by reserves. This proposal provides a short term solution to allow the Council to deliver its planned activities without putting further financial pressure on residents. It is noted that this will still ensure a sufficient balance in reserves to deal with any unforeseen expenditure in line with recommended accounting practices for Parish councils.

The Council resolved that a precept of £82,600.00 should be levied for 2021/22  – taking into consideration the slight increase in the tax base there would be no change in the amount payable per property.

  • Consideration and approval of the summarised financial report for the website. It was resolved to approve the financial report, which will be publicised on a monthly basis and provide an update on the Council’s financial position which residents can easily view.

8/21).        To consider and approve the proposal for recruitment of an Assistant Clerk, as reviewed by the Staffing Committee.

It was resolved to approve the recruitment of an Assistant Clerk, on an initial 18 month fixed term contract, for 7 hrs a week. It was also resolved to approve advertising costs of £119.50 for a print advert in the Express and Star plus a months online advertising. The council also resolved to delegate the Staffing Committee, in conjunction with the Clerk, to undertake the recruitment and selection process.

9/21).        To receive and discuss the letter from the County Council regarding tackling social isolation, how Parish Councils can help, and receive the update on the related task and finish group attended by the Clerk.

The Council discussed the issues and initiatives currently in place to address some of the main issues. It was noted that practical suggestions would be welcome and that these issues are not exclusive to the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was resolved to refer this to the Health and Wellbeing working group for further exploration.

10/21).   To consider the Health and Wellbeing working group proposals for Covid-19 community support, to complement existing services:

  • The Helping Hand voucher scheme. The proposal was circulated to all members for consideration prior to the meeting. The scheme will provide £50 in Co-op vouchers for residents who apply and meet the specified scheme criteria. The scheme is in addition to other sources of support and applications will be handled confidentially. The scheme will be capped at £5,000 in the first instance. The circulated A5 flyer will be printed and delivered to all Parish residents to ensure those who do not have internet access or use social media will be aware of the opportunity. It was resolved to approve the scheme and proceed at the earliest opportunity. With regards to the flyer distribution, if local distributors were unavailable, it was resolved to appoint Royal Mail or an equivalent service to complete a mail drop.
  • Printing and distribution of an A5 help and advice signposting leaflet for Covid-19 support organisations. The leaflet contains a comprehensive selection of support service information from local to Borough/County wide services and would be distributed alongside the Helping Hand flyer to all Parish residents, as well as on the website, social media and notice boards. Both leaflets can also be distributed to the pharmacy, library and Co-op. It was resolved to approve the printing and distribution of the information leaflet. Thanks were given to the Borough Council officers who have provided help and support in putting the content together.

11/21).    To note the reply from Stafford Borough Council regarding the request to transfer ownership of Beech Road.

Initial enquiries were made by the Parish Council in December 2019 and a formal request to transfer the play area to the Parish Council was made in January 2020. The Parish Council wishes to take over ownership of the play area in order to make improvements to the play provision currently in place.

Following regular chasing for updates, the Borough Council replied in December 2020 to advise that no decision has been made and consideration of the proposal will be deferred for 12 months.

The Council noted its disappointment with the response from SBC and the delay in advising the further deferral period.  Cllr. P. Jones will contact SBC to find out further information.

(Cllr. Stenning left the meeting at this point)

12/21).    It was resolved to respond in support of the following highways speed reduction proposals:

  • The introduction of a 40-mph speed reduction area along Castle Street/A519 Newcastle Road, C002 Swynnerton Road and C087 Meece Road/C088 Yarnfield Lane.
  • The introduction of a 40-mph speed reduction area along the A5013 Stafford Road, Eccleshall.

13/21).    To receive the Clerks Report, containing liaison representative updates.

              The Clerks report was received by the Council.

