ECCLESHALL PARISH COUNCIL Draft Meeting Minutes, 17th June 2020. 

PLEASE NOTE THE MINUTES ARE IN DRAFT FORM, SUBJECT TO APPROVAL AT THE NEXT MEETING

A meeting of Eccleshall Parish Council was held online via Zoom videoconferencing on June 17th, 2020, at 7.30pm. This meeting was followed by a meeting of the Planning Committee at 8.45pm.

58/20).     Present were:-    Councillor P. Jones (Chairman);  Councillor L. Dale; Councillor R. Taylor; Councillor R. Langford

Councillor B. Delanchy;  Councillor M. Watson; Councillor J. Jones; Councillor S. Mifflin

Councillor E. Amos; Councillor J. Leather; Councillor S. Perren; Councillor C. Wilkins

Councillor G. Dale; Councillor P. Stenning

Mrs S.J. Worden (Clerk)

Borough and County Councillor J. Pert

3 members of the public

Apologies were received from Cllr. Mullee due to the need for his attendance at the farm for sheep shearing. It was resolved to accept the reason for absence and apology.

 59/20).    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.

 60/20).    To consider and adopt the Virtual Meetings Policy:

It was resolved to adopt the policy, which details the procedural changes related to the convening of online meetings, as allowed by the temporary legislation ‘The Local Authorities (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority Meetings) (England) Regulations 2020’.

 61/20).    Public Participation:-  There were 3 members of the public present, who did not speak.

Borough and County Councillor Pert provided an update on the activities of the Borough and County Councils. The financial impact on the Borough Council is expected to be in the region of £2.4m, and £10m for the County Council. Thanks were given to the volunteers, key workers and NHS for their work during the pandemic. It was noted there will be a number of challenges to face during the recovery period and greater demands on the voluntary sector and local councils.

SBC are starting to open public toilets, firstly in Stafford and Stone, where higher usage can justify regular cleaning schedules. SBC are looking into how to safely open Eccleshall facilities.

62/20).    To approve the minutes of the Parish Council meeting held on March 18th, 2020:- The minutes, which had been previously circulated, were agreed, and will be signed at the earliest opportunity.

63/20).   Accounts:-

A1 – To receive the Internal Audit report. Copies of the report had been circulated to members in advance of the meeting. The report advised that there were no matters to be brought to the attention of the council. The Parish Council noted receipt and resolved to accept the report.

A2 – To Approve the Annual Governance Statement (Section 1 of the Annual Return). The Annual Governance Statement was considered by the Council in detail and it was resolved that all matters had been adequately complied with. The Chairman signed the form accordingly.

A3 – To consider and approve the Accounting Statements (Section 2 of the Annual Return). Copies of the statement had been circulated to members in advance of the meeting. It was resolved to approve the statement of accounts and this was signed by the Chairman.

A4 – To accept the Financial report to end May 2020. It was resolved to accept the Financial report.

A5 – To accept payments approved under delegation since the last meeting.

It was resolved to accept the following delegated payments made:

April 15th Payments
Rob Keyzor Tree Surgeons (work at Croxton and Elford) 2490.00
Trent Grounds Maintenance (March cuts) 203.10
Staffing Costs 1907.15
May 6th payments
Trent Grounds Maintenance (April cuts) 318.30
Mr. A.G. Jones – SID movements 100.00
Jacksons of Eccleshall (grass cutting 19/20) 915.60
May 15th/20th payments
Staffing Costs 1946.96
NALC LCR subscription 17.00
SLCC Course Fees 1082.00
Bents Brew House – VE Day event costs, publicity and streaming (plus VAT) 319.72
Mrs Chris Heelis – Audit Costs 75.00
Eccleshall First Responders – Donated prize from VE Day event 15.00

 

A6 – To approve accounts for payment June 2020.

Authorisation was sought for payment of the following accounts:-

Staffing Costs 1942.03
Office Expenses 242.38
Mr. A.G. Jones – SID movements 100.00
Mr. Rod Sheard – Copmere bench installation and removal of old bench 168.00
Trent Grounds Maintenance (May cuts) 420.00
Creative Copy n Colour – VE day party flyers 110.00
Japhlin – monitor, webcam and keyboard 342.00
Regular Monthly payments – Japhlin (per month) 46.14

 

All were in favour and the cheques were signed.

 64/20).   To review and re-adopt the Standing Orders of the Council:

It was resolved to adopt the current Standing Orders without changes. There has been no recommended amendments to the NALC model document.

 65/20).   To approve the appointment of Mr. Alan Toplis as internal Auditor for 2020/2021. Mrs. Heelis was standing down from auditing after this year. It was resolved to approve the appointment of Mr. Toplis in accordance with the terms of his letter. The Council thanked Mrs. Heelis for her work as internal auditor.

