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Draft Minutes, Report & Agenda – 25th October 2023

Finance & General Purposes Uploaded on October 20, 2023

Minutes

Minutes of a meeting of the FINANCE & GENERAL PURPOSES COMMITTEE held at 7.30pm on Wednesday 25th October 2023 in The Mountfitchet Exchange, Crafton Green, 72 Chapel Hill, Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex,

PRESENT       Cllr J O’Brien (Chair), Cllrs P Jones, A Khan and G Sell

ATTENDING   Mrs Emma Philbrick – Deputy Clerk, 2 members of the public (1 via Zoom)

223      APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE

Apologies for absence were received from Cllr Caton – Holiday; Cllr Ghosh – out of the country due to a family emergency.

It was unanimously

RESOLVED    To accept the apologies of absence from Cllrs Caton and Ghosh

The Clerk, Ruth Clifford also gave her apologies.

No apologies were received from Cllr Hogg

224      DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST      –           None

225      TO APPROVE THE MINUTES OF THE MEETING HELD ON 20TH SEPTEMBER  2023

RESOLVED    To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 20th September 2023 as a true and accurate account.

226      TO RECEIVE AN UPDATE ON ACTION POINTS FROM THE LAST MEETING

183 – Make a formal complaint to our Essex County Councillor and escalate to the Chief Executive if necessary.

183 – Request a site visit from representatives of UDC and ECC

When talking to the Environment Agency about the new poles, the Agency stated they would be speaking to Essex Highways about their lack of maintenance. We await the outcome of this discussion.

227      TO RECEIVE A REPORT FROM THE CHAIR, CLLR JOHN O’BRIEN

Report Starts:

Inflation figures still represent a cause for concern as there has not been any appreciable fall since August with rate just 0.1% less in September at 6.7%. The recent figures showing an increase of unemployment, together with a predicted increase in wholesale gas prices, imply that the period of economic uncertainty may prevail a bit longer.

Further to my previous Chair’s report, there have been more reports of Local Authorities facing financial meltdown. Following the Bankruptcy declaration of Birmingham City Council, the Credit Rating Agency, Moody’s, issued the following warning “We expect more English local authorities to fail over the near term. Borrowing for commercial investment increased significantly over the past decade to generate revenues and offset a decline in government funding.”

This situation was compounded by the abolition of the Audit Commission, in 2015, which encouraged local authorities to invest in commercial enterprises to bolster losses of revenue.

Moody’s also highlighted that councils were under pressure from the falling value of commercial property investments, high inflation, rising interest rates and a ballooning demand for social care services.

That agency recently listed the top 20 local councils with high levels of debt related to their size and income. The worrying inclusion on this list, for us, is that Uttlesford District Council is ranked 9th with a borrowing of £302m, being 10 times that of its income. Its decision to invest further into its commercial enterprise near Great Chesterford is a cause for concern, especially as UDC has warned us of it having to make savings £4m over 4 years.

On Parish matters:

The LED conversion and Part-Night Lighting Trial Scheme is underway, starting in the Bentfield area and will continue in the Northern part of Stansted so residents will notice that some lights will switch off at midnight. Once this has been completed, the conversion will continue in the southern areas.

I must emphasise that the change to Part-Night Lighting is a trial lasting over the next three months. The patience of residents during this trial will be greatly appreciated. I advise all residents to take precautionary measures if out after midnight.

We are still experiencing the need to appoint Tree Surgeons to attend to unhealthy trees. This does not bode well for the rest of this fiscal year as we have been fortunate in avoiding the chaotic weather conditions experienced elsewhere, so far.

The Flood Defence work to repair, reinforce existing, and instal new Trash Pins, in the Ugley Brook, by Gall Lane, has been completed and my thanks to ‘Greenscroft Fencing’ for a job well done. We are awaiting comments on the work from the Environment Agency.

However, the clearing of debris within the Ugley Brook’s watercourse is the responsibility of Essex County Council, but most of this work has been carried out by our volunteer Flood Wardens. The Environment Agency has offered to make an approach on our behalf to Essex County Council for their assistance, to emphasise the difficulties facing us here.

Finally, we are expecting increases in our electricity supply contracts in the following 18 months, which may effect on our budget calculations for next year. Report Ends.

Cllr Sell said he agreed with the statement about the flight of local councils but for  accuracy, it is ok for local councils to have increased investments in existing projects. This is allowed by the Government and in his opinion, the increased investment of Chesterford Research Park is a wise move as the investment has a financial benefit for the District.

228      LIGHTING

  • a) TO RECEIVE AN OUTAGE REPORT

The Deputy Clerk advised that a light outside the Dog & Duck was reported today and a light in Stoney Common at the end of last week. Two lights are out on Chapel Hill and one of these is a UKPN issue that we are waiting to be resolved.