    Correspondence:-

  • Resident correspondence regarding antisocial behaviour at the Community Centre and request for the Parish Council to consider provision of facilities for older children. There are some ongoing issues – the PCSO has been in attendance and spoken to the young people in attendance. It was noted that the floodlighting may have been exacerbating the problem, so the lights were switched off at 7pm rather than midnight, which did help. However, a conservatory window was smashed last week. Members suggested installing CCTV may be beneficial.

With regards to the play facilities, it was noted that suitable land would need to be found, and the provision of outdoor gym equipment was also considered. It was resolved to refer further exploration to the Enhancements committee.

  • Stone Road Flooding. There has been severe flooding experienced on the Stone Road, exacerbated by water flowing from land owned by the Catholic Church, suspected to originate from Sancerre Grange. On site discussions were undertaken with residents, highways, church representative and County Cllr. Pert. Cllr. Perren has also been involved and the Parish Council wish to support of residents affected by the flooding. It is believed that water flow from the Bovis estate is a main contributor to the problem. A Stone Road resident spoke about the problem and will keep the Parish Council informed. Perren noted the presence of blocked drains on the Bovis estate which were reported 12 months ago.

14/21).     Chairman’s Report:-

Cllr P. Jones advised he had written a personal biography for circulation to all members, with the aim of providing an insight into individual councillors skills and experience, and invited members to do the same.

Broughton W.I is celebrating its centenary on the 11th February 2021.

Cllr. P. Jones attended the recent Stone Parish Liaison Group meeting, where Chief Inspector Parsons was in attendance and gave an update on the current policing issues. The crime figures for Eccleshall were 24% down, and ASBO’s were down by 17%.

15/21).     Accounts:-

To accept the Financial report to end December 2020:

It was resolved to accept the financial summary, which includes the bank reconciliation up to the 30th December 2020.

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

Mazars – Audit services

360.00

A.S Electrical Services – installation of Christmas lights

660.00

Jacksons of Eccleshall – 2020 grass cutting

993.60

Streetscape – installation of timber swing and relocation of play panel

3348.00

Moledover – mole catching services (Bishops Court)

65.00

Mr. A. G. Jones – movement of SIDS devices

100.00

ICO – Annual Data Protection Fee (paid by direct debit)

35.00

To approve accounts for payment January 2021:-

 Authorisation was sought for payment of the following accounts:-

Japhlin – Computer maintenance (monthly direct debit)

46.14

Staffing Costs

1934.45

Office expenses (cheque £95.03, balance s/o)

170.62

Eccleshall First Responders – annual renewal payment of defib sponsorship

50.00

A.S. Electrical Services – removal of xmas lights

300.00

Trent Grounds Maintenance – annual tidy of Croxton Play area

432.00

1st Eccleshall Scouts – delivery of the Parish Newsletter

150.00

Mr. A.G. Jones – movement of SIDS devices

100.00

Mr. Graham Cole – footpaths maintenance

46.00

SPCA – Councillor Training (planning)

30.00

All were in favour and the cheques will be signed accordingly.

  • To consider the need to apply for the annual watering grant payment from SBC. SBC provide a £2,500 watering grant to the Parish Council, as a contribution to the annual watering costs, which are in excess of £5,000. The watering costs for this year were significantly reduced in line with the reduced planting undertaken. It was resolved to request a proportional amount of the grant, in line with the costs incurred, and to confirm the full amount is expected to be required for 2021/22.
  • Course bookings: the booking of an employment training course for the Chair (£30) and the attendance of the Clerk at the SLCC practitioners conference in February (£75 plus VAT) was noted in line with agreed delegated approvals.
  • Receipt of a donation of £275 from the Ecclian Society, to cover the purchase of the tree at the bottom of the Stone Road. Whilst the kind donation from the Ecclian Society was appreciated, members felt that the Parish Council should be covering the full cost of the trees purchased. It was resolved to return the payment to the Ecclian Society.

16/21).      Items / Date and Venue for next meeting:-

The next full meeting of the Parish Council is scheduled for February 17th 2021, via Zoom, commencing at 7.30pm.

There being no further business, the Chairman declared the meeting closed at 9.30pm.