 66/20).   To discuss the Annual Meeting of the Parish Council :- The Local Authorities (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority Meetings) (England) Regulations 2020 temporary legislation allows for the deferral of the Annual Parish Council meeting until May 2021.

In essence, this allows Council and Committee Chair and Vice Chair positions to be retained until May 2021, and any other statutory agenda items can also be deferred until the next Annual meeting. It was noted that any policies and procedures that need to be reviewed to ensure the adherence of the Council to proper practices will be dealt with in other meetings. It was resolved to defer the meeting until May 2021.

 67/20). To consider the meeting schedule for Council and Committee meetings, until physical meetings can be convened and normal Council activities resumed:

 It was resolved to resume the normal schedule of monthly Parish Council meetings as per the current calendar. Planning Committee meetings will be scheduled monthly, after the main Council meeting. A fortnightly meeting will only be convened if decisions are required on planning applications that cannot be considered at the monthly meeting.

 Traffic Management, Enhancements, Footpaths and Policy & Resources Committee meetings will only be convened if business dictates the need for a meeting. All meetings will be held via Zoom until physical meetings are allowed.

 68//20).  To discuss whether a Civic Service can be held in October or should be postponed:- It was resolved to NOT hold a Civic Service in 2020, as this would cause undue pressure on the host church in terms of the cleaning they would need to undertake before and after the event, in addition to any other requirements they need to undertake for scheduled services.

 69/20).  To consider the proposal for a footpaths maintenance project:-

 Members discussed the councillor report provided, proposing the temporary engagement of a self employed person to work on the Parish footpaths, undertaking vegetation clearance and minor repairs. It was noted that there were many issues with the footpaths and a prompt decision will allow work to commence at the earliest opportunity. 2 quotations were available for the work, a third was not available. It was noted the one quotation received provided good value for money ad was unlikely to be improved upon.

It was resolved to appoint Mr. Graham Cole on a temporary basis until the end of October 2021 to undertake the role at a cost of £10/hour, with an initial probationary period of 3 months. Mr. Cole, will be self-employed and required to provide relevant documentation, including evidence of insurances, prior to starting work. It was also resolved to allocate a budget  of £1,500 over the length of the appointment and to delegate the authorisation of work schedules within the budget to the Clerk in conjunction with the Footpaths Chair and Vice Chair, in order to avoid delays to the work. Cllr. Taylor will provide regular updates to the  Council on the work undertaken.

70/20).  To receive the Clerk’s report, including committee updates and liaison reports:-

 The Clerk reviewed the contents of the report, and committee updates were noted. Members noted the success of the improvements to Elford Heath and the recent improvements to the car park which has increased the amount of parking available. It was resolved to write to Mr. Arblaster to thank him for the quality of the work undertaken. It was noted that there may be a need to reseed certain areas, and this is being monitored.

It was noted that the speed indication device currently located on Green Lane is working intermittently. This is under investigation.

The Council received and noted the delegated decisions made since the last meeting in March, by the Clerk in conjunction with the Chair and Vice Chair. These were as follows:

Date Details Decision
25/03/2020 Quotation for installation of Picnic bench at Copmere picnic site – to make safe and to remove old bench. Cost £168 Approved and Mr. Sheard advised.
29/03/2020 To approve the amendment to the Clerks Working from home allowance, in line with the revision made in the 2020 Government Budget, from 1st April 2020 Approve tax free allowance to cover working from home expenses, from 1st April 2020
31/03/2020 Grant application for £5,300 for Eccleshall Cares support group, set up to help those in need during the Coronavirus pandemic £5,000 maximum grant approved – £2,500 paid 1st April 2020 and balance at a later date if still needed. (Note – all councillors consulted for views due to amount of money applied for). Further payments not yet issued.
08/04/2020 Updated Clerks pay spine from 1st May, to approve one increment in line with contractual obligations. Cllrs L.Dale and P.Jones were provided with all relevant documents relating to the annual increment procedure and ratified the spinal point increase in line with the Clerks contract. Will be in effect from 1st May.
22/04/2020 Approval of  budget for promotion of the Stay at Home Street party on the 8th May Approved an initial budget estimated at £200 to cover any agreed posters, digital marketing and promotional videos.
01/05/2020 Painting of Bus shelter/seat refurb  – Castle Street outgoing Rod Sheard asked to apply preservative to the bus shelter and to rub down/repaint the seat to remove the marks.
14/05/2020 Top up of budget for VE Day event Due to over 700 households streaming the broadcast, the final broadcast costs were higher than anticipated. Total event cost – posters plus additional prints, social media, online broadcast and prizes was £456.43 (£266 Bents, £110 Creative Printing, plus £80 of prizes taken from Chairs allowance). Expenditure to be covered from other events unable to run – the initial VE Day budget, Festival Insurance)
01/06/2020 To approve the watering costs of £1260 for the reduced Bloom display by the Ecclian Society SBC are not able to provide watering services for this year’s Bloom display, and the Ecclian Society had to make the decision in April to not pay further funds towards the plants. They are however providing a smaller display of mangers, and Perrys of Eccleshall has agreed to provide a service to water these for 14 weeks.
01/06/2020 purchase of licence for Zoom @ £14.39 per month (VAT included but not reclaimable) To obtain added functionality to allow meetings over 40 minutes duration, and dial in access amongst other features, a full licence is needed.
04/06/2020 To upgrade the Parish Council IT equipment – to provide a monitor, webcam, keyboard. To provide functionality for the Clerk to host online meetings on the Parish Council PC and to upgrade obsolete items.
17/06/2020 To approve the reduction of the Ash Tree at Bishops Court by 1-1.5m and to remove any larger branches of dead wood. Rob Keyzor appointed at a cost of £500. Approved urgently due to safety concerns with falling branches.

