ECCLESHALL PARISH COUNCIL – POLICY AND RESOURCES COMMITTEE – Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

 

A meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee was held on Wednesday, January 6th, 2021, following the planning committee meeting at 8.25pm, online via Zoom videoconferencing.

1).   Present were:-

Councillor P. Jones (Chair)                         Councillor L. Dale

Councillor J. Jones                                    Councillor E. Amos

Councillor. G. Dale                                     Councillor R. Taylor

Councillor S. Perren                                   Councillor C. Wilkins

Mrs S. J. Worden

No members of the Public

Cllr. P. Stenning (observer)

Apologies:- no apologies were received.

2).   Minutes of the meeting held on Wednesday November 4th, 2020:-

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

3).   Matters arising from the minutes:-

There were no matters arising.

4).   Budget update 2020/21 and to consider any virements:-

Prior to the meeting, the Clerk circulated updated reports detailing expenditure to date against the budget up to the 9th of December 2020. This was reviewed and accepted by the committee. No unexpected expenditure since the last update was noted.  Virements will be considered at the next meeting prior to the year end.

5).   To consider the budget and precept for 2021/22

Budget:

Committee members reviewed the proposed budget on a line by line basis, considering each allocation in line with the planned activity over the next twelve months.

The initial draft budget for 2021/22 was £107,954.00 in total. It was noted that:

  • Since the draft was prepared, Stafford Borough Council has advised it will not consider the transferral of Beech Road to the Parish Council at this time and has deferred a decision for 12 months. As a result, the allocation of £5,000 Beech Road will be taken out of the budget for 2021/22, but an amount will remain in earmarked reserves should SBC approve transferral next year.
  • Health and Wellbeing projects budget is to be increased to £7,000
  • Pavement Verge works budget is to be increased to £6,000.

The proposed draft budget for 2021/22 after adjustments is £105,954.00. The committee resolved to recommend the budget for approval. It is noted that there may be some small adjustments should circumstances change before the end of the current financial year.

Precept:

The committee considered the cash reserves of the Council and the total income required in order to balance out the proposed budget expenditure. Due to the current circumstances, the committee was keen not to impose undue burden on the residents.

It was resolved to recommend that a precept of £82,600 be levied for 2021/22, which is a 0% increase to residents.

Based on this recommendation, the total estimated income for the council would be £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.

6).   Ongoing discussions to improve Community Engagement

This remains an ongoing agenda item, and proposals will need to be planned for when face to face interaction is possible. One of the ideas put forward recently was the instigation of monthly surgeries, running alongside Cllr. P. Jones’s Borough Councillor surgeries, whereby other parish councillors will attend in order to answer questions and allow residents to raise any concerns. It was noted that Cllr. P. Jones already answers queries that relate to Parish, Borough and County Councils. Councillors also observed that when people have concerns they are usually happy to pick up the phone and contact individual councillors to discuss it.

7).   To provide an update regarding website accessibility compliance:-

Website documentation has been updated to an accessible format, and the majority of the accessibility statement is completed. The Clerk is waiting for the website provider to complete the technical aspects of the report and upload it to the website, which is an ongoing area of concern as this has not yet happened, even though it has been chased as a matter of urgency. Members noted that if there were ongoing issues with a lack of support, quotes for an alternative website provider will need to be considered.

8).   To provide an updated staffing proposal from the Staffing Sub-committee:-

The staffing committee met on December 2nd to finalise the proposal for recruitment of an assistant Clerk, following feedback from the Parish Council meeting in November.

It was proposed to recommend that the role to be advertised for 7 hrs a week, with an initial period of up to 10 hrs a week to cover time needed for training by the Clerk. There will be a probationary period of 3 months, and the initial contract will be for 18 months, with the option to extend subject to ongoing requirement.  This would bring total hours of support to the Council of 34hrs, still less than a full time post. The committee resolved to recommend approval of this proposal.

9).   To provide an update on the Communications Policy:-

The Clerk has prepared an initial draft of new policies which includes:

  • A Communications Policy that covers how the Council will communicate with the community, and may link into and support any new community engagement proposals
  • A revised Social Media policy that has been expanded into an Electronic Communications Policy, covering a wider remit than the original policy.
  • A Vexatious Complaints Policy (which is a policy standard to many Parish Councils and links to the other policies)

In the first instance, these will be reviewed with Cllr. Stenning to consider further improvements before formal consideration.

10).   To obtain feedback on the monthly account reports and to consider a proposed accounts summary report format for website publication:-

With regards to the main accounting report presented at the Parish Council meeting, members confirmed they were happy with the format. In order to improve transparency, the Clerk has produced a summarised report for monthly web publication, consisting of a budget summary report, bank reconciliation report and an earmarked reserves report, along with an explanatory note. The committee resolved to recommend adoption of the summarised accounts report for monthly web publication.

11).   Consideration of Grant Requests:-

There were no requests to consider.

12).  Items for next meeting:-

Any items for the next meeting can be forwarded to the Clerk.

13).  Date of next meeting:- Wednesday 3rd March 2021, following the planning committee meeting.

There being no further business, the Chairman declared the meeting closed at 9.25pm.