A meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee was held on Wednesday March 4th, 2020 at Eccleshall Community Centre following the meeting of the Planning Committee at 8.45pm.

1). Present Were:-

Councillor P. Jones (Chair) Councillor J. Jones Councillor L. Dale Councillor M. Watson Councillor E. Amos Councillor G. Dale

Mrs S. J. Worden
No members of the Public
Cllr. C. Wilkins (observer)

Apologies were noted from Councillor Taylor.

2). Minutes from meeting held on Dec 4th, 2019:-

The minutes, which had previously been noted by the Council were agreed and signed.

3). Matters arising from the Minutes:-

There were no matters arising.

4). Budget update for 2019/20:-

Mrs Worden reviewed the spreadsheets that were circulated prior to the meeting, detailing the budget expenditure to date for 2019/20 and expected expenditure by year end. The committee were happy to accept the update.

5). Final budget 2020/21, Earmarked reserves 2020/21 and virements:-

The Clerk had circulated a spreadsheet detailing the final budget proposal for 2020/21 and a breakdown of the proposed earmarking of reserves and virements for 2020/21. The Clerk provided a summary of the proposals:

The Committee resolved to recommend to the Council that the proposed earmarking of reserves and virements be accepted as follows:
• £150.00 from Clerks Salary will be vired to PAYE/NI, and £210.00 from Clerks Salary vired to Pensions (as a result of uneven split in estimated costings)
• £400 to be vired from grass cutting to Office Supplies, to cover provision of printer cartridges due to unexpected replacement of the printer, and other miscellaneous costs.
• £800 to be vired from contingencies and £162 from grants to publishing, due to additional printing costs incurred due to additional projects.
• £125 to be vired from repairs to Benches/Noticeboards to cover the new bench at Copmere picnic site.
• £1280 to be vired from Insurance to Traffic Management, to cover the purchase of additional speed signs.

The transfer of the following funds to earmarked reserves:-
• £100 – to Clock Maintenance (from unspent budget)
• £1,000 – to Community Centre (from general reserves)
• £1,200 – to Croxton Play Area (from unspent budget and general reserves)
• £1,000 – to Traffic Calming from general reserves
• £840 – to Highways maintenance work (from unspent budget)
• £3,700 – to Training (general reserves)
• £490 – to Allotments from rents
• £250 – Elections (accumulated reserves)
• £750 – to IT reserves (general reserves)
• £2,000 – Elford Heath longer term management (from general reserves)
• £5,000 – Police Post, maintenance costs, if purchased (from general reserves).
• £5,000 – Beech Road update, subject to agreement by Stafford Borough Council (general reserves)

6). To review and accept the updated Financial Regulations:-

The Financial Regulations have been updated in line with the NALC model regulations, with some minor amendments to reflect the structure of the Parish Council. A summary of the changes were discussed and the committee resolved to recommend adoption of the amended document.

7). To advise of new legislation regarding website accessibility compliance:-

Members were advised of the need for the website to be updated to ensure compliance with new accessibility regulations applying to public sector bodies by the 23rd September 2020. It involves the adoption of a website accessibility statement and review of all current content to ensure compliance so that the website can be read by all. It is hoped that support will be provided by the website provider, although he is not available at present to advise what needs to be done. The Clerk will keep the Council updated.

8). To consider the proposal for additional staffing:-

Committee members were provided with a proposal for an assistant Clerk, comprising of a business case, job description, person specification, interview scoring chart, applicant consent form and advert, for consideration. The committee resolved to recommend proceeding with the recruitment of an assistant Clerk. The staffing committee and Clerk will be responsible for the recruitment process and interviews.

9). To note the pension contributions rate for 2020/21.

The committee noted the 1% increase in the pension contribution rate for 2020/21, as notified by the current pensions scheme.

10). To review the activity of the Public Sector Deposit Fund investment:-

The Clerk advised that since the fund was opened in July 2019, performance of the fund was around 0.7%, in comparison to the reserve business account interest rate of 0.2%. All dividends were reinvested in the account, which stands at £25,085 as of 30th January 2020.

11). To discuss ways to improve Community Engagement:-

The committee discussed the issue and its commitment to improve engagement. It was noted that the upcoming VE day events are a good example of encouraging engagement with the community. As projects come up, the Council will be able to engage with residents who will have a direct interest in these projects. Visits can be made to local community groups and the school, and members could speak to groups about the functions of the Parish Council. It was suggested that this opportunity could be advertised in the next Parish magazine. This will be an ongoing discussion and plans will continue to develop to ensure an inclusive strategy.

12). To consider the current committee structure and function:-

Ahead of the annual meeting in May, the current structure and function of the committees were reviewed. In order to improve efficiency, consideration was given to whether certain decisions could be delegated to relevant committees. Rather than having to put all decisions through full Council for another discussion, the decisions would simply be reported back via committee minutes.
It was noted that each committee would benefit from clearly defined Terms of Reference to cover membership, responsibilities and levels of delegation. It was resolved to recommend that the Clerk produce draft terms of reference for consideration.

13). To consider prices and location for a roll of honour board for Freedom of Parish Recipients:-

The Co-op window, where the old fire tender was located, was suggested as a possible location. Cllr. G. Dale agreed to liaise with the resident who currently maintains the display, for feasibility if possible, the size/design that will be most suitable, to allow for the Clerk to obtain quotations.

14). Consideration of Grant Requests:-

• Eccleshall First Responders – replacement on board defibrillator. The current defibrillator is over 12 years old and the batteries are no longer holding charge. Replacement batteries are no longer available for this model so a new unit is needed. A grant of £800 is requested towards the total replacement cost of £1650. The committee resolved to recommend the grant for £800 is approved, with Cllr. Watson abstaining from the vote.
• Eccleshall Community Band – rehearsal costs. A grant of £500 is requested to cover the cost of the venue hire for the rehearsals. The majority of members are from the Parish and consists of adults and 7 school age members. The rest of the costs are covered by income generated by attendees. The grant will allow the group to continue and also to commit to recruiting more members. The committee resolved to recommend a grant for £250 is approved.

13). Any other business:-

The amended Financial Regulations have been updated to include standard guidance including the facility to pay the Clerks salary by Standing Order rather than cheque. This ensures payment is guaranteed and not reliant on presence of signatories and will also remove the need to physically bank the cheque and wait for clearance. It was resolved to recommend that the fixed elements of the Clerks pay – the basic salary and fixed expenses such as the working from home allowance and the BT bill, be paid by monthly standing order, and the variable balances be paid by cheque as per current procedure.

14). Date of next meeting:-

The next meeting was arranged for Wednesday 3rd June 2020, following the planning committee meeting.

There being no further business, the Chairman declared the meeting closed at 9.35pm.