 

 Correspondence:-

Resident query regarding the precept: Concerns were raised regarding the precept raise in April in light of the current economic climate caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and that the Parish Council must use the extra income judiciously at a time where residents and businesses are suffering financial constraints. The Council noted and appreciated the concerns of the resident. The Council supported the response of the Clerk which acknowledged the concerns and that the Council will need to review its plans due to the impact of the pandemic. It was also noted that the precept was set in January, prior to any awareness of the crisis to come, and that the Council had resolved to provide a substantial grant to Eccleshall Cares at the start of the pandemic, to support local residents.

Resident query regarding the Police Post bid: A resident has written to ask two questions of the Parish Council – what ethical advice was received regarding the decision making process of the council, and also what legal advice was sought regarding the limited responses received from the consultation process and the decision not to undertake a formal valuation.

The Clerk provided all members with a summary of the processes undertaken during this period of time prior to the meeting for consideration. It was resolved to accept the summary and to provide this information to the resident. It was confirmed that the Clerk spoke to the SPCA at length and sought and received advice with regard to the decision making process of the Council and the code of conduct query. This is the local branch of NALC (National Association of Local Councils), and they are in a position to offer legal advice.

The Council had made a genuine effort to consult with the community and had expected a higher response rate.  As the responses were limited, rather than proceeding without further consideration, the Council were advised by the SPCA to discuss the results formally, and to make a clear decision at the discretion of the Council. This was undertaken. The consultation was advertised via Facebook, the Parish website, by posters, on noticeboards, in the local newspaper and online and paper copies were available to all residents to complete. Whilst the survey did not show an overwhelming majority in favour, neither did it indicate majority opposition to the proposal.

Under its complaints procedure, Council members reviewed the correspondence from Cllr. Pert and his concerns prior to the Council meeting. At that meeting, the Council formally discussed the issues and resolved that councillors had not acted in contravention of the Code of Conduct, bearing in mind the advice it had received. The reasons for this were detailed at length in the response to Cllr. Pert.

With regards to the bidding process, the Council has not signed any contract to bind it to the purchase of the police post should the bid be accepted. The bid was based on consideration of revenue that could be obtained from the parking spaces and estimated valuations. A formal evaluation will be undertaken before any contractual obligation is made, and this will also allow the Council to consider any valuation changes that may have taken place since the original bid was submitted. If a district evaluation had been completed earlier, this would have incurred costs to the parish of over £1,000, which the Council was mindful of.

WMAS response: The response from the West Midlands Ambulance service regarding the withdrawal of certain services from the Community First Responders was noted, and members expressed their disappointment. It was noted that local MP’s had lobbied for a change to the decision, with no success.

 71/20).   Chairman’s Report:-

The Chair thanked the Clerk for her support and work during the time the Council were unable to meet. Cllr. Libby Dale was also thanked for her support in working with the Clerk and the Chair to ensure business could continue as much as possible.

72/20).   To consider if a resolution is needed for ongoing delegation to the Clerk for items of emergency: As the council has agreed to reconvene its usual monthly meeting schedule, it was resolved that no ongoing delegation to the Clerk is required at this point in time.

 73/20). Items / Date and Venue for next meeting:- The next full meeting of the Parish Council is scheduled for July 15th, via Zoom, commencing at 7.30pm.

There being no further business, the Chairman declared the meeting closed at 8.45pm.