  • b) TO RECEIVE A GENERAL REPORT ON LIGHTING AND ANY UPDATES ON CHRISTMAS LIGHTING

Cllr O’Brien advised that we are continuing with the Christmas lights as they were last year, and we are also hoping to provide some lighting at the fountain using the electricity supply rather than relying on batteries.

 229      FINANCE

  • a) TO APPROVE THE LIST OF PAYMENTS

The list of payments was checked against the invoices by Cllr Jones before the start of the meeting. A couple of questions were asked and then the list of payments was approved.

Cllr Jones asked if Cllr Sell, as a District Councillor, could ask Uttlesford about the money previously set aside to combat flooding. As Stansted has previously been number one in the district for flooding, are we entitled to some of this.

  • b) TO RECEIVE THE INTERIM INTERNAL AUDIT REPORT 2023/24

            This was circulated to members with the agenda and members confirmed receipt.

  • c) TO NOTE THE CONCLUSION OF AUDIT 2022/23

            This was noted by members.

230      TO CONSIDER GRANT APPLICATIONS RECEIVED

Three applications had been received and were circulated to members with the agenda.

Application one – She’s Ready Stansted

A representative of She’s Ready Stansted had permission from the Chair to address the meeting and explain what the project was about and how valuable she felt it was for the community. She gave a handout to members highlighting some of the key facts

Having been proposed by Cllr Jones and seconded by Cllr Sell, it was unanimously

RESOLVED    To award a grant of £1,000 to She’s Ready Stansted

Application two – Home-Start Essex

Having been proposed by Cllr Jones and seconded by Cllr Sell, it was unanimously

RESOLVED    To award a grant of £250 to Home-Start Essex

Members also commented that Home-Start should apply for grants from all local councils in Uttlesford.

Application three – Touchpoint – Kids Xmas Gift Appeal

Having been proposed by Cllr Jones and seconded by Cllr Sell, it was unanimously

RESOLVED    To award a grant of £1,500 to Touchpoint for their Kids Xmas Gift Appeal

231      CRAFTON GREEN HOUSE – TO RECEIVE ANY UPDATES ON THE COMMUNITY BUILDINGS

The Chair advised that discussion are currently taking place about knocking through from the Day Centre to Crafton Green House. Some feedback has been received from structural engineers but that we were awaiting the final recommendations.

Thanks to the Stansted Surgery, talks also are taking place about a locker storage for prescriptions being located at Crafton Green now that Boots have announced their closure. Cllr Jones has met with Paul Chambers to discuss where this would be best situated if it did go ahead. Talks are also ongoing regarding the funding of this.

After discussions, members asked for the Full Council to consider writing to Boots and voice our regret as a community at their decision and to give thanks to the staff and wish them well for the future.

232      WINDMILL – TO RECEIVE ANY UPDATES

Nothing to report but a reminder that Santa will be at the Windmill on Saturday 9th December.

233      YOUTH MATTERS – TO RECEIVE ANY UPDATES

Nothing to update

234      STAFF MATTERS – TO RECEIVE ANY AVAILABLE UPDATES

Nothing to update

Meeting closed at 8.22pm

ACTION POINTS

229 – Cllr Sell to ask UDC about money previously set aside to combat flooding

231 – Ask Full Council to consider writing to Boots

Agenda

Members of the Council you are hereby summoned, and members of the public and press are hereby invited, to attend a meeting of the FINANCE AND GENERAL PURPOSES COMMITTEE which will be held at 7.30pm on Wednesday 25th October 2023 in The Mountfitchet Exchange, Crafton Green, 72 Chapel Hill, Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex where the following business will be transacted:

1          To receive apologies for absence

2          To receive declarations of interest

3          To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 20th September 2023

4          To receive an update on action points from the last meeting

5          To receive a report from the Chair, Cllr O’Brien

6          Lighting:

  • a) To receive an outage report
  • b) To receive a general report on lighting and any updates on Christmas Lighting

7          Finance:

  • a) To approve the list of payments for authorisation – To be tabled
  • b) To receive the interim Internal Audit report 2023/24 – attached for members
  • c) To note the Conclusion of Audit 2022/23

8          To consider grant applications received – Attached for members

9          Crafton Green – To receive any updates on the community buildings

11        Windmill – To receive any updates

12        Youth Matters – To receive any updates

13        Staff Matters – To receive any available updates

Ruth Clifford – Parish Clerk, 19th October 2023

Any intention to record, film or take photographs during a meeting must be notified to the Clerk prior to the start of the meeting.